Tucked deep into a recent proposal from the Bush administration is a provision that has received almost no public attention, yet in many ways captures one of President Bush’s defining legacies: an affirmation that the United States is still at war with Al Qaeda.
Seven years after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Bush’s advisers assert that many Americans may have forgotten that. So they want Congress to say so and “acknowledge again and explicitly that this nation remains engaged in an armed conflict with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated organizations, who have already proclaimed themselves at war with us and who are dedicated to the slaughter of Americans.”
The language, part of a proposal for hearing legal appeals from detainees at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, goes beyond political symbolism. Echoing a measure that Congress passed just days after the Sept. 11 attacks, it carries significant legal and public policy implications for Mr. Bush, and potentially his successor, to claim the imprimatur of Congress to use the tools of war, including detention, interrogation and surveillance, against the enemy, legal and political analysts say.
John McCain was aiming to make history with his pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and historians say he succeeded.
Presidential scholars say she appears to be the least experienced, least credentialed person to join a major-party ticket in the modern era.
So unconventional was McCain’s choice that it left students of the presidency literally “stunned,” in the words of Joel Goldstein, a St. Louis University law professor and scholar of the vice presidency. “Being governor of a small state for less than two years is not consistent with the normal criteria for determining who’s of presidential caliber,” said Goldstein.
Since yesterday’s shocking arrival of Gov. Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate there has been the usual cable news and print blathering about the pick from those who know little about her. But what about the journalists close to home — in Alaska — who know her best and have followed her career for years?
For the past 24 hours, the pages and web sites of the two leading papers up there have raised all sorts of issues surrounding Palin, from her ethics problems to general lack of readiness for this big step up. Right now the top story on the Anchorage Daily News web site looks at new info in what it calls “troopergate” and opens: “Alaska’s former commissioner of public safety says Gov. Sarah Palin, John McCain’s pick to be vice president, personally talked him on two occasions about a state trooper who was locked in a bitter custody battle with the governor’s sister.
A pro-Israel organization argued Wednesday that a majority of Americans would support military action against Iran under certain circumstances, in a rare concurrence of message between some Democrats and Republicans at the Democratic National Convention.
Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and Republican pollster Frank Luntz joined under the banner of the Israel Project to release data from a poll of voters in the United States, Great Britain, and Germany. They aimed to make the case that a U.S. consensus exists on Iran’s regime and the need for tough measures to combat it.
The Israel Project officials say the group is pushing for a diplomatic approach to dealing with Iran. But they prominently presented data portraying that a majority of Americans could eventually get behind an Israeli or U.S. strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.
A senior military commander warned on Saturday that any attack on Iran would start a new world war, as Tehran pressed on with its controversial nuclear drive despite the risk of further UN sanctions.
“Any aggression against Iran will start a world war,” deputy chief of staff for defence publicity, Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, said in a statement carried by the state news agency IRNA.
Barring a doomsday scenario, Israel may be forced to concede to Washington at least some of its freedom to make independent decisions aimed at militarily neutralizing or even delaying the Iranian nuclear threat. In the near future, Israel is far less likely to receive American backing and support for an attack on Iran, as it might have just a few months ago.
In short, Israel and the United States may be falling out of sync regarding Iran.
In recent days we were informed that the United States had agreed to deploy an American-manned, high-power early-warning system in the Negev. By linking up to a sophisticated American radar and satellite system, Israel would increase its early-warning time against missiles launched from Iran by crucial minutes and could intercept them at a greater distance from home. The catch is that an American green light is now required before Israel can launch a preemptive attack against Iran.
In parallel, the United States reportedly refused to sell Israel sophisticated new aerial refueling tankers — the kind that could be used to extend the flight time and range of F-15s attacking Iran. Additional reports indicate that recent visits to Israel by high-level American military officers were dedicated to informing Jerusalem that the United States would not give its aircraft access to Iraqi airspace on their way to and from Iran, and to warning Israel not to preemptively attack Iran without first consulting Washington.
In the first major oil deal Iraq has made with a foreign country since 2003, the Iraqi government and the China National Petroleum Corporation have signed a contract in Beijing that could be worth up to $3 billion, Iraqi officials said Thursday.
Under the new contract, which must still be approved by Iraq’s cabinet, the Chinese company will provide technical advisers, oil workers and equipment to help develop the Ahdab oil field southeast of Baghdad, according to Assim Jihad, a spokesman for Iraq’s Oil Ministry. If the deal is approved, work could begin on the oil field within a few months, Mr. Jihad said.
He said that Iraq had agreed to provide security for Chinese workers and that the Chinese company would also bring its own security team.
The American commander of the NATO force in Afghanistan, Gen. David D. McKiernan, expressed regret on Friday at the loss of civilian life in the airstrikes last week in western Afghanistan. He offered to conduct a joint investigation with the Afghan government and the United Nations to resolve broad discrepancies in accounts of what had happened.
The general said he did not agree with the United Nations and Afghan government reports that as many as 90 civilians had been killed in the bombardment. But he raised the military’s tally of all those killed, including militants, to up to 40, in an interview at his Kabul headquarters.
His overall estimate was slightly higher than that of an official Pentagon review released this week, which repeats the military’s earlier assessment that 5 civilians and 25 militants were killed in the raid on the night of Aug. 21 and into the early morning of Aug. 22. But General McKiernan also contended that only 5 civilians had been killed.
Many sober analysts of the war in Afghanistan expected a military offensive by the Taliban in the early months of 2008. They also suspected that Taliban paramilitaries would avoid major confrontations with foreign forces, out of awareness of the overwhelming firepower that these could launch even on quite small groups. They expected instead an extension of the use of small raids, improvised roadside-bombs and suicide-attacks.
In the event these tactics have indeed been widely used. But the increased level of Taliban activity has been expressed in many other ways as well. They have included a closely coordinated assault on a prison in Kandahar that released hundreds of Taliban detainees; an attack on the Serena international hotel in the heart of Kabul on 14 January; the bombing of the Indian embassy there on 7 July; and a major increase in attacks on transport links (see “The global economic war”, 14 August 2008).
This widening of targets is serious enough for American, British and other military commanders. What has really surprised them, however, has been the ability of Taliban and other militias to engage in significant conventional military attacks. One of these, on 13 July, killed nine United States troops in a newly established but isolated base in Kunar province; another, on 19 August, killed ten French soldiers in Sar0bi (Surobi) district, only fifty kilometres east of Kabul. The deteriorating situation in Afghanistan had even before these assaults been reflected in the redeployment of a full aircraft-carrier battle-group led by the USS Abraham Lincoln to the Indian Ocean to bring its planes within range of southern Afghanistan.