Tuesday, July 31, 2007
MIKE LEAVITT IS FOR FEDERAL FARM SUBSIDIES (FOR HIMSELF) BUT AGAINST FEDERAL HEALTH INSURANCE FOR CHILDREN
Leavitt claims he and Bush want affordable health care for all. The one thing he does not address is how poorer families can afford to pay for their children's health needs. Leavitt and Bush believe the government should not provide the funds. That means that families in lower economic brackets will never obtain health insurance for their children.
Leavitt is a big hypocrite. The Salt Lake Tribune reported this past Sunday how Leavitt's family farms has received over $200,000 in government subsidies over the last eight years. Reports Dawn House for the SL Trib:
"Another Utah millionaire receiving farm subsidies is Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt, a former insurance executive. Leavitt owned a 13 percent interest in a subsidized farming operation in Wayne County, which received $200,887 in disaster, crop and dairy supports. The payments started in 1999, six years after Leavitt became Utah governor (he left office in 2003).
"Leavitt sold off his holdings in 2005 from his family's insurance business and cattle operations, valued at a minimum of $5.1 million, to avoid conflicts of interest once he became chief of the federal agency. He retains a 13 percent interest in Leavitt Land and Investment, valued at $1 million to $5 million, which received conservation subsidies on land in Clark County, Nev., in 2000, 2001 and 2005 totaling $32,340."
So here's Leavitt railing against the federal government paying for health costs for poor kids at the same time as he deposits the hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal farm subsidies into his family's bank account. How big a hypocrite is Mike Leavitt!
Monday, July 30, 2007
Condoleeza Rice announces today some of the details of granting billions of dollars of armaments and weapons to Israel and six Persian Gulf Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Writes the BBC:
"The US is to spend billions of dollars in military aid for allies in the Middle East, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has confirmed.
"Israel will receive $30bn (£14.8bn) and Egypt $13bn. Deals are being discussed with Saudi Arabia and more Gulf states.
"Ms Rice said the money was needed to counter "negative" influences from Iran and Syria, as well as al-Qaeda and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah."
The whole plan is ridiculous and Congress should not approve it. Israel already has too many weapons, war planes, cluster bombs, missiles. The more it has, the more it will use on its Palestinian neighbors, including women and children.
The Arab states don't need any sophisticated weapons. They claim that they need such to protect themselves from Iran, but this stems solely from their xenophobic fear of the "foreign" Persians, who are non-Arabs and who follow Shiism instead of being Sunnis.
Bush and his gang are intent on creating perpetual warfare in the Middle East by filling the area with weapons of war. This is madness.
Instead of threatening and bullying Iran, the United States should sit down and talk with Iranian leaders. Soft power will always be superior to hard power. The firing of missiles and the dropping of bombs never has accomplished anything good or lasting.
Robert Novak has an article in today's The Washington Post in which he writes that George Bush is mounting a clandestine military campaign, this time against Kurdish fighters attacking Turkish army positions from across the border with Iraq. Novak claims that Eric Edelman, former Cheney aide and now undersecretary of defense for policy, briefed selected members of Congress on these secret military operations.
"Turkey has a well-trained, well-equipped army of 250,000 near the border, facing some 4,000 PKK fighters hiding in the mountains of northern Iraq. But significant cross-border operations surely would bring to the PKK's side the military forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the best U.S. ally in Iraq. What is Washington to do in the dilemma of two friends battling each other on an unwanted new front in Iraq?
"The surprising answer was given in secret briefings on Capitol Hill last week by Eric S. Edelman, a former aide to Vice President Cheney who is now undersecretary of defense for policy. Edelman, a Foreign Service officer who once was U.S. ambassador to Turkey, revealed to lawmakers plans for a covert operation of U.S. Special Forces to help the Turks neutralize the PKK. They would behead the guerrilla organization by helping Turkey get rid of PKK leaders that they have targeted for years."
This secret operation shows how dangerous Bush and Cheney can be, even in their last 16 months in office. Who thinks these plans through? It would seem that person or group enjoys engaging in risky behavior. The damage that the United States has caused in Iraq would be only the prelude to the conflagration and apocalypse that could erupt should the Kurds band together and enlarge their military raids into full-scale war against Turkey and possibly even against Iran. Even Bob Novak sees the risks:
"Edelman's listeners were stunned. Wasn't this risky? He responded that he was sure of success, adding that the U.S. role could be concealed and always would be denied. Even if all this is true, some of the briefed lawmakers left wondering whether this was a wise policy for handling the beleaguered Kurds, who had been betrayed so often by the U.S. government in years past.
"The plan shows that hard experience has not dissuaded President Bush from attempting difficult ventures employing the use of force. On the contrary, two of the most intrepid supporters of the Iraq intervention -- John McCain and Lindsey Graham-- were surprised by Bush during a recent meeting with him. When they shared their impressions with colleagues, they commented on how unconcerned the president seemed. That may explain his willingness to embark on such a questionable venture against the Kurds."
Al Jazeera reports today that, according to a report by Oxfam and related Iraqi groups, almost eight million Iraqis are in dire need of food, clean water and acceptable sanitation.
"Iraqis are suffering from a growing lack of food, shelter, water and sanitation, health care, education, and employment," said the report, compiled by Oxfam and the NGO Co-ordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI)."
This disastrous humanitarian crisis is a direct result of the illegal and unjustified invasion and occupation of Iraq by U.S. troops. George Bush should be held to account. His militaristic invasion has caused hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, especially of children and older people, deprived of the basic necessities of life.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
On the Media had a segment today on Sami Al Hajj, the Sudanese cameraman working for Al Jazeera, who was taken captive in Pakistan in 2001, and who has been locked up in Guantanamo pretty much ever since.
Al Hajj's story is mind-blowing. He is a 39-year old cameraman who the U.S. accuses of being a terrorist, but who has never seen the charges, and who has never been brought up on formal charges. I thought this was anathema to American law and constitution, that someone could be locked up with no prospect of release and no prospect of receiving a speedy trial. The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides:
"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, . . . and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense."
Al Jazeera has a web site devoted to Al Hajj's release. His continued detention without trial puts a stain on the U.S. and its government and military. Al Hajj should be charged or forthwith released. But the U.S. should not keep him or the other 400 prisoners locked away to rot in Guantanamo without due process.
According to observers, the reason why George Bush is arranging to sell billions in the most advanced war planes and bombs to certain Arab Sunni states, such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, is to hem in non-Arab Shiite Iran and to show it that it has enemies well-armed in its immediate vicinity.
Robin Wright writes today in The Washington Post that Bush and Cheney see themselves, and thus by extension, the United States, in another "cold war," only this time with Iran.
"When the first Cold War began, in 1946, Winston Churchill famously spoke of an Iron Curtain that had divided Europe. As Cold War II begins half a century later, the Bush administration is trying to drape a kind of Green Curtain dividing the Middle East between Iran's friends and foes. The new showdown may well prove to be the most enduring legacy of the Iraq conflict. The outcome will certainly shape the future of the Middle East -- not least because the administration's strategy seems so unlikely to work."
This is foreign policy madness not seen in over 50 years since the anti-communist crusades of the 1950s. Bush and Cheney think they have an "evil" country in Iran that they must put in its place. They see threats in everything Teheran says or does. But this does not have to be.
Instead of firing missiles and bullets at the Iranians, let's sit down with them and work out a peaceful solution to threats perceived on both sides. Iranians are well-educated, young and sophisticated. Although some Iranians are gung-ho with sharia as the law of Iran, most Iranians are willing to live and let live without the need to convert the rest of the world.
The solution of Bush/Cheney - filling the entire Middle East with cluster bombs and war planes - will never work. The "hard power" of the United States is impotent in changing a people's beliefs and way of life, or in making other nations genuflect to the United States. Rather, Americans need to sit down with the Iranians and cooperate with them. In other words, befriend them. All other solutions are futile, retrograde and reminiscent of the foolish foreign policy of America when it thought that it as the most powerful world militaristic power could bully other countries into submission.
The more one considers Mr. Bush's proposal of selling 20 billion in arms to Sunni Arab countries and 30 billion to Israel, the more dangerous this scheme appears. If he gets his way, Bush will most certainly guarantee Middle East conflict for the next 50 or even 100 years.
But Bush and Cheney have this mind set that the way to achieve hegemony of the United States and destroy "enemies" is through military weapons and continued warfare. They must so hate Iran and the Iranians that they foolishly want to arm Arab countries who have no love for their Shiite neighbor Iran. So, in their zeal to offset Iran, Bush and Cheney will risk having continued bloody and secular conflict between Israel and its freshly armed Arab neighbors. In other words, war without end in the Middle East.
Congress needs to stop this military sale and reckless escalation. Nothing can be gained by bombs and war planes. No more military sales to any country in the Middle East. Furthermore, we need a leader like Obama who will not be afraid to sit down with the Iranians and negotiate, rather than bomb.
Bush, however, still has 18 months in office. We must still all be afraid of his dangerous and reckless proposals.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Robin Wright reports in today's The Washington Post that the U.S. will sell 10 billion dollars of weaponry to "allies" in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. The reported purpose is to counter Iran's growing influence.
This is sheer madness on several counts. One, the animosity between Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab countries towards Iran is one based on ethnicity, race and religion. Iranians are Persians, so it is a not an Arab country. Furthermore, its population is predominantly Shia, not Sunni like the populations of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Thus, Bush is taking the side of Arabs against Persians, and Sunnis against Shia. It makes no underlying sense.
Second, selling arms to countries in the Middle East is like pouring gasoline into a fire. The result will be catastrophic and assure that the countries in that region will continue to engage in insane war and bloody conflict.
Instead of delivering war planes and sophisticated weaponry, Bush & Co. should be emphasizing diplomacy and negotiation.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Steve Clemons at The Washington Note writes today on the disagreement between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton over the question of dealing with those leaders and regimes that Republicans like to call "enemies," for example, President Ahmadinejad of Iran and Hugo Sanchez of Venezuela.
Steve says exactly the right things. We should praise Obama for being willing to break the current Bush policy of refusing to talk or negotiate with those regimes and leaders who disagree with Bush or U.S. policies and actions. Bush believes that anyone who disagrees with him is "evil" and an "enemy." Obama believes that the U.S. should deal with such leaders and discuss differences. After all, talking and diplomacy never killed anyone.
Hillary is too politically calculating to come right out and agree with Barack. She says she would be resistant to engage in talk and diplomacy until it was clear these antagonistic world leaders were not simply using her for propaganda purposes. But then she adds she would elevate diplomacy to a new higher level.
Obama is correct in calling her "Bush-lite." Many in the U.S., especially Republicans, think that the only way to solve world disagreements is through waging war and dropping bombs. Hillary needs to admit that this is the wrong approach, just as she still needs to admit she made a horrible mistake in voting for the AUMF, the authorization for Bush to use military force in Iraq.
One of the worst results of Bush's illegal and unjustified invasion of Iraq has been the millions of displaced persons and refugees fleeing the violence that has become a daily occurrence in Baghdad and the other major cities. More than one million Iraqis have fled to Syria. Jordan has taken in some 750,000. Even Iran is the home to more than 50,000 Iraqis.
Yet the United States which under Bush started this humanitarian crisis has taken in less than 500 Iraqi refugees. Apparently Bush and Homeland Security Department Michael Chertoff believe it is too dangerous to accept Iraqis. Bush thinks some of them could be "terrorists." No matter that many refugees worked for the U.S. military, or that many are professionals such as medical doctors and lawyers, or that thousands are single women with children, widowed through random violence and/or U.S. military "collateral damage." Bush and Chertoff won't budge.
So the world sees the unspeakable suffering of destitute families and children who have no homes or schools or hope that things are going to get better. All the while, Bush himself is upbeat, confident that history will be kind to him as a "liberator."
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Thomas Burr writes today in The Salt Lake Tribune that Leavitt believes the government should not be involved in providing monies to pay for medical insurance for children.
"Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, Utah's former governor, is fighting a move by Democrats to boost children's health care by up to $50 billion. And he says he'd be against it even if he were still governor and looking at millions of dollars more in federal funds for needy children in Utah.
"Leavitt told a group of reporters Wednesday that the struggle between the Bush administration and Congress over the amount to fund the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is about an ideological battle over who should run health care: the government or the private sector."
In other words, Leavitt believes needy children should go without health care if they cannot themselves pay for health insurance. The government according to Leavitt should not be in the business of funding health care for its neediest children. This guy Leavitt turns out to be mean, real mean. He is after all a Republican, and maybe all Republicans think this way. Let the kids fend for themselves when they get sick.
Certainly Bush thinks the same way. He has threatened to veto the bill increasing federal financing for CHIP, the program that purchases health insurance for children. Bush apparently believes, as does Leavitt, that 50 billion dollars is too much, too excessive, too profligate. Yet Bush and his war-mongering gang think nothing about spending 100 billion or more per year on this unjustified and immoral war in Iraq. Not to mention the hundreds of billions the Bush team throws at the defense contractors and manufacturers who build the latest in bombs, war planes and other instruments of killing.
If Bush vetoes this CHIP authorization, there will be heck to pay for the Republicans. This is a no-brainer. The Democrats are on the side of the angels on this one.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Juan Cole at Informed Comment makes an important observation about the generic reports in today's newspapers about the meeting of Ryan Crocker, the American ambassador to Iraq and his counterpart from Iran. See for example the report of the meeting by Megan Greenwell in The Washington Post today.
Juan Cole observes that Damien McElroy of The Telegraph reports that there were also, and most importantly, discussions about Iran and the United States forming a joint task force to resist the Sunni insurgent groups, including Al Qaeda in Iraq. Writes McElroy:
"Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, saw signs of apparent progress at the session.
"We have reached an agreement, for the first time, to work together on the security sub-committee for the benefit of the people of Iraq," he said.
"The two countries did agree to form a security committee, with Iraq, to focus on containing Sunni insurgents. The committee would concentrate on the threat from groups such as al-Qa'eda in Iraq, officials said, but not those militia groups the US accuses Iran of funding and training."
Comments Juan Cole:
"If the US is allying with Iran against the Sunni insurgents and al-Qaeda, this is a very major development and much more important than some carping over Shiite militias. (My guess is that 98% of American troops killed in Iraq have been killed by Sunni Arab guerrillas). If the report is true and has legs, it will send Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal ballistic. The Sunni Arab states do not like "al-Qaeda" in Iraq, but they are much more afraid of Iran than of the Iraqi Sunni Arabs who are fighting against US military occupation."
George Bush never gives up trying to foist another myth on the electorate. Al Qaeda in Iraq is somehow connected to the Al Qaeda of Osama bin Laden. Oh yeah, right. In a speech yesterday to a group of soldiers, (about the only type he dares to address without fear of blow back), Bush once again attempted to link the two. As if he could justify his catastrophic and disastrous mistake of invading and occupying Iraq. "If only we could come up with some way to portray our adventure in Iraq as part-and-parcel of 9/11 . . . umm, let's link bin Laden with Zarqawi (the Jordanian who tried to organize Iraqi Sunnis into a jihad against the Americans)."
Only one thing is in the way. There is absolutely no evidence that bin Laden is involved in Iraq in any way. Unless you take George Bush as a truth-teller. The same guy who said there were WMD in Iraq, that Saddam was an imminent threat, that the invasion of Iraq would bring in a new millenium of peace and democracy in the Middle East.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, met with his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad today, and the talks were heated according to the BBC report.
The U.S. accuses Iran of providing military support for Shiite militias in Iraq. Iran is a predominantly Shiite nation. So is Iraq. Some of the holiest Shiite mosques and shrines are in Iraq. It is common for Iranians to travel to Iraq on religious pilgrimages. The U.S. military is suspicious of these close religious ties between Iranian and Iraqi Shiites, and claims the Iranian muslims are supplying arms to their Iraqi correligionists.
Another source of irritation between the U.S. and Iran is the taking of captives. The U.S. detained five Iranians in Erbil this past January. It has refused to bring charges against them. Reports say that VP Cheney prevailed on Bush not to let them go. Up till last month, the U.S. held them incommunicado, no phone calls allowed, no access to legal counsel, no visits from Iranian diplomats.
In response Iran has taken at least three Iranian-Americans into custody, including the 67-year old scholar, Haleh Esfandiari. See my reports here, here and here.
I believe it is real and hopeful progress that the U.S. ambassador sits down and dialogs with the Iranian ambassador. The more dialog the better. The more contact, the better. In this regard, I commend Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama for saying last night at the CNN/You Tube debate that he would personally sit down with Iranian leaders and try to work out differences. This was in contrast to Hillary Clinton who refused to agree to personal discussions and diplomacy.
The U.S. repeats its claim that it has evidence of Iran supplying arms and training to the Shiite militias, but it has never presented any credible evidence. It shows arms and missiles that it claims were manufactured in Iran, but the markings are at best ambivalent.
Writes the BBC:
"Iranian ambassador Hassan Kazemi-Qomi reportedly brushed aside the US allegations, saying that the US had no proof of its claims.
"From Tehran, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Hosseini said the US would be better off finding ways to get out of the Iraq crisis. "These declarations aim to deceive public opinion which is troubled by the US's warlike policy," he said, according to French news agency AFP."
I agree. Until the U.S. military and ambassador Ryan Crocker and the entire Bush establishment present solid and credible evidence that Iran as a government is providing arms and training to its Iraqi neighbors, the U.S. charges cannot be taken as more than spin and propaganda. The more the U.S. military fails in its political and military objectives, the more apt it is to try to pin the blame for the Iraqi fiasco on Iran.
Monday, July 23, 2007
We need to expand the federally financed medical insurance coverage for children. Bush has threatened to veto any such expansion. I guess he believes it is better that children not have access to physicians and health care. Why? Because he fears that this coverage of children would take away revenues and profits from private medical insurers.
Bush's position on CHIP (children's health insurance plan) is a gift to all of us who oppose him. How anyone could be against expanded health insurance coverage for children is unfathomable and indefensible, no matter what the financial cost.
So I read in today's The New York Times an article by Robert Pear on the activities of House Democrats in crafting a bill that would expand CHIP as well as make Medicare more responsive to the needs of older persons:
"After a rare bipartisan agreement in the Senate to expand insurance coverage for low-income children, House Democrats have drafted an even broader plan that also calls for major changes in Medicare and promises to intensify the battle with the White House over health care. . . .
"House Democrats hope to portray the issue as a fight pitting the interests of children and older Americans against tobacco and insurance companies. The White House says the Democratic proposals would distort the original intent of the children’s program, cause a big increase in federal spending and adversely affect older Americans who are happy with the extra benefits they receive from private health plans.
"By packaging Medicare with the children’s health program, Democrats say, they have built a strong intergenerational coalition that could help them overcome a presidential veto. The House bill has already drawn support from two powerful groups, AARP and the American Medical Association, in part because it would prevent cuts in Medicare payments to doctors. But the House bill is likely to meet fierce resistance from some Republicans because it is more costly than the Senate bill and could undermine private Medicare health plans, which have been championed by Republicans for a decade."
Let's expand CHIP for children, but let us also improve services of Medicare for older people.
We all know that the Medicare plan now in effect, sponsored by the Republicans and pushed into law by Bush, favors moving people out of the traditional Medicare coverage and into the coverage provided by the private plans such as Aetna and Humana. In effect, Bush's Medicare plan aims at dissolving the government's sponsorship of health care for senior citizens, and foisting the job off to private insurers who lure seniors with low premiums in the beginning years hoping to increase premiums after Medicare no longer exists.
Writes Robert Pear:
"Proponents of the private plans, offered by companies like UnitedHealth and Humana, say they provide more benefits than traditional Medicare.
"But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the government paid the private plans, on average, 12 percent more than it would have cost to care for the same people in traditional Medicare. Moreover, it said, payments to the fastest-growing type of plan, known as private fee-for-service plans, are 19 percent higher than the cost of traditional Medicare.
"The House bill would gradually reduce these payments so that Medicare would pay the same amount, regardless of whether a beneficiary was in a private plan or in traditional Medicare."
Here are some of the provisions in the draft bill as reported by Pear in the NYT:
"In addition to expanding health care for children and curbing payments to private insurers, the House bill includes these provisions, as described in a written summary of the legislation and interviews with lawmakers:
¶ It would be easier for low-income Medicare beneficiaries to get additional help. Congress would simplify application procedures and relax the strict limits on assets, which now disqualify many retirees with modest savings.
¶The secretary of health and human services would be allowed to expand Medicare coverage of preventive services like certain disease-detection screenings. To encourage use of these benefits, Congress would eliminate most co-payments and other charges.
¶Medicare would pay primary care doctors, including internists and family physicians, to coordinate the care of some people in traditional Medicare. Researchers say such coordination improves care and saves money, especially for people with chronic diseases who may be seeing six or eight doctors.
¶State insurance commissioners would be given more power to regulate marketing by agents and brokers selling private health plans to Medicare beneficiaries. State officials and consumer advocates say that some people have been tricked into enrolling in such plans by agents who use deceptive sales tactics.
¶Congress would abolish a provision of the 2003 Medicare law that requires the president to propose changes in Medicare to limit its reliance on general revenue. Democrats fear that this requirement will be used to justify cuts in benefits or in payments to doctors or other health care providers.
"In addition, the House bill would prohibit private Medicare plans from charging higher co-payments than traditional Medicare. "
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Juan Cole points me to this McClatchy story by Hannah Allam and Jenan Hussein about the casualties from a U.S. air raid against two homes in the northern outskirts of Baghdad. Residents claim it was women and children who died in their beds. The U.S. military claims it killed six "insurgents."
"The U.S. military said the dead were insurgents and the homes in the Husseiniya district probably served as weapons depots; troops observed seven or more secondary explosions after the air assault. By the military's tally, six fighters were killed and five wounded.
"Iraqi residents told a different version: the dead came from two Shiite Muslim families who lived in an area controlled by the powerful Mahdi Army militia. The bodies pulled from the rubble, locals say, were ordinary parents killed with their children in the middle of the night. Locals counted 11 corpses - two men, two women, and seven children. Another 10 were injured. Some Iraqi authorities put the death toll as high as 18."
I have called for an end to U.S. bombing raids before. See here and here and here. The U.S. military has no justification in sending war planes and/or attack helicopters to bomb and strafe residential neighborhoods. I don't care whether the generals think there are insurgents hiding out somewhere in the vicinity. Bombing and killing civilians is a war crime that should never happen.
I repeat what I wrote back on June 30, 2007,:
"Because of incidents like the above, my solution is simple. Ban all war planes, do away with the American squadrons, retire everyone in the Air Force. Air planes must be restricted to peaceful purposes, such as commercial aviation. No one should be allowed to shoot a cannon from an air plane, or drop a bomb."
The U.S. needs to ground all of its bombers, all of its killing machines that fly. Otherwise this slaughter of civilians in their beds will continue until the last soldier has left Iraq.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
"I support tough interrogation techniques, enhanced interrogation techniques, in circumstances where there is a ticking time bomb, a ticking bomb," Romney said. "I do not support torture, but I do support enhanced interrogation techniques to learn from terrorists what we need to learn to keep the bombs from going off."
Mitt, of course, says he is not in favor of "torture," whatever that means for him. The notorious lawyer John Yoo and former law professor Jay Bybee from BYU wrote a memo for Bush in 2002 which they laid out all techniques are "lawful" short of causing organ failure or death. Thus, sleep deprivation, dousing with ice water, waterboarding and similar techniques of simulating drowning, use of attack dogs in menacing ways, all these would come under the Yoo/Bybee "analysis" as perfectly acceptable.
Romney thus allies himself with George Bush in defending such harsh treatment. It looks like Mitt has no qualms in removing the protections of the Bill of Rights for someone he suspects is a terrorist or or who he suspects is about to set off a bomb. But this brings the U.S. back to a time 500 years ago when the Catholic Church suspected lots of people of being heretics. The custom then during the Inquisition was to use "enhanced" and "harsh" techniques to find out if the suspect was really a devotee of Satan. Methods included the rack, being pinned between two boards with increasing pressure applied, subjecting the suspect to forced ingestion of water, and more gruesome and cruel methods subject only to the limitation of the imagination.
So Mitt would have us rescind our human and legal rights for a system universally condemned and rejected in the civilized world. Instead of the rule of law, Mitt tells us he approves of the Bush reign of cruelty.
For a person who makes a lot about his religious beliefs and his family values, Mitt Romney shockingly exposes himself as mean and morally limited.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Thursday, July 19, 2007
From seeing him swagger and saunter on TV to hearing him hector listeners with his childish oratory, we all have a sense of George Bush's character or lack thereof.
But his refusal to back an expansion of health insurance for children shows how mean this guy really is.
Christopher Lee writes today in The Washington Post:
"President Bush yesterday rejected entreaties by his Republican allies that he compromise with Democrats on legislation to renew a popular program that provides health coverage to poor children, saying that expanding the program would enlarge the role of the federal government at the expense of private insurance."
Here Bush shows his attitude towards people especially children without health insurance. It is their fault for not having it. Government has no business intervening to help them get it. Where did we hear this old saw before? Oh, it's part of the mantra of the Republican Party.
"The president said he objects on philosophical grounds to a bipartisan Senate proposal to boost the State Children's Health Insurance Program by $35 billion over five years. Bush has proposed $5 billion in increased funding and has threatened to veto the Senate compromise and a more costly expansion being contemplated in the House.
""I support the initial intent of the program," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post after a factory tour and a discussion on health care with small-business owners in Landover. "My concern is that when you expand eligibility . . . you're really beginning to open up an avenue for people to switch from private insurance to the government.""
Forget about the forty million Americans who have no health coverage because they cannot afford it. Protect the private insurance industry above all. This is what Bush seems to be saying. Let those without any health insurance go without it.
Is this the guy who should be president of the United States? Even Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassley, both Republicans, are in favor of the expansion. That Bush is against the program shows how mean and dogmatic he is.
"The 10-year-old program, which is set to expire on Sept. 30, costs the federal government $5 billion a year and helps provide health coverage to 6.6 million low-income children whose families do not qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance on their own.
"About 3.3 million additional children would be covered under the proposal developed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Republican Sens. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) and Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), among others. It would provide the program $60 billion over five years, compared with $30 billion under Bush's proposal. And it would rely on a 61-cent increase in the federal excise tax on cigarettes, to $1 a pack, which Bush opposes."
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Here is the National Intelligence Estimate released yesterday in its abbreviated non-classified form. In its two brief pages, the NIE says that Al Qaeda will remain a threat, as if this was breaking news.
"We assess that al-Qa’ida will continue to enhance its capabilities to attack the Homeland
through greater cooperation with regional terrorist groups. Of note, we assess that al-Qa’ida
will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI), its
most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack
the Homeland. In addition, we assess that its association with AQI helps al-Qa’ida to
energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and
indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks."
However, note what the NIE says about Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) - that it is the "only . . . known [affiliate] to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland." Where has AQI ever expressed a desire to "follow us home," as Bush likes to say?
Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus write in The Washington Post today:
"Although the NIE described al-Qaeda in Iraq as the only al-Qaeda affiliate "known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland," administration and intelligence officials yesterday cited only one such reference to that threat -- an audio statement posted in November on the Web site of a British-based Saudi dissident group. In the statement, Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader, threatened to "blow up the filthiest house, which is called the White House."
"The Bush administration has long described al-Qaeda in Iraq as an operational subsidiary to the main al-Qaeda group, though intelligence officials have said the main al-Qaeda organization exercises little control over the Iraq group. Yesterday's NIE suggested that al-Qaeda derives stature from al-Qaeda in Iraq's activities, rather than the other way around."
So the NIE is basing its judgment that Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) wants to attack the U.S. based upon one audio statement, not even video, posted on some Saudi dissident group in the U.K.
Furthermore, note DeYoung and Pincus report that intelligence officials have said that Qaeda's bin Laden and Zawahiri exercise little control over AQI. As a matter of fact, it is AQI that is leading bin Laden by organizing and conducting its insurgency in Iraq, an insurgency that would have never been born if Bush had not first foolishly invaded and occupied a Muslim country.
The Bush spin continues trying to tie "Al Qaeda in Iraq" to bin Laden. If a case could be made that bin Laden is directing Qaeda members in Iraq, Bush could justify his meaningless and illegal invasion and war.
In this regard, the BBC reports that the U.S. military claims to have captured a high-level Qaeda in Iraq leader.
"The man was named as Khaled Mashhadani. He was captured earlier in July in the northern city of Mosul, officials said."
According to the BBC, here's what Gen. Kevin Bergner, military spokesman and former Bush White House aide, claims:
"He [Mashhadani] is considered a conduit between Masri, Bin Laden and Zawahiri," Gen Bergner said, referring to the Saudi- and Egyptian-born founders of al-Qaeda, who are thought to be hiding in Afghanistan or Pakistan."
Writes the BBC:
"Correspondents say the announcement will be seen a US attempt to reinforce the idea of non-Iraqi control of al-Qaeda in Iraq, as Islamist insurgents come under pressure from former allies in Iraq's nationalist resistance."
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Steve Clemons in The Washington Note writes on the dark and dangerous mentality of neo-cons, especially when it comes to the War in Iraq, our attitude to Muslims, and our relations with Iran. As evidence of the neo-cons' delusions, Clemons discusses the article by Bill Kristol in The Washington Post on last Sunday, Arianna Huffington's comments on overhearing Kristol's cell phone conversation on a train from D.C. to NYC, and an article by Johann Hari in The Independent on the people he met on a recent cruise sponsored by The National Review.
As I noted in my critique here on July15, 2007, Kristol claims without any basis or evidence that the War in Iraq is a success because it stopped efforts by Saddam Hussein to affiliate with bin Laden's Al Qaeda. Kristol claims that Saddam was surely going to re-start his program to develop nuclear weapons and other WMD, again without any proof or evidence. It seems that this is a cardinal belief of Bush and Cheney and therefore of all their supporters that Saddam was involved up to his eyeballs in 9/11. And that Saddam had nuclear weapons but disposed of them by sending them to Syria before Bush's invasion of March 2003.
Another core belief of neo-cons is that Iran is THE ENEMY. The only way to stop Iran (from doing God-knows-what) is to send American missiles and bombs raining down upon Iranian cities. More generally, neo-cons believe that the United States not only can dominate the rest of the world with its military power, its tanks, its warplanes, its bombs. But that the U.S. should do so to maintain its sole hegemony of the world. This is why they vote for Republicans and not Democrats. I know this sounds fantastic and incredible, but listen to some of the people Johann Hari talked to on the cruise:
"Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan's one-time nominee to the Supreme Court, mumbles from beneath low-hanging jowls: "The coverage of this war is unbelievable. Even Fox News is unbelievable. You'd think we're the only ones dying. Enemy casualties aren't covered. We're doing an excellent job killing them." . . . "
"The ageing historian Bernard Lewis – who was deputed to stiffen Dick Cheney's spine in the run-up to the war – declares, "The election in the US is being seen by [the bin Ladenists] as a victory on a par with the collapse of the Soviet Union. We should be prepared for whatever comes next." This is why the guests paid up to $6,000. This is what they came for. They give him a wheezing, stooping ovation and break for coffee. "
And how about the neo-cons' racism shown in their anti-Mexican bias as the cruise ship stops in Puerto Vallarta, especially that of Dinesh D'Souza:
"The Reviewers confine their Mexican jaunt to covered markets and walled-off private fortresses like the private Nikki Beach. Here, as ever, they want Mexico to be a dispenser of cheap consumer goods and lush sands – not a place populated by (uck) Mexicans. Dinesh D'Souza announced as we entered Mexican seas what he calls "D'Souza's law of immigration" -The quality of an immigrant is inversely proportional to the distance travelled to get to the United States."
"In other words: Latinos suck."
Monday, July 16, 2007
If this is not bad enough, Think Progress points to a Senate resolution passed 97-0 last Wednesday. Sponsored principally by Joe Lieberman, it calls upon Iran to stop killing U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Lieberman claims he has the "evidence." He says that Gen. Kevin Bergner, formerly White House aide to Bush and now principal military spokesman in Iraq, knows that Iran is sending fighters to kill Americans in Iraq. Here's a few paragraphs from Lieberman's amendment 2073 from the Senate record. Keep in mind that no one in the Senate had the courage to stand up and say that the "evidence" is non-existent and that the Iranian connection is just spin from Bush and Cheney to advance their casus belli against a non-Arab Islamic nation.
"The fact is that for months and months now, our military commanders and diplomats have been telling us about a proxy war the Iranians have been waging against our soldiers, other coalition forces, and our allies in Iraq. Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of multinational forces, and others, have spoken bluntly and publicly and I would say repeatedly about how the Iranian Quds Force, an elite unit of the Iranian Guard Force, has been training, arming, funding, equipping, and directing the extremists in Iraq, terrorists who then go back into Iraq and attack our troops. This past February, senior military officials of ours in Baghdad described forensic evidence that implicated Iran at that time in the deaths of at least 170 American service members, and one may assume that the number has gone up significantly since then. That is 170 American service members killed as a result of the involvement of Iran through Iraqi terrorist allies in Iraq; lost lives of Americans as a result of what Iran and its proxies are doing.
"Last week, the United States military spokesman for the Multi-National Force Iraq, BG Kevin Bergner, presented new and I think stunning details about Iran's complicity in deadly attacks against our service members. I present this resolution to say to our military, at the beginning: We hear you, but also say to the Iranians: We see what you are doing and we are simply not going to accept it.
"The fact is, the previous warnings that have been given, and disclosures given by our military about Iranian involvement in Iraq, in some sense have drifted up into the media air which is so cluttered with so much else from the Middle East, from Iraq--so much controversy that it seems to not have settled into the collective consciousness of Members of Congress, let alone the American people, about what Iran is doing to our soldiers, our sons and daughters, our husbands and wives, our friends, our neighbors.
"It is time for the Senate to say to Iran: We know what you are doing. It is time for you to stop it."
Again, where is a voice from Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama protesting this fictitious story about Iran? How about Sen. Feingold or Sen. Webb or any of the other 50 Democrats in the Senate? Sen. Reid, how could you go along with this war monger Lieberman and preposterous dangerous story?
Sunday, July 15, 2007
"Although Bush administration officials have frequently lashed out at Syria and Iran, accusing it of helping insurgents and militias here, the largest number of foreign fighters and suicide bombers in Iraq come from a third neighbor, Saudi Arabia, according to a senior U.S. military officer and Iraqi lawmakers.
"About 45% of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians and security forces are from Saudi Arabia; 15% are from Syria and Lebanon; and 10% are from North Africa, according to official U.S. military figures made available to The Times by the senior officer. Nearly half of the 135 foreigners in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq are Saudis, he said."
There goes another Bush-made myth that it is primarily Iran and Syria which are helping the "insurgents" sending in fighters to kill Americans. And how about the suicide bombers? - those guys who think nothing of killing and maiming Iraqi civilians standing in the way of their real targets, American and Iraqi soldiers? They're almost all Saudi.
"Fighters from Saudi Arabia are thought to have carried out more suicide bombings than those of any other nationality, said the senior U.S. officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the subject's sensitivity. It is apparently the first time a U.S. official has given such a breakdown on the role played by Saudi nationals in Iraq's Sunni Arab insurgency.
"He said 50% of all Saudi fighters in Iraq come here as suicide bombers. In the last six months, such bombings have killed or injured 4,000 Iraqis."
So now what should Bush do when the main nationality of the suicide bombers in Iraq are from a country that the Bush family has close ties to? How about that photo of Bush holding hands with the Saudi king several years ago on Bush's ranch at Crawford?
"U.S. officials remain sensitive about the relationship. Asked why U.S. officials in Iraq had not publicly criticized Saudi Arabia the way they had Iran or Syria, the senior military officer said, "Ask the State Department. This is a political juggernaut."
"Last week when U.S. military spokesman Bergner declared Al Qaeda in Iraq the country's No. 1 threat, he released a profile of a thwarted suicide bomber, but said he had not received clearance to reveal his nationality. The bomber was a Saudi national, the senior military officer said Saturday."
Saturday, July 14, 2007
"An adviser to Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, has accused US forces of committing human rights violations and arming "gangs of killers."
"Hassan al-Suneid, a member of parliament, on Saturday also told The Associated Press that al-Maliki has problems with General David Petraeus, the chief US commander in Iraq.
"He said US troops have embarrassed the Iraqi government and that General Petraeus was working along a "purely American vision."
"Al-Suneid said the US military strategy is to "arm whoever is against al-Qaeda at a time when there are gangs against al-Qaeda that kill. These are gangs of killers."
"He was referring to US overtures to groups in Anbar and Diyala, encouraging former anti-government fighters to join the fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq."
So how does this square with Bush's vision that "we are making progress in Iraq"? No matter how bad the situation in Iraq gets, no matter how many people are killed in car bombings, no matter how many human rights violations occur, Bush remains upbeat and optimistic. Either Bush is a consummate liar or else he is like the boy in the Dutch fairy tale who tries to keep out the North Sea by plugging his finger in the ocean dike.
Here's Deb Reichmann in The Washington Post on Bush's Saturday radio speech:
"Bush acknowledged the Iraqis received "unsatisfactory" marks on eight benchmarks, including failure to prepare for local elections or to pass a law to share oil revenues among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. But the president said "satisfactory" grades the Iraqis received in eight other areas - like providing three Iraqi brigades for the military offensive under way and providing $10 billion of their money for reconstruction - were cause for optimism.
"Our strategy is built on the premise that progress on security will pave the way for political progress," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "This report shows that conditions can change, progress can be made, and the fight in Iraq can be won.""
So Bush believes there is "cause for optimism." Has he talked to Al-Maliki today about "human rights violations" committed by U.S. troops? Has he discussed with both Al-Maliki and Petraeus why they don't seem to be getting along? If Al-Maliki is not on the same page as that erstwhile saviour Petraeus, what hope is there for anyone including Bush thinking that "the fight in Iraq can be won"?
Oh, by the way, what in the wide world can Bush mean by "winning the fight in Iraq"?
Jordan Grossman of Think Progress has an excellent post today on Bush's changing mission in Iraq. From initially going after those elusive WMD, to toppling Saddam, to freeing the Iraqi people, to establishing democracy, to making the world and the U.S. safer from terrorists, to establishing a democratic government in Iraq, to allowing the Iraqis to defend themselves, and on and on.
It makes my head spin. Looking at all the different objectives and "strategies," we can see that Bush & Co. has no defined single strategy or main goal. These guys don't know why they invaded and now occupy Iraq. They're reaching for straws. Their thinking is muddled.
And for this mess, Bush has spent over 3,500 lives of young soldiers and killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.
Friday, July 13, 2007
Bush still persists in his unfounded delusion that he is on the high moral ground, sticking to his "principles" on the war in Iraq. Furthermore, Bush claims that there is measurable progress in Iraq, and what the anti-war public thinks be damned. The report on progress (Initial Benchmark Assessment Report) in Iraq was a joke. See my post from yesterday, indicating that the report was filled with gobbledygook and boiler plate, and showing very little progress.
Among other fictions, Bush still insists we are fighting Al Qaeda. Juan Cole asks who he means, for example, does Bush mean the Salafi Jihadis or Iraqi Sunnis fighting Americans? And how many Al Qaeda members are there in Iraq? Fifty, 100, 500? How about all the other insurgent groups fighting Americans in Iraq? Are they all part of a sinister world conspiracy to attack America "because they hate what we stand for." Michael Gordon and Jim Rutenberg write this morning in The New York Times from Baghdad:
"In rebuffing calls to bring troops home from Iraq, President Bush on Thursday employed a stark and ominous defense. “The same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq,” he said, “were the ones who attacked us in America on September the 11th, and that’s why what happens in Iraq matters to the security here at home.”
"It is an argument Mr. Bush has been making with frequency in the past few months, as the challenges to the continuation of the war have grown. On Thursday alone, he referred at least 30 times to Al Qaeda or its presence in Iraq.
"But his references to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, and his assertions that it is the same group that attacked the United States in 2001, have greatly oversimplified the nature of the insurgency in Iraq and its relationship with the Qaeda leadership.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
The White House Initial Benchmark Assessment Report on progress in Iraq is boring, boring, boring. No one can tell me W. has himself read this piece of writing crap. Here is a sample. Read only as much as you can stand. Basically it is boiler plate that says and reveals nothing.
"xi) Ensuring that Iraqi Security Forces are providing even-handed enforcement of the law.
Left on their own, many ISF units still tend to gravitate to old habits of sectarianism when applying the law. The good news is that individual units have demonstrated the ability to act as responsible partners when employed with Coalition influence, and some Iraqi commanders have demonstrated clearly that they are Iraqis first. Some Sunni residents of Baghdad continue to believe that Shi’a-dominated National Police units and, to a lesser degree, Iraqi Army units are biased against them. There have been inadequate efforts to detain some senior Ministry of Interior (MOI) officials believed responsible for human rights abuses, although 7 National Police Brigade Commanders and 16 National Police Battalion Commanders have been replaced, along with both Division Commanders. Some senior officials responsible for abuse continue to hold positions of responsibility. At lower levels, experience shows that even-handedness across the ISF is patchy with various units displaying differing degrees of even-handedness; however, a number of extremely capable and non-sectarian senior military and police leaders have emerged and are making a difference with their units.
The expansion of partnered units and embedded-training teams has increased the Coalition’s ability to monitor the actions of the ISF. In Baghdad, for example, Coalition Forces and ISF have established 30 JSSs to provide an extensive permanent security presence throughout Baghdad’s neighborhoods. These JSSs allow greater oversight of the ISF by Coalition Forces, which maintain 24-hour coverage throughout Baghdad in an effort to protect the city’s population. An expanded use of embedded U.S. military and police advisor teams has also ensured that the ISF now receive greater exposure to modern policing techniques that are both more effective and in compliance with international human rights standards.
Assessment: The Government of Iraq has not at this time made satisfactory progress in ensuring that Iraqi Security Forces are providing even-handed enforcement of the law; however, there has been significant progress in achieving increased even-handedness through the use of coalition partnering and embedded-transition teams with Iraqi Security Force units. The presence of Coalition Forces in JSSs and Combat Outposts (COPs) has had a positive effect on ensuring a more even-handed approach, and Iraqi officials continue to communicate the importance that all terrorist organizations be targeted, regardless of their affiliation or ethnic background. ISF performance has generally been adequate, particularly when partnered with Coalition Forces. Because we are holding the ISF to a high standard, however, the overall judgment at this time remains unsatisfactory. This does not necessitate a revision to our current plan and strategy, under which we continue to press the Government of Iraq on these issues, improve command and control capabilities, and expand our embedding and partnership with Iraqi units.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
George Bush certainly is single-minded. The whole world recognizes his adventure in Iraq to be a monumental failure and a human catastrophe. Yet here he is in Ohio yesterday defending the war and making all the same arguments that have proved to be completely hollow and without basis.
Michael Abramowitz writes in today's Washington Post:
"In his speech, Bush once again conflated two organizations, al-Qaeda in Iraq and the international network led by Osama bin Laden, saying that the same group that attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, is responsible for much of the violence in Iraq. While the Iraq militants are inspired by bin Laden, intelligence analysts say the Iraqi group is composed overwhelmingly of Iraqis and does not take direction from bin Laden."
This is the lowest form of political pandering. Bush believes most Americans don't know the difference between bin Laden terrorists that attacked the U.S. on 9/11 and the various faces of Iraqi insurgency fighting the U.S. occupation today. To say that the insurgents in Iraq are the same group that attacked the U.S. on 9/11 is either to be totally in the dark about recent history or else to be totally immersed in the most blatant big lie.
"They know we're kindhearted, decent people who value human life, and they understand that Americans will recoil from the violence on our TV screens," the president said in response to a question. "And I know, or I strongly believe, that if we recoil and leave the region with precipitous withdrawals or withdrawals not based upon conditions on the ground, it's going to get worse, not better."
So, according to Bush, the "evil" insurgents know "we're kindhearted, decent people . . ." How come only Americans are kind-hearted but the insurgents are malicious and evil-minded? This could only be from George W. Bush and his small mind.