Iraq war and occupation"We're this close" to catching Saddam Hussein. LaHood predicts that once Hussein is captured, Iraqi resistance will collapse. When asked by a Pantagraph editor, "Do you know something we don't?" LaHood replies, "Yes I do." Interesting in light of the ballyhooed, and misrepresented, December 14 capture of Saddam Hussein by US troops. (Pantagraph)
Terrorism detainees and "enemy combatants"Attorney Frank Dunham, who will represent Hamdi, has filed a motion with the Supreme Court challenging the Bush administration's policy of holding designated "enemy combatants" such as Hamdi, Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, and Jose Padilla without charge or representation. The Pentagon says that its decision to allow Hamdi to meet with a lawyer does not mean that the policy is changed; allowing Hamdi access to a lawyer "is not required by domestic or international law and should not be treated as a precedent," according to a Pentagon statement. It insists it made the decision only because its officials have finished interrogating Hamdi, and that the president still has the authority to detain American citizens without charge or legal representation. Under guidelines drafted by military lawyers, the meetings between Dunham and Hamdi are attended by, and recorded by, military observers (violating the lawyer-client privilege), and Dunham is not allowed to ask Hamdi about the conditions of his confinement. (MSNBC [cached Google copy], Wikipedia, Peter Singer)
Iraq war and occupationShe says Bush's plan, reached two weeks ago to create a transitional Iraqi government by June 30, "suggests there is some kind of political imperative to declare victory or to point to some kind of interim victory. ...We face the danger of raising false expectations that next summer, Iraq will be sovereign. That seems hard to imagine." Clinton calls the June 30 transfer-of-power date "an artificial deadline," and says, "We have to be prepared for a much longer run to accomplish our goals than we've been discussing. ...We cannot let our own elections or other priorities interfere with doing it right." (Newsday)
Attack on civil libertiesAuthor C.L. Otter, a Republican congressman, says, "I'm disappointed that it's not in there, obviously. ...But we've come a really long way in the last two years and we've really brought an awareness to the Patriot Act and some of its overreaches." The Justice Department lobbied intensively to ensure that the Congressional leadership would not include the provision in the spending bill; a DoJ spokesman calls it a "bad amendment." Otter's measure would have prevented federal dollars from being spent to implement warrants that delay notification that a covert search is being conducted. The Patriot Act established uniform national standards for what are called "black bag" or "sneak and peek" searches. The law permits agents to search homes, plant listening devices, or copy computer data of suspected criminals without informing the suspects until later. The rationale is that such measures help preserve evidence that otherwise would be destroyed. Otter is planning to introduce a legislative measure called SAFE -- the Security and Freedom Ensured Act -- to roll back the USA Patriot act even further. (Los Angeles Times)
Attack on civil libertiesBoth the USA Patriot Act and its companion piece the Homeland Security Act were deep into the planning stages long before the 9/11 attacks. The Act is one of the legistlative linchpins in the creation of what one senator calls "a global security system" controlled by the US, as well as the creation of an embryonic police state. As the article states, "This agenda falls neatly in line with the plan for American global dominance endorsed by Cheney, Wolfowitz, Powell, and Rumsfeld." The HSA was structured on the recommendations of a special commission that was closely connected to, if not derived from, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which has been intimately involved in directing US and other countries' responses to every major global conflict of the last 50 years. Ironically enough, the HSA has its seeds in the Clinton-commissioned Hart-Rudman report on terrorism that was issued in 1998. Its summary declares, "In the new era, sharp distinctions between 'foreign' and 'domestic' no longer apply." While the report's authors do "not equate security with 'defense,'" they "do believe in the centrality of strategy, and of seizing opportunities as well as confronting dangers."
Attack on civil libertiesIn Pennsylvania and Georgia, private computers and personal records have been confiscated from Democratic elected officials before charges have been issued. In two of the cases, the timing has been suspiciously close to important elections with national implications. And the refusal of FBI officials to publicly comment on the nature of these investigations has only fueled the fire of those who claim that political character assassination is the only motive. John Street, the recently re-elected mayor of Philadelphia who was the target of a mysterious FBI probe just before the election, notes that the US attorney conducting the investigation, Patrick Meehan, managed Senate campaigns for Republican stalwarts Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum, in 1992 and 1994, respectively, and owes his position to their influence. Street spokesman Frank Keel says that "Patrick Meehan has a reputation as the most partisan prosecutor in the country." An anoymous political consultant says, "This prosecutor [Meehan] is the ultimate uber-Republican. He managed the Specter and Santorum races, and wants to help win this state for Bush."
Iraq war and occupationOne Iraqi school headmaster, who after Bechtel's "renovations" were completed, is dealing with his school's bathrooms being awash in sewage, stair bannisters being broken, and water cisterns broken, observes, "Why do we need Bechtel? They have done absolutely nothing." In many cases, Bechtel subcontracts the actual work to Iraqi workers, and never bothers to oversee or even check into the quality of work being done, or not being done. In one case, the subcontractors thoroughly botched the job. One report documents a paint and repair job done on one school, according to a news article: "The subcontractors Bechtel hired left paint everywhere -- on the floors, on desks, all over windows. The classrooms were filthy, the school's desks and chairs were thrown out into the playground and left, broken. Windows were left damaged, and bathrooms that were reportedly fixed were left in broken, unsanitary condition. 'Would you allow your child to use that bathroom? I wouldn't,' [422nd Civil Affairs Battalion Major Linda] Scharf said, pointing to a photograph of a stained, broken hole in a dirty, tiled stall."
Spread of American conservatismmuch as the US Republican Party was taken over years ago. The Alliance, like its US counterparts, is fueled by neoconservative economics and fundamentalist Christianity; like its US counterparts, the Alliance is funded largely by shadowy right-wing billionaires. (CBC)
Iraq war and occupation"What I regret most of all is the way the administration dealt with it -- the extraordinary failure of the administration to keep its promises, to be mature and thoughtful about how you take a nation to war," he says of his vote. "They misled us; they presented false intelligence to us. The president made a series of promises to us -- number one, that he was gonna make every effort possible to build a legitimate coalition. He did not -- he built a fraudulent coalition. Second, he was gonna exhaust the remedies of the United Nations and the inspection process. He did not. And third, that he would go to war as a last resort. He did not. I voted to protect the security of our country, based on the notion that the only way to get inspectors back in was to have a legitimate threat of force and the potential of using it. They took that legitimacy and bastardized it. If I were president, we would not be in Iraq today -- we would not be at war. This president abused the process. ...It seems to me that we had a right to expect the president of the United States to live up to his word. It was disgraceful, one of the most egregious, fundamentally flawed moments of foreign policy that I can think of in my lifetime." When asked if Bush's handling of the invasion and of affairs in the Middle East can be characterized as "incompetent," he replies, "Oh, absolutely. Worse than incompetent. Clouded by ideological excess, a misinterpretation of history, a willful denial of facts." When asked if he was "blindsided by [frontrunner Howard] Dean's success, he says, "Well, not blindsided. I mean, when I voted for the war, I voted for what I thought was best for the country. Did I expect Howard Dean to go off to the left and say, 'I'm against everything?' Sure. Did I expect George Bush to f*ck it up as badly as he did? I don't think anybody did." He concludes, "I'm gonna lift this country up to a greater engagement in the world. I mean, think of what we could do to reach out and begin to present a different face of our country. Think of what we could do to advance the interests of the developing world, so people would see the United States as not just this aggressive, arrogant force that only thinks of itself and doesn't really have a greater sense of humanity and concern. We're just not embracing any of that stuff today, and it drives me crazy." (Rolling Stone)
Anti-terrorism and homeland securityThe state is 49th on the list of 50 states for funding to prepare for terror attacks; on a list of 50 cities targeted by the federal High Threat, High Density program that allots $725 million in extra funds for cities, taking into consideration "credible threat, presence of critical infrastructure, population [and] vulnerability," New York City is 49th on that list as well. Schwartz says, "That's more than ludicrous. That's obscene." He goes on to note: "The allocation for the five boroughs is $5.87 per person. Compare that to $15.21 per person for Philadelphia and a whopping $35.80 for Pittsburgh. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge doles out the money, the same Tom Ridge who used to be governor of Pennsylvania. Florida, where the President's brother Jeb Bush is governor, is another big winner: Miami rakes in $52.82 per person; Orlando, $47.14, and Tampa, a not-too-shabby $30.57. And what's the No.1 city on the list? New Haven, at $77.92 per. The Bush family alma mater, Yale, must be considered very vulnerable. New York City asked Homeland Security for $900 million to combat terror. It's getting $84 million. Yes, New York gets the most in gross dollars, but its proportionate share of the federal pie is a pittance. 'The formula is loopy,' said Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn/Queens), noting that Ridge's method for doling out the cash assigns little importance to what the Department of Homeland Security terms 'credible threat.' Meaning that New York's history as a terror target doesn't necessarily qualify it for additional counterterror aid in the future." (New York Daily News)
George W. Bush"It's not that he's mean. It's just that when it comes to seeing how his policies affect people, George W. Bush doesn't have a clue." Ivins collects three years of examples of how Bush fails to understand, or doesn't try to understand, how his policies injure average Americans. "...[I]n what is becoming a recurring, almost nightmare-type scenario, the minute he visits some constructive program and praises it (AmeriCorps, the Boys and Girls Club, job training), he turns around and cuts the budget for it. It's the kiss of death if the president comes to praise your program. During the presidential debate in Boston in 2000, Bush said, 'First and foremost, we've got to make sure we fully fund LIHEAP [the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program], which is a way to help low-income folks, particularly here in the East, pay their high fuel bills.' He then sliced $300 million out of that sucker, even as people were dying of hypothermia, or, to put it bluntly, freezing to death. Sometimes he even cuts your program before he comes to praise it. In August 2002, Bush held a photo op with the Quecreek coal miners, the nine men whose rescue had thrilled the country. By then he had already cut the coal-safety budget at the Mine Safety and Health Administration, which engineered the rescue, by 6 percent, and had named a coal-industry executive to run the agency."
George W. BushSix workers chosen by the Bush campaign participate in the "discussion" after spending hours rehearsing their lines; they were prompted by Bush during the "conversation" to mention talking points that had been brought out in rehearsal, including one worker's story of refinancing his home at low interest rates and another worker's recollection of saving $2,700 because of Bush tax cuts. (Detroit News)
"When we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil war -- this [Iraq] is much worse." -- UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, December 3
Bush's foreign policiesand attempts to reassure the world that despite all evidence to the contrary, the Bush administration's approach "is not defined by preemption." Powell tries to placate angry US allies in Europe, encourages a broader international role for China, and expresses his optimism for a peaceful solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis. Powell refuses to discuss the Iraq situation, but, as News.com writes, "implicitly took issue with his presumed chief rival inside the administration, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who last September dismissed the decades-old concept of military deterrence as a theory that 'has been overtaken by events'." Instead, Powell says, "As to pre-emption's scope, it applies only to the undeterrable threats that come from non-state actors such as terrorist groups. It was never meant to displace deterrence, only to supplement it." Powell's statement is in direct contradiction of the Bush doctrine as stated in a policy paper of September 2002, which made it quite clear the United States would consider it justified to use force pre-emptively to eliminate threats to its national security. The invasion of Iraq undertaken last March with the stated goal of ridding the country of weapons of mass destruction that still remain unfound is seen as the first instance of the doctrine's practical implementation. But in his article, Powell argues that "our strategy is not defined by pre-emption." He writes, "Above all, the President's strategy is one of partnerships that strongly affirms the vital role of NATO and other US alliances -- including the UN." Powell also admits unspecified mistakes committed during Bush's first three years in office. "It would be churlish to claim that the Bush administration's foreign policy has been error-free from the start," he points out. "But we have always pursued the enlightened self-interest of the American people, and in our purposes and our principles there are no mistakes." (Agence France-Press/News.com [Australia])
Iraq war and occupation"Mohammed Ali Karam wants to kill a US soldier," the article opens. "He doesn't love Saddam Hussein, and he was happy in April when US Marines rolled through his Baghdad neighborhood on their way to liberate the capital. But he turned against the Americans the night he saw his brother Hussein, 27, take two bullets in the neck. At 10:30 p.m. on Nov. 17, Karam says, he and three of his brothers were driving to a neighborhood where the pumps were working in order to get water for their home. Hussein, in the passenger seat, talked excitedly about having his new suit tailored for his upcoming wedding. That's when 82nd Airborne paratroopers, crouched in an observation post across the street, opened fire — after rounds struck their position, they say. Three of the brothers ran to the safety of a creek bed, but Hussein didn't make it. In the car, said Karam, the soldiers found Hussein —- gurgling blood through his throat -— but no weapons. Hussein died on the way to the hospital — three days before his wedding." The article continues, "Americans are frequently guilty of excesses that are turning ordinary Iraqis into foes. Bush's Thanksgiving visit meant little to Iraqis, who cite three areas of concern: the killing of innocents, the 'disappearance' of countrymen detained by US forces, and the destruction of buildings, including family homes. The last tactic, justified by US commanders as legitimate demolition of military targets, is criticized by human-rights groups like Amnesty International as smacking of collective punishment. As US forces employ more aggressive tactics to take on the resistance, these grievances are only getting worse, setting back the effort to win over local hearts and minds. 'Before the Americans came, we heard a lot about their respect for human rights,' says Khalid Mustafa Akbar, at a mourning tent for his three brothers who were shot dead while driving their pickup by a US patrol outside Tikrit last week. 'But then we found it is only talk.'"
Terrorism detainees and "enemy combatants"Some members of the new legal defense team are deeply unhappy with the trials, known as "military commissions," believing them to be slanted towards the prosecution and an affront to modern US military justice. Over 600 detainees are currently being held at the Guantanamo detention facility; none have been charged with a crime, and none are allowed to contact lawyers or family members. The US has promised that some will be tried by "military tribunals," an archaic form of American jurisprudence last employed during World War II. Reporter James Meek writes of these commissions, which were formed under practices drawn up before the Geneva Convention was adopted, "[T]here is more in the detail of how the commissions are supposed to work that reads like pages from Franz Kafka's workbook. The first thing that strikes the lay student of military commissions is the enormous power vested in the US deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz, who is the commissions' 'appointing authority'. The judges -- seven in a capital case -- are appointed by Wolfowitz. Any judge can be substituted up to the moment of verdict, by Wolfowitz. The military prosecutors are chosen by Wolfowitz. The suspects they charge, and the charges they make, are determined by Wolfowitz. All defendants are entitled to a military defense lawyer, from a pool chosen by Wolfowitz. The defendants are entitled to hire a civilian lawyer, but they have to pay out of their own funds, and by revealing where the funds are, they risk having them seized on suspicion of their being used for terrorist purposes, on the order of Wolfowitz. Defendants need not lose heart completely if convicted. They can appeal, to a panel of three people, appointed by Wolfowitz. When it has made its recommendation, the panel sends it for a final decision to Wolfowitz. 'That's the system,' says Clive Stafford-Smith, a British-American lawyer known for representing death-row clients and who now represents some of the Britons on Guantanamo, although he has never been allowed to meet them. 'It's a multi-headed Hydra with Paul Wolfowitz's face on every head.'"
Terrorism detainees and "enemy combatants"Unable to talk to current detainees, Meek interviewed a number of those released, and was given a barrage of chilling anecdotes and stories. One former detainee, Shah Mohammed, tried to commit suicide four times while being held at Camp Delta. He was placed in a sealed detention cell without windows for a month, not for breaking camp rules, but because there was nowhere else to hold him, according to guards. In India Block, as the block of punishment cells where Mohammed was imprisoned is known, "there were no windows," he says. "There were four walls and a roof made of tin, a light bulb and an air conditioner. They put the air conditioning on and it was extremely cold. They would take away the blanket in the morning and bring it back in the evening. I was kept in this room for one month. We'd ask them: 'Is this a sort of a punishment?' And the translator would say, 'No, this is being done on orders from the general.'" As "treatment" for Mohammed's suicidal state of mind, US doctors injected him with an unknown drug, over his objections. "I refused and they brought seven or eight people and held me and injected me," he says. "I couldn't see down, I couldn't see up. I felt paralyzed for one month -- this injection, the effect, I couldn't think or do anything. They gave me tranquilizing tablets. They just told me: 'Your brain is not working properly.' They were forcing me to take these injections and tablets and I didn't want to do that. Some people were being injected every month." Mohammed was released without being charged in May 2003; he says he still suffers severe physical and psychological effects from his captivity. Meek writes that the camp "has settled from a rough and ready, occasionally brutal place of confinement into a full-grown mongrel of international law, where all the harshness of the punitive US prison system is visited on foreigners, unmitigated by any of the legal rights US prisoners enjoy. To this is added the mentally corrosive threat, alien to the US constitution, of infinite confinement, without court or appeal, on the whim of a single man -- the president of the US."
Election fraudOhio would not have been able to guarantee the validity of the results. The machines were provided by Diebold Electronics, which has come under heavy criticism for providing voting machines with easily defeated security protocols. The Cleveland Plain Dealer writes, "The detailed findings confirmed what academics, computer scientists and voter advocates across the country have said for months: Electronic voting systems are prime targets for manipulation by anyone from expert computer hackers to poll workers to individual voters. ...Among the findings: Voter 'smart cards' inserted in the machines could be deciphered or counterfeited and used to cast illegal votes. Poll supervisors' passwords could be easily guessed and used to manipulate election results or end polling early. Diebold, for example, has the same password - 1111 - nationwide, and investigators were able to guess it in two minutes. Election results could be unencrypted and intercepted during transmission. Many scenarios exist in which someone without the proper authority could enter the systems -- with the flick of a switch or the use of a laptop PC -- and change results." (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Media manipulation and marketing by GOPBush aides initially told the press that a British Airways pilot wondered over his radio if he had just seen Air Force One in the skies near his plane, and the presidential plane radioed back, identifying itself as a Gulfstream One, a much smaller private plane. According to the story, the British pilot seemed to "catch on" that something unusual was in the offing, and played along, saying "Ohh-kay" and signing off. It was quickly determined that no such radio exchange occurred between Air Force One and anyone from a British flight -- "I don't think everybody was clear on exactly how that conversation happened," says White House press secretary Scott McClellan -- and the White House quickly changed its story to put the radio exchange between the British pilot and an air traffic controller in London. British Airways has confirmed that this story, too, is a lie. "We've looked into it," a spokeswoman says. "It didn't happen."
2004 presidential electionsIt also intends to heavily censor what little of Clark's testimony might make it into the public eye. At the insistence of State Department's legal office, the courtroom's public gallery will be cleared when Clark is called to testify Dec. 15 and 16 in The Hague. Cameras that normally broadcast the proceedings on closed circuit television and the Internet will be blacked out. There also will be a 48-hour delay on the release of the trial transcript that will enable State Department lawyers to examine Clark's testimony and request the deletion of portions that they deem harmful to national interests. UN prosecutors are unhappy with the arrangement, but said they had little choice but to accept if they wanted Clark's testimony. It is widely believed that the decision was primarily made, not to protect national security, but to keep Clark from making a powerful public impact with his testimony that might assist his presidential campaign.
Domestic terrorismHatfill claims that the FBI has illegally persecuted him and destroyed his reputation in its efforts to pin the anthrax mailings on him. The FBI says that it cannot disclose any information about the anthrax mailings because to do so would enable others to mount similar attacks against US citizens. Hatfill has denied any role in the attacks and his lawsuit seeks to clear his name and recover unspecified monetary damages. FBI inspector Richard Lambert, the head of what is being called the "Amerithrax" investigation, says in a court document that Hatfill's lawsuit could jeopardize the probe and expose secrets related to U.S. bioweapons defense measures. In the hands of those hostile to the US, this valuable intelligence could aid state sponsors of terrorism or terrorist organizations in their efforts to genetically engineer or alter their anthrax bioweapons to 'spoof' or escape detection," Lambert wrote. He added that disclosure also would make public the vulnerabilities and capabilities of U.S. government installations to bioweapons attacks and expose sensitive intelligence collection sources and methods. No link between terrorist groups and the October 2001 anthrax attacks has been established, though the Bush administration has repeatedly warned, without giving any proof, that al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups were ready to mount anthrax-based attacks against US targets. (CNN)
Iraq war and occupation400 businesspeople are there to meet, and hopefully sign contracts with, officials from the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), its new Program Management Office, the Army Corps of Engineers, the US Agency for International Development, Halliburton, Bechtel and members of Iraq's interim Governing Council. Writer Naomi Klein notes that the mood is substantially grimmer than at earlier conferences. She writes, "Giddy talk of 'greenfield' market opportunities has been supplanted by sober discussion of sudden-death insurance; excitement about easy government money has given way to controversy about foreign firms being shut out of the bidding process; exuberance about CPA chief Paul Bremer's ultraliberal investment laws has been tempered by fears that those laws could be overturned by a directly elected Iraqi government. ...[I]t seems finally to have dawned on the investment community that Iraq is not only an 'exciting emerging market;' it's also a country on the verge of civil war." One delegate tells Klein, "The best time to invest is when there is still blood on the ground." "Will you be going to Iraq?" she asks. "Me? No, I couldn't do that to my family," he replies.
Religious conservativesLee runs an enormous "megachurch" outside Atlanta, Georgia, and considers himself a key ally of the Republicans and of the Bush administration, and displays photos of himself with Bush, John Ashcroft, and Dan Quayle in his office. Lee disagrees with Bush's statements that Islam is a religion of peace and that Muslims pray to the same God as Christians, saying, "That's not true. There's only one God, and as a Christian, that is the God that we reach through Jesus Christ." Asked to explain Bush's statement, Lee says knowingly, "He had to do that." It was merely politics, Lee explains, and he doesn't hold the statement against Bush. Bush needs allies in the Arab world, Lee says, and therefore cannot be totally honest about his own theocratic Christian beliefs. He cannot come right out and say that America is involved in an End Times-struggle to prepare the world for Armageddon. Many evangelical leaders agree with Lee's views. (James Moore and Wayne Slater)