Judge orders five detainees freed from Guantánamo

In the first hearing on the government’s justification for holding detainees at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, a federal judge ruled Thursday that five Algerian men were held unlawfully for nearly seven years and ordered their release.

The judge, Richard J. Leon of Federal District Court in Washington, also ruled that a sixth Algerian man was being lawfully detained because he had provided support to the terrorist group Al Qaeda.

The case was an important test of the Bush administration’s detention policies, which critics have long argued swept up innocent men and low-level foot soldiers along with high-level and hardened terrorists. [continued…]

Al Qaeda coldly acknowledges Obama victory

In a propaganda salvo by Al Qaeda aimed at undercutting the enthusiasm of Muslims worldwide about the American election, Osama bin Laden’s top deputy condemned President-elect Barack Obama as a “house Negro” who would continue a campaign against Islam that Al Qaeda’s leaders said was begun by President Bush.

Appealing to the “weak and oppressed” around the world, the Qaeda deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, said in a video released Wednesday that the “new face” of America only masked a “heart full of hate.”

For years, the terrorist network sought to fuel anti-Americanism with prolific audio and video recordings vilifying President Bush as the leading American “crusader” against Muslim nations. The election of Mr. Obama, a black man who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia and whose father was from a Muslim family, has muddied Al Qaeda’s message. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — So, the big story is that Ayman al-Zawahiri insulted Obama by calling him a “house negro.”

The best retort to that I’ve come across was from Mary Mitchell: “Obama isn’t going to the White House to serve the man. He is the man.”

But as everyone has glommed on to the race element in the al Qaeda missive, there’s another part that seemed to get missed: Zawahiri played the Muslim card straight down the GOP line.

He said of Obama:

    You were born to a Muslim father, but you chose to stand in the ranks of the enemies of the Muslims, and pray the prayer of the Jews, although you claim to be Christian, in order to climb the rungs of leadership in America.

Just as some scare-mongering Obama critics suggested, al Qaeda appears to be casting Obama as an apostate.

Hillary Clinton justifiably got jumped on when she said Obama was not a Muslim “as far as I know.” Zawahiri seems to be using an even more thinly-veiled insinuation when he says “you claim to be a Christian.” Likewise, Zawahiri compares Obama with Malcolm X not just to make an unfavorable contrast between one black leader and another but to imply that one was being a true Muslim and the other not. In other words, that Obama has betrayed both his race and his faith.

My guess is that Adam Pearlman had a hand in drafting this message, not simply because of the English subtitles but because in part it seems to have been aimed at those white Americans who still believe Obama is a secret Muslim.

Giving up on God

As Republicans sort out the reasons for their defeat, they likely will overlook or dismiss the gorilla in the pulpit.

Three little letters, great big problem: G-O-D.

I’m bathing in holy water as I type.

To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn’t soon cometh.

Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth — as long as we’re setting ourselves free — is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — Even though I’m neither a Republican nor a Christian, I can’t resist pointing out that Kathleen Parker seems to have got it the wrong way around: the GOP doesn’t need to dump God; the evidence — at least if one accepts Rev Arnold Conrad’s impeccible reasoning — is that God already dumped the GOP.

“You raise up leaders and you pull them down,” Rev Conrad solemnly said to God while praying at a McCain rally in early October. No doubt Conrad has since pulled out that universal escape clause — God works in mysterious ways — but I’d like to know what he (Conrad, not God) is really thinking now.

O Lord, what made you make McCain pick Sarah Palin? And why couldn’t the financial crisis have come in November instead of September? You liked Bush well enough to get him elected twice, so why are you now casting us out into the wilderness? O Lord, why have you forsaken the GOP?

I guess the only council I can offer is to say, when it comes to politics, don’t bet your life on a swing voter — especially the ultimate swing voter. He’s clearly the most capricious of them all.

Did U.S. push detention of American without charges?

An American Muslim subjected to several years of intense FBI scrutiny and questioning about links to terrorism has been held without charges, access to a lawyer or contact with his family for nearly three months by the security services of the United Arab Emirates.

The case of Naji Hamdan, coupled with FBI interrogations of an American citizen secretly detained without charges in East Africa, raises the question of whether the Bush administration has asked other nations to hold Americans suspected of terrorism links whom U.S. officials lack the evidence to charge.

That allegation is central to a lawsuit that the American Civil Liberties Union was planning to file Tuesday in federal court in Washington against President Bush, Attorney General Michael Mukasey and FBI Director Robert Mueller.

“If the U.S. government is responsible for this detention and we believe it is, this is clearly illegal because our government can’t contract away the Constitution by enlisting the aid of other governments that do not adhere to the Constitution’s requirements,” said Ahilan Arulanantham of the ACLU’s southern California office. [continued…]

Iran said to have nuclear fuel for one weapon

Iran has now produced roughly enough nuclear material to make, with added purification, a single atom bomb, according to nuclear experts analyzing the latest report from global atomic inspectors.

The figures detailing Iran’s progress were contained in a routine update on Wednesday from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been conducting inspections of the country’s main nuclear plant at Natanz. The report concluded that as of early this month, Iran had made 630 kilograms, or about 1,390 pounds, of low-enriched uranium.

Several experts said that was enough for a bomb, but they cautioned that the milestone was mostly symbolic, because Iran would have to take additional steps. Not only would it have to breach its international agreements and kick out the inspectors, but it would also have to further purify the fuel and put it into a warhead design — a technical advance that Western experts are unsure Iran has yet achieved. [continued…]

Twenty reasons why we’re not consuming

This week’s news about October retail sales (-2.8% relative to the previous month and now down in real terms for five months in a row) confirm that the U.S. has entered its most severe consumer-led recession in decades. At this rate of free fall in consumption, real gross domestic product growth could be a whopping 5% negative or even worse in the fourth quarter of 2008. And this is not a temporary phenomenon: Almost all of the fundamentals driving consumption are heading south on a persistent and structural basis.

Consider the many severe negative factors affecting consumption. One can count at least 20 separate or complementary causes that will sharply reduce consumption in the next several years: [continued…]

The Pentagon’s argument of last resort on Iraq

It’s the ultimate argument, the final bastion against withdrawal, and over these last years, the Bush administration has made sure it would have plenty of heft. Ironically, its strength lies in the fact that it has nothing to do with the vicissitudes of Iraqi politics, the relative power of Shiites or Sunnis, the influence of Iran, or even the riptides of war. It really doesn’t matter what Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki or oppositional cleric Muqtada al-Sadr think about it. In fact, it’s an argument that has nothing to do with Iraq and everything to do with us, with the American way of war (and life), which makes it almost unassailable.

And this week Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen — the man President-elect Obama plans to call into the Oval Office as soon as he arrives — wheeled it into place and launched it like a missile aimed at the heart of Obama’s 16-month withdrawal plan for U.S. combat troops in Iraq. It may not sound like much, but believe me, it is. The Chairman simply said, “We have 150,000 troops in Iraq right now. We have lots of bases. We have an awful lot of equipment that’s there. And so we would have to look at all of that tied to, obviously, the conditions that are there, literally the security conditions… Clearly, we’d want to be able to do it safely.” Getting it all out safely, he estimated, would take at least “two to three years.” [continued…]

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