Robert Gehrke writes today in The Salt Lake Tribune that records and minutes of former Utah governor Mike Leavitt's meetings with some of his staff discussing "holy and just" Mormon principles are public documents that should be released to the public. Leavitt had requested that the minutes not be released.
"The transcripts of a series of "Early Morning Seminary" meetings led by Mike Leavitt during his tenure as Utah governor should be available to the public, the Utah State Archives decided Monday.
"Leavitt had argued the meeting transcripts - in which his top staff and trusted advisers explored doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to extract "holy and just" principles that could be applied to government - documented private gatherings, since they were held before business hours and involved friends who were not state employees. . . "
"In a letter to The Tribune last week, Leavitt acknowledged "the role of faith in public policy is a legitimate story," but said the comments of other participants in the discussions should remain private because they expressed thoughts they "may deem to be personal, in some cases even sacred." "
That's the trouble with meetings of this kind. Whoever is the "king" dictates to subordinates what the moral and just principles are. Suppose you were assistant to then Gov. Leavitt and you were a non-believer, or worse yet, a secular humanist, you would be de facto compelled to bury your convictions and adopt the governor's religious attitudes. Either that or be demoted or fired.
No wonder our system of government as set forth in the U.S. Constitution calls for strict separation of church and state. But as we see in this Leavitt mess, there are some in authority who are always angling to get around it.
Monday, December 31, 2007
FORMER UTAH GOV. LEAVITT HOLDS MORMON PRAYER MEETINGS WITH STAFF FOR GUIDANCE ON POLITICAL DECISIONS
Robert Gehrke writes today in The Salt Lake Tribune that records and minutes of former Utah governor Mike Leavitt's meetings with some of his staff discussing "holy and just" Mormon principles are public documents that should be released to the public. Leavitt had requested that the minutes not be released.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Bush's policy towards Pakistan and Musharraf seems to be, "full steam ahead," notwithstanding the policy's support of a leader who kicked out the judiciary, and jailed and beat lawyers protesting the suspension of the rule of law. Bush plans no different policy towards Musharraf, even after the tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto, sent back to Pakistan with Bush's blessing.
Janine Zacharia writes for Bloomberg:
"Bush's support for Musharraf hasn't changed, an administration official said, adding that the U.S. sees itself as playing a supporting role as Pakistan decides how to move forward on the path of democracy.
"The death of Bhutto, 54, followed on the heels of other setbacks to Bush's pro-democracy efforts in the Islamic world, including the sectarian bloodshed that has undermined Iraq's government and the U.S.-backed Palestinian elections that ended up bringing the militant group Hamas to power last year."
Instead of taking Musharraf's part, Bush/Rice/Cheney should be taking the part of the lawyers and judges who represent the most stable part of Pakistani society. They are the ones who believe in the rule of law and democracy for Pakistan. Bush, however, sides with the autocrat who believes he is above the law and above the constitution. So much for Bush's protestations that he wants to spread "democracy."
Saturday, December 29, 2007
I heard on BBC Radio this morning that a close aide to the assassinated Benazir Bhutto said that Ms. Bhutto had definitely been shot. There was blood all over Bhutto's SUV and then when she was transferred to the aide's car, there was blood all over the second vehicle. The aide also said that Bhutto had a two wounds in her neck, one corresponding to a bullet's entry point and the other an exit wound.
But Musharraf's government is trying to lay blame on Al Qaeda, Carlotta Gall reports in today's The New York Times. It claims that it has intercepted a telephone conversation between two Al Qaeda members congratulating each other on the apparent success in assassinating Ms. Bhutto. Also the physician treating the injured Ms. Bhutto claims there were no gunshot wounds.
Writes Carlotta Gall:
"The government identified a militant leader with links to Al Qaeda, Baitullah Mehsud, who holds sway in tribal areas near the Afghanistan border, as the chief suspect behind the attack.
"“We have an intercept from this morning in which he congratulated his people for carrying out this act,” Brig. Javed Iqbal Cheema, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said in a briefing to reporters.
"“We have irrefutable evidence that Al Qaeda and its networks are trying to destabilize the government,” he added. “They have been systematically attacking our government, and now a political icon.” Ms. Bhutto, he said, was on the hit list of Al Qaeda and other terrorists."
But Ms. Bhutto's supporters deny anyone other than the government was responsible. See this account on BBC.com:
" . . . Ms Bhutto's associates disputed the official account, saying the government was trying to abdicate its responsibility for her security.
""To hear that Ms Bhutto fell from an impact from a bump on a sun roof is absolutely rubbish. It is dangerous nonsense, because it implies there was no assassination attempt," a spokeswoman for Ms Bhutto's PPP party, Sherry Rehman, told the BBC.
""There was a clear bullet wound at the back of the neck. It went in one direction and came out another... My entire car is coated with her blood, my clothes, everybody - so she did not concuss her head against the sun roof."
My inclination is always disbelieve governmental authorities, whether American or Pakistani. They always have political and personal motives for avoiding the truth.
Friday, December 28, 2007
I fully agree with Juan Cole in his observations at Informed Comment on the situation in Pakistan given the tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto. If Gen. Pervez Musharraf is to remain in power and keep the backing of the United States, he must restore the rule of law. This means restoring the Supreme Court Justices, including former Chief Justice Ifthikar Chaudhry now under house arrest, to their rightful judicial positions before he illegally dismissed them. This also means freeing the lawyers and judges that Musharraf locked up after their street demonstrations in favor of the rule of law. Further, it means Musharraf must acknowledge that he will follow and respect the Pakistani Constitution, something that he has trashed whenever it did not fit his political ambitions.
Writes Juan Cole:
"In order to get through this crisis, Bush must insist that the Pakistani Supreme Court, summarily dismissed and placed under house arrest by Musharraf, be reinstated. The PPP must be allowed to elect a successor to Ms. Bhutto without the interference of the military. Early elections must be held, and the country must return to civilian rule. Pakistan's population is, contrary to the impression of many pundits in the United States, mostly moderate and uninterested in the Taliban form of Islam. But if the United States and "democracy" become associated in their minds with military dictatorship, arbitrary dismissal of judges, and political instability, they may turn to other kinds of politics, far less favorable to the United States. Musharraf may hope that the Pakistani military will stand with him even if the vast majority of people turn against him. It is a forlorn hope, and a dangerous one, as the shah of Iran discovered in 1978-79. ' "
Thursday, December 27, 2007
We all know that Bush, Cheney and Condoleeza Rice have been pushing for Benazir Bhutto to return to Pakistan from exile and participate in the forthcoming elections, so that she could add some legitimacy to the Pervez Musharraf regime, perhaps even sharing power with dictator Musharraf. Today Benazir Bhutto was assassinated.
Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler report on today's web page of The Washington Post:
"The assassination today of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto is a major blow to the U.S. goal of stabilizing Pakistan, a volatile ally with nuclear weapons that has served as a frontline against extremism since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to former U.S. policymakers and experts.
"The abrupt loss of a leading pro-U.S. political figure threatens the transition to democracy in Pakistan and leaves both Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Bush administration strategies vulnerable, they said."
Instead of opposing Musharraf for what he has done against the rule of law in Pakistan and the mockery he has made of civil liberties by beating and locking up lawyers and judges, Bush/Cheney/Rice are seeking to support him in his quest to remain in power. That's why they urged the unfortunate Benazir Bhutto to return to Pakistan and seek elected office. They thought she would stabilize and support Musharraf.
Write Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler:
"The administration was clearly taken aback by Bhutto's death, despite earlier assassination attempts and ongoing threats against her. . . .
"The United States is particularly concerned about the potential for initial demonstrations to become open-ended protests against the Musharraf government. U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson is also reaching out to other opposition parties and civil society groups to urge calm, U.S. officials said."
The assassination of Ms. Bhutto again brings into sharp focus the shallowness of U.S. foreign policy under the Bush gang. Instead of supporting the Pakistani middle class in their uprising against Musharraf, Bush & Co. can think of nothing but plugging the dike against Pakistani Islamists. Their plan to install Bhutto has now come to a tragic denouement. The Pakistani lawyers, judges and middle class are now solidly anti-American and anti- United States. And Bush/Cheney/Rice have no alternative policy for Pakistan. In their quest to make the world do their bidding, the American "leaders" have run out of options.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
The BBC reports that Turkey has again conducted bombing raids over Iraqi Kurdistan. We are certain to hear from Turkish authorities of so many Kurdish "terrorists" killed as a result.
Turkey needs to stop these attacks. Nothing good ever comes from dropping bombs on suspected insurgents. Instead the real victims are innocent civilians and villagers who happen to be the unintended targets for this war crime.
I have many times condemned attacks and bombing raids carried out by the U.S. I have called upon the US Air Force to cease bombing Iraqi enclaves and towns. I have deplored U.S. airplanes killing scores of Afghan civilians and children.
Bombing and killing from the air is never a solution. This applies to Turkey as well as to the U.S. Airplanes dropping bombs will only cause more hatred and killing. Turkey needs to mothball its fighters and bombers and seek a diplomatic peaceful solution to its problem with the Kurds.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Here's a decision that cannot be unexpected. Israel's military prosecutors absolve the Israeli Defense Forces of violating any rules of warfare by dropping thousands of cluster bombs on southern Lebanon during the recent Israel-Lebanon II War.
Isabel Kershner reports today in The New York Times:
"Israeli military prosecutors announced Monday that they would not press charges over the army’s use of cluster bombs during the war against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, actions that had been widely criticized by human rights organizations. . . ."
"Cluster bombs are not prohibited in warfare, but their use is criticized because they contain "bomblets" that explode over a wide area and may strike unintended targets. In addition, bomblets that fail to explode become, in effect, land mines that can be detonated by civilians long after fighting has stopped. More than 30 Lebanese are said to have been killed by munitions left behind after the monthlong war in 2006.
"Soon after the fighting stopped, a top United Nations aid official, Jan Egeland, described Israel’s use of cluster bombs as "shocking" and "completely immoral," not least, he said, because most had been fired in the last 72 hours of the war, when it was clear that the conflict was moving toward a resolution."
Why did Israeli Defense Forces inundate 30 miles of southern Lebanon with these deadly cluster bombs? Israel says it was targeting Hezbollah fighters, but many suspect that IDF was punishing Lebanon's civilian population for aiding and supporting Hezbollah.
To me, the whole military strategy of IDF in firing and dropping cluster bombs smacks of illegal collective punishment and the shameful targeting civilians for their political views. Because so many Lebanese would vote for Hezbollah in parliamentary elections and because so many Lebanese civilians oppose Israel's harsh military responses to the perceived terrorist threat from Hezbollah, the IDF carpets a thirty-mile swath with those immoral clusterettes.
Children be warned, don't pick up that shiny attractive looking cylinder lying there in the dirt if you don't want to give up a hand or a foot, or be blinded for life.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Who is in charge of public relations for the Olmert government of Israel? Whoever it is should be axed forthwith. Witness the PR disaster of the Israeli military trying publicly to defend its indefensible use of cluster bombs in a thirty mile swath during the last 72 hours of the Israel-Lebanon War.
The BBC web site reports:
"Israeli military prosecutors say the army's much-criticised deployment of cluster bombs in last year's Lebanon war was legal under international law.
"The Israeli army announced there would be no indictments against officers who used them, after a year-long enquiry.
""The use of the weaponry was a concrete military necessity," a statement said.
"The UN called Israel's cluster bombing "shocking and immoral," as most were used in the last 72 hours of fighting when a resolution was clearly imminent."
Instead of confessing and admitting causing a humanitarian catastrophe by dropping cluster bombs in the last 72 hours of the War, Israeli authorities are trying to defend and legitimize this militaristic disaster.
We can guess about Israel's purpose of carpeting thirty miles of Lebanon adjacent to the border with Israel with deadly cluster bombs, many of which remain hidden in fields and orchards. It was to prevent militants from sneaking up to the border and shooting missiles or rockets into Israel. The question is, was dropping cluster bombs proportional and the minimal use of force necessary to prevent such future attacks?
It is hard to understand Israel's defense of cluster bombs when you hear of dozens of Lebanese children playing in their backyards, picking up the bomblets as if they were toys, and then getting their hands or feet blown off or being blinded for life.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Today we see another proposal by the Israel government to increase housing units in the Occupied Territories. Also Israeli Prime Minister Olmert turns down a proposal for talks with Hamas.
The Washington Post carries a report by Mark Lavie of the AP:
"Israel's prime minister pledged Sunday to continue attacking Gaza militants, ruling out truce negotiations with Hamas amid widespread skepticism about the Islamic group's ability to halt rocket attacks.
"An Israeli cabinet minister, meanwhile, angered moderate Palestinians with another plan for new Jewish housing in a disputed part of Jerusalem, complicating renewed peace talks.
"There have been almost daily reports of truce feelers from the embattled Islamic Hamas regime in Gaza, and Israeli defense officials have said they are examining the proposals.
"But at the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected negotiations with Hamas because it has rebuffed international demands that it recognize Israel, renounce violence and endorse past peace accords."
There can be no peace in Palestine if Israel does not sit down and talk with Hamas. The fact that Hamas does not "recognize Israel" is a bogus reason on the part of Israeli authorities for rejecting talks. Hamas de facto recognizes Israel by asking for negotiations, that is all that really matters.
As to renouncing violence, both sides must renounce violence. That of course means Hamas must stop the rocket attacks into Israeli towns. Hamas must also prevent suicide bombers from doing their dirty work in Israel and against Israelis. But it also means Israel must stop its tanks making incursions into Gaza, its helicopters strafing and killing Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, and its targeted assassinations of Palestinian and Hamas leaders.
And both sides must endorse past peace accords. When Israel announces new housing settlements in the Occupied Territories, i.e., land acquired by Israel from Palestine during the 1967 War, this violates Resolution 242 (1967) and Resolution 465 (1980) of the United Nations, "emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war . . . " and being "deeply concerned over the practices of the Israeli authorities in implemeneting [their] settlement policy in the occupied Arbab territories, including Jerusalem, and its consequences for the lcoal Atab and Palestinian polulation."
Writes AP reporter Lavie:
"At Mideast conference hosted by President Bush last month in Annapolis, Md., Israel and the Palestinians resumed peace talks for the first time in seven years.
"But disputes over Israeli construction in Jerusalem have harmed the atmosphere. Just before the talks restarted, Israel announced a plan to build 307 apartments in Har Homa in east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed.
"The international community never recognized Israeli sovereignty over east Jerusalem, and Palestinians claim the area as the capital of the state they want to create.
"On Sunday Rafi Eitan, minister for Jerusalem affairs, confirmed that the Construction Ministry's proposed budget for 2008 includes 500 new apartments for Har Homa, as well as 240 new apartments in Maaleh Adumim, a major West Bank settlement just outside Jerusalem."
Israel must stop this illegal annexation by inhabitation of Occupied Territories. The Palestinians will never forget that Israel has seized their land and has brought in Israeli settlers and populated their territories with Israeli citizens.
We need a new administration in the U.S. to get involved and insist on the cessation of violence by both Hamas and Israel and in accordance with U.N resolutions 242 and 465 the return of Palestinian land and territories seized by Israel through its military victories.
Now we know that Bush's C.I.A. stiffed the 9/11 Commission by refusing to hand over or declare the torture tapes. When a lawyer requests documents, photocopies, records and the like, video and audio tapes are expected. For the CIA to say that it didn't turn over the video tapes because the plaintiffs did not asked for them specifically as such is duplicitous and scheming and above all does not pass the laugh test. The 9/11 Commission should ask for a special prosecutor to investigate the situation. I see criminal complaints possible in the near future against the Justice Department and the CIA and whomever else is involved (Bush/Cheney?).
Friday, December 21, 2007
More than 55 years have passed since the famous Supreme Court decision in the Steel Seizure Case (Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579 (1952)) where Justice Jackson wrote his famous concurrence on the powers of the presidency vis-a-vis the support or opposition of Congress. We need to take another look at Jackson's discussion of where or when the president's powers are at a zenith and where they are at their lowest, depending on the express or implied will of Congress.
Over the last year, we have watched a Congress, ruled by the Democrats in both houses, powerless to impose its will on a president whose party, though in a minority in the Senate, still is able to thwart the will of a majority (51 Democratic senators, including "independent" Liebermann) by its power to continue debate ad infinitum through the traditional "filibuster." It takes 60 senators to stop the filibuster and bring the issue to a vote on the senate floor.
Because the Democrats cannot do this, they find themselves stymied in the senate. Therefore, none of their programs can be enacted. Take the S-CHIP program which would expand the children's health insurance program by some 35 billion and cover more children currently without any health insurance or with costly health coverage their families cannot really afford. The Republicans in the senate opposed the program following Bush who claimed it was too expensive and would take business away from private insurers. After all, Bush said, children could always receive care from hospital emergency rooms. The result, no S-CHIP expansion. Bush and the Republicans won, notwithstanding the majority in both house and senate controlled by Democrats. So here we have a president getting his way in spite of congress.
"When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, his power is at its lowest ebb, for then he can rely only upon his own constitutional powers minus any constitutional powers of Congress over the matter."
The question I ask - given the opposition of both houses of Congress, is it clear that the powers of President Bush have been at their lowest ebb? And the answer must be, no. To the contrary, given the make-up of the senate, Bush has exercised considerable powers. In fact, on all major pieces of legislation, Bush has won and the Democrats in Congress have lost.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
There's good news about Tom Tancredo, R-Colo. He has decided to quit trying to secure the Republican presidential nomination. Tancredo never had a chance. But at least we won't need to endure more racial and ethnic hatred spewing forth from his mouth.
Tancredo is throwing his support to Mitt Romney, another immigrant basher. Chris Cillizza blogs for The Washington Post:
"Tancredo's biggest impact on the field came as he bowed out of a contest that he never had any real chance of winning. Tancredo had made tough stand on immigration the centerpiece and organizing principle of his campaign, and his endorsement of Romney could prove a powerful validator of the former governor's bona fides on the issue."
Tancredo had but one issue - animus towards foreign-speaking immigrants of any sort. He would send them all back in the interests of maintaining a pure and anglicized culture in the U.S.
Tancredo seems to have forgotten the origins of his last name. His parents or grandparents were no doubt immigrants from Italy. As a kid, he surely must have felt sting from the anti-Italian sentiments among the Irish and the Wasps and all the others. I wonder if he ever heard other kids call Italians racial or ethnic slur names.
You would think, given his background, Tancredo, of all people, would be the most sympathetic to the ordeals and hardships faced by immigrants, especially Spanish-speaking Mexicans, when they try to make a living for their families here in the U.S. After all, his Italian forebears had to put up with the same antipathies, maybe even worse, now confronting Latinos and other non-English speaking immigrants arriving in America.
Fortunately, most Americans remember their immigrant roots and are more tolerant and sympathetic to the new arrivals than a Tom Tancredo or a Lou Dobbs. Because we are losing a voice exacerbating racial and ethnic conflict, I am happy Tancredo has dropped out.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane write in today's The New York Times on the previously undisclosed involvement in the CIA tape destruction of White House lawyers over and beyond Harriet Miers.
"At least four top White House lawyers took part in discussions with the Central Intelligence Agency between 2003 and 2005 about whether to destroy videotapes showing the secret interrogations of two operatives from Al Qaeda, according to current and former administration and intelligence officials."
"The accounts indicate that the involvement of White House officials in the discussions before the destruction of the tapes in November 2005 was more extensive than Bush administration officials have acknowledged."
This is information not given out so far by the White House. So predictably, Dana Perino, the WH spokesperson, was upset and angry that it was revealed by the NYT.
The BBC reports on Perino's comments:
"We will continue to decline to comment on this issue, and in response to misleading press reports," press secretary Dana Perino said. Nevertheless, she said: "The New York Times' inference that there is an effort to mislead in this matter is pernicious and troubling."
She added that the White House was formally seeking a change to the story - particularly the sub-headline, which read: "White House role was wider than it said."
As Marty Lederman notes in the legal blog Balkinization, the WH is trying obfuscate the central issue on coming clean with all the facts regarding the destruction of the tapes. The WH really does not deny the NYT story:
"The [NY] Times did not write that the White House has lied about WH officials' involvement -- merely that they haven't yet come clean with the full story, which is true. There was some information coming from the White House about its involvement -- they tried to insinuate that the responsibility should be pinned on Harriet Miers alone, a story that was basically inaccurate.
"(Note the careful wording of the Press Statement: "Under direction from the White House General Counsel while the Department of Justice and the CIA Inspector General conduct a preliminary inquiry, we have not publicly commented on facts relating to this issue." One point of the Times piece is that the carefully orchestrated nonpublic leaks from the White House have been importantly incomplete and possibly misleading.)
"But all this is beside the point, which is not whether the White House has been misleading in its "public" comments over the past two weeks, but whether the White House has been complicit in crimes and other wrongdoing over the past several years. And on that question, what's most notable about today's Press Statement is that it does not deny the substance of the Times story."
There was a fire in the Old Executive Mansion building today. The smoke was caused by an electrical fire. Thus the adage about smoke pointing to a fire. We certainly seem to be seeing a lot of smoke on this issue coming from the WH. There must be fire in the story. Thus my question: what else remains that we don't know about the involvement of Bush and Cheney in the destruction of the CIA torture tapes?
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
The BBC is reporting on its web site that Massoud Barzani, leader of the Iraqi Kurds, has refused to meet with Condoleeza Rice because of the support of the U.S. for the Turkish raids inside Iraq against Kurdish militants.
Reports the BBC:
"Iraq's Kurdish leader has refused to meet the US secretary of state because of US tolerance of recent Turkish raids into Iraq, Kurdish officials say.
"Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani had been scheduled to meet Condoleezza Rice in Baghdad.
"Kurdish officials said it was "unacceptable" the US had "authorised Turkey to bomb our villages" on Sunday. "
The refusal of Barzani to meet with Rice just adds to the perception that the Bush/Rice foreign policy is bankrupt and inept. Both of these state actors seem to be conducting U.S. foreign policy without any forethought or planning. It's like, "Let's do this, let's do that," without foreseeing the possible negative consequences. No thought is given to the outcome of their actions. In foreign policy, Bush and Rice are both ingenues. How either one got to the position of power they now hold will remain an enigma, because on their merits both are incompetent.
George Bush and Dick Cheney continue their militaristic bluster towards Iran. Notwithstanding the report of the N.I.E. that said that Iran does not have a weapons program, our leaders seem intent on picking a fight before they leave office in January 2008.
Yet what do they think when Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the no. 2 man in Al Qaeda, comes out and criticizes Iran and Iraqi Shiites for dealing with the Americans? How long will it take Bush, Cheney, Bolton and the other conservative Iran haters to cease their war drums and recognize the truth in "The enemy of my enemy is my friend"?
Juan Cole has translated Al-Zawahiri's recent statements on his blog Informed Comment. Here are some excerpts of Al-Zawahiri's disparaging comments about Iran according to Cole:
"Al-Zawahiri also criticizes Iran's recognition of the "agent government in Kabul" immediately after it was established and criticizes it for the help it provided for the Americans during its invasion of Afghanistan. . . .
"Al-Zawahiri says: "With regard to Iraq, Iran achieved an agreement with the Americans before the latter's entry into Iraq. The agreement provided for partitioning Iraq. The Shiite militias trained, funded, and armed by Iran for years advanced violently and quickly into Iraq following the collapse of the Saddam regime. They were merged into the Iraqi Army and other Iraqi security services. They were and remain the Crusader occupier's paws used to strike at Muslims in Iraq.
"Despite the repeat of the slogans death to America, death to Israel by Iran, we have not heard a single fatwa from a single Shiite religious authority inside or outside of Iran urging jihad against the Americans in Iraq or Afghanistan. As a matter of fact, Rafsanjani has made a statement expressing respect for the wishes of the Iraqi agents of Iran regarding the continued presence of US troops in Iraq."
"Then, Rafsanjani is shown making a statement to this effect. He is also shown saying that the Iranians will not take the lead in eliminating Israel.
"Al-Zawahiri adds: "The statement made by Ahmadinezhad regarding the elimination of Israel is indicative of unsubstantiated propaganda. This is because had he been sincere in his desire to eliminate Israel, he would not have shared with it membership of the United Nations, whose Charter provides for respecting the sovereignty of all UN members and their territorial integrity.""
Condoleeza Rice turns up today unannounced in Kirkuk, supposedly to illustrate the gains in security over the past few months in Iraq. For the full story on the Rice journey, see the AP report on the web site in today's The Washington Post, "Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice makes surprise appearance to highlight recent drop in violence."
If Iraq and Kirkuk in particular are so safe and pacified, how come Condi must fly in unannounced? If there is now all peace and tranquillity, did she don a flak jacket and helmet when she emerged from her plane? How about when she next flew to Baghdad? Did she drive on the airport road into town, or was she zipped in some special army chopper to the Green Zone?
To answer these questions, we need to see some photos. But I bet I know the answer.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Hooray for the state of New Jersey, the first to repeal the death penalty in more than a generation.
Jeremy Peters reports today on the web page of The New York Times:
"Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed into law a measure repealing New Jersey’s death penalty on Monday, making the state the first in a generation to abolish capital punishment. . . .
"In an extended and often passionate speech from his office at the state capitol, Mr. Corzine declared an end to what he called “state-endorsed killing,” and said that New Jersey could serve as a model for other states.
"“Today New Jersey is truly evolving,” he said. “I believe society first must determine if its endorsement of violence begets violence, and if violence undermines our commitment to the sanctity of life. To these questions, I answer yes.”"
Sunday, December 16, 2007
I see where over 200,000 people are stranded outside Mogadishu after escaping the fighting between the Ethiopian Army and fighters of the Islamic Courts. These refugees have no shelter, are living out in the open, have scarce food resources, and are in dire condition.
How did this catastrophe happen? Last December the Ethiopians invaded Somalia as the surrogate for the Americans. The Ethiopians are still fighting in and around Mogadishu. And it is all because of George Bush and his militaristic foreign policy. Bush & Co. is so intent on waging war against Islamic states that he incited the Ethiopians, mainly Christians, to illegally invade Somalia, engage in street-to-street fighting in Mogadishu, and make life hell for many thousands of innocent Somalians.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Pervez Musharraf says by suspending Pakistan's Constitution he saved the country from destruction and destabilization. The BBC reports:
"Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has said his emergency rule saved the country from destabilisation."
I guess Musharraf means "saved the country from the rule of law." That's what Musharraf did - he fired the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Ifthikar Chaudhry, beat and then locked up protesting lawyers, and by doing so, he destroyed the rule of law in Pakistan.
Musharraf is just like Bush. To hell with the rights and privileges of the constitution, lock up enemies and throw away the key, destroy individual rights and liberties. After all, he knows what's best.
If a court refuses to go along, fire the judges, deny them pensions and put in judges that will do your bidding.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Now George Bush is threatening to veto the newly passed House bill prohibiting waterboarding and "harsh interrogation methods." As Dan Froomkin points out in today's The Washington Post:
"President Bush's repeated insistence that "we don't torture" appeared even more transparently bogus yesterday as the White House threatened to veto a House bill that would explicitly ban a variety of abhorrent practices.
"The bill would require U.S. intelligence agencies to follow interrogation rules adopted by the armed forces last year."
Bush, so concerned with his "legacy," has often claimed that his present unpopularity will be fixed by history which will regard him as brave, courageous and principled. If that is the case, then history is going to have to accept torture and waterboarding as "courageous" and "principled" tactics in treating and interrogating prisoners.
I don't think Bush has any chance of being so found by history.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Now comes Henry Kissinger and says the NIE report on Iran means just the opposite of what it says. It says Iran has ceased its nuclear weapons program back in 2003 but Kissinger, writing in today's The Washington Post, says it really means Iran has not ceased its nuclear weapons development.
Kissinger's op-ed is rife with innuendo and double speak, all leading to his dubious conclusion:
"In short, if my analysis is correct, we could be witnessing not a halt of the Iranian weapons program -- as the NIE asserts -- but a subtle, ultimately more dangerous, version of it that will phase in the warhead when fissile material production has matured."
Kissinger asks where the supporting evidence is for the NIE's conclusions. Yet he presents very little himself. All we get from Kissinger is his "theory," his doubts, his questions, his feelings, such as "we could be witnessing . . . ." (emphasis added.)
I for one am left with the feeling that Kissinger knows very little about what he speaks. Rather I suspect that he comes to this op-ed with his already-set antagonistic feelings and suspicions towards Iran. I also suspect that he would be much happier with a more confrontational stance, like that of Cheney, Olmert and the other war-mongering neo-cons who continually beat the drums for war against Iran.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Who is this guy Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann who is overseeing the prosecutors in forthcoming cases at Guantanamo? He believes that the military tribunals should be able to introduce "evidence" obtained through waterboarding. Hasn't he ever heard of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution barring the government from forcing an accused to testify against himself?
Josh White reports in today's The Washington Post:
"Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann, who oversees the prosecutors who will try the detainees at military commissions, said that while "torture" is illegal, he cannot say whether waterboarding violates the law. Nor would he say that such evidence would be barred at trial.
"If the evidence is reliable and probative, and the judge concludes that it is in the best interest of justice to introduce that evidence, ma'am, those are the rules we will follow," Hartmann said in response to questions from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing.
The government and Hartmann will undoubtedly argue that the cases before the military tribunals are not "criminal" but arising from "warfare." And therefore the protections of the Constitution do not apply. Even if we grant the government's argument, which is not all that strong, what would it say about American justice to use evidence obtained from the rack and convict the accused on its basis. Most conservatives and some Republicans argue that the protections of Constitution do not apply to foreigners and certainly do not apply to foreigners "outside" of the United States. But this shows these persons to be mean-spirited and medieval.
It is not just because of the U.S. Constitution that we enjoy basic rights to life, liberty and the rule of law. It is because of these fundamental rights that the U.S. Constitution is what it is. First came these individual inalienable rights, then came the Constitution, not the other way around.
Shame on Gen. Hartmann for even considering allowing evidence obtained from torture or waterboarding. He reduces U.S. justice to the level of the Inquisition where people confessed to be consorts of the devil after being stretched and burnt on the rack.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I watched and heard Kit Bond on The NewsHour tonight bob and weave and escape answering whether he thought waterboarding constituted torture. Bond is the Republican senator from Missouri. Gwen Ifill tried to pin him down, just answer the question yes or no, but Bond refused.
However, he did say that "enhanced interrogation techniques" should be used only on "high value targets (HVT), as if to say that torture should be applied only "when "we know we have an important mastermind or terrorist leader." Bond of course does not call it "torture" but merely refers euphemistically to "enhanced interrogation techniques."
What amazes me is how Republicans parrot Bush's line and refuse to admit straight-out what is apparent and obvious to everyone. Waterboarding is torture and Americans should not engage in it. Not because of the utilitarian argument that if we engage in torture, our "enemies" will do it to American soldiers, and we certainly do not want that. But rather because torture is antithetical to the concept of human dignity and human liberty. No human being or any other creature should be subject to torture.
I thought we learned this lesson from the teachings of the French Enlightenment in the 17th Century. Especially after what happened during the preceding five hundred years of the cruel Inquisition occurring in almost every country in Europe. A person who is tortured will say anything his tormentors want. Even HVTs.
Imagine what happened during the Inquisition when the church authorities captured a suspected heretic. "Let's make him confess. . . . Did you consort with the devil and with evil spirits? . . . No? . . . Well then tighten the screws. . . .How about now? . . . No? . . . Tighten still further. . . .Okay, now you finally confess." And so by torture the inquisitors obtained their desired confession.
Kit Bond refuses to say whether waterboarding is torture. Michael Mukasey, the new AG, refuses to say whether waterboarding is torture. Bush refuses to say whether waterboarding is torture. Okay. Then let's have each one of these doubters forcibly waterboarded.
Let's then interrogate each. Let's ask the subject if he participated in the 9/11 conspiracy and was a friend and conspirator with Mohammed Atta. Don't take "no" for an answer. Don't stop the water torture until the subject makes a full confession.
Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett write an important op-ed today in The New York Times. In effect, they present a detailed intelligent policy for the next president in dealings with Iran. The Leveretts dismiss the current Bush/Cheney policy as being unrealistic towards Iran's requirements for respect and acknowledgement of Iran's desire for national security.
The Leveretts write:
"The idea of “engaging” Iran diplomatically is becoming less politically radioactive than it was early in the Bush years, when any officials who broached it were putting their careers in jeopardy. Given official American-Iranian cooperation over Afghanistan and Al Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks (one of us, Hillary, was involved in those negotiations) and the current sets of talks between American and Iranian officials in Baghdad, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s claim that she is willing to change “28 years of policy” and negotiate with Iran is disingenuous."
What the Leveretts want is a policy that takes into account concerns on both sides. The U.S. is concerned about Iran's nuclear ambitions and its support for Shiite communities throughout the Middle East, many of which are active opponents of Israel. Iran wants to be treated as a sovereign nation and not as some rogue regime that needs to be toppled.
Write the Leveretts:
"From an Iranian perspective, serious engagement would start with American willingness to recognize Tehran’s legitimate security and regional interests as part of an overall settlement of our differences. But neither Republicans nor Democrats have been willing to consider such an approach, because of the pursuit of a nuclear weapons option and support for terrorist organizations that Iran employs to defend what it sees as its fundamental security interests. Successful United States-Iran engagement requires cutting through this Gordian knot by undertaking comprehensive diplomacy encompassing the core concerns of both sides.
"From the American side, any new approach must address Iran’s security by clarifying that Washington is not seeking regime change in Tehran, but rather changes in the Iranian government’s behavior. (While Secretary Rice has said recently that overthrowing the mullahs is not United States policy, President Bush has pointedly refused to affirm her statements.) To that end, the United States should be prepared to put a few assurances on the table."
The Americans would have to announce publicly that the U.S. foreign policy did not seek the overthrow of the Iranian government. Also the U.S. would need to end sanctions against Iran and stop demonizing Iran as an official state sponsor of terrorism. On its part, Iran would need to recognize a two-state solution in Palestine and urge its fellow Shiites such as Hezbollah to accept Israel as a legitimate nation and people in the Holy Land.
Furthermore, the Leveretts urge a community or organization of nations be formed that deal with the political instability in Iraq, nations that have an interest in Iraq, such as Iran, Syria, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
"The goal of such cooperation would be a multilateral body analogous to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Each member nation would commit to abide by international norms regarding respect for other states’ sovereignty, the inviolability of borders and the observance of international conventions and United Nations resolutions on conflict resolution, economic relations, human rights, nonproliferation and terrorism.
"Since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei’s death in 1989, United States policy toward Iran has not served American interests. Neither continuing to disregard legitimate Iranian interests nor timid incrementalism will improve the situation. In the long run, the real lesson of the new National Intelligence Estimate is that we need a comprehensive overhaul of American policy toward Iran."
This is an important article by two foreign policy experts that needs to be carefully considered by Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the other Democratic candidates. The U.S. can ill afford another foreign policy fiasco as that brought by the present rogue administration of George Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, John Bolton and the other war-mongering neo-cons. The last thing world peace needs is a military attack by the U.S. on Iran. The Leveretts are right - the U.S. needs a complete rethinking of American policy towards Iran.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Bloomberg News reports that the U.S. just rejected mandatory cuts in carbon emissions at the U.N.'s environmental summit now being held in Bali.
Kim Chipman and Mathew Carr report for Bloomberg:
"The Bush administration, which has long rejected mandatory limits on global warming pollution, opposes a United Nations draft proposal calling on developed countries to make binding emissions cuts of 25-40 percent by 2020."
The U.S. under Bush rejected the Kyoto Treaty, now it is blocking the U.N. proposal to cut carbon emissions. The U.S. is one of the handful of countries opposing environmental safeguards by cutting emissions.
Fortunately, there is a ray of hope that the U.S. will get on the international bandwagon and make environmental pollution a key issue.
Write Chipman and Carr:
"U.S. policy will change after the presidential election next year, said U.S. Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat.
""When the Democrats win in 2008, the position will be different,'' Kerry said today in Bali.
""Every single Democratic candidate for president has embraced mandatory caps, has embraced the need for the United States to lead on these issues and has expressed their willingness to immediately become part of the Kyoto discussions and try to find a successive agreement.''"
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Tom Tancredo says he will not participate in today's Republican debate on Univision because it is in Spanish and he is against bilingualism here in the United States.
Wait! I thought we want our children to learn foreign languages? Isn't that why we spend dollars on education budgets to provide foreign language teachers and foreign language courses? Why is Tancredo against having a Republican debate in Spanish?
I thought he was against immigration in general. I did not know he was really deep down against Americans speaking a foreign language. Tom Tancredo, whose name reveals he is of Italian ancestry is against people speaking and using Spanish? Does that mean he would not be against immigration if it concerned only those immigrants who speak English? How about if they did not have swarthy skins but complexions as white as snow?
Guess what? I bet those who now endorse Tancredo's racist and ethnic and language biases would not have let Tancredo's parent or grandparents into the country back then.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
And I thought Robert Gates was moderate and intelligent. Here he is today speaking at an Arab security Conference in Bahrain accusing Iran of still wanting to build nuclear weapons and spreading terrorism throughout the Middle East. Gimme a break! If not Gates, is there no one in this Bush/Cheney administration who is not fomenting a war against Teheran?
Ann Scott Tyson reports in today's The Washington Post:
"Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates argued forcefully at a Persian Gulf security conference Saturday that U.S. intelligence indicates Iran could restart its secret nuclear weapons program "at any time" and remains a major threat to the region.
"Tough and at times sarcastic, Gates described the Iranian government as an ongoing menace to the Gulf region not only for its nuclear aspirations but also for supplying weapons to insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, backing the armed Islamic movements Hezbollah and Hamas, and developing medium-range ballistic missiles.
""Everywhere you turn, it is the policy of Iran to foment instability and chaos, no matter the strategic value or cost in the blood of innocents," Gates said in a speech to defense leaders from 23 countries attending the Manama Dialogue, a security conference organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies."
Gulfnews.com adds that the audience erupted in laughter when Gates also added that he did not consider Israel's nuclear arsenal a threat to the region:
"US Defence Secretary Robert Gates defended Israel’s nuclear programme on Saturday, saying the Jewish state did not seek to destroy its neighbours or support terrorism, unlike Iran.
"Asked at the Manama Dialogue conference whether Israel's nuclear programme posed a threat to the region, Gates replied: "No, I do not."
"The statement was greeted by laughter from a room filled with government officials from Middle Eastern countries."
Now we have the dangerous spectacle of Robert Gates joining Bush, Cheney and neo-cons like John Bolton, calling Iran a grave threat. Instead of trying to make Iran and Iranians the demonized enemy, I want the government of the United States to sit down with the leaders of Iran and show some respect. Instead of threats of bombs and missiles, Americans should recognize Iran for a great and proud country that must be allowed to be part of the community of nations.
DESTRUCTION OF TORTURE VIDEOS ENDANGERS ROLE OF FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT IN ASSURING FAIR TRIAL TO ACCUSED
Given that the CIA destroyed two videotapes showing "harsh interrogation methods" (read "torture"), I must wonder what federal district Judge Leona Brinkema will do about the conviction and sentencing of Zacharias Moussaoui. The government and prosecution told defense counsel that there were no video or audio tapes in existence touching upon their client Moussaoui. At this point, we know that was false. And now we have no way of knowing if these tapes would have exculpated Moussaoui or at least would have assisted his defense.
Will Judge Brinkema overturn his conviction? Will she order a new trial? Will she hold the government in contempt?
These are legitimate questions. The role of the federal courts in American society in making sure each defendant accused by the government receives a fair trial is in danger of being ridiculed.
Friday, December 7, 2007
Did George Bush give the order to go ahead and destroy those two videotapes of Al Qaeda suspects being "harshly interrogated" (read "tortured") by over-zealous CIA agents? Dana Perino, White House press secretary, said Bush has "no recollection" of being informed about the existence or the destruction of the tapes. Nice feint, right? Bush's statement certainly does not satisfy my question.
William Branigin, Dan Eggen and Joby Warrick write today in The Washington Post:
"President Bush does not recall being informed before yesterday morning about the existence or subsequent destruction of video recordings showing harsh CIA interrogations of terrorism suspects, the White House said today. . . ."
"In a news briefing today, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino was asked whether Bush, Vice President Cheney or other top officials had seen the tapes before they were destroyed. She said she spoke to Bush this morning and that "he has no recollection of being made aware of the tapes or their destruction before yesterday," when he was briefed about the matter by Hayden. She said she did not know whether other administration officials knew about them."
Let me express my own question. Did George Bush give the order to destroy those two video tapes? Not whether he recalls being told about their destruction. Not whether he recalls being informed about their existence. But whether he himself as president issued the order to the CIA to destroy them.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
The C.I.A. destroyed in 2005 two videotapes of terror suspects being harshly interrogated, The New York Times reported just seven minutes ago on its web page.
"The Central Intelligence Agency in 2005 destroyed at least two videotapes documenting the interrogation of two Al Qaeda operatives in the agency’s custody, a step it took in the midst of congressional and legal scrutiny about the C.I.A’s secret detention program, according to current and former government officials. NY Times reporter Mark Mazzetti writes:
"The videotapes showed agency operatives in 2002 subjecting terror suspects — including Abu Zubaydah, the first detainee in C.I.A. custody — to severe interrogation techniques. They were destroyed in part because officers were concerned that tapes documenting controversial interrogation methods could expose agency officials to greater risk of legal jeopardy, several officials said."
Mazzetti reports that hardly anyone knew of the existence of the tapes, including the 9/11 Commission.
"Staff members of the 9/11 commission, which completed its work in 2004, expressed surprise when they were told that interrogation videotapes existed until 2005.
"“The commission did formally request material of this kind from all relevant agencies, and the commission was assured that we had received all the material responsive to our request,” said Philip D. Zelikow, who served as executive director of the Sept. 11 commission and later as a senior counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"“No tapes were acknowledged or turned over, nor was the commission provided with any transcript prepared from recordings,” he said."
So this appears as if the C.I.A. is destroying evidence of wrong-doing. The C.I.A. was concerned that these "harsh interrogation methods" could subject C.I.A. torturers (oops, I mean officers) to criminal penalties and charges.
"Daniel Marcus, a law professor at American University who served as general counsel for the 9/11 commission and was involved in the discussions about interviews with al Qaeda leaders, said he had heard nothing about any tapes being destroyed.
"If tapes were destroyed, he said, “it’s a big deal, it’s a very big deal,” because it could amount to obstruction of justice to withhold evidence being sought in criminal or fact-finding investigations. . . ."
"John Radsan, who worked as a C.I.A. lawyer between 2002 and 2004 and is now a professor at William Mitchell College of Law, said the destruction of the tapes could carry serious legal penalties.
"“If anybody at the C.I.A. hid anything important from the Justice Department, he or she should be prosecuted under the false statement statute,” he said."
The C.I.A. claims that the tapes were destroyed to protect the identity of the C.I.A.
"The C.I.A. said today that the decision to destroy the tapes had been made “within the C.I.A. itself” and were destroyed to protect the safety of undercover officers and because they no longer had intelligence value. The agency was headed at the time by Porter J. Goss. Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Goss refused to comment this afternoon on the destruction of the tapes. interrogators."
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
"A prisoner at the detention camp here cut his throat with his own fingernail last month, causing a substantial loss of blood, but was never at risk of death, military officials said Tuesday.
"“He did in fact use a sharpened fingernail,” Cmdr. Andrew Haynes, the deputy commander of the guard force here, told reporters on a tour of the camp."
To date, there have been four successful suicide attempts among prisoners at Guantanamo and other numerous unsuccessful attempts.
"Advocates for detainees describe such acts as signs of desperation born of indefinite detention and hopelessness. But camp administrators call them a tactic to draw publicity and provoke criticism of the government."
The fact that camp administrators call suicides a "tactic" to provoke criticism of the government seems absurd and bizarre. Who possibly is going to end his life for the purpose of criticising the government? This is Bush-speak in its most pure form. "These guys hate freedom so much that they kill themselves." Oh, yeah! Right!
Do we have people in the military like Cmdr. Andrew Haynes who really believe this garbage? Do all Bush hangers-on think that such spin is true? And if they really are believers, what does this say about our society and its values in dealing with prisoners.
We all know that people don't commit suicide in prison unless they are totally depressed, completely without hope, overwhelmed by despair. Prisoners have no rights to petition for a federal court hearing. Camp administrators in the past have discouraged lawyers. The military commissions set up to hear cases may consider information obtained by torture. The accused has no right to confront witnesses against him. No wonder that Guantanamo inmates are depressed, without hope. No wonder that we have so many attempts to commit suicide.
The solution is to grant inmates the rights of habeas corpus, right to confront their accusers, full access to their lawyers, and exclusion of "evidence" obtained through torture.
Or, even better, close Guantanamo, and transfer all inmates to federal centers where they would be under the protection of the federal courts.
But please don't blame the pitiful Guantanamo prisoners who take their own lives.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Bush is exasperating. The National Intelligence Estimate says Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program, yet Bush insists Iran is a threat. Talk about making up stories from whole cloth!
The BBC reports:
"Iran remains a threat to the world despite new intelligence saying the country may not be building nuclear weapons, the US president says.
"Mr Bush said the report released on Monday was a "warning signal" and his view that a nuclear Iran would be a danger "hasn't changed"."
This is another example of George Bush the Irrational. As if he is saying (as he has said on numerous instances before), "I know what is happening . . ., the facts and intelligence don't count . . ., I refuse to negotiate with myself."
By the way, Iran, as a signer to the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has every right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. Here are the words of the NPT:
"1. Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the
Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful
purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.
"2. All the Parties to the Treaty undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in. the
fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information
for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Parties to the Treaty in a position to do so shall also cooperate in contributing alone or together with other States or international organizations to the
further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, especially
the territories of non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty, with due consideration for the
needs of the developing areas of the world."
So what is Bush talking about? Iran as a signer to the NPT has every right under Article IV to enrich uranium "for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty." Iran states that it has no desire for nuclear weapons which many of its imams have called "un-islamic." The IAEA has discovered no evidence that Iran is building nuclear weapons. And yesterday we learn that even American intelligence agencies believe Iran has no program.
Where does this leave Bush? Just as the Iraqi intelligence was "sexed up" so that Bush/Cheney could fit it around their policy of invading and occupying Iraq, so we see another instance of these rogues doing the same thing with intelligence about Iran. Bush and Cheney have been obsessed in their quest to start another militaristic conflagration, this time with Iran. I can only hope that the embarrassment of the release of this assessment from the N.I.E. will shame them into abandoning or at least tabling their reckless and irrational war-mongering.
Monday, December 3, 2007
BUSH/CHENEY DELAY NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE REPORT ON IRAN BECAUSE N.I.E. FINDS NO NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM SINCE 2003
Here's another case about intelligence made to fit around the Bush/Cheney Iran policy. Because they disagreed with its conclusions, Bush and Cheney delayed the release of the National Intelligence Estimate for 2006. It has only just been released. The NIE's report says that Iran discontinued any program to build a nuclear weapon back in 2003, Walter Pincus reports today on The Washington Post web site.
"Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 in response to international pressure, and while it continues to develop an enriched uranium program, it apparently has not resumed moving toward a nuclear capability, according to a consensus judgment of the U.S. intelligence community released today by Director of National Intelligence John M. McConnell.
"The assessment states "with moderate confidence" that "Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program" as of mid-2007, but suggests that Tehran continues to keep that option open.
""Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005," according to one of the key judgments of the new assessment. Two years ago, the intelligence community said publicly that it had "high confidence that Iran was currently determined to have nuclear weapons," a senior intelligence official said today.
"After that assessment was released, the community increased its clandestine and open collection of information about Iran's program, actions that led to today's reassessment, the officials said.
"The major shift in the intelligence community's judgment about Iran's nuclear weapons intentions is contained in unclassified material from a new, classified National Intelligence Estimate sent to Capitol Hill today. The document represents the consensus opinion of the U.S. intelligence community."
Yet from 2003 to the present, George Bush and Dick Cheney have been beating the drums of war itching to start a war against Iran on the basis that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon. Thanks to Amanda at ThinkProgress.com for cataloging the sorry record of Bush/Cheney and neo-cons in accusing Iran and its leaders of trying to develop nuclear weapons.
Thanks again to Amanda at ThinkProgress, here's Cheney on Iran's nuclear threats just two months ago:
“Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions. . . . The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences.” [Cheney, 10/21/07]
ThinkProgress also points at at a story in the Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS). IPS ran an article back on November 8, 2007, by Gareth Porter detailing the inter-administration fight between Dick Cheney and the Rice/Gates group.
"A National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran has been held up for more than a year in an effort to force the intelligence community to remove dissenting judgments on the Iranian nuclear programme, and thus make the document more supportive of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's militarily aggressive policy toward Iran, according to accounts of the process provided by participants to two former Central Intelligence Agency officers."
After learning today of the NIE's conclusions that Iran has desisted pursuing nuclear weapons since 2003, I can understand why the NIE's report has been held up. Bush and Cheney wanted the NIE to bless their suspicions to the contrary that Iran was indeed engage in building nuclear bombs. But the folks at the NIE refused to go along. If they had, it would be deja vu all over again, reproducing exactly what happened to the intelligence services back in 2002 when they rolled over for Bush/Cheney and came out with garbage about Iraq's arsenal of WMD.
Porter continues in his report:
"Cheney's desire for a "clean" NIE that could be used to support his aggressive policy toward Iran was apparently a major factor in the replacement of John Negroponte as director of national intelligence in early 2007. Negroponte had angered the neoconservatives in the administration by telling the press in April 2006 that the intelligence community believed that it would still be "a number of years off" before Iran would be "likely to have enough fissile material to assemble into or to put into a nuclear weapon, perhaps into the next decade."
"Neoconservatives immediately attacked Negroponte for the statement, which merely reflected the existing NIE on Iran issued in spring 2005. Robert G. Joseph, the undersecretary of state for arms control and an ally of Cheney, contradicted Negroponte the following day. He suggested that Iran's nuclear programme was nearing the "point of no return" -- an Israeli concept referring to the mastery of industrial-scale uranium enrichment.
"Frank J. Gaffney, a protégé of neoconservative heavyweight Richard Perle, complained that Negroponte was "absurdly declaring the Iranian regime to be years away from having nuclear weapons". "
So here we are, the day after the referendum in Venezuela. The NO votes won. I applaud the citizens of the great nation of Venezuela for refusing to go along and allow Hugo Chavez to be president for life. However, I admire President Chavez for accepting the vote of the people. In Venezuela, we a true democracy where the people decide.
Looking back at all the criticism from the Bush and Cheney gang, they all look foolish. Just yesterday, Donald Rumsfeld implied Chavez was a "tyrant," aiming to undermine democracy in Venezuela.
As I blogged on this Rumsfeld piece yesterday, the true tyrant is Bush. Consider that it was not Chavez who tried to aid a coup against American democracy, but it was Bush who tried to overthrow Chavez in 2002, notwithstanding that Chavez was democratically elected by the Venezuelan people. It was not Chavez who opened Guantanamo, it was Bush. It is not Chavez who refuses to say if waterboarding is torture, it is Bush.
The lesson of yesterday in Venezuela is that Hugo Chavez, for all his blustering and name-calling, is the true proponent of democracy. And Bush is democracy's nemesis.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
And I thought we heard the last from Donald Rumsfeld. But here he is, opining in The Washington Post today on Hugo Chavez. The headline of Rumsfeld's op-ed refers to Chavez as a tyrant. And Rumsfeld writes how sorry he is to see America stand by and do nothing as Venezuelan democracy is sliced and diced by Chavez.
How about Donald Rumsfeld minding his own business as to Hugo Chavez and Venezuela? If the Venezuelan people want Chavez to be able to be president an unlimited number of terms, why should Rumsfeld and the other anti-Chavez gringo neo-cons object?
I personally hope the No vote wins. Chavez has done a lot of good for the poor and disfranchised in Venezuela, but I do not support amending the constitution to allow him to run for president more than what the present constitution allows. However, I am not a citizen of Venezula, so I am not entitled to vote. Let the people of Venezuela decide.
Rumsfeld's op-ed seems to imply that the United States should be doing something to prevent the people from giving Chavez this power. What should the U.S. be doing, Mr. Rumsfeld? Bomb and attack and occupy Venezuela? Treat Venezuelans as the "enemy" because Hugo Chavez said that Bush was Satan incarnate?
Rumsfeld and Cheney and Bush and Bolton et al. think the only way to solve international questions and/or disputes is through the use of American guns and war planes. This is why the U.S. invaded Iraq, why some Republicans and neo-cons are currently threatening Syria, North Korea and, above all, Iran. It would be one easy baby step to include Venezuela. Rumsfeld will show those brown-skinned non-English speaking foreigners that it is a fatal mistake to say that Bush is the devil.
Who is this Michael B. Oren" who writes today in The New York Times that Iran is and will be a threat of Islamic extremism for many years to come? His op-ed ID identifies him as:
"Michael B. Oren, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and a visiting senior lecturer in Middle East history at Yale, is the author of “Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present.”"
Oh no. Not another Israeli here in the U.S. looking to stir up American military confrontation with Iran. Oren writes:
"Yet, in spite of its glaring handicaps, Annapolis must be deemed a triumph — not of peacemaking, paradoxically, but of girding the region for conflict. Though no doubt sincere in their desire to neutralize the Arab-Israeli irritant in Middle Eastern affairs, participants in the conference were above all motivated by their fear of a radical and relentlessly aggressive Iran.
"This fear has deepened with the success of the Iranian proxies Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon and Gaza, as well as the expansion of Iranian influence westward into the Iraqi vacuum.
"The inability of the international community either to entice or deter the Iranians from producing nuclear weapons adds urgency to the need to unite those countries threatened by those bombs. That, and not American fiat, brought 49 states and organizations to Annapolis; that, and not the yearning for an Israeli-Arab accord, impelled a Saudi prince to sit alongside an Israeli prime minister."
Oren engages in pure scare tactics, reminiscent of what George Bush and Dick Cheney like to do. Scare the living daylights out of your readers or listeners by foretelling doomsday. In this case, Oren implies Iran is making or will make nuclear weapons, something for which so far no one has produced even the slightest shred of credible evidence.
Second, Oren implies that Iran, if it did have nuclear weapons, would use them against Israel and other countries in the Middle East such as Egypt or Saudi Arabia. This is utter nonsense. Russia has had the bomb for the last 50 years, yet did not use it because of what would happen if it did. Utter annihilation and destruction. The same for Pakistan, China, India, France and all the other nuclear powers.
Oren's thesis fails on rational levels. But it will still tend to provoke fear in some readers by stoking the sparks of anti-Iranian prejudice.
Instead of seeing Iran as the "enemy," we need to treat Iran as a proud member of the community of nations. We need leaders who will not be afraid to sit down with Iranian leaders and work out perceived difficulties with respect and diplomacy, rather than with Oren's bluster and fear.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Will wonders never cease? Donald Rumsfeld, the ex-Secretary of Defense, writes an op-ed in The Washington Post about the "dangers" of Hugo Chavez and the Chavez campaign to alter the Venezuela Constitution.
Rumsfeld writes that President Hugo Chavez has repeatedly threatened Venezuela's neighbors. He writes:
"He has repeatedly threatened its neighbors. In late November, Colombia's president, Alvaro Uribe, declared that Chávez's efforts to mediate hostage talks with Marxist terrorists from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, were not welcome. Chávez responded by freezing trade with Colombia."
This is a load of unsubstantiated bull. Mr. Rumsfeld is making wild and irresponsible charges about Hugo Chavez. Where has Mr. Chavez made any threats? He has indeed said that he does not want anything more to do with Colombia as long as Mr. Uribe is in charge, after Uribe said he did not want any more of Chavez' mediation with the FARC. But threats? Please Mr. Rumsfeld, quote chapter and verse or else withdraw this baseless accusation.
We all know that Hugo Chavez talks a lot, maybe too much. I personally hope Venezuelans vote "No" in Sunday's referendum on revising the Venezuelan Constitution. Nevertheless, Chavez is no "threat" to any of Venezuela's neighbors.
And to call him a "tyrant" is out of bounds. Rumsfeld should recognize the mote in his own eye. After all, Rumsfeld is the oen who pushed with Bush for the establishment of Guantanamo and the use of torture as in waterboarding. The tyrant is not Chavez but Rumsfeld himself, and above all Bush.
I thought an accused had a right to confront witnesses against him? This is what I learned in law school. Has the Sixth Amendment be abrogated? It sure seems that way when we hear that the Guantanamo Military Tribunal has warned defense lawyers not to disclose the names of prosecution witnesses in the case of Omar Ahmed Khadr, now 21 years old and on trial in Guantanamo for throwing grenades at U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
William Glaberson writes in today's The New York Times:
"Defense lawyers preparing for the war crimes trial of a 21-year-old Guantánamo detainee have been ordered by a military judge not to tell their client — or anyone else — the identity of witnesses against him, newly released documents show. . . .
Defense lawyers say military prosecutors have sought similar orders to keep the names of witnesses secret in other military commission cases, which have been a centerpiece of the Bush administration’s policies for detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
"Some legal experts and defense lawyers said the judge’s order, issued on Oct. 15 without public disclosure, underscored the gap between military commission procedures and traditional American rules that the accused has a right to a public trial and to confront the witnesses against him."
The Sixth Amendment reads:
"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, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, 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 defence."
By not allowing Ahmed Khadr the right to confront witnesses against is just plain unfair. There is no way he can get a fair trial or a fair verdict.
Preventing an accused from seeing and cross-examining prosecution witnesses harks back to the days of the Inquisition where the accused was presumed guilty even before a hearing and had to contend with facing trial where the church concealed the identity of those people making the accusation, usually about witchcraft or heresy.
I thought the French Enlightenment of the 18th Century put an end to the Inquisition and the irrational and unjust practices of kangaroo courts in modern societies. But I was wrong.
"Mr. Khadr’s military defense lawyer, Lt. Cmdr. William C. Kuebler of the Navy, said that while he has been given a list of prosecution witnesses, the judge’s decision requires him to keep secrets from his client and that he would ask Colonel Brownback to revoke the order. He said it treated Mr. Khadr as if he had already been convicted and deprived him of a trial at which the public could assess the evidence against him.
"“Instead of a presumption of innocence and of a public trial,” Commander Kuebler said, “we start with a presumption of guilt and of a secret trial.”"