Just Foreign Policy Iraqi Death Estimator    

Saturday, November 12, 2005

And look what page they put it on... WaPo NAILS georgie.


Asterisks Dot White

House's Iraq Argument

By Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus
Saturday, November 12, 2005; A01

President Bush and his national security adviser have answered critics of the Iraq war in recent days with a two-pronged argument: that Congress saw the same intelligence the administration did before the war, and that independent commissions have determined that the administration did not misrepresent the intelligence.

Neither assertion is wholly accurate.

The administration's overarching point is true: Intelligence agencies overwhelmingly believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and very few members of Congress from either party were skeptical about this belief before the war began in 2003. Indeed, top lawmakers in both parties were emphatic and certain in their public statements.

But Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material. And the commissions cited by officials, though concluding that the administration did not pressure intelligence analysts to change their conclusions, were not authorized to determine whether the administration exaggerated or distorted those conclusions.

National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, briefing reporters Thursday, countered "the notion that somehow this administration manipulated the intelligence." He said that "those people who have looked at that issue, some committees on the Hill in Congress, and also the Silberman-Robb Commission, have concluded it did not happen."

But the only committee investigating the matter in Congress, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has not yet done its inquiry into whether officials mischaracterized intelligence by omitting caveats and dissenting opinions. And Judge Laurence H. Silberman, chairman of Bush's commission on weapons of mass destruction, said in releasing his report on March 31, 2005: "Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policymakers, and all of us were agreed that that was not part of our inquiry."

Bush, in Pennsylvania yesterday, was more precise, but he still implied that it had been proved that the administration did not manipulate intelligence, saying that those who suggest the administration "manipulated the intelligence" are "fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments."

In the same speech, Bush asserted that "more than 100 Democrats in the House and the Senate, who had access to the same intelligence, voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power." Giving a preview of Bush's speech, Hadley had said that "we all looked at the same intelligence."

But Bush does not share his most sensitive intelligence, such as the President's Daily Brief, with lawmakers. Also, the National Intelligence Estimate summarizing the intelligence community's views about the threat from Iraq was given to Congress just days before the vote to authorize the use of force in that country.

In addition, there were doubts within the intelligence community not included in the NIE. And even the doubts expressed in the NIE could not be used publicly by members of Congress because the classified information had not been cleared for release. For example, the NIE view that Hussein would not use weapons of mass destruction against the United States or turn them over to terrorists unless backed into a corner was cleared for public use only a day before the Senate vote.

The lawmakers are partly to blame for their ignorance. Congress was entitled to view the 92-page National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq before the October 2002 vote. But, as The Washington Post reported last year, no more than six senators and a handful of House members read beyond the five-page executive summary.

Even within the Bush administration, not everybody consistently viewed Iraq as what Hadley called "an enormous threat." In a news conference in February 2001 in Egypt, then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said of the economic sanctions against Hussein's Iraq: "Frankly, they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction."

Bush, in his speech Friday, said that "it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began." But in trying to set the record straight, he asserted: "When I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support."

The October 2002 joint resolution authorized the use of force in Iraq, but it did not directly mention the removal of Hussein from power.

The resolution voiced support for diplomatic efforts to enforce "all relevant Security Council resolutions," and for using the armed forces to enforce the resolutions and defend "against the continuing threat posed by Iraq."

Hadley, in his remarks, went further. "Congress, in 1998, authorized, in fact, the use of force based on that intelligence," he said. "And, as you know, the Clinton administration took some action."

But the 1998 legislation gave the president authority "to support efforts to remove the regime of Saddam Hussein" by providing assistance to Iraqi opposition groups, including arms, humanitarian aid and broadcasting facilities.

President Bill Clinton ordered four days of bombing of Iraqi weapons facilities in 1998, under the 1991 resolution authorizing military force in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Describing that event in an interview with CBS News yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said: "We went to war in 1998 because of concerns about his weapons of mass destruction."

Video: "I am waiting for his body":

Military families speak out!

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Retired General Urges Better Vets Benefits:

Speaking on the Veterans Day weekend, the former U.S. military commander in the Middle East said "President Bush has consistently refused to provide enough" money for veterans' health care.

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US veterans' invisible wounds :

Nearly 2,000 US troops have been killed in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, and tens of thousands wounded. But many have found themselves dealing with psychological - as well as physical - trauma. In the second of a five-part series, BBC News talks to soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related symptoms.

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Hero’s survivors rue war: Mom says son ill-equipped:

By Maggie Mulvihill
Friday, November 11, 2005 - Updated: 03:14 AM EST

Alma Hart stood over her only son’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery in November 2003, vowing to honor his life.

Pfc. John Hart was just 20 when he was shot dead by an Iraqi enemy – just three months after his arrival in Iraq.

“When we buried John I promised him I would think of him every day,” said Hart yesterday, her voice breaking. “And I have.”

Today, as another Veterans Day passes, Alma Hart, 47, her husband, Brian, 46, and their two teenage daughters will lay a wreath in John’s memory at Memorial Park near their Bedford home. John Hart was one of 31 Massachusetts soldiers killed in the war so far.

But helping the living is what helps his mother make sense of her child’s death. She has begun volunteering at Bedford’s Veterans Administration hospital, determined to make sure the soldiers there aren’t ignored like many who returned from Vietnam.

“I will not let this happen to the Iraq generation. We can’t just stuff them in a hospital and leave them there,” Hart said. “This is how I will honor my son. I just can’t sit around and stare at John’s picture. There are guys that still need me.”

John Hart was killed as he traveled with fellow soldiers in a canvas-covered Humvee in Northern Iraq. In a phone call home a week before his death, he told his father he lacked body armor and ammunition.

“He said, ‘Dad can you do something?’ ” Hart remembered. Alma Hart said she and her husband were stunned, though they had heard news reports of ill-equipped soldiers.

“We were hoping it wasn’t true. President Bush had announced the war was over in May and I thought they were just there on peacekeeping stuff,” Hart said.

By the time the couple decided to write a letter to Massachusetts congressmen, “the Army was ringing the doorbell to say John was killed,” Hart said.

“They sent him into an ambush where there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell he was going to survive,” she said. [continue]

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Activist says leaders without family in Iraq lack personal stake:

Peace activist Cindy Sheehan told University of Massachusetts students in a Veteran's Day speech Friday that government officials who don't have family serving in the Iraq war "have nothing at stake."

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54 Bodies found in Iraq town after US offensive-doctor:

Doctor Saif al-Ani, who works for the Red Crescent in the Qaim area, told Reuters they had unearthed at least 54 bodies in the rubble, including some women and children.

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As Time Passes in Leak Probe, Rove is Seen as Less Vulnerable (WSJ)

WASHINGTON -- Two weeks after a White House aide's indictment in the CIA-leak case, political adviser Karl Rove and possibly other Bush administration officials remain at risk of being charged in the investigation.

But some lawyers believe that with each passing day, the odds of further indictments are diminishing. Unless the indicted aide, I. Lewis Libby, implicates others, or special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald gains some other new evidence, the investigation could end with no one else being charged, they say.

"The longer this goes without any other action by the special prosecutor, the higher the likelihood" that no additional charges will be filed, said Frank Zimring, a criminal-law expert at the University of California at Berkeley.

Some lawyers believe that Mr. Fitzgerald might be hoping to obtain evidence against Mr. Rove from Mr. Libby. Mr. Rove's camp believes he is likely to learn the prosecutor's final decision on an indictment within a matter of weeks, not months, a person familiar with the situation said last week.

(more at link)

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Is Treason Passé?

Larisa Alexandrovna

I am no legal scholar to be sure, but it seems to me that the definition of treason as provided in the constitution is fairly straightforward, especially the following:

"… in adhering to [UNITED STATES'] Enemies, giving [THE ENEMIES] Aid and Comfort (Article III, Section 3)"

A Thought Exercise:

The head of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), Ahmed Chalab, is largely known to the public as a con-man, who America paid more than $100 million to “mislead” our government into war with Iraq, or more simply, to help convince us - the people - that Iraq was a threat, with cooperation from certain members of our government.

Chalabi, however, is more than a poor little rich con-man and his organization, the INC, is more interested in the dealing of intelligence and arms than in championing purple fingers.

In June of last year, The White House gave the order for Chalabi’s house to be raided, as well as the offices of the INC and homes of other INC members because Chalabi and pals were passing US secrets to Iran.

Some sources to get you started:

NewsweekChristian Science MonitorThe New Yorker

He was, however, suspected even before the Iraq war for doing much of the same, spying, dealing in arms, counterfeiting, and forgery.Now, if I remember correctly, Iran is part of some satanic monolith called the “Axis of Evil,” as defined by the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon, and so forth. The terms were set forward by them, very publicly and the terms were also defined for other countries: “you are either with us or you are against us.”

Obviously the “us” in this trite and astonishingly disingenuous construct is of course the United States. Anyone who is part of the Axis of Evil would in no doubt be “against” us, that is against the United States. Iran, being part of the evil troika, is clearly against us.

Mental Stretching:

If Iran is an “enemy” of the United States and Chalabi is an agent of Iran, would that not make Chalabi an enemy of the United States?

I will venture a yes, for the simple logic of the very clear and non-nuanced terms set for us to follow: either/or.

Mental Jogging:

If Chalabi is an enemy of the United States and the Constitution defines TREASON as giving aid and comfort to the enemy, then would it not be clear also that anyone giving aid and comfort to Chalabi is committing an act of TREASON against the United States?

Again, I will venture a yes

Mental Running:

If the Feith-Rummy-Cheney trifecta is paying Chalabi stipends (that American citizens can only dream of) and hosting him, meeting with him, and giving him cover from authorities while he is in the United States and while abroad, then are they committing TREASON?
Call me a stickler for logic and reason (and the rule of law) but I would say yes.

Now, according to the Constitution:

“No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”

What about an indictment for treason? How many witnesses are needed, 2 witnesses, 3 witnesses, millions? Let us make this argument simple by keeping to the number of witnesses established by the Constitution, 2.

Have at least two witnesses been privy to Feith, Rummy, and Cheney (and others, like Rice, Hadley, and so forth) giving aid and comfort to Chalabi?


So what happens now, arrests, indictments, charges, what? Nothing, crickets!

Mental Breakdown:

The only response we get is WHIG reconstituting its propaganda weapons' program, as we have seen from this administration in the last few days, all babbling through spit-filled and spiteful punches at the public at large, be they Democrat, Republican, Christian, Muslim, etc. Anyone who disagrees with this administration on any point is a target, showing just how valuable their group-hug ethics charade was.

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McCain On Torture: Missing in Action in 2004

RJ Eskow

John McCain is a true American hero. He is rightfully honored for his sacrifice during the Vietnam War, and for his bravery under torture during captivity. But his claim for leadership on the issue of America's torture raises more questions than it answers. When he could have made a difference, and possibly even ended the US practice of torture, he chose to stand aside and do nothing.

Now, with the Administration he supported in disarray and its poll numbers plunging, he's seized the torture issue for his own. But where was he when it counted?

McCain held great power in 2004. Many voters viewed him - rightly or wrongly - as a true independent, and many remembered how Bush and Rove slurred his wife and adopted daughter in South Carolina during the 2000 primary. His support for Bush's re-election was highly sought-after, and rumors say that Kerry pursued him as a Vice Presidential candidate. McCain was in an ideal position to demand that the Bush Administration renounce torture as a condition for his support. Yet he did not.

McCain has been consistent in his condemnation of torture since it was first revealed. He spoke out against the abuses at Abu Ghraib in 2004, and was right to do so. Yet despite the fact that Bush continued to support the use of torture in his military apparatus, despite the continued presence of Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense, despite the ongoing revelations about torture in Iraq and Afghanistan, McCain campaigned enthusiastically for Bush/Cheney in 2004. McCain worked to re-elect the same group that conducted the torture he condemned then and continues to oppose today. And while he was willing to introduce the anti-torture amendment this year, he did not do so while last year's election was underway.

McCain's vote to confirm Alberto Gonzales is even more damning. How can anyone comdemn torture, yet vote to confirm as Attorney General the man who wrote the memo justifying it as a government practice? The phrases Gonzales wrote will be infamous for generations - "water boarding," "pain equivalent to organ failure or death," the "quaint" provisions of the Geneva Convention - and McCain voted to place him in the highest legal office in the land.

If torture is morally wrong, McCain should acknowledge his responsibility for its continuation and apologize for his part in it. So should all the other Republicans who voted for the anti-torture amendment. Otherwise, it's all empty posturing. Any politician who supported Bush/Cheney in 2004 did so in the full knowledge that they were supporting an Administration of torturers. McCain, Schwarzenegger, Pataki, Giuliani ... they all owe the American people and the world an apology for their actions.

McCain appropriately holds a special place in history as a result of his sacrifice. He should not cheapen it now by using it selectively. And on this Veterans' Day and all those to come, our soldiers have the right to be honored by the nation and the world without falling under torture's shadow.

A Night Light

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I Was Wrong About Bush

This was written by my friend Andrew Foster Altschul, a fairly successful fiction writer (which is to say he publishes and has a novel coming out) and lecturer at Stanford. He doesn't have a password to post here so I'm posting his rant for him. He writes excellent rants. -se


I was wrong.

It happens, from time to time, even to the political Nostradami, the greatest minds of our generation. And if we will claim glory when our predictions come true, then we must admit it when they are horribly, grotesquely wrong.

Wednesday night at a cocktail party at the home of Julie Orringer and Ryan Harty, I held forth to Stephen Elliott and Peter Orner, as well as a small gaggle of my credulous and admiring graduate students, that I thought things were about to change. It was a defining moment for George W. Bush, the fulcrum of his presidency, I said. Even a baboon could not fail to notice that he was on the verge of permanent disgrace, the historians were sharpening their pencils to write of his failed presidency and its terrible cost: for American prestige and respect, for the U.S. economy, for lives lost in the Middle East. Perhaps most important, from his perspective, the "permanent Republican majority" is in jeopardy, the 1994 revolution's appeal, such as it was, lies in the tatters of New Orleans, Virginia's bellwether has rung loudly, the Terminator and the Exterminator have been terminated and exterminated. The Scooter Libby affair is a cancer that has given us the band-aid spectacle of White House "ethics classes"; the vow to "restore honor and dignity to the Oval Office" has become a punch line. As a second-term president, I said, Bush would be thinking about his legacy. It was time, I opined, to make some changes. It was time, I said, pleased with my metaphor, for Nixon to go to China.

The President considers himself a fundamentally decent man, I said. Unlike Dick Cheney, who wants only to see himself as right and powerful, George Bush wants to see himself as decent. He could not ignore recent events, I said, reaching for the shrimp cocktail. They were humbling, chastening - or at least they made it clear that a tone of humility and chastity would be necessary in order to restore trust in his administration. After a long, thoughtful sip of cabernet, I said humility and chastity dictated some housecleaning. It dictated a move to the center, an engagement with the parts of the electorate he has sneered at. Bush does not want to be remembered merely for cutting taxes and licking the boots of bigots and Bible warriors, I said, eyeing a truffle. He himself is not truly a bigot, nor a Bible warrior, and the time when it was expedient to pose as one has obviously passed.

I made other predictions which, in retrospect, are too embarrassing to reveal - though I still stand by them.

"Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war," said Bush in his Veterans Day speech, raising higher an audacity bar that he and Cheney have already elevated to Himalayan heights.

"The stakes in the global war on terror are too high and the national interest is too important for politicians to throw out false charges," he said, reverting to the rhetoric of the pre-war marketing campaign and the post-Mission Accomplished backfill: If you oppose the war, you are a traitor; if you disagree with its architects, you are against the national interest. You might as well be shooting at our troops yourself.

"We will never back down. We will never give in. We will never accept anything less than complete victory," he said, the day after three hotels in Jordan were bombed by al-Qaeda in Iraq, just weeks after we passed 2,000 American casualties in this vainglorious escapade. Only cowards and Democrats could question his omniscience, his goodness, his will - and never mind that moderate Republicans are speaking out against the war, demanding an exit strategy, abandoning ship on issues of torture and presidential prerogative. Even Rick Santorum doesn't want Bush around. And when a bottom-feeder like Rick Santorum won't return your calls, it's really time to check your deodorant.

Meanwhile, Karl Rove took an I-didn't-get-indicted victory lap before the Federalist Society, where he beat up Federal judges, lamented the treatment of Harriet Miers (apparently forgetting it was the Federalists and Brownbacks who sank her), and impugned the patriotism of Democratic Senators Schumer, Durbin, Leahy, and Kennedy. (This, the day after Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney took applause following a reference to Kennedy as part of a "KKK, the Kennedy Kerry Klan.") Seeing as Rove most likely isn't allowed to urinate without permission these days, it's pretty clear that this was a calculated effort, a one-two punch, Butch and Sundance charging into a hail of pansy-assed liberal gunfire to prove once again: It doesn't matter if you're right or honest or successful, as long as you never stop calling other people dirty names.

"Karl Rove has... come into the cross-hairs of criticism from the liberal establishment here in Washington," said David McIntosh, co-chairman of the Federalist Society. "When the establishment can't defeat the power of one's ideas, they crank up the engine of personal attack in order to distract the leaders." McIntosh seems to have forgotten that it was a Republican prosecutor, assigned by a Republican Justice Department, who investigated Rove and indicted a Republican Chief of Staff for his conversations with a hawkish journalist and the resulting column by a prominent Republican troglodyte. Inconvenient though it may be to Republican delusions, the truth is that Democrats were on the sidelines of this one. But why should the truth get in the way of the marketing campaign? Why examine your own weaknesses and errors when you can smear people instead and change the subject? Self-examination makes for bad PR.

Clearly, there will be no turn toward the center. There will be no contrition, no reaching out, no soul searching. There will be no road to Damascus, no trip to China. Bush and Rove are going to try to shoot their way out of this, resorting to precisely the scummy smear tactics Patrick Fitzgerald just laid bare. They're going to keep trying to Swiftboat anyone who opposes them - except that Bush's approval rating is about 37% right now, which means they're going to have to Swiftboat almost two-thirds of the U.S.. Six in ten voters now think Bush is dishonest, and yet he's going to insist, as always, that we shut up and trust him or be branded traitors. It's almost funny.

But really it's sad. I thought, perhaps, there was a moment when better natures might take over, if only in the name of self-preservation. Once again I underestimated this man's tragic stupidity. My consolation is that it can't work. The numbers are against him now. If this is really the way he wants to spend the next three years, his reputation going down in a hail of bullets while he and Turd Blossom keep jabbering about everyone else's crimes, I say: Bring It On.

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GOP Oil, Energy Lobbyists And Execs To Raise Money For DeLay…

Saturday, November 12, 2005; Page A04

The capital's most prominent Republican lobbyists are going out of their way next Thursday to show their support -- financial and personal -- for former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.).

More than five dozen lobbyists are named as members of the host committee for a fundraising reception in the District to benefit DeLay's reelection campaign. The event, to be on the ninth floor of 101 Constitution Ave. NW, Capitol Hill's hottest new lobbying venue, is expected to be the largest fundraiser for a single member of Congress this year.

Host committee members said that the event is as much about symbolism as dollars. "This is more than just a fundraiser," said Wayne Berman of the Federalist Group, a lobbying firm. "It's a way of saying that an important part of the Republican establishment supports Tom DeLay now and will continue to support him in the future."

"It's intended to demonstrate moral support as well as generate dollars for what's expected to be an expensive campaign," agreed Richard D. Shelby, senior vice president of the American Gas Association.

Host committee members are expected to give the maximum $2,100 personal contribution or to raise $5,000 for DeLay's reelection. The fundraiser was organized by some of DeLay's staffers-turned-lobbyists after his indictment in September and the loss of his leadership post. A Texas grand jury indicted him on a conspiracy charge stemming from a long-running campaign finance investigation, and he later was indicted on related money-laundering charges. DeLay has denied the allegations.

Listed as host committee members are the top executives of the National Association of Manufacturers, the Edison Electric Institute and the American Petroleum Institute. Presidents of several major lobbying firms are also included.

-- Jeffrey H. Birnbaum

Saturday Afternoon


Olbermann Catches O'Reilly Cover-up Of San Fran Bombing Tirade...

O’Reilly cover-up:

MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann on O’Reilly’s statement about San Francisco: “Someone at the O’Reilly website tried to cover that up — I can’t imagine why — removing the entire part about al Qaeda from the show’s transcript. Heads up to that enterprising individual: It’s on tape. Removing the words from the transcript doesn’t make the audio disappear.”

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Chalabi on Misleading America to War: Dude, It's An Urban Myth, Totally!

I've just come out of hearing Ahmad Chalabi speak at the Council on Foreign Relations (an embarrassment that the august organization will have to work to overcome).

Chalabi was a polished speaker -- which made the b.s. he was peddling easier to swallow but no less nauseating.

The only thing that made Chalabi's talk bearable was the group of friends who had come with me -- including John Cusack, Jeremy Pisker, Mark Layner, and Grace Loh.

Like insolent high-schoolers, we kept passing notes back and forth, offering each other real time translations of what he was saying.

This report is our collective take on the event, cobbled together in the car after we left.

Our main takeaway from the speech was the dissonance between Iraq's reality and Chalabi's presentation.

He was very smooth. Many in the crowd left muttering about how impressive he was, effectively wondering, Why were people saying all those awful things about such a nice man?

Watching him speak, you'd have no clue that this was a man at the epicenter of one of the great tragedies of our time (to say nothing of being a wanted man in Jordan and under investigation by the FBI).

Instead, he looked like a guy whose ship had just come in -- giving off an aura that was a curious cross between Moses, Dick Cheney, and Oliver Reed.

We were all struck by his command of political buzzwords and American slang -- at one point declaring that the idea he had used faulty intelligence to lead the U.S. into invading Iraq was "an urban myth." (For some urban reality, read David Corn's takedown on Chalabi's use of this term in relation to another charge against him.)

I've seen this response before. People are always impressed when a foreigner can string 3 sentences together (it's a reaction that's served me well over the years).

Chalabi was introduced by another well-spoken foreigner, his old friend Fouad Ajami. Ajami's introduction couldn't have been more glowing. We had to check the program to make sure we weren't about to hear from Nelson Mandela. The CV we were given made it sound like Chalabi's life was a seamless trajectory from his birth in Baghdad through his PhD from the University of Chicago to his current role as Deputy Prime Minister -- without any mention of the scandal, corruption, and crimes that have followed wherever he has gone.

Looking tan, rested, a little balding, and very well fed, Chalabi delivered a casual talk that called to mind the fireside chats of FDR.

Here are some of the stand-out moments that most struck our little group:

On the insurgency: "There is no communal strife in Iraq. Only individual acts of violence."

On his relationship with Iran (the source of that FBI investigation): "completely transparent."

On Ayatollah Sistani: "He has no interest in politics. It's the last thing on his mind."

On the corruption that has plagued the U.S. occupation of Iraq: "95% of the corruption is gone."

On Iraqi oil and gas: Chalabi said that, according to the new Iraqi Constitution, all of the country's oil and gas are owned by the people. He then repeatedly mentioned how important it was to open the country -- including its oil and gas resources -- to privatization. He also predicted that gas prices in Iraq would continue to rise, but mitigated it by saying that it wouldn't really matter because poor people don't have cars anyway.

On the terrorists plaguing Iraq: When asked about whether his statement that the terrorists have better intelligence about the government than the government has about the terrorists "wasn't alarming" -- he replied: "Yes, that is alarming." But he didn't look at all alarmed.

On the Iraqi Army: He made it clear that the Iraqi army was going to have to go on a spending spree to buy American-produced weaponry as opposed to the inferior Eastern European arms they now have. Clearly a bonanza for U.S. defense contractors.

"We have achieved democracy," he announced at one point. Good to know. It was all very congratulatory, clubby and collegial. Dissident voices were not allowed. When I stood up to ask a question, I had the microphone offered and then quickly taken away at the moderator's prompting as soon as I introduced myself.

For the record, here is what I was planning to ask: "It has now been established, including by the Robb-Silberman commission, that the group you headed, the Iraqi National Congress, coached defectors to fabricate information about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction to the intelligence community. Do you take responsibility for the actions of the group?"

The presentation ended with Ajami praising Chalabi again and comparing him to Scheherazade, saying they both understood that the secret of a good story is to end it with the audience wanting more. True enough. We certainly left wanting more from Chalabi. Like some direct answers. And the truth.

A half-hour after leaving the speech, I got a surprising -- and very nice -- message through the Council from Chalabi's office asking if I would be interested in meeting him for breakfast tomorrow morning at 8:15 at his hotel. They said he'd noticed that I didn't get to ask my question and wanted to give me the opportunity to ask it. I really would have loved to but my flight for L.A. leaves at 7 a.m. Too bad. It would have been great to blog about "My Breakfast with Chalabi."

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Newsweek poll: Just 36 percent of Americans support Bush

From a release issued to RAW STORY.


New York-A majority of Americans polled disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president-an all time low in the Newsweek Poll. After recent events, such as the withdrawal of the Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination and the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's former Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, 58 percent of Americans disapprove of the president's handling of his job-a five-point decrease in approval since the September 29-30 Newsweek Poll. On the topic of how Bush is handling certain aspects of his job, 60 percent of those polled disapprove of the way he is handling the economy, 32 percent approve. Seventy-three percent disapprove of Bush's handling of oil prices, 20 percent approve.


Sixty-eight percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time, a seven-point drop in satisfaction since the last Newsweek Poll. Only 26 percent are satisfied. Forty-two percent of those polled say that they disapprove of Bush's appointments to the Supreme Court; 42 percent approve. Forty percent say that Samuel Alito should be confirmed to the Supreme Court, 26 percent say he should not be confirmed, 34 percent don't know.

When asked if they think Bush can be an effective president during his last three years in office, a 56 percent-majority say the President 'won't be able to get much done.' The president and his administration are also suffering an emerging credibility gap: 42 percent of those polled think the phrase 'is honest and ethical' describes Bush, 50 percent disagree. When asked if the same phrase describes Dick Cheney, 55 percent said no, it does not, and 29 percent said it did. In the role that the vice president has played in this administration, 34 percent said he has been given too much power by the president, 45 percent say he has been given the right amount. When broken down by political party, 72 percent of Republicans say that Cheney has been given the right amount of power, 12 percent say he has been given too much; whereas 47 percent of Democrats say he has been given too much and 32 percent say it has been the right amount.

Fifty-two percent of Americans believe that Cheney was part of a cover up to try to prevent the special prosecutor from getting the truth about who leaked CIA agent Valerie Plame's name to the news

media, 27 percent do not believe he was involved.


Newsweek Poll/Page Two

When asked if anyone in the Bush administration acted unethically in the CIA leak case, 54 percent said yes, they did. Of those polled, 71 percent of Democrats and 30 percent of Republicans say there was unethical action. Forty-five percent of those polled say that they believe that someone in the Bush administration broke the law and acted criminally in the case handling, 30 percent say no laws were broken. When that same question is examined by party breakdown, 60 percent of Democrats and 22 percent of Republicans say laws were broken; and 18 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans say no laws were broken.

When asked if the vice president deliberately misused or manipulated pre-war intelligence about Iraq's nuclear capabilities in order to build support for war with Iraq-52 percent say he misused intelligence, 33 percent say he did not. Overall, 65 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq, only 32 percent approve according to the latest Newsweek Poll.

For this Newsweek Poll, Princeton Survey Research Associates International interviewed 1,002 adults aged 18 and older on November 10-11, 2005. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points. This poll is part of the November 21 issue of Newsweek, on newsstands Monday, November 14. To interview Senior Editor Marcus Mabry on the poll, call Natalia Labenskyj at 212-445-4078 or Andrea Faville at 212-445-4859.

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Georgies Church Goes Into Full Rebellion and REPENTS

Methodist Bishops

Repent Iraq War

Thursday, November 10, 2005
By Kaukab Jhumra Smith
Foe.. I Mean Fox News

WASHINGTON — Ninety-five bishops from President Bush's church said Thursday they repent their "complicity" in the "unjust and immoral" invasion and occupation of Iraq.

"In the face of the United States administration's rush toward military action based on misleading information, too many of us were silent," said a statement of conscience signed by more than half of the 164 retired and active United Methodist bishops worldwide.

President Bush is a member of the United Methodist Church, according to various published biographies. The White House did not return a request for comment on the bishops' statement.

Although United Methodist leadership has opposed the Iraq war in the past, this is the first time that individual bishops have confessed to a personal failure to publicly challenge the buildup to the war.

The signatures were also an instrument for retired bishops to make their views known, said bishop Joseph H. Yeakel, who served in the Baltimore-Washington area from 1984 to 1996. The current bishop for the Baltimore-Washington area, John R. Schol, also signed the statement.

The statement avoids making accusations, said retired Bishop Kenneth L. Carder, instructor at Duke University's divinity school and an author of the document.

"We would have made the statement regardless of who the president was. It was not meant to be either partisan or to single out any one person," Carder said. "It was the recognition that we are all part of the decision and we are all part of a democratic society. We all bear responsibility."

Stith, who spent more than three years after his retirement working in East Africa -- including with Rwandan refugees -- said going to war over the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks did not solve the real problems behind them.

The real issues are that much of the world lives in poverty, desperation and depression, he said, while an affluent minority of the world often oppresses them. Americans need to take responsibility for their world, Stith said.

"To ignore things and to assume that persons in the government have all knowledge is to reject our franchise and our democracy," Stith said.

About six weeks ago, Carder discussed the idea of a public statement with other colleagues who "had concerns" about the war, and the idea just grew, Carder said.

Last week, the statement circulated during a biannual meeting of the Council of Bishops, "and before the week was out, we had 95 bishops," Carder said.

In their statement, the bishops pledged to pray daily for the end of the war, for its American and Iraqi victims and for American leaders to find "truth, humility and policies of peace through justice."

"We confess our preoccupation with institutional enhancement and limited agendas while American men and women are sent to Iraq to kill and be killed, while thousands of Iraqi people needlessly suffer and die, while poverty increases and preventable diseases go untreated," the statement said.

Some bishops declined to sign their names, although they supported the statement, Carder said.

This week's statement follows years of public opposition to the Iraq war by the church.

In May 2004, the Council of Bishops passed a resolution that "lamented the continued warfare" and asked the U.S. government to seek international help to rebuild Iraq. The church's women's division called for an end to the war in 2002. And in 2001, the church's head of social policy, Jim Winkler, said the push for war was "without any justification according to the teachings of Christ," according to a report by The (London) Observer.

Public approval of the war has steadily declined since the United States invaded Iraq in March 2003. At the time, seven of 10 Americans said the U.S. did the right thing. By this October, only four of 10 Americans did, according to CBS polls.

About 11 million people belong to the United Methodist Church, including 200,000 in the Baltimore-Washington area.

Carder and Stith said they hoped their statement would encourage more people to think about peacemaking.

"The only solution seems to be to stay the course. But if you're on the wrong course, you don't stay the course," Carder said. "At the heart of the Christian faith is the willingness to acknowledge mistakes."

Capital News Service contributed to this report.

---What a very very interesting development.---

No-Bid Contract to Replace Schools after Katrina Is Faulted

By Eric Lipton
The New York Times

Friday 11 November 2005

Bay St. Louis, Miss. - From their new metal-encased classroom, the third graders who returned to school this week can look straight into the carcass of the old North Bay Elementary.

To the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the modular classrooms lined up next to the soon-to-be demolished former school show, as the billboard out front boasts, "Katrina Recovery in Progress."

But to critics, the 450 portable classrooms being installed across Mississippi are prime examples in their case against FEMA and its federal partner, the Army Corps of Engineers, for wasteful spending and favoritism in the $62 billion hurricane relief effort.

Provided by a politically connected Alaskan-owned business under a $40 million no-bid contract, the classrooms cost FEMA nearly $90,000 each, including transportation, according to contracting documents. That is double the wholesale price and nearly 60 percent higher than the price offered by two small Mississippi businesses dropped from the deal.

In addition, the portable buildings were not secured in a concrete foundation, as usually required by state regulations because of safety concerns in a region prone to hurricanes and tornados.

The classroom contract has already prompted a lawsuit from one of the Mississippi companies and a government investigation.

"The fact that natural disasters are not precisely predictable must not be an excuse for careless contracting practices," David E. Cooper from the Government Accountability Office, told Congress recently. In testimony submitted this week, Mr. Cooper said, "We found information in the corps' contract files and from other sources that suggest the negotiated prices were inflated."

Officials at Akima Management Services, the contractor that got the job, say they that while the cost was high, this was not a case of price gouging. The speed demanded in installing the classrooms required charging a premium, said John D. Wood, the company's president.

"What we provided to the government was a fair and reasonable cost given the emergency conditions and the risks," Mr. Wood said. "If it had been done the other way, the kids would not have been in school yet."

Akima's majority owner is the NANA Regional Corporation. It is represented in Washington by Blank Rome Government Relations, a lobbying firm with close ties to the Bush administration and particularly Tom Ridge, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA's parent agency. NANA's federal contracts have grown rapidly in recent years, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

Representative Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, argues that the Akima deal made no sense. Instead of paying a middleman like Akima or the Mississippi companies, he told the Department of Homeland Security, the federal government should have purchased the classrooms directly. And he complained that FEMA had ignored a requirement to give preference to local businesses.

The transaction, Mr. Thompson wrote to the department's inspector general, could "result not only in the American taxpayer being exorbitantly overcharged, but will hamper real rebuilding and economic recovery efforts in Mississippi."

The school construction job is just one of several Hurricane Katrina deals under scrutiny by auditors and Congressional investigators. In awarding those contracts - for roof tarps, debris removal and mobile homes - the federal government said it had to move quickly and often turned to proven contractors accustomed to large-scale work.

The classrooms would have been by far the largest project ever undertaken by the Mississippi company seeking the contract, its owners acknowledge. The business, Adams Hardware and Home Center, has been selling modular classrooms statewide for decades and operates a local mobile home park.

Adams is based in Yazoo City, Miss., about 200 miles north of Bay St. Louis, in a hardware store with a hornets' nest hanging, an eight-point buck with a cigarette stuffed in its mouth and a life-size doll whose head is buried in a toilet outside.

After Hurricane Katrina passed, the father and two sons who run the business recognized that the calamity could turn into a windfall for them and a frequent partner, Magnolia State School Products of Columbus, Miss. Hundreds of schools across the state were damaged or destroyed.

"We set out to do this project not only, of course, to make a profit but to create jobs within our own community," said Kent Adams, the son of the owner, Paul Adams Jr., and manager of the business.

Calling their usual suppliers, they identified a Florida dealer and a Georgia manufacturer that could soon deliver more than 400 classrooms, Mr. Adams said. They proposed a deal for about $24 million, including transportation. That included a profit of about $4 million above the $19.7 million it would cost to acquire and transport the units, the contract documents show.

But when Adams and Magnolia approached the state education department with the offer, they were referred to the Corps of Engineers, which then referred them to Akima.

Akima (pronounced AH-kahmah) is a 10-year-old enterprise jointly owned by 14,000 Inupiat and Unangan Native Alaskans. Thanks to a law passed in 1971, it is one of several native-owned businesses eligible for no-bid federal contracts. Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, has long pushed for changes in contracting rules that have helped enrich Alaskan companies.

Akima, now based in Charlotte, N.C., has 1,300 full- or part-time employees who work on 22 federal contracts, mostly with the military. It also has an agreement with the Army to supply modular buildings.

Mr. Wood said that neither Akima nor NANA used any ties to elected officials to pursue contracts, despite assertions in a Mississippi newspaper that the classroom deal may have been the result of political connections.

"We have never used or attempted to use political influence for any contract involving Akima," he said. "That is fact."

After Hurricane Katrina, FEMA asked the corps to help Mississippi reopen schools. The corps passed the assignment on to Akima.

The Adams Company, as requested, faxed letters to Akima on Sept. 16, outlining its arrangements to acquire the portable classrooms.

But there were a few details the Adamses did not note in their faxes. Paul Adams Jr. had agreed to plead guilty in 1990 to a charge that he conspired with Magnolia to fix prices by divvying up the Mississippi modular classroom business.

Kent Adams said they did not disclose the matter because he and his father did not consider it relevant. The corps asks applicants to disclose such information for only the last three years. The charges were dismissed after his father paid a $1,000 fine and was put on probation.

Akima was not aware of the case until after it dropped Adams Home Center from the deal. But its executives were worried about other issues, Mr. Wood said. Akima concluded that the Mississippi business could not deliver as many classrooms as promised. That meant Akima could not meet deadlines set by the Corps, which wanted 200 classrooms in 14 days and the rest within 45 days, or by the end of October.

"He could not satisfy the schedule," Mr. Wood said.

Contract documents show that the Adamses had miscalculated how many classrooms the Georgia manufacturer had said it could provide. But Kent Adams said that after he and his father learned of the mistake, they identified alternate suppliers to make up the difference.

A day after the shortfall was identified; Akima completed a $39.6 million no-bid deal with the corps that did not include Adams Home Center.

Under the agreement, the corps would pay $87,892 per classroom, far more than the $55,545 Adams intended to charge, contract documents show.

Mr. Wood said the higher price was justified because Akima had to buy more expensive units and hire 187 truck drivers to meet the Corps deadlines. They had to pay twice the normal rate for drivers, he said.

"We did not gouge the government," he said, declining to disclose the company's profit. "If you had until next summer to deliver these trailers, you could get it cheaper."

But so far, government auditors are not convinced.

"We have concerns that the government may be paying more than necessary," Mr. Cooper, of the G.A.O., said in written testimony presented to Congress this week, adding that there was evidence of inflated prices. The auditors are also inquiring about how the classrooms were installed. After Akima delivered them, the structures were placed atop concrete blocks, with a series of straps tied to anchors drilled into the ground. Plywood walkways were then built, linking the classrooms.

A Mississippi State Board of Education code does not permit concrete blocks and piers to anchor modular units. Instead, it requires that they be built on foundations consisting of steel posts secured by poured-in-place concrete.

Regina Ginn, a director in the state office that imposes the standards, said she knew the new classrooms did not fully comply with the state code. But Ms. Ginn added that she considered the corps approach sufficient, an assessment endorsed by Jerry Brosius, a Pennsylvania engineer who has installed modular classrooms for more than 20 years.

"These are temporary buildings," Mr. Brosius said. "They are not going to be there for 20 years."

Michael H. Logue, a spokesman for the Corps of Engineers regional office in Vicksburg, Miss., defended the classroom deal. "We executed the fastest, most reasonable procurement action we genuinely felt was available to us," Mr. Logue said.

Akima met its corps deadlines for the classrooms. The total cost for the corps project to date has been $72 million, because of additional work, installing modular offices for government agencies and building walkways.

The project was not a total loss for Adams Home Center and its partner: They were paid a $200,000 finder's fee by the classroom supplier because Akima bought the units they had identified. But the Adamses have filed a lawsuit seeking some of the profits they had hoped to collect, to which Akima already has said they have no right to claim.

In Bay St. Louis, where homes and stores are still largely ruins, the debate over the classroom costs or contractor seem irrelevant.

"School being back for these children is a break from the reality of destroyed homes," said Johnette Bilbo, a teacher at North Bay. "It is just a start. But this is the first large step back to normalcy and routine in their lives."

The Patriots of Guantanamo

By Gar Smith

11/10/05 "Global Research" -- -- There is a small band of men who are such firm believers in the protections of the Bill of Rights that they are willing to lay down their lives to defend these principles. They aren't soldiers or civil libertarians — they are a group of "enemy combatants" confined in the gulag of Guantanamo.

All freedom-loving Americans should pause to consider the sacrifices of Fawzi al-Odah, Yousef Al Shehri, Abduhl-Rahman Shalabi, Mahid Al Joudi and 21 other detainees who are engaged in a withering hunger strike inside the prison cells of Guantanamo.

When Fawzi al-Odah was arrested in Pakistan in 2002, he was 25-years-old and he weighed a scant 139 pounds. Today al-Odah weighs 112 pounds. He has been on a fast since August 8 and now he is demanding that the feeding tube forced down his nose be removed so he can die and put an end to his suffering.

It is estimated that 540 men are imprisoned in Guantanamo without charges, without trial, without any hope of redress. Hunger strikes have been waged in Guantanamo since early 2002. The latest fast involved 76 prisoners. By late October, 26 detainees were still refusing food and 23 were being force-fed through tubes that, according to attorney Julia Tarver, have left some of her clients "vomiting up substantial amounts of blood."

Bill Goodman, Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York, says "the Guantanamo hunger strikers are willing to die unless they get humane treatment, including some small measure of justice…. Bloody force-feeding with dirty tubes is barbaric."

Against all odd, these almost completely powerless prisoners have successfully employed the tactics of nonviolent resistance to win recognition for those basic human rights and civil liberties that all Americans claim as their patrimony.

On October 25, CCR lawyers won access to the detainees' medical records but Tarver remains concerned about her clients, "some of whom are young boys who have spent nearly four years without charge, isolated miles away from their families, and are rapidly losing hope that justice will ever prevail for them." Tarver reports that her clients continue to be subjected to verbal and physical abuse, medical maltreatment and unsanitary conditions.

The Legal Limbo of an Unnecessary War

The US declared war on Afghanistan ostensibly because the Taliban government refused to turn over Osama bin Laden to the US. Washington unleashed a rain of bombs with the declared goal of toppling the Taliban. In the process, the US arrested hundreds of Afghan and Islamic fighters who took up arms to resist the attacks.

We now know that some of these men were just luckless individuals who were pulled from taxi cabs or marched from their homes to be handed over to US soldiers as "Taliban fighters" — in exchange for tempting bounties of Pentagon cash.

Three British men released in February 2004, complained of being stripped, chained to the floor for 18 hours a day, placed in isolation and threatened with dogs. During their detention, they all confessed to crimes. They were only released after the British government proved that all three had actually been in Britain at the time of their alleged "crimes."

CCR President Michael Ratner cites the case as proof that coercive interrogation doesn't work: "You get people willing to say anything because they want the torture or the inhumane treatment to end."

"We're Going to Go to the Dark Side Now"

In the Post-9/11 world, Vice President Dick Cheney memorably told Meet the Press: "We're going to have to go to the dark side now."

As a resutlt, Ratner notes, the US is "no longer a country of law…. 'Taking off the gloves' means literally erasing the Constitution and the protections against torture."

The outlines of this inhumane treatment are now a matter of public record. Hooded interrogations. Stripping prisoners naked. Removing "comfort items" (like prayer rugs and the Koran). Exploiting phobias (like a fear of dogs). Employing painful "stress positions."

More than a year ago, the US Supreme Court ruled in the case of Rasul v. Bush that the detainees are entitled to legal representation before federal courts. But the White House, the Attorney General's office, and the Pentagon have chosen to ignore the ruling.

That is why the Patriots of Guantanamo have been forced to go on strike with their very lives. They are demanding that their suffering be investigated and the "facts be submitted to a candid world."

"Give Us Liberty or Give Us Death"

In 1776, America's Founding Fathers signed a document pledging their "lives and sacred honor" to the cause of securing "certain unalienable Rights." The Patriots of Guantanamo have neither pens nor parchment: They have been compelled to their pledge not with words but deeds.

When Patrick Henry thundered, "Give me liberty or give me death," his stirring words were rhetorical. Al-Odah's cry is dead serious. He has informed his US lawyers that he wants a judge to order the removal of the feeding tube that is keeping him alive.

Al-Odah's lawyer, Tom Wilner, insists that his client has the right to demand to die to protest his continued imprisonment without charges or any hope of a trial and release. Al-Odah is willing to die "if it will bring justice."

The Patriots of Guantanamo are insisting on nothing less than the same basic protections granted to US citizens under the Bill of Rights — specifically, the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Ninth Amendments. Clearly something is seriously amiss when it is the "enemies of democracy" that are willing to die to defend the Bill of Rights while the men entrusted to defend the Constitution ignore and abuse these very laws.

Today, America's moral standard is being weighed in the dungeons of Guantanamo. The hunger strikers are not simply fasting for their rights — they are fasting for all of us. Their demands should be our demands. And, if they aren't, what guarantee do any of us have that their fate might not one day be our own?

Gar Smith is Editor Emeritus of Earth Island Journal and co-founder of Environmentalists Against War. He edits The-Edge.org, an investigative Web-site based in Berkeley, California.

Link Here

Hopes fade of trapping many insurgents in western Iraq :

Curtain is beginning to fall on joint U.S.-Iraqi operation near Syrian border
By Gordon TrowbridgeTimes staff writer

KARABILAH, Iraq — U.S. Marines pushed into the heart of this Euphrates River town on Thursday, a final step in a 3,500-troop operation to clear insurgents from towns near the Syrian border.
Commanders had hoped to trap scores of insurgents in Karabilah, squeezing them from the neighboring town of Husaybah against U.S. blocking positions around the city. But when 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, marched in just after noon Thursday, they found only abandoned buildings and some roadside bombs.

“Maybe tonight is bingo night,” joked Staff Sgt. J.C. Knight, platoon sergeant of 1st Platoon, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, as his platoon searched houses along a desolate alley.

Knight’s battalion began planning Thursday to sweep through farmland north of Karabilah, make camp in the fields Thursday night and enter the town Friday morning.

But 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, which was moving from west to east towards Karabilah, made more progress than expected, reaching its objective during the morning. That cleared the way for 3/6 to enter the heart of the city — a triangle-shaped collection of neighborhoods that the Marines call the Shark Fin — a day ahead of schedule.

The two battalions, accompanied by Iraqi Army soldiers and backed by a screen of soldiers from two U.S. Army battalions, kicked off Operation Steel Curtain on Nov. 5, pushing through Husaybah, an important link in the flow of insurgent manpower, money and supplies across the Syrian border.

The Shark Fin has been targeted for a month by Marine snipers, heavy weapons and air strikes, as spotters in positions just outside the area have called in attacks against insurgents. As Marines searched empty house after empty house Thursday, they increasingly became convinced that any insurgents left in the city had blended in with refugees camped in the farm fields to the north, or managed to flee across the Euphrates.

“These guys have eluded a lot of people,” said Cpl. Ben Hanenkratt, 23, of Toledo, Ohio. “If they get across the river, they’re gone.”

Link Here

HJR No. 6 passed in Texas yesterday

Did Texas Just Ban Marriage?

HJR No. 6 passed in Texas yesterday, supposedly to ban gay marriage. But read the text closely.

Sec. 32(a) Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.(b) This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.

Is it egg-heady coastal elitism to point out that Texas just defined marriage and then made it illegal for everybody, even heteros? I wonder if “family values” include literacy.

Looking at the how the state of Louisiana screwed up!!!!The federal government's role re-examined

Quotes of the week

[I]f Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you [San Franciscans] up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead."

-- Bill O'Reilly

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover [Pennsylvania]: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city. ... God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in his eye forever. ... If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them."

-- Pat Robertson

Ex-Powell Aide Suggests Pre-War Memo Was Kept From Bush

Former Powell aide thinks Rice or Hadley blocked call for 500,000 troops in Iraq. >>>cont


Link Here

President Relies on Forged Letter in Today's Speech

by BooMan
Fri Nov 11th, 2005 at 02:26:03 PM EDT

Are you craving more proclamations from the administration based on forged documents (quite possibly) of their own making? Are you having withdrawals from the Niger document fiasco? Never fear. Today the President cited another forged document, a document probably thought up by some half-ass Arabist in some latter day Office of Special Plans. We already know that the myth of Zarqawi is being used to personalize every attack of every civilian target on more than one continent. The myth of Zawahiri's letter to Zarqawi is now being cited as the main justification for staying the course in Iraq. From the President's Veteran's Day speech today:

Link Here

Democratic leader fires back at Bush speech: We must change the course


Statement of Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on Bush's speech on Iraq and the war on terror.

"On this Veterans Day, the President had the opportunity to honor our troops, both those who have served and those who are currently serving, by laying out a clear strategy for success in the war in Iraq. Instead, the President resorted to his old playbook of discredited rhetoric about the war on terror and political attacks as his own political fortunes and credibility diminish.

"Attacking those patriotic Americans who have raised serious questions about the case the Bush Administration made to take our country to war does not provide us a plan for success that will bring our troops home. Americans seek the truth about how the nation committed our troops to war because the decision to go to war is too serious to be entered into under faulty pretenses. While the Bush administration continues to stonewall the Congress from finding the truth about the manipulation of prewar intelligence, Democrats will continue to press for a full airing of the facts. We stand with our troops when we ask the hard questions, and with their families when we fight to get them, their families and our veterans the benefits they deserve.

"We fear Iraq has become what it was not before the war, a haven for terrorists. We can no longer simply pledge to stay the course, we must change the course. The American people are demanding a comprehensive plan and the benchmarks by which to measure our success for the war in Iraq. The president's continued refusal to provide that plan does nothing to support our troops or their families."


President Bush said today that Democrats in Congress “had access to the same intelligence” as he did in deciding to go to war in Iraq. [Bush, 11/11/05]

Fact: Congress did not have access to the same intelligence the Bush Administration did. And intelligence passed through the White House before getting to Congress.

According to Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack:

The Bush Administration showed Saudi Prince Bandar more intelligence than was shown to Congress. (p. 264.)

Senators Not Shown the National Intelligence Estimate Until Three Days Before the Iraq War Vote. It is not until October 8, 2002, three days before the Senate vote on the Iraq war resolution, and after debate has already started, that 47+ senators are briefed or shown the entire NIE with its key judgment that Iraq "has chemical and biological weapons," writes Woodward. (p. 203)

Link Here

Friday, November 11, 2005

God Be With Our Soldiers, May You Soon Be Returned To Us.


Condi Throws Stones From Her Glass House »

Condoleezza Rice, 11/11/05:
I think that Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction programs were fully expected to be there by everyone who knew anything about the program or knew anything about his history of having used weapons of mass destruction against his own people, his insatiable appetite for them, the UN sanctions against him. And it was not just this Administration that thought that he had weapons of mass destruction and that talked about those weapons of mass destruction. Nobody was willing to give Saddam Hussein the benefit of the doubt.

In fact, Condoleezza Rice was willing to “give Saddam Hussein the benefit of the doubt” in 2001.

"Well, in fact, John, we have made progress on the sanctions. … But in terms of Saddam Hussein being there, let’s remember that his country is divided, in effect. He does not control the northern part of his country. We are able to keep arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt." [CNN, Late Edition, 7/29/01]


Art For Boys

Fallujah:The Flame of Atrocity

Friday, 11 November 2005

Below is a vastly expanded and reworked version of a column originally published in the Nov. 11 edition of the Moscow Times. For my first MT report on chemical warfare in Fallujah, see Filter Tips. For a report on the destruction of the city as it was happening, see Ring of Fire, from November 2004.

This week, the broadcast of a shattering new documentary provided fresh confirmation of a gruesome war crime covered by this column nine months ago: the use of chemical weapons by American forces during the frenzied, Bush-ordered destruction of Fallujah in November 2004.

Using filmed and photographic evidence, eyewitness accounts, and the direct testimony of American soldiers who took part in the attacks, the documentary – "Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre" – catalogues the American use of white phosphorous shells and a new, "improved" form of napalm that turned human beings into "caramelized" fossils, with their skin dissolved and turned to leather on their bones. The film was produced by RAI, the Italian state network run by a government that backed the war.

Vivid images show civilians, including women and children, who had been burned alive in their homes, even in their beds. This use of chemical weapons – at the order of the Bushist brass – and the killing of civilians are confirmed by former American soldiers interviewed on camera. "I heard the order to pay attention because they were going to use white phosphorous on Fallujah," said one soldier, quoted in the Independent. "In military jargon, it's known as Willy Pete. Phosphorous burns bodies; in fact it melts the flesh all the way down to the bone. I saw the burned bodies of women and children. Phosphorus explodes and forms a cloud. Anyone within a radius of 150 meters is done for."

The broadcast is an important event: shameful, damning, convincing. But it shouldn't be news. Earlier this year, as reported here on March 18, a medical team sent to Fallujah by the Bush-backed Iraqi interim government issued its findings at a press conference in Baghdad. The briefing, by Health Ministry investigator Dr. Khalid ash-Shaykhli, was attended by more than 20 major American and international news outlets. Not a single one of these bastions of a free and vigorous press reported on the event. Only a few small venues – such as the International Labor Communications Association – brought word of the extraordinary revelations to English-speaking audiences.

Yet this highly credible, pro-American official of a pro-occupation government confirmed, through medical examinations and the eyewitness testimony of survivors – including many civilians who had opposed the heavy-handed insurgent presence in the town – that "burning chemicals" had been used by U.S. forces in the attack, in direct violation of international and American law. "All forms of nature were wiped out" by the substances unleashed in the assault, including animals that had been killed by gas or chemical fire, said Dr ash-Shaykhli. But apparently this kind of thing is not considered news anymore by the corporate gatekeepers of media "truth."

As we noted here in March, Dr ash-Shaykhli's findings were buttressed by direct testimony from U.S. Marines filing "after-action reports" on websites for military enthusiasts back home. There, fresh from the battle, American soldiers talked openly of the routine use of Willy Pete, propane bombs and "jellied gasoline" (napalm) in tactical assaults in Fallujah. As it says in the scriptures: by their war porn ye shall know them.

This week, as in March, the Pentagon said it only used white phosphorous shells in Fallujah for "illumination purposes." But the documentary's evidence belies them. Although there are indeed many white bombs bursting in air to bathe the city in unnatural light, the film clearly shows other phosphorous shells raining all the way to the ground, where they explode in fury throughout residential areas and spread their caramelizing clouds. As Fallujah biologist Mohamed Tareq says in the film: "A rain of fire fell on the city, the people struck by this multi-colored substance started to burn, we found people dead with strange wounds, the bodies burned but the clothes intact."

As word of the documentary spread across the Internet and into a very few mainstream media sources, intrepid investigators dug out even more confirmation of how Bush's battalions whipped out the Willy Pete and flayed Fallujah's heathen devils with flesh-eating fire. A Daily Kos diarist, Stephen D., dug up one of the U.S. military's own publications, Field Artillery Magazine, which eagerly related the use of white phosphorous, which "proved to be an effective and versatile munition," the article said. "We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE. We fired 'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out."

Mr. D also points to a comment on Altercation.com, that provides further ammunition – for "illumination purposes" – on the effect of white phosphorous on human beings. There, Mark Kraft writes: "There is no way you can use white phosphorus like that without forming a deadly chemical cloud that kills everything within a tenth of a mile in all directions from where it hits. Obviously, the effect of such deadly clouds weren't just psychological in nature."

Another Kossack, "Hunter," digs up mention of Willy Pete use as a weapon in Washington Post reports from the battlefield itself last November. He then takes on the hair-splitters who immediately arose on the Right to declare that white phosphorous is not itself a banned substance, so it's OK to incinerate children with it. Hunter's incandescant irony is worth quoting at length:

"First, I think it should be a stated goal of United States policy to not melt the skin off of children. As a natural corollary to this goal, I think the United States should avoid dropping munitions on civilian neighborhoods which, as a side effect, melt the skin off of children. You can call them 'chemical weapons' if you must, or far more preferably by the more proper name of 'incendiaries.' The munitions may or may not precisely melt the skin off of children by setting them on fire; they do melt the skin off of children, however, through robust oxidation of said skin on said children, which is indeed colloquially known as 'burning'…

"And I know it is true, there is some confusion over whether the United States was a signatory to the Do Not Melt The Skin Off Of Children part of the Geneva conventions, and whether or not that means we are permitted to melt the skin off of children, or merely are silent on the whole issue of melting the skin off of children…[However] I am going to come out, to the continuing consternation of Rush Limbaugh and pro-war supporters everywhere, as being anti-children-melting, as a matter of general policy."

Meanwhile, in the Guardian, Mike Marquesse pounded home the reality of the overarching atrocity of the attack:

"One year ago this week, US-led occupying forces launched a devastating assault on the Iraqi city of Falluja. The mood was set by Lt Col Gary Brandl: 'The enemy has got a face. He's called Satan. He's in Falluja. And we're going to destroy him.' "The assault was preceded by eight weeks of aerial bombardment. US troops cut off the city's water, power and food supplies, condemned as a violation of the Geneva convention by a UN special rapporteur, who accused occupying forces of "using hunger and deprivation of water as a weapon of war against the civilian population". Two-thirds of the city's 300,000 residents fled, many to squatters' camps without basic facilities…

"By the end of operations, the city lay in ruins. Falluja's compensation commissioner has reported that 36,000 of the city's 50,000 homes were destroyed, along with 60 schools and 65 mosques and shrines. The US claims that 2,000 died, most of them fighters. Other sources disagree. When medical teams arrived in January they collected more than 700 bodies in only one third of the city. Iraqi NGOs and medical workers estimate between 4,000 and 6,000 dead, mostly civilians -- a proportionately higher death rate than in Coventry and London during the blitz."

The atrocity-breeding mindset behind the attack was evident from the very first, as I noted in a Moscow Times column of November 18, 2004: "One of the first moves in this magnificent feat of arms was the destruction and capture of medical centers. Twenty doctors – and their patients, including women and children – were killed in an airstrike on one major clinic, the UN Information Service reports, while the city's main hospital was seized in the early hours of the ground assault. Why? Because these places of healing could be used as "propaganda centers," the Pentagon's "information warfare" specialists told the NY Times. Unlike the first attack on Fallujah last spring, there was to be no unseemly footage of gutted children bleeding to death on hospital beds. This time – except for NBC's brief, heavily-edited, quickly-buried clip of the usual lone "bad apple" shooting a wounded Iraqi prisoner – the visuals were rigorously scrubbed."

When you begin by bombing hospitals, devouring innocent people with hot jellied death is not exactly a stretch. It is simply part and parcel of the inhumanity of the Bushist mindset.

Indeed, the slaughter in Fallujah was a microcosm of the entire misbegotten enterprise launched by those two eminent Christian statesmen, Bush and Blair: a brutal act of collective punishment for defying the imperial will; a high-tech turkey shoot that mowed down the just and unjust alike; an idiotic strategic blunder that has exacerbated the violence and hatred it was meant to quell. The vicious overkill of the Fallujah attack alienated large swathes of previously neutral Iraqis and spurred many to join the resistance. It further entangled the United States and Britain in a putrid swamp of war crime, state terrorism and atrocity, dragging them ever deeper into a moral equivalency with the murderous extremists that the Christian leaders so loudly and self-righteously condemn.

Let's give the last word to Jeff Engelhardt, one of the ex-servicemen featured in the documentary, who recently issued this plea to his fellow U.S. soldiers on Fight to Survive, a new dissident web site run by Iraqi War vets:

"I hope someday you find solace for the orders you have had to execute, for the carnage you helped take part in, and for the pride you wear supporting this bloodbath. Until then, you can only hope for an epiphany, something that stands out as completely immoral, that convinces you of the inhumanity of this war. I don't know how much more proof you need. The criminal outrage of Abu Ghraib, the absolute massacre of Fallujah, the stray .50 caliber bullets or 40mm grenades or tank rounds fired in highly packed urban areas, 500-pound bombs dropped on innocent homes, the use of depleted uranium rounds, the inhumane use of white phosphorus, the hate and the blood and the misunderstandings…this is the war and the system that you support."

Link Here

Holy Shittokki Batman!! And he can act, too...

John Cusack
Link Here

Murder is a crime. Uunless it is done...by a poooollliiicceeeman. Or an ariissssstoocrat -- Joe Strummer

Bush 2. How depressing, corrupt, unlawful and tragically absurd the administration's world view actually is...how low the moral bar has been lowered...and (though I know I'm capable of intellectually lazy notions of collective guilt) how complicit our silence as citizens is...Nixon, a true fiend, looks like a paragon of virtue next to the criminally incompetent robber barons now raiding the present and future.

But where are the Dems? American foreign policy is in chaos. We are now left in the surreal position of having to condemn American-sponsored torture as official policy while a deranged President Bush orders his staff to attend ethics briefings -- a "refresher course" -- from the White House counsel. The very idea of America is in chaos and this chaos has created a vacuum. 

One question for any Democrat: Who will have the balls to get us out of Iraq? 

If the Democrats don't step up and fill this vacuum, the Republicans will. They will take us out of Iraq. And then the Democrats will be left holding the bag -- first as the enablers who let the Republicans take us into an unnecessary and immoral war, and then as the whipping boys who stood by while the Republicans kept justifying what was clearly an unnecessary and immoral war. They were so worried about positioning themselves as hawks, not being seen as soft on terror and war, that they lost the capacity for outrage when the person responsible for a legal memo that denied the validity of the Geneva Conventions was appointed Attorney General. And it was downhill from there.

The Republicans, especially leading up to the 2006 elections, with the Bush administration crumbling, KNOW they have to find a way out of Iraq. So they will basically find a way to declare victory and do something that looks like a withdrawal, and the Democrats will be left as passive bystanders -- because they don't have the courage to suggest that people who lied to get us into war should not only not be in office, they should be in prison.

Last Tuesday, Harry Reid demonstrated wonderful signs of life. The question now is, are they going to build on this, or is it going to be an isolated episode that doesn't lead to a fundamental shift? Will enough Democrats now be willing to admit that voting to authorize the war was a mistake? Whether they were genuinely misled, they bought into it, or they were too cowardly to vote for what they believed was true, it was a mistake. Will they now have the courage to say, "This was wrong, and that we need to get our brave troops out of Iraq now."

Are the Democrats going to offer an alternative plan to get us out of Iraq? Are they going to fill this vacuum created by the chaos in Iraq and a scandal-plagued administration in tatters, or are they going to wait for the Republicans to do it their way, reap the political diviedends, and leave the Democrats sniping outside the palace gate?

All this makes me think of Jon Stewart, and the tricky position he finds himself in...I love the man. He is the most important media watchdog right now. As Bill Moyers said "If Mark Twain were back today, he'd be at Comedy Central."

But I hope we're not putting too much pressure on Mr. Stewart. There should be a lot more like him, but right now he's all we've got. He's the vanguard. And therefore when Republicans, who were the ones who led us into this war, and the ones whom he's so rightly skewering every night, sit across the table from him -- there is some kind of unspoken message being given that they are not part of the problem, that they can wink and laugh with Jon and the things he is making fun of. That they are not them, when in fact, they are...

And they are getting a free pass to sit next to someone who speaks truth to power. They get reflected hipness just by sitting across the table from him, and the irony is that they share a laugh over the same things that he rails against. As an example, look at the jokey appearances by Bill Kristol, or David Frum. These are not dutiful soldiers standing by their president (which would be bad enough), these are the intellectual architects of the the invasion. Bill Kristol, the editor of the neocon house organ The Weekly Standard, came on and could barely keep a straight face when he said that Bush was a good president. And as anyone knows, reflected hipness on these types of men is a truly ugly thing. I would suggest each Republican must face a press conference, or a gauntlet perhaps, of Daily Show correspondents...or at least Lewis Black.

Yes, there is a difference between the McCain/Hagel Repubs and the neo-con/White House Iraq Group lunatics. But it's also good to remember: no matter what he does from here on out, McCain stood by the president, a man (and his machine) who smeared him viciously on the 2000 campaign trail, and then, at the GOP convention four years later, campaigned for him when we were well on to this disastrous course. And thinking men -- of which McCain is surely one -- knew the neo-cons were exploiting 9/11 for their hideous misadventure in Iraq, and knew this was an administration that would not allow photos of the dead. Etc. etc. etc. Every man who stood by Bush should be forced to answer for it. 

The problem isn't with Jon Stewart, who's a hero. The problem is that he's the only one (with ratings at least; none of the right-wing heavyweights are going on the Al Franken show, are they?). And we are pouring too much concrete under his pedestal. But I must admit that he's far too polite to the architects and enablers of the tragic last five years. If I hear one more asshole say, "The issue isn't whether I would send my own children to Iraq, this is an all-voluntary army...National security is at stake... There are monsters in this world." Well, thanks for telling us that -- and for lying about the war and profiting from it. And trying to privatize Iraq so corporate interests could have a free-market laboratory without all those pesky questions about "who owns what" and "who gets a piece of the action." (See Naomi Klein's excellent Baghdad Year Zero.) 

This is indeed a league of bastards -- these men are human scum. There were many who would have given their life to fight al-Qaeda. Many parents would have sent their children on that cause. It is the issue...of course that is the issue... Here's an American thought: Arab life has as much intrinsic value as American life. We are SUPPOSED to be better than the horrible regimes we must fight (not choose to fight). Due process is a fundamental tenet of civilization. The law is supposed to be better than us.

We have veered so badly away from sanity that re-reading an Eisenhower speech or two puts him to the left of Howard Dean. 

I miss Hunter S. Thompson. We need him -- but he isn't gone... 

"We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the whole world -- a nation of bullies and bastards who would rather kill than live peacefully. We are not just Whores for power and oil, but killer whores with hate and fear in our hearts. We are human scum, and that is how history will judge us. No redeeming social value. Just whores. Get out of our way, or we'll kill you.

"Well, shit on that dumbness, George W. Bush does not speak for me or my son or my mother or my friends or the people I respect in this world. We didn't vote for these cheap, greedy little killers who speak for America today -- and we will not vote for them again in 2002. Or 2004. Or ever. 

"Who does vote for these dishonest shitheads? Who among us can be happy and proud of having all this innocent blood on our hands? Who are these swine? These flag-sucking half-wits who get fleeced and fooled by stupid rich kids like George Bush? 

"They are the same ones who wanted to have Muhammad Ali locked up for refusing to kill gooks. They speak for all that is cruel and stupid and vicious in the American character. They are the racists and hate mongers among us -- they are the Ku Klux Klan. I piss down the throats of these Nazis. 

"And I am too old to worry about whether they like it or not. Fuck them."

I always thought he was too loose with the Nazi analogy, but I always got his point: if you're on the dying end of this madness, they might as well be monsters. It is interesting to remember what Churchill said: 

"The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist."

I guess the exception is when and if Dick Cheney thinks we have a good reason to torture and deny due process. If these men are not impeached and thrown in jail, we truly are approaching the end of days. 

Thank God Bill Moyers is still around. 

Here he offers a very good and very compelling cry from the heart of a citizen who finds himself deeply disturbed, but unbowed by this wave of collective insanity. He is one of the best we have left. My own parents had deep faith, they saw the earth as a gift from God. They took Christ seriously -- the gospel, his words and acts -- and thought it their Christian duty to speak out against the desecration of God's great gifts: life, earth, freedom, and civilization. Nowhere could they find any endorsements of "wars of choice." Jesus was a radical to be sure, but in an opposite way from the war mongers and profiteers who use his name today. I can't get past "thou shalt not kill" and look at this carnage and see any rational way one could say these men follow Jesus Christ. Alas, the money lenders have well and truly invaded the temple. 

So Moyers: 

"One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington. Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts."

To read the rest of this remarkable speech, go here.

And, finally, Dr King: "A time comes when silence is betrayal. Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak out with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak."
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