Posts Tagged ‘President Bush’

Bailout Vote Underscores US Leadership Crisis

October 1, 2008

by: Steven Thomma, McClatchy Newspapers

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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.

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The Rise Of The American Oligarch Class

September 30, 2008

The Paulson Plan

Robert Wenzel | Information Clearing House, Sep 29, 2008

The word oligarchy dates back at least to the time of Aristotle and comes from the Greek words for “few” (λίγον olígon) and “rule” (ρχω arkho). An oligarchy is generally considered any form of government where a small elite segment of society, be they from royalty, wealth, family or military, rule. The most current day popular meaning associates an oligarch with an extremely wealthy person who acquires his wealth, or increases it significantly, by incorporating the use of government influence. Oligarchs are not the only ones who become rich, but their success and secretive influence over governments put them into a separate class.

A recent example of a major grab of power and wealth in this type of oligarch fashion comes from the period of the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the confusion during the collapse, and the rise of Boris Yeltsin as president of Russia, the oligarchs made their move. With relatives or close associates as government officials, sometimes even government officials themselves, they achieved vast wealth by acquiring state assets very cheaply during the so-called “privatization” process controlled by the Yeltsin government.

The current $700 billion Paulson bailout plan has brought to the forefront a new class of what must be called American Oligarchs and oligarch wannabes. Some may have originally earned their wealth by supplying consumers with desired goods, but at some point they crossed over to the dark side to use government as a vehicle to take from the poor and the middle class to give to themselves. Others, never produced an honest product and have been career long parasites on the working classes.

It is instructive that outside of this small group of oligarchs and wannabe oligarchs, few appear to have been in favor of the Paulson “bailout”. (Note: The use of the word “bailout” to describe the Paulson Plan is a misnomer, see my column: THE BIG LIE: The Supposed Paulson ‘Bailout’ Plan).

A letter circulated and signed by many academic economists was sent to Congressional leaders objecting to the plan. The Austrian economists, who are the only ones who understand the business cycle, as would be expected also objected to the plan (See Rockwell: Stop the Bailout and Murphy: The Government Is Not Promoting Stability ).

Even some bankers have objected:

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s proposed $700 billion bank rescue aims to help “poorly run” companies and the primary beneficiaries would be Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley, said BB&T Corp. Chief Executive Officer John Allison in a critique of the plan.

Treasury “is totally dominated by Wall Street investment bankers” and “cannot be relied on to objectively assess” the impact of government policy on the financial industry, Allison wrote in a Sept. 23 letter to Congress…

Allison, 60, said Congress should “hear from well-run financial institutions” as lawmakers consider the plan, which seeks to ease the credit crunch by buying troubled mortgage- related assets. Under Allison, Winston-Salem, North Carolina- based BB&T avoided the subprime mortgage market, whose collapse led to the credit crisis. BB&T has risen 26 percent this year, the best showing in the 24-company KBW Bank Index.

From the right, Newt Gingrich has called the plan “stupid.” From the left, Paul Krugman opposed the plan, calling it “Cash for trash.”

Most noteworthy is the fact that the notoriously pro-Bush FOX television network carried this AP report:

There is scant public support for President Bush’s $700 billion federal rescue plan for the U.S. financial industry and little expectation it would solve the crisis that has roiled the markets and hobbled some of the country’s largest investment firms, according to a poll released Friday.

Just 30 percent of Americans say they support Bush’s package, according to an Associated Press-Knowledge Networks poll released as White House and congressional leaders struggled to rescue the plan after House Republicans rebelled against it. Despite the president’s pleas that the package is urgently needed to prevent an economic meltdown, 45 percent say they oppose Bush’s proposal while 25 percent said they are undecided.

Yet, despite the extremely limited support for the plan, the Oligarchs prevailed and Paulson’s Plan will become law. Indeed, the Oligarchs were out in full force to support the legislation. As I have pointed out before, Paulson with his Goldman Sachs connections must be considered an oligarch, but there are others.

Billionaire David Rubenstein, co-founder of the politically connected Carlyle Group, has come out in favor of Paulson’s Plan. Rubenstein told CNBC that he hopes Congress will move quickly to approve the rescue of the U.S. financial system.

Carlyle Group almost has too many ways to benifit from Paulson’s Plan to count. They ran a mortgage securities firm that went under. Those securities will be coming up for sale under a reorganization, just in time for purchase by the Treasury.

The Federal Reserve has changed regulations which will allow them to buy larger stakes in bank stocks. And Rubenstein wants to buy some of the paper the Treasury acquires. “Private equity can help by buying these assets,” he told CNBC. “Private equity can be among the most significant buyers of assets.”

Billionaire Warren Buffett is in favor of the plan, and he just bought, through Berkshire Hathaway, a $5 billion stake in Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs just received approval from the Fed to become a bank holding company, so that they can buy up troubled banks (And then sell the troubled mortgages of the banks to the Treasury?). Buffett called Paulson’s plan “absolutely necessary” and said that “I am betting on the Congress doing the right thing for the American public and passing this bill,”

Billionaire Wilbur Ross , through a firm controlled by Ross, bid $435 million last September to buy the service unit of American Home Mortgage, which collects payments from homeowners. He is in favor of Paulson’s Plan and penned a column published at the New York Post to say so, “…we need this passed, and passed quickly…,”wrote Ross.

There are likely other oligarchs who maintain a low profile and keep their names out of the headlines, and there are oligarch wannabes like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani . Giuliani has put out a press release advising that his firm has formed a “task force” to “guide financial institutions, private investment funds, institutional investors and other market participants through the legislative, regulatory and enforcement challenges posed by the” Paulson Plan.

Clearly, the new oligarchs have arrived in America. It will mean a lower standard of living for the rest of us as it is clear by the Paulson Plan that they are not afraid to think big when grabbing money from the populous at large. Further, they have the political skill and influence to get the legislation passed that will benefit themselves even when there is virtually non-existent popular support. Be scared, very scared. The new American Oligarchs now rule financial America and there is no such thing as enough with them. They will be back for another big bite from our wallets and income streams, all too soon.

Update: Word has reached me (HTrpm) that snuck into Paulson’s plan are changes that will make it easier for the Fed to inflate the money supply. So is the play for the Oligarchs to grab the banks, the assets and the mortgages and then inflate the money supply boosting the value of all these assets by trillions, while the rest of us simply get to deal with the price inflation as higher prices at the grocery store, the gas pump and everywhere else?

Robert Wenzel is an economic consultant and Editor & Publisher of EconomicPolicyJournal.com. He can be reached at rw@economicpolicyjournal.com.

Michael Moore: The Rich Are Staging a Coup This Morning

September 30, 2008

by Michael Moore

Friends,

Let me cut to the chase. The biggest robbery in the history of this country is taking place as you read this. Though no guns are being used, 300 million hostages are being taken. Make no mistake about it: After stealing a half trillion dollars to line the pockets of their war-profiteering backers for the past five years, after lining the pockets of their fellow oilmen to the tune of over a hundred billion dollars in just the last two years, Bush and his cronies — who must soon vacate the White House — are looting the U.S. Treasury of every dollar they can grab. They are swiping as much of the silverware as they can on their way out the door.

No matter what they say, no matter how many scare words they use, they are up to their old tricks of creating fear and confusion in order to make and keep themselves and the upper one percent filthy rich. Just read the first four paragraphs of the lead story in last Monday’s New York Times and you can see what the real deal is:

“Even as policy makers worked on details of a $700 billion bailout of the financial industry, Wall Street began looking for ways to profit from it.”Financial firms were lobbying to have all manner of troubled investments covered, not just those related to mortgages.

“At the same time, investment firms were jockeying to oversee all the assets that Treasury plans to take off the books of financial institutions, a role that could earn them hundreds of millions of dollars a year in fees.

“Nobody wants to be left out of Treasury’s proposal to buy up bad assets of financial institutions.”

Unbelievable. Wall Street and its backers created this mess and now they are going to clean up like bandits. Even Rudy Giuliani is lobbying for his firm to be hired (and paid) to “consult” in the bailout.

The problem is, nobody truly knows what this “collapse” is all about. Even Treasury Secretary Paulson admitted he doesn’t know the exact amount that is needed (he just picked the $700 billion number out of his head!). The head of the congressional budget office said he can’t figure it out nor can he explain it to anyone.

And yet, they are screeching about how the end is near! Panic! Recession! The Great Depression! Y2K! Bird flu! Killer bees! We must pass the bailout bill today!! The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Falling for whom? NOTHING in this “bailout” package will lower the price of the gas you have to put in your car to get to work. NOTHING in this bill will protect you from losing your home. NOTHING in this bill will give you health insurance.

Health insurance? Mike, why are you bringing this up? What’s this got to do with the Wall Street collapse?

It has everything to do with it. This so-called “collapse” was triggered by the massive defaulting and foreclosures going on with people’s home mortgages. Do you know why so many Americans are losing their homes? To hear the Republicans describe it, it’s because too many working class idiots were given mortgages that they really couldn’t afford. Here’s the truth: The number one cause of people declaring bankruptcy is because of medical bills. Let me state this simply: If we had had universal health coverage, this mortgage “crisis” may never have happened.

This bailout’s mission is to protect the obscene amount of wealth that has been accumulated in the last eight years. It’s to protect the top shareholders who own and control corporate America. It’s to make sure their yachts and mansions and “way of life” go uninterrupted while the rest of America suffers and struggles to pay the bills. Let the rich suffer for once. Let them pay for the bailout. We are spending 400 million dollars a day on the war in Iraq. Let them end the war immediately and save us all another half-trillion dollars!

I have to stop writing this and you have to stop reading it. They are staging a financial coup this morning in our country. They are hoping Congress will act fast before they stop to think, before we have a chance to stop them ourselves. So stop reading this and do something — NOW! Here’s what you can do immediately:

1. Call or e-mail Senator Obama. Tell him he does not need to be sitting there trying to help prop up Bush and Cheney and the mess they’ve made. Tell him we know he has the smarts to slow this thing down and figure out what’s the best route to take. Tell him the rich have to pay for whatever help is offered. Use the leverage we have now to insist on a moratorium on home foreclosures, to insist on a move to universal health coverage, and tell him that we the people need to be in charge of the economic decisions that affect our lives, not the barons of Wall Street.

2. Take to the streets. Participate in one of the hundreds of quickly-called demonstrations that are taking place all over the country (especially those near Wall Street and DC).

3. Call your Representative in Congress and your Senators. (click here to find their phone numbers). Tell them what you told Senator Obama.

When you screw up in life, there is hell to pay. Each and every one of you reading this knows that basic lesson and has paid the consequences of your actions at some point. In this great democracy, we cannot let there be one set of rules for the vast majority of hard-working citizens, and another set of rules for the elite, who, when they screw up, are handed one more gift on a silver platter. No more! Not again!

Yours,
Michael Moore
MMFlint@aol.com
MichaelMoore.com

P.S. Having read further the details of this bailout bill, you need to know you are being lied to. They talk about how they will prevent golden parachutes. It says NOTHING about what these executives and fat cats will make in SALARY. According to Rep. Brad Sherman of California, these top managers will continue to receive million-dollar-a-month paychecks under this new bill. There is no direct ownership given to the American people for the money being handed over. Foreign banks and investors will be allowed to receive billion-dollar handouts. A large chunk of this $700 billion is going to be given directly to Chinese and Middle Eastern banks. There is NO guarantee of ever seeing that money again.

P.P.S. From talking to people I know in DC, they say the reason so many Dems are behind this is because Wall Street this weekend put a gun to their heads and said either turn over the $700 billion or the first thing we’ll start blowing up are the pension funds and 401(k)s of your middle class constituents. The Dems are scared they may make good on their threat. But this is not the time to back down or act like the typical Democrat we have witnessed for the last eight years. The Dems handed a stolen election over to Bush. The Dems gave Bush the votes he needed to invade a sovereign country. Once they took over Congress in 2007, they refused to pull the plug on the war. And now they have been cowered into being accomplices in the crime of the century. You have to call them now and say “NO!” If we let them do this, just imagine how hard it will be to get anything good done when President Obama is in the White House. THESE DEMOCRATS ARE ONLY AS STRONG AS THE BACKBONE WE GIVE THEM. CALL CONGRESS NOW.

Aid groups: Tony Blair faces imminent failure in Middle East

September 25, 2008

Tony Blair

(Justin Lane)

The Middle East Quartet, of which Tony Blair has been the representative for the past year, is accused of “losing its grip” on the peace process

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International efforts to advance the Middle East peace process are facing imminent failure under Tony Blair’s leadership, aid groups operating in the region say in a report released today.The report says that the international community Mr Blair represents suffers from a “vacuum of leadership” and has failed to curb the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank or tackle the worsening living conditions of Palestinians, despite pledges made at a US peace summit almost a year ago.In a damning report, the Middle East Quartet, of which Mr Blair has been the representative for the past year, is accused of “losing its grip” on the peace process. Aid officials also said that its failings could have serious ramifications for implementing international law around the globe.

The Quartet — the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia — has “fundamentally failed to improve the situation on the ground,” David Mepham, the director of policy for Save the Children UK, said. “Unless the Quartet’s words are matched by more sustained pressure and decisive action, the situation will deteriorate still further.

“Time is fast running out. The Quartet needs to radically revise its existing approach and show the people of the region that it can help make a difference.”

The report, released as the Quartet meets in New York to review progress, said that despite repeated calls from the international community to halt the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank — considered illegal under international law and seen as a major obstacle to any peace agreement — there has been a “marked acceleration in construction, and no serious attempts by the Israeli authorities to dismantle outposts”.

The role of Mr Blair and the Quartet were limited by President Bush, who gave his British ally the task of reviving the Palestinian economy to make it ready for future statehood, leaving the political process in the hands of Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State.

Mr Bush promised a deal by the end of this year. Most politicians in the region see that as unlikely.

“We are facing a vacuum in leadership,” said Martha Myers, CARE International’s director for the Palestinian territories. “The Quartet has been unable to hold parties to their obligations. The Quartet’s credibility is on the line and we hope it will use this meeting to show it is able to make a real difference to the lives of Palestinians and Israelis.”

While it credits Mr Blair with securing donor funding and encouraging private investment in the Palestinian territories, the report noted that his project unveiled last May to focus on rejuvenating the economy in specific areas such as Jenin and Jericho had made only a localised impact.

A spokesman for Mr Blair denied that he was stretching himself too thinly with his other projects. These include tackling climate change, poverty in Africa, a Faith Foundation to bridge the gaps between world religions, lectures at Yale University and lucrative posts as an adviser to JP Morgan and Zurich Financial Services.

Peace barriers

Settlements The peace “Road map” called for the dismantling of Jewish settlements built since 2001 and freezing all settlement growth

Palestinian security “Road map” called for a rebuilt Palestinian Authority security apparatus to confront terrorism. An EU-trained police force has been introduced in the West Bank but Palestinians are still afraid for their security

Source: US State Department, Middle East Quartet

Retired Soldier Now In Fight Against War in Iraq

September 25, 2008

by Bill Sizemore

NORFOLK – For Ann Wright, it’s a badge of honor that Fox News host Bill O’Reilly once cut off her microphone midinterview.

[Retired Col. Ann Wright was one of three U.S. diplomats to resign in protest over the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.]Retired Col. Ann Wright was one of three U.S. diplomats to resign in protest over the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“He was questioning my patriotism,” Wright said in an interview this week. “All I had said was that the United States needed to follow the Geneva Conventions in its treatment of prisoners. I said, ‘Bill, I was in the military 29 years and I was a diplomat for 16 years. What have you done for the country?’ “Presumably Wright, 61, won’t have to worry about being cut off when she speaks tonight at the Naro Expanded Cinema about her unlikely odyssey from soldier to diplomat to full-time anti-war activist.

By her own description, hers was a “squeaky clean” life story. She grew up in Bentonville, Ark., where she was a Girl Scout and her father was a banker who gave Sam Walton a loan that helped launch the Wal-Mart empire.

After retiring from the Army as a colonel, she joined the State Department and served in a variety of overseas posts, including reopening the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Over the decades, she said, she had often disagreed privately with U.S. policy but kept her mouth shut, believing she could serve best within the system.

“But it all changed when President Bush decided that he would invade and occupy an oil-rich Arab Muslim country that had not attacked the United States,” she said. “It was such a dangerous move for the United States that I felt I could not be a part of it.”

Wright was one of three U.S. diplomats to resign in protest over the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Since then she has been arrested 15 times for raising her voice in a public and indelicate manner. Once, after lecturing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from the gallery, she was sentenced to three days in jail.

Wright has co-written a book, “Dissent: Voices of Conscience,” a collection of profiles of men and women in government who have publicly criticized the Bush administration’s foreign policy.

Appearing with Wright tonight will be Jonathan Hutto, a sailor and co-founder of Appeal for Redress, an organization that encourages active-duty personnel who are against the war in Iraq to speak out.

© 2008 The Virginia Pilot

US drone strikes in Pakistan hours after sovereignty pledge

September 18, 2008

By Omar Waraich in Islamabad | The Independent, 18 September 2008

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A US drone attacked suspected militants inside Pakistan yesterday, only hours after the US military chief assured Pakistani leaders that the country’s sovereignty would be respected.

In an effort to calm escalating tensions between Washington and Islamabad, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, made a surprise visit to the Pakistani capital after it emerged that President George Bush had authorised US forces to attack Taliban militants in tribal areas on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The two allies have been locked in a game of brinkmanship since US special operations troops mounted the first known ground assault in Pakistan, allegedly killing up to 20 people in a village in South Waziristan. Afterwards Pakistan’s army vowed to retaliate and defend itself “at all costs”.

Admiral Mullen met Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and the Pakistani army chief General Ashaf Kayani. Afterwards the US embassy said: “Admiral Mullen reiterated the US commitment to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty and to develop further… co-operation.”

But within hours a pilotless drone fired four missiles into South Waziristan, killing five militants, according to local intelligence officials. Reuters claimed the attack was the product of “US-Pakistani intelligence-sharing”, but government officials appeared to disagree.

“The [Mullen] visit was nice and he was very understanding,” said Ahmad Mukthar, the Defence minister. “Now these airstrikes have come as a surprise.”

The new civilian Pakistani government is fearful that increased US intervention will inflame an already hostile public. On Tuesday, President Asif Ali Zardari urged Gordon Brown to persuade the Americans to relent during a meeting at Downing Street.

“The UK agrees with us that such moves are counterproductive,” said an official. “Britain has a major role to play [here] – they know the area better than the US.”

Raids into Pakistan: What U.S. authority?

September 15, 2008

Bush’s orders to send special forces after Taliban militants have roots in previous presidencies.

Howard LaFranchi | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor, Sept 15, 2008

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Reporter head shot

Reporter Howard LaFranchi talks about the US military’s raids inside Pakistan, looking for terrorists.

Orders President Bush signed in July authorizing raids by special operations forces in the areas of Pakistan controlled by the Taliban and Al Qaeda and undertaking those raids without official Pakistani consent, have roots stretching back to the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In an address to a joint session of Congress nine days after 9/11, President Bush said, “From this day forward any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”

But even before that declaration, two key steps had been taken: One, Congress had authorized the use of US military force against terrorist organizations and the countries that harbor or support them. Two, Bush administration officials had warned Pakistan’s leaders of the dire consequences their country would face if they did not unequivocally enlist in the fight against radical Islamist terrorism.

What Mr. Bush’s July orders signify is that, after seven years of encouraging Pakistan to take on extremists harbored in remote areas along its border with Afghanistan and subsidizing the Pakistani military handsomely to do it, the US has become convinced that Pakistan is neither able nor willing to fight the entrenched Taliban and Al Qaeda elements. Indeed, recent events appear to have convinced at least some in the administration that parts of Pakistan’s military and powerful intelligence service are actually aiding the extremists.

“We’ve moved beyond the message stage here. I think the US has had it with messages that don’t get any action, and that is why the president authorized this,” says Kamran Bokhari, director of Middle East analysis for Stratfor, an intelligence consulting firm in Washington. “This says loud and clear, ‘We’re fed up.’ ”

Even before the July order, the US had undertaken covert operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Moreover, the CIA over the past year has stepped up missile attacks by the unmanned Predator drones it operates to hit targets in the region. That increase has coincided with a deterioration of the war in Afghanistan, where the Afghan Army and NATO forces have come under increasing attack from militants crossing over the rugged and lawless border from Pakistan.

But Bush’s orders, first reported in The New York Times Thursday, mean that operations against insurgent sanctuaries will become overt and probably more frequent. A Sept. 3 ground assault involving US commandos dropped from helicopters targeted a suspected terrorist compound. Missile attacks by the CIA’s unmanned drones, including one Friday reported by Pakistani officials to have killed at last 12 people, are also on the rise.

Precedence for the orders authorizing the attacks on terrorist havens can be found in President Bill Clinton’s authorization of retaliatory attacks in 1993 (against Iraqi intelligence facilities) and in 1998 (against terrorist camps in Afghanistan and Sudan), and in President Ronald Reagan’s bombing of Libya, legal scholars say.

The administration has debated the use of commando raids in Pakistan for years, but the tipping point came in July, as relations with Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders deteriorated, intelligence sources say. The “kicker,” according to one source who requested anonymity over the sensitivity of the issue, was two July events: the bombing of India’s embassy in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, an act that US intelligence officials concluded was aided by Pakistani intelligence operatives; and a July 13 attack on a US military outpost in eastern Afghanistan that killed nine US soldiers. The outpost attack was carried out by Taliban militants who had crossed over the nearby border from Pakistan.

Continued . . .

Bush Said to Give Orders Allowing Raids in Pakistan

September 11, 2008

By ERIC SCHMITT and MARK MAZZETTI | The New York Times, Sep 10, 2008

WASHINGTON — President Bush secretly approved orders in July that for the first time allow American Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the prior approval of the Pakistani government, according to senior American officials.

The classified orders signal a watershed for the Bush administration after nearly seven years of trying to work with Pakistan to combat the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and after months of high-level stalemate about how to challenge the militants’ increasingly secure base in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

American officials say that they will notify Pakistan when they conduct limited ground attacks like the Special Operations raid last Wednesday in a Pakistani village near the Afghanistan border, but that they will not ask for its permission.

“The situation in the tribal areas is not tolerable,” said a senior American official who, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the missions. “We have to be more assertive. Orders have been issued.”

The new orders reflect concern about safe havens for Al Qaeda and the Taliban inside Pakistan, as well as an American view that Pakistan lacks the will and ability to combat militants. They also illustrate lingering distrust of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies and a belief that some American operations had been compromised once Pakistanis were advised of the details.

The Central Intelligence Agency has for several years fired missiles at militants inside Pakistan from remotely piloted Predator aircraft. But the new orders for the military’s Special Operations forces relax firm restrictions on conducting raids on the soil of an important ally without its permission.

Pakistan’s top army officer said Wednesday that his forces would not tolerate American incursions like the one that took place last week and that the army would defend the country’s sovereignty “at all costs.”

It is unclear precisely what legal authorities the United States has invoked to conduct even limited ground raids in a friendly country. A second senior American official said that the Pakistani government had privately assented to the general concept of limited ground assaults by Special Operations forces against significant militant targets, but that it did not approve each mission.

Continued . . .

Georgia is the graveyard of America’s unipolar world

August 30, 2008

Russia’s defiance in the Caucasus has brought down the curtain on Bush senior’s new world order – not before time

Seumas Milne |The Guardian, Thursday August 28 2008

If there were any doubt that the rules of the international game have changed for good, the events of the past few days should have dispelled it. On Monday, President Bush demanded that Russia’s leaders reject their parliament’s appeal to recognise the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Within 24 hours, Bush had his response: President Medvedev announced Russia’s recognition of the two contested Georgian enclaves.

The Russian message was unmistakable: the outcome of the war triggered by Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia on August 7 is non-negotiable – and nothing the titans of the US empire do or say is going to reverse it. After that, the British foreign secretary David Miliband’s posturing yesterday in Kiev about building a “coalition against Russian aggression” merely looked foolish.

That this month’s events in the Caucasus signal an international turning point is no longer in question. The comparisons with August 1914 are of course ridiculous, and even the speculation about a new cold war overdone. For all the manoeuvres in the Black Sea and nuclear-backed threats, the standoff between Russia and the US is not remotely comparable to the events that led up to the first world war. Nor do the current tensions have anything like the ideological and global dimensions that shaped the 40-year confrontation between the west and the Soviet Union.

But what is clear is that America’s unipolar moment has passed – and the new world order heralded by Bush’s father in the dying days of the Soviet Union in 1991 is no more. The days when one power was able to bestride the globe like a colossus, enforcing its will in every continent, challenged only by popular movements for national independence and isolated “rogue states”, are now over. For nearly two decades, while Russia sunk into “catastroika” and China built an economic powerhouse, the US has exercised unprecedented and unaccountable global power, arrogating to itself and its allies the right to invade and occupy other countries, untroubled by international law or institutions, sucking ever more states into the orbit of its voracious military alliance.

Now, pumped up with petrodollars, Russia has called a halt to this relentless expansion and demonstrated that the US writ doesn’t run in every backyard. And although it has been a regional, not a global, challenge, this object lesson in the new limits of American power has already been absorbed from central Asia to Latin America.

Continued . . .

Was 9/11 an Inside Job?

August 17, 2008

By Mark H. Gaffney | Information Clearing House, August 15, 2008

The following is an excerpt from Mark H. Gaffney’s forthcoming book, THE 911 MYSTERY PLANE AND THE VANISHING OF AMERICA, to be released in September 2008.

Regrettably, there is considerable evidence that elements of the Bush administration were complicit in the 9/11 attack, and may even have helped stage it. Let us now examine some of what I regard as the most compelling evidence. However, the following discussion makes no claim to be comprehensive.

We know that within minutes of the “worst terrorist attack” in US history, even before the collapse of WTC-2 at 9:59 am, US officials knew the names of several of the alleged hijackers. CBS reported that a flight attendant on AA Flight 11, Amy Sweeney, had the presence of mind to call her office and reveal the seat numbers of the hijackers who had seized the plane.[1] FBI Director Robert Mueller later said, “This was the first piece of hard evidence.”[2] In his memoirs CIA Director George Tenet emphasizes the importance of the passenger manifests, as does counter-terrorism czar Richard A. Clarke.[3] All of which is very strange because the manifests later released by the airlines do not include the names of any of the alleged hijackers. Nor has this discrepancy ever been explained.

According to MSNBC, the plan to invade Afghanistan and “remove Al Qaeda from the face of he earth” was already sitting on G.W. Bush’s desk on the morning of 9/11 awaiting his signature.[4] The plan, in the form of a presidential directive, had been developed by the CIA and according to Richard Clarke called for “arming the Northern Alliance…to go on the offensive against the Taliban [and] pressing the CIA to…go after bin Laden and the Al Qaeda leadership.”[5]

A former Pakistani diplomat, Niaz Naik, tells virtually the same story. During a BBC interview, three days after 9/11, Niak claimed that senior American officials had informed him in mid-July 2001 that the US would attack the Taliban “before the snows start falling in Afghanistan, by the middle of October at the latest.”[6] Niak said he received this information in Berlin at a UN-sponsored international contact group on Afghanistan. He also predicted, correctly, that the US attack would be launched from bases in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. But how could US officials know in mid-July that American forces would invade Afghanistan in October unless they had foreknowledge of the attack?

Foreknowledge probably also explains why General Richard Myers, the acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs on 9/11, announced at the first post-9/11 meeting of Bush’s National Security Council, held on video-conference the afternoon of the attack, that “there are forty-two major Taliban bombing targets.”[7] But how did Myers come to have such detailed information about military targets in Afghanistan, so soon after the 9/11 attack? This important detail belies oft-repeated claims that the US military was not prepared to attack Afghanistan, and points to extensive war planning before 9/11. Journalist Steve Coll arrived at a similar conclusion while researching his 2004 book, Ghost Wars, an excellent history of the period leading up to the 9/11 attack. Coll interviewed two Clinton administration officials who informed him that ”the Pentagon had been studying possible targets in the same spring [i.e., 1998] that the CIA had been drawing up its secret plan to raid Tarnack Farm,” located near Kandahar, Afghanistan, where bin Laden had taken up quarters at the invitation of Taliban leader Mullah Omar.[8]

According to Clarke, at the same meeting on the afternoon of 9/11, CIA Director George Tenet informed the president that “Al Qaeda had committed these atrocities.”[9] But, again, how did Tenet know this so soon after the attack, especially given that “security failures” had occurred, unless he had foreknowledge?

Continued . . .


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