Posts Tagged ‘John Nichols’

Dan Ellsberg on WikiLeaks & the Essential Democratic Question: Who Will Tell the People?

July 29, 2010

John Nichols, The Nation, July 29, 2010

The Obama White House was quick to condemn the publication Sunday evening of more than 91,000 secret documents detailing the monumentally misguided and frequently failed attempt by the United States to occupy Afghanistan.

National Security Adviser James Jones took the lead in attacking WikiLeaks for making the details of the war available to the American people—who are, ultimately, supposed to define the direction of US foreign policy—by declaring: “The United States strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security.”

Despite the fact that the “Afghanistan War Logs,” which are being published by the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Speigel, detail the mess in Afghanistan, and point to the bigger mess that will be made if the occupation is expanded as the Obama administration proposes, Jones offered a classic don’t-confuse-us-with-the-facts response. “These irresponsible leaks will not impact our ongoing commitment to deepen our partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan; to defeat our common enemies; and to support the aspirations of the Afghan and Pakistani people.”

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Joe Lieberman: How About Another War?

January 2, 2010

John Nichols, The Nation,  Dec 28, 2009

Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, who began openly and aggressively angling for a war with Iraq just weeks after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, and who has been the most ardent advocate for expanding the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, appears to be determined to use the thwarted Christmas Day attack on a Northwest Airlines flight as an excuse to launch another crusade for another war.

Lieberman, the neoconservative solon who wanted to be the Secretary of Defense in the administration of John McCain (his 2008 candidate for president) and who would gladly play the same role in the administration of a Sarah Palin or any other saber-rattling Republican, is proposing the launch of a new preemptive war on Yemen.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian accused of attempting to explode a plastic device aboard a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Friday, has told authorities that he traveled to Yemen to link up with al-Qaida operatives.

Lieberman admitted that in a Fox New interview that he was “not sure” whether the Nigerian succeeded in making contact with the individuals he “reached out to” in Yemen.

But “not sure” is good enough for Lieberman.

So, he says, it is time to start lobbing bombs — lots of them. (Presumably, Lieberman is talking about more attacks than have already been taking place as part of a U.S./Yemen partnership that has seen Washington spend $66 million this year on security and military assistance to Yemeni counter-terrorist forces — a project that most observers believe has included the use of U.S. warplanes, drones and/or cruise missiles in recent strikes against al Qaeda targets.)

Referencing his own travels to Yemen, and meetings with unnamed U.S. officials, the senator chirped: “Iraq was yesterday’s war, Afghanistan is today’s war. If we don’t act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war.”

Lieberman, whose refusal to serve in the military when he could have during the Vietnam era has never prevented him from spouting hawkish views so over-the-top that his wiser colleagues to keep him off committees that deal with issues of war and peace, seems to be unaware that “acting preemptively” in the manner he suggests, is an act of war.

What’s the alternative? Doing what the Bush-Cheney administration failed to do. By working with the international community and employing smart diplomacy and policing strategies, the U.S. might well be able to address concerns about what is happening in Yemen… and Somalia… and Nigeria and a host of other countries.

Of course, Lieberman does not have much taste for smart diplomacy or policing strategies, as is obvious from his hamhanded tenure as chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Perhaps instead of getting all excited about starting another war, Lieberman would do better to focus in on the fact that the troubles on Christmas Day did not exactly reflect positive on the homeland security operations for which he is supposed to provide oversight and guidance.

Who Decides About War? What About the People?

October 3, 2009

John Nichols, The Nation, Oct 2, 2009

The U.S. occupation of Afghanistan has reached its “sell-by…” date.

A majority of Americans now tell pollsters the mission was a mistake. Ninety-eight members of the House – including liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans – have cosponsored Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern’s resolution asking the Pentagon to develop an exit strategy.

Unfortunately, the generals who run wars, and the defense contractors who profit from them, want to keep U.S. troops on the ground in that distant land. And President Obama is under pressure to surge tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops into “the graveyard of empires.”

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CIA: We Lied to Congress

July 11, 2009

John Nichols | The Nation, July 9, 2009

In May, at a point when congressional Republicans and their amen corner in the media were attempting to defend the Bush-Cheney administration’s torture regime, their primary defense was: Pelosi knew.

The spin held that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as a member of the House Intelligence Committee, had in 2002 been secretly briefed about the use of harsh interrogation techniques on terror suspects.

Pelosi said the Central Intelligence Agency had failed to inform her about the character and extent of the harsh interrogations.

Pelosi accused the CIA of “misleading the Congress of the United States.”

Republican senators screamed.

“It’s outrageous that a member of Congress should call a terror-fighter a liar,” howled Missouri Senator Kit Bond, the vice chair of the Senate intelligence committee. “It seems the playbook is, blame terror-fighters. We ought to be supporting them.”

CIA officials denied lying to Congress and the American people, and that seemed to be that. “Let me be clear: It is not our practice or policy to mislead Congress,” said CIA Director Leon Panetta. That is against our laws and values.”

But, now, we learn that, in late June, Panetta admitted in secret testimony to Congress that the agency had concealed information and misled lawmakers repeatedly since 2001.

Some of the details of Panetta’s testimony are contained in a letter from seven House Democrats to Panetta that was released Wednesday morning.

In the letter, the members (Anna Eshoo of California, Alcee Hastings of Florida, Rush Holt of New Jersey, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Adam Smith of Washington, Mike Thompson of California and John Tierney of Massachusetts) wrote: “Recently you testified that you have determined that top CIA officials have concealed significant actions from all members of Congress, and misled members for a number of years from 2001 to this week.”

The letter continued: “In light of your testimony, we ask that you publicly correct your statement of May 15, 2009.”

Pelosi’s critics are claiming that Panetta’s admission does not resolve the debate about whether the speaker was lied to in briefings about harsh interrogations.

What does the CIA say?

That’s where things seem to get confusing — but, as we’ll see, not too confusing.

Panetta “stands by his May 15 statement,” CIA spokesman George Little claimed after the letter from the House members was released.

The problem is that Little also said: “This agency and this director believe it is vital to keep the Congress fully and currently informed. Director Panetta’s actions back that up. As the letter from these … representatives notes, it was the CIA itself that took the initiative to notify the oversight committees.”

So, officially, CIA director Panetta stands by his statement that: “It is not our practice or policy to mislead Congress.”


Panetta’s spokesman is seemingly rather proud that “it was the CIA itself that took the initiative to notify the oversight committees” that the agency had in the words of the House members “misled members for a number of years from 2001.”

Can we reconcile these statements?


Panetta, who has only headed the CIA since February of this year says that “it is not our practice or policy to mislead Congress.”

But he tells Congress that it was in fact the consistent practice of the CIA to lie to Congress during the Bush-Cheney years.

So what are we left with?

Perhaps a measure of vindication for Pelosi, but the speaker’s wrangling with the Republicans is a distraction from the fundamental revelation.

Far more important is Panetta’s reported admission that his agency has “concealed significant actions” and “misled members of Congress.”

No matter what anyone thinks of Pelosi or waterboarding, there is a clear case for dramatically expanding congressional oversight of the CIA. Of course, more House and Senate members should have access to briefings — and should have the authority to hold CIA officials (and their White House overseers) to account for deliberate deceptions. But that ought not be the first response to the latest news.

Step one must be to get to the bottom of exactly what the CIA was lying about.

Did it have anything to do with the case for invading and occupying Iraq? Afghanistan? Torture?

CIA defenders will claim that some secrets must be kept. Perhaps. But the Congress and the American people have a right to know the broad outlines of the deception — and the extent to which it may have warped, and may continue to warp, U.S. policy.

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