Posts Tagged ‘Nancy Pelosi’

Death squads and US democracy

July 16, 2009

Bill Van Auken, wsws.org, 14 July 2009

The revelation that the CIA initiated a covert program, apparently involving assassinations, and kept it secret from the US Congress on the orders of Vice President Dick Cheney marks a deepening of the crisis in the American state apparatus and an indication of the degeneration of democratic processes within the US.

Last April, under the pressure of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama was compelled to make public a series of previously classified memos issued by the Bush Justice Department which authorized acts of torture in chilling detail. The administration attempted to portray the public airing of these documents exposing crimes of the Bush administration as a signal of the new “openness” and “transparency” of the Obama White House.

At the same time, the White House made it clear that it had no intention of holding anyone accountable for these crimes, with Obama making a visit to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia to reassure those who supervised and carried out much of the torture that he meant them no harm.

Burying the crimes of the Bush administration in the past, however, has proven impossible, not only because of their grave character, but also because much of what was done has yet to be fully exposed and many of the same methods are continuing under Obama.

The way in which this latest revelation has emerged is highly revealing. It has come to the surface as a result of Obama’s CIA director, Leon Panetta, briefing congressional intelligence committees on the matter. The CIA director went to Congress to give the briefings on June 23—the day after he himself became aware of the secret program and ordered it terminated.

The Obama appointee supposedly in charge of America’s spy agency became aware of this operation only four months after assuming his post.

The implications are clear. The CIA maintained the secrecy ordered by Cheney even after the latter had left office, and continued to conceal the existence and nature of the covert operation not only from Congress, but from the Obama administration itself.

The exact nature of the secret program has yet to be made public either by the CIA or those members of Congress briefed by Panetta.

A report published in the Wall Street Journal Monday, citing three unnamed “former intelligence officials,” suggests that it was aimed at organizing the “targeted assassinations” of individuals deemed enemies of the United States in the so-called “global war on terrorism.” In other words, the CIA appears to have been organizing death squads.

“Amid the high alert following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a small CIA unit examined the potential for targeted assassinations of Al Qaeda operatives, according to the three former officials,” the Journal reports.

The Journal quotes one of the officials as saying, “It was straight out of the movies. It was like: Let’s kill them all.”

The description of this operation corresponds to charges made by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh earlier this year that the Bush administration had created an “executive assassination ring.”

Hersh, who said that he was writing a book based on his findings, linked the operation to the military’s Joint Special Operations Command, which frequently works in tandem with the CIA. “They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office,” he said.

At the same time, there are suggestions that another facet of the program was the development of a spying program by the agency directed at American citizens and others within the United States itself. The CIA’s charter makes any such domestic operations illegal.

Hersh also pointed to this feature in a speech delivered at the University of Minnesota last March. He said, “After 9/11…the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it.”

The reaction of the Democratic administration and congressional leadership to these developments is predictably craven. The most vocal response was that of a group of House members who sought to twist Panetta’s words into an alibi for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who disingenuously claimed in May that she had been lied to in a 2002 briefing about the CIA’s use of water-boarding and other torture methods against detainees. (See: “The lies of the CIA and Nancy Pelosi”)

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Diane Feinstein of California, issued a tepid response to the revelations of the CIA program kept secret on the orders of Cheney. “We were kept in the dark,” she said. “That’s something that should never, ever happen again… because the law is very clear.”

Should never happen again? Feinstein’s reaction dovetails neatly with Obama’s demand that Washington “look forward and not backward,” thereby continuing the cover-up of the crimes of the Bush administration. If the “law is very clear,” then it was clearly broken by Cheney and top-ranking officials in the CIA in what amounts to a conspiracy against the American people, who are themselves still “in the dark.” Yet there is no suggestion that these crimes should be prosecuted.

One indication that at least some investigation is being considered came from Attorney General Eric Holder, who spoke extensively to Newsweek magazine. In an article posted on the magazine’s web site Sunday, Holder is quoted as saying that he was “shocked and saddened” after reading the still secret 2004 CIA inspector general’s report on the torture of detainees at CIA “black sites.”

Given the continuous revelations over the past several years, from Abu Ghraib to recent reports leaked from the Red Cross, to the testimony of men who passed through the hellish abuse at Bagram Air Base and Guantánamo Bay, if Holder was genuinely “shocked,” that can only mean that crimes more heinous still have yet to be revealed.

Any “independent probe” organized by the Justice Department—if it is forced to mount such an effort—will be so narrowly circumscribed as to ensure that those most responsible for torture and war crimes are never touched.

The end result is that the power of the state-within-a-state constituted by the intelligence agencies and the military continues its unimpeded growth, aided and abetted by the Democrats and the Obama White House.

This poses grave dangers to the working class. All of the crimes for which the CIA was infamous in an earlier period, earning it the title Murder Inc., are being reprised on an even bigger scale under conditions of an immense crisis of American and world capitalism and unprecedented social polarization within the US itself.

The existence of a secret program involving assassination and domestic surveillance—concealed from Congress on Cheney’s orders even under the new administration—carries with it the threat that death squads and political repression will be employed against domestic opposition and, above all, any independent movement of workers against the rising unemployment and falling living standards created by the profit system.

The settling of accounts with the crimes of the Bush administration and the struggle to prevent even greater crimes being carried out both at home and abroad can be prosecuted only by an independent political movement of the working class based on a socialist and internationalist perspective. A key task of such a movement is the defense of democratic rights. That includes the prosecution of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and all those responsible for the crimes of torture and aggressive war.

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.”

But…

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?

Yes.

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.

Did the CIA lie about torture?

May 17, 2009

It doesn’t matter if Nancy Pelosi knew about waterboarding. The real issue is Dick Cheney’s role in the torture scandal

Michael Tomasky | The Guradian, UK, May 15,  2009

How important is it – in terms of future national security, in terms of our obligation to history – to establish exactly when and exactly why the United States tortured, and whether that tactic yielded the positive results Dick Cheney says it did?

I think we’d all agree that’s pretty important.

How important is it – on those same two bases – to find out whether Nancy Pelosi, not at that time third in succession to the presidency but one of 435 members of the lower legislative body, knew of waterboarding in 2002 or 2003?

Not very. And that about sums up the Pelosi flap as far as I’m concerned.

For three weeks now, the Rush Limbaugh set has been banging on about whether Pelosi was telling the truth when she said a while back that she hadn’t known of waterboarding from early CIA briefings. It had been previously reported that she knew. Those previous reports came from leaks most likely from within the CIA.

The rightwing allegations crescendoed in the past week. The CIA leaked word that Pelosi had been informed. Pelosi ducked the question for several day, then obviously decided yesterday that the kitchen was getting hot enough that she’d better open a window and give her version.

To the extent that Pelosi felt she had to respond to all this (although I’m still not sure why – I’d guess that as of yesterday morning, perhaps 4% of Americans had even heard of this fight) the right won a small tactical victory here. They’re going to spend days crowing, mainly because they haven’t had anything to crow about in months.

But really. This is a complete diversion. Which is the whole reason the rightwing has pressed the Pelosi question in the first place. Every minute of cable television time spent talking about what Pelosi knew and when she knew it is a minute not devoted to talking about what Cheney ordered and when and why he ordered it. The operatives and bloggers on the right pressing the Pelosi angle understand this very well.

As for Pelosi’s comments, she says the CIA lied to Congress. Gasp! No! They’d never do such a thing. Friends, lying to Congress is a fixed part of what the CIA does. And sometimes it’s arguably necessary. But often – well, if this is news to you, go read up on the Church and Pike committees from the 1970s.

And note that the CIA did not entirely deny Pelosi’s allegation when it responded yesterday. The agency spokesperson’s language was very interesting – the CIA had a chart showing that Pelosi was fully briefed in September 2002, and that chart was “true to the language in the agency’s records“. Great! So what?

Let me stop here and say that there are hundreds of good nonpolitical professionals in the CIA who are trying to do their important and difficult jobs. The agency has been abused by today’s Republican party over and over again. Remember that during the run-up to the Iraq war, Cheney pressed the agency to find intelligence to fit the case the administration wanted to make against Iraq – linking it to al-Qaida, fabricating a story about nuclear weapons – and even set up their own intelligence unit to give them the intel they wanted.

And most of all, Bush and Cheney really harmed the agency by putting Porter Goss in charge of it. Goss was a Florida GOP congressman. He was, in 2002, Pelosi’s counterpart on the House intelligence committee and as such was briefed with her. He brought political people into the agency who wrecked the place. Some major operations were taken out of the CIA’s hands and placed in other intelligence agencies. His number-three man was convicted of bribery in a massive scandal that involved a high-ranking member of Congress and a Pentagon contractor.

This was Cheney’s man at Langley. It’s pretty hard right now not to think that some of this rightwing pushback is emanating from somewhere in the Goss universe.

But in the end, everything points back to Cheney. What certain members of Congress were told or not told, how things were phrased, who was in and out of the loop – we have ample evidence from previously published accounts that Cheney micro-managed everything that was of concern to him.

To cut to the chase, a full-on investigation could quite possibly demonstrate, then, that the vice-president of the United States directed staff to lie to Congress. The people on the right keeping the Pelosi angle alive know this, too.

They’d never admit it publicly, but deep down, they must be worried, in the same way that liberals kinda knew deep down a decade ago that that dog Clinton probably did do something inappropriate with “that woman”.

Small wonder they want to talk about Pelosi. Pay no attention to the men behind this particular curtain, and keep your eyes on the prize.

Obama bows to Republican right and military on torture photos

May 14, 2009
By Bill Van Auken | WSWS, 14 May 2009

The Obama administration’s decision Wednesday to renege on its promise to comply with a court order and release photographs of US personnel torturing detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan represents another capitulation by his administration to mounting pressure from the right and the military-intelligence apparatus.

Speaking briefly to reporters Wednesday afternoon, Obama said that the photographs would “further inflame anti-American opinion and put our troops in greater danger.”

He claimed that the images are “not particularly sensational” and “would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals.” Obama failed to explain what makes the US president the arbiter of what is of “benefit to our understanding.”

The Pentagon, with Obama’s declared support, announced last month that it would release a “substantial number” of photos of US personnel abusing detainees at several prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan. The decision was taken in compliance with a decision last September by a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals upholding a lower court victory for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which had sought the photographs in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The full appeals court refused to rehear the case.

The photographs, reportedly 44 in all, were set to have been released May 28.

The Bush administration had argued that the release of the photos would generate international outrage and violate the rights of the detainees under the Geneva Conventions, rights that the administration had explicitly claimed had no application to detainees, who were classified as “enemy combatants.”

Apparently, the Obama administration is preparing to repackage the arguments made under George W. Bush, claiming that the release of the photos would threaten national security and, as the president asserted unconvincingly Wednesday, would have a “chilling effect on future investigations of detainee abuse.”

In making its “national security” case for suppressing the photographs, the Obama administration would likely be compelled to go to the US Supreme Court.

Amplifying on Obama’s statements, an administration spokesman told the media, “The president would be the last to excuse the actions depicted in these photos. That is why the Department of Defense investigated these cases and why individuals have been punished through prison sentences, discharges, and a range of other punitive measures.”

Nothing could more clearly sum up the criminal character of the Obama administration’s decision to prevent the release of these photos. Those subjected to “punitive measures” have consisted of a handful of junior enlisted men, such as those individuals punished in connection with the photographs uncovered in 2004 depicting the horrific treatment of detainees held at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The entire point of exposing the photographs of similar abuse from a half dozen other prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan was that they prove that the torture of detainees was not the work of a few “bad apples” or psychopaths in uniform, but was systemic. The photographs showing prisoners at Abu Ghraib being beaten, threatened with attack dogs, piled naked in pyramids, smeared with feces, hanging from shackles and dragged on leashes did not represent an aberration. Rather these odious practices and worse were carried out on orders that came from the White House to the Pentagon and down the military chain of command.

The ACLU’s Executive Director Anthony D. Romero denounced the about-face by the White House. “The Obama administration’s adoption of the stonewalling tactics and opaque policies of the Bush administration flies in the face of the president’s stated desire to restore the rule of law, to revive our moral standing in the world and to lead a transparent government,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “This decision is particularly disturbing given the Justice Department’s failure to initiate a criminal investigation of torture crimes under the Bush administration.

Romero continued, “It is true that these photos would be disturbing; the day we are no longer disturbed by such repugnant acts would be a sad one. In America, every fact and document gets known—whether now or years from now. And when these photos do see the light of day, the outrage will focus not only on the commission of torture by the Bush administration but on the Obama administration’s complicity in covering them up. Any outrage related to these photos should be due not to their release but to the very crimes depicted in them. Only by looking squarely in the mirror, acknowledging the crimes of the past and achieving accountability can we move forward and ensure that these atrocities are not repeated.”

Jameel Jaffar, who argued the case for the ACLU called the decision “inconsistent with the promise of transparency that President Obama has repeated so many times.”

What is to account for the Obama administration’s sudden reversal?

The New York Times cited administration officials arguing that the photographs should be suppressed because “the missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan were entering risky, new phases. In Iraq, American combat forces are withdrawing from urban areas and are reducing their numbers nationwide. In Afghanistan, more than 20,000 new troops are flowing in to combat an insurgency that has grown in potency.”

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Wednesday that Generals Raymond Odierno, the US commander in Iraq, David McKiernan, the recently sacked commander in Afghanistan, and David Petraeus, the chief of US Central Command, which oversees both wars, “have all voiced real concern about this.” He added, “Particularly in Afghanistan, this is the last thing they need.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, appearing before the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday, said that the generals had “expressed very serious reservations about this and their very, very great worry that release of the photographs will cost American lives. That was all it took for me.”

Obama informed Odierno of his decision at a White House meeting Tuesday, before announcing it to the public.

Thus, Obama bowed to the demands of Gates, Petraeus, Odierno and McKiernan, all of whom were placed in their present positions by the same Bush administration that instituted torture as a standard operation procedure for the military and the CIA.

Even more importantly, Obama’s U-turn on the question of the torture photos has been carried out in the face of a concerted campaign led by former Vice President Dick Cheney to defend torture and portray the new administration’s decision to repudiate “enhanced interrogation techniques” and to release Justice Department memos justifying torture methods as paving the way for new terrorist attacks.

This has been accompanied by an attempt to justify the crimes of the Bush administration in relation to torture by emphasizing the complicity of key Democrats, particularly House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who were briefed on the use of waterboarding and other acts of torture being carried out against detainees and voiced no objection.

This effort has apparently been spearheaded by the CIA itself, which leaked documents detailing the number of briefings provided to members of Congress on the ongoing torture of detainees beginning in 2002.

There is no doubt that Obama is retreating in the face of this offensive by the Republican right and the national security complex. More fundamentally, however, the administration has made it clear from the outset that it has no interest in seeing any serious investigation of the torture carried out under the Bush administration, much less in the prosecution of those who ordered these practices, from Bush, Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and other cabinet members on down.

Its aim is to preserve intact the police-state infrastructure erected by the Bush administration in its “global war on terror,” while continuing to wage the wars of aggression that the previous government began in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This policy of political cowardice and complicity has inevitably turned Obama himself into a defender of torture, using the same “national security” arguments as the Bush administration to cover up its crimes.

CIA Says Pelosi Was Briefed on Use of ‘Enhanced Interrogations’

May 8, 2009

By Paul Kane | The Washington Post, May 7, 2008

Intelligence officials released documents this evening saying that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was briefed in September 2002 about the use of harsh interrogation tactics against al-Qaeda prisoners, seemingly contradicting her repeated statements over the past 18 months that she was never told that these techniques were actually being used.

In a 10-page memo outlining an almost seven-year history of classified briefings, intelligence officials said that Pelosi and then-Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.) were the first two members of Congress ever briefed on the interrogation tactics. Then the ranking member and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, respectively, Pelosi and Goss were briefed Sept. 4, 2002, one week before the first anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The memo, issued by the Director of National Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency to Capitol Hill, notes the Pelosi-Goss briefing covered “EITs including the use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah.” EIT is an acronym for enhanced interrogation technique. Zubaydah was one of the earliest valuable al-Qaeda members captured and the first to have the controversial tactic known as water boarding used against him.

The issue of what Pelosi knew and when she knew it has become a matter of heated debate on Capitol Hill. Republicans have accused her of knowing for many years precisely the techniques CIA agents were using in interrogations, and only protesting the tactics when they became public and liberal antiwar activists protested.

In a carefully worded statement, Pelosi’s office said today that she had never been briefed about the use of waterboarding, only that it had been approved by Bush administration lawyers as a legal technique to use in interrogations.

“As this document shows, the Speaker was briefed only once, in September 2002. The briefers described these techniques, said they were legal, but said that waterboarding had not yet been used,” said Brendan Daly, Pelosi’s spokesman.

Pelosi’s statement did not address whether she was informed that other harsh techniques were already in use during the Zubaydah interrogations.

In December 2007 the Washington Post reported that leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees had been briefed in the fall of 2002 about waterboarding — which simulates drowning — and other techniques, and that no congressional leaders protested its use. At the time Pelosi said she was not told that waterboarding was being used, a position she stood by repeatedly last month when the Bush-era Justice Department legal documents justifying the interrogation tactics were released by Attorney General Eric Holder.

The new memo shows that intelligence officials were willing to share the information about waterboarding with only a sharply closed group of people. Three years after the initial Pelosi-Goss briefing, Bush officials still limited interrogation technique briefings to just the chairman and ranking member of the House and Senate intelligence committees, the so-called Gang of Four in the intelligence world.

In October 2005, CIA officials began briefing other congressional leaders with oversight of the intelligence community, including top appropriators who provided the agency its annual funding. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a prisoner-of-war in Vietnam and an opponent of torture techniques, was also read into the program at that time even though he did not hold a special committee position overseeing the intelligence community.

A bipartisan collection of lawmakers have criticized the practice of limiting information to just the “Gang of Four”, who were expressly forbidden from talking about the information from other colleagues, including fellow members of the intelligence committees. Pelosi and others are considering reforms that would assure a more open process for all committee members.

Bailout Vote Underscores US Leadership Crisis

October 1, 2008

by: Steven Thomma, McClatchy Newspapers

photo
The bailout deadlock demonstrates that no definitive leadership exists in Washington – least of all in the White House. (Photo: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images AsiaPac)

Columbus, Ohio – The failure of a proposed Wall Street bailout Monday underscored that America is suffering not just from a financial crisis, but also from a crisis of political leadership.

“This has been a bad day for Washington and a bad day for American politics,” said Harold Ford, a former Democratic congressman from Tennessee. “What happened today was an embarrassment for the country.”

None of the country’s political leaders, Republican or Democrat, has proved able to navigate the treacherous politics of the moment and secure an agreement to bail out the country’s financial system and restore confidence in the marketplace.

President Bush is a largely discredited lame duck. He’s not trusted by his own party and was unable to bend the Congress to his will even as he warned of a catastrophe if lawmakers rebelled.

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and his party’s congressional leaders control the Congress and agreed with Bush’s urgency, but they couldn’t deliver a majority, either.

Still, they came closer than did Republican John McCain and his party’s leaders in the House of Representatives, who delivered only 30 percent of the GOP votes for the compromise, while Democrats delivered some 60 percent of their members.

Leaders of both parties vowed to seek bipartisan cooperation toward drafting a compromise that could pass, but with their own elections five weeks away, they couldn’t stop themselves from partisan attacks, which make the goal of bipartisan agreement even more difficult to reach.

Nowhere is the crisis more evident than it is in the White House.

Bush limps toward the end of his second term with among the lowest job-approval ratings in history – a recent Gallup poll found just 27 percent approving and 69 percent disapproving.

Worse, he’s lost credibility in Congress, notably for leading the country into war in Iraq on false claims that Iraq had ties to al Qaida and weapons of mass destruction. When he dispatched Vice President Dick Cheney to lobby House Republicans to support the Wall Street bailout, the closed-door session grew heated, and some members reportedly reminded Cheney that they’d trusted him on Iraq.

Bush also is paying a price for years of strong-arming Congress, particularly when he counted on then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, to “hammer” proposals such as a costly expansion of Medicare past skeptical conservatives.

“There’s no question the rank-and-file are carrying some grudges from the past,” said Dan Schnur, the director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.

Democrats, who won control of both the House and Senate in 2006, also couldn’t deliver. Congress’s approval rating is even lower than Bush’s, at around 18 percent.

When Obama, the party’s new leader, learned of the plan’s rejection, he spoke about Washington almost as if he weren’t a member of Congress.

“Democrats and Republicans in Washington have a responsibility to make sure that an emergency rescue package is put forward that can at least stop the immediate problems we have so we can begin to plan for the future,” he said.

He didn’t say how he might lead or what role he’d play. “Step up to the plate,” he told Congress. “Get it done.”

His party’s leaders in Congress also threw up their hands, as House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and others bragged that they’d delivered a majority of the Democratic votes, even though that wasn’t enough.

“The Democratic side more than lived up to its side of the bargain,” Pelosi said, lauding fellow Democratic leaders for “getting 60 percent of the House Democrats to support a bill which isn’t our bill.”

Republican leaders in Congress were powerless as well to deliver the votes they’d promised, saying that they lost about 12 committed votes when some of their members got mad at Pelosi.

“We could have gotten there today had it not been for this partisan speech that the speaker gave on the floor of the House,” said House Republican Leader Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio.

McCain appeared as impotent as everyone else. He’d suspended his campaign briefly last week to rally support for the plan, and spent part of Saturday lobbying House Republicans by phone, but he couldn’t deliver, either.

US approves India nuclear deal

September 28, 2008

The Australian, Sep 28, 2008

THE US House of Representatives has passed a civilian nuclear pact with India that lifts a three decade-old ban on civilian nuclear trade.

The agreement, passed by a 298-117 vote, will now head to the Senate for its vote, but it was unclear if it would be passed before Congress adjourns ahead of the November 4 elections.

Signed by President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July 2005, the deal offers India access to Western technology and cheap atomic energy provided it allows UN nuclear inspections of some of its nuclear facilities.

“The passage of this legislation by the House is another major step forward in achieving the transformation of the US-India relationship,” said Mr Bush, urging Senate now to adopt the Bill.

The deal has faced criticism from opponents who argue that India, which first tested an atomic weapon in 1974, is not a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Representative Edward Markey, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, denounced the vote, saying in a statement: “This is a terrible Bill that threatens the future of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.”

He argued during a late night debate yesterday that opposing the Bill did not mean opposing India.

“This is a debate about Iran. This is a debate about North Korea, about Pakistan, about Venezuela, about any other country in the world that harbours the goal of acquiring nuclear weapons,” he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sought to allay any lasting concerns, saying the legislation would boost US oversight on any US civilian nuclear assistance to the South Asian nation.

She welcomed the vote saying in a statement that the accord “furthers our countries’ strategic relationship while balancing nuclear non-proliferation concerns and India’s growing energy needs.

“The legislation recognises India’s past support for non-proliferation initiatives and strengthens congressional oversight of any future US decision to assist India’s civilian nuclear program.”

New Delhi, which is critically short of energy to fuel its booming economy and its burgeoning population of 1.1 billion people, is looking at investments worth billions of dollars in its power sector.

If the Senate endorses the agreement it would finally end a three decades-old ban on nuclear trade with India imposed after it carried out its first nuclear test in 1974 and refused to sign the NPT.

– AFP

Who Is Wrecking America?

September 5, 2008

By Paul Craig Roberts | Information Clearing House, Sep 3, 2008

Does the liberal-left have a clue? I sometimes think not.

In his book, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?,” Thomas Frank made the excellent point that the Karl Rove Republicans take advantage of ordinary’s people’s frustrations and resentments to lead them into voting against their best interest.

Frank’s new book, “The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule,” lacks the insight that distinguished his previous book. Why does Frank think that conservatives or liberals rule?

Neither rule. America is ruled by organized interest groups with money to elect candidates who serve their interests. Frank’s book does not even mention the Israel Lobby, which bleeds Americans for the sake of Israeli territorial expansion. Check the index. Israel is not there.

Does Frank think that rapture evangelicals are conservative, that Christian Zionists are conservative? If so, where did he learn his theology?

Frank can’t tell the difference between Ronald Reagan and Cheney/Bush. He conflates the collection of opportunists and fanatics that comprise the Bush Party with the Reagan conservatives who ended stagflation and the cold war. The adventurer, Jack Abramoff, is Frank’s epitome of a conservative. Abramoff is the most mentioned person in Frank’s story. In Frank’s view, conservatives are out to ruin everyone except the rich.

But it was the Clinton administration that rigged the Consumer Price Index in order to cheat retired people out of their Social Security cost of living increases.

It was the Clinton administration that vanished discouraged workers from the unemployment rolls.

It was the Clinton administration that wrecked “effective government” by encouraging early civil service retirements in order to make way for quota hires.

Why doesn’t Frank know that the “Reagan deficit” was due to the collapse of inflation below the forecast, thus reducing the flow of inflated revenues into the government’s budget, whereas the Bush deficit is a result of what Nobel Democrat economist Joe Stiglitz has calculated to be a $3 trillion dollar war in the Middle East?

Frank doesn’t want to know. Like so many fighting ideological battles, he just wants to damn “the enemy.”

But who is Frank’s enemy? He calls them “conservatives.” But the Bush regime is a neoconservative regime. Neoconservatives, despite the name, are not conservatives. They have taken over formerly conservative publications, think tanks, and foundations and driven out the conservatives.

Neoconservatives are in the tradition of the French Jacobins of the 18th century. Having had the French Revolution, the revolutionaries thought that they should take it to all of Europe. Napoleon exercised French hegemony over Europe. The American neocons desire American hegemony over the world.

The true American conservative does not believe in foreign wars. In US history, conservatives were derided by liberals as “isolationists.”

There is nothing conservative about launching wars of aggression on the basis of lies and deception in order to control the direction of oil pipelines and to enhance Israeli territorial expansion.

Frank misses all of this.

And what a pity that is. A false conservative-liberal fight distracts attention from the growing police state that is destroying civil liberties for all Americans. It obscures the real motives of policies in behalf of special interests that are leading to nuclear confrontation with Russia and China.

What is wrecking America is not conservatives, but a neoconservative ideology of US hegemony.

What is wrecking America is the “impeachment-is-off-the-table” twins, Nancy Pelosi and John Conyers.

What is wrecking America is the Democratic Party, which was put in control of the House and Senate in the 2006 congressional elections to stop the gratuitous wars and gestapo police, but, instead, has continued to cooperate with the Cheney/Bush regime in behalf of war and police repression, such as we witnessed at the Republican National Convention.

Frank’s book, “The Wrecking Crew” falls into the scapegoat category of blaming the innocent and irrelevant. The Democrat Party could impeach Cheney/Bush and cut off funding for the wars and corrupt military contracts. But they do nothing and get a free pass from Frank.

“The Wrecking Crew” does have one virtue. Frank shows that the Republicans have spawned a new generation of brownshirts that lust to imprison, torture, and kill people. These ignorant bloodthirsty thugs see enemies everywhere and fervently desire to nuke them all. The Republican brownshirts are equally willing to kill American critics of the Bush regime as to kill Taliban and al Qaeda.

The latest “enemy” is Russia. The Bush regime, complicit in its Georgian puppet’s war crimes against South Ossetia, is attempting to hide its responsibility for ethnic cleansing by demonizing Russia. With every threat the Bush regime issues against Russia, the war drums beat louder. Yet, the print and TV media and Democratic Party have jumped on the war wagon.

The rapture evangelicals and the neocons are euphoric at the prospect of nuclear war. Frank’s misguided barrage at conservatives, who are a brake on war and the police state, hastens end times.

‘Where Are the Weapons of Mass Destruction?’

August 13, 2008

Truthdig, Aug 11, 2008

AP photo / Bullit Marquez

A U.S. soldier checks the radiation level of a canister that was looted during the invasion from the nuclear facility in Tuwaitha, Iraq. A Harris poll released July 21, 2006, found that 50 percent of U.S. respondents said they believed Iraq had nuclear arms when U.S. troops invaded in March 2003.

By Scott Ritter

In the past two decades I have had the opportunity to participate in certain experiences pertaining to my work that fall into the category of “no one will ever believe this.” I usually file these away, calling on them only when events transpire that breathe new life into these extraordinary memories. Ron Suskind, a noted and accomplished journalist, has written a new book, “The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism,” in which he claims that the “White House had concocted a fake letter from Habbush [Tahir Jalil Habbush, the director of the Mukhabarat], to Saddam [Hussein], backdated to July 1, 2001.” According to Suskind, the letter said that “9/11 ringleader Mohammad Atta had actually trained for his mission in Iraq—thus showing, finally, that there was an operational link between Saddam and al Qaeda, something the Vice President’s Office had been pressing CIA to prove since 9/11 as a justification to invade Iraq.”

This is an extraordinary charge, which both the White House and the CIA vehemently deny. Suskind outlines a scenario which dates to the summer and fall of 2003, troubled times for the Bush administration as its case for invading Iraq was unraveling. I cannot independently confirm Suskind’s findings, but I, too, heard a similar story, from a source I trust implicitly. In my former line of work, intelligence, it was understood that establishing patterns of behavior was important. Past patterns of behavior tend to repeat themselves, and are thus of interest when assessing a set of seemingly separate circumstances around the same source. Of course, given the nature of the story line, it is better if I introduce this information within its proper context.

In the summer of 2003 I was approached by Harper’s Magazine to do a story on the work of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), a CIA-sponsored operation investigating Saddam’s weapons-of-mass-destruction programs in the aftermath of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. David Kay, a former International Atomic Energy Agency inspector who served briefly in Iraq in 1991 and 1992, was at that time the head of the ISG. By October 2003 the group had prepared a so-called interim report, which claimed to have eyewitness evidence of Iraqi WMD-related activities prior to the invasion in March. The key to the ISG’s interim report was the testimony of “cooperative sources,” Iraqis of unstated pedigree purportedly providing the ISG with unverifiable information. With one exception—an Iraqi nuclear scientist who had been killed by coalition forces—David Kay failed to provide the name or WMD association of any of the sources he used for his report, making any effort to verify their assertions impossible. Many of the senior Iraqis who had openly contradicted Kay’s report were, and still are to this day, muzzled behind the walls of an American prison in Baghdad. But there was another group of Iraqis, the former scientists and technicians involved in Iraq’s WMD programs who were known to have been interviewed by the ISG, and who were released back into Iraqi society. These scientists held the key to deciphering the vague pronouncements of the ISG interim report, and could help to distinguish between fact and fiction.

Continued . . .


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