Monday, December 19, 2005

Cheney in Iraq

Cheney Fields Tough Questions From Troops
- By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer
Sunday, December 18, 2005

(12-18) 12:18 PST AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AP) --

Facing tough questions from battle-weary troops, Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday cited signs of progress in Iraq and signaled that force changes could come in 2006.

Cheney rode the wave of last week's parliamentary elections during a 10-hour surprise visit to Iraq that aimed to highlight progress at a time when Americans question the mission. Military commanders and top government officials offered glowing reports, but the rank-and-file troops Cheney met did not seem to share their enthusiasm.

"From our perspective, we don't see much as far as gains," said Marine Cpl. Bradley Warren, the first to question Cheney in a round-table discussion with about 30 military members. "We're looking at small-picture stuff, not many gains. I was wondering what it looks like from the big side of the mountain — how Iraq's looking."

Cheney replied that remarkable progress has been made in the last year and a half.

"I think when we look back from 10 years hence, we'll see that the year '05 was in fact a watershed year here in Iraq," the vice president said. "We're getting the job done. It's hard to tell that from watching the news. But I guess we don't pay that much attention to the news."

Another Marine, Cpl. R.P. Zapella, asked, "Sir, what are the benefits of doing all this work to get Iraq on its feet?"

Cheney said the result could be a democratically elected Iraq that is unified, capable of defending itself and no longer a base for terrorists or a threat to its neighbors. "We believe all that's possible," he said.

Although he said that any decision about troop levels will be made by military commanders, Cheney told the troops, "I think you will see changes in our deployment patterns probably within this next year."

About 160,000 troops are in Iraq. The administration has said that troop levels are expected to return to a baseline of 138,000 after the elections, but critics of the war have called for a significant drawdown.

More than 2,100 troops have died in Iraq since the U.S. invaded in March 2003.

The round-table with the vice president came after hundreds of troops had gathered in an aircraft hangar to hear from a mystery guest. When Cheney emerged at the podium, he drew laughs when he deadpanned, "I'm not Jessica Simpson."

Shouts of "hooah!" from the audience interrupted Cheney a few times, but mostly the service members listened intently. When he delivered the applause line, "We're in this fight to win. These colors don't run," the only sound was a lone whistle.

The skepticism that Cheney faced reflects opinions back home, where most Americans say they do not approve of President Bush's handling of the war. It was unique coming from a military audience, which typically receives administration officials more enthusiastically.

Cheney became the highest-ranking administration official to visit the country since Bush's trip on Thanksgiving Day 2003. It was his first visit to Iraq since March 1991, when he was defense secretary for President George H.W. Bush.

The tour came on the same day that President Bush was giving a prime-time Oval Office address on Iraq. Cheney's aides said the timing was a coincidence, yet the two events combined in a public-relations blitz aimed at capitalizing on the elections to rebuild support for the unpopular war.

The daylong tour of Iraq was so shrouded in secrecy that even Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and President Jalal Talabani were kept in the dark. The prime minister said he was surprised when he showed up for what he thought was a meeting with the U.S. ambassador and saw Cheney.

Talabani, his finger still stained purple as proof that he had voted three days earlier, was clearly delighted. He thanked Cheney profusely for coming and called him "one of the heroes of liberating Iraq."

Cheney had an hourlong briefing on the election from Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, top U.S. commander Gen. George Casey and Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. He emerged saying he was encouraged by preliminary results showing high turnout about Sunni Muslims, who make up the backbone of the insurgency.

His next visit was to Taji Air Base, where he saw tanks that Iraqis had rebuilt and watched while they practiced a vehicle sweep at a security checkpoint.

U.S. forces guarded Cheney with weapons at the ready while Iraqi soldiers, who had no weapons, held their arms out as if they were carrying imaginary guns.

"The Syrian border is back under Iraq control now," U.S. Lt. Gen. Marty Dempsey told the vice president, pointing to a map of Iraqi troop locations. "When people say, 'When will Iraq take control of its own security?' the answer truly is it already has."

Cheney lunched on lamb kebobs, hummus and rice with raisins along with U.S. and Iraqi soldiers who helped secure polling sites. Then he headed to his third and final stop in Iraq at al-Asad.

Cheney flew over Baghdad in a pack of eight fast-moving Blackhawk helicopters, following the airport road that has been the site of so many insurgent attacks and passing the courthouse where Saddam Hussein is being tried.

The unannounced stops in Iraq came at the beginning of a five-day tour aimed at strengthening support for the war on terror. Stops include Oman, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Cheney's staff kept the Iraq portion secret from reporters, waiting to reveal the plans when Air Force Two was preparing to refuel in the United Kingdom. Once on the ground, the entourage transferred from his conspicuous white and blue 757 to an unmarked C-17 cargo plane that would fly overnight to Baghdad International Airport.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Rice Spinning

Rice on Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace
Monday, 19 December 2005, 9:52 pm
Press Release: US State Department

Interview on Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
December 18, 2005

QUESTION: We're joined now by Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. Secretary Rice, welcome back to Fox News Sunday.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Nice to be with you, Chris.

QUESTION: As we said, the President has confirmed that he authorized the National Security Agency to spy on people, including U.S. citizens in this country, without a court warrant. Why was that necessary?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, what the President authorized is for the National Security Agency to be able to collect information on a limited number of people with links to al-Qaida. This is about the geographic space of the United States. People may or may not be American. But if you'll remember, Chris, probably one of the most compelling outcomes of the 9/11 Commission was an understanding that our intelligence agencies looked outward, our law enforcement agencies looked inward, and a seam had developed between them.

And so, using his constitutional authorities, using authorities granted to him, the President wanted to make certain that that seam did not exist, that people could not communicate inside the United States about terrorist activity with people outside the United States, leaving us vulnerable to terrorist attack.

We simply can't be in a situation in which the President is not responding to this different kind of war on terrorism. We exist now in a world in which terrorist attacks are taken from within the United States and that's what the President addressed. He is fully not just aware of, but determined to uphold, his responsibilities and his obligations to protect America and to protect our civil liberties as well.

QUESTION: But let me ask you about what I think concerns some people. Historically, the Executive Branch has had to go to a court to get approval from a judge, get a warrant, before it could spy domestically in this country on people. It's part of our separation of powers. Why not go to the courts? Why not get a warrant before you engage in this kind of activity?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, in fact, the Administration is using FISA and using it very actively to try to deal with the threats. But the President also has additional authorities and he's drawing on those to deal with this different kind of war. I'm not a lawyer, Chris, but the President --

QUESTION: What I'm asking was a policy question.

SECRETARY RICE: No, but the President has been very well informed (Since when?) that he has the constitutional and other authorities to do this.

QUESTION: So is the point that -- because there is a system in place, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which can grant emergency wiretaps. Was the feeling that the existing system was too slow?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the intelligence professionals here do use FISA and we've used FISA, but FISA is a 1978 act; it does relate to a time when we were principally concerned about the activities of people working on behalf of governments or the activities of governments. This is a different circumstance and the President, in order to discharge his obligations to detect and thereby prevent terrorist attacks inside the United States, has drawn on additional authorities that are granted to him in the Constitution and in other statutes as well.

QUESTION: You didn't have to be an expert in body language to see that the President was not too pleased yesterday when he had to acknowledge the existence of this top secret program. Is the Administration going to investigate who leaked this?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, that is something that is going to be left up to people to discuss. But let me just say, it is really a serious matter when we get the disclosure of a program like this because, after all, what we must do is protect from those who are trying to hurt us knowledge of how we follow them, how we follow their activities. Because we once knew about Usama bin Laden's communications because we knew about his telephone; we were able to track it. And then a story appeared in the newspapers and we stopped using it.

QUESTION: All of this comes in a week when the President had to give in to overwhelming support in both houses of Congress among both parties, for the McCain amendment, which sets new limits on the treatment of U.S. detainees anywhere in the world. And the Senate, with four Republicans going along, voted to block, continue to block, renewal of the Patriot Act. Why do you think that there is growing concern in Congress across party lines with whether this President is exceeding his powers in conducting the war on terror?

Well, the debate that took place around the McCain amendment and the eventual outcome, I think was, in fact, good for the country because the President and --

QUESTION: You guys fought it for months.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, but the President and the Congress came to a place where I think the President believes that he can protect the country and we can continue to live up to our international obligations and to our laws here in the country. But the fact is we're in a new era, Chris, and I'm not surprised that people are going to debate and discuss how we prosecute the war on terrorism -- the war on terror.

I do know that as the President sits in the Oval every day and he sees a stream of terrorist threat information coming in, most of it, by the way, not specific enough to act on, and so your desire or your obligation as President, your obligation as an officer serving the United States, is to get as much information as possible about what those threats might be and prevent an attack. The President does that cognizant of, determined to respect, his obligations under the Constitution not just to protect the country but to protect civil liberties, to protect our international obligations and to live within our laws. But this is a different kind of war and perhaps it's not surprising that we are having some discussion of how to fight this war.

QUESTION: The President says that he will not agree to a three-month extension of the Patriot Act while Congress works to try to formulate a compromise; that he will let at the end of the year when it's due to expire, he will let those provisions expire. Isn't he playing politics with national security?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the President feels very strongly that the Congress needs to renew this act which has helped to save lives. We have to remember that immediately after September 11th the Administration and the Congress were united in the notion that additional tools were needed to close some of these gaps between what our intelligence agencies were doing outside and what our law enforcement agencies were doing inside. Chris, we set up this system of intelligence and law enforcement and walls between them at a time when the paradigm was threats come from the outside, attacks come from the outside; and then, on September 11th, the very terrible surprise was that these attacks came from within the United States by people who had been sitting here for months, who knew our system and who were communicating outside --

QUESTION: But would you really let the -- the Patriot Act, if it's so important, would you really let it expire rather than just allow a three-month extension?

SECRETARY RICE: I think the President feels very strongly that we need to do this now and we need to confront this issue now.

QUESTION: All right, let's turn to Iraq. And you know, it is so amazing -- the news business -- because it's been a remarkable week in Iraq.

SECRETARY RICE: Hasn't it, yeah.

QUESTION: Eleven million people voted, more than 70 percent turnout. But after the election last January, it took Iraqis almost three months to create a new government. Can we afford that same kind of a delay this time?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, when you talk to Iraqis, they recognize the need to sustain the momentum out of this election, they need to sustain momentum for the expectations of the Iraqi people, they need to sustain it because of the insurgency and the terrorists, they need to get a strong message that the political system is moving forward. Yes, they are trying to do something very difficult, which is to overcome a lot of fissures -- historical fissures, traditional fissures -- through a political process. And so they will need to take the time to make sure that that's done, but I think they all understand that they should do it as quickly as possible.

It's also the case that this election is different than the January election because this time Sunnis voted in very large numbers.

QUESTION: Let's engage in what I know is your favorite part of appearing on Fox News Sunday, and that is a lightning round with quick questions and brief answers, if you will, Madame Secretary.


QUESTION: The trial of Saddam Hussein. Iraq's Vice President has said that this has become a platform for Saddam and wonders who is the genius who is producing this farce. Do you share any of his concerns that Saddam is seizing control of the trial?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, these are difficult -- these big trials are -- as we've seen with Milosevic in The Hague. So it's difficult. But you have to say that the tremendous courage of this judge who sits there and confronts Saddam Hussein, I think that's what's really coming through, not Saddam Hussein and his rantings.

QUESTION: All right. Iran's new President says that Israel should be wiped off the map, that the Holocaust is a myth. You've been talking about this for months, that we've got to do something about this. And I must say, I looked back at an interview that we did in June; we were talking about this. How frustrating for you that you can't get the European allies, Russia, China, to go along to isolate Iran by imposing sanctions?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I am convinced that this will end up in the Security Council if Iran doesn't change course, and I see no evidence that Iran is going to change course.

QUESTION: If you'll forgive me, you were saying that last June.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, diplomacy takes some time and it is important that we do this at a time of our choosing. Right now, the Iranians are not enriching and reprocessing. That's good. But the more that we hear from this Iranian Government, the more that people recognize and acknowledge publicly that this is a government that shouldn't even expect the international community to trust them with technologies that might lead to a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: All right. And finally, because the one time I don't ask you, you're going to have something to say on this subject. Are you still ruling out a run for President in 2008?

SECRETARY RICE: I guarantee I'm not going to have anything more to say on that subject. That's not my calling.

QUESTION: All right. Now, having said that, I've got a new one for you.

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, goodness.

QUESTION: If the Republican nominee for President in 2008 came to you and said, "Condi, we need you on the ticket as the Vice President."
SECRETARY RICE: We've got an awful lot of good people who can run at the top of the ticket and in the second spot. I'm somebody who wants to go back to California or maybe to the NFL.

QUESTION: To the NFL? The commissioner, not a player, right?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, that's great. Not a -- well, last time I looked, I'm not really qualified to be a linebacker.

QUESTION: Any pick in the Washington Redskins-Dallas game today?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, that's dangerous territory, Chris.

QUESTION: Forget the Middle East.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, forget the Middle East. Right. I'll say that I think the Redskins will win this one.

QUESTION: Well, we'll see. Secretary Rice, thank you so much for coming in and, as always, please come back.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Great to be with you.


Released on December 18, 2005

Saturday, December 10, 2005

All who have gone before will share the blame for mistakes made by the new recruits

By Tom Bowman
Baltimore Sun

Army accepts more low-aptitude recruits

WASHINGTON – The Army met its recruiting goal for November by again accepting a high percentage of recruits who scored in the lowest category on the military’s aptitude tests, Pentagon officials said Thursday, raising renewed concerns that the quality of the all-volunteer force will suffer.

The Army exceeded its 5,600 recruit goal by 256 for November, while the Army Reserve brought in 1,454 recruits, exceeding its target by 112. To do so, they accepted a “double digit” percentage of recruits who scored between 16 and 30 out of a possible 99 on the military’s aptitude test, said officials who requested anonymity.

Last month, the Baltimore Sun reported that the Army reached its recruiting goals in October by accepting 12 percent from these low scorers, known as Category IV recruits. The Army may accept no more than 4 percent annually, according to Defense Department rules. While officials last month disclosed the percentage accepted in October, Thursday they refused to reveal the November figure.

“We are not giving out (aptitude test) categories during the course of the year,” said Douglas Smith, a spokesman for the Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Ky.

Still, Army officials continue to say that at the end of the recruiting year, next Sept. 30, the total percentage of Category IV soldiers will be no more than 4 percent.

For more than a decade, the Army kept its Category IV soldiers to 2 percent of its recruitment pool.

But last year, faced with a difficult recruiting climate because of the war in Iraq, Army Secretary Francis Harvey decided to double the number of Category IV soldiers.

“We will be at 4 percent at the end of the fiscal year, that’s what matters,” said Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, a spokesman for Army personnel.

The increasing reliance on the lowest-scoring recruits is troubling to former officers who fear that the quality of the force will erode.

They say that the increasingly high-tech Army needs even more qualified soldiers. And with troops facing more complex duties involving nation building and peacekeeping duties, good judgment is more important.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Good guys in a Bad War

"No True Glory is the gripping account of the valor of the Marines in the fiercest urban combat since Hue. Yet, the even-handed description of the vacillation regarding policy will likely please neither some of our senior officers nor the White House." --Former Secretary of Defense, James R. Schlesinger

"No True Glory is the best book on the U.S. military in Iraq to emerge so far." --Tom Ricks of The Washington Post

The finest chronicle of the strategy behind battle and the fighting during battle that I've ever read!" --General Carl E. Mundy, former Commandant of the Marine Corps

"A remarkably detailed, vivid firsthand account of the American military experience…. West’s focus is on the “frontline,” putting the reader at the negotiating table with U.S. military commanders and Fallujan sheiks, imams, and rebel leaders; in the barracks; and on the street, fighting hand to hand, house to house, in some of the fiercest battles of the Fallujah campaign and the Iraq war." --Booklist

West describes the fury of the fighting in Fallujah and Ramadi in a style that makes him part historian, part novelist — the grunts' Homer.” --LA Times Book Review

“West successfully brings the war back home in all its agonizing and illuminating detail. From the combat stories of those on the ground all the way up to the White House, West [is] uniquely placed to write a chronicle of the fight. The narrative truly shines." --The Christian Science Monitor

Exhaustively reported...West paints a picture of highly capable Marines struggling to make the best of untenable political circumstances.”--Washington Post Book World

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Is Saudi Arabia the Real Enemy?

“Talibans with Oil and a Good P.R. Company”
The dark kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Q&A by Kathryn Jean Lopez

Laurent Murawiec, of the Hudson Institute, is author of the new book Princes of Darkness : The Saudi Assault on the Westi. Formerly an analyst at the Rand Corporation, in 2002 he gave an infamous briefing at the Pentagon to the Defense Policy Board about Saudi Arabia. NRO Editor Kathryn Lopez spoke to him about the book and the kingdom.

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Are you a Zionist madman?

Laurent Murawiec: Yes, if we believe the Saudi media, a large segment of the Arab press, and a number of Washington pundits who nobly rose to the defense of the Saudi royals maligned by this impudent writer. If the little boy who says that the king has no clothes is mad, then I plead guilty as charged. Next, I like Israel, too. I think Israel, of all the countries in the Middle, is the most like us, democratic, Western, vibrant. Guilty again. But the "Zionist madman" is only the polite version of what I've been called in the Saudi press and the Arab media, and even some in our own media.

Lopez: Is Saudi Arabia our enemy? Is it fundamentally evil?

Murawiec: Let's look at facts rather than speeches. The Al-Saud family is indistinguishable from the Wahhabi sect. They have been wedded like Siamese twins since 1744. The sect lends Islamic legitimacy to the sword of the ruler, the ruler extends the writ of the sect. The one cannot exist without the other. The Wahhabi creed is a nasty, bigoted belief system. It considers itself the sole repository of authentic Islam, and views all other Muslins as heretics, apostates, and schismatics, hence, deserving of death. It considers Jews and Christians as Satanic enemies that should be killed when opportunity arises. Jihad is integral to Wahhabism. Whenever the Saudi royals have had opportunity to manifest and implement the creed, they have. King Faisal gave his every visitor a copy of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Read the sermons and the fatwas and the schoolbooks that pour out of Saudi mosques, universities, imams, and predicators, from TV and media: "death to Jews, Christians, Hindus, Shiites" is a permanent singsong. That's the Saudi-Wahhabi creed in action. Now, since they have needed us to protect them from regional predators, Iran, Saddam in his time, Nasser earlier and so on, they have honed in a nice trick which allows them to emit friendly noises from one corner of their mouth when they speak English, and in hateful tones from the other, Arabic side. When senior Saudi clerics issue fatwas that call for the killing of Americans in Iraq, when Saudi state TV airs these bloodcurdling calls for jihad against America, how can one but conclude that they are no friends, but enemies? The new Saudi ambassador here, Prince Turki, called our toppling of Saddam "a colonial war." Seventy percent of the jihadis we have captured in Iraq are Saudis. King Abdullah, Prince Nayef the interior minister, Prince Sultan and Turki have all repeatedly stated that Israel was behind 9/11 — not the 15 of 19 hijackers that were Saudis — and behind all terrorist incidents in Saudi Arabia! King Abdullah twice in the last few years threatened the U.S. with a new oil embargo. With such friends, who needs enemies? The Saudi royals? Talibans with oil and a good p.r. company. The regime? It is evil, and therefore it is our enemy, and it behaves accordingly.

Lopez: How do you take the Saudi out of Saudi Arabia?

Murawiec: Let me backtrack: If I'm right regarding the nature of Saudi Arabia, then our policy should be to treat them on their merits and demerits, not on some imaginary and delusional notion that they are our friends and allies. Drive a hard bargain based on our national interest. If you go to the supermarket to buy carrots, you pay good money to buy good carrots. Do you call the manager your friend or your ally? There has been a consistent pattern of Saudi actions, of Saudi strategies, that have been inimical to the United States. Draw conclusions: The Saudis have been given a pass for several decades, no matter what kind of outrage they were committing or orchestrating. The Saudi establishment, their religious establishment, the "charities," the universities, the Saudi NGOs like the World Muslim League, the World Association of Muslim Youth, the International Islamic Relief (on the board of which princes sit, so they're really no NGO but official organizations that claim to be NGOs) they are one of the principal sources of terrorist jihad against the West, at a par with the ayatollahs' Iran. So we should treat them accordingly. There are many actions they should take, and we can monitor their implementation: shut down the madrasas; stop printing and exporting the schoolbooks and other literature that preach slaughtering Westerns as a noble Islamic act; shut up the imams and predicators whose sermons call for murder of infidels and jihad; shut down the so-called charities that funnel funds into international terror, arrest their senior officers, hand out their archives to our intelligence agencies; shut down those branches of Saudi intelligence which are involved in and complicit with terror. That's just a beginning. Good-faith implementation by the Saudi government would help, not the fake decrees that remain dead letter and the platitudinous speeches and the tremolos of eternal friendliness which only exist to be brandished by the Saudi embassy here and their friendly Washington lobbyists. If the Saudis do not respond, they should meet the full wrath of the United States. Why should we accept a "special relationship" which is so lop-sided? Very special indeed: They gain, we lose.

Lopez: The U.S. seems to bend over backward to call Saudi Arabia our friend. Any hope of that changing?

Murawiec: When Franklin Roosevelt met King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud on board USS Quincy in 1945, they struck a deal that made good strategic sense: guaranteed flows of cheap oil against protection. The deal worked for some time, it was reasonable. As the Saudis started undermining it and violating it, it stopped making sense. But oil entails a lot of money and influence: In the period 1973-2002, the Saudis pocketed two trillion dollars worth of direct oil and gas income. Early on, ARAMCO, which was an American company, became a lobbying arm, a p.r. and policy-influence adjunct of the Saudi regime. The Saudi royals have one great talent: survival, and one undeniable art: power. Buying people is a standard Bedouin method. So they became our friends. Add that American strategy in the Middle East was long based on one parameter: Let's be friends with the owners of the real estate under which the oil is. Let's be real nice with dictators and despots. Sunni strongmen buy us stability in the region: Let's love them. This is realism. "It gave us 50 years of peace," as one Realist recently pronounced. They make cemeteries and call them peace. It's like those who said — often the same — that there was no alternative to letting the Soviets get away with everything, or else.

We've been in a slow-motion divorce with the Saudis for four years now. It's the kind of divorce where both sides loudly claim that everything's fine, while the lawyers are busy calculating alimony and the splitting of assets. But we pulled out much of our military assets from Saudi Arabia — they were unhelpful in the run-up to the Iraq war, to say the least, so we moved to Qatar and other places. We revoked the diplomatic immunity of 70 Saudi jihad leaders, Wahhabi agents who operated out of the embassy's "Islamic Affairs" department. The Treasury investigated and exposed, the FBI raided a number of Saudi pseudo-NGOs — the list is long. But the divorce is painstakingly slow. The Saudis always calculate how far they can get away with things they do without getting us enraged. There is great fear in Washington of "provoking the fall of the Al-Sauds and opening the door to bin Laden," as if this alternative was the only one. The president has been less than consistent on the issue: While he's revoked the "realist" doctrine of unconditional love for Sunni strongmen, he still in effect behaves publicly as if some aspects of it were true. It's a pity, as he undermines his own strategic thrust: you cannot combat the jihadis here and tolerate their main backers there.

Lopez: Why didn't 9/11 dramatically change U.S.-Saudi talk?

Murawiec: 9/11 forced our government to notice — how insightful! — that something was amiss on the Saudi side. ...It merely got the ball rolling — we've only seen the beginning.

Lopez: Is "Washington on the auction block" at all overly dramatic?

Murawiec: "If the reputation, then, builds that the Saudis take care of friends when they leave office, you'd be surprised how much better friends you have who are just coming into office." Thus spoke Prince Bandar bin Sultan, grandson of Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, and son of the current defense minister, until recently ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the United States, or rather, as he is known, Saudi minister of American affairs, as the Washington Post reported on February 11, 2002. What more could I say? I have a full chapter in the book documenting those who put themselves on the auction block. The sheer chutzpah of that statement!

Lopez: Shouldn't "Wahhabi" being a household word by now?

Murawiec: Ah, yes, it should be! It is as if we had been fighting World War II and not naming the enemy by its name, and Roosevelt had talked of "violence" instead of "Nazis." I cheered early October when the president said in his speech at the National Endowment for Democracy that the enemy was "Islamo-Fascism" and the ideology of jihad rather than some shapeless, vague, anonymous "terrorism." Well, it took four years, but it happened. Once again, the main suppliers of Islamo-Fascist conceptions, funds and practices in the world are the Saudis and the Iranians. Wahhabism is half the problem. The Wahhabi-Saudi takeover of most of radical Sunni Islam — the Muslim brotherhood, the Deobandi sect, the Tablighi, and others — should make them into a household word for "enemy."

Lopez: Do you think that the leak of that Pentagon briefing was intentional? Or, at the very least, might the administration been grateful someone said it and it managed to become an issue?

Murawiec: Parts of the administration were furious. Colin Powell called Prince Saud, the foreign minister, to express his repentance and make clear that the briefing had nothing, thing at all, to do with U.S. policies. Other parts were glad that a debate that had never arisen outside the Beltway had become a national debate. The leak of the briefing to the Washington Post became significant not because of the novelty of my argument, which a dozen analysts in Washington had made and publicized before me, but because it gained front-page prominence: The briefing had been presented at the Department of Defense, it came after 9/11, which gave it credibility, and the leak spiced it up. It became an issue. Note that much of what I had then said, which many in the media then called "Strangelovian," is now currently stated in the media without anyone batting an eyelid. So it was a good debate whose time had come, through a fortuitous incident.

Lopez: How do you see U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia realistically changing?

Murawiec: Slowly but inescapably. Part of it is that no responsible policymaker should tie his country's strategic fortunes to a sinking ship. The Saudis have just bought themselves a respite — at $60 a barrel, you can buy more people internally and externally than at $20 or 30. Just as Brezhnev's regime and Soviet Communism got a respite in 1973-74 and again in 1978-79 with the two oil shocks: it saved them from bankruptcy and prolonged the terminal agony by a decade and more. Likewise with a dysfunctional Saudi regime, which has spent the last thirty years breeding attack dogs, many of whom then turned into wolves, and has not modernized the Kingdom at all (the oil dependency of Saudi exports was 91 percent in 1973, it was 91 percent three years ago: outside the oil industry, no modernization at all!). Gradually, U.S. policy is changing: by toppling Saddam Bush in effect revoked the doctrine of supporting Sunni strongmen. This was just a start. If your strategy is to help modernize the Arab Muslim world, dictators and despots appear as what they are: a deadly impediment.

Lopez: What should Congress be doing?

Murawiec: The "Saudi Accountability Act of 2005" is a good start: Monitor their every outrage, scrutinize their policy, put their actions under the microscope. Look at international jihad, its funding, its logistics, its propagandists, its religious leaders and cheerleaders, the media, the recruiters, etc. Look at the Saudi element in each and every one of those aspects. Pin it down, publicize it, make a permanent stink out of it. Put pressure on the executive branch to stop tolerating the intolerable. At the beginning of November, the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on Saudi Arabia. On the eve of the hearing, the State Dept. suddenly pulled out — they sent no representative at all! Contempt of Congress? Discipline those in our own government who carry their own policy, at odds with that of the president. Stop tolerating that the State Department operates as a lobby for Saudi Arabia.

Lopez: What do you anticipate Saudi Arabia looking like in ten years?

Murawiec: Split in its original component parts conquered between 1910 and 1934 by Ibn Saud as his sword was carving him an empire: Hasa, the predominantly Shiite eastern province with the oil, along the Gulf coast; Hijaz, the Red Sea province open to international trade since the dawn of history; Asir, largely Shiite, brutally wrested from Yemen... and these segments then trying to enter some form of association, perhaps with others in the peninsula. The Soviet Union had been born in 1921, and Yugoslavia too: They were older, when they toppled, than Saudi Arabia now is. The present bonanza is going to give the rulers a false sense of security and power, and they will postpone or eliminate any serious changes. As usual, they will be intoxicated by money and the power it confers. Will they reform? It is rather fatuous to believe that 83-year-old King Abdullah, who has been in power for more than 40 years, and who assembled and led the Saudi national guard — drawn from the Bedouins, the most retrogressive, xenophobic, and backward part of the population, that's his base — is going to be a reformer. Just last February, the minister of education, who had been announced as a would-be reformer, was sacked and replaced by a hard-line Wahhabi. Some reformer, this new king.

Lopez: Why should we trust a Frenchman?

Murawiec: You have to make up your mind: either I'm a mad Zionist, or I'm merely a Frenchman. Or am I both? In that case, I'm really, really bad. In the event, I'm a Frenchman who's very proud of becoming an American.


Laurent Murawiec
From SourceWatch

Laurent Murawiec, whose expertise is in information warfare and revolution in military affairs, is listed as a Senior Fellow by the Hudson Institute and as an "Expert" by the Middle East Forum. Until 2002, Murawiec was a "senior international policy analyst with the RAND Corporation."[1] He is also listed as a "terrorism analyst" by the Jamestown Foundation [2].

According to the Institute, Murawiec "taught philosophy in Paris and was a foreign correspondent in Germany and Central Europe for 'La Vie Francaise', a major French business weekly. He later co-founded and managed GeoPol Services S.A., a Geneva, Switzerland, consulting company that advised multinational corporations and banks. ... Prior to moving to the United States, he was an adviser to the French Ministry of Defense and taught the history of economic planning at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris. He has taught military analysis and cultural anthropology at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University." Murawiec "earned his B.A., Phil. and M.A., Phi.l from the Sorbonne University in Paris."

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Origins of the Species Neo-Con by Roger Morris

Origins of the Species Neo-Con

by Roger Morris

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Tracking the genealogy of the cabal of neo-conservatives who have so disastrously dominated foreign policy under George W. Bush, journalists have followed a political bloodline back to the 1960s, to cold war pamphleteers like Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz, and – more respectably if also more tenuously – to the postwar University of Chicago political theorist Leo Strauss.

As so often with the neo-cons, however, there is less there than meets the eye, especially in finding any serious intellectual content in the rise of men like the former Deputy Defense Secretary and now World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz or UN Ambassador-designate John Bolton.

Whatever their other derivation, the genus also traces to more banal, seedier origins, curling back through closed-door politics where so much of U.S. history happens. The neo-con coup d'état after 9/11, the war on Iraq, the fear and loathing as foreign policy – all that and more started as well nearly seventy years ago in the wooded curving inlets and gentle fog of the far Northwest.

Nineteen thirty-eight was the year Henry Martin Jackson, an ambitious 26-year-old Democrat fresh out of the University of Washington Law School, was elected prosecuting attorney for Snohomish County along the shore of Puget Sound north of Seattle. As usual, few outside Washington state noticed the obscure local vote. But it launched a fateful political career, and ultimately led to the U.S. invasion and bloody occupation of Iraq.

Jackson rose rapidly from the courthouse in his hometown Everett. Making a name for himself chasing San Juan Island-skirting bootleggers and lumberjack camp gamblers, he shot on to Congress in 1940. He served five terms in the House, broken by a stint as a World War II GI, and by 1952, had gained the Senate, where "Scoop," as he was called from his days as a paperboy and cub reporter, became a national force.

A middle-of-the-road, pro-labor Democrat on domestic issues and an early champion of environmental causes, Jackson was chairman for nearly two decades of the Interior Committee (later Energy and Natural Resources) and sat on the Government Operations Committee and Joint Committee on Atomic Energy – all major fiefdoms in dispensing federal money and wielding influence in politics and policy. One of Capitol Hill's more vigorous legislators, he was a main author and driving force of the legislation creating the Environmental Protection Agency, major wilderness preservation and other landmark acts. With another local prosecutor raised to Senate power, Seattle's Warren Magnuson, Jackson also saw to it that generous appropriations and contracts were sluiced to his home state. "Scoop" especially would be known scathingly in congressional corridors as the "Senator from Boeing" for being on-call to the increasingly powerful, increasingly corrupt corporate giant.

But it was in national security that Jackson's impact was deepest. The hawks' hawk, he was to the right of many in both parties. Not even the massive retaliation strategy and roving CIA interventions of the Eisenhower '50s were tough enough for him. Perched on the mighty Armed Services Committee as well as his other bases of power, he went on over the next decade to goad the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, urging the Vietnam War, fatter military budgets, stronger support of Israel in the Middle East and a more aggressive foreign policy in general.

It was then, 40 years ago, that Jackson began to be linked directly, if furtively, to some of the uglier and little-known origins of the war on Iraq. Overseeing the CIA's "black budget" for covert operations and interventions from a subcommittee of Armed Services, he was one of a handful of senators who gave a nod to two U.S.-backed coups in Iraq, one in 1963 and again in 1968. Those plots brought Saddam Hussein to power amid bloodbaths in which the CIA, exacting the price for its support, handed Saddam and his Baath Party cohorts lists of supposed anti-U.S. Iraqis to be killed.

The result was the systematic murder of several hundred and as many as several thousand people, in which Saddam himself participated. Whatever the toll, accounts agree that CIA killing lists comprised much of Iraq's young educated elite – doctors, teachers, technicians, lawyers and other professionals as well as military officers and political figures – Iraqis who would not be there to oppose Saddam's growing tyranny over ensuing years or to help rebuild or govern Iraq, as the United States now hopes to do, after the current war.

By 1969, Jackson was so prominent in military and national security affairs, and so at odds on those issues with many in his own party, that newly elected Republican Richard Nixon thought to name the Washington Democrat his secretary of defense, though the senator declined the job.

But Snohomish County's favorite son coveted the White House himself and was soon a sharp critic of Nixon's arms control and détente. Added to his cold warring was even greater zeal for Israel, a certainty that the United States should endorse the Israelis' own hard line – absorbing the West Bank after its conquest in the 1967 Middle East War, the long-term subjugation of Palestine and an abiding hostility to Iraq and other Arab states.

As Jackson grew nationally prominent, he attracted the inevitable ambitious staffers and partisans boarding his coattails to advance both their own hawkish views and themselves. Among them was a recent graduate of the University of Southern California who was fanatic about amassing and projecting U.S. power, especially on behalf of Israel, and not least about his own strategic genius. The young New Yorker named Richard Perle became Jackson's chief assistant from 1969 to 1980.

I saw these origins firsthand working in the Senate in the early '70s after resigning from Henry Kissinger's National Security Council staff over the invasion of Cambodia. Seen from the inside, Jackson's Senate heft was considerable. Though a relatively small, unprepossessing figure as politicians go, he usually did his homework, could be incisive about important details his colleagues let slip and struck a shrewd balance between conviction and expedience. Much of his Capitol Hill power derived from his unique role, which he played well, as a northern Democrat with solid labor backing and other party credentials yet whose hard-line international view drew the support of many Republicans and the most conservative Southerners on either side of the aisle.

His belligerence also exerted – as it still does, of course – an extortionist pull on Democrats deathly afraid of appearing "weak" on national defense or in standing up to the Russians or anyone else. There was no question that "Scoop," albeit very much a half-educated provincial from the mountains and straits of the far northwest corner of the continental United States, shrewdly caught the unease and reflexive combativeness of much of America in dealing with a planet we knew, and know, so little despite our power. Still, in the '70s, a more worldly post-Vietnam moderation and sensibility in the leadership of both parties appeared to have passed Jackson by, leaving his chauvinism and foreign policy animus marginal, sometimes looking a bit crazed.

As for Perle, he was a pear-shaped, slightly fish-eyed man of self-consciously affected locution, the too-hungry, too-sly and too-toadying aide familiar in bureaucracies public and private. His views were patently uninformed, and he wore his conference-room warrior's zealotry no more gracefully than his expensive blue pinstriped suits. It seemed obvious that the bellicose policies he and Jackson embodied were not only wrong for America, but would also usher Israel into the ruinous isolation I and other admirers of its brave people most feared. "Scoop" & Co. would remain, I assumed, an extremist fringe.

How wrong I was.

Jackson, of course, never got the White House. With big pro-Israeli money though stolid style, he lost the presidential nomination in 1976 to Jimmy Carter, who offered a fresh face in the national weariness in the wake of the Watergate scandal. But when Jackson died seven years later back in Everett, ending more than four decades on the national scene, he had spawned a cult following. With the lavishly financed and much-propagandized neo-conservatives first taking power under President Reagan, and then at the senior levels under a new and ignorant George W. Bush, their throwback foreign policy was, and is, "Scoop" Jackson warmed over – the red, white and blue, bombs-away dawn of an old era.

For his part, Perle missed a long-coveted chance to make presidential policy when Jackson stumbled in 1976. But the aide promptly moved on to the next coattails in classic, if banal, Washington, D.C., style. Relentlessly levering the system he learned under Jackson, he cultivated the media, courted politicians in both parties and used old allies in the ever more politically potent pro-Israeli and military-industrial lobbies. By the Reagan '80s, he was an assistant secretary of defense, veteran of the now-venerated Jackson tradition of military expansion and a self-promoted strategist for a Republican president as comfortably as for a Democratic senator.

Whatever "Scoop" Jackson's mix of political principle and opportunism, Perle's politics were largely himself. And in time-honored Washington tradition, on the way up Perle gathered his own disciples among similarly grasping men – Wolfowitz, Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and others who would go on themselves in the same fashion to become key officials in the current administration, and who gathered their own coterie from assorted Reagan regime and Capitol Hill right-wing hacks such as Bolton. Like Perle, who was appointed in 2001 to chair the Bush Administration's influential Defense Policy Board, they were all longtime advocates, years before the Sept. 11 attacks, of pre-emptive American military invasions in Iraq and elsewhere and of implicit, if not open, support for the expansionist and repressive policies of their right-wing counterparts in Israel. Their concerted influence was decisive in going to war in Iraq.

Grown wealthy in the revolving door between government and corporate plunder, Perle drew notoriety briefly in 2003 not only for his intimate ties to Israel but also for his connections to companies standing to profit obscenely from the war he'd mongered. When Michigan Congressman John Conyers Jr. and Senator Carl Levin began to prod Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about the disreputable dealings, Perle angrily resigned from the chairmanship of the board, though he continued to sit as a full-fledged member of the pivotal body. It was a fleeting glimpse of the cronyism, conflict-of-interest, loyalty-for-sale and general political-intellectual corruption of the neo-cons in Perle's lineage.

It was also – history's nice irony – just the kind of disgrace young "Scoop" Jackson might once have prosecuted up in Snohomish County.

September 1, 2005

Roger Morris [send him mail] was Senior Staff on the National Security Council under both Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, until resigning over the invasion of Cambodia. Morris is the author of Partners in Power: the Clintons and Their America and with Sally Denton The Money and the Power: the Making of Las Vegas. He is completing Shadows of the Eagle, a history of US policy and covert interventions in the Middle East and South Asia over the past half-century, forthcoming from Alfred Knopf.

This article originally appeared on the Green Institute GP360 web site.

Copyright © 2005 Roger Morris

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Senators debate McCain amendment

KWAME HOLMAN: For the past four months, Arizona Republican John McCain has led a concerted effort in the United State Senate to prohibit the use of torture on detainees being held in U.S. custody on foreign soil.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: First, subjecting prisoners to abuse leads to bad intelligence because under torture, a detainee will tell his interrogator anything to make the pain stop. Second, mistreatment of our prisoners endangers U.S. troops who might be captured by the enemy, if not in this war, then in the next.

KWAME HOLMAN: Sen. McCain is one of the few members of Congress who can speak from experience. He was tortured over five and a half years in captivity during the Vietnam War.

But in his speeches, McCain has referenced more recent reports of torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq and the U.S. detention center at Guatanamo Bay, Cuba.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: If we inflict this cruel and inhumane treatment, the cruel actions of a few darken the reputation of our country in the eyes of millions. American values should win against all others in any war of ideas, and we can't let prisoner abuse tarnish our image.

KWAME HOLMAN: And so McCain wrote legislation that would establish uniform standards for the interrogation of persons under the detention of the Defense Department consistent with the Army field manual and prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of persons under the custody or control of the United States Government.

Early last month, and despite strong opposition from the Bush administration, Sen. McCain attached that language to a defense appropriations bill and convinced all but nine of his colleagues to support it.

Again last Friday, McCain took the same language, pinned it to a defense authorization measure, and won without the Senate even bothering to hold a recorded vote.

SPOKESMAN: All those in favor say aye.

KWAME HOLMAN: Among the few senators opposed to the torture legislation has been Alaska Republican Ted Stevens who last month argued that some nonmilitary personnel should be exempt from it.

SEN. TED STEVENS: There are people who are not in uniform who may not even be citizens of the United States who represent us in very strange and dangerous places whose lives may be put in jeopardy by the process that is spelled out in part of this amendment.

There are some changes that have to be made if we're to be faithful to those people who live in the classified world and will be covered by the classified annex that -- you read the amendment, it is not covered here.

KWAME HOLMAN: Last week, Vice President Cheney visited the Senate and reportedly urged Republicans specifically to exempt the CIA from McCain's amendment.

That news report was followed by another that told of al-Qaida prisoners being held at secret CIA camps in Eastern Europe. Sen. McCain used that to argue the CIA should not be exempt.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: The CIA wasn't set up to run prisons.

KWAME HOLMAN: Despite the overwhelming support in the Senate to attach the McCain torture amendment to two defense bills, there is no such language in either of the House bills. A Conference Committee made up of selected members of both chambers will decide whether the language stays or goes. MARGARET WARNER: And for more on this debate we turn to two senators who are on the House-Senate Conference Committee that's now hammering out the fate of the McCain amendment, as part of the military spending bill, the first bill that was voted on. Missouri Republican Christopher Bond was one of the nine senators who voted against the McCain amendment last month. And Illinois Democrat Sen. Richard Durbin voted for it.

Welcome, gentlemen.

Senator Durbin, you're in the midst of these negotiations, is the McCain amendment going to survive and end up in the military spending bill?

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: Well I certainly hope so, and although we haven't sat down in conference to make that final decision, if 90 senators vote in favor of that proposition, then it passes by voice vote. It's pretty clear what the sentiment is in the Senate. The difficulty we face is this: Vice President Cheney in particular has opposed this amendment from the start. And I just can't at this point really define with any clarity what the position of the administration is.

Of course the president in South America said this week that we are opposed to torture, while the vice president lobbies Capitol Hill to allow torture by some employees of the federal government. I can understand that this ambiguity may make sense in the White House. It doesn't make sense outside of the White House. I think it really calls into question our reputation in the world and threatens the safety of our troops.

MARGARET WARNER: All right. Sen. Bond, first, your assessment -- and feel free to answer his arguments as well -- but your assessment of how things are going in the Conference Committee and whether the McCain amendment will survive.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: Frankly, I hope not. I appreciate the opportunity to talk a little bit about this because it has been mischaracterized.

The first thing we should point out is the United States Government does not condone permit, or accept torture. I think it's important to know that existing laws already on the books were used to punish and imprison people who did those gross and unlawful things at Abu Ghraib. They presented us with a black eye, and we punish people who go off the reservation. We do not permit torture, and the vice president has not come out in favor of torture.

But the point that has to be made is that we cannot set out for detainees, in advance, precisely what kinds of interrogation methods would be used. I have not been fully briefed -- I'm not in a position to get a full brief on what is permitted. But I have talked to special operatives of the CIA who operate under -- and have told me the strict guidelines under which they go and the kinds of thing they say do, which are no worse than what our troops go through in training and in the field.

MARGARET WARNER: Sen. Bond, let me just follow up by asking you about something that General Pace, the new head of the joint chiefs, said last night on the program in an interview with Jim Lehrer. And he was asked about the McCain amendment, and he said, and this is a quote, "It is perfectly fine to have the Army field manual for the detention of individuals as the bible" -- close quote -- of how to treat prisoners.
Now, if the Pentagon doesn't object to the McCain amendment, why should Congress?

SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: Because he is talking about the Army and the Marines. As the father of a U.S. Marine in Iraq, obviously, what General Pace says about the Marines goes. But the CIA uses different tactics that are not torture that are permitted only under strict guidelines, under the Department of Justice, and the lawyers and the agencies who limit what can be done.

We cannot outline in advance what the terrorists are going to be subjected to because that becomes the first chapter in the al-Qaida operations manual. The CIA was able to get the information from what they call high-value targets - al-Qaida and Baathist leaders -- that led to the disclosure of several terrorist attacks already planned and otherwise under way in the United States to the capture of Saddam Hussein.


SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: We think it's necessary to get information from these people, staying within the bounds, but not it telling them what kind of interrogation tactics they will use. Otherwise, the U.S. homeland is not safe as it should be from another 9-11 attack.

CIA exemptions

MARGARET WARNER: All right. Sen. Durbin, respond to that. Why not let the CIA operate under different rules. And is it not the case that in fact some CIA interrogations have yielded valuable intelligence?

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: For over 200 years, we've had an American standard when it comes to the treatment of prisoners. And when we faced wars throughout our history, most recently after World War II and the Geneva Conventions, we have said that the United States has American values that do not countenance the use of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners, period. There is no exception that's written in there for the Central Intelligence Agency.

And now to suggest that we believe we can use torture in some parts of our government and not use it in others and still be able to stand up to the world and say we're standing by American values doesn't make any sense.

Sen. McCain, I think, was very eloquent on the floor. Only he can speak to this issue in the Senate the way he did. Torture does not produce worthy and reliable information. People who are being tortured will say anything to make the pain stop.

And in the meantime, while we try to carve out these nice exceptions for the CIA, I'm afraid we subject every American to the potential of torture being used against them.

MARGARET WARNER: What about Sen. Bond's point, though, that if you make it absolutely clear what the rules are, and the Army field manual is, I believe, a public document--


Margaret WarnerMARGARET WARNER: -- that, in fact, al-Qaida and other terrorists will be completely prepared for those particular procedures and will always be able -- will train themselves to resist them?

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: And what's the alternative, that we will say we're going to use torture, countenance the use of torture? And then what happens when our soldiers are captured?

What happens -- our image of the world today, our image in the world is being assaulted because people are raising questions. Is this a different America? Has it changed from the values that it always stood for? Why is it that this administration believes we have to redefine these basic fundamental American values that we've stood for, for decades? I don't think it's going to make us any safer as a nation. In fact I think it makes it more dangerous.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: Let me answer that.


SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: First, I think we have got to be clear when senators, like my colleague from Illinois, say we use torture that is absolutely false. Sen. Durbin is the one who most recently compared our troops to the Nazis, the Soviets and their gulags, or the mad regimes of Pol Pot, and that is the kind of thing--

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: That's not true, Sen. Bond.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: Here it is from--

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: That is absolutely unfair. I can't believe this.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: -- from your quote from your talk to Shawn Hannity, Alan Combs, and Wesley Clark. I'm reading your quote directly.

Christopher Bond and Richard DurbinSEN. RICHARD DURBIN: It's really -- it's unfortunate that you're doing this.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: It's unfortunate that you're saying we're using torture.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: I did not say that.


SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: I did not say that.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: You said we're using torture -- and we are not using torture because torture does not produce good results. We don't tolerate; we punish people who do things like at Abu Ghraib--


MARGARET WARNER: Yes, go ahead, Sen. Durbin.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: I'd like to respond. I was reading from an F.B.I. report about activity -- this was a classified report that had been made available through ordinary legal channels that made available information about activity at Guantanamo, and its activity that has never been explained.

I don't know if that activity was made as part of a soldier's conduct or an intelligence agent's conduct. I have said before I should not have made some of those historic references.

But let's face it, when this issue finally came before the Senate you were in the minority; you were among the nine in the Senate who said we shouldn't stand and say unequivocally there should be no torture by our government.

Christopher BondSEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: That's not true. I did not say there should not be any torture -- you absolutely misquoted me.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: That's what the McCain amendment said.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: No. It went further than that and it said we will lay out for the detainees precisely what kind of interrogation they will go through, and I've talked to operatives who say that when the detainees know precisely what they're going to go to do they laugh at them.

We cannot get the kind of information we need to protect our troops in the field -- obviously, I'm personally concerned about that and I'm personally concerned about keeping us safe at home.

Torture in extreme cases

MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask Sen. Durbin about that, because that's the so-called ticking bomb kind of case that people talk about, that if a new captive, the CIA or whoever is handling him, believes that they have -- that that person has knowledge of an imminent attack on the United States here at home, you would not make an exception, even in that case, to use any extraordinary methods.

Richard DurbinSEN. RICHARD DURBIN: Well, we can define a case in the extreme, as you just have, and wonder exactly what would occur in that world, but if we start off with the premise that we are going to use torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, that it's acceptable for some people in our government to use it, what I'm saying is that we open the door.

It wouldn't apply to just the most extreme case. It could apply to any case, and that would be a departure from where we have been as a nation for many, many decades. I'd hate to see the United States go down that road. I can't believe that we'll be stronger or safer or that our troops will in fact be spared from danger if we do.

MARGARET WARNER: All right. Sen. Bond, let me ask you about Vice President Cheney's visit to your Republican lunch last week. What was the main argument he was using with your fellow Republican senators -- 46 of whom vote for the McCain amendment -- in terms of wanting a CIA exemption, and do you think he change said any of their minds?

Christopher BondSEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: I'm not going to comment on what the vice president said, but to go back to what my colleague just said, he's talking about using torture. We don't use torture. It's not reliable. That's not what this is about. That has been mischaracterized, and it has been used politically to suggest that those of us that believe that the CIA must be able to use interrogation techniques that are no worse than what we put our special forces through in training and what my son, as a Marine recruit had to go through in his training, that's what gets the information --

MARGARET WARNER: Let me quickly get a clarification from you. The McCain amendment actually talks about outlawing cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Do you have a problem with that?

SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: It depends how you define it, and that is the problem. You could say that the training that our special forces go through is cruel and inhumane, and some of the things that our troops go through in their training when they're going through the basic training is, I would say, inhuman, the kinds of things that they put up with, sleep deprivation, exposure to cold and all kinds of situations. It does not constitute torture.

I'm not going to say what tactics the CIA uses, but they're carefully defined to abide by those principles that my colleague has spoken about that we will maintain, and it does not help to have senators claiming that unless we pass this law, we will tolerate torture. We don't, we haven't, and we won't.

MARGARET WARNER: All right, senators, we have to leave it there. Thank you.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND: Thank you very much.


Monday, November 07, 2005

Cheney ordered US prisoner torture

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Powell aide - Cheney ordered US prisoner torture

From the International Herald Tribune:

"WASHINGTON Vice President Dick Cheney's office was responsible for directives that led to U.S. soldiers' abusing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, a former top State Department official said Thursday.

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, then the secretary of state, told National Public Radio he had traced a trail of memos and directives authorizing questionable detention practices up through Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's office directly to Cheney's staff.

"The secretary of defense under cover of the vice president's office," Wilkerson said, "regardless of the president having put out this memo" - "they began to authorize procedures within the armed forces that led to what we've seen."

He said the directives contradicted a 2002 order by President George W. Bush for the U.S. military to abide by the Geneva conventions against torture.

"There was a visible audit trail from the vice president's office through the secretary of defense, down to the commanders in the field," authorizing practices that led to the abuse of detainees, Wilkerson said.

The directives were "in carefully couched terms," Wilkerson conceded, but said they had the effect of loosening the reins on U.S. troops, leading to many cases of prisoner abuse, including at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, that were contrary to the Geneva Conventions.

"If you are a military man, you know that you just don't do these sorts of things," Wilkerson said, because troops will take advantage, or feel so pressured to obtain information that "they have to do what they have to do to get it."

He said that Powell had assigned him to investigate the matter after reports emerged in the media about U.S. troops abusing detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both men had formerly served in the U.S. military.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Died in Iraq :: Age 22 - Cpl Jeffery Star :: The story


On Wednesday, the NYTimes published a 4,625-word opus on the "2,000 dead" milestone--a "grim mark," read the headline--on page A2. Among those profiled were Marines from the First Battalion of the Fifth Marine Regiment, including Cpl. Jeffrey B. Starr. Here's an excerpt from the Times' passage about Cpl. Starr:

Another member of the 1/5, Cpl. Jeffrey B. Starr, rejected a $24,000 bonus to re-enlist. Corporal Starr believed strongly in the war, his father said, but was tired of the harsh life and nearness of death in Iraq. So he enrolled at Everett Community College near his parents' home in Snohomish, Wash., planning to study psychology after his enlistment ended in August.

But he died in a firefight in Ramadi on April 30 during his third tour in Iraq. He was 22.

Sifting through Corporal Starr's laptop computer after his death, his father found a letter to be delivered to the marine's girlfriend. ''I kind of predicted this,'' Corporal Starr wrote of his own death. ''A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances.''

Last night, I received a letter from Corporal Starr's uncle, Timothy Lickness. He wanted you to know the rest of the story--and the parts of Corporal Starr's letter that the Times failed to include:

Yesterday's New York Times on-line edition carried the story of the 2000 Iraq US military death[s]. It grabbed my attention as the picture they used with the headline was that of my nephew, Cpl Jeffrey B. Starr, USMC.

Unfortunately they did not tell Jeffrey's story. Jeffrey believed in what he was doing. He [was] willing put his life on the line for this cause. Just before he left for his third tour of duty in Iraq I asked him what he thought about going back the third time. He said: "If we (Americans) don't do this (free the Iraqi people from tyranny) who will? No one else can."

Several months after Jeffrey was killed his laptop computer was returned to his parents who found a letter in it that was addressed to his girlfriend and was intended to be found only if he did not return alive. It is a most poignant letter and filled with personal feelings he had for his girlfriend. But of importance to the rest of us was his expression of how he felt about putting his life at risk for this cause. He said it with grace and maturity.

He wrote: "Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of predicted this, that is why I'm writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances. I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark."

What Jeffrey said is important. Americans need to understand that most of those who are or have been there understand what's going on. It would honor Jeffrey's memory if you would publish the rest of his story.

Mr. Lickness also told me: "Even more than a Marine, Jeff was a man of God. At a recent memorial service at Camp Pendleton for the 16 Marines from his unit killed in Iraq we got to meet the men who were with him when he died. They told us of his bravery under fire, his leadership, his humor and his humanity. America lost the best it has, but the family knows he's with his Heavenly Father and we will see him again."

What They Left Out

Michelle Malkin got a letter from the uncle of a marine mentioned in the New York Times article about the 2,000th military death. The marine, Cpl. Jeffery B. Starr, had left a letter on his laptop for his girlfriend to read in the event of his death. The Times quoted part of the letter in its story:

Sifting through Corporal Starr's laptop computer after his death, his father found a letter to be delivered to the marine's girlfriend. ''I kind of predicted this,'' Corporal Starr wrote of his own death. ''A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances.''

But as Starr's uncle pointed out, what the Times left out is astonishing:

He wrote: "Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of predicted this, that is why I'm writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances. I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark."

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

New Benigni film finds love, laughs in Iraq war

ROME (Reuters) - Having sought to portray a lighter side to Nazi concentration camps, Italian actor-director Roberto Benigni is now looking for love and laughs in wartime Iraq.

"The Tiger and the Snow," which Benigni screened in Rome on Tuesday, is a romantic comedy that in many ways follows the Oscar-winning blueprint of his 1997 film "La Vita e' Bella" (Life is Beautiful).

Benigni is again the star of the film, and again chases after the woman of his dreams -- his real-life wife Nicoletta Braschi.

But this time, he must follow her into Baghdad shortly after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. That takes the film, which was shot partly in Tunisia, into more difficult cinematic terrain as Benigni treads between fact and fiction in a war zone.

If his previous blockbuster offered triumphant images of U.S. troops liberating concentration camp victims, Benigni's latest work portrays them as occupying forces -- often nervous and unable to communicate with scared Iraqis taking cover.

He pokes fun at the U.S. search for weapons of mass destruction -- the original justification for the invasion -- playfully taking a fly-swatter and joking he has found one of the elusive weapons.


Benigni said his film was mostly a love story, and did not seek to judge U.S. soldiers. He pointed to compassionate moments between troops and his main character, a poet named Attilio De Giovanni.

"The soldiers are seen as a 'presence'. There are no judgements made, for sure," Benigni told a news conference.

"Clearly the feeling that arises against war, I think it's very, very, very strong," he said. But he added that this vision comes from a main character who, as a poet, loves life.

Benigni masterfully creates room for comic release in otherwise tense moments, making audiences laugh during a slapstick dash into a minefield and an uncomfortable run-in with soldiers at a U.S.-manned roadblock.

Attilio had strapped medical supplies to his body -- stoking fears among the U.S. troops that he was a suicide bomber wrapped with explosives. He shouts "I'm Italian", as one jittery, soldier clutches a pointed weapon.

The scenario drew immediate comparisons to the March killing of an Italian intelligence agent, Nicola Calipari, who was accidentally shot dead by U.S. forces at a roadblock in Baghdad. But Benigni said his scene was written beforehand, adding "fiction preceded fact".

Benigni won an Oscar as best actor for Life Is Beautiful in which he played a Jewish father who protects his son from the horrors of a concentration camp by pretending it's all a game.

He was criticised by some for taking a light-hearted approach to such a grim subject. Benigni on Tuesday tried to head-off worry that he was trying to sugar-coat war by using it as a backdrop for a romantic comedy.

"It is not an ideological film," he said. "Many modern works on war -- not just modern ones -- try to speak to the mind. They are documentary works, they have a very powerful point of view. This film speaks to the heart."

The film will be released in Italy on October 14, but it is unclear when it will make its way into U.S. cinemas. Braschi said producers had still not selected a U.S. distributor.

Hollywood is also eyeing other projects related to the war in Iraq.

A new U.S. television drama about the Iraq war, "Over There," from veteran producer Steven Bochco, debuted this summer, and Universal Pictures is developing a film about the battle for Falluja, with Harrison Ford lined up to star as a general.

No production date has been set for that project, which is based on the book "No True Glory."

Report: Charges against US soldiers for abuse of Iraqis dismissed at higher rate

Report: Charges against US soldiers for abuse of Iraqis dismissed at higher rate

(AP) - DAYTON, Ohio-Charges against U.S. Army soldiers accused of crimes against Iraqis are dismissed or withdrawn at a higher rate than charges in which the victims are fellow soldiers or civilian military employees, a local newspaper reported.

An analysis by the Dayton Daily News of previously undisclosed records from the Army Court-Martial Management Information System database found that charges involving Iraqi victims were three times more likely to be dismissed or withdrawn by the Army than cases in which the victims were fellow soldiers or civilian military employees - 44 percent compared with 15 percent, the newspaper said.
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The report found that 226 U.S. soldiers were charged with offenses between the first deployments in March 2003 and Jan. 1, 2005. Of the 1,038 separate charges, fewer than one in 10 involved crimes against Iraqis. Virtually all of the rest involved crimes against other soldiers, property drug or alcohol offenses, and violations of military rules, the Daily News said.

The Daily News said that despite evidence and convictions in some cases in which the victims were Iraqis, only a small percentage resulted in punishments approaching those routinely imposed for such crimes by civilian justice systems.

The newspaper cited one case in which two U.S. soldiers were convicted of robbing an Iraqi shopkeeper. One soldier was sentenced to five months' confinement and the other to one month.

The median sentence imposed for all types of robbery in the United States, with or without the use of firearms, is five years.

"I've been surprised at some of the lenient sentences," said Gary Solis, a former military judge and prosecutor who teaches military law at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. "I have an uneasy suspicion that it relates to the nationality of the victim."

Solis said criminal acts by U.S. soldiers - and the lack of punishment - could add to the hatred fueling insurgents in Iraq, putting soldiers at greater risk.

Human Rights Watch, a U.S. rights group, last month issued a report based on soldiers' accounts that found U.S. Army troops had subjected Iraqi detainees to severe beatings and other torture at a base in central Iraq from 2003 through 2004, often under orders or with the approval of superior officers.

The group said that in most cases, the military used closed administrative hearings where they handed down light administrative punishments such as pay reductions and reprimands, instead of criminal prosecutions before courts-martial.

Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Pamela Hart defended the Army's handling of criminal cases in Iraq, saying every allegation of abuse is investigated.

"Each investigation is unique and has various facts and circumstances," Hart said Monday. "We do investigate those thoroughly to ensure we take the appropriate actions. When wrongdoings are revealed, the commanders do punish appropriately. The uniform code of military justice is fair and sound."

Hart said that in at least three cases, five defendants charged with crimes against Iraqis got sentences ranging from five years to life with possibility for parole.

"To date, there have been dozens of courts-martial, non-judicial punishments and other adverse administrative actions against soldiers for misconduct pertaining to Iraqi citizens," she said.

Last week, U.S. Army Pfc. Lynndie England, whose smiling poses in photos of detainee abuse at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, made her the most recognizable face of the scandal, was sentenced to 3 years in prison. England was found guilty of one count of conspiracy, four counts of maltreating detainees and one count of committing an indecent act. She was acquitted on a second conspiracy count.

England's trial was the last for a group of nine Army reservists charged with mistreating prisoners at Abu Ghraib, a scandal that badly damaged the United States' image in the Muslim world, despite quick condemnation of the abuse by U.S. President George W. Bush. Two other troops were convicted in trials, and the remaining six made plea deals.

Monday, October 03, 2005

CBS News | Ike Was Right About War Machine | October 3, 2005

The following is a weekly 60 Minutes commentary by CBS News correspondent Andy Rooney.

I'm not really clear how much a billion dollars is but the United States our United States is spending $5.6 billion a month fighting this war in Iraq that we never should have gotten into. We still have 139,000 soldiers in Iraq today. Almost 2,000 Americans have died there. For what? Now we have the hurricanes to pay for.

One way our government pays for a lot of things is by borrowing from countries like China. Another way the government is planning to pay for the war and the hurricane damage is by cutting spending for things like Medicare prescriptions, highway construction, farm payments, AMTRAK, National Public Radio and loans to graduate students. Do these sound like the things you'd like to cut back on to pay for Iraq? I'll tell you where we ought to start saving: on our bloated military establishment. We're paying for weapons we'll never use.

No other Country spends the kind of money we spend on our military. Last year Japan spent $42 billion. Italy spent $28 billion, Russia spent only $19 billion. The United States spent $455 billion. We have 8,000 tanks for example. One Abrams tank costs 150 times as much as a Ford station wagon. We have more than 10,000 nuclear weapons enough to destroy all of mankind. We're spending $200 million a year on bullets alone. That's a lot of target practice.

I'll tell you where we ought to start saving: on our bloated military establishment. We're paying for weapons we'll never use. No other Country spends the kind of money we spend on our military. Last year Japan spent $42 billion. Italy spent $28 billion, Russia spent only $19 billion. The United States spent $455 billion. We have 8,000 tanks for example. One Abrams tank costs 150 times as much as a Ford station wagon. We have more than 10,000 nuclear weapons enough to destroy all of mankind. We're spending $200 million a year on bullets alone. That's a lot of target practice. We have 1,155,000 enlisted men and women and 225,000 officers. One officer to tell every five enlisted soldier what to do. We have 40,000 colonels alone and 870 generals.

We had a great ccommander in WWII, Dwight Eisenhower. He became President and on leaving the White House in 1961, he said this: “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. …" Well, Ike was right. That's just what’s happened"

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Judge Orders Release of Abu Ghraib graphic pictures

NEW YORK A federal judge ruled today that graphic pictures of detainee abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison must be released over government claims that they could damage America's image. Last year a Republican senator conceded that they contained scenes of "rape and murder" and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said they included acts that were "blatantly sadistic."

U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein ordered the release of certain pictures in a 50-page decision that said terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven they "do not need pretexts for their barbarism."The ACLU has sought the release of 87 photographs and four videotapes taken at the prison as part of an October 2003 lawsuit demanding information on the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody and the transfer of prisoners to countries known to use torture. Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, said Thursday that releasing the photos would hinder his work against terrorism.

"When we continue to pick at the wound and show the pictures over and over again it just creates the image--a false image--like this is the sort of stuff that is happening anew, and it's not," Abizaid said.The judge said, however, that "the freedoms that we champion are as important to our success in Iraq and Afghanistan as the guns and missiles with which our troops are armed.

"An ACLU release this afternoon said it was getting 70 photos and three video tapes. It also said that the government is being given 20 days to appeal. What is shown on the photographs and videos from Abu Ghraib prison that the Pentagon has blocked from release?

One clue: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress last year, after viewing a large cache of unreleased images, "I mean, I looked at them last night, and they're hard to believe." They show acts "that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhumane," he added.A Republican Senator suggested the same day they contained scenes of "rape and murder." Rumsfeld then commented, "If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse."

The photos were among thousands turned over by the key "whistleblower" in the scandal, Specialist Joseph M. Darby. Just a few that were released to the press sparked the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal last year, and the video images are said to be even more shocking.“Today's historic ruling is a step toward ensuring that our government's leaders are held accountable for the abuse and torture that happened on their watch,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero.

“The American public has a right to know what happened in American detention centers, and how our leaders let it occur."One Pentagon lawyer has argued that they should not be released because they would only add to the humiliation of the prisoners. But the ACLU has said the faces of the victims can easily be "redacted."

To get a sense of what may be shown in these images, one has to go back to press reports from when the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal was still front page news.This is how CNN reported it on May 8, 2004, in a typical account that day:"U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld revealed Friday that videos and 'a lot more pictures' exist of the abuse of Iraqis held at Abu Ghraib prison.

"'If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse,' Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee. 'I mean, I looked at them last night, and they're hard to believe.'"The embattled defense secretary fielded sharp and skeptical questions from lawmakers as he testified about the growing prisoner abuse scandal. A military report about that abuse describes detainees being threatened, sodomized with a chemical light and forced into sexually humiliating poses."Charges have been brought against seven service members, and investigations into events at the prison continue."Military investigators have looked into -- or are continuing to investigate -- 35 cases of alleged abuse or deaths of prisoners in detention facilities in the Central Command theater, according to Army Secretary Les Brownlee. Two of those cases were deemed homicides, he said.

"'The American public needs to understand we're talking about rape and murder here. We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience,' Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters after Rumsfeld testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. 'We're talking about rape and murder -- and some very serious charges.'"

A report by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba on the abuse at the prison outside Baghdad says videotapes and photographs show naked detainees, and that groups of men were forced to masturbate while being photographed and videotaped.

Taguba also found evidence of a 'male MP guard having sex with a female detainee.'"Rumsfeld told Congress the unrevealed photos and videos contain acts 'that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhuman.'"The military later screened some of the images for lawmakers, who said they showed, among other things, attack dogs snarling at cowed prisoners, Iraqi women forced to expose their breasts, and naked prisoners forced to have sex with each other.In the same period, reporter Seymour Hersh, who helped uncover the scandal, said in a speech before an ACLU convention: "Some of the worse that happened that you don't know about, ok? Videos, there are women there. Some of you may have read they were passing letters, communications out to their men ... . The women were passing messages saying 'Please come and kill me, because of what's happened.'"Basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys/children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. The worst about all of them is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror it's going to come out."

Judge Hellerstein said today that publication of the photographs will help to answer questions not only about the unlawful conduct of American soldiers, but about “the command structure that failed to exercise discipline over the troops, and the persons in that command structure whose failures in exercising supervision may make them culpable along with the soldiers who were court-martialed for perpetrating the wrongs

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