Friday, March 09, 2007

Afghanistan's 'Hard Mission' Slips Away

By Richard L. Fricker
March 10, 2007

Canadian lawmakers have written an Afghanistan version of the Iraq Study Group report, reaching a conclusion that the conditions on that original battlefront in the “war on terror” are grave and deteriorating.

The 16-page Canadian Senate report, entitled “Taking a Hard Look at a Hard Mission,” foresees a conflict that could drag on for generations and might well fail unless NATO significantly increases its commitment of money and troops.

Read on.

'Axis of Evil' Report Card

By Ray McGovern
March 9, 2007

More than five years have passed since President Bush labeled Iraq, Iran and North Korea the ''axis of evil.'' It is imperative that we try to piece together what role U.S. intelligence played in supporting the ''axis'' idea and the misguided policies and actions that ensued.

For the ''axis of evil'' sobriquet morphed into axes for grinding by accomplices like then-CIA Director George Tenet, and the pandering was consequential. Here is the ''axis'' part of Bush's State of the Union address on Jan. 29, 2002:

``North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction. . . . Iran aggressively pursues these weapons. . . . The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax and nerve gas and nuclear weapons for over a decade. . . . States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil . . . posing a grave and growing danger. . . . I will not wait on events . . .''

Nor, apparently, wait on good intelligence, either.

Read on.

Killing U.S. Troops Slowly

By Michael O'McCarthy
March 9, 2007

Twenty-five years ago, March 14, 1981 Jim Hopkins, Marine veteran of Vietnam, born on the Marine Corps birthday of Nov. 10, drove his army Jeep through the glass doors and into the lobby of the multi-million dollar, showcase edifice of Wadsworth VA hospital, at Los Angeles, California. He did so to protest the gross, willfully negligent treatment given US veterans within the VA system, specifically, those veterans of the US war in Southeast Asia, aka, the Vietnam War.

He fired rounds from his AR 14 into the official pictures of then-President Ronald Reagan and ex-President Jimmy Carter. For emphasis he then fired his .45 caliber handgun and a shotgun screaming that he was not receiving the medical attention needed. Hauled from the hospital by law enforcement, he screamed into the cameras that his brain was "being destroyed by Agent Orange."

Read on.

Facing Protest, Bush Attempts to Salvage U.S. Influence in Latin America

As has become expected whenever George W. Bush goes abroad, cities across Latin America are erupting in protest in response to his tour of the region. In Sao Paolo yesterday, an estimated 35,000 took to the streets and were met with tear gas by state security forces.

As the Associated Press reported today,

students, environmentalists and left-leaning Brazilians held a largely peaceful march through the heart of Sao Paulo before police fired tear gas at protesters and beat them with batons. Hundreds fled and ducked into businesses to avoid the chaos, some of them bloodied.

Authorities did not say how many people had been injured, but Brazilian media said at least 18 people were hurt and news photographs showed injured people being carried away.

Protesters said scuffles broke out when some radical demonstrators provoked officers and threw rocks and sticks at them -- but said police overreacted. A police officer who declined to give his name in keeping with department policy confirmed that extremists appeared to cause the confrontations.

Below is some footage of the protest from Youtube.

The stated purpose of Bush’s tour is to “remind people that we care,” as Bush said in an interview Wednesday with CNN En Español. The president went on to say that he worries “about the fact that some say, ‘Well, the United States hasn’t paid enough attention to us,’ or ‘The United States really isn't anything more than worried about terrorism.’ And when, in fact, the record has been a strong record.”

The notion, however, that Bush can bolster the U.S. image by paying a visit to the region is rather laughable, considering how incredibly unpopular he is –- approximately 85% of Latin Americans disapprove of the president and particularly his war policy in Iraq. And with the history of U.S. intervention in the hemisphere, not to mention its imposition of neoliberal economic policies through its influence over the IMF and World Bank, it’s hard to believe that many Latin Americans are concerned that the United States “hasn’t paid enough attention” to the region.

Indeed, in recent years, Latin American politicians who have explicitly rejected the “Washington Consensus” on economic policy have done exceptionally well, with left-leaning populists winning elections in Venezuela, Bolivia, and most recently, in Nicaragua.

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs suggests that the trip has several unstated ulterior motives.

“The President is taking the trip at this juncture for a number of pressing, if not particularly strategic reasons,” the Council says.

For starters, with his public approval rating dancing just above thirty percent and the political climate on capital hill [sic] becoming increasingly more chilly to his administration, Bush could—conceivably—naively view his southern visit as a diversion from White House pressures being generated by the Iraq war. Regardless of Bush’s preconceived notion of how he will be received in Latin America, and his awesome capacity for denial, the demonstrably, poorly-informed president will undoubtedly be shocked by the angry anti-Bush demonstrations likely to occur in some of countries which he will be visiting. Bush and his White House handlers have become painfully aware that he is running out of time for substantive initiatives in Latin America to be conjured up, sent to Congress and then implemented. There may be just too much of a handicap to engage in much heavy lifting in order to rehabilitate his administration’s flawed reputation when it comes to inter-American affairs. This trip is a reflection of a frantic attempt to save a foundering Latin American foreign policy and the subsequent reputation which history may not treat all that kindly.
In particular, “Bush hopes to sign trade agreements and other economic measures before his window of opportunity for fast track policy expires on June 30, when the trade decision-making authority will then revert to Congress.”

WSWS also highlights the economic motivation of the trip. Bush will “meet with Brazil’s President Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva on the morning of March 9,” WSWS notes, “when the two will visit the Transpetro terminal in Guarulhos, a town outside of the industrial and financial center of São Paulo.”

This bit of presidential tourism is no accident. Transpetro is the largest shipping company in Latin America and Brazil’s main logistical organizer in the transport of fuel, a central theme of the agenda set by Bush and Lula for this visit. A subsidiary of Petrobrás, Brazil’s national oil company, Transpetro handles the transport and storage of petroleum and its derivatives as well as of alcohol and natural gas, operating a fleet of 51 ships, a network consisting of 10,000 kilometers of pipeline and 44 land and water terminals.

Bush’s visit to Brazil, which will be reciprocated with a trip by Lula to Camp David at the end of the month, is expected to put the seal on a plan for a gigantic expansion in the world production of ethanol fuel, based on sugarcane, a technology that is clearly dominated by Brazil. Bush’s visit, thus, could be the beginning of a true revolution in the production of renewable biofuel. Biofuel production has been developing for some time in a number of countries, utilizing wood, animal fat, soybeans, corn and other raw materials.

Regardless of the ultimate goals of his trip however, there’s a good chance Bush will be surprised by the level of resistance to his agenda, both in the streets and in the offices of Latin American leaders that he visits. U.S. influence in the region is steadily eroding, as exemplified by the rising popularity of populists like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia. His visit might best be seen as a last-ditch attempt to salvage what is left of the Monroe Doctrine, or America’s historical influence over what it has long considered its “backyard.”

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Why Cheney Lashed Out at Wilson

By Ray McGovern
March 8, 2007

Testimony at the Libby trial showed a Vice President obsessed with retaliating against former ambassador Joseph Wilson for writing, in the New York Times op-ed section on July 6, 2003, that intelligence had been "twisted" to justify attacking Iraq. How to explain why the normally stoic, phlegmatic Cheney went off the deep end?

Vice President Dick Cheney can be forgiven for feeling provoked. The Times, having been led by Cheney and others down a garden path littered with weapons of mass destruction that were not really there, did some retaliation of its own with the snide title it gave Wilson's op-ed: "What I Did Not Find in Africa."

Read on.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Time to Admit Defeat in Iraq?

By Ivan Eland
March 8, 2007

The bulk of expert opinion predicts that the Bush administration’s escalation strategy in Iraq will fail. The void created by the administration’s lack of a back–up plan for that outcome has been filled with proposals from pundits, academics, and think–tank analysts, who recommend containing Iraq’s civil war.

Most of these analysts suggest removing U.S. troops from harm’s way, pulling them back from major Iraqi population centers and moving them to outlying areas safer from the raging civil war—for example, the Iraqi borders, more remote regions of Iraq, or neighboring countries—while using those forces to try to prevent the civil conflict from turning into a regional war.

Read on.

WPost Editorial Fantasyland

By Robert Parry
March 8, 2007

Fred Hiatt’s Washington Post editorial page and George W. Bush’s presidency have a lot in common – most notably an arrogance of power so extreme that they believe their very words can alter reality.

With Bush, that record has been well established, from asserting that Saddam Hussein never let the U.N. inspectors in to hyping progress in the Iraq War. But editorial page editor Hiatt – in league with Post publisher Donald Graham – is not far behind.

Read on.

Zeroing in on Cheney-Bush

By Robert Parry
March 7, 2007

Criminal trials – especially relating to national security scandals – are an imperfect way of learning the larger truth. As with the four-count conviction of former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the charges are often structured narrowly to avoid long battles over classified secrets or inherent presidential powers.

But even limited trials can offer important glimpses into the inner workings of an administration, especially one as secretive as George W. Bush’s. Though Libby was convicted only on perjury and obstruction charges, there should be little doubt what the full picture looks like.

Read on.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Reagan-Bush Drug Legacy in CentAm

By Robert Parry
March 6, 2007

Two grisly mass executions in Guatemala – one involving three Salvadoran legislators and the second the four policemen who confessed to killing them – suggest that the Reagan era’s ideological tolerance of right-wing drug traffickers remains a corrupting legacy in the region.

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush saw Central America as a Cold War battleground and thus downplayed evidence that right-wing paramilitary operatives in El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala and the Nicaraguan contra movement were deeply implicated in cocaine trafficking.

Read on.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Reader Commentaries

March 5, 2007

Readers comment on the right of U.S. soldiers to debate the Iraq War, on the disgraceful mistreatment of wounded veterans, on the news media's long-time abuse of Al Gore, on the prospects for a U.S. attack on Iran, and on the Japanese government's refusal to accept blame for the World War II sexual exploitation of women in occupied countries.

Read on.