Saturday, February 3, 2007

No Light at Tunnel's End

The Iraq situation is worse than a civil war.

Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON, Feb 2 (IPS) - A long-awaited study by the U.S. intelligence community released here Friday concludes there is little, if any, light at the end of tunnel in Iraq.

The report, which comes on the eve of an unprecedented Senate debate on President George W. Bush's plan to add at least 21,500 more troops to the 140,000 U.S. forces already in Iraq, described the current conflict there as a "civil war" that could very easily lead to the country's de facto partition.

Moreover, even if the additional U.S. troops succeed in reducing the violence over the next year to 18 months, progress toward reaching a political settlement is doubtful given attitudes among the various Iraqi communities and their leaders, according to the report's "Key Judgments", the only part of the report that was released publicly.

"(E)ven if violence is diminished, given the current winner-take-all attitude and sectarian animosities infecting the political scene, Iraqi leaders will be hard pressed to achieve sustained reconciliation in the time frame of this Estimate," according to the report, called a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)."

The NIE, which has been six months in preparation and represents the consensus views of the vast U.S. intelligence community, also stressed the violence in Iraq is internally generated and sustained, refuting recent suggestions by the senior Bush administration officials that Iran is playing a major role in support of Shi'a militias.

"Iran's neighbors influence, and are influenced by, events within Iraq, but the involvement of these outside actors is not likely to be a major driver of violence or the prospects for stability because of the self-sustaining character of Iraq's internal sectarian dynamics," it said, adding that Iranian "lethal support" for some Shi'a groups "clearly intensifies the conflict and that Syria has taken "less than adequate measures to stop the flow of foreign jihadists into Iraq".

Bush's national security adviser Steven Hadley, embraced the NIE's key judgments, insisting as well that the intelligence on which it was based had been fully considered by the president in devising his new strategy, including the increase in U.S. combat strength in Iraq, that he announced Jan 10.

"We think it is accurate," he said about the report's grim analysis, even as he demurred over the characterisation of the conflict as a "civil war. "(T)he intelligence assessment that is reflected in this NIE is not at war with the new approach... the president has developed, but I would say explains why the president concluded that a new strategy was required," he told reporters.

But critics said deep pessimism reflected in the report raised new questions about whether Bush's the addition of more troops would make much difference.

"(R)ather than convincing me that (Bush's new strategy) is the right approach, the NIE makes it more clear than ever that the president's plan has little chance of success," said Rep. Ike Skelton, chairman of the powerful House Armed Services Committee, who has called for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops over the next year.

Indeed, at this point, it is difficult to predict how the NIE will affect the growing debate -- and dissent -- in Congress, including among Republicans, over Bush's plan to send more troops.

The Senate will take up several non-binding resolutions early next week, including one, authored by the former Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, that is considered the most likely to gain a strong bipartisan majority. It explicitly disagrees with Bush's plan.

Another report, released late Thursday by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), has already weakened Bush's position by asserting that his plan, which the administration has repeatedly insisted will send only 21,500 troops, will likely result in many more -- as many as 48,000 -- going to Iraq when support units are counted.

In contrast to administration estimates that its planned troop 'surge" would cost under six billion dollars, the CBO placed the more likely figure at between 20 billion dollars and 27 billion dollars a year depending on how many support troops were involved. Washington is currently spending about eight billion dollars a month on Iraq operations.

Aside from its remarkably grim assessment of the current situation and how it is likely to evolve over the next 12 to 18 months, the new NIE's judgments offers some ammunition to the administration, notably its assertion that "Coalition capabilities... remain an essential stabilising element in Iraq and its prediction for what is likely to happen in the even of a "rapid withdrawal" of U.S. and other "coalition" forces during the same period.

"We judge that this almost certainly would lead to a significant increase in the scale and scope of sectarian conflict in Iraq, intensify Sunni resistance to the Iraqi Government, and have adverse consequences for national reconciliation," according to the report.

It warned that the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) would be "unlikely to survive as a non-sectarian national institutions" and the possibility that neighbouring countries "might intervene openly in the conflict." It also said "massive civilian casualties and forced population displacement would be probable" and that Al Qaeda in Iraq would try to establish bases in parts of the country.

While those predictions large echo those by Bush and other senior officials, however, the NIE did not define what it means by "rapid withdrawal". Most Congressional critics of Bush policy oppose an "immediate withdrawal", while the bipartisan Iraq Study Group that was co-chaired by former secretary of state James Baker and former Rep. Lee Hamilton called for withdrawing all U.S. combat troops -- about 70,000 currently -- by April 2008.

At the same time, the report noted several developments that "Could (in italics) help to reverse the negative trends driving Iraq's current trajectory," including "broader Sunni acceptance of the current political structure and federalism"; 'significant concessions by Shia and Kurds; and a "bottom-up approach" to achieving reconciliation among warring tribes and sects.

But the italicized "could" appeared to suggest considerable scepticism.

"These developmentsà are unlikely to emerge, and the authors probably knew that," according to Wayne White, an Iraq expert who served as deputy director of the State Department's Office of Middle East and South Asia Analysis until 2005. The Office is part of Bureau of Intelligence and Research, one of the 16 agencies that contributes to the NIE process. Whie said he considered the analysis in the Judgments to be "spot on."

A favourable outcome will depend on "stronger Iraqi leadership," the report stressed, noting at another point in the document: "The absence of unifying leaders among the Arab Sunni or Shia with the capacity to speak for or exert control over their confessional groups limits prospects for reconciliation."

If some developments could help stabilise the situation, however, there are others, "including sustained mass sectarian killings, assassination of major religious and political leaders, and a complete Sunni defection from the government" that have "the potential to convulse severely Iraq's security environment," according to the report.

In that event, one of three outcomes is likely: "chaos leading to (de facto) partition, a scenario that "would generate fierce violence for at least several years;" the "emergence of a Shia strongman; or an "anarchic fragmentation of power" that would present "the greatest potential for instability, mixing extreme ethno-sectarian violence with debilitating intra-group clashes."

As for the current situation, the NIE concluded that "the term 'civil war' accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict, including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, a sea change in the character of the violence, ethno-sectarian mobilization, and population displacements." At the same time, it said authors said the term "does not adequately capture the complexity" of the various dimensions of the violence.

"They not only accept the term 'civil war' as a description of what's going on, but the way they put it suggests they see it as even worse, because of the other forms of violent conflict that are being pursued in addition to civil war," said Juan Cole, a Middle East expert at the University of Michigan and president of the Middle East Studies Association. "This is a refutation of the administration's stance in spade."

He told IPS he was struck by the "extreme pessimism" of the report. "It doesn't appear to envisage an easy or foreseeable end to the conflict absent factors which it says explicitly are not there today."

Main Anti-war Group Plans Rally Against Israeli Policies

Daniel Treiman | Fri. Feb 02, 2007

The anti-war group behind the recent demonstration that brought tens of thousands to Washington to protest the Iraq War already has plans for another mass rally in the nation’s capital. This time, though, the target of the protesters’ ire will be Israel.

United for Peace and Justice, the convener of the January 27 march, is joining with the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation to co-sponsor a two-day “mobilization” in June, titled “The World Says No to Israeli Occupation.” The event will include a mass rally, a “teach-in” and lobbying. It will mark the 40th year since Israel’s capture of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in June 1967.

“The purpose of the event is to hopefully call greater attention both to the ongoing Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, but also to call attention to the role that the U.S. plays in supporting that, and specifically the financial role, of course,” said UFPJ’s national coordinator, Leslie Cagan.

The Jewish community has had an uneasy relationship with the anti-war movement. While polls show that solid majorities of American Jews now disapprove of the decision to go to war in Iraq, most major Jewish groups have been quiet on the issue. Many supporters of Israel have been concerned that the anti-war movement has become a vehicle for promoting the Palestinian cause to a larger audience.

Josh Ruebner, grass-roots advocacy coordinator for the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, called UFPJ’s co-sponsorship of the June 10-11 mobilization “very significant.”

“The scale of what both of our coalitions are attempting, I think, has never been attempted before on the issue of Palestinian human rights in this country,” he said.

But not all Iraq War critics are pleased by UFPJ’s activism on the Palestinian issue. Informed of the group’s plans for a rally criticizing Israel, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who appeared onstage at this weekend’s demonstration along with several other members of Congress, said he was “very upset.”

“I totally disagree with them on their view,” the New York Democrat said. “I obviously don’t think the major problem is the Israeli occupation, which would have ended long ago if it weren’t for the major problem, which is the refusal of Hamas and the Palestinian leadership generally to agree with the existence of Israel.”

Nadler said that most of those who participated in this past weekend’s rally showed up because they oppose the Iraq War, not because of UFPJ’s other political agendas.

“This group is a group with its own opinions, and they have one opinion that a lot of people share, and they’ve done a good job in mobilizing and getting out front,” he said, referring to UFPJ’s opposition to the Iraq War. “One can wish that someone else had done it, but nobody else did. They did the organizing, etc. Now they are going to try to exploit that for their other points. They will not have much success with that.”

UFPJ is a coalition of about 1,400 local and national groups. It has successfully organized demonstrations that have brought hundreds of thousands to the streets to protest the Iraq War. Formed in 2002, UFPJ was regarded within the nascent peace movement as an alternative to the then-dominant anti-war coalition, International Answer, which many believed was controlled by the Workers World Party, a fringe Marxist sect. Jewish groups, in particular, were alarmed by International Answer’s fervid anti-Israel rhetoric.

But UFPJ also has drawn accusations of extremism. National coordinator Cagan, a veteran left-wing activist, has been a particular lightning rod for critics, who have accused her of being sympathetic to Cuba’s communist regime and of equivocating about the Iraqi insurgency. In a 2003 interview with the Forward, Cagan, former director of the Cuba Information Project, called Fidel Castro “a very smart man who has worked very hard to help organize his country in a way that he thinks is valuable and positive.” Asked in the same interview about the then months-old Iraqi insurgency, she said that UFPJ “doesn’t have a position on that, and personally I’m neither condemning them nor applauding them.”

The June mobilization will not be UFPJ’s first foray into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. UFPJ has criticized Israeli actions repeatedly, adopting the slogan “Occupation: Wrong in Iraq, Wrong in Palestine.” In 2004, UFPJ coordinated a national day of protests against Israel’s West Bank security barrier.

“I believe that historically the issue of Israel-Palestine has been relegated to the sidelines or not discussed at all by the larger peace and justice movement in this country,” Ruebner said. “I think that that attitude and mind-set has changed a great deal over the past five years, and that UFPJ has played a role in bringing the issue of Palestine and Palestinian human rights and U.S. support for Israeli occupation into the mainstream of the discourse of the peace and justice movement.”

Cagan said that the June rally will likely be UFPJ’s largest action so far relating to Israel. She said, however, that it would not be an anti-Israel event but rather a protest against Israeli policies. She said that UFPJ supports Israel’s right to exist, although the coalition’s Palestine/Israel Just Peace Working Group has stated that it “will not endorse a particular solution [for peace], such as two states, one state, the Geneva Initiative, the road map, etc.,” since its member groups have differing views on this issue.

Belligerence is not the answer on Iran

By Jacob Weisberg

Published: January 31 2007 21:20 | Last updated: January 31 2007 21:20

In his book The Persian Puzzle, Kenneth Pollack aptly frames the issue of Iran as a “race between two clocks”. One clock counts down the time until Iran enriches enough uranium to build a nuclear weapon. The other ticks off the hours that a corrupt clerical regime has left. The problem is that the alarm on the first clock seems set to go off before the alarm on the second.

A sensible way to think about policy towards Iran might be to consider ways to reverse that precedence – to stretch out the nuclear timetable, while encouraging the demise of an Iranian government bent on proliferation. Estimates of the time needed for Iran to assemble a bomb range from three to eight years. (The Iraqi example counsels scepticism about such forecasts.) Predicting the durability of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad’s rule, or the Islamic republic as a whole, is even trickier. Depending on which demise one is talking about, it could be a matter of months or of generations. But the outer edge of the proliferation schedule suggests that there may be a considerable window for political change to occur first.


At the moment, the Bush administration’s policy seems taken straight from the self-sabotage strategy book – quite a thick volume when it comes to America’s relations with Iran. Were our goal to persuade the Iranian regime to hasten its nuclear race while binding it more closely to a weary and discontented populace, it is hard to see how we could be more effective.

Especially in the past month, American policy has been more about rattling sabres than carrots and sticks. In this week’s instalment, Vice-President Dick Cheney, who actually may be twisted enough to want a military confrontation, underscored that the aircraft carrier Stennis was being sent to the Persian Gulf as a “strong signal” of warning.

Such belligerence seems unlikely to produce the result we desire, for a variety of reasons. For one, our bluster is empty. The US lacks plausible military options for nuclear pre-emption, especially now that we are bogged down in Iraq. It is also proving difficult to get the rest of the world to go along with the kind of comprehensive sanctions that would truly bite. Meanwhile, US hostility is supplying Mr Ahmadi-Nejad with an external demon for his propaganda and helping him to cover over his domestic failures. This American push for futile sanctions follows the pattern extending from Cuba to Burma to pre-invasion Iraq, where economic isolation and external threat have fuelled not regime change but regime stabilisation.

What might an alternative strategy – one framed explicitly in terms of reversing the speed of the two clocks – look like? To begin with, it would emphasise America’s preference for diplomacy over brinkmanship. Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, would embrace the “time out” deal recently proposed by Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Under this proposal, Iran would suspend uranium enrichment while the US would hold off pushing punitive measures. The ultimate settlement would involve Iran’s abiding by the non-proliferation treaty and the dropping by the US not only of international sanctions but of bilateral ones as well.

Iran’s internal political dynamics are opaque, to say the least, but conciliation with the Great Satan would probably make it harder for Mr Ahmadi-Nejad to divert attention from the costs his people are paying for his mischief-making and his inability to reform the economy. But just as important as the effort in diplomacy would be a moral challenge focused on support for human rights, civil society and solidarity with the Iranian people, who are being bled for the sake of their president’s hegemonic designs.

We know well the effect this kind of stance can have. Jeane Kirkpatrick, who died in December, first became famous for an article she wrote arguing that former president Jimmy Carter’s emphasis on human rights helped bring down the shah and usher in the Iranian revolution. As ambassador to the United Nations during Ronald Reagan’s first term, Ms Kirkpatrick herself eloquently challenged the legitimacy of totalitarian regimes. After the fall of communism, opposition leaders throughout eastern Europe and the Soviet Union testified that western encouragement – including from the BBC and Radio Free Europe – had advanced their struggle for liberation.

Mr Bush pays lip service to such sentiments, often hailing the greatness of the Iranian people and endorsing their assumed desire for freedom. But, for the past three years, the president has failed to mention in public the name of Shirin Ebadi, Iran’s Nobel Prize-winning human rights lawyer. Ms Ebadi is the closest thing Iran has to an Andrei Sakharov, but she is also a critic of the US administration. Because of sanctions, it took a lawsuit against the Treasury department for her to publish her memoirs in the US. No one in the White House raised a finger on her behalf.

But perhaps it would be worse if they had. Mr Bush, who has managed to make democracy a dirty word in many parts of the world, may at this point retain only the ability to taint by association liberal heroes who fight tyranny.

The only encouraging news is that Mr Bush’s own clock, with just 103 weeks left to run, is ticking even faster than the other two.

The writer is editor of

US to support major Fatah troop boost

US to support up to 10000 extra Abbas troops
US to support troop boost

Feb 4, 2007 [Sunday]

The United States will expand assistance to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to include about 8,500 members of his national security forces and possibly 1,000 Fatah fighters based in Jordan, US documents show.

Providing non-lethal equipment and training to units of Abbas's National Security Forces, and possibly the Jordan-based Badr Brigade could increase Washington's role in the power struggle between Abbas's Fatah faction and the governing Hamas movement.

US assistance has largely been limited until now to around 4,000 members of Abbas's presidential guard. But documents obtained by Reuters on Sunday showed that the US government's US$86.4 million security assistance programme could cover at least 13,500 troops loyal to Abbas.

The National Security Forces (NSF) is the largest security force under Abbas's control and is viewed by many Palestinians to be the equivalent of an army, though it is poorly trained and equipped compared to the smaller presidential guard.

Under the US security programme, US$76.4 million will fund "projects to transform and strengthen elements of the Palestinian Authority's security structure, specifically the National Security Forces and Presidential Guard in an effort to improve public order and fight terror in the West Bank and Gaza," the documents said.

"These projects have been developed in coordination with the office of the PA president (Abbas), and the overall plan enjoys the support of the government of Israel," said the documents, marked "sensitive but unclassified".

Another US$10 million would fund security improvements at the Karni commercial crossing between Israel and Gaza.

Western officials involved in the programme said security service members who participate in the US-funded programme will undergo a vetting process to ensure they are qualified and have no ties to militant groups.

Hamas has denounced US security assistance as part of a coup against its government. Hamas gunmen on Friday attached a truck convey in Gaza that it said was meant to resupply Abbas's presidential guard, triggering a wave of fighting.

US officials say they will only provide training and non-lethal equipment to forces loyal to Abbas. Guns and ammunition are being supplied by key US allies Jordan and Egypt, with Israeli approval, Israeli officials say.

Under the US$86.4 million programme, US$35.5 million will be used to provide non-lethal equipment, including riot gear and communications equipment, to about 8,500 members of Abbas's National Security Forces.

Another US$15 million in US funds would provide at least one NSF unit, estimated to have 668 members, with an initial six months of training to counter "civil disorder", most likely at a facility in Jordan, the documents say.

The funds will be used "in support of NSF deployment throughout the West Bank and Gaza so that the NSF may establish a visible public presence, improve public order and help improve border security," the documents said.

The United States expected other donors to provide extra training, the documents said, but gave no further details.

Palestinian officials estimate that the National Security Forces have as many as 40,000 members. Western diplomats say the number of active members is closer to 20,000.

Badr brigade

The US$86.4 million also includes US$25.9 million to provide non-lethal equipment to Abbas's elite presidential guard, which is expected to grow to 4,700 members with US help near-term. Palestinian officials say the force could eventually top 10,000.

The documents said up to US$8 million of these funds may be used to provide equipment to the Badr Brigade, a Fatah-dominated force, "in the event of a deployment in Gaza". Badr would fall under the presidential guard's operational command.

The United States and Israel have backed a proposal by Abbas to let about 1,000 members of the Badr Brigade, into the Palestinian territories, though no date has been set.

Diplomats say Abbas's military build-up was meant to counter strides by Hamas in smuggling more powerful weapons into Gaza for its fast-growing "Executive Force" and armed wing.

Some analysts have warned that fighting between Hamas and Fatah could turn into a proxy war, with the United States supporting Abbas and Iran backing Hamas.

UN terror kills Haiti's children at night

A Call to Action: Join the International Day in Solidarity with the People of Haiti! Coordinated International Protests on February 7, 2007

Soros on U.S. war on Iraq: “We have to go through a certain de-Nazification process”

The United States is now recognizing the errors it had made in Iraq, he said, adding, “To what extent it recognizes the mistake will determine its future.” Mr. Soros said Turkey and Japan were still hurt by a reluctance to admit to dark parts of their history, and contrasted that reluctance to Germany’s rejection of its Nazi-era past.

“America needs to follow the policies it has introduced in Germany,” he said. “We have to go through a certain de-Nazification process.”


There's a lot of blogging going on regarding Soros' statements.

The neocons are crapping themselves over this.

Typical is:




by Martin Peretz
Post date: 02.02.07
Issue date: 02.12.07

George Soros lunched with some reporters on Saturday at Davos. He talked about spending $600 million on civil society projects during the 1990s, then trying to cut back to $300 million, and how this year it will be between $450 and $500 million. His new projects aim, in Floyd Norris's words, to promote a "common European foreign policy" (read: an anti-American foreign policy) and also to study the integration (or so he thinks) of Muslims in eleven European cities. He included among his dicta a little slight at Bill and Melinda Gates, who "have chosen public health, which is like apple pie." And then, after saying the United States was now recognizing the errors it made in Iraq, he added this comment, as reported by Norris in The New York Times' online "Davos Diary": "To what extent it recognizes the mistake will determine its future." Soros said Turkey and Japan were still hurt by a reluctance to admit to dark parts of their history and contrasted that reluctance to Germany's rejection of its Nazi-era past. "America needs to follow the policies it has introduced in Germany. We have to go through a certain deNazification process."

No, you are not seeing things. He said de-Nazification. He is not saying, in the traditional manner of liberal alarmists, that the United States is now where Weimar Germany was. He is saying that the United States is now where Germany after Weimar was. Even for Davos, this was stupid. Actually, worse than stupid. There is a historical analysis, a moral claim, in Soros's word. He believes that the United States is now a Nazi country. Why else would we have to go through a "certain de-Nazification process"? I defy anybody to interpret the remark differently. The analogy between Bush's America and Hitler's Germany is not fleshed out, and one is left wondering how far he would take it. Is Bush like Hitler? If it is "de-Nazification" that we need, then in some sense Bush must be like Hitler. Was the invasion of Iraq like the invasion of Poland? Perhaps. The more one lingers over Soros's word, the more one's eyes pop from one's head. In the old days, the Amerika view of America was propagated by angry kids on their painful way to adulthood; now, it is propagated by the Maecenas of the Democratic Party.

But nobody seems to have noticed. I did not see Soros's canard reported in other places, and on the Times' website on the day I saw it there were only four comments. Imagine the outcry if a Republican moneybags--say, Richard Mellon Scaife--had declared that Hillary Clinton is a communist or that Bill Clinton's America had been in need of a certain de-Stalinization process. But I hear no outcry from Soros's congregation. People who were repelled by Bush's rather plausible notion of the "axis of evil" seem untroubled by Soros's imputation of even worse evil to Bush. Because Bush really is a fascist, isn't he? And Cheney, too; and Donald Rumsfeld, and Antonin Scalia, and even Joe Lieberman, right? Or so I fear too many liberals now believe. There seems to be a renaissance among liberals of the view that there are no enemies to the left. I hear no Democrats expressing embarrassment, or revulsion, at Soros's comment. Whether this silence is owed to their agreement or to their greed, it is outrageous.

But if Soros lives in a Nazi state, what does that make him? I still recall Karl Jaspers's devastating point, in The Question of German Guilt in 1947, that every German shares in the guilt of Hitlerism. Such guilt was not, in Jaspers's mind, an abstraction or a purely political matter. But Soros does not appear to accept any responsibility for the Nazi-like crimes he ascribes to the United States. Perhaps he thinks that, having contributed $18 million to elect John Kerry in 2004, he was an American hero, a dissident, a resistance fighter, the Grill Room's representative of the White Rose. And if, in 2008, Soros's gang comes to power, how will de-Nazification work? Whom shall we send to prison? Perhaps we should prevent everybody who voted or argued for the war from running for office. At the very least, the neocons must be brought to justice. (Maybe Ramsey Clark can represent them.)

What makes Soros's remark even more twisted is that he himself experienced something of Nazism. He was 14 when the Nazis entered Budapest. On December 20, 1998, there appeared this exchange between Soros and Steve Kroft on "60 Minutes":

Kroft: "You're a Hungarian Jew ..."
Soros: "Mm-hmm."

Kroft: "... who escaped the Holocaust ..."

Soros: "Mm-hmm."

Kroft: "... by posing as a Christian."

Soros: "Right."

Kroft: "And you watched lots of people get shipped off to the death camps."
Soros: "Right. I was 14 years old. And I would say that that's when my character was made."

Kroft: "In what way?"

Soros: "That one should think ahead. One should understand that--and anticipate events and when, when one is threatened. It was a tremendous threat of evil. I mean, it was a-- a very personal threat of evil."

Kroft: "My understanding is that you went ... went out, in fact, and helped in the confiscation of property from the Jews."

Soros: "Yes, that's right. Yes."

Kroft: "I mean, that's--that sounds like an experience that would send lots of people to the psychiatric couch for many, many years. Was it difficult?"

Soros: "Not, not at all. Not at all. Maybe as a child you don't ... you don't see the connection. But it was--it created no--no problem at all."

Kroft: "No feeling of guilt?"

Soros: "No."

Kroft: "For example, that, 'I'm Jewish, and here I am, watching these people go. I could just as easily be these, I should be there.' None of that?"

Soros: "Well, of course, ... I could be on the other side or I could be the one from whom the thing is being taken away. But there was no sense that I shouldn't be there, because that was--well, actually, in a funny way, it's just like in the markets--that is I weren't there--of course, I wasn't doing it, but somebody else would--would--would be taking it away anyhow. And it was the--whether I was there or not, I was only a spectator, the property was being taken away. So the--I had no role in taking away that property. So I had no sense of guilt."

So this is the psychodrama that has been visited on American liberalism. We learn Soros never has nightmares. Had he been tried in a de-Nazification process for having been a young cog in the Hitlerite wheel, he would have felt that, since other people would have confiscated the same Jewish property and delivered the same deportation notices to the same doomed Jews, it was as if he hadn't done it himself. He sleeps well, while we sleep in Nazi America.

Soros is ostentatiously indifferent to his own Jewishness. He is not a believer. He has no Jewish communal ties. He certainly isn't a Zionist. He told Connie Bruck in The New Yorker--testily, she recounted--that "I don't deny the Jews their right to a national existence--but I don't want to be part of it." But he has involved himself in the founding of an anti-aipac, more dovish Israel lobby. Suddenly, he wants to influence the character of a Jewish state about which he loudly cares nothing. Once again, he bears no responsibility. Perhaps his sense of his own purity also underwrites his heartlessness in business. As a big currency player in the world markets, Soros was at least partially responsible for the decline in the British pound.

Forget my differences with Soros's Jewishness. Call it shul politics. But the characterization of the United States under Bush as Nazi is much bigger, and more grave, than shul politics. It casts a shadow over U.S. politics. In the same conversation at Davos, Soros announced that he is supporting Senator Barack Obama, though he would also support Senator Hillary Clinton. So my question to both of those progressives is this: How, without any explanation or apology from him, will you take this man's money?

Martin Peretz is editor-in-chief of The New Republic.

The neocons are still pissed Soros founded and financed HRW called their favorite terrorists a cult.

The cult feeds the neocrazies
allegations about Iran in Iraq just as Ahmad Chalabi used to with regard to the Baath regime in Iraq.

Changing the Subject: From Bush’s Mess in Mesopotamia to the Peril in Persia

Feb 3, 2007

By Tom Turnipseed

President Bush faces a rebellion among the American people and Congress against his call for a surge of troops that will escalate the killing in his Iraq war of choice. So Bush is now attempting to change the subject from the monumental mess of his making in Mesopotamia to an even more monstrous peril in Persia. Iraq and Iran are contemporary names for the ancient civilizations known as Mesopotamia and Persia. Bush lacks public and Congressional support to widen the war in Iraq. His oft-stated cause for war---that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction for imminent use against the U.S. and was complicit in the 9/11 attacks---has proven to be fabrication. Bush appears puppet-like under the influence of Vice-President Cheney and his cabal of neo-con warmongers, the principle architects of the imperialistic mis-adventure in Iraq. We are facing another fear driven, made-up run-up to an even more costly war against Iran to divert our attention from the debilitating debacle in Iraq that has taken such a terrible toll in lives, suffering and money, and to make more money for oil and war profiteers.

By February 1, 2007, Bush/Cheney’s Iraq War had killed 3088 U.S. military personnel, 130 Brits and 123 more coalition troops. 770 U.S. civilian contractors were also killed by January 28th. Bush/Cheney’s war of folly has killed about 655,000 Iraqis, according to a study led by Gilbert Burnham of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. By January 28, 2007, 23,114 U.S. military personnel had been wounded in action.

A study by Columbia University Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph E. Stiglitz, and Linda Bilmes says the total costs of the Iraq war could top $2 trillion, taking into account the long term healthcare costs for US soldiers injured in Iraq so far. "Even taking a conservative approach,” the study said, referring to total war costs, "We can state, with some degree of confidence, that they exceed a trillion dollars."

U.S. oil and war profiteers are making out like bandits. On January 7, 2007 the UK Guardian reported that Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR), a division of the energy and military giant Halliburton, had secured contracts in Iraq worth $13 billion including an uncontested $7 billion contract to rebuild Iraq's oil infrastructure. KBR has 30,000 employees in Iraq. Over 150 US companies have been given contracts in Iraq worth over $50 billion.

When oil and war profiteer-in-chief Dick Cheney was Defense Secretary, he commissioned a study for the U.S. Department of Defense by Brown and Root Services (now KBR). It recommended that private firms like Halliburton take over logistical support programs for U.S. military operations around the world. Just two years after he was Secretary of Defense, Cheney stepped through the revolving door linking the Department of Defense with defense contractors and became CEO of Halliburton. Halliburton was the principal beneficiary of Cheney’s privatization efforts for our military’s logistical support and Cheney was paid $44 million for five year's work with them before he slipped back through the revolving door of war profiteering to become Vice-President of the United States. Asked about the money he received from Halliburton, Cheney said. "I tell you that the government had absolutely nothing to do with it."

Before the Iraq War began, Halliburton was 19th on the U.S. Army's list of top contractors and zoomed to number 1 in 2003. In 2003, Halliburton made $4.2 billion from the U.S. government. Cheney stated he had “severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interest."

In 2005, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) said Cheney's stock options which were worth $241,498 the year before and were valued at more than $8 million in 2005-- an increase of 3,281%. Cheney receives a deferred salary from the company---$205,298 in 2001; $162,392 in 2002; $178,437 in 2003; and $194,852 in 2004.

Adding to the Bush Administration’s jeopardy is the on-going trial of Lewis “Scooter” Libby. The former chief of staff and confidante of Cheney faces perjury charges in federal court in D.C. Cheney will testify--- the first time a sitting vice president has testified under oath in a criminal proceeding. The case involves attempts by Cheney, Libby and the Bush Administration to discredit a former Ambassador to Niger, Joseph Wilson, by outing his wife, Valerie Plame, a CIA agent. Wilson challenged the Administration’s made-up charge that Saddam Hussein purchased weapons grade uranium from Niger in a New York Times op.ed. Testimony has focused attention on the central role played by Cheney in the administration’s efforts to suppress political opposition to the war in Iraq.

Cheney pulls the strings and Bush hypes war with Iran, where Halliburton secretly worked with one of Iran’s top nuclear program officials on natural gas related projects and sold the officials' oil development company key components for a nuclear reactor. On August 5, 2005, Jason Leopold a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal wrote that during Cheney’s tenure as CEO from 1995 to 2000, Halliburton Products and Services set up shop in Iran. The off-shore Halliburton subsidiary did approximately $40 million a year worth of oil field service work for the Iranian government.

As Exxon-Mobil reported the largest profits ever for a U.S. corporation in 2006 –$39 billion–or $4.5 million a minute, international scientists and climate experts on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued an urgent warning that there is a 90% certainty that the human activity of over-consumption of fossil fuel is causing global warming.

Let’s change the subject to oil and war profiteering and hold Bush/Cheney accountable.

Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and political activist in Columbia, South Carolina.

Testimony: Brzezinski Charges Bush Regime Plotting for War in Iran

SFRC(Senate Foreign Relaions Committee)

SFRC Testimony -- Zbigniew Brzezinski

February 1, 2007

Mr. Chairman: Your hearings come at a critical juncture in the U.S. war of choice in Iraq, and I commend you and Senator Lugar for scheduling them.

It is time for the White House to come to terms with two central realities:

1. The war in Iraq is a historic, strategic, and moral calamity. Undertaken under false assumptions, it is undermining America’s global legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties as well as some abuses are tarnishing America’s moral credentials. Driven by Manichean impulses and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability.

2. Only a political strategy that is historically relevant rather than reminiscent of colonial tutelage can provide the needed framework for a tolerable resolution of both the war in Iraq and the intensifying regional tensions.

If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large. A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a “defensive” U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

A mythical historical narrative to justify the case for such a protracted and potentially expanding war is already being articulated. Initially justified by false claims about WMD’s in Iraq, the war is now being redefined as the “decisive ideological struggle” of our time, reminiscent of the earlier collisions with Nazism and Stalinism. In that context, Islamist extremism and al Qaeda are presented as the equivalents of the threat posed by Nazi Germany and then Soviet Russia, and 9/11 as the equivalent of the Pearl Harbor attack which precipitated America’s involvement in World War II.

This simplistic and demagogic narrative overlooks the fact that Nazism was based on the military power of the industrially most advanced European state; and that Stalinism was able to mobilize not only the resources of the victorious and militarily powerful Soviet Union but also had worldwide appeal through its Marxist doctrine. In contrast, most Muslims are not embracing Islamic fundamentalism; al Qaeda is an isolated fundamentalist Islamist aberration; most Iraqis are engaged in strife because the American occupation of Iraq destroyed the Iraqi state; while Iran—though gaining in regional influence—is itself politically divided, economically and militarily weak. To argue that America is already at war in the region with a wider Islamic threat, of which Iran is the epicenter, is to promote a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Deplorably, the Administration’s foreign policy in the Middle East region has lately relied almost entirely on such sloganeering. Vague and inflammatory talk about “a new strategic context” which is based on “clarity” and which prompts “the birth pangs of a new Middle East” is breeding intensifying anti-Americanism and is increasing the danger of a long-term collision between the United States and the Islamic world. Those in charge of U.S. diplomacy have also adopted a posture of moralistic self-ostracism toward Iran strongly reminiscent of John Foster Dulles’s attitude of the early 1950’s toward Chinese Communist leaders (resulting among other things in the well-known episode of the refused handshake). It took some two decades and a half before another Republican president was finally able to undo that legacy.

One should note here also that practically no country in the world shares the Manichean delusions that the Administration so passionately articulates. The result is growing political isolation of, and pervasive popular antagonism toward the U.S. global posture.

It is obvious by now that the American national interest calls for a significant change of direction. There is in fact a dominant consensus in favor of a change: American public opinion now holds that the war was a mistake; that it should not be escalated, that a regional political process should be explored; and that an Israeli-Palestinian accommodation is an essential element of the needed policy alteration and should be actively pursued. It is noteworthy that profound reservations regarding the Administration’s policy have been voiced by a number of leading Republicans. One need only invoke here the expressed views of the much admired President Gerald Ford, former Secretary of State James Baker, former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and several leading Republican senators, John Warner, Chuck Hagel, and Gordon Smith among others.

The urgent need today is for a strategy that seeks to create a political framework for a resolution of the problems posed both by the US occupation of Iraq and by the ensuing civil and sectarian conflict. Ending the occupation and shaping a regional security dialogue should be the mutually reinforcing goals of such a strategy, but both goals will take time and require a genuinely serious U.S. commitment.

The quest for a political solution for the growing chaos in Iraq should involve four steps:

1. The United States should reaffirm explicitly and unambiguously its determination to leave Iraq in a reasonably short period of time.

Ambiguity regarding the duration of the occupation in fact encourages unwillingness to compromise and intensifies the on-going civil strife. Moreover, such a public declaration is needed to allay fears in the Middle East of a new and enduring American imperial hegemony. Right or wrong, many view the establishment of such a hegemony as the primary reason for the American intervention in a region only recently free of colonial domination. That perception should be discredited from the highest U.S. level. Perhaps the U.S. Congress could do so by a joint resolution.

2. The United States should announce that it is undertaking talks with the Iraqi leaders to jointly set with them a date by which U.S. military disengagement should be completed, and the resulting setting of such a date should be announced as a joint decision. In the meantime, the U.S. should avoid military escalation.

It is necessary to engage all Iraqi leaders—including those who do not reside within “the Green Zone”—in a serious discussion regarding the proposed and jointly defined date for U.S. military disengagement because the very dialogue itself will help identify the authentic Iraqi leaders with the self-confidence and capacity to stand on their own legs without U.S. military protection. Only Iraqi leaders who can exercise real power beyond “the Green Zone” can eventually reach a genuine Iraqi accommodation. The painful reality is that much of the current Iraqi regime, characterized by the Bush administration as “representative of the Iraqi people,” defines itself largely by its physical location: the 4 sq. miles-large U.S. fortress within Baghdad, protected by a wall in places 15 feet thick, manned by heavily armed U.S. military, popularly known as “the Green Zone.”

3. The United States should issue jointly with appropriate Iraqi leaders, or perhaps let the Iraqi leaders issue, an invitation to all neighbors of Iraq (and perhaps some other Muslim countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, and Pakistan) to engage in a dialogue regarding how best to enhance stability in Iraq in conjunction with U.S. military disengagement and to participate eventually in a conference regarding regional stability.

The United States and the Iraqi leadership need to engage Iraq’s neighbors in serious discussion regarding the region’s security problems, but such discussions cannot be undertaken while the U.S. is perceived as an occupier for an indefinite duration. Iran and Syria have no reason to help the United States consolidate a permanent regional hegemony. It is ironic, however, that both Iran and Syria have lately called for a regional dialogue, exploiting thereby the self-defeating character of the largely passive – and mainly sloganeering – U.S. diplomacy.

A serious regional dialogue, promoted directly or indirectly by the U.S., could be buttressed at some point by a wider circle of consultations involving other powers with a stake in the region’s stability, such as the EU, China, Japan, India, and Russia. Members of this Committee might consider exploring informally with the states mentioned their potential interest in such a wider dialogue.

4. Concurrently, the United States should activate a credible and energetic effort to finally reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace, making it clear in the process as to what the basic parameters of such a final accommodation ought to involve.
The United States needs to convince the region that the U.S. is committed both to Israel’s enduring security and to fairness for the Palestinians who have waited for more than forty years now for their own separate state. Only an external and activist intervention can promote the long-delayed settlement for the record shows that the Israelis and the Palestinians will never do so on their own. Without such a settlement, both nationalist and fundamentalist passions in the region will in the longer run doom any Arab regime which is perceived as supportive of U.S. regional hegemony.

After World War II, the United States prevailed in the defense of democracy in Europe because it successfully pursued a long-term political strategy of uniting its friends and dividing its enemies, of soberly deterring aggression without initiating hostilities, all the while also exploring the possibility of negotiated arrangements. Today, America’s global leadership is being tested in the Middle East. A similarly wise strategy of genuinely constructive political engagement is now urgently needed.

It is also time for the Congress to assert itself.


An Apple too far from the Tree


"And they complain about a boycott?"
Wednesday, January 31, 2007

An Apple too far from the Tree for Ben Gurion University?

WAS Professor Arens too far from tree, or is BGU too close to Israeli government; and NATO?

More on our item concerning Yigal Arens, the Israeli-born professor to whom organisers of a conference at the Ben Gurion University decided to rescind an invitation, in case his presence embarassed government officials attending.
("And they complain about a boycott", Saturday January 27

This is from the leading Israeli daily, Ha'Aretz:

Ha'aretz, Mon., January 29
Arens and the tree

By Akiva Eldar

Professor Yigal Arens fell very far from the tree. The son of a former defense minister and head of the Likud, he went so far to the left that a respected university in Israel cancelled his participation in a scientific conference. Dr. Bracha Shapira of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, one of the organizers of the conference, has stated that the organizers have chosen to remain silent.

Arens, who immigrated many years ago to California, heads two centers that deal with information systems on matters of intelligence, the war against terror and digital government. At the beginning of January a colleague, an American professor, invited him to participate in a working group that will convene this coming summer at Ben-Gurion University. The conference, which is funded by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), will deal with the role played by the Internet in terror and its prevention.

The colleague said that the organizers, and among them Shapira, would be very glad if Arens accepted the invitation.Five days later, before Arens replied to the invitation, his American colleague informed him that he should forget the whole thing. He related that the Israeli organizers had told him that government personnel who had been invited to the meeting would not feel comfortable in his presence. Arens sent an e-mail to Shapira and asked that she explain the withdrawal of the invitation. She replied that his American colleague had "exceeded his authority in extending the invitation without full consultation with the conference organizers."

According to Arens, the organizers had been aware initially of his political background.(*) They learned about it from his American colleague who wanted to make certain, at Arens' request, that they would spare him any unpleasantness, which according to him had been his lot at previous conferences in Israel.

The organizers of a conference at an academic institution that benefits from public monies do not believe it is the public's right to know whether there is anything of substance in the grave suspicion that a scientists' political opinions disqualify him from entering their gates. Arens, in fact, concealed nothing. For many years he has supported two states for two peoples, but today he fears "that a two-state solution is no longer practically possible."

Arens believes that Israel should be a state for all its citizens, supports the right of return for Palestinian refugees and is opposed to any form of discrimination among citizens on the basis of their ethnic or religious background.

© Copyright 2007 Haaretz. All rights reserved§§§§§§§§§§

Yigal Arens comments on the differences between this report and the Hebrew original

The Hebrew version unnecessarily embellishes my resume a bit. That wasn't included in the English translation. I haven't written any books on the subject, although I participated in writing a study on a related topic (the use of IT in disaster management), and have co-authored a workshop report on responding to "unexpected events". There are other mostly minor differences between the English and Hebrew versions, the most significant being that the English one says I believe the organizers *were* originally aware of my politics, while the Hebrew one correctly states that I believe they were *not*.


U.K. Channel 4 Video

Events in Bil'in

Bimkom is the social justice group mentioned in the report.

Still No Habeas Rights for You

Despite assurances from the major U.S. news media that American citizens retain their habeas corpus rights to a fair trial – even if non-citizens don’t – Justice Department lawyers have reasserted their claim that George W. Bush has the power to lock up anyone he chooses as an “enemy combatant” and effectively throw away the key.

“A citizen, no less than an alien, can be an enemy combatant,” administration lawyer David B. Salmons told a federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, on Feb. 1, adding that on such issues, the courts cannot interfere with the President’s wartime judgments.

Salmons did pledge that the Executive Branch will use care in deciding who is designated an “enemy combatant.” In response to one judge’s question about the President applying the tag to an activist from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Salmons joked, “the representative of PETA can sleep well at night.”

Nevertheless, Salmons argued that the judgment on who is deemed an “enemy combatant” is solely the discretion of President Bush. [NYT, Feb. 2, 2007]

Salmons presented his arguments in the case of Ali al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar who was arrested in Peoria, Illinois, in 2001 while studying on a student visa. The administration asserted that Marri was an al-Qaeda “sleeper cell” agent, declared him an “enemy combatant” and locked him up at a Navy brig in South Carolina.

Marri has challenged his indefinite detention through a federal court suit. However, Bush’s lawyers are citing the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which was passed in the final weeks of the Republican-controlled Congress and denies “unlawful enemy combatants” access to civilian courts.

After Bush signed the law on Oct. 17, 2006, the New York Times criticized the law’s denial of fundamental rights to non-citizens but assured U.S. citizens that the draconian system did not affect them.

“This law does not apply to American citizens,” the Times editorial stated, “but it does apply to other legal United States residents. And it chips away at the foundations of the judicial system in ways that all Americans should find threatening.” [NYT, Oct. 19, 2006]

Yet, while the Times is correct that the law explicitly denies habeas corpus and other rights to non-citizens, other sections of the law seem to apply to U.S. citizens as well, putting citizens inside the same tribunal system with resident aliens and foreigners.

Any person is punishable as a principal under this chapter who commits an offense punishable by this chapter, or aids, abets, counsels, commands, or procures its commission,” according to the law.

Another clause states that “Any person subject to this chapter who, in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States, knowingly and intentionally aids an enemy of the United States ... shall be punished as a military commission may direct.”

Who has “an allegiance or duty to the United States” if not an American citizen? That provision would not presumably apply to Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda, nor would it apply generally to foreign citizens. This section of the law appears to be singling out American citizens.


Besides allowing for “any person” to go into Bush’s tribunal system, the law prohibits detainees once inside the system from appealing to the traditional American courts until a defendant is fully prosecuted and sentenced, which could translate into an indefinite imprisonment since there are no timetables for Bush’s tribunal process to play out.

The law states that once a person is detained, “no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any claim or cause of action whatsoever … relating to the prosecution, trial, or judgment of a military commission under this chapter, including challenges to the lawfulness of procedures of military commissions.”

That court-stripping provision – barring “any claim or cause of action whatsoever” – would seem to deny American citizens habeas corpus rights just as it does for non-citizens. If a person can’t file a motion with a court, he can’t assert any constitutional rights, including habeas corpus.

Other constitutional protections in the Bill of Rights – such as a speedy trial, the right to reasonable bail and the ban on “cruel and unusual punishment” – would seem to be beyond an American detainee’s reach as well.

Though the New York Times believes the new law “chips away at the foundations of the judicial system,” the law actually seems to obliterate the old judicial system, especially if Bush were to apply the designation “enemy combatant” to large numbers of Americans.

Attorney Salmons contended that Bush is not interested in taking such a step at this point. But what might Bush do if, for instance, he expands the war in the Middle East and his actions are met with widespread civil disturbances? Could American citizens challenging the President’s war policies be deemed “enemy combatants” and detained?

Under the Bush administration’s theories – and the language of the Military Commissions Act – U.S. citizens presumably could be locked up along with non-citizens due to the catch-all provisions about aiding “an enemy of the United States.”

At the Marri hearing, Bush's lawyers appear to have been caught a bit off guard by the aggressive questioning from two of the three judges on the appeals court panel.

The two judges who asked probing questions – Roger L. Gregory and Diana Gribbon Motz – were appointed by President Bill Clinton. The third judge, Henry Hudson, was named to the bench by President George W. Bush.

In the random selection of the judges, Bush might have encountered some bad luck because the Richmond appeals court is heavily dominated by Republican appointees and tends to churn out opinions favorable to Bush’s positions.
However, even if a majority of the three-judge panel rules against Bush, the Justice Department could ask the full appeals court to reverse the ruling.

No ‘Unalienable Rights’

The department’s arguments in the Marri case are the latest evidence of the Bush administration’s disdain for the concept of “unalienable rights” as enunciated by the Founders in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

As explained by administration’s lawyers, Bush’s view is that for the duration of the “war on terror,” the Commander in Chief can exercise his “plenary” – or unlimited – powers. That means in effect that he can waive laws that he dislikes and ignore constitutional rights that get in his way.

Also, since the “war on terror” will go on indefinitely and since the “battlefield” is everywhere, Bush is asserting the President’s right to do whatever he wants to whomever he wants wherever the person might be, virtually forever.

The administration’s contempt for habeas corpus and other fundamental rights was reflected again in a strange colloquy between Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Sen. Arlen Specter during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Jan. 18.

Gonzales argued that the Constitution doesn’t explicitly bestow habeas corpus rights; that it merely says when the so-called Great Writ can be suspended.

“There is no expressed grant of habeas in the Constitution; there’s a prohibition against taking it away,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales’s remark left Specter, the committee’s ranking Republican, stammering.

“Wait a minute,” Specter interjected. “The Constitution says you can’t take it away except in case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn’t that mean you have the right of habeas corpus unless there’s a rebellion or invasion?”

Gonzales continued, “The Constitution doesn’t say every individual in the United States or citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn’t say that. It simply says the right shall not be suspended” except in cases of rebellion or invasion.

“You may be treading on your interdiction of violating common sense,” Specter said.

While Gonzales’s statement has a measure of quibbling precision to it, his logic is troubling because it suggests that many fundamental rights that Americans hold dear don’t exist because the Constitution often spells out rights in the negative by barring the government from intruding on them.

For instance, the First Amendment declares that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Applying Gonzales’s reasoning, one could argue that the First Amendment doesn’t explicitly say Americans have the right to worship as they choose, speak as they wish or assemble peacefully. The amendment simply bars the government, i.e. Congress, from passing laws that impinge on these rights.

Similarly, Article I, Section 9, of the Constitution states that “the privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

The clear meaning of the clause, as interpreted for more than two centuries, is that the Founders recognized the long-established English law principle of habeas corpus, which guarantees people the right of due process, such as formal charges and a fair trial.

That Attorney General Gonzales would express such an extraordinary opinion, doubting the constitutional protection of habeas corpus, suggests either a sophomoric mind or an unwillingness to respect this well-established right, one that the Founders considered so important that they embedded it in the text of the Constitution.

Gonzales also may be wrong in another way about the lack of specificity in the Constitution’s granting of habeas corpus rights. Many of the legal features attributed to habeas corpus are delineated in a positive way in the Sixth Amendment, which reads:

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed … and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; [and] to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses.”

Gonzales’s Jan. 18 statement suggested that he is still searching for arguments to make habeas corpus optional, subordinate to the President’s executive powers that Bush’s neoconservative legal advisers claim are virtually unlimited during “a time of war.”

The Justice Department’s arguments in the Marri case underscore that Bush still sees himself as a modern-day version of the absolute monarch who gets to decide which rights and freedoms his subjects can enjoy and which ones will be denied.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

Proposed ban on lawmakers’ lobbyist-funded trips has exceptions

February 01, 2007

The House and Senate have each approved measures to ban lobbyist-funded travel for lawmakers and their staffs. But the new restrictions would still allow privately financed travel in some scenarios.

The travel rules, along with bans on lobbyist-bought gifts, new disclosure requirements for earmarks and other measures, form sweeping ethics reform packages intended to reduce lobbyists’ ability to use money to influence Congress.

But some organizations hoping to sway lawmakers still would be able pay for congressional travel under the two measures.

Nonprofit organizations that do not pay lobbyists yet still advocate for policies would not be banned from funding travel for lawmakers and their staffs.

And both the House and Senate measures would still permit travel funded by nonprofits affiliated with lobbying organizations. That means that groups such as the American Israel Education Foundation, an offshoot of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), can continue paying for lawmakers’ trips to Israel. AIPAC, along with other groups, has long paid for legislators to travel to Israel on educational trips intended to increase support for Israeli policies.
Universities may not be affected

The House-approved measure also would exempt private universities, some of which employ lobbyists, from restrictions on paying for congressional travel. And groups that pay lobbyists would still be able to fund one-day trips for House members to visit a site, give a speech, attend a forum or sit on a panel.

Jim Clarke, senior vice president for public policy at the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), which represents trade societies and philanthropic organizations, said the group is pleased that its members can still support some educational trips. ASAE has argued that a ban on outside-funded travel would outlaw legitimate fact-finding trips.

Many aspects of the travel restrictions are not final. Under both reform packages, the ethics committees in each chamber must pre-approve travel funded by outside groups. Those committees are still working out details of that process.

The House Ethics Committee has not finished guidelines governing issues such as how close the connection between the trip and official duties must be and what constitutes an unreasonable expenditure on a privately funded trip.

House rules take effect March 1

The House package, because it is a rules change rather than legislation, will automatically take effect March 1. The Senate bill, by contrast, needs House passage of companion legislation and the president’s signature to become law. House Democrats are expected to introduce a bill containing new ethics rules in coming months.

The House and Senate could either reconcile their ethics reforms or operate under distinct rules.

Why are so few oxen independent?

"Original thought was always in danger of being suffocated by the collective, and his sense of the dangers of group thinking and the behavior of men en masse echoed Tocqueville's earlier doubts about democracy."

Editor's Note: Think while it's still legal.

Murray Waas: Libby trial, weekend edition

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Libby trial, weekend edition:

Patrick Fitzgerald, that most secretive and discrete of federal prosecutors, did something very un-Patrick Fitzgerald-esque late last week, that went largely unnoticed except by an AP reporter and the Huffington Post:

Fitzgerald sought permission from the federal judge hearing the Libby case, Reggie Walton, to release audio tapes of Libby's grand jury testimony to the media: to be broadcast, posted on the Internet, YouTube, or wherever else. That would surely change the dynamic of public attention to the case. CNN, MSNBC, and Fox would probably endlessly play portions of the tapes, and the public would be able to hear Libby's testimony first-hand.

Small portions of Libby being questioned before the grand jury by prosecutors have already been played inside the courtroom for jurors, the press, and public. And having heard them-- in the courtroom setting-- I would say that they are fairly dramatic. (Here is perhaps the most detailed report to date about what went on inside the grand jury room.)

Libby's attorneys have for the obvious reasons opposed this idea, and Judge Walton will probably rule on their motion probably sometime Monday morning.

I don't like to predict, even while blogging, but most legal experts doub that the grand jury tapes will be made public, and Walton's comments from the bench indicated that he has not been exactly enthralled with the idea of the tapes being played 24/7 on the cable networks and Internet. But Walton is an unpredictable jurist, and a careful stickler to case law, so perhaps it is best to just await his decision to find out what it might be.

In the meantime, below is the entire text of the Associated Press story about all of this:

WASHINGTON -- Former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is fighting to keep his grand jury testimony about the leak of a CIA operative's name from being released and broadcast in the media.

Libby's grand jury testimony _ the sworn statements he gave to investigators about his conversations with Vice President Dick Cheney and journalists _ is at the heart of his perjury trial. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald plans to play hours of recordings of that testimony in court next week to bolster his case that Libby lied and obstructed the investigation.

Trial evidence is normally public and all exhibits in Libby's case have been made public so far. Even though Fitzgerald successfully fought to get Libby's full grand jury testimony admitted into evidence, Libby's attorneys say the audiotapes should not be released outside the courtroom.

Libby defense attorney William Jeffress, who successfully argued a Supreme Court case that kept the Watergate tapes from being released, said in court Thursday that grand jury tapes are never meant to be made public.

He said he knew of no case when such recordings have been released.

In the tapes, Libby discusses conversations he had regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame, the wife of a prominent Iraq war critic. Plame's identity was leaked to reporters in 2003.

Nobody was charged with the leak. Fitzgerald said Libby learned Plame's identity from Cheney and discussed it with journalists. Libby says he forgot about his conversation with Cheney and, when he heard about Plame from a reporter weeks later, it struck him as new information.

Fitzgerald says Libby concocted that story to protect himself from prosecution because repeating rumors from reporters is less serious than repeating sensitive information from Cheney.

If the tapes are released, they could be broadcast on television news programs, radio stations and the Internet. U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said he worried that would sensationalize an already public trial.

Attorneys for The Associated Press and a dozen other news organizations said they would challenge any effort to seal the tapes. Court papers were to be filed Friday afternoon. Walton said he would consider the matter over the weekend.

Libby's Approximate Date

February 03, 2007

by emptywheel

Us_v_libby_gx104_plame_cp As astute readers have noted, there is a key detail from the note Libby wrote in June 2003 recording the information Cheney had just passed along, that Plame worked in the Counter-Proliferation Department of the CIA.

The day recorded in the date was changed. And it has a squiggly line indicating an approximation.

This suggests the possibility that Libby changed the date to make it less incriminating. And that he added the squiggly line to further obscure the date. Which of course leads me to suspect that the date might have real significance.

Now, before I lay out four scenarios explaining the sensitivity of the date, let me just say--it gets worse. You see, Libby admitted to the FBI that this was dated after the fact (and somewhere, though I can't find it, someone admits that the day was changed).

DB On the note 6/12/03, line on top, meant approximately. Regarding an article by Pincus. Written for newspaper on June 12, he believed he talked about this note prior to that. He had written the date afterwards, within a couple of days, couldn't remember precisely when.

Z He dated it afterwards. He told you what about when.

DB A day or two before 6/12

Z What did he tell you VP told him

DB Libby told us that VP told him that AMb's wife worked in CP division. Libby explained that CP stood for Counter Proliferation.

Z Did Libby tell you where he tought VP learned this.

DB Yes–VP told him he received it from someone at CIA. He believed VP had learned it from Tenet. However he was not certain if it was Tenet or someone else.

So right now, we're trusting Scooter Libby to tell us when he dated this note--and that he dated it accurately. Also note (I'll come back to this) Libby was apparently none too sure about the source of this information--whether it was Tenet who passed on the information or someone else.

The Chronology as We Know It

Though the chronology on this is fuzzy, here's what we know of the ways in which Libby allegedly learned of Plame's ID.

May 29: At one of two Deputies meetings both attended, Libby asks Grossman about the Wilson trip. Grossman asks Armitage (who knows nothing), then asks Kansteiner and Ford, who know it was Joe. Grossman asked for a report. Then he told Armitage, asked for permission to call Joe. He called Joe, got his side of the trip. Then he called Libby with an interim report.

May 30-June 9: Grossman overseas.

June 10, 5:25 PM: Bill Harlow calls OVP Office of Public Affairs (:30 minutes)

June 10, 6:21 PM: Bill Harlow calls OVP Office of Public Affairs (4:24 minutes); One possible time when Harlow tells Martin of Plame.

Late June 10 or 11: Grossman receives INR memo.

June 11, 12:00-12:45: First possible time that Grossman tells Libby of Plame's role at one of three Deputies meetings.

June 11, 1:15: Libby calls Grenier for more information on Wilson. This is the first time Libby has called Grenier.

June 11, shortly after 1:15: Grenier calls back to Libby, who uses Wilson's name and sounds aggrieved.

June 11, afternoon: Grenier calls "Kevin," the Deputy Chief of the Joint Task Force on Iraq (JTFI). Kevin is unavailable. Grenier speaks to someone in the unit he doesn't know.

June 11, 2:37: Cathie Martin emails Jenny Mayfield to get time with Libby on Wilson stuff.

June 11, around 4:00: Someone "fully knowledgeable" at JTFI calls Grenier back, tells him that Plame worked in unit that had sent Wilson. Also says State and Defense had been very interested in the Niger intelligence.

June 11, before 4:15: Grenier tries to call Libby to relay this information, but can't get in touch with him before his 4:15 meeting with DCI.

June 11, 4:15-5:00?: Grenier is pulled out of a meeting with DCI to respond to Libby call. Grenier calls Libby back and tells him CIA sent Wilson, Plame worked in unit, and State and Defense were also interested in Niger intelligence. Grenier had never been pulled out of a meeting with DCI before. Libby asks if CIA will release news that State and Defense were also interested in the information. Libby and Grenier set up Harlow and someone named Cathie to arrange a CIA statement.

June 11, 5:27 PM: Bill Harlow calls OVP Office of Public Affairs (5:18); One likely time when Harlow tells Martin of Plame.

June 12: Pincus article

June 12, 12:00-1:30: Second possible time that Grossman tells Libby of Plame's role at CIA. (Note, Libby may have thanked Grenier for his information at the Iraq Deputies meeting, the 12:45-1:30 meeting.)

June 14, 7:00-7:40 AM: Libby asks CIA briefer Craig Schmall, " Why was the Amb told this was VP office question? Joe Wilson Valerie Wilson."

Before I get into my four scenarios, let me point out two things. First, the scenario that Libby's lawyers would like to argue--that Martin found out from Harlow on June 11 and then told Libby--doesn't necessarily hold up. They used her email to Jenny Mayfield to support this point, but her email, sent at 2:37 PM, was sent several hours before she purportedly spoke to Harlow at 5:27 PM. Which makes it possible she learned of Plame on June 10, and the next day got time with Libby to share that news. But then the Harlow call could not have been a response to Grenier, which clearly took place on June 11. But if Libby found out from Martin early on June 11, it might mean the Grenier call was a response to Martin's news.

Also, we know there was some harassment of the CIA, since three days after Libby spoke to Grenier, he asked Craig Schmall some of the same questions that Grenier had already answered. Therefore, we can't assume that, just because Libby already "knew" of something, he wouldn't keep asking the same damn questions.

Okay, here's the transcription of Libby's note recording his conversation with Cheney.


Scenario One: Dick Informs Libby Before the Grossman or Martin Inform Libby

One possibility is that, before Libby learned of Plame's identity through Grossman, Grenier, and Martin, he learned it from Cheney through a CIA channel he's not entirely forthcoming about. This is, IMO, the least likely scenario, mostly because of the spacing of Libby's note. The date is tightly spaced and if the day originally had the same spacing as the other two numbers, then it is probable that it was originally a double-digit number. Though of course, we're assuming that Libby wrote the date honestly to start with.

The one thing supporting this theory, strongly, is the reference to Nicholas Kristof--this appears to be a response to Kristof's May 6 column, not preparation for Pincus (as it would be if it were written in June). Also, the note, "hold, get agency to answer that," suggests it has not yet done so--placing the conversation before Martin's presumed June 11 conversation with Bill Harlow.

If this scenario were true (which I doubt), then it would suggest Cheney and Libby knew of Plame's identity well before they "learned" it in June. One other interesting thing--it would suggest that OVP already knew that this trip happened at its behest, well before it told journalists the opposite.

Scenario Two: Dick Informs Libby on June 10 or 11

This seems to be the default assumption--and would mean Libby's correction of the date was just that--an honest correction. This is, IMO, the only way bullet 4 makes sense--if Dick told Libby to get the CIA to say that Defense and State had been interested in the Niger question as well, at which point, while Pincus was still working on his June 12 story, Libby tried frantically to get CIA to back this statement.

But it would mean Libby knew everything Grenier was going to tell him when he dragged Grenier out of his meeting with DCI on June 11--that he basically just pulled him out of the meeting and led him into admitting this bit. Likewise, it would mean he already knew about Plame when Martin told him that news, presumably also on June 11. Effectively, Libby would have gotten Plame's ID source through two channels outside of the Vice President after he already knew it.

Scenario Three: Dick Informs Libby on June 12, 13, or 14

In this scenario, Dick would have learned of Plame from Libby via Martin, Grossman, and Grenier--and gone to find out more information, then reported back to Libby. This is where the supposition that Tenet was Cheney's source gets more interesting--particularly since Tenet has denied this news. Did Cheney go to someone more reliable to find out about Plame, someone like Fred Fleitz? In this scenario, the reference to Kristof might be a reference to Kristof's second column on the Niger claims, which came out on June 13, one day after Pincus' article. And it might explain why, on June 14, Libby was bitching to Craig Schmall, as if he believed CIA had not stated forcefully enough that State and Defense were also interested in this intelligence.

Scenario Four: Dick Informs Libby on June 15 or 18

This is the scenario that I find most interesting--that several days after Libby learned of Plame's ID from everyone and their mother, Dick came back to him with the critical detail about Plame, that she worked in CPD. The biggest detail supporting this claim is just the document itself--it looks like the number Libby may have overwritten could be a 5 or an 8 (see the loop below the bottom of the 2). Everything I said about scenario three would still hold. But it'd be interesting for two more reasons.

First, it would make it a lot less plausible that Libby forgot about Plame on July 10 or 8, since it would put his last knowledge of Plame later in June (and just a week or so before he spoke to Judy). It would effectively show a continuity of knowledge of Plame's ID, making the whole Russert story even less plausible. If it weren't implausible enough already.

Also, we know that the The New Republic article on this appeared on June 19, at which point Eric Edelman (who, we've learned, was involved in responding to Kristof in early May) asked Libby if they should start leaking info on Wilson to rebut the critics. Libby tells him there are problems with that that he can't explain on a non-secure line. In other words, if Libby and Cheney had this conversation at a later date, it makes it much more likely he was responding to Cheney's news when he told Edelman they couldn't leak this info. It would make it much more likely that Cheney made it crystal clear that Plame was covert.

Anyway, I'm not sure which it was, but Libby's dating of the note seems less than trustworthy, and there are numerous possibilities given that fact.