Saturday, December 30, 2006

Bush Silences a Dangerous Witness

By Robert Parry
December 30, 2006

Like a blue-blood version of a Mob family with global reach, the Bushes have eliminated one more key witness to the important historical events that led the U.S. military into a bloody stalemate in Iraq and pushed the Middle East to the brink of calamity.

The hanging of Saddam Hussein was supposed to be – as the New York Times observed – the “triumphal bookend” to George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. If all had gone as planned, Bush might have staged another celebration as he did after the end of “major combat,” posing under the “Mission Accomplished” banner on May 1, 2003.

But now with nearly 3,000 American soldiers killed and the Iraqi death toll exceeding 600,000 by some estimates, Bush may be forced to savor the image of Hussein dangling at the end of a rope a little more privately.

Still, Bush has done his family’s legacy a great service while also protecting secrets that could have embarrassed other senior U.S. government officials.

He has silenced a unique witness to crucial chapters of the secret history that stretched from Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979 to the alleged American-Saudi “green light” for Hussein to attack Iran in 1980, through the eight years of the Iran-Iraq War during which high-ranking U.S. intermediaries, such as Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates, allegedly helped broker supplies of war materiel for Hussein.

Read on.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Execution of Saddam Appears Imminent

Speculation is growing over when the Iraqi government will hang Saddam Hussein as punishment for the 1982 killing of 148 Shiites in the city of Dujail. It has been confirmed that the US has handed over the former dictator to Iraqi authorities and his lawyers said they had been asked to dispose of Saddam Hussein's personal effects, raising concern that his execution could take place as early as tomorrow. An Iraqi Justice Ministry official, however, said there would be no execution before January 26, adding that "It's none of the Americans' business to decide when" they hang him.

Some human rights groups are renewing their criticism of the trial that condemned Saddam and urging Iraq to reconsider its insistence on carrying out the execution. Amnesty International, for instance, condemned the Iraqi Appeals Court's decision to confirm the death sentence and said the court should have ordered a re-trial.

"The trial of Saddam Hussein and his seven co-accused before the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (SICT) was deeply flawed and unfair, due to political interference which undermined the independence of the court and other serious failings," sad Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa program. Amnesty emphasized its general opposition to the death penalty and renewed its call for the appeals court to order a new trial. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, however, said that there would be no delay in carrying out the sentence, and asserted that "No one can oppose the decision to execute the criminal Saddam."

"Those who reject the execution of Saddam," he said, "are undermining the dignity of Iraq's martyrs."

But there is actually serious concern over the fairness of Saddam's trial and the wisdom of carrying out the exection, particularly with the likelihood that it could spark another surge in violence in Iraq. Other concerns are based in fundamental opposition to the death penalty, which much of the world considers barbaric.

Human Rights Watch is one of the strongest critics of Saddam's trial and his sentence. On Wednesday, HRW implored Iraq "not [to] implement the death sentence against Saddam Hussein, which was imposed after a deeply flawed trial for crimes against humanity." The group is calling for an appeals chamber to review the verdict.

“Imposing the death penalty, indefensible in any case, is especially wrong after such unfair proceedings,” said Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch. “That a judicial decision was first announced by Iraq’s national security advisor underlines the political interference that marred Saddam Hussein’s trial.”


A report issued in November 2006 by Human Rights Watch, which has demanded the prosecution of Saddam Hussein and his lieutenants for more than a decade, identified numerous serious flaws in the trial of Hussein for the Dujail executions. The 97-page report, “Judging Dujail: The First Trial Before the Iraqi High Tribunal,” was based on 10 months of observation and dozens of interviews with judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers.

The report found that the Iraqi High Tribunal was undermined from the outset by Iraqi government actions that threatened the independence and perceived impartiality of the court. It disclosed serious flaws in the trial, including regular failures to disclose key evidence, violations of the defendants’ right to confront witnesses, and lapses of judicial demeanor.

Human Rights Watch has speculated that Saddam was denied a fair trial in an international setting partially because that could have allowed him to bring out evidence that he was being supported by the U.S. at the time of his alleged crimes. It could have proved highly embarrassing to the U.S. if it came out during the trial that current members of the Bush administration were providing Saddam with material and diplomatic support with full knowledge of his crimes against Shiites and Kurds.

Other criticism of the pending execution has come from international bodies such as the United Nations and the European Union.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, yesterday called for restraint by Iraqi authorities, echoing HRW's concerns about the fairness of the original trial.

"The appeal judgment is a lengthy and complex decision that requires careful study," she said. "There were a number of concerns as to the fairness of the original trial, and there needs to be assurance that these issues have been comprehensively addressed. I call, therefore, on the Iraqi authorities not to act precipitately in seeking to execute the sentence in these cases."

For his part, Saddam claimed to be ready to die, offering to sacrifice himself as a martyr.

"I sacrifice myself. If God wills it, he will place me among the true men and martyrs. O faithful people, I bid you farewell as my soul goes to God the compassionate. Long live Iraq. Long Live Iraq. Long live Palestine. Long live jihad and the Mujahidin. God is great."

Saddam's supporters have vowed retaliation if the execution goes forward, warning that they would target U.S. interests anywhere in the world. In an internet posting, the Baath Party stated,

"The Baath and the resistance are determined to retaliate, with all means and everywhere, to harm America and its interests if it commits this crime. The American Administration will be held responsible for any harm inflicted on the president because the United States is the decision-maker (in Iraq) and not the puppet Iraqi government."

Whether or not the Baathists are able to strike U.S. interests outside of Iraq, it should be expected that at least within the war-torn country, Saddam's execution will lead to a spike in violence against U.S. troops as well as increase the sectarian strife among Sunnis and Shiites. This would follow the general pattern of Iraqi violence, as has been seen ever time a major development occurs such as the killing of Saddam's sons, Iraqi elections or Saddam's own capture in December 2003.

With the hellish existence that Iraqis are currently experiencing, it shouldn't be surprising either if the execution sparks a sense of nostaligia in Iraq for the relative stability the country enjoyed before the U.S. invaded. While Saddam had a horrendous human rights record, and unnecessarily put his country through a couple of costly wars, first against Iran and then against the U.S., Iraq under his rule was relatively prosperous and stable, and his government provided generous social welfare programs.

Many observers have been saying for some time that Iraq was better off under Saddam, including UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Earlier this month Annan said that Iraq was in the grips of a civil war and many people in society were worse off now than under Saddam Hussein.

"When we had the strife in Lebanon and other places," he said, "we called that a civil war -- this is much worse." He agreed with those who say that things were generally better under Saddam.

"I think they are right in the sense of the average Iraqi's life... If I were an average Iraqi obviously I would make the same comparison -- that they had a dictator who was brutal but they had their streets, they could go out, their kids could go to school and come back home without a mother or father worrying, 'Am I going to see my child again? And the Iraqi government has not been able to bring the violence under control."

The Iraqi blogger Riverbend states in her year-end post that "2006 has been, decidedly, the worst year yet."

The magnitude of this war and occupation is only now hitting the country full force. It's like having a big piece of hard, dry earth you are determined to break apart. You drive in the first stake in the form of an infrastructure damaged with missiles and the newest in arms technology, the first cracks begin to form. Several smaller stakes come in the form of politicians like Chalabi, Al Hakim, Talbani, Pachachi, Allawi and Maliki. The cracks slowly begin to multiply and stretch across the once solid piece of earth, reaching out towards its edges like so many skeletal hands. And you apply pressure. You surround it from all sides and push and pull. Slowly, but surely, it begins coming apart- a chip here, a chunk there.

That is Iraq right now. The Americans have done a fine job of working to break it apart. This last year has nearly everyone convinced that that was the plan right from the start. There were too many blunders for them to actually have been, simply, blunders. The 'mistakes' were too catastrophic. The people the Bush administration chose to support and promote were openly and publicly terrible- from the conman and embezzler Chalabi, to the terrorist Jaffari, to the militia man Maliki. The decisions, like disbanding the Iraqi army, abolishing the original constitution, and allowing militias to take over Iraqi security were too damaging to be anything but intentional.

She goes on to ask, "Why make things worse by insisting on Saddam's execution now? Who gains if they hang Saddam?"

With the painful reality of life in Iraq today, there must be some intensely mixed emotions among nearly all Iraqis to see their former president put to death. Beyond questions of his trial's fairness and the morality of the death penalty, the execution of Saddam is sure to unleash a variety of emotional responses, from joy to sadness to anger to rage, and in a place as volatile and divided as Iraq already is, this could be extremely dangerous. The execution might even establish Saddam Hussein as a martyr, which perhaps is exactly what the Sunni insurgency wants.

In terms of world opinion, the execution could also backfire against the United States. Not only is much of the world opposed to the death penalty on moral grounds, but most of it is also opposed to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, which according to the Lancet, has led to 655,000 Iraqi deaths. The inconsistency and disproportionality of executing the Iraqi leader for killing 148 Shiites while President George Bush remains free might be too much for people to handle.

Gerald Ford's Mixed Legacy

By Robert Parry
December 29, 2006

The disclosure that Gerald Ford opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq but embargoed his objections until after his death fits with his contradictory legacy as a national leader who opposed the imperial presidency while laying the groundwork for its restoration.

After assuming the presidency on Aug. 9, 1974, Ford earned praise by demonstrating greater respect for Congress than the prickly and paranoid Richard Nixon. Ford also scored points with the public for toasting his own English muffins and acting like a regular guy.

By contrast, Nixon had dressed White House guards up in uniforms more befitting the Hapsburg monarchy than the American Republic. More significantly, Nixon had asserted broad powers to wage war overseas and acted secretly to sabotage his political enemies at home. Nixon embodied the notion that if a President did it, it couldn’t be illegal.

Symbolically at least, Ford represented a repudiation of Nixon’s imperial excesses. Since Ford’s death on Dec. 26, that contrast between Nixon and Ford has been the theme of many eulogies, effusive praise for a common man of the Midwest who helped heal the nation’s bitter divisions from Watergate and Vietnam.

But in hindsight, Ford’s actions in the White House may have done more to salvage the idea of an imperial presidency than to shatter it. From the perspective of three decades later, the two-plus years of the Ford administration could be viewed more like a period of strategic retreat for the imperial presidency than a return to the traditional checks and balances envisioned by the Founders.

Read on.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Upcoming Events of Potential Interest

There are several important events in the coming weeks and months that will be calling for Bush's impeachment, an end to the war, and media reform. Below are some that may be of interest to our readers.

January 4 World Can't Wait Demonstration for Impeachment
The protest will be held at Upper Senate Park (Delaware & Constitution, just north of the Capitol) starting at 12:00 noon Thursday, Jan. 4.

The day Congress opens, World Can’t Wait will lead a major challenge to the political direction in this country since the election. A regime as criminal as the Bush regime still allowed to even remain in office? No! An unjust war started on lies, allowed to continue for four years despite an election where people meant to express how strongly they want it stopped? No! The Democrats, now the majority, allowing debate only on how to run the war more effectively, and saying that impeachment can’t even be considered? No!

Evening program:
Voices for Impeachment
Jan. 4, 7pm, National Press Club
Speakers to Include:
Cindy Sheehan
John Nichols
Michael Ratner, Center for Constitutional Rights*
Debra Sweet

January 27, Bring the Mandate for Peace to Washington, DC

On Saturday, Jan. 27th, people from every corner of the country will march on Washington, DC. Our message will be clear, our voice will be strong: End the war in Iraq, Bring all the troops home now! We urge you to join us!

On Mon., Jan. 29th, we will take our message directly to the new Congress during our lobby day.

Events to Mark the 3,000th American Death in Iraq
The American Friends Service Commmittee urges peace supporters to organize events in their hometowns the day after the 3,000th U.S. military death in Iraq is announced.

Together, we'll mourn all the lives lost in this war and call for the troops to come home.

More about the event

There are currently 182 events planned in 42 states and counting...

National Conference for Media Reform, Jan. 12-14, Memphis
Connect with media reform leaders and activists from around the country.

Learn how to mobilize media reformers in your community.

Get the policy scoop from D.C. and learn how the new political landscape impacts media reform.

Be part of the growing movement.

National Conference on Organized Resistance, Feb. 3-5, Washington, D.C.
NCOR is an annual event that brings together activists from a variety of issues, struggles, ideologies and backgrounds for a weekend of learning and reflecting on the state of progressive movements occurring locally, nationally and worldwide. Through diverse workshops, panel discussions, skillshares, tabling, and the creation of an open and safe space, NCOR seeks to promote organized action amongst participants against the injustices and inequalities that we confront in our daily lives and in the world. NCOR is held on the main campus of American University in northwest Washington, DC.

NCOR 2005 was a raging success with 86 workshops and numerous guerrilla events, again doing justice to a tradition that has happened every winter since 1998. Over 1500 people attended last year! As NCOR continues to grow exponentially, 2006 looks like another great conference.

March on the Pentagon, March 17
On March 17, 2007, the 4th anniversary of the start of the criminal invasion of Iraq, tens of thousands of people from around the country will descend on the Pentagon in a mass demonstration to demand: U.S. Out of Iraq Now! 2007 is the 40th anniversary of the historic 1967 anti-war march to the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. The message of the 1967 march was "From Protest to Resistance," and marked a turning point in the development of a countrywide mass movement.

In the coming days and weeks, thousands of organizations and individuals will begin mobilizing for the upcoming March on the Pentagon. Organizing committees and transportation centers are being established to bring people to the March on the Pentagon.

The March 17 demonstration will assemble at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Constitution Gardens) at 12 noon in Washington, D.C.and march to the Pentagon.

Also in DC, on January 11, various groups are organizing a demonstration against arbitrary detention and torture on the fifth anniversary of the first prisoners being sent to Guantanamo Bay.

The GOP's $3 Billion Propaganda Organ

By Robert Parry (A Special Report)
December 27, 2006

The American Right achieved its political dominance in Washington over the past quarter century with the help of more than $3 billion spent by Korean cult leader Sun Myung Moon on a daily propaganda organ, the Washington Times, according to a 21-year veteran of the newspaper.

George Archibald, who describes himself “as the first reporter hired at the Washington Times outside the founding group” and author of a commemorative book on the Times’ first two decades, has now joined a long line of disillusioned conservative writers who departed and warned the public about extremism within the newspaper.

In an Internet essay on recent turmoil inside the Times, Archibald also confirmed claims by some former Moon insiders that the cult leader has continued to pour in $100 million a year or more to keep the newspaper afloat. Archibald put the price tag for the newspaper’s first 24 years at “more than $3 billion of cash.”

At the newspaper’s tenth anniversary, Moon announced that he had spent $1 billion on the Times – or $100 million a year – but newspaper officials and some Moon followers have since tried to low-ball Moon’s subsidies in public comments by claiming they had declined to about $35 million a year.

The figure from Archibald and other defectors from Moon’s operation is about three times higher than the $35 million annual figure.

Read on.

Robert Parry Discusses Ford's Death on "Democracy Now!"

Discussing the death of Gerald Ford, Robert Parry pointed out on "Democracy Now!" the role the former President played in the resurgence of the Imperial Presidency and the rollback of accountability for high-level misconduct, whether at the CIA or the White House. While Ford "brought, in a sense, the end to the national nightmare of Watergate," Parry says, "he also marks the beginning of the counter-attack, if you will, against the efforts by Congress, the Press and other Americans to reign in the Imperial Presidency."

You start seeing already, in the early days of the Ford Administration, an effort to strike back against those efforts to limit the Executive Power. We have efforts in the CIA, when he brings in George H.W. Bush, to push back against Congressional oversight. To allow more space for the CIA to operate, to fight against efforts to expose some of the more corrupt CIA actions. And oddly, because of the timing of Ford’s Presidency, that it sort of came after the period, the Church Commission looked at, in terms of CIA abuses, and it came before the beginning of the formal congressional oversight process, the CIA operated during that year with a great deal of freedom. And we know -- we don't know enough about some of the things that were done during that period.

So I think while Ford gets a great deal of credit, because he helped mend the nation's wounds over Watergate, it wasn't entirely this pleasant experience that some people are making it out to be. It was, in a sense, the incubator for the resurgence of the Imperial Presidency. People like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney were in the Ford White House, and many of their feelings about re-establishing that Imperial Presidency have lived to this day.

More at Democracy Now!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

War With Iran?

With the new UN sanctions on Iran, the Bush administration may be provided with the political cover it needs to raise the stakes in its policy towards Tehran. While most Americans might believe that the administration wouldn't risk the potentially catastrophic consequences of war with Iran, several indications point to the very real possibility of military conflict, much of it thanks to Iran's own intransigence over its nuclear program.

Although the Security Council demanded that Iran immediately suspend its enrichment program and its reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, Tehran has unequivocally rejected the resolution, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling it "a piece of torn paper." Rather than cease enrichment activity, as called for in the resolution, Ahmadinejad vowed to accelerate uranium enrichment immediately.

US officials nevertheless jumped on the resolution as a major diplomatic and propaganda victory.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns called the vote "humiliating" for Iran. He added that the vote "would open the way for further action outside the Security Council," and that the United States would continue to press Japan, European governments and international financial agencies to impose their own penalties on Iran. link

While seizing on the resolution as a "humiliating" defeat for Iran, Burns also emphasized, "We don't think this resolution is enough in itself." And he strongly hinted that the US would now intensify its pressure on Iran, saying, "we're certainly not going to put all our eggs in a UN basket."

Although Burns was careful not to reveal too much detail on US intentions, the message seems to remain that "all options are on the table," including the military option.

So, despite the Iraq Study Group's recommendation that the Bush adiminstration reach out to Iran diplomatically, the administration instead appears to be intensifying the sabre-rattling. Of course, that recommendation was never exactly welcomed by the administration, with Condoleezza Rice immediately rejecting the idea of seeking help from Iran and Syria. "If they have an interest in a stable Iraq, they will do it anyway," she said dismissively.

Rice also emphasized that there would be no retreat from the administration's push to "promote democracy" in the Middle East, saying, "Get ready. We are going to the Middle East a lot." It was unclear whether she meant it as a threat or a promise.

Indeed, the US presence in the Middle East is growing at a troubling rate and is already sounding some alarms, particularly in regards to Iran. Dave Lindorff writes at This Can't Be Happening that

It now appears that the idea of attacking Iran is again moving forward. The Eisenhower strike force, armed with some 800 Tomahawk cruise missiles as well as a fleet of strike aircraft, and already on station in the Arabian Sea for over a month and a half, has moved into the Persian Gulf. A second carrier group, led by the USS Stennis, is set to start steaming toward the Gulf, too, from its base in Washington. Already in position are three expeditionary strike groups and an amphibious warship, all suitable for landing Marines on Iranian beaches.

At, for our part, last week we reported that

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.

The possibility of a US-Iran war was also discussed recently in an interview between investigative journalist Sy Hersh and former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter.

Ritter, who had correctly argued before the invasion of Iraq that Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction, said in the interview:

And if you can’t confront it successfully diplomatically, that leaves only the military option on the table. And right now, that’s the direction we’re heading, because the debate’s over, apparently, about whether or not Iran has a nuclear weapons program, even though the IAEA has come out and said there’s no evidence whatsoever to sustain the Bush administration's allegations that such a weapons program exists. Note, I didn’t say that the IAEA said there is no such weapons program -- they can’t prove that.

But note that the Bush administration has taken this and now changed course, like they did with Iraq. Saddam said, “We don’t have any weapons. The inspectors aren’t finding any weapons. Keep looking.” Why? Because the onus isn’t on the inspectors to find the weapons. The onus is on Iraq to prove that none exist. But how can you prove a negative? The same thing is in play today with Iran. We have told the Iranians it is their responsibility to prove to the international community beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no nuclear weapons program in Iran. How can you prove a negative?

But that’s not the point, because it’s not about a nuclear weapons program. It’s about regime change and the Bush administration using the perception of threat from a nuclear weapons program to achieve their ultimate objective of regional transformation, which is, again, a policy born more in Tel Aviv than Washington, D.C.

The potentially disastrous consequences of such a war have been studied in-depth by think tanks and NGOs, as well Pentagon war planners. The price of oil would surely skyrocket, and the response of Iran would likely be extremely deadly for Americans and Israelis. The Moneterrey Institute notes,

Open source information suggests that currently Iran possesses more than 500 Shehab ballistic missiles. Most of these missiles are Shehab-1 and -2, with a 300- to 500-kilometer (km) range and a 700- to 985-kilogram (kg) payload. With these missiles, Iran is capable of reaching U.S. bases in Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, and Iraq. Iran is also believed to possess 25 to100 Shehab-3 ballistic missiles, displayed in a military parade marking the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war on September 22, 2003. The Shehab-3 has a 1,300km range, a 700kg payload, and is capable of reaching Israeli cities and bases (See: Chart 1). Iran could launch dozens of these ballistic missiles in the direction of Israel; and U.S. targets in the region, over a long period, depending on the size of the Iranian arsenal, the desired severity of the counterattack, and the ability of U.S. forces to find and destroy their missile launchers.

On the one hand, the destructive potential of these ballistic missile systems should not be underestimated. Although these Scud variants are relatively inaccurate - they are certainly incapable of the pinpoint accuracy associated with U.S. cruise missiles and guided munitions - they do have much greater accuracy and higher payloads than the Iraqi al-Husseins that turned out a mediocre CEP (circular error probability) of 1 to 3km in 1991. Multiple missiles attacks on U.S. or Israeli targets carrying large warheads can potentially be very deadly, as demonstrated by an Iraqi Scud attack on barracks in Saudi Arabia in early 1991. It turned out to be the deadliest such incident of the entire war for U.S. troops, killing 28 and injuring 98.

Iran could also move to further destabilize Iraq, and possibly even Afghanistan, potentionally leading to a regional conflagration that could quickly spiral out of control.

Of course, the current stituation is not helped by the belligerence shown by Iran, and the way that Tehran has systematically alienated whatever allies it may have had through actions such as its recent Holocaust deniers conference. That action was particularly foolish in light of the fact that Germany is one of the three EU negotiators seeking some sort compromise over Iran's nuclear program. In Germany, of course, it is illegal to deny the Holocaust, so it is difficult to imagine exactly what Ahmadinejad hoped to accomplish by so thoroughly alienating this potential ally with the Holocaust conference.

Considering how certain that action was to force Germany into a more hawkish position, and increase the international perception that Iran's rulers are irrational, belligerent, and pose an existential threat to Israel, the possibility that Tehran is intentionally escalating the situation should not be discounted. To the outside observer, indeed, it certainly seems that both Ahmadinejad and George W. Bush are doing everything in their ability to ensure that military conflict takes place between the US and Iran.

Some Americans, increasingly alarmed by this possibility, will be gathering in Washington, DC on Jan. 27 for a mass march demanding an end to the war in Iraq, as well as sending the message, "No War on Iran."

Troop 'Surge' Seen as Another Mistake

By W. Patrick Lang and Ray McGovern
December 24, 2006

Robert Gates's report to the White House on his discussions in Iraq this past week is likely to provide the missing ingredient for the troop ''surge'' into Iraq favored by the ''decider'' team of Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush.

When the understandable misgivings voiced by top U.S. military officials made it obvious that the surge cart had been put before the mission-objective horse, the President was forced to concede, as he did at his press conference on Wednesday, ``There's got to be a specific mission that can be accomplished with the addition of more troops, before I agree on that strategy.''

The President had led off the press conference by heightening expectations for the Gates visit to Iraq, noting that ''Secretary Gates is going to be an important voice in the Iraq strategy review that's under way.'' No doubt Gates was given the job of hammering out a ''specific mission'' with U.S. generals and Iraqi leaders, and he is past master at sensing and delivering on his bosses' wishes.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's aides have given Western reporters an outline of what the ''specific mission'' may look like. It is likely to be cast as implementation of Maliki's ''new vision,'' under which U.S. troops would target primarily Sunni insurgents in outer Baghdad neighborhoods, while Iraqi forces would battle for control of inner Baghdad. A prescription for bloodbath, it has the advantage, from the White House perspective, of preventing the Iraqi capital from total disintegration until Bush and Cheney are out of office.

More here.

Congress, the Voters & a Peace Plan

By Brent Budowsky
December 23, 2006

Memo to Democratic Leaders In Congress, Democratic Presidential Candidates, and Statesmanlike Republicans:

In December of 2006 the United States stands on the brink of a historic miscalculation that could translate a catastrophe in Iraq into a region-wide conflagration, even more deadly than the status quo.

As President Bush prepares to announce the policies that will define the final two years of his presidency, what I propose privately and now publicly is this:

First, that the President initiate -- and Congress require as a condition for support -- a credible and legitimate attempt to broker a broader and comprehensive Middle East peace.

Read more here.

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.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Evidence Emerges that Tony Blair Lied About WMD

The Independent is reporting today that the British government's "case for going to war in Iraq has been torn apart by the publication of previously suppressed evidence that Tony Blair lied over Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction."

A devastating attack on Mr Blair's justification for military action by Carne Ross, Britain's key negotiator at the UN, has been kept under wraps until now because he was threatened with being charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act.

In the testimony revealed today Mr Ross, 40, who helped negotiate several UN security resolutions on Iraq, makes it clear that Mr Blair must have known Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction. He said that during his posting to the UN, "at no time did HMG [Her Majesty's Government] assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests."

Read more here.

Al Gore Calls for Action on Global Warming

This message came through the listserv of the Progressive Democrats of America.
Dear PDA Friend,

I've been incredibly gratified by the response to An Inconvenient
Truth. I'm extremely proud of all the work the team put into the film
and it feels like it came at a crucial time. But now comes the hard
work. We have to take this message to Washington. And we can't do it
without you.

Yes, the new majority in Congress will be much more receptive on the
importance of global warming. That's the good news. But I know from
personal experience that the only thing that will make Washington really take
notice and do more than give lip service to the problem of global
warming is the prospect of millions of committed citizens taking
action. It's time to join together and make that happen. Can you

First, I'm asking folks to hold house parties
in thousands of homes across the nation, to show the film and spread
the word. We're doing the first wave on

Saturday, December 16. Can you host a party? Or attend a party that
one of your neighbors is hosting?

Second, I'm asking everybody, whether you attend a party or not, to
sign a postcard {} to your
representatives, so that I can take a million postcards and messages
to Washington in January and present them to the new Congress.

We have to build the political will to do what has to be done.
Luckily, in America, political will is a renewable resource.

Thank you,

Al Gore

Progressive Democrats of America

Administration Rejects Overtures to Iran and Syria, Bush's Response to Report Alarms Panelist

The Washington Post is reporting today that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has rejected the Iraq Study Group's recommendation that the U.S. seek the help of Syria and Iran in Iraq, saying the "compensation" required by any deal might be too high.
"If [Iran and Syria] have an interest in a stable Iraq, they will do it anyway," Rice said in a wide-ranging interview with Washington Post reporters and editors. She said she did not want to trade away Lebanese sovereignty to Syria or allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon as a price for peace in Iraq.

Rice also said there would be no retreat from the administration's push to promote democracy in the Middle East, a goal that was de-emphasized by the Iraq Study Group in its report last week but that Rice insisted was a "matter of strategic interest." She reiterated her commitment to pursuing peace between Palestinians and Israelis -- a new effort that President Bush announced in September but that has yielded little so far.

"Get ready. We are going to the Middle East a lot," Rice said. More here.

Meanwhile, Iraq Study Group panelist Leon Panetta is expressing alarm that the Bush administration is signalling that it may reject the panel's suggestions about diplomacy and withdrawing most US troops from Iraq by 2008.
Bush has even criticized the idea that the group was providing a "graceful exit" from the war -- which is what Panetta and other panel members figured Bush most wanted.

"I think he has been trapped by his own rhetoric," Panetta said in a telephone interview from his California office. Referring to a recent poll suggesting that 70 percent of those surveyed disapprove of Bush's handling of the war, Panetta said, "His ratings are so low now that he has got to do something to pull this country together."

But to those who know Bush best, the president's approach is not surprising. Bush's former chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr. , who was by Bush's side as he formulated many of his key decisions on the war, said Bush hears many opinions and thus believes that "his knowledge is more complete than anyone who is advising him." More here.

Peace Groups Mobilize for New Congress

With the new Democratic Congress coming in, and in the wake of the Iraq Study Group's report calling for a new "way forward" in Iraq, antiwar organizations are making plans for demonstrations in Washington, DC, and around the country calling for an immediate end to the war. United for Peace and Justice is calling on people to "Bring the Mandate for Peace to Washington DC on Jan. 27."
Tell the New Congress:
Act NOW to Bring the Troops Home!

Join United for Peace and Justice in a massive march on Washington, D.C., on Sat., January 27, to call on Congress to take immediate action to end the war.

On Election Day the voters delivered a dramatic, unmistakable mandate for peace. Now it's time for action. On January 27, 2007, we will converge from all around the country in Washington, D.C. to send a strong, clear message to Congress and the Bush Administration: The people of this country want the war and occupation in Iraq to end and we want the troops brought home now! More here.

Also, the ANSWER Coalition just announced plans for a march on the Pentagon on the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.
March on the Pentagon
Saturday, March 17, 2007

~ 40th anniversary of the historic 1967 march on the Pentagon ~
~ 4th anniversary of the start of the Iraq war ~

On March 17, 2007, the 4th anniversary of the start of the criminal invasion of Iraq, tens of thousands of people from around the country will descend on the Pentagon in a mass demonstration to demand: U.S. Out of Iraq Now! 2007 is the 40th anniversary of the historic 1967 anti-war march to the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. The message of the 1967 march was "From Protest to Resistance," and marked a turning point in the development of a countrywide mass movement. More here.

With the new political dynamic in Washington, it seems the peace movement is newly galvanized to increase the pressure to end the war. We'll see if that translates into large numbers of people in the streets.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Way Forward, a Look Back

The abrupt resignation of the Saudi ambassador to the United States and the postponement of George W. Bush’s new Iraq policy speech mark a troubling new chapter for a U.S. strategy for the Middle East that continues to spiral toward catastrophe.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi ambassador to Washington and the former chief of Saudi intelligence, informed the State Department on Dec. 11 that he had resigned after only 15 months on the job and flew home.

The unceremonious departure was seen as another signal of Saudi anger over Bush’s regional policies. In that view, Turki’s resignation was akin to the recall of an ambassador between two hostile states, albeit softened by Turki’s insistence that he was leaving to spend more time with his family.

Read more.

Introducing Consortiumblog

We at are excited to announce the launch of our new blog, Consortiumblog, available at

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In order to register, you will first have to set up a Google account.

We only ask that users try to maintain a high degree of accuracy and basic journalistic standards, and follow our ten simple posting guidelines, listed below.

Thanks for your support, and we hope to see you at

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Leahy Outlines Agenda for Judiciary Committee

Senator Leahy (D-VT) gave an address yesterday regarding his priorities as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he calls Restoration, Repair and Renewal: restoring constitutional values and the rights of ordinary Americans, repairing a broken oversight process and the return of accountability, and renewing the public’s right to know. He started off his address with a strong condemnation of Congress.
In my 32 years since then in the Senate, I have never seen a Congress so willfully derelict in its duties as during this Administration. This has been an unfortunate chapter in Congress’s history, a time when our Constitution was under assault, when our legal and human rights were weakened, when our privacy and other freedoms were eroded. This election was an intervention. The American people rose up to take away Congress’s rubber stamp, and to demand a new direction with more accountability.

The Judiciary Committee will do its part, he said. Click here for the full address.