Sunday, September 30, 2007

BUSH NOT AS UBIQUITOUS ON TV HERE IN EUROPE

It seems to me, the television news programs over here in Switzerland hardly ever mention Bush. In contrast to American channels both local and national where Bush seems to make an appearance every day, we hardly ever see him over here. I am talking about European News, Italian news, as well as news broadcasts originating in Switzerland. This is a most welcome relief.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

MITT ROMNEY - MORE NONSENSICAL ELECTIONEERING

I am out of SLC this week and next. However, I see from The Salt Lake Tribune web page that Mitt is in town and talking about Iraq.

Nathan Gonzalez reports on Mitt's sayings: "We have to make sure we are successful in Iraq," the Republican former Massachusetts governor said. "We will have to maintain our presence there."

I have a question for Mitt. What does "success" mean? You speak about "success." Well, then, define it. Does it mean no more bombings, no more insurgents, no more internecine killings? If so, then there is no hope of "success" in Iraq. Your "success" is mere wishful thinking of intellectual adolescents.

There is no way that the United States is going to emerge from the abyss that is Iraq and be "successful." Bush has done the unimaginable - he has cast the U.S. into a pit from which it can never emerge with its head held high. Iraq is the worst foreign policy disaster in American history, and there is no way any politician can save the U.S. from the looming inevitable defeat.

But this is the way with Mitt. He thinks he can win the election by insisting on platitudes that, when you examine them, mean nothing.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

WAR AGAINST IRAN WOULD BRING CATASTROPHE TO WORLD

Someone needs to talk some sense to George Bush and Condoleeza Rice about stopping their march toward war against Iran. Iranian president Ahmadinejad has left New York on his way back to Iran, and it seems that the U.S. is still determined to take action against Iran for its nuclear ambitions.

So far there is no poof that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. It certainly has the legal right under the NPT to develop and enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. But the U.S. through Bush, Cheney and Rice don't want to allow even that.

If the U.S. bombs Iran, it will be a catastrophe for world peace for the next 500 years. Someone needs to make sure Bush and his group see the consequences of their dangerous war-mongering. For example, what reaction would Iran take to an attack? I am sure that Iran would not just sit by and do nothing after a U.S attack. And how about the reaction of Muslims, especially Shiites? The animosity and loathing which a U.S. attack would foment would cause a world war on a scale never before seen, in which there would be world-wide guerrilla action against the might U.S. and its world-wide bases and personnel. And so far we have said nothing about the price of oil and what a huge spike would do to the U.S. economy.

But the number one reason why the U.S should not attack Iran is that it would be immoral and improper to do so. George Bush thinks he can get his way by military force, i.e., by tanks and bombs. He wants to force his outlook on Iranians and, if they refuse to accept his world "vision," then the hell with them, bomb them into submission. Has Bush, Cheney and Rice ever heard of international law and respect for each nation's sovereignty? I doubt it. We must stop this silly madness now.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

U.S. DIPLOMATS WALK OUT ON CUBA AT UNITED NATIONS

I see today on CNN that the U.S. was a no-show for the speech by the Cuban minister at the United Nations, just as it was for Iran. I don't get it. If the U.S. perceives another country as an "enemy," then it refuses to listen to its delegates or engage in negotiation or diplomacy. Something is wrong in this picture. This is how wars start, especially wars started by the U.S.

WHY NO U.S. DELEGATION TO HEAR IRANIAN AHMADINEJAD?

I hope to post in the near future. I am still travelling. Access to the net is difficult for me these days. But I am following closely the situation at the U.N. with Iranian president Ahmadinejsad and his speech to the general assembly. What I dont get is why the U.S. delegation was not present for the speech. Instead of bombing Iran let's talk with them.

Monday, September 24, 2007

SCHEDULE FOR ROBERTO ANTONIO FOR THE NEXT TWO WEEKS

I will be travelling for the next two weeks to Switzerland and Italy. I hope to post comments nevertheless on a daily basis. It all depends on accessibility to the net which may be problematic insofar as I am not bringing any hardware.

Assuming net access, I will have a chance to see and comment on how some Swiss and Italians view George Bush, his government and policies. I will keep you informed.

LET AHMADINEJAD SAY WHATEVER HE WANTS BUT NO WAR AGAINST IRAN

The New York Times runs a story today by Michael Slackman in Teheran on Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who has recently arrived in New York City for the opening of the United Nations general assembly.

Writes Slackman:

"Since his inauguration two years ago, Mr. Ahmadinejad has grabbed headlines around the world, and in Iran, for outrageous statements that often have no more likelihood of being put into practice than his plan for women to attend soccer games. He has generated controversy in New York in recent days by asking to visit ground zero — a request that was denied — and his scheduled appearance at Columbia University has drawn protests.

"But it is because of his provocative remarks, like denying the Holocaust and calling for Israel to be wiped off the map, that the United States and Europe have never known quite how to handle him. In demonizing Mr. Ahmadinejad, the West has served him well, elevating his status at home and in the region at a time when he is increasingly isolated politically because of his go-it-alone style and ineffective economic policies, according to Iranian politicians, officials and political experts."

Slackman goes on to report on the view of many political analysts in Iran that the U.S. pays too much attention to Ahmadinejad because it misunderstands the political system and apparatus in Iran.

"Unlike in the United States, in Iran the president is not the head of state nor the commander in chief. That status is held by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, whose role combines civil and religious authority. At the moment, this president’s power comes from two sources, they say: the unqualified support of the supreme leader, and the international condemnation he manages to generate when he speaks up.

“The United States pays too much attention to Ahmadinejad,” said an Iranian political scientist who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “He is not that consequential.”

"That is not to say that Mr. Ahmadinejad is insignificant. He controls the mechanics of civil government, much the way a prime minister does in a state like Egypt, where the real power rests with the president. He manages the budget and has put like-minded people in positions around the country, from provincial governors to prosecutors. His base of support is the Basiji militia and elements of the Revolutionary Guards.

"But Mr. Ahmadinejad has not shown the same political acumen at home as he has in riling the West. Two of his ministers have quit, criticizing his stewardship of the state. The head of the central bank resigned. The chief judge criticized him for his management of the government. His promise to root out corruption and redistribute oil wealth has run up against entrenched interests."

So let Ahmadinejad express his outrageous opinions on Israel or whatever he wants. Mere words normally cannot do any harm, and they are not grounds for demonizing Iran and Iranians. No matter what Ahmadinejad says about the Holocaust or the government of Israel, words are not a casus belli for the United States or Israel to attack Iran or drop bombs on Iran that some neo-cons, including reputedly, VP. Cheney and John Bolton, would like to do.

IRAQ - STOP ALL EXECUTIONS

Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali," the cousin of Saddam Hussein, and two other accomplices are to be hanged during the next ten days. The BBC reports that their second trial has resumed in Baghdad after a hiatus of one month. Writes the BBC:

"On 4 September, Majid's death sentence in another genocide trial was confirmed by an appeals court and under Iraqi law he must be hanged within 30 days. Majid and two other top officials in Saddam's regime had been found guilty of organising what was known as the Anfal campaign against the Kurds."

I have no doubt that they are guilty as charged of "crimes against humanity."

However, their executions will also be offenses against the concept of human dignity and human life. No matter how guilty, no matter what the crime, the state should not take away life. Never.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

U.S. MILITARY CLAIMS SURGE REDUCES ATTACKS; IRAQIS FEEL OTHERWISE

Gen. Ray Odierno claims that attacks in Baghdad have falled from 32 to 12 since the start of 2007, more than 50%.

But is this the right metric to use? Would it not be better to compare August 2007 to August 2006 and see if there is indeed a drop. For example, AP reports the numbers of Iraqi civilian deaths (not limited to Baghdad) and show a large jump up in comparing August 2006 to August 2007. See the charts on Talking Points Memo.

Also the BBC reports that most Iraqis think they are less safe and that the surge has made life worse:

"[A] recent BBC/ABC poll of Iraqis found about 70% believe security had deteriorated since the US surge.

"According to the poll, more than two-thirds said that in terms of security and the conditions for political dialogue, reconstruction and economic development the surge had made things worse. "

Saturday, September 22, 2007

KURDS "HUMILIATED" BY U.S. SEIZURE OF IRANIAN BUSINESSMAN

The United States still has not freed the Iranian businessman seized the other day in northern Kurdistan Iraq. Today the BBC reports that Iraqi president Jalal Talabani has called for his release and said his capture "humiliates" the Kurds who had invited him.

Writes the BBC:

"Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has called for the immediate release of an Iranian official detained by US forces in the semi-autonomous Kurdish north. Mr Talabani said the US had humiliated the Kurdish authorities by ignoring their laws and failing to consult them."

I wrote about this story on September 20, 2007, , in which I say that there is no evidence that the Iranian was connected with weapon smuggling, a charge that the U.S. military has made. Furthermore, I wrote that it appears the Iranian was just doing business in northern Iraq. And that the United States wants to arrest every Iranian found in Iraq, whether the evidence warrants or not, just to send a signal to Iran and to all Iranians to stay out of Iraq.

The BBC goes on to describe Talabani's reaction:

"In a angry statement, Mr Talabani - who is himself a Kurd - said the arrest was made without the knowledge or co-operation of the Kurdish regional government.

"This amounts to an insult and a violation of its rights and authority," said the statement, quoting from a letter Mr Talabani had sent the top US commander in Iraq Gen David Petraeus and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker on the day of the arrest.

"The Iraqi president insisted that the man was part of a trade delegation - a guest of the Kurds - visiting to promote closer economic ties with Iran.

""I want to express to you our dismay over the arrest by American forces of this official civilian Iranian guest," he said.

"He said that Iran had threatened to close the border with the northern region if the Iranian official was not freed."

Instead of threatening Iranians, arresting Iranians, as in this case, or else planning to bomb Iran and Iranians, I want the United States to sit down and start talking, start practicing diplomacy, start easing tensions. Iran and Iranians are not the bogey men. The U.S. and George Bush should stop trying to demonize them, and, above all, should stop engaging in words and actions that presage an illegal attack.

Friday, September 21, 2007

IS BUSH DISCUSSING ATTACK AGAINST IRAN WITH NEO-CON JOURNALISTS?

Dan Froomkin writes today in his blog for washingtonpost.com that Bush has been inviting conservative journalists and bloggers into the White House for private talks and briefings, and that there are signs Bush has been talking about bombing Iran.

Writes Froomkin:

"Charles Krauthammer was among the conservatives invited to the White House Wednesday for a roundtable interview with the president. (See yesterday's column.) Another attendee, The Weekly Standard's William Kristol, wrote afterwards that Bush's "most interesting comments and reflections he put off-the-record."

"In today's Washington Post, Krauthammer writes that he sees "ominous implications for the Middle East" in Syria's apparent attempt to build a nuclear facility with North Korea's help. Behind it all, Krauthammer sees the specter of Iran, and its nuclear ambitions.

""This is an extremely high-stakes game," he writes. "The time window is narrow."

"And talk about ominous: Krauthammer writes that "rival elites" should stop President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nuclear program "before the volcano explodes," in recognition that "the one certain result of such an eruption is Iran's Islamic republic buried under the ash."

Froomkin asks:

"Is Krauthammer echoing Bush? Did the president say something about the possibility of a nuclear attack on Iran? Could the attack on Syria be a precursor to American military action? Is that the reason for all the secrecy?"

An attack on Iran would be disastrous. It would set back Middle East relations with the West and especially with the United States for at least 100 years and probably longer. It would create constant war without peace among the countries in the Middle East. It would blow the price of oil sky high, to $200 per bbl. or higher. It would cause innumerable civilian casualties. It would foment acts of terrorism here in the U.S. It would not prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, rather it would spur Iranian nuclear development if only for a weapon to be used against the Americans and their allies and supporters. And this is only a partial list of bad things that would result from a U.S. attack.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

LET AHMADINEJAD LAY WREATH AT 9/11 SITE

I agree with Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo. The opposition to Iranian president Ahmadinejad visiting the 9/11 site and laying a wreath is beyond reason.

The Iranians and president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had nothing to do with the criminal plot of those Arabs who flew suicide planes into the World Trade Towers. Remember the suiciders were Sunnis, mostly from Saudi Arabia. There were no Iranians participating in that heinous action.

So why should Mitt and Rudy and Hillary say that under no circumstances should Ahmadinejad be allowed to visit and pay respects on behalf of the Iranian people?

Oh, because the U.S. considers Hezbollah in Lebanon to be a terrorist organization and funded by the Iranians? Remember that Hezbollah is primarily a social welfare organization that financially helps Shiites in Lebanon. Israel likes to classify it as a terrorist organization. So does Bush, Cheney and Rice. But that does not make it true.

The same for Hamas in Gaza. Allegations of support to Hamas from Iran are much more tenuous and much less verifiable. Hamas is the democratically elected government of the people of Gaza. No one has shown any evidence that Iran is funding Hamas. Yet the U.S. and Israel would like it to be true, maybe so that Israel can get away with imposing collective hardship on the Palestinians living there.

Botttom line. If Ahmadinejad has enough interest in visiting the 9/11 site and laying a wreath, no one should say no.

U.S. ARRESTS ANOTHER IRANIAN IN IRAQ, CLAIMS HE IS PART OF QUDS FORCES

Here's another dubious story put out by U.S. forces in Iraq. They claim they seized an Iranian member of the Quds force, part of the Revolutionary Guard. The BBC reports:

"US-led forces in Iraq say they have arrested an Iranian officer operating in the north of the country. They say the man was a member of the Quds Force - an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards - and was detained in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya."

I say it is dubious because there is no verifiable proof or evidence that the captured Iranian has anything to do with Iran's military forces or that he was an Iranian officer. Most probably he was just an ordinary Iranian businessman. The BBC reports:

"According to a spokesman for the regional government in semi-autonomous Kurdistan, he was taken away overnight in a raid on a Sulaimaniya hotel. A government official in Baghdad said the arrested man had been part of a commercial delegation, but gave no further details."

There is a 400-mile border between Iraq and Iran, and many Iranians do business in Iraq. Furthermore, many Iranian pilgrims come to the holy Shiite shrines and mosques in Iraq.

It would seem that the U.S. wants to keep all Iranians out of Iraq, no matter what their purpose or intent, no matter how peaceful or legal.

Instead of trying to provoke the government of Iran into some bellicose act, I want American leaders to sit down and begin peaceful discussions with Iran on how the two great countries can work together to bring calm and stability to the region. Barack Obama said if elected he would do just that. I need to hear this from the other Democratic candidates, especially John Edwards and Hillary Clinton.

BUSH CRITICIZES MOVE-ON.ORG AD ON PETRAEUS

Michael Abramowitz reports in today's The Washington Post that Mr. Bush condemned the MoveOn.org ad which questioned whether Gen. Petraeus is really "Gen. Be-tray-us."

Writes Abramowitz:

"President Bush today condemned the recent MoveOn.org advertisement that described Army Gen. David H. Petraeus as General "Betray-Us," voicing disappointment that leading Democrats had not denounced it as well.

"In his first public comments on the newspaper ad that appeared last week in the New York Times, Bush said more Democrats " are afraid of irritating a left wing group like Moveon.org . . . than they are of irritating the United States military. That was a sorry deal.""

Bush is trying to concoct a political argument where he stands besides and behind the U.S. military. Doesn't he know that in the United States the military is the servant of civilian authorities? This means civilians can criticize if they want generals and other military officers. Otherwise, if it were improper, the military would be the dictators of American society.

MoveOn's director responded to Bush's phony criticisms. Abramowitz writes:

"MoveOn.Org's executive director, Eli Pariser, reacted sharply to Bush's comments this morning. In an interview, he said: "What we think is disgusting and outrageous is that the president is more interested in political attacks than he is in an exit strategy that will get our troops home swiftly and quickly." "

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

BUSH SENDS MILITARY TO DRUM UP RESISTANCE AGAINST IRAN

The Washington Post today carries a story by Brian Murphy of AP on a trip by Admiral William Fallon, military commander for the Middle East, through the Persian Gulf trying to generate a united front against Iran.

Writes Murphy:

"The top U.S. military commander for the Middle East is pressing Arab allies to form a more united front against Iran, seen by Washington as the region's long-term threat.

"At military compounds and royal reception halls across the Persian Gulf, Adm. William Fallon is delivering personal appeals to Arab leaders to counter Iran's ambitions to expand its regional influence and move ahead with its nuclear program."

Apparently the admiral is visiting many of the Sunni Arab states in the region. Mobilizing these countries against Iran should not be that difficult, given that Iran is a Persian nation, different racially from the Arabs. Above all, Iran is predominantly Shiite, not Sunni as are those Arab countries Fallon is visiting.

Murphy reports:

"His views have the ear of some of the top members of the Gulf's royal families.

"In Bahrain, Fallon expressed support for a possible $300 million upgrade for the nation's F-16 fleet and met with Crown Prince Sheik Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, who also serves as commander in chief of the nation's military forces.

"Fallon was in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday. Later in the day, he headed to Oman, and his tour will also take him to Qatar, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq."

So it looks like Fallon is doing the Bush/Cheney dirty work of fomenting mistrust and fear in the Persian Gulf. As an inducement, Fallon is offering military support, such as the upgrade for Bahrain's F-16 fleet. (Why Bahrain needs F-16s remains an enigma that only Bush and Cheney probably know.)

Stop! Why is the United States and its military officers trying to form a bulwark against Iran? How about some negotiation, diplomacy and, above all, good will towards Iran? Instead of making Iran the bogey man, let's consider Iran a friend of the United States and Americans.

The present U.S. policy towards Iran is madness. Bush & Cheney (and their followers) are on the path towards war against Iran. The result would be catastrophic for the United States and the whole world.

Consider the warning of General Wesley Clark, writing an op-ed in The WashPo this past Sunday on what would happen after a U.S. attack on Iran:

"But if it's clear how a war with Iran would start, it's far less clear how it would end. How might Iran strike back? Would it unleash Hezbollah cells across Europe and the Middle East, or perhaps even inside the United States? Would Tehran goad Iraq's Shiites to rise up against their U.S. occupiers?

"And what would we do with Iran after the bombs stopped falling? We certainly could not occupy the nation with the limited ground forces we have left. So what would it be: Iran as a chastened, more tractable government? As a chaotic failed state? Or as a hardened and embittered foe?"

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

COCKBURN IN THE NATION: DON'T DISMISS IDEA OF BUSH ATTACKING IRAN

Alexander Cockburn writes (subscription required) in The Nation for September 24, 2007, "Will the US Really Bomb Iran?" Cockburn gives the pros and cons and his own misgivings:

"Despite the unending stream of stories across the months announcing that an attack on Iran is on the way, I've had my doubts. Amid the housing slump here, with the possibility of an inflationary surge as the credit balloon threatens to burst, would the government really want to see the price of gas at the pump go over $5? What would Hugo Chávez do? Even a hiccup in flows from Venezuela would paralyze refineries here, specifically designed for Venezuelan crude. China has a big stake in Iran. It's also Uncle Sam's banker. The Chinese don't have to destroy the dollar, merely squeeze its windpipe or revalue their currency enough to double retail prices at Wal-Mart. The Republicans and the presidential candidates wouldn't want that on the edge of an election year."

However, Cockburn cannot be sure the neo-con hawks including Bush will think as rationally as he. Bush and Cheney may decide to finish out their administration with one last desperate irrational act. Considering the arguments pro and con, on balance, Cockburn cannot dismiss the possibility of a catastrophic attack:

"The other side of the ledger isn't hard to fill in either. The Chinese are a prudent lot and don't want to rock the world economy. Politically, both they and the Russians would like to see the United States compound the disaster in Iraq and get into a long-term mess in Iran. Sarkozy has finished off Gaullist independence. France has clambered into Uncle Sam's hind pocket and David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, has confirmed Britain's continued residence in an adjacent aperture. Israel wants an attack on Iran, and the Israel lobby calls the shots in US foreign policy. What Israel wants, Israel gets. The American peace movement is in disarray, and sizable gobbets of it would be delighted to see bombs shower down on the woman-hating ayatollahs and Ahmadinejad, the Holocaust denier. With the United States battering the Iranian sponsors of the Shiites, the Sunnis in Iraq would further abate their attacks, seeing a chance to recoup from the disaster of the elections of early 2005, which put the Shiite-Kurdish coalition in charge . . . "

"Weigh it all up, and you'd be foolish to bet that an attack on Iran couldn't happen. The peace movement had better pull itself together, remembering as it does so that should the bombs start to fall on Tehran, most of the Democrats in Congress will be on their feet, cheering."

So don't just dismiss the crazy idea of attacking Iran. The worst part, as Cockburn indicates, is that many of our elected Democratic representatives would be among the most ardent and vocal supporters for this irrational and unjustified and illegal attack upon Iran.

Monday, September 17, 2007

ALAN GREENSPAN COUNSELLED BUSH & CHENEY TO REMOVE SADDAM

I used to think Alan Greenspan was acceptable as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Then he came out several years ago in favor a tax cut, just after Bush had proposed his surplus-busting tax cut. Instead of shoring up the Social Security trust fund, Greenspan in effect endorsed Bush's vision of economic life in the U.S. This was a mean and small view. The heck with Social Security, everyone should have his or her own 401(k). The government has no role in making sure retirees are able to survive after no longer being able to work. This was Greenspan's view.

Then, today, I read in The Washington Post that Alan Greenspan recommended to both Bush and Cheney that the United States remove Saddam Hussein. Bob Woodward reports that Greenspan said Saddam should be removed to protect the oil security of the U. S.

Writes Woodward:

"Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, said in an interview that the removal of Saddam Hussein had been "essential" to secure world oil supplies, a point he emphasized to the White House in private conversations before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.


"Greenspan, who was the country's top voice on monetary policy at the time Bush decided to go to war in Iraq, has refrained from extensive public comment on it until now, but he made the striking comment in a new memoir out today that "the Iraq War is largely about oil." In the interview, he clarified that sentence in his 531-page book, saying that while securing global oil supplies was "not the administration's motive," he had presented the White House with the case for why removing Hussein was important for the global economy."

So it turns out Alan Greenspan is just as much complicit in the illegal and unjustified invasion of Iraq as is George Bush and Dick Cheney. Surely Greenspan knew and knows that one country has no right under international law to invade another, topple its leader, then have him hung. Just like O. J. has no right to bust into someone's hotel room and take back his stuff, so Greenspan violated the rule of law when he said that it was important to kill Saddam.

U.S. DOES LITTLE TO AID PLIGHT OF IRAQI REFUGEES

It's about time that Ryan Crocker, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, has complained about the dire treatment of Iraqi refugees by the United States government. Crocker has penned a State Department cable complaining about the slowness of processing refugees for entry into the Untied States, Spencer S. Hsu and Robin Wright report today in The Washington Post. More than two million Iraqis have left their homes and fled Iraq mostly to Jordan and Syria. Shamefully the U.S. has accepted only a handful.

Bush, Cheney and Chertoff, head of Homeland Security, think that Iraqi refugees pose a danger of terrorism if allowed into the U.S. And why do they think that? They know the dimensions of the public relations disaster they have caused by their unjustified war and invasion, and they believe the man in the street in Iraq blames them for the destruction of Iraqi society.

We don't hear Bush's question any more whether Iraq is better off now without Saddam, do we? Iraq is so much worse off, when you count the million or so Iraqis killed since the start of the war in 2003, the number of families displaced, the humanitarian refugee crisis, the lack of social and political order, the destruction of a functioning health and welfare systems.

Write Hsu and Wright:

"About 2 million Iraqis are displaced inside Iraq, and an estimated 2.2 million more have fled to Syria, Jordan and other neighboring countries, where they are straining local resources and threatening to destabilize host communities, the United Nations has reported. With 60,000 Iraqis fleeing their homes each month, Jordan largely closed its borders to Iraqis earlier this year, and Syria said yesterday that it will begin requiring visas for Iraqis at the conclusion of Ramadan next month, essentially closing off exit routes from the country."

Yet the U.S. has committed to take in only 7,000 refugees for 2007, and the actual number will be about 2,000. Last year, the U.S. took in only about 700.

Destroy a country with bombs and tanks. Tell the world you were "liberators." Then walk away from the carnage. Let the injured population fend for itself in the resulting social chaos and disorder. Show no mercy to would-be refugees.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

STATE DEPT. SECURITY KILLS NINE CIVILIANS IN BAGHDAD

Joshua Partlow reports in The Washington Post that security contractors working for the U.S. State Department opened fire in downtown Baghdad, and killed at least nine Iraqi civilians.

This is another example of the consequences from starting the War in Iraq which we could all foresee before hand. If we could foresee them, why not Bush and Cheney? Therefore, I place the blame for these civilian deaths completely on George W. Bush and his unjustified invasion and occupation. Bush should be tried as a war criminal.

If you were a relative of one of the nine innocent civilians caught up in the gun fire, how would you feel about the American invasion? How would you feel about George Bush saying we have to fight them in Iraq so they don't come over here?

George Bush is responsible for the death of these nine civilians as well as the other million Iraqi civilians who lost their lives as a result of his foolish and unjustified war.

FRANK RICH, LIGHTEN UP ON MOVE-ON.ORG

Frank Rich in his column (subscription required) in today's The New York Times takes a swipe at the Move-on.org democrats who ran the "General Be-tray-us" ad. Lighten up, Frank. By the way, have you taken a close look at the ad? It actually poses a question, "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?"

Okay, I agree it is a bit juvenile to play around with someone's last name. However, Gen. Petraeus is a public figure and has inserted himself into the political arena by being a spokesman for George Bush.


Furthermore, I submit Move-On is asking a legitimate question. Is David Petraeus going to serve merely as Bush's political hack and front man, or is he going to tell the truth that the War in Iraq is beyond winning, a bloody result of the catastrophic mistake of Bush's foreign policy?

Or do critics of Move-on.org including Frank Rich think citizens should never criticize generals or army officers who wear lots of ribbons? This reminds me of the reaction of churchmen when someone criticizes their doctrine or their life style. They react by accusing the critics of disrespect for authority. Here we get the same reaction from people, mostly Republicans, who again cry disrespect.

Remember the generals report to civilians in the United States, and they are servants of American civilians. When those civilians ask hard questions of the generals, please don't be like the church authorities and try to squelch the criticisms in place of answering the complaints with reasoned arguments.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

MC CAIN AGHAST AT MOVE-ON.ORG FOR "GEN. BE-TRAY-US"


Now John McCain, friend of George Bush and supporter of the War in Iraq, is criticizing MoveOn.org for its asking whether David Petraeus should rather be known as "Gen. Be-tray-us."

Apparently McCain is in the same camp as Rudy Giuliani. The public is not to question military officers, especially generals. Have McCain or Giuliani forgotten that the military officers in the United States report to civilians? That they serve a civilian society, not a military one?

Every American has the right to criticize military officers and their judgments. The McCain/Giuliani position would like to do away with this right.

Friday, September 14, 2007

RUDY BRISTLES AT MOVE-ON.ORG AND HILLARY FOR CRITICIZING (GASP!) GEN. PETRAEUS

According to Michael D. Shear in The Washington Post, Rudy Giuliani is planning to spend money to place newspaper ads attacking MoveOn.org and Hillary Clinton for their criticisms of Gen. David Petraeus. MoveOn ran a full page ad in The New York Times calling him "Gen. Betray-us." Hillary expressed scepticism over the rosy picture of "progress" in Iraq which Petraeus was giving the congress at the beginning of this week.

Hasn't Rudy ever heard of civilian control of the military? I know George Bush has abdicated his responsibility to the "generals," but why should Rudy think the rest of us are going to bow down every time a general walks by or speaks?

Maybe Rudy knows that the army is powerless to fight a war when civilians are against it. So maybe Rudy is trying to minimize perceived civilian discontent with the hated War in Iraq, so that the army can continue to fight Iraqis.

UC AT IRVINE OFFERS JOB AS DEAN OF LAW SCHOOL, THEN WITHDRAWS IT FOR PARTISAN REASONS

The recent actions of the chancellor at the University of California at Irvine show that those in academia are not immune from committing acts of gross stupidity. The university chancellor offered the job of dean at its new law school to Erwin Chemerinsky, a celebrated law professor at Duke. But after Chemerinsky wrote an op-ed in The Los Angeles Times opposing then-AG Alberto Gonzales' policy on implementing a fast track to the death penalty, the chancellor felt that Chemerinsky would be too liberal and controversial as dean. The university chancellor then withdrew the job offer.

Writes Sonya Geis in The Washington Post:

"Scholars across the political spectrum protested what they called an assault on academic freedom after the University of California at Irvine withdrew a job offer from a liberal professor who wrote an op-ed criticizing the Bush administration.

"Faculty members were furious, and blogs and editorial pages hummed Thursday with news that constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, 54, would not become dean of the University of California's first new law school in 40 years. . . ."

"On Aug. 16, Chemerinsky was offered the job as dean of the University of California at Irvine law school, scheduled to open in 2009. The same day he got the job offer, the Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed by Chemerinsky urging California to reject a plan by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales that would, he argued, make it harder for those on death row to have their cases reviewed in federal court.

"According to Chemerinsky, the UC-Irvine chancellor told him on Tuesday that he "knew I was liberal but didn't know how controversial I would be." The chancellor also said "some conservative opposition was developing," and the University of California regents would have "a bloody fight" over approving him, Chemerinsky said.

"In a telephone interview, UC-Irvine Chancellor Michael V. Drake said Chemerinsky's politics did not play a role in his decision to rescind the job offer. Rather, he said, Chemerinsky's accessibility to the media made him uneasy "because my feeling was, if we had a problem -- as the last couple of days show -- that it would be huge.""

The university should re-instate its job offer to Chemerinsky. At the same time, it should fire the chancellor Michael Drake for exhibiting little intellectual backbone in this matter as well as gross stupidity in subjecting a great university to academic disdain.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

U.S. BEGINS CAMPAIGN AGAINST IRAN


It appears the Bush/Cheney drive to further demonize Iran has begun this week. Juan Cole points me to the shallow reasoning of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on Iran/U.S. relations. We have Rice saying that we must prevent Iran from filling the vacuum in Iraq, whatever that means. Robin Wright reports on Rice's words in The Washington Post:

""Iran is a very troublesome neighbor, and I would note that President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad said that if the United States leaves Iraq, Iran is prepared to fill the vacuum," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on NBC's "Today" show yesterday. "That is what is at stake here.""

And ABC News reports more of Rice's comments as reported by Anne Flaherty of the AP:

""That is what is at stake here," Rice said. "What we are prepared to do is to complete the security gains that we've been making, to create circumstances in which an Iraqi government and local officials can find political accommodation, as they are doing in Anbar, and to be able then, from Iraq, with allies in the war on terror, to resist both terrorism and Iranian aggression.""

Note that then Rice adds, "[t]hat is what is at stake here." Please someone interpret this for me. It would seem Rice is trying to scare Americans into supporting some sort of attack against Iran because otherwise Iran will influence the government of Iraq. And since Bush and Cheney hate Iran, the U.S. will do everything in its power to stymie Iran as far as its relations with Iraq. But the mere words themselves say nothing. What is "at stake" may in fact augur well for the future of Iraq. Rice does not elaborate. But the innuendo behind this phrase is aimed at sexing up the neo-cons' campaign against Iran without any rational basis.

But is it really so bad that Iran influences a neighboring country? Perhaps Iran will exert a calming influence over the bloody civil strife in Iraq. Perhaps Iran will caution the Iraqi Shiites who are looking for revenge against the Sunnis. Perhaps it would benefit Iraq to have Iran fill the lawless vacuum created by the U.S. invasion and occupation. Perhaps with Iran's cooperation, Iraq might attain a period of peace in which the rule of law can prevail.

Bush and Co., in their zeal to attack and invade Iraq, have created the worst and most catastrophic foreign policy disaster in U.S. history. They must not be allowed to further compound their fiasco by attacking Iran.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

PETRAEUS CLAIMS IRAN IS SUPPLYING WEAPONS TO SHIA INSURGENTS IN IRAQ

Gen. David Petraeus appeared at the National Press Club today together with Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Petraeus had some bad things to say about Iran. William Branigin reports on Petraeus' comments on the web page of The Washington Post:

"Asked whether his testimony about Iran could be viewed as part of a campaign to build toward an attack, Petraeus said: "I'm not blaming Iran for all that's gone wrong in Iraq." But he said Iran has contributed to sophisticated attacks in Iraq that otherwise would not be possible, including strikes with armor-piercing "explosively formed projectiles" and 240mm rockets."

Yet we know the military has offered no verifiable proof or evidence that the government of Iran is involved. Petraeus claims there is clear evidence.

Writes Branigin:

""The evidence is very, very clear," Petraeus said. He cited documents discovered during the capture in March of Qais Khazali, a Shiite Muslim militant with ties to the Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the arrest of a deputy commander of Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese Shiite group supported by Iran. Petraeus said the evidence links Iran to an attack in Karbala in January that resulted in the deaths of five U.S. soldiers.

"Under interrogation, Khazali was asked if he could have carried out that attack without Iranian support, Petraeus said in the news conference. "He literally throws up his hands and laughs and says, 'Of course not,' " the general said.

"Khazali and other captives have told U.S. investigators about funding, training, weapons and ammunition they had received from Iran, he said."

But the evidence is not "very, very clear." On the basis of one captured Shiite Muslim throwing up his hands who laughs and says of course not? Is this the extent of it?

Gen. Petraeus, sir, how about answering the following questions? Has this guy Khazali been deputized by the Iranian mullahs? Has he received anything from the government of Iran? Has he actually himself been a trainee in an Iranian training camp? Khazali is an officer in Hezbollah, but so what? What does that prove about any alleged Iranian involvement? Is the involvement an ad hoc arrangement where members of the same Shiite tribe help one another financially or militarily, no matter that some members live across the border in Iran and some live in Iraq?

To think that Bush and Cheney, and even Petraeus, base their claim of Iranian involvement in the civil and anti_U.S. bloody strife in Iraq on one guy, Khazali who really says very little about Iranian involvement! And this is going to be a casus belli for the American neo-cons to bomb and attack Iran and kill hundreds and thousands of Iranians!

So far the United States government and military have offered no creditable evidence that Iran is sending in powerful explosive-shaped charges or IEDs, notwithstanding the bellicose comments of Joe Lieberman and Dick Cheney and the other Republican war mongers. When we analyze their statements, all we get are accusations lacking reasonable basis and innuendos demonizing Iran and Iranians.

Is it too much to ask of our leaders that they sit down with those countries perceived to be "enemies" and work things out through peaceful negotiation and diplomacy? The United States should engage in peaceful relationships, not in bloody and murderous acts of war.

NY TIMES REPORTS ISRAEL ATTACKED SYRIA LAST WEEK

It appears that Israel sent airplanes to attack Syria last week. Mark Mazzetti and Helene Cooper write in today's The New York Times that officials in Washington said that Israel most likely was going after weapons caches, perhaps including nuclear weapons obtained from North Korea, located in northeastern Syria.

Write Mazzetti and Cooper:

"Officials in Washington said that the most likely targets of the raid were weapons caches that Israel’s government believes Iran has been sending the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah through Syria. Iran and Syria are Hezbollah’s primary benefactors, and American intelligence officials say a steady flow of munitions from Iran runs through Syria and into Lebanon."

"One Bush administration official said Israel had recently carried out reconnaissance flights over Syria, taking pictures of possible nuclear installations that Israeli officials believed might have been supplied with material from North Korea. The administration official said Israeli officials believed that North Korea might be unloading some of its nuclear material on Syria.

"“The Israelis think North Korea is selling to Iran and Syria what little they have left,” the official said. He said it was unclear whether the Israeli strike had produced any evidence that might validate that belief."

Wait. Israel has no legal right to do this under international law. A country cannot just send its war planes to bomb another country's installations even if there were nuclear weapons located there. This matter should have been brought to the attention of the Security Council of the United Nations. Taking military action on its own, Israel threatens to start a region-wide and maybe even a world-wide war, possibly involving nuclear weapons. This is like Bush and the neo-cons in the U.S. starting a war against Iraq. Both Israel and the U.S. are wrong to think that bombs and tanks can solve their perceived international problems, or that shooting missiles will make their countries any more safe or immune from the world's odium.

Note that Israel has offered no verifiable proof or evidence that Syria has a cache of nuclear weapons, or that Iran has been sending weapons to Hezbollah through Syria. Also note this statement in the NY Times story:

"“The Israelis think North Korea is selling to Iran and Syria what little they have left,” the official said. He said it was unclear whether the Israeli strike had produced any evidence that might validate that belief."

So just because Israel "thinks" North Korea is selling to Iran and Syria, that is justification for an Israeli raid? This is obviously ludicrous. Attacking another sovereign nation because you "think" or suspect something is going on involving nuclear arms sales is not legal justification. Again the correct procedure would have been to bring this to the attention of the U.N. Another method would have been via diplomacy and negotiation including serious talks between the governments of Israel and Syria.

This unilateral action of Israel is most dangerous and reckless. I cannot but suspect that Bush and Cheney are behind this Israel attack of Syria, and that it is a harbinger of an air attack by the United States against Iran.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

NPR'S MELISSA BLOCH FLUBS QUESTION TO SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER

Melissa Bloch of NPR was interviewing Lamar Alexander, Republican senator from Tennessee, this afternoon on All Things Considered, about the Gen. Petraeus testimony. Block asked if Alexander was going to vote for ongoing funding for the War in Iraq. Alexander replied that yes, he was most certainly going to vote "to fund the troops."

Now this is the time for Melissa Bloch to step up and re-ask her question, like, "Senator, I did not ask about funding the troops, I asked if you were going to re-fund this War."

Bloch unfortunately allowed Alexander to get away with answering a different question than funding the War in Iraq.

Sure, Melissa, everyone is in favor of funding the troops. But first end this unjustified and immoral War, bring home all the troops, and Americans will gladly continue to pay their salaries and benefits.

WILL IRAQ CAUSE VOTERS TO SHUN DEMOCRATS AFTER TROOP PULL-OUT?

I read Juan Cole's essay today in his essential blog Informed Comment on the bad choices to be inherited by the next president (probably a Democrat) as far as Iraq. Cole believes that there are three wars being fought right now and continuing into the future: one for control of Baghdad between Shias and Sunnis, one for control of the oil in Kirkuk in the north, and one for the oil in and around Basra in the south. Cole believes that these wars will continue to smolder for the next president when we finally are liberated from Bush. As a matter of fact, the hard choices will be faced by the next president because Bush just wants to push off the inevitable necessity to deal with them.

I agree. We all know Bush is just looking for time when he says the next six months are crucial. A denouement is always pushed off to "the next six months," writes Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post today.

"It's clear by now that playing for time is the real White House strategy for Iraq. Everything else is tactical maneuver and rhetorical legerdemain -- nothing up my sleeve -- with which the administration is buying time, roughly in six-month increments. Appearing before a joint hearing called by the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, Gen. David H. Petraeus probably won the respite Bush wanted when he said that U.S. military objectives "are in large measure being met.""

But Cole takes too pessimistic a view on the political ramifications of leaving the seemingly insoluble problems of Iraq to a Democratic president. Cole believes that just as the bloody end to the VietNam War caused Gerald Ford to be a one-term president, so the bloody upheaval resulting from a pull-out of U.S. forces under a Democratic administration will cause American voters to reject the Democrats after one presidential term and install Republicans in both the executive and legislative branches who will then remain in power for years to come.

Writes Cole:

"But in all likelihood, when the Democratic president pulls US troops out in summer of 2009, all hell is going to break loose. The consequences may include even higher petroleum prices than we have seen recently, which at some point could bring back stagflation or very high rates of inflation.

"In other words, the Democratic president risks being Fordized when s/he withdraws from Iraq, by the aftermath. A one-term president associated with humiliation abroad and high inflation at home? Maybe I should say, Carterized. The Republican Party could come back strong in 2012 and then dominate politics for decades, if that happened.

"It is all so unfair, of course, since Bush started and prosecuted this disaster in Iraq, and Bush is refusing to accept responsibility for the failure, pushing it off onto his successor."

But I don't think this bleak prediction is inevitable or even very likely. First, I don't think that Obama or Clinton or Edwards is going to call for an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. soldiers. The threat of genocide or fratricide in Iraq looms too large in such a scenario for the next president to allow it. Second, a Democratic president is more likely to emphasize negotiations and diplomacy with Iraq's neighbors, namely Syria and Iran and even with Saudi Arabia. Negotiations and diplomacy are the key to quiet down and calm the bloody murderous feelings rampant today in Iraq. Third, the international community will be more likely to support the United States under a new Democratic administration when it sees that it is less war-like and bellicose than Bush/Cheney.

So I am not ready to see a trap for the Democrats that Juan Cole lays out or recognize its probability just yet.

Monday, September 10, 2007

PETRAEUS FIGURES ON IRAQI CIVILIAN CASUALTIES BEAR NO RESEMBLANCE TO THOSE OF AP OR IBC

I found these charts on TPM Muckracker showing numbers for civilian casualties in Iraq for 2006 and 2007. They bear no resemblance to the figures offered today by Bush's military spokesman, Gen. David Petraeus. The numbers come from the Associated Press and from "Iraq Body Count," a British organization. In both the AP and IBC, it is crystal clear that the civilian casualties in Iraq are up over 2006 FOR EVERY SINGLE MONTH.

And on Talking Points Memo, David Kurtz plots out on a graph the numbers given today by Petraeus. Where has Petraeus obtained his figures? For every single month this year, the Petraeus figures show lower civilian casualties.

So whom to believe? Petraeus who works for Bush and whose neck is on the chopping block to show the "surge" is making progress? Or the Associated Press and IBC?

PETRAEUS CLAIMS SURGE IS WORKING BUT GIVES NO HARD EVIDENCE

Petraeus is living up to expectations by claiming that the surge is working. And the Republicans in congress are falling over themselves praising him. Okay, Let the Republicans be the party that embraces the War in Iraq. Let's take the issue into the next elections. By that time, there will still be approximately the same number of U.S. troops in Iraq, no matter what Petraeus says about a draw-down. There will still be deaths of U.S. soldiers from IEDs and other violent attacks. There will still be sectarian violence raging throughout Iraq. Let the Republicans constitute the party in favor of the War in Iraq. Let them who want to keep this war going explain "progress" then.

William Branigin and Robin Wright write for The Washington Post that Petraeus claims that there has been a decrease in violence since the surge began.

"Appearing with the top U.S. diplomat in Iraq to report to Congress on military and political developments in the four-year-old war effort, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus claimed major progress for the so-called "surge," the deployment of an additional 30,000 troops to Iraq last spring.

"Citing a drop in the overall level of violence in Iraq, Petraeus said, "I believe that we will be able to reduce our forces to pre-surge levels . . . without jeopardizing security gains we fought so hard to achieve." He said he also believes that "it is possible to achieve our objectives in Iraq over time," although this will be "neither quick nor easy.""

Note that neither Wright or Branigin give numbers or figures offered by Petraeus backing up his claim. Furthermore, these main stream reporters from the WashPo seem to accept without questioning Petraeus' argument that the surge is working and that there has been a drop in the overall level of violence in Iraq.

Petraeus can't give numbers because his claim is specious spin, designed to give Bush and the whole Republican Party cover in their attempt to foist Bush's foreign policy catastrophe off to the next president.

FROOMKIN ASSEMBLES QUESTIONS FOR PETRAEUS AND CROCKER

Dan Froomkin today in his White House Watch in The Washington Post assembles questions suggested by news organizations and commentators for Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker who are testifying today before Congressional panels.

Froomkin notes that the appearances today by Petraeus and Crocker are merely charades, and that Bush is not going to change his tactics or strategy, because he hopes to prolong the War in Iraq until at least he is out of office.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

CIA DIRECTOR DEFENDS RENDITION AND HARSH INTERROGATION METHODS

Here's a far-out story I almost missed. The CIA Director defends the policy of "rendition" and interrogation used on suspected terrorists. Claudia Parsons reports for Reuters on CIA Director Michael Hayden's comments on Friday:

""In this fight, we've leveraged every inch of the space we've been given to operate," Hayden told an audience that included academics, lawyers and human rights activists at the Council on Foreign Relations.

""But, he said, the programs were "carefully controlled and lawfully conducted" and far more limited than widely believed.

""Since it began ... in the spring of 2002, fewer than 100 people have been detained at CIA's facilities," Hayden said, adding that the number of renditions was even smaller, in the "mid-range two figures."

""These programs are targeted and selective. They were designed for only the most dangerous terrorists and those believed to have the most valuable information, such as knowledge of planned attacks," he said. "But they also have been the subject of wild speculation, both here and overseas.""

So let me see if I understand. The "harsh" interrogation methods, such as water-boarding and sleep deprivation, are used on "only the most dangerous terrorists and those believed to have the most valuable information."

In other words, we know the suspects are "guilty" even before we interrogate them. We don't do these things to suspects we know are not "guilty." A suspect must be known to possess "the most valuable information." Isn't this just like the mind set of those who conducted the Inquisition interrogations in Spain and Portugal some 500 years ago. "We know you are a heretic, so you better confess. And to make sure you confess, we're going to put you up on the rack . . ."

But Hayden insists these criticisms are overblown.

Writes Parsons:

"Hayden said he was worried that politics appeared to be limiting the CIA's ability to do its work, and he criticized the media for publishing stories revealing details of CIA operating methods."

Saturday, September 8, 2007

LIEBERMAN THWARTS DEMOCRATS IN SETTING TIMETABLE ON IRAQ

One of the reasons that the Democrats are hog-tied as to ending the War in Iraq is Joe Lieberman. Today, Jeanine Zacharia reports for Bloomberg that Lieberman says he will not support the compromise measure introduced by Sen. Levin and other senate democrats calling for a pull-out from Iraq beginning on a specified date, although without specifying a date certain for completion of the withdrawal.

Writes Zacharia:

"Lieberman, a Connecticut independent and ardent supporter of a continued troop presence in Iraq, said he won't support Levin's plan. ``The answer is a respectful no,'' Lieberman, 65, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television's ``Political Capital with Al Hunt'' scheduled to air this weekend.



"Lieberman's opposition makes it less likely that Levin's measure, co-sponsored with Rhode Island Democrat Jack Reed, could muster the 60 Senate votes needed to defeat a threatened Republican filibuster or the 67 required to override a presidential veto."

This is more than enough reason to rue Lieberman's re-election last year and his defeat of the hapless Ned Lamont. Lieberman votes with George Bush on every measure that enables and supports the War in Iraq. Not only that, Lieberman would also like to attack Iran. He has sponsored a senate measure saying that Iran is responsible for killing U.S. troops, although there has never been any verifiable evidence produced showing that this is true.

Jeanine Zacharia reports:

"Lieberman repeated his view that the U.S. should consider taking military action against bases in Iran, where the Bush administration says Iraqi extremists are being trained before being sent back to Iraq to carry out attacks.


"``We've said to the Iranians, `you want to have a better relationship, start by stopping this proxy war you're running against us and so far there's been no evidence of that,''' Lieberman said.


"``If they don't listen to and respond to these demands of ours, then we have to consider taking military action against those bases where they are training the Iraqi extremists to go back and kill American soldiers,'' Lieberman said, adding that he isn't calling for any ``wide-scale invasion of Iran.''


"Iran denies the U.S. accusation that it is training Iraqi extremists."

It is a senator like Lieberman who can do a lot of damage to the United States and to peace in the world.

FORMER FEDERAL JUDGES DENOUNCE USE OF TORTURE TO EXTRACT STATEMENTS OF GUILT IN MILITARY COMMISSIONS

In the case of Boumediene v. George W. Bush, to be decided in the next term of the U.S. Supreme Court, the question is whether federal judicial review of the Combatant Status Review Tribunal is an adequate substitute for the common law Great Writ of habeas corpus, when the CSRT may have relied on statements extracted by torture and other impermissible coercion. In other words, may the government extract confessions by torture and then prohibit the accused from seeking the protection of habeas corpus in federal courts?

Many entities have filed briefs as Amici Curiae seeking to bar torture as a legitimate means of information extraction without any possibility of the accused seeking relief under habeas corpus. One in particular is from former federal judges found at Scotusblog.

The former federal judges review the common law tradition in England barring torture and coercion. I want to reproduce one section because it recites that as far back as the year 1215, almost 800 years ago, the English courts ("King's Bench") abandoned the use of torture as both cruel and unreliable.

Write the former federal judges:

"More than a millennium ago, torture was allowed
in England in trials by ordeal, which required the accused
to submit to various painful tests, to decide questions of
guilt and civil liability. See A. Lawrence Lowell, The
Judicial Use of Torture, 11 HARV. L. REV. 220, 221-222
(1897). The use of such torture tactics—often involving fire
or water—was not based on any theory that such methods
would lead to reliable statements, but rather on the belief
that God would intervene to disclose the truth. See John
H. Langbein, Torture and Plea Bargaining, 46 U. CHI. L.
REV. 3, 4 (1978).

"Torture was abandoned as part of the truth-seeking
function in England in 1215, when trial by jury was
introduced. Indeed, England prided itself at that time on
its rejection of the legal system adopted by continental
Europe, which incorporated torture of criminal defendants
as a systemic element of its legal machinery. See John H.
Langbein, Torture and The Law of Proof 73 (1976). In the
late 1400s, for example, Chief Justice Fortescue of the
King’s Bench emphasized that the torture conducted in
Europe, but rejected in England, yielded unreliable results (7)
and thus did “its utmost to condemn the innocent and
convict the judge of cruelty.” John Fortescue, De Laudibus
Legum Angliae, A Treatise in Commendation of the Laws
of England 73 (Francis Gregor, trans., Cincinnati, Robert
Clarke & Co. 1874) (c. 1460-1470)." (6-7)

Consider how this squares with the dark outlook of George Bush and Dick Cheney on using torture to extract information from suspected terrorists. The American president and vice president wish to overturn a millenium of legal tradition protecting people arrested in favor of "protecting the homeland" against feared future terroristic acts. People are seized and held incommunicado solely on the basis of suspicion generated by torture and coercion. The right of the individual to be free from torture and to be granted access to lawyers as well as rights to seek habeas corpus relief in the courts have been denied in favor of putative interests of the state.

Friday, September 7, 2007

PETRAEUS SAYS U.S. HAS KILLED "THOUSANDS" OF AL QAEDA IN IRAQ

Gen. David Petraeus has written a letter to the troops, reprinted in today's The Washington Post. Really, the letter is intended as propaganda intended for the American public, with the message that the surge is working real progress in Iraq. The letter is however replete with exaggerations and simplifications.

Petraeus makes it seem that the number one threat in Iraq is AQI. He mentions Al Qaeda at least five times, such as "thousands of members of Al Qaeda" being killed or captured by U.S. forces.

My question for Gen. Petraeus: how many members of AQI do you think are in Iraq? General, may I suggest you look at Andrew Tilghman's piece for Washington Monthly about this very point. According to the experts, Tilghman finds that there are only about 850 members of AQI, and that number is probably on the high side.

Writes Tilghman

"To describe AQI's presence, intelligence experts cite a spectrum of estimates, ranging from 8 percent to 15 percent. The fact that such "a big window" exists, says Vincent Cannistraro, former chief of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, indicates that "[those experts] really don't have a very good perception of what is going on."

"It's notable that military intelligence reports have opted to cite a figure at the very top of that range. But even the low estimate of 8 percent may be an overstatement, if you consider some of the government's own statistics . . . "

"How big, then, is AQI? The most persuasive estimate I've heard comes from Malcolm Nance, the author of The Terrorists of Iraq and a twenty-year intelligence veteran and Arabic speaker who has worked with military and intelligence units tracking al-Qaeda inside Iraq. He believes AQI includes about 850 full-time fighters, comprising 2 percent to 5 percent of the Sunni insurgency. "Al-Qaeda in Iraq," according to Nance, "is a microscopic terrorist organization.""

So what then does Petraeus mean when he congratulates his troops and says that they have killed or captured "thousands" of Al Qaeda members?

This is just hype, just spin, just propaganda. Why does Petraeus emphasize Al Qaeda in his letter? For the same reason George Bush does, to conflate 9/11 terrorists with the insurgents fighting U.S. troops in Iraq. We all know there is no connection. The Iraqi insurgents want the Americans gone, want the tanks gone, want foreign occupiers gone. They fight the U.S. troops because they are invaders and occupiers, not because they espouse bin Laden's view of Islam.

Petraeus is playing a dangerous game, the same one Bush is playing. Politicizing the war so that history will have trouble blaming these politicians and these generals for the worst catastrophic mess-up in U.S. history.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

QAEDA IN IRAQ BUT A SMALL PART OF SUNNI INSURGENCY

Andrew Tilghman has an article in Washington Monthly about the Bush/Cheney spin claiming that the biggest threat in Iraq today is "Al Qaeda in Iraq." I have blogged several times (here's one example) on how the U.S. military and Bush like to say that all Sunni insurgencies are connected with Al Qaeda. I guess they do this because they want to scare Americans into mindlessly conflating Qaeda with the internecine civil war raging today in Iraq between Sunnis and Shias.

Tilghman writes a thorough description of the spin and snow job that comes out of Bush/Cheney and sad to say the higher ups in the U.S. army.

REPUBLICANS MUST BE KIDDING WHEN THEY SAY SURGE IS WORKING

The U.S. military in Iraq, especially the senior officer, Gen. David Petraeus, are claiming the surge is working, that violence is down, and even George Bush is implying this is taking place all over Iraq. The Republicans contending for their presidential nomination are naturally parroting this unfounded assertion. For example, this was the exchange last night at the Republican presidential debate, according to Dan Balz and Michael D. Shear in today's The Washington Post:

'When Romney said he believed the troop buildup in Iraq was "apparently working," McCain jumped him. "Governor, the surge is working. The surge is working, sir."

"That's just what I said," Romney responded.

'"No, not 'apparently.' It's working," McCain replied."

Yet, all of this optimism is just wishful thinking of children wanting to believe in the tooth fairy. Consider the AP's report by David Rising in today's papers on the attack last night by U.S. helicopters on three homes last night in west Baghdad:

"After a period of relative calm, there has been an uptick in violence in recent days as President Bush prepares for a showdown in Congress over the future of the U.S. mission in Iraq.

"In eastern Baghdad, a roadside bomb targeting a U.S. patrol exploded in a neighborhood just west of the Shiite slum Sadr City.

"The bomb injured four civilians and damaged a civilian car, and U.S. troops sealed off the area, a police officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of security reasons.

"The U.S. military confirmed the attack, and said that although there were no injuries to U.S. or Iraqi forces, one American military vehicle was damaged."

And that is not all the violence that occurred yesterday. Risen reports for the AP the following:

"Also in Baghdad, a roadside bomb exploded next to a group of construction workers in the predominantly Shiite area of Zafaraniyah, killing one and injuring five, police said.

"Authorities made the grisly discovery of five bodies _ two in Baghdad's southern Dora area and three in the western Amil area _ all blindfolded and shot with their hands bound, police said.

"In Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, a car bomb near a gas station killed two civilians and wounded 14 others, police said. Authorities imposed an indefinite curfew after the bombing.

"The violence comes the week before U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus report to Congress about progress since the United States sent nearly 30,000 more troops to Iraq."

So how in the world can anyone say the surge is working? How can Petraeus report to Bush that violence is down 75%? How can Bush argue the U.S. needs more time to continue a successful strategy? How can McCain be so sure that peace is coming to Iraq? How can Mitt Romney say the strategy is apparently working?

All the evidence all the news reports indicate that the surge is not working, that bloody violence still plagues Iraq, whether caused by Sunnis, Shiites or U.S. forces.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

U.S. MILITARY FIND FAULT WITH REPORT OF GAO ON INCREASING SECTARIAN VIOLENCE

The Washington Post has a story this morning by Karen DeYoung and Ann Scott Tyson on the military's reaction to the critical GAO Report yesterday about political progress in Iraq. The generals in Iraq especially take exception to the GAO's assertion that there is no clear verifiable evidence that sectarian violence has decreased.

Write DeYoung and Tyson:

"The GAO concluded that all forms of violence remain high in Iraq -- causing senior military officials to complain that the report did not consider statistics for August, when, they said, trends in sectarian violence and the performance of the Iraqi security forces improved.

"They use the end of July as the data and evidentiary cutoff and therefore are not taking into account any gains in any of the benchmarks that may have become more clear throughout August," one official said.

"The military officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Petraeus will give the official military position in testimony Monday, took particular exception to the GAO statement that a drop in sectarian attacks could not be confirmed. The final version of the report softened the draft's initial conclusion that "U.S. agencies differ on whether such violence has been reduced," saying instead that "measuring such violence may be difficult since the perpetrator's intent is not clearly known."

"One military official called even the revised version "factually incorrect," saying that "we absolutely disagree with their characterization of sectarian violence." Such attacks have fallen significantly this year, he said."

Note that all the military officials remain anonymous. Furthermore, note that the military gives no hard numbers. Yes, the story reports that some in the military disagree but so what? It is not enough merely to disagree, the military must give facts and figures why they disagree.

I posted recently on the increasing sectarian violence. Civilian deaths are up in August over July. Deaths of U.S. military are up for every single month over 2006. How about these facts for contradicting mere assertions that violence in Iraq has decreased?

{See the recent story from the AP reporting on the deaths of four more U.S. soldiers and 19 civilians today in Baghdad.)

As I wrote several days ago,

"Now today we have a report from Dan Yates of Reuters that there has been a spike in Iraqi civilian deaths in August.Writes Dan Yates:

""Civilian deaths from violence in Iraq rose in August, with 1,773 people killed, government data showed on Saturday, just days before the U.S. Congress gets a slew of reports on President George W. Bush's war strategy. The civilian death toll was up 7 percent from 1,653 people killed in July, according to figures from various ministries.""

"So how does George W. Bush measure progress? If the number of civilian deaths for August in Iraq is up by more than 100 from July, totalling at least 1,773 people, how can this be "progress?""

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

U.S. - FREE FIVE IRANIAN DIPLOMATS WITHOUT DELAY


Good news, Haleh Esfandiari has been allowed to leave Iran. The 69-year old Iranian American is now in Austria recuperating from being in prison for more than three months. Iran's leaders did the right thing by letting her go. Esfandiari believes in dialogue between the United States and Iran, not confrontation or war. She was the wrong person for Iran to arrest.

Now the U.S. needs to free the five Iranian diplomats arrested in Erbil last January. In May, it was reported that Dick Cheney prevailed in keeping them under arrest for at least another six months, even though about the only crime I see is that they are Iranians. The U.S. military has presented no evidence why they should be arrested and put in prison. Iran claims they are diplomats. The U.S. government has shown no evidence that they are not, even though Bush's intemperate statements about Iran are in keeping with this reckless arrest and imprisonment of the five Iranians.

The Bush government needs either to show evidence why the five Iranians should be brought up on charges in a court of law or else it needs to free the five Iranians without any more delay.

Monday, September 3, 2007

IN SPEECH TO CHEERING MARINES, BUSH DERIDES "NERVOUS REACTION BY WASHINGTON POLITICIANS"

George Bush talking to a large group of cheering Marines today said that decisions about the war would not be left to "a nervous reaction by Washington politicians . . ."

Michael Fletcher and Ann Scott Tyson write in The Washington Post:

"In a meeting with a group of cheering Marines before departing Iraq, Bush said that a U.S. pullout from Iraq would not be based on fear or political considerations.

""When we begin to draw down troops from Iraq it will be from a position of strength and success, not from a position of fear and failure," he said. "The decision will be made on a calm assessment by our military commanders based on the conditions on the ground, not a nervous reaction by Washington politicians or poll results in the media.""

So in one phrase, Bush calls the anti-war movement "nervous," something akin to "effeminate," "weak," even "mentally unstable." How's that for speech-writing?

And how about the "cheering Marines?" It seems Bush's key supporters are soldiers and marines. Here is a man who has started an unjustified and needless war, resulting in the deaths of close to 4,000 U.S. military, and the rank-and-file turns around and cheers him!

IRAQI REFUGEES GIVE LIE TO BUSH'S SPIN ON "PROGRESS"

Apparently Bush is satisfied with "progress" being made in Iraq after meeting with Petraeus and Al Maliki on a highly fortified air base in Anbar Province.

If things are so rosy, and if there has been so much discernible progress, how come Syria just announces that it will demand Iraqis have or obtain visas before being allowed to cross into Syria? About 50,000 Iraqis leave Iraq monthly, looking to escape the all-encompassing violence and shootings.

Reports the BBC:

"Syria will require visas from Iraqis wishing to enter the country for trade, economic or educational purposes from September, Iraqi officials have said . . ."

"The UN refugee agency says 1.4 million Iraqi refugees are living in Syria. With the number increasing by an estimated 30,000 every month, Syria's health and education systems are struggling to cope."

You would think that "progress" would be apparent to these refugees before they flee Iraq, and give them some hope about staying put in their own country. But no, the exodus continues, thus giving the lie to Bush's transparent spin. And who would know better about "progress" that the Iraqis who come to the decision that it is not safe living and staying in Iraq.

If Bush thinks there has been progress, then let him stay in Iraq for more than a few hours. Oh, and tell him he can't stay within the confines of the Green Zone or on some highly fortified air force base.