Just Foreign Policy Iraqi Death Estimator    

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Art For Boys (And McLesbians)


Hey Ally, some servant girls from me to you.

Hell yes Momma.

The invasion of Iraq was the “greatest strategic disaster in United States history,” a retired Army general said yesterday

Retired general: Iraq

invasion was

‘strategic disaster'

By EVAN LEHMANN, Sun Washington Bureau
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WASHINGTON -- The invasion of Iraq was the “greatest strategic disaster in United States history,” a retired Army general said yesterday, strengthening an effort in Congress to force an American withdrawal beginning next year.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. William Odom, a Vietnam veteran, said the invasion of Iraq alienated America's Middle East allies, making it harder to prosecute a war against terrorists.

The U.S. should withdraw from Iraq, he said, and reposition its military forces along the Afghan-Pakistani border to capture Osama bin Laden and crush al Qaeda cells.

“The invasion of Iraq I believe will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history,” said Odom, now a scholar with the Hudson Institute.

Homeward Bound, a bipartisan resolution with 60 House co-sponsors, including Lowell Rep. Marty Meehan, requests President Bush to announce plans for a draw-down by December, and begin withdrawing troops by October 2006.

The measure has not been voted on, nor has the House Republican leadership scheduled hearings. But supporters were encouraged yesterday, pointing to growing support among moderate conservatives and the public's rising dissatisfaction with the war.

Meehan, one of the first to propose a tiered exit strategy in January, when few of his Democratic colleagues dared wade into the controversial debate, pointed to “enormous progress.”

“Talking about this issue, having hearings on this issue, getting more Americans to focus on it will result in a change of policy,” Meehan told The Sun. “The generals and commanders on the field in Iraq overwhelmingly are saying we need less in terms of occupation and more Iraqis up front, and that's the only strategy I think that will result in getting American troops back home.”

Breaking Story 3 Australians 2 Americans killed in Bali blasts

Among the injured were 49 Indonesians, 19 Australians, six Koreans, three Japanese 3 Canadian and two Americans, a hospital official said, adding that the others had yet to been identified.

Updates to Follow

Guantanamo- Modern Nazi Camps

9/30/2005 5:15:00 PM GMT

The U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is similar to the Nazi camps during the 1940s, Mustafa Sami, columnist at Al-Ahram, an Egyptian paper, wrote.

"The anti-black racism exposed by Hurricane Katrina is not the only disgrace hounding the Bush administration in the U.S. There is another disgrace that the world is talking about, which concerns the 600 prisoners at the Guantanamo camp, and which has greatly damaged the reputation of the American ‘democracy’.

"This can be called the first massacre of the 21st century; it is being perpetrated by the Bush administration against 200 Muslims, mostly Arabs, who have been hunger-striking for the past three weeks. This premeditated crime is taking place before the eyes of the [entire] world, but not a single conscience has awakened to demand that the slaughter be halted and that these prisoners be rescued from death.

"This murderous crime runs counter to all laws, conventions, and moral standards, [yet] none [stand up to] defend its victims. In the future, it will leave its dark marknot only on the forehead of the Bush administration, but also on the faces of several Arab governments – [since] more than 80% of the prisoners and hunger strikers in this concentration camp are their subjects.

"This camp takes us back to the time of Nazi persecution of innocent people in the early 1940s. The U.S., which in the 20th century played a major role with the Allies in closing down the Nazi camps and liberating Europe from the Nazi massacres, has, in the early 21st century, reestablished a detention camp in Cuba, which is very much like the Nazi camps, and where they [incarcerate] those whom they label enemy combatants.

"During the past four years, 10% of the Guantanamo prisoners have committed suicide, which is the highest suicide rate among prisoners anywhere in the world!

"According to American press reports, and statements by camp commanders, the 200 hunger-striking prisoners are in danger of dying, since their health deteriorated in the third week [of the strike]. Despite efforts by those in charge of the camp to force-feed them... while they were bound hand and foot to their beds, their health continues to deteriorate, while they insist on continuing their strike – since death has become the hope and desire of every prisoner.

"Where are the Arab human rights organizations – both civil and governmental – that we read about in the papers every day, and whose number has greatly increased in the past decade? Why aren't they standing up and cooperating with the [similar] organizations in the U.S. and in Europe, and why aren't they demanding that the prisoners be released or brought to a fair trial... after four years of inhuman and immoral torture and abuse? Isn't it the role of these organizations to protect the human rights of the Arab people?"

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Billion dollars plundered from Iraq’s military

9/21/2005 12:00:00 PM GMT

A billion dollars have vanished from the coffers of Iraq's Defense Ministry, seriously affecting the government's ability to secure the country, Iraq's Finance Minister said in an interview.

"Huge amounts of money have disappeared. In return we got nothing but scraps of metal," Finance Minister Ali Allawi told British newspaper, The Independent.

"It is possibly one of the largest thefts in history," he added.

The Independent said most of the money was "siphoned abroad in cash and has disappeared" to finance the purchase of weapons in Poland and Pakistan. But rather than buying state-of-the-art weaponry Iraq had procured "museum-piece weapons," the paper said.

The report also listed a number of problems with the weapons acquired including armored vehicles which "turned out to be so poorly made that even a bullet from an elderly AK-47 machine-gun could penetrate their armor". It added that other armored cars leaked so much oil that they had to be abandoned.

A shipment of the latest MP5 U.S. machine-guns turned out to be Egyptian copies worth a fraction of the price, according to the report.

"Many Iraqi soldiers and police have died because they were not properly equipped," The Independent said.

Most of the illegal contracts are said to have been signed under the previous government, led by Iyad Allawi, which served from June 28, 2004 until late February this year, Reuters reported. The former Defense Minister, Hazim Shaalan, is now living as a private citizen in Jordan. He has denied any wrongdoing.


The rip-offs were so huge, the report said, that Iraqi officials estimate that the Iraqis involved "were only front men and 'rogue elements' within the U.S. military and intelligence services may have played a decisive role behind the scenes".

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari has been informed of the problem "but the extent of the losses has become apparent only gradually. The sum missing was first reported as 300 million dollars and then 500 million dollars, but in fact it is at least twice as large," the report said.

"If you compare the amount that was allegedly stolen of about $1 billion compared with the budget of the ministry of defense, it is nearly 100 percent of the ministry's (procurement) budget that has gone AWOL (absent without leave)," Allawi told the Independent.

Allawi added that a further 500-600 million dollars had disappeared from the electricity, transport, interior and other ministries.

"This helps to explain why the supply of electricity in Baghdad has been so poor since the fall of Saddam Hussein 29 months ago despite claims by the U.S. and subsequent Iraqi governments that they are doing everything to improve power generation."

The newspaper reported that the total amount missing from all the ministries could reach 2 billion dollars.

UK forces free 2 soldiers from Iraqi jail
British forces stormed the central prison in the southern city of Basra on Monday and released two British soldiers, who were detained earlier in the day for shooting two Iraqi policemen while on an undercover mission, Iraqi Defense Ministry and Interior Ministry said, according to The Associated Press.

But the British government said the two soldiers were freed as a result of negotiations.

On Monday, Basra authorities arrested the two Britons, described as special forces commandos dressed in Arab clothing, for shooting two Iraqi police officers, one of whom died.

The arrests of the two British soldiers appeared to be the first public test of how far is the sovereignty of the Iraqi authorities. There have been no incidents of Iraqi officials arresting foreign soldiers operating in the country.

An Iraqi defense ministry official said more than 150 Iraqi detainees escaped the prison after the British forces rammed down the door. "A large force of British troops surrounded the police building, smashed down the main entrance with a vehicle, and freed the two Britons along with 150 prisoners," he said.

Mohammed al-Waili, the governor of Basra province, slammed the British forces for storming the jail, an act he described as "barbaric, savage and irresponsible". He said that the British force moved the detained soldiers to an unknown location, according to AP.

On the other hand, the British Ministry of Defense said that the two soldiers were released after negotiations. A spokesman confirmed the two soldiers had been freed, but declined to comment on the Iraqi report of an attack on the Basra prison.

"We're certainly not denying it, but we're not confirming it either," he said.

Other British Defense officials claimed that a wall was destroyed as British forces tried to "collect" the two soldiers, BBC reported.

More on Iraq...

Bishops demand apology to the Muslims for Iraq war
Iraq parliament signs off constitution, Kurdish MP killed
Car bomb kills 30 near Baghdad
Iraqis deprived of right to life – Annan
Iraq slams U.S.’s “illegal” detentions

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Military Fatalities To Date US 1933 UK 96 OTHERS 101


Who Did You Torture During The War, Daddy?

Now if I am to believe this story which I do, and there is ample evidence daily to prove so, this makes me Anti Bush and Anti any person who defends this regime in the White House, But for myself after very much soul serching this does not make me Anti American, I to believe that if you do not protest these tortures you have no right to say, Not in my Name you do this. If you do not make a stand then you are just as complicit as these torturers.

Or, We Are All Torturers Now

By Ted Rall

09/29/05 "ICH" -- -- NEW YORK--Never miss the Saturday paper. Because it's the skimpiest and least-circulated edition of the week, it's the venue of choice for lowballing the stories the government can't completely cover up. September 24's New York Times, for example, contained the bombshell revelation that the U.S. government continues to torture innocent men, women and children in Iraq.

An army captain and two sergeants from the elite 82nd Airborne Division confirm previous reports that Bagram and other concentration camps in U.S.-occupied Afghanistan are a kind of Torture University where American troops are taught how to abuse prisoners who have neither been charged with nor found guilty of any crime. "The soldiers told Human Rights Watch that while they were serving in Afghanistan," reports The Times, "they learned the stress techniques [sic] from watching Central Intelligence Agency operatives interrogating prisoners." Veterans who served as prison guards in Afghanistan went on to apply their newfound knowledge at Abu Ghraib and other facilities in U.S.-occupied Iraq.

One of the sergeants, his name withheld to protect him from Pentagon reprisals, confirms that torture continued even after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke. "We still did it, but we were careful," he told HRW.

The latest sordid revelations concern Tiger Base on the border with Syria, and Camp Mercury, near Fallujah, the Iraqi city leveled by U.S. bombs in a campaign that officials claimed would finish off the insurgent movement. After the army told him to shut up over the course of 17 months--tacit proof that the top brass condones torture--a frustrated Captain Ian Fishback wrote to two conservative Republican senators to tell them about the "death threats, beatings, broken bones, murder, exposure to elements, extreme forced physical exertion, hostage-taking, stripping, sleep deprivation and degrading treatment" carried out against Afghans and Iraqis unlucky enough to fall into American hands.

"We would give them blows to the head, chest, legs and stomach, and pull them down, kick dirt on them," one sergeant said. "This happened every day...We did it for amusement." Another soldier says detainees were beaten with a broken chemical light stick: "That made them glow in the dark, which was real funny, but it burned their eyes, and their skin was irritated real bad." An off-duty cook told an Iraqi prisoner "to bend over and broke the guy's leg with a...metal bat." The sergeant continues: "I know that now. It was wrong. There are a set of standards. But you gotta understand, this was the norm."

Torture, condemned by civilized nations and their citizens since the Renaissance, has continued to be carried out in prisons and internment camps in every nation. But save for a few exceptions, such as France's overt torture of Algerian independence fighters during the late 1950s, it has been hidden away, lied about and condemned when exposed. Torture is shameful. It is never official policy.

That changed in the United States after 9/11. Current attorney general Alberto Gonzales authored a convoluted legal memo to George W. Bush justifying torture. Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld joked about forcing prisoners to stand all day and officially sanctioned keeping them naked and threatening them with vicious dogs. Ultimately Bush declared that U.S. forces in Afghanistan would ignore the Geneva Conventions. By 2004 a third of Americans told pollsters that they didn't have a problem with torture.

Torture has been normalized.

By Monday, September 26, the story of torture at Camps Tiger and Mercury to which New York Times editors had granted page one treatment two days earlier had vanished entirely. Only a few papers, such as the Seattle Times and Los Angeles Times, ran follow-ups.

In his 2000 book "Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People: The Dynamics of Torture" John Conroy presciently describes the surprising means by which democracies are actually more susceptible to becoming "torture societies" than dictatorships: Where "notorious regimes have fallen, there has been a public acknowledgement that people were tortured. In democracies of long standing in which torture has taken place, however, denial takes hold and official acknowledgement is extremely slow in coming, if it appears at all." Conroy goes on to describe the "fairly predictable" stages of governmental response:

First, writes Conroy, comes "absolute and complete denial." Rumsfeld told Congress in 2004 that the U.S. had followed Geneva "to the letter" in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"The second stage," he says, is "to minimize the abuse." Republican mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh compared the murder and mayhem at Abu Ghraib to fraternity hazing rituals.

Next is "to disparage the victims." Bush Administration officials and right-wing pundits call the victims of torture in U.S. custody "terrorists," implying that detainees--who are not charged because there is no evidence against them--deserve whatever they get. Dick Cheney called victims of torture at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba (who, under U.S. law, are presumed innocent) "the worst of a very bad lot." Rumsfeld called them "the worst of the worst."

Other government tactics include charging "that those who take up the cause of those tortured are aiding the enemies of the state" (Right-wing bloggers have smeared me as a "terrorist sympathizer" because I argue against torture); denying that torture is still occurring (numerous Bush Administration officials claimed that Abu Ghraib marked the end of the practice); placing "the blame on a few bad apples" (the classic Fox News-Bush trope); and pointing out that "someone else does or has done much worse things" (the beheadings of Western hostages by Iraqi jihadi organizations was used to justify torturing Iraqis who didn't belong to those groups).

Bear in mind: Conroy wrote his book in 2000, before Bush seized power and more than a year before 9/11 was given as a pretext for legalizing torture.

Citing the case of widespread and proven torture of arrestees by Chicago cops, Conroy noted: "It wasn't a case of five people...doing nothing or acting slowly, it was a case of millions of people knowing of an emergency and doing nothing. People looked about, saw no great crusade forming, saw protests only from the usual agitators, and assumed there was no cause for alarm. Responsibility was diffused. Citizens offended by torture could easily retreat into the notion that they lived in a just world, that the experts would sort things out."

Ted Rall, America's hardest-hitting editorial cartoonist for Universal Press Syndicate, is an award-winning commentator who also works as an illustrator, columnist, and radio commentator. Visit his website http://www.tedrall.com/

Copyright © 2005 Yahoo! Inc.

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Captain Courageous

By Chris Floyd

09/30/05 "Moscow Times" -- -- Quietly, firmly, relentlessly, the good captain laid out the list of atrocities committed at the order of the enemies of freedom: "Death threats, beatings, broken bones, murder, exposure to elements, extreme forced physical exertion, hostage-taking, stripping, sleep deprivation and degrading treatment." A catalogue of depravity, all of it designed -- with diabolical sophistry -- by self-exalted men cloaking their violent perversions with sham piety and righteous sputum. This was terrorism on a grand scale, chewing up the innocent and guilty alike.

The good man is of course Captain Ian Fishback, the born-again U.S. Army officer who has blown the whistle on the systematic abuse of captives rounded up in President George W. Bush's War on Terror, The New York Times reports. Fishback, frustrated after 17 months of trying to get the atrocities investigated through official channels, finally turned to Human Rights Watch -- and top Republican senators -- seeking redress for the bloody dishonor that Bush has brought upon America.

In one sense, Fishback's revelations -- corroborated by other soldiers, now lying low to ward off the inevitable reprisals by Bush minions -- are not news. For example, this column has been detailing the use of torture in Bush's global gulag since January 2002. It was no secret; at first, the Bushists even bragged about it. "The gloves are coming off" was a favorite phrase of the deskbound tough guys cracking foxy to an enthralled media.

They also boasted of "unleashing" the CIA, which set up its own "shadow army" of non-uniformed combatants operating outside the law -- i.e., "terrorists," according to Bush's own definition -- while creating secret prisons all over the world. As one CIA op enthused to The Boston Globe: "'We are doing things I never believed we would do -- and I mean killing people!" A senior Bush official proudly pointed to the ultimate authority for this deadly system: "If the commander in chief didn't think it was appropriate, we wouldn't be doing it."

We now know that in the very first weeks of the War on Terror, White House legal lackeys began concocting weasel-worded "findings" to justify a range of Torquemadan techniques while shielding Bush honchos from prosecution for the clear breaches of U.S. and international law they were already planning. Bush and his top officials signed off on very specific torture parameters, including physical assault and psychological torment; even beating a captive to death was countenanced, as long the killer proclaimed that he had no murder in his heart when he commenced to whupping, The New York Review of Books reports. Indeed, the lackeys went so far as to establish a new principle of Executive Transcendence: The president, they claimed, could not be constrained by any law whatsoever in his conduct of the War on Terror.

Fishback saw the fruits of this vile labor in the vast Bushist holding pens in Iraq, where thousands upon thousands of Iraqis were herded, beaten and tortured -- even though 70 to 90 percent of them were innocent of any crime, the International Red Cross reported in 2004. The incidents he and the other soldiers detailed took place before, during -- and after -- the photographic revelations of torture at Abu Ghraib. The mayhem "happened every day," said the soldiers, and it was committed "under orders from military intelligence personnel to soften up detainees."

"They wanted intel," said a sergeant, one of the ordinary, untrained grunts pressed into duty as interrogation muscle. "As long as no [captives] came up dead, it happened. We kept it to broken arms and legs" -- sometimes with baseball bats, and occasionally augmented by scalding naked prisoners with burning chemicals. The soldiers learned their "stress techniques" from CIA interrogators, dropping into Iraq from their "unleashed" torture centers in Afghanistan, Diego Garcia and points unknown.

But of course they didn't always "keep it" to broken arms and legs. Fishback, who had been trying desperately to get his superiors to act on the atrocities he'd witnessed himself, discovered that a captive had been "interrogated" to death. From that point on, while still urging official action, he also began gathering evidence and testimony from fellow officers about the nightmarish regimen, the Los Angeles Times reports. When at long last he began to realize "that the Army is deliberately misleading the American people about detainee treatment within our custody," he stepped out of the system -- and into the storm.

What will come of the good captain's moral courage? Nothing much. A Pentagon investigation has been belatedly launched; no doubt a few more bad eggs will be fried, just as the hapless Lynndie England, poster girl for Abu Ghraib, was convicted this week for "aberrations" that, as Fishback confirms, were countenanced and encouraged throughout Iraq. Fishback himself will be certainly slimed in one of Karl Rove's patented smear campaigns. By next week, the upright, Bible-believing West Point grad -- a veteran of both the Afghan and Iraqi wars -- will be transformed by Fox News and the war-porn bloggers into a cowardly, anti-American terrorist sympathizer under the hypnotic control of Michael Moore.

Meanwhile, one of the Republican senators Fishback approached, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, has already put the kibosh on legislation setting clear legal guidelines for prisoner treatment. Frist, a goonish errand boy now under investigation for insider trading, killed the bill after hearing Fishback's evidence. His White House masters don't want any legal clarity for their dark deeds; they can only thrive in the murk of moral chaos.

One thing is certain: The true architects of these atrocities will never face justice. They'll go on to peaceful, prosperous retirements, heedless of the broken bodies and broken nations -- including their own -- left behind in their foul wake.

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Corpse pics traded for porn

No punishment at all. My the question has to be asked what happens when the shoes are on the other feet, and it is a certainty they believe an eye for an eye God a can of worms has been opened up here for all the innocent soldiers over there, who have lived up to the Geneva Convention.

Washington - The United States army is investigating complaints that soldiers posted photographs of Iraqi corpses on an internet site in exchange for access to pornographic images on the site, said officials.

A Washington-based Islamic civil rights group said it wrote a letter to defence secretary Donald H Rumsfeld to object to the practice, which it said might violate international rules of war, and urged the defence department to put a stop to it.

In a letter to Rumsfeld, a legal director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Arsalan Iftikhar, wrote: "This disgusting trade in human misery is an insult to all those who have served in our nation's military."

Unacceptable practice

Rumsfeld spokesperson Bryan Whitman said on Tuesday that the Pentagon recently became aware of the practice and was looking into it.

Whitman said: "Obviously it is an unacceptable practice."

Colonel Joseph Curtin of the army said the Criminal Investigation Command recently begun investigating the matter on behalf of lieutenant general John Vines, commander of Multi-National Corps-Iraq.

Another army spokesperson, Paul Boyce, said the preliminary criminal inquiry determined, based on available evidence, that felony charges could not be pursued.

He said, but the matter, including the possibility of disciplinary action, was being handled in co-ordination with other military services.

Many of the photos depicted dismembered Iraqi corpses and body parts. Soldiers in Afghanistan also submitted some.

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Back off, Abbas warns Israel

01 October 2005 AS the West Bank and Gaza endured their sixth straight day of Israeli attacks, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned yesterday that Israel's aggression was jeopardising any chance of peace.

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Scandal stalls Bush's second term

There is a whiff of decay surrounding the incumbent Republican Party, writes Washington correspondent Geoff Elliott
October 01, 2005

THIS has been a bad week for George W. Bush and the Republican Party. His powerbroker in Congress, Tom DeLay, a man they call "The Hammer" for his ability to ram through legislation, was charged on one count of criminal conspiracy in Texas relating to an alleged campaign finance scam. He has been forced to step down as Republican leader of the lower house under congressional rules but denies any wrongdoing, saying the prosecutor in Texas, a Democrat, is an "unabashed partisan zealot".

In the Senate, Republican leader Bill Frist fronted the media this week to defend himself against allegations of insider trading, after selling a portfolio of shares in a family-owned healthcare company just weeks before its share price plunged after a profit warning. The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating.

Frist also denies any wrongdoing, saying the shares were in a blind trust. He says he directed the trustee to sell, ironically as it turns out, to try to avoid any perceptions of a conflict of interest. He says he welcomes the probe to clear the air.

Meanwhile, there's the continuing investigation into influential lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a former close associate of DeLay, over allegations of a breathtaking scam in which he was said to have defrauded $US80 million from Native American tribes who manage casinos on reservations.

Last week the White House's senior procurement officer David Safavian had to resign after being arrested in connection with the Abramoff probe.

There is also an investigation into a possible leak from the White House of a CIA agent's name, with some of the evidence so far pointing to the President's most influential aide Karl Rove, although Rove denies being the source.

Then there's Republican congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California, who is under investigation for the sale of his home to a Pentagon contractor at an inflated price, a highly dubious transaction given his role on a congressional budget committee overseeing the Department of Defence.

Add to that Bush's approval rating at record lows, growing public disapproval for the war in Iraq, soaring petrol prices and Bush's inadequate response to the devastating Hurricane Katrina and you have the ingredients for a swamped second-term agenda and the potential for a voter backlash building for next year's mid-term elections.

Allegations of sleaze and wobbly ethics have long been a powerful political weapon, wielded effectively by Republicans 10 years ago against the Clinton administration. It helped the Republican Party cement its control of the House of Representatives and the Senate and, under DeLay, a former Texas cockroach exterminator, the party has expanded those gains.

Democrats, something of a rabble trying to be a unified voice in the US, now find themselves, inadvertently, taking their pick at what appears to be a veritable cache of weaponry to fire at the Bush administration. DeLay's Democratic counterpart in the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, says the charges against DeLay are "the latest example that Republicans in Congress are plagued with a culture of corruption".

As William Kristof, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, says: "Even though DeLay has nothing to do with Frist and Frist has nothing to do with Abramoff, how does it look? Not good." And conservative newspaper The Wall Street Journal wrote in its editorial in May that there was an odour about DeLay, "an unsavoury whiff" that could claim his career.

"Even before yesterday, Mr DeLay was seriously weakened as a political force," the editorial said. "And for that he has himself partly to blame. Our disagreement with the majority leader is that, as the [Republican Party] cemented itself in power, he let incumbency become more important than the principles that elected him."

DeLay, in typical style, blasted Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle, saying he was engaging in "personal revenge" because of his success at building a Republican majority in Texas. "I have the facts, the law and the truth on my side. Let me be very, very clear: I have done nothing wrong. I have violated no law, no regulation, no rule of the house. I am innocent."

It's widely agreed the evidence for the charge against DeLay looks thin. The four-page indictment presents little detail on how DeLay was involved in allegedly channelling $US190,000 of corporate donations to Republicans running in state elections in Texas in 2002. But before the charge DeLay had already been accused by both sides of politics of cronyism. And, despite a conspiracy charge being very difficult to prove, this week is a severe blow for DeLay because under the house rules he has had to step down.

DeLay's woes this year have meant he has been distracted from the main game -- enforcing Bush's legislative platform -- and that could partly explain the President's stalled second term. Bush's big-ticket item was reforming the US's bankrupt pension system. He spent plenty of political capital travelling around the country trying to sell the plan but it has fallen flat.

It's too early to say if DeLay's departure -- he says it will be temporary, while others say even if proven innocent his days as a powerbroker and fundraiser in Washington are over -- will help Democrats prise open further the fissures that exist in the Republican Party that DeLay did so well to hold together in Congress.

"Tom DeLay was like Tito in Yugoslavia," James Thurber, a professor of government at American University told The Washington Post. "He ruled with fear and also resources to reward people. Now, without DeLay, the house will be Balkanised."

Already, the fiscal conservatives within the Republican Party have started to rebel at the open-ended commitments Bush has made to reconstruction in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

And that comes on top of a core of fiscal conservatives in Washington who want to see the budget deficit addressed through deep spending cuts. Congress has only just passed Bush's $US290 billion ($380 billion) highway bill which, according to some estimates, is flush with about $US24 billion of pork, such as a $US200 million bridge to a community of about 50 people in Alaska so they can have access to a local airport.

The good news for Bush is that these fault lines and allegations of sleaze and scandal could have come at a worse time, such as a few months before next November's mid-term congressional elections.

DeLay looks confident he'll be cleared and maybe there will be time to recover from the political damage that has been done if he is exonerated. But his predicament thrills Democrats, since he was the man who pushed Congress to impeach Clinton in 1998.

Frist, who hinted this week he was preparing to run as a presidential candidate in 2008, looks confident the insider trading allegation will be cleared soon. He says his staff consulted at length with the outside counsel and a Senate ethics committee to ensure he was legally able to sell his stock.

But for now the whiff of scandal is sucking the oxygen out of Bush's second term. And for a President at war, trying to win the hearts and minds of Iraq and the Middle East generally, being increasingly distracted at home is a dangerous thing.

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Prisoner abuse pictures released

So they get another 20 days to appeal again, You would not want to be holding your breath waiting you can bet

October 01, 2005
NEW YORK: A US federal judge yesterday ordered the Government to release pictures of prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, rebuffing concerns that they could provide propaganda fuel for terrorists.

The ruling favoured the American Civil Liberties Union, which had filed a lawsuit seeking the release of almost 90 photographs and a handful of videotapes in the hands of the Department of Defence.

The Government had firmly resisted the request, insisting that the images would fan anti-US sentiment that could be exploited by terrorist groups and ultimately result in violent attacks.

"Suppression of information is the surest way to cause its significance to grow and persist," district judge Alvin Hallerstein said in his 50-page ruling.

"The fight to extend freedom has never been easy, and we are once again challenged, in Iraq and Afghanistan, by terrorists who engage in violence to intimidate our will and to force us to retreat," he said.

"Our struggle to prevail must be without sacrificing the accountability of government and military officials."

Judge Hallerstein stayed his release order for 20 days to allow the Government to appeal.

The ruling came as the former US commander of Abu Ghraib prison said little had been done to check abuses at US-run jails in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay since the first photographs exposed the scandal.

"We haven't dealt very effectively with those photographs or what they indicated," US Army Reserve Colonel Janis Karpinski, who was demoted from her rank of brigadier-general over the scandal, told BBC radio.

"I think it's largely proved now that it wasn't just seven out-of-control soldiers on a night shift."

Colonel Karpinski said she was the only high-ranking officer to have been dealt with so harshly as others implicated in the events "walked, basically".

The pictures were taken by Specialist Joseph Darby, who last year turned over to military investigators photographic and video evidence of his fellow military policemen using dogs to intimidate prisoners, forcing them to engage while naked in mock sex scenes and being humiliated by female soldiers.

Only a small number of the images have made it into the public domain.


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Cheney's aide was spy source

Correspondents in Washington
October 01, 2005
THE controversial outing of a CIA spy involving The New York Times reporter Judith Miller took a dramatic twist yesterday when the newspaper revealed her source was a senior member of US Vice-President Dick Cheney's staff.

After almost three months behind bars, Miller was released from prison after her source, Cheney chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby, agree to waive the confidentiality he had been promised by the reporter.

With that obstacle out of the way, Miller agreed to testify in the investigation into the disclosure of the identity of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame. She had refused to name her sources to a federal prosecutor investigating which official leaked the name.

Ms Plame's husband, former US ambassador Joseph Wilson, claimed her cover was blown in revenge for an article he penned in The New York Times criticising President George W. Bush's justification for war with Iraq.

Miller left the federal detention centre in Alexandria, Virginia, yesterday after reaching an agreement with special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. She will appear before a grand jury investigation in the case today.

Miller was sent to prison on July 6 after a showdown between the US Government and the press over a case involving the White House, press freedom and the rationale for the Iraq war.

'It's good to be free," Miller said. "I went to jail to preserve the time-honoured principle that a journalist must respect a promise not to reveal the identity of a confidential source.

"I chose to take the consequences - 85 days in prison - rather than violate that promise. I am leaving jail today because my source has now voluntarily and personally released me from my promise of confidentiality. This enables me to appear before the grand jury tomorrow."

Another journalist, Time Magazine's Matthew Cooper, almost met the same fate but was granted a last-minute reprieve after his source cleared him to testify. Both reporters were sentenced to 18 months in jail for contempt of court.

Miller, a veteran of years of Middle East coverage, was thought likely to stay in jail until she agreed to testify, or until the mandate of a grand jury considering the case ran out in October. Ms Plame's name was first published in a column by veteran reporter Robert Novak in 2003 that cited senior administration officials.

Mr Wilson claimed his wife was outed as punishment for his contradiction of Mr Bush's assertion in the 2003 State of the Union address that Saddam Hussein had sought yellowcake uranium from Niger to build nuclear weapons.

Mr Fitzgerald's investigation into the leak has featured interviews with Mr Bush, former secretary of state Colin Powell, and Mr Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove.

Executive editor of the Times Bill Keller said of Miller: "If there is satisfaction in what she has endured, I am satisfied that she has held fast to a principle that matters deeply."


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Forces launch attack in western Iraq

Posted: 19:43 AEST

US forces, backed by helicopters, launched another big offensive in the far west of Iraq near the Syrian border on Saturday to hunt militants linked to Al Qaeda, the US military said.

Around 1,000 marines, soldiers and sailors launched Operation Iron Fist in the early hours against insurgents in the town of Qaim, 12 km from the Syrian border, and nearby settlements including Sedea.

It is at least the third major offensive US forces have conducted in the area over the past four months.

Previous operations appear to have failed as insurgents have quickly returned to reoccupy the towns.

"Operation Iron Fist began in the early morning hours with the objectives of rooting out Al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists operating within the area and disrupting insurgent support systems," Marine Captain Jeffrey Pool said in a statement.

"For the past several months, terrorists within Sedea have escalated their intimidation and murder campaign against the local populace and city government officials," he said.

Iraqi police in the area said convoys of US military vehicles rolled into Qaim and nearby towns, including Karabila and Sedea, in the early hours, following attacks by helicopters.

A doctor in the main hospital in Qaim, Amir al-Obedi, said 10 people had been killed and eight wounded in fighting.

He said relatives of the wounded told him they had been attacked by US helicopters in Sedea, a town near Qaim.

The latest attempt comes ahead of a referendum on October 15 when Iraqis will vote on a new draft constitution opposed by many in the Sunni Arab minority.


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Rumsfeld downplays loss of Iraqi battalions

Last Update: Saturday, October 1, 2005. 10:45am (AEST)

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Friday said US-trained Iraqi security forces were improving daily, downplaying that the number of Iraqi battalions able to fight without US help had fallen to one.

"There are an awful lot of people chasing the wrong rabbit here, it seems to me," Mr Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon, when asked about the number of Iraqi battalions that can operate independently.

"The important fact is ... that every day, every week, every month the Iraqi security forces are larger, they're better equipped, they're better trained and they're more experienced. And that is the central fact," Mr Rumsfeld said.

The Australian Government and Pentagon officials have said that creating Iraqi security forces able to defend their own country is a prerequisite to an eventual withdrawal of Australian US forces and from Iraq.

There have been persistent questions about the quality of these forces and the degree to which they have been infiltrated by insurgents.

Mr Rumsfeld said there are 194,000 US-trained Iraqi Army troops and police. A battalion is composed of about 700 soldiers.

One of the few measurements the Pentagon has offered the public to judge the capabilities of Iraqi security forces has been the number of battalions that can go into combat with insurgents without the help of the US military.

During congressional testimony on Thursday, General George Casey, the top US commander in Iraq, and General John Abizaid, top US commander in the Middle East, said the number of such battalions had dropped since July from three to one, out of the roughly 100 Iraqi battalions.

During his briefing, Mr Rumsfeld initially called that fact "irrelevant," but later amended himself. "Its relevance is minimal," he said.

Not a setback

Gen Casey told the briefing that US forces will continue to have to accompany Iraqi security battalions for "a couple of years, for sure".

He said the number of Iraqi battalions capable of taking the lead in counter-insurgency operations with US support had doubled since May.

He declined to say how many there were in this category, saying that information was classified.

He said it will be "a couple of months" before more Iraqi battalions achieve the ability to fight on their own.

Gen Casey did not explain the reason for the decline from three to one battalions that can operate on their own, but said that "we purposely set a very high standard" for these units.

"No, it's not a setback. I mean, unit readiness is going to fluctuate and it is such a small number. And at this stage, I'm not concerned about small numbers," Gen Casey said.

"Next year, at this time, I'll be much more concerned about it. Right now, I'm not," he said.

Gen Casey also expressed concern about diminishing US public support for the war, as shown in recent opinion polls, suggesting this was exactly what insurgents wanted.

"Look, you guys read the polls just like I do and this is a terror campaign. And they are trying to create the impression that we and the Iraqis cannot succeed in Iraq," he said.

Mr Rumsfeld added that the insurgents "know what they're doing. They're focusing on public opinion in the United States. They're trying to do things that are dramatic and affect that".

"They can't win a battle," Mr Rumsfeld said.

"They can't win a war out in the field. The only place they can win is in a test of wills, if people say, 'The cost is too high and the time is too long'."


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Miller testimony to end grand jury CIA probe

By Edward Alden in Washington
Published: September 30 2005 21:34 Last updated: September 30 2005 23:50

A US grand jury investigation into whether White House officials broke the law by exposing a covert Central Intelligence Agency operative is set to conclude after testimony on Friday from a New York Times reporter.

Judith Miller, who was imprisoned for nearly three months after refusing to testify about her conversations with a top aide to Dick Cheney, vice-president, was released on Thursday when she agreed to testify. She appeared before the grand jury in Washington Friday morning.

The conclusion of the investigation could multiply the woes of President George W. Bush if it results in indictments against one or more of his officials. It follows the resignation of Tom DeLay as House Republican leader after a Texas criminal indictment this week for alleged campaign finance fraud, and continued fall-out over the federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

The probe, led by Chicago prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, was launched after a newspaper columnist in 2003 printed the name of Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA agent. Mr Fitzgerald is investigating whether White House officials illegally disclosed Ms Plame's name in order to discredit her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Mr Wilson, who was sent on a CIA fact-finding mission regarding Iraq's alleged nuclear programme, embarrassed the administration by later publicly questioning intelligence claims that Saddam Hussein had tried to acquire uranium for a nuclear bomb.

The two-year investigation could end this month with no charges being laid. But any indictments could prove damaging for the administration, which has so far escaped political consequences over its insistence in the run-up to the war that Iraq possessed stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and was developing nuclear weapons.

One of the reporters who has already testified before the grand jury, Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, disclosed that one of his sources for stories about the Plame/Wilson affair was Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff.

The New York Times reported on Friday that Ms Miller's source was Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Mr Cheney. Ms Miller, however, never wrote a story based on that conversation, and Mr Cooper says he told the grand jury that neither Mr Rove nor Mr Libby disclosed to him Ms Plame's name or her covert status.

No details have yet emerged of the grand jury testimony of Robert Novak, the columnist who first revealed Ms Plame's identity. Ms Miller was jailed in July after refusing to testify before the grand jury, insisting she had promised confidentiality to her source. But following her testimony yesterday she said she had received a “personal voluntary waiver” that allowed her to testify.

“I am hopeful that my long stay in jail will serve to strengthen the bond between reporters and their sources,” she said.

Mr Libby, who also spoke to Time magazine's Mr Cooper, has insisted through his lawyers that he freed both reporters from their confidentiality pledges more than a year ago.

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DeLay says he didn't get to tell his side

From all I have heard, and read of Sugerland, it figures Liar Liar pants on fire, now if he is just locked up.

Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau

AUSTIN - The day after U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's grand jury indictment, his lawyer and the jury foreman on Thursday appeared to contradict the Texas politician's assertions that he was not given a chance to speak before the jury.

The foreman, William M. Gibson Jr., a retired state insurance investigator, said the Travis County grand jury waited until Wednesday, the final day of its term, to indict him because it was hoping he would accept jurors' invitation to testify.

DeLay said in interviews that the grand jury never asked him to testify.

In a Wednesday night appearance on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, he said Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle never talked to him or asked him to testify.

"Never asking me to testify, never doing anything for two years," DeLay said in the interview. "And then, on the last day of his fourth or sixth grand jury, he indicts me. Why? Because his goal was to make me step down as majority leader."

On Thursday, DeLay said in another broadcast interview that he was under the impression that he wasn't going to be indicted because he hadn't been called to testify before the grand jury.

"I have not testified before the grand jury to present my side of the case, and they indicted me," said DeLay, according to the Associated Press.

Dick DeGuerin, the attorney representing DeLay, said Thursday that DeLay actually was invited to appear before the grand jury, where he would have been under oath. The Houston attorney was not yet on the legal team when DeLay was asked to appear, but he said other attorneys advised him not to testify ?a decision DeGuerin supports.

DeGuerin said that DeLay may have been referring in the interviews to the fact that the grand jury did not subpoena him to testify.

Gibson said there was an open invitation, but the grand jury decided not to force him to appear.

Questions in August

In late August, DeLay answered questions from Earle but was not under oath, although the session was recorded by a stenographer.

"Ronnie Earle was saying, 'This grand jury is ready to indict you.' I don't know of a prosecutor that would not slather to try to get a target in front of a grand jury," DeGuerin said.

He said if DeLay had appeared before the grand jury, he could not have been accompanied by his lawyer inside the hearing and there would have been "no judge to prevent prosecutors from brow-beating" him.

"The prosecutor has all of the advantages in a grand jury setting. The prosecutor controls the information a grand jury gets. The defense has no right to call witnesses, to cross-examine or to be present to be sure that the rules are followed," DeGuerin said.

DeLay, R-Sugar Land, did step down as majority leader after he was indicted Wednesday on a charge of criminal conspiracy, accused of conspiring with two of his political associates to funnel $190,000 in corporate cash illegally to seven Texas House candidates in the 2002 elections. He remains in Congress while he fights the charge, which carries a maximum penalty of two years in confinement and a fine of up to $10,000.

Politics blamed again

On Thursday, he continued to blast Earle as a partisan Democrat and said the three-year investigation and indictment are politically motivated. He said he will beat the charge because he did nothing wrong.

DeLay will make his first appearance in court Oct. 21. DeGuerin said DeLay will be in court that day but that anyone expecting to see DeLay handcuffed and paraded before cameras in a so-called "perp walk" will be disappointed.

"I'd call their hand if they tried to do that," said DeGuerin. There was no indication Thursday how authorities planned to handle the court appearance.

Gibson, 76, declined to identify his party affiliation, but he has voted in every Democratic primary since 1990, according to Travis County voting records.

He would not identify other grand jurors or say whether the 12-person grand jury was made up of more Democrats than Republicans. His name was made public because as foreman, he had to sign the indictment.

"We had Republicans and Democrats and independents on that grand jury," Gibson said. "They were all professional people. I won't say where they work, but there were state employees and federal employees."

State District Judge Mike Lynch, who was in charge of the grand jury, said that the names of the other grand jurors could not be released.

The issue of whether grand jury names are public information is under consideration by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Gibson said he worked for 20 years as a Travis County deputy sheriff and 21 years as an investigator for the state insurance commissioner.

In those capacities, he said he appeared as a witness before grand juries. He also said he had served on more grand juries that he could remember but had not been on one since 2000.

Gibson said Earle did not pressure the panel to vote to indict: "He wanted us to listen to the facts presented. If we needed additional information they presented it. But he did not in any way say, 'We want this done.' "

Gibson said the grand jury knew that DeLay had spoken to Earle but had their own questions for DeLay.

Gibson would not discuss any of the evidence against DeLay.

"We felt there was sufficient evidence presented to us over the months," he said.

Travis County is one of the more liberal counties in Texas, with most of the local judges and countywide officials Democrats. DeGuerin would not say whether he would ask that the trial be moved to a different county.

DeLay is accused of conspiring with John Colyandro, executive director of TRMPAC, and Jim Ellis, director of DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority, to illegally swap money with the Republican National State Elections Committee, an arm of the Republican National Committee.

A separate indictment last year accused another DeLay associate, Warren RoBold of Maryland, with taking illegal corporate money for TRMPAC.

DeGuerin said lawyers for Colyandro, Ellis and RoBold have told him they have not made any deals with Earle's office to testify against DeLay.

Chronicle reporter R.G. Ratcliffe contributed to this report.


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Friday, September 30, 2005

Christy a web site for you to check out

Link Here

There is another one Christy, I have to find it it is not coming up for me at the moment

We See You Rossi


Bombs Kill 105; US Toll Grows

By Louise Roug and Mark Mazzetti
The Los Angeles Times

Friday 30 September 2005

In Washington, generals say only one Iraqi unit is ready to work on its own, down from three.
Baghdad - A series of coordinated bombings killed 95 people in the Iraqi city of Balad on Thursday as US military leaders in Washington downgraded their estimate of the number of Iraqi troops at the highest state of readiness.

Commanders who visited Capitol Hill told lawmakers that US troop reductions were needed in part to break an Iraqi "dependency" on American forces. But, underscoring the difficulty of disengaging, Army Gen. George W. Casey, the top US commander in Iraq, said the number of Iraqi units at the highest level of readiness had fallen from three battalions in June to one.

US officials also reported that five American soldiers had been killed by a roadside bomb the previous day, the deadliest single attack on US forces in nearly two months. The five were attached to the 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force. At least 13 members of the US military have been killed in Iraq since Monday.

Early today, a car bomb exploded at a market in the southern town of Hilla, killing five people and wounding 30, Iraqi authorities said.

The attacks in Balad began just after dusk as shoppers wandered around a central marketplace. Two car bombs exploded minutes apart, transforming the tranquil square and surrounding areas into a scene of bloodshed and horror. A third blast elsewhere in the city followed a short time later.

A pickup truck exploded near a bank, trapping families inside their burning cars. Firemen tried unsuccessfully to extinguish the flames engulfing a minibus packed with children. The firefighters eventually ran out of water as they battled several blazes, said Nadheer Sami Abdul Waheed, who was standing outside his appliance store when the bomb went off across the street.

"I saw children burning with my own eyes," he said in a telephone interview.

Police tried to evacuate the area, bringing people to a nearby square. The second bomb went off in the crowd of evacuees, witnesses said. The third bomb exploded near a Shiite shrine at a market popular with merchants and laborers.

Local authorities originally reported that 70 people had died in the Balad bombings, but hospital director Qassum Aboud said today that the toll had climbed to 95. "We cannot cope with the number of casualties, so the number of deaths is increasing," he said.

Dozens of children were among the more than 100 people injured, Iraqi authorities and hospital officials said. Balad Police Chief Col. Kadim Abdul Razzaq and four of his men were among those hurt.

Several of the wounded were evacuated to a nearby American military base. Iraqis waited in line outside a local hospital during the evening to donate blood.

Balad, about 50 miles north of Baghdad, is predominantly Shiite Muslim but is surrounded by Sunni villages. The Iraqi insurgency is dominated by Sunnis.

Despite a recent escalation in attacks against the majority Shiites, influential clerics have urged restraint and have so far managed to prevent large-scale revenge killings. But Thursday's bombings further strained relations between the sects.

"We here, the Balad people, are whispering among ourselves," said Waheed, talking about the Shiite response. "We have noticed that the Sunnis haven't entered the city in the last five days. Why? This is my question."

In Baghdad, police said three bakers and a fishmonger, all Shiites, were killed in the Dora neighborhood. And the entire lay leadership of the Anglican Church in Baghdad was feared dead after disappearing on the road between the western cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, according to the BBC.

Gunmen also fired on a minibus near the Al Shaab sports stadium in Baghdad, killing two government workers and wounding seven, authorities said.

Iraqi security forces also were targeted, and six police officers were killed in four shooting incidents. At least 1,976 Iraqi soldiers and police have been killed this year, according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, a website that collects data from various sources, including the media and the US military.

Away from the violence, Casey, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, head of the US Central Command, appeared before members of the House and Senate armed services committees in Washington, telling lawmakers that Iraqi armed forces were making progress in many areas.

"Over the past 18 months, we have built enough Iraqi capacity where we can begin talking seriously about transitioning this counterinsurgency mission to them," Casey told the Senate committee.

But the commanders acknowledged under questioning that the number of Iraqi battalions considered to be at the highest level of readiness had fallen. Under a US grading system, Iraqi battalions are designated Level 1 when they are capable of planning and executing counterinsurgency missions independent of US troops.

Casey explained the decline only by saying that "things change in the battalions."

Senators did not press Casey for an explanation of why the number of units at the highest level of readiness had dropped from three to one. But Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Casey's latest assessment was discouraging.

"That contributes to a loss of public confidence in how the war is going and whether the strategy is the appropriate one, and it's being executed properly, whether or not we're making progress," Collins said. "It doesn't feel like progress when we hear today that we have only one Iraqi battalion that is fully capable."

Casey said that no ground had been lost in the Iraqi training and that it would be wrong to gauge the readiness of Iraqi troops merely by counting the number of Level 1 battalions. Units assessed at Level 2 and Level 3, the general said, were participating in joint missions with US troops.

"We don't need to have that whole force at Level 1, or even that whole force at Level 2, before we can begin considering coalition reductions," he said.

Iraqi troops actually could benefit from a reduction in US and coalition forces, Casey said.

The continued US troop presence "contributes to the dependency of Iraqi security forces on the coalition," he said. "It extends the amount of time that it will take for Iraqi security forces to become self-reliant, and it exposes more coalition forces to attacks at a time when Iraqi security forces are increasingly available and increasingly capable."

Casey also said the US presence in Iraq was fueling the insurgency because of the perception of an American occupation, making a troop reduction critical to the US mission in Iraq.

Nonetheless, Republican as well as Democratic senators expressed skepticism over the plans for troop withdrawals, which Casey said could take place next year.

"We're planning on troop withdrawals without any criteria being met that I can see," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). "You're taking a very big gamble here."

Casey, who predicted in July that a reduction in the number of US troops could begin in the spring, told lawmakers that the next few months would be critical to the future of the US presence in Iraq. He said that insurgencies last an average of nine years and that US troops would withdraw from Iraq long before the insurgency was defeated.

The generals' last congressional visit was in June, when US public opinion on the war had begun to sour.

As in June, their appearance Thursday marked the beginning of a weeklong effort by the Bush administration to try to shore up declining public support for the war.

Over the next several days, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will make speeches, and Bush will give what the White House says will be a key address on the subject Thursday.

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'Frog-Marching' Bush to the Hague

By Robert Parry

Thursday 29 September 2005

Federal authorities "frog-marched" Private Lynndie England in handcuffs and shackles off to prison to serve three years for her role in abusing and humiliating Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison.

The 22-year-old single mother from West Virginia joins a group of nine reservists punished for mistreating Iraqis, some of whom were stripped naked and forced to pose in mock sexual positions. England appeared in photos, pointing at a prisoner's penis and holding a naked Iraqi by a leash.

While England's punishment fits with George W. Bush's pledge to prosecute military personnel for wrongdoing in Iraq, a larger question is whether low-ranking soldiers are becoming scapegoats for the bloody fiasco that Bush created when he ordered the invasion in defiance of international law. Pumped-up by Bush's false claims linking Iraq to the Sept. 11 terror attacks, US soldiers charged into that Arab country with revenge on their minds.

In a healthy democracy, the debate might be less about imprisoning England and other "grunts" than whether Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other war architects should be "frog-marched" to the Hague for prosecution as war criminals.

The international community also has largely shied away from the issue of Bush's criminality, apparently because of the unprecedented military might of the United States.

If the leaders of a less powerful nation had invaded a country under false pretenses - touching off a war that left tens of thousands of civilians dead - there surely would be demands for war crimes prosecutions before the International Criminal Court at the Hague. But not for Bush and his War Cabinet.

Similar Complaints

Ironically, Lynndie England's sentencing at Fort Hood, Texas, on Sept. 27 came as new evidence surfaced that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners was not just the work of some deviant prison guards on the night shift at Abu Ghraib. Army Capt. Ian Fishback and two sergeants alleged that prisoners were subjected to similar treatment by the 82nd Airborne at a camp near Fallujah and that senior officers knew.[See Human Rights Watch report.]

Fishback blamed the pattern of abuse on the Bush administration's vague orders about when and how Geneva Convention protections applied to detainees, a problem that has extended from the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to a network of shadowy US prisons around the world.

"We did not set the conditions for our soldiers to succeed," said Fishback, 26, who has served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. "We failed to set clear standards, communicate those standards and enforce those standards." [NYT, Sept. 28, 2005]

And in another case of apparent deterioration of discipline among US troops in Iraq, a separate Army investigation examined whether some US troops traded gruesome photos of dead bodies - with captions like "Cooked Iraqi" - for access to a pornographic Web site specializing in sexual images of wives and girlfriends. [NYT, Sept. 28, 2005]

For his part, Bush has condemned the misconduct of Lynndie England and her cohorts. After publication of the Abu Ghraib photos in 2004, Bush said he "shared a deep disgust that those prisoners were treated the way they were treated." Bush added that "their treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people."

Wanton Death

But the cavalier treatment toward Iraqi lives can be traced back to the very start of the war. Determined to invade Iraq, Bush brushed aside international objections, prevented the completion of a United Nations search for alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and unleashed his "shock and awe" bombing campaign on March 19, 2003.

Bush and his high command authorized the bombing of one Baghdad restaurant - where civilians were having dinner - because of shaky intelligence that Saddam Hussein might be eating there, too. The logic apparently was that the goal of killing Hussein justified the slaughter of the innocent restaurant clientele.

As it turned out, Hussein was not there, but the attack killed 14 civilians, including seven children. One mother collapsed when rescue workers pulled the severed head of her daughter out of the rubble.

In another US bombing raid, Saad Abbas, 34, was wounded, but his family sought to shield him from the greater horror. The bombing had killed his three daughters - Marwa, 11; Tabarek, 8; and Safia, 5 - who had been the center of his life.

"It wasn't just ordinary love," his wife said. "He was crazy about them. It wasn't like other fathers." [NYT, April 14, 2003]

The horror of the war was captured, too, in the fate of 12-year-old Ali Ismaeel Abbas, who lost his two arms when a US missile struck his Baghdad home. Ali's father, Ali's pregnant mother and his siblings were all killed.

As he was evacuated to a Kuwaiti hospital, becoming a symbol of US compassion for injured Iraqi civilians, Ali said he would rather die than live without his hands.

The slaughter extended to the battlefield where the outmatched Iraqi army sometimes fought heroically though hopelessly against the technologically superior US forces. Christian Science Monitor reporter Ann Scott Tyson interviewed US troops with the 3rd Infantry Division who were deeply troubled by their task of mowing down Iraqi soldiers who kept fighting even in suicidal situations.

"For lack of a better word, I felt almost guilty about the massacre," one soldier said privately. "We wasted a lot of people. It makes you wonder how many were innocent. It takes away some of the pride. We won, but at what cost?"

Commenting upon the annihilation of Iraqi forces in these one-sided battles, Lt. Col. Woody Radcliffe said, "We didn't want to do this. Even a brain-dead moron can understand we are so vastly superior militarily that there is no hope. You would think they would see that and give up."

In one battle around Najaf, US commanders ordered air strikes to kill the Iraqis en masse rather than have US soldiers continue to kill them one by one.

"There were waves and waves of people coming at (the US troops) with AK-47s, out of this factory, and (the US troops) were killing everyone," Radcliffe said. "The commander called and said, 'This is not right. This is insane. Let's hit the factory with close air support and take them out all at once.'" [Christian Science Monitor, April 11, 2003]

Jittery Troops

Three weeks into the invasion, Hussein's government collapsed, but Bush's occupation plan left US forces stretched thin as they tried to establish order.

Sometimes, jittery US soldiers opened fire on demonstrations, inflicting civilian casualties and embittering the population. In Fallujah, some 17 Iraqis were gunned down in demonstrations after US soldiers claimed they had been fired upon. Fallujah soon became a center of anti-American resistance.

As the Iraqi insurgency began to spread - and Americans began dying in larger numbers - military intelligence officers encouraged prison guards to soften up captured Iraqis by putting them in stress positions for long periods of time, denying sleep and subjecting them to extremes of hot and cold.

Some of the poorly trained prison personnel - like those on Lynndie England's night shift at Abu Ghraib - added some of their own bizarre ideas for humiliating captured Iraqis. But even some of those strange techniques, such as adorning Iraqi men with women's underwear, could be traced to practices used elsewhere.

The mistreatment of detainees further fueled the insurgency and spread anti-Americanism across the Middle East and around the globe.

Back in Washington, the Bush administration claimed that the prisoner abuses were the work of a few "bad apples" who would be singled out for punishment. Looked at differently, however, Bush opened US soldiers to a kind of double jeopardy when he ordered the invasion.

Not only did the soldiers risk their lives in combat, but they faced added legal risks in trying to execute a war in defiance of the UN Charter, which prohibits one country from attacking another without the approval of the UN Security Council.

The evidence is now clear, too, that Bush rushed the nation to war without UN sanction, in part, because his rationalizations about WMD and Iraq's ties to al-Qaeda were falling apart, even as he was determined to make the war happen.

As British spy chief Richard Dearlove observed in the so-called Downing Street Memo in July 2002, "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

The memo added, "The case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."

War Fever

Still, the Bush administration was confident that it could whip the US news media and the American people into a war fever.

To stir up fears about nuclear bombs falling into the hands of terrorists, the administration leaked to the New York Times a story about Iraq buying aluminum tubes for making nuclear weapons. But US nuclear experts soon concluded that the tubes actually were for conventional rockets.

Later in 2002, administration officials insisted that they knew where Iraq's WMD stockpiles were. But UN inspectors, who were readmitted by Hussein as part of Iraq's agreement to comply with international weapons restrictions, were finding nothing at the US-identified sites.

In January 2003, Bush's predicament got so desperate that his State of the Union speechwriters dug down to the bottom of the barrel to pull out an already discredited claim about Iraq seeking enriched uranium in Africa.

Then, in a Feb. 5, 2003, speech to the UN Security Council, Secretary of State Colin Powell played up assertions from a dubious source codenamed "Curveball" about Iraq's supposed mobile WMD labs. Powell also read a doctored intercept between two Iraqi officials that made an innocent conversation sound sinister. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's “Powell’s Widening Credibility Gap.”]

Instead of giving the UN inspectors more time to complete their search for Iraqi WMD, Bush cut short the mission, forcing them to leave Iraq so the invasion could proceed.

Several months later, as Bush faced new questions about his war justifications, the president started a new lie, claiming that Hussein had never let the UN inspectors in.

On July 14, 2003, Bush said about Hussein, "we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power."

In the following months, Bush repeated this claim in slightly varied forms. On Jan. 27, 2004, Bush said, "We went to the United Nations, of course, and got an overwhelming resolution - 1441 - unanimous resolution, that said to Saddam, you must disclose and destroy your weapons programs, which obviously meant the world felt he had such programs. He chose defiance. It was his choice to make, and he did not let us in."

Blind Journalists

Though the US national press corps had witnessed the UN inspections of Iraq and certainly knew that Bush's historical revisionism was false, American reporters failed, repeatedly, to challenge Bush's account.

Even ABC's veteran newsman Ted Koppel fell for the administration's spin, using it to explain why he - Koppel - thought the invasion was justified.

"It did not make logical sense that Saddam Hussein, whose armies had been defeated once before by the United States and the Coalition, would be prepared to lose control over his country if all he had to do was say, 'All right, UN, come on in, check it out," Koppel said in an interview with Amy Goodman, host of "Democracy Now."

As Koppel obviously was aware, Hussein indeed had told the UN to "come on in, check it out," but even prominent journalists were ready to put on blinders for Bush. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's "President Bush, With the Candlestick ..."]

In 2004, Fallujah was back in the news after Iraqi insurgents killed four American security contractors and a mob mutilated the bodies. Bush ordered Marines to "pacify" the city of 300,000 people.

The US assault on Fallujah transformed one soccer field into a mass grave for hundreds of Iraqis - many of them civilians - killed when US forces bombarded the rebellious city with 500-pound bombs and raked its streets with cannon and machine-gun fire. According to some accounts, more than 800 citizens of Fallujah died in the assault and 60,000 fled as refugees.

In attacking Fallujah and in other counterinsurgency operations, the Bush administration again has resorted to measures that some critics argue amount to war crimes. These tactics include administering collective punishment against the civilian population in Fallujah, rounding up thousands of young Iraqi men on the flimsiest of suspicions and holding prisoners incommunicado without charges and subjecting some detainees to physical mistreatment.

Rape Rooms

Even Bush's boast that he closed Hussein's torture chambers and "rape rooms" has lost its moral clarity.

A 53-page classified Army report, written by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, revealed that some of those abuses resumed as US intelligence officers urged Abu Ghraib's military police to break down Iraqis before interrogation.

The report said the abuses, occurring from October to December 2003, included use of a chemical light or broomstick to sexually assault one Iraqi. Witnesses also told Army investigators that prisoners were beaten and threatened with rape, electrocution and dog attacks. At least one Iraqi died during interrogation.

"Numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees," said Taguba's report. [See The New Yorker's May 10, 2004, issue.]

One victim who faced torture at Abu Ghraib under both Saddam Hussein's regime and the US occupation said the physical abuse from Hussein's guards was preferable to the sexual humiliation employed by the Americans. Dhia al-Shweiri told the Associated Press that the Americans were trying "to break our pride." [USA Today, May 3, 2004]

Yet, as the US military death toll heads toward 2,000 and Iraqis die in far greater numbers, the US news media continues to avert its gaze from what should be a central question: Should senior Bush administration officials most responsible for this bloody debacle join Lynndie England in the dock of accountability?

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek.


Link Here

Vietnam 2005

--Via www.thinkprogress.org .

Note.. That Christy is NOT this Christy.--

Ever since Vietnam, military strategists have agreed using enemy body counts is a useless benchmark for success.

Conrad Crane, director of the Military History Institute at the U.S. Army War College: “It was a pretty useless statistic that did more harm than good.”

Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, on attempt to quantify success in Grenada: “We need to stay away from this body count business. It caused us terrible trouble in Vietnam and it will cause us terrible trouble here.”

Gen. Tommy Franks, 3/18/02: “You know we don’t do body counts.”

Sec. Donald Rumsfeld, 11/2/03: “We don’t do body counts on other people.”

The Washington Post, however, reported last week:

Using enemy body counts as a benchmark, the U.S. military claimed gains against Abu Musab Zarqawi’s foreign-led fighters last week even as they mounted their deadliest attacks on Iraq’s capital.

Question: Why is the Pentagon now using enemy body counts as a measure of success/failure?



| Gitmo's Hunger Strikers

By Clive Stafford Smith
The Nation

17 October 2005 Issue

"I am slowly dying in this solitary prison cell," says Omar Deghayes, a British refugee and Guantánamo Bay prisoner. "I have no rights, no hope. So why not take my destiny into my own hands, and die for a principle?"

This magazine goes to press on the forty-ninth day of the Guantánamo hunger strike. In 1981 near Belfast, Bobby Sands and nine other members of the IRA starved themselves to death. The prisoners had insisted that they be treated as POWs rather than criminals. They died before the British government accepted that its use of kangaroo courts and its policy of "criminalization" did not just betray democratic principles; these methods functioned as the most persuasive recruiting sergeant the IRA ever had. How soon these lessons are forgotten. Three and a half years of internment without trial in Guantánamo, and any US claim to be the standard-bearer of the rule of law has dissolved.

But there are two important distinctions between the experience of Sands and Omar Deghayes: The US military has insisted on secrecy regarding Guantánamo, and the US media have been compliant in their apathy. Despite the traditional British hostility to free speech, every moment of Bobby Sands's decline was broadcast live. In contrast, nothing we lawyers learn from our Guantánamo clients can be revealed until it passes the US government censors. Thus, two weeks went by before the public even knew there was a hunger strike, and the military has been allowed to dissemble on the details since.

From its inception, Guantánamo has relied on a soldier-speak that is replete with half-truths and distortions. In 2002 there was a ripple of concern at the number of Guantánamo detainees trying to take their own lives. The military then announced that suicide attempts had radically declined. It took a foreign journalist to expose the truth: The very word "suicide" had been replaced by the authorities with the term Manipulative Self-Injurious Behavior (SIB) - and there were still plenty of SIBs. The military was lying by semantics.

Similar dissimulation is taking place around the Guantánamo hunger strike, which began June 28. It was suspended July 28, when the military promised various concessions, terrified at the public relations prospect of having six prisoners in the hospital within forty-eight hours of death. The strike started again on August 11, because the detainees concluded that the military had broken its promises.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has insisted that the Guantánamo prisoners are being treated in a manner "consistent" with the Geneva Conventions. To end their hunger strike, the detainees ask simply that they be treated in a manner "consistent with the Geneva Conventions." If Rumsfeld is telling the truth, why would the prisoners have to starve themselves to death?

The Conventions mandate that, unless convicted of a crime, "prisoners of war may not be held in close confinement." In Camp V each detainee is held in a Supermax solitary cell, hermetically sealed from all human contact, allowed out for just one hour each week. The detainees there include juveniles and even Sami Al Laithi, held for more than four months in his wheelchair after being found innocent by the US military's own biased tribunals.

The Conventions forbid coercive interrogations. The prisoners reasonably objected when, on August 5, Hisham Sliti had a mini-refrigerator thrown at him by an interrogator nicknamed King Kong.

The Conventions guarantee the free exercise of religion. So why, the detainees demand, haven't they been allowed to meet with an imam for three years? Why is collective prayer curtailed? And why was a Yemeni prisoner recently beaten and his Koran trampled because he asked to finish his prayers before responding to a guard's demand?

The conclusion is inescapable: The detainees have a series of valid complaints, and Rumsfeld is not telling the truth.

Governments did learn one lesson from Bobby Sands: He is famous because he died. The US military is determined not to allow its prisoners to make this ultimate, tragic political statement. Thus, the military admits to force-feeding prisoners. Recently its spin doctors changed the phrase to "assisted feeding," another attempt to hide the truth of what is going on. During the July hunger strike, prisoners tore the needles out of their arms to prevent drip-feeding, so the military is now using nose tubes. They assure us that none of the twenty-one people in the Guantánamo hospital will be able to kill himself.

But someone committed to self-starvation could easily remove such a tube, if he had any freedom of movement. So we can surmise that there is a line of twenty-one hospital beds, each with a prisoner held tight in four-point restraints. His head must be strapped down, immobile, and forcible sedation seems probable. Hardly the image evoked by the term "assisted feeding."

Deprived of legal rights, the Guantánamo detainees must rely on public scrutiny to protect them. This is also true for detainees in Iraq, where the United States has acknowledged it is bound by Geneva, but where soldiers recently interviewed by Human Rights Watch describe systemic humiliation and torture, encouraged by military higher-ups. The only lasting solution is for the United States to practice what it preaches, rather than hide its hypocrisy behind a smokescreen of secrecy and semantics. Human rights enforcement is the most effective counterterrorism measure the US government can take, and deep down its leaders have always known this. The United States signed the Geneva Conventions more than fifty years ago. Surely Rumsfeld has had enough time to work out how to apply them.


Link Here

'So that's it, huh? Not exactly.'

Military higher-ups get

to the bottom of abuse


Knight Ridder Newspapers
Link Here

WASHINGTON - Well, they finally got to the bottom of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal this week. An Army court martial convicted Pfc. Lynndie England and sentenced her to three years in prison and a dishonorable discharge for holding that leash, pointing with scorn and other offenses.

They've gotten to the bottom, all right. With Pfc. England's conviction, that wraps up the cases against nine enlisted soldiers who starred in those terrible digital photos in late 2003.

So that's it, huh? Not exactly. We still haven't gotten to the top of this scandal, the Guantanamo problems and the questions that were raised last week by an Army captain from the 82nd Airborne Division who is troubled by, of all things, a conscience.

Capt. Ian Fishback, a West Point graduate, was a lieutenant in both Afghanistan and Iraq when he became troubled by what he was seeing: American soldiers beating Iraqi detainees until their arms and legs were broken. Death threats. Extreme forced physical exertion. Sleep deprivation. Exposure to the elements.

He began a 17-month journey, or attempted journey, up the chain of command, asking, then pleading for simple guidance on whether American troops in Iraq were bound by terms of the Geneva Conventions. He wrote a letter to the two top Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee, John Warner, R-Va., and John McCain, R-Ariz.

"This is a tragedy," he wrote. "I can remember, as a cadet at West Point, resolving to ensure that my men would never commit a dishonorable act; that I would protect them from that type of burden."

What did this honorable American officer ask that was so hard? "Give (our soldiers) a clear standard that is in accordance with the bedrock principles of our nation."

Capt. Fishback added: "Some argue that since our actions are not as horrifying as al-Qaeda's we should not be concerned. When did al-Qaeda become any type of standard by which we measure the morality of the United States?"

Nobody in his chain of command showed the slightest concern about what the captain reported and what he sought. Nobody showed any interest until Human Rights Watch revealed details of his case last week.

Then the Army got very interested. Orders went down to interrogate the captain and demand that he identify two sergeants who also witnessed some of the abuse. Once again, the powers-that-be were eager to get to the bottom of the issue. Find some enlisted men or non-coms and hang them out to dry.

Shame on them.

And unless the good senators are ready at last to step up to the plate and hold independent hearings on the question of how the Unites States treats prisoners or detainees who end up in American custody anywhere in the world, shame on them, too.

We've been treated to the spectacle of a Republican-controlled House and Senate abdicating their constitutional responsibility to conduct rigorous oversight of actions and failings of the executive branch of government. This has gone on for the four-plus years that George W. Bush has occupied the White House, and it looks as if we'll get more of the same for three more years and a bit.

There have been 17 separate investigations of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other prisoner abuse scandals. All have gone straight to the bottom of every case. All have consistently claimed that no one higher up the chain of command, including the civilian leadership in the Pentagon, bears any responsibility for any of this.

Hogwash. BS. Nonsense.

If the lowest private fails, then others have failed in training, leading and directing that private. The chain runs from sergeant to lieutenant to captain to lieutenant colonel to colonel to one, two, three and four stars, on to the longest serving, most arrogant secretary of defense in our history, Donald H. Rumsfeld, and beyond him to the commander in chief, President Bush.

It's long past time for responsibility to begin flowing uphill in this administration. It's time for our leaders to take responsibility for what's being done in all our names and under our proud flag. It's time for Congress to do its job if the administration won't do its job.

The Teflon is wearing off this administration in a hurry. It's past time for an end to strutting, victory laps, crowing to the skies and boasting "Bring 'em on!" Now is the time to provide the leadership our troops deserve. Now is the time to state plainly and unequivocally that we are Americans, and we live by a rule of law that protects everyone, even the worst terrorist who ever fell into our hands. Maybe especially the worst terrorist who ever fell into our hands.

Bin Laden's little helper

US administration lectures about God delivered to Muslims are a dangerous folly

Sidney Blumenthal
Friday September 30, 2005
The Guardian

President Bush has no adviser more loyal and less self-serving than Karen Hughes. As governor of Texas, he trusted the former Dallas television reporter-turned-press secretary with the tending of his image and words. She was mother hen of his persona. In the White House, Hughes devoted heart and soul to Bush as his communications director until, suddenly, she returned home to Texas in 2002, citing her son's homesickness. There were reports that Karl Rove, jealous of power, had been sniping at her.

From her exile, Hughes produced Ten Minutes from Normal, a deeply uninteresting and unrevealing memoir. Long stretches of uninformative banality are broken by unselfconscious expressions of religiosity - accounts of how she inserted Psalms 23 and 27 into Bush's speeches after 9/11, the entire sermon she delivered aboard Air Force One on Palm Sunday. Hughes quotes the then national security adviser Condoleezza Rice: "I think Karen missed her calling. She can preach."
When two undersecretaries of state for public diplomacy resigned this year in frustration, in the face of the precipitous loss of US prestige around the globe, Bush found Hughes a new slot. She may be the most parochial person ever to hold a senior state department appointment, but the president has confidence she can rebrand the US.

This week, Hughes embarked on her first trip as undersecretary. Her initial statement resembled an elementary school presentation: "You might want to know why the countries. Egypt is, of course, the most populous Arab country... Saudi Arabia is our second stop; it's obviously an important place in Islam and the keeper of its two holiest sites ... Turkey is also a country that encompasses people of many different backgrounds and beliefs, and yet is proud of the saying that 'All are Turks'."

Hughes appeared as one of the pilgrims satirised by Mark Twain in his 1869 book Innocents Abroad, on his trip on the Grand Holy Land Pleasure Excursion. "None of us had ever been anywhere before; we all hailed from the interior; travel was a wild novelty... We always took care to make it understood that we were Americans - Americans!"

Hughes's simple, sincere and unadorned language reveals the administration's inner mind. Her ideas on terrorism and its solution are straightforward. "Terrorists," she said, "their policies force young people, other people's daughters and sons, to strap on bombs and blow themselves up." That is: somehow, magically, these evil-doers coerce the young to commit suicide. If only they would understand us, the tensions would dissolve.

"Many people around the world do not understand the important role that faith plays in Americans' lives," she said. When an Egyptian opposition leader inquired why Mr Bush mentions God in his speeches, Hughes asked him whether he was aware that "previous American presidents have also cited God, and that our constitution cites 'one nation under God'."

"Well, never mind," he said.

With these well-meaning arguments, Hughes has provided the exact proofs for Bin Laden's claims about American motives. "It is stunning to the extent Hughes is helping bin Laden," says Robert Pape, a University of Chicago political scientist who has conducted extensive research into the motives of suicide terrorists and is the author of Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. "If you set out to help bin Laden," he says, "you could not have done it better than Hughes."

Pape's research debunks the view that suicide terrorism is the natural byproduct of Islamic fundamentalism or some "Islamo-fascist" ideological strain, independent of certain highly specific circumstances.

"Of the key conditions that lead to suicide terrorism in particular, there first must be the presence of foreign combat forces on the territory that the terrorists prize. The second condition is a religious difference between the combat forces and the local community. The religious difference matters in that it enables terrorist leaders to paint foreign forces as being driven by religious goals.

"If you read Osama's speeches, they begin with descriptions of the US occupation of the Arabian peninsula driven by our religious goals and that it is our religious purpose that must be confronted. That argument is incredibly powerful, not only to religious Muslims but also secular Muslims. Everything Hughes says makes their case."

The undersecretary's blundering tour of the Middle East might be the latest incarnation of Innocents Abroad. "The people stared at us everywhere, and we stared at them," Twain wrote. "We bore down on them with America's greatness until we crushed them."

But the stakes are rather different from those on the Grand Holy Land Pleasure Excursion. "It would be a folly," says Pape, "were it not so dangerous."

· Sidney Blumenthal, a former senior adviser to President Clinton, is the author of The Clinton Wars
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