Saturday, July 15, 2006


Boehner Raising More From Lobbyists And Corporate PACs Than DeLay

When he was running for Majority Leader, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) pledged to end the K Street Project for lobbyists and “lead the effort to bring about the kind of reforms the American people are expecting from Congress.”

But a new review of financial holdings shows Boehner has raised corporate and lobbyist contributions at a faster clip than even corrupt, criminally-indicted former Rep. Tom DeLay:

[Boehner] has been holding fund-raisers at lobbyists’ offices, flying to political events on corporate planes and staying at a golf resort with a business group that has a direct stake in issues before Congress.

Boehner…has raised campaign contributions at a rate of about $10,000 a day since February, surpassing the pace set by former Representative Tom DeLay after he became majority leader in 2002, a review of federal filings shows. […]

Mr. Boehner’s biggest donors include the political action committees of lobbying firms, drug and cigarette makers, banks, health insurers, oil companies and military contractors. Seven American Indian tribes with casinos have contributed $32,000.

The contributions aren’t for nothing. Just yesterday, CongressDaily reported that Boehner is finally considering allowing a full House vote to increase the minimum wage. The catch? The bill will also include a set of corporate tax breaks:

Republicans pressing for a vote on raising the minimum wage say House Majority Leader Boehner is working to write a bill that likely would include tax breaks for businesses. Reps. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., and Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, met Thursday with Boehner to urge him to take up the issue. “He is optimistic they can get something meaningful accomplished” by the end of July, said a LaTourette spokeswoman.


Iraq: "That's why I'll tell you I think we're closer to the beginning than we are to the end of all this."

"Well, the hot story of the week is victory.... The Tommy Franks-Don Rumsfeld battle plan, war plan, worked brilliantly, a three-week war with mercifully few American deaths or Iraqi civilian deaths.... There is a lot of work yet to do, but all the naysayers have been humiliated so far.... The final word on this is, hooray."
(Fox News Channel's Morton Kondracke, 4/12/03)

From the Los Angeles Times
Is U.S. Winning? Army Chief Is at a Loss
By Peter Spiegel
Times Staff Writer

July 15, 2006

WASHINGTON — It seemed like a routine question, one that military leaders involved in prosecuting the war in Iraq must ask themselves with some regularity: Is the U.S. winning?

But for Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff known for his straight-shooting bluntness, it proved a hard one to answer.

During a Capitol Hill briefing for an audience mostly of congressional aides, Schoomaker paused for more than 10 seconds after he was asked the question — lips pursed and brow furrowed — before venturing:

"I think I would answer that by telling you I don't think we're losing."

It was a small but telling window into the thinking of the Army's top uniformed officer and one of the military's most important commanders: Despite the progress being made by the new Iraqi government and the continuing improvement of local security forces, the outcome in Iraq, in many ways, is growing more uncertain by the day.

"The challenge … is becoming more complex, and it's going to continue to be," Schoomaker mused. "That's why I'll tell you I think we're closer to the beginning than we are to the end of all this."

Schoomaker's candor is not unusual for a man who, by his own admission, was lured out of retirement to take the Army's top job reluctantly. He has repeatedly told audiences that he was content in his Wyoming retirement when he got the call from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to return to active service.

It is a candor that appears to be contagious. The Army's top commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., acknowledged this week that the recent increase in sectarian violence in Baghdad might mean the U.S. has to increase the number of soldiers in the Iraqi capital — rather than the long-awaited decrease for which commanders had hoped.

For his part, Schoomaker was quick to note that his uncertainty did not mean that he was pessimistic. He noted that the creation of the new Iraqi government was an important achievement, although he cautioned that convincing Iraqis to use nonviolent, political means instead of guns and bombs to achieve their ends would be a "tough shift."

"I think we are making significant progress; I think the challenges continue to come," he concluded. "I do not believe that we are losing, but where I think we are on the scale of winning is very difficult, and time's going to tell.


Pooty Poot Bitchslaps Baby Bush.

Putin Jabs Bush: ‘We Certainly Would Not Want…The Same Kind of Democracy As They Have in Iraq’

During a press conference today at the G8 summit in Russia, President Bush told President Vladimir Putin that Americans want Russia to develop a free press and free religion “like Iraq.” To laughter and applause, Putin responded: “We certainly would not want to have same kind of democracy as they have in Iraq, quite honestly.” CNN’s Ed Henry called it a “tough jab.” Watch it:

Putin and Bush at G8

The exchange underscores how the war in Iraq has damaged the standing of the United States, to the point where even modest encouragement for democratic reform is met with ridicule.

Full transcript:

BUSH: I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world, like Iraq, where there’s a free press and free religion. And I told him that a lot of people in our country would hope that Russia will do the same thing. I fully understand, however, that there will be a Russian-style democracy.

PUTIN: We certainly would not want to have same kind of democracy as they have in Iraq, quite honestly.

BUSH: Just wait.

Friday, July 14, 2006


“Less than two months after voting overwhelmingly to build 370 miles of new fencing along the border with Mexico, the Senate yesterday voted against

providing funds to build it."

Senate denies funds for new border fence

By Charles Hurt
July 14, 2006

Less than two months after voting overwhelmingly to build 370 miles of new fencing along the border with Mexico, the Senate yesterday voted against providing funds to build it.
"We do a lot of talking. We do a lot of legislating," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican whose amendment to fund the fence was killed on a 71-29 vote. "The things we do often sound very good, but we never quite get there."
Mr. Sessions offered his amendment to authorize $1.8 billion to pay for the fencing that the Senate voted 83-16 to build along high-traffic areas of the border with Mexico. In the same vote on May 17, the Senate also directed 500 miles of vehicle barriers to be built along the border.
But the May vote simply authorized the fencing and vehicle barriers, which on Capitol Hill is a different matter from approving the federal expenditures needed to build it.
"If we never appropriate the money needed to construct these miles of fencing and vehicle barriers, those miles of fencing and vehicle barriers will never actually be constructed," Mr. Sessions told his colleagues yesterday before the vote.
Virtually all Democrats were joined by the chamber's lone independent and 28 Republicans in opposing Mr. Session's amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations Act. Only two Democrats -- Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Thomas R. Carper of Delaware -- supported funding the fence.
All told, 34 senators -- including most of the Republican leadership -- voted in May to build the fence but yesterday opposed funding it.
The overall bill, which appropriates more than $32 billion to the Homeland Security Department, including $2.2 billion for border security and control, passed on a 100-0 vote last night.
Sen. Judd Gregg, the New Hampshire Republican who historically has fought to increase border security and enforcement of federal immigration laws, was among those who opposed Mr. Session's amendment.
"We should build these walls; there's no question about it," he said. "But the real issue here is the offset that's being used, and the offset creates a Hobson's choice for almost everyone here."
Mr. Session's amendment would have required across-the-board cuts to the rest of the Homeland Security appropriations bill, Mr. Gregg said, which would mean cutting 750 new border-patrol agents and 1,200 new detention beds for illegal aliens that he included in the bill.
"We've attempted very hard to increase Border Patrol agents in this bill, increase detention beds," he said. "And, yes, we haven't funded the wall specifically as a result of our efforts to do these increases."

Mr. Sessions said that if his colleagues were serious about building the fence that they promised, they would find the funding.
"We will rightly be accused of not being serious about the commitments we've made to the American people with regard to actually enforcing the laws of immigration in America, which many Americans already believe we're not serious about," he said. "They don't respect what we've done in the past, and they should not. We have failed, and it's time for us to try to fix it and do better."
To prove his point, Mr. Sessions offered another amendment, which appropriated another $85.7 million to enable Homeland Security to hire 800 more full-time investigators to probe immigration-law violations. The vote against that amendment was 66-34.
Kris Kobach, who was a counsel to the attorney general under John Ashcroft, told a House subcommittee last week that one of the most unusual aspects of the Senate bill is a provision -- slipped into the more-than-800-page bill moments before the final vote -- that would require the United States to consult with the Mexican government before constructing the fencing.
"I know of no other provision in U.S. law where the federal government requires state and local governments -- every state and local government on the border -- to consult with state and local governments of a foreign power before the federal government can act," he said.
"Now, from my experience as a Justice Department official, when we had consultation requirements with the State Department, just getting two agencies in the executive branch to consult took months or years," said Mr. Kobach, now a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. "If you add this, three levels of government and a foreign power, your delay" will never end.


MySpace is foxified

by Kos

You knew that Rupert Murdoch couldn't keep his reality-altering efforts off of MySpace:

After hearing Sen. Ted Stevens' now infamous description of the internet as a "series of tubes," Andrew Raff sang the senator's words over a folksy ditty and anonymously posted it to, where about 2,500 people listened to the tune, thanks to a link from one of the net's top blogs.

On Tuesday, MySpace canceled the TedStevensFanClub account, telling Raff that the social-networking site, now owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., had received a "credible complaint of your violation of the MySpace Terms of Services." [...]

Raff doesn't contest MySpace's right to enforce its terms of service, but he sees a political lesson in the takedown -- a foreshadowing of the kind of repression of speech that could become commonplace if phone companies prevail in their efforts to create a two-tiered internet. In an e-mail interview, he also questioned MySpace's motives in removing his political commentary from the site [...]

Art Brodsky, communications director for Public Knowledge, questioned the timing of the takedown, noting that News Corp. has interests in the telecommunications bill put forth by the Senate Commerce Committee that Stevens heads, and that some in Congress are looking to regulate MySpace over concerns about pedophiles.

MySpace is currently the highest-trafficked site in the world, with more traffic than Google or Yahoo. MySpace reinstated Raff's account and claimed "error" after the ensuing outcry.

In this case, "error" equals "damage control".


Specter's Bill Is No "Compromise"

by Georgia10

Yesterday, we learned that the President has decided to "allow" judicial review of his illegal domestic spying program. The move was heralded as a "concession" by the White House, and the bill touted as a "compromise" that reflected a balance of interests:

WASHINGTON, July 13 -- After months of resistance, the White House agreed Thursday to allow a secret intelligence court to review the legality of the National Security Agency's program to conduct wiretaps without warrants on Americans suspected of having ties to terrorists.

If approved by Congress, the deal would put the court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, in the unusual position of deciding whether the wiretapping program is a legitimate use of the president's power to fight terrorism. The aim of the plan, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales told reporters, would be to "test the constitutionality" of the program.

Let's put aside the sheer lunacy of framing the story as the President "allowing" the courts to do their constitutional duty. The spin of Gonzales aside, one thing is clear: the aim of the plan is to kill all the lawsuits currently pending about the NSA program. Simple as that.

You see, Specter's bill, which is being heralded as a "compromise" and "middle of the road" measure, does nothing to reign in the illegal actions of a power-hungry executive. Glenn Greenwald touches on this point in his analysis of the bill here and here .

I can almost picture Specter the Stenographer, furiously jotting down the administration's order, making sure to dot every "i" and cross every "t" so that the administration's ass is perfectly, wonderfully, and constantly covered.

To the reporters who tout this as a "compromise" measure, please direct me to the exact part of the bill that reflects any sort of concession by the White House. Let's recap, shall we?

But all of this is the side salad to the main entry--killing off the current lawsuits challenging the program. There are dozens of them initiated throughout the nation (the latest estimate I've come across is about 100. Seems high, though not entirely impossible). Each of those represents a chance that the program would be declared unconstitutional.

Specter's bill gives the government the power to halt all of these lawsuits and drag them into the dark shadows of the FISA court. It allows Gonzales--through a mere affidavit that the public proceedings may harm national security--to force a transfer to the super-secretive FISA court. Adjudication before the FISA court means that outside attorneys would not be able to present their client's cases to the court. It means limited access to evidence. It means secret decisions. And if that isn't repulsive enough, the FISA court would be allowed to dismiss a challenge to the spying program "for any reason."

This isn't a "compromise." It's a full-blown caving in to administration demands. How dare people refer to this bill as a "compromise." Compromise requires a give and take, it requires sacrifice by each side, not unilateral capitulation. It requires that fundamental interests are protected. I ask, what do Americans get out of this bill? Dismissals, secret trials, and the continued uneasy feeling of wondering if your every communication is being cataloged by the NSA.

And what does the President get out of this bill? A polishing of his crown, and validation of his erroneous belief that the President can behave like a King.


Finches named for Darwin are evolving

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Finches on the Galapagos Islands that inspired Charles Darwin to develop the concept of evolution are now helping confirm it -- by evolving.

A medium sized species of Darwin's finch has evolved a smaller beak to take advantage of different seeds just two decades after the arrival of a larger rival for its original food source.

The altered beak size shows that species competing for food can undergo evolutionary change, said Peter Grant of Princeton University, lead author of the report appearing in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

Grant has been studying Darwin's finches for decades and previously recorded changes responding to a drought that altered what foods were available.

It's rare for scientists to be able to document changes in the appearance of an animal in response to competition. More often it is seen when something moves into a new habitat or the climate changes and it has to find new food or resources, explained Robert C. Fleischer, a geneticist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and National Zoo.

This was certainly a documented case of microevolution, added Fleischer, who was not part of Grant's research.

Grant studied the finches on the Galapagos island Daphne, where the medium ground finch, Geospiza fortis, faced no competition for food, eating both small and large seeds.

In 1982 a breeding population of large ground finches, Geospiza magnirostris, arrived on the island and began competing for the large seeds of the Tribulus plants. G. magnirostris was able to break open and eat these seeds three times faster than G. fortis, depleting the supply of these seeds.

In 2003 and 2004 little rain fell, further reducing the food supply. The result was high mortality among G. fortis with larger beaks, leaving a breeding population of small-beaked G. fortis that could eat the seeds from smaller plants and didn't have to compete with the larger G. magnirostris for large seeds.

That's a form of evolution known as character displacement, where natural selection produces an evolutionary change in the next generation, Grant explained in a recorded statement made available by Science.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation.


IRAQ: Last Throes of the Insurgency and The War We Won descends into Genocide and Civil War.

"Now that the war in Iraq is all but over, should the people in Hollywood who opposed the president admit they were wrong?"
(Fox News Channel's Alan Colmes, 4/25/2003)

"I doubt that the journalists at the New York Times and NPR or at ABC or at CNN are going to ever admit just how wrong their negative pronouncements were over the past four weeks."
(MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, 4/9/2003)

"I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency." (Dick Cheney, 5/30/2005)

Baghdad starts to collapse as its people flee a life of death

By James Hider, of The Times, from Baghdad July 13, 2006

As I hung up the phone, I wondered if I would ever see my friend Ali alive again. Ali, The Times translator for the past three years, lives in west Baghdad, an area that is now in meltdown as a bitter civil war rages between Sunni insurgents and Shia militias. It is, quite simply, out of control.

I returned to Baghdad on Monday after a break of several months, during which I too was guilty of glazing over every time I read another story of Iraqi violence. But two nights on the telephone, listening to my lost and frightened Iraqi staff facing death at any moment, persuaded me that Baghdad is now verging on total collapse.

Ali phoned me on Tuesday night, about 10.30pm. There were cars full of gunmen prowling his mixed neighbourhood, he said. He and his neighbours were frantically exchanging information, trying to identify the gunmen.

Were they the Mahdi Army, the Shia militia blamed for drilling holes in their victims’ eyes and limbs before executing them by the dozen? Or were they Sunni insurgents hunting down Shias to avenge last Sunday’s massacre, when Shia gunmen rampaged through an area called Jihad, pulling people from their cars and homes and shooting them in the streets?

Ali has a surname that could easily pass for Shia. His brother-in-law has an unmistakably Sunni name. They agreed that if they could determine that the gunmen were Shia, Ali would answer the door. If they were Sunnis, his brother-in-law would go.

Whoever didn’t answer the door would hide in the dog kennel on the roof.

Their Plan B was simpler: to dash 50 yards to their neighbours’ house — home to a dozen brothers. All Iraqi homes are awash with guns for self-defence in these merciless times. Together they would shoot it out with the gunmen — one of a dozen unsung Alamos now being fought nightly on Iraq’s blacked-out streets.

“We just have to wait and see what our fate is,” Ali told me. It was the first time in three years of bombs, battles and kidnappings that I had heard this stocky, very physical young man sounding scared, but there was nothing I could do to help.

The previous night I had had a similar conversation with my driver, a Shia who lives in another part of west Baghdad. He phoned at 11pm to say that there was a battle raging outside his house and that his family were sheltering in the windowless bathroom.

Marauding Mahdi gunmen, seeking to drive all Sunnis from the area, were fighting Sunni Mujahidin for control of a nearby strategic position. I could hear the gunfire blazing over the phone.

We phoned the US military trainer attached to Iraqi security forces in the area. He said there was nothing to be done: “There’s always shooting at night here. It’s like chasing ghosts.”

In fact the US military generally responds only to request for support from Iraqi security forces. But as many of those forces are at best turning a blind eye to the Shia death squads, and at worst colluding with them, calling the Americans is literally the last thing they do.

West Baghdad is no stranger to bombings and killings, but in the past few days all restraint has vanished in an orgy of ethnic cleansing.

Shia gunmen are seeking to drive out the once-dominant Sunni minority and the Sunnis are forming neighbourhood posses to retaliate. Mosques are being attacked. Scores of innocent civilians have been killed, their bodies left lying in the streets.

Hundreds — Sunni and Shia — are abandoning their homes. My driver said all his neighbours had now fled, their abandoned houses bullet-pocked and locked up. On a nearby mosque, competing Sunni and Shiite graffiti had been scrawled on the walls.

A senior nurse at Yarmouk hospital on the fringes of west Baghdad’s war zone said that he was close to being overwhelmed. “On Tuesday we received 35 bodies in one day, 16 from Al-Furat district alone. All of them were killed execution-style,” he said. “I thought it was the end of the city. I packed my bags at once and got ready to leave because they could storm the hospital at any moment.”

In just 24 hours before noon yesterday, as parliament convened for another emergency session, 87 bodies were brought to Baghdad city morgue, 63 of them unidentified. Since Sunday’s massacre in Jihad, more than 160 people have been killed, making a total of at least 1,600 since Iraq’s Government of national unity came to power six weeks ago. Another 2,500 have been wounded.

In early June, Nouri al-Maliki, the new Prime Minister, flooded Baghdad’s streets with tens of thousands of soldiers and police in an effort to restore order to the capital.

More recently, he announced a national reconciliation plan, which promised an amnesty to Sunni insurgents and the disbandment of Shia militias. Both initiatives are now in tatters.

“The country is sliding fast towards civil war,” Ali Adib, a Shia MP, told the Iraqi parliament this week. “Security has deteriorated in a serious and unprecedented way,” said Saadi Barzanji, a Kurdish MP.

Mr al-Maliki told parliament: “We all have a last chance to reconcile and agree among each other on avoiding conflict and blood. If we fail, God knows what the fate of Iraq will be.”

Joseph Biden, the senior Democrat on the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, described Baghdad after a recent visit as a city in the throes of “nascent civil war”.

Most Iraqis believe that it is already here. “There is a campaign to eradicate all Sunnis from Baghdad,” said Sheikh Omar al-Jebouri, of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni parliamentary group. He said that it was organised by the Shia-dominated Interior Ministry and its police special commandos, with Shia militias, and aimed to destroy Mr al-Maliki’s plans to rebuild Iraq’s security forces along national, rather than sectarian, lines.

Ahmed Abu Mustafa, a resident of the Sunni district of Amariyah in western Baghdad, was stunned to see two police car pick-ups speed up to his local mosque with cars full of gunmen on Tuesday evening and open fire on it with their government-issued machineguns.

Immediately, Sunni gunmen materialised from side streets and a battle started. “I’d heard about this happening but this was the first time I’d seen police shooting at a mosque,” he said. “I was amazed by how quickly the local gunmen deployed. I ran for my life.”

Yesterday, General George Casey, the most senior US commander in Iraq, said that the US might deploy more American troops in Baghdad. He said that al-Qaeda, to show that it was still relevant, had stepped up its attacks in Baghdad following the killing last month of its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. “What we are seeing now as a counter to that is death squads, primarily from Shia extremist groups, that are retaliating against civilians.”

A local journalist told me bitterly this week that Iraqis find it ironic that Saddam Hussein is on trial for killing 148 people 24 years ago, while militias loyal to political parties now in government kill that many people every few days. But it is not an irony that anyone here has time to laugh about. They are too busy packing their bags and wondering how they can get out alive.

My driver and his extended family are now refugees living in The Times offices in central Baghdad.

Ali is also trying to persuade his stubborn family to leave home and move into our hotel.

Those that can are leaving the country. At Baghdad airport, throngs of Iraqis jostle for places on the flights out — testimony to the breakdown in Iraqi society.

One woman said that she and her three children were fleeing Mansour, once the most stylish part of the capital. “Every day there is fighting and killing,” she said as she boarded a plane for Damascus in Syria to sit out the horrors of Baghdad.

A neurologist, who was heading to Jordan with his wife, said that he would seek work abroad and hoped that he would never have to return. “We were so happy on April 9, 2003 when the Americans came. But I’ve given up. Iraq isn’t ready for democracy,” he said, sitting in a chair with a view of the airport runway.

Fares al-Mufti, an official with the Iraqi Airways booking office, told The Times that the national carrier had had to lay on an extra flight a day, all fully booked. Flights to Damascus have gone up from three a week to eight to cope with the panicked exodus.

Muhammad al-Ani, who runs fleets of Suburban cars to Jordan, said that the service to Amman was so oversubscribed that that prices had rocketed from $200 (£108) to $750 per trip in the past two weeks.

Despite the huge risks of driving through the Sunni Triangle, the number of buses to Jordan has mushroomed from 2 a day to as many as 40 or 50.

Abu Ahmed, a Sunni who was leaving Ghazaliya with his family and belongings, said that he was ready to pay the exorbitant prices being charged because his wife had received a death threat at the hospital in a Shia area where she worked.

“We can’t cope, we have to take the children out for a while,” he said.

In one of the few comprehensive surveys of how many Iraqis have fled their country since the US invasion, the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants said last month that there were 644,500 refugees in Syria and Jordan in 2005 — about 2.5 per cent of Iraq’s population. In total, 889,000 Iraqis had moved abroad, creating “the biggest new flow of refugees in the world”, according to Lavinia Limon, the committee’s president.

And the exodus may only just be starting.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


U.S. Policy in Lebanon

By Ray Close

(Ray is my friend, and a former CIA analyst in the Near East division. Ray is also a member of the Steering Group for Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, of which I am also a member. Today, Ray sent me, and other intelligence professionals, the following letter; Ray gave me his permission to disseminate this important letter widely. -- Larry C. Johnson)

Dear Friends:

Not surprisingly, some (not all) of my Israeli and American Jewish friends have objected strenuously to my characterization of Israel's response to recent Hamas and Hizballah actions as disproportionate and counterproductive.

Let me make it crystal clear where I stand.

One of the definitions of madness is the repetition countless times of the same action, always expecting a different result. For more than half a century, the Israelis have been applying the tactic of massively disproportionate retaliation to every provocative act of resistance attempted by the Palestinians, expecting every time that this would bring peace and security to all the people of the Holy Land. Every single time they have done this this, it has backfired. Every single time. The national philosophy (it is really deeper and more significant that just a military tactic) that underlies this devotion to massive over-reaction, and particularly its corollary, collective punishment, is obviously and demonstrably foolish and futile. It does not intimidate or deter the Palestinians, and it never will. It hardens their determination to resist and to defy. I don't care whether you consider the Palestinians to be terrorists or common criminals or freedom fighters or national resistance heroes. If you are an intelligent and sensitive human being, you learn from your past mistakes and you make a rational decision to try something different. The Israeli leadership for all these many generations has been incapable of performing that really rather simple mental and moral exercise.

Nor does it matter who "started it". If you take land and houses and personal freedoms away from individuals, and if you systematically deprive a whole people of dignity and national identity, they do not forgive or forget their deep sense of injury, deprivation and injustice. Giving them a thorough beating at regular intervals, or endlessly frustrating their hopes of enjoying the benefits of political self-determination and economic prosperity, does not diminish their personal bitterness of alleviate their collective hunger for revenge and restitution. That point should be beyond debate, in my opinion.

I have a memory, too. My first job for the CIA in the early 1950's was establishing an informant network in the Palestinian refugee camps in Southern Lebanon --- in a region where my ancestors had established Christian mission schools starting a century before. It was in exactly that same year, 1953, when a secret unit of the Israeli army slaughtered sixty-eight innocent Palestinian civilians, mostly women and children, in a village called Qibya, near Tel Aviv, under official orders from Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. The unit was commanded by an ambitious young lieutenant, exactly my age, named Ariel Sharon. That "lesson", administered before there was a Fatah or a Hamas or a Hizballah, and long before "terrorism" became a household word, was supposed to end Palestinian resistance once and for all, right from the very start. That was only five years after Israel came into existence. Tragically, the intended object lesson has not been learned (by either side) in the 56 years since that day. Who "started it"? I go back to that old definition of madness mentioned above.

In the present situation, I have another grievance to express. The interests of my country, the United States, do not coincide with those of Israel in many important respects today. Let me mention just two of those ways. It is very important to the United States that the independence and national sovereignty of a democratic Lebanon be preserved. That means absolutely nothing to the Government of Israel, despite what they may say to the contrary. Israeli actions going back many years, demonstrated most graphically in the 1980's, clearly prove that point. Current Israeli actions in Lebanon are belligerently challenging the continued viability of the fragile coalition government that is struggling to achieve credibility and legitimacy at a critical period in Lebanon's history. Israeli actions are, even more importantly, threatening to revive the deep sectarian divisions and inter-communal tensions that led to fifteen years of tragic civil war from 1975-1980. American national interests will suffer much more than Israel's if chaos results. Secondly, we Americans have other critical interests to worry about. If we take a position supporting Israel's demand that Hizballah must be totally defeated and disarmed (a futile objective in any case), and especially if Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the revered spiritual leader of Hizballah, is physically harmed, the Shiite populations of Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East will be inflamed --- greatly undermining American prospects of working cooperatively and constructively with the Shiite religious parties in Iraq that control the overwhelmingly majority of political power in that country.

Open confrontation of Hizballah by the United States, allied with Israel, will have a powerful impact on the Iranian people, as well. Argue, if you will, that Iran is a known supporter of Hizballah and Hamas, and thus of international terrorism. That is a reality that none can deny. But let's prioritize our national interests here. It is the people of Iraq and Iran on whom we depend not just for "regime change" in the short term, but for peace and stability (and resistance to terrorism) throughout the region in the decades ahead. It is the people of those countries whose trust and respect we must win. It is the trust and respect of those people that we have lost --- to a significant extent because we are identified in their minds with the narrow interests of Israel. Why is that so difficult for Americans to understand?

Encouraging and supporting Israel in a bloody confrontation with Hizballah in Lebanon may seem to be a justified and reasonable action in the shortest of terms and from the narrowest of perspectives, but the United States of America is not Israel, and we have regional and global interests and responsibilities that far surpass those of this one small ally. Just for once, let's think first of what's best for America.

- Ray Close

By Ray Close || a former CIA analyst in the Near East division || Member, Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity


US Auditors Missed Out On The Fact That We Won The Iraq War: Issue report saying Road to Victory Unclear. Unclear? I heard on Fox that We Won.

"The war was the hard part. The hard part was putting together a coalition, getting 300,000 troops over there and all their equipment and winning. And it gets easier. I mean, setting up a democracy is hard, but it is not as hard as winning a war."
(Fox News Channel's Fred Barnes, 4/10/03)

July 12th, 2006 9:41 am
Road to victory in Iraq 'unclear,' US auditors conclude

By Maxim Kniazkov / AFP

The investigative arm of the US Congress has openly questioned if victory in Iraq can be achieved without a significant overhaul of President George W. Bush's strategy, arguing the outcome of the war was presently "unclear".

The findings by the Government Accountability Office mark the first time a non-partisan US government agency publicly doubted whether the geo-strategic undertaking that Bush made the defining element of his presidency, could be successful.

"It is unclear how the United States will achieve its desired end-state in Iraq given the significant changes in the assumptions underlying the US strategy," the GAO wrote in its report unveiled Tuesday at a hearing in the House of Representatives.

The review focuses on the "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq," a glitzy document released by the White House with great fanfare last November.

The strategy charted what was described at the time as a sound course for overcoming the Iraqi insurgency and turning the country in the first true democracy in the Arab world.

Nine months later, congressional investigators found these high hopes were resting on shaky premises that are quickly melting away.

The bedrock foundation of the president's strategy -- a permissive security environment -- "never materialized," said the authors of the report, describing the Iraqi insurgency as "active and increasingly lethal."

The overall number of attacks increased by 23 percent from 2004 to 2005 and rose to the highest ever level of intensity last April, the investigators pointed out.

In the absence of security, the document continued, efforts to rebuild the war-ravaged country or even to return key segments of its economy to their pre-war level have hit a roadblock.

If before the 2003 US-led invasion, crude oil production averaged in Iraq 2.6 million barrels a day, it stood at only two million barrels a day this past March, according to the report.

A combination of insurgent attacks on pipelines, dilapidated infrastructure and poor maintenance have hindered domestic refining and turned Iraq into an importer of liquefied gas, gasoline, kerosene and diesel fuel, the document said.

Water and sanitation projects, on which the United States spent about 52 million dollars, were inoperable or operating below capacity.

Investment has been reduced to a trickle. Last year, the report noted, the Iraqi government budgeted approximately five billion dollars for capital expenditures, but managed to spend only a few hundred million.

Generous foreign aid -- another hoped-for component of success in Iraq -- was never delivered in promised amounts.

While foreign donors had pledged about 13.6 billion dollars to rebuild Iraq, only 3.5 billion was actually provided as of last April, the GAO pointed out.

Meanwhile, it will take 30 billion dollars for the Iraqi oil industry to produce five million barrels a day -- and 20 billion to rebuild the electricity sector, the agency estimated.

All of these factors have prompted the GAO to issue a dire forecast: "Security, political, and economic factors will hamper US efforts to stabilize Iraq and achieve key US goals."

The report is certain to add fuel to a growing debate in Congress over the future US course in Iraq, which President Bush says should remain unchanged and Democrats insist is in need of a thorough re-evaluation.

In the meantime, the State Department rejected the congressional findings, saying in its response that the GAO report "rests on a flawed understanding of the strategic architecture guiding United States policy in Iraq."


Another Day, Another Signing Statement

by Daisy Cutter

You probably have not heard, but yesterday the president signed a bill entitled Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2006. There was not much fanfare surrounding it. Apparently, this little passage within the bill was of great offense to Bush.
(c) Oversight Report- Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, in consultation with the Government Accountability Office, shall submit to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives a report on the status of the Coast Guard's implementation of the Government Accountability Office's recommendations in its report, GAO-04-380, entitled `Coast Guard Deepwater Program Needs Increased Attention to Management and Contractor Oversight', including the dates by which the Coast Guard plans to complete implementation of such recommendations if any of such recommendations remain open as of the date the report is transmitted to the Committees.
"Contractor Oversight"? We certainly can't have that in this administration. A veto would attract too much attention and give Congress a chance to override the President's actions. So the President decided to do what any good Unitary Executive would do, he made a signing statement.
The executive branch shall construe section 408(c) of the Act, which purports to make consultation with a legislative agent a precondition to execution of the law, to call for but not mandate such consultation, as is consistent with the Constitution's provisions concerning the separate powers of the Congress to legislate and the President to execute the laws.
Voila. The President, with the sweep of a pen, has gotten rid of the Legislature's demand for oversight of Coast Guard contractors. The American corporate kleptocracy is now free to go on, unimpeded by that pesky Congressional oversight or government transparency.


Republicans break deal with Democrats to Protect Voters' Rights

A previously agreed upon deal between Democrats and Republicans to renew the Voting Rights Act has been broken by GOP leaders, today's issue of ROLL CALL is reporting. Despite a prior agreement, leaders in the House have agreed to consideration of amendments, stepping away from a deal that had been arrived at during negotiation to renew the Voting Rights Act without any major changes.

Excerpts from the registration retricted article follow.

Congressional Quarterly is reporting today that allowing the passage of the amendments will end hopes of quick passage by the Senate. Excerpts from the registration retricted article follow the Roll Call excerpts.

======= From Roll Call:

Bowing to the demands of rank-and-file Republicans, House leaders granted consideration Wednesday to a bevy of amendments to the Voting Rights Act — including a measure to eliminate mandates for multilingual ballots — drawing the ire of Democrats who claim the move violates a bipartisan agreement over reauthorizing the landmark 1965 law.

On an 8-3 party-line vote, the House Rules Committee agreed to allow debate on four amendments when the VRA renewal reaches the House floor, expected to occur today.


Both of the remaining amendments, sponsored by Georgia GOP Reps. Charlie Norwood and Lynn Westmoreland, target the VRA’s Section 5, which mandates that states with a documented history of discrimination must “pre-clear” any changes to their electoral practices with the Justice Department.

The amendments would, respectively, reconfigure the formula used to apply that section of the law — which the Georgia lawmakers have argued is outdated and unfairly targets states including their own — and establish an expedited procedure for qualified jurisdictions to “bail out” from the law’s requirements.

========= From CQ:

The House will try again Thursday to extend the landmark Voting Rights Act and avoid an election-year embarrassment for Republicans after leaders quieted a rebellious faction in their party that had blocked previous efforts to advance the bill.

GOP leaders were able to broker peace with a group of mostly Southern Republicans by allowing votes on four amendments that bill supporters are confident they will defeat.

Adoption of any of the amendments Thursday could undermine Democratic support for the bill and derail plans to gain quick passage in the Senate and the president’s signature this year.

House and Senate leaders and President Bush have pressed for passage of the legislation without changes.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


The GOP Owns Your News

by Grand Moff Texan

I don't have to remind anyone here why "news" shows have few progressives on, why ABC contradicts its own polling to pretend that majorities are minorities, why the press acts as a propaganda arm of the state under Republicans and as a snarky peanut gallery under Democrats. We do not live in an age of bullshit, we live in an age of propaganda.

The same people who own the GOP and the DLC, the corporate party, also own your news. It's not the same thing as state run media, it's just that the people who own the state own your media. Through a kind of back door, we have the same arrangment they have in North Korea. Some stories just disappear.

There are a number of ways to measure the right's deathgrip on America's "news," and what follows is a preliminary attempt to do so in a way that I have not seen done elsewhere in any systematic fashion.

It's not that I'm bearish on the bull[shit] market, I just don't think that having my intelligence insulted somehow equals "news." Of course, you still run in to dead-enders who spout the "liberal media" line, the kind of people who think the earth is flat or is only 6,000 years old. You know: morons.

I could tell you that a grand total of 118 people run most of the mass media in this country or that channel X is owned by corporation Y which also owns subsidiaries A, B, and C ...

... in fact, I will:

These 118 individuals in turn sit on the corporate boards of 288 national and international corporations. In fact, eight out of ten big media giants share common memberships on boards of directors with each other. NBC and the Washington Post both have board members who sit on Coca Cola and J. P. Morgan, while the Tribune Company, The New York Times and Gannett all have members who share a seat on Pepsi. It is kind of like one big happy family of interlocks and shared interests.

But what does that really tell you? I know this confuses many people, but corporations aren't people, and if it's an agenda we're looking for, we need to look at actual flesh-and-blood people. I recently ran into some idiots who not only cling to a sad belief in the "liberal media," but who also thought that because Time Warner gives mostly to Democrats, CNN must be "liberal." Meanwhile, Turner Broadcasting actually gives three times as much to Republicans as it does to Democrats. But how to explain the chain of command to people so dumb they think Ted Turner still runs CNN? Hopeless.

The right is fond of waving around a survey that "proves" that the media is "liberal." This is funny on so many levels. First of all, they don't even know what "liberal" means, they've just been taught that it means "bad" by their social betters (or rather, by the PR organizations hired by their social betters, since their social betters are too busy doing whatever it is that elites do in a nation trending towards third-world status). Second, the survey claims that the fact that a majority of reporters voted with the plurality of Americans in the 1992 presidential election is somehow significant. It "means" that they're so far to the left that they're lying to you all the time, which is why you need to get your news from a fat drug addict.

I know, I know. Monkeys play with typewriters, conservatives play with statistics. Aren't they cute?

Meanwhile, back in a little thing I like to call reality, reporters don't pick their stories (or even their angles), write their headlines, choose their photos and captions, hell the talking heads you see on the Tee-Vee don't even write their own copy. Conservatives who bitch about Dan Rather are like dogs barking at a mannequin.

Actually, it turns out that reporters are generally more conservative than most Americans on many issues and if they espouse any political affiliation at all it tends to be the right, not the left. It still doesn't matter: they don't run the news, their bosses do. The people who determine the content of your news are the people who own the media, especially those with the authority to determine its content. That is the question.

To whom do the people who run and/or own US news media organizations give campaign donations?

Who gets what, after all, is the surest measure of what people want out of government, since money=speech and policy is a commodity traded on an open market in our former Republic. I have seen scattered examples over the last few years, but no systematic survey. So, I spent a good chunk of yesterday burning up the search engine over at looking up the campaign contributions of the owners, boards of directors, editors, and other executives of the largest media organs in America between the Age of Monica and the present political cycle. This is especially tedious when one has forgotten one's reading glasses, but I persevered.

Short verson? Their campaign contributions range from about 2 to 1 Republican to completely Republican, and it's getting worse. Yeah, I know. You're in shock, aren't you? But there were a few surprises along the way.

Using the list from Project Censored, I looked up the boards of directors and executives and other high muckety-mucks of the corporations in question. It would be unfair, however, to cite the CFO of one company, for example and say "a-HAAA! I found a Republican!!!" I expect the CFO to be a Republican, and he probably has sweet fuck-all to do with the content of the news. Likewise, finding a contribution from a newspaper's lawyer to Emily's List ($500 over two years, to be exact) isn't very important either.

I expected to find Republican money, but with a trend toward Democrats. Why? Because overall corporate money is doing exactly that. They can read the writing on the wall. But what I found, overall, was that political contributions from media executives took a sharp, partisan turn around 2000 and seem to be getting more Republican all the time.

Leslie Moonves, for example, who is the President and Chief Executive Officer and CBS Corporation, used to give heavily to Democrats. Then he stopped dead after 1999. CBS' General Counsel, however, continues to give heavily to Democrats. The President of Disney-ABC Television Group, for instance, gave mostly to Democrats in the late 90's, but has since switched to the GOP, giving mainly to Ted Stevens' campaign, and to George Bush's reelection.

Rupert Murdoch, who needs no introduction, gives mostly to individual campaigns. Over the last few years he's given to Specter, Santorum, and Snowe, but back in 1997 he also contributed to Bob Graham. He's also given to the Motion Picture Association (a majority GOP contributor at the time, believe it or not, and one that has only trended toward the GOP since) and a small donation to Solutions America, which is 100% GOP. His Senior Advisor, however, gave only 54% of his campaign contributions to Reublicans. It will not suprise you to know that the rest of the Board gives exclusively to the Republicas. One Board member from San Francisco used to give to Pelosi in the 90's, but has since been a strict party-line contributor, giving $10,000 to the RNC in one transaction alone.

The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of NBC Universal, who is also Vice Chairman and Executive Officer of GE, began as a marginal contributor, giving $500 to Newt Gingrich in 1998, but has since increased his political giving dramatically. For each of the last five years he's given $5,000 to the Professionals in Advertising PAC, which has gone from slightly GOP (47% to Democrats, 53% to Republicans in 2002), to 2 to 1 GOP, to 3 to 1 GOP in the present cycle. This PAC may or may not be a company favorite, as the President and Chief Information Officer for Media Works at NBC Universal and the President of NBC Universal Television Stations have each thrown small sums at that organization in the past few years.

The strategy seems to be giving sub-maximum contributions to individual Democrats while giving vastly more to GOP-heavy or GOP-exclusive PAC's, generating the appearance of bi-partisan giving.

For TBS, which owns CNN, the Chairman and CEO, the President of Turner Entertainment Group, and the President of Domestic Distribution are all backing Saxby Chambliss. All are also giving to the GOP through the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and their own company. Two of these executives split their bets a bit in 2003, giving to $1,000 each to Daschle, Leahy, and $250 to Peter Deutsch.

It seems that the further you get from the newsroom, the more likely you are to be a Democrat. Hey, if you need the job done, you turn to the Reality Based Community. I don't want to get anyone in trouble, but the COO at FOX News, of all places, is a major moonbat. DOOD! You even gave to my favorite organization, the NDN! You're my heee-ro!

The Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Tribune was a McCain supporter in the late 90s. He's since given $1,500 to Democrats and $14,000 to GOP PAC's. The Tribune's Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration, Senior Vice President of General Counsel and Secretary, Senior Vice President of Development, and Senior Vice President of Corporate Relations all give exclusively to the GOP, but that's shooting fish in a barrel. The President of Tribune Broadcasting has given $11,500 to the National Association of Broadcasters PAC, which varies from 2 to 1 to 3 to 1 GOP. The executives of Gannett Newspapers also did not appear to have given campaign contributions, but the President and CEO and the Executive Vice President of Gannett Broadcasting both have been contributing to the same National Association of Broadcasters PAC.

I don't know what is going on with Knight-Ridder, but I had to pull their officers off of google's cache. Nothing earth-shaking. Their Chairman and CEO made a sub-maximum contribution to the original Bush campaign, but his new Chief Legal Officer and Assistant, hired this February, gave $500 to Emily's List, a PAC dedicated to putting pro-choice women in office, back in the late 90's.

I also took a look at the nation's two newspapers of record, the NYT and WaPo, and they were pretty much off the radar. The Grey Lady's CEO gave $200 to the "Minnesota Democrat Farmer labor Party," whatever that is. The former publisher of the Times is a longtime supporter of Amo Houghton, though he also donated to a handgun control organization, which I guess is arguably leftish. His son, however, who now runs the paper does not seem to contribute. I could find no contributions from the higher-ups at the Washington Post. What I would like to see is a breakdown of the contributions from the largest nationwide chains of newspapers.

Bayou Leader PAC, a small 100% GOP PAC, keeps popping up for some reason.

Media money is so overwhelmingly Republican that even the most common PAC's for their industry are heavily Republican. A period of corporate media consolidation has been simultaneous with increasing American stratification. Our "news" is coming from an increasinly alien elite.

A better way to examine this issue, if anyone is interested, might be to break down each corporation from fourteen years ago, when consolidation began in earnest, noting changes in corporate leadership and then tracing the contributions of this much larger group. For the sake of convenience, I have examined the contributions of people who happen to be in power now which sometimes predate their tenure. In this way we can trace their political trajectory and shed some light on their current agenda. In the case of NBC/Viacom, I'm glad I did.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time for me to flip on my Tee-Vee so that Skeletrina the Walking Blowjob can tell me what my betters want me to hear....


Department of Justice Denies Hamdan Touches NSA Spying

by Kagro X

Yes, I told you this yesterday. But that was just some lowly staff attorney, forced to argue the brief he'd prepared prior to Hamdan, right?

So for clarification, we now turn to the Justice Department brass. Assistant Attorney General Bill Moschella explains it all for the slow of mind and other peasants, like one Chuck Schumer of New York, NY:

Our initial impression is that the Court's opinion does not affect our analysis of the Terrorist Surveillance Program.

So good day, all! Thanks for playing!

Anonymous Liberal picks up the story, (I forwarded the letter to him, after receiving it from our pal, Adam B) and performs a genuine analysis, as opposed to my hit-and-run. But here's the gist of it:

I've previously noted that the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan fatally undermined the only two legal theories the Bush administration has ever offered in defense of its warrantless surveillance program (theories which, by the way, were borderline frivolous even before Hamdan). ...

Well, sadly, it appears I had a little too much faith in the integrity of the government's lawyers. In response to a letter from Senator Schumer concerning the application of Hamdan to the "Terrorist Surveillance Program," the Department of Justice has drafted a letter reaffirming its position that the AUMF and article II authorize the President to disregard the prohibitions of FISA. As David Barron puts it, the DOJ's response is, essentially, "Hamdan, Schmamdan" (a big hat tip to David for highlighting these letters and posting them on his site).

Well, better late than never, in some cases. Me, I lost faith in the integrity of the government's lawyers back when they took advantage of the judicial branch's built-in safety valve against "criminalizing politics", and decided to overrule the entire voting rights staff in approving facially discriminatory Congressional redistricting plans.

It's all of a piece, to my mind:

Just as with Plamegate and all "stovepiping" progeny, where the claim will be that it's within the presidential prerogative to redirect (and if necessary, reassemble from spare parts or whole cloth) the authorized and legitimate intelligence services of the United States. And just as with DeLay's money laundering, with the K Street Project, with Jack Abramoff's staggering corruption, and with who knows what else is yet to be unearthed, where the claim is that to single such activity out is to "criminalize politics," so with the Texas redistricting do we see that it is the intention of the occupying forces to actively employ the standards of deference ... as cover for their wrongdoing, because they know that no courts (save the "activist" ones!) have the tools to reach them without throwing out time-honored and otherwise quite reasonable restraints against the (real) government's power to levy punishment and mete out justice.

No surprise, then, to see the "administration" back in court, claiming Hamdan is of no effect beyond its four corners, and failing that, that the "state secrets" privilege precludes all inquiry.

Jack Balkin weighs in on the issue of the letters, thus:

Whatever else one may think of the DOJ's arguments in support of the NSA program, the notion that Hamdan "does not affect" the relevant legal analysis is so implausible as to suggest either bad faith or an audacious design by the Administration to provoke a confrontation with the Court (a confrontation that the Administration must suspect it would almost certainly lose if the case were considered by the current array of SCOTUS Justices). [Emphasis mine.]

Ah, there it is. Bad faith -- the very thing which must be demonstrated by the Texas redistricting plaintiffs to overcome the presumption that the DoJ's rubber stamping is within legal bounds.

An audacious design by the Administration to provoke a confrontation with the Court -- the very thing which Mark Tushnet's "constitutional hardball" article describes as necessary to remaking the constitutional order.

Now, we're onto something.

Keep in mind in all of this that these practicers of bad faith, these audacious designers, are the very people we'll be asking to execute the enforcement of Congressional subpoenas in the event the Democrats can successfully launch investigations into the "administration's" activities.

Not only does the emperor have no clothes, the emperor might not even be leading a government, in the sense that you and I and everyone else in America have ever understood it.


Lessons learned

by Kos

Rahm Emanuel looks to save the nation $100K by doing the "Director of Lessons Learned" job for him:

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the President said we continue to be wise about how we spend the people's money.

"Then why are we paying over $100,000 for a 'White House Director of Lessons Learned'?

"Maybe I can save the taxpayers $100,000 by running through a few of the lessons this White House should have learned by now.

"Lesson 1: When the Army Chief of Staff and the Secretary of State say you are going to war without enough troops, you're going to war without enough troops.

"Lesson 2: When 8.8 billion dollars of reconstruction funding disappears from Iraq, and 2 billion dollars disappears from Katrina relief, it's time to demand a little accountability.

"Lesson 3: When you've 'turned the corner' in Iraq more times than Danica Patrick at the Indy 500, it means you are going in circles.

"Lesson 4: When the national weather service tells you a category 5 hurricane is heading for New Orleans, a category 5 hurricane is heading to New Orleans.

"I would also ask the President why we're paying for two 'Ethics Advisors' and a 'Director of Fact Checking.'

"They must be the only people in Washington who get more vacation time than the President.

"Maybe the White House could consolidate these positions into a Director of Irony."


Iraq: The War We Won, Continues. A Journalist Describes How Even Finding Out What's Happening Outside the Green Zone is Difficult and Dangerous.

"I will bet you the best dinner in the gaslight district of San Diego that military action will not last more than a week. Are you willing to take that wager?"
(Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, 1/29/03)

"It won't take weeks. You know that, professor. Our military machine will crush Iraq in a matter of days and there's no question that it will."
(Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, 2/10/03)

Reporting from Iraq has become one of journalism’s most difficult and dangerous jobs. FP spoke recently with Rod Nordland, who served as Newsweek’s Baghdad bureau chief for two years, about the challenge of getting out of the Green Zone to get the scoop.

Getting out of the Green Zone: Journalists in Iraq wrestle with controlled access to information, daily bombings, and earning the trust of local Iraqis.

U.S. Department of Defense

FOREIGN POLICY: Are Americans getting an accurate picture of what’s going on in Iraq?

Rod Nordland: It’s a lot worse over here [in Iraq] than is reported. The administration does a great job of managing the news. Just an example: There was a press conference here about [Abu Musab al] Zarqawi’s death, and somebody asked what role [U.S.] Special Forces played in finding Zarqawi. [The official] either denied any role or didn’t answer the question. Somebody pointed out that the president, half an hour earlier, had already acknowledged and thanked the Special Forces for their involvement. They are just not giving very much information here.

FP: The Bush administration often complains that the reporting out of Iraq is too negative, yet you say they are managing the news. What’s the real story?

RN: You can only manage the news to a certain degree. It is certainly hard to hide the fact that in the third year of this war, Iraqis are only getting electricity for about 5 to 10 percent of the day. Living conditions have gotten so much worse, violence is at an even higher tempo, and the country is on the verge of civil war. The administration has been successful to the extent that most Americans are not aware of just how dire it is and how little progress has been made. They keep talking about how the Iraqi army is doing much better and taking over responsibilities, but for the most part that’s not true.

FP: How often do you travel outside of the Green Zone?

RN: The restrictions on [journalists’] movements are very severe. It is extremely dangerous to move around anywhere in Iraq, but we do. We all have Iraqi staff who get around, and we go on trips arranged by the U.S. State Department as frequently as we can.

But the military has started censoring many [embedded reporting] arrangements. Before a journalist is allowed to go on an embed now, [the military] check[s] the work you have done previously. They want to know your slant on a story—they use the word slant—what you intend to write, and what you have written from embed trips before. If they don’t like what you have done before, they refuse to take you. There are cases where individual reporters have been blacklisted because the military wasn’t happy with the work they had done on embed. But we get out among the Iraqi public a whole lot more than almost any American official, certainly more than military officials do.

FP: What other challenges do journalists in Iraq face besides security?

RN: Iraqi officials, now that they have their own government, have become extremely bureaucratic and difficult about giving interviews. They want you to do the interview request in a very formal way. In many cases, they ask for your questions in advance. It takes a very long time for them to agree to see people. Add to that the problems of movement and curfews, and it makes getting things done that much more difficult.

FP: The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad recently sent a cable to Washington detailing the dangerous situation under which its Iraqi employees work. Is the situation in the Green Zone as bad as the cable made it out to be?

RN: Yes, it is that bad. [The cable] didn’t come as a surprise to me, except that somebody in the embassy was courageous enough to outline the hardships in very frank detail, and the ambassador was honest enough to put his name to it. It is exactly what our own Iraqi staff has gone through for years now. As early as 2003, the Iraqis who work for us were not telling their family or friends that they worked for Americans. At the time, we thought it was a ridiculous precaution—a throwback to the Saddam era—but as time went on, they proved that they knew their society a lot better than we did.

FP: Where do you get information about the insurgency?

RN: There was a stage in the war when we could talk to insurgents and people representing insurgents. Now, it’s just too dangerous. There is no way to safely contact them. We talk to Sunni leaders who are in touch with at least the Iraqi insurgents, the distinction being that al Qaeda insurgents are mainly foreign terrorists. [Iraqi] groups have a political constituency among Sunni politicians and they are in touch. So we can and do talk to them frequently. In fact, so does the U.S. Embassy.

FP: Are journalists and the military seeing two different pictures in Iraq?

RN: Sometimes it’s hard to say. Many in the military are here on their second or third tour and they don’t want to feel that this is all a doomed enterprise. I’m not saying it is, but to some extent they are victims of their own propaganda. Two reasonable people can look at the same set of information and come to different conclusions. A good example: I traveled recently to Taji for the handover of a large swath of territory north of Baghdad to the Iraqi Army’s 9th Armored Division. This was meant to be a big milestone: an important chunk of territory that has lots of insurgent activity, given over completely to the control of the Iraqi Army. But when we spoke to the Iraqi Army officers, they said they didn’t have enough equipment. They are still completely dependent on the U.S. Army for their logistics, their meals, and a lot of their communications. The United States turned territory over to them, but they are not a functioning, independent army unit yet.

Rod Nordland, chief foreign correspondent for Newsweek, was Baghdad bureau chief from 2003 to 2005.


Definition of a Zealot

“Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”
— Richard Milhous Nixon

Justice Department Lawyer To Congress: ‘The President Is Always Right’

The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday heard testimony from Steven Bradbury, head of the Justice Department’s office of legal counsel. When questioned by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on whether the President’s interpretation of the Hamdan case was right or wrong, Bradbury replied, “The President is always right.” Watch it:

Full transcript below:

LEAHY: The president has said very specifically, and he’s said it to our European allies, he’s waiting for the Supreme Court decision to tell him whether or not he was supposed to close Guantanamo or not. After, he said it upheld his position on Guantanamo, and in fact it said neither. Where did he get that impression? The President’s not a lawyer, you are, the Justice Department advised him. Did you give him such a cockamamie idea or what?

BRADBURY: Well, I try not to give anybody cockamamie ideas.

LEAHY: Well, where’d he get the idea?

BRADBURY: The Hamdan decision, senator, does implicitly recognize we’re in a war, that the President’s war powers were triggered by the attacks on the country, and that law of war paradigm applies. That’s what the whole case —

LEAHY: I don’t think the President was talking about the nuances of the law of war paradigm, he was saying this was going to tell him that he could keep Guantanamo open or not, after it said he could.

BRADBURY: Well, it’s not —

LEAHY: Was the President right or was he wrong?

BRABURY: It’s under the law of war –

LEAHY: Was the President right or was he wrong?

BRADBURY: The President is always right.


Neocons, Al-Qaeda, And The End Of The Age Of Enlightenment

Lawrence Kaplan, on the New Republic's website, posted a brief three paragraphs on the insurgency in Iraq (I won't link to TNR on principle; you can read it in full via Josh Marshall, here.) It was a litany of real terror, and a stuttering admission by one of the Right's passionate necon supporters of the war.

Kaplan's post made me consider what appears to be his grudging, dawning awarenedss of the utter horror our lack of foresight, our lack of any foreign policy, has brought to the people of Iraq -- and that one consequence of the neocon's bankrupt political theories may be the beginning of the end of one of humankind's most creative eras.

It wasn't an admission that he, and the rest of the neoconservative mitwissers centered around PNAC were wrong in what they planned, or that they - along with Rumsfeld, Rice, Hadley, Franks, Powell, Wolfowitz, and other members of the Cheney administration -- are personally responsible in some degree for making violence like this possible:

One international official told me of reports among his staff that a 15-year-old girl had been beheaded and a dog's head sewn on her body in its place; and of a young child who had had his hands drilled and bolted together before being killed. [Kaplan quoting CNN's Nic Robertson]

Instead, Kaplan fumbled with the truth and his own lack of personal responsibility, and only shrugged out an admission of policy failure, finally saying:

Even if America had arrived in Iraq with a detailed post-war plan, twice the number of troops, and all the counterinsurgency expertise in the world, my guess is that we would have found ourselves in exactly the same spot. [All Emphasis added]

No matter how reprehensible and abhorrent the belief structure of a person like Kaplan may be, after pushing hard for an aggressive projection of American power into the world, he now tells everyone: No matter what we had done in Iraq, the all-but-openly-declared civil war between Sunnis and Shiites would have happened anyway.

Which begs the question, If there were no WMD's, no Iraqi links to Al-Qaeda; if a civil war was the inevitable result; if we were going to suffer useless casualties, and condemn innocent civilians to die in cities without reliable electricity or sewage or proper medical care... If we knew children would be decapitated and mutilated -- then, why did we invade the country? I don't think Kaplan has an answer to these questions -- or, rather, he's already given the answer, or as much of one as we're likely to get from him or those like him.

I'd like to celebrate that fact that someone who arguably has a degree of blood on his hands begrudgingly admits that the centerpiece of his working life as an adult is a failure. Kaplan won't like the comparison, but too bad; he's earned it: Larry, now you know how so many nazis felt in the summer of 1945.

I'd feel gratified -- except my mind keeps returning to the images of a mutilated child's corpse. I try to imagine the rage, the need to dominate as an antidote to despair, and the utter lack of empathy in the human being who committed such an atrocity.

Even if Robertson's CNN report turned out to be apocryphal, there are plentiful horrors in Iraq with more documentation:

... Green and other soldiers planned to rape a young woman who lived near the checkpoint they manned in Mahmoudiya... three soldiers allegedly accompanied Green into the house, and another soldier was told to monitor the radio while the assault took place.... Green shot the woman's relatives, including a girl of about 5; raped the young woman; then fatally shot her... [the soldiers] then set the family's house afire... [CNN, 7/10/06, "U.S. Military Names Soldiers Charged In Rape, Murder Probe"]

In this story, too, I try to fathom the rage, the pain, and the utter lack of empathy. That absence of a connection with another human being's misery and fear has the chance to become the true hallmark of the early 21st Century. Not precisely the legacy Kaplan and his crowd had in mind.


It has been five years since the Cheney administration, and the peevish dullard who is its mouthpiece, decided to inflict on America and the world a mixture of arrogant brutality abroad and a `faith-based', corrupt, Fox-news culture at home. It's a rudderless government which, in its pathology and disorganization, encourages anti-intellectualism and "enlightened self-interest", and rules by fear in place of policy. It isn't Nineteen Eighty-Four; it's Brazil.

It's my unlicensed opinion that the small clique of `christian' zealots and hardcase neocons running the country enable violence and corruption through example. But we aren't alone -- the U.S. government isn't the only group which wants to turn the clock back over two hundred and fifty years, or even a thousand, which made me consider what we really have to lose in the present ideological conflict that was created by two very similar groups of men: the spirit of reason, and the conscience of the future.

The Enlightenment -- described in Wikipedia as a flowering of "rationalization, standardization and the search for fundamental unities ... the economics of Adam Smith, the physical chemistry of Antoine Lavoisier, the idea of evolution pursued by Goethe; the declaration by Jefferson of inalienable rights [which] in the end overshadowed the idea of divine right and direct alteration of the world by the hand of God."

The Enlightenment began based in faith, but continued through the Age of Reason to drive the growth of secular philosophy and logic as the basis for science -- and Rousseau's works, Thomas Jefferson's and Tom Paine's writings, led to a Revolution which gave real power to the ideas of inalienable rights and the equality of humankind.

The Enlightenment was a process, a backlash against six hundred years of Feudalism and intellectual constraints of the Middle Ages. The Protestant Reformation and the Renaissance were others. More followed, leading to British indifference and Colonial rebellion; the French Revolution and an exchange of the tyranny of the Committee and the Terror for the tyranny of Napoleon. Regal absolutism would lead to confrontations with Socialism, Anarchism - and, ultimately, Communism. Conditions of labor led to the development and the rise of unions. It was an almost unbroken tapestry of thought, achievement and experimentation, which not even the disruption of the Great War, or fascism and the Holocaust that followed, could extinguish.

Reading Nic Robertson's quote in Kaplan's post made me consider: We may be experiencing another backlash in the early 21st Century that has always lain under the surface - a backlash against the process of unfettered, chaotic secular development; against logic, scholarship, personal freedom and creativity - the rise of openly gay identity; the images in modern art, literature and film; the diminishing of religious custom and law as a cultural focus; development of the consciousness of Feminism and the role of women. That backlash replaces possibilities of the future with fear, and offers answers to uncertainty in the comfort of unquestioning faith.

It was a confrontation that didn't have to occur, but the Lawrence Kaplans worked to make it a near-certainty that it would. And the outcome? A large portion of the Muslim world alienated from not only the U.S., but Europe and 'Western' culture. America, increasingly isolated from the world community, sliding towards eventual economic decline when the rising cost of war, coupled with what will shortly be a nine trillion dollar National Debt makes our 'higher standard of living' unsustainable for many Americans.

(If Gibbons were alive, it's even money he would either shake his head sadly at our going the way of Rome, or be laughing fit to bust at the irony of it all. Please don't feel I'm gloating. That we may well have passed a tipping point for our country as well as in the global environment fills me with disgust; it is enough, seriously, to break spirits and hearts. Not that Cheney or any in his administration give a damn.)

This is the result of the real `clash of civilizations' - a contest between states of consciousness; between secular rationalism, an interpretation of religious beliefs, and simple greed. Both sides admit zealotry and the possibility of brutality - and so we have Hidatha on one hand - the slaughter of thirty villagers -- and yesterday's murder of forty Sunis in Baghdad by Shia militia on the other, pulling terrified people from their cars and shooting them. On one side, torture and secret prisons; on the other, a child's hands drilled through and bolted together before they were killed.

When bin Laden refers to Bush as a `Crusader', a description of a religious zealot, aggressively proud of his ignorance (The Islamic Empire during the Crusades saw itself as the rightful center of human knowledge and culture) which isn't far from the mark. But bin Laden is Bush's counterpart -- he, and other Islamic Fundamentalists, dream of a world dominated by a single religion, where tribal domination and corruption go hand in hand -- and where they are the political and spiritual leaders of an entire faith.

Bush wants to create a world where American democracy is spread through military action (or the threat of it) to end "evil" regimes and shape world events to our liking, keep natural resources under U.S. control; with a constant reference to "christian" values. And a world where Bush's handlers -- the Robertsons and Dobsons, the Cheneys and Wolfowitzes, and corporate power -- are the real leaders; while Bush gets to play President, making speeches about faith and sacrifice and our noble dead.

Both men appear to believe power and domination matter more than compassion and service. Both offer examples to the world that violence is legitimate and always justified, and can rationalize any brutal order through scripture or appeals to prejudice and revenge.

I don't have the ability, or the right (no one does, I think), to judge the relative evil in sewing a dog's head on the body of a decapitated child murdered simply because she was of a different religious sect; versus a child blown to pieces by airborne munitions simply because she lived in or near a designated target. To my mind, both leave me equally speechless with horror and sadness.

What I fear most is that much of the world, exhausted by war and the threat of violence, will drift further into fear and seductively simple answers - that we lose both sides of the human heritage: the honest spiritual search, and the full development of our intelligence, ability, and recognition of the equality of our humanity. Sadly, these don't appear to be valid goals for True Believers on either side of the conflict between radical conservatives in the East, and the West.

The Lawrence Kaplans can debate the success or failure of their war, but they will continue to miss the essential point - not that there would have been a civil war in Iraq, no matter what we did there... but that their political theories have made the rise of a darker and more brutal world possible. That their objectives in projecting American power into the Middle East have ended in a tragedy which their mouthpiece has said will be solved by another President, after he leaves the office purchased for him -- in 2009.

America, for all its serious faults, used to embody for a large part of the world the hope that people might achieve the best in the human spirit, secular and spiritual. I hope we still have an opportunity to salvage our country, for our own sake if not for a community of nations. To save us from being just another failed nation which sold its principles for the price of a no-bid contract, or rigging the game for a small percentage of its citizens. Or, where political conservatives were seduced by their own desire for power into mounting a military action that creates the kind of rage and despair which ends in the decapitation of a child. And, possibly, a world where the secular views we take for granted are considered forbidden.


Pentagon Counsel Rebuffs Official Policy on Guantanamo Commissions

Today, the media obtained a memo from Undersecretary of Defense Gordon England telling Pentagon officials that all detainees are entitled to protections under the Geneva Conventions. Specifically, England says the Supreme Court found the administration’s “military commissions…are not consistent with Common Article 3″ of Geneva:

The Supreme Court has determined that Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 applies as a matter of law to the conflict with Al Qaeda. The Court found that the military commissions as constituted by the Department of Defense are not consistent with Common Article 3.

Apparently, someone from the Pentagon’s legal team didn’t get the memo. From today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on detainee treatment:

Under questioning from the committee, Daniel Dell’Orto, principal deputy general counsel at the Pentagon, said he believes the current treatment of detainees — as well as the existing tribunal process — already complies with Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. […]

“The military commission set up does provide a right to counsel, a trained military defense counsel and the right to private counsel of the detainee’s choice,” Mr. Dell’Orto said. “We see no reason to change that in legislation.”

The Pentagon needs to get on the same page - this page in particular.


Legal Advocate For Torture Being Considered For Top Judicial Post

The Financial Times reports this morning that the Pentagon, guided by General Counsel William Haynes, recently reversed course and decided that all detainees held in U.S. military custody are entitled to protection under the Geneva Conventions. The timing of the announcement appears in part to have been guided by an administration effort to build support for Haynes, whose nomination to sit on the 4th Circuit was taken up by the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

Haynes — who is strongly backed by Vice President Cheney — has been described as a “prime mover” in the effort to contravene the dictates of the Geneva Convention with respect to the interrogation of prisoners. A 2003 working group appointed and supervised by Haynes argued the Geneva Conventions “must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to [Bush’s] Commander-in-Chief authority.” That position, as applied to military commissions, was repudiated by the Supreme Court in the recent Hamdan decision.

A group of 20 retired military leaders recently wrote to Sens. Arlen Specter and Patrick Leahy to express their “deep concern” about the nominee (Read it HERE):

Had Mr. Haynes been ignorant of the likely consequences of these policies, the profound errors he made could perhaps be understood. But the uniformed JAGs of each of the services clearly and repeatedly expressed their concerns about the impact these policies would have both on the reputation of the United States and on the integrity and safety of military personnel. … These prescient warnings were echoed by the flag officer Judge Advocates General of the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. But Mr. Haynes failed to heed them.

Writing in a separate letter, former Judge Advocate General of the Navy John Hutson argued, “If civilian leadership of the military means anything at all, it must mean there is accountability for failures such as his.” Read it HERE.


Karl Rove Got a Raise Today

In addition, Think Progress has a list of The Four Most Overpaid White House Staffers.

Today the National Journal published a list of salaries for the 403 White House staffers. Here are the four most overpaid:

Deborah Nirmala Misir Ethics Advisor $114,688
Erica M. Dornburg Ethics Advisor $100,547
Stuart Baker Director for Lessons Learned $106,641
Melissa M. Carson Director of Fact Checking $46,500

And yes, there is a White House Director for Lessons Learned. We aren’t making this up.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Iraq: The War We Won, Continues. Mission Accomplished.

"Sean Penn is at it again. The Hollywood star takes out a full-page ad out in the New York Times bashing George Bush. Apparently he still hasn't figured out we won the war." (MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, 5/30/03)

July 11, 2006
50 Killed in Baghdad as Iraqi Violence Worsens

BAGHDAD, July 11 — More than 50 people were killed in Baghdad on Tuesday in violence that included a double suicide bombing near busy entrances to the fortified Green Zone, scattered shootings, mortar attacks, a series of car bombs and the ambush of a bus with Shiite mourners returning from a burial.

Tuesday’s killings, many of them apparently executed with sectarian vengeance, raised the three-day death toll in the capital alone to well over 100, magnified the daunting challenges facing the new government and deepened a sense of dread among Iraqis.

Many of the attacks, particularly those in neighborhoods primarily populated by one religious group or another, bore the hallmarks of sectarian militias, both Sunni Arab and Shiite. Militias now appear to be dictating the ebb and flow of life in Iraq, and have left the new government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and his American counterparts scrambling to come up with a military and political strategy to combat them.

Mr. Maliki has a new security strategy for Baghdad, where the sharp rise in violence over the past few months has been felt most acutely. The plan, which was implemented a month ago and features a constellation of new checkpoints, does not seem to have curbed the mayhem. “The security plan did not succeed,” Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish legislator, told reporters on Tuesday. “There must be solutions for this situation, which is out of control.”

Also on Tuesday, Wisam Jabir Abdullah, an Iraqi diplomat posted in Iran who was on vacation in Baghdad, was kidnapped from his home by gunmen, the Interior Ministry official said.

The worsening security crisis in Baghdad and several neighboring provinces, which many Iraqis are saying feels like a low-grade civil war, prompted lawmakers on Tuesday to summon the interior and defense ministers to address Parliament on Thursday, according to Jalal Adin al-Sagheer, a senior official in the country’s largest Shiite political bloc.

During the current spike in the violence, Mr. Maliki has been restrained in his comments. On Monday, he made an appeal for national unity during a speech in Iraqi Kurdistan, and during a news conference in Erbil on Tuesday, he dismissed the notion that the country was descending into civil war.

“I don’t see the country falling into a civil war despite the regrettable activities of certain people who ignore that Iraq is united,” the prime minister said, according to Agence France-Presse. “The security services are still in control of the situation.”

He added, “We have the capacity, if necessary, to impose order and suppress those who rebel against the state.”

Mr. Maliki also issued a brief statement decrying the attack on the Shiite mourners. Efforts to seek additional comment from his office on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

At least another eight people were slain in insurgent attacks outside the capital, including the wife of a provincial governor, who was killed by a bomb while treating patients at her gynecology clinic. But Tuesday’s violence was largely concentrated in Baghdad.

The country’s largest Sunni Arab bloc said that in the interest of promoting calm, it would end its 10-day boycott of Parliament. Sunni legislators suspended their participation on July 2 after a colleague, Tayseer Najah al-Mashhadani, was kidnapped. Many Sunni Arabs have blamed the abduction on the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to the militant cleric Moktada al-Sadr. Mr. Sadr and his deputies, however, have denied any involvement.

A Sunni Arab leader, Alaa Makki, said in a telephone interview that the bloc’s decision to participate once again was influenced by Mr. Sadr, who on Sunday issued an appeal for harmony and the convening of a special meeting of Parliament to address the sectarian bloodshed.

The concession and the hope of broad political collaboration come as many Iraqis sink deeper into despair.

“I think the violence in Iraq will never stop,” Rasha Adnan, 26, an unemployed business manager in Baghdad, said in a telephone interview late Tuesday, echoing comments of many other residents during the past few days. “It will only rise.”

The sudden surge in violence began Sunday morning when a group of Shiite gunmen appeared on the streets of a predominantly Sunni Arab neighborhood in western Baghdad and began executing people. This vigilantism appeared to come as retribution for the bombing of a Shiite mosque the day before, and astonished Iraqis even in the current climate of relentless violence. It was then followed by what seemed to be retributive car bomb attacks against another Shiite mosque on Sunday.

Estimates of the number of killings in Baghdad on Sunday range from at least 30 to more than double that number. And at least 30 died in violence on Monday, officials said.

In Tuesday’s most deadly attack, two pedestrians wearing vests made of explosives blew themselves up near a restaurant outside the walls of the Green Zone, within a few hundred yards of three busy entrances, Iraqi and American officials said. Soon after the initial blasts, a hidden bomb was detonated nearby, adding to the carnage, the American military said. Some Iraqi authorities said the third explosion was caused by a car bomb.

At least 15 Iraqi civilians and one Iraqi police officer were killed in the blasts, and four people were wounded, according to the American military command.

In Internet posting, two prominent insurgent groups claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq said it was behind the two suicide bombings, according to SITE Institute, which monitors jihadist postings on the Internet. The Islamic Army in Iraq claimed in a separate posting that it was responsible for the third explosion, which it said was a car bomb, according to a translation provided by SITE.

The parallel claims raise the possibility of a coordinated strike between the two groups, though they do not have a history of working together and, moreover, are thought to be rivals. The Mujahideen Shura Council is a radical jihadist group associated with Al Qaeda, while the Islamic Army in Iraq is led by former Baath Party members, who are considered more secular and have no history of suicide attacks, according to Rita Katz, director of the SITE Institute.

The Islamic Army said it had struck in revenge for the rape and slaying of an Iraqi girl in Mahmudiya, a crime for which five American soldiers have been charged and a sixth man, a recently discharged American soldier, has been arrested.

According to SITE, this attack appeared to be the first suicide operation by the Islamic Army.

In a predominantly Sunni Arab area of Dawra, a district in southern Baghdad, gunmen ambushed a bus carrying Shiite mourners from the holy city of Najaf, where they had buried a relative, government officials and family members said. The gunmen pulled 10 people from the bus and executed them, according to an Interior Ministry official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

An hour earlier, in Taji, north of Baghdad, gunmen ambushed another bus, killing one person and wounding five, the ministry official said. It was unclear whether the two bus attacks were related.

Two mortar grenades hit a Shiite mosque in Dawra, killing 9 and wounding 11 civilians, the Interior Mnistry official said.

In other violence, a family of five — a father and mother and their grown daughter and two teenage sons — were found beheaded in a predominantly Sunni Arab sector of Dawra, according to an official at Yarmouk Hospital, the main medical facility in western Baghdad.

The police and hospital officials also reported that four car bombs around Baghdad killed at least 7 people and wounded at least 18.

Gunmen raided a company’s offices in the upper-middle-class Mansour neighborhood, killing three employees and wounding three, officials said.

According to the official at Yarmouk Hospital, five bodies were discovered early Tuesday in Jihad, the neighborhood where dozens of people were reportedly executed by marauding gunmen on Sunday. It was unclear when the victims had been killed.

Violence also inflicted casualties outside Baghdad.

In Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, the wife of the governor of Salahuddin Province was killed by a time bomb that detonated as she was treating patients, according to Agence France-Presse, quoting local police. The governor’s wife, Ameera al-Rubaie, a gynecologist, was killed and four of her patients were wounded, the police said, according to the wire service.

In Baquba, north of Baghdad, the mayor of the Um Al Nawa district was assassinated by gunmen, the ministry official said. In the Shiite holy city of Karbala, a drive-by shooting killed two workers in the central market, according to the Interior Ministry official.

An engineer and his bodyguard were assassinated on their way to work in Kirkuk on Tuesday morning, according to Col. Adel Zain Alabdin of the Iraqi Police. A car bomb in Mosul killed two and wounded four, the police said.

Iraq’s minister of human rights, Wijdan Michael, said in a telephone interview that a government commission had been formed to study the possibility of scrapping a law that granted American troops immunity from Iraqi prosecution. The prime minister said last week that he was considering whether to seek the abolishment of the rule in light of the revelations that American military personnel have come under investigation in connection with a number of recent killings of unarmed Iraqis.

In the trial of Mr. Hussein, the judges heard the closing arguments of two defendants, Abdullah Kadhum Ruweed and his son, Mizher Abdullah Ruweed, two local Baath Party officials from Dujail, a predominantly Shiite village. Mr. Hussein and seven co-defendants are accused of torturing and executing 148 men and boys in the village in 1982 after a failed assassination attempt on him.

The chief judge adjourned the trial until July 24 to resolve a boycott by the lawyers representing Mr. Hussein and three other key co-defendants, none of whom appeared in court.

A high-level official at the Iraqi High Tribunal announced Tuesday that Judge Jamal Mustafa, the tribunal’s president, died earlier in the day in a hospital in Amman.

Reporting for this article was contributed by Qais Mizher, Hosham Hussein and an Iraqi employee of The New York Times from Baghdad, Iraqi employees of The Times from Kirkuk and Mosul, and Razzaq al-Saiedi from New York

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