More Enemies = Greater Profits
What is the psychology of an administration that creates more enemies? Everybody marvels at how we've somehow created more terrorists out of the Iraqupation yet nobody realizes that may be the truest sign of success for BushCo. Wait, you say- I thought we were supposed to make the US safer and reduce the number of terrorists? Yet we now have a rising number of enemies and are currently firing more than 1 BILLION bullets a year at them. This is actually creating a shortage of ammunition for our own police departments at home. As with any situation, if you follow the money, you get the answers, and the answer is this: the Defense and Munitions industries are making a killing (pun intended) on this war. They have made profits on every war because their greatest customers are enemies. Hence, two important facts: one, the more war and number of enemies, the greater the profits. Two, without war and enemies, there are no profits. Therefore, endless war and increasing enemies because it's all about the bottom line.
We have kept ourselves in military operations since WWII not to make us safer or to bring freedom to the world, but chiefly to keep our Defense and Munitions industries alive and profitable. I'm not saying that there haven't been reasonable and righteous reasons for us to be involved in military conflict at certain times since WWII. But the Iraqupation may be the greatest misuse of our military power in our nations history and contrary to popular belief, it has not backfired, at least not for those making money off it. Aside from Defense and Munitions, don't forget the outsourcing of security to companies like Blackwater, creating a parallel army larger than our official one but without the accountability and honor (lest you think that any Blackwater employee killed will be buried at Arlington with a ceremony and a medal). And do not forget Halliburton and KBR, who have not just made tons of money but have actually managed to lose a bunch of it. They are under investigation for bribery, bid rigging, defrauding the military and illegally profiting in Iran. Their answer? Move their headquarters to the UAE. And did you happen to know that the UAE has no extradition treaty? Check it out. How patriotic of Dick Cheney's favorite nation-building company.
It is too idealistic to hope that the people running the Defense industry would have some sort of act of conscience that would make them more concerned with good policy than with obscene profiteering. And it is also too idealistic to hope that Congress can stop BushCo from this great and treacherous collusion with the Media Industrial Complex. Those of us who voted for Democrats who would put an end to this madness are hugely disappointed that they have been unable to make it happen. Truth is, we need 60 votes for that kind of change and we don't have it. Yet. But more than that, we need outrage from American citizens to build into a roar that our government cannot ignore. And until this government of the people is truly reclaimed, endless war will continue. And enemies will increase in size and animosity towards us.
If you are a Democrat living in a district represented by a Republican still supporting the war, you are in a greater position to make a difference than someone living in a Blue state. Are you mad as hell yet? Get madder. Write, call, petition, canvas and start pushing for the change necessary to make the tide turn. Let your representative know that their next election will depend on their vote in Congress and that as of now, they have failed you, failed America and failed our brave troops fighting overseas for a Defense industry that cares nothing about them. The shame is not on those who want to end this war but on those who sent our men and women into a war that will never be won. It is not just about ending this war but ending the illusion about why we are fighting. And until we care enough to stop this madness, we are all complicit in it's inherent evils.
Please do check out my previous post Enemies and Customers about this issue.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
The New York Times
Giuliani Boasts of Surplus; Reality Is More Complex
By MICHAEL COOPER
Rudolph W. Giuliani has been broadcasting radio advertisements in Iowa and other states far from the city he once led stating that as mayor of New York, he “turned a $2.3 billion deficit into a multibillion dollar surplus.”
The assertion, which Mr. Giuliani has repeated on the trail as he has promoted his fiscal conservatism, is somewhat misleading, independent fiscal monitors said. In fact, Mr. Giuliani left his successor, Michael R. Bloomberg, with a bigger deficit than the one Mr. Giuliani had to deal with when he arrived in 1994. And that deficit would have been large even if the city had not been attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.
“He inherited a gap, and he left a gap for his successor,” Ronnie Lowenstein, the director of the city’s Independent Budget Office, a nonpartisan agency that monitors the city budget, said of Mr. Giuliani. “The city was budgeting as though the good times were not going to end, but sooner or later they always do.”
The Giuliani campaign defended the advertisement, noting that it merely states that Mr. Giuliani created a multibillion-dollar surplus, not that he passed one on to his successor.
Mr. Giuliani’s eight years of fiscal stewardship of the city was initially marked by a new brand of conservative budgeting principles in which he cut spending, cut taxes and cut the payroll. Later, when the booming stock market of the late 1990s pumped revenues into the city’s coffers, Mr. Giuliani was able to cut taxes, increase spending above the rate of inflation, and still post big surpluses.
But the economy cooled near the end of Mr. Giuliani’s second term, and he spent most of the roughly $3 billion surplus he had accumulated to balance his final budget, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2002. Even before the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Giuliani projected that his successor would face a $2.8 billion gap the next year. After the attacks, that gap climbed to $4.8 billion in a $42.3 billion budget.
Faced with such a huge deficit, which continued to grow as the economic aftershocks of the attacks continued and the costs of some of the Giuliani administration’s policies came due, the next mayor, Mr. Bloomberg, was forced to take the extraordinary steps of borrowing to pay for operating expenses, cutting programs, and raising property taxes by 18.5 percent to balance the budget.
Joseph J. Lhota, a former budget director and deputy mayor to Mr. Giuliani, said that Mr. Giuliani kept the rate of spending growth during his eight years in office below that of the state and federal governments, and most other states. Mr. Lhota credited Mr. Giuliani with making tax cuts a priority for the city — Mr. Giuliani often speaks of having cut taxes 23 times — and of using the budget to push his priorities, like beefing up public safety.
“Prior to Mayor Giuliani, there never was a discussion of lowering taxes in New York,” Mr. Lhota said. “By the end the debate became, ‘Which taxes should we cut?’ ”
Mr. Lhota said that the Giuliani administration cut the budget shortly before leaving office to leave the city in a better position. He noted that the fiscal year in which Mr. Bloomberg took over from Mr. Giuliani ended with a surplus of $677 million. But that surplus was fed in part by nearly $500 million in borrowing by the Bloomberg administration. And it made only a small dent in the huge gap Mr. Bloomberg had to close that June in his first budget — a gap inherited from the Giuliani administration, much of which was expected even before Sept. 11.
Mr. Giuliani often promotes his fiscal conservatism on the campaign trail to try to appeal to Republican voters who might be wary of his support of abortion rights, gun control and gay rights. But an examination of his fiscal record as mayor of New York City shows that his legacy defies easy ideological labeling.
Mr. Giuliani took office in 1994 and immediately administered a strong dose of fiscally conservative policies on a city known for generous social services programs and union contracts. The city was near the end of a long economic downturn, and Mr. Giuliani cut taxes while slashing the work force and curbing spending to close the $2.3 billion budget gap he inherited.
Mr. Lhota said the administration faced a severe cash crunch when it took office. Abraham M. Lackman, Mr. Giuliani’s first budget director, said that in addition to having to close a $2.3 billion deficit in its first budget, the administration took office worrying that it might not have enough cash on hand to meet payroll because some of the revenues that were counted on in the inherited budget were not likely to materialize.
Mr. Giuliani pushed through an austere budget that year. He went on to push mergers of city agencies, incorporating the old transit and housing police forces into the New York Police Department. He sold the city’s television station. And he cut taxes.
But Mr. Giuliani eased up on the reins of spending during his second term, as the stock market boom pumped tax revenues into the city coffers. An analysis by the Citizens Budget Commission, a business-backed fiscal watchdog group, found that spending rose an average of 6.3 percent a year during Mr. Giuliani’s second term — well above the rate of inflation. And Mr. Giuliani went on a hiring spree, in the end leaving the city work force slightly bigger than he found it, but changing its composition by adding more teachers and police officers while shedding jobs in social services agencies.
In 2000, near the height of the stock market boom, Mr. Giuliani supported a measure to put less money in the pension funds for the city’s retirees. By recognizing the funds’ investment gains at once — instead of phasing them in over years to smooth out sharp gains and losses — he was able to spend $800 million over two years that the city otherwise would have had to invest in its pension funds. Fiscal monitors, including the city comptroller’s office, warned that the practice was irresponsible, because the money could be needed to cushion the blow of a market downturn.
To win the support of the city’s unions, which needed to sign off on the pension change, Mr. Giuliani agreed to sweeten the pensions of city workers, eliminating the payments that some were required to contribute to the pension system and giving others up to two years of credit toward their retirements.
“I’ve never had a negotiation that went so smoothly or so effectively,” recalled Randi Weingarten, who had a seat at the table as the chairwoman of the Municipal Labor Committee, an umbrella group of city unions.
But when Mr. Bloomberg took office amid a deteriorating economy, the value of the pension funds dropped significantly, forcing the new mayor to pump more money into them when the city could least afford to.
Long before Sept. 11, fiscal monitors warned that Mr. Giuliani’s last budget would leave his successor facing a big gap. In the spring of 2001, the state comptroller’s office said that the city was projecting the largest out-year gaps in a generation.
E. J. McMahon, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative research organization that has often been supportive of Mr. Giuliani, wrote an article that July warning that “Seven years after Mayor Giuliani led New York out of its last fiscal crisis, the city’s budget has now come almost full circle.”
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:22 AM
Bush's Bogus Vietnam History Kills
The specter of Vietnam has returned to hover over the deserts of Iraq, this time conjured up by the younger George Bush to justify an open-ended war, a war he is determined to pursue regardless of the number of US soldiers and Iraqis who die and the number of new terrorists it creates, says Robert Parry.
It is often said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. But a much worse fate may await countries whose leaders distort and falsify history. Such countries are doomed to experience even bloodier miscalculations.
That was the case with Germany after World War I when Adolf Hitler’s Nazis built a political movement based in part on the myth that weak politicians in Berlin had stabbed brave German troops in the back when they were on the verge of victory.
And it appears to be the case again today as President George W. Bush presents the history of the Vietnam War as a Rambo movie with the heroic narrative that if only the US military had stuck it out, the war would have been won.
Or, more likely, the black wall of the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial would stretch most of the way to the US Capitol.
After hearing his selective historical rendition of the Vietnam experience in his Aug. 22 address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, one is tempted to ask Bush what he would have done as President in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Presumably, Bush would have prolonged or escalated the Vietnam War, although it’s doubtful he would have called up the Texas Air National Guard where he was safely ensconced, while skipping his flight physical and seeking an early discharge.
In his speech, Bush justified an open-ended Vietnam War by citing the carnage that followed the US military withdrawal.
“One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America’s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like ‘boat people,’ ‘re-education camps,’ and ‘killing fields,’” Bush said.
In Bush’s version of history, condemnation should fall on Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford for making the painful decisions that eventually extricated the United States from the Vietnam quagmire – rather than on Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon for inserting or keeping US troops in the middle of the Indochinese civil war.
Bush also ignores the carnage that was inflicted by US aerial bombings and massive firepower. Historians estimate that some two million Indochinese were killed during the war, along with about 57,000 American soldiers.
Also, by invading Cambodia and authorizing secret carpet-bombing of the countryside, President Nixon spread the chaos into that politically fragile country, opening the door first to a military dictatorship and then to the rise of the fanatical Khmer Rouge.
Friends, Not Enemies
In his historical account, Bush leaves out, too, the longer-term reality and the fact that the great communist enemies of Asia – China and Vietnam – did not turn out to be the strategic threats to the United States that Cold Warriors insisted they would be. Dominoes did not fall all across Asia.
Indeed, today’s biggest threats from China appear to be the quality of the cheap goods it manufactures for American companies and its ownership of large quantities of US government bonds. Bush also has exchanged friendly visits with the leaders of Vietnam.
But that history and reality disappear in Bush’s selective account. Just as he cherry-picked intelligence on Iraq to justify his 2003 invasion, he is selecting what facts from history serve his political ends now.
In his VFW speech, Bush also continued his practice of baiting critics of his Iraq War policy as essentially imbecilic and anti-American. He accused them of believing “that if the United States would just leave a place like Iraq those who kill our troops or target civilians would no longer threaten us.”
In truth, Iraq War critics have argued not that al-Qaeda would stop being a threat but that Bush’s policies are playing into al-Qaeda’s hands. Not only did the US invasion of Iraq divert US forces from their pursuit of Osama bin Laden, but the Iraq War has proved to be a boon to al-Qaeda in recruiting, fundraising and regrouping for new terrorist attacks.
The evidence is that al-Qaeda actually wants the United States to remain bogged down in Iraq indefinitely so the organization can continue to exploit the American occupation.
In letters to Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaeda leaders, holed up along the Pakistani-Afghan border, warned that al-Qaeda’s position in Iraq might collapse if the United States left, removing both the magnet attracting young recruits and the glue holding together the fragile coalition between foreign jihadists and Iraqi nationalists.
A July 2005 letter attributed to al-Qaeda’s second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri urged Zarqawi to talk up the idea of an Islamic “caliphate,” so the young jihadists, drawn to Iraq to fight the Americans, wouldn’t just “lay down their weapons and silence the fighting zeal” once the Americans left.
The “Zawahiri letter,” which was intercepted by US intelligence, also predicted that an American departure would force the depleted force of al-Qaeda fighters into a desperate battle simply to carve out an enclave inside Iraq.
In a December 2005 letter, another top aide to Osama bin Laden, known as “Atiyah,” lectured Zarqawi on the need to act more respectfully toward Iraqi Sunni leaders so al-Qaeda could put down deeper roots in Iraq.
Atiyah emphasized the importance of keeping US forces trapped in Iraq. “Prolonging the war is in our interest,” Atiyah wrote in a letter that was discovered by US forces after Zarqawi’s death in June 2006. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Al-Qaeda’s Fragile Foothold.”]
Bush-bin Laden Symbiosis
By prolonging the Iraq War now, Bush is doing exactly what al-Qaeda wants. “As long as I’m Commander in Chief, we will fight to win,” Bush told the cheering VFW crowd.
In other words, Bush and the terrorists share a symbiotic relationship with Bush using the “war on terror” to expand his presidential powers at home and bin Laden exploiting the US occupation of Iraq to enhance his standing in the Islamic world.
Now Bush has mixed in the emotional issue of the Vietnam War, as his father did during the first Persian Gulf War in 1991.
Near the end of that standoff with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, President George H.W. Bush spurned a Russian plan for getting Iraqi forces to withdraw peacefully from Kuwait. Instead, Bush wanted a successful ground war to exorcise the demons of Vietnam from the American psyche.
After US ground forces administered a 100-hour drubbing to the overmatched Iraqi troops, the elder George Bush declared in his first post-war remarks, “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.” [For details, see our new book, Neck Deep.]
Still, the elder George Bush stopped US forces before they could march up the Euphrates River and capture Baghdad. He recognized that a military occupation of Iraq would alienate the Arab world and would sink the United States into another Vietnam-style quagmire, which could again embitter the American people about military adventures.
Sixteen years later, however, the specter of Vietnam has returned to hover over the deserts of Iraq, this time conjured up by the younger George Bush to justify an open-ended war, a war he is determined to pursue regardless of the number of US soldiers and Iraqis who die and the number of new Islamic terrorists it creates.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:19 AM
Friday, August 24, 2007
Hezbollah exhibits 'victory' over Israel
By ZEINA KARAM, Associated Press Writer
A replica of a long-range missile greets visitors, and posters mock Israel and the United States.
Welcome to "Spider's Web," a museum south of Beirut that has become Hezbollah's latest propaganda tool — showcasing what it says was a divine victory over Israel in last summer's war.
The museum exhibits war souvenirs — helmets, boots, ammunition and armored vehicles captured from the Israelis or left on Lebanon's battlefields. And it has gruesome photos of Lebanese civilians killed in Israeli airstrikes.
The exhibit has drawn condemnation from Israel. In Lebanon, there has been no overt criticism, although the war deepened divisions among Lebanese, many of whom opposed Hezbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers that set off the conflict on July 12, 2006.
The museum opened last month in the Dahieh district, a Hezbollah stronghold pounded to rubble by missiles during the war, and runs until Sept. 10.
Its name was inspired by a speech in which Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said Israel's military might was flimsy and weaker than a spider's web — staple rhetoric from a militant group facing an enemy armed with a powerful air force and thought to hold nuclear weapons.
The idea is to "commemorate Hezbollah's historic, strategic and divine victory in an honest and artistic way," Ali Ahmed, a spokesman for Hezbollah's media activities unit.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said the exhibit "glorifies hatred, extremism and violence, and should be condemned as such."
During the war, more than 1,000 Lebanese were killed in 34 days of Israeli airstrikes. Hezbollah launched nearly 4,000 rockets at Israel; the Israeli death toll was 119 Israeli soldiers and 39 civilians. Most experts agree that Israel failed to achieve its declared objectives of crushing Hezbollah and freeing its soldiers — a point the museum plays off heavily.
A replica of a Hezbollah Khaibar missile is at the museum entrance. Inside, Hezbollah guides walk visitors past mannequins depicting Hezbollah guerrillas and dead Israeli soldiers.
"See here how Israel was defeated and humiliated by the resistance," said one guide, pointing out a large metal chunk from the wreckage of an Israeli Yasur CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter.
The guide, who goes by the name Abu Ali, carried a walkie-talkie as he eagerly lectured visitors. "What you see here constitutes only 1 percent of what we have," he said.
A French woman touring the museum said she had mixed feelings.
"They are using modern ways of communication to get their message across," said the woman, who would only identify herself by her middle name, Marie, for security concerns. "Who knows if that's good or not?"
The museum displays a poster ridiculing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for saying during the war that the fighting was part of the "birth pangs of a new Middle East."
Another poster mocks Israel's former chief of staff, Dan Halutz, quoting him as saying at the war's start: "We will eradicate Hezbollah within three days." Halutz resigned in January after widespread criticism of his performance.
The Israeli-made Merkava tank features prominently in the museum. One tank seized by the guerrillas is displayed in a huge crater, surrounded by mannequins of dead Israeli soldiers.
The exhibit is not the first organized by Hezbollah, but new elements have been added this time, including replicas of sandbagged Hezbollah bunkers.
One section is devoted to a new computer game, "Special Force 2: Tale of the Truthful Pledge," that allows players to shoot mock Israeli soldiers and blow up tanks. "Be one of God's men," says the advertisement for the game, shown on Hezbollah's Al-Manar television.
The game sells for $10 at a shop at the exhibit, along with Hezbollah DVDs and key chains.
The exhibit ends with an audiovisual presentation featuring what are said to be the cries of dying and wounded Israeli soldiers, followed by Nasrallah saying: "The time of victories has started and the time for defeats is over."
That show left Roula Sabra, a 36-year-old mother of three, clapping tearfully.
"I've come to show my children what victory and dignity is," she said. "You feel such pride and security."
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:48 AM
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Bush: there will be no pullout from Iraq while I'm president
Ewen MacAskill in Washington
President George Bush sought to buy more time for his Iraq "surge" strategy yesterday by making a risky comparison for the first time with the bloodshed and chaos that followed the US pullout from Vietnam.
Making it clear he will resist congressional pressure next month for an early withdrawal, he signalled that US troops, whom he hailed as the "greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known", will be in Iraq as long as he is president. He also said the consequences of leaving "without getting the job done would be devastating", and "the enemy would follow us home".
Mr Bush's speech came on the day that the US suffered one of its highest daily death tolls since the 2003 invasion, with 14 troops killed when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed.
In a speech to army veterans in Kansas City, Mr Bush invoked one of the US's biggest military disasters in support of keeping troops in Iraq: "One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like 'boat people', 're-education camps' and 'killing fields'."
The speech was aimed primarily at what White House officials privately describe as the "Defeatocrats", the Democratic congressmen trying to push Mr Bush into an early withdrawal. The issue is set to come to a head next month when the US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, gives a progress report to Congress.
Gen Petraeus is expected to say that the surge has produced military successes but that there has only been limited progress on the political front.
In relation to the latter, Mr Bush was forced yesterday to backtrack after 24 hours earlier expressing frustration with the Iraqi prime minister, Nour al-Maliki. Alarmed by the harsh reaction of Mr Maliki, Mr Bush hurriedly rewrote his speech to praise him: "Prime Minister Maliki's a good guy, a good man with a difficult job and I support him."
The speech overall reflected the White House belief that it is shifting American public opinion behind the surge - the injection of 30,000 extra US troops into Iraq that has brought the total US force in the country to its highest level, 165,000.
The Bush administration wants to keep the surge going until at least next April, at which point the overstretched military will be forced to begin reducing troop numbers anyway.
Although Gen Petraeus has not yet completed his report, a Pentagon source said the US presence could be down to 110,000 by the end of next year. The army, as of yesterday, had no plans to replace five brigades, each consisting of 3,400 to 4,000 soldiers, when their 15-month tours expire next summer.
Freedom's Watch, a conservative group, yesterday launched a $15m (£7.5m) advertising campaign in 20 states saying: "It's no time to quit. It's no time for politics."
Mr Bush's former White House spokesman, Ari Fleischer, who works for the group, said: "We want to get the message to both Democrats and Republicans: don't cut and run, fully fund the troops, and victory is the only objective."
The White House has been emboldened by a Gallup poll published yesterday showing approval ratings for the Democratic-led Congress had dropped to 18%, the lowest since the survey of the public views of the legislature began in 1974, and an earlier Gallup poll showing support for the surge had jumped in a month from 22% to 31%.
Two of the most influential senators on military affairs, the Democratic chairman of the armed services committee, Carl Levin, an advocate of an early withdrawal, and John Warner, a veteran Republican who recently broke ranks with Mr Bush over the war, issued a statement this week lauding the surge's "tangible results".
Mr Bush, until yesterday, had strenuously avoided making explicit references to Vietnam. It is a gamble, risking reminding Americans that Vietnam was a military quagmire and reminding them of the shambolic retreat from the embassy rooftop in Saigon on the day that a Black Hawk crashed in Iraq killing 14 US soldiers.
But Mr Bush tried to turn the argument around as he made a series of contentious political parallels. He argued that US involvement in the far east had turned it from a continent in 1939 with only two democracies - Australia and New Zealand - into one where democracy was the norm: he mentioned Japan, South Korea and Vietnam.
"In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge began a murderous rule, in which hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died by starvation and torture and execution," Mr Bush said.
Some historians argue that it was the US covert bombing of Cambodia that produced the Khmer Rouge rather than US withdrawal from Vietnam.
Mr Bush added: "In Vietnam, former allies of the United States and government workers and intellectuals and businessmen were sent off to prison camps, where tens of thousand perished. Hundreds of thousands more fled the country on rickety boats, many of them going to their graves in the South China Sea."
He said that there had been lots of critics of US involvement in Vietnam at the time. But he quoted from Graham Greene's novel The Quiet American, the words "I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused", implying that, with the benefit of hindsight, they were wrong, just as critics of the Iraq war will later seen to be misguided.
He will expand on that in a speech next week in which he will say he has not abandoned his ambitious idea that Iraq could be in the vanguard of bringing democracy to the Middle East.
Since the British government hinted recently that it planned an early pullout from Iraq, it has come under increasing pressure from the White House. US general Jack Keane yesterday became the latest American to criticise the proposed British move.
He told the BBC that the situation in Basra was deteriorating. "From a military perspective I know what the [US] commanders are trying to avoid is having to send reinforcements to the south from forces that are needed in the central part of Iraq. That situation could arise if the situation gets worse in Basra if and when British troops leave," he said.
Bush's "better motives" quote comes from Graham Greene's The Quiet American, a searing attack on US foreign policy set in Saigon in 1952. It is the story of jaded British reporter Thomas Fowler and his relationship with younger US spy Alden Pyle, told against the backdrop of the French battle with the Viet Minh - precursor to the Vietnam war. "Innocence is a kind of insanity," says Fowler of Pyle as he blunders into the conflict, sponsoring a corrupt militia leader based on real nationalist Trinh Minh Thé. Fowler's jealousy over Pyle's interest in his Vietnamese mistress and distaste for his methods culminate in a bomb attack in Saigon. A film version was scheduled for release in 2001, starring Michael Caine. It was test screened on September 10 but postponed for a year after the 9/11 attacks.
Posted by politicalstuff at 2:00 AM
U.S. Army major indicted on Iraq bribery charges
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Army major, his wife and sister were indicted on Wednesday in a suspected scheme to accept millions of dollars in bribes for Defense Department contracts in Iraq and Kuwait.
The indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Texas charges John Cockerham, his wife, Melissa, and his sister Carolyn Blake, with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, commit bribery and obstruct justice while Cockerham was a contracting officer in Kuwait in 2004 and 2005.
All three were also indicted on money-laundering conspiracy charges. Cockerham was additionally charged with three counts of bribery.
The Justice Department said that Cockerham, his wife, Blake, and unidentified co-conspirators accepted payments totaling $9.6 million in exchange for contracts for bottled water and other goods and services for U.S. troops in Iraq and Kuwait.
Cockerham guaranteed that a contractor would receive a contract in return for a payment, according to the Justice Department. It added that his wife and sister collected millions of dollars on his behalf and deposited the money in bank accounts and safe deposit boxes in Kuwait and Dubai.
If convicted on all the conspiracy charges, all three could face up to 20 years in prison and fines totaling $750,000 each.
Cockerham could receive an additional sentence of up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if found guilty of bribery.
The Cockerhams' attorney, Jimmy Parks, could not be immediately reached for comment. Parks said last month that Cockerham was a decorated Army veteran and the charges against them "just don't compute."
Cockerham and his wife have been held since July 22 when they were arrested at their home at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. Blake was arrested three days later in Dallas.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:59 AM
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
CIA missed chances to tackle al-Qaida
By KATHERINE SHRADER, Associated Press Writer
The CIA's top leaders failed to use their available powers, never developed a comprehensive plan to stop al-Qaida and missed crucial opportunities to thwart two hijackers in the run-up to Sept. 11, the agency's own watchdog concluded in a bruising report released Tuesday.
Completed in June 2005 and kept classified until now, the 19-page executive summary finds extensive fault with the actions of senior CIA leaders and others beneath them. "The agency and its officers did not discharge their responsibilities in a satisfactory manner," the CIA inspector general found.
"They did not always work effectively and cooperatively," the report stated.
Yet the review team led by Inspector General John Helgerson found neither a "single point of failure nor a silver bullet" that would have stopped the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
In a statement, CIA Director Michael Hayden said the decision to release the report was not his choice or preference, but that he was making the report available as required by Congress in a law President Bush signed earlier this month.
"I thought the release of this report would distract officers serving their country on the front lines of a global conflict," Hayden said. "It will, at a minimum, consume time and attention revisiting ground that is already well plowed."
The report does cover terrain heavily examined by a congressional inquiry and the Sept. 11 Commission. However, the CIA watchdog's report goes further than previous reviews to examine the personal failings of individuals within the agency who led the pre-9/11 efforts against al-Qaida.
Helgerson's team found that no CIA employees violated the law or were part of any misconduct. But it still called on then-CIA Director Porter Goss to form accountability boards to look at the performance of specific individuals to determine whether reprimands were called for.
The inquiry boards were recommended for officials including former CIA Director George Tenet, who resigned in July 2004; his Deputy Director for Operations Jim Pavitt; Counterterrorism Center Chief Cofer Black and the agency's executive director, who was not further identified. Other less senior officials were also tagged for accountability reviews, but identifying information was removed from the report's public version.
In a statement, Tenet said the inspector general is "flat wrong" about the lack of plan.
"There was in fact a robust plan, marked by extraordinary effort and dedication to fighting terrorism, dating back to long before 9/11," he said. "Without such an effort, we would not have been able to give the president a plan on Sept. 15, 2001, that led to the routing of the Taliban, chasing al-Qaida from its Afghan sanctuary and combating terrorists across 92 countries."
In October 2005, Goss rejected the recommendation for the inquiry boards. He said he had spoken personally with the current employees named in the report, and he trusted their abilities and dedication. "This report unveiled no mysteries," Goss said.
Hayden stuck by Goss's decision.
Providing a glimpse of a series of shortfalls laid out in the longer, still-classified report, the executive summary says:
• U.S. spy agencies, which were overseen by Tenet, lacked a comprehensive strategic plan to counter Osama bin Laden prior to 9/11. The inspector general concluded that Tenet "by virtue of his position, bears ultimate responsibility for the fact that no such strategic plan was ever created."
• The CIA's analysis of al-Qaida before Sept. 2001 was lacking. No comprehensive report focusing on bin Laden was written after 1993, and no comprehensive report laying out the threats of 2001 was assembled. "A number of important issues were covered insufficiently or not at all," the report found.
• The CIA and the National Security Agency tussled over their responsibilities in dealing with al-Qaida well into 2001. Only Tenet's personal involvement could have led to a timely resolution, the report concluded.
• The CIA station charged with monitoring bin Laden — code-named Alec Station — was overworked, lacked operational experience, expertise and training. The report recommended forming accountability boards for the CIA Counterterror Center chiefs from 1998 to 2001, including Black.
• Although 50 to 60 people read at least one CIA cable about two of the hijackers, the information wasn't shared with the proper offices and agencies. "That so many individuals failed to act in this case reflects a systemic breakdown.... Basically, there was no coherent, functioning watch-listing program," the report said. The report again called for further review of Black and his predecessor.
While blame is heaped on Tenet and his deputies, the report also says that Tenet was forcefully engaged in counterterrorism efforts and personally sounded the alarm before Congress, the military and policymakers. In a now well-known 1998 memo, he declared, "We are at war."
The trouble, the report said, was follow-up.
The inspector general did take exception to findings of Congress' joint inquiry into 9/11. For instance, the congressional inquiry found that the CIA was reluctant to seek authority to assassinate bin Laden. Instead, the inspector general believed the problem was the agency's limited covert-action capabilities.
The CIA's reliance on a group of sources with questionable reliability "proved insufficient to mount a credible operation against bin Laden," the report said. "Efforts to develop other options had limited potential prior to 9/11."
The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, said the CIA has learned from the past and has corrected many of these shortcomings, but has to do more.
"Sadly, the CIA's 9/11 accountability review serves as a sobering reminder that the Bush Administration policies for the past six years have failed to capture or kill Osama bin Laden," the West Virginia Democrat said. "Nor have the administration's policies deprived Osama bin Laden and other senior al-Qaida leaders of the safe haven they need to plot against the United States."
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:05 AM
Financial job cuts soar on housing woes
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A deepening U.S. housing slump has caused an alarming surge in job losses at U.S. financial services companies, and the end is nowhere in sight, consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. said on Tuesday.
The industry has announced 87,962 job cuts so far this year, 75 percent more than the 50,327 recorded for all of 2006, Challenger said. Nearly one-fourth of this year's cuts have been announced in August alone.
Of this year's cuts, 35,830, or 41 percent, were tied to housing market troubles, including riskier subprime mortgages. Job cuts by real estate and construction firms totaled 21,620, more than twice the number for all of 2006, Challenger said.
"Many companies expected the mortgage situation to implode; they've just been wondering when the bubble would burst," Chief Executive John Challenger said in an interview. "But many are stopping on a dime, shutting down operations.
"Companies are not surprised by what's happening, but the reality of the situation and the speed with which it occurred is shocking," Challenger added. He said it could be months before housing-related job cuts peak.
In the last week, investment bank Bear Stearns Cos, credit card issuer Capital One Financial Corp and mortgage lenders Countrywide Financial Corp and First Magnus Financial Corp announced 8,640 mortgage-related job cuts, Challenger said.
Another 2,400 cuts were announced by SunTrust Banks Inc as part of the bank's existing cost-cutting program.
Many companies exposed to the housing market have struggled with rising delinquencies and foreclosures as mortgage rates have reset higher and housing price appreciation has slowed.
Meanwhile, credit conditions have tightened as investors have grown unwilling to buy home loans once thought safe, starving many lenders of cash they need to operate normally. Dozens of mortgage lenders have quit the industry this year.
April has been the year's busiest month for financial job cuts, Challenger said. That month, companies announced 33,789 cuts, including 17,000 by Citigroup Inc and 3,200 by bankrupt mortgage lender New Century Financial Corp.
Job cuts are mounting as credit losses widen.
On Tuesday, the government's Office of Thrift Supervision said troubled assets, or loans at least 90 days past due, rose at savings and loans it regulates to $14.2 billion in the second quarter from $9.5 billion a year earlier.
Meanwhile, home foreclosure filings in July surged 93 percent from a year earlier and rose 9 percent from June, to 179,599, according to a Tuesday report by research firm RealtyTrac.
John Challenger said it's understandable for mortgage workers to feel whipsawed. Countrywide, for example, cut 500 jobs last week after having added 6,931 jobs from January to July, with increases in every calendar month.
"It's devastating (for morale)," he said. "It's hard to keep morale up, given the boom-bust nature of the mortgage sector."
(Additional reporting by John Poirier and Patrick Rucker in Washington, D.C.)
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:04 AM
Monday, August 20, 2007
Matt Cooper Says Rove DID Leak Valerie Plame’s Identity To Him: UPDATED!
By: Logan Murphy
Following Karl Rove’s appearance this morning on “Meet The Press” David Gregory (who is involved in the Plame scandal. More on that later.) held a round table discussion which included former Time Magazine reporter Matt Cooper. Cooper, who was dead center in the Valerie Plame scandal, stops just short of calling Karl Rove a liar, insisting that he did, in fact, leak Valerie Plame’s name to him in 2003.
Karl Rove’s denial from earlier in the program:
Gregory: Matt Cooper, let’s pick up on an aspect of the interview with, with Karl Rove having to do with the leak case, the CIA leak case, that you were part of as well. And something’s that’s very interesting, he, he went out of his way to say, “I would not have been a confirming source on this kind of information” and taking issue with, with Novak’s testimony in his column that he knew who Valerie Plame was. He said he would never confirm that information. That’s different from your experience with him.
Cooper: Yeah, I, I think he was dissembling, to put it charitably. Look, Karl Rove told me about Valerie Plame’s identity on July 11th, 2003. I called him because Ambassador Wilson was in the news that week. I didn’t know Ambassador Wilson even had a wife until I talked to Karl Rove and he said that she worked at the agency and she worked on WMD. I mean, to imply that he didn’t know about it or that this was all the leak…
Gregory: Or that he had heard it from somebody else…
Cooper: …by someone else, or he heard it as some rumor out in the hallway is, is nonsense.
Gregory: But he makes no apologies to Valerie Plame.
Cooper: Karl Rove never apologizes. That’s not what he does..
John Amato: Cooper calls Rove a liar, plain and simple—in a dissembling way of course…
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:51 AM
The Huffington Post
The Transformation of the Vice Presidency
Dick Cheney is widely acknowledged as the most influential vice president in the nation's history. His tenure as No. 2 represents the culmination of a half-century long transformation of the nation's second highest office.
Remaking what had been an essentially political position -- useful in the campaign but empty after Inauguration Day -- into a central institution of government, Cheney and President George Bush have crafted a new power center in American politics, a reservoir of executive power free not only from congressional oversight and public scrutiny, but also from the Cabinet departments and even the normal workings of the White House.
Late night talk show hosts had a field day with Cheney's recent claims that his office belonged to neither the executive nor the legislative branch. But the vice president seemed to have the last laugh. By insulating his office from political influence -- from accountability of any kind, Cheney has helped create a novel institution in American governance.
Certainly, few of his predecessors could have anticipated Cheney's role. For most of the nation's history, the vice presidency was regarded as a cipher, and many of the office's occupants deserved Johnny Carson's jibe that in America anyone can grow up to be president and anyone who doesn't grow up can be vice president.
John Adams, the first man to hold the office, called the post "the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived." Adams liked to joke about a poor, bereaved mother with two sons. One went off to sea, the other became vice president... and neither was heard from again.
Nearly every one of Adams's successors shared his opinion. Woodrow Wilson's vice president, Thomas R. Marshall, claimed that the vice president "is like a man in a cataleptic state. He cannot speak. He cannot move. He suffers no pain. And yet he is conscious of all that goes on around him."
From the 19th century through the 1960s, the vice presidency mattered only during presidential campaigns, in the brief window between the party nominating conventions and the election in November. Presidential candidates selected running mates to strengthen the ticket outside their home region.
In 1960, for example, Democrat John F. Kennedy chose Lyndon B. Johnson to strengthen his candidacy in Texas and across the South, while Republican Richard M. Nixon selected Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge to blunt his rival's strength in the Northeast. Lodge helped Nixon hold normally Republican New Hampshire and Vermont against the New Englander Kennedy, but it was L.B.J.'s ability to deliver Texas that won the narrow election for J.F.K.
Vice presidential nominations could also heal breeches within the parties. The 1880 GOP ticket paired Chester Arthur, a representative of the Republican "Stalwarts" who opposed civil service reform and looked askance on reconciliation with the defeated South, with the "Half-Breed" James Garfield.
In 1976, Ronald Reagan updated this tradition when he named Richard Schweiker as his running mate weeks before the Republican convention. Reagan tapped the liberal Pennsylvania senator in an unsuccessful effort to reach out to moderates in his party and wrest the nomination from the incumbent President Gerald R. Ford.
Since the 1960s, however, the vice presidency has all but lost this political role. While some candidates have selected running mates to make a splash that might generate favorable publicity -- for example, Walter F. Mondale's selection of the first woman nominee to run on a major party ticket, Geraldine Ferraro, in 1984, or Al Gore's tapping the first Jew, Joseph Lieberman -- campaigns no longer expect vice presidential candidates to deliver specific regions or constituencies.
Rather than balancing the ticket, presidential nominees often use running mates to reinforce their own message. Bill Clinton, a white Protestant Southern New Democrat chose Gore, another white Protestant Southern New Democrat, in 1992. Certainly, no one today expects the veep to affect the outcome of the general election.
But while the vice presidency has lost its political importance, the office has become steadily more important. Historically, the position had been at nest a ceremonial post, often even less. Vice presidents rarely attended important meetings, saw secret materials, or even entered the White House. Harry Truman, for example, did not learn about the atomic bomb until he became president. For L.B.J., the office was "filled with trips around the world, chauffeurs, men saluting, people clapping, chairmanships of councils, but in the end it is nothing." He "detested every minute of it."
That began to change during the 1970s, when Jimmy Carter created the modern vice presidency. Carter installed Mondale in the West wing (no previous VP had a White House office), granted him access to classified materials, and met with him privately every week. Clinton and Gore extended this role; the vice president became an influential advisor shaping policies such as the deficit reduction package and the NATO intervention in Kosovo. Gore also directed the president's "reinventing government" initiative and was able to install his own people in key administration positions, like former aide Carol Browner as EPA Director and longtime friend Reed Hundt as FCC Chairman.
Cheney marks the culmination of these trends. Not only did Cheney do little to balance the ticket with George W. Bush, he is the first sitting vice president since 1952 not to seek the presidency after his boss bows out. Immune to political pressure, the vice president works in unprecedented secrecy. He rarely publishes his calendar, destroys his visitor logs, and even refuses to release the size and names of his staff.
Within this insulated bubble, taking advantage of that privileged position, the president has granted Cheney wide authority in matters ranging from treatment of captured terror suspects to energy policy, supreme court nominations to water rights disputes. More than anything else, Cheney has used his position to expand the unchecked authority of the White House, reclaiming some of the perquisites of the imperial presidency that Congress had removed back when a younger Cheney served under President Ford.
Cheney has dramatically completed the transformation of the vice presidency from running mate into surrogate chief of staff. To be sure, it is unlikely that future VPs will not harbor ambitions to seek the presidency in their own right and care so little about public approval (though some presidential candidates might emulate the model of choosing an elder statesman running mate immune to political influence).
But future presidents will likely desire the expanded authority, freedom of movement and the freedom from scrutiny they derive from such a powerful asset. For better or worse, the vice presidency is likely to be a power center for years to come.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:49 AM
TV Ads: Bush-Petraeus 10-Year Plan Means a Draft
Americans have seen some news reports over the last few days suggesting that the White House "might-maybe-could-possibly" bring some troops home from Iraq next year. If this happens, that's great. But don't break out the confetti just yet.
Every other indicator is that these are fairy tales cooked up by the White House PR machine to try to cauterize their bleeding support. Almost like clock-work the White House breaks the glass of their magical PR machine every time they're about to lose it.
The story hasn't changed. This is still an endless war. And, now a military draft is on the table.
As part of Iraq Summer, a project of Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, a new TV ad called "DRAFT" blows the whistle on this double-talk from the Bush administration.
The ad makes three points.
1. The Republicans targeted in the ads continue to rubber-stamp whatever Bush wants in Iraq -- despite what they might be saying to their constituents.
2. Bush's general, Gen. David Petraeus, says the mission he has been given by the president could take 10 years. (Probably why the White House is trying to sideline Petraeus from the PR war.)
3. An endless war means a military draft is on the table. Your kids could be drafted.
This is so far outside of what the American public would find acceptable that political leaders need to be held accountable. That's why Iraq Summer is running new TV ads.
The ad will be running in the home state of Republican Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY)--who has been obstructing a vote on any exit plan from Iraq. Also, Rep. Phil English (R-PA), Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Thelma Drake (R-VA) are targets of this specific ad campaign.
We also learned last week that the much-anticipated "Petraeus Report" will actually be written by White House political hacks in their PR and spin operation. (Link)
Check out the ads and show them around.
Let's make it clear that: Bush-Petraeus 10 Year War = Endless War and a Draft.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:46 AM
Rove keeps up heat on Clinton
By DEB RIECHMANN
Associated Press Writer
CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) -- Master GOP strategist Karl Rove won't let up in his attacks on Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton, but the intriguing question is why.
Is it a sign that Rove, who masterminded Bush's two presidential victories, is worried about Clinton? Or a calculation that the GOP attacks will get Democrats to rally to her side because the GOP would prefer not to take on Democrats John Edwards or Barack Obama?
"The Democrats are going to choose a nominee. I believe it's going to be her," President Bush's departing political adviser said Sunday, noting her negative rating with the public is very high.
He appeared on three Sunday talk shows after announcing last week he was leaving the White House at the end of the month to spend more time with his family.
Asked why he was helping Clinton by saying she would headline the ticket, Rove said: "Didn't know that I was. Don't think that I am."
Then he harshly criticized Clinton, saying more people have an unfavorable than favorable opinion of the New York senator and former first lady.
"She enters the general election campaign with the highest negatives of any candidate in the history of the Gallup poll," Rove said.
"It just says people have made an opinion about her. It's hard to change opinions once you've been a high-profile person in the public eye, as she has for 16 or 17 years." In a USA Today-Gallup poll this month, 49 percent viewed Clinton unfavorably compared to 35 percent unfavorable for Obama and 34 percent unfavorable for Edwards. Clinton's favorable score in that poll was 47 percent.
Rove might be revisiting his 2004 play book. Bush's re-election team aimed its harshest comments at Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the eventual nominee, because it wanted Bush to take on Kerry rather than Edwards, then a senator from North Carolina.
The Los Angeles Times on Sunday reported that Bush's former pollster and strategist Matthew Dowd said at a 2004 Harvard University conference that Bush's re-election team went after Kerry because they were more afraid of Edwards.
Asked whether he was attacking Clinton because the GOP feared Obama, Rove replied: "I read that in the LA Times this morning. Those, those guys out in LA have got to get clued in. I mean, come on."
Asked for his opinions on Obama, Rove demurred.
"I've said enough," he said.
Rove said the GOP's chances in 2008 may be helped by the high negative ratings for Clinton and for the Democratic-led Congress. Congress' approval in an Associated Press-Ipsos poll this month stood at 25 percent, compared with 35 percent for Bush.
After Rove announced he was leaving the White House, he had traveled with Bush to his Texas ranch Monday, then left Friday after a GOP barbecue for more than 300 big donors from around the nation.
At a Democratic debate in Iowa on Sunday, Clinton responded to Rove's criticism.
"I don't think Karl Rove is going to endorse me, but I find it interesting that he's obsessed with me," she said.
She said no candidate will escape the "Republican attack machine," and added: "I know how to beat them."
Last week, Clinton's campaign ran a television ad saying struggling families and U.S. troops are "invisible" to Bush. White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino called that "unconscionable." Rove said that was laughable.
On other issues, Rove:
-Blamed congressional Democrats for standing in the way of changing Social Security and immigration law, two important pieces of Bush's second-term domestic policy that fizzled. Democratic leaders didn't want to give Bush a "political victory," Rove said.
-Said he doesn't think he owes an apology to Valerie Plame whose CIA employment was revealed by newspaper columnist Robert Novak's in 2003, shortly after her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, began criticizing the administration's march to war in Iraq. Rove said he talked to Novak about Plame, but said he did not confirm that she worked for the CIA - only that he, too, had heard that she did.
-Predicted that Democratic-led investigations into U.S. attorney firings and other matters would follow him after he departs the White House - a decision he insisted was not in response to probes on Capitol Hill. "They'll keep after me," he said.
-Admitted that the GOP is suffering. "Is the Republican Party a little bit behind the curve? You bet," he said.
Rove appeared on "Fox News Sunday," NBC's "Meet the Press" and CBS' "Face the Nation."
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:44 AM
Army too stretched if Iraq buildup lasts
By LOLITA C. BALDOR
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sapped by nearly six years of war, the Army has nearly exhausted its fighting force and its options if the Bush administration decides to extend the Iraq buildup beyond next spring.
The Army's 38 available combat units are deployed, just returning home or already tapped to go to Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere, leaving no fresh troops to replace five extra brigades that President Bush sent to Baghdad this year, according to interviews and military documents reviewed by The Associated Press.
That presents the Pentagon with several painful choices if the U.S. wants to maintain higher troop levels beyond the spring of 2008:
-Using National Guard units on an accelerated schedule.
-Breaking the military's pledge to keep soldiers in Iraq for no longer than 15 months.
-Breaching a commitment to give soldiers a full year at home before sending them back to war.
For a war-fatigued nation and a Congress bent on bringing troops home, none of those is desirable.
In Iraq, there are 18 Army brigades, each with about 3,500 soldiers. At least 13 more brigades are scheduled to rotate in. Two others are in Afghanistan and two additional ones are set to rotate in there. Also, several other brigades either are set for a future deployment or are scattered around the globe.
The few units that are not at war, in transformation or in their 12-months home time already are penciled in for deployments later in 2008 or into 2009. Shifting them would create problems in the long-term schedule.
Most Army brigades have completed two or three tours in Iraq or Afghanistan; some assignments have lasted as long as 15 months. The 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, has done four tours.
Two Marine regiments - each roughly the same size as an Army brigade - also in Iraq,- bringing the total number of brigades in the country to 20.
When asked what units will fill the void in the coming spring if any need to be replaced, officials give a grim shake of the head, shrug of the shoulders or a palms-up, empty-handed gesture.
"The demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply," the Army chief of staff, Gen. George Casey, said last week. "Right now we have in place deployment and mobilization policies that allow us to meet the current demands. If the demands don't go down over time, it will become increasingly difficult for us to provide the trained and ready forces" for other missions.
Casey said he would not be comfortable extending troops beyond their 15-month deployments. But other military officials acknowledge privately that option is on the table.
Pentagon leaders hope there is enough progress in Iraq to allow them to scale back at least part of the nearly 30,000-strong buildup when soldiers begin leaving Iraq around March and April.
There are 162,000 U.S. troops in Iraq now, the highest level since the war began in 2003. That figure is expected to hit 171,000 this fall as fresh troops rotate in.
Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq who will deliver a much anticipated progress report to Congress in September, said Wednesday he is considering possible troop cuts and believes the U.S. will have fewer forces in Iraq by next summer.
Other commanders have said the security situation is improving, which would allow U.S. troops to be shifted from combat and lead to an eventual force reduction.
Still, Petraeus and other military leaders have warned against drawing down too quickly. In fact, an upbeat progress report in September may solidify arguments that additional troops should stay longer to ensure that positive changes stick.
"The longer that you keep American forces there, the longer you give this process to solidify and to make sure that it's not going to slide back," said Frederick Kagan, an American Enterprise Institute analyst who recently returned from an eight-day visit to Iraq. "The sooner you take them out, the more you run the risk that enemies will come in and try to disrupt."
Kagan, a leading supporter of the current buildup strategy, said any decision to maintain force levels would have to take into account the effects on the Army. That would include, he said, the strains of sending Guard units back to Iraq more rapidly than Pentagon policy allows or keeping active duty units there longer than 15 months.
"You have the same tradeoff at every moment in this process, which is the institutional well-being of the Army versus what is felt is necessary to win the war," Kagan said.
According to military officials, some soldiers in Iraq are hearing that it may not be wise to pack their bags to come home when their 15-month tour is up. But to date, Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have said they have no plans to extend those tours.
National Guard officials are bracing for a new round of Guard deployments and a move to decrease their time at home between tours - despite announced plans to give the citizen soldiers five years off for every one year served.
One Guard official said this past week that the Army is pushing to give Guard units four years or less at home in order to get access to those combat brigades sooner.
Last April the Pentagon notified National Guard brigades in four states that they should be prepared to deploy to Iraq later this year. But documents obtained by the AP show that Guard units in five states - Indiana, Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma and Minnesota - are scheduled to deploy to Iraq before the end of the year. A New York Guard unit is set to go to Afghanistan.
The shortage of combat units will be remedied over time. The Pentagon slowly is increasing the size of the active-duty Army by 65,000 members to 547,000 by 2012. The 38 combat brigades currently available for war will expand to 48 by 2013.
The Iraqis hold the key to any U.S. withdrawals. The government in Baghdad has made little progress on political changes the Pentagon says are critical to restoring stability to the country, thus allowing U.S. troops to begin leaving.
If progress is not made and the violence does not abate, the Pentagon will turn again to the Army.
"The Army will do what's necessary and will pay a very high price if necessary," said Kagan. "but I'm hopeful that it won't come to that and I honestly don't think that it will."
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:42 AM
Gonzales seen as politicizing Justice Dept
By James Vicini
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Not since the Watergate scandal more than 30 years ago has the U.S. Justice Department been as politicized as under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, current and former officials said.
They said the department's integrity has been damaged, employee morale has been hurt and Gonzales' relations with the Democratic-controlled Congress have deteriorated beyond repair in a firestorm of criticism from lawmakers, including some Republicans.
Several senators said last month they had lost confidence in Gonzales and his ability to head the Justice Department, accusing him of misleading and possibly false testimony about his firing of nine U.S. prosecutors last year and the Bush administration's warrantless spying program.
Daniel Metcalfe, who resigned in January after serving as head of the department's Office of Information and Privacy since 1981, said Gonzales, the nation's highest-ranking Hispanic official, has become an embarrassment.
"Gonzales has shattered the Justice Department's tradition of independence and has politicized its operations more than any other attorney general since the Watergate era," said Metcalfe, who began working at the agency in 1971.
"The department badly needs a Watergate-style repair with a new attorney general who can restore its integrity and cease this process of ever-increasing damage to its reputation," said Metcalfe, now a law professor at American University.
John Koppel, a civil appellate attorney at the department since 1981, said last month in The Denver Post that the agency and the government have been thoroughly politicized. He called it "a national disgrace of a magnitude unseen since the days of Watergate."
Koppel wrote, "It is especially unheard of for U.S. attorneys to be targeted and removed on the basis of pressure and complaints from political figures dissatisfied with their handling of politically sensitive investigations and their unwillingness to 'play ball'."
While acknowledging mistakes in the handling of the dismissals, Gonzales has denied the firings were politically motivated to influence federal probes involving Democratic or Republican lawmakers.
Two Justice Department offices are investigating whether politics improperly tainted hiring practices, after Monica Goodling, a former aide to Gonzales, admitted posing political questions to job applicants for career, nonpartisan positions.
Gonzales has repeatedly rejected calls in Congress to resign and said he plans to stay in office for the rest of Bush's presidency.
Bush has defended Gonzales, who previously was White House counsel and a long-time aide when Bush was governor of Texas. The president has cited Gonzales' rise as an achievement for Hispanics, the largest minority in the United States.
BUSH: 'A POLITICAL EXERCISE'
"I haven't seen Congress say he's done anything wrong," Bush said at a recent news conference. "As a matter of fact, I believe we're watching ... a political exercise."
On Capitol Hill, an agreement on temporary legislation allowing Bush to maintain his controversial domestic spying program almost was scuttled, in part because of Gonzales' role in carrying out the program, congressional officials said.
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the prior attorney general, John Ashcroft, said relations between Gonzales and the Senate Judiciary Committee have deteriorated beyond repair.
"There's nothing the attorney general can do to make things better," he said. "It's unfortunate because the Department of Justice is such an important place."
Several department officials cited low morale and said Gonzales' troubles had become a distraction. "It's almost like a cloud hanging over the department," one official said.
They said Gonzales is having difficulty finding replacements for a number of aides who have departed during the five months he has been under fire.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:37 AM
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Hungry for end to war, activists seek impeachment of Bush, Cheney
By Meredith May / San Francisco Chronicle
Marghi Dutton is 90 and losing her eyesight, but nothing was going to stop her from trekking to midspan of the Golden Gate Bridge on Sunday with the anti-war group Code Pink: Women for Peace.
She joined a crowd of about 100 demonstrators dressed in hot pink hats, shirts and scarves and fought the wind to raise her sign: "Impeach Bush and Cheney!"
"My arms are aching, but I'm getting energy from the drivers - so many are honking in support," she said.
Code Pink, a national grassroots peace movement inspired by Bay Area women, organized the protest to call for an immediate end to the war in Iraq and immediate impeachment proceedings against President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Protesters walked from the bridge to the Pacific Heights home of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., set up camp, cooked one last carbohydrate-heavy meal and began a hunger strike. About 40 gathered on some terraced steps near the senator's home, along with a half-dozen police officers.
"We have about eight people who are going to stop eating, including me," Code Pink spokeswoman Nancy Mancias said.
On Wednesday, the group plans to relocate the hunger strike to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's home on Broadway, where they will urge the San Francisco Democrat to hold a town hall meeting with constituents.
Code Pink leaders believe both lawmakers should be doing more to bring the troops home and to rally other Democrats to call for an end to the war.
"Feinstein voted for the war spending bill, and even though Pelosi didn't, she's not doing enough to convince others to join her," Mancias said.
This isn't the first time Code Pink has moved into the neighborhood.
For about two weeks in March, the street corner in front of Pelosi's house was named "Camp Pelosi" as demonstrators numbering from four to 30 lived there to urge her to fight against continued funding of the war.
Before they were ordered to decamp, protesters had hoisted a banner between two trees, taped signs to trees and the curbs and gutter, erected an awning to protect themselves from the sun, and hung a clothesline of children's clothing symbolizing Iraqi children who have been killed in the war.
Led by longtime Bay Area activist Medea Benjamin, the group is becoming a well-known rabble-rouser on Capitol Hill.
Code Pink rents a five-bedroom house on Capitol Hill to put up volunteers, who push their cause with banners, singing and hot pink couture at hearings and press conferences and in the halls of Congress. Within its first four years, Code Pink has grown to 250 U.S. chapters and 10 international ones.
In 2004, a Code Pink member infiltrated a presidential speech in New York and interrupted Bush by pulling off her dress and exposing pink lingerie with a handwritten message: "Fire Bush - Women say bring the troops home now."
Their hunger strikes have drawn worldwide attention. In summer 2006, the group was invited to meet with members of the Iraqi parliament in Amman, Jordan, to discuss diplomacy.
Lee Gooden, a retired Air Force major who served in Vietnam, joined the group because he felt large-scale anti-war demonstrations are too factionalized into so many political causes that the message was getting diluted.
He walked with a cane on the Golden Gate Bridge on Sunday and held his other hand aloft in a peace sign as cars whizzed by honking back.
"My personal wish is we would get all our troops home by the holidays," he said.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:20 AM
Hartland grad says 'Sicko' got her fired
By Kristofer Karol / Daily Press & Argus
HOWELL, MI -- A Hartland High School graduate who appeared in the Michael Moore documentary "Sicko" says she was unfairly fired from her job as a manager at Meijer because of the views on health care she expressed in the film.
Adrian Campbell, a 25-year-old Waterford Township resident, said her new boss at the Northville Meijer store did not approve of her comments in the movie, which called for health-care reform in the United States.
"He called me anti-American," she said. "He was constantly calling me that."
"I said 'No, I'm not anti-American, I just think there should be a few changes in this country.' And then he let me go."
A call seeking comment from her supervisor was referred to Meijer's corporate office, which released a statement disputing Campbell's claim.
"Ms. Campbell's employment was in no way impacted because of her appearance in the movie 'Sicko' or any statements or beliefs she may have made or held about the movie or health care in our country," the statement reads.
"Nearly one month ago, Meijer announced a restructure plan that had been under development for several months which involved all of our 4,200 leadership team members.
"Ms. Campbell, like others, was offered another leadership position at Meijer but declined that offer, instead accepting a severance package. Upon completion of this company-wide restructure, over 500 Meijer team leaders have accepted severance packages."
The severance package equals out to five weeks of pay, Campbell said, adding she was not offered another leadership position at Meijer.
The firing came as a surprise to Campbell, who noted she does not mention Meijer once in the film. Campbell has not taken any legal action against Meijer, but has been talking with attorneys about possibly pursuing a slander charge against her former supervisor.
"Sicko" explores health-care systems in several countries and features Campbell explaining how one of her Canadian friends listed her as a common-law spouse so she get cheaper medication across the border.
Campbell, who is an uninsured single mother — the baby's father is deceased — plans on being on the board of directors for the American Patients for Universal Health Care advocacy group, which is being formed by one of her co-stars.
Campbell said she is also looking at possibly relocating to Fowlerville.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:19 AM
County: Impeach Bush, Cheney
By Ben Hopper / Capital Times
At the end of a marathon seven-hour session, the Dane County Board early today became the second county government in the nation to endorse the impeachment of President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
About a third of the board members left the meeting before the impeachment vote was taken shortly before 2 a.m. The measure passed with 24 in favor, three against, two abstaining and the remaining 12 absent.
The issue of impeachment -- a symbolic resolution to be sent to Wisconsin's congressional representatives -- wasn't taken up until after the board endorsed a regional transportation authority plan.
By that time, shortly after midnight, few public speakers remained, although the night began with fanfare and a demonstration in support of the impeachment proposal. Although many cities and other municipalities have endorsed impeachment, Dane is only the second county -- behind New York 's Tompkins County -- to endorse such action.
A group of 60 or more gathered in front of two black coffins bearing the names of Constitution and Democracy -- part formal protest, part street theater.
"A lot of people are saying we ought to let these fellows run out the clock," said Midge Miller, whose first presidential protest began five decades ago against Lyndon Johnson. "But I say we cannot afford to give them any more time, because we do not know what they will continue to do."
The protesters, dressed in orange vests and armbands, beat drums and waved signs as County Board members Barbara Vedder, Ashok Kumar and John Hendrick all spoke in favor of the resolution.
"People have said this is not our business," said Hendrick, "but as board members we swore an oath to defend our Constitution against these kinds of attacks."
When the resolution came up for public discussion, the impeachment supporters were clearly the largest contingent, but several citizens endured the wait to voice their opposition to the idea.
"I thought this board was supposed to be nonpartisan," said Bill Richardson, a former Marine from Middleton and part of the organization Say No to Cut and Run. "This board was not created to affect our nation's foreign policy. In my opinion, you are being used to create free advertising for the anti-war left."
The majority of the dissension followed Richardson's lead and focused not on the validity of the charges that impeachment supporters enumerated, but on whether or not the County Board was within its rights to consider the issue.
Among the reasons given for impeachment were illegal wiretaps, the deception that led up to the Iraq war and the torture of detainees.
County Board members Eileen Bruskewitz, who voted against the resolution, and Sheila Stubbs, who abstained, both felt impeachment was not an appropriate topic for the board.
"I believe my main role is to be a liaison between my constituents and the county," said Stubbs, who represents a district on Madison's south side.
In the end, though, those who supported impeachment celebrated the accomplishment. Buzz Davis, a veteran from Stoughton who helped organize the event, produced more than 8,000 petition signatures in favor of the impeachment resolution.
Joan Schwarz, a Madison resident, Stoughton attorney and lecturer at UW-Whitewater, said for the group: "Our last impeachment began at the top. This time there is a need for this action from the bottom up."
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:18 AM
Recruiting For Iraq War Undercut in Puerto Rico
By Paul Lewis / Washington Post
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- The political activists, brown envelopes tucked under their arms, staked out the high school gates just after sunrise. When students emerged from the graffiti-scorched streets of the Rio Piedra neighborhood here and began streaming toward their school, the pro-independence advocates ripped open the envelopes and began handing the teens fliers emblazoned with the slogan: "Our youth should not go to war."
At the bottom of the leaflet was a tear sheet that students could sign and later hand to teachers, to request that students' personal contact information not be released to the U.S. Defense Department or to anyone involved in military recruiting.
The scene outside the Ramon Vila Mayo high school unfolded at schools throughout Puerto Rico this week as the academic year opened. On this island with a long tradition of military service, pro-independence advocates are tapping the territory's growing anti-Iraq war sentiment to revitalize their cause. As a result, 57 percent of Puerto Rico's 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders, or their parents, have signed forms over the past year withholding contact information from the Pentagon -- effectively barring U.S. recruiters from reaching out to an estimated 65,000 high school students.
"If the death of a Puerto Rican soldier is tragic, it's more tragic if that soldier has no say in that war," said Juan Dalmau, secretary general of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP). His efforts are saving the island's children from becoming "colonial cannon meat," he said.
Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, all schools receiving U.S. federal funding must provide their students' names, addresses and phone numbers to the military unless the child or parents sign an opt-out form. Puerto Rico received $1.88 billion in U.S. education funds this year. For five years, PIP has issued opt-out forms to about 120,000 students in Puerto Rico and encouraged them to sign -- and independista activists expect this year to mark their most successful effort yet.
Such actions come as other antiwar groups on the island are seeking to undercut military recruiting, as well. For example, the Coalition of Citizens Against Militarism, an association of pacifist groups, plans to visit about 70 schools on the island in the coming days, meaning that many students will receive two, or even three, opt-out forms by the end of August.
Antiwar advocates have even gained direct access to Puerto Rican classrooms under a controversial directive issued last September by Rafael Aragunde, the island's education secretary, granting "equal access" by pacifist groups and military recruiters.
Although he will not bar recruiters from schools, Aragunde said, he has a "lot of sympathy" for what pacifist groups are trying to accomplish. "I've always felt that one of the byproducts of a good educational system is that you have citizens who will defend pacifism," he said. "I think that just like we have to insist on ecological values, we have to insist on pacifist values." Aragunde described his relations with military recruiters as "cordial."
Bill Carr, deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy, acknowledged that the counter-recruiting campaigns are having an impact. "We're drawing less than the national average" in Puerto Rico, he said.
In the 2003-06 period, 4,947 Puerto Rican men and women enlisted in the Army or Reserves, or approximately 123 people per 100,000 residents, according to Pentagon data. That is below the average contribution of U.S. states, and far below the numbers in states such as Alabama, Kansas, Montana and Oklahoma, each of which enlists more than 200 men and women per 100,000, according to Army data.
"We're not taking more than our share from Puerto Rico," Carr said. "We're taking less than our share, because that's what they'll give us." Carr said he suspects that opt-out rates for states in the continental United States rarely break beyond 10 percent -- a far cry from the nearly 60 percent on the island.
Reaction outside the gates of the Ramon Vila Mayo school this week seem to confirm that suspicion. A few students shrugged off the political activists' overtures, while others smiled and declared their interest in joining the "Yankee" military. But most of the teens politely accepted the forms, nodded and even fetched pens from their school bags.
Calls for Puerto Rico's independence have existed since the days of Spanish colonial rule and continued after the United States seized control of the island in 1898. In the 1950s, a branch of the movement attempted a violent uprising. Although many Puerto Ricans express deep patriotism for the island, the independence impulse has never translated in the polls -- either in elections or in successive plebiscites on the status of the territory, in which independence has repeatedly been rejected.
Leaders from the island's two major political parties say that their PIP opponents are exploiting young people to advance their separatist grievances. And Pentagon officials accuse the activists of "manipulating" impressionable young people.
"What's going on in Puerto Rico is an artificial circumstance, where a group is trying to persuade students to take their name off a list, and of course that's going to meet in some change in behavior," Carr said. "In the event that someone approaches a young person and their voluntary behavior is to take an opt-out card and give it to their teacher, there's nothing we can or should do in that case. That's free speech. But it's curious speech, because it's manipulating the flow of information . . . and that is unhealthy."
The Pentagon said it is on track to meet its recruiting targets for this fiscal year. However, despite a $3.2 billion national recruitment campaign, the military was forced to bring back 1,000 former recruiters to help with the summer months -- the peak recruiting period -- and late last month introduced a $20,000 "quick-ship" bonus for recruits willing to enter training before October. Carr said that Puerto Rico's anti-military drive could force recruiters to focus on states such as Texas, where they meet with less resistance.
Maj. Ricardo Sierra, who runs eight of Puerto Rico's 14 Army recruiting stations, rejected the notion that anti-recruitment efforts are affecting his operations. High school students are not his target demographic, he said, because few speak English well enough to pass military entrance exams. Instead, Sierra said, recruiters are meeting targets by contacting college-educated students.
"We do target [high school students], we do campaigns, we talk to the seniors, but we don't get a whole lot of them," Sierra said, estimating that the U.S. military enlists an average of 22 Puerto Rican high school graduates per year.
Senior chief Joe Vega, who heads the island's three Navy recruiting stations, said that "if Puerto Rico was a fully bilingual state or country, the recruiting contribution would be much higher." His top recruiter, Chief Select Ernesta Marrero, said that many young people sign up out of patriotism or a sense of obligation to the United States.
"Being part of the U.S. is what gives them the right to their freedom, democracy, the chance to voice their opinions -- it's the constitution that we [the military] uphold," Marrero said.
Sonia Santiago, founder of the local group Mothers Against War, said her volunteers visit schools to "unmask" the way in which recruiters promise "villas y castillas" (villas and castles) that they cannot deliver. One persuasive tactic, she added, is to ask children how their mothers would feel if they were injured or killed in war.
Aragunde, the education secretary and a self-declared independista, said that most Puerto Ricans do not view the U.S. armed forces as "their military." According to a recent poll by the Puerto Rican daily El Nuevo Día, 75 percent of commonwealth residents oppose the Iraq war -- a figure that has escalated with the number of Puerto Ricans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Pentagon lists 37 service members from the island as killed in action in the two conflicts, but local antiwar groups say the number exceeds 80, including suicides and soldiers recruited from the U.S. mainland.
Deaths of all Puerto Rican troops make headlines here. The funeral in March of Army Cpl. Jason Nunez, 22, proved particularly emotional. In images broadcast throughout the island, his mother removed the U.S. flag from her son's coffin and deliberately dropped it to the floor. She later implored other parents not to allow their children to fight in the U.S. military.
Aragunde said such images shape public opinion. "You don't want children fighting on the streets, you don't want children cheating, nor stealing, and you don't want them to think that an alternative to solving any conflict is war," he said. "I feel it's my obligation to defend that value."
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:17 AM
Man's 'Impeach Bush' Sign Leads To Littering Charge
KENT, Ohio -- A Kent resident who was ticketed last week for putting up an "Impeach Bush" sign on what was considered city land is facing different charges.
The initial charge against Kevin Egler was a violation of an advertising ordinance. That charge was dropped, but he is now being charged with littering.
The offense falls under Kent ordinance 521.08, which in part reads that no person shall place litter on any public property.
But Egler and his lawyer claim that the sign is like any political sign that you would see during election time.
"In this case, all the officer had to do is treat him like they admit they treat mainstream political candidates and just say, 'Hey, remove the sign.' But the fact that you would criminalize this case, I think is an attempt to suppress free speech," said attorney Bob Fitrakis.
Egler has been summoned back to court where he plans to plead not guilty to the littering charge.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and 60 days in jail.
The location where Egler placed the sign is on state right or way property, so there is also the question of whether a Kent ordinance applies to state property.
Kent Law Director James Silver did not return a phonecall seeking comment.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:16 AM
Charges against ‘highway blogger’ will change
By Adam Behsudi
ASHEVILLE — Police said Thursday that it would change charges against a man who held an “impeach Bush, Cheney” sign from a bridge over Interstate 240.
Jonas Phillips, a 35-year-old West Asheville resident, said he had recently taken up “highway blogging,” a protest practice of displaying signs of political discontent from highway overpasses.
Police cited him Wednesday for obstructing the sidewalk but said Thursday a N.C. Department of Transportation violation would be more fitting.
Phillips said he had the signed propped on the Haywood Road bridge railing over I-240.
He had not been charged with the new violation, a class 1 misdemeanor, by late Thursday night.
“The intent was public safety and the banner being a hazard,” Asheville police Capt. Wade Wood said. “That’s basically to the benefit of the motoring public.”
Wood said there was a possibility of the sign falling on motorists below. The sign had not been returned pending court proceedings, he said.
Phillips said he was not blocking the sidewalk while holding his 5-by-1 foot sign. He said he was aware of that ordinance and not trying to break it.
Police gave him no warning to move before putting him under arrest, Phillips said.
“I don’t want people in Asheville to be scared of protesting,” he said. “I wasn’t asking for trouble.”
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:14 AM
Verdict may challenge Bush's case for tribunals
By Siobhan Gorman
In winning the conviction of al-Qaida foot soldier Jose Padilla, the Bush administration might have paradoxically undercut a key tenet of the president's anti-terrorism strategy - that terrorists should be handled outside the regular court system.
The administration's ability to successfully prosecute an alleged terrorist in federal court will provide ammunition to those challenging the military tribunal system established by the administration, legal analysts said.
"What this demonstrates is that the administration's claim that the criminal justice system can't handle terrorists as criminals is a hoax," said Bruce Fein, a former Justice Department official in the Reagan administration who has criticized President Bush's terrorism policies.
But administration officials said that every case is different and that the federal courts eventually proved to be the best option for Padilla, who was held as an enemy combatant for more than three years before being charged in federal court. That route would not necessarily be appropriate for other cases, they said.
The only remaining enemy combatant known to be held in the United States, Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, is challenging his detention in a case before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where the government is arguing he should be tried before a military tribunal.
Amid growing calls to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees there have also launched several challenges, including a case arguing that they should be tried in federal court and not the tribunals. The Supreme Court plans to hear that case next term.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has argued that terrorism suspects should be treated as war combatants and that the U.S. government can hold them indefinitely without giving them access to a lawyer.
Opponents say that approach deprives the suspects of basic legal rights of due process and access to counsel.
Yesterday, they leapt on the guilty verdict as proof that terrorism suspects can be tried successfully in the federal courts and that the special legal systems Bush has created for them are unnecessary.
"This vindicates those who argue for federal court trials," said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who tracks terrorism cases.
Winning the Padilla verdict, Fein said, might erode the government's case against al-Marri, who is being held at a navy brig in South Carolina.
Al-Marri was arrested in December 2001 while studying at a university in Peoria, Ill. He was initially held as a material witness in a terrorism investigation and later was charged with credit card fraud and lying to the FBI. But shortly before that case was to go to trial in 2003, Bush declared him an enemy combatant because he was believed to be a sleeper agent for al-Qaida.
In June, a 4th Circuit panel ruled that al-Marri, a Qatari national, should be either charged in the federal courts, held as a material witness in a grand jury investigation or released. The administration, which has maintained that al-Marri poses a grave security threat, asked the full 4th Circuit to hear the case, which many analysts expect will eventually reach the Supreme Court.
Fein said al-Marri could just as easily be prosecuted in federal court.
"What's this argument for holding him as an enemy combatant?" Fein said. The "flaw all along" with Bush's enemy combatant designations, he added, is that the president has not proved why it is necessary to hold alleged terrorists without charges.
Fein said the Padilla prosecution further illustrates the ability of the federal courts to convict someone on conspiracy charges before they ever commit a crime.
The outcome of Padilla's case will have a similar impact on the other cases challenging the administration's beleaguered military tribunals, established primarily to try detainees in Guantanamo Bay, legal analysts said.
"It helps the Guantanamo debate by way of showing that we can go to federal court with these cases, except maybe the most extreme ones," Tobias said, adding that he could not think of a case pending at Guantanamo that would qualify as too extreme to try in federal court.
At a briefing yesterday, acting Deputy Attorney General Craig S. Morford said that prosecuting terrorism suspects in the federal courts works only in certain cases.
"You have to look on a case-by-case basis, and you have to look at the unique circumstances of each case to figure out whether it will work," he said. "These particular charges [against Padilla] did work in a regular trial."
In cases that involve classified information, the federal courts are not appropriate, he said.
But the verdict might show that it is appropriate to try American citizens in federal courts rather than holding them indefinitely as enemy combatants or putting them before military tribunals, said David B. Rivkin, a former Justice Department official in the Reagan and elder Bush administrations and a frequent ally of the administration.
"It suggests that if you have an American defendant with conduct that took place at least partially on American soil, of course, it would work," Rivkin said. "But this is a very tiny percentage of the cases."
He added that he did not believe the Padilla verdict would undermine the administration's efforts to designate enemy combatants and try them in military tribunals.
One of the most controversial elements of Padilla's case was Bush's assertion of authority to declare a U.S. citizen arrested on American soil an enemy combatant and hold him indefinitely without access to a lawyer.
"The most troubling aspect of this case is we may never have a final ruling on his denial of his rights as a citizen," said Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor who is representing two terrorism suspects.
Padilla's challenge of his designation as an enemy combatant was about to go before the Supreme Court when the Justice Department announced in November 2005 that it had indicted him on terrorism conspiracy charges, and he was then transferred to a federal detention center in Miami.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:12 AM