Friday, December 22, 2006

Bush's 'Global War on Radicals'

By Robert Parry
December 23, 2006

The United States will never win the “war on terror,” in part, because George W. Bush keeps applying elastic definitions to the enemy, most recently expanding the conflict into a war against Muslim “radicals and extremists.”

With almost no notice in Official Washington, Bush has inserted this new standard for judging who’s an enemy as he lays the groundwork for a wider conflict in the Middle East and a potentially endless world war against many of the planet’s one billion adherents to Islam.

Indeed, it could be argued that the “war on terror” has now morphed into the “war on radicals,” allowing Bush to add the likes of Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and the leaders of Syria and Iran to his lengthening international enemies list.

Bush’s twists and turns in defining the enemy in the “war on terror” started more than five years ago, in the days immediately after the 9/11 attacks. Amid the nation’s anguish, Bush spoke in grandiloquent and quasi-religious terms, vowing to “rid the world of evil,” a patently absurd task that never received the ridicule it deserved.

But Bush then settled on a more practical aim, defeating “terrorist groups of global reach.” Though that formulation still presented some problems of definition – what does “global reach” exactly mean? – at least it offered measurable terms.

Read on.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Very Dangerous New Year

By Robert Parry
December 21, 2006

The first two or three months of 2007 represent a dangerous opening for an escalation of war in the Middle East, as George W. Bush will be tempted to “double-down” his gamble in Iraq by joining with Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair to strike at Syria and Iran, intelligence sources say.

President Bush’s goal would be to transcend the bloody quagmire bogging down U.S. forces in Iraq by achieving “regime change” in Syria and by destroying nuclear facilities in Iran, two blows intended to weaken Islamic militants in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

The Israeli army and air force would carry the brunt of any new fighting albeit with the support of beefed-up U.S. ground and naval forces in the Middle East, the sources said. Bush is now considering a “surge” in U.S. troop levels in Iraq from about 140,000 to as many as 170,000. He also has dispatched a second aircraft carrier group to the coast of Iran.

So far, however, Bush has confronted stiff opposition from the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to the plan for raising troop levels in Iraq, partly because the generals don’t think it makes sense to commit more troops without a specific military mission.

But it’s unclear how much the generals know about the expanded-war option which has been discussed sometimes in one-on-one meetings among the principals – Bush, Olmert and Blair – according to intelligence sources.

Read more here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

No Military Hope, So Send More Troops

At, we posted a story today by W. Patrick Lang and Ray McGovern, "No Military Hope, So Send More Troops," which highlights the oxymoronic logic of the so-called "surge" strategy of sending 30,000 to 40,000 more troops to Iraq.

Egged on by “full-speed-ahead” Cheney, Bush is determined that the war not be lost while he is President. But events are fast overtaking White House preferences and moving toward denouement well before two more years are up.

Perhaps it was not quite the way he meant it, but Bush has gotten one thing right; there will indeed be no “graceful exit.” And that goes in spades, if he sends still more troops to the quagmire.

Let’s send more troops to Iraq so we can pull our troops out of Iraq. A generation from now, our grandchildren will have difficulty writing history papers on this oxymoronic debate on how to surge/withdraw our troops into/from the quagmire in Iraq.

Although it may be totally illogical, the new emphasis on one last "surge" to "win" the war actually fits in well with prior administration tactics and strategies in this war, such as the Operation Iron Hammer offensive in late 2003, or the sieges of Fallujah in the spring and fall of 2004. While those prior campaigns succeeded in killing hundreds of people, and perhaps temporarily quelled the insurgency in the targetted areas, the fact is, Iraq as a whole is no more pacified now than it was before those U.S. offensives. In fact, as the Iraq Study Group put it, the situation is "grave and deterioriating."

As some have pointed out for years, increasing the violence and heavy-handed tactics against the Iraqis could actually be backfiring and fueling the insurgency by creating more and more enemies among the Iraqi people. One last "surge" against Baghdad would likely do nothing to reverse this dynamic, and would probably only succeed in creating more death and destruction in an already devastated country. Perhaps this is why the Joint Chiefs of Staff are unanimous in their opposition to the surge idea. As the Washington Post reported yesterday,

At regular interagency meetings and in briefing President Bush last week, the Pentagon has warned that any short-term mission may only set up the United States for bigger problems when it ends. The service chiefs have warned that a short-term mission could give an enormous edge to virtually all the armed factions in Iraq -- including al-Qaeda's foreign fighters, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias -- without giving an enduring boost to the U.S military mission or to the Iraqi army, the officials said.

The Pentagon has cautioned that a modest surge could lead to more attacks by al-Qaeda, provide more targets for Sunni insurgents and fuel the jihadist appeal for more foreign fighters to flock to Iraq to attack U.S. troops, the officials said.

But this expert military advice is apparently no more welcome in the White House than the Iraq Study Group's suggestions for reaching out to Iran and Syria to help stabilize Iraq. Despite the occasional acknowledgement that things may not be going precisely the way they hoped -- such as Bush's admission today that we are neither "winning" or "losing" the war -- it seems as a whole that the neocons still insist upon making their own reality. The insistence on "winning" the war with one last "surge" recalls to mind the process of reality-manufacturing that a Bush aide explained to author Ron Suskind in 2002:

''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

Perhaps he was right that we will be studying what they do, but only in the way that a psychologist might study a sociopath's behavior.

How Low Can He Go?

By Sam Parry
December 20, 2006

As President Bush enters the last two years of his presidency contemplating sending more troops to Iraq, a move favored by only 12% of the American people in a recent Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg survey, he teeters on the edge of becoming one of, if not THE least popular American president in history.

Bush's national approval rating has hovered in the mid-to-upper 30's for most of 2006, and his current national rating remains fixed in that zone. However, if the early state-by-state opinion polls published by are any indication, Bush's national numbers may soon dip even further.

So far this month, SurveyUSA has published 16 state tracking polls and in none of them is Bush close to break even. The closest state, Kansas, shows a -9% net rating, statistically unchanged from November.

In traditionally Republican states like Alabama, Kentucky and Bush's home state of Texas, the numbers are downright scary: -13% in Alabama and -21% in both the Blue Grass and Lone Star states. These states slipped from -7%, -19% and -18% in last month's survey.

In Virginia, Bush's rating took a huge dip, from -9% to -21%. While in several other states, Bush's rating simply remained at historically low points. In New York, for example, Bush's net rating is down one point from -50% to -51%. In Ohio, Bush's rating remained at 65% disapprove, 34% approve.

Ironically, in solidly Democratic Massachusetts, Bush's standing had a modest improvement, from -46% last month to -38% this month.

But, overall, these early numbers point to a widespread and potentially worsening dissatisfaction with Bush.

The big question is, as SurveyUSA reports more state tracking polls in the coming days, will Bush have a net positive rating in any state?

Last month, only 3 states – Utah, Idaho and Wyoming – reported net positive ratings of 12%, 12% and 1% respectively. Could the proposal to send more troops into a war perceived by many to be a lost cause whittle away Bush's only positive ratings in the entire country?

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Robert Gates Lines Up with Bush

By Robert Parry
December 19, 2006

In early December, when Senate Democrats politely questioned Robert M. Gates and then voted unanimously to confirm him as Defense Secretary, they bought into the conventional wisdom that Gates was a closet dove who would help guide the United States out of George W. Bush's mess in Iraq.

The thinking was that Gates, a former member of the Iraq Study Group, would represent the views of James Baker and other "realists" from George H.W. Bush's administration. Hillary Clinton and other Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee praised Gates for his "candor" when he acknowledged the obvious, that the war in Iraq wasn't being won.

Since the Gates confirmation vote on Dec. 6, however, Bush and Gates have signaled that they have no intention of extricating the U.S. military from the Iraq quagmire. They still insist on nothing short of "victory" or "success," no matter how unlikely those ends and no matter how much blood must be spilled over the next two years to avert defeat.

More here.

Pentagon Issues Gloomy Report


The Pentagon said Monday that violence in Iraq soared this fall to its highest level on record, and acknowledged the enemy has achieved a “strategic success” by unleashing a spiral of sectarian killings by Sunni and Shiite death squads that threatens Iraq’s political institutions.

In its most pessimistic report yet measuring progress in Iraq, the Pentagon described a nation listing toward civil war, with violence at record highs of 959 attacks per week, declining public confidence in government and “little progress” toward political reconciliation.

“The violence has escalated at an unbelievably rapid pace,” said Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, strategic plans and policy director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who briefed journalists on the report. “We have to get ahead of that violent cycle, break that continuous chain of sectarian violence. ... That is the premier challenge facing us now.”


Monday, December 18, 2006

Demonstration called for the Fifth Anniversary of Guantanamo's Opening

An anti-torture organization has announced plans for a demonstration in D.C. on January 11, the fifth anniversary of the first prisoners arriving at the Guantanamo detention center. Below is their call to action.

On January 11th, 2002, twenty hooded and shackled men shuffled off a plane from Afghanistan, arriving at the U.S. prison at Guantánamo. In an attempt to sidestep the Geneva Convention protections for prisoners of war, the Bush administration created a new category of “enemy combatant” for these men captured in the “war on terror.”

Since that time, more than one thousand men and boys have been imprisoned at Guantánamo. Accounts of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment have been condemned by the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and other reputable bodies. The prisoners have resorted to hunger strikes as a way of protesting their treatment. Many have attempted suicide; three men killed themselves on June 10th 2006. Desperation, fear and frustration mark their confinement.

Five years later, not a single prisoner has been charged, tried or convicted of any crime. Many have been released because no evidence has been found against them, but more than 430 men remain in indefinite detention without hope of release. The United States has abandoned law and justice.

January 11th, 2007 marks five years of unjust imprisonment, isolation, beatings, interrogation and abuse for these men. We must say: no more. We must say: no longer. For our nation of laws, for our democracy, for our humanity and theirs, we demand small but essential steps to help return our nation to the best of our own traditions.

We call on the United States government to:
· Repeal the Military Commissions Act and restore Habeas Corpus.
· Charge and try or release all detainees.
· Withhold funds for the proposed $125 million construction of new military courts at Guantánamo.
· Clearly and unequivocally forbid torture and all other forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, by the military, the CIA, prison guards, civilian contractors, or anyone else.
· Pay reparations to current and former detainees and their families for violations of their human rights.
· Shut down Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram and all other U.S. prisons overseas, including secret CIA detention facilities.

We mark January 11, 2007 as a day of national shame. But we can also mark it as a day of citizen action. How? By acting on behalf of our fellow human beings in Guantánamo, their bereaved families and all victims of the “war on terrorism.”
We declare January 11, 2007 an International Day of Action to Shut Down Guantánamo. In Washington, DC we will march from the Supreme Court to the U.S. Federal Court. At the Supreme Court, Guantánamo Lawyers and others will address the press. Individuals will then proceed to Federal Court, taking on the names and identities of the men in Guantánamo and submitting Habeas petitions on their behalf. With our action and our bodies, we will forge the path that the Center for Constitutional Rights and other legal advocates demand on behalf of their clients. Outside the Federal Court on Constitution Avenue, people will read testimonies and names of prisoners, perform street theater and hand out information. There will be solidarity demonstrations from Amsterdam to Boise, Idaho and a National Call-In Day to Congress.

We invite you to come to Washington and participate, either as an individual or as part of an affinity group. If travel is not an option, join or plan an action in your own community. Around the country, groups are planning vigils and actions at courthouses, federal building and public squares. In other countries, the focus will be on U.S. Embassies and military facilities. For a full list of both National and International actions, visit

If you plan on coming to DC, we encourage you to form affinity groups and be in touch with organizers ahead of time for details on the scenario. Contact: or Matt Daloisio ( ) or Frida Berrigan ( In DC contact Art Laffin ( Malachy Kilbride ( ).

Washington, DC: Shut down Guantánamo

In Washington, D.C the day will include a press conference led by lawyers representing the men at Guantánamo and family members of those detained. Then we will march from the Supreme Court to the U.S. Federal Court, theatrically taking the prisoners’ case from the court that upheld their rights to the Federal Court where their cases need to be heard. With our action and our bodies, we will chart the course that Center for Constitutional Rights demands is taken on behalf of their clients. Outside the Federal Court, people will read stories from inside Guantanamo, do street theater and hand out leaflets. At the same time, inside the court house, we will bring the names and stories of those imprisoned at Guantanamo into the court; holding the court responsible for those men.

9:30am: Prisoner March rehearsal, and nonviolent direct action orientation. Upper Senate Park (intersection of Delaware & Constitution Avenues, NE)
10 am: Press Conference at the US Supreme Court (One First Street, NE)
11:30 am: "Prisoners of Guantánamo Procession" to the US Federal Court (intersection of Constitution Ave, NW and Pennsylvania Ave, NW)

A provocative street theater performance involving people wearing orange jump suits, black hoods and chains, and bearing the name of a man imprisoned at Guantánamo. We will march in an orderly silent procession, hauntingly evoking the moral disgrace that is Guantánamo. With your help, we will form a prisoner contingent including as many protesters as there are prisoners.

Upon arriving at Federal Court, we invite and encourage members of the prisoner contingent to risk arrest and attempt to deliver motions on prisoners' behalf to the Court. Those who do not wish to risk arrest will stay and continue to hold vigil outside the Court as part of a permitted rally and demonstration.
12:00 - 5pm: Vigil at the Federal Court
6:30pm: Teach-In at Georgetown Law School, details TBA
Be in Touch With Us: Please let us know in advance if you are willing to participate in either the Prisoners March, Civil Disobedience, or both. We'll have a final planning meeting and gathering Wednesday, January 10th, 6pm, details to come. Email us at

Witness Against Torture

Powell Says We're Losing the War Now

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, whose presentation to the UN Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003 helped provide the pretext needed to invade Iraq, now says "we are losing" the war.

Powell said he agreed with the assessment of the Iraq Study Group co-chairmen, Lee Hamilton and James Baker, that the situation in Iraq is "grave and deteriorating," and he also agreed with recently-confirmed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that the U.S. is not winning the war.

"So if it's grave and deteriorating and we're not winning, we are losing," Powell told Bob Schieffer in an exclusive interview. More here.

Of course, some of us have been saying that the war in Iraq has been lost for a long time. On March 30, 2003 -- eleven days after the initial invasion -- reported,

Whatever happens in the weeks ahead, George W. Bush has “lost” the war in Iraq. The only question now is how big a price America will pay, both in terms of battlefield casualties and political hatred swelling around the world.

That is the view slowly dawning on U.S. military analysts, who privately are asking whether the cost of ousting Saddam Hussein has grown so large that “victory” will constitute a strategic defeat of historic proportions. At best, even assuming Saddam’s ouster, the Bush administration may be looking at an indefinite period of governing something akin to a California-size Gaza Strip.

Despite some indications that they understand the war isn't going well, Powell and other establishment figures still refuse to acknowledge precisely how bad the situation in Iraq is, and continue to insist that "victory" is possible, whatever victory means. While admitting that the situation is "grave and deteriorating," there seems to be little appreciation within official Washington of exactly what sort of horror the U.S. has unleashed in Iraq, and exactly how grave the situation really is.

Discussing the recent Lancet study which estimated that 655,000 Iraqi civilians have died due to the U.S. invasion, University of Michigan professor Juan Cole painted a more accurate picture of the situation in Iraq. "The sheer horror of this war is something that we miss," he says.

When it's reported in the news that 50 bodies were found in Baghdad -- do you realize that there's actually a corpse patrol in the Iraqi police, that this is one of the duties if you're a policeman, that you get up in the morning and you go around looking for the bodies that are showing up in the streets that day? And the UN reports that these bodies show signs of drilling, of chemical exposure, of torture of various sorts, and then typically they have a bullet behind the ear, Mafia style.

And 50, 60 of them every day are showing up in Baghdad, and then more are showing up in places like Baqubah and elsewhere. And even in Mosul now you begin to see some of these statistics emerging. And this is the tip of the iceberg. It was thrown up against the Lancet report that, well, it implies that there are 500 deaths around the country a day from political and criminal violence. How could that be?

Well, I mean, the news reports that we're getting, if you consider them to be the tip of the iceberg, if you just think about, well, what are the forces that are producing these results on a daily basis, it's obvious that only a small number of the deaths that actually occur are being reported in the wire services. I see deaths reported in the Arabic press all the time that never surface in the English-language wire services. More at Democracy Now!

The full scale of the catastrophe in Iraq hasn't been reported in the American press. When the sheer horror of the war is acknowledged at all, it is primarily mentioned within the context of the need a new "way forward" in order to achieve U.S. objectives.

But the bottom line is that U.S. policy makers are responsible for a disaster of epic proportions, and the rest of the world may not be as forgiving. People may remember that according to the Nuremberg Principles, the initiator of a war of aggression is ultimately responsible for all the horrors that follow. As American prosecutor Robert Jackson stated at Nuremberg,

To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.

As the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, it should be remembered that Colin Powell and other administration officials are ultimately responsible for it all.

Ronald Reagan's Bloody 'Apocalypto'

By Robert Parry
December 17, 2006

Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto," a violent capture-and-escape movie set 500 years ago in the territory of a fictional Mayan city-state, ends ironically when European explorers arrive and interrupt the final bloody chase.

The surprise appearance of the Europeans was good news for Gibson's hero – distracting his last pursuers – but, as history tells us, the arrival of the Europeans actually escalated the New World's violence, bringing a more mechanized form of slaughter that devastated the Mayas and other native populations.

An even greater irony, however, may be that the U.S. media has done a better job separating fact from fiction about Gibson's movie than in explaining to Americans how some of their most admired modern politicians, including Ronald Reagan, were implicated in a more recent genocide against Mayan tribes in Central America.

America's hand in the later-day slaughter of these Mayas traces back to Dwight Eisenhower's presidency in 1954 when a CIA-engineered coup overthrew the reform-minded Guatemalan government of Jacobo Arbenz.

The coup set in motion waves of murder, torture and assassination against almost anyone or any group deemed leftist, including Mayan tribes in Guatemala's highlands. The violent repression often benefited from U.S. advice and equipment, according to U.S. government documents that were released during the Clinton administration.

Read on.

Apocalypto, Then and Now

By Don Ediger
December 16, 2006

I’ll bet anything that 500 years from now lots of hit movies will depict life in our own time. Who knows what the format will be, but movies of the future are likely to portray our era as one of violence and gore.

I can just envision scenes in American prisons, in the slums of Baghdad, in villages of Rwanda or on the streets of big U.S. cities. Audiences may well gasp in disbelief at how our era accepted violence as part of everyday life.

That acceptance was never more apparent than it was a few days ago when I saw Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, the movie about the Mayan society 500 years in the past. I had expected that some people in the audience would shudder at the violence and gore, especially at close-ups that linger on open wounds and severed body parts.

But was I ever wrong! The audience took the violence in stride. Some, in fact, had even brought their young children to see the film, which portrays the harrowing adventure of a Mayan family that’s attacked by warriors from a neighboring city. I was prepared to dislike the movie because I thought it would warp the reputation of the Mayas, a people I’ve always associated with a highly advanced culture.