Friday, August 11, 2006


Prisoners of Katrina

By Olenka Frenkiel

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, while thousands fled New Orleans, the city's prisoners were trapped. Fresh eye-witness accounts reveal what really happened to those left behind, and how crucial forensic evidence was simply washed away.

In September 2005, long after most people had fled a devastated city, inmates of Orleans Parish Prison - many of them shackled - were still waiting to be rescued from the blazing heat and the stinking floods.

"They basically abandoned the prison," says Vincent Norman, a chef arrested for an unpaid fine who found himself locked in a cell for days.

Norman should have been there no more than a week. Instead, abandoned without food, drink or sanitation as the waters rose, he was in prison for 103 days.

"We were just left there to die," said Cardell Williams, a prisoner who spent two months in jail without ever being charged.

In the days before the hurricane, when other citizens of New Orleans were ordered to leave, city leaders were asked: "What about the prisoners in the jail?"

"The prisoners will stay where they belong," replied Marlin Gusman, the criminal sheriff in charge of the city jail.

But it was a gamble he would regret.

Break out

Some of those in Orleans Parish Prison had been arrested for minor misdemeanours, like unpaid fines, or jay-walking. Some had never even been charged.

A third of the inmates were awaiting trial, innocent until proven guilty.

On the night of Sunday 29 August, as Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, they found themselves with violent convicts transferred from other low-lying jails.

The food and drinking water ran out.

Many were in windowless cells in soaring heat.

They began to riot.

Andrew Joseph said he saw a body floating in the water with a rat sitting on its chest

Terrified staff who had brought their families with them to the jail for safety, now found themselves trapped surrounded by floodwater, without phones or radio contact.

Deputy Rhonda Ducre, alone on her wing, had only a torch with fading batteries to keep order in the darkness, as panicked inmates began to break out.

She recalls: "They were shaking on the bars, they were setting fires, they were screaming, they were popping out of their cells. It was dangerous."

Body bags

By Monday night, Sheriff Gusman was forced to change his mind.

But now the evacuation of 7,000 prisoners would be infinitely harder.

They would have to be ferried by boats, six at a time.

In the chaos some were left behind, forgotten, and some inmates reported seeing prisoners who had drowned.

Andrew Joseph said he saw a body floating in the water with a rat sitting on its chest.

There were reports too of other deaths.

A member of the prison staff made a sworn statement that he had removed two body-bags containing the bodies of female deputies who had died, asphyxiated by smoke from burning mattresses.

But with hundreds of bodies already piling up in the morgue, and with so many of New Orleans citizens missing or still displaced, those claims have never been verified.

Legal rights

Prisoners were dispersed and held throughout the state... their court cases unheard for months

The sheriff maintained no prisoners died and none escaped, but later it emerged that arrest warrants had been issued for 14 escaped inmates.

All were recaptured, but not before one of them was re-arrested for another murder while on the run.

Months after the hurricane many were still suffering the consequences of a system peculiar to Louisiana - that of funding public defence lawyers partly from traffic violations revenue.

When the city flooded and the traffic stopped, the money ran out, depriving the poor of their legal rights to a defence.

At one time, the city was reduced to just four defence lawyers, each with an unmanageable caseload.

Prisoners were dispersed and held throughout the state, their charges delayed, their court cases unheard for months.

Destroying the evidence

For those convicted of serious crimes and hoping for a reprieve, however, there were graver consequences still.

Forensic evidence stored in the courthouse basement was destroyed, dashing hopes of justice for those wrongly convicted of rape and murder.

Lawyer Dwight Doskey represents clients on death row.

"There will be people - and I've got one in particular that I'm worried about - who may have been exonerated by DNA if the evidence had been stored in a safe place. Those are the people that I feel sorriest for," he says.

New Orleans is notorious both for its low murder clear-up rate and its wrong convictions.

But for those at the bottom of the social heap - the poorest prisoners in one of America's poorest states - Katrina brought a justice system already near to collapse, to a standstill.

This World: Prisoners of Katrina will be broadcast on Sunday 13 August, 2006, at 2200 BST on BBC Two.


Bush seeks political gains from foiled plot

by Olivier Knox

US President George W. Bush seized on a foiled London airline bomb plot to hammer unnamed critics he accused of having all but forgotten the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Weighed down by the unpopular war in Iraq, Bush and his aides have tried to shift the national political debate from that conflict to the broader and more popular global war on terrorism ahead of November 7 congressional elections.

The London conspiracy is "a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation," the president said on a day trip to Wisconsin.

"It is a mistake to believe there is no threat to the United States of America," he said. "We've taken a lot of measures to protect the American people. But obviously we still aren't completely safe."

His remarks came a day after the White House orchestrated an exceptionally aggressive campaign to tar opposition Democrats as weak on terrorism, knowing what Democrats didn't: News of the plot could soon break.

Vice President Dick Cheney and White House spokesman Tony Snow had argued that Democrats wanted to raise what Snow called "a white flag in the war on terror," citing as evidence the defeat of a three-term Democratic senator who backed the Iraq war in his effort to win renomination.

But Bush aides on Thursday fought the notion that they had exploited their knowledge of the coming British raid to hit Democrats, saying the trigger had been the defeat of Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut by an anti-war political novice.

"The comments were purely and simply a reaction" to Democratic voters who "removed a pro-defense Senator and sent the message that the party would not tolerate candidates with such views," said Snow.

The public relations offensive "was not done in anticipation. It was not said with the knowledge that this was coming," the spokesman said.

Snow said Bush first learned in detail about the plot on Friday, and received two detailed briefings on it on Saturday and Sunday, as well as had two conversations about it with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

But a senior White House official said that the British government had not launched its raid until well after Cheney held a highly unusual conference call with reporters to attack the Democrats as weak against terrorism.

An aide to Lieberman, who would have been one of the first Democrats to hear of the plot because he is the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said the lawmaker first heard of it late Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Cheney had suggested that Democrats believe "that somehow we can retreat behind our oceans and not be actively engaged in this conflict and be safe here at home, which clearly we know we won't, we can't, be," he said.

While some Democrats have opposed some steps in the war on terrorism, and more and more are calling for a withdrawal from Iraq, no major figures in the party have called for a wholesale retreat in the broader conflict.

But Bush's Republicans hoped the raid would yield political gains.

"I'd rather be talking about this than all of the other things that Congress hasn't done well," one Republican congressional aide told AFP on condition of anonymity because of possible reprisals.

"Weeks before September 11th, this is going to play big," said another White House official, who also spoke on condition of not being named, adding that some Democratic candidates won't "look as appealing" under the circumstances.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Amendments Sought in War Crimes Act

from AP

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration has drafted amendments to the War Crimes Act that would retroactively protect policymakers from possible criminal charges for authorizing humiliating and degrading treatment of detainees, according to lawyers who have seen the proposal.

The White House, without elaboration, said in a statement that the bill "will apply to any conduct by any U.S. personnel, whether committed before or after the law is enacted."

Two attorneys said the draft was in the revision stage but the administration seemed intent on pushing forward its major points in Congress after Labor Day. The two attorneys spoke on condition of anonymity because their sources did not authorize them to release the information.

The move is the administration's latest effort to deal with treatment of those taken into custody in the war on terrorism.

At issue are interrogations carried out by the CIA, and the degree to which harsh tactics such as water-boarding were authorized by administration officials. A separate law, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, applies to the military.

The Washington Post first reported on the War Crimes Act amendments Wednesday.

One section of the draft would outlaw torture and inhuman or cruel treatment, but it does not contain prohibitions from Article 3 of the Geneva Convention against "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." A copy of the section of the draft was obtained by the Associated Press.

"I think what this bill can do is in effect immunize past crimes. That's why it's so dangerous," said a third attorney, Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice.

Fidell said the initiative was "not just protection of political appointees but also CIA personnel who led interrogations."

Interrogation practices "follow from policies that were formed at the highest levels of the administration," said a fourth attorney, Scott Horton. "The administration is trying to insulate policymakers under the War Crimes Act."


Groups Attacking Global Warming Science Attack ThinkProgress

by Judd

Our post yesterday criticizing Bonner Cohen for spreading misinformation on global warming on C-SPAN has rubbed some folks the wrong way.

First, the National Center for Public Policy Research accuses us of “libel” for suggesting that Cohen receives funding from the fossil fuel industry.

That’s interesting. Cohen was asked yesterday who funds the National Center for Public Policy Research and, after some prodding, he acknowledged that it receives funding from the fossil fuel industry.

NCPPR and Cohen emphasize that most of their money comes from “individual donations.” They don’t mention how many of those individuals are also connected to the fossil fuel industry.

Another group that employs Cohen, the Capital Research Center, is mad that we didn’t attack them instead:

So, Think Progress, if you’re reading this, please direct your venom regarding Cohen’s masterful, exhaustively documented expose of the environmentalist movement to the Capital Research Center in the future. We have more than enough intellectual firepower to cut through your irrational emotion-driven temper tantrums.

We accept your offer. Please use your “intellectual firepower” to substantiate Bonner’s claim that the “vast majority” of climatologists are “agnostic” on the existence of global warming. According to Bonner, that would mean they are undecided on the question of whether “there is a causal relationship between emissions of greenhouse gases and the climate.”

Hundreds of climatologists have agreed that global warming is real through the IPCC process — so it better be a pretty long list. We’re waiting.


HOST: How is it funded?

BONNER: How is it funded? Mostly through individual donations. Vast majority. Over something like 95% come from individual donations. The rest comes from foundations and some minor corporate.

HOST: Energy industry at all?

BONNER: Yes, some.

HOST: Which forms?

BONNER: It would be, it would be — they they they come from from the fossil fuel industry.


Neocons Heart Lieberman

Cheney: Lieberman Loss ‘Disturbing’ Because al Qaeda Is ‘Betting They Can Break The Will of The American People’

As the Mideast sits on the brink of regional war, Vice President Dick Cheney spent his time yesterday holding a teleconference to discuss the outcome of the Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut.

Cheney said that to “purge a man like Joe Lieberman” was “of concern, especially over the issue of Joe’s support with respect to national efforts in the global war on terror.” He explained:

The thing that’s partly disturbing about it is the fact that, the standpoint of our adversaries, if you will, in this conflict, and the al Qaeda types, they clearly are betting on the proposition that ultimately they can break the will of the American people in terms of our ability to stay in the fight and complete the task.

Cheney’s argument assumes that the war in Iraq is helping the United States defeat terrorists. He’s wrong. His own State Department found last April that Iraq had become a safe haven for terrorists and attracted a “foreign fighter pipeline” linked to terrorist plots, cells and attacks throughout the world. An overwhelming bipartisan majority (84%) of national security experts believe we are losing the war on terror, and 87 percent think Iraq has had a negative impact.

Cheney should spend less time analyzing the Democratic primary in Connecticut and more time acknowledging the administration’s critical policy failures and trying to fix them. (A good place to start is the American Progress plan, Strategic Redeployment 2.0.)

Read the full Cheney transcript HERE.

Digg It!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Justice Kennedy Warns: "Turning Point in History".

by Raindrew

In a keynote address at the American Bar Association's annual meeting in Hawaii, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy gave a muted warning to members assembled there:

"We are at another turning point in the history of the law," Kennedy remarked. Discussing the importance of an independent judiciary, Kennedy added, "I sense a slight foreboding, I sense that we are not making the case as well as we ought."

Kennedy went on to say that he defines the rule of law in three parts:

"The first, is that the law is binding on the government and all of its officals.

The second part is that the rule of law must respect the dignity, equality, and human rights of every person.

And then there's a second sentence. And the second sentence says that the people are entitled to have a voice in the laws that govern them. So there's a process element. But it isn't just process. Because the right to participate in government is nothing less than the right to help shape your own destiny.

My third suggestion for you to think about surprised me when I first wrote it. And it was this: that every person has a right to know what the laws are, and to enforce them without fear of retaliation or retribution."

Anthony Kennedy is the third Supreme Court Justice in the past seven months to speak out against the shadow of tyranny that's been spilling across this nation since the advent of the Bush regime. Some may remember that in March, outgoing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor--who in essence helped install the President in a move she may later have regretted--said this in an address to a gathering of lawyers at Georgetown:

"It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings."

The same alarm was later echoed in May by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In a speech to the ABA, she slammed a Republican proposal to create a 'watchdog agency' meant to oversee all Federal courts, including the Supreme Court; in essence subordinating the Judicial Branch to the Executive.

"My sense now is that the judiciary is under assault in a way that I haven't seen before...It sounds to me very much like the Soviet Union was....That's a really scary idea."

And now Kennedy comes forth as well to ring the alarm bells. Has there been such a precedent as this in living memory? Perhaps the most compelling and urgent call to action came at the conclusion of Kennedy's address:

"For us law is a liberating force. Its a promise, its a covenant, that says you can hope, you can dream, you can can plan; you have joy in your existence.

That's the meaning of the Americans understand it.

And that's the meaning of the law that we must explain to a doubting world, where the verdict is still out.

You can make this case.

You must make this case.

And that is because freedom--your freedom; my freedom; and the freedom of the next generation hangs in the balance."


Happy Birthday, Energy Policy Act!

In early 2001, Vice President Cheney brought together an energy task force made up of “utility companies and the oil, gas, coal and nuclear energy industries,” and “incorporated their recommendations, often word for word,” into the administration’s energy plan.

One year ago today, President Bush signed that plan into law. It lavished $14.5 billion in tax breaks on energy firms, nearly 60 percent of which went to “oil, natural gas, coal, electric utilities and nuclear power.”

As recently as April, Bush claimed the energy bill would help take “pressure off the price of gasoline at the pump.” It hasn’t worked out that way, as the chart below shows. (Click here to see the full image, courtesy of the minority staff on the House Government Reform Committee.)

Meanwhile, President Bush’s 2007 budget proposed funding “less than half of what the recent energy bill promised for renewable energy and energy efficiency — the two most readily available opportunities to break our addiction to oil.”


ABA urges halt to `signing statements'

Presses protection of checks and balances

WASHINGTON -- The American Bar Association's House of Delegates voted yesterday to call on President Bush and future presidents not to issue ``signing statements" that claim the power to bypass laws, and it urged Congress to pass legislation to help courts put a stop to the growing practice.

Meeting in Hawaii, the policy-making body for the world's largest organization of attorneys endorsed the findings of its bipartisan task force, which last month issued a unanimous report portraying signing statements as an unconstitutional power grab by presidents. Under the Constitution, the report said, presidents have only two options when presented with a bill Congress has passed: sign it and enforce all its components, or veto it.

After an hour's debate, the ABA voted to declare that it ``opposes, as contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers, the misuse of presidential signing statements by claiming the authority . . . to disregard or decline to enforce all or part of a law the president has signed, or to interpret such a law in a manner inconsistent with the clear intent of Congress."

The ABA also urged Congress to pass legislation giving courts greater jurisdiction to review signing statements in which a president asserts that some parts of a bill unconstitutionally infringe on his executive powers and need not be obeyed. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, has already filed such a bill.

No individual tally was recorded of the ABA vote, but several witnesses said the overwhelming majority of the 550-member House of Delegates favored the resolution. The body represents more than 400,000 ABA members.

Outgoing ABA President Michael Greco, a Boston attorney who created the task force following a Globe report on Bush's use of signing statements, said the ABA had acted to protect the American system of checks and balances that divides power between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.

``We're not saying a president doesn't have the right to express his opinion about what is constitutional," Greco said. ``But what he doesn't have is the awesome power of declaring something unconstitutional and not enforcing it -- of accruing under himself the powers of all three branches."

Incoming ABA president Karen Mathis, a Denver attorney, said the organization will now urge Congress and the executive branch to curb the use of presidential signing statements.

The Justice Department did not return a call yesterday evening. But administration attorneys have vigorously defended the use of signing statements, noting that previous presidents used them as well and arguing that the practice was more ``respectful" of Congress than a veto because it preserved other parts of a bill.

The use of presidential signing statements dates back to the 19th century, but they were very rare until the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan began issuing them more frequently. Reagan's successors continued the practice, including President Bill Clinton, who challenged 140 laws over eight years.

Under the current administration, however, the practice has reached a new level of intensity.

Bush has used signing statement to challenge more than 800 laws -- more than all previous presidents combined. At the same time, Bush has vetoed just one bill -- the fewest number of vetos since the 1800s, sharply limiting Congress's ability to override his judgments.

Among the laws Bush has challenged are a torture ban, oversight provisions in the USA Patriot Act, restrictions against using US soldiers to fight Colombian rebels, whistleblower protections for executive branch employees, safeguards against political interference in federally funded scientific research, and numerous other statutory restrictions or requirements on his powers.

The ABA itself has come under fire from some liberal law professors -- including Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School -- who say that it should have focused its criticism on Bush for his use of signing statements to advance a controversial view of his own powers. The ABA's critics argued that it distorted the issue because it wanted to appear bipartisan.

Because Congress often lumps many separate laws into a single bill, skeptics of the ABA's report said, it is sometimes impractical to veto the entire package because a few of its components have constitutional problems.

Signing statements, the critics argued, can be useful and appropriate when wielded by a president with more mainstream views about what is unconstitutional.

But Greco insisted yesterday that the Constitution requires presidents to veto bills if they think some of the components are unconstitutional. And he praised the ABA for ``keeping the debate at the higher level" of what powers any president can wield.

Neal Sonnett, a former federal prosecutor who chaired the signing statements task force, said the group had sent a strong message that society needs to push back against what has been an under-the-radar but escalating arrogation of executive power.

``I think the American people should understand that the ABA has spoken strongly in defense of our system of separation of powers," Sonnett said. ``No president is above the law, and the president cannot decide to enforce a law or not to enforce a law at his whim."


War Crimes Act Changes Would Reduce Threat Of Prosecution

By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 9, 2006; A01

The Bush administration has drafted amendments to a war crimes law that would eliminate the risk of prosecution for political appointees, CIA officers and former military personnel for humiliating or degrading war prisoners, according to U.S. officials and a copy of the amendments.

Officials say the amendments would alter a U.S. law passed in the mid-1990s that criminalized violations of the Geneva Conventions, a set of international treaties governing military conduct in wartime. The conventions generally bar the cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment of wartime prisoners without spelling out what all those terms mean.

The draft U.S. amendments to the War Crimes Act would narrow the scope of potential criminal prosecutions to 10 specific categories of illegal acts against detainees during a war, including torture, murder, rape and hostage-taking.

Left off the list would be what the Geneva Conventions refer to as "outrages upon [the] personal dignity" of a prisoner and deliberately humiliating acts -- such as the forced nakedness, use of dog leashes and wearing of women's underwear seen at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq -- that fall short of torture.

"People have gotten worried, thinking that it's quite likely they might be under a microscope," said a U.S. official. Foreigners are using accusations of unlawful U.S. behavior as a way to rein in American power, the official said, and the amendments are partly meant to fend this off.

The plan has provoked concern at the International Committee of the Red Cross, the entity responsible for safeguarding the Geneva Conventions. A U.S official confirmed that the group's lawyers visited the Pentagon and the State Department last week to discuss the issue but left without any expectation that their objections would be heeded.

The administration has not officially released the draft amendments. Although they are part of broader legislation on military courts still being discussed within the government, their substance has already been embraced by key officials and will not change, two government sources said.

No criminal prosecutions have been brought under the War Crimes Act, which Congress passed in 1996 and expanded in 1997. But 10 experts on the laws of war, who reviewed a draft of the amendments at the request of The Washington Post, said the changes could affect how those involved in detainee matters act and how other nations view Washington's respect for its treaty obligations.

"This removal of [any] reference to humiliating and degrading treatment will be perceived by experts and probably allies as 'rewriting' " the Geneva Conventions, said retired Army Lt. Col. Geoffrey S. Corn, who was recently chief of the war law branch of the Army's Office of the Judge Advocate General. Others said the changes could affect how foreigners treat U.S. soldiers.

The amendments would narrow the reach of the War Crimes Act, which now states in general terms that Americans can be prosecuted in federal criminal courts for violations of "Common Article 3" of the Geneva Conventions, which the United States ratified in 1949.

U.S. officials have long interpreted the War Crimes Act as applying to civilians, including CIA officers, and former U.S. military personnel. Misconduct by serving military personnel is handled by military courts, which enforce a prohibition on cruelty and mistreatment. The Army Field Manual, which is being revised, separately bars cruel and degrading treatment, corporal punishment, assault, and sensory deprivation.

Common Article 3 is considered the universal minimum standard of treatment for civilian detainees in wartime. It requires that they be treated humanely and bars "violence to life and person," including murder, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture. It further prohibits "outrages upon personal dignity" such as "humiliating and degrading treatment." And it prohibits sentencing or execution by courts that fail to provide "all the judicial guarantees . . . recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples."

The risk of possible prosecution of officials, CIA officers and former service personnel over alleged rough treatment of prisoners arises because the Bush administration, from January 2002 until June, maintained that the Geneva Conventions' protections did not apply to prisoners captured in Afghanistan.

As a result, the government authorized interrogations using methods that U.S. military lawyers have testified were in violation of Common Article 3; it also created a system of military courts not specifically authorized by Congress, which denied defendants many routine due process rights.

The Supreme Court decided in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld on June 29, however, that the administration's policy of not honoring the Geneva Conventions was illegal, and that prisoners in the fight against al-Qaeda are entitled to such protections.

U.S. officials have since responded in three ways: They have asked Congress to pass legislation blocking the prisoners' right to sue for the enforcement of those protections. They have drafted legislation allowing the consideration of intelligence-gathering needs during interrogations, in place of an absolute human rights standard.

They also formulated the War Crimes Act amendments spelling out some serious crimes and omitting altogether some that U.S. officials describe as less serious. For example, two acts considered under international law as constituting "outrages" -- rape and sexual abuse -- are listed as prosecutable.

But humiliations, degrading treatment and other acts specifically deemed as "outrages" by the international tribunal prosecuting war crimes in the former Yugoslavia -- such as placing prisoners in "inappropriate conditions of confinement," forcing them to urinate or defecate in their clothes, and merely threatening prisoners with "physical, mental, or sexual violence" -- would not be among the listed U.S. crimes, officials said.

"It's plain that this proposal would abrogate portions of Common Article 3," said Derek P. Jinks, a University of Texas assistant professor of law and author of a forthcoming book on the Geneva Conventions. The "entire family of techniques" that military interrogators used to deliberately degrade and humiliate, and thus coerce, detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and at Abu Ghraib "is not addressed in any way, shape or form" in the new language authorizing prosecutions, he said.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last Wednesday, however, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales complained repeatedly about the ambiguity and broad reach of the phrase "outrages upon personal dignity." He said that, "if left undefined, this provision will create an unacceptable degree of uncertainty for those who fight to defend us from terrorist attack."

Lawmakers from both parties expressed skepticism at the hearing. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the military's top uniformed lawyers had told him they are training to comply with Common Article 3 and that complying would not impede operations.

If the underlying treaty provision is too vague, asked Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), then how could the Defense Department instruct its personnel in a July 7 memorandum to certify their compliance with it? Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, who had signed the memo, responded at the hearing that he was concerned that "degrading" and "humiliating" are relative terms.

"I mean, what is degrading in one society may not be degrading in another, or may be degrading in one religion, not in another religion," England said. "And since it does have an international interpretation, which is generally, frankly, different than our own, it becomes very, very relevant" to define the meaning in new legislation.

This viewpoint appears to have won over the top uniformed military lawyers, who have criticized other aspects of the administration's detainee policy but said that they support the thrust of these amendments. Maj. Gen. Scott C. Black, the Army's judge advocate general, said in testimony that the changes can "elevate" the War Crimes Act "from an aspiration to an instrument" by defining offenses that can be prosecuted instead of endorsing "the ideals of the laws of war."

Lawyer David Rivkin, formerly on the staff of the Justice Department and the White House counsel's office, said "it's not a question of being stingy but coming up with a well-defined statutory scheme that would withstand constitutional challenges and would lead to successful prosecutions." Former Justice Department lawyer John C. Yoo similarly said that U.S. soldiers and agents should "not be beholden to the definition of vague words by international or foreign courts, who often pursue nakedly political agendas at odds with the United States."

But Corn, the Army's former legal expert, said that Common Article 3 was, according to its written history, "left deliberately vague because efforts to define it would invariably lead to wrongdoers identifying 'exceptions,' and because the meaning was plain -- treat people like humans and not animals or objects." Eugene R. Fidell, president of the nonprofit National Institute of Military Justice, said that laws governing military conduct are filled with broadly described prohibitions that are nonetheless enforceable, including "dereliction of duty," "maltreatment" and "conduct unbecoming an officer."

Retired Rear Adm. John D. Hutson, the Navy's top uniformed lawyer from 1997 to 2000 and now dean of the Franklin Pierce Law Center, said his view is "don't trust the motives of any lawyer who changes a statutory provision that is short, clear, and to the point and replaces it with something that is much longer, more complicated, and includes exceptions within exceptions."


Aid Crisis Worsens as Israel Pounds Southern Lebanon

by John Kifner

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Aug. 8 — A humanitarian crisis deepened across Lebanon on Tuesday as fighting continued to rage between Israeli soldiers and Hezbollah guerrillas along the border, amid indications that Israel was preparing for a major escalation.

In Tyre, the besieged major city in the south, leaflets fluttered down warning that any car on the roads south of the Litani River could be hit.

“Every vehicle, whatever its nature, which travels south of the Litani will be bombed on suspicion of transporting rockets and arms for the terrorists,” said the leaflets, addressed to the people of Lebanon and signed “State of Israel.”

The United Nations, as well as the Red Cross and other aid groups, said they were unable to move convoys to the villages around Tyre to deliver supplies or even dig out bodies buried under rubble.

In Israel, where public and political pressure is mounting over the stalled campaign, after four weeks of conflict, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said he had ordered contingency plans for a bigger ground offensive when the Security Cabinet meets on Wednesday to consider widening the war.

“I have instructed all the I.D.F. commanders to prepare for an operation aimed at taking over launching areas and reduce as much as possible Hezbollah’s rocket launching capability,” he said, using the initials for the Israeli Defense Forces.

“If we see that the diplomatic efforts do not yield the results we expect, we will have to do it ourselves,’’ he added, referring to efforts at the United Nations, led by the United States and France, for a cease-fire resolution.

But with both combatants locked in what each sees as a struggle for survival, it seemed unlikely that a Security Council resolution would have any immediate effect.

In New York on Tuesday, an Arab League delegation told members of the Security Council that the draft resolution to halt hostilities would only worsen the crisis, because it did not demand an immediate Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon.

“What is happening will sow the seeds of hatred and extremism in the area, and provide a pretext for those who feel that the international community is taking sides,’’ said Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, the foreign minister of Qatar.

A senior Bush administration official said he did not see Israel agreeing to a resolution that would call for an immediate withdrawal. Under the current draft, they would leave only on the arrival of an international force, which would be created by a second resolution that would also address political dimensions of the problems, including the disarming of Hezbollah.

But the official, requesting anonymity to discuss administration strategy, said the United States saw a plan announced Monday by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora of Lebanon, which would send 15,000 Lebanese troops to the south, as something that could be written into the resolution to win Arab support.

“If the way this ends is deployment of the Lebanese armed forces to the blue line,” he said, referring to the Israeli border, “that would mean that the government of Lebanon was the one who would work with the Israelis to withdraw. It’s one piece of the puzzle that would help to stabilize Lebanon.”

Meanwhile, in an unusual move Israeli observers suggested was a prelude to heavy combat, the Israeli military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz of the air force, named his deputy, Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, as his personal representative to supervise the fighting in Lebanon. The bypassing of the Israeli ground commander, Maj. Gen. Udi Adam, led Israeli television news Tuesday night, with a Channel One reporter, Yoav Limor, saying “the failure is that of the army.” He described General Kaplinsky as “a winning officer” who was sent north to deliver victory.

In the fighting Tuesday, an Israeli airstrike killed 13 people in the Shiite village of Al Ghaziye. Other airstrikes hit the south — about 40 raids in a score of locations — and transportation routes to the east in the mostly Shiite Bekaa Valley.

The Israeli military said three soldiers were killed and eight wounded in the ground fighting on Tuesday. Much of the fighting was centered around Bint Jbail, which was a Hezbollah stronghold a few miles north of the border. Illustrating the tenacity of the fighting, it is an area Israel said it seized weeks ago.

In Beirut, explosions sounded Tuesday night in the heavily Shiite slum districts on the city’s southern edge. Hezbollah fired more than 150 rockets into northern Israel, injuring several people.

[An Israeli strike on a Palestinian refugee camp, Ain el Hilwe, in south Lebanon killed at least one person, medics said early Wednesday, according to Reuters.]

With all of the major highways now cut and with a naval blockade off the coast, gasoline and fuel for generating electricity were running short. With rationing, there is enough fuel for five more days of electricity, a Lebanese government official estimated Tuesday, putting hospitals, already overwhelmed with the wounded, in particular peril.

International aid workers said the situation was particularly dire throughout the south, because convoys could not reach Tyre, nor venture from there to the outlying villages.

“South of the Litani is off,” said Khaled Mansour, the chief United Nations spokesman in Lebanon, indicating that the agency’s aid convoys had been halted because the last bridge over the Litani River north of Tyre had been blown up.

The United Nations World Food Program has stopped deliveries of food to southern villages because of the danger on the roads, said a spokeswoman, Christiane Berthiaume.

The World Health Organization warned that if fuel is not delivered soon, 60 percent of the hospitals in Lebanon will “simply cease to function.”

Reporting for this article was contributed by Jad Mouawad from Beirut, Warren Hoge from the United Nations, Sabrina Tavernise from Tyre, Lebanon, and Greg Myre from Jerusalem.


Poll: 60 percent of Americans oppose Iraq war

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sixty percent of Americans oppose the U.S. war in Iraq, the highest number since polling on the subject began with the commencement of the war in March 2003, according to poll results and trends released Wednesday.

And a majority of poll respondents said they would support the withdrawal of at least some U.S. troops by the end of the year, according to results from the Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted last week on behalf of CNN. The corporation polled 1,047 adult Americans by telephone.

According to trends, the number of poll respondents who said they did not support the Iraq war has steadily risen as the war stretched into a second and then a third year. In the most recent poll, 36 percent said they were in favor of the war -- half of the peak of 72 percent who said they were in favor of the war as it began.

Sixty-one percent, however, said they believed at least some U.S. troops should be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year. Of those, 26 percent said they would favor the withdrawal of all troops, while 35 percent said not all troops should be withdrawn. Another 34 percent said they believed the current level of troops in Iraq should be maintained.

Asked about a timetable for withdrawal of troops from Iraq, 57 percent of poll respondents said they supported the setting of such a timetable, while 40 percent did not and 4 percent had no opinion. Only half the sample, or about 524 people, was asked the timetable question.

The Bush administration has maintained that setting a timetable or deadline for withdrawal would only help terrorists.

Americans were nearly evenly split on whether the U.S. would win the war in Iraq. Forty-seven percent of poll respondents either said the United States would "definitely win" or "probably win." Another 48 percent either said the United States could not win, or could win -- but will not win.

The poll was conducted August 2 and 3. Its margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points, and plus or minus 4.5 percentage points for questions asked of half-samples.


Lieberman attacks Democratic party as full of "extremists" again today on Good Morning America

by John Aravosis

Lieberman this morning on Good Morning America.
So I worry that this victory yesterday by Ned Lamont -- which was a narrow victory -- will send a message across our state and our country that the Democratic Party has taken -- has been taken over by people who are not from the mainstream of America and that they are going to make this not Bill Clinton's Democratic Party anymore. And remember, Bill Clinton was a mainstream Democrat who was elected twice and governed with great success.
Interesting rhetoric, since Bill Clinton is now supporting Ned Lamont. But hey, this is from the guy who says Iraq is going great.

The next three months are going to be filled with the vile rantings of this Karl Rove clone who never saw a Democrat he didn't bash. Lieberman's message to America? The Democratic party has been taken over by extremists who don't remember September 11 and who are soft on national security. This is the message he's going to spreading to America from now until the election. It's George Bush's message, it's Karl Rove's message. And it is THE message that is going to define the fall elections unless the Democrats find a way to shut him up.

It's funny how Lieberman's desire for finding common ground and making nice only applies to Republicans. When he was running against Dick Cheney for the VP slot, Lieberman was a pussy cat, couldn't have been nicer to Cheney during the debates. But when he runs against a Democrat for the Senate seat, Lieberman is suddenly vicious as hell, and more than willing to smear the entire Democratic party on his road to defeat.

Joe Lieberman has become the Zell Miller of the Democratic party. A spiteful, hateful man who lost his way and became a Republican, yet never had the courage to just admit it.

The only thing taken over by extremism is Joe Lieberman.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Iraq PM Criticizes U.S.-Led Attack


BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraq's prime minister sharply criticized a U.S.-Iraqi attack Monday on a Shiite militia stronghold in Baghdad, breaking with his American partners on security tactics as the United States launches a major operation to secure the capital.

More than 30 people were killed or found dead Monday, including 10 paramilitary commandos slain when a suicide driver detonated a truck at the regional headquarters of the Shiite-led Interior Ministry police in a mostly Sunni city north of Baghdad.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's criticism followed a pre-dawn air and ground attack on an area of Sadr City, stronghold of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia.

Police said three people, including a woman and a child, were killed in the raid, which the U.S. command said was aimed at "individuals involved in punishment and torture cell activities."

One U.S. soldier was wounded, the U.S. said.

Al-Maliki, a Shiite, said he was "very angered and pained" by the operation, warning that it could undermine his efforts toward national reconciliation.

"Reconciliation cannot go hand in hand with operations that violate the rights of citizens this way," al-Maliki said in a statement on government television. "This operation used weapons that are unreasonable to detain someone - like using planes."

He apologized to the Iraqi people for the operation and said "this won't happen again."

Friction between the U.S. military and the Iraqi government emerged as the U.S. military kicks off a military operation to secure Baghdad streets after a surge in Sunni-Shiite violence - much of it blamed on al-Sadr's militia.

Al-Sadr has emerged as a major figure in the majority Shiite community and a pillar of support for al-Maliki. The prime minister's remarks underscore the difficulties facing the Americans in bringing order to Baghdad at a time when Iraqis are increasingly resentful of the presence of foreign troops.

U.S. officials are equally frustrated by the slow pace of reconciliation and what they feel is the reluctance of politicians to reach consensus among Iraq's religious and ethnic groups on the future of the nation.

After the Sadr City attack, President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, met with the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., to discuss security operations in Baghdad. Talabani said he told Casey "it is in no one's interest to have a confrontation" with al-Sadr's movement.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Casey made no mention of al-Sadr but said he had discussed plans with Talabani to bring "fundamental change to the security situation in Baghdad."

Casey said he hoped the new operation would "change the situation significantly prior to Ramadan," which begins in late September.

"To do that, it will take the cooperation not only between the Iraqi security forces and the coalition but with all of the people in Baghdad working together to combat terrorism," Casey said. "All the security operations are designed to protect the population. And if the people of Baghdad can cooperate with the security forces, that can happen very quickly."

But the public position taken by al-Maliki and Talabani signaled serious differences between Iraqi politicians and both U.S. and Iraqi military officials on how to restore order and deal with armed groups, many of which have links to political parties.

U.S. officials have spoken of morale problems in senior ranks of the Iraqi security services because of what they believe is insufficient political support by the country's divided civilian leadership.

The suicide attack in Samarra targeted the regional headquarters of Interior Ministry's elite commando force, a heavily Shiite organization which many Sunnis have accused of human rights abuses against Sunni civilians.

The blast heavily damaged the two-story building as well as three nearby houses, said policeman Mohammed Ali, who escorted an ambulance to the scene.

Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, was the site of the February bombing of a Shiite shrine that set off the wave of tit-for-tat sectarian killings and kidnappings that have pushed the country to the brink of civil war.

In other violence Monday, five people were killed and six others wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near their minivan near Khalis, about 45 miles northeast of Baghdad, police said.

One person was killed when truck bomb went off in Khan Bani Saad, 24 miles northeast of Baghdad, police said.

Bodies of nine people were brought to the regional morgue in Kut, police and health officials said. Seven of the nine bodies were Iraqi soldiers.

Other victims included five men shot dead in a Baghdad barbershop and four insurgents killed by U.S. troops west of Baghdad, police and U.S. officials said.

Associated Press correspondents Sinan Salaheddin, Bushra Juhi, Rawya Rageh and Qais al-Bashir in Baghdad and Hameed Rasheed in Samarra contributed to this report.


They Report, We Decide....Yeah, Right


Why do neoconservative extremists love Joe Lieberman?

by Glenn Greenwald

When it comes to the most significant political issues our country faces, there are few ideologues more extreme than Bill Kristol. Kristol is the personification of neoconservatism, having done more to agitate for an American invasion of Iraq, and for increased American involvement in wider Middle Eastern wars, than virtually anyone else. His Rupert Murdoch-funded Weekly Standard has become the warmongers' bible, as it routinely defends everything from a monarchical presidency (literally) to endless war.

Here is what Kristol says about Joe Lieberman in his new column, disgustingly entitled "Anti-war, Anti-Israel, Anti-Joe":

So even with a centrist Israeli government that is responding to a direct attack and not defending settlements in the territories, Democrats have adopted a "European" attitude toward Israel. And toward the United States. That is the meaning of Connecticut Democrats' likely repudiation of Joe Lieberman. What drives so many Democrats crazy about Lieberman is not simply his support for the Iraq war. It's that he's unashamedly pro-American.

That's almost too incoherent, too rhetorically desperate, even to object to -- Kristol actually devotes his whole column prior to that paragraph to the claim that Democrats have insufficient allegiance not to America, but to another country: Israel. Only after depicting Democrats as anti-Israel does he lurch abruptly and with no explanation into the absurd and tiresome smear that opposition to Lieberman is actually driven by opposition to Lieberman's being too "pro-American," whatever that might mean.

But the most noteworthy aspect of Kristol's column is what comes next, when Kristol plans Lieberman's post-Senate career:

There is a political opportunity for the Bush administration if the Democrats reject Lieberman. If he's then unable to win as an independent in November, he would make a fine secretary of defense for the remainder of the Bush years. . . . Is it too fanciful to speculate about a 2008 GOP ticket of McCain-Lieberman, or Giuliani Lieberman, or Romney-Lieberman, or Allen-Lieberman, or Gingrich-Lieberman? Perhaps. But a reinvigorated governing and war-fighting Republican party is surely an achievable goal. And a necessary one.

So, one of the most extreme neoconservative ideologues in the country not only supports Lieberman's candidacy, but appears to have Lieberman as his first choice for Defense Secretary -- the holy grail for war-loving neoconservatives -- and even for Vice President (alongside the likes of Newt Gingrich, George Allen or Mitt Romney).

The most bizarre and frustrating aspect of listening to discussions by the national media of the Lieberman race is the expression of surprise and anger over the fact that Democrats would want to eject Lieberman from the Senate. Imagine if there were a prominent Republican Senator in a primary fight and Michael Moore, or Al Franken, or Molly Ivins, or whoever was the most hated liberal of the moment made it one of their priorities to work for that GOP Senator's re-election, and even touted that Senator for Defense Secretary in a Democratic administration or as a vice-presidential nominee alongside Russ Feingold or Hillary Clinton.

Such a thought is just unimaginable. Republicans would never have anyone, certainly not in any position of prominence, who attracted the admiration and enthusiastic support of ideologues on the left. And yet here is Kristol desperately defending Lieberman by unleashing vicious smears on his opponents -- they're anti-Israel and anti-American -- and openly hoping that Lieberman becomes Defense Secretary or Vice President in a Republican administration. If Bill Kristol sees Lieberman as a leading light of the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party, why would anyone think it's at all surprising that Democrats would see him as something anathema to their party?

And it isn't just Kristol. The most enthusiastic supporters of Lieberman are not "moderate" Democrats, but are instead the most extreme Bush "conservatives." It is the Sean Hannitys and Michelle Malkins and Rush Limbaughs and Ann Coulters and Fred Barnes who consider Lieberman their ideological soulmate and who are most supportive of his candidacy. Why is that? Isn't the obvious answer because the issues that are most important to the country are (a) the endless, limitless "Global War of Civilizations" and (b) the radically enhanced police powers which that "War" justifies at home? In those areas, Joe Lieberman is as pure and reliable ally as it gets for the most extreme elements on the neoconservative Right.

The idea that Lieberman is some sort of "centrist Democrat" and that the effort to defeat him is driven by radical leftists who hate bipartisanship is nothing short of inane. Why would Sean Hannity and Bill Kristol be so eager to keep a "centrist Democrat" in the Senate? Lincoln Chafee is a "centrist Republican." Are there any Democrats or liberals who care if Lincoln Chafee wins his primary? Do leftist ideologues run around praising and defending and working for the re-election of Olympia Snowe or Chris Shays or other Republican "centrists"? Do Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity love other Democratic "centrists," such as, say, Mary Landrieu or Joe Biden? The answer to all of those questions is plainly "no".

The love which right-wing extremists have for Joe Lieberman isn't based on the fact that he's a "centrist." If Lieberman were a "centrist," extremists would not care about him. They would not be vigorously urging his re-election, or praising his potential appointment as Bush Defense Secretary, or touting him as a Vice-Presidential running mate for George Allen. They do that because he is one of them -- a neoconservative extremist who is with them on virtually every major issue of the day.

As I've written about before, neoconservatism -- primarily issues of militarism in Middle East and ever expanding government police power domestically -- has caused a political realignment that is fundamentally re-shaping the ideological spectrum:

Throughout the 1990s, one's political orientation was determined by a finite set of primarily domestic issues -- social spending, affirmative action, government regulation, gun control, welfare reform, abortion, gay rights. One's position on those issues determined whether one was conservative, liberal, moderate, etc. But those issues have become entirely secondary, at most, in our political debates. They are barely discussed any longer.

Instead, what has dominated our political conflicts over the last five years are terrorism-related issues -- Iraq, U.S. treatment of detainees, domestic surveillance, attacks on press freedoms, executive power abuses, Iran, the equating of dissent with treason. It is one's positions on those issues -- and, more specifically, whether one agrees with the neoconservative approach which has dominated the Bush administration's approach to those issues -- which now determines one's political orientation.

Alan Dershowitz recently wrote an Op-Ed -- appropriately enough in The Washington Times -- urging the confirmation of John Bolton as UN Ambassador. To give credibility to his argument, Dershowitz began the column this way: "As a liberal Democrat . . . " Does anyone believe that the advocate of "torture warrants" and counting innocent Arabs as half-civilians or quarter-civilians or not counting them at all -- and the new enthusiastic defender of John Bolton -- is even remotely close to being a "liberal Democrat" these days?

Dershowitz may have been a "liberal Democrat" in 1993, but in 2006, Dershowitz -- like Lieberman -- is pure neoconservative. It's the same reason that John Podhoretz's favorite new blogger is "centrist Democrat" Marty Peretz. And 1993 conservatives like Pat Buchanan, George Will and William Buckely are becoming increasingly alienated by the authoritarian neoconservatism of today precisely because it is a departure from the traditional conservatism to which they subscribe.

The United States is on the brink of extreme disaster in the Middle East, both in Iraq (where we have no viable exit strategy despite the rapid collapse of that country) and elsewhere (where we are poised to repeat the same mistakes on a much greater scale). And all of that has been used to justify unprecedented abridgments of basic liberties at home. The policies which brought us to this point were championed -- and still are championed -- by the Joe Liebermans and Bill Kristols and their neoconservative comrades. Where one stands on those issues is, far and away, the most important determinant of one's political character, and any residual doubts about where Lieberman fits on the political spectrum are fully resolved by reading Bill Kristol's full-scale defense and embrace of his candidacy.

UPDATE: I neglected to mention the unusually high (for Kristol) campaign contribution made by Kristol to Lieberman's campaign, the only contribution over $200 made by Kristol since 1998, and the only one made to a Democrat. Kristol -- along with many others -- obviously sees Lieberman as an important instrument in the advancement of neoconservatism. Why shouldn't opponents of neoconservatism see it the same way?

UPDATE II: Here is Newt Gingrich explaining this morning why he believes a Lieberman victory is so crucial to America's future.

UPDATE III: Based on the discussion in comments, and even Gingrich's comments, there is another notable aspect to this race which is accounting for so much of the intensity on both sides -- the complete failure to demonize Ned Lamont as some sort of radical, subversive, Vietnam-era pacifist.

Lamont is as much of a "regular guy" as it gets -- the nuclear family, his suburban dad awkwardness, the self-made business success, the complete lack of anything "radical" in his background. Having him be the face of the "anti-war" movement -- which is really the anti-neoconservatism movement -- demonstrates just how misleading it is to depict that movement as some fringe leftist radicalism. As I argued in this post on C&L last weekend, the so-called "anti-war" position has clearly become the solidly mainstream position, and it is neoconservative warmongering that is the fringe and radical position.

A Lamont victory -- indeed, Lamont himself -- provides a very visceral illustration of just how mainstream anti-war (and anti-neoconservative) sentiments are, which is a significant factor as to why a Lieberman victory has become so important for neoconservatives.


United States, Landmine Producer: In Good Company?

by Dana Hughes

As more and more countries refuse to produce landmine weapons, the United States is currently producing the first of such weapons in over 10 years.

Nicknamed "the spider," this new weapon puts the United States on the same short list of nations that includes Iran, North Korea and Burma, a list of countries producing landmine weapons banned by an international treaty.

Scott Stedjan of the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines says continuing to develop these weapons is irresponsible. "A weapon should be detonated by a conscious action of an individual," says Stedjan. "If it's not, children can walk into the minefield and be blown away. Innocent civilians can be blown up."

The Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty, an international treaty to ban landmines, has been signed by 151 countries. The United States has refused to sign it, citing the need for the U.S. military to have flexibility in war operations.

But Stedjan says the U.S. policy sets a bad example and puts the country in dubious company with rogue nations. "Other countries who continue to use mines and have lots of affects in their countries, they hide behind the United States," says Stedjan. "The United States action provides cover for them."

In a statement, the Pentagon told ABC News, " The [Department of Defense] will continue to pursue the development of munitions that fall within the law. Nobody wants to see innocent civilians killed by non-discriminating munitions" and that if the remote control option is taken off during battle, the mine has a "self-destruct timer." The Pentagon, however, wouldn't say how long after a battle the mine would self-destruct.

A bi-partisan Senate bill has now been introduced to halt production of the controversial "spider" mine.


Ambassador claims shortly before invasion, Bush didn't know there were two sects of Islam

by Christian Avard

Former Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith is claiming President George W. Bush was unaware that there were two major sects of Islam just two months before the President ordered troops to invade Iraq, RAW STORY has learned.

In his new book, The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created A War Without End, Galbraith, the son of the late economist John Kenneth Galbraith, claims that American leadership knew very little about the nature of Iraqi society and the problems it would face after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

A year after his “Axis of Evil” speech before the U.S. Congress, President Bush met with three Iraqi Americans, one of whom became postwar Iraq’s first representative to the United States. The three described what they thought would be the political situation after the fall of Saddam Hussein. During their conversation with the President, Galbraith claims, it became apparent to them that Bush was unfamiliar with the distinction between Sunnis and Shiites.

Galbraith reports that the three of them spent some time explaining to Bush that there are two different sects in Islam--to which the President allegedly responded, “I thought the Iraqis were Muslims!”

Research by RAW STORY has confirmed a surprising lack of public statements from the president regarding the branches of Islam, but did uncover at least one mention of their existence. A fact sheet released by the White House in December of 2001 does indeed use the term Sunni to describe a Lashkar-E-Tayyib, "the armed wing of the Pakistan-based religious organization, Markaz-ud-Dawa-wal-Irshad." Other mentions, not originating from the White House, were common in government documents and proceedings, as well as in media coverage of the middle east.

Other reports also place Bush announcing newfound knowledge of the differences between Muslim groups shortly before entering the Iraq war.

In an interview with RAW STORY, Ambassador Galbraith recounted this anecdote from his book to exemplify “a culture of arrogance that pervaded the whole administration.”

“From the president and the vice president down through the neoconservatives at the Pentagon, there was a belief that Iraq was a blank slate on which the United States could impose its vision of a pluralistic democratic society,” said Galbraith. “The arrogance came in the form of a belief that this could be accomplished with minimal effort and planning by the United States and that it was not important to know something about Iraq.”

The Bush Administration’s aims when it invaded Iraq in March 2003 were to bring it democracy and transform the Middle East. Instead, Iraq has reverted to its three constituent components: a pro-western Kurdistan, an Iran-dominated Shiite theocracy in the south, and a chaotic Sunni Arab region in the center.

Galbraith argues that because the new Iraq was never a voluntary creation of its people--but rather held together by force--America’s ongoing attempt to preserve a unified nation is guaranteed to fail, especially since it’s divided into three different entities.

“You can’t have a national unity government when there is no nation, no unity, and no government,” said Galbraith. “Rather than trying to preserve or hold together a unified Iraq, the U.S. must accept the reality of Iraq’s breakup and work with the Shiites, Kurds, and Sunni Arabs to strengthen the already semi-independent regions.”

Galbraith further argues that the invasion of Iraq destabilized the Middle East while inadvertently strengthening Iran. One of the administration's intentions in invading Iraq was to undermine Iran, but instead, the Iraqi occupation has given Tehran one of its greatest strategic triumphs in the last four centuries.

Once considered to be Iraq’s worst enemy, Iran has now created, financed and armed the Shiite Islamic movements within southern Iraq. Since the Iraqi Parliamentary elections of 2005, the Shiites have made considerable political gains and now have substantial influence over the country’s U.S.-created military, its police, and the central government in Baghdad. In addition, Iraq is developing economic ties with Iran that Galbraith believes could soon link the two countries’ strategic oil supplies.

Galbraith says that, “thanks to George W. Bush, Iran today has no closer ally in the world than the Iraq of the Ayatollahs.” As a result, he argues, sending U.S. forces into Iraq, has in effect, made them hostage to Iran and its Iraqi Shiite allies and left the U.S. without a viable military option to halt Iran’s drive to obtain nuclear weapons.

A seasoned diplomat, Galbraith served as the first U.S. ambassador to Croatia, where he negotiated the 1995 Erdut Agreement that ended the Croatian war.

Galbraith fears the United States may have lost the war on the very day it took Baghdad. “The American servicemen and women who took Baghdad were professionals--disciplined, courteous, and task-oriented,” said Galbraith. “Unfortunately, their political masters were so focused on making the case for war, so keen to vanquish their political foes at home, felt certain that Iraqis would embrace American-style democracy, yet they were so blinded by their own ideology that they failed to plan for the most obvious tasks following military victory.”

Galbraith believes that the Bush Administration’s effort will only leave the U.S. with an open-ended commitment in circumstances of uncontrollable turmoil. In the end, he believes, America’s most important objective is to avoid a worsening civil war.

“There is no easy exit from Iraq,” said Galbraith. “The alternative, however is to continue the present strategy of trying to build national institutions-displaced in the 2003 invasion-but how can you do that where this now is no longer an existing nation?”

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