Friday, January 26, 2007

Impeachment: The Case in Favor

Editor's note: I am moving over to the other blog(new articles below).



[from the February 12, 2007 issue]

Approximately a year ago, I wrote in this magazine that President George W. Bush had committed high crimes and misdemeanors and should be impeached and removed from office. His impeachable offenses include using lies and deceptions to drive the country into war in Iraq, deliberately and repeatedly violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) on wiretapping in the United States, and facilitating the mistreatment of US detainees in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the War Crimes Act of 1996.

Since then, the case against President Bush has, if anything, been strengthened by reports that he personally authorized CIA abuse of detainees. In addition, courts have rejected some of his extreme assertions of executive power. The Supreme Court ruled that the Geneva Conventions apply to the treatment of detainees, and a federal judge ruled that the President could not legally ignore FISA. Even Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's recent announcement that the wiretapping program would from now on operate under FISA court supervision strongly suggests that Bush's prior claims that it could not were untrue.

Despite scant attention from the mainstream media, since last year impeachment has won a wide audience. Amid a flurry of blogs, books and articles, a national grassroots movement has sprung up. In early December seventy-five pro-impeachment rallies were held around the country and pro-impeachment efforts are planned for Congressional districts across America. A Newsweek poll, conducted just before election day, showed 51 percent of Americans believed that impeachment of President Bush should be either a high or lower priority; 44 percent opposed it entirely. (Compare these results with the 63 percent of the public who in the fall of 1998 opposed President Clinton's impeachment.) Most Americans understand the gravity of President Bush's constitutional misconduct.

Public anger at Bush has been mounting. On November 7 voters swept away Republican control of the House and Senate. The President's poll numbers continue to drop.

These facts should signal a propitious moment for impeachment proceedings to start. Yet House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has taken impeachment "off the table." (Impeachment proceedings must commence in the House of Representatives.) Her position doesn't mean impeachment is dead; it simply means a different route to it has to be pursued. Congressional investigations must start, and public pressure must build to make the House act.

This is no different from what took place during Watergate. In 1973 impeachment was not "on the table" for many months while President Nixon's cover-up unraveled, even though Democrats controlled the House and Senate. But when Nixon fired the special prosecutor to avoid making his White House tapes public, the American people were outraged and put impeachment on the table, demanding that Congress act. That can happen again.

Congressional and other investigations that previously found serious misconduct in the Nixon White House made the public's angry reaction to the firing of the special prosecutor--and the House response with impeachment proceedings--virtually inevitable. Early in 1973, once it appeared that the cover-up might involve the White House, the Senate created a select committee to investigate. The committee held hearings and uncovered critical evidence, including the existence of a White House taping system that could resolve the issue of presidential complicity. The Senate also forced the Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Watergate. Other committees looked into related matters. None of the investigations were prompted by the idea of impeachment. Still, they laid the groundwork for it--and the evidence they turned up was used by the House impeachment panel to prepare articles of impeachment against Nixon.

The same approach can govern now. Senate and House committees must commence serious investigations that could uncover more evidence to support impeachment. The investigations should ascertain the full extent of the President's deceptions, exaggerations and lies that drove us into the Iraq War. (They can simply in effect resurrect Republican Senator Howard Baker's famous questions about Richard Nixon: "What did the President know and when did he know it?") Congress should also explore the wiretapping that has violated the FISA law, the President's role in mistreatment of detainees and his gross indifference to the catastrophe facing the residents of New Orleans from Katrina.

Investigations should also be conducted into Vice President Cheney's meetings with oil company executives at the outset of the Administration. If divvying up oil contracts in Iraq were discussed, as some suggest, this would help prove that the Iraq War had been contemplated well before 9/11, and that a key motivation was oil. Inquiries into Halliburton's multibillion-dollar no-bid contracts should also be conducted, particularly given Cheney's ties to the company.

White House documents about Katrina that have not already been turned over to Congress should be sought to document further the President's failure to discharge his constitutional duty to help the people of New Orleans.

Our country's Founders provided the power of impeachment to prevent the subversion of the Constitution. President Bush has subverted and defied the Constitution in many ways. His defiance and his subversion continue.

Failure to impeach Bush would condone his actions. It would allow him to assume he can simply continue to violate the laws on wiretapping and torture and violate other laws as well without fear of punishment. He could keep the Iraq War going or expand it even further than he just has on the basis of more lies, deceptions and exaggerations. Remember, as recently as October 26, Bush said, "Absolutely, we are winning" the war in Iraq--a blatant falsehood. Worse still, if Congress fails to act, Bush might be emboldened to believe he may start another war, perhaps against Iran, again on the basis of lies, deceptions and exaggerations.

There is no remedy short of impeachment to protect us from this President, whose ability to cause damage in the next two years is enormous. If we do not act against Bush, we send a terrible message of impunity to him and to future Presidents and mark a clear path to despotism and tyranny. Succeeding generations of Americans will never forgive us for lacking the nerve to protect our democracy.

The manufactured row over Jimmy Carter's criticism of Israel risks obscuring a real chance for peace


Israel's Holocaust trustee blasts Hebron settlers - Yahoo! News

Israeli Holocaust Memorial Chairman compares the Jews in Hebron to barbarians and Nazis.
Writing on the wall
January 26, 2007 04:01 PM

Ian Williams

The fuss over Jimmy Carter and his new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, gained new momentum this week as the former president spoke at Brandeis University, near Boston.

Carter's critics - of whom there are many - demanded that he use his speaking engagement to debate Alan Dershowitz, the prominent defender of torture and Israel. I look forward to similar demands that every time Dershowitz speaks, he give space to one of his opponents - Noam Chomsky, say, or Al Sharpton - and lets them counter his arguments.

Dershowitz, writing in the Jerusalem Post, claimed he just wanted "a real dialogue." But when overtly racist Israeli minister for strategic affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, who has advocated mass killings of Arabs, let alone apartheid, came to the US to speak at the Brookings Institute's Saban Center, did Dershowitz call for his remarks to be balanced by a riposte from a speaker from Peace Now, let alone Palestinian Envoy Afif Safieh?

This manufactured furor against Carter's book could not happen in any other country except the USA - and it has certainly not happened in Israel, where many clear-sighted Israelis would agree entirely with the book's message. More to the point, those with intimate experience of apartheid in South Africa, ranging from Archbishop Desmond Tutu in this space, to 200 prominent South African Jews in a letter last year, make much more explicit comparisons.

Carter has been called bigoted and anti-Semitic. In his book, however, he comes across as rather mealy-mouthed. In his speech at Brandeis he re-emphasized what he says in his book: that his warnings are against Apartheid to the territories, when the discrimination faced by Bedouin and Arab citizens in Israel on, for example land ownership, or access to social services, bears some very critical examination.

"I realize that this has caused great concern in the Jewish community," he said. "The title makes it clear that the book is about conditions and events in the Palestinian territories and not in Israel."

In fact, the word apartheid appears only three times in the entire text of his book - and always in the context of the Occupied Territories. The one time that he mentions it most explicitly, he is quoting an Israeli who feared that "we are moving towards a government like that of South Africa, with a dual society of Jewish rulers and Arab subjects with few rights of citizenship," in the context of describing future options for the Occupied Territories.

This is doubly interesting; because of course the Israeli press often makes the comparison with apartheid, since Israelis have to live with the consequences of their policies. It is only in the US that the legions of front-line fund-raiser banqueteers brandish their silverware in horror at the description.

Another time, Carter uses the word is in his description of the effect of the Separation Wall, "imposing a system of partial withdrawal, encapsulation, and apartheid on the Muslim and Christian citizens of the occupied territories." But he adds: "The driving force of the two peoples is unlike that in South Africa - not racism but the acquisition of land." This is somewhat inaccurate, since apartheid in South Africa involved massive confiscations of the best land and corralling the dispossessed into small areas.

His third use of the A-word is the most interesting. Rabin had just returned from the apartheid state, and described to Carter "the close relationship Israel had with South Africa in the diamond trade ... but commented that the South African system of apartheid could not long survive."

Israel's sanctions-busting trade with the racist state helped it to survive longer than it would otherwise have done. And Israeli collaboration on arms programs may have gone beyond missiles and planes as far a joint nuclear test, with a pariah regime whose antecedents were Nazi sympathizers. If apartheid is such dreadful concept that we can't use it about Israeli polices, where were Carter's critics when Israel was the mainstay of the apartheid regime in South Africa?

I cannot recall that one of the shrill denouncers of President Carter's book ever taking exception to this conspiracy. Did one of them ever protest Israeli support for South Africa, or the hobnobbing of Israeli leaders with men who had been interned as Nazi sympathizers during the second world war? In contrast, the State Department told Carter not to talk to Hamas during his visits.

Apartheid is both understandable and abhorrent; it is the truth of the analogy that hurts. Clearly, the row about Carter's use of the word is a cynically contrived effort to detract from the book's plain and irrefutable message, accepted by the whole world community and much of Israel, and indeed by many American Jews: that the road to peace involves implementation of the UN resolutions, and a return to the 1967 borders, with some adjustments mutually agreed.

Dershowitz himself admits this, but still looks for straws to beat at Carter. After Brandeis he depicted one sentence, which Carter himself admits was sloppily phrased, as an endorsement of suicide bombing. Carter wrote that the Arabs "make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Roadmap for Peace are accepted by Israel." Dershowitz knows that Carter does not support terrorism. This is a manifestation of an intellectual pogrom of the most distasteful kind.

As the engineer of the most successful peace agreement in the region - the settlement between Egypt and Israel, for which he was vilified for decades across the Arab world - Carter's claim that obstruction from expansionists in Israel, and their friends in the US, is the main obstacle to a peace has particular authority.

That, of course, is why the settlers and their American supporters would prefer you not to read his book or hear from him. Still, we should push the comparison further: the architects of South Africa's apartheid saw the writing on the wall, and came to a settlement before it was too late. It has left their country the most successful and prosperous on the continent.

We already have the wall; Carter has now provided some of the writing. Will Israel have the courage to follow his advice?

Born in Liverpool, Ian Williams graduated from Liverpool University despite several years’ suspension for protests against its investments in South Africa. Consequently, his variegated career path included a drinking competition with Chou En Lai and an argument about English literature with Mme Mao at the tail end of the Cultural Revolution. He has been living in New York since 1989.

He has written for newspapers and magazines around the world, ranging from the Australian, to The Independent, from the ew York Observer and the Village Voice to the Nation and the New Statesman and Newsday, to the Financial Times and the Guardian. His byline has been in the Baptist Times, Penthouse, and Hustler.

He has also “pundited” on BBC, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, CBC and innumerable radio stations, for example appearing on “Hard Ball,” “the O’Reilly Factor,” etc on Fox, where he plays the liberal lion thrown to the Christian Right.

His first book was The Alms Trade, a study of the role of charities in Britain and the second was The UN For Beginners. Deserter: was published by Nation Books July 2004 and his latest is Rum: A Social & Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776. He is currently writing a book on the Americans who blame the UN for all the US's ills.

Helping Lara Logan (updated 1/26): See the video CBS NEWS won't show you(on TV)

Sometimes it’s hard to swim in the mainstream.

There has been much heated debate over the past few years over media coverage of the Iraq War. The Bush administration has repeatedly attacked the ‘liberal bias’ of the mainstream news industry, claiming that it doesn’t report enough of the “good news” from Iraq, and focuses instead on the sensational and violent.

Those critical of the war and the occupation say just the opposite; that the mainstream news media has ignored much of the ‘bad news’ coming out of Iraq, leaving Americans with an impression of the war based more on a desire to follow the official White House narrative than facts on the ground. MediaChannel has long been in the latter camp, sponsoring (for example) last year’s ‘Show Us the War’ project, which published video pieces showing an Iraq overrun with violence and chaos –and an administration that seemed more intent on faith and ’spin’ than reality. We at MediaChannel believe that an informed citizenry is necessary to keep our democracy viable, and we have been strong advocates of the call for all news outlets–mainstream or independent–to produce and distribute accurate stories on the situation in Iraq.

Which brings us to Lara Logan.

One would assume that Ms. Logan, as CBS chief foreign correspondent, has a fair amount of influence as to what stories she gets to cover, and that most of her important stories, once produced and delivered, will be broadcast. But when the story comes out of the mean streets of Baghdad, and doesn’t fit the officially-sanctioned narrative of Iraqis and US soldiers working arm in arm to help protect thankful Iraqi citizens, even chief foreign correspondents sometimes need to ask for help in getting it seen. Imagine our surprise recently when–over the digital transom–we received a copy of an email from a frustrated Lara Logan (see below)

In it, Logan asks for help in getting attention to what she calls “a story that is largely being ignored even though this istakingplace everysingle [sic] day in Baghdad, two blocks from where our office is located.”

The segment in question–”Battle for Haifa Street”–is a piece of first-rate journalism but one that only appears on the CBS News website–and has never been broadcast. It is a gritty, realistic look at life on the very mean streets of Baghdad, and includes interviews with civilians who complain that the US military presence is only making their lives worse and the situation more deadly.

“They told us they would bring democracy, they promised life would be better than it was under Saddam,” one told Logan.
“But they brought us nothing but death and killing. They brought mass destruction to Baghdad.”

Several bodies are shown in the two- minute segment–”some with obvious signs of torture,” as Logan points out. She also notes that her crew had to flee for their lives when they we were warned of an impending attack. While fleeing, another civilian was killed before their eyes.

Logan’s email, with the one-word subject line of ‘help’, was sent to friends and colleagues imploring them to lobby CBS to highlight that people are interested in seeing the piece. In it, Logan argues that the story is “not too gruesome to air, but rather too important to ignore… It should be seen. And people should know about this.”

We agree. And we’d like to help Ms. Logan and CBS get the piece seen, although that task would be made immeasurably easier if CBS News chief Sean McManus simply made the decision to broadcast it.

Ms. Logan, who is embedded with US forces in Iraq, was unavailable for comment. But CBS News spokeswoman Sandy Genelius told us that the segment in question was not broadcast but only run on the web because “the Executive Producer of the Evening News thought some of the images in it were a bit strong­ plus on that day the program was already packed with other Iraq news.”

Regarding Logan’s unusual email plea for “help” from friends and colleagues, Genelius said she and other CBS executives were unaware of its existence until contacted by MediaChannel. About Logan’s contention that the segment is “not too gruesome to air, but rather too important to ignore,” Genelius said “There are discussions and even disagreements everyday about what goes on air,” and noted that “One of the characteristics that makes Lara so special is her passion for her job. Of course she wants her pieces to be broadcast!”

In conclusion, Genelius added that “CBS News has aired countless hours of coverage about Iraq. It is the single most important part of our news coverage, and I hope that people will look at the sum total of what we have put on the air.”

On an average night, eight million people watch the broadcast version of the CBS Evening News. CBS company policy prohibits the disclosure of “internal analytics,” so no figures are available for the number of viewers Logan’s web-only segment has had–but it is undoubtedly far less.

See for yourself what the controversy is all about. You can watch the video here (RealPlayer required):

And don’t forget to let CBS know what you think about this outstanding example of video journalism–and help Lara Logan by telling CBS what you think about them keeping those images of the battle for Haifa Street–no matter how strong, no matter how gruesome–far from the eyes of their prime-time audience.


From: lara logan
Subject: help

The story below only appeared on our CBS website and was not aired on CBS. It is a story that is largely being ignored, even though this istakingplace verysingle day in central Baghdad, two blocks from where our office is located.

Our crew had to be pulled out because we got a call saying they were about to be killed, and on their way out, a civilian man was shot dead in front of them as they ran.

I would be very grateful if any of you have a chance to watch this story and pass the link on to as many people you know as possible. It should be seen. And people should know about this.

If anyone has time to send a comment to CBS – about the story – not about my request, then that would help highlight that people are interested and this is not too gruesome to air, but rather too important to ignore.

Many, many thanks.

Update: Since we posted this piece, MediaChannel has created a little echo chamber of our own. Many blogers excerpted the piece as if Lara had written them personally. In response to the comment below from “charles,” who said he saw the piece on CBS News last night, we contacted CBS and were told on Thursday evening:

that is not correct. this particular piece has not run on the cbs evening news. but there have been many pieces by lara on haifa street (and other areas of baghdad and iraq, of course), so it’s possible someone could be confused.

How psychologists, the most liberal of professionals, abetted Bush’s torture policy

The Washington Monthly, January/February 2007

Collective Unconscionable

By Arthur Levine

At around six-foot-eight and clad in combat fatigues, Kevin Kiley, the army surgeon general, cut an imposing figure. It was August 2006, and Kiley was in New Orleans to address the governing council of the American Psychological Association (APA) on the subject of psychology in the war on terror. For over a year, the organization had been under fire from human-rights groups and many of its own members, because psychologists had been tied to coercive interrogations and abuse at Guantanamo Bay and other places. Now, many APA members wanted the organization to draw up a firm policy—one that mandated adherence to international standards barring abuse—to prevent psychologists from participating in such practices again.

It was Kiley’s job to convince them not to bail out on interrogations. It’s an open question how much psychologists have contributed to the art of interrogation in the war on terror, but the APA provides a seal of legitimacy that the government values. If it joined the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Psychiatric Association by barring their members from joining the Guantanamo interrogations, it would further stigmatize the military’s practices. So, armed with PowerPoint slides, Kiley argued for keeping psychologists on the offensive against “sworn enemies” of the country. “Psychology is an important weapons system,” he explained. For the APA to draw up an explicit definition of abuse would be counterproductive. After all, “is four hours of sleep deprivation? How loud does a scream have to be? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”

Kiley had the blessing of the organization’s leadership. Despite the controversial nature of the topic in question, APA leaders had originally invited no other speakers to counterbalance Kiley with an opposing view. When this fact was reported by Salon, the group hastily issued a last-minute invitation to Steven Reisner, a New York psychoanalyst who had circulated an online petition protesting APA’s involvement in interrogations. Reisner was visiting his parents in Florida when the call from APA came, and he arrived in New Orleans in an ill-fitting off-the-rack suit and without a formal speech.

Reisner made his pitch nonetheless. (“The Hippocratic oath says ‘do no harm.’ It does not say ‘measure harm and see if it is the correct amount,’” he reminded the crowd.) But, having had almost no time to prepare, he was no match for Kiley’s slick presentation and call-to-arms rhetoric. Ultimately, APA’s governing council passed a blandly worded resolution that, most critically, left the definition of the phrase “cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment” up to current government interpretations.

This wasn’t the first time the APA had declined to take a firm position against the administration’s interrogation policies. After reports first surfaced in 2004 of psychologists participating in interrogation procedures, many of the APA’s more progressive members demanded that the organization take a stand. In response, APA convened a task force to draw up guidelines for members but rejected efforts to ensure that they were specific and enforceable.

Why, then, was the leadership of the APA, an organization representing one of the most liberal professions imaginable, so willing to essentially acquiesce with a conservative administration’s efforts to torture prisoners? The answer is that it fell into a classic Washington trade-group dilemma: It became so enmeshed in the gears of the federal machine that it could be influenced by a determined administration and ended up supporting policies that many of its own members opposed.

SERE no evil

Psychology has long had ties to the military and the government. Indeed, the armed forces may have played a larger role than any other institution in establishing psychology as a technical and scientific profession. During World War I, psychologists were placed in charge of aptitude tests given to soldiers—a task they again carried out in World War II, by which time they had been thoroughly integrated into the military structure. By the 1950s, they were helping to conduct Cold War studies on interrogation that included experiments with sensory deprivation and hallucinogens meant to serve as “truth serum” (LSD, for example)—and developed techniques used by the CIA to torture prisoners in Latin America in the 1980s.

It wasn’t surprising, then, that psychologists and psychiatrists were on hand in early 2002, mostly in clinical roles, when detainees who’d been captured in Afghanistan started arriving at Guantanamo. For most of that year, however, intelligence yields from the inmates were poor, and psychologists did not play a major role. That began to change later that year, with the arrival at Guantanamo of a new commander. Major General Geoffrey Miller believed strongly in breaking detainees down, and that psychologists were crucial to this effort. (Miller would later be dispatched to Abu Ghraib to “Gitmo-ize” the prison by giving advice on detainee treatment, where, according to one general, he told subordinates that detainees should be “treated like dogs.”)

Miller approved the creation of Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs), which would include psychologists and other medical professionals. In theory, these “biscuit teams” would advise interrogators on how to develop a rapport with detainees, but in practice, things were less Dale Carnegie-esque. When one army psychologist and APA member helped interrogate Mohammed al-Khatani, the supposed “20th hijacker,” some of the techniques used included stripping Khatani naked, giving him intravenous fluids to force him to urinate on himself, exercising him to exhaustion, and making him roll over and perform other dog tricks. The interrogation log includes such psychological observations as “detainee seemed too comfortable.”

There was another link to professional psychology. As first reported by The New Yorker, many of the techniques used to break down detainees at Guantanamo had been derived in late 2002 from a classified program known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) at Fort Bragg, N.C. SERE was originally designed to train elite soldiers to resist torture such as forced nudity, Bible trashing, sleep deprivation, hooding, isolation, and water-boarding. But many of these practices—rather than training in how to resist them—were soon adopted at Guantanamo. According to The New Yorker, one of the primary conduits for passing on such techniques appeared to be the chief psychologist of the SERE program, Col. Morgan Banks. (Banks told the magazine he offered guidance to Guantanamo’s BSCT members but denied recommending that SERE techniques be used on detainees.)

Tortured logic

By 2005, media reports about coercive treatment of detainees were becoming increasingly frequent and alarming. Since APA members faced being drawn into the BSCT teams, the group felt compelled to develop a set of guidelines. That task would fall in part to Gerald P. Koocher, an influential member of the board of directors, who would take over the APA presidency the following year. A short, pale, youthful-looking man in his late fifties, Koocher wears large glasses and bright bowties. He is dean of the School of Health Studies at Simmons College in Boston, and editor of the journal Behavior and Ethics. He’s also a child psychology expert, and a scan of regional newspapers over the years reveals occasional quotes from Koocher about matters such as how to keep your kid from getting frightened on Halloween. By any standard, Koocher was an unlikely ally in the Bush administration’s bid for expanded interrogation authority.

In fact, though, there were plenty of reasons why Koocher was unwilling for his organization to take a strong stand against administration policy—outside of its occasional criticisms of the White House’s most extreme pro-torture positions. Psychologists have long had to face skepticism about the efficacy of their profession, and often feel that associations with the military enhance their credibility. As Reisner puts it: “The military put psychologists on the map.” Jeopardizing relations with the armed forces could well lead to a loss of status and influence for the organization. In addition, former APA president Philip Zimbardo—who designed the famous “Stanford Experiments” in which students acted as prison guards and abused fellow students playing prisoners—notes that the military employs hundreds of psychologists, and that academic psychologists also depend greatly on military-related research funding.

Beyond strictly military issues, the APA, like any other trade group, frequently seeks to influence government policy, and is therefore unwilling to alienate key decision-makers. Recently, for instance, the group has been pushing to amend state laws to allow psychologists to write prescriptions for medication, and their leaders had supported a now-defunct military pilot project allowing such prescription privileges. (Generally, in every state except New Mexico and Louisiana, only psychiatrists—in addition to other medical doctors—can prescribe.) The APA “has a vested interested in maintaining good relations with the Bush administration,” says Zimbardo.

Koocher challenges that assertion, pointing to APA’s stance in favor of the McCain anti-torture resolution. The measure passed by 90 votes, but Koocher, in an email, claims it took great courage for his group to back it: “Supporting an amendment in direct contradiction to the Administration’s wishes was decidedly not the politically expedient thing to do in order to advance APA’s financial interests. It was, however, the right thing to do, and APA did it, despite that doing so placed significant funding for psychology in jeopardy.”

In truth, there was a more urgent concern driving the organization’s approach to interrogations: the possibility that APA members who worked on the biscuit teams, by following military orders, had already become embroiled in interrogation methods that were ethically—and even legally—questionable. Retroactively disowning such methods might leave those members vulnerable to prosecution.

The ideal stand for the APA to take, then, would be no stand at all—or at least one that wouldn’t inconvenience the Pentagon. And so, in February 2005, Koocher and APA president Ronald Levant led the creation of the blue-ribbon, 10-member Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) task force to study the problem. But they stacked the deck by ensuring that six of the 10 members were from the military. One was Capt. Bryce Lefever, a trainer at the Navy’s SERE School and author of the lecture “Brainwashing: The Method of Forceful Interrogation.”
Another was R. Scott Shumate, director of behavioral science for the Pentagon’s Counterintelligence Field Activity division, who, according to his own bio, had “engaged in risk assessments of the Guantanamo Bay detainees.” There were also Michael Gelles, chief psychologist of the Navy’s Criminal Investigative Service; Col. Larry James, chief psychologist for the intelligence group at Guant√°namo in 2003; and Robert Fein, whose biographical blurb describes him as “a consultant to the Directorate for Behavioral Sciences of the Department of Defense Counterintelligence Field Activity.”

The boldest choice of all was Col. Morgan Banks, the very man accused of helping to introduce SERE techniques to Guantanamo. “It was like a Monty Python spoof,” says Dr. Steven Miles, a professor of bioethics at the University of Minnesota medical school who followed the process for his book, Oath Betrayed. “At a certain level, you had to laugh.” Asked about charges that the APA stacked the deck, Koocher responded in an email that “the task force worked by consensus.”

Any countervailing influence, then, would have to come from the four civilian members. But when the task force’s discussions began, it soon became clear that the APA leadership was determined to resist their proposals. When Jean Maria Arrigo, an independent scholar on the ethics of military intelligence, and Michael Wessells, a professor of psychology at Randolph-Macon College, and a specialist in how children are affected by armed conflict, argued that international law such as the Geneva Conventions should be the gold standard in the APA’s ethics code, Koocher, serving as a liaison from the APA board, was dismissive. “We’re not going to go there,” he announced. “International law doesn’t have any standing in U.S. courts.” (According to Arrigo, one of the military psychologists was even blunter, declaring: “We’ve taken an oath to our commander-in-chief.”) Then, when Arrigo argued for an appendix of case histories that would clearly illustrate some examples of banned behavior, such as water-boarding, an APA lawyer who was advising the panel rejected the idea, warning that such examples could be used in court against psychologists. Wessells, still dissatisfied by the lack of specificity, cited the use of techniques like sleep deprivation as clearly out of bounds. To which one of the military panelists responded: “Maybe it’s useful to an interrogation to wake someone up early.”

Drafting the task-force report fell primarily to Stephen Behnke, a lawyer and psychologist who heads the APA’s Office of Ethics. Behnke produced a rough draft on day one, a model of ambiguous wording that effectively determined the scope of the discussions. Ultimately, the final report did assert that “psychologists are alert to acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment and have an ethical responsibility to report these acts to the appropriate authorities.” But, crucially, it did not offer specific guidance on what did and did not constitute torture. And it noted pointedly that “over the course of the recent United States military presence in locations such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Cuba, … rules and regulations have been significantly developed and refined.” In other words: Things are changing. Good luck feeling your way about.

It was immediately clear to the civilian members that the report didn’t go nearly far enough. Wessells warned that if it were allowed to stand as the APA’s primary public communication on the issue, the group “will be body-slammed, and damage done to the association.” Ultimately, though, they went along, after being assured by Koocher and other APA officials that examples of specific instances of impermissible interrogation would soon be addressed in a casebook to be produced by the APA’s permanent ethics committee. Today, nearly a year and a half later, no such casebook has been released. “Things in an association will not always happen as quickly as some would like,” says Behnke, who promises the casebook will be forthcoming in early 2007.

Mind games

Wessells’s warning proved prescient. The APA’s report, released in July 2005, met with widespread condemnation from human rights groups and many in the media. The New York Times and other news outlets noted Banks’s role on the task force, and the prestigious Lancet medical journal called the report “a disgrace.” The episode also helped open a breach between the APA and the rest of the medical community. After seeing APA raked over the coals for the timidity of its report, the American Psychiatric Association and the AMA released much stronger statements this year that flatly bar their members from participating in interrogation of enemy detainees. They also got specific: The American Psychiatric Association, for instance, prohibits its members from exposing any subject to “degradation, threats, isolation, imposition of fear, humiliation, sensory deprivation or excessive stimulation, sleep deprivation, exploitation of phobias, or intentional infliction of physical pain such as use of prolonged stress positions.”

These divisions were dramatized in October of 2005, when APA president Levant and American Psychiatric Association president Dr. Steven Sharfstein traveled together to Guantanamo as guests of the Pentagon. On a day-long tour of the facility, the men glimpsed white-jump-suited Muslim detainees—but weren’t allowed to talk to them.
Sharfstein, alarmed by published reports about the BSCT teams and their potential to engage in torture, wasn’t reassured by his visit and urged military officials to exclude psychiatrists from involvement in interrogations. Levant, by contrast, eagerly offered his organization’s support to the military, announcing in a press release, “I saw the invitation as an important opportunity to continue to provide our expertise and guidance for how psychologists can play an appropriate and ethical role in national security investigations.”

In the wake of the split, APA has taken some small steps to repair its image. In September, Koocher joined with leading health professionals and Physicians for Human Rights in publicly opposing the administration-backed bill that essentially allows it to disregard the Geneva Conventions, and explicitly condemning techniques such as water-boarding and stress positions. But APA has not relented on the most crucial issue that it faces: preserving the right of psychologists to participate in coercive interrogations. And, thanks to an earlier loophole in the APA’s still-vague ethics code, psychologists are allowed to obey so-called lawful military orders instead of the APA’s own ethical guidelines, even as the APA offers lip-service to opposing any involvement in torture. As Stephen Soldz, a Boston-based psychoanalyst and APA critic observes: “What sort of experts on ethics write the Nuremberg defense into their professional ethics code?”

This is by no means the first time that the leadership of a traditionally liberal Washington interest group has courted controversy by essentially siding with the Bush administration on a major policy issue over the objections of many of its members. In 2003, AARP provided crucial support for the corporate-backed Medicare prescription-drug bill—and lost thousands of members as a result. Three years later, that legislation has proved so costly and cumbersome that Republican lawmakers seldom talked about it on the campaign trail—and AARP now supports changing the legislation to allow the government to negotiate drug prices. But there’s little evidence that APA is similarly reconsidering its position on interrogations. As Koocher approvingly noted in a paper on “21st Century” ethics that he presented at the APA’s New Orleans conference: “The dictum of ‘do no harm’ has evolved to ‘do as little harm as possible.’”

Arthur Levine is a contributing editor of The Washington Monthly.


January 26, 2007

KOSOVO....James Joyner comments on the latest from the Balkans:

Fifteen years ago, when then-Yugoslavia was falling apart in a series of ethic civil wars, those of us who opposed American military intervention argued that no significant threat was posed to U.S. vital interests. The caveat was always that, if things got out of hand in Kosovo, we'd have little choice but to jump in to prevent it becoming a regional crisis.

When that did indeed come to pass, the idea that Kosovo's independence would eventually follow would have seemed incredible. Now it's buried on A10 of the Post.

It's more "independence-lite" than actual independence at the moment, and it's not yet a completely done deal: Serbia (obviously) is opposed, Russia is holding out for concessions, and even Spain is nervous about the whole thing. Still, it looks increasingly likely that Kosovo is on track to become an independent country in the near future. More background here.

Kevin Drum 12:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (2)

Washington antiwar rally will be on C-SPAN

11:00 AM EST
2:00 (est.) LIVE
Anti-War Rally
United for Peace and Justice
Jane Fonda
Maxine Waters , D-CA
The beginning and end of this live program may be earlier or later than the scheduled times.

Is the "Secret Email System" Just Lotus Notes?

Friday, January 26, 2007

ITN last night and the Mail today are repeating the "Smoking Gun" story with a twist about a "secret I.T. system". Guido thinks the story is a little muddled. Here is what a seemingly well informed co-conspirator wrote last night:
There isn't a second email system in my humble opinion - there is a confidential database thats written in Lotus Notes - a system more commonly recognised as an email platform but one that also can be used for database work.

The system is primarily used by Labour party employees and although partly ran by No. 10 staff, access is severly restricted, in the same way parliament's I.T. department have to provide impartial service to the parties who have MPs, so do the No. 10 staff have to be impartial when helping the party-in-power therefore there is a kind of two-tier IT infrastructure in No. 10 and also the Palace of Westminister.

The database access is for staff in the No. 10 office of the Labour party, Powell and his staff and also key minsters' SpAds, they contribute briefing documents, in various stages of preparation before being used by other spads to present key ideas to ministers and ultimately Tony Blair himself, all the speeches and statements and PMQ briefs are in there, going all the way back to '97.
To Guido this rings true.

UPDATE : Co-conspirators have spotted and tipped off Guido to the Labour party's private email system supplied by a Microsoft subsidary. The Whale Secure Remote Access website emphasises "it was designed to meet Israeli military-grade security needs, and all thought: 'we definitely need this!' ", so said Steve Turnbull, Network Manager, Labour Party. It fortunately has "Strict provisions for wiping all traces of email attachments, files and user credentials from the end-point, as well as the ability to permit different levels of access and functionality depending on compliance of the access device with Party security policy, would be critical." It does run Lotus notes groupware.

Candidates for 2008 courting Jewish support

The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

It's a Washington ritual as reliable as the cherry blossoms, if nowhere near as pretty: Midterm congressional elections are over and aspirants for the most powerful job in the world are throwing their hats into the race for the US presidency.

Another ritual within the ritual is lining up Jewish support, and this year is no different. Some candidates are acting immediately: This month, US Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) plucked Jay Zeidman, President Bush's popular Jewish outreach official, to lead his Jewish campaign.

  • Burning Issues #22: Will candidates' Iraq stance affect coming crisis with Iran?

    Sometimes it's even sooner than immediately: For the past two years, Ann Lewis, who has been prominent in Jewish causes since she served as the Clinton administration's deputy communications director, has been sounding out Jewish support for Clinton's wife, US Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

    Here's a glance at the candidates and where they stand on issues of concerns to the Jewish people.

    The Democrats

  • US Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY)

    You probably won't hear all about Clinton's Jewish step-grandfather this time around. That's because she won't need to grab at Jewish straws after six years of support for Jewish causes that activists across the spectrum say is stellar.

    Clinton's 2000 run for the Senate was marred by a 1999 incident in which she sat by and said nothing as Suha Arafat, Yasser Arafat's wife, accused Israel of deliberately poisoning children. Clinton and Suha Arafat embraced after the speech.

    Clinton later claimed the interpreter skipped over the poisoning allegation, but she set about atoning for the gaffe. In addition to the revelation about her step-granddad, she told two different Jewish audiences within weeks of Suhagate that Jerusalem was Israel's indivisible capital.

    She won solidly that year, but with less-than-enthusiastic Jewish support. By 2006, however, Jewish support for Clinton was overwhelming and spanned the religious spectrum. Much of the money she has raised - some analysts expect her to bring in $500 million by election time - has come from Jewish donors.

    Pro-Israel lobbyists say Clinton's voting record on issues related to funding for Israel and isolating its enemies, including Iran and Syria, has been top notch, and she has visited the country multiple times since becoming a senator. On domestic issues, too, she is reliably pro-choice and backs increased federal involvement in health care, stances that reflect the majority US Jewish opinion.

    Her supporters say one area where Clinton has strengthened Jewish support might offer a clue to how she plans to overcome overwhelming conservative opposition to her candidacy, a residue of the 1990s culture wars: She seeks imaginative legislative solutions to get funding to parochial institutions while not skirting church-state divisions.

  • US Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del)
    As the lead Democratic spokesman on foreign policy - Biden chairs the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee - his rhetoric on Israel at times has been tough.

    Biden repeatedly has suggested that Israel and the United States "blew it" in the summer of 2003 by not sufficiently backing Mahmoud Abbas, who was then the Palestinian Authority prime minister. Abbas eventually quit because P.A. President Yasser Arafat frustrated his efforts to make peace with Israel, but he also accused Israel and the United States of failing to provide concessions that might have helped him confront Arafat.

    Pro-Israel advocates say there's a substantial gap between Biden's rhetoric and how he ultimately votes: He has a solid pro-Israel voting record and was a leader of the successful effort last year to pass the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, which isolates the Palestinian Authority's Hamas leadership as long as it backs terrorism and refuses to recognize Israel.

    Biden, like many other leading Democrats, has been reluctant to sign on to efforts to isolate Iran as long as it poses a nuclear threat, preferring to keep channels open to the Islamic republic.

  • US Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill)

    Much of Obama's current appeal has to do with his vocal opposition to the Iraq war in 2002-03, when he was a state senator in Illinois, at a time when it was not popular to oppose the war.

    Arab Americans initially held out hopes that his iconoclasm extended to Israel-Palestinian issues. During the 2004 primaries, Obama said Bush had neglected the region, and in private conversations with Arab-American donors he reportedly said he favored a more "even-handed" US approach between Israel and the Palestinians.

    Since then, however, Obama has cultivated a solidly pro-Israel record, and he visited the Jewish state last year. He has developed close ties with Chicago's Jewish community, and some of its major donors backed him among more than a dozen candidates - some Jewish - in the 2004 primaries.

  • Sen. John Edwards

    The appearance by the former Democratic senator from North Carolina at last year's American Israel Public Affairs Committee's policy forum was the first substantial sign that he was considering another run for the White House after he failed in his 2004 bid to win the Democratic primary and then the vice presidency.

    The millionaire trial lawyer had focused almost exclusively on his "two Americas" theme in combating poverty and advocating for universal health care in his primaries campaign, and Republicans cast him as a lightweight on foreign policy.

    He drew loud applause when he endorsed AIPAC's trademark issue: isolating Iran as long as it resists nuclear transparence.

    "For years I have argued that the United States has not been doing enough to deal with the growing threat in Iran," he said. "While we've talked about the dangers of nuclear terrorism, we've largely stood on the sidelines as the problems got worse. I believe that for far too long, we've abdicated our responsibility to deal with the Iranian threat to the Europeans."

    Such talk has helped draw major Jewish donors to Edwards' campaign. He raised eyebrows late last year, however, when he named as his campaign director David Bonior, a former Michigan congressman noted for his tough criticism of Israel.

    Bonior and Edwards reached out to top pro-Israel figures and assured them that Bonior's role would not extend to foreign policy.


    • Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is probably the toughest critic of Israel among Democratic candidates. Next month he will be a featured speaker at a conference of Sabeel, a pro-Palestinian group, and in recent years he has consistently abstained or voted against pro-Israel measures. Kucinich maintains close ties with some dovish Jewish groups, and at times has challenged his ideological compatriots, once saying he was never convinced that Yasser Arafat gave up on his dream of eliminating Israel.

    Kucinich's candidacy is perhaps the longest shot this year, but he has accrued foreign policy credibility for opposing the Iraq war from the outset.

    • US Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.). Another longshot, but with a solid pro-Israel record. He told an AIPAC audience in Houston in October that he doubted the viability of a Palestinian state in the near future.

    • Gov. Tom Vilsack. The former Iowa governor hopes to appeal to voters as a Democrat who won two terms in a solidly Republican state. He is close to the small pro-Israel community in his state and recently visited Israel.

    The Republicans

  • US Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

    McCain's Jewish strategy mirrors his broader realignment in recent years with Republicans who are loyal to President Bush, leaving behind the bloodletting of the tough 2000 primaries campaign.

    In addition to Jay Zeidman, he is counting on an endorsement from the former White House liaison's father, Fred Zeidman, chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and a major fund-raiser for Bush. Another likely endorser is Ned Siegel, who was the named plaintiff in the successful effort to stop the Florida recount, a decision that placed Bush in the White House.

    McCain has a solid pro-Israel record, and he has been outspoken about isolating Iran as long as it poses a nuclear threat. He made that call most recently in a satellite address at this week's Herzliya Conference and in October at an American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference.

    McCain has toughened his opposition to abortion and gay marriage, positions that place him at odds with most American Jews. Yet he also has forged alliances with domestic Jewish groups on issues such as campaign-finance reform and against torture.

  • Rudy Giuliani

    The former New York City mayor may be the perfect Republican candidate for Jewish Americans: He's one of Israel's most vocal supporters in the United States and is unapologetically moderate on social issues like abortion and gay marriage.

    Giuliani has been circumspect about his candidacy in recent weeks. He has performed well in polling because of the reputation as "America's mayor" that he earned after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but he's seeking strategies to reconcile his moderation on social issues with the conservative Republican base.

    Still, he is assembling a formidable campaign team, including Jeff Berkowitz, another former White House liaison to the Jewish community, as research director.

    Giuliani had overwhelming Jewish support as New York mayor from 1993 to 2001, once booting Yasser Arafat out of a concert hall: The federal government may need to deal with the once and future terrorist, Giuliani said, but he did not.

    Giuliani has visited Israel multiple times, and formed a fast friendship with his Jerusalem counterpart at the time, Ehud Olmert, who is now Israel's prime minister.

    Giuliani's closeness to Israel did not end once he left politics. In his final days as mayor, he rejected a $10 million donation from a Saudi prince because the giver blamed the Sept. 11 attacks in part on U.S. support for Israel.

    In 2004, delivering the keynote speech at the Republican convention in New York, Giuliani emphatically noted Bush's outspoken support for the Jewish state.

  • Gov. Mitt Romney

    Romney passed on a bid for a second term as Massachusetts governor to get started on the Republican nomination this year. He wasted no time in making clear his message of solid support for Israel.

    That's because however well governors perform on domestic issues - and Romney made significant inroads with the liberal Jewish community in the Boston area - they need to act quickly to establish foreign policy credentials.

    Romney was one of four candidates to address the Herzliya Conference this week, but the only one to do so in person. He spoke forcefully about isolating Iran as long as it poses a nuclear threat, noting that he refused to provide police protection for its former president, Mohammad Khatami, when he spoke in the Boston area last year.

    He also called for the indictment of Iran's current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on genocide charges.

    "The United States should lead this effort," Romney said. "The full title of the Genocide Convention is the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Remember that word `prevention.' " Ahmadinejad has called repeatedly for the destruction of Israel and has denied the Holocaust.

    More practically, Romney also has attracted top Republican Jewish donors, including Mel Sembler, the former ambassador to Rome. Charlie Spies, formerly the counsellor to the Republican National Committee, is now the Romney campaign's counsel.

    Nancy Kaufman, who directs the Jewish Community Relations Council in the Boston area, said Romney earned community admiration for shepherding universal health care through the legislature and for his solidly pro-Israel credentials. But she said some were disappointed by his rightward drift on social issues like abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and gay marriage. As a Senate candidate in 1994, Romney had tacked left on such issues.


  • US Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) is a leader on pro-Israel issues, especially relating to Israel's claim to Jerusalem. He also is strongly conservative on social issues like abortion, gay marriage and embryonic stem-cell research, but he has earned respect among some liberal Jewish groups for leading his party into advocacy on behalf of Darfur, the area of Sudan ravaged by government-allied militias.

  • Newt Gingrich The former speaker of the US House of Representatives has a stellar pro-Israel record and was the architect of the 2004 campaign strategy of reaching out to Jewish voters by emphasizing President Bush's pro-Israel record.

  • US Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) and U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.). Both candidates are identified with strong anti-immigrant sentiment in their party, positioning themselves against broad-based Jewish community support for a degree of amnesty for illegal immigrants. Tancredo also is an isolationist and has opposed foreign assistance, although both candidates have solidly supported measures isolating terrorists and their supporters.

    Rachel Mauro, JTA's Washington intern, contributed to this report.

  • Russia Gets its Warm-Water Port

    January 26, 2007

    by Christopher Deliso

    A number of simultaneous recent events and trends in the Balkans evidence a startling yet indisputable conclusion: that across the board, the Western influence that had for so long seemed so hegemonic is on the wane, or has at least encountered very serious stumbling blocks.

    Quietly, almost unexpectedly (at least for those who had hubristically expected domination ad infinitum), non-Western powers have expanded their "spheres of influence" in the region. Yet you would not know it from the gathering mass of yes-men crowing imminent victory – a fact that has as much to do with internal American politicking as it does with any realities on the ground in the Balkans.

    And so as the region marches forward bravely to the imagined greatness of "Euro-Atlantic integration," a sort of retrograde motion has instead begun; with every year that we get closer to 2012, and the one-hundred-year anniversary of the Balkan Wars that drove out the Ottoman Turks and set the stage for World War I, it seems the situation in the Balkans is resembling more and more the chaotic decades that preceded that dissolution, which were characterized by a sordid tug-of-war by the Great Powers of the day. Then as now, this power play is being carried out largely by outside interests, though it has not stopped the media and governments from assigning the responsibility and the blame to the outcome of local decisions and citizens.

    Montenegro Up for Grabs

    One of the most striking recent trends adding credence to this argument is what has been going on in Montenegro, that Adriatic jewel which elected, in a tightly contested referendum, to break off its state union with Serbia last spring. This secession, long hoped-for and championed by the West, represents the antepenultimate act in an almost two-decade policy against Serbia, the final manifestation of which is expected to be the severing of Kosovo from its historic identity as a Serbian province. This long and worn-out policy has taken on a life of its own, propelled consciously by political ideologues, many of them linked in one way or another with the Balkan interventions of the Clinton administration, and subconsciously, in the collective public sentiment instilled in Western audiences for a very long time by a pliant media: that the Serbs were and are warmongering barbarians, who deserve whatever they get (or whatever they get taken from them). These ingrained beliefs and the policy they gave birth to have had several serious repercussions, however.

    From at least the 17th century, the wars and foreign policy of imperial Russia in the Balkans were motivated partially by a vital goal: access to the so-called "warm-water ports" of the Adriatic, Aegean and/or Black Seas. Inevitably, the response of European rivals, such as Great Britain or the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was to check this ambition, either directly or through policies hostile to countries identified at various times as Russia's advance guard. Examples of this high intrigue include the revision of the San Stefano Treaty at the 1878 Congress of Berlin, which drastically limited the territorial gains of Bulgaria after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877, and the creation of Albania, under heavy Austrian lobbying, as a means of preventing then-Russian ally Serbia from gaining access to the Adriatic in 1912. The later incorporation of Romania and Bulgaria into the Soviet fold following World War II greatly enhanced Russian warm-water ports on the Black Sea, though since the downfall of Communism these two countries – which joined the European Union on January 1, 2007 – have moved decisively into the Western camp (though neither was realistically prepared for EU membership).

    In recent years, the geopolitical brinkmanship of the US has also manifested in the greater Balkan/Black Sea region with the "color revolutions" in Ukraine and Georgia, and their archetypal predecessor in the "democratic opposition" and youth movement that led to the downfall of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000, little over a year after his capitulation to NATO's air war on Serbia and Kosovo. The reckless desire of hawks in the West to expand NATO to far-flung Ukraine and Georgia, both of which have important Black Sea positioning, owes almost completely to the post-Soviet policy of "containing" Russia at a time when energy security has come to replace collective self-defense and humanitarian policing as NATO's raison d'être. The basic premise is that the threat of military force along Russia's borders can prove an effective bargaining chip in guaranteeing unfettered Western access to Russian energy at good prices, and can protect alternative suppliers and supply routes from Russian influence. It remains to be seen how effective this dangerous resurrection will be.

    In Ukraine, the West would like to dislodge Russia's Black Sea Fleet, by treaty allowed to stay until 2017 while in Georgia, it would like to eliminate Russian support for Abkhazia, the breakaway province that Russia is comparing (along with Georgia's other self-declared autonomous entity, South Ossetia) as an analogous situation to Kosovo: if the latter deserves independence, then why not the others? And why not the ethnically Russian east of Ukraine, for that matter? Of course, the US has heatedly denied any similarity between the two cases though, as we will see, regardless of the veracity of the argument the oft-cited fears of "Balkan instability" if the West doesn't get its way in Kosovo are bound to be realized – regardless of what happens.

    Before moving on to the morass that is Kosovo, however, it pays to take a look at the situation in Montenegro, where independence was gained by the decision of ostensibly pro-Western, anti-Serbian political leaders and citizens. However, as a recent New York Times article revealed, things are not exactly as they seem:

    "As Russian investments here grow, Moscow has sought to exert more political influence. In August, Russia's emergencies minister, Sergei Shoigu, warned in an interview with a Montenegrin newspaper that relations between the countries would be damaged if the Montenegrins continued to pursue NATO membership. Later that month, [then-Prime Minister Milo] Djukanovic met with President Putin in Sochi, a Russian Black Sea resort, and discussed the possibility of creating a military-technical agreement."

    The investments mentioned include a huge buy-up of the Montenegrin Adriatic coast by Russian firms allegedly linked to mafia interests, as well as investments in the industrial sector. By stealth, not by force of arms, Russia has expanded its influence in warm-water Montenegro, its "investors" bearing down on one of the most legendarily corrupt Balkan statelets, "carrying four, five or six million euros in cash apparently without any form or official control." While Western property buyers, particularly British and Irish have also made noticeable acquisitions in the "new" Montenegro, it is the Russians who are causing the biggest stir – and who, unlike the latter, seek perhaps something other than retirement homes by the sea.

    In Montenegro, the surreal situation has thus become one of a pro-Serbian opposition sounding the alarm against eastern incursions, while an allegedly pro-Western leadership continues to be seduced by the Russians. Then there are the Albanian and Bosnian minorities, both of which are Muslim and both of which cast the crucial votes for independence. Within the latter group especially there has quietly developed, in the Sandzak border area with Serbia (as well as on the other side of the border), an indigenous radical Islamic Wahhabi community that is strongly anti-Western and supported by Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Muslim states.

    As for the former, the Albanians, numerous arrests in both Montenegro and neighboring Kosovo linked with extremist groups who would like to annex Albanian-populated parts of the fledgling state, or at very least raise the specter of such an act to expedite the independence of Kosovo, have been made since September. Major weapons seizures and arrests of alleged would-be assassins and terrorists illustrate that the threat is real and will continue to intensify throughout 2007.

    Kosovo: Turning the Tables

    If the West's policies in Montenegro seem to have had somewhat unexpected results, the same can be said even more so for the situation in Kosovo. It was "the year everything changed," according to's Nebojsa Malic, referring to the failure of Kosovo's Albanians to achieve independence throughout 2006. This setback for the interventionist policy in the Balkans had to do both with strengthened Russian diplomatic opposition, the unlikely appearance of a Serbian lobby in Washington late in the game, and the essentially tepid support of the Bush administration – its apparent support notwithstanding – for the creation of a mafia-run Muslim statelet in Europe.

    Supporters of Kosovo independence – essentially, the same crowd of Clinton-era acolytes who see it as justified punishment for "Serb aggression" – apparently have become so enamored of their own position that they have neglected to see the trouble it is about to cause them. All that Belgrade and Moscow have to do is to continue opposing independence, which requires very little energy compared to those who are increasingly desperately pushing for independence and an overturning of the legal reality (that Kosovo is a part of Serbia). It is this reality that Albanian lobbyists such as Joe DioGuardi ask the world to overlook when justifying independence by recourse to "the facts on the ground" (a euphemism for the ethnic cleansing of Serbs and other minorities which has left Kosovo an almost entirely Albanian-populated province).

    Yet who will suffer if Kosovo does not become independent? Not Serbia. The Western-led UN administration in Kosovo and NATO troops are the ones who will be caught in the crossfire if Albanian maximalist demands are not met. For well over a year, in fact, the UN mission has been scapegoated by local Albanian leaders and covertly-led youth groups as the enemy, as a bunch of obstructionist outsiders blocking their ambitions. The irony is that when the last Russian peacekeepers pulled out of Kosovo several years ago, it was depicted as a sort of triumph for the West, as the final scene in a dramatic struggle for possession that began during the 1999 NATO air campaign, when Russian troops briefly seized Pristina Airport. Now, however, the reality is that there are simply no Russian troops for angry irredentists to shoot at in Kosovo, whereas there are plenty of Western ones.

    Indeed, since 1999 there have been very many terrorist attacks carried out against UN and NATO personnel and installations in Kosovo by the Albanians they supposedly came there to protect. While in that time violence against the minority Serbs has certainly been steady, there has not been a single terrorist attack in Belgrade or Serbia proper (if we do not count the various armed altercations in a contained area of South Serbia – "East Kosovo" to the Albanians). This is no doubt in keeping with the same orders that the ragged Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) were given by NATO in 1999: if you want our help, help your PR by limiting your activities to your home turf. And indeed the Albanians have proven extraordinarily disciplined in doing so and have thus avoided the sort of censure that befell classic separatist groups such as the IRA in Ireland and the Basque ETA in Spain. Now the pressure is more intense than ever on the Albanians to keep up "good behavior" if they want to be free. Yet what if the West can't deliver?

    Enter the Democrats

    What is now influencing the whole issue in Kosovo, and the Balkans in general, is a phenomenon going on half a world away: the sudden resurrection of the Democratic Party in Washington and its new resolve against a formerly strong president now on the ropes over the quagmire in Iraq. Several of these Democrats, such as Sen. Joseph Biden, also have presidential ambitions. And so it is no surprise that partisan and personal politics are being crafted out of the imagined past and perceived future of American foreign policy in the Balkans.

    In short, the Democrats are eager to hold up a shining example of a foreign policy success that can be attributed to themselves as a party, while their individual leaders would like to highlight their personal contributions to these alleged successes. The Clinton-era interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo, which fed the current chaos in the region, are being held up more and more in speeches and media reports as examples of America at its best – thus accentuating what the Clintonites view as a contrast to Bush's war in Iraq. However, seeing the obvious folly of the latter does not mean one must automatically accept the former.

    Nevertheless, as the presidential elections of 2008 draw closer, we are going to be hearing a lot of hyperbole and self-aggrandizing rhetoric from Democrats about how much better off the Balkans is because of their interventions there. And, while it does not take much to make Bosnia or Kosovo appear better off than a country where US troops and Iraqi civilians are being blown apart by the dozens each day, they are not taking any chances: the "final status" of Kosovo, and the continuing consolidation of Muslim rule in the tripartite Bosnian Federation, must be accomplished so that the whole "Mission Accomplished" narrative can be completed.

    In a grandiloquent Financial Times opinion piece published a day after he became head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the longtime Albanian lobbyist and now presidential candidate Joseph Biden fired off a predictable enough such broadside about Kosovo. The senator, or his speechwriter, fantastically claimed that "adroit diplomacy to secure Kosovo's independence could yield a victory for Muslim democracy, a better future for southeast Europe and validation for the judicious use of American power." These justifications, long considered by critics to be more or less hidden motivations, are apparently not even to be kept secret anymore, so confident are the Clintonites of their Balkan successes.

    Ironically, the West's plea to Serbian voters during their recent elections was to look to the future, not the past, by choosing the "pro-Western" Democratic Party of President Boris Tadic, rather than the "hard-line nationalists" of Vojislav Seselj's Radical Party. Yet the Serbs' castigators in Washington are apparently not following their own prescribed course of action; as the Biden piece shows, their vision for the future of the Balkans is almost entirely necessitated by the past, by the need to validate a botched series of interventions to shore up their own legacies, as well as to have something to present as a foreign policy success in contradistinction to Bush's Iraq fiasco.

    Tortuous Contradictions

    Of course, to pull off such a magic trick is to suppress or ignore entirely certain realities. For since those Clinton-era interventions took place, local and foreign organized crime, not to mention Islamic fundamentalists, have established a pervasive presence. The demand for drugs and prostitutes soared with the arrival of affluent Western peacekeepers, whose don't-rock-the-boat mentality has meant a lackadaisical approach to both mafia groups and Islamic extremists. At the same time, sluggish economic growth and festering nationalism in Kosovo has kept the situation tense, with everyone aware that it only takes one order from militant leaders to set the province ablaze as in the March 2004 riots.

    To conceal these (and other) failings, the opportunists on the Hill have to put the blame elsewhere. And so Sen. Biden asserts, "there is a growing risk that Serbia and Russia will conspire to seize defeat from the jaws of victory" by continuing to block Kosovo independence. This panic has also apparently induced schizophrenia. The ICG, which has been one of the most consistent and hysterical institutional supporters of Kosovo independence, calling since 1998 for the province's eventual independence, has curiously reversed its position on Islamic extremism in Kosovo; while once downplaying it as little more than "Serb propaganda," the group's latest report discloses that unless Kosovo is freed this could become a threat, as could the more traditional nationalist form of Albanian violence. "Nervous Kosovo Albanian leaders worry they may not be able to contain public pressures beyond March," says the Dec. 20, 2006 report, adding that:

    "a botched status process that fails to consolidate the prospect of a Kosovo state within its present borders and limits the support the EU and other multilateral bodies can provide would seed new destructive processes. A sense of grievance would become ingrained among Albanians throughout the region, strengthening a pan-Albanian ideology corrosive of existing borders and possibly even enriching the soil for radical Islam."

    So let's get this straight. The ICG is now warning that unless Albanian maximalist demands are met, both of the dangers which their critics have long warned about – and the existence of which the ICG has steadfastly denied – will come true. The bizarre conjuring act shows to just what tortuous lengths the apologists for intervention will go to push their position while ignoring their own self-contradictions. Nevertheless, pulling rabbits out of hats is a slick political specialty. And so we are asked to believe that Kosovo Muslims could pose a threat if they are not given independence, while on the other hand (as Biden writes) the situation will be miraculously reversed if they are allowed to create their own state. "The people of Kosovo – already the most pro-American in the Islamic world – will provide a much-needed example of a successful US-Muslim partnership," the senator confidently asserts. If this approximation were even true, one has to wonder just who needs this "example" – the people of Kosovo, or the American Democratic Party, as it prepares its 2008 election campaign strategy?

    Conclusion: A Checkered Future for Western Supremacy in the Balkans

    If we believe former Clinton staffers like John Norris, the Kosovo war marked the definitive victory of the West (that is, NATO) over Russia. Yet if we take a look at the actual situation today, it is easy to see that Russia's position in the Balkans has never been stronger. It has established itself financially and politically in Montenegro and has, with its opposition to independence in Kosovo, perpetuated an already intractable problem for the same Western powers who have sought so hard to "liberate" the province, and internationalized it with its threats to replicate independence with similar secessionist movements in areas of strategic importance to Western energy security, especially the Caucasus – as well as in Europe itself, as The Guardian recently noted. At the same time, Moscow has expanded its influence through energy projects – its chief concern – which can also buy political influence, for example in Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Turkey and Greece.

    Apparently, the end of the Cold War did not result, as some prominent thinkers imagined, in the one-way ascension of the West and its values. The forcible breakup of Yugoslavia made sure of that. The "end of history" would be deferred for a long time to come. But there was too much giddiness in the reunified Germany (+ Austria), eager to make a return to its old imperialist position on the Continent, to see it; thus their irresponsible recognition of an independent Slovenia and Croatia and the arming, ironically, of Bosnian radical Muslims and the Croat neo-Nazi Ustashe movement, responsible for the biggest ethnic cleansing campaigns perpetrated in Europe since the German Nazis in World War II. Now, the final chapter of the sad tale of Yugoslavia is being written in Kosovo, a narrative which shows the utter impotence of the West and its inability to solve complicated strategic problems in its own backyard. Russia (not to mention China) can just sit back and laugh.

    Indeed, behind his trademark icy demeanor, it was hard to miss the glee in President Putin's recent comments about the "grave consequences" of Kosovo independence for the current international order:

    "There is a huge temptation, like it was after the World War II – three or four people with pencils in their hands were dividing Europe and the entire world. Now [the] winners in the Cold War, sensing their innocence and strength, want to redistribute everything on their own. There is a huge temptation. It is very hard to predict the consequences."

    Putin's message: if you want chaos, we'll give you chaos. But the West in the Balkans is now past the point of no return; in Kosovo, for various reasons neither the status quo (protectorate) nor the other two options (Serbian control, independence) are viable. It is a black hole run by the mafia, a place with no economic future, and with a small but growing Islamic fundamentalist movement that was allowed to take root because UN occupiers were not vigilant about keeping Arab financiers out. If it is independent, Kosovo will have to start paying for a whole lot of things (such as international debts) for which Serbia is currently paying, and its citizens will no longer be able to claim the Serbian passports which currently allow them a modicum of international travel. In short, an independent Kosovo would become even more of a walled ghetto than it already is today.

    However, in the 1990's ambitious Western interventionists were unable to, or else chose not to see that such things would inevitably result from any forcible change of the regime. They did not consult the history books, which would have confirmed certain chronic social and economic patterns that simply cannot be changed by wishful thinking and humanitarian zeal. They made Serbia's administrative problem their own – ironically, a major relief for Belgrade which is being exploited by Moscow to the detriment of the Western do-gooders. If Kosovo does gain some sort of autonomy or independence, you can bet that Russia will exact some major concessions in the process. The irony is that before NATO's bombing in 1999 Moscow had no leverage, whereas now it does, and simply by doing nothing but opposing Western plans.

    In Serbia, used as the main scapegoat for why Kosovo is not still independent, the West has meanwhile played into Russian hands with its intransigent position on Kosovo and with its incessant demands for Belgrade to send alleged war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic to the Hague – even though they are, more likely than not, hiding out in Montenegrin or Bosnian territory. Constantly demanding that Serbia do the impossible has of course bolstered the right-wing Radical party, which advocates closer ties with Russia and China and which won over a quarter of the vote in the recent elections. Western fears of a conservative and retrospective political movement blocking "Euro-Atlantic accession" thus become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

    To return finally to the deceptive commentary of Sen. Biden in the Financial Times, we can conclude with his strange assertion that an independent Kosovo is justified because Balkan residents are "mentally prepared" for it, and that Serbian politicians should accordingly recognize that. "Historically, trouble in the Balkans is almost always the result of false expectations," opines the senator and presidential candidate.

    Indeed. Everyone has expectations; it is left to history to sort out whose were false and whose came true. Will it prove that the Kosovo Albanians had false expectations of getting an independent state out of NATO's bombing in 1999? Indeed, it is the need to preclude such a dawning realization that is pushing the ICG's advocacy and the interventionist rhetoric demanding independence for Kosovo. In short, it is of the essence that, when the dust clears, history has proved the "false expectations" to have been on the Serbian rather than the Albanian side. Otherwise there will be hell to pay – and especially for the Western administration in Kosovo, which is directly in the line of fire from disgruntled paramilitaries.

    In actuality, however, the real "historical" source of trouble in the Balkans has always been foreign intervention and intrigue. For at least the past two centuries, there has not been a period of even fifty years without a war, uprising or state persecution of one kind or another. In every case, foreign hands, sometimes hidden, always bloody, are to be found behind it. The sad truth is that the people of the Balkans have never been left alone to sort out their own affairs. And with the continued struggle of the Western Great Powers and Russia for dominance in the region, just as happened a century ago, it is clear that they won't get the chance to do so any time soon.

    UK government asks employees to work for free

    4.30pm update

    Campaigners condemn plea for nurses to work unpaid

    Staff and agencies
    Friday January 26, 2007
    Guardian Unlimited

    Health campaigners today condemned an NHS trust for asking its staff to resign, work for no pay or take unpaid leave in order to reduce its multimillion-pound deficit.

    Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, which reported a £16.7m deficit last year, has sent staff a letter asking them to work unpaid for a day, take six months unpaid leave, take voluntary redundancy or defer taking five days of their holiday until next year to help balance its books.

    The trust says "just one extra day of work without additional pay as a voluntary contribution" would help to avoid "significant job losses". The trust is predicted to be £5m at the end of the financial year in March.

    The move has further angered health campaigners because it would also enable the trust to sign a deal under the controversial private finance initiative (PFI).

    Under the initiative, private firms raise the money to design and build a hospital, which NHS trusts must then pay back with interest over 20 to 30 years. The Conservatives say the eventual repayments for the existing 83 PFI hospital building projects - worth £8bn - would total £53bn.

    A spokeswoman for the UK's largest public sector union, Unison, said the trust's request was "disgraceful".

    She said: "It is unbelievable to expect nurses and other low-paid health professionals to work for nothing. Why should they be penalised for providing a good service when the deficits are the fault of mismanagement?

    "It's particularly galling when the trust wants to finance a PFI deal that will end up costing taxpayers more money." The leaked memo, issued to all staff by the director of human resources Terry Coode, said the trust was "facing a very significant challenge this year".

    It added: "To be unsuccessful in our target will have serious consequences for the trust that will affect us all. It will jeopardise our investment and development plans, including our ability to build the PFI."

    The letter sets out how job losses can be avoided, including "inviting enquiries about the possibility of voluntary redundancy". It also offers staff the chance to take a six-month unpaid break "to pursue a personal ambition or just to take a well-earned break".

    Staff would be able to return to their original jobs or one in a similar position, it added. The letter also encouraged staff to carry forward five days' holiday to the next year to "help avoid additional costs this year".

    It said: "We are also asking staff to contribute just one extra day without additional pay as a voluntary contribution to year-end.

    "This would further help displace some bank and agency (costs) and increase our opportunity to have additional income."

    Geoff Martin, head of campaigns at the group Health Emergency, said: "This slaps the nut on the government's health care policy.

    "Nurses and other members of the healthcare team are called on to work for nothing so that speculators and banks can cream off another fat profit from an NHS PFI scheme.

    "This is Robin Hood in reverse, robbing the poor to fill the pockets of the rich. And it's happening right under the noses of a Labour government who are ripping the heart out of the NHS."

    Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust said staff were being asked to work a day unpaid on an entirely voluntary basis.

    In a statement, it said: "Our staff have suggested this idea to help reduce agency use as part of plans to stay within our budgets. This informal request was extended to all staff, and we've had doctors offering to work extra hours for free. This is not about saving our PFI, but getting our finances right."