The next president should open up the Bush Administration’s record

In 2005, then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey told colleagues at the Justice Department that they would be “ashamed” when a legal memorandum on forceful interrogation of prisoners eventually became public. In fact, however, disclosure of such secret Bush Administration documents may be the only way to begin to overcome the palpable shame that is already felt by many Americans at the thought that their government has engaged in abusive interrogations, secret renditions or unchecked surveillance.

The next President will have the authority to declassify and disclose any and all records that reflect the activities of executive branch agencies. Although internal White House records that document the activities of the outgoing President and his personal advisers will be exempt from disclosure for a dozen years or so, every Bush Administration decision that was actually translated into policy will have left a documentary trail in one or more of the agencies, and all such records could be disclosed at the discretion of the next President.

“Something is happening” — Obama’s movement for change

Profound transformative change, like that ushered in by the New Deal or created by the vision of the New Frontier/Great Society, can only come about because of the powerful demands of mass social movements that both pressure for change and create the conditions for its realization. When Barack Obama says, “We have been waiting for so long for the time when we could finally expect more from our politics, when we could give more of ourselves and feel truly invested in something bigger than a candidate or cause. This is it: We are the ones we’ve been waiting for, we are the ones that we seek” – he is both empowering his supporters, and challenging them to become the instruments of radical transformation. And it has worked, at least so far.

Obama wins Maine, giving him 4 victories in weekend
Senator Barack Obama defeated Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Maine caucuses on Sunday, giving him his fourth victory this weekend as he headed into three more state contests on Tuesday.

Milton Viorst on Israel’s tragic predicament

In opening his stunning memoir, “Dark Hope: Working for Peace in Israel and Palestine,” David Shulman declares: “I am an Israeli. I live in Jerusalem. I have a story, not yet finished, to tell.” It is a very sad story, of a society gone astray with power, and of decent Israelis in despair over the failure of their efforts to save it from itself. The story, as Shulman says, is not yet over, but he asks whether its end is not already determined. Is tragedy inevitable? Can Israel right its course to achieve its once glowing promise as a refuge and as a nation?

Shulman’s memoir is not unique in raising these questions. Two recent books share his foreboding: “Lords of the Land: The War Over Israel’s Settlements in the Occupied Territories, 1967-2007,” a careful work of scholarship by Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar, and “Toward an Open Tomb: The Crisis of Israeli Society,” a stinging essay by Michel Warschawski. Shulman and Zertal are college professors, Eldar is a journalist, Warschawski is a peace activist. All are Israeli Jews. Whatever the stylistic differences of their books, they are equally unforgiving of Israel for placing its future in stark jeopardy.

The Gaza Strip blockade could seriously harm Israel’s economy
In 2006, for example, total Israeli exports to the 60 million or so residents of France stood at slightly more than $1 billion. Israeli exports to the same amount of people in Italy stood at just below $1 billion. Very fine statistics. But total exports to both of these countries, which rank among the eight richest countries in the world, are equal to Israel’s exports to the 3.5 million people of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. This is more than 6 percent of all Israeli exports, excluding diamonds. Despite all the intifadas, the Palestinian Authority is the second biggest customer of Israeli exports, after the United States.

Iraq’s tidal wave of misery

A tidal wave of misery is engulfing Iraq — and it isn’t the usual violence that Americans are accustomed to hearing about and tuning out. To be sure, it’s rooted in that violence, but this tsunami of misery is social and economic in nature. It dislodges people from their jobs, sweeps them from their homes, tears them from their material possessions, and carries them off from families and communities. It leaves them stranded in hostile towns or foreign countries, with no anchor to resist the moment when the next wave of displacement sweeps over them.

The victims of this human tsunami are called refugees if they wash ashore outside the country or IDPs (“internally displaced persons”) if their landing place is within Iraq’s borders. Either way, they are normally left with no permanent housing, no reliable livelihood, no community support, and no government aid. All the normal social props that support human lives are removed, replaced with…nothing.

Standoff in an Iraqi province

A potential security crisis loomed Saturday in troubled Diyala province as significant numbers of a U.S.-funded force of Sunni fighters left their posts, demanding the ouster of the provincial police chief.

“You can imagine what danger will face the region in the next days,” said Abu Talib, commander of 2,000 to 3,000 so-called Sons of Iraq fighters. His men, many of them former insurgents, turned against the militant group Al Qaeda in Iraq last year under the Awakening banner.

Memo blasts State Dept. Iraq effort
In a confidential memo, a long-time Republican operative who has served in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad for the past year says the State Department’s efforts in Iraq are so poorly managed they “would be considered willfully negligent if not criminal” if done in the private sector.

‘An intolerable fraud’

An envelope arrived in our office the other day. It had the bulky, tawdry look of junk mail: pink and lavender Easter eggs, a plastic address window and a photo of a young man in fatigue shorts using crutches to stand on his only leg. “Thousands of severely wounded troops are suffering,” it read. “Will you help them this Easter?”

It was a plea for money from the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, one of the worst private charities — but hardly the only — that have been shamefully milking easy cash from the suffering and heartache caused by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

U.S. loses prison camp records of bin Laden’s driver
The U.S. military has lost a year’s worth of records describing the Guantanamo interrogation and confinement of Osama bin Laden’s driver, a prosecutor said at the Yemeni captive’s war court hearing on Thursday.

Lawyers for the driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, asked for the records to support their argument that prolonged isolation and harassment at the Guantanamo prison have mentally impaired him and compromised his ability to aid in his defense on war crimes charges.

“All known records have been produced with the exception of the 2002 Gitmo records,” one of the prosecutors, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Stone, told the court. “They can’t find it.”

Truth or terrorism? The real story behind five years of high alerts
The Bush administration has never shied from playing the fear card to distract the American public from scandal or goad them into supporting a deeply flawed foreign policy. Here a history of the administration’s most-dubious terror alerts — including three consecutive Memorial Day scare-a-thons — all of which proved far less terrifying than the screamer headlines they inspired.

Saudi royal Prince Bandar Bin Sultan’s assets frozen
Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, the former Saudi Arabian ambassador to America, has been hit by a court order in effect freezing some of his US assets, as part of a class-action lawsuit over bribery allegations at British defence giant BAE Systems.

Don’t believe myths about sharia law

The women had no doubt. Educated, young, articulate, they had one aim: to turn their country into a real Islamic state, run according to their interpretation of Islamic law, the shariat. Only then, they said, would they be protected from the chaos and violence of the modern world. Only then would there be an end to corruption and misgovernment. Only then would the country assume its true place as a Muslim nation.

The women were speaking in Rawalpindi, the crowded northern Pakistani city. All members of an Islamist party, they believed that the current system in Pakistan, where a secular legal system co-exists uncomfortably with a religious one, was doomed to failure. The coming of shariat was, they told me, inevitable.

Sharia sensibilities

The blizzard of controversy that has attended the Archbishop of Canterbury’s remarks about the “inevitability” of parts of Islamic law being introduced in Britain has thrown a rare spotlight on this country’s existing sharia councils.

The erroneous caricature of sharia as synonymous with stoning or flogging is a million miles from the reality in Britain. The councils’ judgments have no statutory basis in law, with participants abiding by rulings voluntarily, and the vast majority of cases concern relatively unremarkable divorce applications.

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