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.