|Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives|
They've bombed Amman. Where will the Iraqi insurgents strike next?
By Daniel Benjamin, Slate, November 11, 2005
Nov. 9 (9/11 as most of the world writes it) could soon be remembered as the day that the spillover of violence from Iraq became a major affliction for the Middle East. [complete article]
Middle East democracy summit ends in rancor
By Robin Wright, Washington Post, November 12, 2005
President Bush's democracy initiative in the Middle East suffered a serious setback Saturday when the Forum for the Future, an international meeting attended by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, ended without a formal agreement on democracy promotion. In a surprise move, Egypt, which accounts for more than half the Arab world's population and is the second-largest recipient of U.S. aid, scuttled the conference by demanding language that would have given Arab governments significant control over which democracy groups receive aid from a new fund. [complete article]
Beyond sectarianism, Iraq must bridge its social divide
By Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, Daily Star, November 12, 2005
Everyone who looks at Iraq sees a nation divided between the Shiite, Sunni, and Kurd communities. But an equally fundamental division - one that has contributed as much to the ongoing insurrection as sectarian strife and opposition to the American-led military occupation - is the widening gap between Iraq's rich and poor. [complete article]
Vote to strip rights of Guantanamo prisoners may be reconsidered
By Frank Davies, Knight Ridder, November 11, 2005
For almost eight centuries the "great writ" of habeas corpus has been a bedrock principle of English and American law, from the Magna Carta to today's jails and courts. It's the means for a prisoner to contest his imprisonment before a judge. That's one reason legal experts were stunned when the Senate, after an hour of debate, voted Thursday to overturn the Supreme Court's extension of habeas corpus protection to 500-plus detainees at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba. [complete article]
Assad speech sparks angry reaction in Lebanon
By Kim Ghattas, Financial Times, November 11, 2005
The liberal anti-Syrian newspaper An-Nahar wrote that Mr Assad's address [on Thursday] was "a declaration of war against Lebanon" but that the Lebanese people would continue their battle for independence. L'Orient-Le Jour, the French-language paper, wrote that Mr Assad was seeking to provoke strife. [complete article]
Why the Iraqi quagmire is no Vietnam
By Aaron Glantz, IPS, November 12, 2005
Is Iraq another Vietnam? Tran Dac Loi should know. The secretary general of the Vietnam Peace and Development Foundation grew up in Hanoi dodging bombs dropped by the United States Air Force, while his father fought in the successful guerrilla war in the country's Central Highlands. [complete article]
The Arab League to the rescue
By Milton Viorst, New York Times, November 12, 2005
Could the answer be the Arab League? The question, of course, is how do we get out of Iraq? President Bush is increasingly isolated in claiming we are on our way to victory or democracy or human rights or even the restoration of Baghdad's electric grid. Even before Iraqi violence began spilling over into Jordan, American forces have clearly failed at maintaining order. It is time for a different approach, one that may lie with the Arab League. [complete article]
Take the blame, Mr. President
By John Dickerson, Slate, November 11, 2005
Sen. John McCain has advice for how President Bush can rebuild support for the Iraq war. Try candor. [complete article]
Asterisks dot White House's Iraq argument
By Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus, Washington Post, November 12, 2005
President Bush and his national security adviser have answered critics of the Iraq war in recent days with a two-pronged argument: that Congress saw the same intelligence the administration did before the war, and that independent commissions have determined that the administration did not misrepresent the intelligence. Neither assertion is wholly accurate. [complete article]
Libby testimony is key to Rove inquiry
By Murray Waas, National Journal, November 12, 2005
The ongoing investigation means that Rove's legal status is likely to remain up in the air until the final disposition of Libby's case. That could be two years from now, or even longer. Rove's predicament contradicts recent news accounts indicating that Fitzgerald will conclude his probe of Rove in the near future. [complete article]
If we look away, Kashmir could become worse than the tsunami
By Salman Rushdie, The Times, November 12, 2005
The calamity of Kashmir is a wound on a wounded body, it is death arriving in awful majesty in a place where death has become a grubby, ugly, everyday affair. There has been so much man-made dying in Kashmir that if one believed in God one might say that God had become competitive and decided to show the killers, the killers in uniform and the terrorists cloaked in secrecy, what a real killer can do. There has been so much man-made agony in Kashmir, so many young men have been broken, so many women vandalised, so many villages smashed, so much blood spilled on the no-longer-virgin snow, that the bitterness of this natural disaster is not only beyond bearing, it is obscene, a hammer-blow launched against a people who have already been smashed. And now, as if to finish things off, the Himalayan winter is setting in, and the greatest calamity of all may lie ahead of us, not behind. [complete article]
Our faith in science
By The Dalai Lama, New York Times, November 12, 2005
I believe that we must find a way to bring ethical considerations to bear upon the direction of scientific development, especially in the life sciences. By invoking fundamental ethical principles, I am not advocating a fusion of religious ethics and scientific inquiry. Rather, I am speaking of what I call "secular ethics," which embrace the principles we share as human beings: compassion, tolerance, consideration of others, the responsible use of knowledge and power. These principles transcend the barriers between religious believers and non-believers; they belong not to one faith, but to all faiths. [complete article]
Jihadists vs. Baathists: The Amman bombing and the Iraqi insurgency
By Tony Karon, Rootless Cosmopolitan, November 11, 2005
Many Baathist commanders ... encouraged Sunnis to vote No in last month's constitutional referendum, putting them at odds with Zarqawi's crowd. And like nationalist elements everywhere that have come into contact with al Qaeda -- Palestine and Chechnya are two obvious examples -- the mainstream insurgents are not inclined to squander resources and risk isolation and the wrath of potential allies or neutrals by acting out a global "jihad" that requires them to attack targets other than their immediate, national foe.
These conflicts of interest wouldn't necessarily affect many of the day to day operations of the insurgency. But many commanders have spoken increasingly frankly in recent months of the inevitability of a showdown. The Baathist commanders who have negotiated with U.S. officials in secret have made clear that they see the potential for a compact with the U.S. in the future, in which the two sides work together to limit Iranian influence in Baghdad, and the Baathists round up and eliminate the foreign fighters who have come to wage their global jihad on Iraqi soil. (And let's be frank, no matter what the Cheney gang and the Pentagon neocons said in the course of campaigning for the war, U.S. intel professionals know well that the Baathists never harbored al Qaeda back when they ran things.) [complete article]
See also, Iraqis carried out attack in Jordan, Zarqawi's group says (NYT) and U.S., Jordan forge closer ties in covert war on terrorism (LAT).
Chalabi's impact on the war
By David Shuster, MSNBC, November 10, 2005
He was the trusted ally of administration hawks and fed them bogus information that frightened America into a war.
Now, Ahmed Chalabi is being welcomed again by his White House friends: Vice President Cheney, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
Protestors also greeted the controversial former Iraqi exile. Yesterday, they showed up outside the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute, a group that hosted a Chalabi speech. [complete article]
Comment -- While a consensus seems to have emerged this week in Washington that Ahmed Chalabi was the prime culprit in leading America to war, even though it's a purely speculative exercise let's for a moment consider the likely course of events had the Bush administration not used the WMD justification for war. After all, it was then Deputy Defense Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz who in May 2003 acknowledged that the administration had leaned heavily on the WMD argument for "bureaucratic reasons".
Before the war started, without presenting any credible evidence, Dick Cheney, George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleeza Rice were very successful in convincing most Americans that 9/11 and Iraq were intimately connected. Had they merely kept pounding away on this theme, ignored Colin Powell's appeals to take the issue to the UN and essentially made a purely emotive argument for war, I suspect that - at least domestically - they would have maintained popular support for the war. (There would probably not have been even a semblance of a "coalition of the willing," but for the neocons riding high on the nationalistic fervor embodied in their doctrine of pre-emptive war, the majority of the public would have been unwilling to question America's need to go it alone.)
After the invasion there would have been no missing WMD, Iraq would be confirmed to be a hotbed of terrorism and by now, Bush would still be burnishing his image as a wartime leader.
So just imagine that - almost three years into the war and most Americans would still have no idea that they had been duped!
France's agony is a Western struggle
By Olivier Roy, New York Times, November 9, 2005
The rioting in Paris and other French cities has led to a lot of interpretations and comments, most of them irrelevant. Many see the violence as religiously motivated, the inevitable result of unchecked immigration from Muslim countries; for others the rioters are simply acting out of vengeance at being denied their cultural heritage or a fair share in French society. But the reality is that there is nothing particularly Muslim, or even French, about the violence. Rather, we are witnessing the temporary rising up of one small part of a Western underclass culture that reaches from Paris to London to Los Angeles and beyond.
To understand why this is so, consider two solid facts we do have on the riots. First, this is a youth (and male) uprising. The rioters are generally 12 to 25 years old, and roughly half of those arrested are under 18. The adults keep away from the demonstrations: in fact, they are the first victims (it is their cars, after all, that are burning) and they want security and social services to be restored.
Yet older residents also resent what they see as the unnecessary brutality of the police toward the rioters, the merry-go-round of officials making promises that they know will be quickly forgotten, and the demonization of their communities by the news media. Second, the riots are geographically and socially very circumscribed: all are occurring in about 100 suburbs, or more precisely destitute neighborhoods known here as "cités," "quartiers" or "banlieues." There has long been a strong sense of territorial identity among the young people in these neighborhoods, who have tended to coalesce in loose gangs. The different gangs, often involved in petty delinquency, have typically been reluctant to stroll outside their territories and have vigilantly kept strangers away, be they rival gangs, police officers, firefighters or journalists.
Now, these gangs are for the most part burning their own neighborhoods and seem little interested in extending the rampage to more fashionable areas. They express simmering anger fueled by unemployment and racism. The lesson, then, is that while these riots originate in areas largely populated by immigrants of Islamic heritage, they have little to do with the wrath of a Muslim community. [complete article]
Comment -- It seems to me that the New York Times must employ two headline writers. The one who does most of the headlines is actually a Victorian ghost whose voice is being channelled. She has a reasonable grasp of the topic of an article, but can never remember names (always has to fall back on phrases like "White House aide"), is terribly long-winded and often tortuously indirect. The other headline writer previously wrote the descriptions on the backs of video boxes - you know the kind: "must-see comedy with endless laughs" that turns out to be deeply depressing. Olivier Roy was unlucky enough to get the latter who came up with the catchy but utterly misleading, "Get French or Die Trying."
Prosecutors in Italy file request to extradite 22 CIA operatives
By John Crewdson and Alessandra Maggiorani, Chicago Tribune, November 10, 2005
Italian prosecutors on Thursday formally asked their government to seek the extradition of 22 U.S. Central Intelligence Agency operatives charged with kidnapping a radical Muslim preacher here nearly three years ago.
Prosecutor General Donatella Grieco on Thursday delivered a 477-page, 190,000-word document to Italy's Ministry of Justice in Rome, intended to support the prosecution's case against a panoply of CIA operatives including paramilitary 007-types, middle-aged women who are experts in physical surveillance, and cocktail-party spies posing as American diplomats.
Justice Minister Roberto Castelli was en route to Rome on Thursday from a two-day visit to Washington and not reachable for comment. According to the Italian news agency ANSA, Castelli discussed unspecified extradition matters with U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in Washington.
Castelli and his boss, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a friend and ally of President Bush, will decide whether to convey the extradition request to the U.S. Embassy in Rome.
Although such requests pass routinely between Italy and the United States under a 20-year-old extradition treaty, this appears to be the first case of its kind for the U.S. intelligence community, and it could hardly be more politically sensitive. [complete article]
Operatives say CIA exemption on torture a mistake
By Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay, Knight Ridder, November 10, 2005
Administration officials, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, are vigorously lobbying Congress to exempt the CIA from a ban on mistreatment of detainees. But many former and some current CIA operatives say - morality aside - that mistreatment and torture aren't useful interrogation tactics and the loophole should be rejected.
"We ought to declare we don't do this. We ought to declare the intelligence isn't worth it," said Frank Anderson, a former chief of the CIA's Near East and South Asia division in the agency's Operations Directorate, the clandestine service. [complete article]
Al-Libi's tall tales
By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, Newsweek, November 10, 2005
A CIA document shows the agency in January 2003 raised questions about an Al Qaeda detainee's claims that Saddam Hussein’s government provided chemical and biological weapons training to terrorists—weeks before President George W. Bush and other top officials flatly used those same claims to make their case for war against Iraq.
The CIA document, recently provided to Congress and obtained by NEWSWEEK, fills in some of the blanks in the mysterious case of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a captured Al Qaeda commander whose claims about poison-gas training for the Qaeda group by Saddam's government formed the basis for some of the most dramatic arguments used by senior administration officials in the run up to the invasion of Iraq.
As NEWSWEEK first reported last July, al-Libi has since recanted those claims. The new CIA document states the agency "recalled and reissued" all its intelligence reporting about al-Libi's "recanted" claims about chemical and biological warfare training by Saddam's regime in February 2004 -- an important retreat on pre-Iraq war intelligence that has never been publicly acknowledged by the White House. The withdrawal also was not mentioned in last year's public report by the presidential inquiry commission headed by Judge Laurence Silberman and former Sen. Charles Robb which reviewed alleged Iraq intelligence failures. [complete article]
Ann Wright on service to country
Ann Wright interviewed by Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch, November 11, 2005
[Former U.S. diplomate, Ann Wright: [In January, 2002] We had a satellite dish made of pounded-out coke cans -- these were being sold down in Kabul -- and a computer chip sent in from Islamabad, because we wanted to hear from Washington what was going to happen with Afghanistan. When, instead of talking much about Afghanistan, the President started in on this axis-of-evil stuff we were stunned. We were thinking: Hell's bells, we're here in a very dangerous place without enough military. So for the President to start talking about this axis of evil… everyone in the bunker just went: Oh Christ, here we go! No wonder we're not getting the economic development specialists in here yet. If the American government was going after al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and clearing out the Taliban and preparing to help the people of Afghanistan, why the hell was it taking so long? Well, that statement said it all.
TD: Did you at that moment suspect a future invasion of Iraq?
AW: I'm a little naive sometimes. I really never, ever suspected we would go to war in Iraq. There was no attempt at that moment to tie 9/11 to Iraq, so it didn't even dawn on me.
Anyway, that was the preface to my letter of resignation. I wanted to emphasize that I had seen Colin Powell on his first trip to Kabul. I wanted to show that this was a person who had lots of experience. [complete article]
Bush aide fires back at critics on justification for war in Iraq
By Peter Baker, Washington Post, November 11, 2005
The White House went on the offensive in the debate over the Iraq war yesterday, insisting that U.S. intelligence had compiled a "very strong case" that Saddam Hussein harbored banned weapons and accusing congressional critics of hypocrisy because many of them voted for force three years ago.
Bristling from fresh assaults on its justification for war, the White House dispatched national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley to the briefing room to issue a rebuttal to "the notion that somehow the administration manipulated prewar intelligence about Iraq." The administration's judgment on the threat posed by Iraq, he said, "represented the collective view of the intelligence community" and was "shared by Republicans and Democrats alike." [complete article]
Senate approves plan to limit detainee access to courts
By Dan Eggen, Washington Post, November 11, 2005
The Senate endorsed a plan yesterday that would sharply limit suspected foreign terrorists' access to U.S. courts, an effort to overturn a landmark 2004 Supreme Court ruling that has allowed hundreds of detainees held by the military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to challenge their detentions.
At the same time, the proposal would give Congress some oversight of the military process set up to review whether Guantanamo Bay detainees are terrorists and should continue to be held. The measure would subject those tribunal decisions to limited review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Approval of the plan, sponsored by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and endorsed 49 to 42 mostly along party lines, marks a partial but significant victory for the Bush administration, which has argued that suspected enemy combatants overseas cannot challenge their confinement in U.S. courts. [complete article]
Don't count on America
By Yossi Beilin, Haaretz, November 11, 2005
It never was President Bush's dream to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the contrary, since it had been President Clinton's "baby" and everything connected to Clinton is treif as far as Bush is concerned, it was clear from the beginning that he would stay away from the region.
The wealth of the English language makes it possible to attach serious and respectable terms to inactivity. Thus, for example, the decision not to play an active role in finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is called "conflict management." In effect, the administration's decision says that as long as the Israelis and Palestinians kill each other at "low intensity," they can be allowed to go on bleeding. If the conflict intensifies, something has to be declared (like the pathetic "Bush vision" of June 2002, or the road map, which was delivered to the sides in April 2003 without any of its initiators or recipients treating it seriously).
Visitors to Washington nowadays cannot get free of the feeling that the administration is stewing in deep depression and wants to be left alone in its domestic political arena, without being troubled by international problems. The hurricane in the south exposed an administration that is incapable of handling it citizens' existential issues and largely abandons the weak and the poor. The blood of American soldiers and civilians continues to be spilled in Iraq, and the huge budget deficit created by President Bush, who inherited a budget without a deficit from Clinton, also contributes to the sense of American weakness - particularly since a large proportion of American foreign debt consists of U.S. bonds held by the Chinese. [complete article]
The Kashmir earthquake: Failures on the road to disaster
By Justin Huggler, The Independent, November 11, 2005
Time is running out for Yassir Batt. A month on from the Kashmir earthquake, he still has no shelter to sleep under. When night falls, he and his brothers huddle together around a fire beside the ruins of their home in the mountains above Muzaffarabad.
In a week or two, the snow will arrive here. Higher up the valley, the locals predict that the next time it rains, it will be as snow. Yassir is 13 years old. If he does not have any shelter when the snow comes, he will die.
Below in the city of Muzaffarabad, people are living crammed together, five families to a single tent. There just aren't enough tents to go around and not enough room in them. Some of the men have to sleep outside. The ground is covered with human faeces and open sewers run through the refugee camps. There has been a serious diarrhoea epidemic and, although aid workers will only whisper it, there are growing fears of a cholera outbreak.
These are the people the international community has failed. With winter looming, the relief effort remains desperately underfunded. Within weeks, the "second massive wave of death" warned of by UN secretary general Kofi Annan may begin. [complete article]
Iran starts to lose faith in its hardline President
By Angus McDowall, The Independent, November 10, 2005
Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is facing a crisis of public confidence after his nominee for oil minister was forced to withdraw in the face of accusations of corruption.
The storm over the appointment, the most important and lucrative in Iran's cabinet, is the latest in a series of controversies to engulf the President. His political inexperience, unorthodox beliefs and trust in untested religious conservatives is causing widespread concern in Iran.
Sadeq Mahsouli was the third name the President has put forward for the oil ministry job since taking power in August. Like the others, he was forced to back down by the parliament, which now routinely challenges the President despite hailing from his own political camp. [complete article]
Bombings kill more than 50 at three hotels in Jordan
By Jonathan Finer and Naseer Mehdawi, Washington Post, November 10, 2005
Jordanian security forces have thwarted a number of potentially devastating attacks in recent years. In what became known as the millennium plot, Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian who is now the most-wanted insurgent leader in Iraq, targeted several tourist sites in the city, including the Radisson, just before New Year's Eve in 1999. Authorities uncovered the scheme and Zarqawi fled the country.
In April 2004, Jordanian officials said they had broken up an attempted chemical attack on the capital that they said could have killed 20,000 people. Police said they foiled another planned attack against hotels and embassies that summer.
This August, Zarqawi's al Qaeda in Iraq group asserted that its fighters had launched Katyusha rockets that narrowly missed a U.S. warship in Jordan's Red Sea port of Aqaba.
"All the fingers for what happened tonight point to al Qaeda and Zarqawi," said Muhammed Arsalan, assistant to the country's parliament speaker, who toured each of the bomb sites Wednesday. "They have been trying for a long time, and we were lucky. But they found a weak point." [complete article]
Tony Karon, the Rootless Cosmopolitan, comments: "Normally, when a terror attack in one state is deemed to have originated with a group operating from another state, the victimized government quickly directs furious complaints, missiles or what-have-you at the capital of the state in which the perpetrators have found sanctuary. In other words, it's a basic principle of the relations between sovereign nation states that each takes responsibility for their domain, and can be held responsible for aggression that originates there. So, what do we make of the fact that terrorism is now being exported from the new Iraq? Dare we call it a failing state? The worst fears of the Arab regimes -- and some Western intel agencies too -- that the Iraq created by the U.S. invasion and occupation would become an incubator of terrorism that will afflict the region (and possibly beyond) in the same way that the Afghan anti-Soviet jihad did, appear to be confirmed by the Amman attacks."
Al-Qaida in Iraq, local insurgents battle over tactics, money
By Mohammed al Dulaimy, Knight Ridder, November 9, 2005
Al-Qaida in Iraq, the dreaded terrorist group headed by Abu Musab al Zarqawi, has broken with local Sunni Muslim Arab insurgent groups in central Iraq, in some cases resulting in gun battles on the street.
On Sunday, fighting between insurgent groups started at a central intersection in war-torn Ramadi - the capital of the Sunni heartland province of Anbar - just past the downtown movie theater. As many as two dozen men fired automatic weapons and blasted away with shoulder-mounted rockets as al-Qaida in Iraq ambushed members of three local groups.
Eyewitnesses and Sunni insurgents said it was a fight between groups that would've been considered allies three months ago. One al-Qaida in Iraq fighter was killed, and an unknown number on each side were injured.
The groups have fallen into disputes about money and tactics, including over whether to participate in Iraq's political system. Residents think the strong support that al-Qaida in Iraq has had in the heart of Anbar province is starting to fracture, if not completely break. The group is dominated by non-Iraqis. [complete article]
He's back, and he's not sorry
By John Dickerson, Slate, November 9, 2005
Ahmad Chalabi met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today, but there are no pictures of it. That's the way the State Department wanted it. The former Iraqi exile whose reputation fell from hero to pariah was greeted by the administration as something in between: an official from the fledgling Iraqi government they can work with but not trust.
It's hard not to snicker at the awkward fence-mending. The administration publicly abandoned Chalabi in the spring of 2004. They didn't just take him off the holiday card list. American officials ordered Baghdad police to raid his house and headquarters. He was accused of corruption and peddling classified intelligence to Iran. In Washington, Iraq hawks in the administration (including the vice president), who had once been addicted to intelligence he had provided about Saddam's weapons programs, acted like they'd barely heard of him.
The disgrace may have been the best thing ever to happen to Chalabi. In 2003, a triumphant Chalabi flew into Iraq escorted by U.S. special forces, having achieved his decade-long goal of persuading the United States to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Many of his countrymen considered him a Bush administration pawn. The break with the United States dispelled those rumors. After that he was able to build his own domestic power base. [complete article]
Comment -- Does anyone seriously think that when Chalabi came back to Washington he'd be showing any signs of contrition? Josh Marshall and Steven Clemons have been fantasizing about having "some folks on hand to attempt a citizen's arrest" of Chalabi, but I'd have to say, there's something a bit disingenuous about egging on direct action. Direct action is something you do - not something you talk someone else into doing.
As for what Chalabi is really guilty of - sure, he's duplicitous, conniving, and guileful. But does anyone (apart from the editors of the New York Times perhaps) actually believe that he tricked the Bush administration and most Americans into starting and supporting a war? He supplied useful political ammunition, but the commitment of Cheney cabal's to topple Saddam didn't depend on good or bad intelligence. With or without Chalabi's help they were going to have their war.
And if (heaven forbid!) Chalabi deserves credit for one thing it is this: unlike most of his neoconservative backers, he has actually risked his life for what he believes in. Richard Perle and Dick Cheney, who truly are the scum of the earth, can rarely muster enough courage to face a journalist, let alone tour Iraq and meet the people they insisted on liberating. While Chalabi ventures out of the Green Zone, shuttles between Tehran and Washington, and has time for tea with Muqtada al-Sadr, Cheney spends most of his time hiding in an undisclosed location and Perle (I guess) has gone back to perfecting his souffles in the comfort of his French chateau.
So, Mr Marshall and Mr Clemons, as advocates of direct action, don't just talk about citizens' arrests - go do it! And forget about Chalabi - it's Cheney and Perle who should come first.
Top two contenders for new Iraq government visit U.S.
By Robin Wright, Washington Post, November 10, 2005
Chalabi's high-profile visit coincided with the low-key visit to Washington of the man many in Baghdad and Washington suggest is more likely -- at least at this stage -- to be Iraq's next prime minister after the Dec. 15 elections for a permanent government. Adel Abdul Mahdi, Iraq's vice president and former finance minister, is meeting many of the same senior U.S. officials, but the two visits reflected both controversies and prospects in Iraq.
While Chalabi was forced to deal with his past roles in highly publicized ways, Mahdi was able to more quietly focus on issues at the heart of Iraq's future, such as the prospect of permanent U.S. military bases and the need for Shiites and Sunnis to form their own regions -- or perhaps one region together -- in Iraq. Mahdi met almost three times as long with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as did Chalabi, U.S. officials noted. [complete article]
Suicide blast at restaurant in Baghdad kills 25
Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2005
A suicide bombing killed at least 25 people this morning at a central Baghdad restaurant frequented by police, officials and witnesses said.
The death toll initially was believed to be about 10. Later reports had higher numbers but differed on the exact toll and whether there were one or two bombers. Several of the victims were reportedly police officers. [complete article]
Cheney in the bunker
By Daniel Klaidman and Michael Isikoff, Newsweek, November 14, 2005
As usual, Dick Cheney insisted on doing business behind closed doors. Last Tuesday, Senate Republicans were winding up their weekly luncheon in the Capitol when the vice president rose to speak. Staffers were quickly ordered out of the room -- what Cheney had to say was for senators only. Normally taciturn, Cheney was uncharacteristically impassioned, according to two GOP senators who did not want to be on the record about a private meeting. He was very upset over the Senate's overwhelming passage of an amendment that prohibits inhumane treatment of terrorist detainees. Cheney said the law would tie the president's hands and end up costing "thousands of lives." He dramatized the point, conjuring up a scenario in which a captured Qaeda operative, another Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, refuses to give his interrogators details about an imminent attack. "We have to be able to do what is necessary," the vice president said, according to one of the senators who was present. The lawmakers listened, but they weren't moved to act. Sen. John McCain, who authored the anti-torture amendment, spoke up. "This is killing us around the world," he said. The House, which will likely vote on the measure soon, is also expected to pass it by a large margin. [complete article]
Senator seeks to defer probe of CIA prison leak
By Jonathan Weisman, Washington Post, November 10, 2005
The chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence told Senate leaders yesterday that Congress should hold off on a probe of the disclosure of classified information on secret prisons to The Washington Post until the Justice Department completes its own inquiry.
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said he will "respectfully" request that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) back off a strongly worded request that a bicameral investigation into the disclosure be convened immediately. Frist spokeswoman Amy Call said the majority leader had not decided how to respond. "He always takes what his chairmen say into consideration," she said.
Frist and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) surprised both Roberts and House intelligence committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) with a joint letter demanding a House-Senate inquiry after the Nov. 2 publication of a Post article detailing a web of secret prisons in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, maintained by the CIA to detain suspected terrorists. [complete article]
Comment -- The issue of secrecy is one that (in large part because of the creative skills of fiction writers) is generally misconceived in popular imagination. We think about things like the defense of the realm and espionage and all that James Bond stuff, when we should really be thinking about the issue of information being controlled or out of control. Most of the "leaking" that goes on in Washington happens as part of the process through which information is controlled. That's why it really shouldn't even be called leaking, since it's merely an unofficial mechanism through which information is disseminated and is done very much in the interests of both the political operatives and the journalists in the food chain. If information goes out of control, this means that information that one group of people wanted to conceal is now available to another group of people. Is this good or bad? Depends what the information is and who the people are.
The reporter's last take
By Lynne Duke, Washington Post, November 10, 2005
So here we are last week in a SoHo brasserie called Balthazar, where a parade of Judys appears. Outraged Judy. Saddened Judy. Charming Judy. Wise Judy. Conspiratorial Judy. Judy, the star New York Times reporter turned beleaguered victim of the gossipmongers and some journalists who have made her "sick to death of the regurgitation of lies and easily checkable falsehoods." That's why she's agreed to talk.
But her Treo's vibrating on her hip. It's a friend calling. "My fan club from Paris," she chirps into the phone, in English, before switching to a mix of French and Arabic.
It goes on like this for three hours. She answers questions -- or refuses. She turns the tables, asking about her interviewer's life. She takes calls. She grabs the tape recorder. She waxes eloquent, even in anger. At times, tears well up. There's something frantic about her -- not vulnerable, mind you, for that's the last thing she is. [complete article]
Ambassador turns on Blair over Iraq
By Paul Reynolds, BBC November 9, 2005
Sir Christopher [Meyer, former British Ambassador in Washington, according to his new memoir, DC Confidential,] was quick to spot the rapport between his Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and President Bush. He told me early on that in his view, Mr Bush was much smarter than people gave him credit for. He appeared to approve of the new relationship, and in his book he does not hide his approval of the march to war upon which the two men set out.
However, he seeks to distance himself from the results of that war. This is a common solution for the dilemma faced by many officials who supported war, and now perhaps wish they had not. They are rushing to find lifeboats to leave a ship they themselves helped to launch. [complete article]
The Guardian has been publishing serialised extracts of Meyer's new book.
After eight years in power Tony Blair hears a new word: Defeat
By Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, November 10, 2005
Tony Blair was facing backbench calls to stand aside after nearly 63 Labour MPs inflicted a first, and overwhelming, Commons defeat on his eight-year-old government, spurning his personal plea to respect the police by giving them powers to detain terrorist suspects for up to 90 days.
In the biggest reverse for a government on a whipped vote since James Callaghan's administration, Mr Blair was defeated comprehensively by 322 to 291, with 49 Labour backbenchers, including 11 former ministers, defying a three-line whip. Thirteen others abstained.
As the impact on the prime minister's authority sunk in, MPs then voted by 323 to 290 to support detention without charge for only 28 days, the position advocated by the Liberal Democrats and the Tories. The scale of the defeat rocked Labour whips, raising questions about Mr Blair's political judgment of late and suggesting that he now has a permanent cadre of irreconcilable backbenchers who neither listen to nor respect his views, leaving him in charge of an effective minority administration on controversial issues. [complete article]
Pentagon probes treatment of 'Able Danger' officer
Reuters (via NYT), November 9, 2005
The Pentagon inspector general is investigating the Defense Intelligence Agency's treatment of an Army colonel who was the first to claim publicly that the government knew about four September 11 hijackers long before the 2001 attacks, officials said on Wednesday.
Among the issues under review is whether the DIA revoked the security clearance of Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer last September in retaliation for repeated comments he made in the media about a military intelligence team code-named Able Danger, sources familiar with the case said.
Revelations about Able Danger, a small data-mining operation that ended in 2000, have reignited debate about whether the United States could have prevented the attacks on New York and Washington that killed 3,000 people and prompted the U.S. war on terrorism. [complete article]
Rumsfeld tells Israelis: We'll kick Assad out
Yedioth Ahronoth, November 8, 2005
The American administration is determined to punish Bashar Assad and remove him. This is what [Israel's] Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz heard from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld last Friday in Washington.
People who were at the meeting said Rumsfeld and his advisers blame Assad for letting terrorists cross the border into Iraq and help kill American soldiers. The Israeli side said it is better to let Assad stay, along the lines of better the devil you know. But people at the meeting said the Americans showed no interest in who would replace Assad, and their goal is to remove him from power, and used the word "devil" to describe him. [complete article]
Joshua Landis in Damascus comments, "It is very hard to believe that this is more than bark or that the US is still capable of biting Syria militarily. Neither the military, nor public are in the mood for opening another front. Most likely, the talk of war is an effort to scare Syria into taking some tough decisions. It may well be directed more at Europe than at Syria. We have heard nothing about what sanctions are being developed to punish Syria should it be accused by Mehlis of non-cooperation. Perhaps this silence is because Europe is reluctant to impose more than the lightest of "smart sanctions." In this case by threatening military action in Syria, Washington may actually be raising the pressure on its European allies to get serious about sanctions or America will go crazy in Syria. America cannot actual abandon Europe and the UN again to launch a unilateral military strike. It would undo all the relation-mending that has gone on between the two. On the other hand - Who knows?"
Inside and outside Syria, a debate to decide the future
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, November 9, 2005
The man who may help decide the future of Syria sits in a tidy, two-story house at the end of a drab street of a London suburb, about 2,200 miles from home. Upstairs is his office. Downstairs is a television tuned to the Arabic-language network al-Arabiya, broadcasting another news bulletin on his country, from which he was forced to leave 26 years ago.
"I live here like a stranger," said Ali Sadreddin Bayanouni, the leader of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, the most powerful opposition movement in Syria.
Bayanouni's years of exile, though, are tempered by the modern world. Each day, dozens of e-mails arrive from among 300 addresses in Syria, keeping him abreast of the latest at home. He stays in contact with his fellow Brotherhood leaders, flung across Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Europe. His British cell phone is inundated with text messages. Over last week's Muslim holiday, he received one he called especially memorable. The well-wisher said that, next year, he hoped Bayanouni would be in Damascus. "This regime is probably going to collapse," Bayanouni said bluntly. "It could happen in a week, it could take a year."
For Bayanouni and other exiles, and for Syrian officials and activists inside the country, these days are unlike any in a generation, perhaps any in Syria's modern history. Together, they are retooling ideologies, staking out visions and positioning themselves for a place in Syria's future, even as its present remains opaque amid the crisis over a U.N. investigation that implicated Syrian officials in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri in February. [complete article]
Sadr emerging as Iraq's political kingmaker
By Oliver Poole, The Telegraph, November 9, 2005
Moqtada al-Sadr, whose followers are blamed for the recent killings of British troops in Basra, has emerged as the political kingmaker expected to shape the country's government for the next four years after the election on Dec 15.
In recent days a procession of Iraq's most powerful political leaders has paid homage to the 31-year-old cleric.
A year ago the US military wanted him captured dead or alive after a series of uprisings in the south. Iraqis widely consider the present government, a coalition of religious Shia groups led by Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a failure because of its inability to improve the security situation or guarantee a steady supply of electricity or fresh water.
Sadr, who has more than three million supporters, is likely to hold the balance of power in the new parliament. [complete article]
Central Torture Agency?
By Jeffrey H. Smith (former general counsel of the CIA), Washington Post, November 9, 2005
Americans do not join the CIA to commit torture. Yet that could be the result if a proposal advanced by Vice President Cheney becomes law.
When the abuses by U.S. servicemen and intelligence officers at Abu Ghraib surfaced last year, there was understandable outrage in this country and abroad. Internal investigations and congressional hearings revealed several causes of the abuse. One of the most important was confusion in the military and intelligence agencies as to what rules governed interrogations. A root cause of the confusion was the belief at the highest levels of the administration that the Geneva Conventions, which had governed our conduct for 60 years, were outmoded and should not constrain our treatment of prisoners. Regrettably, the career lawyers in the armed forces and the State Department who have guided our compliance with the Geneva Conventions for decades were cut out of these discussions. [complete article
Report warned on CIA's tactics in interrogation
By Douglas Jehl, New York Times, November 9, 2005
A classified report issued last year by the Central Intelligence Agency's inspector general warned that interrogation procedures approved by the C.I.A. after the Sept. 11 attacks might violate some provisions of the international Convention Against Torture, current and former intelligence officials say.
The previously undisclosed findings from the report, which was completed in the spring of 2004, reflected deep unease within the C.I.A. about the interrogation procedures, the officials said. A list of 10 techniques authorized early in 2002 for use against terror suspects included one known as waterboarding, and went well beyond those authorized by the military for use on prisoners of war. [complete article]
Riot emergency brings back curfew laws of the colonial age
By Charles Bremner, The Times, November 9, 2005
Police began enforcing curfews in riot-hit areas across France last night after President Chirac declared a state of emergency, applying a law last used in the 1960s in an attempt to end the orgy of arson by youths from immigrant housing estates.
The law, enacted in 1955 to suppress riots in Algeria, a French colony at the time, empowers regional authorities to declare curfews, order house searches, prohibit public assembly and put people under house arrest. Curfew breakers will be liable to up to two months' imprisonment during the emergency, which lasts for an initial 12 days.
Opponents denounced the measures as dangerously provocative, but M Chirac told the Cabinet that it was "necessary to accelerate the return to calm". [complete article]
See also France is clinging to an ideal that's been pickled into dogma (Jonathan Freedland) and Inside French housing project, feelings of being the outsiders (NYT).
Comment -- It amazes me that less than two months after Katrina exposed to the world the racial divide that still exists in America, commentators such as David Ignatius have the audacity to hold up America as a role model for the French.
Secret military spending gets little oversight
By Matt Kelley and Jim Drinkard, USA Today, November 9, 2005
It took more than a decade for Mitchell Wade to turn his company, MZM Inc., from a small-time Pentagon consulting firm into a booming business that had nearly $200 million in government contracts.
Earlier this year, it took just a few months for it to fall apart. In June, the Pentagon revoked MZM's biggest contract, which had brought in more than $160 million in work for the company.
Wade also stepped down as the company's leader and sold its assets to a private equity firm after reports surfaced earlier in June of Wade's allegedly inflated purchase of a home owned by Rep. Randy Cunningham, R-Calif.
The rise and fall of MZM opened a window into the world of classified Pentagon spending and how Congress monitors it. Each year, billions of dollars are spent on classified projects that have little, if any, public oversight. [complete article]
U.N. extends mandate in Iraq for U.S. troops
By Warren Hoge, New York Times, November 9, 2005
The Security Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted a one-year renewal of the United Nations mandate for the United States-led multinational force in Iraq.
The resolution, sponsored by Britain, Denmark, Japan, Romania and the United States, extends the mandate until Dec. 31, 2006, but calls for a review of the decision by June 15 and allows for the ending of the mandate at any point if Iraq requests it.
The review clause was added as a compromise with the demands of France and Russia, which initially asked that the term be extended for only six months. [complete article]
Bush el Libertador?
By Tony Karon, Rootless Cosmopolitan, November 7, 2005
To understand why President Bush was rebuffed -- politely in some cases, less so in others -- by the leaders of Latin America at the weekend, it may be worth remembering what September 11 has meant down south along the Andes. It was marked as a dark day by democratically minded people in South America long before 2001 -- from 1973, onward, to be precise, because it was on September 11 that year that the democratically elected leftist president of Chile, Salvador Allende, was overthrown in a U.S. backed coup. It was 16 years before democracy was restored, and thousands of Chileans were tortured and murdered simply for their affiliation with parties of the type the Chilean electorate (and the electorates of Argentina, Brazil and others in the neighborhood) have voted into power once again, now that they’re free to choose. [complete article]
Senate asks Pentagon to probe Feith role on Iraq
By David Morgan, Reuters (via Yahoo), November 9, 2005
The Pentagon's inspector general has been asked to investigate the prewar intelligence role of a planning office headed by former U.S. defense policy chief Douglas Feith, a main architect of the Iraq war, officials said on Tuesday.
The request was made by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in a letter sent in August.
It said the Defense Department should determine whether Feith and his Office of Special Plans wielded excessive influence over intelligence that claimed Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. [complete article]
Intelligence center is created for unclassified information
By Scott Shane, New York Times, November 9, 2005
Top intelligence officials announced on Tuesday the creation of a new agency, the Open Source Center, to gather and analyze information from the Web, broadcasts, newspapers and other unclassified sources around the world.
The premise of the center, announced as part of the restructuring of the nation's intelligence agencies by the director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, is that some critical information to understand threats to national security requires neither spies nor satellites to collect.
This "open source" information can include anything from sermons broadcast from radical mosques in the Middle East to reports in the provincial Chinese press of possible avian flu outbreaks. Such material has often been undervalued by government policymakers, in part because it lacks the cachet of information gathered by more sensitive methods, intelligence officials said.
"Just because information is stolen, that doesn't make it more useful," Gen. Michael V. Hayden, Mr. Negroponte's principal deputy, said at a news briefing. [complete article]
Comment -- General Hayden might also have added, just because information is secret, that doesn't necessarily mean it's accurate. As we should all now acutely be aware, classified information often acquires its power not because it is compelling but because by being held secret it can be shielded from critical analysis.
For an in-house analysis of the value of open source information, see Reexamining the distinction between open information and secrets, by Stephen C. Mercado, analyst in the CIA Directorate of Science and Technology.
CIA asks Justice Dept. to review prisons report
CNN, November 8, 2005
The CIA has sent a report to the U.S. Justice Department indicating classified information may have been leaked to The Washington Post for its recent story about secret prisons run by the spy agency, according to U.S. officials.
Earlier Tuesday, Republican congressional leaders asked for an investigation into the matter, and Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi suggested his own GOP colleagues could be to blame for the possible leak.
Lott told reporters the information in the Post story was the same as that given to Republican senators in a closed-door briefing by Vice President Dick Cheney last week.
"Every word that was said in there went right to the newspaper," he said. "We can't keep our mouths shut." [complete article]
Libby establishes a fund to help pay legal bills
By Richard W. Stevenson and Eric Lichtblau, New York Times, November 9, 2005
I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, is establishing a fund to help pay for his legal defense in the C.I.A. leak case, and associates of Mr. Libby have begun soliciting money from his friends and Republican donors, lawyers and people who have been contacted about the fund said on Tuesday.
But in establishing the fund, Mr. Libby is opening himself to questions. Legal and campaign finance specialists said he could face scrutiny about whether any financial assistance he might receive from allies of President Bush and Mr. Cheney was going to finance a defense strategy intended in part to minimize harm to the administration.
The situation could also present Mr. Libby's supporters with a tricky political problem. Many Republicans may be eager to show financial support for a man who they believe is being prosecuted for political reasons, campaign finance analysts said, yet may also be wary about the appearance of giving contributions to a man accused of a serious crime.
"The administration is walking a very tight rope here," said Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group, "because they want to support Libby, but they don't want to be seen as strong-arming Republican supporters for money." [complete article]
Oil executives face Senate scrutiny today
By Justin Blum, Washington Post, November 9, 2005
For the nation's top oilmen, it is a new and uncomfortable reality. They have been summoned by the Republican leadership of the Senate to appear today before two congressional panels and explain why prices climbed as high as they did and what they intend to do with their companies' soaring profits. The executives hope to persuade legislators not to take tough punitive action.
The hearing is an indication that big oil companies, which have received billions of dollars in tax breaks from Congress, are facing an increasingly hostile audience in Washington. Even some Republican lawmakers, whose party has long been sympathetic to the requests of the industry, are considering a windfall-profit tax for oil companies. Concerns mounted after oil companies recently reported record quarterly profits, including Exxon Mobil's $9.92 billion, up 75 percent from the third quarter last year. [complete article]
Vote by Kansas school board favors evolution's doubters
By Nicholas Riccardi, Los Angeles Times, November 9, 2005
The state Board of Education approved curriculum standards Tuesday that question evolution and redefine science to include concepts other than natural explanations.
The board, in a 6-4 vote, recommended that schools teach the "considerable scientific and public controversy" surrounding the origin of life -- a dispute most scientists contend exists only among creationists.
National science groups opposed the measure, and critics contended it was an effort to inject religion into the classroom. [complete article]
The rash revolutionary
By Robert Tait, The Guardian, November 9, 2005
In the space of six days during the past fortnight, Mr Ahmadinejad provoked a tidal wave of international condemnation by calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map" before raising diplomatic temperatures from incandescent to white heat levels with a purge of Iranian foreign service personnel that saw 40 ambassadors and senior officials sacked at once. Meanwhile, his government stridently asserts its right to develop a nuclear programme when the International Atomic Energy Agency is edging closer to referring Iran to the UN security council.
It is hardly a textbook demonstration of politics as the art of the possible. But like his religiously devout US counterpart, who once dismissed President Bush the elder as the wrong father from whom to seek strength in times of crisis, Mr Ahmadinejad's actions are drawn from an inspiration far transcending mundane political realities.
To his compatriots, the president's iconoclastic exploits on the global stage aren't the half of it. Of more immediate concern here are his actions at home, which yield no quarter to political convention or constructive criticism. [complete article]
See also, Iran president defied by parliament (BBC).
Bush administration's torture policy increasingly under fire
By Warren P. Strobel and James Kuhnhenn, Knight Ridder, November 7, 2005
Nineteen months after the first revelations of abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, the Bush administration's position on treating detainees is increasingly under fire.
With Vice President Dick Cheney in the lead, the White House has fought a vigorous campaign - much of it behind the scenes - to reject limits on how to treat prisoners who might have information on terrorist plots.
But a growing number of lawmakers, both moderate Republicans and Democrats, argue that abuse of prisoners is immoral, has devastated the United States' image and ability to project its values overseas, and would endanger captured American soldiers or civilians.
There also are growing qualms at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's State Department and within the uniformed military over spreading disclosures of detainee abuse by U.S. personnel and the global criticism the United States is taking.
Finally, intelligence and military officers argue that abuse and torture are likely to produce bogus intelligence because prisoners will say whatever they think their interrogators want to hear to stop the abuse. [complete article]
Comment -- The administration is clearly stepping up its efforts at damage control as the Pentagon approves "a new policy directive governing interrogations as part of an effort to tighten controls over the questioning of terror suspects and other prisoners by American soldiers," (NYT) and the Army charges five Rangers with abuse. But on Sunday, Senator Pat Roberts, defending the administration, inadvertantly gave the game away when he said:
you're only successful with detention and interrogation when the detainee has a fear of the unknown, doesn't know what's going to happen. That manual that we put out will be the first chapter in the al-Qaida manual on what can happen and what can't happen. Now as long as you're following the Constitution and there's no torture and inhumane treatment, I see nothing wrong with saying, 'Here's the worst of the worst. We know they have specific information to save American lives in terrorist attacks around the world.' That's what we're talking about.Bush and Roberts both freely use double talk in saying "we don't torture" but the context for this disavowal is their opposition to legislation that prohibits torture. They sound like alcoholics who plead not to have the bottle taken away even while they promise not to drink.
So consider the real implication of what Senator Roberts is saying: Indicating that the US government won't prohibit the torture of terrorist suspects sends a message. In other words, the implicit threat of torture is meant to serve as a deterrent. This means we're talking about torture not simply as a controversial method for gaining vital information from tight-lipped suspects, but as a threat of violence directed at those who haven't been caught. We are telling every terrorist and every would-be terrorist that we are willing to treat suspects with such brutality that even if the intention isn't to kill them, a few may inadvertantly die. (As NPR reported "after stripping [a terrorist suspect, Manadel al-]Jamadi and dousing him in cold water, a CIA interrogator threatened to 'barbecue' him if he didn't talk. Jamadi reportedly moaned, 'I'm dying, I'm dying.' The interrogator replied, 'You'll be wishing you were dying.'" Within hours, all the indications are that this particular interrogator, Mark Swanner, had killed his prisoner.)
Who can doubt that this is what Bush and Cheney have in mind when they talk about "bringing justice" to the enemy. This isn't just about intelligence gathering; it's about granting power to those on the front lines of the war on terrorism to become judge, jury and executioner. (Note that Bush and Cheney adamantly refuse to differentiate between "terrorists" and "terrorist suspects". Such a distinction would imply of course that a suspect would be entitled to the same presumption of innocence to which Lewis Libby is entitled.)
The real message that Bush and Cheney want the terrorists to hear is this: "we have the guts to match or exceed your violence and ruthlessness." Ultimately, this isn't about good and evil; above everything else, it's about power.
U.S. forces 'used chemical weapons' during assault on city of Fallujah
By Peter Popham, The Independent, November 8, 2005
Powerful new evidence emerged yesterday that the United States dropped massive quantities of white phosphorus on the Iraqi city of Fallujah during the attack on the city in November 2004, killing insurgents and civilians with the appalling burns that are the signature of this weapon.
Ever since the assault, which went unreported by any Western journalists, rumours have swirled that the Americans used chemical weapons on the city.
On 10 November last year, the Islam Online website wrote: "US troops are reportedly using chemical weapons and poisonous gas in its large-scale offensive on the Iraqi resistance bastion of Fallujah, a grim reminder of Saddam Hussein's alleged gassing of the Kurds in 1988."
The website quoted insurgent sources as saying: "The US occupation troops are gassing resistance fighters and confronting them with internationally banned chemical weapons."
In December the US government formally denied the reports, describing them as "widespread myths". "Some news accounts have claimed that US forces have used 'outlawed' phosphorus shells in Fallujah," the USinfo website said. "Phosphorus shells are not outlawed. US forces have used them very sparingly in Fallujah, for illumination purposes.
"They were fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters."
But now new information has surfaced, including hideous photographs and videos and interviews with American soldiers who took part in the Fallujah attack, which provides graphic proof that phosphorus shells were widely deployed in the city as a weapon. [complete article]
To watch the video aired on RAI, follow the link "Fallujah, 8-9 Novembre 2004 - Bombardamento al fosforo bianco" on the right side of this page (RAI News24).
FRANCE IN CRISIS
France declares state of emergency
By Simon Freeman, and Charles Bremner, The Times, November 8, 2005
France today declared a state of emergency to allow the introduction of localised curfews in an attempt to end the wave of riots which has flared across the country for 12 nights.
President Jacques Chirac announced the extreme measure - which bans the movement of people and vehicles after dark and allows police to set up roadblocks - after a crisis meeting of his Cabinet this morning. [complete article]
Founding principle called into question
By Jon Henley, The Guardian, November 8, 2005
The government cannot admit it, but more and more voices in France are being raised to say that the country's worst urban unrest since the student uprising of 1968 reflects the failure of a whole model.
"The crisis is total," one leading sociologist, Michel Wievorka, said yesterday. "This is a structural problem that neither the right nor the left have dealt with for 25 years. France cannot cope with the shortcomings of its republican model. The whole system needs to be rethought."
The modele republicain d'integration is based on perhaps the most sacred article of all France's grand republican creed: that everyone is equal and indistinguishable in the eyes of the state. No matter where they come from, all French citizens are identical in their Frenchness. [complete article]
Comment -- While the crisis in France - viewed from the United States - can be viewed as the latest manifestation of Europe's inability to come to terms with its colonial past, it also reflects a much more universal political failure. The greatest advances in developing cultures based on equal opportunity have been confined to changes in language. Facades of equality have been constructed that simply make it easier for the advantaged to ignore the disadvantaged.
By Daniel Benjamin, Slate, November 7, 2005
News accounts have placed the origin of much of the bad intelligence in the Office of Special Plans, which was run by Abram Shulsky, a graduate-school pal of former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. In fact, the bad intel came largely out of something called the Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, which reported to Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. This group consisted of just two people: Michael Maloof, a controversial former aide to Richard Perle whose security clearances were eventually suspended, and David Wurmser, a longtime neoconservative advocate of toppling Saddam Hussein. (Since late 2003, Wurmser has worked in OVP.)
The information CTEG put together was treated differently than other intelligence. Unlike other reports, CTEG's conclusions about Iraq's training of jihadists in the use of explosives and weapons of mass destruction were never distributed to the many different agencies in the intelligence community. Although CTEG analysts met once with Director George Tenet and other CIA officials, they changed no minds at the agency on the issue of Saddam and al-Qaida, and their work was never "coordinated" or cleared by the various agencies that weigh in on intelligence publications. Top officers in military intelligence who saw the report refused to concur with it.
Nonetheless, CTEG's findings were the basis for briefings in the White House and on Capitol Hill. Some of CTEG's material was leaked to the Weekly Standard, where it was published. In that form, the Feith "annex" achieved some renown as a classic in the genre of cherry-picked intelligence. [complete article]
High court to hear case on war powers
By Charles Lane, Washington Post, November 8, 2005
The Supreme Court yesterday agreed to rule on the legality of the Bush administration's planned military commissions for accused terrorists, setting up what could be one of the most significant rulings on presidential war powers since the end of World War II.
President Bush has claimed broad power to conduct the war against al Qaeda and said that questions about the detention of suspected terrorists, their interrogation, trial and punishment are matters for him to decide as commander in chief.
But the court's announcement that it would hear the case of Osama bin Laden's former driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, shows that the justices feel the judicial branch has a role to play as well. The court has focused on whether Bush has the power to set up the commissions and whether detainees facing military trials can go to court in the United States to secure the protections guaranteed by the Geneva Conventions. [complete article]
Wider scope in prewar probe sought
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post, November 8, 2005
Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee want the right to interview top policymakers or speechwriters as part of the inquiry into whether the Bush administration exaggerated or misused intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), the panel's vice chairman, said yesterday.
Rockefeller raised the possibility of issuing subpoenas, and outlined a more wide-ranging approach than the one described by Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who said the work would center on comparing public statements by administration officials to intelligence reports circulating at the time. Rockefeller, Roberts and four other senators are to meet today to work out a schedule and process for the committee's review.
"Comparing public statements with what the intelligence community published does not alone tell the story," Rockefeller said in a statement yesterday. "If necessary, we may need to conduct interviews and request supporting documents." Rockefeller warned that "if the committee is denied testimony or documentation, we must be prepared to issue subpoenas." [complete article]
The realist persuasion
By Andrew J. Bacevich, Boston Globe, November 6, 2005
Brent Scowcroft, the ever-loyal and self-effacing national security adviser to President George H. W. Bush, made news late last month in the pages of The New Yorker, venting his profound disenchantment with the foreign policies of his old boss's son, President George W. Bush. In foreign policy parlance, Scowcroft is known as a "realist." According to The New Yorker's Jeffrey Goldberg, author of the Scowcroft profile, realism is "the idea that America should be guided by strategic self-interest, and that moral considerations are secondary at best."
Goldberg is being kind. The charge commonly lodged against realists like Scowcroft is that they disregard moral issues altogether. As a consequence, realism has long since acquired unsavory connotations, not only among liberals keen to alleviate the world's ills but also among neoconservatives keen to liberate the oppressed. Critics on the left accuse realists of being cramped, callous, and cynical. Those on the right see realism as little more than a pretext for isolationism.
In fact, when it comes to moral issues, realism has gotten a bum rap. As the events of the post-Cold War era have reminded us, idealism-whether the left liberal variant that emphasizes humanitarian interventionism or the neoconservative version that urges using American power to promote American values-provides no escape from the moral pitfalls of statecraft. If anything, it exacerbates them. [complete article]
Wag the Damascus?
By William M. Arkin, Washington Post, November 7, 2005
Last year, U.S. intelligence agencies and military planners received instructions to prepare up-to-date target lists for Syria and to increase their preparations for potential military operations against Damascus.
According to internal intelligence documents and discussions with military officers involved in the planning, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in Tampa was directed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to prepare a "strategic concept" for Syria, the first step in creation of a full fledged war plan.
The planning process, according to the internal documents, includes courses of action for cross border operations to seal the Syrian-Iraqi border and destroy safe havens supporting the Iraqi insurgency, attacks on Syrian weapons of mass destruction infrastructure supporting the development of biological and chemical weapons, and attacks on the regime of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. [complete article]
See also, U.S.-Syrian tension cutting through ties (AP).
Iran protests U.S. aerial drones
By Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post, November 8, 2005
Iran has strongly protested what it said was the United States' use of unmanned aerial drones over its territory and said two of them had crashed this summer within its borders, according to diplomatic letters circulated at the United Nations yesterday.
Iran's charge d'affairs at the United Nations, Mehdi Danesh-Yazdi, asked the Security Council on Oct. 26 to circulate two letters from Tehran, which called for "an end to such unlawful acts" by the United States.
The Pentagon did not deny the incidents but said it could not verify the Iranian claims. "I can't confirm the validity of their statements," said Defense Department spokesman Maj. Todd Vician, after reviewing the letters.
Asked about the Iranian letters, John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said, "That's not in my bailiwick. I'm just a catcher's mitt here as far as Iran is concerned. I really can't comment." [complete article]
Delays hurting U.S. rebuilding in Afghanistan
By David Rhode and Carlotta Gall, New York Times, November 7, 2005
Islamuddin Ahmadiyar, a 22-year-old student, remembers the excitement in this dusty farming hamlet in central Afghanistan when American contractors broke ground two years ago.
A one-story, 12-room health clinic, nestled between apple and mulberry tree groves, was to replace the mud hut where the village's lone doctor labored through Afghanistan's quarter-century nightmare of Soviet occupation, civil war and Taliban rule.
But the clinic remains an unfinished shell, one of 96 American-financed clinics and schools that a New Jersey-based company was supposed to build by September 2004. To date, nine clinics and two schools have been completed and passed inspection, according to the company.
The company, the Louis Berger Group, says progress has been slowed by the requirement to use Afghan construction companies, forcing it to hunt, sometimes vainly, for those that can work fast and to high standards. A design flaw is also forcing it to replace or strengthen the roofs of 89 of the buildings.
"If you play just the numbers game, we're going to look bad, no doubt about it," said Thomas Nicastro, a Louis Berger vice president. "But if you look at this as a development issue, then you have an understanding of what we're trying to do."
Four years after American-led forces ousted the Taliban, the United States has spent $1.3 billion on reconstruction in Afghanistan, intending to win over Afghans with tangible signs of progress. And indeed, there are some. But to Afghans, the Turmai clinic is emblematic of what they see as a wasteful, slow-moving effort that benefits foreigners far more than themselves. "The aid that comes from other countries for the Afghan people, it's not going to the Afghan people," said Mr. Ahmadiyar. "It's being wasted." [complete article]
"Blood came gushing out of [the suspect's] nose and mouth, as if a faucet had been turned on." The result of CIA "interrogation" conducted at Abu Ghraib.
Bush defends U.S. interrogation tactics
By Tabassum Zakaria, Reuters, November 7, 2005
"We are finding terrorists and bringing them to justice," Bush said at a news conference with Panamanian President Martin Torrijos. "We are gathering information about where the terrorists might be hiding. We are trying to disrupt their plots and plans," he said.
"Anything we do to that end in this effort, any activity we conduct, is within the law," Bush said. "We do not torture." [complete article]
Can the CIA legally kill a prisoner?
By Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, November 7, 2005
At the end of a secluded cul-de-sac, in a fast-growing Virginia suburb favored by employees of the Central Intelligence Agency, is a handsome replica of an old-fashioned farmhouse, with a white-railed front porch. The large back yard has a swimming pool, which, on a recent October afternoon, was neatly covered. In the driveway were two cars, a late-model truck, and an all-terrain vehicle. The sole discordant note was struck by a faded American flag on the porch; instead of fluttering in the autumn breeze, it was folded on a heap of old Christmas ornaments.
The house belongs to Mark Swanner, a forty-six-year-old C.I.A. officer who has performed interrogations and polygraph tests for the agency, which has employed him at least since the nineteen-nineties. (He is not a covert operative.) Two years ago, at Abu Ghraib prison, outside Baghdad, an Iraqi prisoner in Swanner's custody, Manadel al-Jamadi, died during an interrogation. His head had been covered with a plastic bag, and he was shackled in a crucifixion-like pose that inhibited his ability to breathe; according to forensic pathologists who have examined the case, he asphyxiated. In a subsequent internal investigation, United States government authorities classified Jamadi's death as a "homicide," meaning that it resulted from unnatural causes. Swanner has not been charged with a crime and continues to work for the agency.
After September 11th, the Justice Department fashioned secret legal guidelines that appear to indemnify C.I.A. officials who perform aggressive, even violent interrogations outside the United States. Techniques such as waterboarding -- the near-drowning of a suspect -- have been implicitly authorized by an Administration that feels that such methods may be necessary to win the war on terrorism. (In 2001, Vice-President Dick Cheney, in an interview on "Meet the Press," said that the government might have to go to "the dark side" in handling terrorist suspects, adding, "It's going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal.") The harsh treatment of Jamadi and other prisoners in C.I.A. custody, however, has inspired an emotional debate in Washington, raising questions about what limits should be placed on agency officials who interrogate foreign terrorist suspects outside U.S. territory.
[Jason Kenner, an M.P. with the 372nd Military Police Company,] told the investigators that, "minutes" after Jamadi was placed in the holding cell [at Abu Ghraib], an "interrogator" -- later identified as Swanner -- began "yelling at him, trying to find where some weapons were." Kenner said that he could see Jamadi through the open door of the holding cell, "in a seated position like a scared child." The yelling went on, he said, for five or ten minutes. At some point, Kenner said, Swanner and his translator "removed the prisoner's jacket and shirt," leaving him naked. He added that he saw no injuries or bruises. Soon afterward, the M.P.s were told by Swanner and the translator to "take the prisoner to Tier One," the agency's interrogation wing.
Less than an hour later, [Walter] Diaz [M.P.] said, he was walking past the shower room when Swanner came out and asked for help, reportedly saying, "This guy doesn't want to cooperate." According to the NPR report, one of the C.I.A. men told investigators that he called for medical help, but there is no available record of a doctor having been summoned. When Diaz entered the shower room, he said, he was surprised to see that Jamadi's knees had buckled, and that he was almost kneeling. Swanner, he said, wanted the soldiers to reposition Jamadi, so that he would have to stand more erectly. Diaz called for additional help from two other soldiers in his company, Sergeant Jeffery Frost and Dennis Stevanus. But after they had succeeded in making Jamadi stand for a moment, as requested, by hitching his handcuffs higher up the window, Jamadi collapsed again. Diaz told me, "At first I was, like, 'This guy's drunk.' He just dropped down to where his hands were, like, coming out of his handcuffs. He looked weird. I was thinking, He's got to be hurting. All of his weight was on his hands and wrists -- it looked like he was about to mess up his sockets."
Swanner, whom Diaz described as a "kind of shabby-looking, overweight white guy," who was wearing black clothing, was apparently less concerned. "He was saying, 'He's just playing dead,’ " Diaz recalled. "He thought he was faking. He wasn't worried at all." While Jamadi hung from his arms, Diaz told me, Swanner "just kept talking and talking at him. But there was no answer."
Frost told C.I.A. investigators that the interrogator had said that Jamadi was just "playing possum." But, as Frost lifted Jamadi upright by his jumpsuit, noticing that it was digging into his crotch, he thought, This prisoner is pretty good at playing possum. When Jamadi's body went slack again, Frost recalled commenting that he "had never seen anyone's arms positioned like that, and he was surprised they didn’t just pop out of their sockets."
Diaz, sensing that something was wrong, lifted Jamadi's hood. His face was badly bruised. Diaz placed a finger in front of Jamadi's open eyes, which didn't move or blink, and deduced that he was dead. When the men lowered Jamadi to the floor, Frost told investigators, "blood came gushing out of his nose and mouth, as if a faucet had been turned on." [complete article]
Cheney fights for detainee policy
By Dana Priest and Robin Wright, Washington Post, November 7, 2005
Over the past year, Vice President Cheney has waged an intense and largely unpublicized campaign to stop Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department from imposing more restrictive rules on the handling of terrorist suspects, according to defense, state, intelligence and congressional officials.
Last winter, when Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, began pushing to have the full committee briefed on the CIA's interrogation practices, Cheney called him to the White House to urge that he drop the matter, said three U.S. officials.
In recent months, Cheney has been the force against adding safeguards to the Defense Department's rules on treatment of military prisoners, putting him at odds with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon R. England. [complete article]
See also, Prisoner accounts suggest detention at secret facilities (WP).
'Shock wave' of violence spreads across France for eleventh night
By Molly Moore, Washington Post, November 7, 2005
France's national police chief warned Monday that a "shock wave is spreading across the country" as rioting intensified in cities throughout France during an eleventh night of violence. Officials from neighboring countries expressed concern that the unrest could leap across international borders.
Gangs of young men burned 1,408 cars and trucks in dozens of cities across France, national police chief Michel Gaudin said at a news conference Monday. [complete article]
The fire this time
By Christopher Dickey, Newsweek, November 14, 2005
What has shaken the French government, and badly, is its continued inability to contain the metastasizing anger spreading through the country's many predominantly Muslim ghettos. Like a Middle Eastern intifada, the violence is stripping away whatever comfortable assumptions existed about the authorities' ability to cope. Decades of French policies intended to force the integration of immigrants and their children into French society are seen to have failed, and in the age of terror, the fear is that rage like this will swell the ranks of radical Islamists in the heart of Europe. For years, itinerant preachers have moved through these same communities recruiting for holy wars in Bosnia, Chechnya and now Iraq, where a few young French Muslims have gone to die as suicide bombers. Madrid and London have shown what happens when that sort of fury is turned inward.
For now, the most dramatic casualty may be French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. He's been angling for the presidency in 2007, posturing as France's most confident can-do politician. But even before the riots started, suspicions had grown that "Super Sarko" couldn't actually get much done. During the first weekend of violence, he denounced the gangs burning cars as "scum" and vowed he'd impose order. He didn't, and far from containing the fury, he inflamed it. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who is Sarkozy's main rival, publicly reined him in. The government should be careful not to "stigmatize" whole neighborhoods, he said. Prodded by President Jacques Chirac, the two of them eventually, awkwardly, tried to show a united front behind the slogan "firmness and justice." That didn't work either. [complete article]
See also, The week Paris burned (The Observer), French riots rage despite warning (BBC), 'We're French,' but not 'real' French (IHT), and France's disaffected Muslim businessmen (BBC).
Tension over Iran must not embroil Iraq, says Chalabi
By Gareth Smyth, Financial Times, November 6, 2005
Ahmad Chalabi, Iraqi deputy prime minister, has said Iraq must play the role of regional peacemaker if it is not to fall victim to soured Iranian relations with the US and Britain.
Baghdad could not "sit idly by while other people fight on our territory", he told the FT in an interview.
Mr Chalabi, who ended a three-day visit to Tehran on Sunday, said Iran had agreed to study his proposal for a tripartite inquiry – with British, Iranian and Iraqi representatives – into last month's flare-up in Basra: British troops attacked a police station to free two special forces soldiers arrested while disguised as Arabs in a car said to be packed with explosives and weapons. Tension in southern Iraq was heightened, he said, by British allegations of Iranian support for Iraqi insurgents and Iranian allegations of British backing for militant Arab separatists in south-west Iran. [complete article]
Questions about Chalabi pose dilemma for Bush administration
By John Walcott, Knight Ridder, November 6, 2005
[Chalabi's] Iraqi National Congress helped pave America's path to war in Iraq in two ways: It supplied intelligence on Iraq's purported weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties to terrorism, and Chalabi and others assured U.S. officials that a large U.S. force and a lengthy occupation wouldn't be necessary because Iraqis would greet American soldiers as liberators.
Almost none of what Chalabi and his allies said, however, turned out to be true, and relations between him and the United States hit a new low months after his appearance at Bush's 2004 State of the Union address, when U.S. officials accused him or someone close to him of warning Iran that the United States has broken Iran's secret codes.
A knowledgeable U.S. official, speaking Sunday only on the condition of anonymity because the matter remains classified, said that a federal investigation into the Iranian matter is still open but is proceeding "very slowly, if at all."
Chalabi's allies in the Pentagon and the vice president's office never gave up on him, though, and now the pendulum appears to be swinging back in his direction. He's expected to meet with Treasury Secretary John Snow and on Wednesday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who's not as cool to Chalabi as was her predecessor, Colin Powell. Administration officials on Sunday said Chalabi might also meet Cheney and national security adviser Stephen Hadley. [complete article]
Chalabi ready for U.S. visit, another shot at limelight
By Jonathan Finer and Robin Wright, Washington Post, November 6, 2005
Ten months ago, after Ahmed Chalabi had been accused of misleading the United States into war and his longtime American patrons began investigating him for espionage, aides to the controversial Iraqi politician lamented that Washington's stance on looming parliamentary elections seemed as simple as ABC: Anybody But Chalabi.
With a new round of elections slated for Dec. 15, Chalabi is making his first official visit to Washington in two years for cabinet-level meetings -- with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday and Treasury Secretary John W. Snow in the following days. Chalabi and some U.S. officials say those talks signal a fresh start, for now.
"If I visit Washington, it means there is no ice wall between us," Chalabi, Iraq's deputy prime minister, told reporters this past week. [complete article]
The clerico-Kremlinology of Iran's Israel threat
By Tony Karon, Rootless Cosmopolitan, November 3, 2005
Ahmedinajad's comments registered on the international ear because they expressed a long-held view that has long been muted. No other heads of state in the Arab or Muslim world today openly advocate destroying Israel -- it's not that they've learned to love the idea of a Jewish state at the heart of the Middle East, they simply know it's an intractable reality, and that clinging to practices premised on the idea that it will one day be reversed has proved self-destructive and counterproductive to Arab and Muslim regimes. In their ideal world, yes, Israel would be wiped off the map. This is hardly surprising: For Arabs and Muslims, the creation of Israel was an historic defeat and a humiliation imposed on them in the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. They saw it as the West forcing them to accept the displacement and dispossession of Arabs in order to accommodate a people displaced and dispossessed by Western anti-semitism. So they're never going to love it, although a half-century of defeats has forced most to accept it as an historic fact. To expect anything more would be like asking U.S. politicians to celebrate the fall of Saigon -- they can learn to live with their defeat -- even to recognize that there is much to be gained from reconciling with the very same Vietnamese communists who drove them out -- but they're never going to love it. [complete article]
Before rearming Iraq, he sold shoes and flowers
By Solomon Moore and T. Christian Miller, Los Angeles Times, November 6, 2005
Ziad Cattan was a Polish Iraqi used-car dealer with no weapons-dealing experience until U.S. authorities turned him into one of the most powerful men in Iraq last year -- the chief of procurement for the Defense Ministry, responsible for equipping the fledgling Iraqi army.
As U.S. advisors looked on, Cattan embarked on a massive spending spree, paying hundreds of millions of dollars in Iraqi funds for secret, no-bid contracts, according to interviews with more than a dozen senior American, coalition and Iraqi officials, and documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times. The money flowed, often in bricks of cash, through the hands of middlemen who were friends of Cattan and took a percentage of the proceeds.
Although much of the material purchased has proved useful, U.S. advisors said, the contracts also paid for equipment that was shoddy, overpriced or never delivered. The questionable purchases -- including aging Russian helicopters and underpowered Polish transport vehicles -- have slowed the development of the Iraqi army and hindered its ability to replace American troops, U.S. and Iraqi officials say. [complete article]
White House tries to keep distance from leak case
By Richard W. Stevenson, New York Times, November 6, 2005
In the hours before the Justice Department informed the White House in late September 2003 that it would investigate the leak of a covert C.I.A. officer's identity, Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, gave reporters what turned out to be a rare glimpse into President Bush's knowledge of the case.
Mr. Bush, he said, "knows" that Karl Rove, his senior adviser, had not been the source of the leak. Pressed on how Mr. Bush was certain, Mr. McClellan said he was "not going to get into conversations that the president has with advisers," but made no effort to erase the impression that Mr. Rove had assured Mr. Bush that he had not been involved.
Since then, administration officials and Mr. Bush himself have carefully avoided disclosing anything about any involvement the president may have had in the events surrounding the disclosure of the officer's identity or anything about what his aides may have told them about their roles. Citing the continuing investigation and now the pending trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, they have declined to comment on almost any aspect of the case.
The issue now for the White House is how long it can go on deflecting the inquiries and trying to keep the focus away from Mr. Bush. [complete article]
Bush orders staff to attend ethics briefings
By Jim VandeHei, Washington Post, November 5, 2005
President Bush has ordered White House staff to attend mandatory briefings beginning next week on ethical behavior and the handling of classified material after the indictment last week of a senior administration official in the CIA leak probe.
According to a memo sent to aides yesterday, Bush expects all White House staff to adhere to the "spirit as well as the letter" of all ethics laws and rules. As a result, "the White House counsel's office will conduct a series of presentations next week that will provide refresher lectures on general ethics rules, including the rules of governing the protection of classified information," according to the memo, a copy of which was provided to The Washington Post by a senior White House aide.
The mandatory ethics primer is the first step Bush plans to take in coming weeks in response to the CIA leak probe that led to the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, and which still threatens Karl Rove, the deputy White House chief of staff. Libby was indicted last week in connection with the two-year investigation. He resigned when the indictment was announced and on Thursday pleaded not guilty to charges of lying to federal investigators and a grand jury about his conversations with reporters.
A senior aide said Bush decided to mandate the ethics course during private meetings last weekend with Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and counsel Harriet Miers. Miers's office will conduct the ethics briefings. [complete article]
Comment -- If this is the "first step", what's next? A 12-step program for leakers anonymous?
Fearing an Iraq in a post-Assad Syria
By Michael Slackman, New York Times, November 6, 2005
In the murky world of Syrian politics, insight often comes from jokes that spread like smoke signals, bypassing the government monitors who control news reports. The latest goes like this: Asef Shawkat tried to commit suicide, but the police could not find him in his office.
Mr. Shawkat, the brother-in-law of President Bashar al-Assad and head of military intelligence, may not be at risk for his life, but he has certainly become a liability to the government. He is a prime suspect in the United Nations investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri, a former prime minister of Lebanon. And the Security Council has declared that Syria is impeding the investigators.
The joke suggests how cynically politics is regarded in this authoritarian state, but the crisis over Mr. Hariri's murder has become serious - threatening the power of the Assad family, which has run Syria for more than four decades. [complete article]
An unsafe world for U.S. companies
By Mark Engler, Asia Times, November 5, 2005
The Bush administration has a reputation for creating an unusually business-friendly White House. Put Vice President Dick Cheney's secretive Energy Task Force and massive tax cuts together with corporate lobbyists writing regulations for their own industries, and you've made an argument that seems pretty persuasive.
There are reasons, however, to consider a contrary notion: Maybe President George W Bush and Cheney aren't very good capitalists at all.
Bush's history as a failed businessman is well known. Cheney, portrayed by conservatives as a brilliant ex-chief executive officer and by progressives as a Halliburton shill, also has a suspect past. While he certainly increased Halliburton's profile in four-and-a-half years as its chief, his foremost accomplishment was the US$7.7 billion acquisition in 1998 of Dresser Industries, a rival that turned out to be plagued with staggering asbestos-related liabilities. [complete article]
Newly released data undercut prewar claims
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post, November 6, 2005
In February 2002, the Defense Intelligence Agency questioned the reliability of a captured top al Qaeda operative whose allegations became the basis of Bush administration claims that terrorists had been trained in the use of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq, according to declassified material released by Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.).
Referring to the first interrogation report on al Qaeda senior military trainer Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the DIA took note that the Libyan terrorist could not name any Iraqis involved, any chemical or biological material used or where the training occurred. As a result, "it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers," a DIA report concluded.
In fact, in January 2004 al-Libi recanted his claims, and in February 2004 the CIA withdrew all intelligence reports based on his information. By then, the United States and its coalition partners had invaded Iraq. [complete article]
Earlier: A tortured debate
By Michael Hirsh, John Barry and Daniel Klaidman, Newsweek, June 21, 2004
Al-Libi's capture, some sources say, was an early turning point in the government's internal debates over interrogation methods. FBI officials brought their plea to retain control over al-Libi's interrogation up to FBI Director Robert Mueller. The CIA station chief in Afghanistan, meanwhile, appealed to the agency's hawkish counterterrorism chief, Cofer Black. He in turn called CIA Director George Tenet, who went to the White House. Al-Libi was handed over to the CIA. "They duct-taped his mouth, cinched him up and sent him to Cairo" for more-fearsome Egyptian interrogations, says the ex-FBI official. "At the airport the CIA case officer goes up to him and says, 'You're going to Cairo, you know. Before you get there I'm going to find your mother and I'm going to f--- her.' So we lost that fight." (A CIA official said he had no comment.) [complete article]
Earlier: Outsourcing torture
By Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, February 7, 2005
Dan Coleman [a former FBI agent who worked closely with the C.I.A. on counter-terrorism cases] was disgusted when he heard about Libi's false confession. "It was ridiculous for interrogators to think Libi would have known anything about Iraq," he said. "I could have told them that. He ran a training camp. He wouldn't have had anything to do with Iraq. Administration officials were always pushing us to come up with links, but there weren't any. The reason they got bad information is that they beat it out of him. You never get good information from someone that way." [complete article]
The FBI's secret scrutiny
By Barton Gellman, Washington Post, November 6, 2005
The FBI came calling in Windsor, Conn., this summer with a document marked for delivery by hand. On Matianuk Avenue, across from the tennis courts, two special agents found their man. They gave George Christian the letter, which warned him to tell no one, ever, what it said.
Under the shield and stars of the FBI crest, the letter directed Christian to surrender "all subscriber information, billing information and access logs of any person" who used a specific computer at a library branch some distance away. Christian, who manages digital records for three dozen Connecticut libraries, said in an affidavit that he configures his system for privacy. But the vendors of the software he operates said their databases can reveal the Web sites that visitors browse, the e-mail accounts they open and the books they borrow.
Christian refused to hand over those records, and his employer, Library Connection Inc., filed suit for the right to protest the FBI demand in public. The Washington Post established their identities -- still under seal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit -- by comparing unsealed portions of the file with public records and information gleaned from people who had no knowledge of the FBI demand.
The Connecticut case affords a rare glimpse of an exponentially growing practice of domestic surveillance under the USA Patriot Act, which marked its fourth anniversary on Oct. 26. "National security letters," created in the 1970s for espionage and terrorism investigations, originated as narrow exceptions in consumer privacy law, enabling the FBI to review in secret the customer records of suspected foreign agents. The Patriot Act, and Bush administration guidelines for its use, transformed those letters by permitting clandestine scrutiny of U.S. residents and visitors who are not alleged to be terrorists or spies.
The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year, according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms. The letters -- one of which can be used to sweep up the records of many people -- are extending the bureau's reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans. [complete article]
A White House without Rove?
By Mike Allen, Time, November 6, 2005
He's weary. His wife and only child, who is approaching college, miss him. He has monstrous legal bills. His unique bond with the President is under stress. His most important work is done.
Karl Rove's colleagues don't know exactly when it will happen, but they are already laying out the reasons they will give for the departure of the man President George W. Bush dubbed the architect. A Roveless Bush seemed unthinkable just a few months ago. But that has changed as the President's senior adviser and deputy chief of staff remains embroiled in the CIA leak scandal.
Despite Rove's flashes of ebullience in recent days and the insistence of friends that he is out of legal jeopardy, several of the most important lawyers who deal with special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald said they saw more clues last week that Fitzgerald is continuing to look into the possibility of charging Rove with lying to investigators or the grand jury or both. If that happens, Rove almost certainly would resign immediately, as did I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, when Libby was indicted two weeks ago. Otherwise, Rove is likely to wait for a chance to minimize the perception that he is being hounded out or leaving under a cloud. And he's got one constituency rooting for him, the conservatives who rely on him to be their voice. If he leaves, he will not be alone. Several well-wired Administration officials predict that within a year, the President will have a new chief of staff and press secretary, probably a new Treasury Secretary and maybe a new Defense Secretary. [complete article]
See also, Rove's security clearance widely questioned (LAT).
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Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:
Former Powell aide links Cheney's office to abuse directives
AFP (via IHT), November 3, 2005
Cheney's superiority complex
By Tim Naftali, Slate, November 2, 2005
CIA holds terror suspects in secret prisons
By Dana Priest, Washington Post, November 2, 2005
Toward a virtual caliphate
By Peter Mandaville, YaleGlobal, October 27, 2005
By Marc Lynch, Wilson Quarterly, Summer, 2005
What Bush wants to hear
By David Cole, New York Review of Books, November 17, 2005
The game's still on for Sunnis
By Gareth Porter, IPS (via Asia Times), November 2, 2005
Why Bush won't topple Bashar
By Tony Karon, Rootless Cosmopolitan, October 28, 2005
The moral implications of failure in Iraq
By John Steinbruner, ArmsControlWonk, October 27, 2005
The White House criminal conspiracy
By Elizabeth de la Vega, TomDispatch, October 30, 2005
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