Thursday, January 25, 2007

Pelosi appoints

Editor's Note: I am moving over to the other blog.
Jan 25, 2006

By W. Rolley

It seems to me that all of the discussion here about Ellen Tauscher is a real waste of time and energy and only serves to support the concept of an idealogical orthodoxy. If that were truly the case, then there are much better targets that Tauscher, and from right here in the Bay Area.

I would put Tom Lantos, the new Chariman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs at the top of the list. This Committee was previously known called "International Relations". Gary Leupp at Counterpunch, described Lantos as "probably the most virulent Zionist in the entire Congress" and considers him a Neo-Con of the top (read dangerous) order.

I am not anti-Israel. I firmly believe that the US should try to recapture the moral high ground it once had and which the current administration as squandered with such lack of (insight, intelligence, compassion, honor, take your pick). Such a position would be to address the nuclear question with Iran by stating we will not provide aid to any country that is not a signatory to the Nuclear Arms Limitation Treaty. (That includes both Israel and Iran).

Tauscher was an easy target. A self-identified blue dog Democrat, she is never going to be the person that will appeal to the members of this list. However, one needs to remember that this is a conservative district. That Tauscher was the first Democrat to win there in a long time. And, she is no where near as "dangerous" as Lantos.

The appointment of Lantos to this powerful committee chairmanship signaled to the entire world that the Democrats are not ready for any change regarding Middle East Policies. We will continue the support for whatever Israel wants to do, as we did in Lebanon where they destroyed a country and built Hezbollah into an even greater power, as evidenced by their latest general strike.

If we want to make real change in Washington, it is not be targeting blue dog Democrats like Tauscher, but by curtailing the power of Democratic Neo-Cons like Lantos. This is not a case of "he works for us." We know that Lantos works for Israel.

I personally much prefer the call for an even handed policy in the Middle East. That is what is truly in the National Interest.

The Bush Presidency Is Over

Worse To Come

Toward the end of Travels With Charley Steinbeck makes this observation: “My own journey started long before I left, and was over before I returned. I know exactly where and when it was over. Near Abingdon, in the dog-leg of Virginia , at four o’clock of a windy afternoon, without warning or good-by or kiss my foot, my journey went away and left me stranded far from home. I tried to call it back, to catch it up—a foolish and hopeless matter, because it was definitely and permanently over and finished.” Anyone who’s taken a long journey knows what Steinbeck is talking about. It isn’t always the end point of a journey that determines its end, nor is it ever the person who takes the journey who determines it. The same can be said of presidencies. Some of them begin long before inauguration day. Bill Clinton’s began sometime in late summer, about the time when Maureen Dowd noticed that the elder Bush just wasn’t interested anymore. “This,” she wrote in a Sept. 6, 1992 dispatch co-written with Thomas Friedman, “may be the first Administration in history that is scrambling for its first-100-days plan in its last 60 days before facing the voters.” Johnson’s presidency ended in February 1968, Jimmy Carter’s on April 24, 1980, when eight servicemen were killed in the Iranian desert as an attempt to rescue the 52 American hostages held in Teheran disintegrated in a sand storm, and Reagan’s ended in Reykjavik in 1987, when he was about to sign away the American nuclear weapons arsenal in an abolitionist deal with Gorbachev. His aides stepped in and ensured that he’d be nothing more than the acting president for the remainder of his scandal-ridden term.

The second Bush’s administration unfortunately began early, too, on that turbid Election Night in 2000 when Fox News set the tone of the unmaking of Gore’s legitimate win and the Supreme Court sealed the fix thirty-six days later. But if W.’s presidency started more than two months too soon, it ended two years early. Bush’s Abingdon was his January 10 speech, the so-called “surge” speech. It became evident then why he couldn’t make up his mind before Christmas about what to say, let alone how to say it. He had nothing to say: His administration was in disarray, his policies bankrupt, his integrity a nightly punch-line. Even his beloved speech-writer was gone, loyal no more. Not long from now when the stories begin to creep out about these final days of the Bush junta we’ll be told that the White House was a menagerie of chaos and backbiting, of uncontrolled tempers and lusted-after booze. We’ll discovered to what extent the nation’s business was unmoored and the nation’s executive off his rockers, his wife or maybe his dog, or an obscure corporate friend, his last remaining link with reality. His advisers either inflated his bubble or betrayed him, or both, if the advisers in question are Condoleezza Rice and Karen Hughes, the two who had his trust and could have made a difference. The January 10 speech proved that neither they nor Bush were interested in recasting the last two years of the presidency into a workable surge of its own, the way even Clinton managed to do despite the Lewinsky affair (and the Clinton presidency, as we’ll also discover, has yet to end).

The State of the Union confirmed the drift announced on January 10. The proposal on energy—cutting gasoline consumption by 20 percent from projected consumption in 2017—is a non-binding promise that rests on undeveloped technologies. Improving fuel efficiency is a great idea, if only it weren’t two decades too late, if it wasn’t so timid (one mile per gallon in improved efficiency per year, for just a few years), if Bush hadn’t been so opposed to the idea in the last six years. His desperation was clearest in his appeals for bi-partisanship, a notion no other president in the twentieth century worked so hard to demolish after making it the centerpiece of his inaugural in 2001. But we knew even then that he was a liar of magnificent proportions. He was the man who’d spent the electoral campaign selling the public on his massive tax cuts while promising to save entitlement programs and pay down the national debt. It wasn’t his fault that the public bought the lie whole, though, let’s always remember, the majority of the public never did.

Resigning would be too statesmanlike an act for a man who likes to rule by edicts, and to whom power is its own reward. So we’ll spend the next two years sustaining his chaotic clock-running, watching the flashpoints of disasters he lit up spread their fires from Iraq to Afghanistan to Iran to North Korea, watching the promises he made about New Orleans sink in a flood of indifference and government incompetence, watch the machinery of government, corrupted by his years of nepotism and contempt, become its self-fulfilling prophecy of shoddiness and mistrust. The damage done by the Bush junta in the last six years may yet be outdone by the damage of the next two, because at least in the last six there was the hint that some of the criminals involved in the mugging believed in what they were doing, Bush among them. The faith-based business, remember. Now the worst part of the end of the Bush presidency, the most palpable part of that end, as we saw it on January 10 and again in the State of the Union , is that Bush himself, like his father in 1992, no longer believes. He’s given up. He quit. As he has always quit. What’s left is the old shell, the reconstructed drunk without a goal, the resentful loser. And there’s nothing more dangerous when he remains, all ridicule aside, the “decider” and worse: the commander-in-chief.

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Chaos in the Middle East is not the Bush hawks' nightmare scenario--it's their plan

Practice to Deceive


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Allawi on Plus Up

24 Jan 2007 07:08 pm

An interesting interview. Money quote:

Ayad Allawi: I’m not a military strategist, but looking at it on the surface, I think 20,000 additional troops to complement the 130,000 already there doesn’t seem to be a great boost in the troop numbers. So I don’t think it’s purely a military gesture, and I don’t think it will have a very significant effect on the military equation.

But it’s part of a multi-pronged strategy that basically will ratchet up the pressure on the Iraqi government, propose an alternative to it, and at the same time escalate the costs that Iran may have to bear if it continues to confront or challenge the United States in Iraq.

National Interest: So in your view, the troop increase is in part intended to ratchet up the pressure on Iran, could you elaborate on that?

AA: Well I think it’s clear—the role that Iran has in the Iraqi crisis. It is extremely important and significant, particularly its effect on the Shi‘a Islamist political parties.

And as much as the United States, or the Bush Administration, has objected to possibility of negotiations with Iran, the only alternative course that they have is to confront it, and to challenge it, and to raise the cost of its apparent intervention in the Iraqi crisis.

This of course creates a serious problem for the Iraqi government itself, which is to an extent anchored around the Islamist parties of the United Iraqi Alliance. On the surface it appears to be a contradiction. I mean how can the United States expect that by confronting Iran and Iraq, it is going to get the support of the UIA, which is to some extent dependent on Iranian support—ongoing support—politically and otherwise?

So it’s a way of trying to break this conundrum. Now I don’t think it’s likely to succeed because the only thing that can happen out of this strategy is basically the breakup of the United Iraqi Alliance. You are going to get possibly a new governing majority in parliament, but that would not necessarily reduce the violence or the instability inside the country.


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'Allawi on Plus Up'


Andrew Sullivan

Behind the Administration's six-year-push towards war with Iran

Escalation of US Iran military planning part of six-year Administration push

01/23/2007 @ 4:19 pm

Filed by Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane

A project of Raw Story Investigates

The escalation of US military planning on Iran is only the latest chess move in a six-year push within the Bush Administration to attack Iran, a RAW STORY investigation has found.

While Iran was named a part of President George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” in 2002, efforts to ignite a confrontation with Iran date back long before the post-9/11 war on terror. Presently, the Administration is trumpeting claims that Iran is closer to a nuclear weapon than the CIA’s own analysis shows and positing Iranian influence in Iraq’s insurgency, but efforts to destabilize Iran have been conducted covertly for years, often using members of Congress or non-government actors in a way reminiscent of the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal.

The motivations for an Iran strike were laid out as far back as 1992. In classified defense planning guidance – written for then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney by then-Pentagon staffers I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, World Bank Chief Paul Wolfowitz, and ambassador-nominee to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad – Cheney’s aides called for the United States to assume the position of lone superpower and act preemptively to prevent the emergence of even regional competitors. The draft document was leaked to the New York Times and the Washington Post and caused an uproar among Democrats and many in George H. W. Bush’s Administration.

In September 2000, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) issued a report titled “Rebuilding America's Defenses,” which espoused similar positions to the 1992 draft and became the basis for the Bush-Cheney Administration's foreign policy. Libby and Wolfowitz were among the participants in this new report; Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other prominent figures in the Bush administration were PNAC members.

“The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security,” the report read. “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. . . . We cannot allow North Korea, Iran, Iraq or similar states to undermine American leadership, intimidate American allies or threaten the American homeland itself.”

This approach became official US military policy during the current Bush Administration. It was starkly on display yesterday when Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns noted a second aircraft carrier strike force headed for the Persian Gulf, saying, "The Middle East isn't a region to be dominated by Iran. The Gulf isn't a body of water to be controlled by Iran. That's why we've seen the United States station two carrier battle groups in the region."

The Structure

Almost immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Iran became a focal point of discussion among senior Administration officials. As early as December 2001, then-Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and the leadership of the Defense Department, including Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, allegedly authorized a series of meetings between Defense Department officials and Iranian agents abroad.

The first of these meetings took place in Rome with Pentagon Iran analyst, Larry Franklin, Middle East expert Harold Rhode, and prominent neoconservative Michael Ledeen. Ledeen, who held no official government position, introduced the US officials to Iran-Contra arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar. According to both Ghorbanifar and Ledeen, the topic on the table was Iran. Ledeen told RAW STORY last year the discussion concerned allegations that Iranian forces were killing US soldiers in Afghanistan, but Ghorbanifar has claimed the conversation focused on regime change.

In January 2002, evidence that Iran was enriching uranium began to appear via credible intelligence and satellite imagery. Despite this revelation – and despite having called Iran part of the Axis of Evil in his State of the Union that year – President Bush continued to focus on Iraq. Perhaps for that reason, throughout 2002 the strongest pressure for regime change flowed through alternative channels.

In early 2002, Ledeen formed the Coalition for Democracy in Iran, along with Morris Amitay, the former executive director of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

In August 2002, Larry Franklin began passing classified information involving United States policy towards Iran to two AIPAC employees and an Israeli diplomat. Franklin pleaded guilty to the charges in October 2005, explaining that he had been hoping to force the US to take a harder line with Iran, but AIPAC and Israel have continued to deny them.

At the same time, another group’s political representatives begin a corollary effort to influence domestic political discourse. In August 2002, the National Council of Resistance of Iran – a front for a militant terrorist organization called Mujahedin-E-Khalq (MEK) – held a press conference in Washington and stated that Iran had a secret nuclear facility at Natanz, due for completion in 2003.

Late that summer , the Pentagon's Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz expanded its Northern Gulf Affairs Office, renamed it the Office of Special Plans (OSP), and placed it under the direction of Abram Shulsky, a contributor to the 2000 PNAC report.

Most know the Office of Special Plans as a rogue Administration faction determined to find intelligence to support the Iraq War. But that wasn’t its only task.

According to an article in The Forward in May 2003, “A budding coalition of conservative hawks, Jewish organizations and Iranian monarchists is pressing the White House to step up American efforts to bring about regime change in Iran. . . . Two sources [say] Iran expert Michael Rubin is now working for the Pentagon's 'special plans' office, a small unit set up to gather intelligence on Iraq, but apparently also working on Iran. Previously a researcher at the Washington Institute for Near East policy, Rubin has vocally advocated regime change in Tehran.”

Dark Actors/Covert Activities

While the Iraq war was publicly founded upon questionable sources, much of the buildup to Iran has been entirely covert, using non-government assets and foreign instruments of influence to conduct disinformation campaigns, plant intelligence and commit acts of violence via proxy groups.

A few weeks prior to the Iraq invasion, in February 2003, Iran acknowledged that it was building a nuclear facility at Natanz, saying that the facility was aimed at providing domestic energy. However, allegations that Iran was developing a nuclear weapons program would become louder in the course of 2003 and continue unabated over the next three years.

That spring, then-Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA) opened a channel on Iran with former Iranian Minister Fereidoun Mahdavi, a secretary for Ghorbanifar. Both Weldon and Ledeen were told a strikingly similar story concerning a cross border plot between Iran and Iraq in which uranium had been removed from Iraq and taken into Iran by Iranian agents. The CIA investigated the allegations but found them spurious. Weldon took his complaints about the matter to Rumsfeld, who pressured the CIA to investigate a second time, with the same result.

In May 2003, with pressure for regime change intensifying within the US, Iran made efforts to negotiate a peaceful resolution with the United States. According to Lawrence Wilkerson, then-Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, these efforts were sabotaged by Vice President Cheney.

"The secret cabal got what it wanted: no negotiations with Tehran," Wilkerson said.

The US was already looking increasingly to rogue methodology, including support for the Iranian terrorist group MEK. Before the US invasion, MEK forces within Iraq had supported Saddam Hussein in exchange for safe harbor. Despite this, when they were captured by the US military, they were disarmed of only their major weapons and are allowed to keep their smaller arms. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld hoped to use them as a special ops team in Iran, while then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and State Department officials argued against it. By 2005, the MEK would begin training with US forces in Iraq and carrying out bombings and assassinations in Iran, although it is unclear if the bombings were in any way approved by the US military.

The Pressure is On: 2004 – 2006

For a variety of reasons – ranging from the explosion of the insurgency in Iraq following the high point of "Mission Accomplished" to Iran's willingness to admit IAEA inspectors – the drumbeat for regime change died down over the summer of 2003. In October 2003, with Iran accepting even tougher inspections, Larry Franklin told his Israeli contact that work on the US policy towards Iran which they had been tracking seemed to have stopped.

Yet by the autumn of 2004, pressure for confrontation with Iran had resumed, with President Bush telling Fox News that the US would never allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. By then, the Pentagon had been directed to have a viable military option for Iran in place by June 2005.

This phase of pressure was marked by increased activity directed at Congress. An "Iran Freedom Support Act" was introduced in the House and Senate in January and February of 2005. Neoconservatives and individuals linked to the defense contracting industry formed an Iran Policy Committee, and in April and May presented briefings in support of MEK before the newly-created Iran Human Rights and Democracy Caucus of the House of Representatives.

In March 2006, administration action became more overt. The State Department created an Office of Iranian Affairs, while the Pentagon created an Iranian Directorate that had much in common with the earlier Office of Special Plans. According to Seymour Hersh, covert US operations within Iran in preparation for a possible air attack also began at this time and included Kurds and other Iranian minority groups.

By setting up the Iranian Directorate within the Pentagon and running covert operations through the military rather than the CIA, the administration was able to avoid both Congressional oversight and interference from then-Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, who has been vocally skeptical about using force against Iran. The White House also successfully stalled the release of a fresh National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, which could reflect the CIA's conclusion that there is no evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

In sum, the Bush Administration seems to have concluded that Iran is guilty until proven innocent and continues to maintain that the Persian Gulf belongs to Americans – not to Persians – setting the stage for a potential military strike.

A Peace Initiative For The Progeny Of Abraham

Jan 26, 2007

By Dr Tayyaba Qidwai

The Year 2005 and the month of September of that year, is going to resonate in the corridors of history, with the shrill cry of something momentous – it was a cry of anguish of Abrahamic civilization itself, when two of the great cultures of this century prepared to clash on a fundamental issue. According to some, it may have been a war cry as well. No guns or swords were drawn; what was drawn were a series of cartoons, by something mightier – a Pen! In fact they were pens of 12 innocuous artists.

“ Jyllands-Posten and the other western media organs, which supported the offending Danish newspaper, missed one great factor. This is for the first time in human history that the world today is living under one ethnic civilization of two shades and if this civilization collapses there is no fresh civilizational idea immediately available to humanity to re-enact the feat of the seventh century. In the Orient it is the mature but reflexive Islamic Civilization manifest in many regional cultures thriving from Senegal to Indonesia, with some significant outposts in western democracies. In the Occident, it is the accomplished Judeo-Christian Civilization similarly rooted in history and directing an unprecedented technological advancement. It has greatly influenced the regions beyond its home bases.

These were the thoughts, which prompted Tariq Ghazi to write his book. He captured the kaleidoscopic events preceding and following that lament, in a fascinating, perceptive commentary called The Cartoons Cry. When the future generations get to know about the infamous cartoons controversy started by a little known newspaper in "a quiet place in a calm Nordic city", the same corridors would reverberate with the names of such historians, who were perceptive enough to hear that cry and record it for posterity.

For a layperson, who observes the current world events with interest, yet confusion, Ghazi's deeply insightful book provides a clear and accessible study of the mindset of the two major cultures of this era, heading onto a possible collision course according to some astute observers. The Cartoons Cry also draws valuable intuitive guidelines on how that catastrophe can be averted and civilization salvaged.

For readers like me it provided an invaluable insight into a culture, which I share with the author and the maturity needed to stimulate us, for charting out a better future for our grandchildren.

It also provides an unusually perceptive introduction to the West, of a parallel culture descending from Abraham, the common ancestor.

“… Both Islamic and Western Civilizations are in need of ‘challenges’ to jump-start them. .... The two civilizations are original in their thought process and innovative in application of social ideals. The two have freely borrowed from each other, but accepted only what withstood the test of their critical appreciation. The two civilizations also have a long history of conflict and compromise, antipathy and interaction, highlighting a unique relationship that has no parallel in human history. This disposition puts them shoulder-to-shoulder on the same high pedestal of originality and creativity, as compared to other civilizations.”

It would have been a difficult task for the author to tell everything in an honest, yet non-confrontational way. But, it goes to his credit that he took this challenge, minutely researched the subject from worldwide news sources and then penned it, with the confident authority of a veteran journalist, a perceptive social scientist and political analyst.

It is a deftly woven account of the events which eventually led to the two cultures standing face to face for confrontation. On one side was the defense of right of freedom of expression and on the other the fundamental right of respect for religion. It is perhaps no accident that the author personifies both sides – as a journalist and as a practicing Muslim. Like a responsible peace-negotiator, he takes up the task to bring them both together at the negotiating table and provides them the option to choose.

“… the question always confronting the three Sethic-Semitic religions is which side they stand on – are they with Abel and Seth or with Cain? Are they with Noah or with his detractors who opted to be perished by The Flood, with Abraham or with the wicked king of Babylon who tried to burn the latter alive, with Moses or with the pharaoh, with David or with Goliath, with Jesus or with Pilate, with Muhammad or with Abu Jahl?”

The book, at the narrative plain, is a mirror of the historical, social, political, economic and judicial parameters of the international community of the current century.

Democracy – with all its fundamental rights of equality and justice, is also "law is will of the people. The Westerner finds legal ways to circumvent laws, biblical or temporal, and legalizes their diversion through democratic process."

The young people in the West – "worship the symbols of total freedom – free from any form of religious, moral, social or political restrictions “. But, national leaders and the clergy are definitely not their role models.

The Muslims, on the other hand, are seen as a people distinguished by their religious behavior, earning them the sobriquets – from fundamentalists and practicing to moderates, seculars and liberals.

As immigrants, Ghazi feels, Muslims have had nothing to offer to their host countries, as a result they are "there to emulate, to copy, to ape everything their new nation offers, thus encouraging their hosts to demand more assimilation and acceptance of western values, rather than showing respect to the uniqueness of the guests."

The relationship between the powerful and the weak in our times: The powerful and mighty oppressing the weak with sanctions and warring tactics.

The weak trying dialogue, peaceful demonstrations and boycotts initially, but finally resorting to violent tactics when "nobody listens".

The Cartoons Cry gives very informative historical background into the origins of such violent tactics as bounty on the head, burning of effigies, burning of national flags. These are not originally Islamic ways of protest, but have been taken up by excitable minority on the promptings of scheming politicians. The author feels that it is the duty of Muslim social scientists and the media to tell them about the un-Islamic nature of these practices.

It advises, the resort to legal procedures, which is one of the common meeting ground for both the cultures. The Islamic ruling for justice which is based on equal retribution to the original injury and no more, but may be less or forgiven entirely, is an eye-opener for not only Western society but Muslims as well.

Above all, it is a labor of love. Ghazi’s love and reverence for that person shines through, the denigration of whose dignity has probably motivated him to write the book in the first place. In words of devotion and respect he affectionately draws out the personality of Muhammad Rasool-Allah (saw), the Prophet of Islam, and shows how an attack on such a revered personality is likely to disturb the emotional stability of about 1.5 billion of his followers, because they love him more than their own selves. Infact, he shows his love and respect for All the Prophets .

“Muslims do not understand why common Christians fail to react to frequent insults to Jesus Christ. On the other hand, Jesus – as also everyone of the prophets right from Adam to Noah, Abraham, Lot, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Job, Jonah, Elijah, Elisha – is so loved by the Muslims that they wouldn’t refer to anyone of them without saluting each of them with the phrase ‘alaih is-salam’, meaning ‘peace be upon him’. …”

The book demands serious study, particularly by the young generation of all faith communities, and also needs to be preserved in libraries for the important historical contribution it is going to make to the global human community.

The Cartoons Cry is a call for a firm handshake between the children of Abraham. He hopes the Creative Minority of Muslims who have migrated to the West, would be the first to extend their hand.

"The Cartoons Cry" (ISBN: 9781425947644), by Muhammad Tariq Ghazi, can be ordered directly from the publisher at for$11.90 ($3.95 for electronic edition). It can be purchased from Barnes and Noble, Amazon and other bookstores at $13.49.

Joe Wilson Vindicated

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

by Larry C Johnson

The Bush/Cheney acolytes keen on smearing Joe Wilson took a couple of gut shots at the Scooter Libby trial today. One of the documents released to the public confirms Wilson's account of how he came to be sent to Niger, what he found, and what he reported to CIA debriefers.

Part of the smear effort, which was led by Kansas Senator Pat Roberts from his perch as head of the Senate Intelligence Committee (SSCI), insisted that Joe's trip to Niger actually revealed that Iraq was trying to buy uranium. According to p. 46 of the July 2004 SSCI report on Iraq, the Republican's reported hearsay about what Joe found:


Not so fast boys and girls. During yesterday's testimony key documents were introduced into evidence. One of these was the INR memo about the Niger affair.

Download inr_memo.pdf

Buried in the appendix of the this document is the redacted intelligence report, known in CIA parlance as a "TD". Take a look for yourself at what the CIA debriefers reported:

The following TD shows that Joe met with two key former Nigerien officials--former Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki and former Minister of Energy and Mines Boucar Mai Manga. The INR memo records that Joe Wilson supported the INR position that the Embassy was quite capable of reporting on this matter without his intervention. Joe was not advocating to go to Niger and his wife, Valerie, was not in the meeting when this issue came up. (She had only introduced him at the start of the meeting.) The CIA ultimately prevailed and sent Joe to Niger. In coordination with the U.S. Ambassador to Niger, Joe agreed to meet with only former officials who were witting of the uranium program.

So what did Joe learn? Here's the reader's digest version (you can read the full report for yourself below).

  • Former Prime Minister Mayaki told Joe he had rebuffed an effort in June of 1999 to arrange a meeting with the Iraqis he supported the U.S. sanction. He said, "if there had been any rogue state during his tenure, he would have seen the contract."
  • Former Minister of Enerty Manga said, "there were no sales outside of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since the mid-1980s". He went on to tell Ambassador Wilson that the uranium was tightly controlled and accounted for from the time it is mined until the time it is loaded onto ships.

There is nothing in this report to support the notion that Iraq had succeeded evading UN sanctions and purchased large quantities of yellowcake uranium. NOTHING! You can also see for yourself how the Republicans on the SSCI tried to mislead the American people in the July 2004 report. After you read the following report could you brief the President of the United States that Iraq had acquired yellowcake uranium and had restarted its nuclear program? No way in hell!

That's why Cheney and Libby were so intent on trying to shut up Joe Wilson. He told the truth.



Shocker! Virgil Goode actually doing some good.

Anti-NAFTA Superhighway and NAU Resolution

Representative Virgil Goode (R-VA) introduced H.C.R. 40 on January 22. The resolution has 6 cosponsors; among them are Reps. John Duncan, Walter B. Jones, Cliff Stearns, Virginia Foxx, Ron Paul and Zach Wamp.

The stated purpose of H.C.R. 40 is to express "the sense of Congress that the United States should not engage in the construction of a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Superhighway System or enter into a North American Union with Mexico and Canada."Contact and ask your representative and senators to support H.C.R. 40.

The Bush administration, as well as most members of Congress, are denying that there is a working agenda to merge the United States, Mexico and Canada into one European Union-like nation. Goode's resolution brings awareness to this threat by admitting that the NAU is a reality that is threatening our country's sovereignty and security. H.C.R. 40 has been referred to the House Committee on Transportation and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Unless enough support is generated, the resolution may never make it to the Congressional floor for a debate or vote.

For the complete text of H.C.R. 40 visit the following webpage:

Sharon's son appeals jail term, requests community service

Last update - 18:34 25/01/2007

Omri Sharon appeals jail term, requests community service

By Nir Hasson, Haaretz Correspondent

Former Likud MK Omri Sharon, the son of former prime minister Ariel Sharon, appealed his nine-month prison sentence in the Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday.

Sharon plead guilty roughly one year ago to a series of charges related to his father's 1999 primaries campaign, including fictitious registration of corporate documents, lying under oath and violations of the election code.

Sharon's attorney Dan Sheinman told the court that the law was applied selectively in Sharon's case, saying that other politicians who committed similar crimes were not tried, and therefore there is no precedent for the severity of the sentence.

Sheinman asked the replace the prison term with community service.

Sheinman also criticized the original presiding judges in the case, saying failed to take into account the problematic nature of the election code. According to Sheinman, the code limits campaign financing to amounts with which it is impossible to run a successful campaign.

Sharon's attorney even compared the election code to other laws that were deemed unrealistic and thus revoked, such as the law banning homosexual relations, and a law that banned the publishing of details of criminal proceedings.

Prosecution attorney Erez Nuriel said in response to the defense's arguments that the court should not intervene in the sentence, as the case involves "the purchase of power with money," as well as crimes of "a high level of public corruption." Nuriel said the original sentence is appropriate.

In addition to his nine-month prison term, Sharon was also sentenced to a nine-months suspended sentence and a NIS 300,000 fine.

Bush's SOTU: Annotated

Stephen Zunes | January 24, 2007

Editor: John Feffer, IRC

Foreign Policy In Focus

President George Bush gave his 2007 State of the Union address on January 23. While the speech covered many domestic issues, Bush also laid out his foreign policy approach to Iraq, Iran, terrorism, and democracy promotion. Excerpts from the president's speech are in italics; my comments follow.

“Al-Qaida and its followers are Sunni extremists, possessed by hatred and commanded by a harsh and narrow ideology. They want to overthrow moderate governments, and establish safe havens from which to plan and carry out new attacks on our country.”

Al-Qaida and like-minded Sunni extremist groups have generally not targeted moderate governments, but have instead focused their efforts against repressive governments, such as the family dictatorships of the Gulf, the Mubarak regime in Egypt, and the Karimov dictatorship in Uzbekistan. Since its inception, al-Qaida has principally targeted Saudi Arabia, a repressive theocratic monarchy that has no constitution or legislature, oppresses women, denies religious freedom, and engages in widespread torture and extrajudicial killings. In any case, unlike traditional guerrilla groups for whom a safe haven for operations is critical, al-Qaida operates through a decentralized network of underground cells and does not need to control any government to organize terrorist operations.

“By killing and terrorizing Americans, they want to force our country to retreat from the world and abandon the cause of liberty. They would then be free to impose their will and spread their totalitarian ideology.”

No public statement by al-Qaida or any of its recognized leaders has ever criticized the United States for supporting liberty. Instead, they have criticized the United States for supporting dictatorial regimes and occupation armies that deny liberty. And, whatever their grievances, there is no serious risk that the United States will retreat from the world. The current debate is whether the United States should continue to exert its power unilaterally through military means or to be a more responsible global citizen that works multilaterally and honors its international legal obligations. And, even if the United States did suddenly pursue an isolationist posture, scores of other countries would do whatever was necessary to prevent al-Qaida from imposing its will or spreading its totalitarian ideology.

“In recent times, it has also become clear that we face an escalating danger from Shia extremists who are just as hostile to America, and are also determined to dominate the Middle East. Many are known to take direction from the regime in Iran, which is funding and arming terrorists like Hezbollah—a group second only to al-Qaida in the American lives it has taken. The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat. Whatever slogans they chant, when they slaughter the innocent, they have the same wicked purposes. They want to kill Americans … kill democracy in the Middle East … and gain the weapons to kill on an even more horrific scale.”

It is grossly misleading to equate these Shia groups with al-Qaida: Hezbollah and a number of other Shia groups do receive Iranian support and do embrace an extremist ideology but—unlike al-Qaida—they are focused primarily on advancing the interests of the Shiite communities in their respective countries and do not have a global terrorist agenda. In addition, rather than trying to “kill democracy in the Middle East,” it was Shia groups that overcame initial American objections to successfully push for direct elections in Iraq and it is Shia groups that are currently pushing for greater democracy in Bahrain against the U.S.-backed Sunni monarchy. Extremist Shiites have killed Americans in Lebanon and Iraq, but only after American troops intervened in their country and began counter-insurgency campaigns that killed large numbers of civilians. Hezbollah has not killed any Americans in well over 20 years—they stopped not long after U.S. troops withdrew from their country—and has since become a legal Lebanese political party that has successfully competed in Lebanese elections. Furthermore, unlike al-Qaida—which has sought chemical agents and other material for mass killings—there are no indications that any Shiite groups have sought such weapons.

“This war is more than a clash of arms—it is a decisive ideological struggle, and the security of our Nation is in the balance. To prevail, we must remove the conditions that inspire blind hatred, and drove 19 men to get onto airplanes and come to kill us. What every terrorist fears most is human freedom—societies where men and women make their own choices, answer to their own conscience, and live by their hopes instead of their resentments. Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies—and most will choose a better way when they are given a chance. So we advance our own security interests by helping moderates, and reformers, and brave voices for democracy. The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity. And I say, for the sake of our own security … we must.”

This is an accurate assessment of the roots of terrorism, yet there are no indications that President Bush is considering a change in U.S. policy from its ongoing military, diplomatic, and financial support of more than a dozen dictatorial regimes in the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa. Indeed, all of the 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other U.S.-backed regimes that repress human freedom, governments that still receive billions of dollars worth of American support for their police and military.

“In Iraq … a tragic escalation of sectarian rage and reprisal … continues to this day. This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in. Every one of us wishes that this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk. Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. So let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory.”

Many Iraqis and Western observers repeatedly warned the Bush administration that a U.S. invasion of Iraq would likely unleash the very kind of sectarian conflict that has unfolded. Prior to the U.S. takeover, Iraq had maintained a longstanding history of secularism and a strong national identity among its Arab population despite its sectarian differences. U.S. occupation authorities—in an apparent effort to divide and rule—encouraged sectarianism by dividing up authority in the U.S.-appointed provisional government based not on technical skills or ideological affiliation but ethnic and religious identity. This pattern has continued under subsequent governments, resulting in virtually every political question debated not on its merits but on which group it potentially benefits or harms. This has led to great instability, with political parties, parliamentary blocs, and government ministries breaking down along sectarian lines. Iraq's Sunni Arab minority has long identified with Arab nationalism and distrusts much of the Shiite leadership in large part because they came to power as a result of the U.S. invasion, and some extremists within the Sunni opposition have targeted Shiite civilians in response. Seeing their government faced with a growing insurgency and their community falling victim to terrorist violence, elements within the Shiite-led government have responded by utilizing death squads to target Sunni civilians, with U.S. forces unable or unwilling to stop it. In other words, U.S. policy has contributed greatly to the sectarian violence and is not likely to reverse it. As a result, most Iraqis—both Sunni and Shiite—want U.S. forces out of their country. Indeed, the presence of American forces is fueling the insurgency and is helping to undermine the legitimacy of the government. As a result, it is not a matter of “resolve,” but whether ongoing U.S. military operations in Iraq are doing more harm than good.

“We are carrying out a new strategy in Iraq … we are deploying reinforcements of more than 20,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Iraq. The vast majority will go to Baghdad, where they will help Iraqi forces to clear and secure neighborhoods, and serve as advisers embedded in Iraqi Army units. With Iraqis in the lead, our forces will help secure the city by chasing down terrorists, insurgents, and roaming death squads.”

Most reputable accounts indicate that the Iraqi armed forces are not yet in a position to lead American forces in counter-insurgency operations, particularly given the high level of infiltration by supporters of both Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents. In any case, as with most guerrilla wars against foreign occupation armies, most of the fighters live at home or are otherwise capable of melting into the population and laying low until the army completes its sweep and they can then resume fighting. An additional 20,000 troops in a city of over five million is not likely to clear and secure many neighborhoods for more than a very short period of time.

“And in Anbar province—where al-Qaida terrorists have gathered and local forces have begun showing a willingness to fight them—we are sending an additional 4,000 United States Marines, with orders to find the terrorists and clear them out. We did not drive al-Qaida out of their safe haven in Afghanistan only to let them set up a new safe haven in a free Iraq.”

Elements allied with al-Qaida only represent a tiny fraction of the insurgency and no al-Qaida operative from Afghanistan has ever been captured or positively identified in Iraq. Most of the insurgency in Anbar consists of homegrown Sunni Islamists, tribal groups, Baathists, and other nationalists. Except for a tiny enclave in the autonomous Kurdish region outside of Baghdad's control, there were virtually no al-Qaida-affiliated activities in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion in 2003. It is the presence of U.S. forces that has resulted in the emergence of whatever al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists do exist in Anbar and elsewhere in Iraq.

“If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al-Qaida and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country—and in time the entire region could be drawn into the conflict. For America, this is a nightmare scenario. For the enemy, this is the objective. Chaos is their greatest ally in this struggle. And out of chaos in Iraq, would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens … new recruits … new resources … and an even greater determination to harm America. To allow this to happen would be to ignore the lessons of September 11th and invite tragedy. And ladies and gentlemen, nothing is more important at this moment in our history than for America to succeed in the Middle East, to succeed in Iraq, and to spare the American people from this danger.”

Baghdad was secure from Islamic extremists—both Sunni and Shiite—under the secular regime that the United States overthrew in 2003. Under Saddam Hussein's authoritarian rule, Iraq was free from chaos, and the successful UN-sponsored disarmament effort had prevented Iraq from threatening other countries in the region. That an American invasion could unleash forces that would foment chaos in Iraq and threaten the stability of the region was widely predicted beforehand. For example, in September 2002, Arab foreign ministers in Cairo issued a warning that a U.S. invasion of Iraq would “open the gates of hell.” As a result, it is ironic that Bush now uses the very chaos and the rise of Islamic extremism for which he was responsible as an excuse for continuing the war he started. Studies from both U.S. government agencies and independent research institutes indicate that the ongoing U.S. war in Iraq—not the prospect of withdrawal—has led to growing anti-Americanism and Islamic radicalism. The longer the United States continues to prosecute the war in Iraq, the greater the danger to the United States.

“The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others. That is why it is important to work together so our Nation can see this great effort through. Both parties and both branches should work in close consultation. And so I propose to establish a special advisory council on the war on terror, made up of leaders in Congress from both political parties. We will share ideas for how to position America to meet every challenge that confronts us. And we will show our enemies abroad that we are united in the goal of victory.”

The decision in October 2002 by the leadership of both parties in both houses of Congress to authorize President Bush to invade Iraq at the time and circumstances of his own choosing demonstrates the danger of working in close consultation with the Bush administration. Congressional Democrats—even when they are in the majority, as they were in the Senate at the time of that fateful vote—tend to buckle under pressure from the administration on foreign policy. Indeed, the Democratic leadership has ruled out trying to force a withdrawal of American troops from Iraq through cutting funding for the war—the only real tool at their disposal. And it looks as though they will even fail to block funding for the proposed increase of U.S. combat soldiers fighting in Iraq despite polls showing a majority of the American public would like them to do so. Even if Democrats on such an advisory council did actually display some independence from the Bush administration on policy issues, they will not likely be listened to anyway, given President Bush's failure to heed the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and the Baker-Hamilton Commission.

“In Iraq … we are working with Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Gulf States to increase support for Iraq's government.”

If the Bush administration is really committed to promoting democracy in Iraq, why is it so eagerly pushing for greater influence by these dictatorial regimes?

This is a fair point, but it makes it then difficult to point out that the president refuses to work with Iran and Syria on a regional solution as the ISG report recommends …

“The United Nations has imposed sanctions on Iran, and made it clear that the world will not allow the regime in Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons.”

Meanwhile, the United States has blocked the UN from imposing sanctions on Pakistan, Israel, and India despite those countries' ongoing violations of UN Security Council resolutions related to their nuclear weapons programs. In addition, the Bush administration severely weakened international non-proliferation efforts by entering into a nuclear cooperation agreement with the Indian government despite that country's ongoing defiance of UN Security Council resolution 1172, which calls on India to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

“With the other members of the Quartet—the UN, the European Union, and Russia—we are pursuing diplomacy to help bring peace to the Holy Land, and pursuing the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel in peace and security.”

In reality, President Bush has undermined peace efforts by the UN and European governments by insisting that the Palestinians unilaterally implement their obligations under Phase I of the Quartet's Road Map instead of the original emphasis on mutual and simultaneous efforts by both sides. The Bush administration has also blocked international efforts to stop Israel's ongoing colonization of large swathes of the West Bank (in violation of a series of UN Security Council resolutions) and Israel's construction of a separation barrier deep inside the occupied territory (in violation of a ruling by the International Court of Justice). The Bush administration has also vetoed a series of UN Security Council draft resolutions calling on Israel to end its ongoing violations of international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territories. As a result of these Bush administration policies, the Israeli government has been able to move forward with its U.S.-backed “convergence plan” in which Israel would be able to annex large sections of West Bank territory, leaving the Palestinians in control of a series of non-contiguous cantons surrounded by Israel and constituting well under 20% of historic Palestine. Such an economically unviable mini-state, closely resembling the infamous Bantustans of apartheid South Africa, would not likely be able to live in peace and security with Israel.

“We will continue to speak out for the cause of freedom in places like Cuba, Belarus, and Burma.”

Unfortunately, the administration refuses to speak out for the cause of freedom in places like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Azerbaijan, Oman, Cameroon, Kazakhstan, Chad, or the many other countries ruled by allied regimes that engage in gross and systematic human rights abuses. By only speaking out in support of freedom in countries with autocratic governments the administration does not like but remaining silent in regard to autocratic governments the Bush administration supports, it politicizes the human rights struggle, replaces principle with political expediency, and compromises the struggle for freedom worldwide.

Stephen Zunes is the Foreign Policy In Focus Middle East editor ( He is a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco and the author of Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism (Common Courage Press, 2003).

China economy records huge growth

China's economy expanded by 10.7% in 2006, marking the fastest growth since 1995, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has said.

It said the rise of the world's fourth-largest economy was mainly fuelled by investments and exports.

The figure was above the 10.5% that officials had predicted.

The government is worried that such high levels of growth may be unsustainable, and has taken a series of measures to try to slow it down.

The Chinese economy has now enjoyed four consecutive years of at least 10% growth, the NBS said.

The expansion in 2006 topped the 10.4% rate a year earlier, and is the highest since 1995, when the economy grew by 10.9%.

"In 2006, the national economy maintained steady and fast growth," NBS commissioner Xie Fuzhan told reporters in Beijing.

China's economy continues to be powered by a huge appetite for investment, and a boom in exports that generated a trade surplus of $177.47bn last year.

But the government is concerned that some parts of the economy are becoming overheated.

Beijing has taken a number of steps in order to cool things down.

"These policies and measures proved to be effective and helped economic development avoid moving from speedy growth to overheating," Mr Xie said.

Pollution problems

A lot of the money that China is making from exports has ended up in Shanghai's stock exchange.

It has turned from being one of the world's worst performers to one of the best, says the BBC's Quentin Somerville in Shanghai.

But some experts are worried that the government has swapped a property bubble for a stock market bubble, our correspondent says.

He adds that China's success is thanks to low wages, good infrastructure and enormous amounts of pollution.

Factories can almost pollute at will, and the economic cost to the environment and to the health of the Chinese people has not been properly recorded, our correspondent says.

China's growth figures themselves come with a health warning, he adds.

Halfway through last year the government discovered that the economy was $100bn bigger than previous estimates.

Hizbollah warn that Lebanon will see more violence

Robert Fisk

Published: 25 January 2007

There is worse to come. That is what Lebanon's opposition, led by the Hizbollah, said only hours after they lifted their violent day-long "strike" on Tuesday night and - here is the rub - there are few in this country who do not believe it.

At least three deaths, 120 wounded and sectarian fighting across a hundred miles of Lebanon, we are now told, was only a "warning to the government". If Christian versus Christian and Sunni versus Shia Muslim is not enough, then, what will be? And how planned is the coming tragedy?

Planning is what came to mind yesterday among all those who live here. How, we are asking ourselves, did those thousands of violent young men all have near-identical, brand new wooden coshes? How come so many men emerged on to the Beirut streets in near-identical hoods? How come the "general strike" called to demand the resignation of the Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, was switched off in a matter of minutes?

But there were other, far more disturbing elements to Tuesday's scandalous day of violence. Two of the old civil-war fault lines - on the road north of Beirut and in the suburbs of the city - were reopened. Siniora himself started warning of the dangers of civil war and the United States - as Hizbollah must have hoped - came out in support of the government, claiming, quite falsely, that the violence came from the Hizbollah-led opposition.

It certainly did come from their Amal militia ally but Sunni Muslim supporters of the government were in gun battles in Tripoli - they continued yesterday - and the "Lebanese Forces" youths of Samir Geagea, an ex-militia murderer who supports the government, were engaged in pitched stoning battles with other Christian Maronites.

Indeed, the inter-Christian war, in retrospect, was probably the most vicious of the day. Most of the wounded were hurt when Geagea's men tried to stop supporters of the Maronite ex-general Michel Aoun blocking roads outside the capital. Through some odd and tragic tradition of history, the Christian communities in Lebanon have often fought cruel battles with each other. Aoun and Geagea's forces killed each other at the end of the civil war. Even during the Crusades, the Christians of Tyre fought each other when Salahedin was at their gates.

Of the various foreign powers taking sides in this frightening battle for power in Lebanon - and they include Iran and Syria, of course, as well as the United States - one might well ask if the destruction of the Christian population of Lebanon was not part of their plan.

And what of the economy? Lebanon nurses a £20bn (repeat: billion) public debt - one of the reasons why the Shias as well as Aoun's Christian movement claim that the government represents a corrupt clique rather than democratically elected ministers. This, however, hides at least two salient facts. Most of this monstrous waste was perpetrated when Lebanon lay under Syria's hegemony when a Lebanese academic memorably told me that Lebanese government officials did not hold PhDs in corruption. "They have professorships in corruption," he told me.

And last year's war with Israel, which began after Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed three others, added billions of losses to the economy - a figure that will now be increased by the collapse of further foreign investment generated by Tuesday's "strike".

Siniora is supposed to receive more promises of foreign aid in Paris today. The Americans and Europeans are sure to be generous. But it is also a fact that hundreds of thousands of Shias, who suffered most at Israel's hands, genuinely support the Hizbollah and do indeed demand the resignation of the government. How can Siniora change their minds?

The Government's $8 Billion a Month Con Job

RALL 1/23/07

NEW YORK--Much abuse has been hurled at Halliburton and other well-connected contractors for overcharging and stealing from the people of Iraq and American taxpayers alike--and rightly so. But focusing on the contractors is a dangerous distraction. War profiteers are mere bit players in one of the biggest con jobs ever: the war itself.

In 2003, when Saddam statues were falling over and the wise white men of Washington (and one fake black woman) still thought they had a prayer of finding WMDs, the Bush Administration was burning through $4.4 billion a month on Iraq. Now even the most rabid neocons have abandoned their dreams of finding the weapons, planting the seeds of democracy or even restoring electricity, let alone preserving Iraq's territorial integrity. And yet the deficit spending has doubled, to $8.4 billion in Iraq and $1.3 billion in Afghanistan.

The more we pay the worse it gets.

Iraq is a scam that Tony Soprano could only dream of. Through their representatives in Congress, arms dealers and energy companies have convinced us to waste our wealth on a war we no longer believe in. As a result we Americans, citizens of the wealthiest nation on the planet, are living like Third Worlders.

Some people, i.e. 6 billion people who live in other, poorer, countries, think it's funny. I find it bizarre.

Economist David Leonhardt notes some rarely-mentioned hidden costs of Bush's misadventure, such as the "gas tax that the war has effectively imposed on American families" in the form of the increase in oil prices from $30 to $50 a barrel. Killing 600,000 Iraqis didn't come cheap; our military occupation troops have already blown up $100 billion in equipment and projectiles. All that materiel will have to be replaced. And don't forget $250 billion for disability payments and medical care for thousands of veterans who left body parts behind.


Leonhardt "didn't even attempt to put a monetary value on the more than 3,000 American deaths in the war." And why should he? After all, the government doesn't value them.

What if we left Iraq tomorrow--no troop "surge," no peace with honor, no Iraqization? Even an immediate cut-and-run would leaves us holding a $1.2 trillion tab--with nothing to show for it. (That's the optimistic view. Aside from the financial debt, the war's likely legacy is negative: weakened alliances, weakened international influence, being targeted by terrorists.)

The Health Coverage Coalition for the Uninsured, a coalition of business and consumer groups, doctors, hospitals and insurance companies recently calculated that they could provide free healthcare for half of America's 47 million uninsured people with less than one-tenth of what we're currently spending on Iraq. Universal healthcare--flash a card, see a doctor and receive meds for free--would run less than half of what we've spent creating an Iranian-backed Shiite theocracy in Iraq.

Alternatively, we could put an end to our shameful status as the only industrialized nation with a system of for-profit higher education. Divvy up $200 billion a year among America's 16.7 million college students and you get almost $12,000 each--which happens to be the average cost of tuition, fees and housing at a four-year college or university. The trickle-up effect of freeing parents and college grads of the burden of student loan debt could give a significant boost to our consumer-driven economy. Aside from the economic benefits of earlier and bigger purchases of first homes and automobiles by young adults, there would be social dividends as debt-free twentysomethings eschewed the rat race in favor of idealistic careers as teachers and Peace Corps workers.

Or we could take a more direct approach: government subsidies of first-home purchasers. A new GI Bill for college graduates could reward their hard work with a check for a cool $75,000 each, to be put toward a downpayment on a new house. That's over 25 percent of the price of an average home sale. Goodbye, housing slump!

Conservatives, the old-school kind, would argue that it would be better not to spend that $200 billion at all, whether on a pointless war or on social programs, no matter how worthwhile. Balanced budget ├╝ber alles, and all that. I write "would" because it's damned near impossible to find an old-school conservative these days, particularly among the Congressmen who get to decide how to waste our money. The guys who pass for "conservative" now are the neocon psychos who got us into Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place.

The government is going to spend us into debt no matter what. If we're going to mortgage our children's future, shouldn't it be on something that makes their lives better?

Libby Trial: Tom Cruise and National Security

January 24, 2007

Tom Cruise and National Security

by emptywheel

Here was my own personal favorite moment in the trial coverage on Wednesday. At one point, Cline was questioning Schmall about all the thing that Schmall's work, as a briefer, helped Libby do with his work. He introduced 7 of the 9 very important things that Libby will use in his memory defense. Here's the passage from the swell liveblog someone's doing.

C Allowed them to address very serious issues. Terrorism, terroist threats, homeland security, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Middle East.

This is really a huge condensation of what Cline was doing--he was getting a response from Schmall after each bullet item. Well, once he hit North Korea, I realized he was doing the very important dots. So I started anticipating what he was going to say next. So in the media room, it went like this:

Cline: North Korea.

Schmall: Yes

emptywheel: Iran

Cline: Iran

Schmall: Yes

emptywheel: Iraq

Cline: Iraq

Schmall: Yes

At this point David Corn, who was sitting next to me joined in. And at the end, we noted, "hey, you forgot the Turkish soliders! And Liberia." A bit of fun for the frantic liveblogger.

Now, I apologize to those in the media room if this pissed you off. But really, this defense already looks hackneyed to me. I'm sure it doesn't, yet, to the jurors. But boy, it will be. And what with the news that, instead of focusing on these very important security issues, he was instead chatting with Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz about how badly Germany treats Scientologists, I suspect it's going to appear rather disingenuous to the American people. Perhaps if Libby had said no to the Tom Cruise meeting, we would have found Osama bin Laden.

Schmall's notes were very striking--Christy agrees they were very effective in the court room, too.

But the most interesting document released in the document dump today was the report from an interview the CIA OIG did with Grenier as part of its investigation into the Niger forgeries. The report was introduced by Libby's team in an attempt to impeach Grenier--they wanted to show that he didn't mention the Wilson discussion during this investigation. (Grenier's take--which seems fair, reading the document--is that it just wasn't within the scope of the investigation.)

The document is interesting to me, however, for the glimpse it gives into the CIA behavior regarding the Niger forgeries.

The document gives an interesting description of a 1615 meeting--describing which departments did what in the discussions about Iraq.

The issues that would come up were aluminum tubes, yellowcake or uranium never came up. The British dossier never came up either--that was too low level and too strategic. The meetings were very tactical. [full sentence redacted] He has no specific recollection of El Baradei's charge of the forgeries in March 03 even being mentioned. Tubes was the issue that made a splash--it was controversial, there was a lot of attention given, and people had firm positions.

It describes in detail what we've known a good deal of--that the CIA was harping on the aluminum tubes, and not the forgeries. Interesting description, though, of the tactical and strategic communication here. Some might call that P-R-O-P-A-G-A-N-D-A.

There's a later passage that provides a little more about the forgeries themselves.

... even given his limited knowledge, Grenier noted that his impression is, that given the importance of the overall issue, if it is true [redacted] more should have been done. We were caught up with the translated versions of the documents, rather than the documents.

A couple points about this. First, wildarsed guess for that redaction is that it says something about vetting the forgeries--or perhaps even admits that CIA knew the forgeries were bunk (as eriposte has argued at length) and the "more" that should have been done is more push-back against the WH so it didn't use the Niger uranium claims to make its case to go to war.

I'm also struck by the description that "we were caught up with the translated versions of the documents, rather than the documents." I've always been kind of pissed that CIA even needed to translate the documents. They were written in French, after all, not some obscure language like Hausa. Are you telling me that the CIA doesn't even have people who are competent in French?

But then there's this bit from the SSCI:

On January 13, 2003, the INR Iraq nuclear analyst sent an e-mail to several IC analysts outlining his reasoning why, "the uranium purchase agreement probably is a hoax." He indicated that one of the documents that purported to be an agreement for a joint military campaign, including both Iraq and Iran, was so ridiculous that it was "clearly a forgery." Because this document had the same alleged stamps for the Nigerien Embassy in Rome as the uranium documents, the analyst concluded "that the uranium purchase agreement probably is a forgery." When the CIA analyst received the e-mail, he realized that WINPAC did not have copies of the documents and requested copies from INR. CIA received copies of the foreign language documents on January 16, 2003.

Two CIA Iraq WINPAC analysts told Committee staff that after looking at the documents, they did notice some inconsistencies. One of the analysts told Committee staff, "it was not immediately apparent, it was not jumping out at us that the documents were forgeries." The CIA then sent the documents to the State Department for translation.


WINPAC analysts told Committee staff that, even though they were still in the process of analyzing the documents, their analytic position had not changed, so they believed it would have been premature to publish concerns about the documents without having investigated those concerns for themselves. One analyst said that if he were presenting CIA's best evidence on reconstitution he would not have included the uranium information, but when asked what else we had besides the tubes, he "ratcheted" down the threshold of what was appropriate to include. He also indicated that the reference in the paper about efforts to acquire uranium from Africa were broader than the alleged Niger contract in that it included the reports on Iraqi attempts to acquire uranium from Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. [my emphasis]

According to the SSCI, the CIA didn't even try to get translations of the documents until January 16.

Now, eriposte has some things to say about that timeline (er--if you show up, please send me a link to one of your posts on this). But I'm curious just when the CIA was having this debate or non-debate about the forgeries? Does this mean the CIA didn't get into the Niger claims until after January 16? Didn't even begin arguing them?

I am way too fried to really do this question--and possible implications of it justice. I do hope eriposte picks it up for me. But there's something mighty fishy about the "caught up with the translated versions" claim, not least because even the translated documents should have been easy as cinch to debunk, given the outdated info in some of the documents. I guess it's a question I'll have to return to after I've not just transcribed all day.

Kerr-McGee Is Found Liable in Lawsuit Over Oil Royalties

January 24, 2007

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 — A federal jury in Denver agreed Tuesday with a former top auditor for the Interior Department that the Kerr-McGee Corporation had cheated the government out of millions of dollars in royalties on oil it produced in publicly owned coastal waters.

The decision, reached by the jury after deliberations of about four hours, is a vindication for the auditor, Bobby L. Maxwell. He became a whistle-blower and sued Kerr-McGee as a private citizen after top officials at the Interior Department ordered him to drop his audit findings.

It is also a potentially big embarrassment for the Interior Department, which dismissed Mr. Maxwell in a “reorganization” and which had insisted that his case against Kerr-McGee had no merit.

The Minerals Management Service, an Interior Department agency that collects more than $10 billion a year in royalties on oil and gas pumped on federal territory, is now the subject of numerous investigations by Congress, as well as its own inspector general, over its enforcement of royalty rules.



Libby called eager to reveal CIA's role

Testimony centers on who sponsored critic's Africa trip

WASHINGTON -- Former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was eager to make public that the CIA, not Vice President Dick Cheney, sent a former ambassador to check on Iraq's efforts to obtain nuclear material, a former agency executive said yesterday.

Robert L. Grenier, former CIA Iraq mission manager, appeared as a government witness in Libby's trial on charges of obstruction and lying. He testified he told Libby that the idea of sending former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV to Niger was the brainchild of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame Wilson , who worked in the CIA office that sent him in 2002.

A year later, the former ambassador became a prominent critic of the war, based on what he found in the African nation.

Ultimately, Grenier's testimony could help prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald establish a motive for Libby to confirm Plame Wilson's identity and employer to reporters in 2003, which Libby denies doing.

But defense lawyer William Jeffress quickly questioned how Grenier's memory improved substantially since he talked to investigators in 2003-2005.