Saturday, December 30, 2006
Kucinich runs again, on one big issue: Bring the troops home
By Daniel Sturm
Athens NEWS Contributor
When I first interviewed U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich during the 2004 presidential primaries, anti-war protesters were admiring him as the sane voice of the Democratic Party - a man who actually read books and gave intelligent speeches. To his opponents, Kucinich was a small man on an ego trip, much "too radical" to be electable.The Ohio congressman was the only one of nine Democratic Party candidates to vote against the war in Iraq. His 90-day plan to end the occupation was dismissed by mainstream elements within the Democratic Party. Kucinich ultimately came in fourth in the primaries, despite Internet polls that had placed him second (behind Howard Dean, who MoveOn.org chose first). Three years and 2,500 American (as well as several hundred thousand Iraqi) casualties later, Kucinich is once again aiming for the nation's top job. This time around, the White House faces a Democratic majority in the Congress. What hasn't changed is the war in Iraq, and Kucinich is more relentless than ever about the urgency of withdrawing troops. "My country calls me to action," he told a cheering audience as he announced his second bid on Dec. 12 in Cleveland. In this exclusive interview, I asked Kucinich what he meant.Sturm: The Toledo Blade has called you a "diminutive Cleveland congressman" with a "giant-sized ego." How do you respond?Kucinich: I'm not going to dignify this with a comment. You know, there's a war going on. People are losing their lives. And what are they doing? I would ask The Toledo Blade to join me in challenging this unjust war, and to tell the people of Toledo that the war was based on lies. I would ask them to call for the troops to come home. They ought to be joining me. I was right about this. And everything I've said has become mainstream. I'm not speaking from the margins. This is why I expect to be elected president of the United States. The media fought the war wholesale, and I didn't. I'm one of the few members of Congress who has consistently challenged the war, and consistently voted against it. Sturm: Six weeks ago, you were re-elected to the House. Now you're running for president. What made you change your mind?Kucinich: We took back Congress on the issue of Iraq. But when we had our first caucus meeting after the break, some of our leaders hinted that they wanted to continue funding the war. I was kind of surprised by that. Then House majority leader (-elect) Steny Hoyer, D-Md., spoke up in favor of continuing to fund the war. To me, this represented a colossal mistake that needed to be challenged the only way one can challenge these kinds of things - by running for president. I led the effort in the House, in 2002, in challenging the Bush administration's march toward war. I organized 125 Democrats to vote against the resolution that authorized Iraq wars. I may have given hundreds of speeches in the Congress challenging the authorization for war, not only offering a plan to get out of Iraq, but also challenging each and every appropriation of the war. Sturm: Republican Sen. John McCain thinks withdrawing troops from Iraq would create chaos and breed terrorism at home. Is there any truth to that?Kucinich: John McCain is a war hero. I respect him. He's a friend of mine. I was in Vietnam last year, where they have a prison where he was kept. But it's possible to be a war hero, and also be wrong about the next war. The worst thing in the world is for us to send more troops to Iraq. More troops means more casualties. The war cannot be won militarily; everyone knows that. So what in the world are we doing sending more troops? It's just antithetical. And there's another dimension - the cost of the war. The economist Joseph Stiglitz has projected that the cost of the war will go up to $3 trillion. That's extraordinary. The White House's surge proposal is going to escalate the war, on top of the already huge cost. The American people will not accept this.Sturm: You're a co-sponsor of House Resolution 4232, which would stop funding the war. What's the plan?Kucinich: The basic path is recognizing that we appropriated $70 billion on Oct. 1. We're spending that money at a rate of about $8 billion per month. We should recognize that we have sufficient time, right now, to bring the troops home and also money to bring the troops home. We have sufficient money in the pipeline right now to help fund an international peacekeeping force, and begin funding the process of reconciliation and reconstruction in Iraq. So if we know the war can't be won militarily, what in the world are we doing, staying there? Well, there's another dimension as well. If Congress votes to appropriate another $160 billion for Iraq in the spring, we'd essentially have given George W. Bush the money he needs to carry the war through the end of his term. That would bring the total war cost, in 2007, to $230 billion. George Bush has been unequivocal about Iraq, and anyone who's missed this has not been paying attention. He has no intention of getting out of Iraq. He intends to keep our troops there until the end of his term. And that's a death sentence for a lot of Americans stationed over there.Sturm: Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Democrats in Congress "will not cut off funding for the troops." And Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., dismissed your bill as "silly." In this type of climate, what are the chances of getting the bill passed?Kucinich: Listen, I think that the American people, who spoke very clearly in November, will again have the final word on this. I'm the only Democratic candidate for presidency who's voted against every single appropriation for the war. A leader must not only have hindsight, but also foresight. I've demonstrated an ability to be right that can't be matched by others in this presidential campaign.Sturm: You say you're opposed to all wars. The U.S. operates more than 700 military bases in 130 countries. If you were elected president, would the role of these facilities change? And how so?Kucinich: We live in an era where we need to act upon international cooperation. We cannot run the whole world as a world police. This is very dangerous. I'm talking to you on my cell phone in a plane right now that's flying to Europe. The world is interconnected. Policies of unilateralism are antiquated. They're a part of the 18th century. We're in the 21st century, and we should be pursuing the science of human relations. I don't know if anyone else is saying this. But I'm going to give the American people a real hope that their children will be able to grow up in peace. I understand that terrorism is a factor. But I also remember that after 9/11 the American people discussed the need for reconciliation. One needs truth first, and then reconciliation. I think we're capable of doing that. Sturm: Some critics called you and Al Sharpton a "dog-and-pony show" in the 2004 primary campaign. Candidates who were tolerated by the Democrats, but not taken seriously. You eventually endorsed the pro-war candidate John Kerry. How do you reconcile this?Kucinich: I didn't endorse John Kerry's position on the war. As a matter of fact, at the same time the convention was going on, I attended rallies challenging the war. I was never silent about my opposition to the war. I didn't agree with him on that, and I made it clear. I also expect Democrats who disagree with me to support me at the convention. That's the way it works. Whoever wins the nomination people will get behind. If there'd been the leadership in 2004, we could have been out of Iraq years ago. But now the people are ready, the message is ready, and the candidate with that message is ready. This time, there'll be a pro-peace candidate who the American people can rally behind.Sturm: There's much hype about Barack Obama running for president. So far, his public statements about Iraq have been vague. What do you think about him? Kucinich: My position is going to be very clear when all the candidates are vetted. I am not only the only candidate who voted against the war. I am also the only candidate who voted against any appropriations for the war in Iraq. You cannot claim to be against the war when you've voted for appropriations. I'm in a singular position.Sturm: Where are you flying to in Europe? Kucinich: I'm going to London, to meet with various leaders in England. But I'll be in Ohio during the campaign next year, speaking in Athens, Toledo, Cleveland and Columbus. As you know, Ohio is very important in this campaign. Editor's note: Daniel Sturm is a German journalist who covers under-reported social and political topics in Europe and in the United States. Some of his work can be seen on the Internet at http://www.sturmstories.com. He recently moved to the Athens area.
Friday, December 29, 2006
"The first two or three months of 2007 represent a dangerous opening for an escalation of war in the Middle East
"By Robert ParryConsortium News
" The first two or three months of 2007 represent a dangerous opening for an escalation of war in the Middle East, as George W. Bush will be tempted to "double-down" his gamble in Iraq by joining with Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair to strike at Syria and Iran, intelligence sources say. President Bush's goal would be to transcend the bloody quagmire bogging down U.S. forces in Iraq by achieving "regime change" in Syria and by destroying nuclear facilities in Iran, two blows intended to weaken Islamic militants in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. The Israeli army and air force would carry the brunt of the new fighting albeit with the support of beefed-up U.S. ground and naval forces in the Middle East, the sources said. Bush is now considering a "surge" in U.S. troop levels in Iraq from about 140,000 to as many as 170,000. He also has dispatched a second aircraft carrier group to the coast of Iran.
"So far, however, Bush has confronted stiff opposition from the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff to the plan for raising troop levels in Iraq, partly because the generals don't think it makes sense to commit more troops without a specific military mission. But it's unclear how much the generals know about the expanded-war agenda which has been discussed sometimes in one-on-one meetings among the principals - Bush, Olmert and Blair - according to intelligence sources. "Since the Nov. 7 congressional elections, the three leaders have conducted a round-robin of meetings that on the surface seem to have little purpose. Olmert met privately with Bush on Nov. 13; Blair visited the White House on Dec. 7; and Blair conferred with Olmert in Israel on Dec. 18. All three leaders could salvage their reputations if a wider war broke out in the Middle East and then broke in their favor. Bush and Blair spearheaded the March 2003 invasion of Iraq that has since turned into a disastrous occupation. In August 2006, Olmert launched offensives against Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, drawing international condemnation for the deaths of hundreds of civilians and domestic criticism for his poorly designed war plans. The three leaders also find themselves cornered by political opponents. Bush's Republican Party lost control of both the House and Senate on Nov. 7; Blair succumbed to pressure from his own Labour Party and agreed to step down in spring 2007; and Olmert is suffering from widespread public disgust over the failed Lebanese war. Yet, despite these reversals, the three leaders have rebuffed advice from more moderate advisers that they adopt less confrontational strategies and consider unconditional negotiations with their Muslim adversaries. Most dramatically, Bush spurned a bipartisan Iraq Study Group plan that was co-authored by the Bush Family's long-time counselor, former Secretary of State James Baker. Instead of heeding Baker's advice to begin a drawdown of U.S. troops from Iraq and start talks with Iran and Syria, Bush rejected the notion of a "graceful exit" and then set unacceptable preconditions for talks with Iran and Syria. In other words, Baker tossed a life preserver to Bush who threw it back. Victory Agenda Bush has continued to insist on "victory" in Iraq and has again ratcheted up his rhetoric. He now talks about waging a long war against Islamic "radicals and extremists," not just the original goal of defeating "terrorists with global reach." At his news conference on Dec. 20, Bush cast this wider struggle against Islamists as a test of American manhood and perseverance by demonstrating to the enemy that "they can't run us out of the Middle East, that they can't intimidate America." Bush suggested, too, that painful decisions lay ahead in the New Year. "I'm not going to make predictions about what 2007 will look like in Iraq, except that it's going to require difficult choices and additional sacrifices, because the enemy is merciless and violent," Bush said. Rather than scale back his neoconservative dream of transforming the Middle East, Bush argued for an expanded U.S. military to wage this long war. "We must make sure that our military has the capability to stay in the fight for a long period of time," Bush said. "I'm not predicting any particular theater, but I am predicting that it's going to take a while for the ideology of liberty to finally triumph over the ideology of hate. … "We're in the beginning of a conflict between competing ideologies - a conflict that will determine whether or not your children can live in a peace. A failure in the Middle East, for example, or failure in Iraq, or isolationism, will condemn a generation of young Americans to permanent threat from overseas." So, rather than looking for a way out of the Iraq quagmire, Bush - now waist deep in the muck - is determined to press on. Bush's dilemma, however, is that time is working against him. Not only are the American people increasingly angry about U.S. troops caught in the middle of a sectarian civil war in Iraq, but Bush's domestic and international political bases continue to erode. Blair, who is widely derided in the United Kingdom as "Bush's poodle," is nearing the end of his tenure, and Bush's Republican Party is worried about Election 2008 if American soldiers are still dying in Iraq in two years. Plus, few military analysts believe a temporary troop "surge" alone will stop the steady deterioration in Iraq. Bush acknowledged as much at his news conference. "In order to do so ['the surge'], there must be a specific mission that can be accomplished with more troops," Bush said. "That's precisely what our commanders have said, as well as people who know a lot about military operations. And I agree with them that there's got to be a specific mission that can be accomplished with the addition of more troops before I agree on that strategy." Though not making much sense as a way to quell the civil strife in Iraq, a U.S. military buildup could help protect American interests in Iraq if Israeli attacks on Syria and Iran touch off retaliation against U.S. and British targets. Wider War For Bush, this idea of expanding the war outside Iraq also is not new. Since spring 2006, Bush reportedly has been weighing military options for bombing Iran's nuclear facilities, but he has encountered resistance from senior U.S. military officers. As investigative reporter Seymour Hersh wrote in The New Yorker, a number of senior U.S. officers were troubled by administration war planners who believed "bunker-busting" tactical nuclear weapons, known as B61-11s, were the only way to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities buried deep underground. A former senior intelligence official told Hersh that the White House refused to remove the nuclear option from the plans despite objections from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "Whenever anybody tries to get it out, they're shouted down," the ex-official said. [New Yorker, April 17, 2006] By late April 2006, however, the Joint Chiefs finally got the White House to agree that using nuclear weapons to destroy Iran's uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz, less than 200 miles south of Tehran, was politically unacceptable, Hersh reported. "Bush and [Vice President Dick] Cheney were dead serious about the nuclear planning," one former senior intelligence official said. But - even with the nuclear option off the table - senior U.S. military officials worried about the political and economic fallout from a massive bombing campaign against Iran. Hersh wrote: "Inside the Pentagon, senior commanders have increasingly challenged the President's plans, according to active-duty and retired officers and officials. The generals and admirals have told the Administration that the bombing campaign will probably not succeed in destroying Iran's nuclear program. They have also warned that an attack could lead to serious economic, political, and military consequences for the United States." Hersh quoted a retired four-star general as saying, "The system is starting to sense the end of the road, and they don't want to be condemned by history. They want to be able to say, 'We stood up.'" [New Yorker, July 10, 2006] Beyond the dangers from Iran's nuclear program, the Bush administration views the growing Shiite crescent across the Middle East as a threat to U.S. influence. Washington Post foreign policy analyst Robin Wright wrote that U.S. officials told her that "for the United States, the broader goal is to strangle the axis of Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran, which the Bush administration believes is pooling resources to change the strategic playing field in the Middle East. [Washington Post, July 16, 2006] By summer 2006, Israeli sources were describing Bush's interest in finding a pretext to hit back at Syria and Iran. That opening came when border tensions with Hamas in Gaza and with Hezbollah in Lebanon led to the capture of three Israeli soldiers and a rapid Israeli escalation of the conflict into an air-and-ground campaign against Lebanon. Bush and his neoconservative advisers saw the Israeli-Lebanese conflict as an opportunity to expand the fighting into Syria and achieve the long-sought "regime change" in Damascus, Israeli sources said. One Israeli source told me that Bush's interest in spreading the war to Syria was considered "nuts" by some senior Israeli officials, although Prime Minister Olmert generally shared Bush's hard-line strategy against Islamic militants. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Bush Wants Wider War."] In an article on July 30, 2006. the Jerusalem Post also hinted at the Israeli rejection of Bush's suggestion of a wider war into Syria. "Defense officials told the Post … that they were receiving indications from the US that America would be interested in seeing Israel attack Syria," the newspaper reported. In August 2006, the Inter-Press Service provided additional details, reporting that the message was passed to Israel by Bush's deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams, who had been a central figure in the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s. "In a meeting with a very senior Israeli official, Abrams indicated that Washington would have no objection if Israel chose to extend the war beyond to its other northern neighbor, leaving the interlocutor in no doubt that the intended target was Syria," a source told the Inter-Press Service. In December 2006, Meyray Wurmser, a leading U.S. neoconservative whose spouse is a Middle East adviser to Vice President Cheney, confirmed that neocons in and outside the Bush administration had hoped Israel would attack Syria as a means of undermining the insurgents in Iraq. "If Syria had been defeated, the rebellion in Iraq would have ended," Wurmser said in an interview with Yitzhak Benhorin of the Ynet Web site. "A great part of it was the thought that Israel should fight against the real enemy, the one backing Hezbollah. … If Israel had hit Syria, it would have been such a harsh blow for Iran that it would have weakened it and (changed) the strategic map in the Middle East." In early 2007, the revival of this neoconservative strategy of using the Israeli military to oust the Syrian government and to inflict damage on Iran's nuclear program may represent a last-ditch - and high-risk - gamble by Bush and the neocons to salvage their historic legacy. If that is the case, then Bush will approve "the surge" in U.S. forces into Iraq, which likely will be followed by some provocation that can be blamed on Syria or Iran, thus justifying the expanded war. Betting the lives of American soldiers and countless civilians across the Middle East, Bush will follow the age-old adage of gambling addicts: in for a dime, in for a dollar. -------- Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'
Technorati Tags: Ehud Olmert, James Baker, Syria, Tony Blair, george bush, iran, iraq, war
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Wednesday, December 27, 2006
"Saudi Arabia frees 29 former Guantanamo detainees
" RIYADH - Saudi authorities said Tuesday they had freed 29 prisoners handed over to them after their release from the US detention camp at Guantanamo in Cuba.
"The 28 Saudi nationals and a foreigner born in the oil-rich kingdom were ordered released by Saudi justice and were freed some time last week, a spokesman for Interior Minister Mansur al-Turki was quoted as saying by the official SPA agency.
"Prior to their release, the men were told in the presence of their families that "their respect for rules and directives will be a determining factor in obtaining the repatriation of other Saudis who are still held abroad," he said.
"A total of 53 individuals from Saudi Arabia have returned from Guantanamo. The bodies of two Saudi inmates, whom the United States said committed suicide at the camp in June, have also been repatriated.
At least 74 Saudis are still being held at the facility, a US naval base on the eastern tip of Cuba used as a detention centre for non-Americans captured in the US "war on terror".
"The Pentagon said earlier this month that "around 395" people captured in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks in the United States in 2001 are still being held without charge at Guantanamo.
Washington has denied authorizing torture there, while defending the use of robust interrogation techniques in a bid to uncover terror plots."
So, that's it. The Geneva Convention rights do not apply to the prisoners at Guantanamo, because they were not representing a "state"; yet, no one has a case against them for committing any type of crime. That is Republican policy, but that does not make sense. I visited Guantanamo Bay, Cuba when I was in the Navy. It was a pleasant U.S. overseas Navy base. I remember having charcoal-broiled steak and some Portuguese wine at the Officer's club there, on that Navy base, and walking among the officers' houses neighborhood. That was a pleasant time for me. Most people don't think of Cuba, nor Guantanamo Bay, as a pleasant place. America needs to outlaw torture, whether by FBI or CIA. America needs to wholly support the Geneva Convention, and retake the lead in advocating human rights.
'Source: New York Times
'Date: 29 August 2004
'C.I.A. Expands Its InquiryInto Interrogation Tactics
'By DOUGLAS JEHL and DAVID JOHNSTON
'WASHINGTON, Aug. 28 - A Central Intelligence Agency review that grew out of the furor over abuses at Abu Ghraib prison now includes scrutiny of the agency's interrogation and detention practices at military-run facilities and other sites across Iraq, government officials say.
The reassessment, which is more far-reaching than previously known, could have implications for the agency's conduct elsewhere, including interrogations of high-level Al Qaeda suspects like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed who are being held by the C.I.A. in secret facilities around the world.
Former intelligence officials say that lawyers from the C.I.A. and the Justice Department have been involved in intensive discussions in recent months to review the legal basis for some extreme tactics used at those secret centers, including "waterboarding," in which a detainee is strapped down, dunked under water and made to believe that he might be drowned.
"Policies and procedures on detention interrogation in Iraq and elsewhere have been the focus of intense oversight and scrutiny, and very close attention has been paid to making them lawful," a senior intelligence official said on Friday.
Over all, the review by the intelligence agency, along with the investigations and corrective steps already undertaken by the military, reflect how the government has retreated from an aggressive posture adopted in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks on how far interrogators could go in questioning detainees.
Within the military in particular, some of the harsh procedures authorized until this spring were quickly suspended or abandoned after the extent of the abuses at Abu Ghraib surfaced in April. This week, reviews completed by two investigative panels have called for even clearer rules to be drafted for the military and intelligence agencies to require humane treatment during interrogation.
Among the questions raised by the Pentagon reviews is whether intelligence agencies should be required to heed the same guidelines for interrogation as the military, or whether they should be permitted more latitude. A report by Maj. Gen. George R. Fay about the abuses at Abu Ghraib said the conduct of C.I.A. personnel at the prison was perceived by military officials there as more aggressive than that allowed by the military. The report said the C.I.A.'s conduct had a corrupting influence on military interrogators and contributed to a view among them that it was permissible to exceed strict guidelines for interrogations.
Mark Mansfield, a C.I.A. spokesman, would say only that the agency's inspector general is conducting "several" reviews of the agency's conduct in Iraq. Mr. Mansfield said it had not yet been determined when the inquiries would be completed or whether the results of the probes would be made public.
Among the reviews, intelligence officials say, are an examination of what a military investigation described as eight "ghost" detainees who were incarcerated at Abu Ghraib, but who were kept off the prison's roster at the C.I.A.'s request. In one of those cases, in November 2003, a detainee brought to the prison by C.I.A. employees but never formally registered with military guards died at the site, and his body was removed after being wrapped in plastic and packed in ice.
The man had been detained by Navy Seals, who had hit him in the head with a rifle butt during his arrest, and the military investigation said that blow apparently led to his death. But the investigation suggested that the detainee might have survived if he had been screened by doctors, as would have been required had he been properly registered with the military.
The reviews have stirred concern in intelligence and military circles by officials who fear that decisions to forbid all coercive interrogation techniques could cost the United States valuable intelligence. A senior Army official, discussing new rules adopted by the military in a briefing for reporters on Wednesday, said the restrictions had damaged efforts to obtain information.
"Interrogators and detainees both know what the limits are," the official said. "They know that if the United States captures them, they will get a medical exam. They'll get their teeth fixed. They will get essentially a free physical and they will be released if they don't talk after a certain amount of time."
In interviews in recent days, some current and former intelligence officials have warned of the danger of showing too much deference to detainees who espouse extreme anti-American views.
"Let's keep in mind what the objective is - to get information that will save American lives," said a senior intelligence official. "And there is an absolute necessity to use effective interrogation to gain insights on plans to kill Americans."
Interrogations of suspected Qaeda figures including Mr. Mohammed, regarded as the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, have been described by the independent commission that investigated those attacks as having provided rich and important information about terrorist operations. Intelligence officials have not spelled out in any detail the kinds of interrogation tactics used on Mr. Mohammed, but they have expressed concern that he has successfully resisted their efforts to extract information.
An April 2003 C.I.A. report on Mr. Mohammed that is cited in a footnote to the Sept. 11 commission's report refers in its title to Mr. Mohammed's "Threat Reporting - Precious Truths, Surrounded by a Bodyguard of Lies.''
In recent weeks, current and former officials say, the debate about interrogations and about Mr. Mohammed in particular has been conducted against the real and urgent backdrop of concern about a potential new terrorist attack.
Mr. Mohammed's knowledge of Qaeda personnel has become significant again because of his association with the suspected Qaeda figure known as Issa al-Hindi, or Dhiren Barot, who was among eight men arrested early this month in Britain and later charged with terrorist related offenses. The authorities believe that Mr. Hindi traveled to New York in 2000 and 2001 to conduct surveillance operations at five financial institutions in New York, New Jersey and Washington.
In the Sept. 11 commission's final report, Mr. Mohammed is said to have told his interrogators that he dispatched Mr. Hindi, under the name Issa al-Britani, to case potential economic targets in New York.
It is not clear whether Mr. Mohammed was talking about the same reconnaissance described in surveillance reports that the authorities found in Pakistan last month. But those surveillance operations are important because they were behind the Bush administration's decision, announced on Aug. 1, to elevate the threat level in the three parts of the United States.
It remains unclear whether intelligence officials have adopted newly aggressive methods in their interviews of Mr. Mohammed.
It has been known that, after the abuses at Abu Ghraib were disclosed, the Justice Department abandoned some legal opinions written in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks that had been used as the basis for the broad latitude allowed interrogators in using extreme procedures against suspected Qaeda detainees. In recent months, government lawyers said the legal opinions were too broad and were being rewritten to restrict the harshest interrogation measures.
The broader inspector general investigation into the agency's involvement in detention and intelligence in Iraq since May 2003 was ordered in May by George J. Tenet, who was then director of central intelligence. But additional questions about the C.I.A.'s practices center on a small number of high-level suspected Qaeda detainees being held by the agency outside Iraq in undisclosed locations around the world.
The C.I.A. has already scaled back some coercive methods used against detainees, although officials would not discuss specific techniques. Agency officials have demanded advance Justice Department approval for each tactic used against detainees and a new legal analysis of federal laws on the subject, including a statute that makes it a felony for American officials, including C.I.A. employees, to engage in torture.
One seminal document repudiated by the government was an August 2002 memo by the Justice Department. It concluded that interrogators could use extreme techniques on detainees in the effort to prevent terrorism.
The memo suggested that the president could authorize a wide array of coercive interrogation methods in the campaign against terrorism without violating international treaties or the federal torture law. It did not specify any particular procedures but suggested that there were few limits short of causing the death of a prisoner.
While the memo appeared to give the C.I.A. wide latitude in adopting tactics to interrogate high-level suspected Qaeda detainees, it is still unclear exactly what procedures were used or the extent to which the memo influenced the government's overall thinking about interrogations of other terror detainees captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere."
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Please forward this to people you love!
As of this writing, Dennis leads:
Kucinich 28% Clinton 21% Obama 13% None 38%
Dennis has risen from 10% on Wednesday night! The greatest shift has been away from "None" to Dennis, illustrating the tremendous potential of the Kucinich Campaign: The support is there waiting for a leader who clearly states "We can end the occupancy now."
God Bless Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich.
The Stepp Family Celebrating Thanksgiving. Picture by Wilma Stepp.
An open letter to the people of Bath County. 60% of you voters in Bath County in the Kentucky Fifth Congressional District voted to have Kenneth Stepp as your Democratic Congressman in the Nov. 7 general election. Thank you. I will continue the struggle against the U.S. military occupation of Iraq, the struggle against warrantless wiretaps, the struggle against torture, and the struggle against reducing the Federal educational budget. The new Democratic majority in the U.S. House will probably result in many of the policies the people of Bath County want, becoming law. I regret I will not be there to participate in these great changes. I will always be thankful to the people of Bath County for the confidence you have placed in me, and I hope to be of service to you in the future. Kenneth Stepp.
"Dec 14, 2006
"AP - Democrat beats seven-term incumbent in runoff for House
"By SUZANNE GAMBOA
"WASHINGTON - The Republicans had the money. They had the experience, and they had the name recognition. But in the end, the Democrats had the momentum.
"Voters in the vast 23rd Congressional District in Texas joined in the Democratic momentum when 54 percent of them picked Democrat Ciro Rodriguez over seven-term Republican incumbent Henry Bonilla in Tuesday's runoff.
"In terms of congressional races, obviously it has been a very bad year, and this is a continuation of it," said Reggie Bashur, an Austin Republican consultant. "A lot of voters were persuaded by arguments that Congress was going Democrat and it would be wise to elect a Democrat to join the majority."
"Democrats took control of Congress in midterm elections. With Rodriguez's win, there are now 233 Democrats and 202 Republicans in the House. Texas added two Democrats: Rodriguez and Nick Lampson, who won the open race to replace former Rep. Tom DeLay.
Bonilla took 69 percent of the vote in 2004 over a lesser-known Democrat. But that win came in a district drawn to assure Bonilla's win.
"Republicans have been a rubber stamp for this president, and people want a change," said Brendan Daly, spokesman for soon-to-be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat.
"As a reward, Rodriguez was named to the Appropriations Committee, where Bonilla was a member and subcommittee chairman."
Friday, December 22, 2006
"NBC's Kelly O'Donnell: "Congress has not passed a specific law" on Bush wiretap program
"In reporting on President Bush's "argu[ment]" that "he had legal authority" to order warrantless domestic wiretapping, NBC News White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell in a December 20 online article uncritically repeated the Bush administration's false claim that "Congress had not passed a specific law" on the subject.
"In fact, as has been widely reported and as Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, Congress has passed such a law: the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA), which requires the government to obtain a warrant to wiretap U.S. citizens and legal residents inside the United States. The Bush administration's apparent violation of FISA has given rise to bipartisan condemnation.
The administration has argued it has the authority to conduct warrantless wiretaps despite FISA's prohibitions.
"From O'Donnell's December 20 online article titled "Bush ready to move past 2006 'thumping' ":
"Government secrets revealed
"One of the president's secret programs made big news when it was leaked to the New York Times. The National Security Agency had been conducting wiretaps inside the U.S. without court approval. The president argued he had legal authority even though Congress had not passed a specific law.
"The administration gave the operation the name "terrorist surveillance program" in an effort to increase public support and reduce fears that the government was spying on ordinary citizens. Critics expressed concern about the civil liberties and questioned whether the president went beyond the powers of the executive branch.
"Project for the New American Century (PNAC)
"Project for the New American Century is a neo-conservative think-tank that promotes an ideology of total U.S. world domination through the use of force. The group embraces and disseminates an ideology of faith in force, U.S. supremacy, and rejection of the rule of law in international affairs.
"The group's core ideas are expressed in a September 2000 report produced for Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush, and Lewis Libby entitled Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century. The Sunday Herald referred to the report as a "blueprint for U.S. world domination."
According to the Sonoma State University media research group Project Censored, The Neoconservative Plan for Global Dominance was the Top Censored Media Story of 2002-2003.
"PNAC's membership includes people such as Richard Perle, Elliot Abrams, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and William Kristol.
"PNAC began to enter the public consciousness when journalist Neil Mackay wrote about the September 2000 report in the September 15th, 2002 edition of the Sunday Herald. According to the article, the report sparked outrage from British Labour MP Tom Dalyell:
Tam Dalyell, the Labour MP, father of the House of Commons and one of the leading rebel voices against war with Iraq, said: 'This is garbage from right-wing think-tanks stuffed with chicken-hawks -- men who have never seen the horror of war but are in love with the idea of war. Men like Cheney, who were draft-dodgers in the Vietnam war.
'This is a blueprint for US world domination -- a new world order of their making. These are the thought processes of fantasist Americans who want to control the world. I am appalled that a British Labour Prime Minister should have got into bed with a crew which has this moral standing.'
"The Sunday Herald article highlighted the following goals from the 2000 report, which it termed an "American grand strategy" and "blueprint of world domination":
The U.S. must take military control of the Gulf region whether or not Saddam Hussein is in power: "While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."
"The U.S. must "fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars" as a "core mission"
"The U.S. forces are "the cavalry on the new American frontier"
"The report builds upon the 1992 draft document "Defense Planning Guidance," which claimed that the U.S. must "discourage advanced industrial nations from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger regional or global role".
"Permanent U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, whether or not Saddam Hussein is in power.
Increasing military pressure on China: "it is time to increase the presence of American forces in southeast Asia" which will lead to "American and allied power providing the spur to the process of democratisation in China"
"the creation of 'US Space Forces', to dominate space, and the total control of cyberspace to prevent 'enemies' using the internet against the US"
"The report contains ambivalent language toward bioterrorism and genetic warfare: "New methods of attack -- electronic, 'non-lethal', biological -- will be more widely available ... combat likely will take place in new dimensions, in space, cyberspace, and perhaps the world of microbes ... advanced forms of biological warfare that can 'target' specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool"
"Development of "world-wide command-and-control system" to contain dangerous regimes of North Korea, Libya, Syria, and Iran.
"Some of PNAC's members and associates have been implicated in conflict of interest scandals involving the ways that they profit from the wars and military spending that they promote. For more information, see Who Profits From War? .
PNAC: Conquest for Fun and Profit
Neil Mackay: Bush planned Iraq 'regime change' before becoming President (Sunday Herald, 15 September 2002)
Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century
Frida Berrigan: Washington High Fashion: High Military Spending (Common Dreams News Center, 24 February 2001)
Bernard Weiner: How We Got Into This Imperial Pickle: A PNAC Primer
William Rivers Pitt: Blood Money
The Plan: Were Neo-Conservatives' 1998 Memos a Blueprint for Iraq War? (ABCNews.com, 10 March 2003) Ronald Bosrock: The Project for the New American Century: Why American business should care (Star Tribune, 27 October 2003) Protesters urge Upton to repudiate document John Pilger: Il tentativo americano di dominio globale IPA press release: Behind the War Lobby (with comments on PNAC from William Hartung) Jim Lobe: Washington Goes to War Conn Hallinan: Fighting an Iraqi war for oil Letter to the President published in National Review Online, 20 September 2001
Money SourcesMedia Transparency grant listing from Earhart Foundation for $17,500 "During a five-month period beginning July 2000 to prepare a monograph on the topic, 'Hong Kong's Loss of Liberty,' Ellen Bork, Research Principal." Grants to New Citizenship Project, many of which went to support the PNAC
Other linksNational Strategy viewpoints Frida Berrigan: Washington High Fashion: High Military Spending
o f f i c i a l s s a y Neo-Conservatism John Bolton Elliott Abrams Dick Cheney Project for the New American Century (PNAC) Paul Wolfowitz Donald Rumsfeld Max Boot Richard Haas Richard Perle Ruth Wedgwood James Woolsey The Heritage Foundation Douglas Feith Michael Ledeen Keith Payne
NewsC-SPAN.org Guardian Unlimited The Observer Independent News BBC News Sunday Herald Democracy Now! Common Dreams News Center Le Monde Diplomatique
Media reformMedia Reform Information Center Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) Columbia Journalism Review: Who Owns What XXI CENTURY
Public OpinionPew Research Center for People and the Press Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA)
Arms Control and Non-ProliferationCenter for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Council for a Livable World Arms Trade Resource Center
International PolicyCarnegie Endowment for International Peace Foreign Policy in Focus Center for International Policy
Defense InformationCenter for Defense Information
Nuclear IssuesBulletin of the Atomic Scientists Center for Defense Information -- Nuclear Issues Los Alamos Study Group Nuclear Age Peace Foundation Nuclear Policy Research Institute Western States Legal Foundation
Human RightsHuman Rights Watch UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Amnesty International U.S. Department of State Human Rights reports
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Last modified: Wed May 12 18:58:36 CDT 2004
Monday, December 18, 2006
Promoted Monday, 12/18/06 @ 06:01 pm. Published Monday, 12/18/06 @ 06:00 pm. Linked to DFA Blog Network.
Paul Rogat Loeb is a well-known progressive activist and writer. He submits occasional essays on the current political landscape:
I suspect you've heard about the stunning margin of the youth vote--how 18-29 year-olds supported Democratic congressional candidates over Republicans by a massive 60% to 38% difference. They did so in every region of the country, from a 74-25% split in the East to a 51-48% margin in the South. They provided the winning margin for Tester in Montana and Webb in Virginia, and helped put McCaskill over the top in Missouri.
Had it been up to them, the Democrats would have also won Senate races in Tennessee, Arizona, and Nevada; Ned Lamont would have defeated Joe Lieberman, and a slew of additional House seats would have changed hands. The Democrats would have elected Senators from 26 states, with Republicans carrying Texas, Utah, Wyoming, and the Maine seat of moderate Olympia Snow. Studies suggest that young voters tend to keep the political identifications they develop in their first few elections (for instance, the young adults who helped cascade Reagan into office have tended to remain more conservative as they've gotten older than those in the late Vietnam-era generation). So if Democrats address the legitimate needs of this generation, they have a chance to make it a key part of a continuing majority.
Young voters have been leaning Democratic since the Clinton years, although Nader siphoned off enough support in 2000 to make it a near-dead heat. They were the only generation to favor Kerry, and did so by a ten percent margin. Now the gap has opened wider than ever, fueled by the Iraq war (and friends returning emotionally or physically wounded), by the religious right's attacks on sexuality, and by an economy whose terrain has become increasingly difficult for all but the wealthiest. Combining the children of late Baby Boomers and of immigrants, this generation will eventually become the largest in the country. Some of their issues, such as Iraq, global warming, and the decline of low-end and middle-income wages, cut across generational lines.
But this generation also faces specific obstacles, like the financial barriers that make higher education increasingly unaffordable for any but the children of the wealthy. Age 24 is the point after which the likelihood of ever graduating from college plummets. If your family is in the top quarter in annual income, you have an 82% chance of getting a bachelor's degree by then. If you're in the bottom half of the population, your chances are just 12%--and only 10% if you're in the bottom quarter
Nancy Pelosi has already vowed to make student financial aid a priority. But the Democrats need to take this fight to the campuses, where most students are distracted from the votes and issues that profoundly affect their lives--and often wonder whether political efforts even matter. By age 29, 57% of all Americans will have completed some college, with others returning later. So we're talking about a major slice of the populace, and this country's major route to decent job prospects. Access to education won't solve our every ill, but in this area, as in so many others, Democrats need to link seemingly individual challenges with public solutions.
The barriers students face have been building since low-income wages began to stagnate in the mid-seventies, and since Reagan began shifting federal financial aid from grants (which don't get paid back) to the loans that now saddle the average college graduate with nearly $20,000 of debt. More affluent students benefited from some of the new programs, but for those who were low-income things got steadily harder. Even the Clinton programs did nothing for those at the bottom, since his prime successful initiatives, the Hope and Lifetime Learning credits, were based on income tax refunds and consequently provided no help to poor families who paid out for Social Security but were under the income tax threshold.
The encounter that crystallized the shift happened a few years ago, when I met a student who lived on the same Brooklyn block where I had lived while attending college in the early seventies. I'd worked my way through school as a bartender, making $5 an hour for twenty hours a week. I paid my tuition at a private university with costs as high as any in the nation, paid my food, rent, and books, and had money left over to go out on the weekends.
Twenty-five years later, this student was working 30 hours a week for $6 an hour, a fraction in real dollars of what I'd been making. He commuted an hour and a half each way to the City College of New York, a public school with tuition far higher proportionate to his earnings than my private college tuition was to me. He kept dropping out and working fulltime to try to avoid getting too deep in debt, but would still owe $15,000 or more when and if he graduated. Though he was working harder than I had, the rules had changed to make his passage vastly more difficult.
The situation of those working their way through school has continued to get harder. College costs have skyrocketed. Low-income wages have stagnated. So have federal financial aid programs aimed at low-income students. In 1980, the maximum Pell Grant covered 77% of the average cost of attending a public institution. It now covers just 33%. In December 2005, the Bush administration made the situation far worse by cutting $12.7 billion in Federal financial aid. They reduced Pell Grants, cut successful low-income support projects like some of the Trio programs, and enacted major cuts in student loan subsidies, which will leave students paying far higher interest rates for years.
The result is a perfect storm of financial constraints that threatens the already problematic access of low-income students to higher education. Most have little sense of the policies that will leave them so financially burdened that many will either drop out before they finish, or never start to begin with, and others may postpone raising families, buying houses or entering the careers to which their passions draw them. I speak at colleges throughout the country, and in the past year have asked the students I've met whether they knew about the Bush administration's recent draconian aid cuts. A few knew, maybe one in five. The rest had no sense the cuts had even occurred, in part because their greatest impact was buried in the fine print of student loan agreements.
As a result, their voices were silent when the cuts went through. The major higher education associations did lobby against them, but few college presidents did anything to mobilize their students. The United States Student Association (USSA), the excellent association of student governments, did create some strong phone call and letter writing campaigns, which helped create enough resistance so that the bill passed the U.S. Senate by just a single vote. But given the significance of the cuts, the campus outcry was minimal.
The same has been true with other ways this administration has made it harder to get through college. A general sense that the Republicans were making things harder did contribute to the generation's electoral shifts, along with organizing by groups like the PIRGs, Rock the Vote, the League of Young Voters, and Music for America. But most students never heard about the changes in welfare rules requiring recipients, often single mothers, to work far more hours at outside jobs, even if going to school full time.
Unless they were directly affected, they heard little or nothing about Bush's ban on federal financial aid to students with drug convictions-which has had no impact on affluent partiers (such as the president himself when he was "young and reckless," or the royal Bush daughters) but has prevented over 200,000 prospective students from getting federal assistance. Most heard little about Bush's bankruptcy bill--lobbied through by immensely profitable credit card companies that will gleefully offer a credit card to your dog, cat, or 12-year-old-and how it ensures that no matter how bad their financial situation, student debts will follow them for the rest of their lives.
Taken together, these changes close opportunities for all but the privileged. But they don't have to stand. Speaker-elect Pelosi is already proposing to halve the interest rates on various federal loans, increase the maximum Pell grant from $4,050 to $5,100, and increase the tax deductibility of tuition. USSA has been supporting these same measures while lobbying for the new Congress also to rescind the ban on financial aid to those with drug convictions and to support adequate child care for single parents working their way through school.
Congress could go further still by enacting Pell Grant increases that actually matched the increases in college costs since the program was founded. They could pass a bill, like one Ted Kennedy proposed this past summer, that would address the problem of financially pressed students bypassing public service careers, like teaching, social work, or serving as firefighters or police officers, by capping loan repayments at 15 as a percentage of income and allowing loan debt forgiveness for public sector employees who make 10 years of repayments. Democrats could even look to the G.I. Bill as a model, and how, by making possible the college education of an entire generation (at least for the men), it both opened up unprecedented opportunity and fueled America's post-war economic boom.
Opponents are already saying that even the most minimal shifts are too costly, or politically impossible. Yet we might remember that the Bush administration passed over $100 billion a year in top bracket tax cuts, all of which could be rescinded. The Iraq was has already cost nearly $350 billion, or enough to give almost 17,000,000 complete four-year scholarships at public universities. My local paper just ran an article on how a million dollars no longer buys a luxury home. The money exists in our culture, if we're willing to debate our priorities.
Passing new laws to broaden access to higher education won't be easy. But the Democrats could consider it an opportunity. Whether or not they can pass the necessary bills over Bush's potential veto, they now have a chance to reach out and organize, particularly on campuses whose students are used to politicians ignoring them. If they can do enough to highlight the crisis in access to education, they can give grassroots campus groups a major boost in getting their peers involved. They can help engage students in drawing the links between how they or their classmates struggle to pay for their schooling and the larger priorities of our country.
Precisely because their opponents will claim that resources are simply too scarce, they'll have a chance to link this with other urgent questions about what kind of common investments will build the strongest society. They have to be careful, of course, to keep the focus on the fundamental stories about what it means to be poor and trying to get through school in America-progressives in general are all too comfortable with putting to people to sleep with an endless maze of statistics and sub-clauses. But if they can really fight to reopen higher education opportunity for all, they'll win whether or not they can initially pass every desired piece of legislation. And a generation already inclined to support them just might give them their long-term allegiance.Paul Rogat Loeb is the author of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear, named the #3 political book of 2004 by the History Channel and the American Book Association. His previous books include Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time, and Generation at the Crossroads: Apathy & Action of the American Campus. See www.paulloeb.org To receive Loeb's monthly articles email email@example.com with the subject line: subscribe paulloeb-articles
For a version of this piece with hyperlinks, see http://www.paulloeb.org/articles/financialaidandyouthvote.html
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Saturday, December 16, 2006
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
"Routine and systematic torture is at the heart of America's war on terror
"In the fight against cruelty, barbarism and extremism, America has embraced the very evils it claims to confront
"Tuesday December 12, 2006
"After thousands of years of practice, you might have imagined that every possible means of inflicting pain had already been devised. But you should never underestimate the human capacity for invention. United States interrogators, we now discover, have found a new way of destroying a human being.
"Last week, defence lawyers acting for José Padilla, a US citizen detained as an "enemy combatant", released a video showing a mission fraught with deadly risk - taking him to the prison dentist. A group of masked guards in riot gear shackled his legs and hands, blindfolded him with black-out goggles and shut off his hearing with headphones, then marched him down the prison corridor.
"Is Padilla really that dangerous? Far from it: his warders describe him as so docile and inactive that he could be mistaken for "a piece of furniture". The purpose of these measures appeared to be to sustain the regime under which he had lived for more than three years: total sensory deprivation. He had been kept in a blacked-out cell, unable to see or hear anything beyond it. Most importantly, he had had no human contact, except for being bounced off the walls from time to time by his interrogators. As a result, he appears to have lost his mind. I don't mean this metaphorically. I mean that his mind is no longer there.
"The forensic psychiatrist who examined him says that he "does not appreciate the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, is unable to render assistance to counsel, and has impairments in reasoning as the result of a mental illness, ie, post-traumatic stress disorder, complicated by the neuropsychiatric effects of prolonged isolation". José Padilla appears to have been lobotomised: not medically, but socially.
"If this was an attempt to extract information, it was ineffective: the authorities held him without charge for three and half years. Then, threatened by a supreme court ruling, they suddenly dropped their claims that he was trying to detonate a dirty bomb. They have now charged him with some vague and lesser offences to do with support for terrorism. He is unlikely to be the only person subjected to this regime. Another "enemy combatant", Ali al-Marri, claims to have been subject to the same total isolation and sensory deprivation, in the same naval prison in South Carolina. God knows what is being done to people who have disappeared into the CIA's foreign oubliettes.
"That the US tortures, routinely and systematically, while prosecuting its "war on terror" can no longer be seriously disputed. The Detainee Abuse and Accountability Project (DAA), a coalition of academics and human-rights groups, has documented the abuse or killing of 460 inmates of US military prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and at Guantánamo Bay. This, it says, is necessarily a conservative figure: many cases will remain unrecorded. The prisoners were beaten, raped, forced to abuse themselves, forced to maintain "stress positions", and subjected to prolonged sleep deprivation and mock executions.
"The New York Times reports that prisoners held by the US military at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan were made to stand for up to 13 days with their hands chained to the ceiling, naked, hooded and unable to sleep. The Washington Post alleges that prisoners at the same airbase were "commonly blindfolded and thrown into walls, bound in painful positions, subjected to loud noises and deprived of sleep" while kept, like Padilla and the arrivals at Guantánamo, "in black hoods or spray-painted goggles".
"Alfred McCoy, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, argues that the photographs released from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq reflect standard CIA torture techniques: "stress positions, sensory deprivation, and sexual humiliation". The famous picture of the hooded man standing on a box, with wires attached to his fingers, shows two of these techniques being used at once. Unable to see, he has no idea how much time has passed or what might be coming next. He stands in a classic stress position - maintained for several hours, it causes excruciating pain. He appears to have been told that if he drops his arms he will be electrocuted. What went wrong at Abu Ghraib is that someone took photos. Everything else was done by the book.
"Neither the military nor the civilian authorities have broken much sweat in investigating these crimes. A few very small fish have been imprisoned; a few others have been fined or reduced in rank; in most cases the authorities have either failed to investigate or failed to prosecute. The DAA points out that no officer has yet been held to account for torture practised by his subordinates. US torturers appear to enjoy impunity, until they are stupid enough to take pictures of each other.
"But Padilla's treatment also reflects another glorious American tradition: solitary confinement. Some 25,000 US prisoners are currently held in isolation - a punishment only rarely used in other democracies. In some places, like the federal prison in Florence, Colorado, they are kept in sound-proofed cells and might scarcely see another human being for years on end. They may touch or be touched by no one. Some people have been kept in solitary confinement in the US for more than 20 years.
"At Pelican Bay in California, where 1,200 people are held in the isolation wing, inmates are confined to tiny cells for 22 and a half hours a day, then released into an "exercise yard" for "recreation". The yard consists of a concrete well about 3.5 metres in length with walls 6 metres high and a metal grille across the sky. The recreation consists of pacing back and forth, alone.
"The results are much as you would expect. As National Public Radio reveals, more than 10% of the isolation prisoners at Pelican Bay are now in the psychiatric ward, and there's a waiting list. Prisoners in solitary confinement, according to Dr Henry Weinstein, a psychiatrist who studies them, suffer from "memory loss to severe anxiety to hallucinations to delusions ... under the severest cases of sensory deprivation, people go crazy." People who went in bad and dangerous come out mad as well. The only two studies conducted so far - in Texas and Washington state - both show that the recidivism rates for prisoners held in solitary confinement are worse than for those who were allowed to mix with other prisoners. If we were to judge the US by its penal policies, we would perceive a strange beast: a Christian society that believes in neither forgiveness nor redemption.
"From this delightful experiment, US interrogators appear to have extracted a useful lesson: if you want to erase a man's mind, deprive him of contact with the rest of the world. This has nothing to do with obtaining information: torture of all kinds - physical or mental - produces the result that people will say anything to make it end. It is about power, and the thrilling discovery that in the right conditions one man's power over another is unlimited. It is an indulgence which turns its perpetrators into everything they claim to be confronting.
"President Bush maintains that he is fighting a war against threats to the "values of civilised nations": terror, cruelty, barbarism and extremism. He asked his nation's interrogators to discover where these evils are hidden. They should congratulate themselves. They appear to have succeeded."
Monday, December 11, 2006
"WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democrats on Wednesday praised a bipartisan report on Iraq as a step forward, with key senators calling it a rebuke of White House policy.
The newly released report says the United States must change its Iraq strategy to tackle a "grave and deteriorating" situation there that could lead to chaos.
Sen. Carl Levin, the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, took a jab at the White House.
"The report represents another blow at the policy of 'stay-the-course' that this administration has followed," the Michigan Democrat said. "Hopefully, this will be the end of that stay-the-course policy." (Watch Democrats claim vindication on Iraq )
Levin, referring to Democrats' election victory in November said, "the American people rose up against staying the course in Iraq, because it was not working."
"Only a political settlement by the Iraqis can end the violence in Iraq, and the military force that we have there cannot do that for the Iraqis," said Levin, who spoke after a briefing on the report by its co-chairmen.
White House spokesman Tony Snow said the report does not represent a repudiation of the administration's Iraq policy.
"No, it's something we have acknowledged," Snow said. "It's an acknowledgement of reality."
"Stay the course is not the policy and it's been that way for months," said Snow during his daily White House briefing for reporters. "We look at this as a very positive document."
Throughout the Iraq war, Bush administration officials said it was critical to "stay the course" in Iraq. But in October, White House spokesman Dan Bartlett dismissed assertions that the Bush administration's strategy for Iraq was to "stay the course," saying instead it was only to "win in Iraq."
Specifically, the report says objectives set by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the United States on "national reconciliation, security and governance" represent a "good start" but must be "expanded to include milestones that can strengthen the government and benefit the Iraqi people." (Highlights from the report)
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh said Wednesday that the report was in line with his government's plans, but warned there was no "magic wand" to resolve the nation's woes, The Associated Press reported.
But AP reported that Sheik Mohammed Bashar al-Fayadh, a spokesman for the Sunni Arab Association of Muslim Scholars, on Al-Jazeera TV blasted the report for placing American interests ahead of Iraq's. (Read more reaction from Iraq)
Abdul Aziz Hakim, Shiite leader of the largest bloc in Iraq's parliament, was critical of the report, telling CNN that problems in Iraq had nothing to do with the situation in the greater Middle East.
"Of course this report was made by a group of respectable people. But there are differences in some views between me and them. I see that some information that was mentioned is not precise.
"The problem of Middle East is very important and there are many issues there, but the problem in Iraq (has) specifically nothing to do with the situation in the middle east today."
Concerns about Iraq's government
Democrat Sen. Joseph Biden, who said that although he didn't disagree with anything in it, he has "concerns about what may not be in the report relating to urging the Iraqis to have a political settlement."
Biden, from Delaware, is expected to lead the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Democrats take control in January.
"The most significant thing of the report is it has moved the debate in a fundamental way from not 'if' but 'when' and 'how' we move our forces in Iraq," Biden said.
He said Iraq's government must guarantee that oil, its major resource, is equally distributed, and "allow more local autonomy over the physical protection of the people in that particular region."
Iraq's makeup of rival Sunni and Shiite Muslims and Kurds in the nation's north has posed major difficulties within Iraq's fledgling government. Al-Maliki announced Tuesday a Cabinet reshuffling and the creation of conferences aimed at national unity and stability.
Iraq Study Group co-chairmen -- James Baker, a former secretary of state under George H.W. Bush, and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton -- said the report offers 79 recommendations for change in U.S. Iraq policy. (Watch report co-chair explain why the "current approach is not working" )
It warns of impending disaster for the U.S.-led war in Iraq if U.S. policy is not changed. It calls on Washington to change the makeup of U.S. forces there, begin direct talks with Iraqi neighbors Iran and Syria, and to launch a new initiative to end the "Arab-Israeli" conflict. (Full story)
Syrian Expatriates Minister Buthaina Shabaan on Wednesday told Al-Jazeera that she welcomed the report "as a very important step," Reuters reported.
"It means, God willing, the end of this era of American intervention in the region and the American occupation of Iraq, which brought catastrophic ramifications on the whole region."
Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, described the group's recommendations as "a constructive review of the current situation in Iraq. There are also other ongoing reviews that will make recommendations and provide counsel to the administration for moving forward."
The White House has said it would also taken into consideration the findings of separate reviews under way at the Pentagon, State Department and National Security Council.
Bush: 'Tough assessment'
Earlier, the co-chairmen briefed Bush on their report. Bush said it offers a "very tough assessment of the situation in Iraq," and the White House will take every proposal "very seriously."
"We probably won't agree with every proposal," Bush said, but he added that it offers an opportunity for the White House and Congress to work together. The "country is tired of pure political bickering that happens in Washington," the president said.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, praised the report as a "tremendous step forward" and said the group's report was "a rejection of the policies of the Bush administration."
"The president has the ball in his court now," Reid said. "It is up to President Bush to implement the recommendations of this commission."
"We're going to be watching very closely after the first of the year with oversight hearings" conducted by the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Armed Services Committee and the Intelligence Committee, Reid said."
Sunday, December 10, 2006
'150,000 civilians killed in Iraq war'[ 10 Nov, 2006 2030hrs ISTAP ]
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BAGHDAD: A stunning new death count emerged Thursday, as Iraq's health minister estimated 150,000 civilians have been killed in the war — about three times previously accepted estimates. Moderate Sunni Muslims, meanwhile, threatened to walk away from politics and pick up guns, while the Shia-dominated government renewed pressure on the United States to unleash the Iraqi army and claimed it could crush violence in six months. After Democrats swept to majorities in both houses of the US Congress and defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld resigned, Iraqis appeared unsettled and seemed to sense the potential for an even bloodier conflict because future American policy is uncertain. As a result, positions hardened on both sides of the country's deepening sectarian divide. Previous estimates of Iraq deaths held that 45,000-50,000 have been killed in the nearly 44-month-old conflict, according to partial figures from Iraqi institutions and media reports. No official count has ever been available. Health minister Ali al-Shemari gave his new estimate of 150,000 to reporters during a visit to Vienna, Austria. He later said that he based the figure on an estimate of 100 bodies per day brought to morgues and hospitals — though such a calculation would come out closer to 130,000 in total. "It is an estimate,"al-Shemari said. He blamed Sunni insurgents, Wahhabis — Sunni religious extremists — and criminal gangs for the deaths. Hassan Salem, of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, said the 150,000 figure included civilians, police and the bodies of people who were abducted, later found dead and collected at morgues run by the health ministry."
Friday, December 08, 2006
"Panel Urges Basic Shift in U.S. Policy in Iraq
"Doug Mills/The New York Times
"After releasing their report, members of the Iraq Study Group held a news conference on Capitol Hill to discuss the findings.
"By DAVID E. SANGER
"Published: December 7, 2006
"WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 — A bipartisan commission warned Wednesday that “the situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating,” and it handed President Bush both a rebuke for his current strategy and a detailed blueprint for a fundamentally different approach, including the pullback of all American combat brigades over the next 15 months.
Recommendations of the Iraq Study Group
"A bipartisan commission urged stepped-up diplomatic and political efforts to stabilize that country.
News Conference Transcript
Full Text (pdf) Back Story With The Times's John H. Cushman Jr. (mp3)
The Iraq Study Group's Conclusions
The Iraq Study Group
"In unusually sweeping and blunt language, the panel of five Republicans and five Democrats issued 79 specific recommendations.
These included a call for direct engagement with Syria and Iran as part of a “new diplomatic offensive,” jump-starting the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort, and a clear declaration that the United States would reduce its support to Iraq unless Baghdad made “substantial progress” on reconciliation and security.
"Mr. Bush has refused to deal with Syria and Iran, and as recently as last week, he assured Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki that the American commitment to Iraq would be undiminished until victory was achieved.
"But the commission, led by James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton, argued that while Americans might be in Iraq for years, the Iraqis must understand that the American military commitment was not “open ended.” It is time, the panel said, for the United States to “begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly.”
"The detailed prescription called for much more aggressive diplomatic efforts in the Middle East than the Bush administration has been willing to embrace. Its calls for reconciliation and reform in Iraq and an overhaul of the American military role would also mark major departures in the American strategy.
"Members of the commission said they believed that their recommendations would improve prospects for success in Iraq, but they said there was no guarantee against failure.
“The current approach is not working, and the ability of the United States to influence events is diminishing,” Mr. Hamilton said at a news conference on Capitol Hill. “Our ship of state has hit rough waters. It must now chart a new way forward.”
"Administration officials said they expected President Bush to announce his own “way forward” this month. They were careful not to take issue with the report’s findings in public, and said Mr. Bush had yet to make firm decisions. But some suggested that the diplomatic strategy in the report better fit the Middle East of 15 years ago, when Mr. Baker served as secretary of state.
"What played out on Wednesday morning, from the White House to Capitol Hill, was a remarkable condemnation of American policy drift in the biggest and most divisive military conflict to involve American forces since Vietnam. It was all the more unusual because Mr. Baker was secretary of state to Mr. Bush’s father, and because the bipartisan group managed to come up with unanimous recommendations.
The report was delivered in an atmosphere of mounting anxiety about the war, a month after midterm elections that brought the Democrats to power in Congress and prompted Mr. Bush to oust Donald H. Rumsfeld as defense secretary.
"On Wednesday the Senate voted overwhelmingly to confirm Robert M. Gates as the next defense secretary, after hearings in which he acknowledged that the United States was not winning the war and that the region could be on the brink of much broader conflict.
"Mr. Baker, Mr. Hamilton and their eight colleagues presented their recommendations to Mr. Bush and to leaders of Congress beginning early on Wednesday, and then spoke to Mr. Maliki via conference call. Mr. Bush called the assessment “tough” and said each recommendation would be taken “seriously.”
"Mr. Bush, one commission member said, “was very gracious and did not push back.”
"Commission members said they believed that their report, which was downloaded more than 400,000 times from the computer servers of the United States Institute of Peace in the first five hours after its release, had fundamentally changed the debate. Now, said one member, the former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, “it really is out of our hands.”
Leon E. Panetta, a commission member who served as chief of staff to President Clinton, said, “The country cannot be at war and as divided as we are today.”
"The panel was careful to avoid phrases and rigid timelines that might alienate the White House. But the group also clearly tried to box the president in, presenting its recommendations as a comprehensive strategy that would work only if implemented in full.
"That appeared to be a warning to Mr. Bush, who in recent days has said he would consider the independent panel’s findings alongside studies by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Security Council, and has suggested that he would pick the best elements of each.
"The commission did not embrace the goal of “victory in Iraq,” which President Bush laid out as his own strategy a year ago, nor did its report echo the White House’s early aspiration that Iraq might be transformed into a democracy in the near future. “We want to stay current,” Mr. Hamilton said briskly.
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Kate Zernike contributed reporting"
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Thanks for you efforts on my behalf in 2006. I really appreciate it. As a thank-you gift for your hard work, I have arranged for you to receive a free download of the 2007 365 page-a-day political calendar “Poor George’s Almanac”. The book, which retails for about $15 in its print version, contrasts the wisdom of patriots such as Benjamin Franklin with the actions of the Bush administration. It includes many of the president’s amusing verbal flubs as well. Your free copy can be previewed and/or downloaded at http://www.lulu.com/content/559366 (a printed version can be ordered at http://www.lulu.com/content/468576 ). I hope that you enjoy the book. Once again, I thank-you for your help this past year. My best to you, your family, and loved ones in 2007.
U.S. Finds Iraq Insurgency Has Funds to Sustain Itself
By John F. Burns, The New York Times
BAGHDAD, Nov. 25 — The insurgency in Iraq is now self-sustaining financially, raising tens of millions of dollars a year from oil smuggling, kidnapping, counterfeiting, corrupt charities and other crimes that the Iraqi government and its American patrons have been largely unable to prevent, a classified United States government report has concluded.
The report, obtained by The New York Times, estimates that groups responsible for many of the insurgent and terrorist attacks are raising $70 million to $200 million a year from illegal activities. It says that $25 million to $100 million of the total comes from oil smuggling and other criminal activity involving the state-owned oil industry aided by “corrupt and complicit” Iraqi officials.
As much as $36 million a year comes from ransoms paid to save hundreds of kidnap victims in Iraq, the report said. It estimates that unnamed foreign governments — previously identified by senior American officials as including France and Italy — paid Iraqi kidnappers $30 million in ransom last year.
A copy of the report was made available to The Times by American officials in Iraq, who said they acted in the belief that the findings could improve American understanding of the challenges the United States faces in Iraq.
The report offers little hope that much can be done, at least soon, to choke off insurgent revenues. For one thing, it acknowledges how little the American authorities in Iraq know — three and a half years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein — about crucial aspects of insurgent operations. For another, it paints an almost despairing picture of the Iraqi government’s ability, or willingness, to take measures the report says will be necessary to tamp down the insurgency’s financing.
This report courtesy of bluegrassreport