Thursday, March 16, 2006
by Rev. Bill McGinnis
Note: An MP3 "speaking- voice" version of this message is located at http://www.text-to-speech.org/tortureissuealone.mp3, so you can listen to it as you read it here in print.
The exact words of the United States Code, Title 18, Sections 2340, 2340A, and 2340B are shown below. As you read these words and consider the pictures and other public evidence from Abu Ghraib and other prisons, you will see: first, that numerous United States Military personnel did commit the crime of torture (as defined below), on a systematic and widespread scale, not confined to the rogue actions of a few individuals; second, that the very highest levels of the Bush Administration, including the President himself, must have planned and/or authorized these activities, and thus are guilty of the high crime of "conspiracy to commit torture," an impeachable offense.
Further, you will see that the entire chain of command - starting from the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld level, then going down through the military organizations and the CIA, down to the individual torturers - must have also been members of this conspiracy to commit torture, to the extent that they worked together to make it happen.
Here are the words of the Law . . .
UNITED STATES CODE - TITLE 18
Section 2340. Definitions
As used in this chapter -
(1) ''torture'' means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
(2) ''severe mental pain or suffering'' means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from -
(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
(C) the threat of imminent death; or
(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and
(3) ''United States'' includes all areas under the jurisdiction of the United States including any of the places described in sections 5 and 7 of this title and section 46501(2) of title 49.
Section 2340A. Torture
(a) Offense. - Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.
(b) Jurisdiction. - There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if -
(1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or
(2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender.
(c) Conspiracy. - A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.
Section 2340B. Exclusive remedies
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed as precluding the application of State or local laws on the same subject, nor shall anything in this chapter be construed as creating any substantive or procedural right enforceable by law by any party in any civil proceeding.
Source: United States Code, as found at http://www.findlaw.com/casecode/uscode.html/ and other locations.
As we now can see, we have here clear and provable grounds to impeach and remove from office the President, the Vice-President, the Secretary Of Defense, and perhaps dozens of other Federal officials.
There are also other anti-torture laws which the United States is currently breaking, because of Bush's policies, and some of these surely could provide other grounds for impeachment of Bush and Cheney. But the law shown above seems to provide the clearest and most obvious grounds, because of its precise definition of torture and its specific prohibition of conspiracy to commit torture. An excellent summary of all United States and International Laws against torture is located at http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2004/05/24/usint8614.htm As you read these laws, you will see for yourself how disgustingly far the Bush Administration has pulled us away from the civilized norms of human behavior.
After Bush and Cheney are impeached and removed from office, the Speaker of The House Of representatives - at that time - is next in line to become President, under existing U. S. law. (See http://bensguide.gpo.gov/9-12/government/national/succession.html) So prior to the actual removals from office, the House could select whomever it chooses to become Speaker. It is not Constitutionally required that the Speaker of the House be a Member of the House. So the House could elect whomever it chooses to become Speaker, who would then become President after Bush and Cheney are removed.
Blessings to you. May God help us all. And may God bless America!
Rev. Bill McGinnis, Director - LoveAllPeople.org
HTML version of this document is located at http://www.loveallpeople.org/tortureissuealone.html
Rev. Bill McGinnis is an Internet Christian minister, writer and publisher. He is Director of LoveAllPeople.org, a small private think tank in Alexandria, Virginia, and all of its related websites, including InternetChurchOfChrist.org,CommitteeForTheGoldenRule.org,CivicAmerican.com, and AmericanDemocrat.net. His agenda is to help maximize the happiness and well-being of all people
Can I Get a Ruling?
Would the Bible be considered "Foreign Law"?
great stuff from the comments section at Glenn Greenwald's blog:
Thu Mar 16, 2006 at 10:12:23 AM PDT
This merits reintroduction to the blog. The whistleblower in the State of California, Steven Heller, who exposed illegalities in Diebold electronic voting systems use in California, was charged with three felony counts by the Los Angeles County District Attorney, Steve Cooley. This is two years after the fact and allegedly under pressure from Diebold.
Due to enormous legal defense costs the family is appealing to the public for help. The defense preparation has required a second mortgage on the home and for them to tap out all personal savings. All of that is now gone. Please go to stephenhellerdefensefund.com.
If you can't contribute, you can at the very least, send an email, letter or call the D.A.'s office. All of these contacts are listed on the site and here:
From the site :"Stephen Heller is a whistleblower; he is alleged to have
seen and then exposed legal documents proving that
Diebold Election Systems, Inc., the country's leading
manufacturer of electronic voting machines and voting
machine software, was using illegal, uncertified software
in their California voting machines, thereby defrauding
the state of California, the taxpayers of California, and
disenfranchising the voters of California. On February
21, 2006, Stephen was charged in Los Angeles Superior
Court with 3 felonies: felony access to computer data,
commercial burglary and receiving stolen property. He
pleaded not guilty. This is an outrageous abuse of the
law and of power."
Knight Ridder Newspapers
BAGHDAD, Iraq - American forces have dramatically increased airstrikes in Iraq during the past five months, a change of tactics that may foreshadow how the United States plans to battle a still-strong insurgency while reducing the number of U.S. ground troops serving here.
A review of military data shows that daily bombing runs and jet-missile launches have increased by more than 50 percent in the past five months, compared with the same period last year. Knight Ridder's statistical findings were reviewed and confirmed by American Air Force officials in the region.
The numbers also show that U.S. forces dropped bombs on more cities during the last five months than they did during the same period a year ago. Airstrikes hit at least nine cities between Oct. 1, 2004, and Feb. 28, 2005, but were mostly concentrated in and around the western city of Fallujah. A year later, U.S. warplanes struck at least 18 cities during the same months.
The spike in bombings comes at a crucial time for American diplomatic efforts in Iraq. Officials in Washington have said that the situation in Iraq is improving, creating expectations that at least some American troops might be able to withdraw over the next year.
On Monday, President Bush stopped short of promising a withdrawal. But he said he expects that Iraqi government forces will control more of Iraq, allowing U.S. forces to carry out more targeted missions.
"As more capable Iraqi police and soldiers come on line, they will assume responsibility for more territory - with the goal of having the Iraqis control more territory than the coalition by the end of 2006," Bush said. "And as Iraqis take over more territory, this frees American and coalition forces to concentrate on training and on hunting down high-value targets, like the terrorist (Abu Musab al) Zarqawi and his associates."
There are risks to a strategy that relies more on aerial bombings than ground combat patrols. In the town of Samarra, for example, insurgents last month were able to spend several hours rigging explosives in the dome of a Shiite shrine that they later destroyed, in part because American troops patrolled less. The shrine's destruction triggered a week of sectarian violence that killed hundreds. U.S. soldiers interviewed in Samarra three weeks earlier said patrols in the city had been scaled back because the number of troops had been reduced by two-thirds.
Airstrikes also risk civilian casualties, driving a wedge between American forces and Iraqis, Iraqis say.
Osama Jadaan al Dulaimi, a tribal leader in the western town of Karabilah, a town near the Syrian border that was hit with bombs or missiles on at least 17 days between October 2005 and February 2006, said the bombings had created enemies.
"The people of Karabilah hate the foreigners who crossed the border and entered their areas and got into a fight with the Americans," al Dulaimi said. "The residents now also hate the American occupiers who demolished their houses with bombs and killed their families ... and now the people of Karabilah want to join the resistance against the Americans for what they did."
The U.S. military has said repeatedly that it uses precise munitions and targets insurgent locations that are verified by various intelligence sources.
Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said that the airstrikes reflected U.S. soldiers' ability to target more sharply insurgents across Iraq.
"This is one more tool that they have pulled out ... as they have been able to better refine their tactics and procedures," Johnson said. "Airpower has always been available. I don't see a ramping-up; I see a refinement" of intelligence that allows for more airstrikes.
Johnson also disputed the idea that the bombings exact a political cost.
"The same thing could be said of anything we use to target the enemy," Johnson said. "If they take up arms against Iraqi and coalition forces, they are going to be targeted with the weapons the commander on the ground deems most effective to eliminate the threat."
Knight Ridder compiled the statistics from about 300 daily press releases provided by the U.S. Central Command's air forces unit, which describes itself as the "predominant owner of air assets in the region." The releases detailed bombing activities, but they didn't include actions of Marine Corps units, so the number of bombings probably is higher.
Air Force officials who reviewed the statistics confirmed that they were correct.
The statistics show that U.S. and coalition planes dropped bombs or missiles on Iraqi cities on at least 76 days from Oct. 1, 2005, through Feb. 28, 2006 - or one out of every two days. During the same period a year earlier, bombs or missiles struck on only 49 days, the tabulation showed.
Bombs were dropped on more days in each of the last five months than they were for the same months the previous year. For example, the U.S. military launched bombings and missile strikes on 20 days in December 2005, compared with 12 in December 2004, and 10 in January 2006, compared with five in January 2005.
The figures also indicate that the insurgency has branched out after American forces retook the city of Fallujah in November 2004, robbing the insurgents of their main base of operations in Iraq.
In Anbar province, Fallujah was hit hardest in the 2004 to 2005 period. During the heaviest fighting there in 2004, from Nov. 10-16, American aircraft dropped at least 54 bombs or missiles on the town.
But from October 2005 to February 2006, Fallujah wasn't mentioned in the daily reports, though eight other cities in Anbar were.
Stories of American missiles hitting the homes of innocents are passed between Iraqi men at teahouses and during Friday worship services.
"Residents worry that their homes will be bombed at any time," said Hussein Ali Jaafar, who owns a stationery shop in the town of Balad, north of Baghdad, which was targeted by bombs or missiles at least 27 times between October 2005 and February 2006. "Most of the bombing is unjustified and random. It does not differentiate between militants and innocent people."
A tribal sheik who lives on the outskirts of the troubled Anbar town of Ramadi, who asked that he be identified as Abu Tahseen instead of by his full name out of fear of possible retribution, said that the strikes create more insurgents than they kill because of the region's tribal dictates of revenge.
"They (the Americans) think: `As long as there are resistance fighters operating in this spot, we will wipe it out entirely,'" Abu Tahseen said, using the term for insurgents favored by Iraqis sympathetic to their cause. "As you know, our nature is a tribal one, and so if one from us is killed, we kill three or four in return."
Comparing the total number of bombs and missiles dropped from one year to the next isn't possible because the Central Command releases began late last year to refer to "precision guided bombs" or "precision guided munitions" instead of the actual number and type of bomb used.
"The change in nomenclature reflects internal angst about whether or not it is appropriate to give the specific types of ordnance dropped,'" said Air Forces spokesman Maj. Robert P. Palmer in an e-mail exchange.
Knight Ridder special correspondents Zaineb Obeid and Hassan al Jubouri contributed to this report.
The Star’s Topeka correspondent
TOPEKA — Some Kansas lawmakers think professors at public universities are indoctrinating students with liberal notions, and they’re pushing a proposal to fight alleged academic bias.
Called the Academic Bill of Rights, the measure would encourage university faculty to teach different viewpoints and to grade based on scholarship, not on the student’s personal views. It also would prohibit faculty from using classes for “political, ideological, religious or antireligious indoctrination.”
Officials with the state Board of Regents and the University of Kansas said the measure was unnecessary and potentially damaging to academic freedom.
The measure was prompted by the furor surrounding University of Kansas Professor Paul Mirecki, who last year fell under scrutiny for e-mails in which he mocked aspects of Christianity.
But the problem is hardly limited to one professor, said writer and commentator David Horowitz, who has led the effort for the bill of rights nationally. Horowitz spoke Wednesday to a House committee considering the measure, saying departments such as women’s studies and social work often serve as recruiting grounds for Marxist and anti-American ideologies.
“Entire departments at Kansas State University and the University of Kansas, for example, are devoted to ideological and political agendas and are in fact advocacy programs designed to indoctrinate,” he said.
KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said the university has a well-established process to address complaints about faculty. He said the bill of rights is a solution in search of a problem.
“It’s simply not necessary,” he said.
Conservative lawmakers say it is.
“This is something that’s very important for us to look at, and maybe it’s something we’ve let slip,” said Kansas Rep. Mary Pilcher Cook, a Shawnee Republican. “It’s imperative the Legislature give taxpayers what they expect at their universities.”
If the universities won’t adopt the bill of rights, Pilcher Cook said, she would like the Legislature to set up a committee to look into allegations of campus bias.
The bill of rights is part of a national trend prompted by controversies in several states. In Pennsylvania, state lawmakers held hearings to look for evidence of liberal bias among professors. In New York and Colorado, professors have come under fire for criticizing Christianity and blaming the United States for the Sept. 11 attacks. A University of California-Los Angeles alumnus offered to pay students to tape biased statements made by professors in class.
Missouri lawmakers also have taken on public universities. In one case it was because a professor wrote about pedophilia. In another, it was because broadcast journalism instructors told students not to wear flag pins on the air after the Sept. 11 attacks.
In 2003, Kansas lawmakers threatened to slash funding for a human sexuality course they deemed obscene, but they were blocked by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.
Joan Wallach Scott, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., and former head of the American Association of University Professors’ committee on academic freedom, has studied the bill of rights as it moves around the country. She finds it troubling.
“There have always been people who want to police the academy,” she said. “Universities are the place in society where new critical thinking emerges. You’re not supposed to feel comfortable in a university. Your beliefs should be challenged.”
Lawmakers have no plans to vote on the measure right now. That’s good news to those who question the need for the academic bill of rights. One of them, Rep. Tom Sawyer, a Wichita Democrat, noted that despite the alleged liberal indoctrination, the state remains heavily Republican.
“If our Kansas universities are really doing that, they’re doing a really poor job,” he said.
Right Wing Rhetoric Fuels Right Wing Fringe: Death Threats On "UnPatriotic" Judges Growing.
By GINA HOLLAND, AP
WASHINGTON (March 16) - Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she and former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor have been the targets of death threats from the "irrational fringe" of society, people apparently spurred by Republican criticism of the high court.
Ginsburg revealed in a speech in South Africa last month that she and O'Connor were threatened a year ago by someone who called on the Internet for the immediate "patriotic" killing of the justices.
Security concerns among judges have been growing.
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter joked earlier this year that Justice John Paul Stevens should be poisoned. Over the past few months O'Connor has complained that criticism, mainly by Republicans, has threatened judicial independence to deal with difficult issues like gay marriage.
Worry is not limited to the Supreme Court. Three quarters of the nation's 2,200 federal judges have asked for government-paid home security systems, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said this week.
Ginsburg said the Web threat was apparently prompted by legislation in Congress, filed by Republicans, that would bar judges from relying on foreign laws or court decisions.
"It is disquieting that they have attracted sizable support. And one not-so-small concern - they fuel the irrational fringe," she said in a speech posted online by the court earlier this month and first reported Wednesday by LegalTimes.com.
According to Ginsburg, someone in a Web site chat room wrote: "Okay commandoes, here is your first patriotic assignment ... an easy one. Supreme Court Justices Ginsburg and O'Connor have publicly stated that they use (foreign) laws and rulings to decide how to rule on American cases. This is a huge threat to our Republic and Constitutional freedom. ... If you are what you say you are, and NOT armchair patriots, then those two justices will not live another week."
Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla., a sponsor of one of the congressional proposals, wrote about the legislation on his Web site and in bold letters featured a quote from O'Connor predicting the Supreme Court would probably increasingly rely on foreign courts.
Ginsburg pointed out that the legislation was first proposed in 2004, an election year.
Justices, in some of their most hotly contested rulings, have looked overseas. Last year, for example, justices barred the executions of juvenile killers on a 5-4 vote. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said then that "it is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty."
In an angry dissent to that decision, Justice Antonin Scalia said capital punishment policy should be set by states, not "the subjective views of five members of this court and like-minded foreigners."
Ginsburg said, "Critics in Congress and in the media misperceive how and why U.S. courts refer to foreign and international court decisions." She said those decisions are used for guidance only.
O'Connor said last week during a speech at Georgetown Law School that the justices have received threats. But the Ginsburg remarks at the Constitutional Court of South Africa provide unusual detail.
Ginsburg, who turned 73 Wednesday, told the audience O'Connor "remains alive and well - as for me, you can judge for yourself."
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
On the opposite side of the aisle are strong supporters of the proposal -- an overwhelming majority of the U.N.'s 191 member states -- including the 25-member European Union, the 114-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) of developing nations, plus virtually all of the key U.S. human rights organisations.
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, refusing to make any political concessions, says Washington will not support the current proposal -- until and unless there are amendments to it. "If it is put to a vote (in the General Assembly), we will vote no," he told reporters Thursday.
Since the president of the General Assembly, Jan Eliasson, is seeking a consensus on the landmark resolution, he was forced to postpone a meeting scheduled for Friday, primarily to avoid a fractious vote, with a hope for a solution next week.
One of Bolton's demands is that the new Council should elect its members by a two-thirds majority, making it increasingly difficult for "habitual human rights abusers" such as Sudan, Zimbabwe and Burma to find a seat.
But the proposal for the new HRC, crafted after months of negotiations by Eliasson, calls for a vote by absolute majority, meaning 96 out of 191 members, not two-thirds.
This was the best compromise that Eliasson was able to reach with a majority of member states during his long drawn-out negotiations.
Bolton says that Eliasson's best is not good enough for him, because 96 votes will be relatively easy for the "abusers" to garner in order to gain membership in the HRC.
On the contrary, an African diplomat told IPS, "In reality, 96 votes are as difficult to get as two-thirds." "And more so," he said, "because voting will be by secret ballot."
The secret ballot, he said, can also go against the United States, which is now accused of human rights violations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. "There are many member states who think that Washington is also a human rights violator and has no place in the new Council."
South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo has a different take on it. Asked about the U.S. stance, he told reporters that "this is not a quality issue".
"The United Nations is not an apple factory assembly line where you can pick up a clean one and throw out the under-ripe and over-ripe ones," he said.
He pointed out that there is no mechanism in the United Nations where member states could be barred for some reason or another.
"What it requires us to do, which is a difficult thing, is to come up with a formula where we choose only member states that uphold, protect and promote human rights," Kumalo said.
Besides the two-thirds majority, the United States also wants a smaller Council of about 25 to 30 members, instead of the proposed 47. Additionally, it is opposed to any term limits on membership so that countries can virtually have lifelong status on the Council.
An earlier U.S. proposal that the all five permanent members of the Security Council -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia -- also be permanent members of the Human Rights Council was shot down in the early stages of negotiations.
According to the draft resolution, membership in the Council shall be based on equitable geographic distribution and seats shall be distributed among regional groups: 13 for the African Group; 13 for the Asian Group; eight for the Latin American and Caribbean group; six for the Eastern European Group; and seven for the Western European and Other States Group.
All members will serve for three years but will not be eligible for immediate re-election after two consecutive terms.
The General Assembly, by a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting, may suspend the rights of membership in the Council of a member of the Human Rights Council that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights.
Despite the fact that Washington has taken a strong stand against human rights abuses worldwide, the opposition to the proposed new Council has also generated a conspiracy theory at the United Nations.
"We feel that the United States is in reality trying to weaken the U.N. human rights machinery, not strengthening it, perhaps for selfish reasons," says one Third World diplomat.
With rising criticism of U.S. human rights abuses, particularly in the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan and the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, Washington is fearful of the fact that the torture and mistreatment of prisoners by U.S. soldiers will be high on the agenda of the new Human Rights Council.
"I can see no other reason why Washington wants to kill the proposal," he added.
Meanwhile, a coalition of 32 U.S. and international non-governmental organisations has appealed to all member states "to join the consensus that has emerged in countries from all regions of the world and to adopt the draft resolution".
The organisations include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations Foundation, Citizens for Global Solutions, Human Rights First, International Commission of Jurists, ActionAid International and the World Organisation Against Torture. "We [the undersigned NGOs] believe that the draft resolution to establish a Human Rights Council presented by the President of the General Assembly is a sound basis to strengthen the U.N.'s human rights machinery," says the letter currently in circulation..
The proposed Human Rights Council will be better equipped than the existing Commission on Human Rights to address urgent, serious and long-running human rights situations wherever they occur, the organisations say.
"It will hold more frequent meetings throughout the year instead of only one. More competitive election procedures will encourage a membership that is more dedicated to the protection of human rights."
Instead of slates being adopted by acclamation, members must be elected individually and a higher threshold of votes applies -- at least 96 individual votes out of 191 members.
A country's human rights record will be taken into account by those voting and those committing gross violations of human rights can be suspended from the body, the letter notes.
All members must fully cooperate with the Council and they will undergo a review of their human rights record through a new universal review system that will apply to all countries, the organisations say.
"This is an historic opportunity to create a better human rights protection system within the United Nations," the letter said, adding that no country should call for a vote or propose amendments to the resolution.
"To do so will seriously jeopardise this sound and carefully balanced agreement that we have before us," they added.
from the Lone Star Times:
Looks like high time we had surveillance cameras inside police headquarters, city hall, the mayor pro tem’s office and other government buildings. The video feed could be run straight to the internet so the public can keep an eye on its elected officials and employees. After all, if they’re not doing anything wrong, why should they worry about it?
A few weeks back, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia described the legal philosophy of his adversaries--those who believe that interpretation of the Constitution should not rely on strict adherence to the words and intent of the document and the framers. “But you would have to be an idiot to believe that,” Scalia said. “The Constitution is not a living organism--it is a legal document. It says something and doesn’t say other things.”
That is quite a quote--and it is not a paraphrase. But it comes to mind as one watches the Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader stonewall on the issue of making S. 1932 legal under the Constitution.
To those unfamiliar with the issue and controversy, the House and Senate passed a major budget bill by the narrowest of margins in both chambers, including a tie-breaking vote in the Senate case by Vice President Cheney, but it turned out that the bill passed the House and Senate in different forms.
This was not simply a transcription error, a misplaced comma or a misspelled word--something that would be plenty serious--but a $2 billion discrepancy that arose over a last-minute compromise between the two chambers over the time allowed for the rental of medical equipment for Medicare patients. After the House had passed its version and the discrepancy became known, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) unilaterally changed the House bill to match the Senate’s and then sent it on to President Bush, which he signed to great fanfare.
But a seventh-grade civics student who has done his or her homework would immediately know that what the president signed is not a law. Laws, as Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution makes clear, must pass both chambers of Congress in identical form and then be signed by the president.
Of course, when Congress makes an error such as this one, it easily can be resolved by having both chambers re-pass the bill in identical form and having the president sign the proper bill. But not in this Congress with these leaders.
Because the two versions are different by a cool $2 billion, and because the more generous House version would be difficult to pass muster with fiscal conservatives, neither Hastert nor Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) wants to go through another vote. So they have decided to ignore the plain letter and intent of the Constitution and declare, with the same sensitivity to the rule of law as the queen of hearts, that it is law, period, because we say so.
The leaders have come up with a belated rationalization: the 1892 Supreme Court ruling by John Harlan in Field v. Clark, which found that the signatures of the Speaker and the president of the Senate are enough to certify the legality of a bill. But any serious reading of the facts surrounding that decision would make clear that this is a different kettle of fish.
Hastert and Frist are unlikely to budge, despite Democrats’ fulminations on the issue. But a suit has been filed by a private citizen contesting the act’s legality. It may get to the Supreme Court. If it does, we will see how strict Scalia’s adherence is to his own professed judicial philosophy--and what term he would apply to leaders who don’t understand that the Constitution says something and doesn’t say other things...more on the subject here:
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Wednesday, Mar. 15 2006
Excuse me if I don't get all teary-eyed about the poor besieged Bush administration in the wake of last week's rescinded Dubai Ports World acquisition of U.S. port operations:
"Setback to Bush on ports deal casts a shadow over his agenda," warned The New York Times. "Bush damaged by political iceberg," declared BBC News. "Port deal's political fallout not over," the Washington Post predicted over the weekend.
Reality check, please.
At the same time that our senators and representatives so bravely thrashed Bush over the all-but-meaningless port business deal, they also handed him the renewal of the USA Patriot Act and killed an investigation into the ongoing National Security Agency spying operation, which breaks the law and violates the Constitution.
Sounds like a pretty good week for a presidency bent on accumulating power and ducking responsibility.
I've heard from a fair number of smart, patriotic people who, frankly, aren't very concerned about Bush's excesses in the national security arena, including the illegal NSA scheme and the ripe-for-abuse Patriot Act. These things strike them as theoretical worries of virtually no relevance to the day-to-day lives of the vast majority of law-abiding Americans. In any case, they reckon, when you're fighting terrorism, better to be overzealous than overly fussy.
It's a fair point, but it ignores the one overriding truth we have learned the hard way about Bush and the incompetents who work for him: They're really not very good at doing anything.
After they took over the White House in 2001, their slacker attitude about al-Qaida helped make 9/11 possible. Their wishful-thinking approach to modern warfare and international relations brought us the catastrophe of Iraq. Their cronyism and disdain for honorable public service contributed to the deadly failures that followed Hurricane Katrina. Their anti-government bias turned the obscenely expensive Medicare drug program into frustrating chaos for seniors and their families.
It's true that some Americans -- maybe even most of us -- are willing to give up some measure of freedom in exchange for greater protection from terrorism. But with Bush and his administration in charge, there's no reason to believe that's what we're getting.
We are, for example, five years into the Bush reign and four-and-a-half years past 9/11. Yet a still-secret study by the Department of Homeland Security, obtained by the Associated Press and reported over the weekend, finds America's ports still highly vulnerable to terrorist attacks with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
The picture is no more reassuring in the area of terrorism prosecutions. This week, a federal judge in Virginia had to decide whether serious errors by government lawyers required her to dismiss the death-penalty case against Zacarias Moussaoui, still the only person ever charged with crimes in connection with the 9/11 attacks. (She wound up disqualifying several witnesses.) Federal authorities jeopardized a different terrorism-related case, as reported last month by KTVT-TV in Dallas, when it mistakenly sent boxes full of jumbled classified files to the defense team.
In fact, it's a reasonable and open question whether the Justice Department, which has become highly politicized under Bush control, has any idea of what it's doing. Dahlia Lithwick, legal correspondent for the online magazine Slate, summarized government bungling in key terrorism cases in a stinging column in February
Given the administration's abysmal track record of performance, it seems highly unlikely that Bush is managing his secret spying programs well. And given Bush's track record for asserting power, logic suggests those programs are far more extensive and invasive than he has admitted.
Bush has claimed that the Constitution grants presidents unlimited power to make war. If he believes that, there is no reason for him to have limited the NSA to foreign-related spying. And if there's nothing more important than preventing terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, Bush has an even greater incentive to unleash the NSA to monitor all communications -- here at home, as well as abroad.
It should come as no surprise, then, that a vast government spying development project that Congress thought it had shut down three years ago turns out to be not so shut down after all. Three weeks ago, the respected National Journal reported that elements of the Pentagon's ominous Total Information Awareness program, funding for which Congress cut off in 2003, were transferred and given new names: Advance Research and Development Activity, Information Awareness Prototype, Basketball, Topsail. And where were these projects relocated? The NSA.
"So what?" some of my friends would say. "We have nothing to hide."
Maybe not, but governments make mistakes, this administration makes a lot of them and mistakes have consequences.
Last week, Justice Department inspector general Glenn Fine reported hundreds of instances over the last two years in which the wrong people's e-mails and phone calls were intercepted and conversations were recorded long after warrants had expired. In one instance, Fine reported, the FBI recorded 181 separate phone calls when it only was supposed to get billing records.
Now imagine a mistake involving you. Your employer is secretly ordered by the FBI to hand over all its records about you, put a tap on your work phone and install spying software on your work computer. The feds come up with nothing incriminating, of course, but it's a fair bet the company will never think of you in quite the same way again. A raise? A promotion? A prestigious transfer?
Don't count on it.
You think your political opinions and activities -- left, right or center -- are your business? Recent reports from all over the country -- Florida, California, Colorado, Georgia, Pennsylvania and elsewhere -- document increased surveillance by both civilian and military authorities of even innocuous political activity by American citizens.
In the face of all these developments -- most immediately, Bush's illegal NSA spying program -- last week the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee refused to do its duty. Instead, chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas put the kibosh on any notion of an investigation in exchange for creation of a new subcommittee. Its assignment apparently will be to listen to what the administration chooses to tell it, say OK and then keep its mouth shut.
You have to wonder if there is anything Bush could do that would get Roberts and the other administration chippies on the committee to actually launch an investigation.
Ports, schmorts. Bush, as he often reminds us, is a big-picture guy, and in the big picture, last week was a very good week for the president.
The Bush administration and the Republican Party seem to have lost all capacity for financial self-control, turning their backs on the GOP's historical record of responsible fiscal management. The Republicans have squandered the huge budget surplus they inherited by spending not just on guns and butter but on guns, butter, and tax cuts. Because of government obfuscation, most Americans don't realize the deep fiscal hole we're in--and the fact that we're still busy digging. As David Walker, the head of the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, pointed out, "The federal government's obligations, current liabilities, and unfunded fiscal commitments are over $43 trillion and rising. . . . Yes, that's trillions with 12 zeros rather than billions with nine zeros."
The estimated net worth of American families is slightly over $47 trillion, and nearly all of it--90 per-cent--would be needed to cover government's current obligations. And don't think we can grow our way out of this hole. According to the GAO, it would take real double-digit growth over the next 75 years to pay off our current debt--an impossible task, considering that the growth rate during the 1990s boom years averaged just 3.2 percent.
A trillion here, a trillion there. The hole is even deeper because these debt projections exclude the cost of Bush's second-term agenda, which would add over $5 trillion to the deficit over the next decade by making his tax cuts permanent ($1 trillion) and privatizing Social Security ($1.5 trillion in the first decade; $3.5 trillion in the second)--not to mention the tens of billions of dollars likely to be spent on military operations. And all this spending would come at a time when the first baby boomers are on the verge of retiring, causing Medicare and Social Security costs to soar. The president says his budget would cut the deficit in half by 2009. But this is a mirage. Why? Because it excludes the cost of the Iraq war and the cost of his privatization program for Social Security--to name just two whoppers.
What's worse, by cutting on the other side of the ledger, the Bush budget would slash or eliminate programs that affect the quality of life of millions of Americans. Among the proposed cuts: a 12 percent reduction in elementary and secondary education programs; a 14 percent drop in spending on Medicaid, the federal-state program for the poor and disabled; a 20 percent cut for clean water and clean air. Spending on Head Start would be slashed by $3.3 billion, meaning 118,000 fewer kids would be covered by 2010, while the program that subsidizes nutritional assistance to low-income pregnant women and nursing mothers, critical to preventing low-weight babies, would have to reduce the number of women covered by 740,000. At the same time, however, the Bush budget would increase highway spending--the budget's single biggest pork-barrel program--by $284 billion over six years from the current $218 billion. The egregious farm-subsidy program, meanwhile, which benefits huge agribusinesses far more than it helps small family farms, would hardly be touched.
But wait, it gets worse. The real cost of the president's program soars after he leaves office, especially the new prescription-drug program, which has already jumped from $400 billion to an estimated $724 billion in the first decade, as costs increase from $37 billion a year to $110 billion a year. This is just one of many programs whose escalating costs will leave Bush's successors in a vicious budget crunch. Making matters still worse is the fact that reforms of major entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security are essentially not being addressed. If that remains the case, fiscal catastrophe will be virtually unavoidable.
What's to be done?
We must insist on truth and transparency, and our leaders must tell us clearly the current-value dollar cost of all major spending and tax bills before they are voted upon. We must also bring back basic budgetary controls, such as pay-go rules, that require new spending increases or tax cuts to be paid for by corresponding tax increases or spending cuts. We will need to revise our tax code and then improve our efforts to enforce it so as to collect hundreds of billions of dollars of revenue lost to special tax preferences, in uncollected back taxes, and through tax evasion and abusive tax shelters. Finally, we must bring our health costs under control before they break the nation's fiscal bank. The sooner we act the better. Otherwise, compound interest on the growing debt will eat us up.
The American public gets it. In a recent poll, 90 percent called the deficit a very serious or somewhat serious problem. Which raises a rather interesting question: Where are all those budget hawks when we really need them?
FBI Finds Pacifists Who "Appear To Be Of Middle Eastern Descent." Wow, these guys are good. I feel safer already.
By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 15, 2006; A05
An FBI agent in Pittsburgh photographed members of an antiwar activist group in 2002, according to documents released yesterday by the American Civil Liberties Union, which said the disclosure marks the latest incident in which the FBI has monitored left-leaning groups.
An FBI report from November 2002 indicates that an agent photographed members of the Thomas Merton Center as they handed out leaflets opposing the impending war in Iraq. The report called the group a "left-wing organization advocating, among many political causes, pacifism."
The same memo notes that one of the leaflet distributors "appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent" but that no other participants appeared to be from the Middle East.
"All we were doing was handing out leaflets, which is a perfectly legal way to spend an afternoon," said Tim Vining, the center's former executive director, who said he participated in the Nov. 24, 2002, protest monitored by the FBI. "All we want to do is exercise our First Amendment rights . . . Is handing out fliers now considered a terrorist activity?"
The FBI said in a statement that the agent was "acting with all appropriate investigative authorities" as part of an ongoing terrorism probe. The photos were destroyed once the agent determined that a person under investigation was not in attendance at the event, the FBI said.
The incident is the latest disclosure by the ACLU involving antiwar protesters, environmental groups and religious organizations that have been monitored by FBI agents or other anti-terrorism investigators.
Another memo from February 2003 said the center was "opposed to the United States' war with Iraq" and described its Web site and activities. That letter was a draft that was never included in an investigative file, the FBI said.
Heavily censored documents from 2005 also refer to information about the center from an unidentified source. An FBI official said those reports were from a separate probe that did not involve terrorism.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. military officer said on Tuesday the United States does not have proof that Iran's government is responsible for Iranians smuggling weapons and military personnel into Iraq.
President George W. Bush said on Monday components from Iran were being used in powerful roadside bombs used in Iraq, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last week that Iranian Revolutionary Guard personnel had been inside Iraq.
Asked whether the United States has proof that Iran's government was behind these developments, Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon briefing, "I do not, sir."
"Unless you physically see it in a government-sponsored vehicle or with government-sponsored troops, you can't know it," Rumsfeld said at the same briefing. "All you know is that you find equipment, weapons, explosives, whatever, in a country that came from the neighboring country."
"With respect to people, it's very difficult to tie a thread precisely to the government of Iran," Rumsfeld added.
Washington's charges about Iranian weapons and personnel in Iraq have added to tensions between the United States and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program.
Rumsfeld reiterated that there was evidence that Revolutionary Guard personnel had been in Iraq, and said, "It's entirely possible there are rogue elements and they're just there on their own or they're pilgrims. Not likely."
Bush said on Monday, referring to improvised explosive devices: "Some of the most powerful IEDs we're seeing in Iraq today includes components that came from Iran."
I Normally Don't Like O'Connor, but the Wingnuts Ought to Start Worring When She's Starting to Sound Like Me.
Monday March 13, 2006
Linking the words "America" and "dictatorship" is a daily staple of leftwing blogs, which thrive on the idea that Bush administration policies since 9/11 are taking the country ever closer to totalitarian rule. Liberal fears that democracy is endangered by Republicans in Congress are so widespread, so endemic to the jittery political climate in the US, that they hardly bear repeating. It'll surprise no one to learn that another voice was added to the chorus last Thursday, warning that recent attacks on the American judiciary were putting the democratic fabric in jeopardy and were the first steps down the treacherous path to dictatorship.
What is surprising - more than that, electrifying - is that the voice belonged to Sandra Day O'Connor, who retired a few weeks ago from the supreme court. O'Connor is a Republican and a Reagan nominee. Regarded as the "swing vote" on the court, she swung the presidential election to George Bush in 2000.
Equally surprising is that O'Connor's speech to an audience of lawyers at Georgetown University was attended by just one reporter, the diligent legal correspondent for National Public Radio, Nina Totenberg. No transcript or recording of the speech has been made available, so we have only Totenberg's notes to go on. But - assuming they are accurate - the notes are political dynamite.
O'Connor's voice was "dripping with sarcasm", according to Totenberg, as she "took aim at former House GOP [Republican] leader Tom DeLay. She didn't name him, but she quoted his attacks on the courts at a meeting of the conservative Christian group Justice Sunday last year when DeLay took out after the courts for rulings on abortions, prayer and the Terri Schiavo case.
"It gets worse, she said, noting that death threats against judges are increasing. It doesn't help, she said, when a high-profile senator suggests there may be a connection between violence against judges and decisions that the senator disagrees with."
Then she spoke the D-word. "I, said O'Connor, am against judicial reforms driven by nakedly partisan reasoning. Pointing to the experiences of developing countries and former communist countries where interference with an independent judiciary has allowed dictatorship to flourish, O'Connor said we must be ever-vigilant against those who would strong-arm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, she said, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings."
Delivered by someone who was, until recently, one of the nine guardians of the US constitution, these are spine-chilling opinions, and you might have thought they'd have been all over the papers the next day. Not so. I happened to catch Totenberg's NPR report last Friday, and have been following up references to it. A cable TV talkshow and a handful of blogs have mentioned Totenberg's piece: otherwise there's been a disquieting silence, as if the former justice had laid an unsavoury egg and had best be politely ignored.
Why did O'Connor choose such a closed forum to air her thoughts? Why was Totenberg the only reporter present? The possibility that America is sliding toward dictatorship or an unprecedented form of corporate oligarchy ought to be a matter of world concern. And if O'Connor believes what she is reported to have said, surely she owes it to the world to make public the prepared text of her remarks, which so far have the dubious character of the scores of unverifiable leaks that have passed for news in the compulsively secretive world of the Bush administration. It's unsurprising that, say, Colin Powell chooses to leak rather than speak out, but when a supreme court justice prefers to whisper her fears to a coterie audience, it's hard to avoid the inference that the whisper itself speaks volumes about the imperilled democracy it purports to describe.
Death threats to judges figured importantly in O'Connor's speech, with good reason. Last year, an Illinois federal judge found her husband and mother murdered, and a Georgia state judge was shot dead in his courtroom. Within days, Senator John Cornyn of Texas mused: "I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters, on some occasions, where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in violence." DeLay, speaking of the judges who had ruled that Schiavo be allowed to die, said: "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behaviour."
These are peculiar times, and when Republican politicians appear to endorse the killing of judges who make rulings of which they disapprove, it's maybe understandable that a distinguished judge like Sandra Day O'Connor, expressing views calculated to enrage Republican politicians, might sensibly look to a small podium with a weak sound system for fear of being heard too clearly by the likes of Cornyn and DeLay.
Earlier this year, a newspaper published details of a new anti-IED technology that was being developed. Within five days of the publication -- using details from that article -- the enemy had posted instructions for defeating this new technology on the Internet. We cannot let the enemy know how we're working to defeat him.Bush didn't name the newspaper. But his aides subsequently leaked confirmation to the press that he was talking about the Los Angeles Times. And guess what: It turns out that Bush left out a small detail about the offending article in question. Turns out it was about the fact that some military officials were angry that this potentially life saving technology still hasn't been shipped to Iraq, ten months after Pentagon officials recommended investing in research and sending prototypes to Iraq for testing. Says the piece:
10 months later -- and after a prototype destroyed about 90% of the IEDs laid in its path during a battery of tests -- not a single JIN has been shipped to Iraq.As for Bush's charge that the LA Times tipped off terrorists, a quick Google search shows that extensive information about the technology was all over the Internet well before the piece was published -- including at least one news report six months earlier that provided many of the same technological details the Times did. What's more, in its story today about Bush's broadside, the LA Times said:
To many in the military, the delay in deploying the vehicles, which resemble souped-up, armor-plated golf carts, is a case study in the Pentagon's inability to bypass cumbersome peacetime procedures to meet the urgent demands of troops in the field. More than half of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq have been caused by roadside bombs, and the number of such attacks nearly doubled last year compared with 2004.
The Times spoke to several Defense Department officials before the article appeared. None expressed concern that publication could endanger U.S. troops...Before Bush mentioned the report Monday, no U.S. officials had contacted The Times to raise those concerns.So is Bush's allegation even true to begin with? We'll never know, unless perhaps the White House releases the URLs of the sites where terrorists allegedly traded on the Times's info.
Right now, here's what we do know: the White House smeared a major American newspaper as anti-troops -- because they published an article saying that some in the military were upset over delays in shipping new technology to Iraq that could combat the roadside bombs that kill and maim American soldiers every day. So who's really anti-troops here, again?
-- Greg Sargent
By Juan Cole
Editor’s Note: Truthdig’s Middle Eastern affairs correspondent argues that the Iranian nuclear issue “has not reached the point of crisis, and therefore other motivations must be sought for the Bush administration’s breathless rhetoric."
UPDATE: On March 13, President Bush told an audience at George Washington University, “Coalition forces have seized IEDs and components that were clearly produced in Iran...Such actions--along with Iran’s support for terrorism and its pursuit of nuclear weapons--are increasingly isolating Iran, and America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats.”
Bush’s allegations about the Iranians providing improvised explosive devices to the Iraqi guerrilla insurgency are bizarre. The British military looked into charges of improvised explosive devices coming from Iran, and actually came out this past January and apologized to Tehran when no evidence pointed to Iranian government involvement. The guerrillas in Iraq are militant Sunnis who hate Shiites, and it is wholly implausible that the Iranian regime would supply bombs to the enemies of its Iraqi allies.
Although Bush charges Iran with “support for terrorism,” he seems unable to name any international terrorist incident of the past six years that can unambiguously be attributed to Iran.
His baldfaced accusation that Iran is in “pursuit of nuclear weapons” is, as we will see below, not proved either.
Bush’s vendetta against Iran is all the more invidious in light of the sweetheart deal he recently offered India, which never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty at all. A recent United Nations report says that India has been less than forthright about its enrichment programs, and that its procedures are inadequate to deter further proliferation. India dismisses the report. The Bush administration nevertheless has proposed changing U.S. law to permit the sale of nuclear technology to India.
Start of Original Essay:Iran threatened last week to use the oil weapon if the United Nations Security Council imposes sanctions on the country because of its nuclear research program, promising “harm and pain” to the United States. In addition to consumer anxieties about oil prices, rumors of a planned U.S. or Israeli airstrike on Iran keep flying, and neighboring Iraqi Shiites have threatened reprisals if that is done to their brethren. What is driving the crisis between the Bush administration and Iran and ratcheting up the rhetoric?
Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi said on Friday, “If sanctions are imposed, we will definitely use the oil tool and other tools and we will stop at nothing.” The regime is clearly fearful of an international economic boycott, but feels it has its own advantages in the struggle. With increasing demand from India and China and instability in Nigeria and Iraq, Iran’s crude oil exports are important in maintaining an affordable price, especially in the winters. In some ways, by invading Iraq and destabilizing it, as well as fostering the rise of Shiite religious parties in Baghdad, the Bush administration has inadvertently strengthened Shiite Iran’s hand.
Although the doubling of petroleum prices in the past two years has so far been absorbed by the world economy, many analysts are convinced that if the price went up to $75 a barrel and stayed there for two years, it would add significantly to the underlying rate of inflation and begin subtracting 2.5% a year from world growth. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad chimed in with regard to the American threats: “They know that they are not capable of causing the least harm to Iranian people. They will suffer more.”
Iran is a mid-size country of some 70 million, with a per capita income of only about $2,000 a year. It has no weapons of mass destruction, and its conventional military forms no threat to the United States. From an Iranian point of view, the Americans are simply being unreasonably aggressive. Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei has given a fatwa or formal religious ruling against nuclear weapons, and President Ahmadinejad at his inauguration denounced such arms and committed Iran to remaining a nonnuclear weapons state.
In fact, the Iranian regime has gone further, calling for the Middle East to be a nuclear-weapons-free zone. On Feb. 26, Ahmadinejad said: “We too demand that the Middle East be free of nuclear weapons; not only the Middle East, but the whole world should be free of nuclear weapons.” Only Israel among the states of the Middle East has the bomb, and its stockpile provoked the arms race with Iraq that in some ways led to the U.S. invasion of 2003. The U.S. has also moved nukes into the Middle East at some points, either on bases in Turkey or on submarines.
Iran is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect and monitor its nuclear energy research program, as required by the treaty. It raised profound suspicions, however, with its one infraction against the treaty--which was to conduct some secret civilian research that it should have reported and did not, and which was discovered by inspectors. Tehran denies having military labs aiming for a bomb, and in November of 2003 the IAEA formally announced that it could find no proof of such a weapons program. The U.S. reaction was a blustery incredulity, which is not actually an argument or proof in its own right, however good U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton is at bunching his eyebrows and glaring.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty allows Iran to develop civilian nuclear energy, and the United States itself urged Iran to build reactors in the 1970s. Iran does not have a heavy-water breeder reactor, which is the easy way to get a bomb. It does have light-water reactors for energy production, but these cannot be used to get enough fissionable material to make a bomb. Although Vice President Dick Cheney has made light of an oil state seeking nuclear energy, it would be a rational economic policy to use nuclear energy for domestic needs and sell petroleum on the world market. Certainly, the NPT permits such a policy.
The difficulty for those concerned with proliferation is that for Iran to independently run its light-water reactors, it needs to complete the fuel cycle of uranium enrichment. The ability to produce nuclear fuel is only one step away from the ability to refine uranium further, to weapons-grade quality. Still, it is a step away and could not easily be done in secret with inspectors making visits. Iran is experimenting with refrigerator-size centrifuges as a means of enriching uranium, but would need 16,000, hooked up in a special way, to produce a bomb. It has 164, and one of its proposals to defuse the crisis with the U.S. is to limit itself to no more than 3,000. Otherwise, it says it ideally would have 50,000 centrifuges.
No signatory of the NPT that allows regular IAEA inspections has ever moved to the stage of bomb production. Inspections have been extremely effective tools. United Nations weapons inspectors discovered and dismantled Saddam Hussein’s weapons program after the Gulf War in the early 1990s. The IAEA was even able to detect trace plutonium on Iranian equipment that came from Pakistan, which manufactures bombs. Those who remain suspicious of Iran’s ultimate intentions are not completely without a case. But there is good reason to believe that Iran’s nuclear program could have been monitored successfully.
The Bush administration has arbitrarily taken the position that Iran may not have a nuclear research program at all, even a civilian one. This stance actually contradicts the guarantees of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Washington officials continually intimate to the press that Tehran has an active weapons program, which is speculation. And, of course, the United States itself is egregiously in violation of several articles of the NPT, keeping enough nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert to destroy the world several times over and actively pursuing new and deadly weapons, even dreaming of “tactical” nukes. Its ally in the region, Israel, never signed the NPT and was helped by the British to get a bomb in the 1960s.
The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate released in summer 2005 estimates that if Iran did have an active nuclear weapons program, and if the international atmosphere were favorable to it being able to get hold of the requisite equipment, it would still be a good 10 years away from a bomb. But the international atmosphere is actively hostile to such a development, and anyway it has not been proved that there is such a weapons program.
If the Supreme Jurisprudent of theocratic Iran has given a fatwa against nukes, if the president of the country has renounced them and called for others to do so, if the International Atomic Energy Agency has found no evidence of a military nuclear weapons program, and if Iran is at least 10 years from having a bomb even if it is trying to get one, then why is there a diplomatic crisis around this issue between the United States and Iran in 2006?
The answer is that the Iranian nuclear issue is déjà vu all over again. As it did with regard to the Baath regime in Iraq, the militarily aggressive Bush administration wants to overthrow the government in Tehran. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, now in a coma, urged the U.S. to hit Iran as soon as it had taken care of Saddam Hussein. The Israelis have a grudge against it because it helped end their military occupation and land grab in southern Lebanon by giving aid to the Shiite Hezbollah organization, the only Arab force ever to succeed in regaining occupied land from Israel by military means. But Iran does not form a conventional military threat to Israel.
Overthrowing the theocratic regime in Iran, Washington hopes, would reduce Hezbollah pressure on Israel over its continued occupation of the Shebaa Farms area (and, implicitly, the Golan Heights). It would make Syria more complaisant toward Israel and Washington. It would open up Iran to investment and exploration on the part of the American petroleum majors, which are at the moment excluded because the U.S. slapped an economic boycott on Iran. It might remove support for the more hard-line elements among Shiite political parties in Iraq, making that country easier for the U.S. to shape and dominate. In short, a U.S.-installed regime in Iran would hold out the promise of returning to the halcyon 1960s, when the shah was an American puppet in the region.
The nuclear issue is for the most part a pretext for the Americans to exert pressure on the regime in Tehran. This is not to say that proliferation is not a worrisome issue, or that it can be ruled out that Iran wants a bomb. It is to say that the situation simply has not reached the point of crisis, and therefore other motivations must be sought for the Bush administration’s breathless rhetoric.
President Ahmadinejad, it should be freely admitted, has, through his lack of diplomatic skills and his maladroitness, given his enemies important propaganda tools. Unlike his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, Ahmadinejad is a Holocaust denier. He went to an anti-Zionist conference and quoted Ayatollah Khomeini, saying that the “Occupation regime” must “vanish.” This statement about Israel does not necessarily imply violence. After all, Ariel Sharon made the occupation regime in the Gaza Strip vanish. The quote was translated in the international press, however, as a wish that “Israel be wiped off the map,” and this inaccurate translation has now become a tag line for all newspaper articles written about Iran in Western newspapers.
In another speech, Ahmadinejad argued that Germans rather than Palestinians should have suffered a loss of territory for the establishment of a Jewish state, if the Germans perpetrated the Holocaust. This argument is an old one in the Middle East, but it was immediately alleged that Ahmadinejad was advocating the shipping of Israelis to Europe. That was not what he said.
It is often alleged that since Iran harbors the desire to “destroy” Israel, it must not be allowed to have the bomb. Ahmadinejad has gone blue in the face denouncing the immorality of any mass extermination of innocent civilians, but has been unable to get a hearing in the English-language press. Moreover, the presidency is a very weak post in Iran, and the president is not commander of the armed forces and has no control over nuclear policy. Ahmadinejad’s election is not relevant to the nuclear issue, and neither is the question of whether he is, as Liz Cheney is reported to have said, “a madman.” Iran has not behaved in a militarily aggressive way since its 1979 revolution, having invaded no other countries, unlike Iraq, Israel or the U.S. Washington has nevertheless succeeded in depicting Iran as a rogue state.
A final issue between Iran and the United States that might explain the escalating rhetoric over nonexistent nukes is Iraq. The U.S. is bogged down in a quagmire there, fighting militant Sunni Arabs. But it has also seen its political plans for Iraq checked on several occasions by the rise of powerful Iraqi Shiite parties, such as the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the Dawa Party, and the Sadr Movement. Iran hosted SCIRI and Dawa in exile in the Saddam years, and has close relations with them. There are allegations that it gives them money.
To any extent that Iran has helped these parties win elections and maintain their paramilitary forces, it has undermined the American hope of installing a relatively secular figure as a Karzai-like ruler. The U.S. would very much like to limit Iranian influence in Iraq, and aggressiveness on the nuclear issue is a way for the Bush administration to enlist European and other countries in the effort to put pressure on Iran and make it cautious about intervening too forcefully in Iraqi affairs.
In fact, the Shiite parties in southern Iraq are homegrown and would almost certainly have done well in elections without any Iranian support. The Americans are in some ways scapegoating Iran for their own failures of analysis. They appear to have been unaware of how popular the Shiite religious leaders had become in the late Saddam period, and so were unprepared for their strong showing in the U.S.-sponsored elections.
The United States has succeeded in bringing Iran before the United Nations Security Council, though it is unclear if that body will slap economic sanctions on Tehran. Such a move could be vetoed by Russia or China, both of which have high hopes of sharing in the Iranian oil bonanza. If an international boycott is imposed, it will mainly harm the civilians and children of Iran. The crisis has been fueled by Ahmadinejad’s alarming and foolish rhetoric, and by the clever aggressiveness of the Bush administration, which is better at framing its enemies than any other U.S. administration in history.
Washington no longer has much leverage on Iran. Its military is bogged down in Iraq, and its diplomats are forbidden to speak to Tehran under most circumstances. Its attempt to prevent even a civilian Iranian nuclear energy program may convince the clerical hard-liners to pull their country out of the NPT and to end international inspections. If the Iranians really did want a bomb, they could not have asked for a better pretext to leave the NPT. President Bush’s policies toward Iran have already failed, and could fail even more miserably in the months to come.
ACLU Releases First Concrete Evidence of FBI Spying Based Solely on Groups’ Anti-War Views
PITTSBURGH – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Pennsylvania today released new evidence that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is conducting investigations into a political organizations based solely on its anti-war views.
Two documents released today reveal that the FBI investigated gatherings of the Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice just because the organization opposed the war in Iraq. Although previously disclosed documents show that the FBI is retaining files on anti-war groups, these documents are the first to show conclusively that the rationale for FBI targeting is the group's opposition to the war.
“It makes no sense that the FBI would be spying on peace activists handing out flyers,” said Jim Kleissler, Executive Director of the Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice. “Our members were simply offering leaflets to passersby, legally and peacefully, and now they’re being investigated by a counter–terrorism unit. Something is seriously wrong in how our government determines who and what constitutes terrorism when peace activists find themselves targeted.”
According to the documents released today, the FBI initiated a classified investigation into the activities of the Thomas Merton Center, noting in a November 2002 memo that the center “holds daily leaflet distribution activities in downtown Pittsburgh and is currently focused on its opposition to the potential war on Iraq.” The synopsis of the document is provided to “report results of investigation on Pittsburgh anti-war activities.” The FBI memo points out that the Merton Center “is a left-wing organization advocating, among many political causes, pacifism.”
“All over the country we see the FBI monitoring and keeping files on Americans exercising their First Amendment rights to free expression,” said Mary Catherine Roper, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “These documents show that Americans are not safe from secret government surveillance, even when they are handing out flyers in the town square – an activity clearly protected by the Constitution.”
The documents come to the ACLU as a result of a national campaign to expose domestic spying by the FBI and other government agencies. The ACLU has filed Freedom of Information Act requests in 20 states on behalf of more than 150 organizations and individuals. In response to these requests, the government has released documents that reveal monitoring and infiltration by the FBI and local law enforcement, targeting political, environmental, anti-war and faith-based groups.
“From the FBI to the Pentagon to the National Security Agency this administration has embarked on an unprecedented campaign to spy on innocent Americans,” said Ann Beeson, Associate Legal Director of the national ACLU. “Investigating law-abiding groups and their members simply because of their political views is not only irresponsible, it has a chilling effect on the vibrant tradition of dissent in this country.”
More information about the ACLU’s Spy Files project including the documents released today as well as profiles of members of the Thomas Merton Center is available online at www.aclu.org/spyfilesMore information about the Thomas Merton Center is available online at: www.thomasmertoncenter.org
Tue Mar 14, 2006 at 10:23:16 AM PDT
The effects of Global Warming can be strikingly beautiful, but they're not a welcome sight. The good news is that NASA has been paroled from the prison of censorship, to some degree at least. The bad news is they've confirmed that Global Warming is a reality:
[MSNBC] Following two recent studies on changes to Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, NASA is touting a survey that it says confirms "climate warming is changing how much water remains locked in Earth's largest storehouses of ice and snow."
The even worse news is that it's still business as usual at the EPA (And elsewhere). One shudders to imagine what kind of looming danger other government science agencies may be aware of but can't disclose, as it might be inconvenient for George & Dick's corporate funding base.
Update: More analysis, NASA links, and excerpts at SmokeyMonkey.
Bush Approval Rating Hits 36%, Meaning he's 12% better than Richard Nixon at his Lowest.
Now I know some of you out there are thinking, 12% better than Nixon? You mean to tell me there are 24% of the people out there who are so rabidly partisan, that they APPROVED of Nixon's Crimes? Yes, that's what I'm telling you. 24% should automatically be lopped off the bottom of the approval scale, because they simply don't care what the president does.
So using this new calculation, it appears that 12% of the U.S. Population approve of Bush.
That's pretty impressive during Wartime. The Rest of Us Must Be Unpatriotic.
So what can the President do to help his sagging fortunes? Well as we've documented on these pages before, EXPECT A TERRORIST THREAT OR HIGHER ALERT LEVEL.
It's worked for the President so many times before, heck even Tom Ridge (Republican) admitted that they manipulated the Terror Alert Level for Political Gain before the 2004 Election.
With the President at 12% better than Nixon, I think you know what to do Georgie! Scare Us!
And when it happens, I'm gonna say, I told you so.
I Have A Dream...
This November, all 435 Members of the House of Representatives will be up for election. I know that the talking heads will tell you that only a small portion of these races will be "competitive." That is not true. Every single one of these members of congress can lose if people don't vote for them. But it requires that you get out and vote.
In addition, one third of the Senate is up for re-election. Again, most of the incumbents will win unless YOU get out and vote.
Just imagine what will happen if the Democrats regain control of the House and the Senate. Investigations can be commenced. The Bush Administration can be held accountable for their actions. The War in Iraq can be ended.
In addition, if the President and the Vice President have committed crimes, and we know they both have, then they can be impeached. If the President and the Vice President are Impeached, the Speaker of the House will become President.
If the Democrats have regained control of the House of Representatives, and Bush and Cheney are both sent to jail, the Speaker of the House will become President of the United States.
The current highest ranking Democrat in the House is Nancy Pelosi. If Nancy Pelosi becomes Speaker of the House, and Bush and Cheney are impeached, by the Senate, Nancy Pelosi becomes the First Woman President of the United States.
Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, Dear Punisher, that is alot of IF's.
I told you it was a Dream.
Hugs and Kisses,
From Congressman John Conyers
I have introduced House Resolution 635 to create a special committee to investigate whether the president's misconduct rises to the level of impeachment. 29 Members of Congress have already joined me as cosponsors. Lend your support. Help build momentum to enact this legislation by joining the more than 42,000 concerned Americans who have already signed on as Citizen Cosponsors at: http://johnconyers.com/citizencosponsors, or encourage your friends to sign up.
Bush Approval Rating Drops to 36%... Glad To Know You're Finally On Board America, What Took You So Long?
Poll: Bush approval rating hits new low
By Mark Memmott / USA Today
President Bush's "approval rating" has sunk to a new low according to a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup poll released Monday.
The latest results show only 36% of those polled saying they "approve" of the way Bush is handling his job. Bush's previous low was 37%, set last November.
Sixty percent of those polled said they "disapprove" of Bush's performance. That matches an all-time worst rating hit last November and again two weeks ago.
Democrats have their biggest advantage since 1992 when poll respondents are asked if they favor Democratic or Republican congressional candidates. The spread: Democrats over Republicans 55% — 39%, a 16-percentage-point gap.
The public's approval rating of Bush, according to the poll, slipped below 50% last May and has been hovering just above or below 40% since October. Two weeks ago, Bush's approval rating was 38%.
The latest poll of 1,001 adults has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points and was conducted March 10-12. Its results closely resemble those reported last week in an Associated Press/Ipsos poll. That survey put Bush's approval rating at 37% — matching the AP/Ipsos poll's all-time low.
The war in Iraq appears to be the biggest factor in Bush's ratings. Public opinion on the situation there has turned sour.
Asked two years ago if they were "certain that the U.S. will win" the war with Iraq, 79% of those polled said yes. The answer last weekend: 22%.
The other side of that question has turned sharply as well. Two years ago, just 1% of those polled thought it was unlikely or certain that the U.S. would not win the war with Iraq. The latest result: 41%.
The USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup poll also showed:
• 57% said sending U.S. troops to Iraq was a mistake — up from 55% two weeks earlier and the highest reading since a 59% result last October.
• 67% said the president does not have "a clear plan for handling the situation in Iraq." That was an all-time high. But 68% also said Democrats in Congress do not have such a plan.
• Democrats fared better than Republicans on whether they would do a better job of handling "the situation in Iraq." The split: 48% for Democrats, 40% for Republicans.
• On the issue of terrorism, however, Republicans had a four-percentage-point advantage. They were judged better able to handle that problem by 45% of those polled.
• There could be some good news for Bush in the poll. Economic conditions were rated "very good" or "somewhat good" by 59% of those polled. That was up six percentage points from the last time that question was asked, in September 2005.
Presidents often get blamed when the economy is ailing, but they also get some credit from voters when times are good.
Republican Thought Police, On Patrol In Colorado
March 11, 2006
The foolishness these past weeks over classroom comments by Overland High School geography teacher Jay Bennish was never about the children.
It was barely about indoctrination, or about presenting both sides of an issue.
No, folks, the Jay Bennish affair was all about politics. It was all about retribution for the young man's prompting his advanced-placement students to take a long and critical look at the actions of the Bush administration.
I fairly laughed at the way the apologists for the noncritically thinking Republicans nearly swallowed their neckties because Jay Bennish dared compare the president to Hitler.
It was all a setup - from the way sophomore Sean Allen recorded his teacher, to the way he and his dad forwarded it to a conservative columnist, and then to talk-radio host Mike Rosen. If they didn't like it, how about just expressing their outrage to Cherry Creek Schools administrators?
In 2006 America, if you're a teacher and you blast George W. Bush and his policies - and they have you on tape! - fully expect Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and the governor of Colorado to come for your backside.
No matter that in that very same classroom on the same day you fully challenged your students to rebut your position, to prod them into thinking critically for themselves about what you have said, an exercise that clearly is not in vogue in America among adults these days.
No, criticize current administration policies and they're going to label you an American leftist, or pinko, or some kind of communist or revolutionary terrorist.
Here is how you know the supposed Jay Bennish outrage was nothing but partisan hand-wringing: In the Colorado state Senate on Thursday, a bill was introduced that would let school districts fire teachers who fail to present both sides of an issue. Forget, for a second, how such a thing would be enforced.
And guess the political party affiliation of the two senators who introduced that nonsense.
Here is everything you need to know about the Jay Bennish affair: Come Monday, he will once again walk into his classroom. And his students - perhaps with the exception of one - will cheer wildly.
And as we flail about, nationally and locally, over Jay Bennish, another Colorado teacher is being sent packing for yet more stupid, nonsensical reasons.
What happened to Tresa Waggoner, a Bennett School District music teacher, ought to sound a shrill alarm for every teacher in America.
Her supposed sin was introducing her first-, second- and third-grade students to opera by showing them a bit of Faust, a staple from the school library.
She showed a clip of the video last fall to teach the children about bass and tenor voices, the use of props and "trouser roles" in opera ahead of an upcoming Opera Colorado performance in Bennett.
Superintendent George Sauter on Thursday told her she would remain on paid leave of absence until her contract runs out in August and would not be allowed to return to the classroom.
On Friday, Tresa Waggoner was brokenhearted.
She taught some 500 kids in the Bennett district, from high schoolers to first-graders. She is a gospel recording artist. She loves music. She loves sharing that love with children even more.
"I would never hurt a child," she said.
A lot of people say Bennett, a town of 2,500 about 25 miles east of Denver, is just an oddball little burg, citing last year's debate there over whether Mormons are actually Christians. The Mormons, it seems, were building a temple in nearby Strasburg.
But Tresa Waggoner, in an interview, did not blame the town. At a Feb. 16 school board meeting, more than 53 people appeared in her support, compared with only six who opposed her, she said.
Bennett, she said, has been wonderful to her.
Some folks think the real reason Waggoner became a target was more because of the school's Christmas play than her playing 12 minutes of Faust.
Karen Grossiant, who resigned as Bennett mayor after Tresa Waggoner was placed on leave - saying it was "the last straw" - acknowledged as much.
The true problem: Waggoner did not put Christian songs in the play. This outraged some townsfolk. She had to go.
"I did the same concert a week later in my own church with Christian songs," Tresa Waggoner said. "But in a public school, you really can't do that.
"I was told by some that the school for the last 30 years did Christmas music. They were outraged. But they never came to me."
They "hung me out to dry," she said.
What she will do next, she doesn't know. The district is paying her through August, which she says is a waste of taxpayers' money, considering they are also paying the substitute who is replacing her.
"I don't know if I will ever be able to get another teaching job," Tresa Waggoner said. "I'm taking it day by day.
"I still want to teach. I think that is what God put me on this earth to do. I am a good teacher. I know there is a place for me."
These things are rarely about the children.
Bill Johnson's column appears Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Call him at 303-892-2763 or e-mail him at johnsonw@RockyMountainNews.com.