Friday, February 9, 2007

Is George Bush “The Manchurian Candidate?”

By Robert Buzzanco

Mr. Buzzanco, Professor of History, University of Houston, is the author of several books and articles on Vietnam War.

If enemies of the United States had gotten together a few years ago to devise a plan to damage America and undermine its global position–diminish its power and credibility, drag it into a stubborn war, harm its relations with allies, create international financial disarray, run up huge deficits, create political openings for the Europeans and China to exploit and become equals in global economic matters, motivate terrorists, bring the U.S. image in the Middle East to its nadir, restrict civil liberties at home, and so forth–they would have been hard-pressed to create a program that would be more effective than the Bush administration’s policies on these issues of war, terrorism, and global economics have.

Indeed, if one is an “enemy” of the U.S., then he/she would have to be heartened that Bush has pursued this agenda and would have to be elated that the war in Iraq continues today. Given enough rope, Bush may hang not only himself, but American influence and credibility, and the global economy. Like a “sleeper” agent, or Laurence Harvey’s famed character, Sgt. Raymond Shaw, in The Manchurian Candidate, George W. Bush, the ultimate insider, is doing more to damage America than Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Hassan Nasrallah, the Syrians, the Iranians, or any other enemy du jour, ever could.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 the United States had the sympathy and respect of much of the world. The outpouring of goodwill was unprecedented in the post-Vietnam period, and the United States stood alone as a military and economic power. When Bush responded to the September attacks a month later with the invasion of Afghanistan, where al Qaeda leaders were hiding out, the world community and U.S. populace supported him.

But, beginning in mid-2002, when he returned to his obsession with Iraq, the worm began to turn. Using politicized intelligence and outright lies, the Bush administration, congress and the media all went along with the invasion of Iraq, beginning in March 2003. Consequently, in what we can now see was a remarkably short time, the amity and power accrued after 9/11 melted away.

Although today much of the criticism of Bush and his policies comes from liberals, and Bush is quick to take shots at the “cut-and-run crowd” or “Defeatocrats,” what’s most striking is how much harm his military and economic policies have done to our national interests. Indeed, the number of conservatives now publicly repudiating Bush is testimony to how far he has strayed from the values he claimed to profess himself with regard to keeping America strong. If anything, George Bush has pursued a program inherently hostile to the conservative ideals he boasted about when running for office, and we have all suffered as a consequence.

Bush’s legacy is already particularly troubling with regard to America’s credibility and image in the world, our national security and the so-called war on terror, and the U.S. and global economy. In these areas, U.S. policies, in particular since September 11th, 2001, have left us precarious and vulnerable.

The U.S. standing in the world has probably never been lower than it is now in the wake of the dismal war in Iraq. Not only is anti-Americanism rampant in the Middle East, but U.S. enemies like Bin Laden and Nasrallah now dominate the political discourse of the region with great credibility on the so-called Arab Street. Even in Europe, the American image and influence is fading, and travelers may feel uncomfortable abroad, or, more seriously, American tourists and businesses fear boycotts or actual violence, as in Madrid or London in the past few years, and that seriously dampens the U.S. ability to influence other nations.

Ironically, Bush claimed to have launched the war in Iraq to protect American security, but it has had the opposite effect. American troops are stretched thin and lack adequate supplies, and the U.S. is facing its worst manpower crisis since the Vietnam era. Meanwhile, the number of military officials publicly speaking out against this administration’s war in Iraq is staggering, discomfiting and unprecedented.

Even more frightening, Bush has actually increased the global threat of terrorism. In October 2002, well before the invasion of Iraq, the Central Intelligence Agency warned that military action in the Middle East would foment serious resistance and actually recruit more terrorists. By going after Iraq, the Agency warned, the U.S. would be ignoring the “root causes” of terror–such as continued crisis in Afghanistan, the Israeli-Palestine conflict, and internal dissent in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries–while getting tied down in a peripheral area.

By 2004, that prediction had come true, with even the CIA Director Porter Goss admitting that Iraq had become a “cause for extremists” as daily attacks in Iraq had already more than doubled over the previous year. Just this past Spring, the State Department was more bleak, identifying over 11,000 terrorist incidents in 2005 which killed almost 15,000 people, a four-fold rise over 2004 and were mostly the work not of al-Qaeda but new, smaller and “difficult to detect” groups, which were able to exploit the war to entice new members.

While Bush’s policies in Iraq daily bring reports of Iraqis and Americans killed and abducted, some of the worst consequences are yet to be fully felt, namely the potentially devastating economic effects of the war. Bush and Rumsfeld promised a war on the cheap, somewhere in the area of 100 but no more than 200 billion dollars. Already, those figures have been surpassed and economists are now estimating that the costs of operations in Iraq, along with costs for rehabilitating wounded American soldiers and reconstruction, could easily reach the one trillion, or more, mark.

Despite these huge appropriations, Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker charged this past September the army did not have enough money to fight the war in Iraq. More ominously, as the war in Iraq drags on, the U.S. position in the global economy has become more precarious. To pay for the war in a period of massive tax cuts for the rich, Bush has borrowed more than any president in history and run up record deficits, a strange approach for an alleged conservative. The U.S. debt ceiling has risen to a stunning $9 trillion, the current accounts deficits rose above $200 billion, and trade deficits jumped to record highs, as have gas prices at home.

Much of the U.S. debt is held by China, whose own economy has erupted and now presents a serious challenge to U.S. influence in markets all over the world. In fact, China has just reached $1 trillion in currency reserves, more than one-fifth of all global reserves. While the U.S. is spending about $8 million per hour in Iraq and its foreign reserves are being depleted by about $80 million per hour, the Chinese are hourly adding $30 million. China could now purchase all the gold sitting in the vaults of the world’s central banks, twice over, according to the Economist.

Obviously, the U.S. is in a much more delicate and dangerous position today–politically, militarily, and economically–than it was prior to the Iraq invasion. National prestige and national security have suffered, and the economic impact will be felt for years. At home, the emphasis on Homeland Security and the Orwellian-titled Patriot Act have restricted our freedoms and liberties. The United States, its soldiers, and its people have suffered because of this war, because of Bush’s entire program. Meanwhile, American enemies and rivals–in the Middle East, in China, and elsewhere–have more power, prestige, and wealth than any of us could have imagined just a few years ago.

Given these conditions, there is now great reason for all Americans, including, if not especially, Republicans and conservatives, to demand an end to these policies in Iraq and at home that are making life more dangerous and costly. Some years ago, during the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon said that “Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that.” It seems like George Bush has accomplished precisely that all these years later.


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Criminals Control the Executive Branch: Fmr Asst Secretary of the Treasury

Feb 9, 2006

By Paul Craig Roberts
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration.

Gentle reader, you are probably unaware of former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski’s damning indictment of the Bush Regime in his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 1, 2007, as the United States no longer has a media--only a government propaganda ministry.

Brzezinski damned the Bush Regime’s war in Iraq as “a historic, strategic, and moral calamity.” Brzezinski damned the war as “driven by Manichean impulses and imperial hubris.” He damned the war for “intensifying regional instability” and for “undermining America’s global legitimacy.”

Finally, a voice with weight speaks. Brzezinski is a real intellect, a real expert, unlike the political hacks who have followed him in the office.

Brzezinski told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “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.” Brzezinski predicts “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.”

There is something deadly wrong with a society and a political system that permits a Regime capable of such insane and criminal “leadership” to remain in power. By the time Hitler launched World War II, the German Reichstag had no power to prevent him. But we have not yet reached that point in the United States.

Brzezinski concludes his testimony with the statement that it is “time for the Congress to assert itself.”

The reasons for impeaching Bush and Cheney exceed by many multiples all the reasons for impeaching every president combined in US history. The reasons have been enumerated many times and do not need repeating. If members of Congress were faithful to their oaths of office to uphold the Constitution, Bush and Cheney would already have been impeached and convicted.

The very least Congress can do at this very late stage is to make it perfectly clear in no uncertain terms that any attack on Iran under any pretext without the authorization of Congress after a careful examination of the pretext will lead to the immediate removal of Bush and Cheney from power, as will any escalation of the war in Iraq without explicit authorization by Congress.

Having delivered this ultimatum, Congress must immediately begin investigations of the Bush Regime’s attack on civil liberties and the separation of powers, on the Bush Regime’s use of lies and deception to lead America into a war with Iraq, on the Bush Regime’s violation of the Geneva Conventions, and on the Bush Regime’s plans to attack Iran.

The American people and their representatives in Congress must face the fact that criminal and dictatorial persons control executive power in the United States and immediately rectify this highly dangerous situation.

The Iraq-Iran Super Bowl: A Message from John Perkins

February 5, 2007

As our nation’s eyes focused on the Super Bowl I kept thinking about who we are, what we stand for, about the role violence plays as a tool of US foreign policy. . .

Every poll shows that we the people strongly oppose any further escalation in the Iraq war and that we do not want to invade Iran. We are intelligent enough to understand that threatening other people encourages terrorism.

We know that the way to create a safe and sustainable world is to alleviate the root causes of anger and hatred: starvation, poverty, disease, environmental degradation, and injustice. It is what we must do if we want to protect ourselves and our progeny. It is the right thing. It is the practical, pragmatic, and rational approach to solving our most serious problems.

There are voices shouting that a dictator has taken over our government. The Bush administration does indeed defy the will of the people; yet we must not lull ourselves into seeing the current crisis as “his” responsibility. We - you and I - must take action. This is not a football game where we are relegated to the sidelines.

Our politicians - Democrat and Republican alike - are beholden to big money, to the corporations and those who become rich enough from corporate ownership to sponsor candidates. It is essential during this year that kicks off the presidential election campaigns that we make ourselves heard by those who control the purse strings - the corporations - as well as by the politicians. The polls do count, but our voices, our emails, phone calls, marches, demonstrations, protests, and rallies count more. The message we send every time we buy a bottle of water, t-shirt, or loaf of bread is heard at all levels of government and business.

Complacency is our biggest enemy - and the corporatocracy’s ally. All you had to do was watch the ads during the Super Bowl to comprehend that those who run our biggest businesses want us to feel like impotent spectators. This is the year when we must show them otherwise; we must stop complaining and instead commit to acting according to our principles.

Please join with me. Support Dream Change’s WOW! - Waking Our World - movement. Become a member of Rainforest Action Network, the Pachamama Alliance, Amnesty International or other organizations that are forcing corporations to become good citizens. Sign up with to support their e-mail and phone-in campaigns. Subscribe to and other media outlets that offer real journalism. Call your Congresspeople. Buy as little as possible, make things last, and when you must shop do so consciously.

If the “surge” becomes a reality, if more troops are sent to Iraq, or if the White House launches an invasion of Iran, do not hesitate. Don’t be complacent. Act on your values even if that means taking to the streets. This is a time for courage - and actions that reflect the feelings in our hearts - and the love we hold for the Earth and future generations of all living creatures.


John Perkins
New York Times best selling author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
and The Secret History of the American Empire (June 5, 2007)

Helping Israel Die

By endorsing Israeli aggression, Bush and Cheney are assisting in Israel's suicide.
Ray McGovern

February 09, 2007

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C. He was a CIA analyst for 27 years and is on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are unwittingly playing Dr. Jack Kevorkian in helping the state of Israel commit suicide. For this is the inevitable consequence of the planned air and missile attack on Iran. The pockmarked, littered landscape in Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan and the endless applicant queues at al-Qaeda and other terrorist recruiting stations testify eloquently to the unintended consequences of myopic policymakers in Washington and Tel Aviv.

Mesmerized. Sadly, this is the best word to describe those of us awake to the inexorable march of folly to war with Iran and the growing danger to Israel’s security, especially over the medium and long term. An American and/or Israeli attack on Iran will let slip the dogs of war. Those dogs never went to obedience school. They will not be denied their chance to bite, and Israel’s arsenal of nuclear weapons will be powerless to muzzle them.

In my view, not since 1948 has the very existence of Israel hung so much in the balance. Can Bush/Cheney and the Israeli leaders not see it? Pity that no one seems to have read our first president’s warning on the noxious effects of entangling alliances. The supreme irony is that in their fervor to help, as well as use, Israel, Bush and Cheney seem blissfully unaware that they are leading it down a garden path and off a cliff.

Provoke and Pre-empt

Whether it is putting the kibosh on direct talks with Iran or between Israel and Syria, the influence and motives of the vice president are more transparent than those of Bush. Sure, Cheney told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer recently that the administration’s Iraq policy would be “an enormous success story,” but do not believe those who dismiss Cheney as “delusional.” He and his neoconservative friends are crazy like a fox. They have been pushing for confrontation with Iran for many years, and saw the invasion of Iraq in that context. Alluding to recent U.S. military moves, Robert Dreyfuss rightly describes the neocons as “crossing their fingers in the hope that Iran will respond provocatively, making what is now a low-grade cold war inexorably heat up.”

But what about the president? How to explain his fixation with fixing Iran’s wagon? Cheney’s influence over Bush has been shown to be considerable ever since the one-man search committee for the 2000 vice presidential candidate picked Cheney. The vice president can play Bush like a violin. But what strings is he using here? Where is the resonance?

Experience has shown the president to be an impressionable sort with a roulette penchant for putting great premium on initial impressions and latching onto people believed to be kindred souls—be it Russian President Vladimir Putin (trust at first sight), hail-fellow-well-met CIA director George Tenet or oozing-testosterone-from-every-pore former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Of particular concern was his relationship with Sharon. Retired Gen. Brent Scowcroft, a master of discretion with the media, saw fit to tell London’s Financial Times two and a half years ago that Sharon had Bush “mesmerized” and “wrapped around his little finger.”

As chair of the prestigious President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board under George W. Bush and national security adviser to his father, Scowcroft was uniquely positioned to know—and to draw comparisons. He was summarily fired after making the comments about Sharon and is now persona non grata at the White House.

Compassion Deficit Disorder

George W. Bush first met Sharon in 1998, when the Texas governor was taken on a tour of the Middle East by Matthew Brooks, then executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. Sharon was foreign minister and took Bush on a helicopter tour over the Israeli occupied territories. An Aug. 3, 2006 McClatchy wire story by Ron Hutcheson quotes Matthew Brooks:

If there’s a starting point for George W. Bush’s attachment to Israel, it’s the day in late 1998, when he stood on a hilltop where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, and, with eyes brimming with tears, read aloud from his favorite hymn, ‘Amazing Grace.’ He was very emotional. It was a tear-filled experience. He brought Israel back home with him in his heart. I think he came away profoundly moved.

Bush made gratuitous but revealing reference to that trip at the first meeting of his National Security Council (NSC) on Jan. 30, 2001. After announcing he would abandon the decades-long role of honest broker between Israelis and Palestinians and would tilt pronouncedly toward Israel, Bush said he would let Sharon resolve the dispute however he saw fit. At that point he brought up his trip to Israel with the Republican Jewish Coalition and the flight over Palestinian camps, but there was no sense of concern for the lot of the Palestinians. In A Pretext for War James Bamford quotes Bush: “Looked real bad down there,” he said with a frown. Then he said it was time to end America’s efforts in the region. “I don’t see much we can do over there at this point,” he said.

So much for the Sermon on the Mount. The version I read puts a premium on actively working for justice. There is no suggestion that tears suffice.

Then-Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill, who was at the NSC meeting, reported that Colin Powell, the newly-minted but nominal secretary of state, was taken completely by surprise at this nonchalant jettisoning of longstanding policy. Powell demurred, warning that this would unleash Sharon and “the consequences could be dire, especially for the Palestinians.” But according to O’Neill, Bush just shrugged, saying, “Sometimes a show of strength by one side can really clarify things.” O’Neill says that Powell seemed “startled.” It is a safe bet that the vice president was in no way startled.

A similar account reflecting Bush’s compassion deficit disorder leaps from the pages of Ron Susskind’s The One Percent Doctrine . Crown Prince Abdullah, Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader was in high dudgeon in April 2002 when he arrived in Crawford to take issue with Bush’s decision to tilt toward Israel and scrap the American role of honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With Bush’s freshly bestowed “man-of-peace” epithet for Sharon still ringing in his ear, Abdullah began by insisting that the president and his aides watch a 15-minute video. It showed the mayhem on the West Bank, American-made tanks, bloodied and dead children, screaming mothers. Then, still wordless, they all filed into another room where the Saudis proceeded to make specific demands, but Bush appeared distracted and was non-responsive. After a few minutes, the president turned to Abdullah and said, “Let’s go for a drive. Just you and me. I’ll show you the ranch.”

Bush was so obviously unprepared to discuss substance with his Saudi guests that some of the president’s aides checked into what had happened. The briefing packet for the president had been diverted to Cheney’s office. Bush never got it, so he was totally unaware of what the Saudis hoped to accomplish in making the trip to Crawford. (There is little doubt that this has been a common experience over the past six years and that there are, in effect, two “deciders” in the White House, one of them controlling the paper flow.)

Not that Bush was starved for background briefings. Indeed, he showed a preference to get them from Prime Minister Sharon who, with his senior military aide, Gen. Yoav Galant, briefed the president both in Crawford (in 2005) and the Oval Office (in 2003) on Iran’s “nuclear weapons program.” Sorry if I find that odd. That used to be our job at the CIA. I’ll bet Sharon and Galant packed a bigger punch.

There is, no doubt, more at play in Bush’s attitude and behavior regarding Israel and Palestine. One need not be a psychologist to see ample evidence of oedipal tendencies. It is no secret that the president has been privately critical of what he perceives to be his father’s mistakes. Susskind notes, for example, that Bush defended his tilt toward Israel by telling an old foreign policy hand, “I’m not going to be supportive of my father and all his Arab buddies!” And it seems certain that Ariel Sharon gave the young Bush an earful about the efforts of James Baker, his father’s secretary of state, to do the unthinkable; i.e., crank Arab grievances into deals he tried to broker between Israel and the Palestinians. It seems clear that this is one reason the Baker-Hamilton report was dead on arrival.

With Friends Like This...

George W. Bush may have the best of intentions in his zeal to defend Israel, but he and Cheney have the most myopic of policies. Israeli leaders risk much if they take reassurance from the president’s rhetoric, particularly vis-à-vis Iran. I am constantly amazed to find, as I speak around the country, that the vast majority of educated Americans believe we have a defense treaty with Israel. We don’t, but one can readily see how it is they are misled. Listen to the president exactly two years ago:

Clearly, if I was the leader of Israel and I’d listened to some of the statements b y the Iranian ayatollahs that regarded the security of my country, I’d be concerned about Iran having a nuclear weapon as well. And, in that Israel is our ally [sic]—and in that we’ve made a very strong commitment to support Israel—we will support Israel if her security is threatened.

We do no favors for Israeli leaders in giving them the impression they have carte blanche in their neighborhood—especially as regards Iran—and that we will bail them out, no matter what. Have they learned nothing from the recent past? Far from enhancing Israel’s security, the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Washington’s encouragement of Israel’s feckless attack on Lebanon last summer resulted in more breeding ground for terrorist activity against Israel. This will seem child’s play compared to what would be in store, should the US and/or Israel bomb Iran.

Bottom line: there is a growing threat to Israel from suicide bombers. The most dangerous two work in the White House.

Leading Experts Say Congress Must Stop An Attack on Iran: Is That Constitutionally Possible?


Absolutely - According to Experts on Both Sides of the Aisle


Friday, Feb. 09, 2007

In a February 5 OpEd in the Los Angeles Times, Leon Weiss and Larry Diamond explained that they were uncertain whether President Bush's recent tough talk toward Iran was bully pulpit bluster, meant solely to control Iran's dangerous actions, or if the President was again on the road to war. (Weiss is a senior science fellow at the Center for International Security at Cooperation at Stanford University; Diamond is a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution.)

Accordingly, Weiss and Diamond called on Congress to find out which is the case, and, if the President's intention is indeed warlike, to take preventive action so that the President does not launch a war in Iran - given his performance in Iraq. They suggest sending the President what is, in effect, a veto-proof measure -- by placing the measure in an appropriations bill - advising the President that "Congress will not support a U.S. military strike on that country" unless authorized by Congress. If Bush were to violate such a law, they urged, Congress should file a lawsuit against him, and begin impeachment proceedings.

James Fallows expressed a similar concern about the Administration's actions in Iran in his recent Atlantic Monthly column. "If we could trust the Administration's ability to judge America's rational self-interest, there would be no need to constrain its threatening gestures toward Iran," Fallows suggested. Such trust, however, has not proven to be merited. Nevertheless, Fallows concluded, even if the Bush Administration has warlike intentions with respect to Iran, Congress can do nothing other than "draw the line. It can say that war with Iran is anathema to the interests of the United States and contrary to the will of its elected representative."

These commentators have raised the question of whether Congress can, in fact, prevent a president from taking the nation to war. This was the subject of a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing chaired by Senator Russ Feingold, where he sought to explore "not what Congress should do, but what can Congress do."

While the hearing was focused on Iraq, and Congressional power in general, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) specifically asked the panel of constitutional experts, during the questioning, about what legal restrictions might be placed on the president's going to war in Iran.

Because the constitutional experts submitted formal statements to the Committee, which are available online, and several of them are terrific briefs on the law and relevant history, I have linked those statements to their names. Rather than rely solely upon their own summaries of their positions, given during the hearing, I have instead cited from, and commented on, their prepared statements seeking to set forth the essence of their positions.

What is especially significant, in my eyes, is that the conclusion that Congress does indeed have power to significantly restrict the Administration in its plans for war, transcends politics: Even experts who have worked for Republican administrations have come to this conclusion.

Statements of Constitutional Experts

Professor David Barron from the Harvard Law School opened the testimony. Barron is a graduate of Harvard Law School and clerked for Judge Reinhardt on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, as well as for Associate Justice Stevens on the United States Supreme Court. He served as an attorney advisor in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice, before joining the faculty at Harvard Law School in 1999.

"Congress possesses substantial constitutional authority to regulate ongoing military operations, and even to bring them to an end," Barron stated, explaining that while the power of the purse is the strongest authority to control executive military actions, it is not the only power. Barron's statement reviews relevant rulings of the Supreme Court, and finds in them, and in the Constitution, no real limits on Congress's powers to manage a war. In fact, his review of the sources related to this question shows that to find otherwise would be contrary to the clear intention of the nation's Founders to control the chief executive.

Professor Robert Turner graduated from the law school at the University of Virginia and is now a professor there. He co-founded the school's Center for National Security Law. He served as the National Security Advisor to Senator Robert Griffin (R-MI) in the mid 1970's and worked at the Pentagon, the White House, and the State Department during the Reagan Administration, and from 2001 to 2003 worked in the Bush White House Counsel's office.

Professor Turner's statement was based as much on "a practical appreciation of the imperatives of presidential military decision making in a time of crisis as from a deep study of the case law." While the committee was not seeking policy advice, Turner was offering it. He concluded that "Congress does indeed possess the power to limit the broad outlines of hostilities through legislation," but he explained, in effect, why in his view, Congress should not use that power, as a policy matter.

Dr. Louis Fisher is a Constitutional Law Specialist at the Library of Congress. Before joining the Library of Congress, he spent thirty-six years at the Congressional Research Service. Dr. Fisher has published a number of authoritative books relating to legislative versus executive branch conflicts. (And I have most of them on my book shelf.) Dr. Fisher's statement explained that not only does Congress have the power to influence the direction of the nation's military when at war, but its members have the responsibility to do so. Drawing on history, he sets forth what the Framers of the Constitution did, and why they did it. His statement is rich in historical quotations that are not the now-hackneyed comments commonly found in discussion of these issues.

For example, in 1793, Fisher reported, Madison called war "the true nurse of executive aggrandizement. . . . In war, the honours and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed. It is in war, finally, that laurels are to be gathered; and it is the executive brow they are to encircle. The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honourable or venial love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace."

And in 1861, Fisher advised the committee, Attorney General Edward Bates explained that the President is Commander in Chief not because he is "skilled in the art of war and qualified to marshal a host in the field of battle." Rather he is Commander in Chief so whoever leads U.S. armies to battle "is subject to the orders of the civil magistrate, and he and his army are always 'subordinate to the civil power.'"

Bradford Berenson, now a partner at Sidley & Austin, graduated from the Harvard Law School and clerked for Judge Silberman on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Associate Justice Kennedy on the United States Supreme Court. He also served as Associate Counsel to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2003, a position in which he focused on the relationship between the Congress and the Executive.

Berenson took an approach similar to Professor Turner's. Accepting that the Constitution and rulings make it very clear that Congress has ample power and authority relating to this nation's military activities, he instead made a policy case as to why Congress should not exercise their power. He acknowledged the nature of his statement when summarizing it for the committee, and quickly conceded, "I think the constitutional scheme does give Congress broad authority to terminate a war."

Finally, Professor Walter Dellinger of the Duke University School of Law testified. Dellinger, the former head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department under President Clinton, and also acting Solicitor General from 1996 to 1997 (during which time he argued nine cases before the High Court) is a graduate of Yale Law School and a former law clerk for Associate Justice Hugo Black

"In the absence of any congressional legislation on point," Dellinger said in his prepared statement, "I would be ready to conclude that a president can act on his own authority and pursuant to his own judgment in matters of national security. Once Congress has acted, however, the issue is fundamentally different. The question then becomes whether the Act of Congress is itself unconstitutional."

In short, all the experts on this politically diverse but balanced panel agreed - in the abstract - that the Congress has the power to control a warrior president. But, as Walter Dellinger noted, the action itself must be constitutional.

Senator Kennedy thus, during the questioning, properly moved the discussion from the abstract to the specific.

Can Congress Prevent the President from Going to War In Iran?

In condensed form, with a few annotations, here is the text of the exchanges that occurred. They require no commentary:

SEN. KENNEDY: "Question just quickly through the panel. Is the President required to seek authorization from Congress before using the military force against Iran?"

DR. FISHER: "I think if there's some action that's a threat to U.S. soldiers I think a president has the power to repel sudden attacks, protect U.S. troops. Otherwise, if it goes beyond isolated incidents like that I think you're running into the preface of the Iraq Resolution, which …Congress amended … to make sure it applied only to Iraq. So I think by statute, by legislative policy, you can confine the President to Iraq." (Emphasis added.)

SEN. KENNEDY: "I'm interested in … what actions can Congress take now to ensure the President doesn't take us into war in Iran without congressional authorization."

PROF. BARRON: "The question of whether the President could right now initiate any actions against the Iran -- I think the proper way to think about it is what authority does he have under the current Iraq Authorization Statute, which would require some close consideration. . . . William Rehnquist [as an assistant attorney general] … thought that a statutory limitation on the exercise of such authority would be constitutionally valid. So I think the legal question then comes to . . . no doubt Congress could restrict him from going and widening the war, not just in terms of the amount of troops used, but in the geographic area covered, and the only issue is whether Congress has in effect already done so by virtue of the limitations and bounds of the Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq that's already enacted." (Emphasis added.)

SEN. KENNEDY: "Yes, Professor Turner."

PROF. TURNER: "Senator, let me just make nuanced point on this. John Hart Ely in his War and Responsibility made the point that after Congress declared war against Germany, FDR did not need a new declaration of war to go into North Africa after the German forces. Going into Cambodia I think was perfectly legal because the North Vietnamese had taken over the whole side of Cambodia. . . . I could see a situation in which Iran became involved in the Iraq War where the President would be able to use force. . . . I think in terms of launching a major war against Iran he should get and would need an official [Congressional approval] for Iran. But there's some area in there where I think he could act." (Emphasis added.)

SEN. KENNEDY: "If Congress passed legislation requiring the President to seek authorization from Congress before using military force against Iran would the President be obliged to seek such authorization before launching military action?"

MR. BERENSON: "Senator Kennedy, I think the questions that you're posing falls into the sphere . . . of shared powers, and it's important to recognize that for very important institutional reasons the President is the first mover and the prime mover in this area of shared powers. That has to do with the fact that unlike Congress which needs to go through an often time consuming and difficult legislative process, a process that can sometimes be stymied, the President has the ability to receive information in real time to act to protect the national security. So the President through the [clause vesting him with executive power], through his executive authority in the absence of legislation to the contrary by the Congress, I think unquestionably would have authority to engage Iran in hostilities, whether in defense of our forces inside the borders of Iraq or if he decided that we needed to do something to address Iran's nuclear facilities. I do not think he would be acting outside the scope of his constitutional authority. That said, for major military actions most presidents have recognized the importance of coming to Congress as a political and practical matter. It is certainly unwise, if not unconstitutional, to try to engage in large scale hostilities or engage a new enemy in warfare without public support. And the best way to ensure that at the outset is, of course, to come to Congress." (Emphasis added.)

SEN. KENNEDY: "My time, Mr. Chairman, is up. Mr. Dellinger -"

PROF. DELLINGER: "Briefly, I agree with Mr. Berenson's statement. I believe that the President does have the authority to introduce U.S. troops into situations of hostilities, including in Iran, in the absence of congressional limitation as long as the anticipated scope and duration does not amount to a war. I don't believe he has the authority to send 500,000 troops into Iran, but he does have the authority to deploy U.S. forces in hostilities…. That said, it is also clear that Congress can impose limits either before or after the fact on the size, scope, and duration of that. But I do believe there's a consensus in the Executive Branch position that the President has the authority to deploy U.S. forces into hostilities when Congress has not spoken to the question." (Emphasis added.)

* * *

In sum, as I read both the general statements of these experts, and their specific answers to Senator Kennedy's question about Iran, everyone agrees that Congress has the power to prevent a president from going to war.

The only question that is doubtful, then, is whether the members of Congress actually have the will to do so. This, I suspect, is what James Fallows concluded, when he said that, at best, they might draw a line.

Of course, George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney know this too, so they will do whatever they wish to do - and Congress may or may not catch up. But there is no real question as to whether Congress could legally stop Bush and Cheney from going to war in Iran without coming to Congress to fully explain what they are doing and why. Congress has that power; the only question is whether it will dare to use it.


John W. Dean, a FindLaw columnist, is a former counsel to the president.

'Floodgates of Fraud' at Spy Satellite Agency

February 06, 2007

The "floodgates of fraud reporting" have opened at the National Reconnaissance Office, the nation's top-secret builder and operator of spy satellites. This bit of news comes from no less a source than the NRO's inspector general, Eric Feldman. Yet Feldman and other NRO officials are mum about just how big the flood is over there.

This might not be such a big deal were the stakes at hand not so high. The NRO and its many contractors have grown notorious for massive cost overruns and quality control failures so serious they threaten the U.S. edge in high-tech reconnaissance satellites. Whether they're eavesdropping on al Qaeda communications or photographing Iranian nuclear facilities, these are the crown jewels of the U.S. intelligence community. But the current generation of spy satellites is burning out–and replacements are years away.

Feldman suggested something was amiss in the Journal of Public Inquiry, an obscure publication put out twice a year by the nation's inspectors general. With Alan Larsen, his general counsel, he described how contractors have systematically delayed and brushed off IG requests for information. When his office pushed through a revision to all contracts, explicitly stating the need to cooperate, some contractors "were hysterical, accusing NRO of violating four different amendments to the U.S. Constitution," they wrote. But since then, "the floodgates of fraud reporting mysteriously opened from companies that had previously had little interest in talking to us. . . . We believe that we have barely scratched the surface in identifying possible fraudulent activity on our contracts."

What kind of fraud is he talking about? Hard to say, but there are huge sums in play. The NRO grabs some $7.5 billion of the $44 billion annual intelligence budget–and most of that amount is shelled out to contractors large and small. The agency's troubled next-generation satellite, a $25 billion boondoggle called Future Imagery Architecture, has been so dogged by cost overruns and technical trouble that the director of national intelligence cut the project in half last year. Back in 1995, revelations surfaced that the NRO ran what some in Congress called a slush fund of over $1 billion, which the agency used to build a lavish new headquarters. The NRO director and his deputy were subsequently fired, and Congress stopped the agency from squirreling away unspent funds year after year.

The last NRO fraud case we found on the public record is six years old and involved a mere $160,000 in payoffs–a pittance in the world of defense contracts. The culprit was a Los Angeles-area contractor trying to corner routine maintenance and repair work on buildings run by TRW, an NRO contractor that no longer even exists.

The NRO says it has had no cases since then–at least that it can talk about. That seems hard to believe. More likely at work is the kind of knee-jerk, pervasive secrecy that infects so much of the U.S. intelligence community–the kind of needless secrecy that fosters the very lack of accountability the IGs should be fighting against.

NRO Inspector General Feldman declined repeated requests to comment. A pity. Even in the world of spy satellites, Americans have a right to know if billions of their tax dollars are being stolen.

Photo caption: An NRO satellite is launched from Vanderberg Air Force Base in 1996.

Credit: National Reconnaissance Office

Time to say no

To continue kowtowing to the US administration's demands over Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine would be suicidal, writes Hassan Nafaa

Gaping wounds in some of the most sensitive areas of the Arab world, most notably in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, have begun to suppurate. The current American administration, headed by a clique of anti-Arab Islamophobes, will stop at nothing, out of deference to Israel and commitment to the Christian-Zionist preaching in which they believe so fervently. This same administration believes the fact that neither the president's nor the vice-president's running for re-election gives them greater freedom of movement, at least until the electoral campaigns officially kick-off in February a year from now. Until then they will steamroll through measures in an attempt to complete an enterprise refuse to admit they have failed. And such is the catatonic stupor into which Arab regimes have fallen that they are prepared to allow the same doctor who caused the disease to treat their wounds.

Two factors forced Bush to re-adjust his policy and plans for Iraq and the region. The Baker- Hamilton report, drafted by a joint Democratic- Republican commission, concluded the administration's policy was a fiasco and demanded changes. Then, the Republicans lost their majority in both houses of Congress just as the growing anti-war movement was reminding the American public of the failings of the Vietnam era. In response, Bush dug in his heels. Instead of cooperating with Iran and Syria to restore an element of calm in order to pave the way for an honourable withdrawal, as the Baker-Hamilton report recommended, he did the opposite, ordering 20,000 more US troops to Iraq, two aircraft carriers to the Gulf, and furnishing his friends in the neighbourhood with anti-missile defence systems. Such moves were obviously in preparation for a military strike against Iran and the tightening of the siege around Syria, yet Bush was confident of his allies' support. Just in case, though, he sent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on another tour of the region.

Here was the envoy of supposedly the greatest democracy on earth appealing to foreign friends in order to tip the scale of American public opinion back in favour of the executive after Congress had won the first round. The close observer might have detected Rice's inward sneer as she discovered how immeasurably more malleable decision-makers in this part of the world are than lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Certainly she shed no tears. Quite the opposite: she was delighted, full of confidence, pleased to see eight Arab foreign ministers climbing over one another in Kuwait to declare their support for America's "new" plans for Iraq and for the region. She had grounds for her confidence. She knows, after all, that she is the only person capable of getting this number of Arab foreign ministers to meet in any place she designates, in the Arab world or abroad, at the snap of her fingers. Perhaps, too, she felt a measure of malicious glee as she watched them fight to win her favour, in the full knowledge that while each and everyone of them is a member of the Arab League they would never come together on their own initiative in order to develop an independent policy to further their common interests.

When the rush of Arab governments to support an American policy that American society itself deplores stirred angry reactions among sectors of Arab public opinion, various diplomatic quarters tried to stem the damage. Some Arab foreign ministers, for example, tried to convey the impression that their support was qualified, that it was contingent upon results on the ground.

It was hardly convincing. Governments generally formulate policies on the basis of considerations and expectations that have not yet been put to the test. When other governments come out in support of those policies they are committing themselves, as partners, to working for its success regardless of what the future may bring. And just as they anticipate sharing the fruits of the policy, should it succeed, they must also be prepared to sustain their share of losses should it fail.

The Bush plan entails actions hostile to both Iran and Syria. To support it is to side unequivocally against these two countries. The same applies to the fact that the plan is opposed by the majority of the American people, not to mention powers such as China, Russia and the EU.

Bush's reckless adventurism is well known and the tide of opposition to his policy will swell further, both at home and abroad. While this makes failure even more likely it will not forestall the disasters that will undoubtedly be inflicted on Arabs and Muslims. So certain is the prognosis that it is only possible to wonder at the considerations upon which Arab regimes base their support of US policy. The most obvious premises for their behaviour are probably the right ones: first, they think Iran's expansionist designs more dangerous than the Zionist version, and second, they believe the need to placate the US in order to sustain their strategic relationships with Washington outstrips all other regional and international considerations.

Without underestimating the potential threat to the Arab world of Iran's growing power and influence, it is impossible to accept this presents a greater peril than the Zionist enterprise. The best way for the Arabs to confront Tehran's regional power bid is not to fall in with US-Israeli plans to strike Iran but to establish a unified Arab policy towards Iran. This would involve opening a dialogue with Tehran, to which end they would have to rely on Syria. A strike against Iran, by the US and/or Israel, may weaken Iran temporarily but it will not strengthen the hand of any Arab power. It could easily plunge the entire region into a state of chaos, triggering any number of local civil wars if not a full-fledged regional war.

Arab leaders who believed the claims that ridding Iraq of Saddam Hussein would eliminate one of the greatest impediments to regional stability should look at what has in fact been eliminated. It is Iraq as a state that has been destroyed. And who, apart from Iran and Israel, has gained from the catastrophe that has befallen Iraq? Does it not also follow that the sole beneficiary of any war against Iran will be Israel, for whom the destruction of Iran would come as the most crucial step towards realising Israel's dream of re-organising the Middle East into disparate sectarian-based statelets as it transforms itself into the engineer of their multi-farious rivalries and alliances?

As important as the strategic relationship with the US might be, Arab leaders should realise that Bush and his gang of neo-conservatives are not synonymous with the United States. They are a band of thugs bent on steering the world to unmitigated disaster, a fact grasped by the majority of the American people upon whom it has dawned that this administration is no less fanatical and racist than Hitler and the Nazis. Nor can a strategic relationship be founded upon handing over the determination of the fates of our peoples to the White House, regardless of whether its incumbent is a Democrat or Republican, an extremist or moderate. The US is a mighty power and acts as mighty powers mostly do: it respects the strong and crushes the weak once it can dispense with their services. When will Arab rulers open their eyes to the reality that their current weakness and disarray is hastening the day when the US finds them too much of a burden and drops them? When will they realise that they will never be able to make the transition from a dependent to a partner or build a strategic relationship that is truly mutually beneficent until they demonstrate their ability to effectively play what few cards they have left to their advantage?

Would it be excessive to suggest that the current crisis offers Arab countries that are on good terms with the US a rare opportunity to regain some of their forfeited leverage? I don't think so. This is one of those paradoxes of the current situation though to capitalise on it the ruling elites -- contrary to what they seem to believe -- must summon the resolve to convey to Bush a resounding no, and then enter immediately into talks with Iran, Syria and, perhaps, Turkey. Such a dialogue would seek to promote a range of interrelated objectives: an end to the internecine bloodshed in Palestine, the creation of a national unity government and the immediate lifting of the economic blockade on the Palestinian people; an end to the Lebanese crisis by pressuring rival parties to return to the negotiation table with the purpose of resolving their differences and safeguarding Lebanese independence while simultaneously ensuring Syria's security requirements; a reconciliation between rival Iraqi factions so as to preserve Iraq's territorial integrity and set in motion a new political process that will lead to a government that represents Iraqis regardless of sectarian affiliations; establishing channels of communication and dialogue with US leaders opposed to Bush's policies in order to generate pressure for an international conference, in which all concerned parties take part, the purpose of which is to resolve, in tandem, all the interconnected crises in the Middle East, and to establish agreed-upon systems for collective and humanitarian security so as to ensure the settlements are acceptable regionally and internationally.

It is mistaken to believe that what is happening in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine are civil wars or even the beginning of civil wars. They are political conflicts fuelled by the US-Israeli drive for regional hegemony.

* The writer is a professor of political science at Cairo University.

© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved

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The Gulf of Sneezes

This article appears in the February 9, 2007 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

by Jeffrey Steinberg

A survey of senior U.S. military, intelligence, and diplomatic specialists confirms that the Bush-Cheney Administration is presently on a course towards provoking a military confrontation with Iran sometime before the end of the Spring of 2007. Were such a lunatic provocation to go unchecked in the immediate days and weeks ahead, the planet would be plunged into perpetual war, and financial and economic chaos, that could take generations to undo. One certain consequence of a U.S.-provoked war with Iran would be the total destruction of the United States as the sovereign republic of the Founding Fathers, and the demonization of the U.S.A. in the eyes of what might remain of the population of the rest of the world.

The simplest and most elegant way to stop this madness is for Vice President Dick Cheney, the thug-in-chief of this Persian Gulf war drive, to be forced out of office this month. As of this writing, four separate House resolutions are being offered, to prevent military action against Iran without prior Congressional deliberation and full authorization. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) has a similar resolution in the Senate. The weakness of all of these well-intentioned efforts, however, is that none specify that an act of war against Iran, without prior Congressional authorization, would constitute an impeachable offense by both President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Under the present conditions of Bush-Cheney Executive branch madness and intransigence, only such blunt language, backed up by a clear commitment to act, could contribute to actual war avoidance.

It is an open secret that growing legions of leading Republican strategists and financial angels are coming to the conclusion that Cheney has to go—or else the GOP may not survive the 2008 election cycle. Increasingly, according to sources close to the Bush family, there is despair that the President is incapable of facing the reality that Dick Cheney has been the source of every policy fiasco of the past six years, and that Cheney's timely departure is the only "exit strategy" available to Dubya, if he wishes not to go down in history as the worst American President of all time. As of this writing, the President is the runaway leading contender for that dubious distinction.

A `Sneeze' Can Start a War
Military and intelligence sources with decades of experience in the Persian Gulf have warned EIR that once the second U.S. naval carrier group, led by the USS Stennis, arrives in the Persian Gulf sometime in the second half of February, there will be such a concentration of American and Iranian naval equipment in that narrow area, that "a sneeze" could start a conflagration. By "sneeze," these experts meant that naval commanders—American and Iranian—at the tactical level, operating in close quarters in poorly defined border areas of the Gulf, could carry out provocative actions that trigger a general war—without necessarily intending to do so.

According to one retired Persian Gulf commander, prior to the 1991 "Operation Desert Storm," no U.S. carrier groups were deployed into the Persian Gulf, precisely because the danger of blundering into a war was considered too great to justify the risk. Large-scale naval assets assigned to the Persian Gulf region were based in the Indian Ocean and in other nearby locations as a kind of fail-safe measure.

War Has Already Been Declared
In some respects, the Bush Administration has already issued a de facto, unconstitutional declaration of war. On Jan. 10, 2007, as President Bush was delivering his nationwide television address, announcing the "surge" of U.S. troops in Iraq, American Special Forces commandos were raiding the Iranian consular office in the Kurdish city of Irbil. The American soldiers arrested five Iranian officials, and accused them of providing support to the insurgents battling American and coalition forces in Iraq. As one retired senior American diplomat put it, "This was an act of war" on the part of the Bush Administration.

In his Jan. 10 speech, the President placed great emphasis on Iran's and Syria's purported roles in backing the insurgency. The President used a legalistic term, "material support for the insurgency," to describe the Iranian and Syrian actions. As the actions in Irbil demonstrated, the Bush Administration has decided to take a direct and aggressive approach to Iran's presence inside Iraq—regardless of the actual level of proof of Iran's involvement in backing insurgents and providing military hardware. According to some sources, Iranian Revolutionary Guard assets may have been engaged inside Iraq in provocative actions against the American and coalition occupation forces. But by refusing to engage in any kind of diplomatic efforts, and by highlighting Iran's longstanding presence inside neighboring Iraq, the Bush-Cheney Administration has adopted a willful plan to, in effect, back into a full-scale war against Iran.

Since the President's Jan. 10 speech and the "act of war" in Irbil, other provocative actions by the Bush Administration have piled up. On Jan. 31, the Los Angeles Times reported that the U.S. Air Force is increasing patrols along the Iran-Iraq border, aimed at cutting off the flow of arms and Revolutionary Guard operatives into Iraq. The combination of these intensified border sorties, which could result in strikes against Iranian territory, and the U.S. naval buildup in the Gulf, have many people worried. The Times quoted an unnamed American military officer: "A mistake could be made and you could end up in something that neither side ever really wanted, and suddenly it's August 1914 all over again." He gave a barely hypothetical example: "A boat crosses a line . . . but what does it mean? You've got to be very careful about overreacting."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was equally blunt in an interview with CNN on Jan. 31, when he said, "We have told the Iranians and the Americans, `We know that you have a problem with each other, but we're asking you, please, solve your problems outside of Iraq.' We do not want the American forces to take Iraq as a base to attack Iran. . . . We will not accept Iran using Iraq to attack American forces. But does this exist? It exists and I assure you it exists."

WMD Gambit Dropped
According to one senior U.S. intelligence official, White House "spin doctors" concluded late last year that the Administration had been so discredited by the fraudulent claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction stockpiles, that no one would buy into a war against Iran on the basis of Administration claims that the Islamic Republic was on the verge of fielding nuclear weapons. At that time, the official rhetoric of Bush and Cheney shifted to an emphasis on Iran's interference in American counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq. While the White House has so far failed to provide any detailed evidence that Iran is behind the escalating insurgency, the temperature of the Administration rhetoric has jumped to a fever pitch. Recently, the President acknowledged that he issued an intelligence finding in Autumn 2006, authorizing American forces in Iraq to target Iranian assets inside Iraqi territory.

On Jan. 20, five American soldiers were killed in a sophisticated attack, by armed men disguised as Iraqi security officers, who spoke English. The Bush Administration has blamed the incident on Iran, claiming that Iraqi Shi'ite insurgents are not sophisticated enough on their own, to have carried out such an attack. Yet the Bush Adminstiration has still not released its long-promised report about Iranian involvement, and the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) says essentially that other countries are not responsible for what's going on inside Iraq. The readiness of the Bush Administration to jump to conclusions about the Iranian hand behind every significant insurgent action just underscores the war fever that has spread around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It is in this context that the pending arrival of a massive new American naval force into the Persian Gulf represents the potential for what one senior retired U.S. Marine officer called a "Gulf of Tonkin II" nightmare.

A Unilateral Strike
The naval buildup also will soon put the United States in the position of being able to launch significant strikes against Iran without relying on any Persian Gulf states to provide basing or overflight support. It is no secret that the Iranian government has warned all of the major states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, including Saudi Arabia, that any support for an American attack on Iran will be met with a serious irregular warfare response. Kuwait and Bahrain, two GCC states with significant U.S. Air Force presence, are highly vulnerable to such Iranian-directed asymmetric warfare, given the sizeable Shi'ite minorities in both countries.

In recent days, Iran and Saudi Arabia have exchanged diplomatic missions, clearly aimed at avoiding a confrontation.

However, the pending arrival of the USS Stennis in the waters of the Persian Gulf will soon trump all of those efforts. Given the unpredictable situation in Tehran, nothing short of decisive action—the removal of Vice President Cheney—can assure the world that a "sneeze" will not start World War III.

Cheering Movers and Art Student Spies: Was Israel Tracking the Hijackers Before the 9/11 Attacks?

First Cockburn knocks questioning 9/11, now questions. Suspicious.
Thursday, February 8th, 2007

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A new article in the newsletter Counterpunch examines unresolved questions over whether Israeli agents were tracking the 9/11 hijackers before September 11th. ABC’s 20/20, The Forward, and have all covered the story. But where’s the follow up? We speak to the author of the article, Christopher Ketcham; Counterpunch editor Alexander Cockburn, and Marc Perelman, the Forward reporter who did one of the first reports on the story in 2002. [includes rush transcript]
Were Israeli agents tracking the 9/11 hijackers before September 11th? In 2002, ABC’s 20/20,, and the Jewish newspaper The Forward all did this story. But where’s the follow up?

Freelance journalist Christopher Ketcham has just published a comprehensive piece on this story in the newsletter Counterpunch. The article highlights various interconnected stories: The five Israeli “movers” who witnesses say were cheering after the first plane struck the World Trade Center; the so-called Israeli art students who were living in concentrated areas where hijackers were living around the United States and how two of the hijackers ended up on the Watch List weeks before 9/11.

Christopher Ketcham, the author of the article, joins us on the line from Upstate New York. Alexander Cockburn also joins us on the line. He is the editor of Counterpunch where the piece is published. And with us here in the firehouse studio is Marc Perelman he is the reporter who did one of the first reports on the story for The Forward in 2002.

  • Marc Perelman. Diplomatic Correspondent for The Forward. He broke the story about Israeli spies in 2002.

  • Christopher Ketcham. Freelance journalist. Author of “What Did Israel Know in Advance of the 9/11 Attacks?” in the latest edition of CounterPunch’s print newsletter.


AMY GOODMAN: Christopher Ketcham, the author of the article, joins us on the line from Upstate New York. Alexander Cockburn also joins us on the phone. He is the editor of Counterpunch, where the piece is published. And with us here in the firehouse studio is Marc Perelman. He is the reporter who did one of the first reports on the story for the newspaper, The Forward, in 2002.

Why don't we begin with Christopher Ketcham? Christopher, start off with the story you begin with in this latest piece, and that’s the story of the five so-called “movers,” this story that has been documented, talked about, rumored about. Explain what happened that morning of 9/11.

CHRISTOPHER KETCHAM: Sure. Let me just preface this whole conversation just to say that the Counterpunch article does not pretend to provide readers with a definitive smoking gun for these allegations. Rather, what I’ve done is gathered all the available information on the matter. That is, the disparate media reports that you mentioned; leaked documents from FBI, CIA and the Justice Department; conversations with former intelligence officials and current FBI officers.

Now, the upshot of all this available evidence is this: the Israeli government likely was conducting some kind of spy operation on US soil in the run-up to the September 11th attacks. The purpose of the operation was to identify and track Muslim extremists, possibly including members of al-Qaeda.

Now, the best evidence that we have for this is, in fact, the story of these five moving men. Now, three of these guys were seen on the morning of September 11, just after the first plane hit the North Tower, quote-unquote, “celebrating” on the New Jersey waterfront. Now, that's -- I put the quotes around that, because it comes from a FBI BOLO, or “be on lookout,” an alert that was put out regarding these men that day. The celebration apparently consisted of high-fiving, according to one FBI official, of holding up cigarette lighters, as if they’re at a rock concert. So, remember, the plane has just hit the tower, exploded in the tower, and these three men are behaving rather oddly.

Later in the day, they were picked up. Two other men apparently joined them in a van. They were -- the case was immediately handed over to FBI counterintelligence. The men were held for 71 days. They were repeatedly interrogated. They repeatedly failed lie detector tests. And then, after those 71 days was up, they were sent home, apparently under pressure or because of pressure brought by the Israeli government and by certain players in the US government. And the story sort of disappeared from there. I mean, 20/20 covered this --

AMY GOODMAN: Just one thing, Chris Ketcham, you say -- you quote the officer who arrested them, named DeCarlo. You say, according to DeCarlo's report, this officer was told without question by the driver of the moving van, Sivan Kurzberg, “We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem.”

CHRISTOPHER KETCHAM: Right. Well, what's interesting there is that, you recall after the first plane hit, no one really thought that this was a terrorist attack. I mean, most people thought -- and I was there, you know, on the Brooklyn waterfront watching this whole thing. Everyone thought it was an accident. These guys, when they were interrogated by FBI, told them that -- essentially said that they immediately knew it was a terrorist attack. And they actually told the FBI that the reason they were celebrating was because the attacks would be beneficial to Israel, that it was, quote, “a good thing for Israel” -- that's according to the FBI spokesman who spoke on the record about this -- and that it would bring sympathy for Israel's political agenda in the Middle East.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And if I could interrupt, I’d like to bring in Marc Perelman to the conversation. Marc, it was your newspaper, The Forward, that first broke the story that the FBI thought that at least a couple of these people were Mossad agents. Could you talk about that and how you uncovered that information?

MARC PERELMAN: Yes, we ended up writing a story in March of 2002, after several months of reporting, because when this incident happened, obviously, a lot of people were intrigued, including journalists. And so, everybody was trying to find more information about this. And I’ve been talking to sources and trying to find out a little bit more, and after a while, I was able to confirm that, according to the FBI, two of those movers were identified as Mossad agents. And they were interrogated about it.

Obviously, the circumstances around the interrogation, there was a lot of panic after 9/11. People were looking for suspects everywhere. So the reports about exactly how they were behaving and what they said -- I mean, we should be a little bit careful about this, because -- and so, what I tried to do is go beyond the reports about them smiling and high-fiving, and so on, because I had my doubts about this. I still have them, by the way. And so, what I did was try to back up the information I had, that they were indeed recognized as Mossad agents who were essentially tracking a Muslim activist in the New York/New Jersey area, which was known to be active since the mid-‘90s, and so we eventually were able to piece the story together and go with it.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And what eventually happened to the five men?

MARC PERELMAN: They were sent home to Israel in, I think, November, if I remember, allegedly for immigration violations, and they’re home.

AMY GOODMAN: We don’t have much time, and I wanted to get to another story, which was a story of the so-called “art students,” Christopher Ketcham. Very briefly outline this parallel story.

CHRISTOPHER KETCHAM: Well, basically, the phenomenon of the art students, for want of a better phrase, because it is truly a mystery, even to me -- I’m a complete agnostic about this part of the story -- these so-called art students were young Israeli men and women who were traveling the country. They were identified by the Drug Enforcement Agency as repeatedly attempting to penetrate government offices, including DEA offices, and to sell, to try to sell art, these cheap knockoff oil paintings, to government officials.

Now, after September 11th, when, in the wake of these sudden attacks, investigators began to go back and look at the nexus of art student activity with the nexuses of the activities of the future hijackers, of the 9/11 hijackers, and what they found was that the art students, in many cases, were living in very close proximity to the September 11 hijackers. Many of these art students were moving large amounts of cash, some of them were reportedly, according to Le Monde, carrying cell phones provided them by an Israeli vice consul in the US. Many of them were highly trained in electronic intercept and intelligence work that was far beyond the compulsory military training required by Israeli law. So these were part of the -- suspicions were aroused, and they remain.

AMY GOODMAN: Suspicions that they were tracking the hijackers?

MARC PERELMAN: That’s correct.

AMY GOODMAN: Let's go to Alexander Cockburn. You have published this piece. It is titled "Cheering Movers and Art Student Spies: What Did Israel Know in Advance of the 9/11 Attacks?" Who were the Israelis living next to Mohammed Atta? What was in the van on the New Jersey shore? How did two hijackers land on watch lists weeks before 9/11? Who shut down FOX News’s Carl Cameron? We just have two minutes, but talk about the way the media has covered this, why you chose to cover it, and that last story of FOX.

ALEXANDER COCKBURN: The main thing, Amy, is that basically the story, which Perelman and others did do good work on, has been systematically suppressed by the media for a very long time, starting with FOX News, which killed off Cameron, the ABC News, which dropped it. And, obviously, there are thousands of questions, which Ketcham goes into in great detail, which should be the subject of congressional hearings and investigations, such as, was the Mossad essentially being subcontracted by the CIA to work in the United States on spying, which would be illegal? How much did the Israelis really know? If it was a good thing for Israel, maybe they withheld the final news that the thing was going to land. That’s a speculation, of course, but it should be investigated and probed.

It’s absolutely extraordinary that Ketcham’s story, which has been worked on, which is a very long and complex story, could not find any market until Counterpunch, which is what we’re here for, could published it. Obviously, the main reason is the word “Israel.” People drop it like a hot potato. As soon as you hear people say it’s a good thing for Israel, the whole lobby came in and had those people whipped out of their jail and sent back to Israel. And since then, all questions regarding it had been systematically checked off. I think that’s the sort of, you know, journalistic patty-cake --

ALEXANDER COCKBURN: Alexander, this story that you've published first was going to go to, then The Nation?

ALEXANDER COCKBURN: That's what I understand from Christopher, yes. That's true.

AMY GOODMAN: Christopher Ketcham?

CHRISTOPHER KETCHAM: Yeah. The editors didn't feel that there was any news here.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And I’d like to ask Marc Perelman, were you surprised when the 9/11 Commission Report came out that there was no mention of -- at all in the reports of possible knowledge by Israeli agents in this country of the attacks or tracking of some of these suspects?

MARC PERELMAN: Yes and no. I mean, I was surprised, because, since there have been questions that are still being asked now, that at least the commission would address the issue, even to debunk it. That being said, my reporting was narrow, was about those movers and what were they doing. And the conclusion was that they were essentially spying on radical activists in the region, and that they had been let go, because the American authorities had determined that they did not have foreknowledge of the attacks, which is different than what the article says, because it implies that they were essentially shipped to Israel because of the Israel lobby, and because they knew, whereas what I have been able to find out is that they were sent home because they did something they were not supposed to do and without the knowledge of the American government, which is an issue, obviously, that should be discussed publicly.

AMY GOODMAN: That the Israelis were spying on US soil.

MARC PERELMAN: Right, without the approval of the US authorities. Sometimes friendly governments have agreements, where they can kind of like spy together. Apparently, this was a case where it was not happening.

AMY GOODMAN: Marc, we’re going to have to leave it there. Marc Perelman of The Forward, which is based in New York; Christopher Ketcham, freelance journalist, author of this latest piece that appears in Counterpunch; Alexander Cockburn, thanks also for joining us, editor of Counterpunch newletter.

The Manichean War

February 09, 2007


The people "running" this war were never capable of distinguishing between the vision of the war they were selling to the country for propaganda purposes and the reality of what was happening. Even if torturing people to get "intelligence" was something which actually worked, the premise that such "intelligence" would actually help to solve the situation was based on the fantasy vision of what that problem was. They really believed that there were some evil masterminds with evil lairs - first former Baathists and then various "foreign fighters" - and if only they could find them and kill them then the problems would go away. There was an "enemy" which could somehow be vanquished, and once we did that the ponies would arrive.

This was a cartoon version of the war they tried to sell to the American public, but it was also what was driving their truly barbaric behavior.

That's quite right. I'll link again to Mark Danner's wonderful piece on the many different wars folks in the Bush administration thought they were fighting, which I still think is the smartest analysis of Iraq yet written. It's also worth dipping into an essay my friend Chris Hayes authored on the role World War II nostalgia played in all this. It wasn't an accident that the right kept comparing Bush to Churchill and Bush keeps comparing himself to Truman.

On September 11, 2001, George W. Bush wrote the following impression in his diary: “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today.” He wasn’t alone in this assessment. In the days after the attacks, editorialists, pundits and citizens reached with impressive unanimity for this single historical precedent. The Sept. 12 New York Times alone contained 13 articles mentioning Pearl Harbor.

Five years after 9/11 we are still living with the legacy of this hastily drawn analogy. Whatever the natural similarities between December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001, the association of the two has led us to convert—first in rhetoric, later in fact—a battle against a small band of clever, murderous fundamentalists into a worldwide war of epic scale.

No leader wants to be a mediocrity, a technocrat, a manager. Even the CEO President wants to engineer a dramatic turnaround and series of takeovers, not leave a record of competent governance and incremental achievements. But Bush entered office at a moment that seemed capable of little more. No wars in the offing, no powerful enemies looming, a surplus in the budget, relatively high contentment and satisfaction among Americans. 9/11 was his chance for greatness, and he took it. But Afghanistan was too easy, too quick, too simple, too obscure. We roared to Kabul and then it was...what? Over? So the reprisal against al-Qaeda became a war against not only terror, but tyranny, and illiberalism. A war against evil. As more and more Americans recognize that deception, and as our own actions in Iraq -- which will leave the country a maelstrom of murder, chaos, and tribal enmity -- begin looking somewhat dark themselves, I wonder how great the psychological damage will be to America. Back to Chris:

It is a grand irony that Spielberg claimed repeatedly that his entire motivation behind making Saving Private Ryan was to deconstruct the simplified version of WWII that Americans had come to accept. “All wars,” he said in a typical interview, are “chambers of horrors.” And that’s certainly true of the film’s opening and of the gruesome descriptions in Ambrose’s books and Brokaw’s recounting. But what emerges from these works is a picture of war as a chamber of physical horrors—torn limbs, exposed viscera, muck, blood. Absent completely are the moral horrors of combat, the horror of taking a life, of feeling the killer within. There’s a good deal of evidence that suggests the most traumatic experience of war isn’t being the target of violence, but rather the agent. A 1994 study of post-traumatic stress in veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam found that “responsibility for killing another human being is the single most pervasive, traumatic experience of war.”

What America is going through isn't, I think, a revulsion at the physical horrors of war. Nor is it a precise analogue to the Vietnam Syndrome, wherein we question our own power. Our power is massive, our ability to salve ancient ethnic conflicts is less so, but that's a different issue. What no longer looks certain, though, is the righteousness of our cause, the morality of our mission. American exceptionalism is what's taking a beating, even among Americans. We're shocked at the moral transgression of this invasion, and the blithe ease with which the country accepted a tragic conflict which will leave, when all is said and done, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, dead. It is the ease with which we have taken those lives, and the realization that we were capable of doing so immorally and irrationally, that will be most unsettling to the American psyche.

February 9, 2007 | Permalink

Wolfowitz Warns of 'Surprise like Pearl Harbor' Months Before 9/11 Attacks

Aaron Dykes / Jones Report | February 9, 2007

Video posted recently on Live Leak shows now World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz delivering a June 2001 West Point commencement speech wherein he focused on surprise attacks-- making heavy reference to Pearl Harbor.

Wolfowitz illustrated, just months before the infamous 9/11 attacks, that Pearl Harbor is interesting in that it was "preceded by an astonishing number of unheeded warnings and missed signals."

This surfacing video only reinforces the pre-meditation established by the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). Wolfowitz helped to pen the think tank's September 2000 document 'Rebuilding America's Defenses' which stated on pg. 51, amidst a larger call for dramatic military build-up, that:

"Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor."

Pearl Harbor is mentioned again later in the document in arguing for not only accelerated military spending, but for updated, state-of-the-art equipment, vehicles and Navy vessels.

"Absent a rigorous program of experimentation to investigate the nature of the revolution in military affairs as it applies to war at sea, the Navy might face a future Pearl Harbor – as unprepared for war in the post-carrier era as it was unprepared for war at the dawn of the carrier age."

This veiled threat evokes memories of a long-line of iconic false-flag attacks on U.S. ships-- including the Maine and the Gulf of Tonkin-- which, like Pearl Harbor, also launched profitable wars.

During his June 2001 speech, Wolfowitz commented on the role of such unanticipated events:

"Military history is full of surprises, even if few are as dramatic or memorable as Pearl Harbor. Surprises happen so often, that is is surprising that we're still surprised by it."

At least since his 1992 'Wolfowitz Doctrine' under George H.W. Bush, he has called for a sharp transformation of military capabilities into an unilateral and pre-emptive security arm for world conflicts-- solidifying U.S. primacy in the world order and ensuring control over mid-east oil.

One year after the goal of military escalation was reaffirmed in the PNAC documents-- written largely by members of the Bush administration-- the 9/11 'surprise' attack happened and Wolfowitz saw his dream of military build-up come to fruition-- including massive increases in budget, far beyond even the $100 billion increase Wolfowitz called for a decade earlier.

Remember, President Bush had the orders to launch war in Afghanistan on his desk two days prior to 9/11, but didn't sign them until after the attacks.

Wolfowitz seemed to expect an unexpected war could be just around the corner during his June 2001 speech. He went into some detail about the tendency of governments to get into a "routine of obsession with familiar dangers"-- explaining why a multitude of threats and signals can be overlooked and fail to prevent surprise attacks like that on Pearl Harbor.

He illustrates the rather ironic story of David Starr Jordan, who predicted-- just before the start of World War I-- that nations would not go to war in the future because banks would not find them to be profitable.

Nearly a century later, Wolfowitz warns us that we should:

"use hindsight to replace the poverty of expectations with anticipation of the unfamiliar and the unlikely."

He reiterated those words in the closing remarks of his address to West Point graduates:

"Be prepared to be surprised. Have courage."

Now in the comfort of hindsight, it is chilling to realize that such an unexpected war was just beyond Wolfowitz's warning-- the unlikely 9/11 attack was just around the corner and indeed, there was a heavy atmosphere of unheeded warnings in the intelligence community leading up to the surprise attack.

Fortunately for Wolfowitz, he was not embarrassing wrong as Jordan had been before World War I. He was, in fact, surprisingly dead on-- so much so, that one would swear he had prior knowledge.

(Wolfowitz, like fellow PNAC member William Kristol, is seen as an heir apparent to Leo Strauss, who believes openly in deceiving the public-- that it is not only acceptable, but necessary. Paul Wolfowitz chose the University of Chicago over Harvard in order to study under Strauss, who held a professorship there.)

Gitmo Cover-up?

February 09, 2007 1:26 PM

Vic Walter and Krista Kjellman Report:

Gitmo_abuse_abc_nr_4 An investigation by the U.S. Southern Command into allegations of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay detention center has concluded that "insufficient evidence exists to substantiate the paralegal's allegations."

But Lieutenant Colonel Colby Vokey, the superior officer to the Marine sergeant who filed the allegations, called the investigation "outrageous." "I am aware that the investigators interviewed only the suspects and some witnesses but did not interview any detainees or potential victims," he told ABC News. "Failure to interview those who may have been subjected to abuse is indicative of an incomplete investigation."

As first reported on "The Blotter" on, Heather Cerveny (pictured), 23, a Marine Corps sergeant, who spent a week on the base last September working as a legal aide to Lt. Col. Vokey, said she was "shocked" to hear several guards from different parts of the base openly speak of mistreating prisoners.

One said, "I took the detainee by the head and smashed his head into the cell door," she told ABC News in October after filing a sworn affidavit with the Pentagon Inspector General. Another "was telling his buddy, 'Yeah, this one detainee, you know, really pissed me off, irritated me. So I just, you know, punched him in the face.'"

The following investigation by SouthCom, which oversees military activities in the Caribbean and Latin America, looked into Cerveny's account and another filed by a civilian employee on the base that recounted a conversation between a female guard and a male interrogator on a training range. After interviewing 20 suspects and witnesses and combing through "three JTF-Guantanamo records systems used to trace detainee-guard interaction," investigators determined, "The evidence did not support any of the allegations of mistreatment and harassment."

Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage.

Amongst the recommendations issued by the investigating officer but ultimately rejected by the SouthCom commander following the investigation was "that disciplinary or other action be taken against Sergeant Cerveny," which Lt. Col Vokey says is the most "outrageous part of the investigation."

"The interview of her [Sgt. Cerveny] was ridiculous and oppressive," he said. "The investigating officers, a colonel and a captain, walked straight into her office with the intent to accuse her of a crime before she even opened her mouth. The colonel already had the form in his hand to read her her rights and accuse her, before the interview started."

Lt. Col. Vokey says this investigation sets a dangerous precedent for all officers who find themselves in a position to report suspected criminal activity. "This was outrageous and sends a dangerous message to all our service members: you'd better not report anything that goes on at Guantanamo Bay, or you'll be threatened or charged with a crime."

Read the press release from United States Southern Command.

Click here for Brian Ross & Investigative Team's Homepage

February 9, 2007 | Permalink | User Comments (2)