Saturday, August 11, 2007

Tragic Wordplay" and the Right to Life

The Huffington Post
Adam Freedman
Tragic Wordplay" and the Right to Life

Until a few days ago, terminally ill patients had a constitutional right to access potentially life saving drugs - even if those drugs have not yet been approved by the FDA.

On Tuesday (August 7), in the case of Abigail Alliance v. Eschenbach, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit held that no such right exists, reversing last year's decision in the Abigail case by - the DC Circuit. In other words, the court reversed itself. Ooops.

The issue is clearly one of life and death, but in the courts it came down to a battle of semantics.

The FDA says that you cannot acquire prescription medications without the FDA's say-so, even if you are dying and, presumably, have nothing to lose. Courts review this sort of administrative action, but they tend to defer to the executive branch - unless they find that a "fundamental right" is threatened.

The first panel of the DC Circuit found that the FDA's actions (in denying drugs to terminally-ill patients) interfered with the "right to life," which implicitly includes the right to preserve one's life through medication. Stated this way, the right is "fundamental" because it is - as constitutional jurisprudence requires - "deeply rooted in the nation's history and traditions." So in the first Abigail decision, the DC Circuit held that the FDA could not justify its meddling with this fundamental right.

But in the second Abigail holding, the DC Circuit described the contested right differently: "the right to access experimental and unproven drugs in an attempt to save one's life." Stated in these terms, the right hardly seems fundamental - indeed, the court's words conjure up the image of some deluded sicko grasping for the nearest bottle of snake oil. So much for respect for the terminally ill.

In any event, the DC Circuit has now decided that this right is not fundamental. After all, since the FDA has only been around for a few decades, the "right" to circumvent its rules can hardly be "deeply rooted" in our history.

The dissent assailed the majority's reasoning as "tragic wordplay" and Roger Pilon, writing in the Wall Street Journal lambasted the decision as "linguistic legerdemain." The critics are correct. The right at stake in Abigail is not the right to circumvent FDA rules - to describe it so gets the issues exactly backward. For centuries before the FDA existed, a dying man or woman had the right to take whatever medication they thought might save them. It is the FDA's interference with that "deeply rooted" right that requires strict scrutiny by the courts.

This issues doesn't neatly divide into liberal vs. conservative, as Pilon (a civil libertarian) notes. In finding a "right to life" that includes a right to self-medicate, the DC Circuit's first panel searched in the penumbra (shadows) of certain other rights - the judicial technique made famous by Roe v. Wade and abhorred by conservatives (even though the opinion in the first Abigail decision included conservative judge Douglas Ginsburg). The DC Circuit's later opinion, describing the right more narrowly was supported by liberal judges who wish to protect the modern regulatory state from judicial activism which - hey! - suddenly doesn't look so great.

The Abigail story may not be over yet. The Supreme Court has a chance to review the DC Circuit's decision. Let's hope they do - and let's hope they're in no mood for word games.


Kent Man Faces Fine For 'Impeach Bush' Sign
Kent Man Faces Fine For 'Impeach Bush' Sign

KENT, Ohio -- A northeast Ohio man is in trouble for displaying his thoughts on President George W. Bush.

The Kent homeowner wants the president impeached, but how he voiced that opinion could cost him $125 and possible hundreds more, reported NewsChannel5's Pete Kenworthy.

"I was charged with advertising on public property, a violation of Kent city ordinance 503.02," said Kevin Egler.

Egler maintains that the ordinance doesn't cover what he did, placing a sign saying "Impeach Bush" on public property.

While the sign was on city land, he claims that so are many other signs around Kent, some of which are advertising that allows businesses to benefit -- a direct violation of the ordinance.

"Everything from a lost kitten sign put on a telephone pole to military recruitment posters on poles to signs similar to mine that said 'House for sale, this direction,'" he said.

Egler's attorney, who is handling the case pro bono, agrees.

"What police don't have a right to do is selectively enforce the law. Military recruiters can place signs, garage sales, Realtors, but if someone doesn't like the president, you arrest them and treat them like a criminal. That's not what the United States is about," said attorney Bob Fitrakis.

He said, "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."

The prosecution decided to drop the charges but the Kent law director implied he would re-file under a littering charge.

Now, instead of a possible $125 fine, he faces a fine of up to $500.

No date has been set for the next hearing.


Bush War Adviser Says Draft Worth a Look
Rep. Schakowsky: Petraeus Hints at Decade-Long Iraq Presence •
Bush War Adviser Says Draft Worth a Look
The Associated Press

Washington - Frequent tours for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have stressed the all-volunteer force and made it worth considering a return to a military draft, President Bush's new war adviser said Friday.

"I think it makes sense to certainly consider it," Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute said in an interview with National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."

"And I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table. But ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation's security by one means or another," Lute added in his first interview since he was confirmed by the Senate in June.

President Nixon abolished the draft in 1973. Restoring it, Lute said, would be a "major policy shift" and Bush has made it clear that he doesn't think it's necessary.

"The president's position is that the all volunteer military meets the needs of the country and there is no discussion of a draft. General Lute made that point as well," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

In the interview, Lute also said that "Today, the current means of the all-volunteer force is serving us exceptionally well."

Still, he said the repeated deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan affect not only the troops but their families, who can influence whether a service member decides to stay in the military.

"There's both a personal dimension of this, where this kind of stress plays out across dinner tables and in living room conversations within these families," he said. "And ultimately, the health of the all-volunteer force is going to rest on those sorts of personal family decisions."

The military conducted a draft during the Civil War and both world wars and between 1948 and 1973. The Selective Service System, re- established in 1980, maintains a registry of 18-year-old men.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., has called for reinstating the draft as a way to end the Iraq war.

Bush picked Lute in mid-May as a deputy national security adviser with responsibility for ensuring efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are coordinated with policymakers in Washington. Lute, an active-duty general, was chosen after several retired generals turned down the job.


New York City maintains "radiological threat" alert

New York City maintains "radiological threat" alert
By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Police manned checkpoints and set up radiological monitoring equipment in Manhattan and the city's other boroughs over the weekend in response to unverified threats by al Qaeda on the Internet of dirty bomb attacks.

The moves stemmed from an "unverified radiological threat," a police department statement said, adding that the city's alert status remained at "orange" and stressing the increased security was precautionary.

The checkpoints went up Friday night and continued on Saturday at transit points into and out of Manhattan including the Holland tunnel, which connects lower Manhattan with New Jersey.

Police had initially said the increased security was in response to threats of a dirty bomb attack on Friday evening near 34th street, where the Empire State Building, Madison Square Garden, Penn Station and Macy's draw tourists and commuters.

But Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne clarified on Saturday the information the department received was not specific to that neighborhood.

Uniformed police officers lined the streets by the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, scanning passing vehicles and questioning some drivers, most of whom seemed to find their presence reassuring.

"I'm glad to see them here," said one man behind the wheel of a van. "It means they're aware of any dangers and are doing something about it."

"These actions are like those that the NYPD takes every day, precautions against potential but unconfirmed threats that may never materialize," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement, stressing the reality of life since the September 11 attacks,

Authorities were responding to Internet chatter reported on Israeli Web site, which reported a rush of chatter on al Qaeda sites in recent days, including one saying there would be an attack "by means of trucks loaded with radioactive material against America's biggest city and financial nerve center."

Another mentioned New York, Los Angeles and Miami as targets, the Jerusalem-based DEBKAfile Internet news site reported.

In response, police stepped up use of radiological sensors to monitor the streets, water and air throughout the city with the help of boats and helicopters.

New Yorkers, accustomed to life under "code orange" -- the second-highest such level, below red -- mostly shrugged off any possible danger.

"It really seems like a lot of fuss about nothing much," said Paul Machado, who was walking near the Holland Tunnel after having had brunch with friends in Tribeca. "They've (the police and media reports) said the threat was unsubstantiated so no, I'm not concerned at all."

Carrie Cuiccio sounded a somewhat skeptical note as she made her way toward the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel into Manhattan, which was restricted to one traffic lane and was closed to all trucks.

"I can't really see how the action they're taking would really prevent anything," she said.

A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security in Washington had also said the threat to New York was "unsubstantiated," and there was "no credible information telling us there is an imminent threat to the homeland at this time."


Edwards attacks Giuliani over Sept 11 comment

Edwards attacks Giuliani over Sept 11 comment
By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani came under attack on Friday from Democratic rival John Edwards for saying he spent as much time if not more at the site of New York's destroyed World Trade Center than rescue workers.

The clash highlighted the continued importance of the September 11 attacks to U.S. presidential politics as Giuliani tries to use his record as former New York City mayor to help him get into the White House.

The group 9-11 Families, which represents some of those rescue workers, demanded an apology, saying, "Rudy Giuliani has insulted all September 11 first responders, family groups and especially those of us who are battling life-threatening illnesses with his delusional statement."

In a visit to Cincinnati on Thursday, Giuliani told reporters that no one did more for firefighters killed in the attacks and their families than he did and that he raised millions on their behalf.

"Every single penny of the $227 million went to the families," Giuliani said. "This is not a mayor or governor or president who was sitting in an ivory tower."

"I was at Ground Zero as often, if not more, than most of the workers," he said.

The Edwards campaign issued a statement from its national chairman, former Michigan Democratic Rep. David Bonior, who said, "Evidently, Rudy Giuliani has taken a break from reality."

"It is outrageous for Giuliani to suggest, in any way, shape or form that he did more at Ground Zero or spent more time there than the brave first responders who worked tirelessly around the clock for many months during the rescue and recovery operation," Bonior said.

Thousands of rescue workers who combed through the debris of the collapsed World Trade Center towers have developed health problems from breathing in the dust and fumes from the buildings.

Giuliani admitted on Friday in an interview with talk radio host Mike Gallagher, "I probably could have said it better."

"What I was trying to say yesterday is that I empathize with them because I feel like I have that same risk," Giuliani said.

He said he was not suggesting he was competing with the rescuers, while admitting it came across that way.

"Gosh almighty, I was there often enough, even though they were there, people there more and people there less, but I was there often enough so that every health consequence that people have suffered, I could also be suffering," he said.

Giuliani's communications director, Katie Levinson, lashed out at the Edwards camp for its attack.

"For John Edwards to lecture Rudy Giuliani about September 11 is laughable at best. This is, after all, the same guy who thinks the 'war on terror' is simply a bumper sticker," she said.


Romney wins Iowa Republican straw poll

Romney wins Iowa Republican straw poll
By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

AMES, Iowa (Reuters) - Republican Mitt Romney won the first test of the 2008 White House race on Saturday, using a big wallet and broad organization to muscle aside a field of lesser-known rivals in an informal Iowa straw poll.

Romney won 31 percent of the votes cast in the nonbinding mock election, a traditional early gauge of support in the state that holds the first nominating contest leading up to the November 2008 election.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee finished second with 18 percent of the 14,302 votes cast -- a smaller turnout than the approximately 24,000 who voted in the last straw poll in 1999.

Romney was a heavy favorite after the other top three national Republican candidates -- former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson -- skipped the poll to save money. Their names remained on the ballot.

In their absence a half-dozen second-tier candidates battled for the chance to finish second and perhaps vault into contention, and Huckabee won that contest by appealing to Iowa's large bloc of social conservatives.

Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback finished third with 15 percent, and Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo finished fourth with 13.7 percent in the poll, which could force some of the weaker candidates out of the race and give the winner at least a temporary shot of momentum.

The area around the Iowa State University basketball arena, where the poll was held, turned into a political carnival for the day-long voting, with campaigns erecting tents and play areas for kids and enticing supporters with free food and entertainment.

"We're going to send a message to the entire nation that we want to see a Washington that can actually get the job done," Romney told supporters, many wearing yellow "Team Mitt" T-shirts.


Romney, who leads opinion polls in Iowa and is one of the top fundraisers in the Republican field, showed his financial and organizational muscle during the poll.

His campaign area was the most elaborate and included a rock climbing wall, play areas for kids and a vast tent for shade from the brutally hot sun. Buses carrying Romney supporters from around the state rolled into the poll grounds all morning.

Any Iowa resident at least 18 years old and with a valid ID, regardless of party, could vote in the poll, which was a fundraiser for the Iowa Republican Party.

A ticket cost $35, and campaigns paid the bill for as many supporters as they could afford. Romney's rivals said they could not compete with his ability to spend millions to win the poll.

"I'm not the best-funded candidate in America. I can't buy you, I don't have the money," former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told the Ames crowd. "I can't even rent you."

The results were delayed more than an hour after officials had to recount about 1,500 ballots on one malfunctioning machine, a party spokeswoman said.

Brownback, Huckabee and Tancredo had battled Romney for conservative support in Iowa over the last few weeks, questioning Romney's recent emergence as an opponent of abortion rights.

"The people of Iowa know that elections and the future of our country are based on principles, not on personalities," Brownback said.

For the biggest losers, the poll often means a quick exit. In 1999, four Republicans dropped out of the race within weeks of losing the straw poll to then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush as he started his road to the White House.

Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson finished sixth after saying anything less than a top two finish would end his campaign. Several other candidates faced similar decisions.


Friday, August 10, 2007

U.S. withdrawal needed for security, Iran tells Iraq

U.S. withdrawal needed for security, Iran tells Iraq
By Fredrik Dahl

TEHRAN (Reuters) - An end to violence in Iraq depends on the United States withdrawing its troops, Iran told Iraq's prime minister on Thursday, seeking to deflect accusations from Washington that it is responsible for bloodshed there.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, facing deepening political woes at home and U.S. criticism for lack of progress in bridging sectarian divisions, won pledges of support from Shi'ite Iran during a visit to the neighboring country.

With Shi'ite Muslims now also in power in Baghdad, ties have strengthened between the two oil-rich states since 2003, when U.S.-led forces toppled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Arab who waged an eight-year war against Iran in the 1980s.

But the U.S. military accuses the Islamic Republic of arming and training militias behind some of the violence ravaging Iraq. Iran rejects the charge and blames the presence of U.S. forces, numbering about 162,000, for the mayhem.

"Iran fully backs Iraq's popular government... Iraq's biggest problem is the presence of American forces there," Iran's most powerful figure, Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quoted as telling Maliki in the holy city of Mashhad by the official IRNA news agency.

Khamenei said the Washington wanted to maintain a "puppet government" in Baghdad and called on U.S. forces to withdraw.

"The occupying forces should leave Iraq and let the Iraqis decide about their own faith," he said.

Baghdad has urged both Iran and the United States to negotiate and not fight out their differences on Iraqi soil.


Maliki described his talks in Iran as "successful", his office said in a statement issued in Baghdad.

Iranian media said the two sides had planned to sign security agreements, but few details were released about any concrete results apart from Iranian promises to help provide fuel to Iraq during the winter and with building a refinery.

Tehran and Baghdad are expected to agree a deal soon on a pipeline to transfer crude to refineries in Iran from oilfields in Iraq, whose oil industry has suffered major damage during decades of sanctions and war, Iranian media reports said.

Maliki, who also met Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other senior officials, is facing mounting pressure to secure a power-sharing deal among Iraq's warring sects before a U.S. report in September on strategy in Iraq.

But his government is in crisis, with almost half the cabinet ministers quitting or boycotting meetings, and the death toll from sectarian killings is steadily climbing.

"The terrorists want to take control ... but with God's help we foil all their plots," Maliki said.

The visit came after Iraqi, Iranian and U.S. officials on Monday held the first meeting of a committee aimed at improving cooperation on stabilizing Iraq.

It was set up after landmark meetings in Baghdad in May and July between Washington and Tehran, their most high-profile face-to-face dialogue since diplomatic ties were cut shortly after Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.

Analysts say the two old foes, despite their mutual accusations, have a shared interest in ending the violence in Iraq. Iran wants a friendly government running a stable country while a secure Iraq would enable the United States to pull out.

(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Tehran and Mariam Karouny in Baghdad)


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Minorities Now Form Majority in One-Third of Most-Populous Counties

The New York Times
Minorities Now Form Majority in One-Third of Most-Populous Counties

In a further sign of the United States’ growing diversity, nonwhites now make up a majority in almost one-third of the most-populous counties in the country and in nearly one in 10 of all 3,100 counties, according to an analysis of census results to be released today.

The shift reflects the growing dispersal of immigrants and the suburbanization of blacks and Hispanics pursuing jobs generated by whites moving to the fringes of metropolitan areas.

From July 1, 2005, to July 1, 2006, metropolitan Chicago edged out Honolulu in Asian population, and Washington inched ahead of El Paso in the number of Hispanic residents. In black population, Houston overtook Los Angeles.

“The new wave of immigration, along with its continued dispersal to the suburbs and Sun Belt, is transforming the places which are now being classified as multiethnic and majority minority,” said William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution.

“The new melting pots are not large international gateways,” Professor Frey said, adding, “Rather, many are fast-growing suburbs themselves.”

In 36 counties with more than 500,000 residents each, non-Hispanic whites are now a minority, up from 29 counties of that size in 2000.

From 2005 to 2006 alone, eight other mostly less-populous counties shifted to a majority of minorities, the Census Bureau said. They were Denver, Colo.; East Baton Rouge Parish, La.; Winkler, Waller and Wharton in Texas; Blaine, Mont.; Colfax, N.M.; and Manassas Park, Va., an independent city that is considered the equivalent of a county.

In a new study for the Population Reference Bureau, Mark Mather and Kelvin Pollard found that Hispanic people were increasingly attracted to job opportunities and lower costs outside major metropolitan areas.

“Between 2000 and 2006, the total population in small towns and rural areas increased by 3 percent, but the Hispanic population in these counties grew from 2.6 million to 3.2 million, a 22 percent increase,” the authors of the study wrote.

So far this decade, they added, “there are also new areas of growth, including exurban counties in the Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C., metropolitan areas, plus parts of Texas, central Florida, and a few other states.”

Since 2000, the Hispanic population more than doubled in metropolitan Winchester, Va.; Scranton, Pa.; Cape Coral, Fla.; and Hagerstown, Md.. The largest numerical increases were in metropolitan Los Angeles (576,630); Riverside, Calif., (545,152); Dallas (472,222); Houston (470,157); and New York (418,720).

Black populations declined in metropolitan New Orleans, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and New York. The biggest numerical gains were in Atlanta (370,470), Houston (142,364), Dallas (130,367), Miami (126,819) and Washington (114,915).

The growth in Atlanta, Houston and Dallas was attributed in part to survivors of Hurricane Katrina moving to those cities. The highest growth rates among Asian populations were in metropolitan Napa, Calif., and Ocala, Naples, Cape Coral and Port St. Lucie, Fla. The greatest numerical increases were in New York (309,773), Los Angeles (216,987), Washington (105,390), San Francisco (103,073) and Chicago (93,237).

Metropolitan Phoenix; Atlanta; Dallas; Houston; Las Vegas; Austin, Tex.; Charlotte; Portland, Ore.; and Raleigh, N.C., each recorded gains in non-Hispanic whites of more than 100,000 since 2000. The largest losses were registered by metropolitan New York (248,422), Los Angeles (193,109), San Francisco (127,151) and New Orleans (111,162).

Harris County, Tex., home to Houston, gained 121,400 minority residents from 2005 to 2006, the most of any county. Sixty-three percent of its residents were members of minorities.

Maricopa County, Ariz., home to Phoenix, recorded the biggest numerical increase in Hispanic residents (71,000) and also the biggest increase in non-Hispanic whites (35,500).

Harris County and East Baton Rouge Parish registered the biggest increases in black residents, 52,000 and 19,000, respectively.


The `Dump Cheney' Countdown Is On

Executive Intelligence Review
The `Dump Cheney' Countdown Is On
by Jeffrey Steinberg

In the immediate aftermath of Lyndon LaRouche's July 25 webcast from Washington, D.C., momentum has grown for the removal of Vice President Dick Cheney from office—before the Guns of August are fired. In his remarks, LaRouche directly addressed members of the U.S. Congress:

"This is the month of August; it's the anniversary of August 1914. It's the anniversary of August 1939. The condition now is worse, objectively, than either of those two occasions. Either we can make a fundamental change in the policies of the United States government now, or you may be kissing civilization good-bye for some time to come. That's the reality. Anyone who thinks differently is either just an incompetent, or an idiot, or a raving lunatic: That's reality. Are you prepared to act now? If you're not prepared to act, please leave the House of Representatives. If you're not prepared to act, please leave the Senate; and above all, leave the Federal government, in terms of the key officials, because you'll only make a mess of things. It'll be worse with you there, than if you simply got out, and left it to a minority to solve the problem."

LaRouche then got to the heart of the issue: "There are two things that must be done. Let's start with the simplest thing, which is on the table now: Remember, impeachment is in the background, but impeachment is not the issue. The issue is getting Cheney out. You get Cheney out, now, and the situation can be manageable. If you do not get Cheney out, you're kissing civilization good-bye. If it survives, it's not to your credit. And any Congressman who says he's not going to get Cheney out now, should leave the premises now, as a final act of decency. If Nancy Pelosi and others—if they can't get Cheney out now, if they're not determined to do it now, this month, before they leave Washington, they should quit now! Submit their resignations, and let somebody who's more competent come in, because it has to happen. Cheney has to go."

Cheney's War

Extremely well-placed U.S. military and intelligence sources have re-emphasized to EIR that all of the preconditions for a U.S. preventive attack on Iran have been met. Over half of the U.S. Navy's combat force is now in the immediate vicinity of Iran, with two U.S. aircraft carrier groups in the Persian Gulf, and two more in the Indian Ocean, ostensibly as part of five-nation manuevers scheduled for September in the Bay of Bengal. U.S. and Arab military sources report on a massive buildup of U.S. Air Force bombers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The buildup of naval and air power, contrary to some news accounts, is not directed at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area, where Taliban and al-Qaeda forces have established a serious base once again. Pentagon sources confirm that the target of these awesome military assets is Iran.

The reason for the buildup in Iraq and Afghanistan is that no Arab state is willing to allow U.S. basing or overflight rights, for an attack on Iran, thus rendering U.S. air bases and naval ports in such countries as Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar useless. Turkey, likewise, is not about to allow the U.S. to launch attacks on Iranian targets from air bases in Turkey. In fact, Turkey and Iran are working together, behind the scenes, against the PKK, the Kurdish insurgent group promoting an independent "Kurdistan" to be carved out of the territories of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

As one retired flag officer reported, no such costly buildup of military force is undertaken unless there is a clear plan to go to war—soon. And Cheney's unmistakable target is Iran.

Since the June 2007 deployment of Gen. Kevin Bergner to Baghdad, as the designated Cheney/Elliott Abrams "stovepipe" for a steady stream of anti-Iran propaganda into the White House and the press, the Administration has shifted its focus away from the scare stories about Iran being "months away" from having a nuclear bomb, to inflated allegations that Iran is behind the insurgency in Iraq that is killing American soldiers, and preventing the "surge" from succeeding. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and other top military brass are reportedly seething over the Bergner-Abrams-Cheney agitprop efforts.

And it now appears that there are even counter-moves coming out of the Executive branch. According to U.S. intelligence community sources, White House officials have recently leaked a series of news stories, revealing that the biggest "foreign" factor in the Iraqi insurgency is not Iran, or Syria, but Saudi Arabia, which accounts for 40% of the foreign fighters now in jail in Iraq, and an even higher percentage of the suicide bombers. In comparison, according to several recent news accounts, originated at the White House, only 1% of the insurgents captured in Iraq are Iranians, and under 10% are Syrians. These stories certainly angered the Vice President and Abrams, the National Security Council Middle East chief and a rabid neo-con.

On July 26, Helene Cooper penned a story for the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, that reported on "U.S. frustration with Saudis over Iraq." "Bush administration officials," Cooper wrote, "are voicing increasing anger at what they say has been Saudi Arabia's counterproductive role in the Iraq war." The unnamed officials charged that the Saudis are providing arms and money to Sunni insurgents, many of whom are Salafi fundamentalists, to wage war against the al-Maliki government in Baghdad, which the Saudis view as an Iranian puppet regime. Edward W. Gnehm, a former U.S. ambassador to Kuwait and Jordan, reported to Cooper that the Saudis have been soliciting funds from other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, to arm Sunni rebels in Iraq's Anbar province, and other Sunni-controlled areas of the country.

What the Times story neglected to report is that the "Sunni versus Shi'ite" scheme which the Saudis have been pursuing with great passion, was promoted by top Bush Administration officials—beginning with Cheney—since late 2006, undoubtedly under the advice of British Arab Bureau spook, and top Cheney advisor Dr. Bernard Lewis. In October 2006, White House counterterrorism and homeland security advisor Frances Townsend traveled to Riyadh to meet with King Abdullah and his Cabinet, to discuss the growing threat from Iran. A month later, Cheney made his now infamous trip to Saudi Arabia, to promote the idea of a Sunni security alliance to combat Iran. According to U.S. intelligence sources, the Cheney trip unleashed a process that has now veered out of Washington's control, and is causing significant ruptures between the U.S.A. and the Saudis over the future of Iraq.

As the result of the Saudi promotion of the Salafi tribal insurgency inside parts of Iraq, there is growing concern among some senior U.S. military and Administration officials that a major eruption of Sunni versus Shi'ite violence in Iraq could spill over into a larger regional confrontation. It is here where the consequences of allowing Dick Cheney to stay on the job take on catastrophic proportions.
Does Congress Have the Guts To Impeach?

At a recent speaking engagement in California, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced that if three more members of Congress signed on to Rep. Dennis Kucinich's (D-Ohio) H.R. 333 bill to impeach Cheney, he would begin committee proceedings—despite opposition from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). On July 25, Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) added his name to H.R. 333, bringing the number down to two.

At the close of the LaRouche webcast that day, LaRouche spokesperson Debra Freeman vowed that the remaining two signators would be added before the Congressional recess—through a non-stop mobilization of the LaRouche Youth Movement, and other LaRouche activists. At least six other members of Congress indicated that they were about to sign on to the Kucinich bill in the days following the webcast.

As LaRouche emphasized on July 25, impeachment is but one means of forcing Cheney's immediate ouster—which is the only serious war-avoidance option. Other Congressional actions, already underway, could also accelerate Cheney's departure, according to well-placed Washington sources. One crucial initiative was announced on July 26 by four Democratic Senators, who wrote to U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, demanding the appointment of an independent counsel to probe whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lied to Congress about the firing of U.S. Attorneys and the government's warrantless domestic spying programs.

The sources emphasize that Gonzales is the last remaining "firewall" between the President, the Vice President, and impeachment. The letter to the Solicitor General was sent by Democratic Senators Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Russell Feingold (Wisc.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.). Were Gonzales to go, the sources insisted, Bush might be far more inclined to throw Cheney overboard, rather than face his own then-imminent impeachment.

In the aftermath of the July 25 webcast, LaRouche emphasized that, given the current countdown for war, Congress cannot leave town for the month of August—without running the risk that Cheney will prevail on Bush to order a preventive attack on Iran. At minimum, a group of key House and Senate leaders must remain on the job, and should maintain close liaison with the top military brass, who could call on Congress, at any moment, to step in under the Constitution and the War Powers Act, to prevent an out-of-control White House from launching another preventive war in the Persian Gulf—one that historians would write about in decades to come as the opening shots of the next world war.


Bush may veto bill to expand child insurance

The Guardian
Bush may veto bill to expand child insurance

THE White House said last weekend that President Bush would veto a bipartisan plan to expand the children's health insurance programme drafted over the last six months by senior members of the Senate Finance Committee.

The vow puts Bush at odds with the Democratic majority in Congress, with a substantial number of Republican lawmakers and with many governors of both parties, who want to expand the popular programme to cover some of the nation's eight million un-insured children.

Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman said: "The president's senior advisers will certainly recommend a veto of this proposal. And there is no question that the President would veto it."

The programme, which insured 7.4 million people at some time in the last year, is set to expire September 30.

The finance committee is expected to approve the Senate plan next week, sending it to the full Senate for action later this month. Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat, who is chairman of the committee, said he would move ahead despite the veto threat. "The Senate will not be deterred from helping more kids in need," Baucus said. "The president should stop playing politics and start working with Congress to help kids, through renewal of this programme."

The proposal would increase current levels of spending by $35 billion over the next five years, bringing the total to $60 billion. The Congressional Budget Office says the plan would reduce the number of uninsured children by 4.1 million.

The new spending would be financed by an increase in the federal excise tax on tobacco products. The tax on cigarettes would rise to $1 a pack, from the current 39 cents.

Fratto, the White House spokesman, said, "Tax increases are neither necessary nor advisable to fund the programme appropriately."

Democrats in the House would go much further than the bipartisan Senate plan. They would add $50 billion to the programme over five years, bringing the total to $75 billion. By contrast, in his latest budget request, Bush proposed an increase of $5 billion over five years, which would bring the total to $30 billion.

White House officials said the president had several other reasons to veto the bipartisan Senate plan.

"The proposal would dramatically expand the children's health insurance programme, adding non-poor children to the programme, and more than doubling the level of spending," Fratto said. "This will have the effect of encouraging many to drop private coverage, to go on the government - subsidised programme."

In addition, Fratto said, the Senate plan does not include any of Bush's proposals to change the tax treatment of health insurance, in an effort to make it more affordable for millions of Americans.

Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the finance committee, said he would like to consider such tax proposal. But, he said, "it's not realistic - given the lack of bipartisan support for the president's plan - to think that can be accomplished before the current children's health care programme runs out in September."


Last Bahraini Guantanamo detainee returns home

Last Bahraini Guantanamo detainee returns home

MANAMA (Reuters) - The last Bahraini detainee at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay has returned home after being released by U.S. authorities, Bahrain's foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa named the freed man as Isa al-Murbati and said the release of the detainees had been among the Gulf Arab state's top priorities in contacts with Washington, state news agency BNA reported.

Murbati, 41 and the father of five, had been held without charge for more than five years, Bahraini media said.

Five Bahraini Guantanamo detainees, one a member of the small island kingdom's royal family, were released earlier from the military prison which holds suspected Taliban and al Qaeda members detained after the 2001 U.S.-led war to oust the Taliban from Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks.

Pro-Western Bahrain hosts the headquarters of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.

The United States has faced international criticism over its indefinite detention of Guantanamo detainees, many held for more than five years without charge.


Civil rights group seeks court's spying rulings

Civil rights group seeks court's spying rulings
By James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. civil liberties group said on Wednesday it is asking a federal court to disclose its recent legal opinions on the Bush administration's authority to engage in secret wiretapping of Americans.

The American Civil Liberties Union said such an unusual disclosure was needed because of legislation adopted by the U.S. Congress over the weekend to temporarily expand the government's power to conduct electronic surveillance without a court order in tracking foreign enemy suspects.

After the September 11 attacks, Bush authorized warrantless interception of communications between people in the United States and others overseas if one of the participants had suspected terrorist ties.

In January, Bush put the program under the supervision of the secretive court, called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The court's orders from January about the terms of its oversight of the surveillance have never been made public. The ACLU said it seeks disclosure of those orders, though that would be highly unusual. The civil rights group could cite only two other public opinions by the surveillance court.

The administration and some supporters in Congress argued the new legislation was needed in part because of restrictions recently imposed by the court on the government's ability to intercept certain communications, congressional aides said.

The ACLU said it also seeks release of that ruling.

"Publication of these secret court orders is vitally important to the ongoing debate about government surveillance," said Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's National Security Project. "The public has a right to first-hand information about what the court permitted and what it disallowed."

The ACLU said the orders and opinions should be released as quickly as possible, with only those deletions essential to protect information the court determines to be properly classified.

The administration has taken the position that the sealed materials are classified and cannot be released.

In a separate development, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy set an August 20 deadline for the administration to respond to subpoenas relating to warrantless wiretapping issues.

The extension gives the administration nearly an additional month to respond to committee subpoenas for documents relating to the National Security Agency's legal justification for the program, the Vermont Democrat said.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Will Bush Cancel The 2008 Election?

Will Bush Cancel The 2008 Election?
By Harvey Wasserman and Bob Fitrakis
Global Research, August 7, 2007

It is time to think about the “unthinkable.”

The Bush Administration has both the inclination and the power to cancel the 2008 election.

The GOP strategy for another electoral theft in 2008 has taken clear shape, though we must assume there is much more we don’t know.

But we must also assume that if it appears to Team Bush/Cheney/Rove that the GOP will lose the 2008 election anyway (as it lost in Ohio 2006) we cannot ignore the possibility that they would simply cancel the election. Those who think this crew will quietly walk away from power are simply not paying attention.

The real question is not how or when they might do it. It’s how, realistically, we can stop them.

In Florida 2000, Team Bush had a game plan involving a handful of tactics. With Jeb Bush in the governor’s mansion, the GOP used a combination of disenfranchisement, intimidation, faulty ballots, electronic voting fraud, a rigged vote count and an aborted recount, courtesy of the US Supreme Court.

A compliant Democrat (Al Gore) allowed the coup to be completed.

In Ohio 2004, the arsenal of dirty tricks exploded. Based in Columbus, we have documented more than a hundred different tactics used to steal the 20 electoral votes that gave Bush a second term. More are still surfacing. As a result of the King-Lincoln-Bronzeville federal lawsuit (in which we are plaintiff and attorney) we have now been informed that 56 of the 88 counties in Ohio violated federal law by destroying election records, thus preventing a definitive historical recount.

As in 2000, a compliant Democrat (John Kerry) allowed the coup to proceed.

For 2008 we expect the list of vote theft maneuvers to escalate yet again. We are already witnessing a coordinated nationwide drive to destroy voter registration organizations and to disenfranchise millions of minority, poor and young voters.

This carefully choreographed campaign is complemented by the widespread use of electronic voting machines. As reported by the Government Accountability Office, Princeton University, the Brennan Center, the Carter-Baker Commission, US Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and others, these machines can be easily used to flip an election. They were integral to stealing both the 2000 and 2004 elections. Efforts to make their source codes transparent, or to require a usable paper trail on a federal level, have thus far failed. A discriminatory Voter ID requirement may also serve as the gateway to a national identification card.

Overall, the GOP will have at its command even more weapons of election theft in 2008 than it did in Ohio 2004, which jumped exponentially from Florida 2000. The Rovian GOP is nothing if not tightly organized to do this with ruthless efficiency. Expect everything that was used these past two presidential elections to surface again in 2008 in far more states, with far more efficiency, and many new dirty tricks added in.

But in Ohio 2006, the GOP learned a hard lesson. Its candidate for governor was J. Kenneth Blackwell. The Secretary of State was the essential on-the-ground operative in the theft of Ohio 2004.

When he announced for governor, many Ohioans joked that “Ken Blackwell will never lose an election where he counts the votes.”

But lose he did….along with the GOP candidates for Secretary of State, Attorney-General and US Senate.

By our calculations, despite massive grassroots scrutiny, the Republicans stole in excess of 6% of the Ohio vote in 2006. But they still lost.

Why? Because they were so massively unpopular that even a 6% bump couldn’t save them. Outgoing Governor Bob Taft, who pled guilty to four misdemeanors while in office, left town with a 7% approval rating (that’s not a typo). Blackwell entered the last week of the campaign down 30% in some polls.

So while the GOP still had control of the electoral machinery here in 2006, the public tide against them was simply too great to hold back, even through the advanced art and science of modern Rovian election theft.

In traditional electoral terms, that may also be the case in 2008. Should things proceed as they are now, it’s hard to imagine any Republican candidate going into the election within striking distance. The potential variations are many, but the graffiti on the wall is clear.

What’s also clear is that this administration has a deep, profound and uncompromised contempt for democracy, for the rule of law, and for the US Constitution. When George W. Bush went on the record (twice) as saying he has nothing against dictatorship, as long as he can be dictator, it was a clear and present policy statement.

Who really believes this crew will walk quietly away from power? They have the motivation, the money and the method for doing away with the electoral process altogether. So why wouldn’t they?

The groundwork for dismissal of both the legislative and judicial branch has been carefully laid. The litany is well-known, but worth a very partial listing:

The continuation of the drug war, and the Patriot Act, Homeland Security Act and other dictatorial laws prompted by the 9/11/2001 terror attacks, have decimated the Bill of Rights, and shredded the traditional American right to due process of law, freedom from official surveillance, arbitrary violence, and far more.

The current Attorney-General, Alberto Gonzales, has not backed away from his announcement to Congress that the Constitution does not guarantee habeas corpus. The administration continues to act on the assumption that it can arrest anyone at any time and hold them without notification or trial for as long as it wants.

The establishment of the Homeland Security Agency has given it additional hardware to decimate the basic human rights of our citizenry. Under the guise of dealing with the “immigration problem,” large concentration camps are under construction around the US.

The administration has endorsed and is exercising its “right” to employ torture, contrary to the Eighth Amendment and to a wide range of international treaties, which Gonzales has labeled “quaint.”

With more than 200 “signing statements” the administration acts on its belief that the “unitary executive” trumps the power of the legislative branch in any instance it chooses. This belief has been further enforced with the administration’s use of a wide range of precedent-setting arguments to keep its functionaries from testifying before Congress.

There is much more. In all instances, the 109th Congress—and the public—have rolled over without significant resistance.

Most crucial now are Presidential Directive #51, Executive Orders #13303, #13315, #13350, #13364, #13422, #13438, and more, by which Bush has granted himself an immense arsenal of powers for which the term “dictatorial” is a modest understatement.

The Founders established our government with checks and balances. But executive orders have accumulated important precedent. The Emancipation Proclamation by which Lincoln declared an end to slavery in the South, was issued under the “military necessity” of adding blacks to the Union Army, a step without which the North might not have won the Civil War. Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order #8802 established the Fair Employment Practices Commission. Harry Truman’s Executive Order #9981 desegregated the military.

Most to the point, FDR’s Executive Order #9066 ordered the forcible internment of 100,000 people of Japanese descent into the now infamous concentration camps of World War II.

There is also precedent for a president overriding the Supreme Court. In the 1830s Chief Justice John Marshall enshrined the right of the Cherokee Nation to sovereignty over its ancestral land in the Appalachian Mountains. But President Andrew Jackson scorned the decision. Some 14,000 native Americans were moved at gunpoint to Oklahoma. More than 3,000 died along the way.

All this will be relevant should Team Bush envision a defeat in the 2008 election and decide to call it off. It’s well established that Richard Nixon—mentor to Karl Rove and Dick Cheney—commissioned the Huston Plan, which detailed how to cancel the 1972 election.

Today we must ask: who would stop this administration from taking dictatorial power in the instance of a “national emergency” such as a terror attack at a nuclear power plant or something similar?

Nothing in the behavior of this Congress indicates that it is capable of significant resistance. Impeachment seems beyond it. Nor does it seem Congress would actually remove Bush if it did put him on trial.

Short of that, Bush clearly does not view anything Congress might do as a meaningful impediment. After all, how many divisions does the Congress command?

The Supreme Court, as currently constituted, would almost certainly rubber stamp a Bush coup. If not, like Jackson, he could ignore it as easily as he would ignore Congress.

What does that leave? There is much idle speculation now about what the armed forces would do. We also hear loose talk about “90 million gun owners.”

From the public side, the only conceivable counter-force might be a national strike or an effective long-term campaign of general non-cooperation.

But we can certainly assume the mainstream media will give lock-step support to whatever the regime says and does. It’s also a given that those likely to lead the resistance will immediately land in those new prisons being built by Halliburton et. al.

So how do we cope with the harsh realities of such a Bush/Cheney/Rove dictatorial coup?

We may have about a year to prepare. Every possible scenario needs to be discussed in excruciating detail.


Civil Liberties: Another Victim in this War on Terror

Civil Liberties: Another Victim in this War on Terror

It's not an exaggeration to say we as a country have changed after 9/11. One of the mainstays, however, is that we are still immersed in a plethora of tabloid sensation while Osama bin Laden has yet to be caught. Yes, the terrorists, namely al Qeada, brought war to the United States and the Taliban finally got the attention they'd been seeking. They did major damage to us, but by the afternoon of September 11, 2001, Americans began to rally. We offered encouragement to those rushing to dig through the rubble while refusing to let what happen define us. Hope existed. After all, our country stood for liberty and nothing was going to change that. Or so most thought.

Enter President Bush and his sidekick Dick.

For this administration, those planes were loaded with poisonous fumes of fear, making it possible to bring us back to the McCarthy era. 9/11 has been the springboard Bush has repeatedly used to give him the self-ordained rights to break the law time and time again in order to bring what he considers justice not only to the country he ostensibly serves, but to the world. Now, he's done it again, by signing a bill into law that gives the government even more authority to eavesdrop on whomever they please.

There will be those who will feel the president's actions are justified in light of the ubiquitous albeit indeterminate terrorist cells. (Of course they exist, but we must remember that many of the terrorists who are now cropping up didn't exist on 9/11.) Yet, we must wonder if the price we continue to pay in a futile attempt to quell the radicals is acceptable.

While Bush is keeping America's focus seemingly on "them," we're losing our freedoms in the process. This administration is not responding solely to what happened on our soil; after all, they were already finding ways to tweak the constitution with us unaware prior to that defining day in America, but bin Laden made it all that much easier for them. You remember Osama bin Laden, he was the one Bush promised we'd capture "Dead or Alive," until he focused his attention toward the land that had more financial gain. And then his mission was proudly accomplished once Saddam was captured. (Why then are we still in Iraq, if that is the case?) More accurately, why did we abandon our mission in Afghanistan when the work was clearly not completed?

Only hours after those planes were commandeered and flown into the twin towers, and rammed into that field in Pennsylvania and the Pentagon, we as a country pulled together in our stunned grief. Some even cheered President Bush when he blared his message from the bullhorn as he stood atop the crumbled tragedy because we needed a leader to respond accordingly. Yet, since then, something has gone terribly wrong and in spite of the president's supposed war on terror, it's gaining a foothold while our civil liberties have become one of the many victims.


Airlines seek FBI, CIA September 11 testimony

Airlines seek FBI, CIA September 11 testimony
By Christine Kearney and Paritosh Bansal

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Airlines sued by victims of the September 11 attacks filed complaints with a U.S. court on Tuesday to compel testimony from FBI and CIA agents in a bid to make the federal government more culpable for not preventing the attacks.

In separate complaints filed in the U.S. Court for the Southern District of New York, seven U.S. airlines sought testimony from two members of a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency unit that investigated Osama Bin Laden and five current and former FBI agents who investigated al Qaeda.

Some relatives of the victims of September 11 have filed suit against the seven airlines - including AMR Corp.'s American Airlines and UAL Corp.'s United Airlines - seeking damages for personal injury and wrongful death.

The airlines said they needed the agents' testimony to prove their actions were reasonable.

In seeking the agents' testimony, the airlines argued that "the inability of the federal agencies to detect and stop the plot is a more significant causal circumstance of the terrorist attacks than any allegedly negligent conduct of the aviation parties."

Both U.S. agencies have refused to allow their agents to be questioned even though they have given public statements about their intelligence knowledge in the past, the airlines said.

The FBI and CIA had "far more intelligence information concerning the terrorist threat" than the airlines and knew that two of the suspected hijackers were in the United States, the air carriers argued in court papers.

Neither agency warned airlines that two of the September 11 hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, were potential threats nor did either agency place their names on any "no-fly" lists.

FBI special agent Richard Kolko and CIA spokesman George Little said they would not comment on ongoing litigation.

The relatives of the September 11 attack victims have also filed suit against: US Airways Group Inc, Delta Air Lines Inc, Continental Airlines, AirTran Airways Inc and Colgan Air as well as the planes' maker Boeing Co. They are also seeking recompense from the Massachusetts Port Authority, the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority, and several security companies.

The plaintiffs who sued the airlines decided against taking part in a special victims compensation fund set up by the U.S. Congress that disbursed $5.99 billion to 2,880 families of deceased victims of the attacks.

Six of the remaining 41 cases are due to go to trial September 4.


Monday, August 06, 2007

The Pentagon has lost track of about 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols given to Iraqi security forces
Weapons Given to Iraq Are Missing
GAO Estimates 30% of Arms Are Unaccounted For
By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer

The Pentagon has lost track of about 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols given to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005, according to a new government report, raising fears that some of those weapons have fallen into the hands of insurgents fighting U.S. forces in Iraq.

The author of the report from the Government Accountability Office says U.S. military officials do not know what happened to 30 percent of the weapons the United States distributed to Iraqi forces from 2004 through early this year as part of an effort to train and equip the troops. The highest previous estimate of unaccounted-for weapons was 14,000, in a report issued last year by the inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

The United States has spent $19.2 billion trying to develop Iraqi security forces since 2003, the GAO said, including at least $2.8 billion to buy and deliver equipment. But the GAO said weapons distribution was haphazard and rushed and failed to follow established procedures, particularly from 2004 to 2005, when security training was led by Gen. David H. Petraeus, who now commands all U.S. forces in Iraq.

The Pentagon did not dispute the GAO findings, saying it has launched its own investigation and indicating it is working to improve tracking. Although controls have been tightened since 2005, the inability of the United States to track weapons with tools such as serial numbers makes it nearly impossible for the U.S. military to know whether it is battling an enemy equipped by American taxpayers.

"They really have no idea where they are," said Rachel Stohl, a senior analyst at the Center for Defense Information who has studied small-arms trade and received Pentagon briefings on the issue. "It likely means that the United States is unintentionally providing weapons to bad actors."

One senior Pentagon official acknowledged that some of the weapons probably are being used against U.S. forces. He cited the Iraqi brigade created at Fallujah that quickly dissolved in September 2004 and turned its weapons against the Americans.

Stohl said insurgents frequently use small-arms fire to force military convoys to move in a particular direction -- often toward roadside bombs. She noted that the Bush administration frequently complains that Iran and Syria are supplying insurgents but has paid little attention to whether U.S. military errors inadvertently play a role. "We know there is seepage and very little is being done to address the problem," she said.

Stohl noted that U.S. forces, focused on a fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction after Baghdad fell, did not secure massive weapons caches. The failure to track small arms given to Iraqi forces repeats that pattern of neglect, she added.

The GAO is studying the financing and weapons sources of insurgent groups, but that report will not be made public. "All of that information is classified," said Joseph A. Christoff, the GAO's director of international affairs and trade.

In an unusual move, the train-and-equip program for Iraqi forces is being managed by the Pentagon. Normally, the traditional security assistance programs are operated by the State Department, the GAO reported. The Defense Department said this change permitted greater flexibility, but as of last month it was unable to tell the GAO what accountability procedures, if any, apply to arms distributed to Iraqi forces, the report said.

Iraqi security forces were virtually nonexistent in early 2004, and in June of that year Petraeus was brought in to build them up. No central record of distributed equipment was kept for a year and a half, until December 2005, and even now the records are on a spreadsheet that requires three computer screens lined up side by side to view a single row, Christoff said.

The GAO found that the military was consistently unable to collect supporting documents to "confirm when the equipment was received, the quantities of equipment delivered, and the Iraqi units receiving the equipment." The agency also said there were "numerous mistakes due to incorrect manual entries" in the records that were maintained.

The GAO reached the estimate of 190,000 missing arms -- 110,000 AK-47s and 80,000 pistols -- by comparing the property records of the Multi-National Security Transition Command for Iraq against records Petraeus maintained of the arms and equipment he had ordered. Petraeus's figures were compared with classified data and other records to ensure that they were accurate enough to compare against the property books.

In all cases, the gaps between the two records were enormous. Petraeus reported that about 185,000 AK-47 rifles, 170,000 pistols, 215,000 pieces of body armor and 140,000 helmets were issued to Iraqi security forces from June 2004 through September 2005. But the property books contained records for 75,000 AK-47 rifles, 90,000 pistols, 80,000 pieces of body armor and 25,000 helmets.

A military commander involved in the program at the time, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the report, acknowledged in an e-mail, "We did issue some items, including weapons, body armor, etc. to new Iraqi units that were literally going into battle."

But, the commander argued, "there was, frankly, not much of a choice early on: We had very little staff and could have held the weapons until every piece of the logistical and property accountability system was in place, or we could issue them, in bulk on some occasions, to the U.S. elements supporting Iraqi units who were needed in the battles of Najaf, Fallujah, Mosul, Samarra, etc."

The GAO plans to look for similar problems in the training of Afghan security forces.

During the Bosnian conflict, the United States provided about $100 million in defense equipment to the Bosnian Federation Army, and the GAO found no problems in accounting for those weapons.

Much of the equipment provided to Iraqi troops, including the AK-47s, originates from countries in the former Soviet bloc. In a report last year, Amnesty International said that in 2004 and 2005 more than 350,000 AK-47 rifles and similar weapons were taken out of Bosnia and Serbia, for use in Iraq, by private contractors working for the Pentagon and with the approval of NATO and European security forces in Bosnia.