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, May 31, 2007

America coddling petty despot Bush (the "commander guy")

US Defense Secretary warns new naval officers on civilian control of military

By Bill Van Auken
31 May 2007

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In a speech before the US Naval Academy’s graduating class May 25, Defense Secretary Robert Gates issued pointed advice to the newly minted officers that they must respect the Constitution and not view the Congress and the media as their enemies.

The remarks were widely reported as part of the round-up of Memorial Day weekend exercises in flag-waving hoopla and the hypocritical tributes of politicians to the American troops whose lives have been sacrificed in the criminal war of aggression in Iraq.

Gates’s speech in Annapolis, however, deserves more serious consideration. That an American secretary of defense feels obliged to make such a pitch to the latest crop of professional naval officers has serious political implications.

The defense secretary began by reminding the graduating midshipmen that to receive their commissions as Navy ensigns or Marine Corps second lieutenants they must swear an oath “to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

“Today, I want to encourage you always to remember the importance of two pillars of our freedom under the Constitution—the Congress and the press,” Gates continued. “Both surely try our patience from time to time, but they are the surest guarantees of the liberty of the American people.”

He described Congress as “a co-equal branch of government that under the Constitution raises armies and provides for navies,” while insisting that “the American military must be non-political and recognize the obligation we owe the Congress to be honest and true in our reporting to them. Especially when it involves admitting mistakes or problems.”

Turning to the media, Gates cited the recent exposure of the abominable conditions facing maimed veterans of the Iraq war at Walter Reed army hospital. “The press is not the enemy,” he said, “and to treat it as such is self-defeating.”

Gates summed up: “As the Founding Fathers wisely understood, the Congress and a free press, as with a non-political military, assure a free country. A point underscored by a French observer writing about George Washington in 1782. He wrote: ‘This is the seventh year that he has commanded the army and that he has obeyed the Congress; more need not be said.’”

The constitutional issues that Gates touched upon in his commencement remarks are profound and their political evolution over a protracted period in American political life deeply troubling.

The Declaration of Independence includes as one of its charges against the British monarch was that “He affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.”

The Constitution placed all of the powers of war in the hands of Congress while giving it the responsibility for organizing and regulating the armed forces, as well as determining their funding and rules of conduct. The decision to wage war, how that war is conducted and when to call a halt to it were all envisioned as the province of the Congress.

The president was declared to be the commander in chief of the army and navy, a title that the framers of the Constitution saw as assuring civilian control of the military, not as elevating the president above the state and the people as the sole wartime decision-maker.

Subordination of the military to civilian control, the maintenance of an apolitical officer corps and the effective power of Congress over war making have all been under sustained attack for an entire historical period. The growth of US militarism and the malignant power that it exerts over every facet of American life has been widely recognized since the only military commander to become president in the 20th century, Dwight D. Eisenhower, warned against the threat to American democracy posed by the growth of a “military industrial complex.”

The growth of that complex has gone far beyond anything that Eisenhower could have imagined, with the US militarism—counting the Pentagon budget, “emergency funding” for the Iraq war, the Department of Energy’s spending on nuclear weapons and other military related allocations—easily consuming close to a trillion dollars annually.

Moreover, the officer corps of the all-volunteer military has become increasingly politicized, heavily Republican and drawn from the most conservative layers of the American population. This politicization within the commissioned ranks bubbled to the surface repeatedly under the Clinton administration, with open denunciations of the president by senior officers and a wholesale rebellion over its attempts to drop the reactionary ban on gays in the military.

The escalation of militarism and the open challenge to constitutional principles of congressional and civilian control have reached an unprecedented and explosive level, however, in the context of the Bush administration’s “global war on terrorism.”

Indeed, given the present toxic political environment in Washington and the record of the Bush administration over the past six years, it is hard to review the transcript of Gates’s remarks at Annapolis without hearing an implicit indictment of the current “commander-in-chief.”

Bush has transformed this title from a guarantee of civilian control over the military into an instrument for claiming unfettered and near-dictatorial powers for himself, based upon his supposed association with the military.

This has included the power to order the military into illegal wars of aggression, the power to detain so-called “enemy combatants” in military prisons like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib without charges or trials and the power to order military interrogators to carry out acts of torture.

The entire one-sided battle over the Iraq war funding legislation—ending in the inevitable Democratic capitulation last week—was waged by the Bush administration based on the argument that Congress has no business sticking its nose into questions of war, which are best left to the “professionals,” the military commanders.

Thus, speaking before an audience of construction contractors early this month, Bush denounced the Democrats in Congress for daring to propose a timetable for even a partial withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. “The question is, who ought to make that decision?” he asked. “The Congress or the commanders?” He went on to declare, idiotically: “I’m the commander guy.”

Similarly, in a May 24 press conference called after the Democrats had formally agreed to grant Bush all the money he asked for to continue and escalate the Iraq war, with no strings attached, Bush answered a question about Congressional criticism of his policies. “Look you want politicians making those decisions, or do you want commanders on the ground making the decisions? My point is, is that I would trust [General] David Petraeus to make an assessment and a recommendation a lot better than people in the United States Congress. And that’s precisely the difference.”

Of course this claim of unwavering trust in the “commanders on the ground” is all nonsense. The administration had to sack those who were in charge of the Iraq war—Generals John Abizaid, the head of Central Command, and George Casey, the commander of forces in Iraq—and find senior officers who did not oppose the White House proposal for a “surge” of tens of thousands more troops into the war.

The real relations between the White House and the civilian leadership in the Pentagon, on the one hand, and the armed forces general staff, on the other, have never been more acrimonious than during the tenure of Bush’s previous Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Nonetheless, even rhetorically endowing uniformed commanders with a supposedly unquestionable authority to determine how a war is conducted and whether or not it should be ended represents a direct assault on the principle of civilian control of the military.

Before replacing Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, Gates—a former CIA director implicated in bloody covert US operations from Afghanistan to Nicaragua—was a member of the Iraq Study Group, which proposed a tactical shift aimed at salvaging something from the catastrophe that US imperialism has created in Iraq. This included proposals for scaling down and reconfiguring American occupation forces and seeking diplomatic openings to Iran and Syria.

Also included in the ISG report was a pointed recommendation that, with Rumsfeld’s ouster, “the new Secretary of Defense should make every effort to build healthy civil-military relations...”

Gates’s advice to the graduating midshipmen appears to be part of an attempt to fulfill this mandate. It also may well reflect growing concern within sections of the American ruling elite that the Bush administration’s unrestrained embrace of global militarism, its promotion of lawlessness by the military and its insistence that it is the commanders—not the elected members of Congress—who should determine the course of the Iraq war pose real dangers to the political and social order in the US itself.

To the extent that the principle of civilian control of the military is denigrated and undermined, the threat of its opposite grows, i.e., military control over the civilian population, in a word, dictatorship.

Iraq war opponent Cindy Sheehan resigns from the Democratic Party

By David Walsh
30 May 2007

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American antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan addressed an open letter to Congress May 26 announcing that she was leaving the Democratic Party, which now controls both houses of the legislature. Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son Casey died while serving in the US armed forces in Iraq in April 2004, came to prominence when she set up camp near George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas in August 2005 as a protest against the war.

Her open letter came in immediate response to the final capitulation of the Democrats in Congress last week over an additional $100 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She writes the Democrats, “You think giving him [Bush] more money is politically expedient, but it is a moral abomination and every second the occupation of Iraq endures, you all have more blood on your hands.”

In her letter of resignation from the Democrats, Sheehan takes the politicians of both parties to task for their callous indifference to human life. She refers to the comment of Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who said, after Bush had signed the authorization bill, “Now, I think the president’s policy will begin to unravel.”

“Begin to unravel?” Sheehan writes. “How many more of our children will have to be killed and how much more of Iraq will have to be demolished before you all think enough unraveling has occurred? ... With almost 700,000 Iraqis dead and four million refugees (which the US refuses to admit), how could it get worse? Well, it is getting worse and it can get much worse thanks to your complicity.”

Sheehan notes that the Democrats’ promise to take up the issue of war funding once again in September, remarking, “Let’s face it, on October 1st you will give him [Bush] more money after some more theatrics, which you think are fooling the anti-war faction of your party.” With the current daily death toll of 3.72 American troops per day, she goes on, the Democrats in Congress will “have condemned 473 more to these early graves. 473 more lives wasted for your political greed: Thousands of broken hearts because of your cowardice and avarice. How can you even go to sleep at night or look at yourselves in a mirror? How do you put behind you the screaming mothers on both sides of the conflict? How does the agony you have created escape you? It will never escape me ... I can’t run far enough or hide well enough to get away from it.”

Sheehan adds, “By the end of September, we will be about 80 troops short of another bloody milestone: 4000, and will hold nationwide candlelight vigils and you all will be busy passing legislation that will snuff the lights out of thousands more human beings. Congratulations Congress, you have bought yourself a few more months of an illegal and immoral bloodbath. ... It used to be George Bush’s war. You could have ended it honorably. Now it is yours and you all will descend into calumnious history with BushCo.”

Sheehan’s attack on the Democratic Party, including her pejorative reference to, a liberal Democratic pressure group, has brought abuse down on her head from organizations with which she has been associated. In a bitter entry in her diary on the Daily Kos weblog written two days after her open letter to Congress, Sheehan notes that she has come in for harsh attacks from the liberal-left milieu for her rupture with the Democrats.

She explains that “I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. ... However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the ‘left’ started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used.”

She continues: “Especially since I renounced any tie I have remaining with the Democratic Party, I have been further trashed on such ‘liberal blogs’ as the Democratic Underground. Being called an ‘attention whore’ and being told ‘good riddance’ are some of the more mild rebukes.”

Sheehan upbraids those who propagate illusions in the present political set-up in the US. “People of the world look on us Americans as jokes because we allow our political leaders so much murderous latitude, and if we don’t find alternatives to this corrupt ‘two’ party system, our Representative Republic will die and be replaced with what we are rapidly descending into with nary a check or balance: a fascist corporate wasteland.”

She adds later: “This is my resignation letter as the ‘face’ of the American anti-war movement. ... I will never give up trying to help people in the world who are harmed by the empire of the good old US of A, but I am finished working in, or outside of this system. This system forcefully resists being helped and eats up the people who try to help it. I am getting out before it totally consumes me or any more people that I love and the rest of my resources.”

She states that she is returning to California to tend to “my surviving children.”

Sheehan personally is at something of an impasse. In portions of her second statement, her disgust with the Democrats and their left hangers-on spills over into a more generalized criticism of the American population and into political pessimism.

Her current political uncertainty and disappointment notwithstanding, Sheehan is an authentic and outspoken opponent of imperialist war. In the most painful portion of her statements, she writes, “Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think.”

Clearly, the tension between Sheehan and the so-called “left” has been growing for some time. For her, the vote by the Democrats to provide Bush with funding for the murderous war, a war that has already taken her son’s life and the lives of hundreds of thousands of others, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. For the liberal left, it’s business as usual—primarily the business of providing excuses for the actions of the Democrats in Washington.

Sheehan’s public repudiation of the Democratic Party, only months after the Democrats gained control of Congress, is indicative of profound shifts in political consciousness among substantial sections of the American people. It presages a growing search for genuine alternatives to the two parties of American imperialism.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fucking Goppig Bush Wonders Why "They" Hate Us???

Curfew Begins to Choke Samarra

Inter Press Service
Ali al-Fadhily*

SAMARRA, May 22 (IPS) - At least 10 residents have died as the result of a curfew imposed by the U.S.-backed Iraqi government, local doctors say.

Residents in this city of 300,000 located 125km north of Baghdad have been struggling to find food, water and medical supplies. Vehicles have been banned from entering or leaving the city since May 6.

The Iraqi government and the U.S. military imposed a strict curfew on the city that day after a suicide car bomb killed a dozen police officers, including police chief Abd al-Jalil al-Dulaimi. Samarra has been a hotspot of resistance to the U.S. occupation of Iraq since close to the beginning of the occupation in March 2003.

After the attack, U.S. and Iraqi forces encircled the city and sealed off all entrances with concrete blocks and sand bags.

Local people told IPS that the main bridge in the city has been closed, ambulances have not been allowed to reach people, and residents are facing an increasingly dire situation.

"We are being butchered here by these Americans," Majid Hamid, a schoolteacher in Samarra told IPS. "People are dying because we lack all of the necessities, and our government seems to be so happy about it."

Residents and service providers told IPS that electricity has been cut.

"There is no life in the city because of the collective punishments," an employee in the electricity service office of Samarra, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. "Depriving people of electricity means depriving them of water, healthcare and all of life's maintenance necessities, especially with such hot temperatures now."

The power grid and water supply in Samarra were already in a state of disrepair.

Both IPS correspondents have been in the city several times throughout the occupation and witnessed first-hand the U.S. military tactics of cutting water and electricity to residents after occupation forces had been attacked. U.S. and Iraqi military tactics have also included bulldozing houses, home raids and detentions.

"This is not the first siege that we have suffered," Nahla Alwan, a pharmacist in the city told IPS. "The Americans have done this so often and they will keep doing it since we do not accept their occupation and all the disasters it has brought us."

She added, "They should know that we resent them more now, and we will teach the future generations to take revenge for the innocent souls killed by the American criminals."

A doctor in Samarra's main hospital, speaking like many others on condition of anonymity, told IPS that at least 10 people, including seven babies, had died because of lack of fuel for generators needed to run incubators and life-saving equipment. At least two elderly patients were among the dead.

Despite pleas from residents to U.S. and Iraqi forces to allow in aid, none has arrived and the curfew continues.

"My 10-month-old nephew died of asthma because we could not take him to the hospital," 25-year-old Nameer Aboud from the Abbasiya quarter of Samarra told IPS.

"All medical services are paralysed because of this siege applied on Samarra, and many people are dying. If this had happened anywhere else in the world, it would have been considered murder, but for the world Iraqi blood is cheap."

"This collective punishment is unfair and it clearly shows how cruel Americans are," a member of Samarra's city council told IPS. "They are punishing innocent people in a cowardly way."

The Iraqi humanitarian group Doctors for Iraq has issued a statement expressing grave concern about the worsening situation.

"Doctors for Iraq condemns in the strongest terms any activities that prevent civilians from accessing healthcare or humanitarian assistance by all actors engaged in the conflict," the group said.

The doctors demanded immediate end to the blockade, which they called "an act of collective punishment." They called for local NGOs and health workers to be allowed access to the city.

A spokesperson for the U.S. military in Iraq admitted to reporters that the security measures imposed on Samarra had "made living very difficult," but claimed that "local authorities" had imposed them.

But the IPS correspondent saw several U.S. military vehicles around the city, and earlier U.S. military personnel setting up roadblocks at the beginning of the siege.

"Those cowards are enjoying killing our children and so are the Persian (Prime Minister Nouri) Maliki government officials," 45-year-old Abu Nabhan in Samarra told IPS. "They seem to be in need of further attacks from our blessed sons in the resistance because this attack on the people of Samarra will only increase our hatred against the Americans."

Residents are becoming ever more angry with the occupation forces.

"The situation is getting much worse because of this irresponsible behaviour of the U.S. forces," a worker with a local NGO who gave his name as Yassin told IPS. "They are raising more anger and inclination for violence. All our efforts to calm the people are wasted now as more people than ever believe in violence instead of peace."

*(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)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Excellence in broadcasting from Amy Goodman/Democracy Now!

* War Made Easy: How Presidents & Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death *

Protests against the Bush administration and the Iraq War continued across
the country over the Memorial Day weekend. Today we spend the hour looking
at how presidents from Lyndon Johnson to George W. Bush sold wars to the
American public. Media critic Norman Solomon and the Media Education
Foundation have released a documentary titled "War Made Easy: How Presidents
and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death." The film is based on Solomon's book
of the same name. The film features extended commentary by Solomon and is
narrated by Sean Penn.

Why I Am Leaving the Democratic Party

By Cindy Sheehan

05/28/07 "ICH" --- - Dublin, Ireland

Dear Democratic Congress,

Hello, my name is Cindy Sheehan and my son Casey Sheehan was killed on April 04, 2004 in Sadr City , Baghdad , Iraq . He was killed when the Republicans still were in control of Congress. Naively, I set off on my tireless campaign calling on Congress to rescind George's authority to wage his war of terror while asking him "for what noble cause" did Casey and thousands of other have to die. Now, with Democrats in control of Congress, I have lost my optimistic naiveté and have become cynically pessimistic as I see you all caving into "Mr. 28%"

There is absolutely no sane or defensible reason for you to hand Bloody King George more money to condemn more of our brave, tired, and damaged soldiers and the people of Iraq to more death and carnage. You think giving him more money is politically expedient, but it is a moral abomination and every second the occupation of Iraq endures, you all have more blood on your hands.

Ms. Pelosi, Speaker of the House, said after George signed the new weak as a newborn baby funding authorization bill: "Now, I think the president's policy will begin to unravel." Begin to unravel? How many more of our children will have to be killed and how much more of Iraq will have to be demolished before you all think enough unraveling has occurred? How many more crimes will BushCo be allowed to commit while their poll numbers are crumbling before you all gain the political "courage" to hold them accountable. If Iraq hasn't unraveled in Ms. Pelosi's mind, what will it take? With almost 700,000 Iraqis dead and four million refugees (which the US refuses to admit) how could it get worse? Well, it is getting worse and it can get much worse thanks to your complicity.

Being cynically pessimistic, it seems to me that this new vote to extend the war until the end of September, (and let's face it, on October 1st, you will give him more money after some more theatrics, which you think are fooling the anti-war faction of your party) will feed right into the presidential primary season and you believe that if you just hang on until then, the Democrats will be able to re-take the White House. Didn't you see how "well" that worked for John Kerry in 2004 when he played the politics of careful fence sitting and pandering? The American electorate are getting disgusted with weaklings who blow where the wind takes them while frittering away our precious lifeblood and borrowing money from our new owners, the Chinese.

I knew having a Democratic Congress would make no difference in grassroots action. That's why we went to DC when you all were sworn in to tell you that we wanted the troops back from Iraq and BushCo held accountable while you pushed for ethics reform which is quite a hoot...don't' you think? We all know that it is affordable for you all to play this game of political mayhem because you have no children in harm's way...let me tell you what it is like:

You watch your reluctant soldier march off to a war that neither you nor he agrees with. Once your soldier leaves the country all you can do is worry. You lie awake at night staring at the moon wondering if today will be the day that you get that dreaded knock on your door. You can't concentrate, you can't eat, and your entire life becomes consumed with apprehension while you are waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Then, when your worst fears are realized, you begin a life of constant pain, regret, and longing. Everyday is hard, but then you come up on "special" upcoming Memorial Day. Memorial Day holds double pain for me because, not only are we supposed to honor our fallen troops, but Casey was born on Memorial Day in 1979. It used to be a day of celebration for us and now it is a day of despair. Our needlessly killed soldiers of this war and the past conflict in Vietnam have all left an unnecessary trail of sorrow and deep holes of absence that will never be filled.

So, Democratic Congress, with the current daily death toll of 3.72 troops per day, you have condemned 473 more to these early graves. 473 more lives wasted for your political greed: Thousands of broken hearts because of your cowardice and avarice. How can you even go to sleep at night or look at yourselves in a mirror? How do you put behind you the screaming mothers on both sides of the conflict? How does the agony you have created escape you? It will never escape me...I can't run far enough or hide well enough to get away from it.

By the end of September, we will be about 80 troops short of another bloody milestone: 4000, and will hold nationwide candlelight vigils and you all will be busy passing legislation that will snuff the lights out of thousands more human beings.

Congratulations Congress, you have bought yourself a few more months of an illegal and immoral bloodbath. And you know you mean to continue it indefinitely so "other presidents" can solve the horrid problem BushCo forced our world into.

It used to be George Bush's war. You could have ended it honorably. Now it is yours and you all will descend into calumnious history with BushCo.

The Camp Casey Peace Institute is calling all citizens who are as disgusted as we are with you all to join us in Philadelphia on July 4th to try and figure a way out of this "two" party system that is bought and paid for by the war machine which has a stranglehold on every aspect of our lives. As for myself, I am leaving the Democratic Party. You have completely failed those who put you in power to change the direction our country is heading. We did not elect you to help sink our ship of state but to guide it to safe harbor.

We do not condone our government's violent meddling in sovereign countries and we condemn the continued murderous occupation of Iraq .

We gave you a chance, you betrayed us.

Cindy Sheehan
Founder and President of
Gold Star Families for Peace.

Founder and Director of
The Camp Casey Peace Institute

Eternally grieving mother of Casey Sheehan

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Nation magazine offers an alibi for Democrats’ support of Iraq war

By Bill Van Auken
26 May 2007

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Thursday’s votes in the US Senate and House of Representatives in favor of a bill providing another $100 billion in war-funding have a far-reaching and unmistakable significance that will find an inevitable reflection in the political consciousness of broad masses of the American people.

Having won the leadership of both houses of Congress in the 2006 congressional elections thanks to a groundswell of antiwar sentiment, the Democratic Party leadership has now provided all the money and more that President Bush requested for the continuation and escalation of a criminal war, and it has done so under terms dictated by the White House.

What have the Democrats bought with their “emergency” spending bill? Bush answered this question at a press conference in the White House Rose Garden Thursday, where he warned, “We’re going to expect heavy fighting in the weeks and months. We can expect more American and Iraqi casualties.” He went on to predict a “bloody” August.

With at least 90 US troops killed already in the month of May, and thousands of Iraqi fatalities, what is being prepared is an unprecedented wave of mass killing aimed at crushing resistance to the US occupation and bludgeoning the Iraqi people into submission.

The war crimes that are being prepared in plain sight are opposed by the vast majority of the American people. Yet, with nearly 70 percent of the population against the war in Iraq, this mass antiwar sentiment can find no real expression in the decisions and actions of the US government. The Democratic Party, no less than Bush and the Republicans, is responsible for this political disenfranchisement of tens of millions of Americans in the interests of pursuing a neo-colonial war.

In the six months since the November elections, the Democrats have sought to placate and deceive the voters who handed them the reins of power in the House and Senate by posturing as opponents of the war, while at the same time pledging to “support the troops” by funding that war and continuing to support the geo-strategic goals that underlay the March 2003 invasion in the first place.

On Thursday, this political balancing act fell apart in a cowardly and cynical capitulation to the White House. The inevitable result of this cave-in is massive anger among those who voted for the Democrats last November and a growing sense that none of the institutions or political parties of the ruling establishment reflect the democratic will of the people.

Countering such sentiments and attempting to resuscitate illusions in the Democrats is the specific task of a layer of the American “left” that is thoroughly integrated into the Democratic Party. Its political conceptions and aims—shared by a variety of protest groups, “left” think tanks and a smattering of elected officials—are expressed most clearly by the weekly Nation magazine.

It would appear that the current issue of the Nation, dated June 11, went to press after the Democratic leadership in Congress had formalized its abject surrender to the White House—accepting a war-funding measure without even the pretense of a timetable for withdrawing US troops from Iraq—but before the actual votes in the House and Senate to approve the legislation.

This awkward timing leads to some inevitable pratfalls by the Nation’s editors in a lead editorial entitled “Iraq Timeline Runs Out.”

The thrust of this statement is an argument that “disunity” and “defections” by a relative handful of right-wing Democrats have undermined the valiant efforts of the party’s leadership in the House and Senate to legislate a withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

Thus, the magazine’s readers are told, the likes of Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Congressman Steny Hoyer, the Democrats’ House majority leader, have “prevented House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Harry Reid from forcing a timeline on the Administration.”

“The Democratic majority in Congress is so razor-thin that in late May it finally gave up the attempt to pass a funding bill establishing a timeline for withdrawal,” the editorial explains.

The magazine’s editors write as if they were part of a public relations firm hired to massage the images of Pelosi and Reid.

“At least Pelosi and Reid are voting right,” the editorial declares. It cites the House speaker’s and Senate majority leader’s votes on a pair of resolutions that were doomed to defeat from the outset, both calling for a cut in funding for “combat troops” in Iraq.

Here, the timing of the Nation’s editorial served to underscore the fraudulence of its entire thesis. The supposedly principled opponent of war Harry Reid joined 37 other Democrats in the Senate in voting for the war-funding bill. Only 10 Democrats voted against.

As for Pelosi, while personally voting against the measure in the House, she carefully packaged the legislation to ensure its passage by a nearly unanimous Republican minority and 86 Democrats. This was accomplished by means of an adroit parliamentary maneuver, which split a domestic funding portion of the legislation—opposed by some Republicans—from its war spending core, thus assuring that the latter received a solid majority. More importantly, 216 Democrats voted in favor of this procedure—with only seven voting “no”—making the approval of the war spending inevitable.

At a Friday press conference, Pelosi termed the legislation she had voted against “a step in the right direction” and defended her shepherding of the bill through Congress with the increasingly threadbare claim that money appropriated to continue the slaughter in Iraq is designed to “support the troops.”

“As of today, President Bush no longer has a blank check for a war without end in Iraq,” Pelosi declared in her prepared statement issued Friday. Indeed, the check is not blank. It has hers and the Democratic Party’s names on it.

Treating the Democratic leadership’s hollow pledge to “keep fighting” as good coin, the Nation writes, “Pelosi and Reid are right when they say this is not the end of the fight over money for Iraq.” The only problem, it suggests, is that “there are still prominent Democrats who don’t get it”—Levin, Hoyer and Co.—and they “are slowing movement toward unity in support of withdrawal.”

The “unacceptable votes” cast by these supposedly rogue Democrats “should raise the ire of antiwar activists and the American people,” the Nation affirms, and those who cast them should be “held accountable for extending the war.”

The editorial concludes, “Americans must make it clear that when the next chance comes to use the power of the purse, our representatives should follow the will of the people and call a halt to Bush’s disastrous war.”

Nothing could more clearly sum up the Nation’s political function. It seeks to delude its readers into thinking that the ongoing complicity of the Democratic Party in the launching and continuation of the war in Iraq is a matter of a “razor thin” majority in Congress and the wayward votes of a few political miscreants. Thus, the perspective it advances is that these few politicians—mere warts on an otherwise healthy political body—should be shamed, and the public should wait for the Democrats to do better next time.

Everything here is reduced to the small change of party politics and petty maneuvers in the halls of Congress. It leaves unanswered the big and obvious questions of why the Democrats are incapable of mounting a genuine opposition to the war and why the party’s congressional leadership has no intention of doing either of the two things that could force its end—blocking all funds for the Iraq occupation or impeaching Bush for the war crimes and anti-democratic abuses that have been carried out under his administration.

The explanation is to be found not in the “razor thin” majority that the Democrats have in Congress—that never stopped the Republican Party from forcing through its right-wing agenda when it held the leadership—but in the class nature of the Democratic Party and the character of the war itself.

The Democratic Party—no less than the Republicans—is controlled by and defends the interests of a financial elite. That is the basic reason why it supported and continues to support a war that was launched to further the global interests of the US banks and corporations by establishing American hegemony over the strategic oil supplies of the Middle East.

Whatever the party’s tactical differences with the Bush administration, no piece of legislation that has been brought to a vote or backed by any section of the Democratic leadership over the past several months has called for a complete withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq. Every one of the Democrats’ measures has included language that clearly envisions the maintenance of an occupation force numbering at least in the tens of thousands for the foreseeable future, and therefore a continuation of the bloodbath. On this, the Nation’s editors are notably silent.

Yet the Democrats posture as a “people’s” party, one that supposedly defends the interests of average working people against the predations of big business. As social polarization has grown ever wider in the US, however, this pretense has grown increasingly stale. At home, the Democrats are a party of fiscal austerity, while its leading candidates are virtually all multi-millionaires. Abroad, they are a party of militarism, committed to the buildup and use of military force to further the profit interests of US big business.

Under conditions in which many millions of American working people have drawn their own political conclusions and are profoundly alienated from and hostile to the Democrats and the entire two-party system, the Nation, as well as protest organizations such as and United for Peace and Justice, desperately seek to give the Democrats a “left” face, attempting to revive illusions that the Democratic Party can be compelled by mass pressure to pursue a policy of social justice and peace.

No doubt there is among these forces an element of self-delusion, as well as the deliberate deluding of others. In either case, definite social interests are expressed.

The transfer of congressional leadership to the Democrats may have failed to stop the war or produce any significant changes for the masses of working people in America, but it has yielded definite benefits for the privileged layer of upper-middle-class “left” liberals for whom the Nation speaks. Many of them have filled coveted staff positions on Capitol Hill or seen the fortunes of the liberal think tanks with which they are associated rise. The Nation’s editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel, has with increasing frequency been admitted to the ranks of pundits appearing on television talk shows.

This left wing of the US political establishment is being promoted for definite political purposes. America’s ruling elite fears the eruption of mass movements of social protest and, above all, the emergence of a genuinely independent political movement of the working class in opposition to the two-party system and the profit interests it defends.

The job of these “left” PR agents for the Democratic Party is to politically suffocate any such movement and to contain social protest, diverting it back into the harmless confines of the Democratic Party.

This political task, however, is growing increasingly difficult. The war-funding vote, notwithstanding the Nation’s advice to wait for the Democrats’ “next chance” to vote against the war, marks a definite turning point in American political life, and one from which the Democratic Party’s credibility may never recover.

See Also:
US Congress ratifies Democratic cave-in on Iraq war funding
[25 May 2007]

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Anti Chavez propaganda promulgates on corporate media

Coup Co-Conspirators as Free-Speech Martyrs
Distorting the Venezuelan media story


The story is framed in U.S. news media as a simple matter of censorship: Prominent Venezuelan TV station RCTV is being silenced by the authoritarian government of President Hugo Chávez, who is punishing the station for its political criticism of his government.

According to CNN reporter T.J. Holmes (5/21/07), the issues are easy to understand: RCTV "is going to be shut down, is going to get off the air, because of President Hugo Chávez, not a big fan of it." Dubbing RCTV "a voice of free speech," Holmes explained, "Chavez, in a move that's angered a lot of free-speech groups, is refusing now to renew the license of this television station that has been critical of his government."

Though straighter, a news story by the Associated Press (5/20/07) still maintained the theme that the license denial was based simply on political differences, with reporter Elizabeth Munoz describing RCTV as "a network that has been critical of Chávez."

In a May 14 column, Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl called the action an attempt to silence opponents and more "proof" that Chávez is a "dictator." Wrote Diehl, "Chávez has made clear that his problem with [RCTV owner Marcel] Granier and RCTV is political."

In keeping with the media script that has bad guy Chávez brutishly silencing good guys in the democratic opposition, all these articles skimmed lightly over RCTV's history, the Venezuelan government's explanation for the license denial and the process that led to it.

RCTV and other commercial TV stations were key players in the April 2002 coup that briefly ousted Chávez's democratically elected government. During the short-lived insurrection, coup leaders took to commercial TV airwaves to thank the networks. "I must thank Venevisión and RCTV," one grateful leader remarked in an appearance captured in the Irish film The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. The film documents the networks' participation in the short-lived coup, in which stations put themselves to service as bulletin boards for the coup?hosting coup leaders, silencing government voices and rallying the opposition to a march on the Presidential Palace that was part of the coup plotters strategy.

On April 11, 2002, the day of the coup, when military and civilian opposition leaders held press conferences calling for Chávez's ouster, RCTV hosted top coup plotter Carlos Ortega, who rallied demonstrators to the march on the presidential palace. On the same day, after the anti-democratic overthrow appeared to have succeeded, another coup leader, Vice-Admiral Victor Ramírez Pérez, told a Venevisión reporter (4/11/02): "We had a deadly weapon: the media. And now that I have the opportunity, let me congratulate you."

That commercial TV outlets including RCTV participated in the coup is not at question; even mainstream outlets have acknowledged as much. As reporter Juan Forero, Jackson Diehl's colleague at the Washington Post, explained (1/18/07), "RCTV, like three other major private television stations, encouraged the protests," resulting in the coup, "and, once Chávez was ousted, cheered his removal." The conservative British newspaper the Financial Times reported (5/21/07), "[Venezuelan] officials argue with some justification that RCTV actively supported the 2002 coup attempt against Mr. Chávez."

As FAIR's magazine Extra! argued last November, "Were a similar event to happen in the U.S., and TV journalists and executives were caught conspiring with coup plotters, it's doubtful they would stay out of jail, let alone be allowed to continue to run television stations, as they have in Venezuela."

When Chávez returned to power the commercial stations refused to cover the news, airing instead entertainment programs?in RCTV's case, the American film Pretty Woman. By refusing to cover such a newsworthy story, the stations abandoned the public interest and violated the public trust that is seen in Venezuela (and in the U.S.) as a requirement for operating on the public airwaves. Regarding RCTV's refusal to cover the return of Chavez to power, Columbia University professor and former NPR editor John Dinges told Marketplace (5/8/07):

What RCTV did simply can't be justified under any stretch of journalistic principles?. When a television channel simply fails to report, simply goes off the air during a period of national crisis, not because they're forced to, but simply because they don't agree with what's happening, you've lost your ability to defend what you do on journalistic principles.

The Venezuelan government is basing its denial of license on RCTV's involvement in the 2002 coup, not on the station's criticisms of or political opposition to the government. Many American pundits and some human rights spokespersons have confused the issue by claiming the action is based merely on political differences, failing to note that Venezuela's media, including its commercial broadcasters, are still among the most vigorously dissident on the planet.

When Patrick McElwee of the U.S.-based group Just Foreign Policy interviewed representatives of Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists?all groups that have condemned Venezuela's action in denying RCTV's license renewal?he found that none of the spokespersons thought broadcasters were automatically entitled to license renewals, though none of them thought RCTV's actions in support of the coup should have resulted in the station having its license renewal denied. This led McElwee to wonder, based on the rights groups' arguments, "Could it be that governments like Venezuela have the theoretical right to not to renew a broadcast license, but that no responsible government would ever do it?"

McElwee acknowledged the critics' point that some form of due process should have been involved in the decisions, but explained that laws preexisting Chávez's presidency placed licensing decision with the executive branch, with no real provisions for a hearings process: "Unfortunately, this is what the law, first enacted in 1987, long before Chávez entered the political scene, allows. It charges the executive branch with decisions about license renewal, but does not seem to require any administrative hearing. The law should be changed, but at the current moment when broadcast licenses are up for renewal, it is the prevailing law and thus lays out the framework in which decisions are made."

Government actions weighing on journalism and broadcast licensing deserve strong scrutiny. However, on the central question of whether a government is bound to renew the license of a broadcaster when that broadcaster had been involved in a coup against the democratically elected government, the answer should be clear, as McElwee concludes:

The RCTV case is not about censorship of political opinion. It is about the government, through a flawed process, declining to renew a broadcast license to a company that would not get a license in other democracies, including the United States. In fact, it is frankly amazing that this company has been allowed to broadcast for 5 years after the coup, and that the Chávez government waited until its license expired to end its use of the public airwaves.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

MUST SEE VIDEO--Lays Bare the F^cking Dem Deceitfullness

This Shameful, Bi-partisan Betrayal

Keith Olbermann - Special Comment

A Special Comment about the Democrats' deal with President Bush to continue financing this unspeakable war in Iraq-and to do so on his terms: Video and transcript

Cowardice, Capitulaltion as Democrats Cave in give rise to Socialist Party stands

Democratic Party completes its capitulation on Iraq

By Barry Grey
24 May 2007

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The Democratic congressional leadership on Tuesday formally accepted a supplemental war-funding bill that abandons any timelines for withdrawing US troops from Iraq. The bill further gives President Bush the power to waive economic penalties should the Iraqi government fail to meet a series of “benchmarks” for stabilizing the country and opening up its oil resources to exploitation by American oil conglomerates.

The agreement is a full and abject capitulation by the Democratic Party to the Bush administration. It is the inevitable and predictable outcome of months of antiwar posturing by Democratic leaders.

The terms of the deal were dictated by the White House, working in tandem with Republican Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, who put forward the proposal last week in an amendment co-sponsored by Democrats Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Robert Byrd of West Virginia. The bill would grant Bush’s request for more than $100 billion in additional funds to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan until the end of the current fiscal year on September 1.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, announced the agreement Tuesday, following talks between Democratic and Republican congressional leaders and White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten. The negotiations were launched last Friday, after the Senate vote 94-to-1 for a measure pledging “support for the troops,” i.e., full funding for the war without any restrictions on the administration’s escalation of military violence.

That set the stage for the final Democratic cave-in. The New York Times reported Wednesday: “Senior Democratic officials said the final bill would probably be stripped of other features that Mr. Bush had previously resisted, including readiness standards that would have prevented troops from being returned to Iraq within one year or without adequate training and equipment unless Mr. Bush signed a waiver determining it was necessary.”

Even as he admitted that the benchmark language was “extremely weak,” Reid attempted to give the deal a positive gloss, saying, “No one can say with any degree of veracity that we haven’t made great progress.”

The hypocrisy of the Democrats was aptly—if unwittingly—summed up by the New York Times, which sought to present the agreement as something other than a surrender. Quoting the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, the newspaper wrote: “’I would never vote for such a thing,’ Ms. Pelosi said, as she entered the office of Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, to put the final touches on the $120 billion proposal.”

Later, Pelosi called the bill, which she said she could not support, “another stage in the sequencing of ending this war.”

Other Democrats, who sought to give themselves political cover by including in the war-funding bill some provisions for “accountability” and target dates for partially withdrawing US combat troops, were more blunt. Massachusetts Democrat James McGovern said, “There are no timetables, there’s no accountability. The president doesn’t have to pay attention to any of this stuff.”

Lynn Woolsey, Democrat of California and member of the Out of Iraq Caucus in the House, said, “The president prevailed.”

White House spokesman Tony Snow made it clear that the agreement gives Bush everything he had demanded, saying, “What will be seen as a victory is providing... the funding and flexibility the forces need. That’s what we wanted all along.”

A vote on the bill is expected Thursday, and leaders of both parties say it will be passed and sent to Bush to sign prior to the weeklong Memorial Day recess.

The inclusion of 18 unenforceable benchmarks in the spending bill, far from signaling a move toward ending the war, has the reactionary aim of placing the onus for the death and destruction inflicted by the US on Iraq on the Iraqis themselves. Warner lectured the Iraqi government—a puppet regime entirely dependent on the US military and despised by the mass of Iraqis—on the meaning of the benchmarks, saying “We’re there to help you so long as you, as a sovereign nation, pull your own weight and do your responsible job.”

It is no doubt puzzling to many that, despite the massive popular opposition to Bush and the Iraq war, the Democrats are powerless against the Bush administration. In the past—in the run-up to the 2003 invasion and in the 2004 presidential election—the Democrats justified their prostration and complicity by the supposedly overwhelming popular support for the president.

The fundamental reason for the Democrats’ impotence is the character of the Democratic Party. It is, no less than the Republicans, a party of US imperialism. The Democrats have from the onset supported the basic imperialist aims underlying the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the broader striving of the American financial elite to utilize its military power to dominate the world’s resources and markets.

The war was never simply “Bush’s war.” The Democrats repeated the lies used by the administration to drag the American people into the war and supplied the necessary votes in Congress to give Bush the authority to launch an unprovoked war of aggression. Their criticisms have been directed not against the war itself, but rather against the administration’s incompetence in conducting it and the military and political disaster it has produced.

The Democrats have done, and will do, nothing to actually halt the war or impede its expansion, because the overwhelming consensus within the US ruling elite is that any outcome perceived as a defeat for the United States would have catastrophic consequences for the global position of American capitalism.

The Republican Party, no matter how unpopular and discredited among the people, prevails because it represents most directly the interests of the most determined and ruthless sections of the ruling elite. The Democrats, on the other hand, serve a very specific function within the political establishment. They defend the basic interests of the ruling class, while promoting the fiction that their party is something it is not now and never was—a party of average working people. This is what imparts to the Democratic Party its inveterate duplicity, half-heartedness and cowardice.

Bob Kerrey’s defense of war

The imperialist and militarist perspective that actually drives the Democratic Party was spelled out in a column published in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal by one of the party’s leading spokesmen, former senator and current president of the New School University in New York, Bob Kerrey.

Kerrey is among the more forthright spokesmen for US imperialism within the Democratic Party. In 2001, shortly after he left his post as senator from Nebraska to assume the presidency of the New School, it was revealed that he had commanded a Navy Seal unit in Vietnam in 1969 that carried out a massacre against a defenseless village, in which he and six soldiers under his command killed 21 women, children and elderly men.

His record as a war criminal did not prevent him from being appointed to the 9/11 Commission and continuing to hold his post at the New School. In his Wall Street Journal column, entitled “The Left’s Iraq Muddle,” Kerrey gives an unabashed defense of the war in Iraq and argues for an extension of US military violence far beyond Iraq.

In language that could have been lifted from a speech by Bush, Kerrey portrays the holocaust inflicted by the US on Iraq as a campaign for democracy.

“The key question for Congress,” he writes, “is whether or not Iraq has become the primary battleground against the same radical Islamists who declared war on the US in the 1990s and who have carried out a series of terrorist operations including 9/11. The answer is emphatically, ‘yes.’”

He makes the absurd claim that “Those who argue that radical Islamic terrorism has arrived in Iraq because of the US-led invasion are right. But they are right because radical Islam opposes democracy in Iraq. If our purpose had been to substitute a dictator who was more cooperative and supportive of the West, these groups wouldn’t have lasted a week.” But, of course, the US supports authoritarian regimes in a whole series of countries where Islamic terrorists flourish—Pakistan, Afghanistan and Egypt, to name a few.

In any event, Kerrey is not seeking to convince the general public by means of a coherent argument. Rather, he is out to convince his fellow Democrats that they can prove their right to rule to the constituency that really counts—the ruling elite—only by ignoring the sentiments of the people, abandoning their antiwar posturing and fully embracing all-out war in Iraq.

He chides “American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible,” denounces any suggestion that the war is “all about oil,” and says if Democrats shy away from war “then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power.”

He concludes by declaring, “We must not allow terrorist sanctuaries to develop any place on earth. Whether these fighters are finding refuge in Syria, Iran, Pakistan or elsewhere, we cannot afford diplomatic of political excuses to prevent us from using military force to eliminate them.”

November to May: Six months of duplicity and lies

It is instructive to review the process by which the Democratic leadership has come to its final capitulation to Bush. When the Democrats took control of both houses of Congress last January, propelled into power by the massive antiwar vote in the November 2006 congressional elections, they began by relegating the entire question of the war to the background.

Pelosi’s “100 hours” legislative agenda at the start of the 110th Congress entirely ignored the issue of the war. The resulting anger and indignation among Democratic voters, intensified by Bush’s January 10 announcement of a “surge” of tens of thousands of additional troops into Iraq, compelled the party leadership to shift tactics. What followed was an elaborate and carefully calculated effort to dupe the population into believing that the Democrats were seeking to end the war, while they swore off any actions that would actually impede its prosecution.

This included the non-binding resolutions against the “surge” in February. Beginning in March the Democrats passed measures in the House and Senate that gave Bush his requested funds to continue the war, with various timetables attached for partially withdrawing US combat troops. All of the Democratic proposals allowed for an indefinite continued presence of tens of thousands of troops after the supposed deadlines for withdrawal.

When Bush, on May 1, vetoed the Democratic bill that resulted from negotiations between the House and Senate, the end game was already clear. Democratic leaders in both houses gave repeated assurances that they would under no circumstances cut off funding “for the troops,” even as the toll of American soldiers killed and wounded soared, and Iraq sank ever further into a state of hellish chaos, death and destruction.

They announced that they would come up with a bill acceptable to Bush prior to the May 28 Memorial Day holiday, producing the inevitable and final capitulation that has now occurred.

At every step of the way, the Democratic leadership was aided and abetted by supposedly antiwar Democrats such as the Out of Iraq caucus, who provided the necessary votes to pass war-funding measures, and left-liberal forces such as the Nation magazine and the leaders of protest groups such as United for Peace and Justice, who presented the Democratic Party as a genuine vehicle for opposing and ending the war.

These events have fully confirmed the analysis and perspective of the Socialist Equality Party and the World Socialist Web Site. On November 8, one day after the midterm elections, the WSWS published an editorial board statement that said:

“The Democratic Party is the beneficiary of overwhelming antiwar sentiment that it did nothing to encourage and which stands in stark opposition to its own pro-war policy. There is a vast chasm between the massive antiwar sentiment within the electorate and the commitment of Democratic Party leaders to ‘victory in Iraq’ and continued prosecution of the ‘war on terror.’...

“Those who voted for the Democratic Party in order to express their opposition to the Bush administration and the war will rapidly discover that a Democratic electoral victory will produce no significant change in US policy, either abroad or at home. Millions of working people and youth will sooner rather than later come into direct conflict with the Democrats.”

Eight days later, the WSWS published a statement of the Socialist Equality Party that declared:

“However sharp the differences within the political establishment over the Bush administration’s conduct of the war in Iraq—and more generally its reckless and ignorant approach to complex problems of foreign policy—no substantial section of the ruling elite is prepared to countenance a withdrawal of US forces under conditions where such action would be seen as a military defeat and represent a devastating setback to the regional and global interests of American imperialism.

“The internal debates within the policy-making establishment—Democratic and Republican—are aimed at forging a new strategic consensus on the future conduct of American policy in the Middle East. While the depth of antiwar sentiment expressed in last week’s elections came as something of a shock to both parties, their leaders are not in the least inclined to allow the attitude of the broad mass of the American people determine the foreign policy objectives of the United States.”

The experience of the past six months since the November election has underscored the incompatibility of the interests of working people with the entire two-party system, and the need to break with the Democrats and build a mass, independent and socialist movement to end the war in Iraq and prevent new imperialist wars.

See Also:
Democrats drop "withdrawal" deadlines as administration mulls post-surge Iraq
[23 May 2007]

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Another Chapter in Hillary’s Attempt to Rewrite History on Iraq

By Arianna Huffington

05/22/07 "
Huffington Post" -- -- In a 1939 radio address, Franklin Roosevelt declared, “Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth.” When it comes to Iraq, Hillary Clinton is doing everything in her power to prove him wrong — repeatedly trying to rewrite history and belatedly catch up with public opinion against the war.

She did it during the first Democratic presidential debate, and she was at it again yesterday on the Today show.

The issue was former president Bill Clinton’s campaign trail complaints that it’s unfair for Barack Obama to be characterized as more antiwar than his wife since they hold essentially the same position on the war.

Matt Lauer quoted Obama’s retort that that was true “if you leave out the fact that she authorized and supported the war there and I said it was a bad idea” and played a clip of him saying “I think it is fair to say that we had a fundamentally different opinion on the wisdom of this war. And I don’t think we can revise history when it comes to that.”

Lauer then asked Hillary, “Was there a fundamental difference in 2002 between you and him?”

Instead of honestly explaining her transformation from pro-war supporter to cheerleader of the war’s progress to tentative opponent of the war to her current incarnation as long-term opponent of the war, Hillary skipped right over the unpleasant past and tried to talk only about the future: “Well, you know, Matt, I think the important thing is for the Democrats to be united in trying to either persuade or require this president to change this direction now — that’s what all of us in the Senate are trying to do.” Sure, why answer the question when you can divert attention and blur the differences between you and your opponents?

Hillary also dutifully hit her talking point that she’s been “saying for a number of years” that we should bring our troops home — trying to rhetorically paper-over the fact that for most of those years she was actually trying to have it both ways on Iraq: dipping her toe in the rising anti-war tide by voting for a phased redeployment of troops while steadfastly arguing against setting any kind of deadline for bringing our troops home (for instance, less than a year ago, in June 2006, she said she did not “think it is smart strategy to set a date certain. I do not agree that that is in the best interest of our troops or our country”).

This broad-brush, who-cares-about-details approach to Iraq is a favorite of pro-war Democrats desperately trying to align themselves with the majority of the American people, at least until the election. Are we forgetting Joe Lieberman, who claimed during his campaign against Ned Lamont, “No one wants to end the war in Iraq more than I do“? And there he is now, Tweedle-Dee to John McCain’s pro-surge Tweedle-Dum.

As the Democrats continue to push for an end to the war, the devil will most certainly be in the details — and pretending everyone is on the same page will do little to help voters decide which candidate to support. Which is exactly how Hillary wants it.

She’s even trying to turn her chronic shape-shifting on Iraq into an asset, telling Matt Lauer that she’s “put forth a number of approaches.” See, she wasn’t trying to cover all her bases — she was putting forth a number of approaches.

Hillary obviously was paying attention during Bill Clinton’s master class on rewriting history. Take his claim, made on a fundraising call with Hillary supporters in March, about the unfairness of the contrasting depiction of Hillary and Obama on the war: “To characterize Hillary and Obama’s positions on the war as polar opposite is ludicrous. This dichotomy that’s been set up to allow him to become the raging hero of the anti-war crowd on the Internet is just factually inaccurate.”

Hmm, let’s see… Hillary voted for the war and Obama passionately opposed it. Characterizing that as “polar opposite” hardly seems “factually inaccurate.” Indeed, one might say it was “factually accurate.” But when Lauer asked Hillary about this, she said, “I think he was referring to the voting records most Democrats have.” Which, of course, he absolutely wasn’t. He was talking about Obama.

Regarding her husband’s claim, Hillary also told Lauer, “You’ll have to ask him exactly what he meant…” — which I have a sick feeling is going to be a phrase we are going to hear over and over and over in the months ahead as Bill Clinton tries to clear Hillary’s path to the White House.

In the facts-at-our-fingertips age of the Internet, Hillary’s blur-the-past strategy on Iraq takes a lot of chutzpah.

Arianna Huffington is the editor of The Huffington Post

Actions no surprise
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The editors of America’s most prestigious newspapers pronounce
themselves flabbergasted by the Bush administration’s corrupt and
nakedly partisan machinations at the Department of Justice. As well they
should. Hiring and firing U.S. attorneys according to their willingness
to use the criminal justice system to follow a party line shocks the
conscience of anybody committed to the Constitution and the rule of law.
Some of us wonder why it’s taken them so long to grasp the obvious.
Because last time around, The New York Times and Washington Post were
urging them on. Prosecuting federal crimes from political corruption and
bank fraud to terrorism, U.S. attorneys wield enormous discretionary
power. As the Times explains in a stinging editorial, “they can wiretap
people’s homes, seize property and put people in jail for life. They can
destroy businesses, and affect the outcomes of elections. It has always
been understood that although they are appointed by a president, usually
from his own party, once in office they must operate in a nonpartisan
way, and be insulated from outside pressures.”

Indeed, the revelation that an inexperienced ideologue like Monica
Goodling, the GOP apparatchik who testifies before Congress this week,
was given authority by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to draw up hit
lists of U.S. attorneys unwilling to pursue meritless voting fraud
charges against Democrats strikes at the essence of democracy. The
Times’ editors won’t be satisfied until the incompetent toady Gonzales
is forced from office.

Funny, because when Kenneth Starr and his Merry Men subjected the state
of Arkansas to a six-year inquisition, Beltway thinkers treated him as
an untouchable. Those of us who objected were scorned as “Clinton
apologists,” and worse. Begging for leaks out of Starr’s office like
dogs at the dinner table, the national press became prosecutorial press

Ancient history? Maybe so. The Arkansas experience constitutes a vivid
illustration of all that can go wrong when law enforcement becomes a
partisan cudgel. Not everybody, see, could afford top-dollar legal
representation, nor enjoyed the protections of White House celebrity.

Starr’s prosecutors, several of whom Bush has appointed to federal
judgeships and other posts, knew they couldn’t bring anything but an
airtight case against the president and first lady. That wasn’t true of
anybody else in Arkansas, even then-Gov. Jim Guy Tucker. Hundreds of
ordinary citizens—bankers, loan officers, real estate appraisers,
surveyors, tax lawyers, accountants, college professors, secretaries—got
swept into the ever-expanding “Whitewater” investigation. For them, it
wasn’t quite like living in America.

Virtually the entire case depended upon one David Hale, a con man
indicted by Little Rock’s Democratic U.S. attorney for embezzling over
$2 million from the Small Business Administration. Caught red-handed,
Hale began spinning wild fables about every prominent person in Arkansas
he’d ever done business with and some, like the Clintons, he hadn’t.
Many were Republicans, none of whom Starr’s prosecutors ever touched.

A jury convicted Tucker of bank fraud, based upon a loan document Hale
prepared that there was no evidence Tucker ever saw. After pleading
guilty to a second charge for health reasons (liver transplant), Tucker
finally got a look at the formal charges: as he’d suspected, Starr’s
prosecutors had indicted him using an expired tax law. Too late, Jim
Guy. His appeals went nowhere in the partisan 8th Circuit Court.

Remember Susan McDougal in chains? She swore Starr put her in a perjury
trap: demanding she confirm Hale and her ex-husband Jim McDougal’s
cockamamie tales. Kept in solitary for most of two years, she was
acquitted of obstructing justice after a jury heard McDougal and several
other witnesses testify that prosecutors pressured them for false

A Little Rock municipal judge named Bill Watt got tagged an “unindicted
coconspirator” for refusing to confirm Hale’s tall tales about Bill
Clinton. Although he’d provided prosecutors with documentary evidence
he’d severed his relationship with Hale and alerted the SBA to his
crimes, the allegation cost Watt his job, his reputation and pension. A
scrapper, Watt later presented his case to the Arkansas Judicial
Discipline and Disability Commission and was fully reinstated to the
bar—the only formal reversal in that agency’s history. I could cite a
dozen similar examples. Starr’s team investigated not crimes, but
people. They ransacked ordinary citizens ’ lives investigating tall
tales no competent U.S. attorney would waste resources on. Meanwhile,
any skeptical observer who read the transcripts and studied the
documents could confidently predict Whitewater would come to nothing. So
naturally GOP hardliners thought they could turn the Department of
Justice into a partisan tool. The last time they did so, Beltway pundits

Monday, May 21, 2007

What would Jesus do?

Former US President Jimmy Carter blasts Bush and Blair over Iraq

By Bill Van Auken
21 May 2007

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In a pair of back-to-back interviews, former US President Jimmy Carter delivered a blistering critique of George W. Bush—declaring his administration the “worst administration in history”—and Tony Blair, describing the British prime minister’s support for US foreign policy “abominable.”

The harshness of the critique was virtually unprecedented for an ex-president commenting on the performance of a successor, not to mention a key US ally. It was all the more unusual since it was directed against a sitting president.

In an interview published Saturday in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Carter declared: “I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history. The overt reversal of America’s basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me.”

Carter, in particular, denounced the Bush administration’s adoption of a policy of “pre-emptive war.” He said, “We have a new policy now on war. We now have endorsed the concept of pre-emptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered.” He described this as “a radical departure from all previous administration policies.”

Carter also condemned the administration’s Middle East policy. The former president was given the Nobel Peace Prize largely for negotiating the Camp David treaty between Egypt and Israel—a deal that served to isolate the Palestinian people’s struggle for liberation. He was vilified by pro-Israeli circles for his recent book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

“For the first time since Israel was founded, we’ve had zero peace talks to try to bring a resolution of differences in the Middle East’” he said. “That’s a radical departure from the past.”

He also called the administration’s nuclear weapons policy a “radical departure,” charging it with having “abandoned or directly refuted every nuclear arms control agreement ever negotiated down through history.”

Turning to domestic policy, the former president denounced the Bush White House for having jettisoned “almost every previous administration’s policy on environmental quality,” including those of Republicans like Richard Nixon.

Carter, a devout Baptist, was particularly caustic in condemning the Bush administration’s cementing of ties with the religious right through the promotion of government-funded “faith-based” programs, a practice he described as “quite disturbing.”

Citing programs that have allowed churches to funnel taxpayers’ money exclusively to their own members, Carter charged the administration with violating the constitutional principle of separation of church and state. He declared that he had upheld this principle while in office, adding, “And so have all other presidents, I might say, except this one.”

In relation to Blair, Carter gave an interview to the British Broadcasting Corporation Saturday, as the British prime minister was in Baghdad and just after his farewell stop at the Bush White House. Asked to describe Blair’s support for Bush, the former president replied, “Abominable. Loyal. Blind. Apparently subservient.”

He added, “I think the almost undeviating support by Great Britain for the ill-advised policies of President Bush in Iraq have been a major tragedy for the world.”

Carter suggested that had the Blair government not aligned itself with Washington in the Iraq war and instead opposed the invasion, the war might have been avoided or the occupation ended.

“I can’t say it would have made a definitive difference, but it would certainly have assuaged the problems that arose lately,” he said. “One of the defenses of the Bush administration, in the American public and on a worldwide basis—and it’s not been successful in my opinion—has been that, OK, we must be more correct in our actions than the world thinks because Great Britain is backing us.”

The national press largely buried their reports of Carter’s extraordinary statements. What clearly constituted major news justifying front-page coverage—a former president’s blunt denunciation of the Iraq war and the foreign and domestic policy of the current president—was treated as a second-rate item and relegated to the inside pages of both the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Carter’s interviews came as part of a promotion campaign he is conducting for a new audio-book series entitled “Sunday Mornings in Plains,” which consists of recordings of weekly Bible lessons he delivered at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. Carter told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the sermons were given at the time of the US invasion of Iraq and that they “interrelate my condemnation and criticism of this unnecessary invasion with the ministry of Christ as the prince of peace.”

Whatever his religious beliefs, Carter as president was no pacifist and as president (1977-1981) presided over a number of policies that helped prepare the present wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. These included covert CIA support for Islamic fundamentalist guerrillas against the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan, a venture in which Washington ultimately invested some $5 billion in money and arms—some of them funneled through Osama bin Laden—and that cost an estimated 1.5 million lives.

Likewise, after his support for the hated dictatorship of the Shah failed to prevent the Shah’s overthrow in the 1979 Iranian revolution, Carter proclaimed a new US militarist policy in the region aimed at maintaining US hegemony over its vast oil wealth.

Dubbed the Carter Doctrine, this policy decreed that an attempt by any other power to gain control of the oil resources of the Persian Gulf region would be “regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America” and that Washington would oppose it “by any means necessary, including military force.” To back up this threat, his administration established the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF), consisting of some 200,000 US military personnel prepared for intervention in the Persian Gulf.

These preparations and the Carter Doctrine itself helped pave the way for the eruption of US militarism in a more aggressive and violent form in the US invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 as well as in the present war threats against Iran.

In the final analysis, Carter’s denunciations of the Bush administration’s policies flow not from the Sunday sermons in Plains; rather, they reflect the extreme tensions and recriminations that are roiling the US ruling establishment as a result of the debacle that has been created by US policy in Iraq.

See Also:
Prelude to deal with Bush on war-funding More antiwar posturing from Senate Democrats
[17 May 2007]

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Bush Justice Department cover-up unraveling

By Patrick Martin
16 May 2007

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The resignation of deputy attorney general Paul J. McNulty Monday is another blow to the Bush administration’s efforts to maintain the cover-up of the circumstances behind the firing of eight US attorneys and the forced resignations of several others. The resignation came only hours after the Washington Post reported new evidence that the US attorneys were fired as part of a deliberate campaign by Republican political operatives to instigate phony “vote fraud” prosecutions and intimidate Democratic voters.

While McNulty made the politically obligatory claim that he was leaving his position after only 18 months on the job because of the “financial realities” of putting his children through college, there is no doubt that his departure is directly connected to the mushrooming scandal over the firing of the federal prosecutors, and the ensuing finger-pointing within top administration circles.

With his departure, every top Justice official directly involved in the firings last December has left the department, with the exception of their ultimate boss, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. McNulty ran the day-to-day operations of the department and participated, along with Gonzales, in the December 8 meeting that ratified the list of seven prosecutors to be dismissed (an eighth was removed earlier).

His resignation follows the ouster of Kyle Sampson, Gonzales’ chief of staff, who drew up the list to be fired; Monica Goodling, Gonzales’ counselor, a 31-year-old Christian fundamentalist who served as the main liaison between Gonzales and the White House; and Michael Battle, the Justice Department official who worked as the direct supervisor of the 93 US attorneys and actually carried out the firings. According to a confidential memorandum leaked to the press last week, Gonzales delegated his hire-and-fire authority for most political appointees to Sampson and Goodling, both young and inexperienced in legal affairs, but well connected in right-wing Republican circles.

The next step in the investigation is likely to be congressional testimony by Goodling, who had refused to answer any questions, citing her Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination. The House Judiciary Committee approved a grant of immunity, with the support of 32 of the 40 members, an indication of widespread disaffection with Gonzales even among congressional Republicans. A federal judge ratified the grant of immunity May 11, and Goodling is expected to testify before the Memorial Day recess.

Democratic congressional leaders have focused attention largely on the actions taken by Justice Department officials in carrying out the firings, including conflicting and obviously false statements, rather than exploring the actual political purpose of the purge. This is in part due to the systematic refusal of Gonzales and other officials to admit the US attorneys were dismissed for political reasons. But it also reflects Democrats’ fear of raising fundamental issues of democratic rights that might spark much broader public interest in the scandal. Most press coverage has followed suit.

The Washington Post article published Monday, under the headline, “Voter-Fraud Complaints by GOP Drove Dismissals,” is an exception to that pattern. The article—not placed on page one, despite its explosive political thrust—began, “Nearly half the US attorneys slated for removal by the administration last year were targets of Republican complaints that they were lax on voter fraud, including efforts by presidential adviser Karl Rove to encourage more prosecutions of election-law violations, according to new documents and interviews.”

The article noted that Rove and other officials had targeted five US attorney districts, all in key battleground states, where aggressive prosecution of vote-fraud cases, whatever the merits of the charges, might serve Republican political interests. The five were Kansas City, Missouri; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; New Mexico; Nevada; and Washington state. Three of the five US attorneys were fired and a fourth, Todd Graves of Missouri, was forced to resign. Only the US attorney in Milwaukee, Steven Biskupic, kept his job, because he had a powerful Republican patron, Congressman James Sensenbrenner, then chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

The Post article notes that state Republican parties and the White House have pushed aggressively for stricter voter-identification requirements and other rules restricting access to the franchise throughout the period since the 2000 presidential election.

Such tactics contributed heavily to depressing the Democratic vote in Florida, bringing Bush close enough to carrying the state that the Supreme Court could intervene and tip the election to the candidate who actually lost it. And they played a role in Bush’s reelection victory in 2004, particularly in Ohio. Republican operatives hoped to use similar methods to turn anti-Bush voters away from the polls in the November 2006 congressional election.

While the issue of failure to prosecute vote-fraud cases was known to have played a role in the firing of two of the US attorneys, the Post noted, “it was not clear until last week that Biskupic came close to being fired, that Graves had been asked to resign or that Justice officials had highlighted Nevada as a problem area for voter fraud.”

The article continued, “New information also emerged showing the extent to which the White House encouraged investigations of election fraud within weeks of November balloting. Rove, in particular, was preoccupied with pressing Gonzales and his aides about alleged voting problems in a handful of battleground states, according to testimony and documents. Last October, just weeks before the midterm elections, Rove’s office sent a 26-page packet to Gonzales’s office containing precinct-level voting data about Milwaukee.”

As it happened, no immediate action was taken, at least in part because of Justice Department rules barring the public launching of cases just before an election that might have an effect on its outcome—which clearly was the purpose of Rove’s intervention. But only a month after the Republican electoral debacle, the politically-suspect US attorneys were purged en masse.

Deputy attorney general McNulty served as a right-wing legal thug for two decades, including chief counsel and communications director for the House impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton, then chief advocate for the confirmation of John Ashcroft as attorney general in 2001. Ashcroft then appointed him US attorney for the eastern district of Virginia, where he handled the high-profile prosecutions of John Walker Lindh and Zaccarias Moussaoui, before being promoted to the number two spot in the Justice Department.

That even such a figure should run afoul of the White House is an indication of the insularity of the clique running the Bush administration.

McNulty is blamed for having inadvertently instigated a political firestorm around the firings when he told a congressional committee in February that the dismissed US attorneys had been removed for “performance issues,” suggesting they were fired for incompetence. This comment provoked the fired prosecutors, who had largely remained silent, to begin speaking out, triggering extensive media coverage and further congressional hearings.

The deputy attorney general particularly angered the White House when he admitted that the US attorney for Little Rock, Arkansas had been removed, not for performance, but because Karl Rove wanted to fill the post with a political crony.

Now that he has chosen to leave, the Bush administration has lost not a moment in seeking to scapegoat McNulty for the firings. Within hours, Gonzales was telling reporters that McNulty had the main role in selecting those to be discharged. This followed weeks in which Gonzales has claimed—repeatedly and under oath—that he could not remember who had drawn up the list for the purge, except that he was sure it was not Bush, Cheney or Rove!

According to the transcript of his comments Monday, Gonzales now says, “you have to remember at the end of the day, the recommendations reflected the views of the Deputy Attorney General. He signed off on the names, and he would know better than anyone else, anyone else in this room. Again, the Deputy Attorney General would know best about the qualifications and experiences of the minds—it’s a community—and he signed off on the names.”

At a May 10 hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Gonzales testified under oath that he had no idea who selected the names on the list submitted to him by his chief of staff Kyle Sampson.

This stance provoked a question from committee chairman John Conyers of Detroit: “Tell me, just tell me how the US attorney termination list came to be and who suggested putting most of these US attorneys on the list and why? Now, that should take about three sentences.”

Gonzales replied that Sampson “presented to me what I understood to be the consensus recommendation” of the department’s “senior leadership,” but refused to name a single name. Only four days later, however, Gonzales announced to the world “McNulty made me do it,” after his deputy submitted his resignation.

See Also:
Top Justice Department aide to testify in probe of US attorney firings
[10 May 2007]
Gonzalez before the Senate Judiciary Committee: The Bush clique on life support
[21 April 2007]
Will White House sacrifice Gonzales to save Rove?
[17 April 2007]