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.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

New York Times propaganda on Front Page of Sunday Edition

The New York Times has to correct itself again, this time on Iran

By David Walsh
26 June 2007

Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

On Monday, June 25 the New York Times published an “Editor’s Note” correcting an article in its Sunday edition. The note hardly answers the questions raised by the “corrected” article.

Sunday’s front-page story, “Iran Cracks Down on Dissent, Parading Examples in the Streets,” is accompanied on page 9, where the story continues, by a large, rather sensational photograph taking up five columns. The Times’ caption reads, “A police officer forced a young man whose clothes were deemed un-Islamic to suck on a plastic container Iranians use to wash their bottoms.”

The ninth paragraph of the piece, by Neil MacFarquhar, asserts, “Young men wearing T-shirts deemed too tight or haircuts seen as too Western have been paraded through Tehran’s streets by uniformed police officers who forced them to suck on plastic jerrycans, a toilet item Iranians use to wash their bottoms. In case anyone misses the point, it is the official news agency Fars distributing the pictures of what it calls ‘riffraff.’ Far bloodier photographs are circulating on blogs and on the Internet.” The image on page 9 is presumably one of the Fars photographs in question.

The modest correction Monday explains that “the man in the photograph, according to widespread Iranian news reports, was one of more than 100 people arrested recently on charges of being part of a gang that had committed rapes, robberies, forgeries and other crimes. The caption published on the web site of the news agency, Fars, had said only that the man was being punished as part of a roundup of ‘thugs’ in a Tehran neighborhood.”

On the Times’ web site, the article’s headline has been amended simply to “Iran Cracks Down on Dissent,” and the paragraph about the youth guilty of wearing “too tight” T-shirts and Western haircuts being paraded through the streets of Tehran has been eliminated.

In its defense, the newspaper’s editors complain that the “current repression has made reporting in Iran difficult. In this case, the Times relied on an interview with a researcher for a nongovernment agency that no longer operates within Iran, who said the photograph was evidence of a more visible police role in public crackdowns on what the authorities consider immoral behavior. The reporter then wrongly interpreted what the researcher said as applying to a crackdown on dress, and incorporated the erroneous interpretation into the body of the article, without giving any indication of the source for it.

“These errors could have been avoided with more rigorous editing. The article should not have said that young men had been paraded through the streets for wearing un-Islamic dress, and the headline over it should not have said that dissenters were being paraded as part of the crackdown.”

A strange business, especially as this involved a leading story in the Sunday edition of the newspaper, its most widely and carefully read edition. (The Times’ circulation on Sundays is 1.6 million, as opposed to its daily total of 1.1 million, nearly a 50 percent difference).

Who, precisely, was MacFarquhar speaking to? “A researcher for a nongovernment agency that no longer operates in Iran.” Have we not heard from this type of individual before?

In advance of the US invasion of Iraq, a variety of stories appeared in the American media, a number of the most important in the New York Times (more on that below), detailing Iraq’s alleged stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and links to terrorism. The sources were often “unnamed” Iraqi exiles. All of the claims proved to be fiction.

MacFarquhar’s June 24 article describes a “ferocious” campaign of repression in Iran, “with the government focusing on labor leaders, universities, the press, women’s rights advocates, a former nuclear negotiator and Iranian-Americans, three of whom have been in prison for more than six weeks.”

The lengthy piece is written in an incendiary tone and intended to push a number of “hot buttons” with the Times’ US readers. MacFarquhar cites the comments of (also unnamed) analysts who suggest that a “cultural revolution” might be taking place in Iran, “an attempt to roll back the clock to the time of the 1979 revolution, when the newly formed Islamic Republic combined religious zeal and anti-imperialist rhetoric to try to assert itself as a regional leader.”

The period in question witnessed the sharpest confrontation between Iran and the US. Nine months after the overthrow of Washington-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in early 1979, university students in Tehran took over the American embassy and held 63 US diplomats hostage for some 14 months. In April 1980, the American military attempted a rescue, which resulted in the deaths of five US Air Force airmen and three Marines.

The Times piece goes on to note the controversy surrounding former president Mohammad Khatami, “the lost hope of Iran’s reform movement,” over his alleged violation of Islamic morals by shaking hands with an unfamiliar woman in Rome. It points to the arrest of 30 women’s rights advocates “charged with endangering national security for organizing an Internet campaign to collect more than a million signatures supporting the removal of all laws that discriminate against women.”

MacFarquhar refers several times to US-Iranian relations. He observes that Iran’s National Security Council sent a three-page letter to newspaper editors recently outlining banned topics, including negotiations with Washington “over the future of Iraq.” The article suggests that thousands of Iran’s nongovernmental organizations are in legal jeopardy, “basically because the government suspects all of them of being potential conduits for some $75 million the United States has earmarked to promote a change in government.”

Abbas Milani, the director of the Iranian studies program at Stanford University, comments, “The regime has created an atmosphere of absolute terror.”

MacFarquhar’s piece is one of those items planted in the media that are intended to inflame public opinion and strengthen the case, ultimately, for US military action against Iran. It is not necessary to lend the bourgeois nationalist Ahmadinejad regime one ounce of political support to see through the sordid role now performed by the Times, the liberal newspaper of record. It is functioning here, directly or indirectly, as the propaganda arm of the Bush administration.

As noted above, the Times’ record in this regard is reprehensible. During the buildup to the invasion of Iraq and its immediate aftermath, its reporter Judith Miller served as a conduit for misinformation and lies about Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction.” These articles, in one of the country’s leading newspapers, served to legitimize the Bush administration’s “pre-emptive” war of aggression. They helped make possible the current catastrophe in Iraq.

It turned out that Miller’s “exclusives” were based on information provided by Ahmed Chalabi, a convicted embezzler and Iraqi exile leader with close ties to the offices of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.

After the invasion of Iraq, Miller got herself embedded with a US military unit charged with the futile task of turning up the phantom WMD. Military officials accused Miller of “hijacking” the unit for her own purposes and intimidating officers in the field. Further stories emerged about “mobile weapons laboratories,” which also had no basis in fact.

Miller’s role as a conduit for the Bush administration was further exposed in the course of the investigation by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald into the administration’s leak of the CIA identity of Valerie Plame Wilson, the wife of former ambassador and Iraq war critic Joseph Wilson. It emerged that Miller was one of the reporters chosen by I. Lewis Libby, then the chief of staff of Vice President Dick Cheney, to expose Plame Wilson’s CIA position in order to punish her husband and intimidate opponents of the administration’s war policy.

Miller, in the event, did not publish a story on the matter, but she sought to cover for Libby’s role in the government witch-hunt of a war critic by refusing to divulge the identity of her source when questioned by Fitzgerald’s investigators, citing the confidentiality of journalists’ sources.

The author of Sunday’s article on Iran, Neil MacFarquhar, is not a novice, lacking experience in the complicated political affairs of the Middle East or knowledge of journalistic standards. He was formerly the Times’ Cairo bureau chief.

This makes all the more remarkable the sloppiness, or worse, involved in the misidentified photograph. As the newspaper’s own “Editor’s note” acknowledges, the correct identification of the individual in the photo was “widespread” in Iran.

There was clearly no conscientious checking of the facts—something that would seem all the more obligatory in a front-page article that could only serve to inflame public opinion both in the US and internationally against a country that has been denounced by Washington as part of the “Axis of Evil” and targeted for subversion or military attack. Is this fact-checking failure not connected to the political purpose of the piece? Journalists and editors can make mistakes, but some are more revealing than others.

Despite its misgivings about the Iraq disaster, the Times supports the American ruling elite’s drive for world hegemony, including its belligerent and threatening policy toward Iran. At the very least, this renders the newspaper predisposed, in its eagerness to make a case against Tehran, to committing this type of blunder.

The Times eventually sacked Judith Miller and published explanatory columns casting her reporting as an aberrant black mark on the newspaper’s otherwise scrupulously objective and conscientious approach to the news. The MacFarquhar article demonstrates, however, that the Times continues to lend its prestige to the promotion of the reactionary and militaristic aims of the US government, publishing in the guise of news articles pieces of dubious veracity which promote a definite but unspoken agenda.

See Also:
Another damning admission from the New York Times: whitewashing Iraq war
[19 March 2007]

Crooked and heinous plan being postulated by Dems and Chimp government

White House, Democrats reported in “compromise” talks on Iraqi partition

By Bill Van Auken
26 June 2007

Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

Top Bush administration officials have reportedly opened up talks with leading congressional Democrats aimed at forging a “compromise” plan for reducing US troop levels in Iraq that is predicated on the country’s partition along sectarian lines.

These discussions, first reported Sunday by the Los Angeles Times, are said to involve both US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Washington’s former ambassador to Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, who now represents the US at the United Nations.

Citing unnamed government officials, the LA Times said that these two and others “have been quietly talking with lawmakers about how to adjust policy in the months ahead.” The report added, “Among other ideas, they have discussed whether the United States should advocate a sharply decentralized Iraq, a notion that has seen a resurgence on Capitol Hill.”

The newspaper account cast the informal talks as an attempt by the administration to preempt another partisan debate on the war like the one that accompanied the congressional vote last month, in which the Democrats engaged in weeks of antiwar posturing before delivering the votes required to pass the $120 billion “emergency” war funding bill sought by the White House.

It quoted an unnamed administration official as stating that President Bush and other top officials in the administration “realize they can’t keep fighting this over and over.”

The Democratic congressional leadership has indicated that it will renew its bid to attach language proposing timetables for the partial withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and limiting the length and conditions of deployments in the occupied country.

Leading Republicans as well have indicated that they are expecting a shift in course by September, when the top US military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker are set to give reports to Congress on the progress of the military “surge” that has deployed an additional 30,000 troops in the country, and on the level of compliance by the Iraqi puppet regime with “benchmarks” set in Washington.

The reported talks are presented by the LA Times largely as a matter of party politics, with the newspaper noting that “the odds of compromise are long,” given the Bush administration’s refusal to accept any withdrawal that would “imperil Iraq” and the Democrats’ reluctance to “sacrifice a crucial 2008 campaign issue if they agreed to a deal with the White House.”

However, the reported talks between the administration and congressional leaders on an alternative policy based on the ethno-religious partition of Iraq have far more significant implications. They provide an indication of the growing desperation within the American political establishment over the deepening debacle in Iraq and a warning as to the level of criminality to which Washington is prepared to resort in order to secure its interests there.

The apparent willingness of senior administration officials to discuss with congressional leaders proposals for Iraq’s partition comes in the context of the failure of the surge to quell resistance to the US occupation or reduce overall violence in Iraq, while American casualties are hitting record levels.

On the day after the publication of the LA Times report, a suicide bomber struck a meeting of US-aligned tribal leaders at a central Baghdad hotel, killing 13 and wounding dozens more. Meanwhile, the past week saw at least 30 US troops killed and many more wounded.

Senior military officers have warned that the present surge cannot be maintained indefinitely without pushing the current strain on the US armed forces to the breaking point.

The proposal to partition Iraq is designed to divide the country into three autonomous mini-states ruled along sectarian lines by the three largest ethno-religious groups—Shia in the south, Sunnis in the center and west and Kurds in the north. It envisions US troops—albeit in substantially reduced numbers—continuing to occupy the country indefinitely on the pretext of conducting “counter-terror” operations, training Iraqi forces and protecting US interests.

All of the so-called “antiwar” bills proposed by the Democratic leadership before it capitulated fully to White House demands also included provisions for this “reduced mission,” which would undoubtedly involve the continued deployment of tens of thousands of American soldiers and Marines in Iraq.

Senator Joseph Biden, a Democrat from Delaware and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been the most vocal proponent of the partition plan. According to the LA Times report, UN Ambassador Khalilzad, who left the embassy in Baghdad in April, has organized discussions on the plan with Biden and his co-sponsor of legislation proposing partition, the right-wing Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. Both men are seeking the presidential nomination of their respective parties.

Also sponsoring the legislation are Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer of California and Bill Nelson of Florida, as well as Republican Senators Gordon Smith of Oregon and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas.

Other Republicans have voiced cautious interest in the plan. Maine Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican, made one of the more revealing comments on the proposal. “It’s essentially giving federal approval to ethnic cleansing,” she said. “On the other hand, nothing seems to be working.”

Ethnic cleansing is the inevitable result of the Biden plan, and its supporters routinely cite the breakup of the former Yugoslavia as the model for their proposal.

In Iraq, such an ethnic-territorial division has horrific implications. Before the 2003 US invasion, fully one third of all marriages in Iraq were between Shia and Sunni. Every major city in Iraq is multi-ethnic, and the proposal for partition would turn each of them into far more bloody battlegrounds than they are today.

Substantial minority populations, like the hundreds of thousands of Turkomans concentrated in the area of Kirkuk, would be disenfranchised and prey to expulsion as part of this partition. Their plight would bring with it an increased potential of Turkish intervention against the Kurdish state.

The essential attraction of such a plan for those in the administration and the US Senate who are now reportedly discussing it is not its prospect for reducing sectarian violence in Iraq—just the opposite would be the inevitable result. Rather, it is a classic example of the old colonial strategy of divide and rule being played out once again in the Middle East.

The division of the country into three relatively powerless statelets would pave the way for the carve-up of Iraq’s oil resources by US-based energy conglomerates, which would dictate their own deals to the newly “autonomous” regions.

The seeds for such a political dismemberment have already been planted. First, the occupation authority headed by L. Paul Bremer institutionalized the division of the spoils within the Iraqi puppet regime along ethnic lines. This was followed by the adoption of a new constitution in 2005 which included the right of “regions” to form their own security forces and manage their natural resources.

The drive to implement a new oil law—the most important benchmark imposed by Washington on the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki—only serves to deepen sectarian divisions.

The announcement Monday that the new US-dictated law had been approved by the Iraqi cabinet and would go to the parliament for debate was accompanied by a storm of criticism that the al-Maliki government had caved in to pressure from Kurdish separatists to cede even greater control over the distribution of oil revenues.

The law opens up Iraq’s oil sector to exploitation by foreign corporations for the first time since the early 1970s. Critics of the law have warned that it will represent a profit bonanza for foreign energy conglomerates, while depriving Iraq of both control over its resource and the lion’s share of the benefits derived from its exploitation.

Issam al-Chalabi, who served as Iraq’s petroleum minister from 1978 to 1990, told the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram that the new law is a “ready-made recipe to divide Iraq.”

The concept of partition has been most actively promoted by supposed “liberals” identified with the Democratic Party, such as Peter Galbraith, the former US ambassador to Croatia under Clinton, and Leslie Gelb, a former assistant secretary of state in the Carter administration and columnist for the New York Times, both of whom have written extensively on the proposal.

Biden, while posturing as a critic of the Bush administration over the Iraq war, himself voted for the 2002 resolution authorizing the US invasion and has voiced his full support for the illegal policy of “preventive war.” His central criticism of the White House was the failure to send in more troops after the US invasion of 2003.

That Biden’s plan for carving up Iraq is now getting a greater hearing within the Bush administration is only another indication that the Democrats, no less than the Republicans, are prepared to carry out the most heinous crimes against the Iraqi people in pursuit of the key objective that has driven the war from its outset: the securing of unchallenged US hegemony over the Middle East and its strategic energy resources.

See Also:
US military prepares Fallujah-style bloodbath in Iraqi city of Baqubah
[25 June 2007]
Fourteen US troops killed in two days of Iraq fighting
[22 June 2007]

Monday, June 25, 2007

US military prepares Fallujah-style bloodbath in Iraqi city of Baqubah

By Peter Symonds
25 June 2007

Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

A huge US offensive codenamed “Operation Arrowhead Ripper” is underway in the Iraqi city of Baqubah, as part of extensive American operations aimed at suppressing insurgent groups in Baghdad and areas to the north and south of the capital. US troops, backed by armoured vehicles, artillery, helicopter gunships and warplanes, have sealed off the city of 300,000. The action recalls the murderous November 2004 assault on Fallujah in which much of the population fled and large sections of the town were levelled.

The number of US deaths has risen sharply as troops have been ordered into more aggressive actions throughout Iraq. A further 10 soldiers were killed on Saturday—seven in three separate roadside bombings in Baghdad and Tikrit. Another soldier was killed by small arms fire and two more died of noncombatant causes. A total of 32 have died in the past six days and 80 so far this month. Top US generals are warning of continuing high casualty rates.

No reports have been released of Iraqi civilian casualties, which are certain to be far higher. In a bid to prevent anti-occupation militia leaders fleeing Baqubah, the US military cordoned off the city, trapping the entire population. At least 8,000 American troops backed by 2,000 Iraqi soldiers and police are systematically sweeping through Baqubah, arbitrarily detaining suspects, destroying pockets of resistance and levelling any building regarded as a potential threat.

Media reports, largely from journalists embedded with US troops, have attempted to portray the operation as a humanitarian mission to liberate the population from “Al Qaeda”. While the designation of all anti-occupation fighters as Al Qaeda extremists suits the Bush administration’s propaganda purposes at home, it bears no relation to reality. Sunni extremists last year proclaimed Baqubah the capital of the “Islamic State of Iraq” but the group known as “Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia” is just one of a number of Sunni insurgent outfits involved.

Reflecting the sentiments in the US military hierarchy, embedded reporter Michael Yon could barely contain his glee over the Baqubah operation. “People are trying to escape the fighting, but we made this mistake in places like Tal Afar and Fallujah where our people attacked and left huge escape routes. This time, the number one priority is to trap and destroy Al Qaeda,” he wrote on his blog on Friday, adding: “At the going rate, Al Qaeda in Baqubah will soon have two choices: Surrender, or die.”

US forces are turning Baqubah, the capital of Diyala province to the north-east of Baghdad, into a giant prison camp. As the operation got underway last week, leaflets were dropped on the city ordering all residents to remain inside their homes. The New York Times reported that the military intended to “fingerprint and take biometric data from every resident who seems to be a potential fighter”. Under conditions where survey after survey has revealed that the majority of the Iraqi population is hostile to the US occupation and supportive of armed insurgents, that means everyone is suspect.

According to Stars and Stripes on June 22, US troops were ordered last Tuesday to detain all Iraqi men they encountered. A US company from the First Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment detained four teenage boys, cuffing their hands with plastic flex and took them away for interrogation. The father of the two of the boys pleaded with the troops to tell him what would happen with them. He begged the soldiers not to hand his sons over to Iraqi soldiers or police, fearing that Shiite militiamen who dominate the security forces might kill them.

Embedded journalists dutifully repeated official propaganda that the operation was about winning “hearts and minds” and “bonding” the Iraqi forces with the local population. But it was difficult to disguise the widely felt distrust, fear, resentment and hostility to Iraqi and American troops alike. The New York Times on Friday reported a conversation between a US captain and a resident which “soon turned into a debate on the Americans’ conduct in Iraq”. While he had no sympathy for Al Qaeda, the 50-year-old Iraqi angrily criticised US troops for gunning down a man for no reason, a claim the captain denied. He also made clear that he regarded the Iraqi forces as even worse—little more than Shiite militia in uniform.

American troops went into Baqubah in mid-March but only managed to “pacify” two eastern neighbourhoods. The latest offensive, which began last Tuesday, is focussed on west Baqubah. “In Khatoon, the southernmost section of the operations area, the US military conducted earth-shaking bombing runs and house-to-house searches for two days, punctuated by occasional gunfights,” the Los Angeles Times explained.

Operational commander Brigadier-General Mick Bednarek told the media on weekend: “It is house to house, block to block, street to street, sewer to sewer—and it’s also cars, vans—we’re searching every one of them.” He claimed that US forces controlled about 60 percent of the city and had killed 60 to 100 fighters. Bednarek said troops had trapped about 50 to 100 insurgents and were “closing the noose” but predicted it could be weeks before Iraqi military and police secured the area.

Colonel Steve Townsend, commander of the 3rd Stryker Brigade, identified three districts of the city as a problem and said the military proposed to erect concrete barriers and checkpoints around those areas. Speaking to Reuters, Command Sergeant Major Jeff Huggins bluntly declared: “We are enveloping the enemy in a kill sack.” As in Fallujah, the US military intends to use its vastly superior firepower to level any source of armed resistance. Early on Friday, US helicopter gunships slaughtered 17 “Al Qaeda suspects” on the outskirts of the nearby town of Khalis.

A recent report from Fallujah provided a glimpse of what a “pacified” Baqubah will be like. Much of the city remains in ruins. Little compensation or assistance has been provided to the residents, who are again under martial law, including a curfew from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. Muhammed Aydan, a 42-year-old father, told the IRIN news agency: “We are living like prisoners, lacking assistance at all levels. Aid support, which last year was always here, can’t be seen anymore. We depend solely on ourselves, drinking dirty water even though we know our children are getting sick from it. Power supply is less than two hours a day in some areas of Fallujah and sometimes we have to go three days without a shower to save water.”

In Baqubah, residents are already complaining of receiving no water or electricity since the start of Operation Arrowhead Ripper. Insisting that Baqubah is a Sunni insurgent stronghold, the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad has provided little in the way of assistance and services to the city on the pretext that it would fall into the hands of Al Qaeda.

It is already clear that the offensive in Baqubah is not going to be the final showdown with anti-occupation insurgents that the American military had hoped it would be. Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno told the press last Friday that US intelligence estimated that 80 percent of the top Al Qaeda leaders had fled the city before fighting had even begun. Amid recriminations as to who was responsible, Odierno declared: “Frankly, I think they knew an operation was coming in Baqubah. They watched the news. They understood we had a surge. They understood Baqubah was designated as a problem area.”

Baqubah is just the most prominent of a series of targets aimed at so-called Al Qaeda strongholds that have been used as staging areas for attacks in Baghdad. In what it terms “the Battle of the Baghdad belts,” the US military is conducting operations in other areas of Diyala to the north of the capital, the Arab Jabour area in the south, various safe havens to the west and northwest and in the Baghdad districts of Adhamiya, Rashid and Mansour. Odierno claimed on Friday that the new operations had been successful in seizing more than 700 detainees, killing 160 insurgents and uncovering hundreds of weapons caches and bombs.

What Odierno is describing is not the suppression of isolated groups of insurgents, but a colonial-style war of repression against a hostile population. As they rampage through cities like Baqubah, the US troops are creating fresh reserves of hostility and opposition to the illegitimate American occupation of the country.

See Also:
Fourteen US troops killed in two days of Iraq fighting
[22 June 2007]

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Scumbag Cheney: Better than you and above the law too

The secret government of Dick Cheney: US vice president claims to be outside the law

By Patrick Martin
23 June 2007

Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

The office of Vice President Dick Cheney has refused to comply with an executive order issued by President George Bush four years ago, requiring all executive branch offices to cooperate in regular reviews of their security procedures for handling documents.

After the security office of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), charged with conducting the review, pressed the issue, Cheney and his aides tried to have the office abolished and sought to gag officials of the National Archives by barring them from appealing the dispute to the Department of Justice.

Even more extraordinary than the fact of this conflict within the executive branch—made public Thursday with the release of documents by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform—is the constitutional rationale advanced by the vice president.

According to Cheney, the office of the vice president is not “an entity within the executive branch,” as specified in the language of the executive order, because the vice president serves constitutionally as the presiding officer of the US Senate, with a tie-breaking vote, and therefore has legislative power as well.

The sophistry of this argument is plain: in case after case over the past seven years, Cheney has invoked “executive privilege” or similar doctrines to shield his office from congressional investigations and Freedom of Information Act requests from the media and liberal pressure groups.

The most famous case involved the energy task force, formed in the initial weeks of the administration, and engaged, among other activities, in poring over maps of the oil fields in Iraq and the concessions awarded to non-US oil companies—all subsequently canceled after the US invasion.

Cheney refused to release any information about his energy task force after a request was filed by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, citing the necessity for complete confidentiality in internal executive branch deliberations. He rejected similar requests from the media and environmental groups, filed under the Freedom of Information Act, and this position was upheld by a right-wing judicial panel.

But after rebuffing Congress’s request for information, on the grounds his office is part of the executive branch, Cheney in now refusing to comply with a similar request for information from an executive branch agency, on the grounds that he is really part of Congress!

What underlies this apparent Catch 22 is a sinister political logic: Vice President Cheney is not to be held accountable to anyone—not Congress, not the executive branch—a position so unprecedented in US political history that reporters at a White House press briefing Friday were compelled to ask whether Cheney had now set himself up as a “fourth branch of government.”

The vice president’s office has long been the focal point of the Bush administration’s drive to utilize the 9/11 terrorist attacks as the pretext for establishing the framework for a police state in America. In the weeks after 9/11, Cheney virtually disappeared from public view, conducting his activities at an “undisclosed secure location,” which turned out to be the headquarters of what became know as the “shadow government.”

Under the program, officially described as an exercise in “continuity of government,” supposedly a precaution against a terrorist nuclear strike on Washington DC, dozens of top executive branch officials were designated for redeployment to bunkers in the Appalachian Mountains from which they would direct government operations without reference to the legislative or judicial branch, which were excluded from the effort. (See the WSWS editorial board statement, “The shadow of dictatorship: Bush established secret government after September 11”.)

Cheney’s chief counsel, David Addington, now his chief of staff, is the principal proponent of a constitutionally spurious theory known as the “unitary executive,” which claims that since the Constitution gives the president authority over the executive branch, he can direct lower-level executive branch officials to disregard legislative mandates.

Addington was also the most hard-line defender of the “right” of the president to order the torture of prisoners in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantánamo Bay and at secret CIA prisons around the world, and he spearheaded the removal of military lawyers who objected to the policy of disregarding the Geneva Conventions for prisoners at US detention camps.

So sweeping are the claims of the vice president’s office that even the White House seemed to have difficulty absorbing them. At a Friday press briefing, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino parroted the language of Cheney’s aides in asserting that the vice president’s office was in compliance with the law, but she gave an entirely different legal argument.

The executive order on security procedures did not apply to the president himself, she claimed, and the vice president’s office shared in that exemption. The vice president was not intended to be separate from the president in this regard.

When reporters pointed out to her that Cheney’s office was claiming something entirely different, that he was exempt because of his constitutional connection to Congress, not to the president, Perino simply declared the issue “interesting” and referred all follow-up questions to Cheney’s office.

Cheney’s office actually complied with the requests for documentation by the National Archives and Records Administration in 2001 and 2002. But since 2003, i.e., once the war in Iraq had begun, the vice president’s staff has not cooperated with the NARA or even replied to its annual requests.

The timing is significant, because in May-June 2003, in response to mounting criticism of the invasion of Iraq and the failure to find any trace of weapons of mass destruction—the pretext for the war—Cheney spearheaded a counteroffensive by the Bush administration that involved the systematic leaking of classified documents to journalists selected for their friendliness to the administration and willingness to serve as its conduits.

Among these were Judith Miller of the New York Times, the principal fiction writer in the “Iraqi WMD” media campaign, and columnist Robert Novak, who made public the covert CIA identity of Valerie Plame Wilson, the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who emerged at that time as a public critic of the administration’s case for war.

It was revealed in the course of the trial of Cheney’s former chief-of-staff, I. Lewis Libby, that Cheney had given Libby authorization to leak portions of a classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq to Miller and other journalists. It is likely that Cheney gave direct orders to expose Valerie Plame Wilson in order to punish her husband, but Libby has kept his mouth shut on that subject despite his conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice, and an imminent jail term of two-and-a-half years.

Ultra-right-wing figures in the Republican Party and the media have launched a frenzied campaign for Bush to pardon Libby before he begins serving his prison term—likely to be in August—at least in part because of concern that Libby may feel compelled to turn against his former boss.

Democratic Congressman Henry A. Waxman of California, chairman of the House committee, referred to the Libby case in an eight-page letter to Cheney made public Thursday evening. “Your office may have the worst record in the executive branch for safeguarding classified information,” he wrote, citing also the case of a lower-level Cheney aide, a Filipino-American, who supplied classified documents to military officers in the Philippines who were plotting a coup against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Waxman’s letter demands a response by Cheney to a series of questions, beginning with the basis for the claim that the office of the vice president is not bound by Executive Order 12958, the secrecy measure issued by Bush in 2003, and including this inquiry: “Is it the official position of the Office of the Vice President that your office exists in neither the executive nor legislative branch of government?”

“He’s saying he’s above the law,” Waxman told reporters. “I don’t know if he is covering something up or not, but ... when somebody refuses to make this information available, you wonder what they don’t want the inspectors from the National Archives to know.”

Waxman went on to describe Cheney’s position as “very dangerous” and “ridiculous,” but he did not suggest that any serious action by the Democratic-controlled Congress was warranted. Like the rest of the House and Senate Democratic leadership, Waxman put impeachment of Bush and Cheney off the agenda as soon as the Democrats regained control of Congress in the November 2006 elections.

The refusal to cooperate with the NARA is a comparatively minor element in the flagrant lawlessness of the Bush-Cheney administration. This is a government that has defied international law by organizing the invasion and conquest of two sovereign nations, and that claims the right to arrest and detain anyone in the world as part of its “war on terror.” Meanwhile, its definition of “terrorist” is so elastic that it has already been applied to unarmed American citizens arrested thousands of miles from any battlefield.

The House committee released the documents only two days after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a study on the White House practice of issuing “signing statements” when the president signs a bill into law, specifying what portions of the legislation he intends to enforce and what he will not. These statements are flagrant violations of the Constitution, which gives the president only the power to veto an entire bill, not pick and choose what he wants.

The GAO report examined 19 signing statements, finding that in 10 cases the executive branch enforced the law, in six it did not, and in three the issue was moot because the law required no specific action. This included some major congressional mandates, including the provision in the 2006 military appropriations bill that the Pentagon give a detailed accounting of the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in its 2007 budget request. The Federal Emergency Management Agency likewise defied a requirement that it submit a plan for housing assistance for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and assess the failure of its previous efforts in that field.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, who requested the GAO study, declared, “The administration is thumbing its nose at the law.” But Conyers, like Waxman, has shelved the question of impeachment, although he himself introduced an impeachment resolution in 2005 citing the lies told to the American people in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

See Also:
Washington Post's Richard Cohen offers "liberal" case for Lewis Libby's freedom
[20 June 2007]

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Bush: He would still be treating headaches with leeches

Religious backwardness trumps science as Bush vetoes stem cell bill

By Joe Kay
21 June 2007

Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

Bush used the third veto of his tenure on Wednesday to reject a bill that would expand federal funding of some stem cell research. Once again, Bush is seeking to promote right-wing religious conceptions by opposing scientific research that could help millions of people and is supported by the vast majority of the US population.

In rejecting the bill, Bush repeated his “ethical” concerns with stem cell research. In a statement from the White House, Bush declared, “America is also a nation founded on the principle that all human life is sacred. And our conscience calls on us to pursue the possibilities of science in a manner that respects human dignity and upholds our moral values.”

He insisted that embryonic stem cells are “created as the result of destruction of human life,” and that “destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical.”

The administration’s statements not only display a complete contempt for democratic rights—holding that the president has the right to determine what “our Nation” will support based on his own medieval religious conceptions—they also involve a deliberate promotion of ignorance and backwardness.

Embryonic stem cell research, a relatively new field of medical science, involves the extraction of stem cells from a fertilized egg that has just begun the development process. At that stage, the embryo—or, more accurately, the pre-embryo or blastocyst—consists of a handful of undifferentiated cells. The research is critical because the cells have the capacity to develop into any other cell type (that is, they are “pluripotent”). Scientists hope to develop technologies that could, for example, regenerate nerve tissue for patients suffering form Alzheimer’s disease.

In no rational or scientific sense can the embryos in question be called “human lives.” A blastocyst can be considered a human life only according to the religious notion that a human soul is imparted by God at the moment of conception.

Bush issued an executive order restricting stem cell research in August 2001, prohibiting federal funding of this research except on pre-existing stem cell lines. This immediately affected scientific research, because the federal government is the most important source of funding and existing stem cell lines were inadequate.

The bill Bush vetoed Wednesday would override the 2001 order, allowing funding for stem cell lines developed from embryos that would otherwise be discarded by fertility clinics. It failed to achieve the two-thirds support in Congress necessary to override a veto. It passed in the House by 247-176 in June and in the Senate by 63-45 in April.

Two of Bush’s three vetoes now involve stem cell research. The first veto rejected a previous attempt, in 2006, to pass a similar bill extending federal funding. His only other veto was to reject a war-funding bill that included a nonbinding timeline for the withdrawal of some US troops from Iraq. While that bill would not have ended the war, Bush’s choice of vetoes does help highlight the utter hypocrisy of the administration’s concern for “human life.” Though the administration will not allow the expansion of federal support for stem cell science, it fully supports the destruction of real human lives—including some 750,000 Iraqis and more than 3,500 US troops—to advance US domination of Middle Eastern oil fields.

At the same time as he vetoed the stem cell bill, Bush issued an executive order to encourage “alternative methods” for developing pluripotent cell lines. These methods are considered by the administration to be “ethically responsible” because they do not involve the use of embryos. The executive order also renames the “Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry” the “Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Registry,” to include any pluripotent stem cell lines developed by the alternative methods.

None of these methods, though promising in themselves, can take the place of embryonic stem cell research, and most of them are far from the stage where they could be used on human cells. They are being pushed by the White House in an attempt to placate overwhelming public support for stem cell research, while at the same time catering to the Christian right.

One of these methods involves the use of stem cells that are not embryonic, but are extracted from umbilical cord blood, bone marrow, or other fluids. However, these types of cells are difficult to isolate and are not as flexible as embryonic stem cells. Another method involves the potential transformation of ordinary skin cells into pluripotent cells. Research published this month documented the successful use of this method on mouse cells, but it is a long way from use on human cells.

In a June 20 article, the New York Times reported that two leading stem cell researchers it interviewed said the methods were “no substitute for embryonic stem cell research.” The newspaper quoted Douglas Melton, a stem cell scientist at Harvard University, as arguing that the new methods “should be pursued just as actively as we pursue human embryonic stem cell research.... All we’ve ever asked is let human embryonic stem cell research vie for public funding like all other research,” he said.

The whole campaign to find “ethically acceptable” stem cell research is a fraud and an abuse of science. There is in fact no valid dispute on the question of federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. There is a dispute only if one accepts the unconstitutional notion that religious conceptions should form the basis of government policy and should determine what is a valid form of scientific research.

Both the media and the Democratic Party have worked to legitimize the debate over stem cell research, repeating the language of the Bush administration. To cite just a few examples, the Washington Post referred in its article of June 20 to the development of “ethically acceptable stem cells,” while the New York Times has on a number of occasions referred to the possibility that new methods could “sidestep the ethical controversies surrounding embryonic stem cell experiments.”

The bill vetoed by Bush contains reference to “ethical requirements,” including the requirement that the stem cells be derived from embryos donated to fertilization clinics and which would have been otherwise discarded. In an attempt to placate the Christian right, the bill also calls for promoting alternative methods of developing pluripotent cells.

In a statement issued earlier this month urging Bush not to veto the bill, Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid insisted that the bill “acknowledges the important ethical issues at stake and enacts stronger research guidelines than exist in the President’s current policy.”

In her attempt to accommodate religious irrationality, however, House majority leader Nancy Pelosi took the prize, declaring, “Science is a gift of God to all of us and science has taken us to a place that is biblical in its power to cure. And that is the embryonic stem cell research.”

The determination of Bush to veto the stem cell legislation in the face of enormous public support (polls put the figure at between 60 and 70 percent) must be understood in its political context. Bush’s approval ratings continue to plummet in the face of growing opposition to the war in Iraq and increasing social inequality in the US. The administration hopes to shore up some measure of support for its right-wing policies by promoting religious issues—including abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research.

The Democrats and sections of the Republican Party support expanding stem cell research, particularly given concern that the US could fall behind other countries that have no restrictions. Despite these concerns, however, the Democrats have repeatedly sought to accommodate the same religious conceptions promoted by the Bush administration.

In this sense, the stem cell issue is not unique. The Democrats helped confirm Supreme Court justices (Samuel Alito and John Roberts) who they knew would work to overturn abortion rights—a process that has already begun with the Supreme Court decision earlier this year upholding the federal ban on so-called partial-birth abortion. They also accommodated themselves to the Republicans during the sickening intervention into the Terri Schiavo case.

For the Democrats to mount a serious exposure of the administration would require that they explain the aim behind the promotion of religious fundamentalism. However, the Democrats support the same basic policies that the Bush administration is seeking to salvage by promoting religious fundamentalism—including the war in Iraq and the unrelenting attack on democratic rights in the US. To carry out a campaign against religious fundamentalism would require an appeal to the real interests of masses of people, an appeal that the Democrats are determined to avoid. Rather than seeking to counter the theocratic tendencies within the administration, therefore, the Democrats try to accommodate themselves to these tendencies.

See Also:
Bush's veto: Stem cell research and the rise of American theocracy
[20 July 2006]

Monday, June 18, 2007

US commander warns Iraq war will go on for a decade

By Bill Van Auken
18 June 2007

Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

US troops will be carrying out counterinsurgency operations in Iraq for a decade to come, Gen. David Petraeus, the senior US commander in the country, warned in a television interview Sunday.

Appearing on Fox News, Petraeus dismissed any idea that the US military will have succeeded in pacifying Iraq by next September, when he and US Ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker are due to deliver a progress report to the US Congress.

Fox’s Chris Wallace asked, “You surely don’t think the job would be done by the surge by September?” Petraeus replied, “I do not, no.” He added, “We have a lot of heavy lifting to do. The damage done by the sectarian violence in the fall and winter of 2006 and early 2007 ... was substantial.”

While not denying reports that he is considering extending the escalation of troop levels in Iraq into next year, Petraeus merely declared it was “premature” to discuss the issue.

Speaking from Baghdad, the US commander declared, “Just about everybody out there recognizes that a situation like this, with the many, many challenges that Iraq is contending with, is not one that’s going to be resolved in a year or even two years. In fact, typically, I think historically, counterinsurgency operations have gone at least nine or ten years. The question is, of course, at what level.”

He added that the idea of a prolonged US military presence in the country “is probably a fairly realistic assessment.”

The general’s comment gave a glimpse into the real debate going on in Washington, behind the Democrats’ talk of withdrawal timetables and the Bush administration’s promises that its strategy will be reevaluated in September. Plans are being laid for the indefinite occupation of the oil-rich country.

Administration officials have in recent weeks also sought to condition American public opinion to the idea of a protracted occupation and counterinsurgency war in Iraq, with White House spokesman Tony Snow and others making ludicrous comparisons between Iraq and South Korea, where American troops have been deployed in the tens of thousands for more than five decades.

As part of that effort, there have been open attempts to downplay the significance of the report that is to be presented to the Congress in September. General Petraeus, for example, referred to his upcoming report as merely a “reasonable snapshot of the situation.”

Petraeus’s comment came as the Pentagon reported that all of the nearly 30,000 US soldiers and marines slated for deployment in the “surge” announced by Bush last January have arrived in Iraq.

During the first five months of the escalation, there has been no indication that the American military has been successful in its purported goal of dampening sectarian violence or in its central mission of suppressing opposition to the US occupation. A quarterly report issued by the Pentagon to Congress last week indicated that the level of violence in Iraq has actually increased since the additional tens of thousands of American troops have been poured in.

American soldiers and marines suffered the bloodiest two-month period in April and May since the US invaded the country in March 2003, with some 230 troops killed, bringing the total death toll of US forces today to at least 3,524. Meanwhile, according to the Pentagon’s figures, Iraqis have been dying during the same period at the rate of over 100 day, a figure that undoubtedly is a gross underestimate of the ongoing carnage.

A further indication of the extremely limited impact of the surge thus far came in the form of an admission Saturday by Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the commander of US ground troops in Iraq, that US troops and Iraqi puppet forces have been able to secure only 40 percent of the Iraqi capital. No doubt, this itself is an extremely optimistic assessment of the situation.

With the surge’s final brigade in place, US commanders in the country announced over the weekend that they are launching a major offensive against neighborhoods and towns east and south of Baghdad.

The Pentagon is billing this operation as an offensive against Al Qaeda, but the reality is that thousands of American combat troops are being sent into predominantly Sunni areas, where the great bulk of the population is deeply hostile to the more than four-year-old US occupation. Indeed, one recent poll showed that over 90 percent of the Sunni population wants American forces out of Iraq.

Noting that the final reinforcements have arrived in Iraq, bringing the US troop total there to around 160,000, Petraeus vowed “to do everything we can with the additional forces that we have.”

What is being prepared under the fraudulent banner of a struggle against “terrorism” is another bloodbath like those unleashed on other centers of resistance, such as Fallujah and Ramadi. American commanders said that the offensive in an area that had been dubbed by US troops as the “triangle of death,” because of the frequent attacks on occupation forces, is to go on for several weeks. In addition to large numbers of Iraqi civilian casualties, the offensive will be accompanied by the roundup of thousands more civilians as “security detainees,” who will face indefinite detention and torture.

The inevitable result of such “search and destroy” missions in heavily populated civilian neighborhoods will be the further alienation of a hostile Iraqi people and the growth of the resistance.

The clearest indication Washington plans to maintain a permanent colonial-style occupation of Iraq is the continuing construction of four massive US military bases and an American embassy compound in Baghdad’s Green Zone that will be the size of Vatican City.

While the Iraq Study Group’s report issued last year included the recommendation that the Bush administration publicly declare that it has no intention of maintaining permanent bases in the country, the White House has been noticeably silent on the matter. Moreover, while the draft legislation prepared by the Democratic-led US Congress providing the administration with another $100 billion to fight the war included language foreswearing such bases, the wording was removed in conference committee without any explanation before the bill was sent to Bush for signing.

The reality is that behind the public debate between the Democratic leadership and the White House over Iraq, both sides are agreed on the need to continue the pursuit of the predatory goals that drove the 2003 US invasion in the first place: the establishment of US hegemony over Iraq and its oil wealth and the utilization of the country as a base for US military presence and operations throughout the strategic region.

Also appearing on a television talk show Sunday, Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, vowed that the Democrats would renew their efforts—dropped in the passage of the $100 billion war funding bill last month—to attach language to future legislation proposing timetables for partial troop withdrawals and redeployments.

“We will try again, because we must try again,” Levin said on CBS television’s “Face the Nation.” “We have got to change this course.”

What he and the Democrats mean by a “change in course” was spelled out by Levin, who declared that the timetable would be for “a transition to a more limited mission,” which, he stressed would “include a counterterrorism mission” and “continuing to support the Iraqi army with logistics and training.”

In other words, like Petraeus, the Democratic leadership—which owes its leadership of the Congress to the mass opposition to the war within the American population—is envisioning the US occupation of Iraq dragging on for many more years, with many more thousands of Iraqis as well as American troops killed.

See Also:
Pentagon admits US “surge” in Iraq has yielded only more carnage
[15 June 2007]

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Stinking GopPigs and Shrinking Violets: The demise of US Democracy

Senator Reid’s remarks on US generals prompt right-wing furor

By Bill Van Auken
16 June 2007

Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada provoked a storm of criticism from the Republican right Thursday after reports that he had labeled the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace “incompetent” and declared Gen. David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, out of “touch with what’s going on in Baghdad.”

The initial remarks about Pace, whom the Bush administration has chosen not to nominate for a second term in order to avoid confirmation hearings reviewing his tenure during the Iraq war, were reportedly made during a Tuesday conference call between Reid and “liberal bloggers.”

The Democratic Congressional leadership has been desperately seeking some means of reviving its antiwar pretensions in the wake of its cave-in last month to the Bush administration over the supplemental war-funding bill that has helped to drive its standing in public opinion polls to record a low and has alienated much of its electoral base.

As the New York Times reported, the conference call was aimed at “offering assurances that Democrats would revive debate over the Iraq war.” Reid, the Times said, “pledged to revive it soon, ending the silence that followed the White House’s outmaneuvering of Democrats last month to win more money for the war without a timeline to end it.”

Reid’s comments to the bloggers, according to one of them, Bob Geiger, included the following: “I guess the president, uh, he’s gotten rid of Pace because he could not get him confirmed here in the Senate.... Pace is also a yes-man for the president and I told him to his face, I laid it out to him last time he came to see me, I told him what an incompetent man I thought he was.”

At a Capitol Hill press conference Thursday, Reid declined to confirm or deny the remark, but went on to say that he had told Pace “to his face” that “I felt that he has not done a very good job in speaking out for some obvious things that weren’t going right in Iraq.” He added, “The fact is, he’s not going to be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, for which I’m happy.”

The Democratic majority leader went on to criticize General Petraeus over an interview that was published in USA Today Thursday that included the US military commander’s incredible statement that he was seeing “astonishing signs of normalcy” in an Iraqi capital that is the scene of daily car bombings, death squad killings and martial law conditions imposed by tens of thousands of US troops.

“I was a little disappointed, to say the least, today reading the USA Today newspaper, where he’s saying things are going fine,” Reid told the media. He went on to recall that Petraeus had also told Congress “it was going great” when he was in charge of training Iraqi troops. “As we’ve looked back, it didn’t go so well,” said Reid.

The Senate majority leader’s comments provoked an immediate rebuke from the White House. Bush spokesman Tony Snow declared, “In a time of war, for a leader of a party that says it supports the military, it seems outrageous to be issuing slanders toward the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and also the man who is responsible for the bulk of the military operations in Iraq.” Snow went on to demand that Reid make an apology.

The White House statement was quickly echoed by the chairman of the Republican Party, Mike Duncan, who declared: “Harry Reid doesn’t understand that there are some lines you just don’t cross.”

Congressional Republicans joined in the attacks. “The debate about this war has gone into the gutter when the Democrat leader of the United States Senate uses disparaging remarks to describe our military leadership,” said Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky. GOP presidential candidate Senator John McCain of Arizona added that Reid “needs to clarify his criticisms, which can only be described as highly inappropriate and regrettable.” Senator John Warner of Virginia opined that, while he believed congressional leaders have the right to speak openly about the conduct of military commanders, “How this will affect the troops remains to be seen.”

Right-wing commentators and talk show hosts were less delicate, denouncing Reid as a traitor and accusing him of “cheerleading for the enemy” and “putting politics above national security.”

That this deeply reactionary claim that politicians criticizing top military commanders is somehow beyond the pale is widely and approvingly echoed by much of the mass media and the political establishment as a whole is a telling indication of the putrefaction of American democracy. It calls into question the fundamental democratic principle of the subordination of the military to civilian rule, which was written into the US Declaration of Independence.

Those who rise to the level of Pace and Petraeus in the military are not merely dedicated soldiers doing their duty. They owe their stars to political favor from the White House and Congress and are selected for political reasons—principally their willingness to echo the ideological defense of the Iraq war put forward by the Bush administration and to stick to a ludicrously optimistic prognosis as to the outcome of this debacle.

Incompetence is certainly not the worst of the traits exhibited by the senior officer corps. They have participated in and directed a war of aggression that they knew to be a crime under international law and have acquiesced to the abrogation of the Geneva Conventions, presiding over the illegal detention and torture of “enemy combatants” and civilians alike.

Moreover, they have presided over the decimation of the military itself as a result of this dirty colonial war, implementing unprecedented levels of combat deployment for American troops, who are paying the price in terms of steadily rising casualty rates.

A succession of retired senior generals have come forward to condemn the administration’s policies, though it is noteworthy that nearly none of them chose to make their criticisms while still in uniform and back them up by resigning. Much of this is driven more by careerism than political cowardice, with those leaving the top ranks in the military looking forward to second careers in the executive offices of arms manufacturing firms and other branches of corporate America.

The equation of this layer of politically connected and well-heeled military executives with “our troops”—who we are incessantly told must be supported—is both ludicrous and sinister. Its principal purpose is to promote a political regime based upon militarism and the suppression of democratic rights.

Historically speaking, criticism of senior military commanders is as American as apple pie. The likes of Gen. George McClellan and other senior Union commanders who failed to vigorously prosecute the Civil War, for example, were routinely denounced in the Congress as “traitors” and worse.

Reid, a favorite target of the Republican right because of his ineffectual political substance and style, is inevitably capitulating to the right-wing intimidation, refusing to repeat in public the comments he used in an attempt to score political points with his liberal supporters and merely pleading with reporters to “drop” the issue.

In April, it should be recalled, Reid provoked similar wrath from the Republican right by stating the obvious: that the Iraq “war is lost and that the surge is not accomplishing anything.” Of course, within barely a month, the Senate majority leader drew up and voted for legislation providing the Bush White House with $100 billion, no strings attached, to pay for the war and the surge.

Moreover, the Senate Democrats organized the unanimous vote confirming Petraeus, in the face of ample evidence that he had been selected to take the top post in Iraq because he—unlike his predecessor Gen. George W. Casey—was willing to lend his wholehearted support to the White House plan to escalate the war in Iraq.

So too, it can be confidently predicted that Reid will preside over the Senate’s confirmation of Pace’s nominated successor, Adm. Mike Mullen, the Navy’s chief of operations. In a recent speech to sailors in the US Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, Mullens declared, “The enemy now is basically evil and fundamentally hates everything we are—the democratic principles for which we stand.” He went on to warn, “This war is going to go on for a long time. It’s a generational war.”

In other words, Pace’s replacement is another politically right-wing military officer, whose views are in sync with the policies of the Bush administration. His selection, following the appointment of another naval officer, Adm. William Fallon, to head the Central Command, is widely interpreted as a possible preparation for war against Iran.

The brief political furor provoked by Reid’s half-hearted criticism of the top military commanders directing the Iraq war is one more indication that the Democratic leadership’s antiwar posturing has nothing to do with a genuine desire or intention to end the occupation and withdraw all US troops from Iraq. Rather, its principal aim is to contain and divert the mass popular opposition to the war, while plans are elaborated for “redeploying” US troops so that the drive to secure US domination over Iraq and its oil wealth can continue indefinitely.

See Also:
US: New polls reveal mass opposition to Democrats and Republicans
[15 June 2007]

Monday, June 11, 2007

Top US general ousted in Pentagon shakeup

By Barry Grey
11 June 2007

Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

Marine Corps General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, became the latest political casualty of the US crisis in Iraq when Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced Friday that he was not recommending that President Bush nominate Pace for a second two-year term.

As the Washington Post put it on Saturday, “The surprise announcement yesterday at the Pentagon amounts to Pace being fired before a customary second two-year term.” Pace, the first Marine officer to serve as the chief military adviser to the president and defense secretary, became only the second joint chiefs chairman to leave after only one term, the other being Gen. Maxwell Taylor, who left in 1964, during the Vietnam War.

The decision on Pace followed the announcement last week by Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, that he would retire at the end of his current term. The terms of office for both Pace and Giambastiani expire September 30 of this year.

At a Pentagon press conference, Gates said he would recommend that Bush nominate the chief of naval operations, Adm. Michael G. Mullen, to succeed Pace, and Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, now head of the Strategic Command, to serve as his vice chairman.

The ousting of Pace is both an expression of the crisis facing the US in Iraq and a move to fashion a bipartisan political consensus with the Democrats on a strategy to continue the occupation of the country.

Neither Pace nor his designated successor was present when Gates make his announcement. Pace had let it be known that he wished to continue as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and unnamed associates told the press that he was “deeply disappointed.”

Gates told the press that he had made the decision to replace Pace “reluctantly.” He said he had canvassed senior senators from both parties on the prospects for Senate confirmation hearings on Pace’s reappointment. These would occur in September, at the same time as top US commanders in Iraq are scheduled to provide Congress with a progress report on the Bush administration’s “surge” of US troops in Iraq.

The defense secretary said that, based on reports from both Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which conducts such hearings, the proceedings would have focused “on the past, rather than the future, and further, that there was the very real prospect the process would be quite contentious.”

Gates said that these political considerations had led him to abandon his previous intention of recommending Pace’s reappointment.

This is a diplomatic way of saying that he and the administration are intent in evading any public accountability for their political and military decisions in Iraq. The background to the ouster of Pace is a further deterioration of the military situation for the US in Iraq.

US military deaths are climbing rapidly as a result of the “surge” of some 30,000 additional troops and their deployment in an intensified drive to kill or capture insurgents and “secure” Baghdad. After an initial decline in the first weeks of the military escalation, which was launched in February, sectarian killings are once again on the rise in the capital city and the US has failed to gain control of most of Baghdad’s neighborhoods.

The New York Times on June 4 reported that an internal military assessment of the “surge” completed in late May had concluded that American and Iraqi troops controlled less than one-third of the city’s neighborhoods, far short of the initial goal. The report complained that Iraqi police and army units have not provided the forces promised and largely failed to carry out their assignment to “hold” areas cleared out by US forces.

With the ouster of Pace and Giambastiani, virtually all of the top military commanders and advisers under former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have been removed. Rumsfeld, one of the chief architects of the Iraq war, was sacked by Bush within hours of the Republican rout in last November’s congressional elections.

Pace was intimately involved in the planning for the Iraq invasion and the conduct of the war, having become vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shortly after September 11, 2001. He held that position until he was promoted to head the Joint Chiefs in 2005. Both Pace and Giambastiani were generally considered to be close allies of Rumsfeld.

In January, Gen. John Abizaid, the head of Central Command, which oversees US military operations in the Middle East, was forced to retire earlier than planned after he expressed opposition to Bush’s proposal to escalate US military operations in Iraq. He was replaced by Adm. William J. Fallon, the first Navy officer to head Central Command.

The top commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey, who expressed similar reservations, was replaced by the current commander, Gen. David Petraeus.

Dissention within the military itself no doubt played a role in Pace’s ouster. Numerous press reports have cited complaints from officers that Pace and Giambastiani were too deferential toward Rumsfeld and failed to challenge his war strategy.

On the civilian side, all of the top officials involved in the planning and initial execution of the Iraq war are gone, with the exception of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Bush himself. Rice’s deputy and then successor as national security adviser, Stephen J, Hadley, has been sidelined on Iraq policy by the creation of a new post to coordinate Iraq policy within the National Security Council. Last Thursday, Bush’s nominee for the position, Gen. Douglas Lute, testified at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee and said he would be reporting directly to the president, and not to Hadley.

Recent actions by Pace may have played a role in his ouster. In March he gave an interview with the Chicago Tribune in which he said he was opposed to gays in the military because homosexuality is immoral, a statement that contradicts the official justifications for the “don’t ask—don’t tell” policy of the military on gays. More recently, he sent a letter to the judge in the case of I. Lewis Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, who was convicted of perjury in connection with the investigation into the leak of the CIA identity of Valerie Plame Wilson. Pace’s letter flouted the principle of military neutrality in civilian political affairs.

However, more important was the effort of elements both inside and outside the Bush administration to ratchet down the public rhetoric on the war, suppress the massive popular opposition to its continuation, and seek a bipartisan consensus to salvage Washington’s basic war aims while averting an outright defeat. Gates is a former CIA chief and veteran political operator, who at one point associated himself with the Iraq Study Group Widely praised by the Democratic leadership, he plays a central role in efforts to develop a bipartisan war policy.

Both Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee echoed Gates’ statements on the need to avoid an accounting for the Iraq disaster in confirmation hearings for chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Noting that the hearings will coincide with the promised September evaluation of the “surge,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican from North Carolina, told the Los Angeles Times, “I don’t think you have to be a political Einstein to figure out the confirmation proceedings would have been, rightly or wrongly, a trial of all past mistakes in Iraq. At a time when we need to figure out how to go forward, we would have been spending all of our time retrying mistakes of the past.”

The Democrats are no less eager than the Republicans to avoid a confirmation process that would raise the history and origins of the war. Carl Levin of Michigan, the Democratic chairman of the committee, joined in supporting a ‘forward-looking’ process that did not dwell on the past. He said in a statement, “I found that the views of many senators reflected my own, namely, that a confirmation hearing on General Pace’s reappointment would have been a backward-looking debate about the last four years.”

Levin went on the say that Adm. Mullen was “well-qualified” for the Joint Chiefs chairmanship, indicating that Mullen will have an easy path to confirmation.

On Sunday, two days after Gates’ announcement, the Washington Post published a front-page article by the newspaper’s chief military reporter Thomas Ricks entitled “Military Envisions Longer Stay in Iraq.” Saying he had interviewed more than 20 military officers in Iraq, including senior commanders, Ricks wrote, “US military officials here are increasingly envisioning a ‘post-occupation’ troop presence in Iraq that neither maintains current levels nor leads to a complete pullout, but aims for a smaller, longer-term force that would remain in the country for years.”

He went on to describe a plan that would leave at least 50,000 US troops in Iraq for an indefinite period. The plan, he wrote, “is based on officials’ assessment that a sharp drawdown of troops is likely to begin by the middle of next year, with roughly two-thirds of the current force of 150,000 moving out by late 2008 or early 2009.”

However, 20,000 US soldiers would remain to “guarantee the security of the Iraqi government and to assist Iraqi forces or their US advisers if they got into fights they can’t handle.” A training and advisory force of some 10,000 would “work with Iraqi military and police units.” There would be a “small but significant” Special Forces Operations unit “focused on fighting the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq.” Finally, “the headquarters and logistical elements to command and supply such a force would total more than 10,000 troops, plus some civilian contractors.”

“I think you’ll retain a very robust counterterror capability in this country for a long, long time,” a Pentagon official in Iraq is quoted as saying.

Ricks adds that some officers in Iraq are “quietly saying” that they “really have until January 20, 2009—when President Bush leaves office—to put the smaller, revised force in place.”

This report follows the statements by Gates and White House spokesman Tony Snow late last month that the US will maintain permanent military bases in the country.

Also last month, the Washington Post’s foreign affairs columnist David Ignatius published a piece on a “post-surge” strategy for Iraq being discussed by Bush and his senior military and foreign affairs advisers “that they hope could gain bipartisan political support.”

The plan outlined by Ignatius tracks that reported Sunday by Ricks in the Post. Citing senior administration officials, Ignatius wrote that the plan is “focused on elements that Democrats say they would continue to support, such as training the Iraqi military and hunting Al Qaeda, even as they set a timetable for withdrawing combat forces.”

These plans virtually reproduce language that was included in the Democrats’ various war-funding bills, all of which allowed for an indefinite continuation of the US occupation of Iraq involving tens of thousands of US troops.

With the current “surge” in Iraq failing to achieve any of its stated goals, the path is being cleared for a bipartisan compromise, perhaps to be implemented after Bush’s departure, that would maintain the brutal US occupation of Iraq. This is the real content of the Democrats’ posturing as opponents of the war.

Pace’s ouster was ultimately carried out to smooth the way for such an outcome. However, there is no reason to believe that these plans will prove any more successful than the disastrous strategy pursued to date.

Nor do they imply any reduction in US military violence in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. The appointment of Naval commanders to the top posts both for the Joint Chiefs and at Central Command suggests an intensification of carrier-based air strikes and other bloody means of suppressing Iraqi resistance to US neo-colonial rule.

And the new strategies being contemplated in Iraq by no means rule out an expansion of the war to Iran or Syria or a buildup of American forces in Afghanistan, options that have been advocated by many leading Democrats. Significantly, Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, the Democrats’ most consistent and bellicose supporter of the Bush administration in Iraq, used an appearance Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” program to call for a military strike against Iran.

“I think we’ve got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq,” he said. “And to me, that would include a strike over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers.”

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Anger Builds in Fallujah Over Security Crackdown

Inter Press Service
Ali al-Fadhily*

FALLUJAH, Jun 4 (IPS) - The city that was mostly destroyed by the U.S. military operation Phantom Fury in November 2004 has been under curfew for over two weeks, with no signs of relief.

Located 70 kms west of Baghdad, the city made headlines when four Blackwater USA security mercenaries were killed and their bodies horrifically mutilated on Mar. 31, 2004.

That April the city was attacked by the U.S. military, but resistance fighters repelled occupation forces. That set the stage for the November siege which left approximately 70 percent of the city destroyed and turned a quarter of a million residents into refugees.

A recent spike in attacks against Iraqi and U.S. forces in and around the city has prompted harsh measures by the U.S. military, including imposing curfews, limiting movement in and out of Fallujah, and setting up more checkpoints throughout the city -- moves which have greatly angered residents.

On May 19, most of these measures, perceived by many people here as a form of collective punishment, began to be more strictly enforced.

"Americans and their Iraqi collaborators are blaming us for their failure in controlling the city and the whole country," Ahmed Alwan of the Sunni religious group the Muslim Scholars Association told IPS. "This kind of collective punishment only means slow death to the people of the city and is adding to their agonies that have continued since April 2003."

Referring to the sieges of Fallujah along with the ongoing checkpoints, curfews, restrictions and clashes, Alwan added, "The Americans have proved themselves to be the cruelest human beings ever by such shameful crimes against humanity."

As the U.S. occupation continues with no end in sight and the level of violence and chaos increases daily, the disconcerting trend of more people believing violence against occupation is the solution has become more prevalent.

"Day by day we find more people believe in violence as a best solution to face American war crimes," a human rights activist in Fallujah, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. "To impose a curfew in a city that was already destroyed more than once is indeed a major crime against humanity."

Many people in Fallujah believe the harsh tactics are revenge tactics by U.S. troops and the George W. Bush administration for the city's attitude against the occupation.

"We know what they are doing and why they are doing it," a local community leader, also speaking on condition of anonymity because he feared U.S. reprisals, told IPS. "They hate this sacred city because it was the first to stand against their dirty occupation since it started."

On a side street of Fallujah, a man with his face covered by a kefiyeh scarf, commonly worn by resistance fighters to hide their identity, stopped an IPS reporter and said he wanted to "deliver a message to the sleeping world."

"Fallujah City has become a symbol for all Iraqis and all good people in the world who decided to fight this monstrous American occupation and no siege will stop the great victorious resistance that represents the voice of all Iraqis who believe in Allah and in the dignity of Iraq," he said. "We can see the world is sleeping while America is conducting a dirty plan to enslave all the human beings on earth."

Residents told IPS how their lives are being affected by the ongoing U.S.-Iraqi government crackdown.

"They [Iraqi security forces] are dividing the city into sections in a way that does not allow people to move and make their living," said Jabbar Amir, a shopkeeper in the main market area. "It takes me four checkpoints to reach my shop and most of the week I cannot make it there. This new security force is worse than the Americans -- who give them full support regardless of what they do to people."

The U.S. military brought in members of the Shi'ite Badr militia and the Kurdish Peshmerga militia to run patrols and checkpoints throughout the city after the devastating November 2004 siege. Many residents believe that this was an act of provocation and an attempt to foment sectarian conflict.

Concrete walls have been set up by the U.S. military to partition the city into small areas, possibly in advance of a new wave of raids by occupation forces.

The U.S. military are now supported by an Iraqi security force known as the "Anbar revolutionary force," which is accused of carrying out dozens of executions during the past months as well as detaining hundreds of young men for no obvious reason.

"Human life is worth nothing in Fallujah these days," said Jameel Nassir , a 21-year-old university student. "The government soldiers executed so many young men, just like what happened in Haditha, and the new security force conducted massive killings against us while Americans pay both armies millions of dollars to do the dirty work for them."

This sentiment is common now in Fallujah.

"All army and security forces in Fallujah are monsters," Bilal Ibrahim, a journalist in training in Fallujah, told IPS. "I watched one of their inhuman acts today and realised how brutal they really are. A young man jumped in the river for a swim near the hospital, but he was swept by the current and he was screaming for help. We were ready to save his life, but soldiers started shooting at us and they were laughing at the drowning guy until he died."

IPS learned that the young man's name was Mohammed Hikmet and he was a member of a well-known family in the city.

"They know this will fail in stopping armed attacks against them just like all their failures, but they want to plant the seed of division among people in the city and Anbar province," a city councilman, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. "Now our sons are killing each other in vain while Americans dream of moments of peace that they will never get as long as they do not show clear signs of intentions to leave the country for its people."

The man was referring to the numerous attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces during the curfew. Many U.S. and Iraqi soldiers have been killed by car bombs, suicide bombers and mortars that appear to underscore the failure of imposing more drastic security measures.

On May 31, a suicide bomber attacked a police recruiting centre in Fallujah, killing at least 25 people and wounding 50.

As has become the norm in Fallujah, civilians continue to pay the highest price despite the security measures that are supposed to be protecting them.

(*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, June 05, 2007

Fucking Goppig Bush's Latest Scare Tactic Falls Short

The JFK “plot”: another grossly inflated threat
By Bill Van Auken
5 June 2007

Back to screen version | Send this link by email | Email the author

The weekend’s news in the US was dominated by screaming headlines and sensationalist broadcast coverage of an alleged plot in New York to blow up John F. Kennedy International Airport’s jet fuel tanks and supply lines. The attack would have been, according to many accounts, “more devastating than September 11.”

Four men were charged in an indictment [] unveiled Sunday that included features that have become almost invariable in every such “terror” case brought by the government in recent years. First, the suspects had not only carried out no acts of terror, but they apparently lacked any means to realize such an attack. Second, a central figure in the alleged plot was a paid undercover informant of the FBI.

Broadcast networks spoke of the worst threat since the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, while reporters were sent out to conduct random interviews with passengers passing through JFK as well as residents living near the pipelines, asking how they felt about their supposed near brush with death.

As usual, New York City’s tabloids excelled in this sensationalism. Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post Sunday referred to the alleged plot in its headline as an “inferno plan” and carried an editorial stating that the purported plan “to do calamitous damage to JFK International Airport and surrounding residential neighborhoods underscores yet again the overarching threat Islamist terrorism poses to America.”

The New York Daily News on Monday carried five pages on the “plot,” with a ludicrous front-page headline, “Evil Ate at Table Eight,” promoting an inside interview with the Brooklyn waitress who served a meal to Russell Defreitas, whom the paper describes as the “mastermind” of the alleged plot, just before he was picked up by federal agents and police.

Yet the profile of Defreitas, a 63-year-old US citizen who emigrated from Guyana 25 years ago, hardly suggests a terrorist “mastermind.” A former friend describes him as someone who, before becoming a Muslim, had declared himself a Rastafarian and grown dreadlocks. He recalled his involvement in various business schemes to ship air conditioners or refrigerators to Guyana, none of which ever came to anything.

“He couldn’t even fix brakes,” the former friend said. “He never built bombs.”

Other accounts described him as a retired worker living in an impoverished Brooklyn neighborhood, who on various occasions had been homeless. New York Newsday, for example, reported, “Since being laid off from his job as a cargo worker several years ago, Russell Defreitas has lived a meek existence—at times sleeping in trains and trying to eke out a living running two-bit scams, selling incense on street corners and collecting welfare, acquaintances said.”

Also charged in the indictment are Abdul Kadir, a citizen of Guyana and former member of the Guyanese Parliament, and Kareem Ibrahim, a citizen of Trinidad, both of whom are under arrest in Trinidad awaiting a hearing on a US extradition request. Lawyers for the two said that they would fight extradition, likely raising the US record of torturing terrorism suspects. A fourth defendant, Abdel Nur, also a citizen of Guyana, has yet to be arrested.

A key figure in the alleged plot, however, is named in the indictment only as “the source.” He is identified as a convicted drug trafficker who, in exchange for favorable consideration on a pending jail sentence as well as cash payments, agreed to infiltrate the supposed terrorist cell.

Much of the evidence contained in the indictment consists of recordings of conversations between “the source” and the defendants. What emerges clearly, however, is the leading role this “informant” played in the alleged plot. Defreitas is quoted as saying that they saw him as someone “sent by Allah” to lead them.

The indictment also refers to meetings and recorded conversations between both Defreitas and the source and individuals in Guyana, who are identified only as “Individuals A through F.”

These six unnamed men are quoted proposing a wide range of terrorist activity, including smuggling “mujahideen from Asia into Guyana and then into the United States,” blowing up US helicopters at the Guyanese airport and the plan to blow up the JFK fuel system. On this last proposal, these unnamed individuals also suggest the use of dynamite and chemical explosives and advise on how to obtain these materials. One of these individuals also proposes that the plotters seek the assistance of a Trinidadian Islamist group, Jamaat al Muslimeen. In the account of these conversations, Defreitas is not quoted as saying anything.

The obvious question is why these six unnamed “individuals” have not been charged. One likely explanation is that they too were, in one form or another, participants in an elaborate effort to ensnare a hapless and sometimes homeless retiree and others in a plot that was fundamentally staged by the US government for its own purposes.

The blood-curdling accounts in the media largely reflected the highly charged language of US prosecutors and police officials in presenting the indictment. Roslynn Mauskopf, the US attorney in Brooklyn, New York, in announcing the charges, said, “Had the plot been carried out, it could have resulted in unfathomable damage, deaths and destruction.” She added, “The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is just unthinkable.”

The words “unfathomable” and “unthinkable” were undoubtedly chosen carefully, as the type of chain reaction of explosions described in the indictment was quite simply impossible.

Both airport security officials and pipeline experts dismissed the allegedly catastrophic disaster that supposedly would have been triggered by blowing up a fuel pipeline or storage tanks. While the federal indictment suggested that such an explosion could travel along the pipelines linking tanks in Linden, New Jersey into Brooklyn, New York and across the borough of Queens, this is impossible, both because the pipelines are equipped with safety valves that shut off the flow of fuel in event of a leak and because there is inadequate oxygen inside the pipes to sustain a fire.

The New York Times, whose skepticism about the federal indictment was clearly signaled by the newspaper placing stories on the JFK “plot” on its Metro pages, quoted Neal Sonnett, a defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor, as saying, “There unfortunately has been a tendency to shout too loudly about such cases.”

The Times article went on to say that Sonnett, also a former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, “noted that there is a broader risk in overstating the sophistication of a terror plot. At a time when many Americans live in justified fear of an attack, the risk is that drumbeating creates a climate of fear and drives public policy.”

There is every reason to believe that the succession of “terror” cases, each one weaker than the last and virtually all of them driven by “informants” who seem to play more the role of agents provocateur, are aimed at achieving precisely this effect. They serve as a means of intimidating public opinion with fear, justifying attacks on democratic rights and diverting attention from the ongoing debacle in Iraq.

The problem faced by the government is that the public is growing increasingly skeptical about these cases, with a sizeable portion of the population having concluded that they are trumped up for political purposes.

Under these conditions, the danger is that those who now control the reins of power in Washington may be concluding that something more tangible is needed.

On the same day that the alleged JFK “terror plot” broke in the news, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette published a revealing interview with that state’s new Republican Party chairman, who described himself as “150 percent for Bush.”

“At the end of the day,” said state party chairman Dennis Milligan, the owner of a water treatment business, “I believe fully the president is doing the right thing, and I think all we need is some attacks on American soil like we had on [Sept. 11, 2001 ], and the naysayers will come around very quickly...”

The question is whether elements in the Bush administration are reaching similar conclusions and preparing to engineer or allow another round of terrorist attacks “on American soil” as a pretext for suppressing the overwhelming popular opposition to its policies.