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Main Entry: 1lib·er·al
1. Liberal -- Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
2. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.
"I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors." George Herbert Walker Bush, CIA dedication ceremony, April 26, 1999.
When Bush administration officials I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Karl Rove, Richard Armitage and Ari Fleischer betrayed Valerie Plame Wilson's identity as a covert CIA operations officer, they fell into the category of "the most insidious of traitors." Now we learn from the president's former press secretary, Scott McClellan, that the president himself "was involved" in sending him out to lie to the American public about the betrayal. If his direction to McClellan was deliberate and knowing, then the president was party to a conspiracy by senior administration officials to defraud the public. If that isn't a high crime and misdemeanor then we don't know what is. And if the president was merely an unwitting accomplice, then who lied to him? What is he doing to punish the person who misled the president to abuse his office? And why is that person still working in the executive branch? Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald made clear his suspicions about the culprit when he said "a cloud remains over the office of the vice president." But we may never know exactly what happened because President Bush thwarted justice and guaranteed the success of the cover-up when he commuted Scooter Libby's felony sentence on four counts of lying, perjury and obstruction of justice.
With the exception of MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, and the intrepid David Shuster, the mainstream media would have you believe that McClellan's revelation is old news. "Now back to Aruba and the two-year old disappearance of a blond teenager." But treason is not old news. The Washington press corps, whose pretension is to report and interpret events objectively, has been compromised in this matter as evidence presented in the courtroom demonstrated. Prominent journalists acted as witting agents of Rove, Libby and Armitage and covered up this serious breach of U.S. national security rather than doing their duty as journalists to report it to the public.
So far there is no apparent desire for redemption driving the press to report on the treachery of senior officials. Instead, the mainstream press has compounded its complicity by giving the Bush administration yet another free pass and shifting blame. The New York Times failed to publish an article on McClellan's revelation and The Washington Post buried it at the end of a column deep on page A-15 in the newspaper. Earlier in the week, Newsweek magazine, owned by the Washington Post Company, proudly announced the identity of its new star columnist -- Karl Rove, one of the key actors in this collective treason. Robert Novak, who willfully disclosed Valerie's identity, having been twice warned not to do so by the CIA, and who transmitted his column to Rove before it was published, remains a regularly featured columnist in The Washington Post.
With nearly 70 percent of the public now believing that our country is on the wrong track, it is no wonder that many feel let down by major institutions, including the Washington press establishment that increasingly resembles the corrupt Soviet propaganda mill. One reporter from a major news organization even asked whether McClellan's statement wasn't just "another Wilson publicity stunt." Try following this tortuous logic: Dick Cheney runs an operation involving senior White House officials designed to betray the identity of a covert CIA officer and the press responds by trying to prove that the Wilsons are publicity seekers. What ever happened to reporting the news? Welcome to Through the Looking Glass.
Fearful of its access to the powerful, and defensive about its status in the high school social culture that permeates the capital of the Free World, much of the press has forgotten its responsibility to the public and the Constitution.
Presidents and those who aspired to be president in the past once took strong positions in defense of U.S. national security. Today, Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson has tried to build his support through fronting for the Scooter Libby Defense fundraising efforts. Meanwhile, other Republican candidates accuse Patrick Fitzgerald of being "a runaway prosecutor" and remain silent about the stain on Bush's presidency.
Where is the outrage? Where is the "contempt and anger?"
The conflict in Afghanistan has reached "crisis proportions," with the resurgent Taliban present in more than half the country and closing in on Kabul, a report said on Wednesday.
If NATO, the lead force operating in Afghanistan, is to have any impact against the insurgency, troop numbers will have to be doubled to at least 80,000, the report said.
"The Taliban has shown itself to be a truly resurgent force," the Senlis Council, an independent think-tank with a permanent presence in Afghanistan, wrote in a study entitled "Stumbling into Chaos: Afghanistan on the brink."
"Its ability to establish a presence throughout the country is now proven beyond doubt," it said. "The insurgency now controls vast swaths of unchallenged territory including rural areas, some district centers, and important road arteries."
Senlis said its research had established that the Taliban, driven out of Afghanistan by the U.S. invasion in late 2001, had rebuilt a permanent presence in 54 percent of the country and was finding it easy to recruit new followers.
It was also increasingly using Iraq-style tactics, such as roadside and suicide bombs, to powerful effect, and had built a stable network of financial support, funding its operations with the proceeds from Afghanistan's booming opium trade.
"It is a sad indictment of the current state of Afghanistan that the question now appears to be not if the Taliban will return to Kabul, but when," the report said.
"Their oft-stated aim of reaching the city in 2008 appears more viable than ever."
NATO has a little over 40,000 troops operating in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force. The United States and Britain are the largest contributors, with 15,000 and 7,700 soldiers, respectively.
Those numbers pale in comparison to Iraq where at the peak of operations there were nearly 200,000 troops on the ground and where around 160,000 remain.
While Iraq is showing the first signs of an improvement in security, Afghanistan's situation is becoming more precarious, Senlis argued, underlining the need for a rapid increase in troop numbers in a country that is larger than Iraq.
"In order to prevent NATO's defeat at the hands of the Taliban, a rejuvenated 'coalition of the willing' is needed," the report said, calling the proposal 'NATO Plus'.
"Every NATO state is mandated to contribute to this new force, with a firm level of commitment that will provide a total force size of 80,000."
Bolstering NATO's presence in Afghanistan, and getting member countries to contribute more, is expected to be a major issue on the agenda at a NATO summit in Romania in April.
Before then, Britain, which is responsible for security in the restive south of Afghanistan, where violence has been greatest, is expected to unveil new security strategies, including a possible increase in troops and proposals to deter Afghan poppy farmers from selling their crop to the Taliban.
Senlis said that without the troop "surge," and renewed efforts to win over the Afghan population and make reconstruction take hold, the country was in danger of falling back into the hands of the Taliban.
(Editing by Kate Kelland and Michael Winfrey)
# posted by David @ Friday, November 23, 2007 0 comments
What will it take for the major US media to acknowledge that the Bush/Cheney regime’s actions and views on the limits of executive power represent an unprecedented threat to America’s Constitutional democracy, its national security, and its moral standing in the world?
When asked recently whether Pakistan’s General Musharrif had gone too far in crushing democratic opposition, President Bush said Musharrif had not yet “crossed the line,” even though the military dictator had forcibly replaced the Supreme Court; jailed lawyers, judges, and opposition leaders; banned demonstrations; and shut down any independent media. One wonders whether Mr. Bush has a line that can be crossed as long as the executive claims its actions are in furtherance of fighting “terrorism.”
The Bush/Cheney regime’s misguided terror war was the stated justification for invading Iraq, overthrowing its government, and establishing an indefinite occupation that has seen hundreds of thousands of people killed, even more wounded and millions displaced from their homes. The Administration propagated phony intelligence, relying on forged documents and confessions obtained under torture to justify an aggressive war, but none of that crossed Mr. Bush’s line.
To cover up these lies, Bush and Cheney’s minions recklessly exposed an American covert agent, then lied about it and sent the President’s Press Secretary to lie to continue the coverup. When Libby was convicted of lying about these events, the President made sure Libby would never talk by commuting his sentence. But none of that crossed the President’s line.
By leaving a large occupying army in Iraq to prop up a divisive Shia regime, the Administration created a magnet for hundreds of foreign fighters from North Africa to the Arabian peninsula. These Sunni fighters apparently comprised the core of suicide bombers that accounted for a large majority of bombing attacks on American soldiers. Over 3860 Americans have been killed; over 28,000 30,000 seriously wounded [plus 20,000 with previously unrecognized brain injuries]; but none of this crosses the President’s line.
The regime has systematically violated the Constitution by illegally spying on Americans and gutting the Fourth Amendment. It has revoked habeas corpus, violated criminal felony statutes, sanctioned war crimes, made a mockery of detainee criminal trials, and politicized the justice system so badly that no one can trust the integrity of its prosecutions — but none of that crossed the line.
The Administration has so corrupted the Justice Department that it now functions as a violator of civil liberties and voting rights, rather than the defender it is supposed to be, but that hasn’t crossed the line.
This Administration sanctions kidnapping, rendition, torture, secret prisons, indefinite detention without trials, and kangaroo courts. It has ordered indiscriminate bombing in civilian areas, deliberately killing innocent civilians. If there is any remaining moral distinction between these US actions, sanctioned by this Administration, and those of regimes the US Government designates as state sponsors of terrorism, it is hard to make it out — and yet that has not crossed the line.
So what does this President count as crossing the line? Here’s a small fraction of things Mr. Bush has stopped:
– Providing health care for uninsured children through a successful federal-state insurance program
– Providing adequate funding for rebuilding public infrastructure in New Orleans — or anywhere else
– Requiring safer products and adequate inspections, improving auto gas mileage, taking meaningful steps to reverse potentially catastrophic global climate change
– Requiring that US troops receive adequate rest and retraining between multiple combat deployments
– Requiring that US troops phase out unnecessary combat actions in Iraq’s civil wars
– Disclosing Justice Department opinions that sanction torture
– Giving Congress access to executive branch records needed for Congressional oversight
– Allowing senior White House officials to testify before Congress, even when subpoened.
America’s Constitutional system, its laws and democratic institutions are under siege by a lawless, radical regime that ignores all constitutional limits on its actions and treats the rule of law with contempt. If this were happening in Pakistan, everyone involved in the legal/justice system would be protesting in the streets, if not already in jail, and the entire mainstream media except for the equivalent of Fox News would be shut down. Genuinely democratic nations would withdraw support.
But this is not Pakistan; it’s happening here, in America. Isn’t it time the media stopped covering stories about this President pardoning a turkey and started demanding an end to this lawless regime?
# posted by David @ Friday, November 23, 2007 0 comments
Last night in an interview with ABC News, President Bush “offered his strongest support of embattled Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf,” nearly three weeks after Musharraf declared emergency rule. Bush said that Musharraf hasn’t yet “crossed the line” and insisted Musharraf has “advanced democracy in Pakistan.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden (D-DE) responded, “What exactly would it take for the president to conclude Musharraf has crossed the line? Suspend the constitution? Impose emergency law? Beat and jail his political opponents and human rights activists? He’s already done all that. If the president sees Musharraf as a democrat, he must be wearing the same glasses he had on when he looked in Vladimir Putin’s soul.”
GIBSON: Mr. President, let me start with foreign policy. Did you put too much faith in Pervez Musharraf?
BUSH: He’s been a loyal ally in fighting terrorists. He’s also advanced democracy in Pakistan. So far, I’ve found him to be a man of his word. The fundamental question I have for President Musharraf is, will these elections be under emergency law? Because if they are, it’s going to be hard for those of us who have believed he’s advanced Pakistan’s democracy to say that’s still the case.
GIBSON: Is there a line he cannot cross in your mind? Something that would go too far, when you might say to yourself, okay, that’s enough?
BUSH: He hasn’t crossed the line. As a matter of fact, I don’t think that he will cross any lines. Today I thought it was a pretty good signal that he released thousands of people from the jails.
# posted by David @ Wednesday, November 21, 2007 0 comments
Bilal Hussein is the AP photojournalist in Iraq who was detained by the U.S. military in April, 2006 and detained without charges of any kind. I wrote about the case previously, among other places, here and here. He is one of 24,000 people behind held in Iraq without charges. Yesterday, the U.S. military -- which refused for 19 months to charge him with any crime -- suddenly announced that they were now recommending that he be tried on unspecified charges in an Iraqi court based on allegedly "irrefutable evidence" they now possess.
This morning I interviewed AP's Executive Editor, Kathleen Carroll, and AP's CEO Tom Curley regarding this case. Neither of them still have any idea what the charges are against Hussein, nor what the supposed new and "irrefutable" evidence is of his guilt. Worse, because 19 months have elapsed since he was detained, it is virtually impossible to conduct a meaningful investigation or to mount a defense. As Curley explained:
He has never been charged with any crime. There have been allegations made against him, and the allegations made against him in the past have been disproven by us after careful investigation.
Second, nobody from the U.S. military interrogated him from May 2006 until a couple of weeks ago. So he went about 18 months without having any value to the U.S. military. Under no circumstances can we imagine that there are new charges that have been made against him. They have not worked on the case. The people who initially detained him, the people who have initially interrogated him, are long since gone. This makes no sense at all. This is truly an abuse of the justice system.
It is so vital to realize the direct connection between Hussein's war journalism and the lawless detention of him by the U.S. military for almost two years. Hussein's photographs helped earn AP the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for its war coverage in Iraq. As Carroll explained:
Bilal began to work for AP in his hometown of Fallujah, in the month leading up to the U.S. military assault on Fallujah in 2003. He took pictures under the direction of an experienced combat photographer and photo editor based in Baghdad, and his assignment was to take pictures showing what it's like to be in Fallujah, and how people were preparing. As there were insurgent attacks, he would take pictures of the aftermath, how people were affected, grieving families, charred cars, expressions of unhappiness about the attacks and daily life in Fallujah.
But Hussein's photographs directly contradicted the claims being made at the time by the U.S. military regarding Anbar. As Curley said:
Bilal Hussein was operating in Anbar Province. Anbar was a black hole in the coverage of Iraq. For most of the war, there have been virtually no journalists there or very few journalists, so getting any information from Anbar was difficult.
These pictures came at a time when the U.S. was trying to say that things were OK, and we know now that they were deteriorating.
The photographs taken by Hussein, and published by AP, demonstrated that things were anything but calm in Anbar.
One aspect that has always been so striking and disturbing about this case is that long before Hussein was detained by the U.S. military, he was the target of constant accusations from right-wing bloggers such as Michelle Malkin and Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs that he was in cahoots with the insurgents. To make these accusations, some would literally outright lie, such as by claiming that a photograph Hussein took of insurgents holding up a corpse was, in fact, a photograph of the hostage right before he was killed (thus "proving" that Hussein was working with the insurgents). To this day, reckless bloggers like Powerline's John Hinderaker insinuate that Hussein took photographs of the hostage immediately before his death, even though -- as Carroll said -- videotape proves that the photograph taken was of the corpse of the hostage after he was already dead, and Hussein and other journalists were forced by the insurgents at gunpoint to take the photograph of the corpses.
Indeed, of the more than 900 photographs Hussein took for AP, a grand total of 4 involve photographs of in-progress insurgent action. Although right-wing bloggers far from the war wouldn't know this -- it was hardly uncommon for someone in Anbar to see insurgents in action. But as Greg Sargent documented yesterday, the right-wing blogospheric lynch mob -- long obsessed with punishing any journalists who report information that reflects poorly on the Leader's War -- has made persecuting Hussein based on outright lies to be one of their most impassioned causes.
Even worse, when Bilal Hussein was first detained, nobody had any idea what happened to him. As Michelle Malkin boasted yesterday, she was the one who "broke" the story of his detention, by which she means that someone in the U.S. military told her -- before anything was said to A.P. or anyone else -- the news that he had been detained. As AP's Curley said:
Someone leaked information to her at about the time [Hussein's] brother arrived at our A.P. bureau and told us he was detained. So somebody did give her information, and it does further politicize anything that can be said against him.
Carroll described the grave danger Iraqis such as Hussein face who work for news organizations in Iraq. Six separate Iraqi journalists working for AP have been murdered during the war, more than any other war in AP's 160 year history. It has been confirmed that at least 3 were murdered specifically because they worked with AP. Carroll expressed particular anger towards right-wing bloggers and others who have baselessly attacked the integrity of AP's Iraqi journalists while, as she put it, the accusing bloggers are "safely ensconced far away from the action."
But more important still is how threatening and chilling this behavior is. Carroll explained that ever since Hussein was detained, AP -- for obvious reasons -- has had great difficulty finding Iraqis in Anbar to work with them, due to fears that they will be arrested the way Hussein was. She indicated that other news organizations are having the same difficulty. When the U.S. military sufficiently intimidates journalists from reporting on wars, then one must increasingly rely for news upon the government and the military, or upon journalists who are report in a way that is pleasing to those authorities.
Caroll pointed out that Hussein is but one of 24,000 individuals being held by the U.S. military without charges in Iraq. But there are obviously unique dangers when the U.S. military arrests journalists in a war zone and then holds them for almost two years with no charges. And Hussein is by no means the only journalist so held by our government. This is plainly part of the ever-increasing politicization of the U.S. military in Iraq and the attempt to control the flow of information from the war zone. Just was true with the TNR/Beauchamp case and so many others, right-wing bloggers, and then their allies in the U.S. military, became furious with AP and Hussein for depicting the war in less than ideal terms, and in contradiction to how the U.S. military was painting it. They think that any news that reflects badly on the war is treasonous and criminal. That's because they are hostile to the very notion of free journalism. As Carroll put it:
AP feels its obligations is to cover all sides of any conflict . . . . The Iraqi people have felt the bitter impact of fighting all over the country. There's not one bad guy for them. The sorrow for them the daily life, going to the market, lining up for a job, this week sending your children out to receive toys, can turn deadly. We have a solemn obligation to report that.
The travesty of the Bilal Hussein case is manifold. While we preach to the world how we are bringing democracy and freedom to Iraq, we are arresting their journalists and holding them indefinitely with no charges. If Bilal Hussein were really guilty of working in tandem with insurgents, he could have and should have been tried long ago.
Instead, our military is intimidating Iraqis out of reporting on what they see. The U.S. military works hand-in-hand with extremist war-cheerleading bloggers here while denying our news organizations any information about what is being done to their journalists. And while AP has been commendably vigilant in defending the rights of their journalist, most of our largest news organizations have been strangely passive in the face of this assault.
-- Glenn Greenwald
# posted by David @ Tuesday, November 20, 2007 0 comments
Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan will publish a memoir in April titled “What Happened.” In an excerpt posted by his publisher, McClellan implicates “the President himself” in the Valerie Plame scandal:
“The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.
“There was one problem. It was not true.
“I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President’s chief of staff, and the president himself.”
A Supreme Court hand-picked by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf swiftly dismissed legal challenges to his continued rule on Monday, opening the way for him to serve another five-year term — this time solely as a civilian president.
Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar dismissed three opposition petitions challenging Musharraf's victory in a disputed presidential election last month, saying two had been "withdrawn" because opposition lawyers were not present in court.
Of course one has to ask if the opposition lawyers weren't there because they had been thrown in prison by Musharraf. And the third lawyer, who represented Benazir Bhutto, withdrew the petition rather than giving the so-called court any legitimacy.
Meanwhile, Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte's face-to-face with Musharraf to express the administration's concerns accomplished nothing, and:
The face-off leaves the Bush administration with limited options in steering its nuclear-armed ally back toward democracy. Senior Bush Administration officials have said publicly that they have no plans to cut off the billions of dollars in military aid that Pakistan receives each year.
Hmmmm...limited options, billions of dollars. It seems like the Bush administration has billions of options.
# posted by David @ Monday, November 19, 2007 0 comments