Sunday, April 29, 2007

Meet the Next President of the United States of America

Editor's note: I am posting at the secondary blog(also see new articles below).

See older articles at the overflow blog.
Now, we just have to make sure that he wins . . .

You have to see this!
This guy is AMAZING!


"Tell me, Barack, who do you want to nuke?"

Until the first Democratic presidential debate here on Thursday night, former senator Mike Gravel campaigned in almost total obscurity since becoming the first Democrat to declare more than a year ago, in April 2006.

But all that changed with a few provocative remarks from the stage of South Carolina State University with his seven better-known rivals looking on.

He said the early leading Democratic candidates "frightened" him because they had taken nothing off the table, including nuclear weapons, for possible military action against Iran.

"Tell me, Barack, who do you want to nuke?" he asked Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.

"I'm not planning on nuking anybody right now, Mike," Obama replied.

"Good, then we're safe for a while," Gravel said.

He accused candidate Joseph Biden Jr., the Delaware senator, of having "a certain arrogance" in dictating to Iraqis how to run their country.

Biden hit back, saying Gravel was living in "happy land."

Yesterday, Gravel said his debate appearance gave a public that does not know him or his record "a taste of the kind of leadership I can provide."

I tasted, and I like. More, please.

He spoke by telephone from San Diego, where he flew immediately after the debate to address the California Democratic Convention yesterday.

"What will make a difference in this campaign is not money, it's not celebrity,
it is a person who is prepared to tell the American people the truth," he said.
"The people are fed up and as president I will do a 180 and move this country in the opposite direction."

[uncontrollable cheers from the audience!]

A native of Springfield, Mass., Gravel served two terms in the Senate, representing Alaska from 1969 to 1981 . He made his mark as a fierce Vietnam war critic who staged a one-man filibuster that led to the end of the military draft. He drafted legislation to end funding for the war and released the Pentagon Papers, which detailed government deception over Vietnam, at the end of June 1971.

The Nixon administration decided not to prosecute Gravel for having Beacon Press in Boston publish the papers, though the US Supreme Court ruled that Gravel could release them only inside the Capitol, based on the Constitution's speech and debate clause.

Gravel today is a fierce critic of the Iraq war and government secrecy.

My kind of guy.

"This war was lost the day that George Bush invaded Iraq on a fraudulent basis," he said in the debate. Believing that Congress has the power to both declare and end wars, he called for a law to end the war.

"He's the one to say not only that the emperor has no clothes, but that the emperor wannabes have no clothes," said national pollster John Zogby, adding, "There is an angry voter. I don't know how that will take shape, it's way too early. But you got a sense why Mike Gravel is in the race on Thursday and that he is in the race."

The reaction to Gravel's performance has overwhelmed his campaign. His aides said they got more requests for interviews yesterday than in the first 12 months of the campaign.

Gravel's website could not handle the flood of hits after the debate, they said. Bloggers complained that they were ready to donate money but were unable to get into the website .

A Shoe-string Budget

"He started out with less money than the cost of a John Edwards haircut," said Elliott Jacobson, Gravel's national finance director.

Gravel told reporters after the debate: "We stayed in a $55 motel. I'll hitchhike to the next debate if I have to."

Earlier this month, Gravel returned home to Arlington, Va., from a campaign appearance in New York on a $25 ticket on Van Moose bus lines. He had spoken at the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network candidates' forum, sharing the stage with Senator Hillary Clinton and Obama -- both of whom have already raised more than $20 million each.

Gravel said he decided to run for president because of his anger over Iraq. Friends urged him to use the campaign to also push two policy goals: direct democracy and a revamped federal tax code.

Gravel advocates a constitutional amendment and a federal statute establishing legislative procedures for citizens to make laws through ballot initiatives.

Good idea!

He also supports the Fair Tax, which would eliminate the Internal Revenue Service and corporate and individual income taxes, replacing them with a 23 percent national sales tax on all new goods and services. Each month, taxpayers would receive a check to offset the tax on basic items such as food and medicine.

Sounds a bit weird - but we can work with him on that. At least he abolishes income tax.

"People are talking about him," Zogby said. "And they are going to hear from him over the next few months as long as he's got money for a bus ticket."

I think we can manage to muster up the cash for a bus ticket!

What we need to do now is make sure he stays ALIVE!

Looks like we finally found what America needs - a REAL leader!

Many thanks for the tip, Susan!

Posted in Submitted by qrswave on Sat, 2007-04-28 06:40. qrswave's blog

The Abandonment

How the Bush Administration Left Israelis and Palestinians to Their Fate

By Aaron David Miller
Sunday, April 29, 2007; B01

This is the tragedy of America's situation now in the Promised Land: Never has the Arab-Israeli issue been more critical to our national interests and to our security, yet rarely have we been so uniquely ill-positioned to manage it -- let alone resolve it. In a post-9/11 era, the cause of Palestine drives recruits to al-Qaeda and helps generate lethal levels of anti-Americanism. But for almost seven years, the Bush administration has hung a "Closed for the Season" sign on serious Arab-Israeli diplomacy. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent Middle East mission has shown that the administration is now finally open for Arab-Israeli business. But the Rice initiative is almost certainly way too little, way too late.

Watching Rice these days, I have to believe that she knows this too, despite her public optimism. Having worked for her six predecessors on Arab-Israeli negotiations, I think it's pretty clear that the odds against a dramatic breakthrough are long, the time for the Bush administration is short, and the gaps between Israelis and Palestinians are galactic. So Rice's belated efforts face terribly long odds -- both because the region has changed too much and because the United States has sat on the sidelines for too long.

As one of the planners of the Camp David summit in July 2000, I'm painfully aware that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's unwillingness to negotiate, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's illusions about ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the cheap and President Bill Clinton's well-intentioned but weak summit management doomed the last, best chance for a breakthrough. But if you think diplomacy doesn't work, try abandonment. Years of off-again, on-again Israeli-Palestinian confrontation and neglect from the Bush administration have reduced the chances of ending the conflict from slim to none.

Part of the problem is that the "software" of Israeli-Palestinian relations has changed: The confidence, trust and problem-solving spirit of the 1990s Oslo peace process have been replaced by unilateralism, fear, anger and a loss of faith in the power of negotiations to alter cruel realities on the ground. But the hardware of the conflict has also changed during the Bush hiatus. Palestinian suicide terrorism, rockets and kidnappings have combined with Israeli closures, targeted killings and settlement growth to make cooperation excruciatingly difficult. The emblem of this deterioration is Hamas, which has had the upper hand in Palestinian politics since winning elections in January 2006. The radical Islamic movement's entry into Palestinian government -- without abandoning terrorism -- has produced a semblance of unity in Palestinian politics, but it has also guaranteed continued strife with Israel. Palestinians are buying peace at home at the price of conflict next door.

To those intrepid souls who argue that desperation and crisis have pushed Israelis and Palestinians closer to a deal in the seven lost years, I can say only that I hope so -- but my experience suggests otherwise. In an existential conflict driven by memory, identity, religion and national trauma, the Israeli and Palestinian capacities to absorb and inflict pain are limitless. When these two sides become fearful and angry, they don't get magnanimous, they get even. Rice has said that "the underlying circumstances" for peacemaking "are better now" than they were in 2000. That reminds me of Groucho Marx's famous line: "Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?"

There are a few hopeful signs, particularly Saudi Arabia's new peace push and a willingness by some key pro-U.S. Arab states to be more active. But against these rays of hope looms a perfect storm of negatives that has been gathering for years. Here are the four most troubling problems:

Weak Leaders

Even if there were a deal to be cut, nobody is on the ground to cut it. The age of heroic politics in Arab-Israeli peacemaking is over, at least for now. We see plenty of smart politicians but few statesmen. The titans -- Egypt's Anwar Sadat, Jordan's King Hussein, Israel's Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin -- are gone; even more flawed figures such as Arafat and Ariel Sharon are gone. And with them have gone the historic legitimacy, courage and clout for making big decisions. Instead, on the Israeli side, we've seen young, inexperienced prime ministers -- Barak, Binyamin Netanyahu and the country's flailing current leader, Ehud Olmert -- who lack authority and tend to stumble badly.

On the Arab side, the situation is even gloomier. Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, has managed to reveal almost all the tyrannical flaws of his late father but none of his savvy strengths. On the Palestinian side, Mahmoud Abbas, the head of Arafat's fading Fatah faction, is a good man who's being permanently sidelined by Hamas.

Yesterday's titans made history. Today's pols are pushed around by it. They are prisoners, not masters, of their politics and constituencies. And it's hard to see anyone better on the horizon.

Strong Spoilers

In this leadership vacuum, non-state actors have wreaked havoc. Hamas and the radical Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah are more than just the garden-variety terrorists and thugs who, in the old days, could retard but not block peacemaking efforts. The new spoilers are serious political players. Hamas can constrain and even block Abbas's peace efforts; Hezbollah showed during its summer 2006 war with Israel that it can embarrass Israel's army and bombard its north. These groups -- backed by Iran and Syria -- can create huge problems for weak leaders already unwilling to take risks.

Vast Gaps

The old conventional wisdom was that we knew what an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would look like and just needed to somehow land it. But anyone who still believes that Israelis and Palestinians were "this close" to an agreement at Camp David has been talking to the peace process fairy too much. The hard fact is that each of the four titanic issues that sank the summit -- borders, Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and security -- represent a universe of serious unfinished business. (And that's not for lack of trying during the Clinton years; when I think about our efforts to convince Barak and Arafat that the way to solve the problem of who would own Jerusalem's holiest sites was to hand sovereignty over them to God, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.) Hammering out an agreement to end the conflict was too hard in 2000, and it's almost unthinkable in 2007.

America Absent

Finally, and perhaps most important, since January 2001, we just haven't had the U.S. commitment to peacemaking that we've needed -- an America that's willing to build bridges when it can and crack heads when it must. Admittedly, the Bush administration inherited pretty much the worst imaginable Arab-Israeli hand: the balky Arafat on one side, the bulldozing Sharon on the other, and an Israeli-Palestinian war raging between them. Still, President Bush never saw the Arab-Israeli conflict as any kind of priority. Nor, in the aftermath of 9/11 and Iraq, has he ever believe that working the peace process might help him advance the Middle East issues he does care about.

Of course, Bush hasn't gotten many real opportunities. But after Arafat's death in November 2004 and Abbas's election in January 2005, he got one -- a very real chance to put the Palestinians' first post-Arafat leader to the test. But instead of stepping in with both feet, Washington watched from the sidelines with its post-9/11 contempt for serious diplomacy. Abbas faded; Hamas rose. Of course, Fatah's own corruption and dysfunction was what elected Hamas in January 2006 -- but Washington and the Israelis helped.

Now the White House wants to act. And there are compelling reasons why. Dealing with the Arab-Israeli issue won't eliminate radical Islamic terrorism, fix Iraq or turn dictatorships into democracies -- but it will help marginalize U.S. enemies, embolden U.S. friends, attract those sitting on the fence and, above all, boost U.S. credibility.

But I'm not holding my breath. And with the 2008 election cycle in full swing, few leaders in the region are expecting much from a last rush of lame-duck diplomacy, either. With little prospect of success, too many other priorities and a lingering unwillingness to get tough with Arabs or Israelis, there's not much chance for important diplomacy anymore.

If Bush still wanted to make a difference, however, he might consider not one "road map" (the term for a U.S.-backed peace plan nobody in the region believes in after years of U.S. apathy) but three. First, he should appoint a high-level, fully empowered envoy to directly work Israeli-Palestinian issues on the ground, including an end to violence and settlement activity, eased restrictions on Palestinian movement, economic revitalization of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who has been held by Hamas since June 2006.

Second, Bush should encourage key Arab states to outline steps they'd take toward normalizing relations with Israel as the current deadlock eases, including a meeting soon between Israeli and Saudi officials. And finally, Rice should create a discreet Israeli-Palestinian back channel to probe whether any progress toward a lasting deal on the big issues would be possible if Washington finally waded back in.

In 2002, Bush laid out a vision of the only conceivable solution -- Israel and Palestine living side by side -- but did little to promote it. He now faces the very real prospect of watching the best and only answer to the conflict expire on his watch. That would be a tragedy for the United States and its friends -- and a blessing for its enemies.

Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center

for Scholars, served as a Middle East adviser to six secretaries of state. His book

"The Much Too Promised Land" will be published in 2008.

U.S. fires artillery on southern Baghdad

By THOMAS WAGNER, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 5 minutes ago

U.S. forces fired an artillery barrage in southern Baghdad Sunday morning, rocking the capital with loud explosions, while the death toll from a suicide car bomb attack in the Shiite holy city of Karbala rose to 68.

The blasts in Baghdad came a day after the U.S. military announced the deaths of nine American troops, including four killed in separate roadside bombings south of Baghdad and five in fighting in Anbar province, a Sunni insurgent stronghold west of the capital.

The size and the pattern of the explosions, which began after 9 a.m. and lasted for at least 15 minutes, suggested they were directed at Sunni militant neighborhoods along the city's southern rim. Such blasts have been heard in the evenings but are rare at that time of day.

In a brief statement to The Associated Press, the U.S. military said it fired the artillery from a forward operating base near Iraq's Rasheed military base southeast of Baghdad, but provided no other details.

Iraqis in the southern region of the city said American and Iraqi forces had stepped up their operations in the Dora area of southern Baghdad starting Saturday night.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad confirmed Sunday that his government will attend a major regional conference on Iraq set for this week in Egypt, the Iraqi prime minister's office said.

A statement from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office said Ahmadinejad telephoned the Iraqi leader and told him Tehran would participate in the meeting Thursday and Friday in the resort of Sharm El-Sheik.

The call was made as top Iranian envoy Ali Larijani flew to Baghdad for talks with Iraqi leaders.

In Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Larijani would discuss the conference with Iraqi government officials as Iran has "some questions and ambiguities about the agenda."

Authorities in northern Iraq imposed an indefinite curfew in the Sunni stronghold of Samarra after leaflets signed by rival insurgent groups threatened policemen if they did not quit their jobs and promised to target any oil company that wants to explore in the area.

The warnings to the policemen were signed by al-Qaida in Iraq and threatened to destroy their houses if they didn't comply.

Leaflets signed by a separate insurgent umbrella group calling itself the Mujahedeen of Samarra warned against oil exploration in the area and were posted on the walls of mosques in central Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad.

The blast in Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad, took place about 7 p.m. Saturday in a crowded commercial area about 200 yards from the shrines of Imam Abbas and Imam Hussein, major Shiite saints. The shrines, some of the country's most sacred, were not damaged, police said.

Police first thought the explosion was caused by a parked car bomb, but Ghalib al-Daami, a Karbala provincial council member, said Sunday it was a suicide car bomber in the busy commercial center.

Residents on Sunday gathered around the large crater left in the road by the bomb, and pools of water left by firefighters fighting the blaze were still tinged red with blood.

Salim Kazim, the spokesman for Karbala health directorate, said the casualty figures had risen to 68 dead after some of the wounded died and more bodies were found on the roofs of buildings or in the rubble, and 178 were wounded.

As police maintained a vehicle ban in the city, 50 miles south of Baghdad, people began digging through the rubble of damaged shops.

"The explosion was so powerful that it threw me up into the air," said Haidar Ismail, one of the many patients lying in overcrowded rooms at Imam Hussein Hospital with bandages covering their wounds and burns.

Saturday's attack was the second car bomb to strike the city's central area in two weeks. On April 14, 47 people were killed and 224 were wounded in a car bombing in the same area.

Ghalib al-Daami, a provincial council member who oversees security matters, said the bomber detonated his payload about 200 yards from the Imam Abbas shrine, which with the others draws thousands of Shiite pilgrims from Iran and other countries. That suggested the attack was aimed at killing as many Shiite worshippers as possible.

"I did not expect this explosion because I thought the place was well protected by the police," said Qassim Hassan, a clothing merchant who was injured. "I demand a trial for the people in charge of the security in Karbala."

Speaking from a hospital bed, Hassan said his brother and a cousin were still missing. "I regret that I voted for those traitors who only care about their posts, not the people who voted for them," he said.

The U.S. military has warned that such bombings were intended to provoke retaliatory violence by Shiite militias, whose members have largely complied with political pressure to avoid confrontations with Americans during the U.S. troop buildup.

In other developments Sunday:

• Two roadside bombs exploded in separate areas in a predominantly Shiite area in southeastern Baghdad, killing three civilians and wounding nine, police said.

• Gunmen seriously wounded Amal al-Moudares, one of Iraq's best known radio and television journalists, in an attack near her home in Baghdad, police said.

• The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group of Sunni militants that includes al-Qaida in Iraq, claimed responsibility for a suicide truck bombing Friday in the western city of Hit, saying it was targeting the police chief. The attack killed nine Iraqi security forces and six civilians, although police chief Hamid Ibrahim al-Numrawi and his family were unharmed.

• In a statement posted on a militant web site, al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb Thursday that killed 10 Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint in Khalis, a longtime flashpoint city 50 miles northeast of Baghdad.

Rebuilt Iraq Projects Found Crumbling

April 29, 2007

In a troubling sign for the American-financed rebuilding program in Iraq, inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle.

The United States has previously admitted, sometimes under pressure from federal inspectors, that some of its reconstruction projects have been abandoned, delayed or poorly constructed. But this is the first time inspectors have found that projects officially declared a success — in some cases, as little as six months before the latest inspections — were no longer working properly.

The inspections ranged geographically from northern to southern Iraq and covered projects as varied as a maternity hospital, barracks for an Iraqi special forces unit and a power station for Baghdad International Airport.

At the airport, crucially important for the functioning of the country, inspectors found that while $11.8 million had been spent on new electrical generators, $8.6 million worth were no longer functioning.

At the maternity hospital, a rehabilitation project in the northern city of Erbil, an expensive incinerator for medical waste was padlocked — Iraqis at the hospital could not find the key when inspectors asked to see the equipment — and partly as a result, medical waste including syringes, used bandages and empty drug vials were clogging the sewage system and probably contaminating the water system.

The newly built water purification system was not functioning either.

Officials at the oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, said they had made an effort to sample different regions and various types of projects, but that they were constrained from taking a true random sample in part because many projects were in areas too unsafe to visit. So, they said, the initial set of eight projects — which cost a total of about $150 million — cannot be seen as a true statistical measure of the thousands of projects in the roughly $30 billion American rebuilding program.


But the officials said the initial findings raised serious new concerns about the effort.


Israelis target Palestinians with weapons causing 'burns ... by heat so intense that many cases have required amputation'

Gaza as Israel's testing ground

Mel Frykberg, Al-Ahram Weekly, Apr 27, 2007

This article was originally published by Al-Ahram Weekly and is republished with permission.

Palestinians inspect a destroyed building after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, last summer. (Maan Images)
Doctors in Gaza have been reporting strange wounds on the bodies of innocent bystanders and those targeted by drones. These wounds consist of many small holes, often invisible to X-rays, and burns caused by heat so intense that many cases have required amputation because of the extensive burning.

Habas Al-Wahid, head of the emergency centre at the Shuhada Al-Aqsa Hospital in Gaza city told the journalists that the legs of the injured were sliced from their bodies "as if a saw was used to cut through the bone." But there was no evidence of ordinary metal shrapnel in or near the wounds.

At Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Juma Saka said that on examination of the wounds, the doctors had found a powder on the victim's bodies and in their internal organs. Afterwards they removed the microscopic particles which turned out to be carbon and tungsten.

"The powder was like microscopic shrapnel, and this is likely what caused the injuries," Saka said. Complicating the issue was the death of many patients several days afterwards, although they appeared to recover initially. Accusations that Israel is using Gaza and its inhabitants as a laboratory to test new military weapons, have been made from several quarters.

"We don't know what it means -- new weapons or something added to a previous weapon," said Saied Joudda, deputy director at the Kamal Odwan Hospital in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip.

Related stories

To back up their personal experiences, a group of doctors compiled extensive documentary evidence of the extent of the wounds, which occurred specifically in the legs. In other parts of the body, metallic fragments, bigger than the size of the small wounds, were found.

"In our opinion, Israel has also used chemical weapons, such as numerous cases demonstrate, documented cases, with persons having extremely serious burns to their internal organs in the absence of external wounds," said Mouawia, a cardio-vascular surgeon and director-general of emergency services in Gaza.

An investigating team of Italian journalists produced a documentary on Italian state television's satellite channel, RAI News 24, alleging that Israel used dense inert metal explosives (DIME) against Palestinian targets in July and August of last year. This followed journalists taking samples of the microscopic explosives from Gaza and having them tested in a laboratory in Italy.

Carmela Vaccaio, a doctor at the University of Parma, examined samples sent by the Italian reporters from the Gaza Strip and found a high concentration of carbon, as well as copper, aluminium and tungsten, which she considered to be unusual materials. In her report she concluded, "these findings could be in line with the hypothesis that the weapon in question is DIME. The same investigating team also exposed the US military's use of white phosphorus against civilians during attacks on Falluja in Iraq.

Similar accusations were made against Israel during the Lebanon war, when the Jewish state originally denied using phosphorous against Lebanese civilians. But several days later, following the explosive allegations of the Italian journalists and with overwhelming evidence, Israeli cabinet minister, Jacob Edery confirmed that the Israeli military had in fact made use of phosphorous shells.

Israel is accused of dropping more than a million cluster bombs in the south of Lebanon just a few days before the ceasefire. Since then there have been several Lebanese deaths on a daily basis after people accidentally trod on unexploded shells.

According to military experts, DIME is a carbon-encased missile that shatters on impact into minuscule splinters, at the same time setting off an explosive that shoots blades of energy-charged, heavy metal tungsten alloy (HMTA) powder, such as cobalt and nickel or iron, with a carbon fibre casing. It turns to dust on impact, as it loses inertia very quickly due to air resistance, burning and destroying through a very precise angulation everything within a four-metre range, as opposed to the shrapnel which results from the fragmentation of a metal casing. The designation of the metal as "inert" is due to the metal's non-involvement in the blast, rather than the metal being chemically or biologically inert.

This technology is one of a new range of "low collateral damage" or LCD weapons designed to minimise the damage to nearby property, by confining its increased lethal effects to a restricted space. So it is "ideal for densely populated areas" and "helping the warfighter to prevent the loss of public support," according to its enthusiastic proponents.

Israeli military spokesmen have refused to acknowledge or deny the use of DIME in Gaza, but simply stated that Israel only uses weapons that are legal under international law. The catch is that as DIME is a new weapon, the jury is still out as it still has to be assessed.

However, Yitzhak Ben-Israel, a major-general in the Israel Air Force, and former head of the army's weapons- development programme didn't deny that the Israelis had used DIME in Gaza but went on to explain its credentials.

"The idea behind DIME is to allow the accurate pin- pointing of targets without causing collateral damage to innocent bystanders. This is a technology that allows the striking of very small targets."

This would conveniently fit in with Israel's policy of targeted assassinations, however as the Gaza Strip is so densely populated with nearly 1.5 million people crammed into an area 10 by six miles, the chances of innocent bystanders being hit is very high.

In addition to being seriously maimed, injured and killed, due to the carcinogenic effects of DIME, the number of Palestinians becoming afflicted with cancer will multiply in the long term, in addition to their environment being extensively damaged should the Israelis continue to use this new weapon with impunity.

Report: Anti-Zionist Israeli to direct movie for Israel's 60th birthday

Last update - 15:16 29/04/2007

By Haaretz Service

An Israeli director who is a self-proclaimed "anti-Zionist" has been hired by an Israeli television channel to direct a film marking the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the state, Army Radio reported Sunday.

According to the report, Eyal Sivan will be given a NIS 650,000 grant, paid for by Israeli taxpayers, to direct a film for next year's Independence Day, Israel's 60th.

The film will be part of the "Past and Present in Israel" project, meant to promote Israel's "Jaffa" brand citrus fruit. It will be produced by Channel 8 television, together with the Jerusalem Cinematheque and the Rabinovitch Fund.

Sivan, who has resided in Paris for the past 15 years, directed the 1999 film "The Specialist," which used footage from Adolf Eichmann's trial to portray the architect of the Final Solution as just a Nazi party bureaucrat, the radio said. The film also attempted to present Sivan's view that Eichmann's Jewish victims could have done more to prevent themselves from being murdered, it said.

In an interview in 2001 in the French newspaper "Le Monde," Sivan famously referred to the UN's 1947 partition plan, which called for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, as a "historical mistake." He also said that the rise of anti-Semitism in France is in large part due to the support for Israel by French Jews.

Sivan co-directed with Palestinian director Michel Kleifi the 2007 documentary "Route 181," which deals with life along the seam line, which formed the pre-1967 West Bank border.

According to the radio report, French Jewish academic Alan Finkelkraut called the movie "incitement to murder" for the comparisons it draws between the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli government and the experience of European Jews during the Holocaust. Sivan sued Finkelkraut in French court in 2007 over the remark, but the lawsuit was thrown out.

The radio report stated that during the Second Lebanon War last summer, Sivan joined a group of Israeli filmmakers in signing a petition pledging support to Lebanese and Palestinian civilians. The petition read: "We the signatories are absolutely against the brutality and cruelty of the State of Israel as shown in the news from recent weeks."

Down a Dark Road

Movie Uses Afghan's Death to Ask Tough Questions About U.S. and Torture

By Richard Leiby
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 27, 2007; C01

In 2002, a young Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar, who'd never spent a night away from his dusty little village, got lost in the fog of war and took a wrong turn into an abyss from which he would never return. It was a detention center at Bagram Air Base, where he was grilled on suspicion of being a Taliban fighter. Military interrogators hung him from a cage in chains, kept him up all night and kicked him senseless, turning his legs into pulp.

He lasted only five days. The Army initially attributed his death to natural causes, even though coroners had ruled it a homicide. Low-level soldiers were punished. It turned out that Dilawar (who, like many Afghans, used only one name) was not an enemy fighter, had no terrorist connections and had committed no crime at all.

"He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was the wrong man," says filmmaker Alex Gibney, whose latest documentary, "Taxi to the Dark Side," puts the fate of one hapless, ordinary Afghan into a larger and more disturbing context. Its focus is torture, and whether torture became a deliberate component of U.S. policy at places like Bagram, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

Researchers at Human Rights First have categorized more than 70 detainee deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as homicides linked to gross recklessness, abuse or torture. The findings are based largely on the military's own records, obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, according to Hina Shamsi, an attorney for the organization.

"Murder's torture," Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel and former Colin Powell aide, says in the film. "Murder's the ultimate torture."

More than 250 service members have been "held accountable for their roles" in detainee abuse cases, according to a Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros. But official inquiries have basically exonerated the brass. Indeed, a dozen such reviews found no evidence of "a government policy directing, encouraging or condoning abuse," Ballesteros says. "I can tell you that, in general, humane treatment of detainees is and always has been the Department of Defense standard."

Gibney's 2005 Oscar-nominated documentary "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" explored corporate and personal corruption. "Taxi," he says, explores corruption of the rule of law and American principles. His conclusion, supported by Wilkerson and several other experts in the film, is unflinching: Those truly responsible for the detainee deaths are the top Pentagon and Bush administration officials who set the detainee policies in motion.

"Taxi," which premieres tomorrow at the Tribeca Film Festival, is part of a long tradition of documentaries that tell the Unofficial Story, revisiting and synthesizing media coverage of events, then probing further. They posit conclusions or lead viewers to them through well-grounded arguments, saying, essentially, Take another look. Forget the trees, here's the forest. Among those that have won accolades: "Hearts and Minds" (1974), "The Panama Deception" (1992) and "Waco: The Rules of Engagement" (1997).

"The film becomes a sort of agent provocateur," says Gibney. "Part of my brief is to make a hopelessly complicated and arcane subject comprehensible to the average viewer."

The movie borrows its title from Vice President Cheney's observation not long after 9/11 about intelligence gathering: "We also have to work sort of the dark side, if you will. . . . It is a mean, nasty, dangerous, dirty business out there, and we have to operate in that arena."

Shedding light into that shadowy zone, "Taxi" puts a human face on the complex "unlawful enemy combatant" court cases and legislation of the past few years. It focuses sympathetically on grunts who were court-martialed in connection with Dilawar's death. Much of the narrative is constructed through interviews with these interrogators and the New York Times reporters who suspected a whitewash after Dilawar and another Bagram detainee died within a week. Avoiding political polemic -- a flaw of many anti-Iraq war and anti-Bush documentaries -- the film instead illuminates characters we can relate to, both the 22-year-old victim Dilawar and his victimizers, people such as Spec. Glendale Walls. He believed the taxi driver was innocent, but says he was told by a superior to take Dilawar "out of his comfort zone."

Then there's Spec. Damien Corsetti, nicknamed "Monster" by his peers, who took to screaming out the ingredients on a box of Frosted Flakes to keep captives awake. Yet he knew full well that when it came to gleaning intelligence through sleep deprivation, "past two days they begin to just be bumbling idiots. Three days, they're just worthless."

Acting on ambiguous, wink-and-a-nod guidance from the top, the soldiers say they worked Dilawar over so harshly because that's what their jobs demanded of them. Officers wanted results in the war on terrorism, Geneva Conventions aside, and word came down that the gloves must come off.

Who gave the word? Well, that's the problem: The accountability trail up the chain of command is obfuscated by carefully parsed legalese, willful blindness and butt-covering.

* * *

Gibney's film shares many of the themes and conclusions of another documentary, "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib," directed by Rory Kennedy (the youngest child of RFK) and released by HBO in February. Next up: An Errol Morris documentary on Abu Ghraib, "S.O.P: Standard Operating Procedure." Still in production, it's about "the soldiers and the role of photography in misleading the press and the public about what happened there," Morris says in an e-mail. In 2004, the director's examination of Robert McNamara and Vietnam in "The Fog of War" won an Oscar.

Watching "Ghosts" and "Taxi," it's hard to believe that young enlisted men and women -- mainly unseasoned members of military police and military intelligence units -- suddenly became sadists, inventing new harsh and dehumanizing tactics on their own.

Some tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan seem to stem from interrogation practices at Guantanamo Bay, which the films conclude had mutated like a virus to other sites. These included sexual humiliation specifically meant to affront Muslim taboos, such as forced nudity, the draping of women's underwear on Arab men, or sexual come-ons from women soldiers; the menacing use of dogs (which are considered ritually unclean animals in Islam and rarely kept in homes); and sensory and sleep deprivation.

Both films contain unpublicized, highly explicit photos and videos from Abu Ghraib that leave the viewer queasy. Were those naked human pyramids really akin to fraternity hazing, as some conservative commentators suggested? Was it just a matter of " 'Animal House' on the night shift," as James Schlesinger, the former defense secretary, said after turning in his Abu Ghraib report?

If a man is forced to masturbate in front of his captors, is that not torture?

The Pentagon reaction after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke can be summed up as "blame the grunts, then court-martial them to deflect attention from the policy aspect of this," Scott Horton, a noted human-rights lawyer who offers commentary in both films, says in an interview. "But what happened flowed directly from the policy decisions that were taken at the top to use highly coercive techniques."

Both films also force us to contemplate what we ask of those who fight our wars. "You put people in crazy situations, people do crazy things," as Corsetti says in "Taxi to the Dark Side." "I can tell you we set the same policy at Abu [Ghraib] as we set at Bagram. Same exact tools. Same thing was going on."

He was among several members of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion at Bagram who ended up at Abu Ghraib.

Corsetti, who was acquitted of all charges in the Bagram investigation, pauses and wryly chuckles. "And they wonder why it happened."

* * *

Former Army sergeant Sam Provance, a self-described "computer guy," got caught up in the investigation at Abu Ghraib. He was stripped of his security clearance for defying an order by talking to ABC News about the abuses. In Kennedy's movie, he sums up the atmosphere in the infamous prison as "like a combination of 'Apocalypse Now' meets the 'The Shining,' except that you know this is real and you're in the middle of it."

Today he's unemployed and sleeping on a relative's couch in Virginia -- he doesn't want to specify exactly where. The other day, smoking cigarettes in the back yard, Provance, 32, expanded on his five months working in military intelligence at Abu Ghraib. The use of dogs, he says, was imported directly from Gitmo: "When the Guantanamo crew showed up, a bad thing got worse."

A dog yelps in the background, as if on cue. "I feel bad just having been in there."

What bothers him most, though, is the stain on the U.S. Army. Torture was among the ostensible reasons we deposed Saddam Hussein, who had dispatched countless enemies to gruesome fates at the prison. "The two can't really be compared," he says. "That sort of thing was expected of Saddam -- he was your stereotypical tyrant -- whereas we are the bastion of ethics and morality in the world, holding the world accountable for wrongdoing."

So what happened at Abu Ghraib, he says, "is, in a respect, even worse."

Alex Gibney dedicates "Taxi" to the memory of his late father, Frank, who interrogated Japanese prisoners on Okinawa during World War II. "War crimes by Japanese were horrible," the filmmaker says. "We had every right to behave as the Japanese did but there was a sense of pride that we didn't do that. That's what made us different."

In the war against terrorism, he continues, "there is an argument made that this is a new kind of a threat: What kind of people would ram airplanes into buildings? Well, there were the kamikaze, but people like my father were able to talk to those people. And as fanatical as they may have appeared, they didn't have to waterboard them to get good information."

Administration lawyers say America's hands are clean, consistently denying that what happens to detainees is torture and drawing fine distinctions. The word torture, it seems, only applies to "intentional infliction of death or organ failure," Gibney says in summarizing a now-infamous 2002 Justice Department memo.

As President Bush himself said last September when the administration ran into congressional and legal opposition to CIA interrogation practices for terrorist suspects:

"This debate is occurring because of the Supreme Court's ruling that said that we must conduct ourselves under the Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention, and that Common Article 3 says that, you know, there will be no outrages upon human dignity.

"That's like -- it's very vague. What does that mean, 'outrages upon human dignity'? That's a statement that is wide open to interpretation."

Horton, who has screened both films for his Columbia University law students, has one way of focusing the debate. He says he instructs them, "When you see these techniques being used, imagine that the detainee is a young American soldier. What would your reaction be? If it is one of outrage, then it is not the right technique."

Larry Wilkerson, a 31-year Army veteran, most certainly agrees. Now teaching a national security course at George Washington University, he screened "Taxi" for his students to help them focus on the results of making a change at the top in detainee policies. "You have to make sure every private at the bottom knows how to carry these decisions out," he says.

"If cinema is the highest American art form, and I believe it is," he adds, "then why not use that tool, that most effective tool, and certainly one that young people are drawn to, to get across that message, and to cause people to critically think about these things."

Such documentaries may never become blockbusters, but they do serve a higher role: as truth commissions for a wartime America. Toward that point, Wilkerson cites Friedrich Nietzsche: When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.

82 Inmates Cleared but Still Held at Guantanamo

U.S. Cites Difficulty Deporting Detainees

By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, April 29, 2007; A01

LONDON -- More than a fifth of the approximately 385 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been cleared for release but may have to wait months or years for their freedom because U.S. officials are finding it increasingly difficult to line up places to send them, according to Bush administration officials and defense lawyers.

Since February, the Pentagon has notified about 85 inmates or their attorneys that they are eligible to leave after being cleared by military review panels. But only a handful have gone home, including a Moroccan and an Afghan who were released Tuesday. Eighty-two remain at Guantanamo and face indefinite waits as U.S. officials struggle to figure out when and where to deport them, and under what conditions.

The delays illustrate how much harder it will be to empty the prison at Guantanamo than it was to fill it after it opened in January 2002 to detain fighters captured in Afghanistan and terrorism suspects captured overseas.

In many cases, the prisoners' countries do not want them back. Yemen, for instance, has balked at accepting some of the 106 Yemeni nationals at Guantanamo by challenging the legality of their citizenship.

Another major obstacle: U.S. laws that prevent the deportation of people to countries where they could face torture or other human rights abuses, as in the case of 17 Chinese Muslim separatists who have been cleared for release but fear they could be executed for political reasons if returned to China.

Compounding the problem are persistent refusals by the United States, its European allies and other countries to grant asylum to prisoners who are stateless or have no place to go.

"In general, most countries simply do not want to help," said John B. Bellinger III, legal adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "Countries believe this is not their problem. They think they didn't contribute to Guantanamo, and therefore they don't have to be part of the solution."

A case in point is Ahmed Belbacha, 37, an Algerian who worked as a hotel waiter in Britain but has been locked up at Guantanamo for five years. The Pentagon has alleged that Belbacha met al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden twice and received weapons training in Afghanistan. His attorneys dispute the charges and say he was rounded up with other innocents in Pakistan in early 2002.

On Feb. 22, without explanation, the Pentagon notified Belbacha's lawyers in London that he had been approved to leave Guantanamo. Despite entreaties from the State Department, however, the British government has refused to accept Belbacha and five other immigrants who had lived in the country, because they lack British citizenship.

This month, Clint Williamson, the State Department's ambassador for war crimes, visited Algiers to discuss possible arrangements for the return of two dozen Algerians who remain at Guantanamo, including Belbacha, but no breakthroughs were reported. That country has been slow to accept its citizens.

Zachary Katznelson, a lawyer who represents Belbacha and several other prisoners who have been cleared, said defense attorneys have tried to speed up the process by contacting foreign governments to see if there are any specific obstacles to the return of their clients. In many cases, he said, the prisoners and officials in their home countries are willing to approve the transfer, but the delays persist.

"The holdup is a mystery to me, frankly," said Katznelson, senior counsel for Reprieve, a British legal defense fund. "If the U.S. has cleared these people and they want to go back, I don't understand why they can't just put them on a plane."

Other prisoner advocates said the Bush administration has made its task more difficult by exaggerating the threat posed by most Guantanamo inmates -- officials repeatedly called them "the worst of the worst" -- and refusing to acknowledge mistaken detentions.

Foreign governments have also questioned why U.S. officials should expect other countries to pitch in, given that Washington won't offer asylum to detainees either.

"This is a problem of our own creation, and yet we expect other countries to shoulder the entire burden of a solution," said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. "There needs to be a worldwide solution here. The U.S. has to bear some of that burden. It can't simply expect its partners and allies to absorb all its detainees."

The 82 cleared prisoners who remain stuck in limbo come from 16 countries in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, according to defense attorneys who have received official notification of their clients' status.

The 17 Chinese Muslim separatists make up the largest contingent. Other countries with multiple prisoners awaiting release include Afghanistan, Sudan, Tunisia, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

The Pentagon has reduced the population at Guantanamo by roughly half since the peak of 680 people in May 2003, generally by sending prisoners back to their native countries. But U.S. officials said progress has slowed because of the complexity of the remaining cases.

Of the roughly 385 still incarcerated, U.S. officials said they intend to eventually put 60 to 80 on trial and free the rest. But the judicial process has likewise moved at a glacial pace, largely because of constitutional legal challenges.

Only two people have been charged under a military tribunal system approved by Congress last year. One of those cases has been adjudicated. David M. Hicks, an Australian citizen, pleaded guilty in March to lending material support to terrorists. He was sentenced to nine months in prison and is scheduled to be transferred to Australia in May to serve his time there.

Defense lawyers for some of the 82 cleared prisoners whose release is pending said Hicks received a better deal than did their clients who were not charged with any offenses. "One of the cruel ironies is that in Guantanamo, you've got to plead guilty to be released," said Wizner, the ACLU attorney. "It's the only way out of there."

Complicating the return process is that virtually all the prisoners at Guantanamo come from countries that the State Department has cited for records of human rights abuses. Under U.S. rules, a pattern of abuses in a country does not automatically preclude deportation there. Rather, U.S. officials must investigate each case to determine whether an individual is likely to face persecution.

The investigations are time-consuming and often meet with resistance from the prisoners' home countries, which can be sensitive to suggestions that they allow torture, U.S. officials said. In cases where there is a risk of mistreatment, U.S. policy is to obtain a written promise from the host government that the prisoner will not be abused and that U.S. officials will be allowed to monitor the arrangement.

"It often takes us months and months, or even years, to negotiate the human rights assurances that we are comfortable with before we will transfer someone to another country," said Bellinger, the State Department's legal adviser.

Human rights groups have criticized the written assurances as unreliable. In March, the New York-based group Human Rights Watch issued a report on the fate of seven Russians who were released from Guantanamo three years ago, asserting that three of the men have been tortured since their return.

The watchdog group urged the U.S. government to find third-party countries willing to take Guantanamo inmates who are judged to be at risk for political persecution. U.S. officials countered that they have tried to do that for years, with virtually no success.

Only one country has been willing to accept Guantanamo prisoners who had never previously set foot inside its borders. Last year, after prodding by the State Department, the Balkan nation of Albania agreed to take five Chinese separatists who belong to an ethnic group known as Uighurs.

The men were captured in late 2001 after they crossed the Chinese border into Afghanistan and Pakistan. Their attorneys said they were mistakenly taken into custody and had not taken up arms against U.S. forces. U.S. officials said dozens of countries refused to grant asylum to the Uighurs for fear of angering China, which considers them terrorists for leading a secession movement in the western province of Turkestan.

Seventeen other Uighurs who were caught in similar circumstances have been cleared for release but remain in Guantanamo because the State Department has been unable to find a home for them. Human rights groups have pressed the U.S. government to offer the men asylum, to no avail.

A senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the Bush administration had considered granting the Uighurs asylum but that the idea was nixed by the Department of Homeland Security. The Uighurs would be rejected under U.S. immigration law, the official said, because they once trained in armed camps and because their separatist front, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, was labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. government in 2002.

Attorneys for the Uighurs said their predicament has been compounded by the Pentagon's unwillingness to say they don't pose a national security risk to the U.S. government or its allies. In announcing that the Uighurs had been approved to leave Guantanamo, military officials made a point of noting that they had not been exonerated and were still classified as enemy combatants.

"It's not a distinction that makes sense at all," said Michael J. Sternhell, a New York lawyer whose firm represents four of the Uighurs. "It's a caveat that the Defense Department is offering to cover itself."

Some human rights advocates said the Bush administration could speed things up by asking the United Nations or another international body for help.

Manfred Nowak, an Austrian law professor who serves as the U.N. special monitor on torture, said European allies and other countries would continue to duck requests to accept released prisoners as long as the U.S. government approaches them separately. An international commission responsible for finding a solution, he said, might carry more weight.

"If the U.S. is willing to do something to close down Guantanamo, then it should be done in a cooperative manner with the international community," Nowak said. "It's a question of burden-sharing. Otherwise, every individual country that the U.S. approaches says, 'Why us?' "

Staff researcher Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.

Obama the Interventionist

By Robert Kagan

Sunday, April 29, 2007; B07

America must "lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good." With those words, Barack Obama put an end to the idea that the alleged overexuberant idealism and America-centric hubris of the past six years is about to give way to a new realism, a more limited and modest view of American interests, capabilities and responsibilities.

Obama's speech at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs last week was pure John Kennedy, without a trace of John Mearsheimer. It had a deliberate New Frontier feel, including some Kennedy-era references ("we were Berliners") and even the Cold War-era notion that the United States is the "leader of the free world." No one speaks of the "free world" these days, and Obama's insistence that we not "cede our claim of leadership in world affairs" will sound like an anachronistic conceit to many Europeans, who even in the 1990s complained about the bullying "hyperpower." In Moscow and Beijing it will confirm suspicions about America's inherent hegemonism. But Obama believes the world yearns to follow us, if only we restore our worthiness to lead. Personally, I like it.

All right, you're thinking, but at least he wants us to lead by example, not by meddling everywhere and trying to transform the world in America's image. When he said, "We have heard much over the last six years about how America's larger purpose in the world is to promote the spread of freedom," you probably expected him to distance himself from this allegedly discredited idealism.

Instead, he said, "I agree." His critique is not that we've meddled too much but that we haven't meddled enough. There is more to building democracy than "deposing a dictator and setting up a ballot box." We must build societies with "a strong legislature, an independent judiciary, the rule of law, a vibrant civil society, a free press, and an honest police force." We must build up "the capacity of the world's weakest states" and provide them "what they need to reduce poverty, build healthy and educated communities, develop markets, . . . generate wealth . . . fight terrorism . . . halt the proliferation of deadly weapons" and fight disease. Obama proposes to double annual expenditures on these efforts, to $50 billion, by 2012.

It's not just international do-goodism. To Obama, everything and everyone everywhere is of strategic concern to the United States. "We cannot hope to shape a world where opportunity outweighs danger unless we ensure that every child, everywhere, is taught to build and not to destroy." The "security of the American people is inextricably linked to the security of all people." Realists, call your doctors.

Okay, you say, but at least Obama is proposing all this Peace Corps-like activity as a substitute for military power. Surely he intends to cut or at least cap a defense budget soaring over $500 billion a year. Surely he understands there is no military answer to terrorism.

Actually, Obama wants to increase defense spending. He wants to add 65,000 troops to the Army and recruit 27,000 more Marines. Why? To fight terrorism.

He wants the American military to "stay on the offense, from Djibouti to Kandahar," and he believes that "the ability to put boots on the ground will be critical in eliminating the shadowy terrorist networks we now face." He wants to ensure that we continue to have "the strongest, best-equipped military in the world."

Obama never once says that military force should be used only as a last resort. Rather, he insists that "no president should ever hesitate to use force -- unilaterally if necessary," not only "to protect ourselves . . . when we are attacked," but also to protect "our vital interests" when they are "imminently threatened." That's known as preemptive military action. It won't reassure those around the world who worry about letting an American president decide what a "vital interest" is and when it is "imminently threatened."

Nor will they be comforted to hear that "when we use force in situations other than self-defense, we should make every effort to garner the clear support and participation of others." Make every effort?

Conspicuously absent from Obama's discussion of the use of force are four words: United Nations Security Council.

Obama talks about "rogue nations," "hostile dictators," "muscular alliances" and maintaining "a strong nuclear deterrent." He talks about how we need to "seize" the "American moment." We must "begin the world anew." This is realism? This is a left-liberal foreign policy?

Ask Noam Chomsky the next time you see him.

Of course, it's just a speech. At the Democrats' debate on Thursday, when asked how he would respond to another terrorist attack on the United States, Obama at first did not say a word about military action. So maybe his speech only reflects what he and his advisers think Americans want to hear. But that is revealing, too. When it comes to America's role in the world, apparently they don't think there's much of an argument.

Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund, writes a monthly column for The Post. His latest book is "Dangerous Nation," a history of American foreign policy. He has been advising John McCain's presidential campaign on an informal and unpaid basis.

Peeling the Onion

Saturday, April 28, 2007

What Heart of Darkness festers in the center of the Bush/Republican Onion?

We know and read about the small stuff. Of course, it really isn't small stuff; it's just small stuff "relative to" the big stuff -- you know, the treasonous stuff, the planet killing stuff, the 3rd millennia crusade against Islam stuff.

For openers, it's now common knowledge now that 9/11 could have been prevented. Dear God, they had a blizzard of warnings -- all ignored. But how many layers into the onion is the answer to WHY

these warnings were systematically ignored? What "payoff" did Bush & Cheney, etc. get by ignoring these warnings?

Most of us suspect that the answer is that 9/11 was ignored for treasonous political reasons. They knew that a terrorist attack would help Bush's political capital. Simple as that. Plus, there's also the possibility that 9/11 was (how shall we put it?) more than allowed . . .

Now that, my friends, is big BIG stuff!

The question is will the committees (especially the post 2008 committees) be able to shine legal/constitutional light on these all too realistic possibilities? Will they be able to prove once and for all that the fanatical neocons criminally betrayed America just to drag president pinhead out the political toilet he was in before 9/11?

And speaking of neocons, how far down into the onion are the deep roots of the neocon cabal? To what lunatic fringe of what country is the neocon lobby answering to? They certainly don't represent the well being and national security of the United States of America, as their track of record of failure, genocide, and bankruptcy of the American economy abundantly demonstrates. So are we ever going to find out who has "really" been pulling the strings of American foreign policy? And still is.

Of course, much of the core stuff we already know, even though we've spent most of our country's history being in denial about it. The last seven years have rubbed our patriotic faces in the infinitely ugly truth that our country is now (and always has been) a Dictatorship of the Rich. Said differently, this still is the Middle Ages and the one or two percent are still treating all the rest of us like cattle. We pay the taxes, we fight the wars (see any Bush's in Iraq?), and we clean their commodes. Here's just one of thousands of examples: in the last few years, Texas energy company profits of gone up SEVERAL HUNDRED percent. How are you doing at the pumps these days?

So, deep in the onion is a Class War, and boy are the middle and lower Classes getting slaughtered!

Lastly, where in the onion is hard evidence that things like global warming, expanding ozone holes, stifled medical research, etc., etc., are directly related to policies engineered by nutcase religious fanatics who actually WANT the Earth to die? Let's face it, George's Armageddon death wish is right there in that army of brain less religious fanatics who anticipate being "lifted up" any day now. Yeah, right. The point is, the rapturettes have made their choice, and it's ain't the Earth. The Earth is precisely what they can't wait to be "saved" from. Mother Nature for these people is not a mythological goddess, she's a whore to be used and abused.

And speaking of which, isn't it interesting that this whole complex of pug fundamentalists have so much contempt for anything feminine, e.g., "Mother" Nature. No, they like that 'ol time (male) religion that has always subjugated and exploited women.

Here's a final thought. What do you bet that somewhere in this filthy onion is organized crime? We shouldn't forget that the more constitutional governments disintegrate (like now!), the more organized crime has a feeding frenzy. Plus, the pugs are sure plugged into Florida . . .


W. Christopher Epler (Bill)

Posted by W. Christopher Epler at 2:57 PM

Better questions for the candidates


As political tides continue to turn against the Iraq war, Hillary Clinton's opponents have highlighted her refusal to apologize for supporting it. It's a fair critique, since the next American president will face a host of foreign-policy challenges while attempting to repair our post-Bush position in the world.

In their debate at South Carolina State University on Thursday, top Democratic candidates exchanged barbs over authorizing the Iraq war, but their preoccupation with the vote itself obscured larger issues and provided candidates a neat way out of other hard questions they should be made to answer.

Whether or not Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the fundamental postwar dynamic would have been the same. In 1999, Gen. Anthony Zinni, former head of Central Command, conducted an Iraq war game titled Desert Crossing, which assumed a deployment of 400,000 U.S. troops. Even at these levels — more consistent with counterinsurgency doctrine — he still came to a host of pessimistic conclusions.

Zinni determined that "the country could fragment along religious and/or ethnic lines," that "Iranian support for U.S. intervention "¦ was critical to long-term success," that "differing visions of a unified Iraq complicate" the postwar political prospects, and last but not least, that "U.S. involvement could last for at least 10 years."

"Why," a reporter might ask a candidate, "did you not bring more attention to the requirements and dangers of occupying Iraq after the war?"

All the candidates have refused to rule out the use of force to delay Iran's nuclear program. Although some candidates might have left the option "on the table" in hopes of strengthening America's bargaining position on the diplomatic track, some appear to believe that military action would be a viable option if diplomacy fails.

Some observers have a rosy view of what such action would look like. Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard has suggested that bombing might have the side benefit of causing the Iranian people to overthrow the government in Tehran, and Eli Lake of the New York Sun recently suggested that a bombing campaign against Iran "would be similar to Desert Fox," the four-day bombing campaign against Iraq in 1998 that resulted in no U.S. casualties.

So, a reporter might ask, "What do you suspect the results, both positive and negative, of bombing Iran would be?"

In March 2006, two of America's top international-relations professors published an essay in which they argued that there is an "Israel lobby" in the United States that works to tip U.S. foreign policy in Israel's favor and constrain debate on U.S. policy in the Middle East. The authors of the essay were accused of, among other offenses, anti-Semitism.

A reporter might ask, "Is it anti-Semitic to claim that there is an Israel lobby in the United States that attempts to influence U.S. foreign policy in Israel's favor? Is it accurate?"

The concept of "democracy promotion" is a long-standing rhetorical component of U.S. foreign policy, but since 9/11/01 has taken on a different meaning and a different form. President Bush claims that in order to succeed in the war on terrorism, we must overturn the existing political order in the Islamic world, replacing authoritarian regimes with democracies. Since the war in Iraq has gone so roughly, and since the elections in Iraq and the Palestinian territories have not gone as many in the West wanted, this thinking has been subject to severe criticism.

A reporter might ask, "Is promoting democracy in the Islamic world essential for victory in the war on terrorism? If so, what would be your strategy for doing so?"

The lessons of Iraq are important, and part of the campaign should involve determining whether the candidates have learned them. At the same time, focusing on that issue alone obscures many others that will have more bearing on U.S. policy in the years to come.

The candidates are ready for the Iraq question — indeed, we already know their answers. What are their views on the questions above?

Borders Spell Trouble for Arab-American

April 29, 2007

Abe Dabdoub calls the day he was sworn in as an American citizen last year the proudest moment of his life, little suspecting that his new identity would set off a bureaucratic nightmare at the hands of the Department of Homeland Security.

Most of his family members live in Canada, and on each of Mr. Dabdoub’s 14 trips to visit them since last August, on his way back across the Ambassador Bridge into Michigan, the Customs and Border Patrol agents have sent him through a security gantlet, he says.

He has been fingerprinted 14 times, his body searched 9 times, been handcuffed 4 times and isolated in a separate detention room 13 times. On the fourth trip, the border patrol agents started subjecting his wife to similar scrutiny.


Diplomacy at Its Worst: NICHOLAS KRISTOF



Published: April 29, 2007

A document shows that there was a real hope for peace with Iran; now there is a real danger of war.

In May 2003, Iran sent a secret proposal to the U.S. for settling our mutual disputes in a “grand bargain.”

It is an astonishing document, for it tries to address a range of U.S. concerns about nuclear weapons, terrorism and Iraq. I’ve placed it and related documents (including multiple drafts of it) on my blog,

Hard-liners in the Bush administration killed discussions of a deal, and interviews with key players suggest that was an appalling mistake. There was a real hope for peace; now there is a real danger of war.

Scattered reports of the Iranian proposal have emerged previously, but if you read the full documentary record you’ll see that what the hard-liners killed wasn’t just one faxed Iranian proposal but an entire peace process. The record indicates that officials from the repressive, duplicitous government of Iran pursued peace more energetically and diplomatically than senior Bush administration officials — which makes me ache for my country.

The process began with Afghanistan in 2001-2. Iran and the U.S., both opponents of the Taliban, cooperated closely in stabilizing Afghanistan and providing aid, and unofficial “track two” processes grew to explore opportunities for improved relations.

On the U.S. side, track two involved well-connected former U.S. ambassadors, including Thomas Pickering, Frank Wisner and Nicholas Platt. The Iranian ambassador to the U.N., Javad Zarif, was a central player, as was an Iranian-American professor at Rutgers, Hooshang Amirahmadi, who heads a friendship group called the American Iranian Council.

At a dinner the council sponsored for its board at Ambassador Zarif’s home in September 2002, the group met Iran’s foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi. According to the notes of Professor Amirahmadi, the foreign minister told the group, “Yes, we are ready to normalize relations,” provided the U.S. made the first move.

This was shaping into a historic opportunity to heal U.S.-Iranian relations, and the track two participants discussed further steps, including joint U.S.-Iranian cooperation against Saddam Hussein. The State Department and National Security Council were fully briefed, and in 2003 Ambassador Zarif met with two U.S. officials, Ryan Crocker and Zalmay Khalilzad, in a series of meetings in Paris and Geneva.


Students Heckle Gonzales at Harvard

What? The Reich arrested no one? Now that's news.
Four students arrested for heckling FBI director
Sunday April 29, 2007 12:46 PM

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) - A small group of student protesters, including one wearing a black hood and an orange jumpsuit, heckled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as he posed with old classmates Saturday during their 25-year Harvard Law School reunion.

``When the photographer was getting everybody set up and having people say 'cheese,' the protesters yelled: 'say torture, instead,' 'resign' and 'I don't recall,''' said Nate Ela, a protester and third-year student.

Law school spokesman Mike Armini said the impromptu protest was so small that some of those attending the photo shoot did not notice it.

Ela said the protesters followed Gonzales into the law school's library, chanting ``shame'' and ``resign,'' before the attorney general's security detail took him to his motorcade.

Gonzales was at the university to deliver a lunchtime speech, a visit that was unannounced to students. But word spread quickly after his motorcade and security detail were spotted.

``The departure was clearly undignified,'' said Thomas Becker, a second-year law student who wore the black hood and orange jumpsuit during the protest. ``He looked really annoyed.''

A Department of Justice spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Gonzales is resisting pressure to resign as lawmakers question whether he could effectively run the Justice Department amid the controversy over the firings of eight prosecutors.

All the President’s Press: FRANK RICH - The Press’s Failures



All the President’s Press

Published: April 29, 2007

The White House correspondents’ dinner has become a crystallization of the press’s failures in the post-9/11 era.

SOMEHOW it’s hard to imagine David Halberstam yukking it up with Alberto Gonzales, Paul Wolfowitz and two discarded “American Idol” contestants at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Before there was a Woodward and Bernstein, there was Halberstam, still not yet 30 in the early 1960s, calling those in power to account for lying about our “progress” in Vietnam. He did so even though J.F.K. told the publisher of The Times, “I wish like hell that you’d get Halberstam out of there.” He did so despite public ridicule from the dean of that era’s Georgetown punditocracy, the now forgotten columnist (and Vietnam War cheerleader) Joseph Alsop.

It was Alsop’s spirit, not Halberstam’s, that could be seen in C-Span’s live broadcast of the correspondents’ dinner last Saturday, two days before Halberstam’s death in a car crash in California. This fete is a crystallization of the press’s failures in the post-9/11 era: it illustrates how easily a propaganda-driven White House can enlist the Washington news media in its shows. Such is literally the case at the annual dinner, where journalists serve as a supporting cast, but it has been figuratively true year-round. The press has enabled stunts from the manufactured threat of imminent “mushroom clouds” to “Saving Private Lynch” to “Mission Accomplished,” whose fourth anniversary arrives on Tuesday. For all the recrimination, self-flagellation and reforms that followed these journalistic failures, it’s far from clear that the entire profession yet understands why it has lost the public’s faith.

That state of denial was center stage at the correspondents’ dinner last year, when the invited entertainer, Stephen Colbert, “fell flat,” as The Washington Post summed up the local consensus. To the astonishment of those in attendance, a funny thing happened outside the Beltway the morning after: the video of Mr. Colbert’s performance became a national sensation. (Last week it was still No. 2 among audiobook downloads on iTunes.) Washington wisdom had it that Mr. Colbert bombed because he was rude to the president. His real sin was to be rude to the capital press corps, whom he caricatured as stenographers. Though most of the Washington audience failed to find the joke funny, Americans elsewhere, having paid a heavy price for the press’s failure to challenge White House propaganda about Iraq, laughed until it hurt.

You’d think that l’affaire Colbert would have led to a little circumspection, but last Saturday’s dinner was another humiliation. And not just because this year’s entertainer, an apolitical nightclub has-been (Rich Little), was a ludicrously tone-deaf flop. More appalling — and symptomatic of the larger sycophancy — was the press’s insidious role in President Bush’s star turn at the event.

It’s the practice on these occasions that the president do his own comic shtick, but this year Mr. Bush made a grand show of abstaining, saying that the killings at Virginia Tech precluded his being a “funny guy.” Any civilian watching on TV could formulate the question left hanging by this pronouncement: Why did the killings in Iraq not preclude his being a “funny guy” at other press banquets we’ve watched on C-Span? At the equivalent Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association gala three years ago, the president contributed an elaborate (and tasteless) comic sketch about his failed search for Saddam’s W.M.D.

But the revelers in the ballroom last Saturday could not raise that discrepancy and challenge Mr. Bush’s hypocrisy; they could only clap. And so they served as captive dress extras in a propaganda stunt, lending their credibility to the president’s sanctimonious exploitation of the Virginia Tech tragedy for his own political self-aggrandizement on national television. Meanwhile the war was kept as tightly under wraps as the troops’ coffins.

By coincidence, this year’s dinner occurred just before a Congressional hearing filled in some new blanks in the still incomplete story of a more egregious White House propaganda extravaganza: the Pat Tillman hoax. As it turns out, the correspondents’ dinner played an embarrassing cameo role in it, too.

What the hearing underscored was the likelihood that the White House also knew very early on what the Army knew and covered up: the football star’s supposed death in battle in Afghanistan, vividly described in a Pentagon press release awarding him a Silver Star, was a complete fabrication, told to the world (and Tillman’s parents) even though top officers already suspected he had died by friendly fire. The White House apparently decided to join the Pentagon in maintaining that lie so that it could be milked for P.R. purposes on two television shows, the correspondents’ dinner on May 1, 2004, and a memorial service for Tillman two days later.

The timeline of events in the week or so leading up to that dinner is startling. Tillman was killed on April 22, 2004. By the next day top officers knew he had not been killed by enemy fire. On April 29, a top special operations commander sent a memo to John Abizaid, among other generals, suggesting that the White House be warned off making specific public claims about how Tillman died. Simultaneously, according to an e-mail that surfaced last week, a White House speechwriter contacted the Pentagon to gather information about Tillman for use at the correspondents’ dinner.

When President Bush spoke at the dinner at week’s end, he followed his jokes with a eulogy about Tillman’s sacrifice. But he kept the circumstances of Tillman’s death vague, no doubt because the White House did indeed get the message that the Pentagon’s press release about Tillman’s losing his life in battle was fiction. Yet it would be four more weeks before Pat Tillman’s own family was let in on the truth.

To see why the administration wanted to keep the myth going, just look at other events happening in the week before that correspondents’ dinner. On April 28, 2004, CBS broadcast the first photographs from Abu Ghraib; on April 29 a poll on The Times’s front page found the president’s approval rating on the war was plummeting; on April 30 Ted Koppel challenged the administration’s efforts to keep the war dead hidden by reading the names of the fallen on “Nightline.” Tillman could be useful to help drown out all this bad news, and to an extent he was. The Washington press corps that applauded the president at the correspondents’ dinner is the same press corps that was slow to recognize the importance of Abu Ghraib that weekend and, as documented by a new study, “When the Press Fails” (University of Chicago Press), even slower to label the crimes as torture.

In his PBS report last week about the journalism breakdown before the war, Bill Moyers said that “the press has yet to come to terms with its role in enabling the Bush administration to go to war on false pretenses.” That’s not universally true; a number of news organizations have owned up to their disasters and tried to learn from them. Yet old habits die hard: for too long the full weight of the scandal in the Gonzales Justice Department eluded some of the Washington media pack, just as Abu Ghraib and the C.I.A. leak case did.

After last weekend’s correspondents’ dinner, The Times decided to end its participation in such events. But even were the dinner to vanish altogether, it remains but a yearly televised snapshot of the overall syndrome. The current White House, weakened as it is, can still establish story lines as fake as “Mission Accomplished” and get a free pass.