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Friday, January 16, 2009

The Sources of Arabs' Shame

Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia
By Dr. Abbas Bakhtiar
People not familiar with the political landscape of the area often see the Middle East as two camps, Arab countries on one side and Israel on the other. The reality is totally different. Israel has seldom been alone. Beside its usual American, French, British and other staunch allies, she has had the hidden backing of several Arab countries.

International Criminal Court Prosecutor Says Has No Jurisdiction In Gaza

By Reuters
Israel and the United States are not among the 108 countries that have signed the Rome Statute creating the court, but that would not prevent the ICC from launching an investigation.

What's CIA Director Hayden Hidin'?

By Ray McGovern
Outgoing CIA Director Michael Hayden is going around town telling folks he has warned President-elect Barack Obama "personally and forcefully" that if Obama authorizes an investigation into controversial activities like waterboarding, "no one in Langley will ever take a risk again."

Detainee Tortured, Says U.S. Official

Trial Overseer Cites 'Abusive' Methods Against 9/11 Suspect
By Bob Woodward
"We tortured [Mohammed al-] Qahtani," Susan Crawford said in an interview with the Washington Post published Wednesday. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.

Israelis Shell Hospitals and UN HQ

By Al Jazeera
Around 500 people were sheltering in the Al-Quds hospital in the city's southwestern Tal Al-Hawa district when it was bombed by Israeli jets and set ablaze on Thursday morning. Hospital officials said the fire was sparked by a "phosphorus shell".

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The War And Occupation Of Iraq Costs

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

CNN's Cooper: Bush's Katrina defense 'boggles the mind'

George Bush still seems to have no clue as to how seriously he failed the nation after Huricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, even though two of his aides have called it a "tipping point" in his presidency and "the final nail in the coffin" that broke his bond with the American public.
When asked at his final presidential news conference on Monday about what mistakes were made during his presidency, Bush suggested first that "putting a 'Mission Accomplished' on a aircraft carrier was a mistake" and then added, "I've thought long and hard about Katrina, you know, could I have done something differently, like land Air Force One either in New Orleans or Baton Rouge."
"Think about this for a second," commented MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. "President Bush thought long and hard about Katrina, and what he came up with was -- maybe I could have done the photo op differently."
Bush went on to insist, "Don't tell me the federal response was slow when there was 30,000 people pulled off roofs right after the storm passed. I remember going to see those helicopter drivers, Coast Guard drivers, to thank them for their courageous efforts to rescue people off roofs."
Maddow, however, pointed out that even thought the Coast Guard responded promptly, National Guard troops took two days to arrive and FEMA took six days just to finalize its request for evacuation buses.
CNN's Anderson Cooper -- who reported memorably on Katrina's devastation as it was happening -- also was astonished by Bush's response.
"It's sort of a red herring to talk about the flyover," Cooper suggested. "To talk about what the Coast Guard did, which was valiant and courageous and brilliant, and totally forget about ... on Friday, days after the storm had passed, not even remembering people in the convention center -- it just boggles the mind."
Analyst David Gergen agreed with Cooper, calling Bush's response on Katrina "the most stunning thing, I think, that happened in the press conference."
"I thought maybe that people would have some sense of warmth about George Bush as he leaves office," Gergen continued. "I think I was wrong. ... I don't think we've had a time since Richard Nixon left office ... when people were so relieved to see the end of a presidency."

Conyers publishes massive report on 'Imperial Presidency'

Everyone wants to know: will Obama order investigations into the Bush administration's abuses of power? But, perhaps the new question should be: if he doesn't, who will?
House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) is at least going to try.
Conyers published a nearly 500-page report (PDF link) Tuesday titled, "Reining in the Imperial Presidency: Lessons and Recommendations Relating to the presidency of George W. Bush." Conyers' report makes 47 recommendations "designed to restore the traditional checks and balances of our constitutional system," reads the foreward. Recommendations include the establishment of a 'blue ribbon' commission to fully investigate the Bush administration, and the launch of criminal probes."
Even after scores of hearings, investigations, and reports, we still do not have answers to some of the most fundamental questions left in the wake of Bush’s Imperial Presidency," Conyers said in a release. "Investigations are not a matter of payback or political revenge – it is our responsibility to examine what has occurred and to set an appropriate baseline of conduct for future administrations."
On Jan. 6, Conyers introduced a bill that, if passed, would create the "Commission on Presidential War Powers and Civil Liberties," which would seek to root out President Bush's abuses.
“The Bush Administration’s approach to power is, at its core, little more than a restatement of Mr. Nixon’s famous rationalization of presidential misdeeds: 'When the president does it, that means it’s not illegal,'" Conyers wrote in the report's foreward.
Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Monday, "We now have President Bush speaking quite candidly that he was in the loop, we have Dick Cheney who almost bragged about it. The question for Barack Obama is whether he wants to own part of this by looking the other way."
Obama told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, "We have not made final decisions, but my instinct is for us to focus on how do we make sure that moving forward we are doing the right thing. That doesn't mean that if somebody has blatantly broken the law, that they are above the law. But my orientation's going to be to move forward."
"If waterboarding is torture -- and Barack Obama has said that it is torture," Turley emphasized, "and torture is a war crime, then the president has committed a war crime if he did order waterboarding. You have to do some heavy lifting to avoid the simplicity of that logic."
"What I would want to do is to have my Justice Department and my Attorney General immediately review the information that's already there and to find out are there inquiries that need to be pursued," Obama told Philidelphia Daily News reporter Will Bunch in April 2008.
Obama added, "if crimes have been committed, they should be investigated," but agreed with Bunch's assertion that the effort could turn into a "partisan witch hunt" that threatens to consume his first term.
President-elect Barack Obama made his first veto threat Tuesday in a closed-door meeting with Senate Democrats. Obama told his former colleagues that if Congress passes a resolution blocking release of the second half of the financial bailout funds he will veto it, said Sen. Joseph Lieberman after leaving the caucus meeting.
Until today, an Obama veto of a so-called disapproval resolution had been discussed as a theoretical possibility. But the promise made to the Democratic caucus represents a firm stand on behalf of an extension of the $350 billion in Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) funds.
The original TARP legislation required the president to specifically request the second half of the funds. Congress then has fifteen days to disapprove of the request or else the money is dispersed. If Obama vetoes the disapproval, Congress would need a two-thirds majority to override that veto to prevent the money from being spent.


Press Corps' Farewell To Bush
Bush's final words and exodus:

Bush Protested Planned Israeli Strike on Iran

President Bush reportedly revealed to the Israelis that he already had authorized a covert U.S. effort to sabotage Iran's nuclear capabilities.
Two well placed sources confirmed to FOX News that Israel last year made "various requests" for U.S. assistance with a planned Israeli air strike on Iran's nuclear program.
Israel's plan, however, was scuttled when the United States rebuffed Israel in its request to fly through Iraqi airspace, according to a New York Times report on a covert U.S. program.
The Times story, published Saturday, cites unnamed American and foreign officials in reporting that President Bush also turned away an Israeli request for bunker-busting bombs for use in its planned attack on the Iranian nuclear complex. The president then revealed to the Israelis that he already had authorized a covert U.S. effort to sabotage Iran's nuclear capabilities, the Times reports.
The Bush administration was "particularly alarmed," the Times says, by the Israeli request for access to Iraqi airspace.
Sources told FOX News that the Israeli requests were made directly to the White House because the Israelis were "disturbed and fearful" of leaks from the U.S. intelligence community and "did not trust" Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
One source told FOX News the Israelis approached the Bush White House at least once last summer, possibly twice, and were "slammed down" because senior administration officials felt such assistance would "unravel our position in Iraq." President Bush was convinced by aides, sources said, that any such American aid to an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear program would cause the Iranians "to foment great upheaval in Iraq."
One source told FOX News the Israeli emissary sent to request Washington's help was Meir Dagan, head of the Israeli spy agency Mossad. Dagan was sent reportedly because the Israelis considered him "the only trusted channel."

U.S. Rejected Aid for Israeli Raid on Iranian Nuclear Site
WASHINGTON — President Bush deflected a secret request by Israel last year for specialized bunker-busting bombs it wanted for an attack on Iran’s main nuclear complex and told the Israelis that he had authorized new covert action intended to sabotage Iran’s suspected effort to develop nuclear weapons, according to senior American and foreign officials.
White House officials never conclusively determined whether Israel had decided to go ahead with the strike before the United States protested, or whether Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel was trying to goad the White House into more decisive action before Mr. Bush left office. But the Bush administration was particularly alarmed by an Israeli request to fly over Iraq to reach Iran’s major nuclear complex at Natanz, where the country’s only known uranium enrichment plant is located.
The White House denied that request outright, American officials said, and the Israelis backed off their plans, at least temporarily. But the tense exchanges also prompted the White House to step up intelligence-sharing with Israel and brief Israeli officials on new American efforts to subtly sabotage Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, a major covert program that Mr. Bush is about to hand off to President-elect Barack Obama.
This account of the expanded American covert program and the Bush administration’s efforts to dissuade Israel from an aerial attack on Iran emerged in interviews over the past 15 months with current and former American officials, outside experts, international nuclear inspectors and European and Israeli officials. None would speak on the record because of the great secrecy surrounding the intelligence developed on Iran.
Several details of the covert effort have been omitted from this account, at the request of senior United States intelligence and administration officials, to avoid harming continuing operations.

Monday, January 12, 2009

U.S. Marines find Iraq tactics don't work in Afghanistan

DELARAM, Afghanistan — On a sunset patrol here in late December, U.S. Marines spotted a Taliban unit trying to steal Afghan police vehicles at a checkpoint. In a flash, the Marines turned to pursue, driving off the main road and toward the gunfire coming from the mountain a half mile away.
But their six-ton vehicles were no match for the Taliban pickups. The mine-resistant vehicles and heavily armored Humvees bucked and swerved as drivers tried to maneuver them across fields that the Taliban vehicles raced across. The Afghan police trailed behind in unarmored pick-up trucks, impatient about their allies' weighty pace.
The Marines, weighted down with 60 pounds of body armor each, struggled to climb up Saradaka Mountain. Once at the top, it was clear to everyone that the Taliban would get away. Second Lt. Phil Gilreath, 23, of Kingwood, La., called off the mission.
"It would be a ghost chase, and we would run the risk of the vehicles breaking down again," Gilreath said. The Marines spent the next hour trying to find their way back to the paved road.
The men of the 3rd Batallion, 8th Marine Regiment, based at Camp Lejeune, are discovering in their first two months in Afghanistan that the tactics they learned in nearly six years of combat in Iraq are of little value here — and may even inhibit their ability to fight their Taliban foes.
Their MRAP mine-resistant vehicles, which cost $1 million each, were specially developed to combat the terrible effects of roadside bombs, the single biggest killer of Americans in Iraq. But Iraq is a country of highways and paved roads, and the heavily armored vehicles are cumbersome on Afghanistan's unpaved roads and rough terrain where roadside bombs are much less of a threat.

Few in U.S. See Jazeera’s Coverage of Gaza War

Last June, Al Jazeera English produced a report from Gaza about a young couple who were preparing to marry during the relative calm of the cease-fire between Hamas and the Israeli government, a time when they could finally shop for furniture and, as the reporter put it, let themselves “dream that a happy life together is within reach.”
Now that reporter, Ayman Mohyeldin, a former CNN producer, can be seen with a helmet and flak jacket answering questions from an anchor back in the studio in Doha, Qatar, describing the Israeli bombing and ground campaign in Gaza intended to stop Hamas missiles from being fired into Israel.
In a conflict where the Western news media have been largely prevented from reporting from Gaza because of restrictions imposed by the Israeli military, Al Jazeera has had a distinct advantage. It was already there.


Gene Robinson: Gay Bishop Giving Obama Inauguration Prayer
New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, a vocal gay rights leader, will open President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration with a prayer on Sunday's kick-off event at the Lincoln Memorial.
"I am writing to tell you that President-Elect Obama and the Inaugural Committee have invited me to give the invocation at the opening event of the Inaugural Week activities, We are One, to be held at the Lincoln Memorial," Robinson wrote in an email to friends.
The announcement comes after weeks of outcry from the gay community over Obama's choice of evangelical, anti-gay pastor Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural invocation.

Note the double standard?

Politico reports on a Sunday New York Times panel, where reporters had nothing but bad news for President-elect Barack Obama:
White House reporters for The New York Times predict that the market collapse will force President-elect Barack Obama to abandon for now many of his campaign promises.
If his stimulus plan "doesn't work out, he may very well be a one-term president," said Jeff Zeleny, who covered Obama's campaign. "It's hard to imagine that he could be reelected if the economy's in the exact same position four years from now."
Another reporter, Peter Baker, went on to say that Obama would have to give up fulfilling promises of universal health care and carbon emissions caps this year because of the economy.
Media Matters questions the dire predictions:
Funny, we don't recall any Times reporters suggesting Bush would be a one-term president days before his inauguration. But of course we do remember lots of reporters and pundits announcing that Bill Clinton had failed in his first month in office.
Note the double standard?

That"s how it's done, so easy

Bush Humiliated Rice Over Gaza Cease-Fire: Olmert
JERUSALEM (AFP) – US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was left shame-faced after President George W. Bush ordered her to abstain in a key UN vote on the Gaza war, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Monday.
"She was left shamed. A resolution that she prepared and arranged, and in the end she did not vote in favour," Olmert said in a speech in the southern town of Ashkelon.
The UN Security Council passed a resolution last Thursday calling for an immediate ceasefire in the three-week-old conflict in the Gaza Strip and an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza where hundreds have been killed.
Fourteen of the council's 15 members voted in favour of the resolution, which was later rejected by both Israel and Hamas.
The United States, Israel's main ally, had initially been expected to voted in line with the other 14 but Rice later became the sole abstention.
"In the night between Thursday and Friday, when the secretary of state wanted to lead the vote on a ceasefire at the Security Council, we did not want her to vote in favour," Olmert said
"I said 'get me President Bush on the phone'. They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn't care. 'I need to talk to him now'. He got off the podium and spoke to me.
"I told him the United States could not vote in favour. It cannot vote in favour of such a resolution. He immediately called the secretary of state and told her not to vote in favour."

"A challenge" to close it even within the first 100 days of his administration.

Obama Guantanamo: Preparing Order To Close In First Week
WASHINGTON — Advisers to President-elect Barack Obama say one of his first duties in office will be to order the closing of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay. That executive order is expected during Obama's first week on the job _ and possibly on his first day, according to two transition team advisers. Both spoke Monday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Obama's order will direct his administration to figure out what to do with the estimated 250 al-Qaida and Taliban suspects and potential witnesses who are being held at Guantanamo.
It's still unlikely the prison would be closed any time soon. Obama last weekend said it would be "a challenge" to close it even within the first 100 days of his administration.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

An Extremist Makeover?

In the past week, I’ve twice been close enough to Dick Cheney to kick him in the shins.
I didn’t. It’s probably a federal crime of some sort. But a girl can fantasize. I did, however, assume the Stay-away-from-me-you’ve-got-cooties stance that Jimmy Carter used when posing with Bill Clinton at the presidents’ powwow in the Oval.
The first time was Tuesday, when Cheney left the ceremony where he gave the oath of office to senators. The senators seemed thrilled, especially Joe Biden, who was getting sworn in for just two weeks and was excitedly showing off a family Bible the size of a Buick. But I thought it gave the ceremony a satirical edge to have the lawless Vice presiding over lawmakers swearing to support and defend the Constitution that he soiled and defiled — right in the heart of the legislative branch he worked to diminish.
The second time I crossed paths was Thursday night, at a glitzy party at Cafe Milano for Brit Hume, stepping down as a Fox anchor. It required extreme defensive maneuvers — much zigging and zagging — to avoid Cheney, Wolfie and Rummy, all three holding court and blissfully unrepentant about the chaos they’ve unleashed on the world.
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