Saturday, June 16, 2007


War With Iran - Greenwald Takes The New York Times to Task

by Glenn Greenwald

It is, I believe, a positive development that The New York Times today has a front-page article documenting how active the debate is inside the Bush administration over whether to attack Iran. Perhaps the article will elevate the attention level paid to this very real and very dangerous possibility.

The essence of the article is this:

The debate has pitted Ms. Rice and her deputies, who appear to be winning so far, against the few remaining hawks inside the administration, especially those in Vice President Dick Cheney's office who, according to some people familiar with the discussions, are pressing for greater consideration of military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.
The narrative is identical, of course, to the pre-Iraq-war "debate" which the media so vocally dramatized, with Secretary Rice in the role of reluctant warrior formerly played by Colin Powell, and Dick Cheney reprising his role of unabashed warmonger. It is true that there have been some personnel changes since then (most notably, Robert Gates in the place of Donald Rumsfeld), but George W. Bush is still the Decider, and he has not exactly been ambiguous about his views on the proper resolution of such "debates." As he told a group of right-wing pundits in October 2006: "I've never been more convinced that the decisions I made are the right decisions."

The NYT article tells the Iran story almost entirely from the administration's perspective. Although the article begins by referencing Iran's nuclear program, it includes this paragraph early on:

Even beyond its nuclear program, Iran is emerging as an increasing source of trouble for the Bush administration by inflaming the insurgencies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and in Gaza, where it has provided military and financial support to the militant Islamic group Hamas, which now controls the Gaza Strip.
Note that the numerous claims here are presented not as assertions, not as arguments, but as facts. And they are not even accompanied by the qualification that these were asserted by the article's anonymous "administration officials." Rather, they are simply stated, by the Times itself, as unquestionable facts. And they are obviously inflammatory "facts," as they depict Iran as, more or less, at war with the U.S. in multiple countries, arming and funding groups directly at war with our military.

But so many of the "facts" here are, at the very least, questionable. While some U.S. officials have accused Iran of arming Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, Iran has categorically denied that accusation, and, as that same article reported, even Robert Gates refused to confirm the allegation with anywhere near the level of certainty that the Times bestowed this morning on this claim.

Read the rest here.

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Affirmative action foe appointed to Civil Rights panel.

This is par for the course for the Bush Administration...appoint a person who wants to destroy the particular government office he/she is appointed to so that conservatives can say "See? Government doesn't work...we should privatize this or do away with it" Remember John Bolton?~Uncle Salty

From Think Progress:

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights appointed Michigan state Rep. Leon Drolet (R), who successfully led efforts to ban affirmative action in the state, to head the state’s advisory committee on civil rights. In a statement, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights denounced the appointment:

“In a state with such a rich history of civil rights and union activism, it is most disappointing that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights chose a representative with such a shallow civil rights resume. By selecting a candidate with a one-issue civil rights platform at odds with every established civil rights organization, the U.S. Commission has all but erased its credibility as a proponent for civil rights.”

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Friday, June 15, 2007


We Are Losing the Fight Over Iran

by Tom Rinaldo

The neocons have selected the designated next enemy of the United States, and they are hard at work convincing Americans to fear Iran. The public comments we just heard Joe Lieberman utter about the need to bomb Iran are just the tip of the iceberg. They position populist right wing pitch man Glen Beck on the air nightly at CNN Headline News, ranting about Iran. They pepper Jewish media with polemics about Iran, playing up fears for Israel’s security where few non Jews will notice their efforts. They have multiple front groups widely distribute email warnings about the urgent need to stand up to Iran, playing on every fear of radical Muslims imaginable, playing "the Christian card" without hesitation, while they label Iran our arch enemy at the center of a "clash of civilizations". Republican candidates for President like nothing better than an opportunity to turn their tough act toward Tehran, where they leap frog each other to the heights of belligerency in the name of protecting America, providing cover while they safely back peddle on Iraq.

Just like they morphed Osama Bin Ladin into Saddam Hussein in 2002, neocons morph Al Qaeda into Iran today, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the new Saddam Hussein who we must be trained to fear. And it is working. They are making significant steady progress in alarming the general public about Iran. They act like slippery weasels and say "True, Iraq was never a grave threat, but Iran actually was, and now the Iranian threat is getting greater all the time. It doesn't matter if you think attacking Iraq was a mistake, because Iran is the real deal, and now we finally must face up to something we should have dealt with a long time ago"

Republican Neocons, and some of their hawkish Democratic allies, not only believe that war with Iran is inevitable AND in the long term interests of the United States, they believe that the sooner we get it on the better. To them, military and political circumstances are as favorable now as they are likely to get, with a sitting Republican President who is predisposed to use force. Neocons see history moving against American interests if the U.S. does not act boldly to rearrange the Middle Eastern map, locking in "our" Oil Supplies now before the further rise of China handcuffs America’s ability to act.

On top of their long standing desire to take Iran's government down, Republicans have another compelling motivation to shift the public’s attention onto "the threat posed by Iran". They need a threat from Iran to once again pump up national security hysteria to once again prop up the G.O.P. They increasingly can't point to "fighting the terrorists in Iraq so we don't have to fight them here", because the public sees fully the futility of our efforts to fight terrorists inside Iraq. The public knows that it was our invasion which created terrorists in Iraq, and that the U.S. is incapable of restoring order to Iraq now by sending in more American troops. So now is the perfect time to shift the focus onto Iran, which neocons conveniently blame for our failure in Iraq, and where they claim we will not have to send American troops in to protect America’s security, just bombs.

They skillfully play on the frustration American's feel watching our supposed Arab allies in Iraq's government, who seem to act like they hate each other as much as they hate us. Their covert message goes like this: "Wouldn't it just feel better to bomb the hell out of Islamic fanatics rather than climb into fox holes with them, where they will only stab us in the back? Who cares if Iranians call themselves Persians instead of Arabs, or that Iran is Shiite while Al Qaeda is Sunni? They’re all just crazy rag heads". The anti-Arab hate message fueled by images of Bin Ladin, that drummed us steadily into Iraq, now is aimed at Iran, and Democrats by and large sit by passively, allowing it to go unchallenged.

And with our own peace movement completely fixated on ending the war in Iraq, we seem to have scant attention free ourselves to directly confront the chicken hawks on Iran. So we find ourselves three moves behind them on the domestic political chess board, as their construction of the public psychological framework needed to facilitate an attack on Iran nears completion. We spend so much time talking to ourselves that we don’t always hear what others might be saying to each other. We see the American public coming around to our own views on Iraq, and unconsciously assume they must view the larger question of further conflicts in the Middle East the same as we do also. Simply put, they do not.

If the public were solidly opposed to ratcheting up tensions with Iran, if they were aghast at the thought of America attacking yet another Middle Eastern nation, do you think that the House Democratic Caucus would have, with little fanfare, stripped out a proposed amendment from their original Iraq war funding legislation (the bill Bush later vetoed) that would have forced George W. Bush to come to Congress for a vote prior to an attack on Iran? Democrats retained plenty of provisions they knew full well that Bush would veto, but they removed the Iran provision themselves out of a concern expressed by some that they shouldn’t tie the hands of the President regarding Iran. It’s the dynamics of the IWR vote repeated, but since we are giving George Bush free reign against Iran this time, that somehow makes it acceptable. And unfortunately in the minds of too many Democrats as well as Republicans, that does in fact make it acceptable.

Does anyone doubt the existence of a Pro Iranian War propaganda machine? Like all such efforts this one has separate above ground and underground paths of propagation. So some Americans on Sunday tuned into respected mainstream media news program "Meet The Press" to hear veteran United States Senator Joseph Lieberman say in somber tone:

"I think we've got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq. And to me that would include a strike over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people to kill our soldiers."

Meanwhile an unadulterated no holds barred version of the bomb Iran back into the Stone Age message gets circulated through a web site like "Family Security Matters: The National Security Recourse for American Families", which on June 7th 2007 posted an "exclusive"; Iran Wants War. They will have it whether we want it or not.

That nifty piece of reporting is laden with sober irrefutable "facts" such as these:

"Almost every day we see news reports of al Qaeda bombing attacks in Iraq. So why do Democrats still keep calling it a "civil war"? Al Qaeda terrorists are not Iraqis fighting a "civil war." It has been reported that Iran is responsible for 80% of American deaths in Iraq, either by Iranian fighters, or by Iranian weapons and bombs provided to insurgents and al Qaeda. Neither the American government nor the press is exploiting Iran’s responsibility for these deadly attacks, which are Iranian acts of war against America and must be considered as such. This alone should provide justification for an attack on Iran."

Ah, but that was the milder part of their commentary. Before anyone has time to get week kneed about their call for war, the commentary lays out what surely they believe is a compelling justification, including this:

"We must send a message to the rest of the Islamic world that Mecca and Medina are next if the terrorism doesn't stop now. The alternative is a long and dirty war that will last for decades. Is that what we want to live with when we have the ability to avoid it? Utter devastation worked with Japan and Germany. It will work with Islam. All we need is the courage and the will to stand up and again be the strong country that we once were. We didn't get to where we are today by bowing to the will of weak foreign powers and worrying about what they think of us.

The time has come to stand up, America!

The only thing Islam respects is brutality and overwhelming force. It's how they've lived for over a thousand years. That is why Saddam Hussein and other Islamic dictators were successful for so many years. Islamic despots know what it takes to bring Middle Eastern Islamists under control. Islamists have no respect for, or understanding of, western diplomacy and a desire for peaceful solutions. Their religion forbids compromise with the West. For them, and now for us as well, it's either kill or be killed. If we don't start playing by their rules, we're going to lose big. We cannot win this war with Western morality as the overarching factor. The first priority must be winning. Everything else is secondary. "

To dismiss the above simply as talk from and to wing nuts misses an essential element of how political discourse is shaped; framing the debate. The more comments like the above are widely disseminated, the less shocking a slightly softer version of those sentiments become. The more extreme the boundaries of debate get pushed, the more reasonable and sensible comments such as those made by Joe Lieberman on "Meet The Press" start sounding. And what do most Democrats say in turn, to define their stance to broaden the spectrum of public debate on Iran? "Iran is a threat but we should be willing to talk to them, while keeping all options on the table." Does that sound like a fair and balanced debate to you, with the full range of views and perspectives well and equally represented? Or does it more resemble the programming on a certain well known cable news network?

Again, I say; we are losing the fight over Iran. The only force I see consistently and effectively weighing in to engage the public from a countervailing view point is sponsored by General Wesley Clark and They need our help. We can’t afford for them to fail.

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Doing the jobs Americans aren’t willing to do

from the Carpetbagger Report

Given the recent rhetoric in Republican circles about immigration policy, I found this story spectacularly amusing.

The California Republican Party has decided no American is qualified to take one of its most crucial positions — state deputy political director — and has hired a Canadian for the job through a coveted H-1B visa, a program favored by Silicon Valley tech firms that is under fire for displacing skilled American workers.

Christopher Matthews, 35, a Canadian citizen, has worked for the state GOP as a campaign consultant since 2004. But he recently was hired as full-time deputy political director, with responsibility for handling campaign operations and information technology for the country’s largest state Republican Party operation, California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring confirmed in a telephone interview this week.

In the nation’s most populous state — which has produced a roster of nationally known veteran political consultants — “it’s insulting but also embarrassing … to bring people from the outside who don’t know the difference between Lodi and Lancaster … and who can’t even vote,” said Karen Hanretty, a political commentator and former state GOP party spokeswoman.

Wait, it gets funnier. Matthews was hired by Michael Kamburowski, the state GOP’s chief operations officer, who is … wait for it … an Australian citizen.

“There are talented Republicans in California, and the message that (party chair) Ron Nehring is sending is that there’s no talent pool here,” Hanretty said.

Just to be clear, I don’t care who the California Republican Party hires. I’m sure these two guys are perfectly capable political professionals.

But given the GOP’s immigration policy, and it’s take on the H-1B visa program, these hires are a little surprising, aren’t they?

The hiring of two immigrants at top Republican Party posts has handed ammunition to critics who note that many Republicans have spoken critically about the impacts of waves of Mexican immigrants.

“The hypocrisy is disgusting,” said longtime Democratic Party activist Gloria Nieto, policy director at San Jose-based Services Immigration Rights and Education Network, or SIREN, an immigrant advocacy nonprofit organization.

Nieto argued that the party has painted Latinos “as the brown menace. … But it’s perfectly OK to hire people from outside the country? What does it say about the Republican Party that they import their hired guns?”

As for the H-1B visa program in specific, it’s supposed to focus on “specialized workers” whose unique skills are unavailable in the American workforce. According to Labor Department regulations, employers are supposed to make a good-faith effort to hire Americans, and then rely on “specialized” immigrants if necessary.

So, in other words, the California Republican Party is suggesting that in the largest state in the Union, there were no qualified people to serve as the state deputy political director.

Too funny.

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Bush Finally Signs U.S. Attorney Bill After Installing One Last ‘Loyal Bushie’

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) revealed today that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had once again bypassed the Senate and used an obscure Patriot Act provision to appoint an interim U.S. attorney in California.

The authority Gonzales used was at the heart of the U.S. attorney scandal, and was banned in a bill that passed both chambers of Congress with strong bipartisan support earlier this year. The legislation was sent to the President for his signature on June 4. During a hearing today, Leahy blasted Bush for stalling:

That bill, the Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007, has been on the president’s desk since June 4th. Do you know it seems he just can’t bring himself to sign it? Instead, we were informed yesterday through the Justice Department that the attorney general has used the power that we voted to repeal again.

It’s almost like they live in an alternate world, as though they’re not realizing the reaction of Democrats and Republicans about this misuse of this power. That’s wrong.

But now President Bush has what he wanted. Thanks to his delay, Alberto Gonzales was able to install George Cardona as an interim U.S. Attorney in the Central District of California. Tonight, the White House released a two-line statement:

On June 14, 2007, the President signed into law:

S. 214, the “Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007.”

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Thursday, June 14, 2007


Lewis "Scooter" Libby is a felon

In case the media talking heads have you confused about this issue with their passionate defense of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, I would like to remind you that Scooter Libby is a convicted felon.

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The al-Marri decision

If you don't read Glenn Greenwald every should.

From yesterday's column:

Although its ultimate resolution is complicated, the question raised by Al-Marri is a clear and simple one: Does the President have the power -- and/or should he have it -- to arrest individuals on U.S. soil and keep them imprisoned for years and years, indefinitely, without charging them with a crime, allowing them access to lawyers or the outside world, and/or providing a meaningful opportunity to contest the validity of the charges?

How can that question not answer itself? Who would possibly believe that an American President has such powers, and more to the point, what kind of a person would want a President to have such powers? That is one of a handful of powers which this country was founded to prevent.

Read the rest here:

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007


FBI Seeking To Create 6 Billion Record Database Similar To Total Information Awareness

In the name of fighting terrorism, the FBI is seeking to create a massive new data-mining program which “bears a striking resemblance” to the Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness program:

The FBI is seeking $12 million for the [National Security Branch Analysis Center] in FY2008, which will include 90,000 square feet of office space and a total of 59 staff, including 23 contractors and five FBI agents. Documents predict the NSAC will include six billion records by FY2012. This amounts to 20 separate “records” for each man, woman and child in the United States. The “universe of subjects will expand exponentially” with the expanded role of the NSAC, the Justice Department documents assert.

Concerned about the potential for abuse, House Science and Technology Committee members Brad Miller (D-NC) and James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) requested last week that the Government Accountability Office investigate the proposal.

Citing the FBI’s “track record of improperly — even illegally — gathering personal information on Americans,” Miller and Sensenbrenner want the GAO to look into:

What information will be contained in the “records” it collects, whether the “records” of U.S. citizens will be included in its database, how this data will be employed and how the FBI plans to ensure that the data is not misused or abused in any way.

The congressmen’s concerns are justified. In 2005, the GAO found that the FBI’s Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force did not comply with all privacy and security laws. Earlier this year, an Inspector General’s report found that the FBI had repeatedly violated regulations while using National Security Letters to “obtain the personal records of U.S. residents or visitors.”

Furthermore, data mining has yet to be proven effective in counter-terrorism. Jeff Jonas, a world renowned data mining expert and IBM Distinguished Engineer, wrote in a recent Cato Institute study on “predictive” data mining that because it is extremely difficult to distinguish between ordinary behavior and terrorist behavior, programs similar to NSAC are likely to “flood the national security system with false positives — suspects who are truly innocent.”

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Joe Lieberman is at it again

After wrongly supporting George W. Bush's strategic blunder of attacking Iraq, and continuing to support Bush's failed policies after the invasion, Senator Joe Lieberman made irresponsible comments this weekend regarding military action against Iran.

On CBS's Face the Nation, Lieberman said, "If [the Iranians] don't play by the rules, we've got to use our force, and to me, that would include taking military action to stop them from doing what they're doing."

This type of "tough-talk" by the Bush Administration and folks like Senator Joe Lieberman is why and I collaborated to create, calling for heavy diplomatic, economic, and political action to discourage the acquisition of nuclear capabilities by the Iranian government.

Sign our petition at Now urge all of your friends and family to do the same.

Senator Lieberman's saber rattling does nothing to help dissuade Iran from aiding Shia militias in Iraq, or trying to obtain nuclear capabilities. In fact, it's highly irresponsible and counter-productive, and I urge him to stop.

This kind of rhetoric is irresponsible and only plays into the hands of President Ahmadinejad, and those who seek an excuse for military action. What we need now is full-fledged engagement with Iran. We should be striving to bridge the gulf of almost 30 years of hostility and only when all else fails should there be any consideration of other options. The Iranians are very much aware of US military capabilities. They don't need Joe Lieberman to remind them that we are the militarily dominant power in the world today.

Only someone who never wore the uniform or thought seriously about national security would make threats at this point. What our soldiers need is responsible strategy, not a further escalation of tensions in the region. Senator Lieberman must act more responsibly and tone down his threat machine.
We cannot let people like Joe Lieberman dictate the terms of this debate.

Urge all of your friends and family to sign the petition at today.

Thank you for all you do.


Wes Clark

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The Capitulation of the Democrats Part II: Iran

by David Mizner

We all know that by passing a funding bill for Iraq without a timetable, Democrats gave Bush what he wanted. Lost in the hubbub of that debate was another unwise, timid act.

This one was arguably worse.

The Webb Amendment requiring Congressional approval for an attack on Iran was supposed to be attached to the Iraq supplemental. But Dems killed the amendment, making war with Iran more likely.

To be sure, the Webb Amendment was controversial. AIPAC-allied Congresspeople killed a similar measure in the House, and of the Democratic contenders for president, only John Edwards and Joe Biden have declared their support for the Webb's bill, which would make an unauthorized attack on Iran illegal.

If Google is a reliable guide, reporting on the demise of the Webb Amendment was shamefully thin, but I found this blog post.

...Webb's amendment, which according to the Senate's web site, has a status of "read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations" is essentially a dead letter. It was determined to be "not germane" to the bill to which it was intended to be attached, namely the Iraq supplemental.

Not germane, huh? An amendment regarding war with Iran isn't germane to a bill regarding war with Iraq? Oh-kay. Well, I suggest they find a bill to which the Webb Amenment is germane, and attach it.

With Joe Lieberman calling for an attack on Iran, and Bush increasingly unhinged and unpopular, war is a real possibility. Harry Reid says he disagrees with Lieberman. Great, but without the Webb Amendment, Bush will be able to start another war, an even more disastrous one, with impunity.

The Congressional effort to prevent a war with Iran can be and should be revived. Senators and presidential hopefuls need to defy AIPAC and declare their support for Webb's bill.

UPDATE: Several commenters have made an excellent point that I wanted to highlight: the Bomb-Iran faction has switched tactics. Just a few weeks ago, they were saying that we need to bomb Iran to stop it from building a nuclear weapon, but since that prospect is years away, they need a more immediate "threat" with which to scare people. Now Joe Lieberman and friends are saying that we need to bomb Iran to prevent it from killing American inside Iraq. Shifting rationales: sound familiar. As commenter Alias Mister Smith put it:

And did anybody else notice the ever-shifting rationale for bombing Iran?

The U.S. needs to attack Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons....I mean, er, to prevent Iran from aiding Iraqi attacks on American soldiers...I mean, uh, because the Iranians are planning on beating sweet little old ladies to death with bags full of cute puppies while making Girl Scouts watch.
view comments

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Monday, June 11, 2007


Bush Adminstration Continues to Break the Law. Immigration Judges Picked Based on GOP Ties. The New Aristocracy of Pull.

Immigration Judges Often Picked Based On GOP Ties
Law Forbids Practice; Courts Being Reshaped

By Amy Goldstein and Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, June 11, 2007; A01

The Bush administration increasingly emphasized partisan political ties over expertise in recent years in selecting the judges who decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of immigrants, despite laws that preclude such considerations, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

At least one-third of the immigration judges appointed by the Justice Department since 2004 have had Republican connections or have been administration insiders, and half lacked experience in immigration law, Justice Department, immigration court and other records show.

Two newly appointed immigration judges were failed candidates for the U.S. Tax Court nominated by President Bush; one fudged his taxes and the other was deemed unqualified to be a tax judge by the nation's largest association of lawyers. Both were Republican loyalists.

Justice officials also gave immigration judgeships to a New Jersey election law specialist who represented GOP candidates, a former treasurer of the Louisiana Republican Party, a White House domestic policy adviser and a conservative crusader against pornography.

These appointments, all made by the attorney general, have begun to reshape a system of courts in which judges, ruling alone, exercise broad powers -- deporting each year nearly a quarter-million immigrants, who have limited rights to appeal and no right to an attorney. The judges do not serve fixed terms.

Department officials say they changed their hiring practices in April but defend their selections. Still, the injection of political considerations into the selection of immigration judges has attracted congressional attention in the wake of controversy over the Bush administration's dismissal last year of nine U.S. attorneys.

The Post analysis is the first systematic examination of the people appointed to immigration courts, the relationships that led to their selection and the experience they brought to their position. The review, based on Justice records and research into the judges' backgrounds, encompassed the 37 current judges approved by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales or his predecessor, John D. Ashcroft, starting in 2004.

That year is when the Justice Department began to jettison the civil service process that traditionally guided the selections in favor of political considerations, according to sworn congressional testimony by one senior department official and a statement by the lawyer for another official.

Those two officials, D. Kyle Sampson and Monica M. Goodling, have said they were told the practice was legal. But Justice spokesman Dean Boyd said that immigration judges are considered civil service employees who may not be chosen based on political factors, unlike judges in federal criminal courts.

All the judges appointed during this period who arrived with experience in immigration law were prosecutors or held other immigration enforcement jobs. That was a reversal of a trend during the Clinton administration in which the Justice Department sought to balance such appointees with ones who had been attorneys representing immigrants, according to current and former immigration judges.

Boyd said in a written statement that judges appointed during the Bush administration are "well qualified for their current positions" and that "outstanding immigration judges can come from diverse backgrounds." Boyd also said that race and ethnicity are not factors in hiring but cited statistics showing that immigration courts are "considerably more diverse" than other kinds of courts.

The department launched a new hiring program in April that requires public announcements of open positions and detailed evaluations and interviews, with a final decision still in the hands of the attorney general. The action came partly in response to a lawsuit by a veteran immigration counsel who alleged discrimination when she was passed over for two judgeships.

Some judges and other immigration experts are highly critical of the administration's practice of placing political allies on the courts. "When we start seeing people who look like [they're fulfilling] someone's political debt get these positions, it starts to become disturbing," said Crystal Williams, a deputy director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

"Immigration law is very complex," said Denise Slavin, an immigration judge since 1995 in Miami, who is president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, a union. "So generally speaking, it's very good to have someone coming into this area with [an] immigration background. It's very difficult, for those who don't, to catch up."

Mike Hethmon, general counsel of the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which advocates stricter border policies, said, however, that a strong legal background is more important than immigration experience. "The qualities of a good adjudicator don't necessarily focus on the subject matter," he said.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration has said it is employing the nation's 54 immigration courts, with 226 judges, as a central tool of its anti-terrorism policies, using them to deport hundreds of noncitizens who were detained as terrorism suspects but were not charged with crimes.

In 2002, it created stiffer guidelines for appeals and wrote new rules sharply reducing the number of judges who hear them, partly to reduce a large case backlog. That has made it harder for people deemed unwanted by the government to stay in the country.

The infusion of politics into the selection of judges began in the midst of this transformation of the court system. Sampson and Goodling, who participated in the prosecutor firings, did not say which immigration judges had been selected for their political leanings. But records and interviews reveal the Republican ties of many.

One was Glen L. Bower, whom Bush initially nominated to the tax court. He was never confirmed because lawmakers noted that his amended tax returns showed he had taken inappropriate deductions for entertainment, gifts and meals for three consecutive years. A former Republican state legislator, Bower was the revenue director to then-Illinois Gov. George H. Ryan (R), who would be convicted on racketeering and fraud charges.

A few months earlier, another failed tax court nominee, Francis L. Cramer, a former campaign treasurer for Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), was appointed as an immigration judge. Cramer's bid for a seat on the tax court foundered after the American Bar Association's taxation section wrote a rare letter to the Senate Finance Committee, saying: "We are unable to conclude that he is qualified to serve."

Cramer was then hired by the Justice Department's tax division and was briefly lent to the department's Office of Immigration Litigation. Ashcroft approved him as an immigration judge in March 2004. The Government Accountability Office, a legislative watchdog, criticized the appointment, saying, "Converting a Schedule C [political] appointee with less than 6 months of immigration law experience to an immigration judge position raises questions about the fairness of the conversion."

Another politically connected lawyer, Garry D. Malphrus, was appointed to Arlington's immigration court in 2005. He had been associate director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and, before that, a Republican aide on two Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittees.

During the Florida recount after the 2000 presidential election that brought Bush to office, Malphrus took part in the "Brooks Brothers riot" -- when GOP staffers from Washington chanted "stop the fraud" at Miami's polling headquarters.

Other appointed Republican loyalists include lawyer Dorothy A. Harbeck, who represented New Jersey's last GOP candidate for governor; Mark H. Metcalf, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the state Senate and U.S. Congress from Kentucky who went on to several positions at the Justice Department unrelated to immigration; and Chris A. Brisack, a former Texas county GOP chairman who had been named by Bush, the governor at the time, to the state's Library and Archives Commission.

Bruce A. Taylor, who was appointed as an immigration judge in Arizona last year, was general counsel for two conservative anti-pornography groups, Citizens for Decency Through Law and the National Law Center for Children and Families. Taylor also worked as a senior counsel in the Criminal Division at the Justice Department, but his résumé does not indicate immigration-related experience.

Like other immigration judges contacted last week, Taylor declined to comment. He said the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees immigration courts, had instructed immigration judges to refer questions to the main office in Falls Church. A spokeswoman there referred questions to Justice headquarters.

The recent pattern of hiring for immigration judges provoked a 2005 lawsuit by the government's chief immigration lawyer in El Paso for 22 years. Guadalupe Gonzales -- no relation to the attorney general -- alleged she was denied a judgeship twice in favor of less-qualified white men who were hired without an open application process.

Her suit alleged that, between 2001 and late 2005, only two Latinos were appointed nationwide as immigration judges. Justice Department records make clear that the immigration bench is overwhelmingly male and white, even though Spanish-speaking people from Latin America make up at least 70 percent of the caseload.

The Justice Department responded in court papers that Gonzales's lawsuit should be thrown out; it argued that she had not identified a discriminatory practice and that immigration judges did not have be hired as part of a competitive process. It said that all but four immigration judges chosen during the period in contention -- from late 2003 to 2006 -- were hired without public competition.

In September, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled against the department, finding that Gonzales "had identified a particular policy that has a discriminatory effect on a particular group." Sullivan said that one judge hired in El Paso did not meet the minimum qualifications for the job. Neither, the judge said, had Gonzales's level of experience.

Research director Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.

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Stupid Is As Stupid Does. U.S. Arming Al Qaeda to fight Al Qaeda.

Saddam Hussein supposedly had ONE contact with ONE guy who happened to be in Al Qaeda, and we invaded Iraq. Now we're arming Sunnis who have been fighting alongside Al Qaeda, because they've promised that now they want to fight Al Qaeda too?

"Check me if I'm wrong Sandy, but if I kill all the golfers, they're gonna lock me up and throw away the key." - Carl Spangler.

June 11, 2007

U.S. Arming Sunnis in Iraq to Battle Old Qaeda Allies

BAGHDAD, June 10 — With the four-month-old increase in American troops showing only modest success in curbing insurgent attacks, American commanders are turning to another strategy that they acknowledge is fraught with risk: arming Sunni Arab groups that have promised to fight militants linked with Al Qaeda who have been their allies in the past.

American commanders say they have successfully tested the strategy in Anbar Province west of Baghdad and have held talks with Sunni groups in at least four areas of central and north-central Iraq where the insurgency has been strong. In some cases, the American commanders say, the Sunni groups are suspected of involvement in past attacks on American troops or of having links to such groups. Some of these groups, they say, have been provided, usually through Iraqi military units allied with the Americans, with arms, ammunition, cash, fuel and supplies.

American officers who have engaged in what they call outreach to the Sunni groups say many of them have had past links to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia but grew disillusioned with the Islamic militants’ extremist tactics, particularly suicide bombings that have killed thousands of Iraqi civilians. In exchange for American backing, these officials say, the Sunni groups have agreed to fight Al Qaeda and halt attacks on American units. Commanders who have undertaken these negotiations say that in some cases, Sunni groups have agreed to alert American troops to the location of roadside bombs and other lethal booby traps.

But critics of the strategy, including some American officers, say it could amount to the Americans’ arming both sides in a future civil war. The United States has spent more than $15 billion in building up Iraq’s army and police force, whose manpower of 350,000 is heavily Shiite. With an American troop drawdown increasingly likely in the next year, and little sign of a political accommodation between Shiite and Sunni politicians in Baghdad, the critics say, there is a risk that any weapons given to Sunni groups will eventually be used against Shiites. There is also the possibility the weapons could be used against the Americans themselves.

American field commanders met this month in Baghdad with Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, to discuss the conditions Sunni groups would have to meet to win American assistance. Senior officers who attended the meeting said that General Petraeus and the operational commander who is the second-ranking American officer here, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, gave cautious approval to field commanders to negotiate with Sunni groups in their areas.

One commander who attended the meeting said that despite the risks in arming groups that have until now fought against the Americans, the potential gains against Al Qaeda were too great to be missed. He said the strategy held out the prospect of finally driving a wedge between two wings of the Sunni insurgency that had previously worked in a devastating alliance — die-hard loyalists of Saddam Hussein’s formerly dominant Baath Party, and Islamic militants belonging to a constellation of groups linked to Al Qaeda.

Even if only partly successful, the officer said, the strategy could do as much or more to stabilize Iraq, and to speed American troops on their way home, as the increase in troops ordered by President Bush late last year, which has thrown nearly 30,000 additional American troops into the war but failed so far to fulfill the aim of bringing enhanced stability to Baghdad. An initial decline in sectarian killings in Baghdad in the first two months of the troop buildup has reversed, with growing numbers of bodies showing up each day in the capital. Suicide bombings have dipped in Baghdad but increased elsewhere, as Qaeda groups, confronted with great American troop numbers, have shifted their operations elsewhere.

The strategy of arming Sunni groups was first tested earlier this year in Anbar Province, the desert hinterland west of Baghdad, and attacks on American troops plunged after tribal sheiks, angered by Qaeda strikes that killed large numbers of Sunni civilians, recruited thousands of men to join government security forces and the tribal police. With Qaeda groups quitting the province for Sunni havens elsewhere, Anbar has lost its long-held reputation as the most dangerous place in Iraq for American troops.

Now, the Americans are testing the “Anbar model” across wide areas of Sunni-dominated Iraq. The areas include parts of Baghdad, notably the Sunni stronghold of Amiriya, a district that flanks the highway leading to Baghdad’s international airport; the area south of the capital in Babil province known as the Triangle of Death, site of an ambush in which four American soldiers were killed last month and three others abducted, one of whose bodies was found in the Euphrates; Diyala Province north and east of Baghdad, an area of lush palm groves and orchards which has replaced Anbar as Al Qaeda’s main sanctuary in Iraq; and Salahuddin Province, also north of Baghdad, the home area of Saddam Hussein.

Although the American engagement with the Sunni groups has brought some early successes against Al Qaeda, particularly in Anbar, many of the problems that hampered earlier American efforts to reach out to insurgents remain unchanged. American commanders say the Sunni groups they are negotiating with show few signs of wanting to work with the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. For their part, Shiite leaders are deeply suspicious of any American move to co-opt Sunni groups that are wedded to a return to Sunni political dominance.

With the agreement to arm some Sunni groups, the Americans also appear to have made a tacit recognition that earlier demands for the disarming of Shiite militia groups are politically unachievable for now given the refusal of powerful Shiite political parties to shed their armed wings. In effect, the Americans seem to have concluded that as long as the Shiites maintain their militias, Shiite leaders are in a poor position to protest the arming of Sunni groups whose activities will be under close American scrutiny.

But officials of Mr. Maliki’s government have placed strict limits on the Sunni groups they are willing to countenance as allies in the fight against Al Qaeda. One leading Shiite politician, Sheik Khalik al-Atiyah, the deputy Parliament speaker, said in a recent interview that he would rule out any discussion of an amnesty for Sunni Arab insurgents, even those who commit to fighting Al Qaeda. Similarly, many American commanders oppose rewarding Sunni Arab groups who have been responsible, even tangentially, for any of the more than 29,000 American casualties in the war, including more than 3,500 deaths. Equally daunting for American commanders is the risk that Sunni groups receiving American backing could effectively double-cross the Americans, taking weapons and turning them against American and Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government forces.

Americans officers acknowledge that providing weapons to breakaway rebel groups is not new in counterinsurgency warfare, and that in places where it has been tried before, including the French colonial war in Algeria, the British-led fight against insurgents in Malaya in the early 1950s, and in Vietnam, the effort often backfired, with weapons given to the rebels being turned against the forces providing them. Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the Third Infantry Division and leader of an American task force fighting in a wide area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers immediately south of Baghdad, said at a briefing for reporters on Sunday that no American support would be given to any Sunni group that had attacked Americans. If the Americans negotiating with Sunni groups in his area had “specific information” that the group or any of its members had killed Americans, he said, “The negotiation is going to go like this: ‘You’re under arrest, and you’re going with me.’ I’m not going to go out and negotiate with folks who have American blood on their hands.”

One of the conditions set by the American commanders who met in Baghdad was that any group receiving weapons must submit its fighters for biometric tests that would include taking fingerprints and retinal scans. The American conditions, senior officers said, also include registering the serial numbers of all weapons, steps the Americans believe will help in tracing fighters who use the weapons in attacks against American or Iraqi troops. The fighters who have received American backing in the Amiriya district of Baghdad were required to undergo the tests, the officers said.

The requirement that no support be given to insurgent groups that have attacked Americans appeared to have been set aside or loosely enforced in negotiations with the Sunni groups elsewhere, including Amiriya, where American units that have supported Sunni groups fighting to oust Al Qaeda have told reporters they believe that the Sunni groups include insurgents who had fought the Americans. The Americans have bolstered Sunni groups in Amiriya by empowering them to detain suspected Qaeda fighters and approving ammunition supplies to Sunni fighters from Iraqi Army units.

In Anbar, there have been negotiations with factions from the 1920 Revolution Brigades, a Sunni insurgent group with strong Baathist links that has a history of attacking Americans. In Diyala, insurgents who have joined the Iraqi Army have told reporters that they switched sides after working for the 1920 group. And in an agreement announced by the American command on Sunday, 130 tribal sheiks in Salahuddin met in the provincial capital, Tikrit, to form police units that would “defend” against Al Qaeda.

General Lynch said American commanders would face hard decisions in choosing which groups to support. “This isn’t a black and white place,” he said. “There are good guys and bad guys and there are groups in between,” and separating them was a major challenge. He said some groups that had approached the Americans had made no secret of their enmity.

“They say, ‘We hate you because you are occupiers’ ” he said, “ ‘but we hate Al Qaeda worse, and we hate the Persians even more.’ ” Sunni militants refer to Iraq’s Shiites as Persians, a reference to the strong links between Iraqi Shiites and the Shiites who predominate in Iran.

An Iraqi government official who was reached by telephone on Sunday said the government was uncomfortable with the American negotiations with the Sunni groups because they offered no guarantee that the militias would be loyal to anyone other than the American commander in their immediate area. “The government’s aim is to disarm and demobilize the militias in Iraq,” said Sadiq al-Rikabi, a political adviser to Mr. Maliki. “And we have enough militias in Iraq that we are struggling now to solve the problem. Why are we creating new ones?”

Despite such views, General Lynch said, the Americans believed that Sunni groups offering to fight Al Qaeda and halt attacks on American and Iraqi forces met a basic condition for re-establishing stability in insurgent-hit areas: they had roots in the areas where they operated, and thus held out the prospect of building security from the ground up. He cited areas in Babil Province where there were “no security forces, zero, zilch,” and added: “When you’ve got people who say, ‘I want to protect my neighbors,’ we ought to jump like a duck on a june bug.”

Damien Cave and Richard A. Oppel Jr. contributed reporting.

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Patchwork for Peace

Join the Muhammad Ali Center for a program that will help warm the hearts of people living in war-torn countries. We invite the global community to participate in Patchwork for Peace, a project that will provide denim quilts* for those around the world who are victims of armed conflict.

We encourage participants to collect and donate old blue jeans for this project. Participants will cut the denim into quilt blocks and decorate them using fabric markers and paint to express ideas of peace and hope. Quilt blocks will be displayed in the Ali Center throughout the summer. The quilt blocks will then be sewn together into quilts (by volunteers) and sent to people who live in war-torn countries such as Uganda, Sudan, and Burundi.

Greater Louisville Community Quilting Day
Sunday, June 10, 2007
12 noon – 4 p.m.

The Ali Center will host a community quilting day on Sunday, June 10 from 12 noon to 4 p.m. in the Main Lobby for people to decorate quilt blocks. The Ali Center will provide denim for those who do not bring their own. We will have art supplies on-hand for your creative enjoyment!

Participate Online!

Don’t let distance stop you! We want everyone to help spread the warmth this summer, so if you would like to contribute to the Patchwork for Peace project, the Ali Center will accept decorated quilt blocks by mail (until August 1, 2007). Just download the quilt block size template below, use it to cut your piece of denim, and start decorating! You may mail your completed quilt block to the address below.

Download Quilt Block Size Template (PDF)

Mail To:
Muhammad Ali Center
Attn: Education Division
144 N. Sixth Street
Louisville, KY 40202

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