Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Nowhere to run

After what has been described as the most foolish war in over 2,000 years, is there a way out of Iraq for President Bush, asks Brian Whitaker

Tuesday November 29, 2005

There is a remarkable article in the latest issue of the American Jewish weekly, Forward. It calls for President Bush to be impeached and put on trial "for misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 BC sent his legions into Germany and lost them".

To describe Iraq as the most foolish war of the last 2,014 years is a sweeping statement, but the writer is well qualified to know.

He is Martin van Creveld, a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and one of the world's foremost military historians. Several of his books have influenced modern military theory and he is the only non-American author on the US Army's list of required reading for officers.

Professor van Creveld has previously drawn parallels between Iraq and Vietnam, and pointed out that almost all countries that have tried to fight similar wars during the last 60 years or so have ended up losing. Why President Bush "nevertheless decided to go to war escapes me and will no doubt preoccupy historians to come," he told one interviewer.

The professor's puzzlement is understandable. More than two years after the war began, and despite the huge financial and human cost, it is difficult to see any real benefits.

The weapons of mass destruction that provided the excuse for the invasion turned out not to exist and the idea that Iraq could become a beacon of democracy for the Middle East has proved equally far-fetched.

True, there is now a multi-party electoral system, but it has institutionalised and consolidated the country's ethnic, sectarian and tribal divisions - exactly the sort of thing that should be avoided when attempting to democratise.

In the absence of anything more positive, Tony Blair has fallen back on the claim that at least we're better off now without Saddam Hussein. That, too, sounds increasingly hollow.

The fall of Saddam has brought the rise of Zarqawi and his ilk, levels of corruption in Iraq seem as bad as ever, and at the weekend former prime minister Iyad Allawi caused a stir by asserting that the human rights are no better protected now than under the rule of Saddam.

Noting that some two-thirds of Americans believe the war was a mistake, van Creveld says in his article that the US should forget about saving face and pull its troops out: "What had to come, has come. The question is no longer if American forces will be withdrawn, but how soon - and at what cost."

Welcome as a pullout might be to many Americans, it would be a hugely complex operation. Van Creveld says it would probably take several months and result in sizeable casualties. More significantly, though, it would not end the conflict.

"As the pullout proceeds," he warns, "Iraq almost certainly will sink into an all-out civil war from which it will take the country a long time to emerge - if, indeed, it can do so at all. All this is inevitable and will take place whether George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice like it or not."

This is one of the major differences between Iraq and the withdrawal from Vietnam. In Vietnam, it took place under a smokescreen of "Vietnamisation" in which US troops handed control to local forces in the south.

Of course, it was a fairly thin smokescreen; many people were aware at the time that these southern forces could not hold out and in due course the North Vietnamese overran the south, finally bringing the war to an end.

Officially, a similar process is under way in Iraq, with the Americans saying they will eventually hand over to the new Iraqi army - though the chances of that succeeding look even bleaker than they did in Vietnam.

"The new Iraqi army is by all accounts much weaker, less skilled, less cohesive and less loyal to its government than even the South Vietnamese army was," van Creveld writes.

Worse still, in Iraq there is no equivalent of the North Vietnamese regime poised to take power. What will happen once the Americans have gone is anyone's guess, but a sudden outbreak of peace seems the remotest of all the possibilities.

Not surprisingly, many who in principle would argue that the Americans had no right to invade Iraq in the first place are apprehensive about what might happen once they leave. The conference organised by the Arab League in Cairo last week was one example: it called for "the withdrawal of foreign forces according to a timetable" but didn't venture to suggest what that timetable might be.

With or without American troops, the war in Iraq has acquired a momentum of its own and threatens to spill over into other parts of the region.

There are four major issues: terrorism, Sunni-Shia rivalries, Kurdish aspirations, and the question of Iraq's territorial integrity - all of which pose dangers internationally.

Back in July 2003, terrorism in Iraq seemed a manageable problem and President Bush boldly challenged the militants to "bring 'em on". American forces, he said, were "plenty tough" and would deal with anyone who attacked them.

There were others in the US who talked of the "flypaper theory" - an idea that terrorists from around the world could be attracted to Iraq and then eliminated. Well, the first part of the flypaper theory seems to work, but not the second.

As with the Afghan war in the 1980s that spawned al-Qaida, there is every reason to suppose that the Iraq war will create a new generation of terrorists with expertise that can be used to plague other parts of the world for decades to come. The recent hotel bombings in Jordan are one indication of the way it's heading.

Contrary to American intentions, the war has also greatly increased the influence of Iran - a founder-member of Bush's "Axis of Evil" - and opened up long-suppressed rivalries between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

The impact of this cannot be confined to Iraq and will eventually be felt in the oil-rich Sunni Gulf states (including Saudi Arabia) that have sizeable but marginalised Shia communities.

Kurdish aspirations have been awakened too - which has implications for Turkey, Syria and Iran, especially if Iraq is eventually dismembered.

With a fragile central government in Baghdad constantly undermined by the activities of militants and weakened by the conflicting demands of Sunnis, Shias and Kurds, the demise of Iraq as a nation-state sometime during the next few years has become a distinct possibility.

The effect of that on the regional power balance is difficult to predict, but at the very least it would bring a period of increased instability.

No one can claim that any of this was unexpected. The dangers had been foreseen by numerous analysts and commentators long before the war started but they were ignored in Washington, mainly for ideological reasons.

There were, of course, some in the neoconservative lobby who foresaw it too and thought it would be a good thing - shaking up the entire Middle East in a wave of "creative destruction".

The result is that even if the US tries to leave Iraq now, in purely practical terms it is unlikely to be able to do so.

Professor van Creveld's plan for withdrawal of ground troops is not so much a disengagement as a strategic readjustment.

An American military presence will still be needed in the region, he says.

"Tehran is certain to emerge as the biggest winner from the war ... Now that Iraq is gone, it is hard to see how anybody except the United States can keep the Gulf states, and their oil, out of the mullahs' clutches.

"A divided, chaotic, government-less Iraq is very likely to become a hornets' nest. From it, a hundred mini-Zarqawis will spread all over the Middle East, conducting acts of sabotage and seeking to overthrow governments in Allah's name.

"The Gulf States apart, the most vulnerable country is Jordan, as evidenced by the recent attacks in Amman. However, Turkey, Egypt and, to a lesser extent, Israel are also likely to feel the impact. Some of these countries, Jordan in particular, are going to require American assistance."

As described in the article, van Creveld's plan seems to imply that the US should abandon Iraq to its fate and concentrate instead on protecting American allies in the region from adverse consequences.

A slightly different idea - pulling out ground troops from Iraq but continuing to use air power there - is already being considered in Washington, according to Seymour Hersh in the latest issue of the New Yorker magazine.

The military are reportedly unhappy about this, fearing it could make them dependent on untrustworthy Iraqi forces for pinpointing targets.

One military planner quoted by the magazine asked: "Will the Iraqis call in air strikes in order to snuff rivals, or other warlords, or to snuff members of your own sect and blame it on someone else?"

Focusing on air power has obvious political attractions for the Bush administration, since it is the safety of US ground troops that American voters are most concerned about.

But, again, that would not amount to a real disengagement and would do little or nothing to improve America's image in the region - especially if reliance on air strikes increased the number of civilian casualties.

The inescapable fact is that the processes Mr Bush unleashed on March 20 2003 (and imagined he had ended with his "mission accomplished" speech six weeks later) will take a decade or more to run their course and there is little that anyone, even the US, can do now to halt them.

In his eagerness for regime change in Iraq, Mr Bush blundered into a trap from which in the short term there is no way out: the Americans will be damned if they stay and damned if they leave

 

Who the hell cares whether there is a way out for Bush? Let us hope against hope and pray that there is a way out for our country.

I, personally, do not give a damn if the Iraqi Secret Service comes and arrests the whole lot of the Bushites tomorrow. They would be doing us a fine favor.

WE CAN NO LONGER SUPPORT THE BIG LIE

We need to pull the plug on this illegal war with Iraq

by Allen L Roland, Ph.D

http://www.opednews.com

" If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.": Joseph Goebbels / Adolph Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda

The war with Iraq was based on a series of blatant lies and the only reason it continues is because the Cheney/Bush administration has shielded the people from the political, economic and military consequences of these lies.

This administration is using all of its powers to repress or disqualify dissent for indeed ~ the truth is the greatest enemy of the Cheney/Bush administration.

Bush's speech today was exactly what The Center For American Progress satirically wrote ~ A Public Relations Pitch Masquerading As A Strategy;

" After two-and-a-half years and 2,110 U.S. troop fatalities, the Bush administration released what it calls a "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" (NSVI). The problem is, it's not a new strategy for success in Iraq; it's a public relations document. The strategy describes what has transpired in Iraq to date as a resounding success and refuses to establish any standards for accountability. It dismisses serious problems such as the dramatic increase in bombings as "metrics that the terrorists and insurgents want the world to use." Americans understand it's time for a new course in Iraq. Unfortunately, this document is little more than an extended justification for a President "determined to stay his course."

The latest White House public offensive comes as continued deadly violence in Iraq and the deaths of more than 2,100 U.S. troops and the wounding of 16,000 others chip away at Bush's popularity, now at its lowest level since he became president.
Remember, that death count does not include the soldiers who died in hospitals ~ which would bring the actual death count closer to 8000.

This is all a public relations ploy to create the illusion of staying the course in a succeeding war while preparing for token withdrawals just before the mid term elections next year.

I can almost see the Mission Acomplished Banner now.

Remember, this is a Cheney/ Bush war ~ not an American war .
We have a patriotic right to pull the plug on their global neocon ambitions, torture, secrecy and confront them on their lies.

For the truth is we are driving over a bridge to nowhere and only an angry and united electorate can end this foolish folly which has cast an irremediable blot on our nation's character and moral integrity.

Members of Congress are changing and examining their position on Iraq right now. It is critical that they hear from all of us. For the next two weeks MoveOn is circulating a petition calling on Congress to insist on an exit strategy to bring the troops home in 2006. Will you sign? Click below.
http://political.moveon.org/iraq/

Allen L Roland

www.allenroland.com

Allen L Roland is a practicing psychotherapist, author and lecturer who also shares a daily political and social commentary on his weblog http://blogs.salon.com/0002255/ and website www.allenroland.com He also guest hosts a monthly national radio show TRUTHTALK on Conscious talk radio www.conscioustalk.net

Just for the record, we never supported the big lie, which is why we are all damn near insane by now!!!!

Pentagon, intel pros tell Bush war cannot be won

by Doug Thompson

http://www.opednews.com

While President George W. Bush tells the American people that U.S. troops must stay in Iraq until they have “achieved victory,” Pentagon planners and intelligence professionals tell the White House the war cannot be won.

“The President’s speech tonight will be a con-job,” says a senior Pentagon analyst who asked not to be identified. “He will be attempting to sell a strategy that is not achievable and one that is not backed by the professionals who tell him otherwise.”

In fact, experts say Bush can no longer rally Americans to support his failed far in Iraq.

“The American people have turned against the war, and they're not turning back,” said political analyst Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia. “The public is no longer with the President on this issue.”

But opposition to the President’s policies also grows in the private corridors of the Pentagon and in the intelligence community where professionals in the art of waging war say the battle for Iraq is lost.

“It’s over,” says a longtime analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency. “It’s been over since we declared a victory we didn’t achieve and claimed to have accomplished a mission that was unfinished.”

Bitterness grows within the military and intelligence establishment over Bush’s unwillingness to listen to reason on Iraq. Analysts called to the White House to provide intelligence briefings on the situation in Iraq dread the trip to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue where an honest assessment of the war brings anger and sharp rebukes from a President who doesn’t like to hear bad news.

“It’s a no-win situation,” says one longtime Pentagon operative. “If we provide an honest assessment of the situation the President blows his stack. He ignores our recommendations and then blames us when things go wrong.”

A record number of senior officials at both the Pentagon and CIA have left in recent months, saying they are unable to deal with what they call “the imperial Presidency of George W. Bush.”

Republicans also grow increasingly nervous over Bush’s stubbornness on Iraq and know the growing public opposition to the war is killing them politically.

“If elections for Congress were being held next Tuesday, Republicans would lose both houses. The GOP knows it,” says Sabato.

Other feel opposition to the war will continue to grow and, with it, increased demands that the U.S. withdraw..

"No matter how the questions are phrased, all the polls have logged increases in pro-withdrawal sentiment over the course of the war," says John Mueller, an expert on war and public opinion, based at Ohio State University. And that sentiment is inextricably linked to the growing belief that the war itself has been a mistake.”

That belief the war itself has been a mistake is one shared by a growing number of those whose job it is to wage war – the pros at the Pentagon and in the intelligence community and the same pros that George W. Bush ignored in his headlong march into a losing war in Iraq.


Talk about Corporatiism run-amok!

PRESS RELEASE


November 30 , 2005

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Contact: Chas Offutt (202) 265-7337

National Parks to Seek Corporate Sponsorships

Corporate Funds Will Alter Park Landscapes and Sway Policies

Washington, DC — In a quiet but far-reaching change, the National Park Service is poised to adopt a new policy of aggressively seeking corporate sponsorship of park projects and facilities. In return for financial sponsorships, the plan will give corporate donors naming rights, use of National Park symbols and personnel in advertising and much greater influence over park managers, according to public comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

“This starts a slow motion commercialization of the national park system,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “What will be allowed stops just short of licensing ads for ‘The Official Beer of Yosemite’ or ‘ Old Faithful, Brought to You by Viagara.’”

The Park Service has put forward a draft directive encouraging active pursuit of potential financial donors and repealing the agency’s current passive posture of merely accepting donations. Public comment on the plan closes this week. Interior Secretary Gale Norton has hailed the plan as an “exciting” new approach for broadening the funding base for national parks.

Park managers would be encouraged to offer packages that attract big corporate donors, including –

  • Liberalized naming rights for trails, benches, rooms and other facilities (but not parks themselves), as well as display of logos and slogans on park literature, computer screens, and plaques;
  • Exclusive media advertising rights to the official NPS Arrowhead symbol, the term “Proud Partner” of the National Park Service and the use of uniformed park employees in ads; and
  • Flexibility to negotiate customized recognition deals that “meet the needs of individual donors.”

The plan jettisons bans against accepting or soliciting donations from vendors, concessionaires, permittees and others doing business with a park. Alcohol, tobacco and even gambling companies would also be eligible park sponsors. The only up-front review of major gifts would be a subjective “totality of circumstances” test applied by top officials to determine whether the donation is “appropriate.”

The plan is designed so that private donations develop into a much more significant factor in overall park budgets, as well as high-profile capital projects and improvements. Currently, the Park Service raises an estimated $17 million from outside sources each year.

“Large corporate donations exert a not-so-subtle gravitational pull on park managers who are increasingly dependent on these donors for their budgets,” Ruch added, noting that PEER is already hearing from park employees who have been transferred or reassigned to placate donors. “Influence peddling will soon become a major recreational activity in our national parks.”

###

Read the PEER comments on the proposed donation solicitation policy 

Compare the proposal with current restrictions

"The President fails to see and confront the truth about the war in Iraq."

Statement from U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer:

The President fails to see and confront the truth about the war in Iraq.

First, he refuses to acknowledge that the Iraq war has nothing to do with the 9/11 attack on our country by al Qaeda, and it has diverted us from our appropriate response to that attack which was to go into Afghanistan and hunt Osama bin Laden.

Second, he refuses to acknowledge the fact that our long term presence in Iraq is fueling the very insurgency that the President vows to end.

Third, the President refuses to acknowledge that any mistakes were made and that this war was based on false pretenses.

Fourth, he ignores the tremendous financial burden on our citizens, and he completely ignores the thousands of wounded that need to hear that they will not be forgotten and that they will receive the care they need.

Finally, the President even refuses to acknowledge that Iraqi government officials believe that we can withdraw within a two-year time frame, and he continues to demean those members of Congress who disagree with him.

The President used this speech to lash out in a very personal way against those who believe the best strategy for success is an accelerated training of Iraqi security forces and a drawdown of American troops, starting with the National Guard. Once we clearly state that we do not intend to stay in Iraq forever, the insurgency will be diminished and our brave men and women can begin to come home.

The President’s failure to address the concerns of the American people and the Congress is a devastating blow to everyone who hoped to hear the President articulate a clear mission and a projection of when our troops can return home.

 

Vice President Cheney Rejects Public Accountability Yet Again

Vice President Cheney Rejects Public Accountability Yet Again

A BUZZFLASH NEWS ALERT

News from the DNC:

Washington, DC - The Washington Post yesterday reported that Vice President Cheney's refusal to be held accountable to the American people even extends to his office's travel costs. According to a study by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, Vice President Cheney and his staff have refused to follow rules that require him to publicly disclose travel expenses of more than $250 that are paid for by outside groups, including trade groups with business before the White House.

Unlike nearly every other office within the Executive Office of the President, Vice President Cheney's office has refused to disclose reimbursed expenses related to 39 speeches he has given to think tanks, trade organizations, and academic institutions since 2001.

Democratic National Committee Communications Director Karen Finney today issued the following statement on Vice President Cheney's excessive adherence to secrecy:

"Vice President Cheney's belief that he is not accountable to anyone or anything stands in stark contrast to our nation's fundamental democratic values. What is Vice President Cheney hiding by refusing to say who he's meeting with and who is footing the bill for his trips? From his insistence that Americans have no right to know if his cronies in the oil and gas industry wrote his energy task force report to his refusal to answer questions about his role in the CIA leak scandal, Vice President Cheney apparently believes that he is free to do anything, anytime, anywhere. This is an arrogance of power in its worst form.

"Together, America can do better. The American people deserve leaders who understand that our government should be accountable to them, not to Vice President Cheney's special interest friends. President Bush should insist that his Vice President play by the rules and join Democrats in fighting for an agenda that restores honesty in government and puts the American people ahead of the special interests."

A BUZZFLASH NEWS ALERT

LINK: We are growing sick and tired of that jackass, Mr. Cheney. He needs to be in the dock at the Hague.

Religious Right; a cancer on America.....Karl Rove; Oh hell, it's terminal

A Cancer Within America

On March 21, 1973 John Dean spoke these words to the President of the United States, “We have a cancer--within, close to the Presidency.” It would be months before the American public would be made aware of the initial danger. It would be decades before we would finally learn that it had metastasized throughout the right-wing body politic. Fueled by hate and anger it would consume the heart of the Republican Party and place the very foundations of our democracy in mortal jeopardy.

For no longer is politics the art of compromise. Right-wing extremists have turned it into a take no prisoners, winner take all battle for power and wealth. They are attacking the very soul of the nation in the false name of God and patriotism. They invoke the name of Christ all the while ignoring the basic tenants of his teachings. They wrap themselves in flags as they call for the need of sacrifice, a sacrifice from others not themselves.

Karl Rove is at the center of the cancer.
He was there at the beginning. He and it have grown in a malicious symbiotic relationship over past three decades. At first he was just a foot soldier doing dirty tricks and sabotaging opposition campaigns. Now he is a commanding general doing dirty tricks and sabotaging opposition campaigns. Through him and others like him the art of politics has morphed into the science of skullduggery.

Rove is one of a handful of Americans whom history will judge as being truly detrimental to the cause of our democracy, men like Joseph McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover, Paul Weyrich, Dick Cheney, Tom DeLay, and to a lesser extent Lee Atwater, Ralph Reed, Grover Norquist, and Jack Abramoff.

The worst political carcinogen is money so I would be remiss not to mention some of the people who paid the foundation for the toxic cesspool that was to give rise to the radical right; Richard Scaife, John M. Olin, and Adolph Coors to name three. These and others like them financed the ascendancy of the anti-democratic forces born of the extreme right. Forces that if left unchecked will continue to polarize our society and eat away at the very roots of our liberty and freedom.

Karl Don't Let The Door Hit You On The way Out

The Bush Credo - No Sacrifice Is Too Great For Others To Make.
 

WOW! Propaganda by US in Iraq. What a surprise?

Have we forgotten that the Bushites did this over here as well. They paid old Armstrong and some woman, a supposed Journalist...how much was it now? Hundreds of thousands, as I recall.
 
They have paid and played the media over here till all our heads are spinning.
 
However, I doubt that it works every well, over there when you are being shot at or bombed while you try to read you news paper.
 
What is Arabic for Bullshit?
 
This whole thing reminds me of the secret bombing of Cambodia. It sure as hell wasn't secret to the Cambodians (or the Chinese, Soviets, or whomever).
 
Probably the only people on Earth who didn't know were Americans.
 
Why are we always the last to know?

Rep. Waxman: "Military efforts to influence Iraqi news coverage covertly should not be tolerated."

News from Rep. Waxman's offices:

Below is a letter Rep. Waxman sent today to Chairman Davis asking that the Committee investigate reports that the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to present positive images of the military and the U.S. mission in Iraq. The text of the letter follows:

* * *

November 30, 2005

The Honorable Tom Davis
Chairman
Committee on Government Reform
U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I am writing regarding a report in today's Los Angeles Times that the military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to run stories that present a positive image of the military and the U.S. mission in Iraq.[1] According to the Times, the "U.S. has paid Iraqi newspapers to run dozens of such articles ... since the effort began this year." The operation has been run entirely in secret and is "designed to mask any connection with the U.S. military."

In addition, the Times learned from a military official that the Pentagon has "purchased an Iraqi newspaper and taken control of a radio station, and was using them to channel pro-American messages to the Iraqi public. Neither is identified as a military mouthpiece."

If these reports are true, they have significant implications that should be investigated by the Committee. As one senior Pentagon official told the Times: "Here we are trying to create the principles of democracy in Iraq. Every speech we give in that country is about democracy. And we're breaking all the first principles of democracy when we're doing it."

As you know, I requested in February that the Committee investigate growing reports of the use of "covert propaganda" by the federal government.[2] After some back and forth, we agreed to send a joint document request to several federal agencies seeking information about their contracts with public relations firms. At your request, however, we did not include the Department of Defense in the document request.

The new disclosures in the Los Angeles Times should cause us to revisit the decision to exempt the Department of Defense. According to the Times, the news articles are written by military "information operations" troops. These stories are then translated into Arabic and placed into Iraqi newspapers under a contract with the Lincoln Group. Lincoln Group staff and subcontractors do not identify the articles as originating with the military when they place the articles, sometimes posing as "freelance reporters or advertising executives when they deliver the stories to Baghdad media outlets." The Times found that the stories produced under this program "read more like press releases than news stories," and "often contain anonymous quotes from U.S. military officials." One senior military official told the Times that, "[a]bsolute truth was not an essential element of these stories."

Military efforts to influence Iraqi news coverage covertly should not be tolerated. I hope that you will join me in requesting information from the Pentagon regarding this and any other military efforts to influence Iraqi coverage of the U.S. mission. To begin an investigation, we should request:

* All documents related to the creation and role of the "Information Operations Task Force" in Baghdad;

* All contracts - including the statement of work, task orders, and any modifications - issued by the Pentagon for public relations and media outreach in Iraq, including, but not limited to, the contract with the Lincoln Group to place articles in Iraqi newspapers;

* All deliverables produced under these contracts, including, but not limited to, any materials produced by the Lincoln Group and its subcontractors;

* Copies of all articles placed by the U.S. military or the Lincoln Group in the Iraqi media;

* Any documents related to the U.S. military purchase or control of any Iraqi media outlets, including television stations, radio stations, and newspapers.

I look forward to working with you on this effort.

Sincerely,

Henry A. Waxman
Ranking Minority Member

[1] U.S. Military Covertly Pays to Run Stories in Iraqi Press, Los Angeles Times (Nov. 30, 2005).

[2] Letter from Rep. Henry A. Waxman to Chairman Tom Davis (Feb. 8, 2005).

(Well, the do it over here....why not over there?)

Michael Isikoff -- The Fred Astaire of Stenographic Reporting

After I read Jane's wonderful piece entitled "Let's Tell Mikey; He'll print anything," on Oct. 30th, I had to ask myself what kind of journalist would print a story so full of spoon-fed propaganda that I instantly got a bad case of acid reflux. Here's a key passage that caught my eye:

Nick Turse on Bush's Expanding "Fallen Legion"

Back in mid-October, I noted that informal "walls" and exhibits to honor those Americans (and sometimes Iraqis) who fell -- and continue to fall -- in the Bush administration's war and occupation of choice in Iraq have been arising on and off-line for some time. I suggested then that "the particular dishonor this administration has brought down on our country calls out for other ‘walls' as well. Perhaps, for instance, we need some negative walls built, stone by miserable stone, to cronyism, corruption, and incompetence." At that moment, Tomdispatch author (and Associate Editor) Nick Turse began to build a verbal "wall" of honor to those who have "fallen" in government service while fighting in some fashion to hold the line against this administration. A previously hardly noted "Legion of the Fallen," these other "casualties" -- men and women who were honorable or steadfast enough in their government duties that they found themselves with little alternative but to resign in protest, quit, retire, or simply be pushed off the cliff by cronies of this administration -- turned out to be far larger than we initially imagined. Here, then, is the second installment in Nick Turse's "Fallen Legion" series. The names for a third installment, meant for January, are already largely in place and we're hoping that, by then, we might have an actual on-line wall to go with it. Tom

Bush's Burgeoning Body Count

READ ON: The List is growing by the day.

Loose Lipped Luskin and the Sinking Ship Rove

Reader TerriGirl sent me a Ryan Lizza story from TNR last summer on Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin that is just too much fun. Since it's behind a firewall and speaks volumes about why Viveca Novak might be called to testify about her conversations with him, I'm going to quote at length:
In at least one Washington law firm this July, the summer associates are earning their keep. Their boss is one of the lawyers involved with the Rove-Plame scandal, and he's keeping them busy with a surprisingly thorny task: Tracking the public comments of Robert Luskin, Karl Rove's attorney. Over the last two weeks, Luskin has flummoxed Washington's Fourth Estate with spin and legalisms. He has embarrassed reporters who ran with the cleverly worded denials he dished out. He has contradicted himself, sometimes within the same news article. He may have accidentally paved the way for Matt Cooper's Wednesday grand jury testimony about Rove. In short, he has made life difficult for those summer associates. "Every day," says the lawyer involved in the case, "I have my associates put together a chronology of the things Luskin is saying about Karl Rove. He's just all over the place. Even in the last few days, they are not consistent."

(snip)

Luskin has represented Bush's strategist for months, but it was only in July, when the extent of Rove's role in the Plame case emerged, that the lawyer became a Beltway star. Previous legal celebrities, such as Ginsburg, became famous for their addiction to the cameras. Luskin has become famous for his word games. It is no surprise when a lawyer resorts to technicalities and evasions to defend his client. What sounds like an absurd defense and bad politics in the public arena may make perfect sense inside the courtroom. But Luskin's comments seem to be legally inept as well.

The Harvard alum and Rhodes scholar first started getting chatty with reporters back in December. He told the Chicago Tribune that the only way for the prosecutor in the case, Patrick Fitzgerald, to establish a pattern of wrongdoing by the Bushies was for him to drag reporters into the grand jury. "I don't see how you can conduct a leak investigation in a sensitive way," he said, sounding oddly detached from the case for someone whose client's fate was at stake. "You have to talk to everybody." Perhaps he was just sucking up to the prosecutor, but it seemed bizarre for Rove's attorney to publicly endorse a prosecutorial strategy that was tightening the noose around his client's throat.
It's this unseemly blabbiness that is making it so hard for Plamiacs to go back and try to untangle what it is that Luskin might have let slip that intrigued Fitzgerald -- there's mountains of stuff to comb through.
 
READ ON: Who knows what the hell to make of the whole V. Novak thing? Why would something Luskin said to her make any difference at all. Luskin, as is pointed out, is a veritable spinning top.
 
What could V. Novak have said to Luskin that would be in any way exculpatory for Rove? Very strange.

Andrea Mitchell Watch Day 3 -- Anatomy of a Circle Jerk

Andrea Mitchell on Hardball, following Patrick Fitzgerald's press conference on Oct, 28, 2005 (Crooks & Liars has audio/video of all the following):
I think the prosecutor made a very broad claim, whether you buy it or not, that the disclosure of any CIA officer's identity is a threat to our national security, that we are at a stage in our country where we need to recruit people, we need to guarantee that they will have anonymity and that you cannot recruit people to work in these difficult jobs, nor can you be sure that by disclosing their identity that you are not putting them in jeopardy. I happen to have been told that the actual damage assessment as to whether people were put in jeopardy on this case did not indicate that there was real damage in this specific instance.
Wow, Andrea, that's amazing. You GO GIRL!!! Where exactly did she get this exclusive, insider information? Well, maybe she watched Bob Woodward the night before on Larry King:
They did a damage assessment within the CIA, looking at what this did that [former ambassador] Joe Wilson's wife [Plame] was outed. And turned out it was quite minimal damage. They did not have to pull anyone out undercover abroad. They didn't have to resettle anyone. There was no physical danger to anyone, and there was just some embarrassment. So people have kind of compared -- somebody was saying this was Aldrich Ames or Bob Hanssen, big spies. This didn't cause damage.
I get goosebumps just being in proximity to this top-secret information being whispered to me by all-knowing insiders. I guess Tucker Carlson does too, because even the King of the Yellow Elephants went on to quote Andrea Mitchell as his source:
In fact, as NBC's Andrea Mitchell has reported, an internal CIA investigation found that Plame's outing caused no discernable damage to anyone.
So where is this mysterious assessment? According to the Washington Post and the CIA, it doesn't exist:
[A]fter Plame's name appeared in Robert D. Novak's column, the CIA informed the Justice Department in a simple questionnaire that the damage was serious enough to warrant an investigation, officials said.

The CIA has not conducted a formal damage assessment, as is routinely done in cases of espionage and after any legal proceedings have been exhausted.

(snip)

Intelligence officials said they would never reveal the true extent of her contacts to protect the agency and its work.
Except, we are to believe, from a bunch of blabby right wing journalists.

Come on, guys and gal. Your credibility -- such as it is -- is on the ropes here. Time to put up or shut up. Who did you hear it from? Where is this report? And how convenient it all comes out just as Patrick Fitzgerald announced the Libby indictment. So very handy for you to be able to waltz before the cameras with that little snippet of spin just in time to do damage control for the administration.

One would think you might be the victims here of the Mighty Wurlitzer that lies with impunity and knows you will never hold them to account. So c'mon, give us the straight skinny. Where did this special little piece of bullshit come from?
 

Bush's War on the Press

by JOHN NICHOLS & ROBERT W. MCCHESNEY

[from the December 5, 2005 issue]

In his speech to last spring's National Media Reform Conference in St. Louis, Bill Moyers accused the Bush Administration not merely of attacking his highly regarded PBS program NOW but of declaring war on journalism itself. "We're seeing unfold a contemporary example of the age-old ambition of power and ideology to squelch and punish journalists who tell the stories that make princes and priests uncomfortable," explained Moyers. With the November resignation of Moyers's nemesis, Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) board chair Ken Tomlinson, amid charges of personal and political wrongdoing and a host of other recent developments, it becomes increasingly clear that this White House is doing battle with the journalistic underpinnings of democracy.

To be sure, every administration has tried to manipulate the nation's media system. Bill Clinton's wrongheaded support for the Telecommunications Act of 1996 cleared the way for George W. Bush's attempts to give media companies the power to create ever larger and more irresponsible monopolies. But with its unprecedented campaign to undermine and, where possible, eliminate independent journalism, the Bush Administration has demonstrated astonishing contempt for the Constitution and considerable fear of an informed public. Consider the bill of particulars:

§ Corrupting PBS. Tomlinson's tenure at the CPB, which annually distributes $400 million in federal funding to broadcast outlets, was characterized by an assault on the news operations of the Public Broadcasting Service in general, and Moyers in particular, for airing dissenting voices and preparing investigative reports on the Administration. His goal was clearly to fire a shot across the bow of all public stations so managers would shy away from the sort of investigative journalism that might expose Bush Administration malfeasance. On November 15, on the heels of Tomlinson's resignation, the CPB's inspector general issued a sixty-seven-page report documenting Tomlinson's repeated violations of the Public Broadcasting Act, CPB rules and the CPB code of ethics with his political meddling, though it stopped short of calling for prosecution, or of examining the link between Tomlinson's actions and White House directives.

§ Faking TV News. Under Bush Administration directives, at least twenty federal agencies have produced and distributed scores, perhaps hundreds, of "video news segments" out of a $254 million slush fund. These bogus and deceptive stories have been broadcast on TV stations nationwide without any acknowledgment that they were prepared by the government rather than local journalists. The segments--which trumpet Administration "successes," promote its controversial line on issues like Medicare reform and feature Americans "thanking" Bush--have been labeled "covert propaganda" by the Government Accountability Office.

§ Paying Off Pundits. The Administration has made under-the-table payments to at least three pundits to sing its praises, including Armstrong Williams, the conservative columnist who collected $240,000 from the Education Department and then cheered on the ill-conceived No Child Left Behind Act.

§ Turning Press Conferences Into Charades. Bush has all but avoided traditional press conferences, closing down a prime venue for holding the executive accountable. On those rare occasions when he deigned to meet reporters, presidential aides turned the press conferences into parodies by seating a friendly right-wing "journalist," former male escort Jeff Gannon, amid the reporters and then steering questions to him when tough issues arose. They have effectively silenced serious questioners, like veteran journalist Helen Thomas, by refusing to have the President or his aides call on reporters who challenge them. And they have established a hierarchy for journalists seeking interviews with Administration officials, which favors networks that give the White House favorable coverage--as the frequent appearances by Bush and Dick Cheney on Fox News programs will attest.

§ Gutting the Freedom of Information Act. As Eric Alterman detailed in a May 9 report in these pages, the Administration has scrapped enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act and has made it harder for reporters to do their jobs by refusing to cooperate with even the most basic requests for comment and data from government agencies. This is part of a broader clampdown on access to information that has made it virtually impossible for journalists to cover vast areas of government activity.

§ Obscuring the Iraq War. In addition to setting up a system for embedding reporters covering the war--which denied Americans a full picture of what was happening during the invasion--the Defense Department has denied access to basic information regarding the war, from accurate casualty counts to images of flag-draped coffins of US dead to the Abu Ghraib torture photos.

§ Pushing Media Monopoly. The Administration continues to make common cause with the most powerful broadcast corporations in an effort to rewrite ownership laws in a manner that favors dramatic new conglomeratization and monopoly control of information. The Administration's desired rules changes would strike a mortal blow to local journalism, as media "company towns" would be the order of the day. This cozy relationship between media owners and the White House (remember Viacom chair Sumner Redstone's 2004 declaration that re-electing Bush would be "good for Viacom"?) puts additional pressure on journalists who know that when they displease the Administration they also displease their bosses.

In his famous opinion in the 1945 Associated Press v. US case, Justice Hugo Black said that "the First Amendment rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public, that a free press is a condition of a free society." In other words, a free press is the sine qua non of the entire American Constitution and republican experiment.

The Bush Administration attack on the foundations of self-government demands a response of similar caliber. Under pressure from media-reform activists Congress has begun to push back, with a strong bipartisan vote in the Senate Commerce Committee to limit the ability of federal agencies to produce covert video news segments and to investigate Defense Department spending on propaganda initiatives. But until the Administration is held accountable by Congress for all its assaults on journalism, and until standards are developed to assure that such abuses will not be repeated by future administrations, freedom of the press will exist in name only, with all that suggests for our polity.

LINK

Bushites prepare torturous lies to tell Europe about,,,well, torture

U.S. to Respond to Inquiries Over Detentions in Europe

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 - The Bush administration, responding to European alarm over allegations of secret detention camps and the transport of terror suspects on European soil, insisted Tuesday that American actions complied with international law but promised to respond to formal inquiries from European nations.

The administration's comments came after the new German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, raised concerns on Tuesday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about reported American practices in the handling and interrogation of captives, according to American and German officials.

In addition, European officials said the British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, sent a letter to Ms. Rice on Tuesday on behalf of the European Union asking for clarifications. Britain currently holds the union's presidency.

"The United States realizes that these are topics that are generating interest among European publics as well as parliaments, and that these questions need to be responded to," said Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman. He added that Ms. Rice said the administration would respond to any official request for more information.

The question of whether European nations have been complicit in the administration's actions has seized the attention of Europe's press, public and politicians since The Washington Post first reported on Nov. 2 that prisoners had been secretly held in bases in Europe or transported through them.

The newspaper withheld the names of specific nations at the request of the Bush administration, which has not confirmed or denied any details since then. Several European governments have denied playing a role or have demanded explanations.

"Like I said, and we have said many times from this podium, we're just not in a position to confirm those reports," Mr. McCormack said Tuesday. He added that confronting terrorism was "a shared responsibility of all countries" and that perpetrators of terrorist acts "don't comply with any laws."

"All U.S. actions comply with U.S. laws," Mr. McCormack said. "They comply with the United States Constitution, and they comply with our international obligations." Mr. McCormack declined to answer whether he was sure American actions complied with European laws.

European and American officials say Ms. Rice is beginning to realize that the issue has become so inflamed that she will probably have to prepare a more lengthy response before traveling to Europe next week.

"It's becoming one of the public issues she's going to have to address on her next trip," said a European official, asking not to be identified in discussing the delicate matter of pressures on the United States. "The mood in Europe is one of increasing concern over what people call the American 'gulag' and the reports of all these stopovers in Europe for prisoners."

European and administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity both out of protocol and because they are legally barred from discussing intelligence matters, say that no matter what has occurred, the standard practice of not commenting on clandestine operations has made the United States vulnerable to harsh, even potentially debilitating criticism.

"The truth is these are only allegations within newspapers at the moment, but they are allegations that are playing strongly in Europe," another European official said. "What European leaders are doing right now is asking questions and hoping for some clarifications."

There are two investigations of American practices under way, one by the 25-member European Union and the other by the Council of Europe, a 46-member group founded after World War II that specializes in human rights inquiries. The United States sits on the council as an official observer.

A European official said Mr. Straw presided over a tense meeting of European foreign ministers on Nov. 21, where several of them voiced growing unease over the allegations of secret prisons and harsh treatment that some view as torture, a characterization the administration disputes categorically.

In response, Mr. Straw agreed to draft a letter to Ms. Rice seeking "clarifications."

Mr. McCormack said the letter had not arrived as of Tuesday afternoon. It was not known whether Europe would demand to know the locations of detention facilities, whose operations would have to be arranged with at least the tacit permission of the individual governments.

After The Washington Post reported that detention camps had been used in unidentified Eastern European countries, Human Rights Watch and other advocacy groups in Europe said that based on aircraft flight records, Poland and Romania might have been host to such sites or might have otherwise cooperated with the Americans. Both countries have denied the allegations.

Meanwhile, separate allegations spread in Europe, raising questions about the possible use of European airports or air bases for the transport of terror suspects.

On Monday, the justice and home affairs commissioner for the European Union, Franco Frattini, said in Berlin that any member found to have permitted detention camps could face "serious consequences," including a loss of voting rights in the union. But other European officials say there is no legal basis for such an action.

Administration officials said this week that they were taken aback by the intensity of the European reaction to the reports. They acknowledged that the furor had been fed by two years of disclosures about American treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and in Afghanistan.

The uproar has been especially strong in Spain, Germany, Italy, Romania and Poland. Although the British press has covered the issue extensively, the government there has not been critical of the American position.

The Council of Europe's investigation has been led by Dick Marty, a Swiss lawmaker, who said last week in Romania that he did not believe there was a prison in the region comparable to the one in Guantánamo.

"But it is possible that there were detainees that stayed 10, 15 or 30 days," Mr. Marty told reporters. "We do not have the full picture."

Administration officials say that despite the bad publicity in Europe, the United States is continuing to work closely with Europe on various issues and that those efforts have not been affected by the controversy.

Steven R. Weisman reported from Washington for this article, and Ian Fisher from Rome

LINK

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Torture; It's not just for Jesus anymore.

 
...and with this, we bid you all a good night.

Mystery Train (Everytime you think it can't get any worse....)

    By William Rivers Pitt
    t r u t h o u t | Perspective

    Tuesday 29 November 2005

    The Abu Ghraib images were bad enough.

There they were, fresh-faced American soldiers presiding over the systematic torture and humiliation of Iraqis with big smiles and thumbs up. There was the Iraqi corpse, wrapped in a bag and festooned with blood, and a toothsome female American soldier grinning like a kid at Christmas as she leaned over the body. There was the man menaced by a dog being restrained on a leash by an American soldier, and there was the same man in a subsequent photo with a huge, bloody chunk ripped out of his leg.

Now we have these videos, these so-called Aegis videos, allegedly showing contractors in Iraq driving the road between Baghdad and the airport. In the video, men speaking with Irish or Scottish accents use an assault rifle to indiscriminately blast other cars on the road. The video shows cars peppered with bullets careening to and fro, crashing into each other and rolling into the trees. In the background, Elvis Presley can be heard singing "Mystery Train."

The UK Telegraph, reporting on the video, states, "The video, which first appeared on a website that has been linked unofficially to Aegis Defence Services, contained four separate clips, in which security guards open fire with automatic rifles at civilian cars. All of the shooting incidents apparently took place on 'route Irish', a road that links the airport to Baghdad."

"The video first appeared on the website www.aegisIraq.co.uk," continued the Telegraph. "The website states: 'This site does not belong to Aegis Defence Ltd, it belongs to the men on the ground who are the heart and soul of the company.' The clips have been removed."

The road where these videotaped attacks took place, continued the Telegraph report, "has acquired the dubious distinction of being the most dangerous in the world because of the number of suicide attacks and ambushes carried out by insurgents against coalition troops. In one four-month period earlier this year it was the scene of 150 attacks."

That last paragraph begs the obvious question: who exactly is doing the attacking along route Irish, and elsewhere in Iraq for that matter? The fact that this unspeakable act was captured on video, soundtrack and all, does not in any way preclude the probability that this was not the first time a non-Iraqi decided to pass the time by slaughtering innocent people.

An investigation into the substance of this video is onging.

Indeed, there is a substantial body of evidence to suggest that private security contractors in Iraq (who can simply be called mercenaries once we dispense with the euphemisms), who operate beyond any rules or controls, have often engaged in attacks upon Iraqi civilians. One such body of evidence is, in fact, a body.

His name was Ted Westhusing, and he was a colonel in the US Army. A scholar of military ethics and a full professor at West Point, Westhusing volunteered to serve in Iraq in 2004 because he believed the experience would help him teach his students the meaning of honor in uniform. Once in Iraq, he was tasked to oversee a private security company from Virginia called USIS, which had received a $79 million contract to train Iraqi police in special operations. 

 As the months passed, Westhusing's mood darkened. He received reports that USIS contractors and their Iraqi trainees were killing Iraqi civilians, and that USIS was ripping off the US government by deliberately shorting the number of trainees in the fold so as to increase profits. Westhusing the ethicist became despondent, finding no honor whatsoever in his Iraq service.

 One day in June, Westhusing's body was found in a trailer with a bullet wound to the head. His service pistol was found beside him, along with a note. "I cannot support a mission that leads to corruption, human rights abuse and liars. I am sullied," the note read. "I came to serve honorably and feel dishonored. Death before being dishonored any more."

Westhusing's body was flown home to the United States, where it was greeted by his wife, Michelle, and an unidentified lieutenant colonel who had befriended Westhusing at West Point. The lieutenant colonel asked Michelle what had happened to her husband. She replied, simply, "Iraq."

An Army investigation into the allegations raised against USIS is ongoing.

Highly-paid mercenaries are not the only ones who are apparently indiscriminately killing Iraqi civilians. The New York Times editorial board, in an article titled 'Shake and Bake,' published on Tuesday, felt the need to scold the US military for using horrific chemical weapons in battle - weapons that reportedly have caused serious civilian casualties.

"White phosphorus, which dates to World War II, should have been banned generations ago," wrote the Times. "Packed into an artillery shell, it explodes over a battlefield in a white glare that can illuminate an enemy's positions. It also rains balls of flaming chemicals, which cling to anything they touch and burn until their oxygen supply is cut off. They can burn for hours inside a human body. But white phosphorus has made an ugly comeback. Italian television reported that American forces used it in Fallujah last year against insurgents."

"At first," continued the Times, "the Pentagon said the chemical had been used only to illuminate the battlefield, but had to backpedal when it turned out that one of the Army's own publications talked about using white phosphorus against insurgent positions, a practice well known enough to have one of those unsettling military nicknames: 'shake and bake.' The Pentagon says white phosphorus was never aimed at civilians, but there are lingering reports of civilian victims. The military can't say whether the reports are true and does not intend to investigate them, a decision we find difficult to comprehend."

The charges against Aegis have not been proven. The charges against USIS have not been proven. The charge that the US military aimed white phosphorous chemical weapons at civilians has not been proven. In each instance, however, the charges are supported by substantial evidence.

Journalist Seymour Hersh, in a recent New Yorker article titled 'Up In the Air,' described the administration's view of the spiraling madness taking place in Iraq. He recounts the comments of a former defense official who served in Bush's first term. According to Hersh, "'The President is more determined than ever to stay the course,'" the former defense official said. "'He doesn't feel any pain. Bush is a believer in the adage "People may suffer and die, but the Church advances."'"

"He said that the President had become more detached," continued Hersh, "leaving more issues to Karl Rove and Vice-President Cheney." "'They keep him in the gray world of religious idealism, where he wants to be anyway,'" the former defense official said. Bush's public appearances, for example, are generally scheduled in front of friendly audiences, most often at military bases. Four decades ago, President Lyndon Johnson, who was also confronted with an increasingly unpopular war, was limited to similar public forums. "'Johnson knew he was a prisoner in the White House,'" the former official said, "'but Bush has no idea.'"

We are all prisoners on this mystery train. God only knows where it will lead. (God knows only too well; it has and will continue to lead to a hell of our own making.)

 

George W Bush is a true nut job and we need to get him out of power, as quickly as humanly possible, along with his psychotic Vice and his good buddy Rummy, who apparently is... rummy. 


    William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.

God And Caesar in America: An Essay on Religion and Politics

BUZZFLASH REVIEWS

--> Get Your Copy Here <--

Former Colorado Senator Gary Hart has written the most compelling, cogent contemporary treatise for the separation of church and state in America that we have come across. Titled "God and Caesar in America: An Essay on Religion and Politics," Hart's work is in the tradition of Tom Paine.

This is a trenchant, earnest commentary that combines Hart's personal experience as a child raised in a Church of the Nazarene household (he attended a Nazarene College), his years as a Yale Divinity student, and his career as a Yale Law School educated attorney and elected politician. Although his faith-based upbringing combined with his years as a national leader in the Senate provide him with a unique perspective, it is the eloquent, impassioned analysis that Hart applies to the interjection of religion into politics that makes his short book so insightful.

Hart can move from analyzing the deplorable manner in which right wing ministers hold Jesus hostage to achieve their own selfish political goals to the historical factors behind the separation of church and state that were enshrined into our Constitution by our founding fathers. More importantly, Hart makes a moral and practical case as to why mixing religion with politics is detrimental to both.

"Our founders knew that we would be governed by fallible human beings," Hart concludes, "from among whom we would select our leaders. They did not believe that human fallibility in the political sphere would be corrected by opening the corridors of power to ministers, priests and rabbis. To the contrary, to turn over the reigns of government to religious leaders could lead to one of only two destructive consequences: we would become a theocratic principality familiar to old Europe or religion would be totally discredited and taken over by the state."

"Indeed, how can religious judgment all seem to be rendered against one political party?" Hart asks in a chapter called, "Beliefs, Values and Justice." "The 'values' employed are very partisan values. All this religious partisanship is a very short step away from preaching that Jesus was a member of one political party."

"This kind of political activity may encourage one party," Hart continues, "and its candidates, but it certainly does nothing to further the gospel of Jesus."

Indeed, in the original debates over the Constitution, one of the reasons religion was guaranteed the right to be free of the influence of politics -- and politics to be kept free of religion -- was that once a specific religious faction took control of politics, that religion itself would eventually become corrupted by the secular, practical concerns of the political sphere.

Hart convincingly argues that religious values, as seen by a member of any faith, should be practiced in deed in the public sphere, but that absolutist religious principles have no place in the political world of the American democracy.

Because of the absolutist nature of the religious right, we have seen less and less compromise in American politics. "This circumstance has been created in no small part by the introduction of absolutes, especially 'faith-based' absolutes, into a political system, where no single group gets everything that it demands, and often does not even get one thing it wants unblemished by compromise."

Hart is optimistic that the pendulum will swing back to the heritage of our Constitutional wisdom creating the separation of church and state: "Politicians hiding behind the robes of ministers, policy makers courting a vociferous religious element, adventurers cloaking foreign military ventures in the crusader's rhetoric, political manipulators cynically using public fears to turn out voters all will be swept back into our nation's nooks and crannies from whence they emerged. This must happen, because America cannot be governed otherwise."

"God and Caesar in America" is a profound and vitally important reflection on the danger to our democracy posed by religious fanatics who have seized control of our government. This is a must-read book for anyone concerned about the Mullah fundamentalists who have hijacked this nation.

Jews and the Christian right: Is the honeymoon over?

Worried by increasingly strident evangelical rhetoric, Jewish leaders have finally dared to criticize conservative Christians. Will an alliance held together only by a shared support for Israel survive?

By Michelle Goldberg

Nov. 29, 2005 | Throughout the last five years, as the Christian right has assumed ever greater power and prominence in America, the organized Jewish community has been remarkably quiescent. Traditionally, Jewish leaders have been among the most vigilant guardians of American secularism, seeing the separation of church and state as key to Jewish equality. But faced with an evangelical president who seemed inviolable and an alliance of convenience with the religious right over Israel, Jewish leaders didn't raise much of an outcry when billions of taxpayer dollars were diverted toward religious charities through Bush's faith-based initiative. They didn't make a fuss when the administration filled the bureaucracy with veterans of groups like the Family Research Council and the Christian Coalition. As leaders of the religious right and their allies in the Republican Party trumpeted plans to "take America back," observers detected growing anxiety among ordinary American Jews, but there was little response from organized Jewry.

This month, that started to change. Two major Jewish figures -- Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, and Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism -- have taken on the religious right and, by extension, the Republican Party. By doing so, they have enraged some evangelicals and opened a fissure in the larger Jewish community. Some leaders are worried about provoking a conservative backlash and ushering in a new era of anti-Semitism. Others rejoice that someone has finally articulated what so many ordinary American Jews have been thinking. Either way, the culture wars have suddenly taken on an overtly sectarian cast.

On Nov. 3, Abraham Foxman gave a speech to an ADL meeting, calling attacks on church-state separation the "key domestic challenge to the American Jewish community and to our democratic values." "[T]oday we face a better financed, more sophisticated, coordinated, unified, energized, and organized coalition of groups in opposition to our policy positions on church-state separation than ever before," he said. "Their goal is to implement their Christian worldview. To Christianize America. To save us!" Among the major players in this campaign, Foxman listed Focus on the Family, the Alliance Defense Fund, the American Family Association and the Family Research Council.

Foxman lamented the divisions in the Jewish community over the issue, noting that there is much less unity than there was 15 years ago. Nor could Jews count on their old allies in the civil rights struggles -- African-Americans and Latinos -- for help. Those bonds have withered; those groups no longer tend to see church-state separation as a vital condition for minority rights. With the America that Jews have prospered in threatening to disappear, Foxman called for a meeting of Jewish leadership to plan a coordinated strategy.

One person who plans to be there is Rabbi Eric Yoffie, whose group is the largest Jewish organization in the country, representing more than 900 congregations. Two weeks after Foxman's broadside, Yoffie blasted the religious right in a sermon delivered to around 5,000 people at the Union's biannual convention in Houston. Yoffie says he hadn't coordinated with Foxman, but the two share some of the same concerns -- though Yoffie approaches the issue from a religious rather than a political perspective.

"We are particularly offended by the suggestion that the opposite of the religious right is the voice of atheism," he told his audience. "We are appalled when 'people of faith' is used in such a way that it excludes us, as well as most Jews, Catholics and Muslims. What could be more bigoted than to claim that you have a monopoly on God and that anyone who disagrees with you is not a person of faith?"

Much of Yoffie's sermon argued that for many Jews, liberalism is the result of religious values, not their antithesis. Being a liberal believer, he said, "means believing that religion involves concern for the poor and the needy, and giving a fair shake to all. When people talk about God and yet ignore justice, it just feels downright wrong to us. When they cloak themselves in religion and forget mercy, it strikes us as blasphemy. "

And then he launched into the most controversial part of his sermon -- an impassioned denunciation of right-wing homophobia that invoked the historical parallel of Nazism. "We understand those who believe that the Bible opposes gay marriage, even though we read that text in a very different way," he said. "But we cannot understand why any two people who make a lifelong commitment to each other should be denied legal guarantees that protect them and their children and benefit the broader society. We cannot forget that when Hitler came to power in 1933, one of the first things that he did was ban gay organizations. And today, we cannot feel anything but rage when we hear about gay men and women, some on the front lines, being hounded out of our armed services. Yes, we can disagree about gay marriage. But there is no excuse for hateful rhetoric that fuels the hellfires of anti-gay bigotry."

Yoffie's sermon was more than 8,000 words long, and ranged over all kinds of subjects. By all accounts, though, the crowd responded most enthusiastically to his salvos against the religious right. This was something that American Jews have been desperate to hear from their leadership, but much of that leadership has been unable or unwilling to say it. As the Jewish newspaper the Forward wrote in an editorial, "There are many reasons to applaud this month's back-to-back speeches by Abe Foxman and Eric Yoffie on the dangers of the religious right, but here's the most important: They have given voice to something their constituents have been thinking and feeling for a long time."

Why the silence until now? Part of it has to do with Israel. Christian Zionism, inspired by end-times beliefs that make the return of Jews to Israel a precondition for the second coming, has made American evangelicals the world's staunchest backers of Israeli hawks. (Their Jewish allies usually choose to ignore the fact that the Christian Zionist's apocalyptic scenario ends with unsaved Jews being slaughtered and condemned to hell.) But while evangelicals support Israel for their own eschatological reasons, there have been threats, implicit and explicit, that such support might weaken if Jews oppose their domestic agenda too aggressively. Indeed, in response to Foxman's speech, Tom Minnery, vice president of government and public policy at Focus on the Family, told the Forward, "If you keep bullying your friends, pretty soon you won't have any.'" (Neither he nor anyone else from Focus on the Family returned a call for comment from Salon.)

According to JJ Goldberg, the Forward's editor, such warnings issue from inside the administration as well. "The timing here is crucial," he says. "The Bush administration is imploding, so the fear of White House retaliation is much lower than it was. That was a very real fear. It wasn't just a theoretical fear about Israel. It was threats. Play nice or you won't be able to come in and talk to us about the things you need. The major Jewish organizations, either individually or working through AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee], they go in every week because there's all kinds of stuff they need -- a missile, a box of bullets, intelligence sharing. It's good for them to be able to play that role and it's good for Israel and the United States to have an intermediary. In Tom DeLay's Washington, if you didn't play nice, you didn't get to walk in the door. So there has been this silence, coupled with the fact that they didn't think they could win." (Of course, not all Jews support AIPAC or the Israeli right, but those who don't have little presence and less influence in Washington.)

Yoffie, for his part, says his group never had access to the White House, but agrees that the dynamic Goldberg describes has affected the broader Jewish community. "Does that operate in the Jewish community? Sure. Does it work for us? Absolutely not. We say what we think." Yet the reason his speech has received so much attention both inside the Jewish world and outside, he suggests, is because the Bush administration is under attack more broadly, and so there's more space for dissent.

There's still plenty of anxiety among parts of the Jewish community over what Foxman and Yoffie are doing. Rabbi Yechiel Z. Eckstein, founder and chairman of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews -- and a former staffer at the ADL -- predicts that Foxman's call for a united Jewish front is doomed to fail, since other Jewish leaders won't want to take on the religious right. Eckstein's entire career is devoted to being a liaison between evangelicals and Jews -- his organization raises money from Christians for Jews in Israel and in the diaspora, and he's an advisor to Ariel Sharon and a goodwill ambassador to the state of Israel. Conservative Christian support is crucial for Jews in both Israel and America, he says, and it's folly to attack them.

Eckstein says that it's the liberal Protestant churches that have turned on Israel by calling for divestment. Meanwhile, secular Europe treats Israel like a pariah. "And who are the only ones who are coming out and standing with Israel? The evangelical Christians," Eckstein says. Eckstein acknowledges Foxman's fear about the erosion of church-state separation, but thinks any danger posed by the American religious right pales beside the threats to Israel. "Jews need to always be on guard for their survival as Jews, and for their rights as Jews here in America, but I don't believe that those rights are threatened to the point that Jewish leaders like Abe Foxman should try to galvanize the Jewish community and start a battle with a constituency that includes the president of the United States, and that includes such a large part of the Republican Party and such a large part of America," he says. "I don't think it's reached that point that Jews should be alienating their greatest friends in the real battle of Jewish survival."

When I spoke to Eckstein, he had just gotten off the phone with someone from Focus on the Family. Christian leaders, he said, feel hurt and victimized by Foxman's speech. And he feared what might result: "Rhetoric can create an anti-Jewish feeling among good Bible-believing Christians," he says. "Certainly in the evangelical world they're very focused on their leadership. It's very different than the Jewish community -- most of the Jewish community doesn't care what Abe Foxman says. If their pastor says that black is white and white is black, well, the pastor said so. If leaders themselves start to say it's the Jews who are preventing us from having a moral society in America … that's what we saw in history."

Goldberg dismisses Eckstein's argument as contradictory. "You can't on the one hand make a claim that we don't need to defend ourselves because we are essentially in a good place, and at the same time argue that we shouldn't defend ourselves because we are so vulnerable that we could lose everything in a minute," he says.

In fact, neither is true. Jews in America aren't endangered, but the power of the religious right has clearly reached a point where a great many feel exceedingly nervous. The fear is not of pogroms or outright discrimination; rather, it's of the disappearance of the secular civic culture that allowed Jews to feel like full citizens of America rather than a tolerated minority.

Throughout the last decade, the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish groups had reached a kind of accommodation with the religious right that was based in part on Christian leaders toning down their more theocratic rhetoric. In 1995, Ralph Reed, then the executive director of the Christian Coalition, addressed the ADL and apologetically acknowledged that much of his movement's language alarmed Jews. "This is true not only of the blatant wrongs of a few -- those who claimed that 'God does not hear the prayers of Jews,' those who said that this is a 'Christian nation,' suggesting that others may not be welcome, and those who say that the only prayers uttered in public school should be Christian prayers. It is also true because of the thoughtless lapses of many -- the use of religious-military metaphors, a false and patronizing philo-Semitism, and the belief that being pro-Israel somehow answers for all other insensitivity to Jewish concerns."

Such sensitivity has virtually vanished from today's religious right, replaced with a triumphalist religious nationalism. Foxman was especially alarmed by the situation at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., where, according to numerous reports, a climate of outright religious bigotry prevailed. Some faculty members introduced themselves to their classes as born-again Christians and encouraged their charges to convert. Upperclassmen exerted similar pressure on undergraduates; one Jewish cadet was slurred as a Christ killer. Several cadets have filed a lawsuit.

Even more disturbing to Foxman than the abuses themselves was the religious right's response when they came to light. Few were apologetic -- instead, they declared themselves the victims. When Democratic Rep. David Obey offered an amendment to a defense appropriations bill calling for an investigation into the situation at the academy, Republican John Hostettler stood up and said, "The long war on Christianity in America continues today on the floor of the House of Representatives."

When the Air Force adopted guidelines intended to remedy the situation, the religious right reacted furiously. The guidelines didn't prevent senior officers from proselytizing to those under their authority, though they did urge them to be "sensitive." They also called for public prayers to be non-sectarian. Christian conservative leaders interpreted this as an assault, and 70 congressmen joined movement representatives in signing a letter to President Bush decrying the guidelines and asking him to issue an executive order protecting "the constitutional right of military chaplains to pray according to their faith."

"There is an arrogance in their efforts to pull every institution toward Christianity," says Foxman. "It's a concerted effort to use government to achieve that which religion should achieve in the open marketplace." The more theocratic elements of the religious right -- elements Reed tried to marginalize, at least in public -- have now taken center stage. A decade ago, Foxman says, the drive to Christianize America "wasn't in the open, it wasn't as blatant, it wasn't as aggressive."

As Foxman said in his speech, "Make no mistake: We are facing an emerging Christian right leadership that intends to 'Christianize' all aspects of American life, from the halls of government to the libraries, to the movies, to recording studios, to the playing fields and local rooms of professional collegiate and amateur sport, from the military to SpongeBob SquarePants."

Given this onslaught, Jews can't simply cede their place in America in exchange for support for Israel. Speaking of those who caution him not to disturb the Jewish-evangelical alliance, Foxman says, "If we cannot disagree, what kind of a friendship is it?"

-- By Michelle Goldberg

 LINK

Bullies in the White House Pulpit

As the Bush Administration digs in its heels on Iraq, the tide runs stronger against it. At the beginning of the summer, there were protests led by Cindy Sheehan. Then, public sentiment turned negative on the war. After protracted waffling, Congressional Democrats united to demand a withdrawal timetable. Last week, Republic Senators began abandoning battleship Bush.

READ ON

Monday, November 28, 2005

Bush and Cheney Knew; How godamned clear does it have to be>?

Buried deep in an article by the Washington Post’s media writer Howard Kurtz is new evidence that senior Bush administration officials knew their case for war with Iraq was shaky – and that the Post’s star reporter Bob Woodward ducked his duty to the American people to present this information before the invasion began.

Toward the end of a lengthy Style section piece on Nov. 28, Kurtz makes reference to an interview he did with Woodward in 2004, in which the famed Watergate reporter laments his failure to turn a more critical eye on the Bush administration’s claims about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction.

In the new article, Kurtz wrote, “Woodward has faulted himself for not being more aggressive before the war when three sources told him the weapons intelligence on Iraq was not as strong as the administration was claiming. ‘I blame myself mightily for not pushing harder,’ he said last year.”

That Woodward quote about blaming himself came from an Aug. 12, 2004, article that Kurtz wrote about shortcomings in the Post’s pre-war coverage of the WMD issue. But that article made no reference to Woodward having three of his own presumably well-placed sources challenging the administration’s WMD intelligence.

Instead, Kurtz’s 2004 article focused on Woodward’s pre-invasion efforts to help Post investigative reporter Walter Pincus polish up one of his story that raised doubts about the WMD assertions. But without Woodward’s full participation, the Pincus story ended up stuck on Page A17, a marginal item that did little to deter the march to war.

Without doubt, a co-bylined story with Woodward – that added the gravitas of Woodward’s three administration sources – would have landed the story on Page One. Such a story might then have had a serious impact on the national debate about whether a preemptive invasion of Iraq was justified.

Woodward's Risks

But if Woodward had written such a story, he would have been risking his journalistic reputation – if WMD were later discovered – as well as his cozy relationship with the Bush administration, which granted him extraordinary access for his best-selling books on Bush’s decision-making, Bush at War and Plan of Attack.

In the 2004 Kurtz article, Woodward observed that journalists risked looking silly if they questioned the administration’s WMD claims and then the U.S.-led invasion force found the weapons.

Woodward also noted the complaints about “groupthink” in the U.S. intelligence community on Iraq’s WMD, adding, “I think I was part of the groupthink. …We should have warned readers we had information that the basis for this was shakier” than widely believed. [See Washington Post, Aug. 12, 2004.]

Given Woodward’s high-level access inside the Bush administration, WMD doubts expressed by his sources would have carried far more weight than those of other reporters who were seen as speaking more from the perspective of mid-level government officials.

Woodward is known to talk with officials in the government’s stratosphere, including top State Department officials such as Colin Powell and Richard Armitage as well as senior military officers at the Pentagon and top political operatives at the White House. So a Woodward-bylined story citing doubts about the WMD intelligence would have sent shockwaves through the Washington Establishment.

But during the run-up to war, Woodward chose to remain in the background, boosting the skeptical reporting of Pincus – even suggesting how Pincus might rewrite some paragraphs of one pivotal story – but not getting out front..

As Kurtz described in the 2004 article, Woodward's moment of truth came in mid-March 2003 as Bush was putting the finishing touches on his war plan and Pincus was hitting walls inside the Post against publication of a skeptical article about the WMD evidence.

“Woodward stepped in to give the stalled Pincus piece about the administration's lack of evidence a push,” Kurtz wrote. “As a star of the Watergate scandal who is given enormous amounts of time to work on his best-selling books, Woodward, an assistant managing editor, had the kind of newsroom clout that Pincus lacked.”

Woodward said he compared notes with Pincus and volunteered a draft of five paragraphs that concluded that the administration’s WMD evidence “looks increasingly circumstantial and even shaky,” according to “informed sources.”

According to Kurtz’s article, Woodward urged editors to run the Pincus article, though Woodward later faulted himself for not intervening with executive editor Leonard Downie to ensure that the Pincus article landed on Page One. Instead, the article questioning “whether administration officials have exaggerated intelligence” ran on March 16, relegated to the back pages of the national news section.

Woodward told Kurtz that “he wished he had appealed to Downie to get front-page play for the story, rather than standing by as it ended up on Page A17,” according to Kurtz’s 2004 article. Bush launched the invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003.

Commenting more than a year after the invasion, Downie said: “In retrospect, that probably should have been on Page One instead of A17, even though it wasn't a definitive story and had to rely on unnamed sources. It was a very prescient story.”

Access to Bush

If bolstered by Woodward’s three sources and his co-byline, the story would have almost surely demanded Page One treatment. That would, however, have put Woodward access to Bush and other top administration officials in jeopardy.

That, in turn, could have meant fewer details available for Woodward’s best-selling book, Plan of Attack, which was published in spring 2004. A highlight of the book was a lengthy one-on-one interview with President Bush, who is known to be vengeful against people whom he sees as betraying him.

Yet, as the U.S. death toll in Iraq exceeds 2,100 (along with tens of thousands of Iraqis), many Americans have become markedly less sympathetic to the career predicaments of Washington journalists, especially multi-millionaires like Woodward.

Media critics also have questioned how Woodward has chosen to balance his duty to provide timely reporting on important issues against his friendly relations with the White House. Woodward, who is writing another book on Bush’s presidency, has been faulted, too, for withholding information about an administration official leaking to him information about the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame in mid-June 2003.

Woodward has since defended his reticence as necessary to protect the source. But rather than just keep quiet, Woodward went on TV to attack special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald as a “junkyard dog” for pressing journalists to divulge who inside the administration had outed Plame in 2003 after her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, challenged Bush’s assertions about Iraq seeking enriched uranium from Niger.

Woodward also misled the public about what he knew regarding the Plame leak. On CNN’s “Larry King Live” on Oct. 27, 2005, Woodward denied rumors then swirling around Washington that he had “bombshell” information about the outing of Plame.

“I wish I did have a bombshell,” Woodward said. “I don’t even have a firecracker. I’m sorry. In fact, I mean this tells you something about the atmosphere here. … This went around that I was going to do it tonight or in the paper. Finally, Len Downie, who is the editor of the Washington Post, called me and said, ‘I hear you have a bombshell. Would you let me in on it?’ And I said, ‘I’m sorry to disappoint you but I don’t.’”

The Post later reported that Woodward revised his story to Downie, telling the editor that, in fact, Woodward was a recipient of possibly the earliest leak of Plame’s identity.

According to the Post’s chronology, Woodward told Downie this fact shortly before special prosecutor Fitzgerald announced the Oct. 28 indictment of vice presidential chief of staff Lewis Libby on charges of lying to FBI investigators, committing perjury before the grand jury and obstructing justice. Libby has pleaded not guilty.

But back on Oct. 27, while still denying the “bombshell,” Woodward dismissed Fitzgerald’s investigation as much ado about nothing.

“When the story comes out, I’m quite confident we’re going to find out that it started kind of as gossip, as chatter and that somebody learned that Joe Wilson’s wife had worked at the CIA and helped him get this job going to Niger to see if there was an Iraq/Niger uranium deal. And there’s a lot of innocent actions in all of this,” Woodward said on CNN.

It’s unclear why Woodward saw only “innocent actions in all of this.” Two years earlier, a senior White House official told another Washington Post writer that at least six reporters had been informed about Plame before her name appeared in a July 14, 2003, column by conservative writer Robert Novak. The White House official said the disclosures about Plame were “purely and simply out of revenge.”

The outing of Plame, a covert officer working under what’s called “non-official cover,” destroyed her career as a counter-proliferation specialist, while also exposing her cover company – Brewster Jennings & Associates – and possibly agents whom she recruited.

Yet, on the eve of Libby’s indictment, Woodward was offering advice to Fitzgerald via CNN, that it would be best if the prosecutor left well enough alone.

“I don’t see an underlying crime here and the absence of the underlying crime may cause somebody who is a really thoughtful prosecutor to say, you know, maybe this is not one to go to the court with,” Woodward said. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Woodward & Washington’s ‘Tipping Point.’”]

So, Woodward, the journalistic hero in exposing Richard Nixon’s Watergate cover-up three decades ago, engaged in at least two instances of protecting dubious information emanating from George W. Bush’s White House.

Not only did Woodward withhold evidence that pre-war WMD intelligence was suspect, he added his clout to a post-invasion public relations campaign aimed at heading off criminal indictments of White House officials who had retaliated against an Iraq War critic by leaking classified information that endangered a covert CIA officer and her contacts.

To make matters worse, both these abuses of information came not on some garden-variety political dirty trick but on life-and-death questions about the administration’s integrity in leading the nation to war.

While it may be true that few of Washington’s elite know the mostly working-class men and women in the all-volunteer U.S. military, the moral weight of their sacrifices – and their deaths – should have some bearing on the consciences in the nation’s capital. Career advancement and seven-figure book contracts might for once take a back seat.


Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

LINK