Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category

Where Is Raed Now?

May 29, 2008

Where Is Raed Now?
Meet the Iraqi exile (and former Salam Pax blogger) who could foil Bush’s plans for permanent bases near Baghdad.” />

Jonathan Schwarz” />
May 01″ /> , 2008″ />
In 1998, 20-year-old Raed Jarrar watched from the roof of his family’s home in Baghdad as American Tomahawk cruise missiles struck government buildings close by, blowing out the windows and sending him scrambling for cover. Five years later, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, coalition planes targeted the same buildings, as well as the nearby airport and Saddam Hussein’s palace, killing and wounding dozens of people from Jarrar’s middle-class neighborhood.

This year, Jarrar quietly celebrated his 30th birthday outside Pasadena at a retreat he was attending for his job as a consultant for the American Friends Service Committee. He now lives in Washington, D.C., a short metro ride away from the White House, the Pentagon, and the various think tanks where his country’s future has been decided for much of his life. Yet Jarrar’s become something the war’s planners did not anticipate: an Iraqi who’s thwarted their efforts by using the tools of American democracy. Through a peculiar roll of history’s dice, the young exile has helped throw a monkey wrench in the Bush administration’s attempts to lay the groundwork for a permanent American presence in Iraq. “I’m just another small example of how Iraqis would rather end the occupation through talking to U.S. legislators and the public,” Jarrar explains.

Jarrar was born in Baghdad, the son of a Shiite mother and a Sunni father, and the oldest of three boys. He attended the University of Baghdad and began graduate school in Amman, Jordan, where he studied architecture, focusing on postwar reconstruction. As the world’s eyes turned to Iraq in late 2002, a friend and fellow architect who went by the nickname “Salam Pax” started an English-language blog. Because he often had trouble reaching Jarrar, he named it “Where Is Raed?” Jarrar started blogging there as well, and to the friends’ surprise, their musings on stockpiling food and the gyrating value of the dinar were read by people all over the world looking for a glimpse of the final days of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

After the American invasion, Jarrar started an ngo named Emaar (“Reconstruction”) to support Iraqis trying to rebuild their neighborhoods. His blog posts began to reflect his growing anger at the occupation. “American foreign policy is putting people like me in a very weak position,” he wrote in March 2004. “In extreme circumstances, extreme ideologies rule and dominate. And I am, unfortunately, not an extremist.”

While traveling in southern Iraq, Jarrar was kidnapped by a militia; he was released unharmed after a few hours. With normal life in Iraq becoming “impossible,” he decided to return to Jordan to complete his master’s degree. In Amman, he met and became engaged to an Iranian American woman. In September 2005, Jarrar arrived in the United States and made plans to become a permanent resident.

That summer, George W. Bush had assured Iraqis and Americans that the United States would stay in Iraq “as long as we are needed, and not a day longer.” But Jarrar—like many Iraqis—suspected that the administration had other ideas. After witnessing Iraq’s descent into violence, he became convinced that the only solution was for the United States to leave as soon as possible. “Only a complete U.S. withdrawal that leaves no troops, bases, or private contractors behind would create the safe space for Iraqis to deal with their problems and heal their wounds,” he says. “Iraqis will never be capable of starting the process of reconciliation and reconstruction with a foreign occupation taking sides.”

Five years on, American forces remain in Iraq under a United Nations mandate subject to annual renewal by the Security Council. Last June, Iraq’s parliament, asserting its constitutional duty to ratify treaties, passed a law requiring its approval of future extensions of the mandate. But the UN and Iraqi president Nouri al-Maliki, under pressure from the United States, have ignored the MPs. Late last year the mandate was renewed until the end of 2008 without parliamentary approval.

In the meantime, the Bush administration has tried to bypass the UN altogether. In late November 2007, Maliki and Bush quietly signed a Declaration of Principles that outlined the United States’ ongoing political and military relationship with Iraq, including its commitment to “defending [Iraq's] democratic system against internal and external threats.”

In the many countries where its troops are based, the United States maintains Status of Forces Agreements, or sofas, which may be signed by the president without congressional approval. But until now, only treaties, which require Senate ratification, have authorized the use of force by American troops in host countries. No sofa has given American troops the leeway implied in the Declaration of Principles. The administration “does not want this to go to Congress,” explains former assistant secretary of defense Lawrence Korb, now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “They’d never get the votes.”

That’s where Jarrar stepped in. He had already spent months trying to get members of Congress to make contact with Iraqi members of parliament who opposed extending the UN mandate. (More than half of Iraqi MPs have called for the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal.) Shortly after the Bush-Maliki agreement was signed, Jarrar was introduced to Caleb Rossiter, an aide to Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight. In Jarrar, Rossiter recognized a unique resource. Just as Arabic-speaking American officials are a rarity in Baghdad, so too are Iraqi anti-war activists in Washington who speak fluent English and can navigate the intricacies of the Iraqi government.

Rossiter took the issue to Delahunt, who has since held more than five hearings on the legality of the Bush administration’s plans for Iraq. Jarrar testified at the first hearing and is now helping Delahunt bring a handful of Iraqi MPs to the States to meet their counterparts and discuss their shared oversight role. As Rossiter explains, “Never underestimate the bonding power of legislators learning they’re both being constitutionally insulted by the same people in the same way.”

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee in February, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates backpedaled on the Declaration of Principles, stating it was “not considered by our government to be a security commitment.” Gates also suggested that any future security agreements with Iraq would be subject to congressional review, although the White House is intent on finalizing its agreement with Maliki before the end of Bush’s term.

Rossiter credits Jarrar for tipping off Congress to a situation that the administration was not eager to publicize. “Without Jarrar, who knows where we’d be,” he says. “He’s been crucial in helping us think through our inquiry into this. What makes him so valuable is he understands the coin of the realm on Capitol Hill is good information. We know from experience that we can count on anything he brings us.” Congressman Delahunt concurs. “Raed’s been simply invaluable,” he says. “There’s so much about Iraq we can miss: the domestic political forces, the diversity of the society. He’s given us outstanding objective analysis on all of it.”

The secret of Jarrar’s success may be that unlike most people walking the halls of Congress, he never wanted to be there in the first place. He’d rather be back in Baghdad, putting his training rebuilding cities to use.

“I still sometimes dream that there will be opportunities after the war, like in Chicago after the great fire,” he says. “But I’m not an architect now. I didn’t have the privilege to decide that. What decided were the bombs that fell on my neighborhood.”

9/11: The Unraveling of the Official Story Continues By Mark H. Gaffney

February 26, 2008

9/11: The Unraveling of the Official Story Continues By Mark H. Gaffney

Dandelion Salad

By Mark H. Gaffney
02/25/08 “ICH

Humpty-Dumpty sat on a wall.

Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Today in America we are witness to a great unraveling, the likes of which we have never seen before. There are no historical precedents. For many months now the official narrative about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on America has been coming apart, and I mean: at the seams. The official story about that terrible day is disintegrating. The trend shows no sign of abating and in recent weeks it even appears to have accelerated. At the present rate, soon there will be nothing left of the official version of events but a discordant echo and a series of extremely rude after shocks.

Is our nation prepared to face those rude shocks?

The unraveling began within weeks of the release of the 9/11 Commission Report (in July 2004) with the shocking revelation that members of the 9/11 commission were convinced that government officials, including NORAD generals, had deceived them during the investigation–––in essence, had lied to their faces during the hearings.[1] According to the Washington Post the members of the commission vented their frustrations at a special meeting in the summer of 2004. The panel even considered referring the matter to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation.

The unraveling continued in 2006 with the release of a follow-up volume, Without Precedent, authored by the two men who had co-chaired the commission, Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton. The men had come under increasing fire ever since the release of their final report for presiding over what many now believe was a failed investigation. Stung by so much criticism, Kean and Hamilton felt the need to explain (and defend) themselves. The gist of their 2006 book is easily summarized. They write: ”We were set up to fail.”

The bleeding continued in May 2007 with the stunning announcement that former BYU physicist Steven Jones had found residues of thermate, a high temperature explosive, in the dust of the collapsed World Trade Center.[2] The discovery has the gravest implications for our nation, and probably for this reason the announcement went reported in the US media. In a later chapter I will discuss this important evidence in detail.

Yet another startling revelation occurred in December 2007 when we learned that the CIA destroyed evidence, in the form of audio-tapes, deemed vital to the official investigation.[3]

The news prompted 9/11 Commission co-chairs Kean and Hamilton to fire off an angry salvo in the New York Times in which they charged that the CIA had obstructed their investigation.[4] Their blunt accusation was explosive and should have caused every American to sit up and take notice. Unfortunately, the average American probably failed to connect the dots because, as usual, the US media offered nothing in the way of helpful context or analysis. We were fed the usual diet of tidbits and sound bytes: a wealth of minutiae. The big picture remained elusive.

But back to the unraveling story.

Starting in 2002, the CIA conducted interrogations of captured Al Qaeda operatives, including Abu Zubaydah and Ramzi Binalshibh, at undisclosed CIA prisons outside the US. During these interrogations the CIA resorted to “enhanced interrogation techniques” (the CIA’s euphemism for torture) to extract information.[5] The methods included “waterboarding,” which induces a sensation of drowning in the unlucky individual. Evidently, the CIA decided for its own internal reasons to video-tape these early interrogation sessions. However, years later (in 2005), Jose A, Rodriquez, the CIA’s Director of Operations, ordered the tapes destroyed. For what reason? Well, according to current CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, because the tapes posed “a serious security risk.”[6] Hayden went on to clarify his rather cryptic remark, and explained to the press that if the tapes had become public they would have exposed CIA officials “and their families to retaliation from Al Qaeda and its sympathizers.” The excuse was flimflam, but the US media hung on Hayden’s every word as if he were speaking gospel. The press certainly did not throw him any hard balls. Nor did they press him on the point.

Hayden also claimed that the CIA had notified the appropriate committee heads in Congress in 2005 before destroying the evidence. But according to the Times this was immediately denied by the top two members of the House Intelligence Committee. A spokesman for Representative Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), who at the time chaired the oversight committee, said that he was “never briefed or advised” that the tapes even existed, let alone “that they were going to be destroyed.”[7]

Kean and Hamilton had a similar reaction–––outrage. In their article they state categorically that the CIA never informed them about any taped interrogations, despite their repeated requests for all pertinent information about the captured Al Qaeda operatives, who were then in CIA custody. In fact, as damaging as the news about the CIA’s destruction of evidence surely was, the story exposed an even more serious problem. One might naturally assume that the official commission charged to investigate the events of 9/11 would have had unfettered access to all of the evidence pertinent to the case, including government documents and key witnesses. This goes without saying. Access was vital to the success of the investigation. How else could the commission do its work? Yet, it never happened.

CIA Stonewalled the Official Panel

In their article Kean and Hamilton summarize their dealings with the CIA.[8] They describe their private meeting with CIA Director George Tenet and how he denied them access to the captured members of Al Qaeda. Which means, of course, that the panel never had a chance to conduct its own interviews. Tenet even denied them permission to conduct second-hand interviews with the CIA interrogators, which Kean and Hamilton felt were needed to “to better judge the credibility of the witnesses and clarify ambiguities in the reporting.”[9] Ultimately, the commission was forced to rely on third-hand intelligence reports prepared by the CIA itself. Many of these reports were poorly written and incomplete summaries[10] which, according to the co-chairs “raised almost as many questions as they answered.”

In order to resolve the many uncertainties the commission prepared a list of questions, which they then submitted to the CIA. The questions covered a range of topics, such as the translations from the Arabic, inconsistencies in the detainees’ stories, the context of the questioning, how the interrogators followed up certain lines of questioning, and the assessments of the interrogators themselves. But the CIA’s response was less than helpful. In their article Kean and Hamilton state that “the [CIA] general counsel responded in writing with non-specific replies.” This is a bland way of saying that the agency stiffed the panel. Not satisfied, Kean and Hamilton made another attempt to gain access to the captives, but were again rebuffed during a head-to-head meeting with Tenet in December 2003. For this reason the ambiguities and other questions went unresolved and still flaw the commission’s final report. Yet, as I have indicated, the more serious problem was the panel’s lack of access to begin with, a problem that was by no means obvious until the recent story broke in the mainstream press. As we now know, Kean and Hamilton had inserted a caveat in their report (on page 146) conceding that they were denied access to the witnesses. Most readers, however, probably pass right over it without understanding its awful significance. I know I did, the first time I read the report.

The latest unraveling also came with a twist. Not even Porter J. Goss, CIA Director at the the time, knew that the tapes had been destroyed. That decision, as noted, was made by Jose A, Rodriquez, the CIA’s Director of Operations–––as in covert operations. According to the Times, Goss was angered to learn he had been left out of the loop.[11] But Goss declined to make a public statement. What are we to make of this? Why was the CIA chief kept in the dark about the destruction of evidence deemed vital to the 9/11 investigation? This is just as shocking as the destruction of the tapes because it points to a disconnect in the chain of command. Was the CIA’s covert branch, long notorious for staging rogue operations, up to its old tricks? Are there loose cannons at Langley still?

The 9/11 Commission Report was packaged and sold to the American people like some trendy product. The US media has told us countless times it is the definitive version of the events of September 11, and in 2008 most Americans probably take this for granted. When something is repeated enough times on television people begin to believe it whether it is true or not. This is what happens when mass marketing is made to serve a political agenda. We witnessed a similar phenomenon during the run-up to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, when President G.W. Bush’s mantra about Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and his supposed links to Al Qaeda were drummed into the brain of every American. Today, of course, we know different. None of it was true. Yet, on the eve of that war a Washington Post poll found that 70% of Americans believed that Saddam was responsible for 9/11. The case is a sobering example of the power of the corporate media to shape public opinion with–––let us call it by its true name–––propaganda.

OK. It is now 2008. Is America prepared to face reality? The 9/11 Commission’s lack of direct access to the captured members of al Qaeda can only mean that the official 9/11 investigation was fundamentally compromised from the outset. No other conclusion is possible, given the latest disclosures. In their recent article Kean and Hamilton do not repudiate their own report, at least, not in so many words. But they come close. They insinuate that the CIA’s stonewalling now calls into question the veracity of key parts of the official story, especially the plot against America supposedly masterminded by Khalid Shiekh Mohammed and approved by Osama bin Laden. Until now, the nation has assumed that all of this was soundly based on the testimony of the captured al Qaeda operatives, several of whom supposedly confessed. This is the story told in the 9/11 Commission Report. However, when you probe more deeply you discover the devil lurking in the details. I personally believe there was a plot by al Qaeda to attack America. Yet, without independent confirmation about what the captives actually confessed to, precisely what was said and by whom, indeed, whether they confessed at all, there is absolutely no way for us to know how much of the official story is true and how much was fabricated by the CIA for reasons we can only guess.

For all that we know, the entire story is a pack of lies. It comes down to whether the CIA is telling the truth. Should we believe them? Another important question is: How did the miscarriage of a lawful process of discovery happen, given that Congress invested the 9/11 Commission with the authority to subpoena evidence?

Philip Shenon’s New Book

Now, in February 2008, along comes a new “tell-all” book by Philip Shenon with much to say about the above, and some answers.[12] His book’s sub-title, The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Commission, sounds very promising. Nor does the author fail to deliver. Shenon covered the 9/11 Commission for the New York Times and over the course of the investigation he personally interviewed many of the commissioners and staff. His book is an overnight best-seller, and for good reason. It is a well-written expose and affords our best look yet at what went on behind-the-scenes. Instead of burdening us with his personal opinions, Shenon plays the role of reporter, and describes what happened through the eyes of the commissioners and staff. The book provides valuable insights into why the investigation failed.

Of course, we already knew large parts of the story. We knew about National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice’s incompetence, for example, and about the serious conflicts of interest on the commission, particularly in the case of Philip Zelikow, who served as the panel’s executive director. In that capacity Zelikow controlled many facets of the investigation, including the scheduling of witnesses and the vital flow of information between the staff and commissioners. Zelikow also edited (and, no doubt, doctored) the final report. In addition to being a long-time confidante of Rice, with whom he coauthored a book, Zelikow served on Bush’s transition team and even drafted a national security strategy paper that became the basis for the Bush administration’s attempts in late 2002 to justify the coming war against Iraq. It is hard to believe that Kean and Hamilton, who claim their goal was to lead a nonpartisan investigation, would have knowingly hired such a man–––a neocon–––to manage the day-to-day affairs of their panel. According to Shenon, it only happened because Zelikow failed to report the full extent of his ties to the Bush administration when he submitted his resume for the job. If Zelikow had been more forthcoming he would have been instantly eliminated from consideration. But this hardly excuses Kean and Hamilton for failing to properly vet the candidate.

Shenon’s most important revelation is sure to fuel the unraveling process. Shenon names CIA Director George Tenet as one of the government officials whom the commissioners and staff were certain had lied during the hearings.[13] Tenet gave testimony on three occasions (in addition to the private meetings with Kean and Hamilton) and in each of these hearings the CIA Director suffered from a faulty memory, frequently responding with “I can’t remember.” Initially, the commissioners were inclined to be sympathetic and gave the director the benefit of the doubt. (Tenet’s supporters at the agency reportedly made excuses for their boss: George could not remember because he was dead-tired, physically exhausted from dealing with the war on terrorism, and suffering from sleep deprivation–––not getting enough shuteye.[14] Poor old George.) But gradually the tide turned. By Tenet’s third appearance it was obvious to everyone he was perjuring himself.

Curiously, there no mention of this spectacle in the 9/11 Commission Report. Why not? Kean gave the reason at the panel’s first public hearing in New York City, when he said: “Our…purpose will not be to point fingers.” The comment was not well received. According to Shenon, it prompted a rumble in the audience, including sneers from the families of the victims who wanted those officials responsible to be held accountable.[15]

It is important to understand that when Tenet stiffed the commission he was carrying on a time-honored Langley tradition. For the first 25 years of its existence the CIA functioned entirely outside our constitutional framework of government. Like it or not, this is the disturbing reality. The state of affairs prevailed until the Watergate era when the Church hearings exposed a laundry list of criminal activities by the CIA, such as domestic spying, the assassination of foreign leaders, the overthrow of governments, plus the nasty habit of deceiving Congress. The Church hearings shocked the nation and led to the creation of House and Senate intelligence committees to provide the democratic oversight that was sorely lacking. At any rate, that was the intent. But as with so many good ideas it never worked as expected. The CIA soon found ways around the oversight process. This is not surprising when you consider that the agency’s expertise is clandestine operations. Today, the Intelligence Committees in both houses are widely viewed as a joke, and despite a chorus of denials from the agency and its admirers the perception is undoubtedly correct. To his credit, Shenon touches on the problem. The author mentions that one of the commissioners, former Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA), once served on the Senate Intelligence Committee but quit in frustration because of the lack of any serious business. Said Gorton: “I felt it was a useless exercise–––I never felt I was being told anything that I hadn’t learned in the Washington Post.”[16] Does such an agency deserve our trust and respect?

As to why Kean and Hamilton did not make more aggressive use of their authority to subpoena evidence, Shenon’s answer is not very satisfying but rings true. The co-chairs were overcautious because they wished to avoid a legal showdown that would drag out in the courts.[17] A legal stalemate threatened to delay their investigation beyond the mandated deadline, which in their view would have been tantamount to a Bush victory. It was a huge mistake, however. Had Kean and Hamilton stood tough and issued blanket subpoenas early in the investigation as their legal counsel advised, the inevitable showdown in the courts would have worked in their favor. Bush and Tenet would have been perceived–––correctly–––as obstructing the investigation and would have come under increasing pressure and scrutiny. That sort of confrontation would have served the discovery process and the cause of 9/11 truth. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. This helps to explain why the official investigation failed in its stated objective: “to provide the fullest possible account of the events surrounding 9/11.”[18]

Although Philip Shenon supports the official narrative, his research was so narrowly focused that his rather casual discounting of “conspiracy theorists” can do no harm to the 9/11 truth movement. (Here, of course, “conspiracy theorist” means anyone who does not agree with the official conspiracy theory.) Judging from his book, Shenon appears to be genuinely unaware that in 2007 the evidence shifted decisively in favor of the “conspiracy theorists.” It is ironic that, whatever his personal views, his book is likely to speed the unraveling process.

The showdown with the CIA, though long delayed, appears to be developing as I write, and it portends–––I believe–––a coming shift in the terms of the debate, away from the previous discussion about the incompetence of officials and “security failures” to more grave issues. But how this important drama will be played out remains unclear. Obviously, a new legally empowered investigative body is urgently needed, since the 9/11 Commission no longer exists. While there are many reasons to worry about the future––––we have entered the most dangerous time in our history––––the good news is that, once begun, the unraveling process is irreversible. It moves in only one direction: forward. As in the famous nursery rhyme, the official reality is falling apart and the pieces will never be put back together again.

Mark H. Gaffney’s forthcoming book, The 911 Mystery Plane and the Vanishing of America, will be released in September 2008. Mark’s latest, Gnostic Secrets of the Naassenes, was a finalist for the 2004 Narcissus Book Award. Mark can be reached for comment at markhgaffney@earthlink.net Visit Mark’s web site at www.gnosticsecrets.com

NOTES

1 Dan Eggen, “9/11 Panel Suspected Deception by Pentagon,” The Washington Post, August 2, 2006.

2 The Jones paper is posted at http://www.journalof911studies.com/volume/200704/JonesWTC911SciMethod.pdf

3 Mark Mazzetti, “CIA Destroyed 2 Tapes Showing Interrogations,” New York Times, December 7, 2007.

4 Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, “Stonewalled by the CIA,” New York Times, January 2, 2008.

5 “CIA destroyed terrorism suspect videotapes. Director says interrogation tapes were security risk. Critics call move illegal,” NBC News, December 7, 2007.

6 Mark Mazzetti, “CIA Destroyed 2 Tapes Showing Interrogations,” New York Times, December 7, 2007.

7 Ibid.

8 Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, “Stonewalled by the CIA,” New York Times, January 2, 2008.

9 The 9/11 Commission Report. Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, W.W. Norton & Co., New York, p.146.

10 Philip Shenon, The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Commission, Grand Central Publishing, New York, 2008, p.391.

11 Mark Mazzetti, “CIA Destroyed 2 Tapes Showing Interrogations,” New York Times, December 7, 2007.

12 Philip Shenon, The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Commission, Grand Central Publishing, New York, 2008, p. 360.

13 Ibid., p. 360.

14 Ibid., pp. 258-260.

15 Ibid., p. 99.

16 Ibid., p. 229.

17 Ibid. pp. 94 and 201.

18 The 9/11 Commission Report. Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, W.W. Norton & Co., New York, p. xvi.

Waterboarding for God and Country By Ray McGovern

February 11, 2008

Waterboarding for God and Country By Ray McGovern

Dandelion Salad

By Ray McGovern
10/02/08 “ICH

After one spends 45 years in Washington, high farce does not normally throw one off balance. I found the past few days, however, an acid test of my equilibrium.

I missed the National Prayer Breakfast—for the 45th time in a row. But, as I drove to work I listened with rapt attention as President George W. Bush gave his insights on prayer:

“When we lift our hearts to God, we’re all equal in his sight. We’re all equally precious…In prayer we grow in mercy and compassion…. When we answer God’s call to love a neighbor as ourselves, we enter into a deeper friendship with our fellow man — and a deeper relationship with our eternal Father.”

Vice President Dick Cheney skipped Thursday’s prayer breakfast in order to put the final touches on the speech he gave later that morning to the Conservative Political Action Conference. Perhaps he felt he needed some extra time to devise careful words to extol “the interrogation program run by the CIA…a tougher program for tougher customers, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11,” without conceding that the program has involved torture.

But there was a touch of defensiveness in Cheney’s remarks, as he saw fit repeatedly to reassure his audience yesterday that America is a “decent” country.

After all, CIA Director Michael Hayden had confirmed publicly on Tuesday that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and two other “high-value” detainees had been waterboarded in 2002-2003, though Hayden added that the technique has since been discontinued.

An extreme form of interrogation going back at least as far as the Spanish Inquisition, waterboarding has been condemned as torture by just about everyone—except the hired legal hands of the Bush administration.

On Wednesday President Bush’s spokesman Tony Fratto revealed that the White House reserves the right to approve waterboarding again, “depending on the circumstances.” Fratto matter-of-factly described the process still followed by the Bush administration to approve torture—er; I mean, “enhanced interrogation techniques” like waterboarding:

“The process includes the director of the Central Intelligence Agency bringing the proposal to the attorney general, where the review would be conducted to determine if the plan would be legal and effective. At that point, the proposal would go to the president. The president would listen to the determination of his advisers and make a decision.”


Dissing Congress

Cheney’s task of reassuring us about our “decency” was made no easier Thursday, when Attorney General Michael Mukasey stonewalled questions from the hapless John Conyers, titular chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Conyers tried, and failed, to get straight answers from Mukasey on torture.

Conyers referred to Hayden’s admission about waterboarding and branded the practice “odious.” But Mukasey seemed to take perverse delight in “dissing” Conyers, as the expression goes in inner city Washington. Sadly, the tired chairman took the disrespect stoically.

He did summon the courage to ask Attorney General Mukasey directly, “Are you ready to start a criminal investigation into whether this confirmed use of waterboarding by U.S. agents was illegal?”

“No, I am not,” Mukasey answered.

Mukasey claimed “waterboarding was found to be permissible under the law as it existed” in the years immediately after 9/11; thus, the Justice Department could not investigate someone for doing something the department had declared legal. Got that?

Mukasey explained:

“That would mean the same department that authorized the program would now consider prosecuting somebody who followed that advice.”

Oddly, Mukasey himself is on record saying waterboarding would be torture if applied to him. And Michael McConnell, Director of National Intelligence, was even more explicit in taking the same line in an interview with Lawrence Wright of New Yorker magazine. McConnell told Wright that, for him:

“Waterboarding would be excruciating. If I had water draining into my nose, oh God, I just can’t imagine how painful! Whether it’s torture by anybody else’s definition, for me it would be torture.”

Okay, it would be torture if done to you, Mike; how about if done to others? Sadly, McConnell, too, missed the prayer breakfast and the president’s moving reminder that we are called “to love a neighbor as ourselves.” Is there an exception, perhaps, for detainees?

Cat Out of Bag

When torture first came up during his interview with the New Yorker, McConnell was more circumspect, repeating the obligatory bromide “We don’t torture,” as former CIA Director George Tenet did in five consecutive sentences while hawking his memoir on 60 Minutes on April 29, 2007. As McConnell grew more relaxed, however, he let slip the rationale for Mukasey’s effrontery and the administration’s refusal to admit that waterboarding is torture. For anyone paying attention, that rationale has long been a no-brainer. But here is McConnell inadvertently articulating it:

“If it is ever determined to be torture, there will be a huge penalty to be paid for anyone engaging in it.”

Like death. Even Alberto Gonzales could grasp this at the outset. That explains the overly clever, lawyerly wording in the Jan. 25, 2002 memorandum for the president drafted by the vice president’s lawyer, David Addington, but signed by Gonzales. Addington/Gonzales argued that the president’s determination that the Geneva agreements on prisoners of war do not apply to al-Qaeda and the Taliban:

“Substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. 2441)…enacted in 1996…

“Punishments for violations of Section 2441include the death penalty…

“[I]t is difficult to predict the motives of prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges based on Section 2441. Your determination would create a reasonable basis in law that Section 2441 does not apply, which would provide a solid defense to any future prosecution.”
MEMORANDUM FOR THE PRESIDENT, January 25, 2002, p. 2

Mike McConnell needs to get his own lawyers to bring him up to date on all this. For that memorandum was quickly followed by an action memorandum signed by George W. Bush on Feb. 7, 2002. The president’s memo incorporated the exact wording of Addington/Gonzales’ bottom line; to wit, the U.S. would “treat the detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of [Geneva]. (emphasis added)

That provided the loophole through which then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and then-CIA director George Tenet and their subordinates drove the Mack truck of torture. Even the Bush-administration-friendly editorial page of the Washington Post saw fit on Friday to declare torture “illegal in all instances,” adding that “waterboarding is, and always has been, torture.”

Waterboarding has been condemned as torture for a very long time. After WW-II Japanese soldiers were hanged for the “war crime” of waterboarding American soldiers.

Patriots and Prophets

Patriots and prophets have made it clear from our earliest days that such abuse has no place in America.

Virginia’s Patrick Henry insisted passionately that “the rack and the screw,” as he put it, were barbaric practices that had to be left behind in the Old World, or we are “lost and undone.” Attorney General Mukasey, for his part, recently refused to say whether he considers the rack and the screw forms of torture, dismissing the question as hypothetical.

As for prophets, George Hunzinger of Princeton Theological Seminary has awakened enough religious folks to form the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, a coalition of 130 religious organizations from left to right on the political spectrum. Hunzinger puts it succinctly: “To acknowledge that waterboarding is torture is like conceding that the sun rises in the east,” adding:

“All the dissembling in high places that makes these shocking abuses possible must be brought to an end. But they will undoubtedly continue unless those responsible for them are held accountable…. A special counsel is an essential first step.”

Sadly, Hunzinger and his associates have been unable to overcome the pious complacency of the vast majority of institutional churches, synagogues, and mosques in this country and their reluctance to exercise moral leadership.

How It Looks From Outside

Sometimes it takes a truth-telling outsider to throw light on our moral failures.

South African Methodist Bishop Peter Storey, erstwhile chaplain to Nelson Madela in prison and longtime outspoken opponent of apartheid, has this to say to those clergy who might be moved to preach more than platitudes:

“We had obvious evils to engage; you have to unwrap your culture from years of red, white, and blue myth. You have to expose and confront the great disconnect between the kindness, compassion, and caring of most American people and the ruthless way American power is experienced, directly or indirectly, by the poor of the earth. You have to help good people see how they have let their institutions do their sinning for them.

“All around the world there are those who long to see your human goodness translated into a different, more compassionate way of relating with the rest of this bleeding planet.”

Mukasey’s thumbing his nose at Conyers’ committee yesterday was simply the most recent display of contempt for Congress on the part of the Bush administration. The Founders expected our representatives in Congress to be taken seriously by the executive branch, and expected that Members of Congress would hold senior executives accountable—to the point of impeaching them, when necessary, for high crimes and misdemeanors.

That used to worry those officials and put a brake on more outlandish behavior. Not any more.

No Worries, George

One reads George Tenet’s memoirs with some nostalgia for the days of a modicum of congressional oversight, and with a strong sense of irony—as he confesses concern that Congress might one day hold him and others accountable for taking liberties with national and international law.

It seems likely that then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and David Addington counseled Tenet that his concerns were quaint and obsolete and, alas, they may have been right, the way things have been going. But Tenet apparently entertained lingering misgivings—perhaps even qualms of conscience.

In the immediate post-9/11 period, Tenet says he told the president “our only real ally” on the Afghan border was Uzbekistan, “where we had established important intelligence-collection capabilities.” We now know from UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray that those “collection capabilities” included the most primitive methods of torture, including boiling alleged “terrorists” alive.

Tenet adds that he stressed the importance of being able to detain unilaterally al-Qaeda operatives around the world. His worries shine through the rather telling sentences that follow:

“We were asking for and we would be given as many authorities as CIA ever had. Things could blow up. People, me among them, could end up spending some of the worst days of our lives justifying before congressional overseers our new freedom to act.” At the Center of the Storm, p. 177-178

Tenet need not have worried. He would be shielded from accountability by a timid Congress as well as an arrogant White House able to arrogate unprecedented power to itself and to shield those it wished to protect.

Setting the Tone

It was President George W. Bush who set the tone from the outset. After his address to the nation on the evening of 9/11, he assembled his top national security aides in the White House bunker—the easier, perhaps, to foster a bunker mentality. Among them was counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, who quoted the president in his memoir:

“I want you to understand that we are at war and we will stay at war until this is done. Nothing else matters. Everything is available for the pursuit of this war. Any barriers in your way, they’re gone. Any money you need, you have it. This is our only agenda…

“I don’t care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.” Against All Enemies, Free Press, 2004

Clarke, of course, took his book’s title from the oath of office we all swore as military officers and/or senior government officials: “To defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

John Ashcroft, head of the Department of Justice at the time, fell in lockstep with the thrust of the president’s comment dismissing any concern with international law—or, as would quickly be seen, domestic law, as well. With the enthusiastic assistance of David Addington, the affable Ashcroft assembled a cabal of Mafia-like lawyers whose imaginative legal opinions on torture, warrantless eavesdropping, and other abuses mark them forever as “domestic enemies” of the Constitution.

Add Mukasey to this distinguished roster.

Torture: the Hallmark

What is not widely known is that Justice Department-approved torture was first applied on an American citizen, John Walker Lindh, who was captured in Afghanistan in late November 2001. The White House and corporate press immediately sensationalized Lindh as “the American Taliban.”

Jesselyn Radack, a conscientious legal advisor in the Justice Department’s Professional Responsibility Advisory Office, which gives ethics advice to Department attorneys, insisted that Lindh be advised of his rights before any interrogation. Instead, he was tortured mercilessly during the first few days of his internment and denied medical care.

Lindh had had the foolishness and bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time; i. e., in a large group of prisoners rounded up by CIA and Army paramilitary forces—too large a group, it turned out.

A spontaneous uprising took place, and CIA paramilitary officer Johnny “Mike” Spann, who had questioned Lindh just minutes before, was shot dead. Outraged, Spann’s colleagues applied “frontier justice,” totally ignoring the Constitutional cautions of Ms. Radack.

The Department of Justice moved quickly to fire Radack for her principled stand. But she had the presence of mind to save emails providing chapter and verse of the difficult exchanges in which she had insisted on respect for Lindh’s rights as an American citizen. Newsweek carried the story briefly, but neither Congress nor anyone else in the media showed much interest.

Radack’s book recounting this experience, The Canary in the Coalmine: Blowing the Whistle in the Case of “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh, is available on line at: http://www.patriotictruthteller.net/.

Against this backdrop, together with Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, Patrick Henry’s warning remains a challenge for our time: Are we “lost and undone?” I think not; but we had better get it together soon, for, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., cautioned, “There is such a thing as too late.”

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. He was an Army intelligence officer before joining the CIA where he had a 27-year career as an analyst. He is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

A shorter version of this article appeared on Consortiumnews.com.

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The Bush Family Gets Away with Crimes That Would Land Anyone Else in Jail by Robert Parry

November 30, 2007

The Bush Family Gets Away with Crimes That Would Land Anyone Else in Jail by Robert Parry

Dandelion Salad

by Robert Parry

Global Research, November 28, 2007

Consortium News – 2007-11-26

In the history of the American Republic, perhaps no political family has been more protected from scandal than the Bushes.

When the Bushes are involved in dirty deals or even criminal activity, standards of evidence change. Instead of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” that would lock up an average citizen, the evidence must be perfect.

If there’s any doubt at all, the Bushes must be presumed innocent. Even when their guilt is obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense, it’s their accusers and those who dare investigate who get the worst of it. Their motives are challenged and their own shortcomings are cast in the harshest possible light.

For decades — arguably going back generations — the Bushes have been protected by their unique position straddling two centers of national power, the family’s blueblood Eastern Establishment ties and the Texas oil crowd with strong links to the Republican Right. [For details on this family phenomenon, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

This reality was underscored again by how major news outlets and the right-wing press reacted to a new piece of evidence implicating George W. Bush in a criminal cover-up in the “Plame-gate” scandal.

Though the evidence is now overwhelming that President Bush was part of a White House cabal that leaked Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity as a covert CIA officer and then covered up the facts, major newspapers, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, continue to pooh-pooh this extraordinary scandal.

The latest piece of evidence was the statement from former White House press secretary Scott McClellan that Bush was one of five senior officials who had him clear Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby in the leak when, in fact, they were two of the leakers.

“The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore the credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” McClellan said in a snippet released by the publisher of his upcoming memoir.

“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,” McClellan said. “There was one problem. It was not true.”

After McClellan’s statement touched off a brief furor on the Internet and cable TV shows, his publisher Peter Osnos tried to soften the blow. Osnos told Bloomberg News that McClellan didn’t mean that Bush deliberately ordered his press secretary to lie.

“He told him something that wasn’t true, but the President didn’t know it wasn’t true,” Osnos said.

What Bush Knew

But neither McClennan nor Osnos knows what Bush really knew.

The revelatory point in McClellan’s statement was that Bush was a direct participant in the campaign to protect Rove and Libby as they lied about their roles in the leak. Previously that was an inference one could draw from the facts, but it had not been confirmed by a White House official.

Indeed, looking at the available evidence, it would defy credulity that Bush wasn’t implicated in the Plame-gate leak and the subsequent cover-up, which led to Libby’s conviction earlier this year on four counts of perjury and obstruction of justice.

For Bush not to have been involved would have required him to be oblivious to the inner workings of the White House and the actions of his closest advisers on an issue of great importance to him.

From the evidence at Libby’s trial, it was already clear that Bush had a direct hand in the effort to discredit Plame’s husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, after he had gone public in July 2003 with his role in a CIA investigation of what turned out to be bogus claims that Iraq had sought yellowcake uranium from Niger.

Bush, who had cited those bogus claims in his 2003 State of the Union Address in making his case for invading Iraq, was worried about his credibility when U.S. forces failed to find WMD evidence and when Wilson became the first Washington insider to start questioning Bush’s case for war.

So, Bush collaborated with Vice President Dick Cheney in mounting a counter-attack against Wilson. Bush decided to selectively declassify portions of a National Intelligence Estimate in order to undercut Wilson’s credibility and agreed to have that information leaked to friendly reporters.

It was in that context that Libby, Rove and other administration officials went forth to brief reporters, contacts that ended up disclosing that Wilson’s CIA wife, Plame, played a role in arranging his work on the CIA investigation. The suggestion was that Wilson’s unpaid fact-finding trip to Niger was a case of nepotism or a junket.

Following these press contacts, Plame’s identity surfaced in a July 14, 2003, article by right-wing columnist Robert Novak, who had gotten his information from two sources, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and his friend, the president’s chief political adviser Karl Rove.

But Rove’s work on the Plame leak didn’t stop with Novak’s article; he continued to peddle the information to other journalists, such as MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who told Wilson a week after Novak’s column, “I just got off the phone with Karl Rove. He says and I quote, ‘Wilson’s wife is fair game.’”

Rove has since disputed the precise “fair game” quote, but he doesn’t deny talking to Matthews about Plame’s identity. So, we know that a week after the original leaks had blown Plame’s undercover status, Bush had not called off the dogs. His closest political adviser still was using the information to undermine Wilson.

Hardball Politics

This pattern of hardball politics, of course, fits with how George W. Bush and others in his family play the game.

His father, George H.W. Bush, would talk about how rough he could be when in “campaign mode.” The younger George Bush just extended that pugnacious approach to full-time, aided and abetted by a powerful right-wing media that has carried water for him consistently over the past eight years.

Even American citizens who get in Bush’s way feel the lash. Just ask the likes of former weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who challenged Bush’s pre-Iraq War claims about WMD, or the Dixie Chicks, who dared to diss the Commander in Chief at one of their concerts.

So, the treatment of Wilson/Plame was part of the standard fare for what happened to Americans who dissented on Bush’s war policies. However, this one was a little different because the leak destroyed the career of a covert CIA officer and endangered her network of foreign agents who had been supplying information about WMD in the Middle East.

In September 2003, upset about this collateral damage, the CIA forwarded a criminal complaint to the Justice Department seeking an investigation into the outing of Plame. As far as the CIA was concerned, her classified identity was covered by a 1982 law barring willful exposure of CIA officers who had “served” abroad in the preceding five years.

But Bush and his inner circle could still breathe easily since the probe was under the control of Attorney General John Ashcroft, considered to be a right-wing Bush ally. The White House responded to press inquiries disingenuously, claiming Bush took the leak very seriously and would punish anyone involved.

“The President has set high standards, the highest of standards, for people in his administration,” McClellan said on Sept. 29, 2003. “If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration.”

Bush personally announced his determination to get to the bottom of the matter.

“If there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is,” Bush said on Sept. 30, 2003. “I want to know the truth. If anybody has got any information inside our administration or outside our administration, it would be helpful if they came forward with the information so we can find out whether or not these allegations are true.”

Yet, even as Bush was professing his curiosity and calling for anyone with information to step forward, he was withholding the fact that he had authorized the declassification of some secrets about the Niger uranium issue and had ordered Cheney to arrange for those secrets to be given to reporters.

In other words, though Bush knew a great deal about how the anti-Wilson scheme got started — since he was involved in starting it — he uttered misleading public statements to conceal the White House role.

Spreading Lies

Also, since the other conspirators knew that Bush already was in the know, they would have read his comments as a signal to lie, which is what they did. In early October, press secretary McClellan said he could report that political adviser Karl Rove and National Security Council aide Elliott Abrams were not involved in the Plame leak.

That comment riled Libby, who feared that he was being hung out to dry. Libby went to his boss, Dick Cheney, and complained that “they’re trying to set me up; they want me to be the sacrificial lamb,” Libby’s lawyer Theodore Wells later said.

Cheney scribbled down his feelings in a note to press secretary McClellan: “Not going to protect one staffer + sacrifice the guy the Pres that was asked to stick his head in the meat grinder because of incompetence of others.”

Cheney initially ascribed Libby’s role in going after Wilson to Bush’s orders, but the Vice President apparently thought better of it, crossing out “the Pres” and putting the clause in a passive tense.

Cheney has never explained publicly the meaning of his note, but it suggests that it was Bush who sent Libby out on the get-Wilson mission to limit damage from Wilson’s criticism of Bush’s false Niger-yellowcake claim in the State of the Union Address.

Cheney’s reference to the “incompetence of others” may refer to those who cleared the false Niger claim in the first place.

Bush’s subsequent behavior in the latter half of 2003 adds to the evidence of his guilt.

Assuming Bush was sincere in his desire to get to the bottom of who leaked Plame’s identity — or just wanted to make sure there was no security risk in his inner circle — he presumably would have ordered an internal White House security probe. But he didn’t.

James Knodell, director of the White House security office, conceded before a congressional committee in March 2007 that no internal security investigation was performed; no security clearances were suspended or revoked; no punishment of any kind was meted out to White House political adviser Rove, even after his role in leaking Plame’s classified identity was determined.

Knodell, whose job included assessing Executive Branch security breaches, said that what he knew about the Plame case was “through the press.” A logical inference from Knodell’s inaction was that Bush already knew who had leaked Plame’s identity because he was involved in the leak.

In fall 2003, with no White House security review underway and the criminal probe presumably bottled up in the Justice Department, the cover-up broadened. On Oct. 4, 2003, McClellan added Libby to the list of officials who have “assured me that they were not involved in this.”

So, Libby had a motive to lie to the FBI when he was first interviewed about the case. He had gone to the mat with his boss to get his name cleared in the press, meaning it would make little sense to then admit involvement to FBI investigators, especially when it looked as if the cover-up would hold.

“The White House had staked its credibility on there being no White House involvement in the leaking of information about Ms. Wilson,” a federal court filing later noted. For his part, Libby began claiming that he had first learned about Plame’s CIA identity from NBC’s Washington bureau chief Tim Russert after Wilson had gone public.

Reversal of Fortune

This White House cover-up might have worked, except in late 2003, Ashcroft decided he wouldn’t be the loyal foot soldier and recused himself because of a conflict of interest. Deputy Attorney General James Comey then picked Patrick Fitzgerald — the U.S. Attorney in Chicago — to serve as special prosecutor.

Fitzgerald pursued the investigation far more aggressively. Bush’s White House countered with a combination of public stonewalling and a continued PR campaign to further discredit Wilson.

Bush’s political and media allies dissected every nuance of the Wilson/Plame case to highlight supposed inconsistencies and contradictions.

The Republican National Committee put out nasty anti-Wilson talking points; senior Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee called Wilson a liar; the right-wing media — aided and abetted by the Washington Post’s neoconservative editorial page — amplified these ugly attacks to the public.

Right-wing lawyer Victoria Toensing received widespread media coverage when she claimed that Plame was not a “covert” officer under the definition of the 1982 law protecting the identities of intelligence agents because it only applied to CIA personnel who had “resided” or were “stationed” abroad in the previous five years.

Toensing argued that since Plame, the mother of young twins, was stationed at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and resided in the Washington area, she wasn’t “covert” even if that was her official CIA status. But Toensing was misrepresenting the law that she said she had helped draft while a congressional staffer in the early 1980s.

The actual wording of the law as it pertained to CIA and other clandestine officers was “served” abroad, which is not synonymous with “stationed” or “resided,” the words that Toensing had substituted.

One can be stationed or reside inside the United States and still “serve” abroad by undertaking secret missions overseas, which Plame had done.

But many in the right-wing news media and even at prestige newspapers like the Washington Post adopted Toensing’s word games as reality. It became an article of faith in some political circles that Plame was not a “covert” officer and that therefore there was “no underlying crime” in the leaking of her identity.

Bush’s Guilt?

But what does this ongoing pattern of deception and character assassination against Wilson and Plame suggest about Bush’s innocence or guilt?

If Bush were the innocent party that we are supposed to believe, wouldn’t he have acted differently? Wouldn’t he have called for an end to these attacks on two American citizens who had served their country?

But Bush never tried to halt these cruel diversionary tactics. The White House goal, it appears, was to stir up enough confusion so that the public wouldn’t focus on the logical conclusion that Bush was responsible for damaging a CIA operation intended to protect national security.

In October 2005, Fitzgerald indicted Libby on five counts of lying to federal investigators and obstructing justice. Libby was convicted on four of five counts in March 2007 and sentenced to 30 months in jail.

But Bush’s role in the cover-up wasn’t finished. On July 2, 2007, Bush commuted Libby’s sentence to spare him any jail time. The President also left open the possibility that Libby might receive a full pardon before Bush left the White House.

The combination of taking away the stick of jail time and dangling the carrot of a full pardon eliminated any incentive for Libby to turn state’s evidence against Bush, Cheney and other senior officials.

In a different era, one might expect major newspapers, like the New York Times and the Washington Post, to erupt in fury over such an obvious case of presidential wrongdoing. One also might have anticipated serious hearings by a Democratic-controlled Congress to get to the bottom of this sorry affair.

But not in this era. Even when former press secretary McClellan became the first White House insider to acknowledge that senior officials, including Bush and Cheney, put him up to spreading lies about the Plame-gate scandal (whatever they knew at the time), there was almost no reaction, except on the Internet and some cable TV shows.

The Post and Times essentially ignored McClellan’s statement, apparently buying into the later spin that Bush might not have known then that Libby and Rove were lying. Bush’s right-wing apologists already are back on the attack, claiming that McClellan’s back-tracking supports Bush’s innocence.

The Democrats also don’t seem to have the stomach to hold Bush accountable. One presidential hopeful, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Connecticut, called for the Justice Department to investigate whether Bush had intentionally misled the public.

But the Democrats control both houses of Congress and presumably could compel testimony from many of the principals. They might even be able to force an explanation from special prosecutor Fitzgerald about why he didn’t pursue a broader case and what Bush and Cheney told him during their interviews about the Plame leak.

Instead the Democrats appear frightened of the counter-attack that the right-wing media could unleash, especially when major mainstream publications like the Times show little interest in the story and others like the Post actually are helping Bush in his cover-up.

But the broader picture appears to be that George W. Bush is just the latest member of the Bush family who can skate away from nearly any wrongdoing without paying a price.

Robert Parry’s new book is Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq.”


Global Research Articles by Robert Parry

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House Dem. Talking Points on New Iraq Bill By David Swanson

November 15, 2007

House Dem. Talking Points on New Iraq Bill By David Swanson

~ Lo

Dandelion Salad

By David Swanson
After Downing Street
Nov. 14, 2007

Here’s the Iraq bill the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on, on Wednesday:
http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/downloads/bridgebullbill.pdf

Here are the actual talking points the Democratic misleadership thinks will coat this pig with lipstick:

“Iraq Redeployment Bill

1. “Requires the redeployment of US troops from Iraq to begin within 30 days of enactment, with a target for completion of December 15, 2008;”

No, the counter-recruitment movement and the worst year of U.S. Army recruiting since the Vietnam War requires the withdrawal, not redeployment, of a small number of troops. Targets are for archery camp, not for dictators. Asking Bush and Cheney to agree to a “target” or a “goal” that you know they will never attempt to meet is not helpful or appropriate. We can do that. You are the United States Congress. The first half of the U.S. Constitution is devoted to making you the most powerful branch of our government. Have you read it?

2. “Requires a transition in the mission of US forces in Iraq from primarily combat to: force protection and diplomatic protection; limited support to Iraqi security forces; and targeted counter-terrorism operations;”

Call it whatever you want. They’re not occupying YOUR country. People in Iraq sometimes used to have good moments. Their lives were constrained by a brutal dictator, but they had predictability, stability, and even good times. They now have almost unmitigated misery. Over a million of them are dead. Over 4 million have been displaced. You have done this to them by funding your occupation of their country. Your first act must be to stop funding genocide. Period. Stop funding it. No more bills.

3. “Prohibits deployment of any troops not fully equipped and trained; waivable with a presidential national security certification;”

Do you not understand that even when you require Bush and Cheney to do things, they laugh at you? How seriously do you think they take waivable suggestions? The American people consider waivable requirements of Bush and Cheney to be indications that you are either insane or believe we are remarkably stupid, and we know you’d never think we were stupid.

4. “Extends to all US government agencies and personnel the limitations in the Army Field Manual on permissible interrogation techniques;”

So do the Eighth Amendment and the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions. So what? The question is what you are going to do about it. Pretending that until this moment the CIA was permitted to torture is a way of granting immunity, when you should be drafting indictments and articles of impeachment.

5. “Provides $50 billion to meet the needs of the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan but defers the consideration of the remainder of the President’s nearly $200 billion request.”

Name me one troop who believes he or she is going to get that $50 billion or any sliver of it. I dare you to pass this bill with an amendment that makes it conditional on majority approval by the active duty troops in Iraq whose bodies you hide behind. Give them a choice of coming home or “being funded,” and your whole charade will collapse.

This is a bill first and foremost to do what you bury in your final talking point: throw another 50 billion dollars at the occupation of Iraq. You’ve consciously avoided banning the use of this money for attacking Iran. You’ve required no withdrawal, no closing of bases. You’ve not used the power of the purse. You’ve not so much as mentioned mercenaries or contractors. You’ve not explained where this $50 billion will come from, mush less all the other resulting costs. Your own study says we’ve already spent $1.5 trillion. And you want to spend more? Again, are you insane?

Bush just signed the biggest military pork bill in history. Withdrawing from Iraq is pocket change. You can pass a bill to fund a withdrawal if you want to, but this isn’t it. This is a bill to fund more occupation.

Ninety of you committed to not voting for bills like this one: http://afterdowningstreet.org/peacepledge If you do not stand by your word, your word will be known as worthless henceforth.

Speaker Pelosi, if you are willing to cut off the money should Bush not accept your latest bill (as if the Senate will), then why not cut the money off now? There are lives in the balance and your top concern is being able to “blame” Bush for saving them? You need to get out more. Talk to people. Listen to them.

Here’s something they just told pollsters at American Research Group: 94% of Democrats say Cheney has abused his power, 69% say he’s committed impeachable offenses, 63% say he should be removed from office. You only said impeachment was off the table for Bush, not Cheney. And, even then, you said you could not predict where investigations might lead.

Stop funding genocide, Nancy, and allow the Judiciary Committee to do it’s job, and your desk will be covered with flowers and your coffers overflowing.

Any of your gang who votes to fund more war will have only impeachment as a path to redemption. If they fail there, they will be utterly worthless, and you will be to blame.

Email Congress: http://www.democrats.com/peoplesemailnetwork/124

Phone Congress: 202-224-3121.

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Democrats’ Year of Living Fecklessly

November 9, 2007

One year ago, the Democrats ended Republican control of Congress, stirring millions of Americans to hope that George W. Bush’s Iraq War and his assault on the U.S. Constitution finally would be stopped.

Twelve months later, many of those once-hopeful voters feel bitter disillusionment toward the national Democratic Party, which has surrendered in showdown after showdown with the weakened President, from continuing to write blank checks for the Iraq War to ceding more power to him for his surveillance operations.

The Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee couldn’t even put together enough of a united front to block Bush’s appointment of a new Attorney General who believes the President should possess nearly unlimited powers in wartime and who won’t say that the simulated drowning of waterboarding constitutes torture.

Though some voters have been surprised by the consistency of these Democratic cave-ins, the pattern actually started immediately after the surprising election results of Nov. 7, 2006, when Democrats won narrow majorities in the House and Senate.

Rather than escalate their political confrontation with Bush, the Democrats opted for a course of wishful thinking and empty gestures. Most importantly, the Democrats chose not only to keep impeachment off the table, but avoided any comprehensive investigation into controversial Bush policies.

There were no Fulbright-style hearings on the origins of the Iraq War; there were no broad challenges to the excessive secrecy that Bush clamped down around his constitutional violations in the “war on terror”; the best the Democrats could muster were scatter-shot hearings by Rep. Henry Waxman’s House Oversight Committee.

In short, the Democrats not only failed to mount a sustained challenge to Bush’s policies, they avoided any systematic hearings that would educate the American public about why Bush’s presidency has represented such an extraordinary threat to the Republic. They have acted as if the people simply should “get it” without any more information.

This Democratic tendency to de-value information – and a timidity toward real oversight – can be traced back to the 1980s when accommodating Democrats, such as Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana, sought to finesse, rather than confront, abuses of power by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush during the Iran-Contra Affair and related scandals.

The pattern deepened in 1993 when Bill Clinton won the presidency and the Democrats still controlled Congress. At that point, they shelved investigations of Reagan-Bush crimes, including clandestine military support for Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, drug-trafficking by the Nicaraguan contra rebels, and still-secret dealings with Iran.

Clinton and the Democrats judged that the hard work of getting at the truth and exacting accountability was less important than wooing some moderate Republicans into hoped-for support of Clinton’s budget, health-care and other domestic priorities. [For details on this failed strategy, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

Consumers, Not Citizens

By their actions in the early days of the Clinton administration, the national Democrats revealed that they viewed the American people more as consumers eager for services than citizens needing honest information to fulfill their duties in a democratic Republic.

Clinton also apparently thought that his magnanimous gesture, especially in letting former President George H.W. Bush off the hook, would win reciprocity from the Republicans. Instead, they took the Democratic scrapping of the Reagan-Bush investigations as a sign of weakness and unleashed the emerging right-wing media against Clinton.

Despite catastrophic political results – losing control of Congress in 1994 and the White House in 2000 – the national Democrats learned few lessons from the Clinton debacles. In 2002 and 2004, they reacted to Bush and his “war on terror” gingerly and suffered more defeats.

Finally, in 2006, heeding an increasingly angry “base,” the Democrats adopted a tougher stance toward Bush and were surprised by their own success. Yet, even as congressional Democrats were picking confetti out of their hair, they were reverting to their can’t-we-all-get-along approach.

On Nov. 8, the day after the election, Bush announced that he was replacing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with former CIA Director Robert Gates. The Democrats hailed the move, thinking that it signaled a new assertion of control by the “realists” from President George H.W. Bush’s administration.

After all, Gates had worked for the elder Bush and was a member of the Iraq Study Group, which was planning to urge a drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq. A Newsweek cover illustrated this thesis with a large Poppy Bush in the foreground and a smaller Sonny Bush in the rear.

A conventional wisdom took shape, that Gates gave up his beloved presidency of Texas A&M to undertake the thankless job of walking junior Bush back from the brink.

At Consortiumnews.com, we published a series of contrarian stories about Gates, many drawing from CIA officers who had worked with Gates. They regarded him as the consummate bureaucratic “yes man” who operated with a burning ambition concealed beneath a mild-mannered persona.

In this view, Gates, one of the political casualties of the Iran-Contra Affair, had never gotten over his ouster from the center of Washington power. Not nearly as content with his life in “Aggie-land” as he led people to think, Gates saw his Pentagon appointment as possibly his last chance to return to the world stage.

Misreading Rumsfeld

The Democrats and the Washington press corps also got Rumsfeld’s firing wrong. The acerbic Defense Secretary wasn’t ousted because of his dead-ender support for the Iraq War, but rather he was removed when he urged Bush to start withdrawing troops.

This darker version of events began to emerge in late November 2006 when Bush told reporters in Amman, Jordan, that he had no interest in the gradual troop withdrawals favored by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.

Bush vowed that American forces will “stay in Iraq to get the job done,” adding “this business about graceful exit just simply has no realism to it whatsoever.”

Right-wing pundit Fred Barnes also heard from his administration sources that Gates wasn’t some behind-the-throne councilor sent by the elder Bush to whisper into the ear of his head-strong son. “Rarely has the press gotten a story so wrong,” Barnes wrote at the neoconservative Weekly Standard.

Barnes reported that the younger George Bush didn’t consult either his father or Iraq Study Group co-chairman James Baker about appointing Gates. Instead, Bush picked the ex-CIA chief after getting assurances from Gates that he was onboard with the neoconservative notion about “democracy promotion” in the Middle East.

“The President wanted ‘clarity’ on Gates’s views, especially on Iraq and the pursuit of democracy. He asked if Gates shared the goal of victory in Iraq and would be determined to pursue it aggressively as defense chief,” Barnes reported. [The Weekly Standard, Nov. 27, 2006]

Then, on Dec. 3, the New York Times disclosed that Rumsfeld had written a memo on Nov. 6 – one day before the congressional elections and the same day he submitted his resignation letter – calling for a “major adjustment” in Iraq War policy.

The options that Rumsfeld wanted to consider included “an accelerated drawdown of U.S. bases from 55 now to 10 to 15 by April 2007 and to five by July 2007.”

Another Rumsfeld idea was to commit U.S. forces only to provinces and cities that request the assistance. “Unless they [the local Iraqi governments] cooperate fully, U.S. forces would leave their province,” Rumsfeld wrote.

Proposing a plan similar to one enunciated by Democratic Rep. John Murtha, Rumsfeld suggested that the generals “withdraw U.S. forces from vulnerable positions – cities, patrolling, etc. – and move U.S. forces to a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) status, operating from within Iraq and Kuwait, to be available when Iraqi security forces need assistance.”

And in what could be read as an implicit criticism of Bush’s lofty rhetoric about transforming Iraq and the Middle East, Rumsfeld said the administration should “recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) – go minimalist.” [NYT, Dec. 3, 2006]

The Gates Walk

In other words, the Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee had plenty of evidence before Gates’s confirmation hearing on Dec. 5 to suspect that Gates was not the hoped-for harbinger of U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq, but rather a new face for continuing an old policy.

At the hearing, the Democrats didn’t press Gates on whether he shared the neoconservative vision of violently remaking the Middle East, whether he endorsed the Military Commissions Act’s elimination of habeas corpus rights to fair trials, whether he supported warrantless eavesdropping by the Pentagon’s National Security Agency, whether he agreed with Bush’s claim of “plenary” – or unlimited – powers as a Commander in Chief who can override laws and the U.S. Constitution.

When Gates did stake out substantive positions, he almost invariably lined up with Bush’s “stay-until-victory” plan in Iraq. Though insisting that “all the options are on the table,” Gates rejected any timetable for military withdrawal as some Democrats recommended. He also echoed Bush’s argument that an American pullout would lead to a regional cataclysm.

Democrats couldn’t even get a commitment from Gates to turn over Pentagon documents for congressional oversight. Gates qualified his answer with phrases such as “to the limits of my authority” – suggesting that the Bush administration would continue resisting demands from Congress for sensitive papers about the war – and that Gates wouldn’t interfere.

Nevertheless, Sen. Hillary Clinton and other committee Democrats ignored the warning signs and hailed Gates’s “candor.” Without hearing from Rumsfeld about his memo or nailing down where Bush’s war policies were headed, the Democrats joined the committee’s 21-0 endorsement of the Gates nomination.

In January 2007, as the Democrats celebrated their new majorities, Bush continued to revamp his war council. He ousted Generals John Abizaid and George Casey who opposed escalating U.S. troop levels, and put in Iraq one of his favorites, Gen. David Petraeus, who was gung-ho about a “surge” of more than 20,000 U.S. troops.

At this point, the Democrats might have reevaluated their decision to keep impeachment off the table or at least they could have countered with full-scale hearings, like Sen. William Fulbright, D-Arkansas, conducted on the Vietnam War, or with investigative hearings like those for the Watergate and Iran-Contra scandals.

Instead, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada spent weeks championing a symbolic resolution of disapproval against the “surge.” The Democratic strategy was to propose mildly worded resolutions and amendments with the hope that moderate Republicans would sign on.

However, a near-solid phalanx of Senate Republicans easily swatted away the “surge” resolution with filibusters.

The Democrats next tried to attach withdrawal timetables to Bush’s $100 billion war-funding supplemental. The Republicans let the bill go through but only so Bush could veto it. They then sustained the veto and chided the Democrats for “playing politics” and endangering the safety of U.S. troops in the field.

Caving In

Before leaving for the Memorial Day recess, the Democratic leadership bowed to Bush’s demand for a spending bill with no strings attached.

Facing a furious Democratic “base,” congressional leaders revived promises that the days of Bush’s “blank checks” were over. But key Democrats, such as Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Carl Levin of Michigan, made clear that when push came to shove, they would give way.

On June 21, Levin spelled out his thinking in a Washington Post op-ed entitled “Lincoln’s Example for Iraq.” Levin said he was modeling his Iraq War position on Abraham Lincoln’s stance on the Mexican War, launched by President James Polk in 1846 after a declaration of war by Congress.

“In his only term in Congress, Abraham Lincoln was an ardent opponent of the Mexican War,” Levin wrote. Yet, “when the question of funding for the troops fighting that war came, Lincoln voted their supplies without hesitation.”

But the senator’s historical parallel to Lincoln wasn’t correct. Lincoln wasn’t even in Congress when the war with Mexico was declared on May 13, 1846. Lincoln took his seat in the House of Representatives on Dec. 6, 1847.

By then, the war was already won. The decisive battle of Chapultepec was fought almost three months earlier, on Sept. 12, 1847, and American forces entered Mexico City on Sept. 14.

Though there was a delay in negotiating a final peace treaty due to Mexico’s political chaos, the war was effectively over. So, Lincoln’s readiness to supply the troops was not a vote for continuing an indefinite war with Mexico; it was simply to send supplies while a final peace treaty was negotiated.

The peace treaty was signed in the village of Guadalupe Hidalgo, near Mexico City, on Feb. 2, 1848, formally ending a conflict that had lasted less than two years. By contrast, the Iraq War has dragged on for more than four years with no end in sight.

In other words, Levin was historically misguided when he supposed that Congressman Lincoln would have given President Polk a blank check for war if that Commander in Chief sought a bloody, indefinite occupation of the Mexican countryside.

Levin’s own end-the-war strategy relied on winning over enough Republican moderates to someday overcome a Bush veto. But the idea that a large bloc of Republicans would join Democrats to achieve a 67-vote super-majority on a war-funding bill was far-fetched.

Yet, as daunting as that hurdle was, Democratic leaders fended off growing rank-and-file demands for impeachment hearings targeting Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney by arguing that the votes simply weren’t there for removing Bush and Cheney.

Many in the Democratic “base” countered that the votes also weren’t there for symbolic resolutions and amendments watered down to lure Republican “moderates.” At least, impeachment hearings would focus the nation on the crimes of the Bush-Cheney administration, rank-and-file Democrats said.

Blindsided Again

The Democratic leadership got blindsided again just before the August recess when the administration said it needed a technical fix of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to deal with cases when two foreign terror suspects were communicating abroad but their conversation was routed through a U.S. switching point.

As Democrats tried to address that technical glitch, the Republicans ambushed them with a much more sweeping revision of the FISA law, granting Bush broad powers to wiretap almost anyone as long as one party was believed to be outside the United States.

Up against the August recess and facing “soft on terror” charges, Democrats folded again, letting the Protect America Act of 2007 pass. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Bush Gets a Spying Blank Check.”]

Stunned by public outrage over this surrender – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office reported getting more than 200,000 angry e-mails – the Democratic leaders vowed to modify the law once they returned from the August recess.

But so far, the main revision appears to be an expansion of the amnesty provision for telecommunications companies that turned over their clients’ records to the Bush administration without a court warrant.

On Sept. 19, a final blow was dealt to the Democratic strategy of trying to woo Republican votes in favor of restrictive Iraq War amendments. Sen. John Warner, R-Virginia, had promised to support a bill by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Virginia, to guarantee longer home leave for combat troops.

However, Defense Secretary Gates intervened and persuaded Warner to reverse his position. With Warner’s help, Republicans blocked Webb’s bill on a procedural vote. Neoconservative Independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut hailed the outcome as proof that “Congress will not intervene in the foreseeable future” on Iraq.

Emboldened by the repeated Democratic cave-ins on Iraq, Lieberman and pro-Bush Republicans even got the Senate to go on record urging the President to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guards an international terrorist organization.

Despite a warning from Webb that the move could be a prelude to a wider Middle East war, leading Democrats – including Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid and Carl Levin – joined 73 other senators in approving the sense-of-the-Senate resolution on Sept. 26.

More Humiliations

But the humiliations have kept on coming. The New York Times revealed on Oct. 4 that the Bush administration only pretended to repudiate earlier legal opinions approving Bush’s right to abuse and torture detainees. Secret memos from 2005, which reaffirmed that right, were kept from Congress.

“When the Justice Department publicly declared torture ‘abhorrent’ in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations,” the Times reported.

“But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales’s arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document, according to officials briefed on it, an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.

“The new opinion, the officials said, for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.” [NYT, Oct. 4, 2007]

Though apparently fooled again on that one, the Democrats finally felt they were making progress when Bush appointed retired federal Judge Michael Mukasey to replace Gonzales as the nation’s chief law-enforcement officer.
Though a hard-liner favoring broad presidential powers, Mukasey treated the Senate Judiciary Committee with respect missing from Gonzales.

But Mukasey refused to call waterboarding of terror suspects torture. If he had made that concession, Bush and other administration officials might have been opened to legal jeopardy for violating anti-torture statutes.

When Mukasey held firm in refusing to answer, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and some other committee Democrats announced their opposition. But two Democratic senators, Charles Schumer of New York and Dianne Feinstein of California, joined with Republicans on Nov. 6 to clear Mukasey’s nomination, effectively assuring his confirmation.

Again, rank-and-file Democrats were left fuming over the spinelessness of the congressional Democrats. But this angry Democratic “base” is not alone in its disgust. After a full year of futility in countering Bush’s war policies, the Democratic Congress has sunk to near record lows in public approval.

With one year left before Election 2008, national Democrats can only hope that anger at Bush and his party will cause voters to overlook the Democrats’ own year of living fecklessly.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.

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Kucinich: I have 3-inch binder documenting Cheney’s crimes By David Edwards & Jason Rhyne (link)

November 8, 2007

Kucinich: I have 3-inch binder documenting Cheney’s crimes By David Edwards & Jason Rhyne (link)

Submitted by davidswanson on Wed, 2007-11-07 14:00.
After Downing Street

By David Edwards and Jason Rhyne
Raw Story

The following video is from CBS’s Early Show, broadcast on November 6, 2007.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), whose impeachment resolution against Vice President Dick Cheney was kept temporarily afloat on Tuesday — largely with the help of House Republicans — says the measure was no bluff.

During an appearance on CBS’s Early Show, host Harry Smith told Kucinich that Republicans had “basically called your bluff” in wanting to debate the impeachment of Cheney on the House floor.

“They didn’t call my bluff,” Kucinich shot back. “I was fully prepared for debate — with a three-inch thick binder annotating the violations of law and the violations of the Constitution committed by the vice president which would justify an impeachment.”

Smith responded that Kucinich had “certainly called the bluff of the Democratic leadership,” adding that the congressman did not have the support of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who had introduced a motion to kill debate on the subject, nor Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

“There’s really, what, a handful of you who are really interested in this,” Smith added.

But Kucinich said his impeachment resolution had little to do with the lack of support he was receiving from fellow Democrats.

“Harry, you have to remember there are millions of Americans who are part of a national movement to defend the constitution,” said Kucinich. “And they understand that the vice president made a false claim for war and is trying to beat the drums for a war against Iran and they’re calling for action to be done.”

Impeachment, said Kucinich, was a move on his part safeguard the Constitution.

“It’s really abut the American people and their insistence that their government not be lost,” he continued. “People are worried that we’re losing democracy, and they’re demanding that the Constitution be protected. And that’s exactly what yesterday was about.”

Smith later asked the congressman if the impeachment resolution was all part of a publicity stunt in aid of his presidential campaign.

“The nay-sayers, though,” said Smith, “would say ‘Dennis Kucinich this is a way to get your name on — at least on page six of the newspaper and a failing bid to win the Democratic nomination for president.’”

Not so, said Kucinich:

“We have men and women with their lives on the line in Iraq, a war based on lies,” said the former Cleveland mayor. “Over 3,800 soldiers have died, over a million innocent Iraqis have died in this war. This is about our moral caliber here as to whether or not Washington can see the truth.”

“Let me tell you something,” concluded Kucinich. “In Washington, the truth is an unidentified flying object. And it’s time that someone stood for the truth. The American people demand nothing less.”

In a strict party-line vote, Democrats sent the Cheney impeachment resolution to the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, where it will be considered by Chairman John Conyers (D-MI).

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Backstory: An impeachment vote turnaround stuns Washington By Nick Juliano

November 8, 2007

Backstory: An impeachment vote turnaround stuns Washington By Nick Juliano

By Nick Juliano
After Downing Street
Raw Story

Nov. 7, 2007

Republican move was meant to embarass Democrats; Conyers’ Judiciary Committee seems tepid

Dennis Kucinich walked into his Capitol Hill office Tuesday evening clearly exhausted but full of hope. The Ohio Democrat had just returned from the House floor where crafty Republicans had joined with dozens of liberal lawmakers across the aisle to prevent Democratic leaders from scuttling Kucinich’s call to impeach Dick Cheney.

“The millions of Americans who have called on Congress to stand up for the Constitution are finally being heard,” Kucinich told reporters in his office after lawmakers had spent two hours on the House floor considering his impeachment move.

What was supposed to be a relatively simple — and largely symbolic — vote meant to allow a handful of lawmakers to formally level their displeasure with Vice President Dick Cheney turned into a full-blown fracas as Republicans used some last-minute maneuvers to help keep impeachment alive.

“I’m not going to deny there was some (political) gamesmanship,” Kucinich said of the Republicans who joined him to keep impeachment alive. Regardless of the GOP motives, though, Kucinich said Cheney deserved to be impeached for lying to Americans in the run-up to the Iraq war. The dark-horse Democratic candidate said the vice president’s ouster was the best chance America has to avoid another war with Iran.

Seven months after first introducing articles of impeachment of the vice president, Kucinich finally grew fed up with his party’s leaders who had steadfastly refused to even consider kicking the current administration out of the White House. Even before she had first rapped the Speaker’s gavel, Nancy Pelosi declared adamantly that impeachment was “off the table.”

Kucinich, the former mayor of Cleveland, found a way around his leaders’ objections, though. On Tuesday he introduced a privileged resolution on impeachment in the House. Because impeachment involves a question of Congress’s Constitutional role, Kucinich’s proposal was allowed to jump the legislative queue and receive an immediate floor vote.

The privileged resolution was hailed by pro-impeachment activists as a way to finally get lawmakers on the record about whether Cheney deserved to keep his job.

About 20 Code Pink activists gathered outside a Capitol Hill conference room where Kucinich was expected to speak to reporters. They were joined by a dozen Capitol Police officers, apparently wary of outbursts from the group that has made a name for itself disrupting events on the Hill, but Kucinich aides were unable to explain the heavy police presence.

As expected, the resolution was immediately met with a motion to table that would’ve effectively scuttled any further impeachment discussion. That move came from Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who like most rank-and-file Democrats opposes attempts to impeach Cheney or President Bush.

What happened next came as a surprise to virtually everyone. Instead of taking the opportunity to kill impeachment, Republicans saw an opportunity to embarrass Democrats and force them to spend several hours on a resolution that most believe has essentially no chance of passage.

As the 15-minute vote was nearing its close, Republicans began requesting — one at a time — the opportunity to change their votes. This not only prolonged consideration of impeachment, keeping the vote open for an hour longer than scheduled, it shifted enough support to scuttle the Democrats’ attempt to kill the bill.

“We don’t wish to save the Democrats from themselves when their left wing exposes themselves,” Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) told Roll Call, noting that Democratic leaders were trying to draw as little attention as possible to the impeachment issue by voting to table the resolution. “When there’s an opportunity to show their strong left base, it’s important for it to be seen,” he added.

The motion to table failed on a 251-162 vote with 165 Republicans voting against tabling the impeachment resolution. Democratic leaders — and even Kucinich’s staff — expected the tabling motion to pass easily giving the quirky Democrats bill a quiet death. Even the 86 Democrats who voted against their party’s efforts to kill the bill came as a surprise; Kucinich’s resolution had 22 co-sponsors and an aide to the Congressman told RAW STORY before the vote that few Democrats who weren’t co-sponsors were expected to vote to keep the bill alive.

Ultimately, the fate of Kucinich’s bill is unlikely to change. Democrats were nearly unified on a vote to send the impeachment articles to the Judiciary Committee, where it has languished since Kucinich began his effort to oust Cheney in April.

Kucinich and other progressive lawmakers implied that Judiciary Chairman John Conyers assured them he would move forward on impeachment, despite his previous reticence to do so.

“I’ve spoken to Mr. Conyers, and I’m quite confident that the bill is in good hands,” Kucinich told reporters at a press conference in his office after the vote.

A statement from the Judiciary Committee was less optimistic, saying the committee has a “very busy agenda,” including upcoming action on a foreign surveillance bill and attempts to hold current and former Bush aides in contempt of Congress.

“We were surprised that the minority was so ready to move forward with consideration of a matter of such complexity as impeaching the Vice President,” read a committee statement e-mailed to reporters an hour after the vote. “The Chairman will discuss today’s vote with the committee members but it would seem evident that the committee staff should continue to consider, as a preliminary matter, the many abuses of this Administration, including the Vice President.”

Conyers was perhaps Bush’s most vocal critic after the 2004 elections. In 2005, he introduced a motion to censure Bush over Iraq and torture allegations, seeking to create an select committee to investigate the administration’s intent to go to war prior to congressional authorization.

The intent — at the time — was to subpoena the President and other members of the administration in hopes of ascertaining if impeachable offenses have been committed.

In fact, the thought that Conyers was planning to push for impeachment if the Democrats took control of the House in 2006 was so strong that he penned an article in the Washington Post titled “No Rush to Impeachment.”

“As Republicans have become increasingly nervous about whether they will be able to maintain control of the House in the midterm elections, they have resorted to the straw-man strategy of identifying a parade of horrors to come if Democrats gain the majority,” Conyers wrote in May 2006. “Among these is the assertion that I, as the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, would immediately begin impeachment proceedings against President Bush.”

“I will not do that,” he added. “I readily admit that I have been quite vigorous, if not relentless, in questioning the administration. The allegations I have raised are grave, serious, well known, and based on reliable media reports and the accounts of former administration officials.”

Since then, Conyers has not ruled out impeachment proceedings. House Speaker Pelosi has.

“I have said it before and I will say it again: Impeachment is off the table,” Pelosi said during a news conference in 2006.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Congressional Shame and Duplicity by Stephen Lendman

November 1, 2007

Congressional Shame and Duplicity by Stephen Lendman

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, November 1, 2007

The latest October Reuters/Zogby Index shows record low approval ratings for George Bush and Congress – 24% for the president that looks almost giddy compared to the bottom-scraping 11% level for the nation’s lawmakers. It’s more evidence that the criminal class in Washington is bipartisan and hoping November, 2008 will change things is pure fantasy.

A voter groundswell sent a message last November to end the Iraq war and occupation. Instead, the Democrat-led 110th Congress continues to fund it generously. In May, the House overwhelmingly passed HR 1585, the FY 2008 National Defense Authorization Act. It calls for $506.8 billion for DOD plus $141.8 billion (of the $150.5 billion White House request) for ongoing Iraq and Afghanistan operations. The Senate followed with a similar bill on October 1 with only three opposing votes against it. Neither bill proposed an Iraq withdrawal timeline, and final legislation has yet to be sent to the president.

Add on further amounts like George Bush’s latest $46 billion request putting FY 2008 supplemental war-funding above $196 billion and rising. Congress will approve it and more in spite of Democrats signaling a protracted budget showdown ahead. The only showdown will be over how much pork will be added to the final appropriation and for what purpose.

Democrats also back the administration’s push to attack Iran by echoing what the Israeli Lobby calls “The Iranian Threat.” War with Iran is AIPAC’s top priority, and key Democrats in Congress are on board hyping a non-existent threat to prepare the public for what may be coming. Earlier in March, Speaker Pelosi removed a provision from an appropriations bill that would have required George Bush to get congressional approval before attacking Iran. Then in July, the Senate unanimously (97 – 0) passed the Lieberman amendment that practically endorses war if it’s declared. It affirmed George Bush’s baseless charges that Tehran funds, trains and arms Iraqi resistance fighters “who are contributing to the destabilization of Iraq and are responsible for the murder of members of the United States Armed Forces.”

The House added its voice on September 25 by voting 397 – 16 for the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007 that imposes sanctions on non-US companies investing in Iran’s oil sector. The next day the Senate acted again by overwhelmingly (79 – 22) passing the Kyl-Lieberman amendment that calls for US policy to “combat, contain and (stop Iran by use of) diplomatic, economic, intelligence and military instruments.” Other bellicose language in the resolution stated:

– “the United States should designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp as a foreign terrorist organization….and place (it) on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists….it should be the policy of the United States to stop inside Iraq the violent activities and destabilizing influence of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies.”

This measure helped smooth the way for George Bush’s October 25 unilateral imposition of sanctions discussed below. It was an unprecendented move against another nation’s military Senator Jim Webb (voting no) said provides “a backdoor method of gaining congressional validation for military action, without one hearing (or) serious debate (and that the action) is Dick Cheney’s fondest pipe dream.”

George Bush acted provocatively twice. At his October 17 news conference, he menacingly said he believes Iran “want(s) to have the capacity, the knowledge in order to make a nuclear weapon….it’s in the world’s interests to prevent them from doing so….If Iran had a nuclear weapon, it would be a dangerous threat to world peace….So….if you’re interested in avoiding World War III” this possibility must be prevented implying war (potentially using first-strike nuclear weapons) is the way to do it.

On October 25 Bush acted again to counter China and Russia’s opposition to sweeping UN Security Council measures. He unilaterally imposed harsh new sanctions against Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC), its Quds Force, three state-owned banks and over 20 Iranian companies. The IRGC was named as “proliferators of weapons of mass destruction,” and the Quds Force was called a “supporter of terrorism.”

Democrats buy this stuff and ignore IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei’s latest October 28 statement that repeated his earlier ones. He said he had no evidence Iran is building or seeks to build nuclear weapons and accused the Bush administration of adding “fuel to the fire” with its bellicose rhetoric. The “loyal opposition” prefers instead to accept White House press secretary Dana Perino’s October 29 charge that Iran “is a country that is enriching and reprocessing uranium and the reason one does that is to lead towards a nuclear weapon.”

This accusation and new administration sanctions ratchet up tension further and amount to what one analyst called “a warning shot across the bow (that stops short of) a signal we’re going to war,” but it’s got other observers thinking the likelihood is greater than ever with Congress on board. The move also caught Vladimir Putin’s attention in Lisbon where he was attending an EU leader summit. “Why worsen the situation and bring it to a dead end” with sanctions or military action,” he said. He then added a pointed reference to George Bush stating: “Running around like a madman with a razor blade, waving it around, is not the best way to resolve the situation.”

Newly imposed sanctions won’t affect US companies. They’re already barred from doing business directly in Iran, but they do target their foreign subsidiaries and other foreign-based ones with threats of penalties and exclusion from the US market. It remains to be seen how effective they’ll be as key EU countries as well as China, Russia, India and others have growing economic ties to Iran. They won’t be eager to sever them or join the US campaign for a wider Middle East war. In addition, Iran is a major oil supplier. With the price of crude touching $96 a barrel on November 1 (and December futures up to $125), any cutoff or severe reduction of supply guarantees it’ll top $100 and make a global economic slowdown or recession much more likely.

Nonetheless, the Bush war machine presses on with congressional Democrats aboard. Presidential candidates from both parties support Bush’s move, and Democrat front runner Hillary Clinton is as hawkish as Joe Lieberman and John McCain. They both endorse attacking Iran, and McCain believes striking Iran’s nuclear sites “is a possibility that is maybe closer to reality than we are discussing tonight.”

Clinton is just as bellicose, is close to AIPAC, and in an earlier speech said: “The security and freedom of Israel must be decisive and remain at the core of any American approach to the Middle East. (We dare not) waver from this (firm) commitment.” She was also quoted in the current issue of Foreign Affairs saying: “Iran poses a long-term strategic challenge to the United States, our NATO allies and Israel. It is the country that most practices state-sponsored terrorism, and it uses its surrogates to supply explosives that kill US troops in Iraq….(Iran) must not not be permitted to build or acquire nuclear weapons. If Iran (won’t comply with) the will of the international community, all options must remain on the table.”

The only give in her position (that’s hardly any at all) is wanting congressional approval for any future military action. Up to now, that’s been pro forma rubber stamp. It’ll be no different if George Bush orders an attack as congressional Democrat leaders, including Hillary Clinton, have already signaled their approval.

John Richardson wrote on October 18 in Esquire.com that two former high-ranking Bush administration National Security Council officials fear the worst. They’re Middle East experts Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann, and they’re reacting publicly. They believe war with Iran has been in the cards for years, and we’re “getting closer and closer to the tripline.” Key for them was the unprecedented move to name Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Quds Force a terrorist organization.

Richardson lays out what they think will happen: UN diplomacy will fail because Russia and China won’t agree to harsh sanctions. Iran’s policies won’t change without “any meaningful incentive from the US. That will trigger a….White House (response with) a serious risk (George Bush) would decide to order an attack on the Iranian nuclear installations and probably a wider target zone.” This, in turn, “would result in a dramatic increase in attacks on US (Iraq) forces, attacks by proxy forces like Hezbollah, and an unknown reaction from….Afghanistan and Pakistan, where millions admire Iran’s resistance.” Attacking Iran “could engulf America in a war with the entire Muslim world.” The article also quotes former CIA officer and author Robert Baer (from Time magazine) saying an unnamed highly placed White House official believes “IEDs are a casus belli for this administration. There will be an attack on Iran.”

The London Times raised the betting odds further for one in its October 21 report. Columnist Michael Smith wrote: UK defense sources disclosed that “British (Special Air Service – SAS) forces have crossed into Iran several times (along with other special forces, the Australian SAS and American special-operation troops) as part of a secret border war against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Al-Quds special forces.” They engaged in “at least half a dozen intense firefights” along the Iran-Iraq border in what looks like deliberate US-UK efforts to provoke Iran into providing justification for a major American attack.

Speculation one looms has been around for some time, and if it comes, it won’t surprise observers like Iran expert Gary Sick. He was a military advisor to three US presidents and was recently quoted in Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine saying: The recent shift in US emphasis to “Iran’s support for terrorism in Iraq….is a complete change and is potentially dangerous.” That’s because it’s much easier proving (true or not) Iran supports Iraqi resistance fighters than it poses an imminent nuclear threat to the world.

Der Spiegel also reports on a leak “by an official close to” Dick Cheney that he’s “already asked for a backroom analysis of how a war with Iran might begin (and in) the scenario concocted by (his) strategists, Washington’s first step would be to convince Israel to fire missiles at Iran’s (Natanz) uranium enrichment plant.” That would provoke Iran to retaliate and give the Bush administration the excuse it needs “to attack military targets and nuclear facilities in Iran.” That’s OK with Democrats if it comes including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Black Agenda Report writer Margaret Kimberly calls a “Quisling” and an “absolute disaster for the Democrat Party and….the entire nation (because of her) eagerness to cooperate with the Bush regime (and) her incompetence in leading Congress.”

Other key Democrats share those qualities and that assures extremist Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey’s confirmation won’t be challenged. That’s in spite of reports top Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats Chairman Leahy and Majority Whip Durbin say their votes depend on his admitting waterboarding is torture. During his confirmation hearing, Mukasey was evasive and noncommittal.

When asked during questioning, he incredulously claimed not to know what waterboarding is even though it’s been around for centuries and what it entails is common knowledge. Mukasey would only say “IF (waterboarding) is torture, it is unconstitutional.” He then repeated the White House line “We don’t torture” even though he knows DOJ legal opinions confirm the Bush administration condones the practice by endorsing “the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.”

He should also know about the ACLU’s new “Administration of Torture” book based on FOIA requested evidence. It documents that “marching orders” for torture came from Donald Rumsfeld so the White House had to be involved as well. That includes George Bush and Alberto Gonzales, who in 2002 as White House Counsel, called the Geneva Conventions “quaint” and “obsolete” and as Attorney General authorized physical and psychological brutality as official administration policy.

Mukasey promises business as usual as AG and confirmed it by claiming “I don’t think (Guantanamo prisoners) are mistreated.” He also supports the president’s right to imprison US citizens without charge and deny “unlawful enemy combatants” their habeas rights, but that’s OK with Democrats on the Judiciary Committee with a large party majority sure to agree.

In a follow-up letter Senator Leahy requested, Mukasey was just as evasive and noncommittal as during his confirmation hearing. He sidestepped commenting on presidential surveillance powers limits beyond what FISA allows and continued to avoid admitting waterboarding is torture. Instead he said: ….”there is a real issue (whether) the techniques presented and discussed at the hearing and in your letter are even part of any program of questioning detainees.”

He then added if confirmed he’ll concentrate on “solving problems cooperatively with Congress,” advise George Bush appropriately on any “technique” he determines to be unlawful, and the president is bound by constitutional and treaty obligations that prohibit torture. This man and the president defile the law and practically boast about it, but Democrats will confirm him anyway as the next Attorney General.

House Democrats Pass New Terrorism Prevention Law

Almost without notice, the House overwhelmingly (404 – 6) passed the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 (HR 1955) on October 23 some are calling “the thought crime prevention bill.” It now moves to the Senate where if passed and signed by George Bush will establish a commission and Center of Excellence to study and act against thought criminals.

The bill’s language hides its true intent as “violent radicalization” and “homegrown terrorism” are whatever the administration says they are. Violent radicalization is defined as “adopting or promoting an extremist belief system (to facilitate) ideologically based violence to advance political, religious or social change.” Homegrown terrorism is used to mean “the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily with the United States or any (US) possession to intimidate or coerce the (US) government, the civilian population….or any segment thereof (to further) political or social objectives.”

Along with other repressive laws enacted post-9/11, HR 1955 may be used against any individual or group with unpopular views – those that differ from established state policies even when they’re illegal as are many under George Bush. Prosecutors henceforth will be able to target anti-war protesters, believers in Islam, web editors, internet bloggers and radio and TV show hosts and commentators with views the bill calls “terrorist-related propaganda.”

If this legislation becomes law, which is virtually certain, any dissenting anti-government action or opinion may henceforth be called “violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism” with stiff penalties for anyone convicted. This bill now joins the ranks of other repressive post-9/11 laws like Patriot I and II, Military Commissions and Protect America Acts that combined with this one are grievous steps toward a full-blown national security police state everyone should fear and denounce.

Blame it on Congress and the 110th Democrat-led one that was elected to end these practices but just made them worse….and there’s still 14 months to go to the term’s end with plenty of time left to vaporize Iran and end the republic if that’s the plan.

Stephen Lendman is Research Associate of the Center for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at www.sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on www.TheMicroEffect.com Mondays at noon US central time.

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Corn-to-Ethanol: US Agribusiness Magic Path To A World Food Monopoly

October 5, 2007

Corn-to-Ethanol: US Agribusiness Magic Path To A World Food Monopoly

Global Research, September 29, 2007

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Eight years of Biofuels (ethanol) policy and legislation has cemented in place the first world wide food cabal, which promises a humanitarian disaster, a famine more serious than those caused by any tsunami, earthquake or drought. This crisis is not in the dim future, it is here.

Congress has, in a series of acts passed in this millennium, handed the perfect monopoly to what appears to be few giant agribusiness companies that already have enormous economic power, but which may be a much broader cabal.

If you can afford $6.00 a gallon for milk, $4.00 for a loaf of bread and still have money left over for a $50.00 steak at Outback, you may be prepared for 2008, but what about the future? Even if you and I may think we are prepared financially to buy food, whatever the cost, we must have concern for the billion souls who are not and who are condemned to starvation by the corn-to-alcohol conversion scheme.

Subsidies do not make the giant agribusiness firms criminals, only opportunists. Their Public Relations distortion about the value of grain alcohol as fuel is criminal. Congressmen are the real cheats, for they could acknowledge this if they wanted to, but they do not, so they share in the crimes—grand theft and murder by starvation. This being a “Christian” society, it falls to those who heed Jesus Christ’s repeated admonitions to feed the needy and protect those who cannot protect themselves to stop corn-to-alcohol conversion. Make no mistake this is a moral issue.

Many of us Americans still think we have a layer of financial fat and can afford a doubling or tripling of food costs without going hungry. Not so in the third world, and with some in America as well. A friend reminded me, “Meat is not good for us anyway.” Some would not mind giving up meat sometimes, but in Darfur or Uganda, there may be no meat or luxury foods to give up. When the price of rice or corn, or beans rises suddenly by a third or half, many will go without. This recently happened in Mexico City with corn tortilla shells; in the third world, the price of corn may be the difference between life and death. Commodity markets are now world markets, when price of corn rises in Chicago the impact is felt in India and Russia.

Engineering a food monopoly

Political leaders of both parties have appropriated billions of dollars to subsidize major agribusiness corporations to destroy food; the latest appropriation was $14 billion. They call the process “bio-fuel” or ethanol production, but because the amount of fuel produced is less than the amount of fuel it takes to produce it, the only correct term for the process is systematic destruction of the food consumed in the process. Agribusiness giants include Archer Daniels Midland, whose income was $44 billion last year, are subsidized to burn up America’s surplus food (mostly corn), while they carry out their principle business, marketing the remaining food which is made more scarce, expensive, and profitable in the process. Congress has created over us the first nearly foolproof, open-ended, food monopoly. This finacial scam is to big and too well sheltered not to come from the highest level of banking and politics.

Corn is the most abundant readily storable and amazingly cheap basic foodstuff, and it is being wasted in an age when millions of grain eaters face starvation for lack of vegetable calories. Darfur is only one of many well-publicized examples in central and southern Africa where corn (maize) is a staple but will not grow because of a water shortage. Darfur needs imported grain, not occupation…food and water will solve its problem armies can. But when the price of commodities go up the quantity of gifts to the poor go down simply because we all define what we give in dollars, not pounds of food, and our dollars buy less food.

The corn-to-alcohol scheme may well be the largest single financial crime of all time in its impact on people. Its cost to consumers in higher food prices, disregarding the direct subsidies, will exceed the total cost of the so-called war in Iraq, plus the cost of the escalated oil prices. It will dwarf the cost of every war, going back and including Vietnam and World Wars II and I. It will even exceed the cost of the oil increase to $81.00 per barrel. There cannot be a bigger issue than food. No problem in America comes close to it in importance, because no one can escape depending on food for survival — and we are talking about doubling or tripling its cost of basic grain commodities on which the non-rich survive.

The problem we will expose in this brief paper is not a natural one like drought, tidal wave or earthquake. It is totally man-made for the profit of a few, and it is based on a preposterous, proven lie–that ethanol is a good fuel to burn in autos. The Ethanol subsidy is “take from the poor and give to the rich,” scheme. A humanitarian food crisis is a moral issue requiring us to act in the interest of those who cannot act for themselves. Men of faith should lead.

The perpetual ethanol boondoggle started with laws passed by Congress to subsidize the fermenting of corn and other foods to create grain alcohol, which was supposed to burn in cars instead of fossil fuel to reduce “global warming” and to save precious natural fuel, or so we are told. It is every bit as evil a scheme as if it forced all of us to drink the 13 billon gallons of “white lightning” now being produced from corn in America. (1)

Ethanol, known as grain alcohol, was in a diluted and impure fprm called “moonshine” or “white lightning” in the long past years called “Prohibition.” Ethanol has many chemical uses and certain medical properties, but a fuel to run autos it is not, poor in performance, expensive to make, difficult to transport, all well documented by qualified scientific experts.

We will introduce a few whose scientific works explain that corn to ethanol has been an unworkable scam from the very start and exists only because consumers are forced to subsidize it. Those who predicted that ethanol was an economic farce and it would never be economical have been vindicated. What too few foresaw was how bio-fuels were in fact a scam to bring basic food commodities under monopoly price control.

We Hold These Truths believe rising food costs and controlled and engineered world famine may well be a planned results of ethanol legislation. Our conclusions are not based on complex scientific evidence, though such evidence has been available for years, and is too obvious to have been overlooked at the top. Common sense and the simple laws of the marketplace are our guides, and there is no better place to begin than at the filling station.

If you look at the gas pump, you’ll see a little sign: “Contains 15% (or 10%) ethanol.” So, if your tank holds 20 gallons and you fill it for a total cost of $50.00, three of the 20 gallons you pump into the tank are grain alcohol made from corn. One study tells us the subsidy to those who make ethanol cost taxpayers $2.21 per gallon of fossil fuel replaced, or $6.63 for three gallons. (The lowest estimate of direct subsidies we find is $.51 per gallon, or $1.53 for your three gallons of alcohol.) This subsidy is over and above the $7.50 you pay for the three gallons of alcohol you pumped into your tank, which will not take you as far as the fuel farmers burned to raise the corn that went into the alcohol! No wonder agribusiness wants to build more plants and distill more corn into alcohol. The three gallons of ethanol are distilled from about 70 pounds of corn that would otherwise have been converted into beef, chicken, eggs, milk, pork or catfish. Corn would and does sustain human life quite nicely as a main staple for those who cannot afford meat, eggs, or milk.

USA Agribusiness already claims to have the capacity to produce about 13.5 billion gallons of ethanol, which will result in the destruction of over 5 billion bushels of corn. Its capacity is skyrocketing, because the more corn agribusiness destroys, the more subsidies they “earn”. Agribusiness spokesmen have voiced plans to consume 25% of the country’s approximate 1.4 billion bushel corn harvest; the price of corn in the marketplace clearly tells us the scheme has already effectively dried up most of the corn reserves…it is likely that we will discover that there are no longer significant grain reserves in the USA.

Starvation is the issue

Grain alcohol, or “white lightning” as it was once called, is reputed to have driven many to insanity. It is your author’s terrible vision that the monopoly created to make it will drive many Americans out of the middle class, and it will condemn many millions of third world children to starvation. Huge as the subsidy to grain alcohol distilling is, it is only the tip of a much bigger iceberg; it is this hidden effect that concerns We Hold These Truths–the impact on world food availability, an issue rarely discussed. The enormous, unjustifiable subsidies to agribusiness may not bring famine, but the food shortage that results from food burning for profit will bring famine and slow starvation. Those who have food will control those who do not. This shortage of food will profit agribusiness just as the shortage of oil from the shutdown of Iraq is benefiting big oil now.

Burning food—technically, distilling grain to grain alcohol–was mandated by Congress, probably because they were lobbied by US agribusiness, and no one objected. It was well known that ethanol burned inefficiently in our autos, could not solve the energy problem, and costs taxpayers incalculable billions at the gas pumps. It can be shown that most of what we pay for ethanol goes directly into the pockets of big Agribusiness in the form of subsidies. (1)

Make no mistake about it; the manufacturing of ethanol (grain alcohol) is no different from burning corn needed for human food in most of the third world. Well-researched reports by academic and industry sources make it clear that ethanol is counterproductive in a variety of ways, including economically, and produces a negative result on the environment.

How Big Is The Corn-to-alcohol Fraud?

The Renewable Fuel Association, a trade organization of big agribusinesses, lists 129 existing plants with 76 more under construction, and projects the total production capacity to a staggering 13,429 billion gallons of ethanol every year. All but a few small, experimental ones burn corn. (2)

History shows an explosion of production in recent years:

2001 1,770 (billions of gallons)

2002 2,130

2003 2,800

2004 3,400

2005 3,904

2007 13,429 Projected

(2) The Renewable Fuel Association

Figures on subsidies and industry profits are hard to come by, but there is no shortage of experts who say the industry exists on subsidies. One very credible report was done by David Pimentel, professor of ecology and agriculture at Cornell, and Tad W. Patzek, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Berkley, a detailed analysis of the energy input-yield ratios of producing ethanol from corn and “bio-diesel” from soybean and sunflower plants. Their report is published in Natural Resources Research (Vol. 14:1, 65-76). We cite a summary report entitled “Producing ethanol and bio-diesel from corn and other crops is not worth the energy.” Physorg.com quotes Dr. Patzek: (3)

“In terms of renewable fuels, ethanol is the worst solution…it is the highest energy cost with the least benefit.”

“In terms of energy output compared with energy input for ethanol production, the study found that: –“corn requires 29 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced;” Soybeans and other fuel sources are no better.

“Ethanol production in the United States does not benefit the nation’s energy security, its agriculture, economy or the environment

Professor Pimentel of Cornell added in the same paper:

“Ethanol production requires large fossil energy input, and therefore, it is contributing to oil and natural gas imports and U.S. deficits.” “There is just no energy benefit to using plant biomass for liquid fuel.” “These strategies are not sustainable.”

As negative as the Pimentel-Patzek 2004 study, Science Daily’s Energy Bulletin summarized a later study by Dr. Patzek in its 1 Apr 2005, headline, Study: Ethanol Production Consumes Six Units of Energy to Produce Just One, stating the results:

“Dr. Patzek published a fifty-page study on the subject in the journal Critical Reviews in Plant Science. This time, he factored in the myriad energy inputs required by industrial agriculture, from the amount of fuel used to produce fertilizers and corn seeds to the transportation and wastewater disposal costs. All told, he believes that the cumulative energy consumed in corn farming and ethanol production is six times greater than what the end product provides your car engine in terms of power.” (5)

The report warns:

“In 2004, approximately 3.57 billion gallons of ethanol were used as a gas additive in the United States, according to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). During the February State of the Union address, President George Bush urged Congress to pass an energy bill that would pump up the amount to 5 billion gallons by 2012. UC Berkeley geoengineering professor Tad W. Patzek thinks that’s a very bad idea.”

However, it appears as of this writing the 5 billion gallon ethanol production goal has already been surpassed, according to The Renewable Fuel Association, which lists the present capacity of the industry at over 13.4 billion gallons. Our simple arithmetic tells us this would use up about five billion bushels of corn each year, exceeding 25% of the entire USA new corn harvest! (2)

The bottom line of alcohol energy non-efficiency

Imagine, according to the most conservative estimates, one must spend 1.29 calories of fossil fuels to raise enough corn to get back 1 calorie of ethanol. This seems to be the best case, and it may be much worse. This is the obscene economics of ethanol. But for taxpayers and consumers it gets much worse. It seem we are forced to pay three times for alcohol fuel; first to subsidize those who make it from corn; next, we pay in higher priced fuel at the pump that does not take us as many miles as if we had no alcohol in our tanks; and lastly (and much the worst) in the perpetual higher cost of food that is destroyed and never to be recovered.

The astonishing subsides

Zfacts reports ethanol from corn subsidies totaled $7.0 billion in 2006 for 4.9 billion gallons of ethanol. That’s $1.45 per gallon of ethanol (and $2.21 per gallon of gas replaced)”… resulting in a “$5.4 billion dollar windfall of profits paid to real farmers, corporate farmers, and ethanol makers like multinational ADM (Archer Daniels Midland).” According to this study, consumers paid $3.6 billion extra at the pump. * Subsidies for corn ethanol (4)

1. 51¢ per gallon federal blenders credit for $2.5 billion = your tax dollars.

2. $0.9 billion in corn subsidies for ethanol corn = your tax dollars.

3. $3.6 billion extra paid at the pump.

In summary our Congress has licensed big agribusiness to burn food in exchange for worthless alcohol. Yes, worthless is the right word for corn made ethanol as fuel because it requires more calories to produce than it returns when you burn it. Having a negative value is indeed “worthless” except to those paid to make it by destroying valuable food.

Ethanol is 200 proof “white lightning.” The infamous days of “Prohibition” created laws that made it profitable for a few who raised corn to have a still. Today’s corn-to-alcohol scheme produces almost two gallons of white pure white lightning for every man woman and child on the face of the earth! This means the entire world population could be kept stupified most of the time on the grain alcohol U.S. Agribusiness will produce in just one year…by destroying valuable food.

The scarcity factor in burning food

As outrageous as $7 billion of subsidies in one year are, the worst part of burning food is the shortage of humanly consumable calories and animal food that are an inevitable result. The same agribusinesses that destroys corn, also sell what they do not destroy for food! They are the big wholesale food beneficiaries from the shortage they are paid to create, what a brilliant monopoly. Corn burning has an even more sinister side. It is the primary and greatest direct cause of higher food prices we all feel already, and is a direct threat to the subsistence nutrition of the third world poor. Ethanol subsidies are the key to controlling the food chain. Agribusiness industry giants can control and set the price of food to whatever level they wish to maintain, much as a few companies now control the price of petroleum, so long as they are subsidized to burn surplus corn in unlimited quantity. As long as subsides are available there seems to be no limit to the scheme.

American corn surpluses are a blessing to mankind that has kept world grain prices down for years, a gift to the world from American farmers, and a gift from God! The largest surplus in the world was corn, attesting to the incredible efficiency of the American farmer. If Agribusiness giants can destroy America’s surplus and set the price we pay for corn and everything that substitutes for corn. They can and will then ration food worldwide and determine who lives and who dies.

We have already described the process by which distilling alcohol from corn consumes more energy in fossil fuels than it creates. It is also logical to observe that petroleum prices have gone up very steadily since ethanol became mandatory in gasoline. Crude oil just touched $81.00 per barrel, up 400% from day 911. If ethanol did alleviate the energy shortage, why would we not be seeing lower demand and prices for crude oil?

Every American is paying for this subsidized destruction of corn, not once, but three times. First we pay the subsidized ethanol makers billons (we assume someone pays for what our congress gives away) to create a non-economic product we are forced to use; then we pay at the pump because alcohol is poor auto fuel; finally, we again pay in higher food prices resulting from the massive destruction of corn and other food surpluses. We pay this, by far the worst cost over and over again every time we eat a hamburger, buy a gallon of milk or a box of cereal.

Corn is not the only food being burned by American agribusiness giants, but it is the only one they need to burn in their drive to control all food prices. Corn triggers the rest. Poor Mexicans were the first to complain. They felt the pinch from a 30% increase in the price of white corn after the wholesale alcoholization of field corn caused the price to shoot up to $4.00 per bushel in 2006…when ethanol finally absorbed most of the corn surplus. Corn is an international market, and the poor in Mexico City felt the pinch immediately even though they eat foods made of white, not yellow, corn.

Corn, a native crop to the Americas, is a blessing to mankind–a truly cheap food, rich in calories and capable of sustaining life. The average wholesale price of corn was less than $.02 per pound in 2000; but by 2007, thanks to the new alcohol refineries in the Midwest, the average price doubled to $.06 per pound. Even after doubling in price, corn is still our cheapest foodstuff, so what is the problem? You might not eat much corn at your house, a few tacos once in a while, a little corn syrup, maybe some in the dog food, but for the most part you eat bread, meat, milk, fresh fruits and vegetables, so who cares about the price of corn?

The problem is that when the price differential among commodities exceeds the difference in food value, the prices of other grains go up too. Farmers also switch what they raise, from what is cheap to what is hot in the marketplace; this year they switched en masse to raising corn. Now wheat has tripled and soybean prices have more than doubled! The runaway corn price finally bubbled over into the soybean and wheat markets in 2007. Soybeans, another food staple, now sell for more than ten dollars a bushel, more then double.

In 2001 the average price of wheat was about $2.50 per 60 pounds or $.04 per pound; right now the price is $9.25 per 60 pounds or $.15 per pound, and has gone up more than 350% since our government started to burn corn. Wheat prices have more than doubled in 2007. Everything made from wheat is already on the rise. We only recently got used to paying $3.00 for a loaf of bread, but this week I bought my first $4.00 dollar loaf of bread, thanks to those who burn corn.

Consider the effect of the wheat price skyrocket in the one huge starvation experiment being carried on in the world today, the 1.3 million citizens of the Gaza Strip. Gaza is a fenced compound with no significant means of foreign exchange other than gifts. Gaza is therefore almost totally dependent upon the wheat elevated over a fence and dumped on the ground near its northern border with Israel. Israel does not interfere with the humanitarian efforts of European countries and private agencies. Imagine the impact of tripling of the price of wheat? Suppose the European Union, which pays for most of the wheat, defines its gift in Euros. With a tripling of wheat prices the amount of bread available inside the wall drops from three loafs to one. Assuming a substance diet inside Gaza 2/3 of the population will now starve unless someone comes up with three times as many Euros. (6)Grain of Hope for Gaza Residence

Meat is made from corn

It is obvious we ask what will happen to meat prices when grain prices have doubled twice; how much will be future chicken, eggs, pork and milk prices? If milk was to doubles twice, as grains have, it will be about $8.00 per gallon! It takes a certain factor of grain to produce a pound of beef on the hoof; it’s a direct ratio, so corn costs translate into beef pork chicken cost of production. There is delayed action in the meat market, before the cost of production hits the dinner table, a boom-bust effect in the marketplace. The grain price explosion has already happened, but the meat explosion is still quietly fizzling away like steak on the grill, ready to explode. It will…it must.

The hungry all over the world that live on corn are the most immediately affected; many more will starve, especially in sub-Saharan Africa where corn is a staple of the diet. But a large part of the American middle class is about to become vegetarian, whether we like it or not, because a meat shortage is right around the corner, and many will soon find meat an unaffordable luxury.

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION:

The world market for food has been tipped upside down by the creation of a government funded, privately run, monopoly with the power to alter the available supply by destroying surpluses of corn or other grains. Prices have only started the upward spiral to shortage and famine.

The US monopoly which we call “corn-to-alcohol” is dominated by big agribusiness in the USA and it has eliminated the surplus of corn in a few short years and this has resulted in instant shortages of other grains as well. Now prices of grains are exploding in the world markets, meat prices will follow. Unlike past “bull markets” in commodities, this one cannot correct itself by increases in world crop productions because the corn-to-alcohol monopoly has open-ended subsidies to buy and destroy as much corn as they find necessary to prevent surplus. Plus, when their monopoly drains its treasury, Congress will just appropriate more, there is no limit so long as there is no public outcry.

Surpluses of food are a blessing of freedom; shortages play into the hands of tyrants. Surpluses are Godly and are talked of in the Bible (the wise Pharaoh stored a 7-year supply of wheat).

The Ethanol monopoly could not exist without massive subsidies to agribusiness giants, who in turn can pay giant lobbies to control your Congressmen. The present system assures shortages for everyone except the subsidized ethanol plants seen along our highways. The monopoly’s capacity to burn food is unlimited, so long as Congress pays for the subsidies. No other argument is relevant, no excuses should be accepted. The subsidy is the only issue that counts.

This paper only scratches the surface of the criminal acts surrounding ethanol. America has been known as the land of plenty and the land that shares its plenty. The corn-to-alcohol monopoly is the engine of planned poverty for the entire world. Who will stop it?

Congress has total responsibility for creating the corn-to-alcohol monopoly, but it will never reverse itself unless absolutely forced to do so because most of its members are bought and paid for.

This is a moral issue. The 80% of Americans that are professing Christians have a responsibility before our God not to allow corporate and political criminal elements among us to cast a pall of planned starvation over the planet. Leaders in Christian churches, who have become quite political of late, now must help fix the problem of starvation that they failed to prevent by giving carte blanche support to those most politically responsible.

Endnotes to Part I

(1) Biofuels Policy and Legislation

http://genomicsgtl.energy.gov/biofuels/legislation.shtml

 

(2) How big is Bio Fuels, The Renewable Fuel Association? 

http://www.ethanolrfa.org/industry/locations/

 

(3) Producing ethanol and biodiesel from corn and other crops is not worth the energy, Physorg Magazine: http://www.physorg.com/news4942.html  

 

(4) Zfacts.com, Subsidies for corn ethanol:
http://zfacts.com/p/63.html

 

(5) Study: Ethanol Production Consumes Six Units Of Energy To Produce Just One

http://www.energybulletin.net/5062.html

 

(6) Grain of Hope for Gaza Residence

 http://whtt.org/index.php?news=2&id=1591

 

(7) The High Costs of Ethanol, New York Times Sep 19, 2007

 http://whtt.org/index.php?news=2&id=1773

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