Saturday, November 19, 2005
Fox obtains little from Bush
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Branded a "lap dog" of imperialism, Mexican President
Vicente Fox has earned contempt from leftist Latin American leaders for his close ties to the United States, and little in return from Washington.
A plan to let more immigrants work legally in the United States -- Mexico's headline foreign policy goal -- has become bogged down in Congress after five years of lobbying from Fox.
That is despite Fox taking flak from critics of the United States in the region for defending U.S. proposals for regional free trade. Mexico also feels let down by U.S. criticism of its fight against drug gangs on the border.
President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Nestor Kirchner of Argentina this month harangued Fox for promoting a planned Americas-wide trade pact known as the FTAA which left-wing leaders complain will be slanted to benefit the United States.
War with Iraq!!!!!!In challenging war's critics, administration tinkers with truth
By James Kuhnhenn and Jonathan S. Landay
Knight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON _ President Bush called Democratic critics of how he sold the Iraq war to the world "irresponsible" five times Thursday during a brief news conference in South Korea.
Bush said he agreed with Vice President Dick Cheney, who on Wednesday had accused some unnamed senators who oppose the administration's Iraq war policy of lacking "backbone" and making "reprehensible charges" that Bush and his aides "purposely misled the American people on prewar intelligence."
Cheney's rough-edged remarks, and the president's unequivocal endorsement of them, were the latest in the Bush administration's new campaign to challenge critics of how it sold the war, accusing them of twisting the historical record about how and why the war was launched. Yet in accusing Iraq-war critics of "rewriting history," Bush, Cheney and other senior administration officials are tinkering with the truth themselves.
The administration's overarching premise is beyond dispute: Administration officials, Democratic and Republican lawmakers and even leaders of foreign governments believed intelligence assessments that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. That intelligence turned out to be wrong.
But Bush, Cheney, and other senior officials have added several other arguments in recent days that distort the factual record. Below, Knight Ridder addresses the administration's main assertions:
ASSERTION: In a Veterans Day speech last Friday, Bush said that Iraq war "critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs."
CONTEXT: Bush is correct in saying that a commission he appointed, chaired by Judge Laurence Silberman and former Sen. Charles Robb, D-Va., found no evidence of "politicization" of the intelligence community's assessments concerning Iraq's reported weapons of mass destruction programs.
But neither that report nor others looked at how the White House characterized the intelligence it had when selling its plan for war to the world and whether administration officials exaggerated the threat. That's supposed to be the topic of a second phase of study by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
"Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policymakers, and all of us were agreed that was not part of our inquiry," Silberman said when he released the panel's findings in March.
The Senate committee concluded that none of the intelligence analysts it interviewed said they were pressured to change their conclusions on weapons of mass destruction or on Iraq's links to terrorism.
But the committee's findings were hardly bipartisan. Committee Democrats said in additional comments to the panel's July 2004 report that U.S. intelligence agencies produced analyses and the key prewar assessment of Iraq's illicit weapons in "a highly pressurized climate."
And the committee found that after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, analysts were under pressure to avoid missing credible threats, and as a result they were "bold and assertive" in making terrorist links.
In a July 2003 report, a CIA review panel found that agency analysts were subjected to "steady and heavy" requests from administration officials for evidence of links between Iraq and al-Qaida, which created "significant pressure on the Intelligence Community to find evidence that supported a connection."
ASSERTION: In his speech, Bush noted that "more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate - who had access to the same intelligence - voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power."
CONTEXT: This isn't true.
The Congress didn't have access to the President's Daily Brief, a top-secret compendium of intelligence on the most pressing national security issues that was sent to the president every morning by former CIA Director George Tenet.
As for prewar intelligence on Iraq, senior administration officials had access to other information and sources that weren't available to lawmakers.
Cheney and his aides visited the CIA and other intelligence agencies to view raw intelligence reports, received briefings and engaged in highly unusual give-and-take sessions with analysts.
Moreover, officials in the White House and the Pentagon received information directly from the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an exile group, circumventing U.S. intelligence agencies, which greatly distrusted the organization.
The INC's information came from Iraqi defectors who claimed that Iraq was hiding chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs, had mobile biological-warfare facilities and was training Islamic radicals in assassinations, bombings and hijackings.
The White House emphasized these claims in making its case for war, even though the defectors had shown fabrication or deception in lie-detector tests or had been rejected as unreliable by U.S. intelligence professionals.
All of the exiles' claims turned out to be bogus or remain unproven. >>>CONT
Bid to punish judges has eye on state (war on judges getting really ugly)
How About the Supreme Court lets start there, for their corrupt judgement that gave Georgie the Presidency in 2000.
I SAY TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE
An initiative providing for the ouster and criminal indictment of judges who make bad decisions appears headed for a test vote in South Dakota next year and, if it succeeds there, will be attempted in other states, sponsors of the measure said this week.
The Southern California-based sponsors of the Judicial Accountability Initiative Law (JAIL) have taken aim at what they call "black-collar crime" across the country. They already have their sights set on the 2006 ballot in Nevada, and they report related efforts in Idaho and New Mexico.
They hope to start the ball rolling on a path that will lead to California.
The South Dakota initiative would create a special grand jury to hear complaints against judges based on an open-ended list of possible grievances. The list specifically includes not only crimes such as graft but certain flaws in reasoning, such as ignoring evidence and "sophistry."
(UK) Tim Collins trained troops to fight with white phosphorus
Col Tim Collins, the controversial Iraq war commander, trained his soldiers to use white phosphorus, which burns through flesh to the bone, in combat against enemy troops. The admission by the former Special Air Service officer, revealed in his autobiography Rules of Engagement, contradicts claims by the Ministry of Defence that the chemical was only ever used to create a smokescreen.
British troops also used white phosphorus to kill Argentinian troops during the Falklands conflict. In his book, Col Collins describes how he trained 1bn Royal Irish Regiment for an attack codenamed Operation Fury planned for April 2003.
The colonel, who left the Army last year, said that he "directed" the men to "perfect" house-to-house fighting skills in preparation for the battle.
Discussing the weapons to be used in the operation in the Basra area, he wrote: "The star of the show was the new grenade which had only been on issue since the previous summer. It absolutely trashed the inside of the room it was put into. "I directed the men to use them where possible with white phosphorus, as the noxious smoke and heat had the effect of drawing out any enemy from cover, while the fragmentation grenade would shred them." Col Collins' tactics mirror the United States army "shake and bake" technique which involves forcing troops out of cover with white phosphorus and then killing them with artillery rounds.
The furore surrounding the weapon emerged last week after Lt Col Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, used almost identical phraseology to Col Collins, when he confirmed that "shake and bake" was a recognised American tactic. In an interview with the BBC, Col Venable said: "When you have enemy forces in covered positions that your high explosive artillery rounds are not having an impact on, one technique is to fire white phosphorus into the position because the combined effects of the fire and smoke will drive them out so that you can kill them with high explosives." He confirmed: "It was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants."
Last week John Reid, the Defence Secretary, maintained the British troops had only ever used white phosphorus as a battlefield smokescreen. His department continued to stress that troops had never used it as "an incendiary weapon, against either civilians or even enemy combatants". Although Operation Fury was cancelled, it remains unclear whether British troops went on to use white phosphorus against Iraqi forces, putting Col Collins' style of attack into action.
Prof Paul Rogers, of Bradford University's peace studies department, said he believed that most soldiers would use all weapons at their disposal. He said: "There is a presumption among certain members of the population that wars are clean. They are not."Pentagon spokesman
Corruption Inquiry Threatens to Ensnare Lawmakers
Published: November 20, 2005
WASHINGTON, Nov. 19 - The Justice Department has signaled for the first time in recent weeks that prominent members of Congress could be swept up in the corruption investigation of Jack Abramoff, the former Republican superlobbyist who diverted some of his tens of millions of dollars in fees to provide lavish travel, meals and campaign contributions to the lawmakers whose help he needed most.
The investigation by a federal grand jury, which began more than a year ago, has created alarm on Capitol Hill, especially with the announcement Friday of criminal charges against Michael Scanlon, Mr. Abramoff's former lobbying partner and a former top House aide to Representative Tom DeLay.
The charges against Mr. Scanlon identified no lawmakers by name, but a summary of the case released by the Justice Department accused him of being part of a broad conspiracy to provide "things of value, including money, meals, trips and entertainment to federal public officials in return for agreements to perform official acts" - an attempt at bribery, in other words, or something close to it.
Mr. Abramoff, who is under indictment in a separate bank-fraud case in Florida, has not been charged by the federal grand jury here. But Mr. Scanlon's lawyer says he has agreed to plead guilty and cooperate in the investigation, suggesting that Mr. Abramoff's day in court in Washington is only a matter of time.
Scholars who specialize in the history and operations of Congress say that given the brazenness of Mr. Abramoff's lobbying efforts, as measured by the huge fees he charged clients and the extravagant gifts he showered on friends on Capitol Hill, almost all of them Republicans, the investigation could end up costing several lawmakers their careers, if not their freedom....
The Ties That Bind: Abramoff, Bongo, and Osama
November 19, 2005 -- Another link emerges between Russian-Israeli Mafia capo "Casino Jack" Abramoff and "Al Qaeda" financial network. It has recently emerged that Jack Abramoff, the Orthodox Jewish GOP lobbyist and fundraiser, attempted to secure a $9 million fee from Gabon's President Omar Bongo to arrange for a visit by the Gabonese President to the White House to meet with George W. Bush.
In a July 28, 2003 letter to Bongo, Abramoff wrote, "I have been cautiously working to obtain a visit for the President [Bongo] to see President Bush, the Congress and policy and opinion makers in the United States. As you know, we were, in advance of the war in Iraq, able to secure a tentative date for this meeting, however, the war cancelled all such scheduled visits, with the exception of the critical US war allies . . . I suggested that I visit Gabon after my trip to Scotland in mid August, but that in order for me to preserve this and be able to turn down the neighbor's offer, we had to commence the representation, even in small part, perhaps ten percent . . . Please bear in mind that the neighbor's proposal was to pay the entire amount up front. [The 'neighbor' referenced here may be Nigeria. Abramoff's firm Greenberg Traurig hired a former staffer for New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Valerie J. Owens, who, while with the State Department in the Clinton administration, served as special liaison to Nigeria. Abramoff produced an anti-communist pro-Angolan UNITA film called "Red Scorpion" in the 1980s, so it is doubtful his old enemies in Luanda would have much to do with him] I am willing to visit after my visit to Scotland with the congressmen and senators I take there each year . . . It is possible they will want to join me in Gabon, which will be an extra bonus." Gabon is a major oil producer. The $9 million was to be paid to Abramoff in three $3 million wire transfers to Grassroots Interactive, a now-defunct Silver Spring, Maryland entity created to skirt tax and campaign finance laws.
Grassroots was run by Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich's deputy chief of staff, Edward B. Miller. (Note: This is yet another example of foreign money that poured into Republican coffers prior to the 2004 election, money that included illegal payments and illegal "feints" such as counterfeit money orders and warehouse receipts involving Nigerian oil money. The editor totally stands by his November 2004 investigation about the illegal $29 million "check" that was used to funnel money to programmers who were altering the software and hardware used in the November 2004 presidential election).
What has not been reported is that Bongo sits, along with a number of Saudis, on the board of the Islamic bank, Dar al Mal al Islami (DMI). A French intelligence report obtained by WMR indicates that DMI has been looked at closely by French intelligence for aiding money transfers to Islamist terrorist groups like "Al Qaeda."
The Ties That Bind: Abramoff, Bongo, and Osama
Click here for French intelligence documents on DMI and Omar Bongo.
Bongo's links to the Saudis and Abramoff add a new wrinkle to the scandal surrounding the Bush administration's leak of classified CIA information involving a covert agent and her network. The proposed trip by Abramoff to Gabon was planned for August 2003, only a few months after the White House chose to expose Valerie Plame and her Brewster Jennings & Associates network. There is one person in Washington, DC who is very familiar with Gabon, having served as ambassador there. The Abramoff-Bongo deal may be yet another reason the Bush White House chose to do a "work up" on Joe Wilson.
Was Rafik Hariri a threat to the Bin Laden monopoly?
November 19, 2005 -- Was Rafik Hariri a threat to the Bin Laden monopoly? A classified but undated French intelligence report points to the fact that the assassinated former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was considered a potential monopoly-busting building construction competitor by the Bin Laden cartel, which is described as having a "monopoly" on construction contracts involving Islamic Holy sites in Saudi Arabia.
The operative paragraph from the French report states:
The Bin Laden family monopoly wields itself on work on the Islamic Holy Places (it is required that all the important companies such as Oger, Dar Al-Handasa, Mabani, or CCI must sub-contract with the monopoly) and the links which bind the family to the the Saudi dynasty over numerous years has resulted in a considerable financial cache, it is difficult to quantify but is twenty times than that amassed by Rafik Hariri.
Note: Oger, or Saudi Oger, is the company formed by Hariri in 1971, which became a major Saudi contractor under King Fahd.
The United States, using the United Nations as a proxy, is pressuring Syria over the assassination of Rafik Hariri. With evidence that Hariri was viewed as a potential threat to the Bin Laden monopoly, which is tied closely to the Saudi Royal Family, the Saudis may be as culpable in the assassination as is the Likud government of Israel and the Bush administration.
Rafik Hariri described in French intelligence report as both a competitor of and sub-contractor to Bin Laden construction monopoly. Crimes like this assassination call for investigating the motive. Clearly, Syria had no motive but others did.
GOP scandals results in heartland migration from GOP to Democrats.
November 19, 2005
-- GOP scandals results in heartland migration from GOP to Democrats. First it was Johnson County, Kansas district attorney Paul Morrison who announced he was switching from the Republicans to the Democrats to run for Kansas Attorney General. Now it is Wayne County, Michigan Commissioner Gary Woronchak, a Republican, who has switched parties. Republicans switching to the Democratic Party in American heartland states like Kansas and Michigan spells real trouble for the GOP, a party tainted by corruption, an illegal war, religious fanaticism, an alien neo-con ideology, and treason. Look for more switchovers around the country as the 2006 elections grow closer. The tide is turning fast against the GOP. Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords started the trend in 2002 when he switched to independent but caucused with the Democrats. Look for more Republicans jumping ship in blue and purple states like Florida, Pennsylvania, California, Maine, New Jersey, Connecticut, Ohio, and New Hampshire.
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE::::'Civil Rights,' Bush style
By Dara Purvis RAW STORY COLUMNIST
The summer after my last year as an undergraduate , I interned in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice in DC. I took a lot of ribbing from some friends about having John Ashcroft as my boss, but at the time I viewed the civil rights offices as a haven from the extreme right-wing politics of the rest of the Department.
This is not to say that the sections within civil rights were staffed by hordes of left-wing refugees biding their time until a change of administration—I didn’t talk politics with any of the attorneys I worked with, but there were plenty of signed portraits of George W. Bush up on office walls, and I definitely wasn’t working on any cases that would raise Ashcroft’s ire.
But neither was I working on the kind of systemic campaign against civil liberties that appeared to be the rest of the Department’s raison d’etre, so I thought of the Civil Rights Division as the one area that might at least be close to neutral in the culture wars being waged by the administration.
I have been thoroughly disabused of that notion this week. Attorneys from the Civil Rights Division recently threatened administrators at Southern Illinois University with lawsuits alleging violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That Act; the foundational statute that shapes the modern legal framework of the civil rights movement, was passed to combat horrific racism against African-Americans, and has become a sort of touchstone for progressives, in the sense that it represents so much that can be right with the law. In response to widespread societal discrimination, a grassroots movement drove through passage of a law that stands for racial tolerance and equality, that has served as a foundation for many legal victories in the fight for equal justice for all.
So you would think that the allegations against SIU must be some disgusting throwback to the days of segregation and outright racism. You would be wrong. The wrong identified and targeted by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division is a handful of scholarships for minority students.
The scholarship programs would hardly raise normal eyebrows. There are three programs apparently judged to be racist: one called “Bridge to the Doctorate,” that provides funds to assist “underrepresented minority students” to pursue “graduate study in science, technology, engineering, and math.” Another, called “Proactive Recruitment and Multicultural Professionals for Tomorrow,” aim at increasing “the number of minorities receiving advanced degrees in disciplines in which they are underrepresented.” And the third, “Graduate Dean’s,” is for “woman and traditionally underrepresented students who have overcome social, cultural, or economic conditions.” From these three efforts to provide financial assistance for traditionally underrepresented students pursuing graduate degrees, the Department of Justice alleges a “pattern or practice of discrimination against whites, non-preferred minorities and males,” according to the letter sent to the University and discussed in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Is this what the ugly opposition to the civil rights movement has come to? The question of what the appropriate response to the lingering effects of centuries of discrimination should be has been a contentious one, usually discussed within the context of affirmative action as to university admissions. I’ve never understood the willful myopia necessary to think that we have achieved equality already—prerequisite necessary to argue that any differential treatment of students of different races, such as affirmative action, is wrong—and in the context of constitutional analysis, it seems ridiculous that the most racist law targeting blacks for discrimination and a statute passed by a majority of a legislature attempting to assist a traditionally disadvantaged group are evaluated as if their goals were equally illegitimate.
But the Department of Justice’s argument seems, to me, an unbelievably perverse manipulation of this country’s seeming commitment to equality. There are scores of scholarship programs that are targeted for specific populations. Scholarships can be specifically for students in particular disciplines, for students from a specific area or city, for women, for students that graduated from particular high schools or colleges, or for children of parents that work in a given industry. If I wanted to endow a scholarship at my undergraduate school given only to girls named Dara from Fresno, I could do so—it probably wouldn’t have too many takers, but the Department of Justice would not be sending angry letters to USC demanding that they terminate the program or face lawsuits.
Under this logic, only one kind of scholarship can be targeted: scholarships drawn along racial lines. And under the current leadership of the Department of Justice, only one form of those scholarships has come under fire: scholarships trying to help minority students pay for their education. Not only, says Attorney General Gonzales, can schools not acknowledge that students of color face obstacles that the average white applicant do not, but now even when a black student is already admitted to a prestigious graduate program, schools can’t help them pay for it.
It sickens me that this is what the so-called “Civil Rights Division” of the Justice Department is working on. The office charged with helping the federal government ensure that the civil rights of Americans are respected has instead decided to put hardworking minority students in its sights. And most appallingly, with the new Roberts Court staffed with the potential Justice Alito, it will have a Supreme Court more than willing to help the crusade.
Dara Purvis is a weekly contributor to Raw Story, and is also involved in Law Students Against Alito. Visit her on the web @ www.DaraPurvis.com.
Sectarian Hatred Pulls Apart Iraq's Mixed Towns
Ali Nasir Jabr, 12, survived by feigning sleep as gunmen killed five in his family at their home in Samarra.
By SABRINA TAVERNISE
Published: November 20, 2005
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 19 - Abu Noor's town had become so hostile to Shiites that his wife had not left the house in a month, his family could no longer go to the medical clinic and mortar shells had been lobbed at the houses of two of his religious leaders.
"I couldn't open the door and stand in my yard," he said.
So when Abu Noor, a Shiite from Tarmiya, a heavily Sunni Arab town north of here, ran into an old friend, a Sunni who faced his own problems in a Shiite district in Baghdad, the two decided to switch houses. They even shared a moving van.
Two and a half years after the American invasion, deep divides that have long split Iraqi society have violently burst into full view. As the hatred between Sunni Arabs and Shiites hardens and the relentless toll of bombings and assassinations grows, families are leaving their mixed towns and cities for safer areas where they will not automatically be targets. In doing so, they are creating increasingly polarized enclaves and redrawing the sectarian map of Iraq, especially in Baghdad and the belt of cities around it.
The evidence is so far mostly anecdotal - the government is not tracking the moves. In a rough count, about 20 cities and towns around Baghdad are segregating, according to accounts by local sheiks, Iraqi nongovernmental organizations and military officials, and the families themselves.
Those areas are among the most mixed and the most violent in Iraq - according to the American military, 85 percent of attacks in the country are in four provinces including Baghdad, and two others to its north and west.
The volatile sectarian mix is a holdover from the rule of Saddam Hussein, who gave favors to Sunni Arab landowners in the lush farmland around Baghdad to reinforce loyalties and to protect against Shiites in the south. Shiites came to work the land, and sometimes to own it. Abu Noor moved to Tarmiya in 1987 after the government gave his father land.
"The most violent places are the towns and cities around Baghdad," said Sheik Jalal al-Dien al-Sagheer, a member of Parliament from a religious Shiite party. "It was a circle. It was invented. It did not exist before."
One result has been carnage on a serious scale. In Tarmiya, Abu Noor's close friend who helped pack his furniture and drove it to Baghdad received a letter warning him to leave the town or be killed. Nineteen days later he was shot to death in his carpentry shop in front of his father and brother. In all, at least eight of Abu Noor's friends and close relatives, including a brother, have been killed since the beginning of 2004.
The motives for the attacks are often complicated: the complex webs of tribal affiliations and social status that rule everyday life in Iraq do not always line up as simply as Shiite against Sunni. But increasingly, despite the urging of some Shiite religious leaders and Sunni politicians, the attacks have been: a mostly Sunni Arab fringe is carrying out vicious attacks against civilians, often Shiites, while Shiite death squads are openly stalking Sunnis for revenge, and the Shiite-dominated government makes regular arrests in Sunni Arab neighborhoods.
Expressions of prejudice have been making their way onto walls and into leaflets, too.
In Tarmiya, writing was scrawled on the walls of the city's main streets: "Get out of here, Badr followers! Traitors! Spies!" it said, using a reference to an armed wing of a religious Shiite party. In Madaen, a mixed city south of Baghdad, a list of names appeared on the walls of several municipal buildings in a warning to leave. Many did.
In Samarra last fall, leaflets appeared warning in clumsy childish script that Samarra is a Sunni city.
"We thought at first that they were written by kids and that someone would discipline them," said Sheik Hadi al-Gharawi, an imam who left Samarra, north of Baghdad, a few months ago and now lives in Baghdad. "But later we found they were adults and they were serious."
His nephew, Ahmed Samir al-Gharawi, 15, who moved separately with his family in September, was one of two Shiites in his high school class in Samarra. In January, classmates were probing to see whether his family had voted in a national election. "They were joking to find the truth," he said. "I didn't tell them."
Samarra is a holy place in Shiite Islam with two sacred shrines, and Shiites have lived there for hundreds of years.
Even so, in a pattern similar to that in Tarmiya, Shiite imams were attacked and businesses became targets, Sheik Gharawi said, and Shiites began to leave.
2Next Page > Link Here
Bush uses his faith to push for religious freedom in China
Bush plans to pray in public in China
By going to Beijing church, Bush will use his faith to push for religious freedom.
Ohhhhhhh Shitttttt can it get any more macarbe.
Can you believe this Moron, whats he praying for, more young American and more innocent Iraqis to die, Excuse my Language you Dead Shit Wanker,
Maybe they will lock him up do you think, is that to much to ask for
49 Die in Iraq Blasts; Bombs Kill 5 GIs
By CHRIS TOMLINSON, Associated Press Writer
6 minutes ago
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A suicide bomber detonated his car in a crowd of Shiite mourners north of Baghdad on Saturday, killing at least 36 people and raising the death toll in two days of attacks against Shiites to more than 120. Five American soldiers died in roadside bombings.
Earlier Saturday, a car bomb exploded in a crowd of shoppers at an outdoor market in a mostly Shiite neighborhood on the southeast edge of Baghdad, killing 13 people and wounding about 20 others, police reported. Witnesses said they saw a man park the car and walk away shortly before the blast.
In the north, U.S. and Iraqi forces raided a suspected al-Qaida hideout in Mosul and at least seven insurgents died — three committing suicide to prevent capture, Iraqi authorities said. Four Iraqi policemen also were killed and 11 U.S. troops wounded, Iraqi and U.S. officials said.
The second suicide car bomb exploded late in the afternoon as mourners offered condolences to Raad Majid, head of the municipal council in the village of Abu Saida, over the death of his uncle. Abu Saida is near Baqouba, a religiously mixed city 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.
Police said about 50 people were injured. On Oct. 29, a bomb hidden in a truck loaded with dates exploded in another Shiite community in the same area, killing 30 people.
Ambulances streamed into the main hospital in Baqouba ferrying the wounded from Saturday's blast; many were rushed directly into operating rooms where doctors worked frantically to save them.
Hospital facilities were so crowded that dazed and bloodied survivors — many with serious injuries — lay in agony on gurneys in the hallways because of the surgery backlog. Doctors and nurses in blood-spattered white uniforms rushed from gurney to gurney trying to determine who to treat first.
The five American soldiers — assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division — died in a pair of roadside bombings near Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad, the U.S. command said in a statement. Five others from the same unit were wounded.
Another soldier from the 101st died in a U.S. hospital in Germany of injuries suffered two days ago when his vehicle was deliberately rammed by an Iraqi car near Beiji, the U.S. command said Saturday.
At least 2,090 members of the U.S. military have died since the war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
In Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, Iraqi officials said police and U.S. soldiers surrounded a house before dawn Saturday after reports that al-Qaida in Iraq members were inside, said Brig. Said Ahmed al-Jubouri, a Mosul police spokesman.
As a fierce gunbattle broke out, three insurgents detonated explosives and killed themselves to avoid capture. Five more died fighting, while four police officers also were killed. Al-Jubouri said officials were attempting to identify the dead insurgents.
In Baghdad, the U.S. command confirmed the fire fight and said four U.S. soldiers, nine Iraqi army troops and one policeman were killed. The U.S. statement put the insurgent death toll at seven.
Since Friday, at least 125 Iraqi civilians have been killed in bombings and suicide attacks. They include 76 people who died in near-simultaneous suicide bombings at two Shiite mosques in Khanaqin along the Iranian border. Four people have been arrested, including one who was believed to have been planning another suicide attack, a security officer in Khanaqin said.
Attacks against Shiite civilians by Sunni religious extremists have occurred throughout the Iraq conflict but spiked since last weekend when U.S. troops found up to 173 detainees in an Interior Ministry building in Baghdad.
Most of the detainees were believed to be Sunni Arabs, who dominate insurgent ranks, and some showed signs of torture. Iraq's Shiite-led government promised an investigation and punishment for anyone guilty of torture.
Elsewhere, masked gunmen killed five members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party in a series of attacks Saturday in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, police said.
Three children were killed and one was wounded when mortar rounds fired at a U.S. base about 50 miles south of Baghdad fell short of their target and struck a house, police said.
The Man Who Sold the War
By JAMES BAMFORD
The road to war in Iraq led through many unlikely places. One of them was a chic hotel nestled among the strip bars and brothels that cater to foreigners in the town of Pattaya, on the Gulf of Thailand.
Halliburton Case Is Referred to Justice Dept., Senator Says
By ERIK ECKHOLM
November 19, 2005
Pentagon investigators have referred allegations of abuse in how the Halliburton Company was awarded a contract for work in Iraq to the Justice Department for possible criminal investigation, a Democratic senator who has been holding unofficial hearings on contract abuses in Iraq said yesterday in Washington.
The allegations mainly involve the Army's secret, noncompetitive awarding in 2003 of a multibillion dollar contract for oil field repairs in Iraq to Halliburton, a Texas-based company. The objections were raised publicly last year by Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, then the chief contracts monitor at the Army Corps of Engineers, the government agency that handled the contract and several others in Iraq.
In a letter received and released yesterday by Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, the assistant Pentagon inspector general, John R. Crane, said that the criminal investigation service of the Defense Department had examined Ms. Greenhouse's allegations "and has shared its findings with the Department of Justice." Senator Dorgan is the chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee, a Congressional group that has repeatedly used unofficial hearings to question the administration's record of awarding contracts in Iraq.
The Justice Department, the letter said, "is in the process of considering whether to pursue the matter."
Ms. Greenhouse, a 20-year veteran of military procurement work, says her objections before the contract was signed were ignored. After internal clashes with officials at the agency and threats of demotion, she went public with her charges in the fall of 2004.
This year, she was demoted in August from the elite Senior Executive Service, on charges of poor performance, and given a lower-ranking job as a project manager. She has filed appeals, but for now "she has no projects to manage and she just sits in the corner," her attorney, Michael Kohn, said yesterday in a telephone interview from Washington. The inspector general's office at the Defense Department had already begun its own investigation of her charges regarding the contracting. Exactly which issues are of most interest to investigators in the Justice Department is unclear. Mr. Crane wrote that he could not provide more details "as this is an ongoing criminal investigation."
Melissa Norcross, a spokeswoman for Halliburton, said in an e-mail message, "The company continues to cooperate fully with the Justice Department's investigation of certain issues pertaining to our work in Iraq."
In letters to senior Army officials and in public testimony, Ms. Greenhouse said that in early 2003 the Corps had violated procedures when it secretly awarded a five-year, potentially $7 billion contract for oil field repairs to a Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root.
Among other things, the same company had been secretly hired months earlier to draw up a plan for the job, she said. She also said that even if the urgency of war required dispensing with competitive bidding, the duration of the contract should have been shorter. She objected again in December 2003, when officials granted a waiver to Kellogg Brown & Root, approving the high prices it had paid to import fuel from Kuwait. Other Pentagon agencies said the company had paid tens of millions of dollars too much, without offering any justification for the payments.
In her e-mail message, Ms. Norcross said, "KBR will continue to work with our customers and the appropriate government agencies to demonstrate, once and for all, that KBR delivered vital services for the U.S. troops and the Iraqi people within the appropriate bounds of government contracting and at a fair and reasonable cost, given the circumstances."
Saudi Teacher Sentenced to 750 Lashes
Hows that for Democracy Georgie,You going to invade,
Nahhhhhh I dont think so.
By TAREK AL-ISSAWI, Associated Press Writer
Thursday, November 17, 2005
(11-17) 09:10 PST DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) --
A Saudi high-school chemistry teacher accused of discussing religion with his students has been sentenced to 750 lashes and 40 months in prison for blasphemy, officials said Thursday.
The court ruling was condemned by human rights activists, who said Mohammed Salamah al-Harbi was being imprisoned for having an "open discussion" with students.
Al-Harbi was convicted of questioning and ridiculing Islam, discussing the Bible and defending Jews, judicial officials said Thursday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Prosecutors acted after a complaint by students and al-Harbi's fellow teachers, officials said. The court in the northern province of al-Qassim heard the case Saturday in a six-hour trial.
Al-Harbi was in prison Thursday, but the Saudi newspaper Al-Madinah reported him as saying he would appeal the verdict.
"There are charges that the judge read which are unknown to me, such as defending Jews and the Bible, ridiculing Islam and witchcraft. It's strange that the judge ruled so quickly and wanted to end the case so fast," al-Harbi was quoted as saying.
His lawyer, Abdul Rahman al-Lahem, refused to talk to The Associated Press because of the sensitivity of the case, but he was quoted as telling Al-Madinah the judge refused his request to postpone the trial to allow time for a proper defense.
"The judge's refusal to read a statement by witnesses is a violation of the defendant's rights," al-Lahem was quoted as saying in Sunday's edition.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said al-Harbi had been "talking to his pupils about his views on a number of current topics, such as Christianity, Judaism and the causes of terrorism."
"The Saudi government is imprisoning schoolteachers for having open discussions with their students," said Sarah Leah Whitson, the group's Middle East director said in a statement Thursday. "As long as schoolteachers face persecution for doing their job, Saudi children will lose out."
Al-Harbi's sentence likely will be seen as a setback to Saudi moves to reform its education system. Following the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, the government altered the school curriculum to remove passages from textbooks that were offensive to Christians and Jews in an attempt to encourage moderation and tolerance.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers in those attacks were Saudis. Local intellectuals and newspaper columnists said the strict Islamic tenets followed in schools and mosques could have played a role in fostering Islamic militancy.
Lobbyists Reward DeLay by Raising Money After Legislative Wins
DeLay Fundraising Party Thrown By Energy Trade Group Chiefs And 67 Lobbyists Last Night…
Among the 67 lobbyists hosting the event in Washington were the heads of the trade groups for the oil and electric-utility industries.
-- GOP Scandal Scorecard has a new addition.
DeLay's former chief of staff indicted by feds in Abramoff scandal. Be warned, the corporate media is referring to Scanlon as a former aide to DeLay. No, he was no mere aide, Scanlon was chief of staff, the most senior position in a congressional office.
Media Matters for America
In articles on November 17 and 18, The Washington Post and The New York Times covered speeches by Vice President Dick Cheney, in which he attacked critics of the Iraq war, and by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA), in which he called for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
In covering Cheney's speech, both newspapers printed his attacks on Democrats, and supporting comments by President Bush and White House aide Dan Bartlett, without offering a word of Democratic response. By contrast, both newspapers included Republican attacks on Murtha in their coverage of his speech.
In its November 17 article about Cheney's speech, the Times quoted Cheney blasting war critics for making "irresponsible comments" and calling allegations that the Bush administration manipulated prewar intelligence "one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city." The Times also quoted the Republican National Committee's website, quoted Bush accusing Democrats of "irresponsibly using their positions and playing politics," and quoted Bartlett saying the attacks on critics would continue. The Post's coverage was substantially the same.
Glaringly absent in the coverage of Cheney's speech was a single word quoting -- or even paraphrasing -- Democrats' response to the attacks. Instead of providing both sides of the dispute, the Times and Post simply turned their pages over to the Bush White House, giving readers nothing more than a stenographer's recitation of the administration's attacks on its critics -- a performance that would have made Pravda proud.
The Times not only ignored the responses of Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and other Democrats, it ignored Republican Senator Chuck Hagel's (R-NE) statement this week that the Bush administration has been un-American in the way it has attacked its critics. On November 15, Hagel denounced the administration for suggesting -- as President Bush did in aNovember 11 speech -- that critics of administration policy give aid and comfort to the enemy:
Suggesting that to challenge or criticize policy is undermining and hurting our troops is not democracy nor what this country has stood for, for over 200 years. The Democrats have an obligation to challenge in a serious and responsible manner, offering solutions and alternatives to the Administration's policies.
Vietnam was a national tragedy partly because Members of Congress failed their country, remained silent and lacked the courage to challenge the Administrations in power until it was too late. Some of us who went through that nightmare have an obligation to the 58,000 Americans who died in Vietnam to not let that happen again. To question your government is not unpatriotic -- to not question your government is unpatriotic. America owes its men and women in uniform a policy worthy of their sacrifices.
Hagel, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, essentially said the president of the United States is violating the principles "this country has stood for for over 200 years" -- and The New York Times ignored it. They ignored it the day after the speech, and the next day, even as they ran an article repeating the very kinds of attacks by the Bush administration that Hagel denounced.
To The New York Times, apparently, a senior Republican senator criticizing the Republican president is not newsworthy -- but a Republican vice president criticizing Democrats is. The Grey Lady has seemingly abandoned the traditional notion that a man biting a dog is news -- but a dog biting a man is not.
The Post did mention Hagel's comments in its article, but it bizarrely ignored his criticism of Bush, pretending instead that he simply defended Democrats:
Bush added his voice hours later during a news conference Thursday afternoon in South Korea, where he is meeting with Asian leaders. Asked if he agreed with the vice president or with Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) who said this week that it was patriotic to question the government during a war, Bush's face tightened and he answered sharply, "The vice president."
One might assume that, since the Times and the Post reported Republican criticism of Democrats in their November 17 editions without including any response from the Democrats, they must have given similar treatment to Murtha's speech in November 18 newspapers.
Not even close.
The Times article about Murtha's speech quoted him declaring that "[o]ur military has done everything that has been asked of them. It is time to bring them home." The Times article then included, in the fourth, fifth, and sixth paragraphs, Republican responses:
President Bush, in South Korea, continued on Friday to be questioned by reporters about the debate over Iraq. His press secretary issued an unusually blistering statement responding to Mr. Murtha's call for a pullout, declaring that the Democrat was ''endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party.'' Page A16.
Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois said in a statement that Mr. Murtha and Democratic supporters had ''adopted a policy of cut and run.''
''They would prefer that the United States surrender to terrorists who would harm innocent Americans,'' Mr. Hastert said.
Before returning to Murtha's comments, the Times went on to quote Cheney's Wednesday comments, which were then two days old and had already appeared in The Times:
In a speech on Wednesday night, Vice President Dick Cheney said senators who had suggested that the administration had manipulated the intelligence were making ''one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city.''
Though this was the second consecutive day the Times printed Cheney's comments, it still didn't bother to include a response from a Democrat. Instead, the Times finally mentioned Hagel's comments -- but only in passing, only in a paraphrase that ignored his criticism of Bush, and only to set up a quote of Bush attacking Democrats:
Mr. Bush was eager on Thursday to join Mr. Cheney in taking on the critics of the use of the intelligence. Asked about whether Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, was correct when he said it was patriotic to question the president's use of the intelligence, Mr. Bush answered in unusually personal terms.
''I think people ought to be allowed to ask questions,'' he said. Then, leaning forward and emphasizing his words, he said, ''Listen, it's patriotic as heck to disagree with the president. It doesn't bother me. What bothers me is when people are irresponsibly using their positions and playing politics.''
Hagel didn't simply say "it was patriotic to question the president's use of the intelligence"; he suggested the president's comments attacking such questions were un-American. Yet the Times, in finally acknowledging that Chuck Hagel spoke, completely ignored the fact that he criticized Bush, suggesting instead that he had simply defended Democrats.
The Times then included a brief response to Bush's comments from Reid:
"We need leadership from the White House, not more whitewashing of the very serious issues confronting us in Iraq," said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority leader.
Finally, in the 20th paragraph, the Times returned to Murtha.
Readers of the Times' website saw even more imbalanced coverage: The November 18 articleon site about Murtha's comments included a sidebar linking to a transcript of a press conference held by 12 House Republicans attacking Murtha. The November 17 article about Bush and Cheney attacking Democrats did not include a link to the Democratic response. Not only are the articles themselves skewed in favor of the Bush administration, so are the links the Times provides its online readers.
In its coverage of the Murtha speech, the Post also quoted Bush, Hastert, and other Republicans criticizing Murtha.
To recap: When Bush and Cheney attacked Democrats, the Times and Post gave them an entire article, with no mention of a word of Democratic response.
When Murtha called for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, the Times devoted most of the first half of its article to Republican attacks on Murtha, and the Post quoted several Republicans' responses.
And when a senior Republican senator who sits on both the Foreign Relations and the Intelligence committees denounced, in the harshest terms possible, the Bush administration's assault on "what this country has stood for, for over 200 years," the Times and Post completely ignored the criticism.
If the Times and Post aren't taking sides, what are they doing?
Time for Wash. Post editorial page to come clean about Iraq falsehoods
Media Matters detailed several examples of Washington Post editorials that backed the Bush administration's two principal -- and faulty -- arguments for going to war. Those Post editorials contained several false claims and distortions that the newspaper has not yet corrected -- and, in some cases, has continued to defend.
Read the full analysis here.
Surprise Offensive for Peace
Congress finally got the message and began its own withdrawal from the Bush war policies this week, after many months of silent paralysis. On Wednesday I met with a staffer involved for three months in “slow, painful” internal Senate negotiations which had resulted in the murky bipartisan resolution passed with 79 votes the day before.
The Washington Post headline summarized it well: “Senate Presses for Concrete Steps Toward Drawdown of Troops in Iraq.” Would there be follow up?, I asked the longtime insider. “I doubt it, because it took so much to get even to this point”, was the reply. It would be “premature” to expect much more in the short term, I was advised.
The aide was wrong. The Senate may have been exhausted for the moment, but in the next 24 hours:
Nineteen House members attended a press conference to endorse various resolutions to cut off funding (McGovern) or set withdrawal timetables (Abercrombie-Jones).
The once-hardline Rep. Jane Harman advocated an exit strategy proposal in a Capitol Hill publication.
Rep. John Murtha stunned the pundit class by advocating a six-month withdrawal, too much for Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.
In the previous few days, Sen. John Kerry and former senators John Edwards and Tom Daschle
stepped up their calls for a withdrawal plan.
It is much too early to predict a flood, but the ice age has ended in Washington. It is a time reminiscent of Watergate, when the US intervention in Vietnam collapsed as the White House was weakened by scandals arising from its covert operations against the anti-war movement.
The strategy of “Iraqization” seems finished except as a figleaf. The new Iraqi constitution, which damages the interests of Sunnis and women, barely passed amidst widespread accusations of voter fraud. Then came the discovery of the Saddam-style torture chamber operated by Shiite militias under cover of the Iraqi army. The discredited Achmad Chalabi brazenly flirted with high US officials about returning to power. If US and British troops redeploy, it is hard to imagine the Iraqi army standing up against the Iraqi resistance.
Reeling from internal turmoil, scandals and declining poll numbers, the White House has lost its sound bite. When Bush and Cheney accused Democrats of changing their minds, as if they should continue to embrace fabricated evidence, Murtha blasted Cheney as a five-deferment Dick.
The media’s humiliating wartime collaboration with the Bush Administration, shown last week by the New York Times’ dismissal of Judith Miller, was underscored anew by revelations that Bob Woodward, considered a media “god” according to the Washington Post, had kept from his own editors his secret interviews with White House officials about Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame. As Nixon once dismissed the Watergate scandal as a “third-rate burglary”, Woodward dismissed the current scandal as merely “chatter”, lacking an underlying crime, “not one to go to court with” – the very day before Lewis Libby was indicted. [nyt, nov. 17,05]
These were dizzying, stupifying role reversals. The former hawks were calling for peace! The former investigative reporters were keeping state secrets! Republicans were turning into Democrats faster than Democrats could switch from being Republicans!
And of course it all was defined as an inside game of jockeying among the powerful, when in fact it was the outside pressure of thousands of activists, letter-writers, marchers, door-knockers, bloggers, anti-recruiters, quakers, code pinkers, moveon.niks and angry military families who were the motors turning the fans that blew the wind.
Those at the top can’t cope with the idea that movements with an outside game are capable of upsetting the future that the inside elites have planned. It’s as hard for them as for pigs seeing what they are stepping in. So in explaining the sudden Congressional shift, Dan Balz of the Post made eight references to “public opinion” without a single acknowledgement of organized public opinion. Balz notes “growing public frustration” (twice), “public anxiety”, “increasingly unhappy” constituents, and quotes Sen. John Warner as “’not unmindful’ of widespread unease in public opinion.”
It is a moment for anti-war activists to claim some measure of success, after many months of pounding against the walls of war.
But progress has a painful price. Americans and Iraqis continue to die everyday in a widely-rejected war, and not a single American soldier has been withdrawn. While the anti-war talk in Washington is a welcome development, it is also prompted by an incumbent desire to lull the public into trusting their leaders during an election year. According to one insider, the official debate “has now shifted to how to get out of Iraq” because “that is where the public is, and the senators were making sure that were on the right side of the political debate.” [W. Post, Nov. 16, 05].
The question is how the invisible anti-war movement can intervene to make the politicians keep up their forced march out of Iraq. The Nation magazine, in an historical front-cover editorial, has one suggestion for starters: refuse to support any candidate in either party unless they commit to a speedy end to this war. In an election year promising to be relatively competitive, that’s a message any candidate can hear.
Republicans Refuse to Honor Springsteen
By DONNA DE LA CRUZ, Associated Press Writer
Fri Nov 18, 8:33 PM ET
WASHINGTON - Bruce Springsteen famously was "born in the USA," but he's getting scorned in the U.S. Senate.
An effort by New Jersey's two Democratic senators to honor the veteran rocker was shot down Friday by Republicans who are apparently still miffed a year after the Boss lent his voice to the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.
The chamber's GOP leaders refused to bring up for consideration a resolution, introduced by Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Jon Corzine, that honored Springsteen's long career and the 1975 release of his iconic album, "Born to Run."
No reason was given, said Lautenberg spokesman Alex Formuzis. "Resolutions like this pass all the time in the U.S. Senate, usually by unanimous consent," he said.
Telephone calls to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's office seeking comment were not immediately returned.
Lautenberg said he couldn't understand why anyone would object to the resolution.
"Even if the Republicans don't like (Springsteen's) tunes, I would hope they appreciated his contributions to American culture," Lautenberg said.
Corzine said he, Lautenberg and other Americans appreciated Springsteen's contributions to American culture.
"We'll never surrender looking for ways to honor our local hero who made it big in this land of hopes and dreams," Corzine said.
Springsteen endorsed Kerry last year, and made campaign appearances that drew huge crowds who came to hear music described in the resolution as "a cultural milestone that has touched the lives of millions of people."
Who Sucks you Suck Woodward
What a complete hypocrite. No credibility and no integrity.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Comment of the Day
SHOCK AND AWE AS THE WORLD LOOKS ON AT THE DISPARAGING OF AMERICAS PATRIOTS BY THE GOP MORONS IN THE ADMINISTRATION AND HOUSE, WHO DID NOT SEE FIT TO SERVE THEIR COUNTRY WHEN CALLED.
CHENEY 5 DEFERMENTS AND ON AND ON
The fiery, emotional debate climaxed when Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, the most junior member of the House, told of a phone call she received from a Marine colonel.
"He asked me to send Congress a message — stay the course.
He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message — that cowards cut and run, Marines never do," Schmidt said.
Democrats booed and shouted her down — causing the House to come to a standstill.
Congress Takes Back September 11 Aid Money
When the White House learned the money had not yet been spent, administration officals decided to try and take it back. The Senate voted to let New York keep the funding, but the House of Representatives did not follow. Senate and house budget negotiators have now decided to take the money back
A week after the September 11 attacks, EPA director Christine Todd Whitman announced to the nation that the air around the World Trade Center was safe to breathe, despite the fact that no one had enough information to make such a statement. In the weeks following the attacks, the Bush administration suppressed warnings by the Environmental Protection Agency that that there were health hazards associated with the toxic debris around the World Trade Center. Later, it was discovered that countless New Yorkers had developed lung problems. It is still unknown what the ultimate effect of the pollution will be, but it is more than reasonable to think that $125 million would help deal with it.
Posted by Diane E. Dees on 11/15/05 at 06:35 PM
The CIA's Secret Budget
At a public intelligence conference in San Antonio, Texas, last week, Mary Margaret Graham, a 27-year veteran of the CIA and now the deputy director of national intelligence for collection, said the annual intelligence budget was $44 billion.Big mistake? No, not at all. That $44 billion number shouldn't have been a secret in the first place. Several former CIA directors have already come out and said that the overall intelligence budget figures should not be classified, that publishing these numbers wouldn't harm national security so long as individual budget items were kept secret. The Brown-Aspin Commission in 1996 concurred. Indeed, from time to time I do wonder why no one ever takes article 1, section 9, clause 7 of the Constitution seriously:
No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.Yet this statement has obviously never applied to either the Department of Defense or the Central Intelligence Agency. So why don't constitutional orginalists ever start complaining about this? One explanation is that this clause has been violated almost continuously since the country's founding. In 1790, Congress appropriated $40,000 for "intercourse between the U.S. and foreign nations," but didn't require George Washington to account for how he actually spent the money. In 1794, Congress gave the president $1 million in a similar fashion—the money ended up being used as ransom money for American hostages in Algiers. Regardless of how useful these moves were, they were clearly unconstitutional, allowing Congress to decide willy-nilly when and where it gets to spend money without public oversight.
My preference would be to make everything related to intelligence and defense fully public, and carve out exceptions only if absolutely necessary, after long debate. Excessive secrecy has rarely served the country well. Now that the CIA is getting in the business of running a secret network of gulags around the world, and who knows what else, that holds doubly true. But this will never happen, especially since Democrats seem to place a premium on CIA secrecy these days. More realistically, Congress should at least publish overall figures for the intelligence budget and the basic purposes for which they're spent.
Meanwhile, the GAO, the government's auditing arm, still has only limited access to reviewing CIA programs. At the time of the Pike Commission in the early '70s, the agency had no access to any budgetary information whatsoever. Today, the GAO has "broad authority to evaluate CIA programs," but it still faces limitations: it lacks access to the CIA's "unvouchered" accounts, and has no way to "compel" access to foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information. As I said, we're not likely to get sunlight anytime soon, but giving the GAO increased access would be a good start.
Posted by Bradford Plumer on 11/16/05 at 10:23 AM
Where's That Iraqi Army?
But that's just to say that the prospects for success in Iraq always looked bleak, and the country isn't a mess now merely because the Bush administration botched the execution. The war hawks certainly did just that—especially when they didn't even bother to plan for the occupation—but even if the planners had done all their homework, "victory" was always a pretty remote possibility, and the real lesson in retrospect is that we should have only invaded if we had to, which we didn't.
On a related note, James Fallows has a good cover story in this month's Atlantic on why the U.S. still hasn't yet created a new army for Iraq yet. Basically, the task hasn't ever been a priority for the administration—it's not sexy enough, apparently, certainly not for Donald Rumsfeld—and for the most part it's not really a glamour job within the military, which means that top officers aren't usually assigned to the job. (Although Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, the guy who helped turn training around in 2004, became something of a mini-celebrity.) Things are going better now, but the training's still too sluggish and new insurgents are cropping up faster than new forces can be trained. As long as the army remains too small, and too unequipped, and too fractured by ethnic and sectarian divisions, there won't be order in Iraq.
So the U.S. needs to either 'magically' figure this problem out, or else it needs to start recognizing that "it has no orderly way out of Iraq, and prepare accordingly." That's the basic logic of it, not overly difficult to grasp, and it was pretty much John Murtha's point when he came out in favor of withdrawal yesterday, although the usual lunatics are accusing him of wanting to "retreat".
Posted by Bradford Plumer on 11/18/05 at 09:47 AM
'They couldn't take away my dignity'
Four former Guantánamo detainees talk about their experiences Mark OliverFriday
November 18, 2005
This weekend Amnesty International is holding a conference in London which brings together the biggest gathering of former "war on terror" detainees.
Around 25 former inmates at Guantánamo Bay are attending and speakers will include former detainees from the UK, Russia and Afghanistan.
Ahead of the three-day conference, Amnesty conducted interviews with four former Guantánamo detainees and transcripts of these are below. You can also listen to audio files of the first and second interviews.
first interview is with Moazzam Begg, one of nine British men who were held at Guantánamo Bay. He was seized in Islamabad in February 2002 by the CIA and initially held at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan for around a year. He was held in Guantánamo until January 2005, when he was released without charge. At Bagram he says he saw two people beaten to death by guards; one guard told him how it was necessary for them to "dehumanise" detainees to cope with working there.
The second interview is with Ustad Badruzzaman Badr, from Afghanistan, who was arrested with his brother, journalist Abdurraheem Muslim Dost, at their home in Pakistan in November 2001. They were held by the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence service, before being handed over to the Americans. Both were released from Guantánamo Bay at the end of last year.
The third interview is with Airat Vakhitov, one of eight Russian detainees. He was held in solitary confinement at Bagram in Afghanistan for a year before being transferred to Guantánamo, from where he was released in 2004.The final interview is with Rustam Akhmiarov, another Russian who was also released last year.
[At Bagram airbase in Afghanistan] The guards had put barbed wire at the back of the cages or the cells where we'd use that area as the latrine. This detainee had apparently been able to push the barbed wire through and crawl out and run out - completely confused as to whether he's going left or right or where he was going to go in his orange suit. So the guards caught him and they beat him literally to death. After which they dragged him in front of all the cells which were there and that's when I saw his body. They took him to the medical room which was also opposite the cell where I was and they closed the doors. After that there was a whole series of doctors and medics and officers running in and rushing about. And eventually they carried his body out on a stretcher with the blanket covering his face and all we could se were the beaten soles of his feet that were visible.
I spoke to one of the soldiers who used to get along quite well with me and he told me exactly what he'd done, why he'd done it and how he'd done it. This soldier I'd met in Kandahar and he was one of the few who used to speak to me quite regularly and I was so amazed that he was so candid about telling me how he'd done this and why he'd done this and why he felt it was completely justified and almost vindicated himself by the fact that he's telling me.
When people say, "How did you manage?" Well sometimes I didn't manage. Sometimes I exploded myself and broke up everything and fell about, cried, smashed my head against the wall. But that was a rarity. Generally I tried to be a controlled and as calm as possible. One important thing to me was dignity and self control and self respect. They had definitely taken my freedom and my ability to be free, but what they couldn't do was to take away my dignity, and that's what I held on to.
When they handed out Korans to us in Bagram I remember seeing the Americans passing them through the airlocks and throwing them onto the ground. People might think that well, its just a book, but if you believe like you do as a Muslim that this is the unadulterated revealed speech of God and it is the most sacred thing that a Muslim would have in his house. To see them do that for me brought about a sense of complete desperation, that I can't do anything about this and them for the other Afghans and various other prisoners it was intolerable.
And it was of course part of the dehumanising process again. And one of the guards there of that unit told me when I used to have discussions with them, that when we see you people we can't look at you as human beings. Our psyche does not allow us to do that - because if we did we wouldn't treat you this way. It's easy for us to dehumanise you. First of all most of you guys don't speak the same language. Secondly, you look different. Thirdly, you're dressed different. Fourthly, you're in cages and we're out here with the guns.
The use of torture has in the 21st century become a topic of debate. Should we or should we not. And I think that it's just such a terrible statement ... on the state of us as human beings on the planet today.
The people who claim to be the upholders and defenders of freedom are debating now whether it is legitimate to use torture. After all of what the world has been through arguing against the fact. And if it does in one way or another become legitimised, either mental torture or physical or psychological, which has been clearly used by several countries, then I think the world will spiral into something that nobody will be able to control.
People have been held there [Guantánamo] for four years now, almost. What possible intelligence value could they be giving after all this time - even if there was any to begin with?
So I would say categorically that not only should the United States close the place down. I think people should be repatriated. Those people who have committed crimes should be charged. Those people who have not should be released and should be compensated - if it's possible to compensate people for the time and for the physical and mental torture that they've had to suffer all of this time.
Actually in the beginning when we were in Bagram and Kandahar and in cells of ISI, we suffered a lot. We have been kicked out, we have been kicked by the feet of soldiers. We have become naked; they have taken our naked pictures. They have shaven our beards and they have insulted us in different ways. The way they were taking us to interrogation in Kandahar was really insulting and we suffered a lot and we had no shower for three months in Bagram and Kandahar and the same way for two and a half months in cells of ISI in Peshawar. The way we were taken and flown from Peshawar to Bagram, and from Bagram to Kandahar and from Kandahar to Guantánamo Bay was really torturing, we suffered a lot. They tied us with plastic handcuffs and it really hurt us and the most terrible thing was when they took us from Kandahar to Guantánamo. We had goggles on our head and had masks and we were blinded there and it was a very long flight of 24 hours. What happened to us... It is just torturing us mentally right now and when I just think about Guantánamo, I think about Kandahar, I think about Bagram I think about the cells of ISI, I cannot forget the night we were arrested and we left our children crying without reason. We haven't been criminals, we haven't done anything wrong. We have been journalists, we have been scholars, we have been intellectuals, we have been reporters and editors you can see the library here. I can draw it for you this is the whole block you can see. You know and there were two rows, in each row there were 24 cells and then there was another row of 24 cells. You can see and each cell was 180 centimetres in length, and the width and the height was 180 centimetres. It was the place where we had to sleep, where we had to offer our prayers, where we had to go to the bath and that was the whole thing we had in our life. We had to stay here for a long time and after every three days and sometimes after every five days we had to go out for 20 minutes and some people for 30 minutes if we were not on punishment. But those who were on punishment had to stay there for longer times - for a month, two or three without coming out.
Actually we couldn't get our messages from home and our families couldn't receive our messages up to almost one year and a half. The first time I received our message through Red Cross. I wrote my first message in Kandahar but it arrived home after 8 months and we received our first message after one year and most of the messages were coming through Red Cross and they used to censor and erased just those lines which they didn't like - you can see these.
I want to go to that conference [Amnesty's] because we want to impart and to give the details to the rest of the world and we want to inform the world so it does not happen again. So the right thing is done to those innocents who are still in detention and punishment for those who are really guilty. I mean keeping this information secret and not telling the world would be a dishonesty an intellectual dishonesty and we want to tell the world and it's very important. It's just many people are waiting for us to listen and to know what was going on there and what happened and what were the results.
The torture was basic. In order to cause discomfort they switched on the air conditioning and closed the door to the room. The chain was covered with frost. Before the investigation we were held in the isolation ward for ten days to a month. During this time continuous beatings and insults took place.
Concerning our transfer from Kandahar to Guantánamo: it was a very cruel journey. We were all chained, attached to the seats. We were wearing headphones, blacked out glasses and respirators, making breathing almost impossible. People were continually losing consciousness because of the respirators. The headphones caused high pressure on the head, almost causing a hole, and all of that caused a lot of pain.
We were put into an American detention centre at Kandahar air base. Every one of us suffered from torture and humiliation. The beatings became a routine. Isolation wards, unsanitary conditions and we were sleeping on the sand in the winter. This humiliation was bringing us to our knees.
The torture we were subjected to include beatings and systematic provocations to try and make the detainee break some instructions. And when that happens a special team is called - they would run into the cell, beat and chain him up.
During the interrogations they left you in a cold room for a few weeks. Isolation wards are a good example. We weren't given anything to lie on - no carpet. All of us have problems with our kidneys because we slept on the iron with air conditioning on. It was freezing cold. The ceilings began to be covered with condensation from the cold. We were held like that for months. I was in the isolation ward for five months. I consider the biggest humiliation I have suffered is the stigma that the Americans gave to me. The life-long brand of terrorist, extremist, which I received in Guantánamo has stayed with me since being extradited to Russia.
We have to expose to the public these crimes of the system speaking out for all of the international community, few people have taken the opportunity using legitimate or other methods and people are starting to understand what happened. Some people on behalf of the whole community say that Muslims are the terrorists, bandits and killers. I face insults in the streets. It is the fault of a group of people who speak out on behalf of the world's Islamic Uma. I think not all people share the point of view of Bush's administration. Not all Muslims share the opinion of Osama Bin Laden or Zarkowi. There is an attempt to cause tension between two big civilizations and we became the victims of this war, we were caught in the middle.
Al-Zarqawi: Bombers didn't target wedding
AMMAN, Jordan - An audiotape purportedly from the head of al-Qaida in Iraq said Friday the group's suicide bombers did not intend to bomb a Jordanian wedding party at an Amman hotel last week, killing about 30 people.
The speaker on the tape, identified as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, said the bomber who detonated his explosives in the Radisson SAS hotel on Nov. 9 was targeting a hall where he claimed Israeli and American intelligence officials were meeting.
Al-Zarqawi accused the Jordanian government of hiding casualties among Israeli and American intelligence agents, and he insisted al-Qaida in Iraq was not targeting fellow Muslims.
"We want to assure you that ... you are more beloved to us than ourselves," al-Zarqawi said, addressing Jordanians.
Faces of the Fallen
Statement by Michael Moore on the Bush Administration's Statement
November 17th, 2005 10:47 pm
STATEMENT BY MICHAEL MOORE
Unfortunately, the President doesn't understand that it is mainstream middle America who has turned against him and his immoral war and that it is I and the Democrats who represent the mainstream. It is Mr. Bush who is the extremist.
GOP pulls tax bill and calls vote on Iraq pullout
Scanlon Charged With Conspiracy to Defraud
Allegedly conspired with partner to defraud clients out of millions.
Will California send Diebold packing before Turkey Day?
Democracy Breakin': Ohio's Electric Boogaloo
The Pentagon's inspector general has agreed to review the prewar intelligence activities of former U.S. defense undersecretary Douglas Feith
Three Bombings in Iraq Kill More Than 90
Two Shiite Mosques in Khanaqin, and Hotel Housing Journalists in Baghdad Targeted
By Ellen Knickmeyer, Fred Barbash and William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, November 18, 2005; 3:32 PM
BAGHDAD, Nov. 18 -- Suicide bombers killed at least 90 worshipers Friday inside two Shiite Muslim mosques northeast of the capital near the Iranian border, and a pair of car bombs outside a Baghdad hotel that houses foreign journalists destroyed a nearby apartment building and left several more people dead.
In Khanaqin, a mixed Shiite and Kurdish town 80 miles northeast of Baghdad, attackers wearing suicide belts walked into the two mosques and lined up among worshipers gathered for Friday prayers, then detonated their explosives as the imams at both mosques delivered their sermons. In addition to the 90 dead at the mosques, at least 75 worshipers were injured, said Ibrahim Hassan Bajillan, head of the local governing council in Diyala province.
The explosions collapsed the roofs of the Sheikh Murad Mosque and the larger Khanaqin Grand Mosque. Residents rushed to the scenes to search the rubble for victims. But after darkness fell, searchers called off the hunt for bodies for the night. Police said the toll is likely to rise after the search for victims resumes Saturday.
Shiite mosques are a frequent target of attackers in Iraq. Earlier this month, at least 29 people were killed in an attack on a mosque in Musayyib, south of Baghdad. The insurgency in Iraq is led by Sunni Muslims, the most radical of whom regard Shiites as heretics and accuse them of collaborating with U.S. forces.
In the capital, suicide attackers exploded two vehicles loaded with bombs outside the Hamra Hotel early Friday, collapsing at least one neighboring apartment block and shearing off walls around sleeping families.
The back-to-back Baghdad blasts killed at least six and wounded more than 41, police said. At least two children were among the dead, police said. There were no immediate reports of foreign casualties.
The attackers appeared to follow a pattern used in a suicide car bomb attack last month on the larger Palestine Hotel. In that Oct. 24 attack, one of three vehicles blew a hole in a concrete blast wall to clear the way for an explosives-laden cement truck to drive into the hotel. But the truck exploded prematurely when U.S. troops opened fire on it. The attack killed 17 Iraqis, but the death toll could have been far higher if the plan had succeeded. The Palestine Hotel houses the Associated Press, Fox News and other media organizations.
Outside the Hamra, rescue crews pulled wailing children off the rubble and pulled dust-shrouded dead and wounded from under twisted girders and broken masonry. Screaming women in black abayas and other survivors sought family members as cars set alight by the blast burned around them.
Hotel security cameras caught the first attacker as he drove up in what appeared to be a white minivan. The vehicle detonated just outside blast walls surrounding the hotel.
A second vehicle attempted to drive through a hole made in the walls by the first blast, but its way was blocked by a deep crater and rubble left by the explosion. The second vehicle then detonated before it could get through. The second explosion, more powerful than the first, destroyed the security camera.
American officers and Iraqi police said the second car bomb was carried by a water truck.
Iraqi and U.S. authorities said they believed the second bomb was meant to target the hotel itself. Among the news organizations based at the Hamra are NBC News and the Boston Globe.
The blasts hurled body parts into the hotel courtyard and swimming pool.
A U.S. military statement said the first vehicle, a 16-passenger van, carried about 400 pounds of explosives. The water truck carried about 1,000 pounds of explosives, it said. In addition to the apartment building near the Hamra Hotel, the blasts damaged other buildings in the area and wrecked at least 30 vehicles, the statement said.
U.S. soldiers from Task Force Baghdad participated in search-and-rescue operations after the explosions, and American medics administered first aid and helped evacuate the more seriously wounded to local hospitals.
Al Qaeda in Iraq, a group led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for the blasts, saying it had struck with three vehicle bombs. A third car bomb was discovered nearby and destroyed by security officials, apparently after release of the al Qaeda in Iraq statement.
Mike Boettcher of NBC News, who was in the Hamra at the time, said the first car bomb detonated at 8:12 a.m., and "we were blown out of our beds," the Associated Press reported.
He said on the "Today" show that the resulting hole in the blast walls was too small for the second vehicle, which exploded outside the barrier, causing great destruction in the neighborhood.
"We got down on the floor and crawled, and then the second bomb hit, and we were blown back," Boettcher said. The blast walls "saved our lives," he said.
"I woke up to a huge explosion which broke all the glass and displaced all the window and doors frames," said Saab Izzi, an Iraqi journalist with the Boston Globe, AP reported.
There was some speculation at first that the target was a nearby Interior Ministry building where U.S. troops Sunday found about 170 detainees in a secret underground bunker formerly used as a bomb shelter. Some of the detainees appeared to have been mistreated, and the Iraqi government launched an investigation. Interior Ministry officials said, however, that the hotel, not the ministry building, was the target.
Barbash and Branigin reported from Washington . Special correspondent Hassan Shammari contributed to this article.