BROOKINGS: IRAQ INDEX
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President Bush can bypass the U.S. Senate and appoint John Bolton U.N. ambassador while Congress is in recess or he can keep hammering away at a choice that is increasingly distasteful to both Democrats and Republicans.
Damaging information on the Bush administration's role keeps surfacing
BRITAIN'S VERSION OF THE PENTAGON PAPERS
At least 9 British secret memos have now surfaced. Several deal with the Bush administration's obsession with going to war with Iraq in spite of shaky or distorted intelligence. In one memo, Britain's foreign secretary, Jack Straw, warns Tony Blair that a major problem with the administration's logic is that both Iran and North Korea present more serious threats to international security. In that case, why declare a needless war against Iraq? Blair is repeatedly warned that the Bush administration is putting both Blair and the British government at risk. Michael Smith, the British journalist who published most of the memos, fielded questions last week on the Washington Post's website. (Michael Smith, Washington Post.com, June 16, 2005)
ALL 9 MEMOS ARE NOW AVAILABLE AT THE PROJECT ON DEFENSE ALTERNATIVES WEBSITE (scroll down left column)
Also check out AfterDowningStreet.org
David Manning's memo preparing Tony Blair for a visit to the U.S.
David Manning: “I had dinner with Condi on Tuesday…we spent a long time on Iraq…Condi’s enthusiasm for regime change is undimmed, but there were some signs since we last spoke of greater awareness of the practical difficulties and political risks…” (David Manning, 14 March 2002)
Foreign Minister Jack Straw to Tony Blair: “The rewards from your visit to Crawford, Texas, will be few. The risks for both you and the Government will be high…”
Attorney General Lord Goldsmith to Tony Blair on the war's questinable legality:
“…I am aware that the USA has been arguing for recognition of a broad doctrine of a right to use force to pre-empt danger in the future. If this means more than a right to respond proportionately to an imminent attack (and I understand that the doctrine is intended to carry that connotation) this is not a doctrine which, in my opinion, exists or is recognised in international law….”
TOM ENGELHARDT AND MARK DANNER IN TOMDISPATCH.COM ON WHY THE MEMOS MATTER
Tom Engelhardt notes: As of late last week, four of our five major papers (the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and USA Today) hadn't even commented on them (the memos) in their editorial pages. In my hometown paper, the New York Times, complete lack of interest was followed last Monday by a page 11 David Sanger piece (Prewar British Memo Says War Decision Wasn't Made) that focused on the second of the Downing Street memos, a briefing paper for Tony Blair's "inner circle," and began: "A memorandum written by Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet office in late July 2002 explicitly states that the Bush administration had made ‘no political decisions' to invade Iraq, but that American military planning for the possibility was advanced."
Mark Danner notes:"Many in Congress, including many leading Democrats who voted to give the President the authority to go to war -- fearing the political consequences of opposing him -- and thus welcomed his soothing arguments that such a vote would enable him to avoid war rather than to undertake it, now find themselves in an especially difficult position, claiming, as Senator John Kerry did during the presidential campaign, that they were "misled" into supporting a war that they believed they were voting to help prevent. This argument is embarrassingly thin but it remains morally incriminating enough to go on confusing and corrupting a nascent public debate on Iraq that is sure to become more difficult and painful..." Mark Danner and Tom Engelhardt in TomDispatch.com, June 20, 2005)
BOLTON IN LIMBO
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist announced Tuesday that he would not schedule another vote on John R. Bolton's nomination as U.N. ambassador. An hour later, after a frantic chat with the president, Frist reversed himself. Bolton's rejection would constitute a major defeat both for the administration and for Senate majority-leader Bill Frist, and it might be the first herald of George W. Bush's inevitable slide to lame duck status. It's not hard to see why the president is reluctant to back down, but if Bolton is so hard for Democrats and Republicans to swallow, what kind of effectiveness is he likely to have as U.N. ambassador? (David Paul Kuhn analyzes the choices in Salon, June 21, 2005)
PRIVATIZING THE WAR IN IRAQ
Frontline's latest documentary on Iraq is worth watching simply for the picture it provides of what it is like to drive down the street in Baghdad these days. "We don't call it the Green Zone anymore," intones a U.S. officer,"because green implies that it is safe." The documentary, entitled "Private Warriors," is viewable on-line, and deals with the Pentagon's runaway use of private security firms. Roughly ten times as many mercenaries, a.k.a. contract private soldiers have been hired for the current war in iraq as were for Desert Storm, and the enormous salaries, which can run anywhere from $400 to $1,000 a day, are gobbling up a sizeable chunk of the money appropriated by Congress for Iraqi reconstruction. The casualties are also mounting. If one counts deaths of private security contractors along with the military, the total death doll for Iraq is now more than 2,000 killed. Besides gripping video imagery of Iraq, Frontline also provides fascinating background interviews and information on the current situationl. (PBS Frontline, June 21, 2005)
RUMSFELD: WE ARE WINNING THE WAR IN IRAQ
"Any who say that we've lost this war, or that we're losing this war are wrong. We are not,"Donald Rusmfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee, Thursday. Rumsfeld's optimistic assessment was tempered by the top U.S. Gulf commander, General John Abizaid, who reported that the number of foreign fighters volunteering to fight U.S. troops in Iraq is now higher than it was six months ago. "I would say there is a clear node inside Syria which facilitates it. Whether or not the Syrian government is facilitating it or ignoring it is probably a debatable question, but the key node is Damascus," Abizaid said. (BBC, June 23, 2005)
--Washington Post:Concerns over premature U.S. withdrawal
THE COMING WORLD REALIGNMENT
Neocon dreams of presenting the United States as go-it-alone worldwide empire were bound to flounder as soon as the public realized the pricetag. But the Bush administration’s failures in Iraq have now had the added disadvantage of alerting the rest of the world to U.S. vulnerabilities. As Michael Weintein and Yevgeny Bendersky point out in Power and Interest News Report, “The difficulties encountered in the occupation of Iraq have simply hastened the awareness of competing power centers that Washington could be opposed effectively without incurring unacceptable costs. “(Michael Weinstein, Yevgeny Bendersky, Power and Interest News Review, June 20, 2005)
TIM JUDAH ON SERBIA’S DIFFICULTIES IN COMING TO TERMS WITH ITS PAST
"The truth has been smashed in our faces, painfully and mercilessly." So thundered Serbia's venerable newspaper Politika on June 4. It was three days after Serbian television had broadcast a film of Serbs executing six young Muslims after the fall of the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995. "The Serbian public is aghast, because it has finally seen that someone…actually committed bestialities in uniform and with Serbian insignia." (Tim Judah, Crimes of War.org, June 17, 2005)
BLOGGING IN CHINA
"Democracy", "Human Rights," and "Liberty" are forbidden words on Microsoft's new internet service for China. ( Mark Magnier and Joseph Menn, The Los Angeles Times, June 17x, 2005)
PRESIDENT BUSH TO GO TO VIETNAM
After a meeting in the Rose Garden with prime minister Phan Van Khai, President Bush confirmed that he plans to visit Hanoi next year. Vietnam is counting on U. S. support to join the World Trade Organization. (White House, June 21, 2005)
OIL STABILITY: UNCERTAINTY AND RISING DEMAND
The Center for Strategic and International Studies' Anthony Cordesman notes in a 57 page report: “Experts believe that, in the near future, energy supply and transportation routes may be challenged by transnational terrorism and proliferation. Moreover, the surge in demand for oil, the US refining capacity bottleneck, and the limited spare capacity will continue to test the energy market in the mid to long-term... Given the strategic risks faced by oil producing nations, oil reserves have become a political tool. Some producers have inflated their “proven” reserves to project strategic importance, which has added to the uncertainty and the lack of transparency. (Anthony Cordesman, Center for Strategic and International Studies, June 15, 2005)
CONDOLEEZA RICE LECTURES THE MIDDLE EAST ON DEMOCRACY
"For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East, and we achieved neither," Rice said."Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people."But Rice's message drew a less than enthusiastic reception in Egypt. Her speech produced no major applause, merely a polite ovation at the end. The biggest hand was reserved for audience members who questioned her on alleged war crimes against the Palestinians and abuses of the Koran. (Beirut Daily Star, June 21, 2005)
--Press Conference with Saudi foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal
Defying expectations, Iran’s conservative but pragmatic former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani—who has called for improved relations with America—is to face a religious hardliner, not a reformist, in the second round of the country’s closely fought presidential election. Reformists are crying foul. (The Economist, June 20, 2005)
IRAQ'S JUSTICE MINISTER ACCUSES U.S. OF HIDING SADDAM'S SECRETS
What went on before Washington soured on Saddam? Iraq's current justice minister wants open access to Saddam in order to proceed with a speedy trial. The U.S. wants to proceed with caution. (BBC, June 21, 2005)
A NEW HAMAS?
Will Hamas and Sharon sit at the same negotiating table in the near future? ... In a series of historic decisions over the past few months, Hamas has decided to run for Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections in the West Bank and Gaza, put on hold all militant operations along with other Palestinian factions, and consider seriously joining the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).…. The Israeli government appears deeply worried that Hamas is repositioning itself in a political mode and will have an influential say in the future structure of the Palestinian Authority. (CEIP, Arab Reform Bulletin, June 2005)
GAZA ZOO LOOKS FOR NEW HOMES FOR ITS ANIMALS PRIOR TO WITHDRAWAL
Most settlers in Gaza have refused to even talk about pulling out for fear of weakening their resistance. Not David Amihai, the local zoo director, who says he is determined not to leave even a louse behind. Amihai is busy finding homes for soon-to-be displaced animals, the surest sign yet that the end is near. (Yair Ettigner, Ha'aretz, June 21, 2005)
A EUROPE-WIDE INTELLIGENCE SERVICE?
The Balkan and Persian Gulf crises have been sufficiently traumatic to convey the message that if the European Union is serious about achieving the objective of a common foreign, security, and defense policy, the requirement for a common European Union intelligence policy is critical. The main tasks of this intelligence structure would be gathering information from the E.U. states' intelligence services and analyzing it independently. This analysis would allow the intelligence organization to advise the Commission and the Council on foreign relations and security issues for prospective conflicts. (John M. Nomikos, PINR, June 17, 2005)
CONGRESS BEGINS TO THINK ABOUT WITHDRAWAL FROM IRAQ
Republican Congressman Walter B. Jones (famed for insisting that the Congressional cafeteria re-label French fries as "freedom fries" on its menu), a man who represents North Carolina's 3rd Congressional District, home to the Marine's Camp LeJeune, voted enthusiastically for the Iraq War, but recently changed his mind. Last week, he became one of four congressional sponsors of a resolution calling for a timetable for withdrawal. "Do we want to be there 20 years, 30 years?" he said at a Capitol Hill news conference. "That's why this resolution is so important: We need to take a fresh look at where we are and where we're going." (Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch.com, June 21, 2005)
COLOMBIA'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
President Álvaro Uribe's quest for re-election in 2006 by amending the constitution so a sitting president can run is a risky endeavor... In the face of unabated armed conflict with two insurgent groups, pending demobilization of thousands of paramilitary fighters, and a flourishing narcotics industry, Colombia must sustain its military and police defenses beyond the forthcoming election. It must also consolidate the rule of law by ending impunity and make strong headway in rural development and in protecting especially vulnerable groups in order to engage the insurgents on political grounds. (ICG, June 16, 2005)
CALLING THE SHOTS ON GLOBAL WARMING
Former oil industry lobbyist Philip A. Cooney was assigned by the Bush administration to head the President's Environmental Policy Council. In the process, Cooney, who has zero scientific training, revised a number of scientific papers on global warming. After information about his activities leaked out in a New York Times report, Cooney graciously stepped down. Having lost his cushy post in the administration, he has now been hired by Exxon, which refuses to discuss his new assignment. (Andrew Revken, The New York Times, June 15, 2005)
--Cooney: editing the scientific evidence
WHY THE MEDIA MISSED THE CLIMATE CHANGE STORY
Ross Gelbspan, Chriss Mooney and Will Durst explore the media's failure to come to grips with global warming and what they see as the Republican Party's assault on scientific knowledge. (Downloadable MP3 audio files or streaming audio).
-Exxon Secrets.org charts the relationship between lobbyists, the oil companies and climate change lobbyists
Former White House Counsel, John W. Dean notes in FindLaw.com that "As the debate goes forward on President Bush's judicial nominees, it would enlighten all if those who charge judicial activism, would tells us exactly what kind of activity they are talking about. Keenan Kmiec has provided a very workable catalogue of the types of activities that can fall under this term, as it has been used over the years. Judicial activism shouldn't just be code for "judges behaving badly." Those who throw the term around, need to explain what they mean - and confine their claims to plausible ones. Until they do, to paraphrase Justice Scalia, they are talking fluff. (John W. Dean, FindLaw.com, June 17, 2005)
The Republican right's assault on Public Television and NPR targets more than a few supposedly liberal commentators. Children's education and the last remnants of intelligent discourse and culture in the waste land of television are also on the block.
THE POLITICIZATION OF PBS
Molly Ivins, writing in the Hollister Freelance, notes: "I have listened patiently to years of right-wing bull about liberal bias in the media, but let us be perfectly clear about what is happening at PBS. Big Bird is not in favor of affirmative action. Bert and Ernie are not gay. Miss Piggy is not a feminist. “The Three Tenors,” “Antiques Roadshow,” “Masterpiece Theater,” “Wall Street Week” and nature programs do not have a political agenda. “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” is biased in favor of boring, old, white guys who appear on painfully well-balanced panels. “Washington Week in Review” is a showcase for “Inside the Beltway,” conventional wisdom, power-parroting, political-geekhead, Establishment journalism - there is nothing liberal about it.
But there is a plot to politicize public broadcasting. It is plain as a pikestaff, and it is coming from the Right. It is obvious, undeniable and happening right now. The Bush administration is introducing a political agenda to public broadcasting. They are using the lame pretext that PBS is somehow liberal to justify it into a propaganda organ for the government.
(Molly Ivins, The Hollister Freelance, June 21, 2005)
IS PUBLIC BROADCASTING'S REAL PROBLEM THAT IT IS TOO BALANCED, OR THAT BALANCE IS NO LONGER IN FASHION?
" Of course, there's always the possibility-remote, I grant," argues Counterpunch's David Lindorff,"that if PBS and NPR were yanked off the government teat, and forced to go to their viewers and listeners for all their operating budget needs, they might actually listen to what their dwindling audience base has been saying: that they have lost their way and need to be edgier in their cultural programming-maybe bringing back indy documentaries and maybe covering the news from something other than a white male perspective. Maybe NPR would stop acting like a long-winded version of the commercial news stations." (David Lindorff, Counterpunch.org, June 21, 2005-N.B. PBS' audience base has been growing substantially, rather than dwindling)
THE NEWSHOUR COVERS THE STORY
(Newshour, June 21, 2005)
THE ENEMY WITHIN: SPYING ON BILL MOYERS
The New York Times reports: A researcher retained secretly by the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, to monitor the "Now" program with Bill Moyers for political objectivity last year, worked for 20 years at a journalism center founded by the American Conservative Union and a conservative columnist, an official at the journalism center said on Monday.
The decision by the chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, to retain the researcher, Fred Mann, without the knowledge of the corporation's board, to report on the political leanings of the guests of "Now" is one of several issues under investigation by the corporation's inspector general.(Stephen Labaton, New York Times, June 21, 2005)
EVANGELISM ON THE POTOMAC
The New Yorker's brilliant profile of Patrick Henry College, a feeder institution, providing an evangelical Christian Right political cadre for the Republican administration, makes for fascinating reading. Although the New Yorker piece restricts itself to Patrick Henry College and the political aspirations of its students, it is difficult for the casual observer not to see certain similarities between the growing phenomenon in Washington and the Khomeini-driven fundamentalist theocratic revolution in Iran. Both the Iranian and American movements are obsessed with sex in a way that seems trivial to nearly everyone else. Boys caution girls not to "tempt" them with provocative clothing and are careful to practice sexual segregation. No boys in the girls' social area, and women need to know their place. There is no hesitation in either camp of appropriating the name of God to support an eccentric political agenda that masquerades as conservatism, but is, in fact, reactionary. It is hard not to think of the last plaintive words of the late Shah of Iran when he warned,"These people want to turn back the clock to the 13th century." Well, maybe not the 13th, but how about the 17th? Hanna Rosin does not raise the comparison to Islamic fundamentalism or for that matter to any other religions in her New Yorker piece, but she does raise some interesting points about the Republican Party's current drift towards producing a theocratic state that merit attention. (Read Hanna Rosin in The New Yorker, June 21, 2005) (click here)
-House Republicans block plan to insure religious tolerance at U.S. Air Force Academy(The Forward, June 3, 2005)
Force Fed Evenagelism? (St. Petersburg Tribune, May 29, 2005)
PENTAGON DETERMINES NO UNDUE RELIGIOUS PRESSURE AT ACADEMY (Boston Globe, June 23, 2005)
SENATOR DURBIN APPOLOGIZES
Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) was reduced nearly to tears on the floor of the Senate after a week-long Republican onslaught following his remarks that reports of interrogation techniques at Guantanamo are beginning to sound like accounts of Nazi, Soviet and Khmer Rouge interrogations. Durbin's exact words were: "If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings," Durbin said. "Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners." Durbin's statement sounded straight forward enough (The FBI accounts are readable online). The FBI agents who visited Guantanamo were repulsed and horrified at what they saw there and it is not hard to understand why the White House still rejects an independent investigation which would put the matter at rest. Nevertheless, an orchestrated campaign against Durbin convinced the senator that these are not things that one can say on the floor of the Senate today. Durbin's real concern appeared to be a fear that he might cause harm to U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, which is something that neither Democrats or Republicans want to see happen. The FBI reports, in fact, attribute some of the most egregious actions to Department of Defense civilians hired by the Pentagon. It is a fact of life that history is hard to ignore or to wish away. In the eyes of much of the rest of the world, the damage at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib was already a given long before Senator Durbin tried to alert the Senate to the obvious. What has happened has much more to do with the leadership provided to the military than it does with the G.I.s themselves. In the reality distortion field that seems to have settled over the Beltway, speaking thre truth is obviously going to be painful to the powers that be, but as Edmond Burke remarked to Britain's parliament in the days leading up to the American Revolution, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Senator Durbin is a good man. We have been there before.