Posts Tagged ‘US Congress’

No Partner for Peace: Our American Problem

November 7, 2009

By Jeff Halper, ZNet, November 7, 2009
Source: MRZine

Jeff Halper’s ZSpace Page

It was as if some official, perhaps one of President Obama’s “czars,” like the Czar for Demolishing American Credibility, had orchestrated a systematic campaign to isolate the US from the rest of the world, make it a political laughingstock and, finally, render it a second-rate power capable of throwing around tremendous military weight but absolutely incapable of leading us to a better future.  The Israel-Palestine conflict, while not the world’s bloodiest, constitutes, for many people of the world, a unique gauge of American interests and intentions.  So consider the messages this string of actions sent out to the world:

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Congress Shirks Its Responsibility, Allows White House To Make Wars

August 21, 2009

Sherwood Ross, Scoop, August 20,  2009,

On occasion, critics of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have questioned, with good reason, whether the American war in Afghanistan has been carried far beyond what Congress authorized. This raises a fundamental question that has bedeviled the country since 1950.

Although the Constitution requires Congress to make the decision to go to war and to decide the kind of war to be fought (naval, land, air), since the Korean conflict it has largely abdicated that responsibility to the president, says a law school dean and authority on the issue. The result has been more frequent (and frequently misguided) wars, than there would have been had Congress done its duty.

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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.

Paul Craig Roberts: America’s Shame

January 12, 2009


By Paul Craig Roberts | Information Clearing House, January 8, 2009

Why does Israel have a right to exist, but Palestine doesn’t?

This is the question of our time.

For sixty years Israelis have been stealing Palestine from Palestinians. There are maps available on the Internet and in Israeli publications showing the shrinkage over time of what was once Palestine into what Palestine is today–a small number of unconnected ghettos or bantustans.

Palestine became “the occupied territory” from which Palestinians were ejected and Israeli settlements built for “settlers.” Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are full of refugee camps in which Palestinians driven off their lands by Israeli force have been living for decades.

Driving people off their land is strictly illegal under international law, but Israel has been getting away with it for decades.

Gaza is a concentration camp of 1.5 million Palestinians who were driven from their homes and villages and collected in the Gaza Ghetto.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency was created 60 years ago in
1949 to administer refugee camps for Palestinians driven from their lands by Israel. As of 2002, the registered Palestinian refugee population was 3.9 million.

Caterpillar Tractor makes a special bulldozer for Israel that is designed to knock down Palestinian homes and to uproot their orchards. In 2003 an American protester, Rachel Corrie, stood in front of one of these Caterpillars and was run over and crushed.

Nothing happened. The Israelis can kill whomever they want whenever they want.

They have been doing so for 60 years, and they show no sign of stopping.

Currently they are murdering women and children in the ghetto that they have created for Palestinians in Gaza. The entire world knows this. The Red Cross protests it. But the Israelis brazenly claim that they are killing “Hamas terrorists who are a threat to Israel’s existence.”

The American media knows that this is a lie, but does not say so.

Israel has been able to slowly exterminate a people for sixty years without provoking sufficient outrage to stop it.

The United States, “Christian America,” has been Israel’s greatest enabler in its long-term murder of the Palestinian people. Millions of “evangelical Christians” endorse Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

The rest of the world condemns the Israeli military attack on the Gaza Ghetto. Last week the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution requiring a ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Israeli SS from Gaza.

The United States abstained.

While the rest of the world condemns Israel’s inhumanity, the US Congress–I should say the US Knesset–rushed to endorse the Israeli slaughter of the Palestinians in Gaza.

The US Senate endorsed Israel’s massacre of Palestinians with a vote of 100-0.

The US House of Representatives voted 430-5 to endorse Israel’s massacre of Palestinians.

The resolutions endorsed by 100% of the US Senate and 99% of the House were written by AIPAC, as were the speeches praising Israel for its inhumanity.

The US Congress was proud to show that it is Israel’s puppet even when it comes to murdering women and children.

The President of the United States was proud to block effective action by the UN Security Council by ordering the Secretary of State to abstain.

Be a Proud American. Swagger and strut. Pretend that you are not besmirched by the shame that your government has heaped upon you. Take refuge in your ignorance, fostered by 60 years of Israeli lies, that the murder of Palestinians and the theft of their lands is “Israel’s right of self-defense.”

Israel’s partner in war crimes

January 12, 2009

American politicians aren’t reflecting the will of the American people, who aren’t nearly as pro-Israel as their political leaders.

WITH ISRAEL’S invasion into Gaza killing and injuring thousands, and turning the area into a humanitarian catastrophe, a tide of criticism and denunciation has risen against it around the world.

Columnist: Lance Selfa

Lance Selfa Lance Selfa is the author of The Democrats: A Critical History, a socialist analysis of the Democratic Party, and editor of The Struggle for Palestine, a collection of essays by leading solidarity activists. He is on the editorial board of the International Socialist Review.

But there are a few places where Israel won’t hear a peep of criticism–on the contrary, it gets words of encouragement and statements of solidarity. Among them are the halls of the U.S. Congress, the Oval Office of the White House, and the offices of the U.S. president-elect.

Compared even to the level of criticism of the government in Israel itself, the one-sidedness of the pro-Israel cheerleading among members of the U.S. political establishment is astounding. Even expressions of concern for the humanitarian crisis facing Gaza are remarkably few among U.S. politicians.

As the respected Middle East expert Juan Cole put it in his Informed Comment blog:

If the U.S. legislators voted on the Gaza operation, they would support Israel except for the same 10 who objected to the war on Lebanon (the 10 are mostly from congressional districts with a lot of Arab-Americans). Israel will suffer no practical sanctions from any government.

President-elect Obama has remained largely silent on Gaza, claiming that because “American has only one president at a time,” he cannot issue statements that might contradict the current lame duck government’s policies.

U.S.-Israel flag pin

But Obama is holding press conferences and giving YouTube addresses that are nothing if not critiques of the current administration’s policies on every other issue. And he was quick to rush out a denunciation of the terror attacks in Mumbai last month.

Behind this seeming reticence to comment on Gaza, we have good evidence that Israel has nothing to fear from an Obama administration.

Last January, Obama issued a letter to UN Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, urging him to oppose any resolution criticizing Israel’s siege of Gaza. “We have to understand why Israel is forced to do this,” the letter argued. “Israel has the right to respond while seeking to minimize any impact on civilians.”

During his campaign tour of the Middle East and Europe this summer, he visited Sderot, Israel, to express his support for Israelis targeted by rockets from Gaza. His comment at the time: “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that. I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.”

In other words, we should have little doubt about what Obama would say if he were regularly issuing statements on Gaza. Although the press forced him to issue a bland statement of concern for civilian casualties in both Gaza and Israel on January 6, he has preferred to remain mum.

Obama’s silence is similar to the Bush administration’s “disengagement” (to use the favored word of foreign policy wonks) from the Israel-Palestine conflict–an assurance that Israel can do whatever it wants without any interference from Washington.

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WHAT EXPLAINS the bipartisan lockstep march behind the Israel Defense Forces?

It certainly isn’t because American politicians are reflecting the will of the American people, who are not nearly as pro-Israel as their political leaders are. Writing for Salon.com, Glenn Greenwald pointed to evidence from a Rasmussen Reports poll that:

strongly bolsters the severe disconnect I documented the other day between (a) American public opinion on U.S. policy towards Israel and (b) the consensus views expressed by America’s political leadership.

Not only does Rasmussen find that Americans generally “are closely divided over whether the Jewish state should be taking military action against militants in the Gaza Strip” (44-41 percent, with 15 percent undecided), but Democratic voters overwhelmingly oppose the Israeli offensive–by a 24-point margin (31-55 percent). By stark contrast, Republicans, as one would expect (in light of their history of supporting virtually any proposed attack on Arabs and Muslims), overwhelmingly support the Israeli bombing campaign (62-27 percent).

The most popular explanation usually given for the American elite’s pro-Israel bias is that it fears the wrath of the “Israel lobby.”

There is a powerful network of Zionist organizations–led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)–that donates money to pro-Israel candidates and lobbies the U.S. government on behalf of Israel. There’s nothing anti-Semitic about pointing this out. These groups are quite open about their activities, and they aren’t shy about touting their own influence.

But are these organizations and their lobbying efforts the reason why the U.S. supports Israel?

From a socialist point of view, the answer is no. Israel annually receives more than $3 billion in U.S. aid. Egypt runs second at around $2 billion. Yet no one would seriously claim that the aid Egypt receives is the result of an “Egyptian lobby.”

It’s no coincidence that Israel and Egypt are the two top recipients of U.S. aid. Both are important U.S. allies in the region where the lion’s share of the world’s oil is located.

Since the end of the Second World War, the U.S. has tied its “national security” to its access to and control of the flow of oil. That’s why the U.S. has given military and economic aid to prop up “friendly” states in the region–not only Israel, but Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf monarchies, too.

The U.S. puts Israel at the top of the list because its government and population form the only uniformly pro-U.S. state in the region. In countries like Egypt, pro-Western governments rule over restive populations that hate the U.S. government’s support for Israel and for their own oppressive regimes. Even the quisling government of U.S.-occupied Iraq isn’t completely reliable.

In the 1990s, the Bush I and Clinton governments pursued various “peace” initiatives with Israel and the Palestinians–most of them aimed at getting Palestinians to accept their own “bantustans” (the term for the fake Black homelands in South Africa under apartheid) as a means to the end of stability for the U.S. and Israel in the region. Those efforts ran their course, and the Bush II regime, operating under the rubric of its “war on terror,” simply let the Israeli government run amok.

These shifts in U.S. policy had nothing to do with the strength of the Israel lobby. They stemmed from changes inside the U.S. government’s foreign policy establishment. The U.S. government decides how much leeway Israel has, and this leeway defines how successful the “Israel lobby” will be.

As long as Israel remains central to U.S. imperialism in the Middle East, Israel will continue to receive U.S. backing and aid. That’s why Israel’s ace in the hole in Washington isn’t AIPAC, but the Pentagon, the CIA and the military-industrial complex. And as long as the national security establishment remains committed to Israel, elected politicians will provide the political cover that justifies the billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars that Israel receives.

Few Speak Out for Palestinians in US Congress

January 11, 2009

by Susan Cornwall

WASHINGTON – Many voices around the world speak up for the Palestinians, but few in the U.S. Congress.

Lawmakers in Washington routinely pass nonbinding resolutions supporting Israel during Middle East crises. The Senate on Thursday backed Israel’s battle against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip and the House of Representatives followed on Friday.

Even U.S. lawmakers who express sympathy for the Palestinians hesitate to call themselves pro-Palestinian and they voice strong support for the security of Israel as well, hewing to decades of close U.S.-Israeli ties.

“When these events occur, there’s almost a knee-jerk reaction of Congress that endorses 1,000 percent what Israel is doing,” said Nick Rahall, a West Virginia Democrat and Lebanese-American who has voted against some of the measures and did so again on Friday.

“Israel is our ally. … It always has been, with which I perfectly agree. But I don’t believe in allowing that to blind us to what is in our best interests, or giving knee-jerk approval to anything Israel does. We don’t do that with any other ally,” he told Reuters.

Washington has been Israel’s closest ally since 1948, when President Harry Truman made the United States the first country to recognize the new Jewish state.

Harry Reid, who leads the Democratic majority in the Senate, gave voice to the depth of the relationship when he said on Thursday, “Our resolution reflects the will of the State of Israel and the will of the American people.”

The Senate measure offered “unwavering commitment” to Israel. It recognized “its right to act in self-defense to protect its citizens against acts of terrorism” and urged a ceasefire that would keep Hamas from firing rockets at Israel.

That closely tracked Republican President George W. Bush’s comments on the crisis, said Ric Stoll, professor of political science at Rice University, who questioned whether it helped U.S. diplomats trying to broker a ceasefire.

LANDSLIDE VOTES

“You don’t have to say Hamas are nice folks,” Stoll said. “(But) how do you convince supporters of the Palestinians to pressure Hamas to go for a ceasefire, if your statements look like you are tilting heavily towards Israel?”

The House on Friday passed a resolution “recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza” by 390-5. The measure noted that the humanitarian situation in Gaza “is becoming more acute” but did not rebuke Israel.

The House has passed similar measures in recent years by landslides.

In 2006, the House voted 410-8 to condemn Hamas and Hezbollah for “unprovoked and reprehensible armed attacks against Israel” and supported Israel’s incursion into Lebanon.

In 2004, the vote was 407-9 to support a statement by Bush that it was “unrealistic” to expect Israel to return completely to pre-1967 borders. In 2003, it was 399-5 to support Israel’s forceful response to Palestinian attacks as justified.

The few opponents of the measures often include lawmakers of Arab-American descent or from Arab-American communities, and mavericks such as Democrat Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Republican Ron Paul of Texas.

Kucinich, who sought the Democratic presidential nomination last year, charged that the United States was ignoring the current humanitarian crisis in Gaza while facilitating Israel’s actions with arms deals worth billions.

Washington “sniffs at the slaughter of innocents in Gaza,” he said. “U.S. tax dollars, U.S. jets and U.S. helicopters provided to Israel are enabling the slaughter in Gaza.”

James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, said the Israeli lobby is often seen as the force behind pro-Israel votes, but he thinks it is not that simple.

Some Americans “don’t have a clue” about the Palestinians’ history, he said.

Lawmakers also take foreign policy cues from the president, Zogby said, so some change could lie ahead with President-elect Barack Obama, who has said little about the crisis so far.

Editing by Eric Walsh

U.S., Iraqi Officials Question Terms of Draft Security Deal

October 18, 2008

At Issue: Legal Authority Over Troops

By Mary Beth Sheridan and Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writers, Saturday, October 18, 2008

BAGHDAD, Oct. 17 — A number of senior Iraqi and U.S. politicians expressed strong reservations Friday about the terms of a draft agreement that gives Iraq the “primary right” — subject to U.S. acquiescence — to try American soldiers accused of serious crimes committed during off-duty hours outside U.S. military bases here.

Some political leaders in Baghdad, who got their first look at the controversial agreement to extend the U.S. military presence in Iraq beyond 2008, said it did not go far enough in guaranteeing Iraqi sovereignty. The bilateral accord was presented Friday to the Political Council for National Security, an advisory body including political, legislative and judicial leaders, whose support is necessary before it can be submitted to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki‘s cabinet and then to parliament for final approval. After an initial review, the council said it would continue discussions next week.

In Washington, congressional Democrats questioned ceding any authority over U.S. troops to Iraq. “I am very concerned about reports that U.S. service personnel may not have full immunity under Iraqi law,” said Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the House Armed Services Committee chairman. The Bush administration allowed a small group of senior congressional aides to read the document at a White House briefing this morning but did not allow copies to be made.

A provision in the draft would give the United States “primary” jurisdiction over military personnel and Defense Department employees who are on bases or engaged in authorized military operations.

Iraq, it says, would have the “primary right to exercise judicial jurisdiction” over “premeditated and gross felonies . . . committed outside the agreed facilities and areas and when not on a mission.” Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Friday that any disagreement would be resolved by a joint committee. “If the crime is very grave or serious, the U.S. may waive its jurisdiction,” he said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters at a Pentagon briefing that “there is not a reason to be concerned.” He said top U.S. military officials “are all satisfied that our men and women in uniform serving in Iraq are well protected.” U.S. officials have emphasized that off-duty American troops in Iraq rarely, if ever, venture outside their bases, and said that they consider language in the document vague enough to ensure absolute U.S. control in all circumstances.

Administration officials also said they are confident that withdrawal dates in the document — June 30, 2009, for U.S. forces in Iraqi cities and Dec. 31, 2011, from all of Iraq — contain sufficient caveats to address any future downturn in the security situation. Before the final deadline, the draft says, “on the basis of Iraq’s assessment of conditions on the ground,” the Iraqi government could ask for U.S. troops to remain for “training purposes” or to “support Iraqi security forces.”

The accord also would prohibit U.S. forces from detaining any Iraqi citizen without an Iraqi warrant, and says any detainee would have to be handed over to government custody within 24 hours. All Iraqis in U.S. custody as of Jan. 1 — when the agreement would go into effect upon expiration of the current U.N. mandate authorizing foreign troops here — would have to be turned over to the Iraqi government. Home and property searches also would require an Iraqi warrant, except during certain combat situations.

U.S. and Iraqi officials confirmed the wording of the document, portions of which were widely circulated in both capitals Friday.

The sensitivity of the draft agreement, which has been under negotiation since March, was illustrated when Maliki lashed out at the top American commander here for saying that U.S. intelligence indicated Iran was trying to bribe Iraqi lawmakers to reject the pact.

“The American commander has risked his position when he spoke in this tone and has complicated relations in a deplorable way,” Maliki told a group of Kuwaiti journalists in an interview broadcast by Iraqi state television Friday. Maliki expressed astonishment at the remarks from U.S. Gen. Ray Odierno, whom he described as a “kind and good man.” Iraqi members of parliament, he said, had not accepted any bribes.

Maliki was reacting to a Monday article in The Washington Post in which Odierno said Iran was conducting a “full-court press” with its Iraqi contacts to sabotage the pact, including “coming in to pay off people to vote against it.” A U.S. military spokesman later said there was no confirmation that bribes had been accepted by lawmakers.

A number of Iraq’s leading political leaders spent years in exile in Iran during the presidency of Saddam Hussein and maintain warm relations with the Tehran government. Several expressed sharp offense at Odierno’s comments.

Jalal al-Deen al-Saghir, a top lawmaker from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Maliki’s main political partner, said in an interview that he saw “serious problems” in the proposed accord, “especially after Odierno’s statements.”

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Friday that there was a misunderstanding about Odierno’s comments. “I don’t think General Odierno was implying that there are crooked Iraqi politicians, but rather that there are Iranian agents who, in their attempt to derail the [agreement], are trying to bribe Iraqi politicians,” he said.

In Najaf, the religious capital of Iraq’s Shiite majority, a leading cleric blasted the idea of giving U.S. forces any immunity from Iraqi law. “We consider this a basic point because it represents sovereignty,” Sadir Addin al-Qobanchi said in a sermon at the city’s grand mosque. “If someone commits a hostile act against your house and family, and you say it is fine and don’t hold him responsible, it means that you don’t have dignity or sovereignty.”

U.S. military and political officials have expressed concern that the agreement may not make it through Iraq’s slow-moving political process by year’s end. An extension of the U.N. mandate, the most likely option if a final agreement is not reached, poses political and legal complications for both sides.

Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish lawmaker, said the agreement could gain the approval of the political council and the cabinet. But in parliament, supporters of the agreement “will face opposition,” he said. The accord, which must win a majority in the 275-seat parliament, is strongly supported by the Kurdish bloc, the second-biggest with 54 seats. Various Sunni and independent parties representing scores of seats have also indicated their approval.

But Othman said the backing of some politicians was not solid.

“They tell the Americans, ‘We are okay, we’ll sign it.’ Then they tell their people in parliament not to vote for it,” he said.

The U.S. Congress does not have similar veto power over the agreement, which requires only a presidential signature. But senior Democrats, and a number of Republicans, have questioned its terms. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) said in a statement Friday that complete American jurisdiction over U.S. service members was “critical” and that they could not be “subject to criminal prosecution in an Iraqi judicial system that does not meet due process standards.” Levin said he would “reserve judgment” on the draft until he was given an opportunity for a “complete review” of its terms.

DeYoung reported from Washington. Staff writer Ann Scott Tyson in Washington and special correspondent Qais Mizher in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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.

Militarism and a Uni-polar World

August 28, 2008


By Lenora Foerstel  | Global Research, August 27, 2008

The Trilateral Commission was founded in 1973 by David Rockefeller as an off-shoot of the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR). David Rockefeller was chairman of the CFR in 1970 and subsequently became the founding chairman of the Trilateral Commission. Soon the membership of the Commission had grown to 300 members, including prominent political figures like Zbigniew Brzezinski. Most members of the Trilateral Commission are bankers, media moguls, or corporate CEOs, primarily from North America, Europe and Japan, while all members of the CFR are U.S. Citizens.

The Commission seeks to extend its influence abroad and is careful to avoid the scrutiny of congressional investigations. The CFR on the other hand, focuses on the control of American media.

When American media discuss globalism, they rarely mention that the Trilateral Commission sets most global economic goals, primary among them being the creation of a one-world system of trade. It is basically a form of fascism in which global corporations and their elite CEOs determine the policies and direction of world governments. The creation of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank after World War II was intended to encourage Third World countries to borrow money from wealthy nations, so long as they agreed to the imposition of a wide range of “structural adjustment policies.” Any nation borrowing money from either organization would not be allowed to nationalize its natural resources and would be unable to prevent foreign corporations from buying or controlling those resources.

Shortly before World War II, Hjalmer Schacht, a German banker, toured the United States soliciting American corporate support for Hitler’s new fascist state. U.S. corporations not only agreed to support Germany against the socialist economic system of the Soviet Union, but also declared their opposition to the strong labor movement arising in the United States and Europe.

General Motors was prominent among the corporations that supported the Nazi government, investing $20 million in industries owned or controlled by Herman Goering and other Nazi officials. Other US multinational corporations that profited from and supported Hitler’s industrial war machine included General Electric, Standard Oil, Texaco, International Harvester, ITT and IBM. Today, Standard Oil of New York is unabashed in honoring its chemical cartel that manufactured Zyklon-B, the poison gas used by the Nazi gas chambers. (1)

Among the eminent business leaders backing these multinational corporations were the Rockefellers and Prescott Bush, father of George Bush and grandfather of George W. Bush. Prescott Bush worked with his father-in-law, George Herbert Walker, in the family firm Union Banking Corporation to raise $50 million for the Nazi government by selling German bonds to American investors from 1924 to 1930.

Even though the United States helped to defeat Nazi Germany in World War II, many of the powerful elite families continued to support Hitler’s fascist ideology after the war. John Rockefeller III was an uncritical believer in the doctrine of Thomas Robert Malthus, who claimed that population always increased at a geometric rate while food supply increased at the slower arithmetic rate. Malthus therefore concluded that population growth had to be rigidly controlled. Today, his theory is widely criticized for failing to take into account the vast technological advances in agriculture and food production.

Rockefeller also accepted Hitler’s concept of an Aryan race, leading him to propose population control on the poor and people of color, whom he believed were producing children of inferior intelligence. In an effort to support such views, the Rockefeller family became involved with Eugenics, a fascist doctrine that advocated breeding a superior race by eliminating the mentally ill, physically handicapped, and racially inferior.

Continued . . .

Christians United for Israel and Attacking Iran

August 19, 2008

Dedrick Muhammad and Farrah Hassen | Foreign Policy In Focus, August 18,

2008Though the national sentiment favors wrapping up the Iraq War, there exists a small but powerful movement for starting a new military conflict with Iran. The bipartisan drumbeats for aggression reverberate throughout the corridors of Congress. House Resolution 362 and Senate Resolution 580, for example, call on the United States to prevent Iran from “acquiring a nuclear weapons capability through all appropriate economic, political, and diplomatic means.”

Christians United
Photo by Dedrick Muhammad.

The House’s Iran resolution, sponsored by Representative Gary Ackerman (D-NY), demands the president impose “stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran.” This legislation effectively requires a blockade on Iran which is considered by international law as an act of war. The Senate’s Iran resolution, sponsored by Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN), would require a ban on “the importation of refined petroleum products to Iran.” Neither resolution offers evidence on Iran’s alleged pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Both neglect to mention any sanctions against the only country known to actually have developed nuclear weapons in the Middle East: Israel.

Evoking Orwellian 2+2=5 logic, both Congressmen have offered sanctions as the means to avoid war by applying economic pressure on Iran. Yet sanctions rarely achieve their intended objective. For instance, unilateral U.S. sanctions failed to topple the Cuban, Iraqi and Libyan governments. They punished (and in Cuba’s case, continue to punish) civilians instead.

Washington-Israel Summit

The “squeeze Iran” and “confront Iran” positions are strongly encouraged by the increasingly powerful Zionist Christian Fundamentalist community. About 5,000 people from across the United States attended the third annual Washington-Israel Summit, organized by Christians United for Israel (CUFI). There, the “Iranian threat” loomed as a pervasive theme.

“What do you do with a maniac like Ahmadinejad? I’m not sure diplomacy works,” Gary Bauer, President of American Values and a CUFI executive board member, told the crowd during the July 22 “Middle East Intelligence Briefing.” Another panelist, Representative Mike Pence (R-IN), urged the attendees to make their support for HR 362 known to their members of Congress.

We attended this “the Rapture” meets “Clash of Civilizations” session – on the only day open to the press. We listened to the never-ending chorus from Bauer, Pence, Representative Elliot Engel (D-NY), and The Weekly Standard editor William Kristol who kept telling the assembled crowd why Americans must fear “Islamo-fascists”/”Islamo-radicals”/”death worshippers,” and their other scary names for Muslims. Panels curiously closed to the press at the three-day conference included “Iran: Eye of the Storm,” “Radical Islam: In Their Own Words” and “How to Stop Funding the Enemy: Divestment, Sanctions and Boycotts.”

As Muslims, we attended the summit to learn more about CUFI. What we found was disturbing. Being well-received and courteously treated by the pleasant staff of a conference that talks of Muslims as “death worshippers” was a truly paradoxical experience. We also found it ironic that the organization’s acronym, CUFI, is pronounced like kufi, an Arabic word for the short, rounded prayer cap worn by devout Muslim men.

Continued . . .


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