Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Rule of law crippled

Editor's note: I am moving over to post at the other blog(also see new articles below).
By Bruce Fein

Published February 27, 2007

The Great Writ of habeas corpus is to the rule of law what oxygen is to life.

The U.S. Court of Appeals imprudently crippled the writ last week in Lakhdar Boumediene v. Bush (Feb. 20). A divided three-judge panel declared suspected alien enemy combatants held indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay may not question their detentions in federal courts though petitions for writs of habeas corpus under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA). Writing for a 2-1 majority, Judge Raymond Randolph mistakenly endorsed a cramped interpretation of habeas corpus as though he were addressing a tax exemption in the Internal Revenue Code.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Accordingly, the Great Writ prevents the president from disappearing political opponents or the unpopular into dungeons based on his say-so alone, a frightening power that has earmarked despots from time immemorial. The writ enables detainees to require the president to establish the factual and legal foundations for their detentions before an independent judiciary.

The goal is justice, the end of civil society as James Madison explained in the Federalist Papers. The president may be inclined to detain bogus enemy combatants in the war against global terrorism to inflate public fear and to justify executive aggrandizements, for example, spying without judicial or legislative oversight in contravention of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. A former commandant and deputy commandant at Guantanamo Bay have averred that most of its detainees do not belong there.

The Great Writ does not threaten to release a single genuine enemy combatant. The burden to defeat the Great Writ is modest: plausible evidence (far short of proof beyond a reasonable doubt) that the detainee was implicated in active hostilities against the United States. In Rasul v. Bush (2004), the Supreme Court held the federal habeas corpus statute extended to aliens at Guantanamo. Two years later, Congress overruled Rasul in the MCA by suspending the Great Writ for alien enemy combatants detained anywhere. Its proponents were unable to cite a single habeas case either before or after Rasul that precipitated the release of an authentic terrorist. Such a case might be hypothesized with a fevered enough imagination. But the law would become "a ass, a idiot," in the words of Charles Dickens' Mr. Bumble, if required to answer jumbo speculations that never happen in the real world.

Article I, section 9, clause 2 of the Constitution (Suspension Clause) declares "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." Judge Randolph tacitly acknowledged in Boumediene that neither habeas exception justified the MCA, i.e., global terrorists have not invaded America. He insisted, however, that the Great Writ has no application to aliens detained outside the sovereignty of the United States; and, that Guantanamo Bay is under the sovereignty of Cuba, albeit subject to a perpetual United States lease.

The latter observation is risible. Fidel Castro has no more access or control over Guantanamo than he does over Washington, D.C., or Des Moines. If Mr. Castro formally abandoned sovereignty over Guantanamo tomorrow, nothing would change.

Judge Randolph maintained that a declaration by the political branches in the MCA that Guantanamo is not part of the United States is conclusive on the courts. But the dimensions of the Great Writ -- which defines what we are as a people -- should not be so easily contracted by semantic jugglery.

Judge Randolph observed that historically the Great Writ in Great Britain was withheld from remote islands, garrisons and dominions. Compliance with a writ from overseas would have been impractical because of time limitations for producing the detainee. But as Chief Justice John Marshall taught in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), the Constitution was designed to endure for the ages and to be construed accordingly to achieve its purposes. Congress is empowered to create an Air Force, although the Constitution speaks only of armies and navies. The Fourth Amendment protects against indiscriminate government interceptions of e-mails and conversations, although its language speaks only of persons, houses, papers and effects. Similarly, the Great Writ should apply to suspected alien enemy combatants detained abroad unless compliance would be impractical or unworkable.

No civilized Constitution risks injustice for the sake of injustice, aside from the folly of creating poster children to boost al Qaeda's recruitments. The Supreme Court should grant review of Boumediene and reverse the appeals court.

Bruce Fein is a constitutional lawyer and international consultant with Bruce Fein & Associates and the Lichfield Group.

In Iraq, the killing of 18 teenagers is a horrible routine

Robert Fisk

Published: 28 February 2007

This is a story with a caution. Eighteen teenagers were killed on Monday at a football field east of Baghdad. On Sunday, equally young students of Mustansiriya University - the oldest in Baghdad - were blown up by a suicide bomber. It has become a routine, at one and the same time more horrible and more normal each day. Only two years ago, a suicide bomber drove into an American convoy in Baghdad, killing 27 civilians, half of them children taking sweets from American soldiers. What price innocence?

Well, as usual, nothing is as it seems in Iraq. Within hours of the mass deaths in Ramadi yesterday came a disturbing statement by the US military. They knew of no deaths in Ramadi, although - and here was the sinister part of the whole thing - it was true, the Americans said, that 30 people had been "slightly wounded" in Ramadi when US troops set off a "controlled explosion" near a football field. "I can't imagine there would be another attack involving children without our people knowing," an American officer announced. Quite so.

Then he apparently half-acknowledged that there was another explosion near the soccer field, a "barbaric crime" by al-Qa'ida. The police said it was a car bomb. The American-funded Iraqi television service said it was a roadside bomb. A local tribal leader said that of the 18 dead, six were women - not, presumably, football players.

In Iraq, as we all know now, they go for the jugular. The old, the young, pregnant women, infants, soldiers, gunmen, murderers. They all die violently, the innocent along with the guilty. One of the insurgents' principal financial supporters - we had met in Amman, of course, not in Baghad - put it very succinctly to me. "A decision was made that we have to accept civilian casualties. If we attack the Americans, the innocent will die. We know that. What do you people call it when you kill women and children? Collateral damage?"

But exactly what happened in Ramadi remained suspiciously unclear. The football stadium where the 18 youths were reported to have been killed was near a US base. But there are no American troops on the campus at Mustansiriya. There was talk yesterday that a local Sunni imam in Ramadi had denounced al-Qa'ida - which operates in loose co-operation with Sunni insurgent groups - and that this might have prompted a revenge attack by the organisation.

But such is the level of violence and anarchy in Iraq today that all such events are filtered through pro-American Iraqi security officials or through the US army or through insurgents' websites. Insurgents' victims are claimed to have been killed by the Americans, civilians killed by US troops are said to have been murdered by insurgents. Who knows if that did not happen in Ramadi? In fear of their lives, Western journalists can no longer investigate these atrocities. The Americans like it that way. So, one suspects, do the insurgents. Accurate information in Iraq is like water in the desert: precious, rare, often polluted.

Ramadi is a no-go area for every Westerner, including most US troops. So who set off the truck bomb near a mosque in the city which killed 52 people on Saturday? Or the ambulance outside a police station near Ramadi, which killed 14 people on Monday? Shia militiamen seeking further blood in their war on Sunni fighters? Sunni groups trying to implicate Shia? Al-Qa'ida? Or the other shadowy groups who have affiliations with the American-supported Iraqi government, with the ministries of interior or health or "defence"?

The reality is that Iraq's war now exists in a fog through which we can see only vague figures. They may be insurgents or they may be soldiers. Or they may, for all the Iraqis know, be units from the 120,000 - yes, 120,000 - Western mercenaries now believed to be operating in Iraq for any number of legal and quasi-legal organisations. These hired gunmen constitute a force almost equal to the entire US contingent in Iraq. Who do they work for? What are their rules? The answer to the first may be "everyone". The answer to the second question? None.

Besides these great mysteries, what did the lives of 18 teenagers matter to the world yesterday, let alone who killed them?

Lieberman pals in Connecticut legislature seek to regulate political blogging

A Bad Idea

Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 23:31:11 PM EST

Maura brought this classy piece of work to my attention, to be debated tomorrow at GAE, which will stop any

television advertising, Internet video or Internet audio, or radio advertising communication that promotes the defeat of any candidate's campaign for nomination at a primary (A) if such communication contains an altered or fabricated representation intended to promote the defeat of a candidate for public office, and (B) unless such communication includes a valid citation for each vote, quote or stated position or opinion ascribed to such candidate;

I wonder if editing a minute-long clip of a longer interview would qualify as "altering" the representation. Note also that this particular provision only impacts those making video or audio for non-federal primary elections.

The bill official title is "An Act Concerning Accountability In Campaign Advertising" - but I think its informal title will be the "Jimmy Amman Crushes his Competition Act of 2007."

Oh go on, you know it's worth seeing again. What's better, one of the original sponsors of the act is disgraced Liebercrat Bill Finch.

On a more serious note, it looks like one of the first election laws that really target campaign bloggers, giving legal challengers what I'd imagine is a legal standing to force campaigns to disclose conversations they have with bloggers.

The text of the (proposed) law makes several references to those making web-based appeals for donations or advocating for or against specific candidates in "consultation with" any given campaign, which would seem to require some level of official disclosure from anyone commenting for or against candidates online, or posting a donation link.

It'd certainly regulate how we do things around here, and political bloggers in CT would at the least be wise to consult a lawyer should this proposal become law. There'll probably be a lot more to say as this develops.

UPDATE: User mas notes in comments that the reference to regulating internet audio/video only in a primary is probably a drafting error that will be fixed if the bill goes forward, and notes this definition that I glossed over for some reason:

"(NEW) (29) "Altered or fabricated representation" means the visual or auditory representation of a candidate that is (A) altered such that the effect is to portray an individual other than such candidate or an image significantly different from that of such candidate, or (B) an individual, other than the candidate, who is posing as the candidate."

This would seemingly make video like the "Speaking for Bush" ad or audio like the "Sick Day / Impacted Wisdom Tooth" ad out of bounds, but from what mas describes, it'd be a stretch to apply this proposal to simple editing.

mattw :: A Bad Idea

Brain Injuries Unforeseen War Cost

Brain Injuries Unforeseen War Cost

'Saw My Body Floating'

Stop Bush's Attack on Iran

March 17:
March on the Pentagon

On March 17, to mark the 4th anniversary of this immoral and unjust war and occupation of Iraq, JOIN FORCES and march on The Pentagon. Tell the Bush Regime to End the War NOW! No attack on Iran!
March 20: Student Walk-Outs

War on Iran Looms Dangerously on the Horizon: What Are You Going to Do About It?

2/25/07: The Bush administration, in its rhetoric and in its actions, is moving dangerously towards an attack on Iran. Bush and other administration officials claim that Iran is providing weapons to insurgents in Iraq, without ever offering proof. They hypocritically talk about the threat of Iran dominating the Middle East (again without offering evidence), when the US government is already occupying Iraq and proclaiming its right to attack other countries. And the Bush administration continues to claim Iran is well on its way to developing nuclear weapons, and that this will not be tolerated. Bush, Cheney, and Rice say that "all options are on the table" in dealing with Iran, and that includes dropping nuclear bombs.

Not only are they seeking to build public support for an attack on Iran (in a way all too reminiscent of the build-up to the Iraq war), but military preparations are also well along the way. Two aircraft carrier battle groups have been placed near Iran. Patriot missiles are being moved to countries surrounding Iran. A naval admiral has been put in charge of the US military command in the region (which, given there are two ground wars going on in the region, would only make sense if there are plans for a new war not fought on the ground). In Iraq, the US military has twice captured Iranian diplomats. Covert operations by the US military inside Iran are already underway. Seymour Hersh reports in the March 5th issue of The New Yorker that a Pentagon panel was created to plan a bombing attack on Iran within 24 hours of getting the go-ahead from President Bush.

An attack by the US on Iran would have disastrous consequences. Not only would innocent people in Iran be killed, and perhaps suffer the lasting consequences of a nuclear bomb, but this would likely give rise to a much larger conflict in the Middle East and possibly the world. It would only strengthen the dynamic where people are told to choose between the Bush regime's unjust war on the world, on one hand, and Islamic fundamentalists on the other hand.

There is an urgent responsibility of people living in the United States to STOP an attack on Iran. The Bush regime cannot be allowed to bring about even more destruction to the world and further inflame the Middle East. In the coming weeks, there must be massive opposition from people in the US, refusing to allow an attack on Iran, demanding an end to the unjust war on Iraq, and demanding that Bush be impeached for war crimes. To do anything less at this crucial moment will be to accept and be complicit in the horrors being carried out and future horrors being planned by the Bush regime.

The following articles provide important insight into what the Bush regime is planning in relation to Iran:

The Redirection by Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker, 2/25/07

From the Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Iraq by Craig Unger, Vanity Fair, 3/07

Bald-faced Lies and Bogus Pretexts Revolution newspaper

Bush Is Hiding the Ball on Iran by Robert Parry

Bush Regime “Surges”…Toward War With Iran by Larry Everest

Clinton, Edwards and Obama: Strike Iran by Joshua Frank

War on Iran Looms Dangerously on the Horizon

The Next Act by Seymour Hersh

Click here for plans for emergency protest response to any attack on Iran on

The long road back to freedom from Zionism


Neocon Imperialism, 9/11, and the Attacks on Afghanistan & Iraq

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Five countries – the U. S., Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – were forced to bend over and spread ’em as a result of the U. S. forcing its ‘allies’ to conform to Benjamin Netanyahu’s ‘war on terror’ in the wake of the September 11 attacks. All five victims of Zionist propaganda had to create horrific Orwellian legislation to oppress Muslims (Muslims are, of course, the direct target of the ‘war on terror’ legislation). Now, Canada is taking the long road back to freedom.

The Canadian legislation contained a ‘sunset’ clause which required Parliament to reconsider the worst parts of the legislation, passed after September 11, 2001, in five years. Liberal leader Stéphane Dion deserves enormous credit for resisting the enormous – and I mean enormous – pressure from the Zionist lobby within his own party, and holding fast to his principles (if you don’t believe me, read how a Zionist puts the issue; Dion’s selection as Liberal leader really was a massive defeat for the Jewish Billionaires Club, who are trying to get their revenge by having their media catamites claim Dion isn’t doing well as Liberal leader). The governing Conservatives, representing the Israel Lobby and the jack-booted thugs distinguished members of the security establishment, desperately wanted to keep the draconian laws in place. The Liberals voted with the other two opposition parties to put an end to the two worst parts of the legislation.

Note in particular ultra-Zionist Irwin Cotler, who takes the position that the oppressive laws should stay as they have never been used. I suppose Cotler, who fancies himself an advocate of human rights (other than for Palestinians, of course), would support the passage of a death-penalty law for jaywalking, as long as the law is never used.

The reason the law was never used is that the authorities relied on provisions of the Immigration Act to detain Muslims. These obviously unconstitutional provisions were struck down by a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court of Canada last Friday. The problem with having obviously unconstitutional legislation on the books is twofold. First, the mere existence of such laws can be used as a threat against victims of the security establishment. Secondly, the victims of the unconstitutional laws languish in detention for years before the issue reaches the courts (assuming the victims can afford to pay to make it through the legal system).

Once freedom is lost it is very difficult to regain it. The Zionists and the jack-booted thugs distinguished members of the security establishment relied on fear to attempt to keep the legislation. Terrorist hell is supposed to break loose once there is any glimmer of freedom from oppression.

The ‘war on terror’ was created by Netanyahu and the Israeli right for three reasons:

  1. It was supposed to replace the idea that Israel was the ally of the United States in the Middle East in the battle against the Soviets, by the idea that Israel was the ally of the United States in the Middle East in the battle against fundamentalist Islam (the shift was needed when the Soviet Union no longer existed).
  2. It was intended to create the idea that Israel’s struggle against the justified reaction by the Palestinians to Israeli war crimes was the same struggle faced by the United States, and the world.
  3. It has been extended to include the entire gamut of propaganda weapons which we know of as Islamophobia, intended to create a general fear of Islam which is used to make possible various Zionist outrages.

One of the Israeli spies caught while cheering at the collapse of the World Trade center put it clearly (my emphasis in red):

“We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem.”

Netanyahu himself, on being asked about what the September 11 attacks would mean for US-Israeli relations, said:

“It's very good. Well, it's not good, but it will generate immediate sympathy.”

Make no mistake: the Canadian and similar oppressive laws are the gifts of Zionism to the world. One of the many payments the rest of the world makes for not stopping Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity is having to live under the burden of oppressive Zionist anti-Muslim legislation.


Pro-Israeli lobby is silencing dissent

By George Bisharat

Published 12:00 am PST Sunday, February 25, 2007

One day in 1981, my late father, Maurice Hanna Bisharat, returned from a long day at his Sacramento medical office with an extra bounce in his step, his eyes dancing with excitement. His friend, Michael Himovitz, the young owner of a local art gallery, had called, offering to hold a one-person show of my father's paintings -- mostly California landscapes. My father had taken up painting after immigrating to this country from Palestine in the late 1940s, and although an amateur, had won a national art award after two years. But the demands of medical practice, raising a large family and other avocations took their toll. It had been many years since my father's art had been publicly exhibited, and he was tickled.

My father was not a politician, but like any Palestinian living in the United States, he felt obligated to relate his people's experience to American friends. Educated and articulate, he spoke publicly in defense of Palestinian rights, and was a frequent commentator on Middle East events in the local media. Michael, a Jew, was perfectly aware of this side of my father's life. It did nothing to diminish his appreciation of my father's art, or to inhibit their friendship.

Some weeks later I saw my father sitting, stony faced. He turned to me and whispered: "I just got a call from Michael. My show has been canceled." Michael had been visited by a group from the Sacramento Jewish community, my father said. Their message: "If you show Bisharat's art, we will boycott your gallery and close you down." Michael may have been as crushed as my father, apologizing: "I just can't risk it -- it's my livelihood." The indirect message to my father, of course, was: "If you speak critically of Israel, you will suffer." Fortunately, art was not my father's livelihood, and he survived this incident. But a deep sense of outrage never left him.

So when former New York Mayor Edward Koch and Rafael Medoff asked incredulously in a recent commentary critical of President Jimmy Carter's recent book "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid" "Are Jews suppressing speech?" -- or when 14 Carter Center advisory board members resigned in protests of the president's positions -- the answer, for me, is not so straightforward.

The fact is that "Jews" are not suppressing speech. Michael Himovitz certainly didn't suppress my father's attempts to explain the Palestinian perspective to his fellow citizens. Many American Jews hold views not dissimilar to my father's -- supporting peace, reconciliation and equal rights for Palestinians and Jews.

Yet a minority of Jews, backed by some non-Jewish supporters, stridently protests any unflattering portrayal of Israel, often with unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism. Indeed, insinuations of anti-Jewish bias are now being unfairly raised against Carter. And some supporters of Israel, apparently, are willing to exploit economic clout to punish those who, like my father, buck the trend and defend Palestinian rights.

Nor is the example of my father isolated. Countless variations are recounted in former Illinois Republican congressman Paul Findley's book, "They Dare to Speak Out." More chilling, these efforts at intimidation are not always the spontaneous responses of individuals, as in my father's case, or likely in the resignations of the Carter Center advisory board members.

On the contrary, the pro-Israel lobby, joined by the Israeli government, sustains a systematic campaign to shape American public opinion. For example, the Committee on Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, known as CAMERA, harangues journalists over alleged "mistakes." In 2002, CAMERA attacked National Public Radio, claiming anti-Israel bias, including failure to report Israeli deaths. Two Boston area businessmen associated with CAMERA organized a boycott of local NPR affiliate WBUR. Meanwhile, a study of NPR's coverage by Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, or FAIR, showed that NPR had disproportionately reported Israeli deaths.

HonestReporting is a media organization that mobilizes 140,000 subscribers worldwide. Its Web site once touted "major editorial changes at CNN which greatly shifted public perception of the Arab-Israel conflict." The impetus, according to the Jerusalem Post, was "up to 6,000 e-mails per day to CNN executives, effectively paralyzing their internal e-mail system."

The Israeli government also applied pressure to CNN, according to verbatim notes of a conference call in 2000 obtained by advocate/researcher Phyllis Bennis. In the call, Israeli government spokesman Nachman Shai, outlined Israel's media strategy with 30 to 60 U.S. Jewish leaders, focusing concern on CNN, and especially two Palestinian reporters. "We are putting real pressure on the heads of CNN to have them replaced with more objective pro-Israel reporters that are willing to tell our side of the story."

Monitoring media to ensure accuracy is a public service. Yet as besieged journalists have concluded, the goal of this campaign is not truth, but pro-Israeli advocacy and silencing dissent. WBUR's general manager Jane Christo described CAMERA's message as: "Report our point of view, or we'll shut you down." Dissenting American Jews are not spared. Jilian Redford, head of the Hillel Jewish student group at the University of Richmond was dismissed in 2004 after protesting the Israeli embassy's repeated e-mail propaganda directives. Redford saw Hillel's mission as facilitating Jewish religious life on campus, not doing "hasbara" (Hebrew for "explanation," or "propaganda" as Israel's critics call it) for the Israeli government.

To reiterate: This is not a "Jewish" campaign. "Hasbara," coordinated with, if not directed by right-wing Israeli governments, is unrepresentative of largely liberal American Jews. Many would no doubt be horrified by the actions of these self-appointed guardians of thought. Nor does the Israel lobby "control" the media, as publication of Carter's book and this article attest.

But the price of our still mostly one-sided exposure to Middle East affairs is high, and it is much greater than the hurt inflicted on my father and others like him. Americans are shielded from diverse perspectives about a pivotal conflict, and are thus hampered in critically evaluating U.S. policies. Our unconditional support for Israel is a principal cause of global anger against us.

Last summer our government ran diplomatic cover for Israel's invasion of Lebanon, prolonging the attack for weeks. Israel killed more than a thousand Lebanese, mostly civilians, heavily damaged the country's civilian infrastructure and displaced a quarter of the population. The consequence: National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, delivering the annual U.S. threat estimate recently, said the Lebanese group Hezbollah, which has not targeted Americans for decades, poses a significant threat. Meanwhile, UPI editor Arnaud de Borchgrave reports that former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other prominent Israelis are urging a public relations blitz to instigate a U.S. strike on Iran.

It is one thing to match ideas with ideas, information with information, perspective with perspective. It is entirely different to threaten, bully, discredit and harass opponents of one's views -- whether they are writers, artists, Jewish dissidents, former presidents or anyone else.

And in this case, our resulting ignorance is not bliss. It is downright dangerous.

Why the Generals May Resign over Iran (Hint: It's the Nukes)

Wed Feb 28th, 2007 at 12:36:34 PM EST

As you know, the Sunday Times of London reported senior military leaders may resign if Bush orders an attack on Iran. The question is, why now? It's not because aggressive war is a war crime. Nor because the blowback from any attack would greatly increase the risk to our troops in Iraq, and possibly lead to further terrorist attacks. No, it has everything to do with this statement about Iran recently uttered by Vice President Cheney: "All options are on the table."

The generals who may resign do not consider "all options" to mean an attack using only conventional weapons. I think they know that "all options" is specifically being used by Bush and Cheney to signal that America will use nuclear weapons for the second time in our history.

In other words: All Options = Nuclear War

Why do I think this? Because for several years now the Bush administration has been planning for the possibility of using nuclear weapons against "rogue nations." Back in 2004, I wrote a diary which quoted this report by Philip Giraldi, a former CIA agent, in which he cited Pentagon sources who claimed that ...

...Vice President Dick Cheney's office ... has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons.

This came on the heels of Rumsfeld's revision of our nuclear doctrine, which now permits the use of tactical nuclear weapons as part of a newly developed global strike capability overseen by STRATCOM and embodied in STRATCOM's operational plan for its global strike capability vis-avis Iran, CONPLAN 8022:

In November 2003, Rumsfeld approved a plan known as CONPLAN 8022-02, which for the first time established a pre-emptive-strike capability against Iran. That was followed in 2004 by a top-secret "Interim Global Strike Alert Order" that put the military on a state of readiness to launch an airborne and missile attack against Iran, should Bush issue the command. "We're now at the point where we are essentially on alert," said Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson, commander of the 8th Air Force. "We have the capacity to plan and execute global strikes in half a day or less."

What are Global Strike and CONPLAN 8022 about? They aren't about deterring anyone from acquiring nuclear weapons. What they represent is a fundamental change in the way we confront so-called "terrorist threats" and "rogue nations." In effect, Global Strike and CONPLAN 8022 promote the offensive, preemptive use of America's military power to attack nations who we perceive may become potential threats in the future. In short, it is the the adoption of war fighting as the sole means to deal with potential threats to our national security.

Even more troubling, CONPLAN 8022 specifically, and the Global Strike capability in general, provides for the use of tactical or "low yield" nuclear weapons. The prominent role assigned to nuclear weapons in CONPLAN 8022 was first detailed in the media in a report by William Arkin of the Washington Post published September 2005, entitled "Not Just a Last Resort."

CONPLAN 8022 is different from other war plans in that it posits a small-scale operation and no "boots on the ground." The typical war plan encompasses an amalgam of forces -- air, ground, sea -- and takes into account the logistics and political dimensions needed to sustain those forces in protracted operations. All these elements generally require significant lead time to be effective. (Existing Pentagon war plans, developed for specific regions or "theaters," are essentially defensive responses to invasions or attacks. The global strike plan is offensive, triggered by the perception of an imminent threat and carried out by presidential order.) [...]

By employing all of the tricks in the U.S. arsenal to immobilize an enemy country -- turning off the electricity, jamming and spoofing radars and communications, penetrating computer networks and garbling electronic commands -- global strike magnifies the impact of bombing by eliminating the need to physically destroy targets that have been disabled by other means.

The inclusion, therefore, of a nuclear weapons option in CONPLAN 8022 -- a specially configured earth-penetrating bomb to destroy deeply buried facilities, if any exist -- is particularly disconcerting. The global strike plan holds the nuclear option in reserve if intelligence suggests an "imminent" launch of an enemy nuclear strike on the United States or if there is a need to destroy hard-to-reach targets.

The concept that we might use nuclear weapons to attack Iran's nuclear facilities has gone far beyond just the planning stages, by the way. Last year, Seymour Hersh reported in an article in the New Yorker that since the summer of 2005 US military aircraft have been simulating nuclear attacks against Iranian targets:

Some operations, apparently aimed in part at intimidating Iran, are already under way. American Naval tactical aircraft, operating from carriers in the Arabian Sea, have been flying simulated nuclear-weapons delivery missions—rapid ascending maneuvers known as “over the shoulder” bombing—since last summer, the former official said, within range of Iranian coastal radars.

Hersh and others have reported that the Pentagon has presented administration officials with proposals involving the use of the B61-11 tactical nuclear weapon to destroy Iran's hardened facilities such as its centrifuge program located in Natanz, roughly 200 miles south of Tehran. Although it is believed that the Joint Chiefs have not signed off on the use of such "low yield" nuclear weapons in any proposed attack on Iran, other administration advisers have not been so reluctant. As Hersh noted in his 2006 article, the Defense Science Board was actively advocating for their inclusion in the attack plans:

The adviser added, however, that the idea of using tactical nuclear weapons in such situations has gained support from the Defense Science Board, an advisory panel whose members are selected by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “They’re telling the Pentagon that we can build the B61 with more blast and less radiation,” he said.

The chairman of the Defense Science Board is William Schneider, Jr., an Under-Secretary of State in the Reagan Administration. In January, 2001, as President Bush prepared to take office, Schneider served on an ad-hoc panel on nuclear forces sponsored by the National Institute for Public Policy, a conservative think tank. The panel’s report recommended treating tactical nuclear weapons as an essential part of the U.S. arsenal and noted their suitability “for those occasions when the certain and prompt destruction of high priority targets is essential and beyond the promise of conventional weapons.” Several signers of the report are now prominent members of the Bush Administration, including Stephen Hadley, the national-security adviser; Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; and Robert Joseph, the Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

The B61-11, by the way, is a tactical weapon only in the sense that it carries a nuclear warhead with less than 1 megaton of explosive force. This does not mean it is a "cleaner nuke" or that its explosive power is de minimis. B61-11 bombs allegedly can carry warheads with yields ranging from 10 kilotons (and possibly lower) to as much 340 kilotons. As a means of comparison, the bomb which was detonated over Hiroshima at the end of World War II, and which resulted in the deaths of over 100,000 Japanese civilians had as estimated yield of 15 kilotons.

Based on that, you can see why some of our senior military officers may not be so enamored with the idea of using B61-11 bombs against Iranian targets. Should they be used, the loss of life is likely to be horrendous, both from the blast itself and from the effects of radiation. Yet this is precisely the scenario for which Cheney, Hadley and all the other neocons still serving in the Bush administration have been hoping. The opportunity to finally make the use of our nuclear weapons a reality, again. That it would constitute a crime against humanity in the present circumstances does not appear to distress them in the least.

George Lakoff is right when he claims that we need to face up to the fact that the war Bush and Cheney's are planning is a "nuclear war." Not a garden variety "military strike" surgical or otherwise, but a Nuclear War.

A familiar means of denying a reality is to refuse to use the words that describe that reality. A common form of propaganda is to keep reality from being described. In such circumstances, silence and euphemism are forms of complicity both in propaganda and in the denial of reality. And the media, as well as the major presidential candidates, are now complicit.

The stories in the major media suggest that an attack against Iran is a real possibility and that the Natanz nuclear development site is the number one target. As the above quotes from two of our best sources note, military experts say that conventional "bunker-busters" like the GBU-28 might be able to destroy the Natanz facility, especially with repeated bombings. But on the other hand, they also say such iterated use of conventional weapons might not work, e.g., if the rock and earth above the facility becomes liquefied. On that supposition, a "low yield" "tactical" nuclear weapon, say, the B61-11, might be needed.

If the Bush administration, for example, were to insist on a sure "success," then the "attack" would constitute nuclear war. The words in boldface are nuclear war, that's right, nuclear war -- a first strike nuclear war.

I doubt many Americans would support a war with Iran if they knew that we plan on using nuclear weapons. So, our mission should be clear. The sooner we in the liberal blogosphere can push the mainstream media to convey that message to the American people, the better the odds that we can forestall what would be one of the greatest moral and political failures in American history. The madness of King George still can be reigned in, but only if we do our damnedest to expose his criminal plan for committing a first strike nuclear attack against Iran.

So whether you send a letter to the editor of your local paper, or an email to the media, or merely raise the topic with family and friends, ask them if they support a nuclear war against Iran. Say it just like that: Nuclear War. For that is what Bush is planning, and that is why the Generals are preparing their resignation letters, as we speak.

by Steven D

The totalitarian streak in the US

During the Cold War, the economies and cultures of the two great protagonists were not that different. The US adopted a "totalitarian" mobilization of resources to win the struggle. The fragmentation of US society today, the departure from the healthy "semi-totalitarian" arrangements of the 1930s-1950s, makes the US increasingly unable to prevail in any new struggle.

Central Asia
Mar 1, 2007

By Dmitry Shlapentokh

Russian President Vladimir Putin's speech at the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy was among the very few of his speeches that have attracted world attention. Putin attacked the West, mostly the United States, and the strength of his speech led a number of Russian and Western observers to believe that Russia and the US have engaged in a new cold war. But a close analysis indicates that neither Russia nor the US actually has such plans.

The hedonistic and corrupt Russian elite who keep their capital in US dollars and euros - and who would gladly discard friendly Belarus because it demands cheaper oil - hardly are in a confrontational mood. But while this point is too apparent to be discussed, the possibility of the US engaging in a new cold war requires further scrutiny.

The Cold War has been studied for a long time, and quite a few pundits have promulgated it as a mortal struggle between "communists" and "capitalists", with ideology the key. This explanation does not account for the actual US-communist military alliance in China, starting with US president Richard Nixon's 1972 visit.

Another approach notes the small difference between the US and the USSR in geopolitical posture, suggesting that the Cold War was not so much an ideological conflict as a traditional power struggle between two empires. But the similarities, usually ignored, between the US and the USSR go much deeper and are related to socioeconomic and political practices. It is the US totalitarian streak that made it possible for the US to stand against the Soviet Union.

The Cold War evolved not just from World War II but from the entire socioeconomic culture of the 20th century. Modern war is a long exercise that puts pressure on all aspects of society and requires massive government engagement in both political and economic life. It requires emphasis on the "real" economy - production of goods, not profitability (mostly the interests of private shareholders), and even less what is called "service", the foundation of the economic "bubbles" of today.

It requires a socioeconomic discipline where the state's interests are paramount but there is a broad social-security net. The rudiments of this system emerged in various European states during World War I, with no Marxist or Bolshevik influence after 1917. The Great Depression reactivated the trend and led to the rise of states with many similarities with totalitarian regimes; Franklin D Roosevelt's USA was one of them.

Especially in the left and liberal American mind, there were two Roosevelts. One was the benign president who started a policy that would be developed by liberals and the left: regulation of financial institutions, subsidies for agriculture, the minimum wage, Social Security. The other was a madman who made "mistakes" such as sending hundreds of thousands of innocent Americans of Japanese descent to camps.

But this was one Roosevelt, and his policy was similar to that of other totalitarian rulers of the era. Indeed, the Nazis had a centralized economy, discarded profits for "real" production, and engaged in long-term planning for permanent war. They also combined repression, not just for outsiders but for insiders - ethnic Germans - with an increasing safety net for a majority of the people.

The vast majority of Western pundits would proclaim that the masses demonstrate special vigor fighting for regimes that guarantee "liberties". But the opposite is true. It is not regimes of Western liberal "liberties" - the policemen of property that have little or no interest in the well-being of the majority - but regimes that play the role of a tough but protective parent who, regardless of abuses, would never abandon its "children". This feeling pushed the army of the Reich to the suburbs of Moscow; the same feeling pushed Russian and American soldiers to Berlin.

The basic socioeconomic arrangements of World War II survived during the Cold War era. In the US, the state continued to be actively engaged in economic arrangements. Business emphasis was on the "real" economy and continuous, actually planned, improvement of quality of goods. This continued to be combined with continuous state control and harsh repression; in fact, McCarthyism was not much different from Stalinist policies. The same "totalitarian" streaks in US political/economic culture provided the state with the support and dedication of the majority. This made it possible to sustain the bloody Korean War and a range of crises and plans for generations ahead to stand against Soviet pressure.

The very similarities between socioeconomic elements of the United States and the Soviet Union provided the US the strength to confront its major Cold War adversary. But the collapse of the USSR was seen not as a great lottery win with the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev but as a legitimate reward for the differences between the US and the USSR, not the similarities.

So the aspects that made the US similar to the USSR and 1930s-1950s America were discarded or minimized. And this makes the repetition of the Cold War, the generation-old conflict that required the exertion of efforts of an entire nation, impossible.

Most clear is the virtual disappearance of long-term planning and often the ignoring of actual results. Energy self-sufficiency has been regarded as essential for geopolitical/economic viability. But practically nothing is done about it despite years of talk. Concern with "real" production has almost disappeared.

The struggling automobile industry, a cornerstone of America's "real" economy, tries design, promotion campaigns, reduction of workforce and, of course, pressure on the government to protect it from "unfair competition". No real effort is made toward mass production of cars whose "real" characteristics would make them competitive.

Nor has there been planning to improve the quality or quantity of goods in most other segments of the economy. The emphasis is not on production but on profit, which could rise even if production declined. The stress is not on long-term planning but on immediate gratification, a stockbroker mentality, and rewards or punishment for playing with stock "bubbles". In fact, the rise and fall of stock "bubbles" are often unrelated to actual production.

This emphasis has also produced a US society with group but not national interests, where concern for the majority of the poor is ignored not just by the Republican right but by the liberal left. In fact, the attempt to change "affirmative action" preferential treatment based on race and gender to a policy based on low income is constantly rejected by the left as well as the right. The reason is simple: "affirmative action" benefits mostly middle-to-upper-class blacks and females; a change would benefit the poor and lower-middle classes regardless of race.

The fragmentation of US society, the departure from the healthy "semi-totalitarian" arrangements of the 1930s-1950s, makes the country increasingly unable to withstand a prolonged "cold war" struggle, either in the economy - consider the precipitous decline of competitiveness of US industrial goods despite the decline of the dollar vis-a-vis major currencies or even the "wooden ruble" - or in military affairs.

National stamina for a long conflict continues to decline, from the World War II victory with 300,000 combat deaths; the Korean War, a stalemate with about 38,000 losses; the Vietnam War defeat, with about 50,000 losses; to the present Iraq war, clearly moving to defeat, with only 3,000 losses and a mercenary army increasingly absorbing in its ranks anyone it can attract, including ex-criminals.

Carl von Clausewitz rightly noted a strong correlation between internal and foreign policy. Indeed, US survival in the Cold War was possible only because it accepted the enemy's socioeconomic arrangements - state involvement in economic activity; concern with real production more than profit; combining toughness and repressiveness with a broad security net not for "minorities" but for the majority of the poor; and, above all, planning for a generations-long economic and military struggle. None of these elements can be found in the present US, which is based on social fragmentation and a "bubble" economy of financial speculation and stock-market games.

This does not mean that the enemies of the US should be pleased. The "bubble economy" has produced a "stock-market war" - a war of quick and reckless adventures in which all available "cash" can be used for the mirage of a quick geopolitical profit, even if this "cash" is nuclear weapons. In fact, in sharp contrast with the calculating foreign policy of the Cold War era, the present elite - like many on Wall Street - preach the motto "shoot first, think later".

Dmitry Shlapentokh, PhD, is associate professor of history, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Indiana University South Bend. He is author of East Against West: The First Encounter - The Life of Themistocles, 2005.

Copyright 2007 Asia Times Online Ltd.

When cowboys don't shoot straight

When cowboys don't shoot straight

Forget about "rogue states" such as North Korea or Iran. America's building of a missile defense system and deploying it in places like Poland (!) is aimed at achieving just one thing - nuclear primacy over the one other nuclear power in the world that still has the capability of destroying the US. - F William Engdahl (Feb 28, '07)

Pakistan makes a deal with the Taliban

Pakistan makes a deal with the Taliban

Pakistan has made a deal to give logistical support to the Taliban in southwest Afghanistan. Islamabad desperately wants a foothold in the country and the Taliban need more muscle for their resistance. Veteran Taliban commander and diplomatic facilitator Mullah Dadullah is making it all happen, even as US Vice President Dick Cheney urges Islamabad to "get tough on the Taliban".

Cheney meets a general in his labyrinth

The congruence of interests between the Bush administration and the regime of President General Pervez Musharraf has no parallel in previous US-Pakistan relations. To belittle the general, to chastise him like an errant schoolboy over the Taliban and al-Qaeda - this was the last thing US Vice President Dick Cheney had in mind. In the big picture, which includes Iran, the US has a vital role for Islamabad. - M K Bhadrakumar (Feb 28, '07)

What Congressman saw among troops: Frustration

Posted on Wed, Feb. 28, 2007

What Murphy saw among troops: Frustration

Inquirer Washington Bureau

When a suicide bomber struck yesterday morning outside the U.S. base at Bagram, Afghanistan, it came as no shock to Rep. Patrick J. Murphy (D., Pa.), who had just returned from a trip to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Military commanders in Afghanistan told the Iraq war veteran from Bucks County that they desperately needed more troops to deal with a resurgent Taliban.

In Iraq, frustrated troops and senior officers said that the situation recalled the movie Groundhog Day - "the same thing happening over and over again as the Iraqi government provides little help," Murphy said.

Gen. David Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq overseeing a 21,500-troop buildup in American forces, "is going to have an impossible mission unless the Iraqis come off the sidelines and stand up for their own country," Murphy said in an interview yesterday.

Murphy and other House Democrats were scheduled to have an initial meeting last night to work out differences over using a war-spending bill to limit deployments to Iraq.

After proposing restrictions on the $93.4 billion Iraq-spending request tied to readiness standards, Rep. John P. Murtha (D., Pa.) was harshly criticized by Republicans and some Democrats who worry that Congress could be perceived as undermining U.S. troops.

Rep. Joe Sestak (D., Pa.), a retired Navy admiral who represents Delaware County, has proposed a timetable for the departure of U.S. forces from Iraq, and has said Murtha's approach may cause "unintended, unknown ramifications, when you get on the operational level."

Murphy, a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog coalition of Democrats, also opposes using the supplemental Iraq budget to restrict administration war options and has offered his own legislation on the redeployment of U.S. troops within 12 months.

"I want to make sure you can't get money from a different pot, shift it over," Murphy said. "Strategically, I want to make sure we don't get an end around by the White House."

In the Senate, Democrats yesterday continued to work on drafting a resolution that would repeal the 2002 authorization that paved the way for military action in Iraq.

A joint resolution being drafted by Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Carl Levin of Michigan, who chair the Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, respectively, would require the administration to begin a transition of U.S. forces in Iraq to a reduced mission focusing on border security and terrorism and not sectarian violence.

At the same time, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, called for more hearings on the constitutional authority of Congress to place restrictions on President Bush's war powers.

"I don't think we've had much sensible debate on the Iraq issue," Specter said in an interview. "It's been vacuous."

The competing proposals and the different approaches being taken in the House and the Senate reflect divisions among Democrats about how far to go in attempting to impose an end game on the conflict in Iraq.

Murphy returned Monday from a seven-day trip that included a one-day stop in Afghanistan and two days in Iraq with a six-member congressional delegation that included Democratic Rep. Christopher P. Carney of the 10th District in northeastern Pennsylvania.

After meeting with senior commanders in Afghanistan, Murphy said, "they feel like the redheaded stepchild" - forgotten and ignored - as the original battleground in the war against terrorism.

U.S. Gen. Dan McNeill, commander of the 35,000-member NATO force in Afghanistan, told Murphy that he needed at least 1,500 more U.S. troops.

"We're not taking a thoughtful approach to Afghanistan," Murphy said. "We're taking our eye off the ball. We need to refocus our efforts there."

Military officials told Murphy that the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan was increasingly porous and that the Taliban was preparing for a spring offensive.

"I was shocked by their candor," Murphy said.

He said the four-year campaign was diverting important resources from the overall antiterrorism effort and had left U.S. troops and commanders frustrated that they were being asked to do too much.

The Iraqis have failed to stop sabotage of fuel lines that could double oil exports, Murphy was told. Electrical service could be dramatically increased if Iraqi police stopped insurgents from pulling down power poles using chains and pickup trucks, he said.

Murphy said that everywhere he went, officials told him the United States should be engaged in talks with Iran about a political solution in Iraq.

He said he heard "nothing at all" to support the notion that troop morale was adversely affected by attempts in Congress to wind down the war.

"They are focused on the mission," he said. "American troops on the ground want to win. The question is the best way to do it."

Contact staff writer Steve Goldstein at 202-408-2758 or

Israel is guilty of occupation, apartheid and colonialism, top UN lawyer reports

Israel is guilty of occupation, apartheid and colonialism,
top UN lawyer reports
Date: 26 / 02 / 2007 Time: 21:33
تكبير الخط تصغير الخط
Israeli soldiers fire at Palestinian youths,
demonstrating at Qalandiya checkpoint,
9 Feb 2007 (MaanImages)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - The UN's Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, John Dugard, has issued a harshly critical report on Israel's human rights record in regards to its treatment of the Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

"The international community, speaking through the United Nations, has identified three regimes as inimical to human rights - colonialism, apartheid and foreign occupation," Dugard says. In his 24-page report, which will be presented to the United Nations General Assembly for debate on 15 March 2006, the South African lawyer accuses Israel of all three.


Israel is clearly guilty of occupying another nation. Dugard also refutes Israel's claim that, since its 'disengagement' in 2005, it is no longer occupying the Gaza Strip. Israel controls all the borders, air space and sea space surrounding the Strip, in addition to carrying out numerous military incursions and air strikes into the Strip, thereby continuing to be the occupying power.


Furthermore, Dugard says Israel's discriminatory practises towards Palestinians amount to apartheid. He says in his report: "Discrimination against Palestinians occurs in many fields. Moreover, the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid appears to be violated by many practices, particularly those denying freedom of movement to Palestinians."

Dugard harshly criticises Israel's system of checkpoints and barriers across the occupied West Bank, which makes freedom of movement and trade impossible. In particular, he criticises the arbitrary nature of the restrictions. "There is a secret list with some 180,000 names of security risks who may not pass through a checkpoint," Dugard says, "But no notice is served on such a person on this list until he arrives at a checkpoint"; this means "it is left to Palestinians to find out by trial and error whether they will be allowed to pass through a checkpoint on a particular day". As a result, "An arbitrary and capricious regime prevails."

Dugard warns Israel that, "In apartheid South Africa, a similar system designed to restrict the free movement of blacks - the notorious “pass laws” - created more anger and hostility to the apartheid regime than any other measure. Israel would do well to learn from this experience."

Dugard singles out Israel's illegal separation wall as one of Israel's most apartheid-like tools. He says, "It has become abundantly clear that the Wall and checkpoints are principally aimed at advancing the safety, convenience and comfort of settlers."

In regard to Jerusalem and the wall, Dugard says: "The 75 km Wall being built in East Jerusalem is an instrument of social engineering designed to achieve the Judaization of Jerusalem by reducing the number of Palestinians in the city. The Wall is being built through Palestinian neighbourhoods, separating Palestinians from Palestinians, in a manner that cannot conceivably be justified on security grounds."

Dugard depicts in particular the absurd plight of the inhabitants of Ar-Ram neighbourhood of northeast Jerusalem: "Some 60,000 people live in the suburb of Ar-Ram just outside the municipal boundary of Jerusalem. About half of the residents are Jerusalemites who left Jerusalem because of the restrictions placed on Palestinians’ building houses in the city. They are completely dependent on Jerusalem for work, education and hospitals. Yet now they are surrounded by the Wall and cut off from Jerusalem. To get to work, school or hospital they must travel a circuitous route of several kilometres and pass through the international terminal-like checkpoint at Qalandiya, and they may only do this if they have the correct permit. A journey that previously took them minutes is now extended into hours."


He also accuses Israel of carrying out illegal, colonial practises, saying, "The Occupied Palestinian Territory is the only instance of a developing country that is denied the right of self-determination and oppressed by a Western-affiliated State." He singles out the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank as a new form of colonialism. Furthermore, noting that Israel has appropriated agricultural land and water resources in the West Bank for its own use, Dugard says that, "This aspect of Israel’s exploitation of the West Bank appears to be a form of colonialism of the kind declared to be a denial of fundamental human rights and contrary to the Charter of the United Nations as recalled in the General Assembly’s Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples of 1960 (Resolution 1514 XV)." He suggests the case be referred to the International Court of Justice.

War crimes

Dugard accuses both Israeli military personnel and Palestinian militants of war crimes, pointing out that the state of Israel has the greater responsibility: "Persons responsible for committing war crimes by the firing of shells and rockets into civilian areas without any apparent military advantage should be apprehended or prosecuted. This applies to Palestinians who fire Qassam rockets into Israel; and more so to members of the IDF who have committed such crimes on a much greater scale. While individual criminal accountability is important, the responsibility of the State of Israel for the violation of peremptory norms of international law in its actions against the Palestinian people should not be overlooked."

While condemning the Palestinian launching of homemade Qassam rockets into Israel, Dugard says, "Israel’s response has been grossly disproportionate and indiscriminate and resulted in the commission of multiple war crimes."

As for Israel's policy of demolishing residential buildings in the Gaza Strip suspected of housing weapons, preceded by a warning issued over the telephone shortly before the air strike, Dugard describes this act as a "policy of terrorism by telephone." In regards to the Palestinians' collective act of gathering on the roof of a targeted building in a form of 'human shield', Dugard says, "Voluntary, collective action of this kind can at most be categorized as an act of civil disobedience against the occupying Power."

Dugard describes the imprisonment of the Gaza Strip's 1.4 million inhabitants behind Israeli-controlled borders as "a controlled strangulation that apparently falls within the generous limits of international toleration."

The UN rapporteur also describes the racist attacks carried out by some Israeli settlers against Palestinians. "Undoubtedly the most aggravated settler behaviour occurs in Hebron," Dugard says, "where Palestinian schoolchildren are assaulted and humiliated on their way to schools, shopkeepers are beaten and residents live in fear of settler terror." Dugard adds that, despite rulings by Israel's High Court of Justice that it is the duty of the Israeli military to protect Palestinian farmers from settlers, "there is still evidence that the IDF turns a blind eye to settler violence and, on occasion, collaborates with the settlers in harassing and humiliating Palestinians."

In regards to Israel's policy of extrajudicial killing, or targeted assassinations, of 'terrorists' wanted by the state of Israel, Dugard describes this practise as "the death penalty on a wide scale through the back door ".

Palestine, a test for the West

Dugard concludes that the case of human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory has come to resemble a 'test' for the West, by which its commitment to human rights is to be judged. He recognises that numerous other nations in the developing world suppress human rights, but Israel is the only "Western-affiliated regime" allowed to get away with it. Dugard warns, "If the West fails this test, it can hardly expect the developing world to address human rights violations seriously in its own countries, and the West appears to be failing this test."

Miller Center Announces National War Powers Commission

Press Releases (Adobe Acrobat Reader is required):

February 28, 2007 - Miller Center Announces National War Powers Commission - PDF

National War Powers Commission

In keeping with its tradition of assembling national commissions of major stature, the Miller Center has convened the National War Powers Commission, a private bipartisan panel led by former Secretaries of State James A. Baker, III and Warren Christopher. The Commission will examine how the Constitution allocates the powers of beginning, conducting, and ending war.

When armed conflict is looming, debates about separation of powers and the uncertainty they often generate can impair relations among the branches of government, cast doubt on the legitimacy of government action, and prevent focused attention on policy. Armed conflicts with non-state actors and other non-traditional “wars,” as well as the courts' involvement in war powers questions, make the Commission’s work relevant.

The Commission intends to produce a report making recommendations to assist Presidents, Congresses, Courts, and other policymakers in addressing war powers issues. When they are issued, the Commission’s recommendations will be entirely prospective in nature and not applicable to the present presidential Administration or present Congress.

The Commission’s work and deliberations will entail an analysis of various legal issues, as well as historical and practical considerations. The Commission intends to rely on existing scholarship, the wide experience among its members, and the counsel of other experts. Commission members hope their report will make a positive contribution to the public debate on the proper exercise of war powers; educate the public about these crucially important issues; and promote greater agreement and more productive working relationships among the branches of government. The Commission intends to make its report and recommendations available to members of government, scholars, and the media.

Press Release | Commission at a Glance | Commissioner Biographies | United States Constitution

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who is on the Commission?

The Commission will be led by its Co-Chairs, former Secretaries of State James A. Baker, III and Warren Christopher.

Its members are:

  • Slade Gorton, former U.S. Senator from Washington;
  • Lee H. Hamilton, former Member of Congress from Indiana;
  • Carla A. Hills, former U.S. Trade Representative;
  • John O. Marsh, Jr., former Secretary of the Army;
  • Edwin Meese, III, former U.S. Attorney General;
  • Abner J. Mikva, former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit;
  • J. Paul Reason, former Commander in Chief of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet;
  • Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor;
  • Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University; and
  • Strobe Talbott, President of the Brookings Institution.

2. Why convene a National Commission on War Powers?

Deciding how and when to commit troops to combat is one of our government’s most important decisions. Members of Congress, Presidents, and proponents of each branch’s respective powers often disagree about who has the authority to begin, conduct, and end a war.

Such disagreements can hurt our government’s credibility, hinder relations between the President and Congress, and engender lengthy debates about separation of powers. Such disputes can also undermine confidence in government.

3. What are the goals of the Commission?

The Commission’s principal goal is to produce a bipartisan report that makes recommendations about how Presidents and Congresses could best exercise their respective war powers. When they are issued, the Commission’s recommendations will be entirely prospective in nature and not applicable to the present presidential Administration or present Congress. Any such report will require an analysis of various legal issues, as well as historical and practical considerations. The Commission intends to rely on existing scholarship, the wide experience among its members, and the counsel of other experts. Commission members hope the report makes a positive contribution to the public debate on the proper exercise of war powers; educates the public about these crucially important issues; and promotes greater agreement and more productive working relationships among the branches of government. The Commission intends to make its report and recommendations available to members of government, scholars, and the media.

4. Who will serve the Commission?

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin will serve as the Commission’s historical advisor.

John T. Casteen, III, President of the University of Virginia, and David W. Leebron, President of Rice University, will serve as ex officio members of the Commission.

John C. Jeffries, Jr., Dean and the Emerson Spies and Arnold H. Leon Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law, and W. Taylor Reveley, III, Dean and the holder of the John Stewart Bryan Professorship of Jurisprudence at the William & Mary School of Law, are Co-Directors.

5. Didn’t the War Powers Resolution of 1973 address these issues?

The War Powers Resolution did address many of these issues, but both Congresses and Presidents often have ignored its substance and questioned its constitutionality for the past three decades.

6. Will the Commission publish a report?

The Commission anticipates publishing a report of its conclusions in a format to be determined.

7. What is the Commission’s web address?

For more information, visit

8. Is this Commission affiliated with the federal government or has it been chartered by Congress?

No. The Commission receives no taxpayer money and is not dependent on federal appropriations. It is being organized and sponsored by the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. The James A. Baker III Institute of Public Policy at Rice University, the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, Stanford Law School, the University of Virginia School of Law, and the William & Mary School of Law serve as partnering institutions.

9. What is the Miller Center?

The University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs is a leading public policy institution that serves as a national meeting place where engaged citizens, scholars, students, media representatives and government officials gather in a spirit of nonpartisan consensus to research, reflect, and report on issues of national importance to the governance of the United States, with special attention to the central role and history of the presidency.

The Miller Center has more than fifty scholars and staff, including two Bancroft Prize winners. Former Virginia Governor and PBS Chairman Gerald Baliles became the Director of the Miller Center in April 2006.

10. What other National Commissions has the Miller Center convened?

The Miller Center has convened nine national commissions over the past quarter century, including the Commission on Federal Election Reform in 2001, co-chaired by Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. President George W. Bush commended the Commission’s report in a Rose Garden ceremony, and its recommendations in large measure have been adopted into law. The Miller Center’s prior national commissions include: Presidential Press Conferences (1981); the Presidential Nominating Process (1982); Presidential Transitions and Foreign Policy (1986); Presidential Disability and the Twenty-Fifth Amendment (1988); the Presidency and Science Advising (1989); Choosing and Using Vice Presidents (1992); the Selection of Federal Judges (1996); and the Separation of Powers (1998).



Taylor Reveley
Miller Center Assistant Director
for Policy Programs and Planning
(434) 924-6051

Andrew Dubill
Staff Director
National War Powers Commission
(202) 955-1935

Lisa Todorovich
Miller Center Assistant Director
for Communications
(434) 243-4096

Erosion of civil liberties continues

Issue Date: March 3, 2007

Secret prisons and prisoners held without charge or due process are certain signs that a country lives under lawless authoritarianism and not the rule of law. Such behavior was a hallmark of the old Soviet empire, one of the fundamental differences, if you will, between us and them.

It was one of the distinctives in places like Argentina and Brazil during their decades of civil war, of Pinochet’s Chile, of Sukarno’s Indonesia, of Syngman Rhee’s South Korea. It was part of the vicious right -- wing rule in El Salvador and Guatemala before the 1990s peace accords in those countries.

That basic respect for an individual’s liberty -- the right to a day in court as protection against illegal imprisonment -- is enshrined in the Constitution. Article I, Section Nine of that document states: “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.”

Granted, the United States and its legal system, imperfect as it may sometimes be, are a far cry from the countries listed above. Yet a slow drip has been falling at the foundation of our treasured liberties, even as we mouth words such as liberty and freedom as justification for war.

The erosion of the foundation accelerated Feb. 20 when, in a 2-1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, dismissed legal claims brought on behalf of hundreds of prisoners incarcerated at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, without charge. They seek their day in U.S. court to ask why they are being held and to hear the evidence against them. The Bush administration, whose first try at suspending habeas corpus, (Latin for “bring forth the body”) was overturned by the Supreme Court three years ago, declared the latest ruling a victory.

We hope it is a short-lived victory on the way to another setback in the Supreme Court.

In the 2004 Supreme Court ruling, the justices, by a 6-3 vote, ruled that the right of habeas corpus applied to all people, regardless of location.

The Bush administration then went back to the Republican-controlled Congress and was successful in getting the Military Commissions Act passed, a law that states explicitly that enemy combatants held outside the United States do not have a right to seek redress in U.S. courts.

Lawyers for the detainees have promised to challenge the most recent ruling.

In an online commentary following the recent federal court decision, John W. Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute wrote: “The right of habeas corpus was so important to the fathers of our Constitution because they knew from personal experience what it was like to be labeled enemy combatants, imprisoned indefinitely and not given the opportunity to appear before a neutral judge. Believing that such arbitrary imprisonment is ‘in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instrument of tyranny,’ the founders were all the more determined to protect Americans from such government abuses.”

The question now is: Can America be perceived as a model of justice and the rule of law if such a fundamental right is denied to those who are in our custody simply because they are outside the actual bounds of the United States?

If the federal court’s view is allowed to stand, the United States could conceivably hold anyone, in any of its detention centers (and we’ve learned that secret prisons around the globe are used) for years, indefinitely, if the military deems someone a threat to national security. No charges and no appearance before a judge required.

The contortions necessary to sustain such reasoning had Judge Raymond Randolph writing, in the decision: “Cuba -- not the United States -- has sovereignty over Guantánamo Bay.”

The Bush administration’s position might be easier to understand, while still being unacceptable, if there were greater reason to believe that humans rights are not being grossly violated at Guantánamo and elsewhere, especially in those instances where the administration has approved unspecified “harsh” interrogation measures.

Whitehead noted, for instance, that only 8 percent of the detainees at Guantánamo are characterized as al-Qaeda fighters. “Many of the prisoners insist they have no link to al-Qaeda or other extreme Islamist groups,” a claim he said is supported by documents provided by the U.S. military. Further, he writes, “only 5 percent of the detainees were captured by American forces; according to the BBC, 86 percent of them were actually captured by bounty hunters and handed over in exchange for sizable financial rewards.”

Approximately 395 prisoners are now held at Guantánamo. According to the Pentagon, about 80 will be put on trial before military tribunals and another 85 are scheduled to be released. The rest, some 230, apparently will await the outcome of any appeals.

Two approaches exist to restore civil liberties and to show the world that terrorists have not yet forced us to compromise the rule of law. The first is for Congress, now controlled by Democrats, to undo portions of the Military Commissions Act so that anyone in American custody will be assured a day in court. While Bush might veto the bill, it will send a signal that the people and their representatives have regained their balance. Barring speedy action by the Congress, the Supreme Court should agree to hear the cases as soon as possible rather require the normal process. The foundation is in need of some quick repair.

National Catholic Reporter, March 3, 2007