Monday, January 12, 2009

New US media campaign promotes military strike on Iran

New US media campaign promotes military strike on Iran

By Patrick Martin

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Front-page reports in two leading US newspapers Sunday signal a ratcheting up of US pressure on Iran and the preparation of American public opinion for a new round of US military aggression.

The New York Times published a lengthy article by its chief diplomatic correspondent, David Sanger, a long-time conduit for the concerns of the Pentagon and State Department, purporting to detail discussions between the Bush administration and Israel over the past year about possible air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities.

The Washington Post carried a shorter but equally prominent article, written by correspondent Joby Warrick, recounting efforts by Iran to obtain electrical components from US and European suppliers, allegedly for Improvised Explosive Devices to be used against American forces in Iraq.

The provocative character of the Post article is demonstrated in its sensationalistic first sentence, which reads: “The Iranian businessman was looking for high-quality American electronics, but he had to act stealthily: The special parts he coveted were denied to Iranians, especially those seeking to make roadside bombs to kill US troops in Iraq.”

Other than the florid prose, the Post article adds little to the public record provided by a federal court filing last fall in Miami in which the US Department of Justice charged four companies, based in Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates, with acting as purchasing agents for the Iranian government. The principal company involved, Mayrow General Trading, was shut down by Dubai authorities in 2006.

As for the Times article, it provides new details about US-Israeli relations, as well as about US covert operations against Iran, which reportedly involve efforts to sabotage the Iranian nuclear enrichment program by supplying faulty equipment through third parties and also through the practice of cyber-warfare against Iranian computer systems.

But the article has the character less of an exposé than a semi-official declaration of the US government, sanctioned by both the outgoing Bush administration and the incoming Obama administration, represented in both cases by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the first Pentagon chief to be carried over from one administration to its successor.

Times correspondent Sanger not only bases his account on interviews with US and Israeli military and intelligence officials, he acknowledges submitting to what amounts to government censorship, declaring, “Several details of the covert effort have been omitted from this account, at the request of senior United States intelligence and administration officials, to avoid harming continuing operations.” This admission suggests that the article was pre-approved and “planted” by the US government.

The article portrays the Bush administration and Gates, in particular, as opposed to Israeli air strikes on Iranian nuclear targets, partly because they could not accomplish the goal of destroying the Iranian program and partly because of the likely backlash throughout the Middle East, especially in Iraq, where 140,000 US troops would be prime targets for any Iranian retaliation.

The article states that the Israelis approached the Bush administration early last year with three requests to facilitate air strikes on Iran: a supply of deep-penetrating bombs, equipment for refueling bombers in the air, and permission to use US-controlled Iraqi airspace.

According to Sanger, while stalling on the bombs and equipment, the White House flatly refused over flight permission, fearing the consequences for the US position in Iraq. He writes: “At the White House and the Pentagon, there was widespread concern that a political uproar in Iraq about the use of its American-controlled airspace could result in the expulsion of American forces from the country.”

The ongoing discussions between Washington and Jerusalem on whether and how to attack Iran have been the subject of multiple articles over the past five years by Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker magazine, based on leaks from Pentagon and CIA sources. Sanger adds little that is new in this area.

The Israeli technical preparations for air strikes on Iran have been quite open, including well-publicized military exercises last summer over the Mediterranean, in which Israeli warplanes simulated a bombing mission of the same length as a direct flight to Natanz, Iran’s main nuclear research and uranium enrichment facility.

Israel has completed purchase of 90 F-16I fighter-bombers from the US, which can carry enough fuel to reach Iran, (flying east from Israel through Jordan and Iraq), as well as two new Dolphin submarines from Germany that could fire nuclear-armed warheads against Iran, in addition to three similar vessels already in service.

Iran has sought to parry these moves by upgrading its air defense capabilities, buying 29 new Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia in 2007, and seeking delivery of an even more advanced Russian surface-to-air missile, the S-300. Israeli and US officials have sought to pressure Moscow not to deliver that weapons system.

There is a sinister side to Sanger’s discussion of US covert operations against Iran. Towards the end of his article, he singles out a top Iranian nuclear scientist, noting that one goal of the US activities was to “keep the pressure on a little-known Iranian professor named Mohsen Fakrizadeh, a scientist described in classified portions of American intelligence reports as deeply involved in an effort to design a nuclear warhead for Iran.”

What kind of “pressure” is Sanger talking about in this chilling passage? The naming of this scientist is tantamount to a threat by the US (and Israeli) intelligence services that Fakrizadeh could be targeted for assassination.

On a broader political level, what does the US military-intelligence establishment hope to accomplish by injecting the question of military action against Iran into public debate only nine days before Barack Obama takes the oath of office?

One passage in the article suggests that it represents an effort both to pressure the Obama administration to take action on Iran, and to begin the process of preparing American public opinion for such action. Sanger writes:

“Since his election on Nov. 4, Mr. Obama has been extensively briefed on the American actions in Iran, though his transition aides have refused to comment on the issue. Early in his presidency, Mr. Obama must decide whether the covert actions begun by Mr. Bush are worth the risks of disrupting what he has pledged will be a more active diplomatic effort to engage with Iran. Either course could carry risks for Mr. Obama. An inherited intelligence or military mission that went wrong could backfire, as happened to President Kennedy with the Bay of Pigs operation in Cuba. But a decision to pull back on operations aimed at Iran could leave Mr. Obama vulnerable to charges that he is allowing Iran to speed ahead toward a nuclear capacity, one that could change the contours of power in the Middle East.”

This suggests that Obama is being put on notice: Back down from ongoing plans for sabotage or military action against Tehran, and he could face a “Who lost Iran?” campaign in the media. Not that Obama needs much encouragement.

Only two months ago, on the eve of the election, the Times editorial page noted that “inside Washington’s policy circles these days-in studies, commentaries, meetings, Congressional hearings and conferences-reasonable people from both parties are seriously examining the so-called military option …”

One report cited then by the Times was produced by the Bipartisan Policy Center, co-founded by former Democratic Senator Tom Daschle, now an Obama cabinet nominee. That report, which declared that “a military strike is a feasible option and must remain a last resort,” was co-authored by Dennis Ross, Obama’s top Middle East adviser, recently named a top aide to Hillary Clinton in the Obama State Department.

Israel prepares to escalate its war on Gaza

Israel prepares to escalate its war on Gaza

By Peter Symonds

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As the Palestinian death toll climbed to 869 on Sunday, the Israeli military was poised to launch a major escalation of its one-sided war against Gaza. The third phase—following the aerial bombardment and the initial ground invasion—involves an all-out assault on the densely populated Gaza City, home to more than 400,000 people.

Early yesterday morning, the Israeli army advanced into Gaza City from three sides. Fierce fighting erupted in the southwestern district of Sheik al-Ajlin as Israeli troops, backed by tanks and helicopter gunships, battled Hamas militiamen armed with rifles and mortars. Israeli forces withdrew after several hours of what appeared to be a probing operation in preparation for a full-scale attack on the city.

The fighting sent a new flood of people fleeing their homes in search of refuge. The Israeli military dropped leaflets on Saturday over Gaza City and Rafah warning that its forces would escalate operations in the Gaza Strip and to stay away from Hamas. But in Gaza, there is no safe place to go. Residential blocks, shelters and mosques have all been targetted. On January 6, Israeli shells killed at least 40 people, including women and children, sheltering in a UN-run refuge at the al-Fakhora school.

Further Israeli atrocities took place during the weekend. On Saturday, at least seven members of the Abed Rabbo clan were killed when their grocery store in a village just east of the Jabaliya refugee camp was shelled. Ambulance driver Zaid Barquouni told the Los Angeles Times that neighbours told him that the shelling had come from an Israeli tank several blocks away.

According to the Associated Press, four members of one family died when a tank shell hit their home near Gaza City. By midday yesterday, at least 20 people had been killed. As the death toll climbed over 860, health authorities in Gaza reported that the victims included 270 children, 93 women and 12 paramedics. The World Health Organisation put the casualties among medical staff even higher—at 21 killed, 30 injured—and the number of ambulances hit by Israeli fire at 11.

Fresh allegations surfaced over the weekend of the Israeli military's use of white phosphorus in breach of international humanitarian law. Palestinian medics told the BBC that phosphorus shells had been fired at Khouza, killing a woman and injuring at least 60 people. "These people were burned over their bodies in a way that can only be caused by white phosphorus," Dr Yousef Abu Rish said.

The US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement on Saturday condemning the Israeli military's use of white phosphorus as illegal. "White phosphorus can burn down houses and cause horrific burns when it touches the skin," senior HRW analyst Marc Garlasco said. "Israel should not use it in Gaza's densely populated areas."

While Israeli authorities deny breaking international law, the use of white phosphorus is only permitted under international law as a smokescreen, not as a weapon of war or in civilian areas. In the crowded conditions of Gaza, death and injuries are all but inevitable. As the HRW statement pointed out, the danger has been greatly amplified by the technique of air-bursting shells that send out scores of phosphorus wafers over wide areas.

The humanitarian crisis in the besieged Gaza Strip is worsening. The UN estimates that two thirds of the 1.5 million people are without electricity and half have no running water. The British-based Independent pointed out that a three-hour pause in the fighting on Saturday was insufficient to allow aid groups to distribute food, and medics to reach casualties. Salam Kanaan of Save the Children said that in previous lulls the agency had reached just 9,500 people out of the 150,000 people it served.

Conditions in hospitals are appalling. At Shifa hospital, Gaza's largest, about 70 patients in the intensive care unit only survive because of four electricity generators. The hospital itself has been without power for the past seven days because Gaza's only power plant has stopped functioning due to the lack of fuel. "How terrible it would be if our patients survive the attacks and then die because of the lack of electricity," the hospital's director, Dr Hassan Khalaf, told the Independent.

Israel bluntly rejected last Friday's UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire, declaring it to be "unworkable" because it failed to meet Israeli demands to seal the border between Egypt and Gaza and prevent the firing of rockets into Israeli territory.

Prior to a cabinet meeting yesterday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared that Israel was nearing its goals. What was under discussion, however, was not an end to the war, but its further escalation. The only hesitation in launching "phase three" of the operation—an assault on Gaza City—is the potential for heavy Israeli military casualties in street fighting, which could provoke opposition in Israel. The Israeli death toll since December 27 is just 13—nine soldiers and four civilians.

Any Israeli invasion of Gaza City would require the deployment of tens of thousands of reservists who were called up for active service in the first days of the war. In another indication that troops will be sent into Gaza City, the Haaretz newspaper reported yesterday that Israeli reservists began entering Gaza for the first time.

Israel's escalation is being encouraged by the support of the US as well as the complicity of the European powers and the venal Middle Eastern regimes. In a vote last Friday, the US House of Representatives passed a motion by 390 to 5 expressing "vigorous support and unwavering commitment" for Israel and repeating the lie that Israel was waging a war of "self-defence". A similar motion previously passed the Senate unanimously.

Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on countries around the world to "lay blame both for breaking the ‘calm' and for subsequent civilian casualties in Gaza precisely where blame belongs, that is, on Hamas". Israel's criminal war against the largely defenceless population of Gaza was, however, planned well in advance. Hamas's firing of rockets was the pretext for an offensive aimed at imposing Israeli control in Gaza and bolstering its strategic position throughout the Middle East.

The European powers and Middle Eastern regimes have supported talks being held in Egypt on a French-Egyptian plan for a ceasefire. Like the US, the proposal implicitly blames Hamas for the war and ensures that all of Israel's demands are met, for an end to rocket attacks and to cross-border smuggling via Egypt. Israel has called for the presence of international monitors along the border, which Egypt to date has refused.

If talks fail, Israeli officials told the New York Times that it was likely that the "third phase" of the war would begin. As well as occupying Gaza City, Israeli troops would seize a strip of land at least 500 metres wide inside Egypt—an act of war that threatens a wider conflict. Israeli war planes have been intensively bombing the border in a bid to destroy cross-border tunnels and, in doing so, frequently infringing Egyptian air space. Yesterday, Israeli air strikes near the Rafah border crossing wounded three Egyptian policemen, two seriously, as well as two children.

Sections of the political and military establishment are pressing for an even more aggressive approach to stamp Israeli control over Gaza. Retired general Avigdor BenGal told the Times: "We need to conquer the Gaza Strip and put the Hamas military and political leaders on a French ship to leave Gaza for good, just as we did with [former Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat in Beirut in 1982. We've already conquered a bigger Arab city than Gaza [namely, Beirut], our army is trained and fit for the mission. The politicians should give the order."

Ominously, unnamed Israeli officials have hinted to the media that the current military offensive potentially has a planned "phase four"—the full reoccupation of Gaza and the toppling of the Hamas regime.

Will Defense Run the “Real” Stimulus Package?

Will Defense Run the “Real” Stimulus Package?

By Catherine Austin Fitts

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In fiscal 1999, the Department of Defense was “missing” $2.3 trillion dollars. To put that amount of money in perspective, it is approximately 3X what President-elect Obama is proposing to spend to revitalize America.

In fiscal 2000, the Department of Defense was “missing” $1.1 trillion, about 1.5X what President-elect Obama wants to invest in America.

So between October 1998 and September 2000, the Department of Defense was “missing” $3.3 trillion. Because the amount of money disappearing is so enormous, years ago we started a archive of articles on the “missing money” to try to keep up with the trillions sliding out of the federal accounts.

From 1997 to March 2001, the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) who served as the chief financial officer for the Department of Defense was William J. Lynn III. In that position, he was the chief financial officer for the Department of Defense and was the principal advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense for all budgetary and fiscal matters. That means he was the person responsible to make sure no money went missing and that the Department of Defense published audited financial statements — which it failed to do in those years and every year since.

When Mr. Lynn left Defense in 2001, he joined DFI International and then in 2005 became the chief lobbyist for Raytheon. He was replaced at Defense by Dov Zakheim.

Today, President Elect Obama nominated William J. Lynn III as the Deputy Secretary of Defense. The press release said, “Lynn brings decades of experience and expertise in reforming government spending and making the tough choices necessary to ensure that American tax dollars are spent wisely.”

Obama also nominated Robert Hale to Lynn’s former position, Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller). From 1994 to 2001, Mr. Hale served as the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Financial Management and Comptroller). That means that Hale, same as Lynn, was in charge of the money when all the money disappeared.

I guess the guys who got the last $3.3 trillion were pretty happy with Mr. Lynn and Mr. Hale and decided to bring them back.

Which brings me to the question I keep asking, “Where is the money and how do we get it back?

The Collapsing US Economy Will the Government Turn to the Printing Press?

The Collapsing US Economy

Will the Government Turn to the Printing Press?

By Paul Craig Roberts

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonfarm payroll employment declined by 3,445,000 from December 2007 through December 2008.

The collapse in employment is across the board.

Construction lost 520,000 jobs. Manufacturing lost 806,000 jobs. Trade, transportation and utilities lost 1,495,000 jobs (retail trade accounted for 1,120,000 of this loss). Financial activities lost 145,000 jobs. Professional and business services lost 713,000 jobs. Even government lost 188,000 jobs.

Only in health care and social assistance has the economy been able to eke out a few new jobs.

Many analysts believe the job losses will be as great or greater during 2009.

Moreover, the reported job losses are likely understated. Noted statistician John Williams (shadowstats.com) reports that biases in measurement have understated the job loss over the last 12 months by 1,150,000 jobs.

Williams also notes that the official unemployment rate is an enormous understatement, due in part to the Clinton administration’s decision not to count as unemployed those discouraged workers who have been without jobs for more than one year. Williams reports the unemployment rate as it was measured prior to “reforms” designed to minimize the measured rate of unemployment. According to the methodology used in 1980, the US unemployment rate in December 2008 reached 17.5 percent.

Yes, “our” government lies to us about economic statistics, just as it lies to us about “terrorists,” “weapons of mass destruction,” “building freedom and democracy in the Middle East,” and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

An objective person would be hard pressed to find any statement made by the US government that is reliable.

The collapse of the job market means even harder times for last year’s and this year’s crops of college graduates. The offshoring of professional jobs and the widespread use by US corporations of H-1b, L-1, and other work visa programs for foreigners have left many recent American university graduates without careers.

Recently, Bill Gates of Microsoft was pleading with Congress to allow even more foreigners in on work visas. According to Gates, there is a shortage of American workers despite a 17.5 percent unemployment rate. I personally know American computer engineers, both seasoned and recent graduates, who cannot find jobs.

What Gates and American corporations want is cheap labor, in effect indentured servants, unprotected people who don’t demand an American standard of living and who have no student loans to repay.

If Congress expands the work visas as US unemployment mounts, we will have one more piece of evidence that “our” representatives have no sympathy for the American people.

Where were America’s leaders while the economy slipped over the precipice?

Our leaders were telling us lies in behalf of special interests into whose pockets Washington was pouring the taxpayers’ money. Our leaders engineered wars that put billions of dollars into such disreputable pockets as Halliburton’s, the firm of the American outlaw, Dick Cheney, and into Blackwater, supplier of the overpaid mercenaries that the Bush Regime uses to beef up its military force in Iraq. Some of the taxpayers’ billions, of course, recycled into “our” representatives reelection campaign funds.

Our leaders were too busy making trips to Israel to reaffirm their support for Israel’s ongoing theft of Palestine and for wars that enable this theft.

Our leaders were too busy serving financial interests by dismantling regulatory barriers to over-leveraged greed. The extraordinary level of leveraged debt and the fraudulent financial instruments resulted in annual compensation for hedge fund managers and investment bankers larger than a king’s ransom.

When the leveraged mortgages went bust, the banksters declared a “crisis” and Congress responded by ripping off the American taxpayers for another trillion dollars.

More is to come. Credit card debt, car loans, and commercial real estate mortgages have been securitized, too. There is little doubt there are derivatives based on this enormous pile of debt. As each “crisis” unfolds, it will mean more bailout rewards for the crooks who deep-sixed the US economy.

It is not implausible that by the end of this year the unemployment rate, honestly measured, will be as high as during the Great Depression.

Few in Washington think there is any cause for alarm. Obama is calling the situation “serious” not because he believes it is but in order to get another trillion dollar “stimulus” package on the taxpayers’ books. Stimulus will do the trick, economists say, and, moreover, the Federal Reserve has already extended $2 trillion in loans, but won’t say to whom the money has been lent.

This massive expansion of new debt, economists think, is going to fix the economy and put people back to work. They think the solution to excessive debt is more debt.

The federal government budget deficit for the 2009 fiscal year will be $2 trillion at a minimum. That is five times larger than the 2008 budget deficit.

How can the Treasury finance such a massive deficit?

There are three sources of financing. Possibly people will flee from stocks, bank deposits, and money market funds into Treasury “securities.” This would require a form of “money illusion” on the part of people. People would have to believe that investments can be printed, and that printing so many new Treasury bonds would not dilute the value of existing bonds or reduce their chance of redemption. They would have to believe that the bonds would be repaid with honest money, not by running the printing presses.

A second source of financing might be America’s foreign creditors. So far in our descent into massive debt foreigners have footed the bill. Our foreign creditors now hold very large amounts of US debt and other dollar-denominated “securities.” They are likely to develop a case of cold feet when they see a $2 trillion expansion in US debt in one year. Their most likely response will be to start selling their existing holdings.

Who would purchase them? The only way the Treasury can redeem the bonds that come due each year is by selling new bonds. Not only must the Treasury find purchasers for $2 trillion in new debt this year but also must find buyers for the bonds that must be sold in order to redeem old bonds that come due.

If foreigners cease buying and instead start selling from their existing holdings--China alone holds $500 billion in Treasury debt--a deluge will fall on an already flooded market.

The third source of financing is for the Federal Reserve to monetize the debt. In other words, the Treasury prints bonds and the Fed purchases them by printing money. The supply of money thus expands dramatically in relation to goods and services, and high inflation, possibly hyperinflation, would engulf America.

At that point the US dollar, if still on its feet, collapses. The import-dependent American population, dependent on imports for their mobility, their clothes, shoes, manufactured goods, and advanced technology products, no longer will be able to afford these imports.

A scary scenario? Yes. Overdrawn? Perhaps, but perhaps not. The United States has spent the last 7 years in pointless wars that benefited only the military-security complex and Israel’s aggression against Palestinians and Lebanon. According to prominent experts, the out-of-pocket cost and already incurred future liabilities of Bush’s wars comes to $3 trillion.

The cost of the Bush Regime’s wars, together with the 2009 budget deficit that Bush has bequeathed to Obama, equals half of the accumulated national debt of the United States.

Several years ago United States Comptroller General David Walker informed Congress and the White House that the accrued liabilities of the US government exceeded the ability to pay. Yet, “our” leaders ignored the Comptroller General and rushed headlong to add more trillions of dollars to federal liabilities. In effect, the United States is bankrupt at this present moment. According to generally accepted accounting principles, the federal government has a negative net worth of $59.3 trillion.

Who is going to lend to a bankrupt government that is ruled by financial crooks, the military-security complex, and the Israel Lobby? How long will the world finance US aggression that disrupts energy prices, keeps the world on edge, and makes America’s creditors complicit in war crimes?

America's Continuing Fight Against Democracy

America's Continuing Fight Against Democracy

Sam Hamod, Ph.D.

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As an American citizen, born and raised in Gary, Indiana, I want America to be the beacon for democracy that Ialways felt we were and that or government said we were. Unfortunately, as I look at the world from events in my lifetime, it appears that after we defeated Hitler and Japan, we forgot about our true mission of democracy and its attendant morality.

The United States unfortunately, has a long record of fighting against democracy in the world. We showed some of this in Iran when we helped to overthrow a strong nationalist that was democratically elected, Mohammed Mossadegh. We put the corrupt puppet, the Shah back into power (this after the people had ousted him in a bloodless revolution). We did the same when we overthrew Allende in Chile.We replaced him with the mass killer, Pinochet. We did the same against the democratically elected government of Granada. We had all the leaders killed and replaced them; with "friendly" leaders. Everyone knows that Ho Chi Minh was the popular leader of Viet Nam, and was responsible for freeing Viet Nam from the French. The French even warned America that he was a popular socialist leader and not a Russian or Chinese satellite "communist,"—but because he was a nationalist, America went to war to defend a dictator in the south of Viet Nam who carried our colors and did our bidding in that ill-fated and immoral war.

Lately, we've labeled the democratically elected government of Palestine, Hamas, as "terrorists," before they had time to govern. George Bush and his regime refused to recognize them because America had wanted the corrupt Fatah regime to continue, with payoffs and pussyfooting to Israel and the U.S. demands. Add to that we subsidized and trained Ethiopian troops to go in to overthrow the legitimate government of Somalia, a government that had finally brought some law and order to the chaos that had followed the earlier American intervention that was so vividly portrayed in American films as, BLACKHAWK DOWN. Of course there is that old problem for America, the continued rule of Castro in Cuba; a man known to his people as their George Washington—a man revered by all those Cubans except those in Florida who benefited from the corrupt and mean-spirited Batista regime (another of our allies). Ironically, Castro has outlasted, and outlived Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan, and has seen the presidencies of George Bush Sr., Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and now George W. Bush, all fall by the wayside. Just as an aside, it is ironic that the only president of the U.S. who went against our desire to rule the world was Jimmy Carter, and he lasted only one term because the money people in both parties wanted to go back on the warpath (which he opposed).

Lest one think it is only the politicians who carry these wars on, one has to also realize our yellow journalistic media, TV, radio, newspapers and magazines are the first to fly the flag of intervention and empire. They rally the people behind this immoral escapades, and journalists like Helen Thomas, Walter Cronkit, Peter Jennings, Dan Rather and Bill Moyers are rarely heard above the din of the thousands of others in America who wave the flag as if it was holy and as if our use the of the "democracy," was the truth (all the time, knowing that it is, and has been, a lie).

We now have built the biggest embassy in the world in Baghdad, Iraq—covering over 104 acres of land—a virtual city of our own. America says it shows our "friendship," but every Iraq and every educated Muslim knows it is to keep a fort in the middle of the "oil patch" and to govern Iraq from that devilish domain.

Our record of "supporting democracies" is nil. We keep talking about Israel as a "democracy," yet even Israeli social scientists and historians keep pointing out that Israel is not a true democracy because, like America in the past with African Americans and Native Americans, the Arabs (both Christian and Muslim) are second or third class citizens not allowed the full rights of Jews, and the Ethiopian Jews who went to Israel are also treated in the same way "browns" were treated in South Africa, as second class citizens. They were useful to the Israeli propaganda machine to show that they were people of all colors, but the Rabbis of Naturi Karta have made clear, that only the Ashkenazim Jews are the first class citizens, and the Goyim of all sorts have no real rights; thus, it is not really a "democracy," no matter how much the Israeli government and the U.S. media crow that lie to the world.

It is time that America search again for its own democratic roots and take away some of the fascistic ways of the Bush administration, and also quit trying to destroy democracies and popular nationalistic governments around the world. If we don't, then our illness will continue to spread, with "democracy" being only a mask for our support of dictators, for the overthrow of democracies and popular governments, and our behavior will lead to more chaos and immorality and war in the world.

Israel Rejected Hamas Ceasefire Offer in December

Israel Rejected Hamas Ceasefire Offer in December

By Gareth Porter

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Contrary to Israel's argument that it was forced to launch its air and ground offensive against Gaza in order to stop the firing of rockets into its territory, Hamas proposed in mid-December to return to the original Hamas-Israel ceasefire arrangement, according to a U.S.-based source who has been briefed on the proposal.

The proposal to renew the ceasefire was presented by a high-level Hamas delegation to Egyptian Minister of Intelligence Omar Suleiman at a meeting in Cairo Dec. 14. The delegation, said to have included Moussa Abu Marzouk, the second-ranking official in the Hamas political bureau in Damascus, told Suleiman that Hamas was prepared to stop all rocket attacks against Israel if the Israelis would open up the Gaza border crossings and pledge not to launch attacks in Gaza.

The Hamas officials insisted that Israel not be allowed to close or reduce commercial traffic through border crossings for political purposes, as it had done during the six-month lull, according to the source. They asked Suleiman, who had served as mediator between Israel and Hamas in negotiating the original six-month Gaza ceasefire last spring, to "put pressure" on Israel to take that the ceasefire proposal seriously.

Suleiman said he could not pressure Israel but could only make the suggestion to Israeli officials. It could not be learned, however, whether Israel explicitly rejected the Hamas proposal or simply refused to respond to Egypt.

The readiness of Hamas to return to the ceasefire conditionally in mid-December was confirmed by Dr. Robert Pastor, a professor at American University and senior adviser to the Carter Centre, who met with Khaled Meshal, chairman of the Hamas political bureau in Damascus on Dec. 14, along with former President Jimmy Carter. Pastor told IPS that Meshal indicated Hamas was willing to go back to the ceasefire that had been in effect up to early November "if there was a sign that Israel would lift the siege on Gaza".

Pastor said he passed Meshal's statement on to a "senior official" in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) the day after the meeting with Meshal. According to Pastor, the Israeli official said he would get back to him, but did not.

"There was an alternative to the military approach to stopping the rockets," said Pastor. He added that Israel is unlikely to have an effective ceasefire in Gaza unless it agrees to lift the siege.

The Israeli Embassy in Washington declined to comment Thursday on whether there had been any discussion of a ceasefire proposal from Hamas in mid-December that would have stopped the rocket firing.

Abu Omar, a spokesman for Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in Syria, told CBS news Wednesday that Hamas could only accept the ceasefire plan now being proposed by France and Egypt, which guarantees an end to Israel's blockade of Gaza as soon as hostilities on both sides were halted. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said Israel would only support the proposal if it also included measures to prevent Hamas from re-arming.

The interest of Hamas in a ceasefire agreement that would actually open the border crossings was acknowledged at a Dec. 21 Israeli cabinet meeting -- five days before the beginning of the Israeli military offensive -- by Yuval Diskin, the head of Israel's internal security agency, Shin Bet. "Make no mistake, Hamas is interested in maintaining the truce," Diskin was quoted by Y-net News agency as saying.

Israel's rejection of the Hamas December proposal reflected its preference for maintaining Israel's primary leverage over Hamas and the Palestinian population of Gaza -- its ability to choke off food and goods required for the viability of its economy -- even at the cost of continued Palestinian rocket attacks.

The ceasefire agreement that went into effect Jun. 19, 2008 required that Israel lift the virtual siege of Gaza which Israel had imposed after the June 2007 Hamas takeover. Although the terms of the agreement were not made public at the time, they were included in a report published this week by the International Crisis Group (ICG), which obtained a copy of the understanding last June.

In addition to a halt in all military actions by both sides, the agreement called on Israel to increase the level of goods entering Gaza by 30 percent over the pre-lull period within 72 hours and to open all border crossings and "allow the transfer of all goods that were banned and restricted to go into Gaza" within 13 days after the beginning of the ceasefire.

Nevertheless, Israeli officials freely acknowledged in interviews with ICG last June that they had no intention of opening the border crossings fully, even though they anticipated that this would be the source of serious conflict with Hamas.

The Israelis opened the access points only partially, and in late July Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni declared that the border crossings should remain closed until Hamas agreed to the release of Gilad Shalit, an IDF soldier abducted by Hamas in June 2006. The Hamas representative in Lebanon, Usam Hamdan, told the ICG in late December that the flow of goods and fuel into Gaza had been only 15 percent of its basic needs.

Despite Israel's refusal to end the siege, Hamas brought rocket and mortar fire from Gaza to a virtual halt last summer and fall, as revealed by a report by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) in Tel Aviv last month. ITIC is part of the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Centre (IICC), an NGO which is close to the Israeli intelligence community.

In the first days after the ceasefire took effect, Islamic Jihad fired nine rockets and a few mortar rounds in retaliation for Israeli assassinations of their members in the West Bank. In August another eight rockets were fired by various groups, according to IDF data cited in the report. But it shows that only one rocket was launched from Gaza in September and one in October.

The report recalls that Hamas "tried to enforce the terms of the arrangement" on other Palestinian groups, taking "a number of steps against networks which violated the arrangement," including short-term detention and confiscating their weapons. It even found that Hamas had sought support in Gazan public opinion for its policy of maintaining the ceasefire.

On Nov. 4 -- just when the ceasefire was most effective -- the IDF carried out an attack against a house in Gaza in which six members of Hamas's military wing were killed, including two commanders, and several more were wounded. The IDF explanation for the operation was that it had received intelligence that a tunnel was being dug near the Israeli security fence for the purpose of abducing Israeli soldiers.

Hamas officials asserted, however, that the tunnel was being dug for defensive purposes, not to capture IDF personnel, according to Pastor, and one IDF official confirmed that fact to him.

After that Israeli attack, the ceasefire completely fell apart, as Hamas began openly firing rockets into Israel, the IDF continued to carry out military operations inside Gaza, and the border crossings were "closed most of the time", according to the ITIC account.

Israel cited the firing of 190 rockets over six weeks as the justification for its massive attack on Gaza.

John Pilger: "Palestine is Still the Issue"

John Pilger: "Palestine is Still the Issue"

Why Has This Documentary, Never Been Broadcast On U.S. Media ?

Twenty-five years ago, I made a film called Palestine Is Still The Issue. It was about a nation of people - the Palestinians - forced off their land and later subjected to a military occupation by Israel. An occupation condemned by the United Nations and almost every country in the world, including Britain.

But Israel is backed by a very powerful friend, the United States. So in 25 years, if we're to speak of the great injustice here, nothing has changed. What has changed is that the Palestinians have fought back.

Stateless and humiliated for so long, they've risen up against Israel's huge military machine, although they themselves have no arm, no tanks, no American planes and gun ships or missiles.

Some have committed desperate acts of terror, like suicide bombing. But for Palestinians, the overriding, routine terror, day after day, has been the ruthless control of almost every aspect of their lives, as if they live in an open prison. This film is about the Palestinians and a group of courageous Israelis united in the oldest human struggle - to be free.

New jobs numbers portray an economy in near free fall

New jobs numbers portray an economy in near free fall

Kevin G. Hall

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The U.S. recession gathered steam in December as employers shed another 524,000 jobs, the unemployment rate leapt half a percentage point to 7.2 percent, the length of the average workweek fell to a record low and job losses were spread widely across almost all sectors of the economy, the government said Friday.

December's unemployment rate was the highest since January 1993, and was up by much more than expected over November's rate of 6.7 percent, according to the Labor Department. The December job losses brought the full-year total to more than 2.6 million.

There was little to cheer in the report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although the December job losses were just a touch higher than the consensus forecast, many analysts think that they'll be revised next month.

Several state employment offices saw their computer systems crash in December with the soaring number of people who were seeking jobless benefits, and this may have resulted in a number lower than it really is.

The Labor Department also revised its employment reports from October and November, noting that job losses in those months were worse than first reported. Employers rid themselves of 423,000 jobs in October, not the originally reported 320,000, and 584,000 positions in November, not the 533,000 first reported by the BLS.

While the steep jump in unemployment and mounting job losses grabbed the headlines, there was even more troubling news buried deeper down in the report. The BLS said that the average hourly workweek for production and nonsupervisory jobs had shrunk 0.2 percent to 33.3 hours. That marks the lowest that this number has registered since the government started compiling these statistics in 1964.

"The message in the decline in hours worked to a record low is that more big job losses are coming," said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Economy.com, a forecaster in West Chester, Pa. "Employers first cut their employees' hours and then their jobs if business doesn't quickly improve."

It's hard to see how business will improve anytime soon. The December jobs numbers point to an economy in near free fall, as the BLS said 1.9 million jobs had been lost in the final four months of 2008. In all, 11.1 million Americans are thought to be unemployed.

"In December, job losses were large and widespread across most major industry sectors," the BLS employment report said.

Manufacturers shed 149,000 jobs in December and 791,000 for all of last year. The biggest manufacturing losers were metal-makers and companies that make cars and car parts. Construction fell by 101,000 jobs in December and by 899,000 since its peak in September 2006.

Retailers dropped 67,000 positions in December and 522,000 last year, more than half of those jobs lost in the last four months of 2008. Warehousing and transport employment fell by 24,000 jobs in December, while the information industry lost 20,000 positions. Food services fell by 20,000 last month.

Only health care showed robust growth, adding 32,000 jobs in December and 372,000 positions last year. "The decline in jobs across so many industries and occupations is disturbing. There is no safe place in the job market," Zandi said.

In another troubling indicator, the number of involuntary part-time workers, those who want to work full time but can't find such jobs, rose to 8 million in December and increased by 3.4 million for all of last year.

Additionally, the number of long-term unemployed — jobless for 27 weeks or more — rose to 2.6 million in December and increased by 1.3 million for all of 2008. This number essentially doubled as many of the unemployed remained that way for much of the year.

As condition of loan, UAW can't strike against GM

As condition of loan, UAW can't strike against GM

By Justin Hyde

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The UAW and its local unions are barred from striking General Motors Corp. as long as GM has loans from the federal government, according to http://freep.com/article/20081219/BUSINESS01/81219099/0/COL01 ">the agreement GM signed with the Bush administration last month.

The U.S. Treasury set myriad conditions on GM as part of the plan to loan the company $13.4 billion for survival. Those terms had not been fully disclosed until GM filed the documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

As part of the loan, the U.S. Treasury defined several conditions that would trigger a default, including that “any labor union or collective bargaining unit shall engage in a strike or other work stoppage.” If the loans are in default, the Treasury has the power to call them back immediately and force GM into bankruptcy.

The deal requires the UAW to accept by Feb. 17 a plan to lower wages and benefits for workers to match those of employees at foreign-owned U.S. plants by Dec. 31. It also requires the union to take two-thirds of the money its due for a retiree health-care trust fund in company stock rather than cash or company debt.

GM has until Dec. 29, 2011 to pay back the loan under the current deal. While the UAW has a no-strike clause in its contract with GM that runs through September 2011, its local unions have different timetables for negotiating their contracts. If the UAW was forced to reopen its contract to make concessions, the no-strike clause could be set aside.

The union’s leaders began meeting this week to talk about ways to meet the demands in the loan agreement. But UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said the union would not reopen its labor contracts.

Negotiations could begin as early as next week, but the UAW plans to ask its members to vote on any concessions that are reached. The UAW has also indicated it could press Congress and the incoming Obama administration to change the terms of the loan agreement in the coming weeks.

PTSD Victim Booted from US Army for "Misconduct"

PTSD victim booted for ‘misconduct’

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After serving two tours in Iraq — tours filled with killing enemy combatants and watching close friends die — Sgt. Adam Boyle, 27, returned home expecting the Army to take care of him.

Instead, service member advocates and Boyle’s mother say his chain of command in the 3rd Psychological Operations Battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C., worked to end his military career at the first sign of weakness.

In October, a medical evaluation board physician at Bragg recommended that Boyle go through the military disability retirement process for chronic post-traumatic stress disorder — which is supposed to automatically earn him at least a 50 percent disability retirement rating — as well as for chronic headaches. The doctor also diagnosed Boyle with alcohol abuse and said he was probably missing formations due to the medications doctors put him on to treat his PTSD.

But in December, Lt. Gen. John Mulholland, commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, signed an order forcing Boyle out on an administrative discharge for a “pattern of misconduct,” and ordering that the soldier pay back his re-enlistment bonus.

Last year, after a number of troops diagnosed with PTSD were administratively forced out for “personality disorders” following combat deployments, the Defense Department changed its rules: The pertinent service surgeon general now must sign off on any personality-disorder discharge if a service member has been diagnosed with PTSD.

“Not even a year later, they’re pushing them out administratively for ‘pattern of misconduct,’ ” said Carissa Picard, an attorney and founder of Military Spouses for Change, a group created in response to the personality-disorder cases. “I’m so angry. We’re seeing it all the time. And it’s for petty stuff.”

In Boyle’s case, according to Picard and Boyle’s mother, Laura Curtiss, the soldier had gotten in trouble for missing morning formations and for alcohol-related incidents such as fighting and public drunkenness.

“The whole thing is absurd to me,” Picard said. “They acknowledge that PTSD causes misconduct, and then they boot them out for misconduct.”

Carol Darby, spokeswoman for Special Operations Command, said she could not discuss personnel administrative or medical issues, and that the Army did not have a response to the case as of Tuesday evening.

Doctors first diagnosed Boyle with PTSD after his second deployment ended in 2006, when he moved to a new unit. After he missed his first formation, he said he went in to talk to his first sergeant to explain he was having problems with depression, PTSD and insomnia. But after that, he said, no one ever asked how he was doing.

“They just said, ‘You messed up. Here’s what we’re going to do to you,’ ” Boyle said. “I would have loved it if someone had sat me down and had a heart-to-heart with me. I tried. I stuck with the counseling.”

But counseling at Fort Bragg was also difficult, he said, because there were not enough doctors for more than one counseling session a month, and because he had to explain his story to seven different therapists over two years.

He received two Article 15s, one for not reporting to duty while helping a girlfriend who had been in a car accident, and one for not returning home three days early from leave after drunk-and-disorderly conduct in a bar. Over that time, he said he was also experiencing flashbacks, anger-management and relationship issues, trust issues and guilt.

Picard said she has seen at least a dozen cases of soldiers with PTSD being pushed out for a “pattern of misconduct.”

Chuck Luther, also with Military Spouses for Change, said he’s working on four cases similar to Boyle’s now.

“I’ve seen the office of the surgeon general doing some great things,” Picard said. “But they didn’t intervene in this case. Technically, it’s OK. Morally, is it OK? No. If they’re going to call it a combat injury, they need to treat it, or else people will be afraid to come forward.”

Boyle’s mother gave another reason: “You can hear it in his voice,” Curtiss said. “He can’t believe the Army’s doing this to him. He needs counseling. He needs medication. He needs it even more now because of what they’ve put him through.”

Curtiss contacted Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and a spokesman said the senator has been in contact with the Army several times about the case.

Boyle always wanted to be in the Army, Curtiss said, and served in junior ROTC while in high school. He planned to be an officer, worked as psychological operations sergeant, received a Good Conduct Medal and two Army Commendation medals, and wanted to spend his career in the military. Instead, he was twice diagnosed with PTSD and said he enrolled himself in the Army’s substance abuse program and went to group and individual counseling for his disorder, just as he was supposed to.

The administrative discharge means Boyle will have to prove that his PTSD is service-connected when applying for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and he’s not eligible to immediately receive the counseling he needs through the transition program for service members moving between the military and VA systems.

“The military is creating a societal issue,” Luther said. “These guys come out with no resources, and they’re angry and feeling betrayed. But commanders are thinking, ‘Do I rehabilitate him or do I get rid of him expeditiously so I can replace him with someone who can deploy?’ ”

Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, said the Army should have provided Boyle with legal representation; that Boyle should remain in military therapy until VA processes his claim; that he should get an honorable discharge and go through the disability retirement process; and that the military needs to apply the same rules to “pattern of misconduct” as it does to personality disorders.

“The military should be concerned about the welfare of the soldier,” Sullivan said.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Mike Parker, who has worked as an advocate for service members going through the disability retirement system, said the cases are frustrating because veterans’ groups just fought to get the military to automatically award 50 percent disability ratings for people with PTSD severe enough to force them to leave the service, as is required by law. Many troops with PTSD had been receiving far lower ratings.

“Even though they have this new regulation saying they can’t kick them out for personality disorders, they can still kick them out for misconduct,” he said. “Everything they say, they have an escape clause.”

Boyle received word that Mulholland was standing behind his decision.

That means Boyle must repay the Army $18,500 for his re-enlistment bonus. The Army also withheld 65 days’ worth of leave payments and his final paycheck.

“I have nothing,” Boyle said. “After all I did for the Army, they took my money and kicked me to the curb and said, ‘Don’t let the door hit you in the ass.’ ”

Washington Post Again Flacks for Bush's Crimes

WPost Again Flacks for Bush's Crimes

By Robert Parry

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With only 10 days left before George W. Bush leaves office, the Washington Establishment – and its chief mouthpiece the Washington Post – are trying to stymie any meaningful accountability for the outgoing administration and thus cover up for their own complicity in Bush’s crimes and incompetence.

The latest example is the Post’s front-page article on Jan. 10 which offers a one-sided defense of torture in the guise of discussing how President-elect Barack Obama is under pressure over his expressed goal of prohibiting abusive interrogation of detainees in the “war on terror.”

The Post article presents those interrogation policies as an undisputed success, even quoting Vice President Dick Cheney as something of an unbiased expert in declaring that the harsh tactics “have been absolutely essential to maintaining our capacity to interfere with and defeat all further attacks against the United States.”

Throughout the article, Obama’s opposition to torture is portrayed as simply campaign rhetoric meant to appease the left-wing Democratic base and some human rights activists. Meanwhile the pro-torture position is described as realistic, hard-headed and patriotic.

“If Obama goes ahead with his plan to scrap the special CIA [interrogation] program, he could expose himself to criticism that he did not do all he could to prevent another terrorist attack,” the Post article states. It then cites a “white paper” from Bush’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence about the supposed successes of the interrogation tactics, including the simulated drowning of waterboarding.

The DNI’s “white paper” credited the waterboarding of an al-Qaeda operative known as Abu Zubaydah for forcing out the first information about Khalid Sheik Mohammed’s role in the 9/11 attacks and intelligence that helped capture another high-ranking operative, Ramzi Binalshibh.

Though the Post story appeared in the news columns – not in its reliably neoconservative editorial section – the article read more like a pro-torture opinion piece masquerading as news. The Post included no counter-arguments against the alleged value of waterboarding and other tactics which have been widely condemned around the world as torture.

If the Post had any interest in balance, it might have included at least some references to experts who have disputed the value of extracting information through torture.

For example, Lt. Gen. John Kimmons, head of Army intelligence, stated in 2006 that “No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tells us that.”

FBI Protests

Or the Post might have mentioned the opposition to torture from trained FBI interrogators who left the Guantanamo Bay prison in disgust over the illegality and ineffectiveness of the brutal interrogation tactics that had supplanted their own approach which they felt had been working.

A Justice Department’s Inspector General’s report, released May 20, 2008, addressed precisely the Abu Zubaydah case, noting that in spring 2002, FBI agents objected to the “borderline torture” of a badly wounded Zubaydah and passed on those concerns to FBI superiors in Washington.

Disgusted by the tactics, FBI Counterterrorism Assistant Director Pasquale D'Amuro pulled the FBI agents out and complained to FBI Director Robert Mueller. D’Amuro said the harsh techniques were less effective in gleaning reliable information, complicated later prosecutions, violated moral standards, and “helped al-Qaeda in spreading negative views of the United States.”

Mueller conveyed the FBI’s concerns to Bush’s White House but was rebuffed because it turned out that the abusive tactics had been selected by the so-called Principals Committee of Vice President Cheney and other senior aides and cleared by the President.

FBI agents also crossed swords with Pentagon interrogators over similar abusive techniques used against the suspected “20th hijacker” Mohammed al-Qahtani in late 2002 and early 2003. Those tactics included tying al-Qahtani to a dog leash and making him perform dog tricks; putting him in painful stress positions, questioning him for periods of 20 hours straight, stripping him naked in front of a woman, making him dance with a male interrogator, and subjecting him to extreme temperatures.

At one point in December 2002, al-Qahtani was taken to a hospital suffering from low blood pressure and low body core temperature, what one FBI agent termed hypothermia. The FBI’s objections to al-Qahtani’s interrogation also were brought to the attention of senior officials in Washington, according to the Inspector General’s report.

Before senior FBI officials grasped the high-level support for the mistreatment of detainees, some FBI agents were instructed to compile the evidence for a “war crimes” file at Guantanamo.

“At some point in 2003, however,” the Inspector General’s report said, the FBI agents at Guantanamo “received instructions not to maintain a separate ‘war crimes’ file, … that investigating detainee allegations of abuse was not the FBI's mission.” [For more details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Bush’s War Crimes and Misdemeanors.”]

Iraq Lessons

Before publishing the Jan. 10 article, the Post’s editors also might have reached into their clip file and pulled out an article that appeared in the Washington Post’s Outlook section on Nov. 30, 2008, written by a top military interrogator who used the pseudonym “Matthew Alexander.”

Citing his own experiences in Iraq, “Alexander” said the practice of humiliating and abusing prisoners -- which spread from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib prison -- had proved counterproductive, not only violating U.S. principles and failing to extract reliable intelligence but fueling the Iraqi insurgency and getting large numbers of U.S. soldiers killed.

Indeed, “Alexander,” a U.S. Air Force special operations officer, argued that it was his team’s abandonment of those harsh tactics that contributed to the tracking down and killing of the murderous al-Qaeda-in-Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in June 2006, an important turning point in reducing levels of violence in Iraq.

“Alexander” said he arrived in Iraq in March 2006, amid the bloody civil war that Sunni extremist Zarqawi had helped provoke a month earlier with the bombing of the golden-domed Askariya mosque in Samarra, a shrine revered by Iraq's majority Shiites.

“Amid the chaos, four other Air Force criminal investigators and I joined an elite team of interrogators attempting to locate Zarqawi,” he wrote. “What I soon discovered about our methods astonished me. The Army was still conducting interrogations according to the Guantanamo Bay model. … These interrogations were based on fear and control; they often resulted in torture and abuse.

“I refused to participate in such practices, and a month later, I extended that prohibition to the team of interrogators I was assigned to lead. I taught the members of my unit a new methodology -- one based on building rapport with suspects, showing cultural understanding and using good old-fashioned brainpower to tease out information.”

By getting to know the captives and negotiating with them, his team achieved breakthroughs that enabled the U.S. military to close in on Zarqawi while also gaining a deeper understanding of what drove the Iraqi insurgency, “Alexander” wrote.

“Over the course of this renaissance in interrogation tactics, our attitudes changed. We no longer saw our prisoners as the stereotypical al-Qaeda evildoers we had been repeatedly briefed to expect; we saw them as Sunni Iraqis, often family men protecting themselves from Shiite militias and trying to ensure that their fellow Sunnis would still have some access to wealth and power in the new Iraq.

“Most surprisingly, they turned out to despise al-Qaeda-in-Iraq as much as they despised us, but Zarqawi and his thugs were willing to provide them with arms and money,” the interrogator wrote, noting that this understanding played a key role in the U.S. military turning many Sunnis against the hyper-violent extremism of Zarqawi’s organization.

“Alexander” added that the new interrogation methods “convinced one of Zarqawi's associates to give up the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader's location. On June 8, 2006, U.S. warplanes dropped two 500-pound bombs on a house where Zarqawi was meeting with other insurgent leaders.”

Abuses Continue

Despite the success in killing Zarqawi, “Alexander” said the old, harsh interrogation methods continued. “I came home from Iraq feeling as if my mission was far from accomplished,” he wrote. “Soon after my return, the public learned that another part of our government, the CIA, had repeatedly used waterboarding to try to get information out of detainees.”

“Alexander” found that the engrained support for using “rough stuff” against hardened jihadists was difficult to overcome despite the successes from more subtle approaches and despite the fact that the abusive tactics fueled the violence in Iraq.

From hundreds of interrogations in Iraq, “Alexander” said he learned that the images from Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib were actually getting American soldiers killed by drawing angry young Arabs into the Iraq War.

“Torture and abuse cost American lives,” the interrogator wrote. “I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

“Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq.

“It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001.

"How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me -- unless you don't count American soldiers as Americans.” [For more details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Two Dangerous Bush-Cheney Myths.”]

No Accountability

But none of this expert commentary could be found in the Post’s Jan. 10 article, which simply took the side of the abusive interrogators and, in essence, warned Obama that he should not seek any accountability against those who advocated and carried out the extreme techniques.

“Obama[‘s] actions will also be watched closely by the career officials at the CIA, who want to see how supportive the new President and his team will be,” the Post wrote. “Former CIA officials note that all the agency’s actions were authorized by Bush with legal opinions and concurrence by senior White House officials and Congress.”

The Post quoted a retired CIA official as saying: “The Obama people can run against the Bush guys all they want, but they shouldn’t run down the CIA.”

The Post’s Jan. 10 article also doesn't stand alone. It follows similarly imbalanced pieces on Jan. 7 exaggerating the opposition to Obama’s choice of Leon Panetta to head the CIA.

Besides carrying water for pro-Bush elements inside the U.S. intelligence community, the Post appears to be plowing the propaganda fields for a potential mass pardon by President Bush for those who participated in torture and other crimes associated with the “war on terror.”

The Post and other mainstream news outlets played a similar role at the end of the Bush-41 presidency in building an inside-the-Beltway consensus for George H.W. Bush to pardon six Iran-Contra defendants, including former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and prominent neoconservative Elliott Abrams, who reemerged as a key figure on George W. Bush’s NSC staff.

The last thing the Post seems to want is any thorough examination of who is at fault for the various crimes and misconduct of the past eight years – in part because any honest analysis would lay a large share of blame at the feet of the Post's editors and other news executives who failed to do their jobs on behalf of the American people.

The Time To Hold The American Media Accountable Has Come!

The Time To Hold The American Media Accountable Has Come!

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I have been writing about the American media for years now. Now that the Bush Administration has for all intents and a purpose has been defanged due to the election of Barack Obama, don’t expect the media to change. They are not controlled by the government, but by corporate America. The corporate sector that makes up the Military Industrial Complex is unfortunately is alive and well. No administration will rein them in as they are the ones that fund almost every national political race. The power of corporate donations as well as AIPAC support oftentimes determines the winner of any political contest.

Those of us who are left, liberal and free-thinkers know this. I have never written an article about media censorship that was ignored by the alternative media. Because most of American opinion is predicated on media information, as long as the mainstream media continues to misinform the public that doesn’t get its news from the sites on the internet that talk truth to power, there will be no change in American opinion as the majority of Americans get their news from newspapers and networks.

This simply means that there will be no change in American policy as long as Americans support their government on every reckless decision made. We will continue to support the Zionist faction in Israel that is hell bent on the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. All of the writers that see through the propaganda of the mainstream media can write until their fingers are bloody will only be preaching to the choir, so to speak, because the average American will not change their habits unless forced to. We are fighting a losing battle in trying to change the mindset of the Americans that get their news from the propaganda outlets.

Yesterday I saw one media personality, Rick Sanchez from CNN question whether or not it was Hamas that broke the six-month truce. He read from a number of weekly magazines that also intimated that it was Israel and not Gaza that broke the truce. Unfortunately this was regulated to Utube and wasn’t commented upon by the other networks. I applaud CNN’s Rick Sanchez for having the gall to buck the networks by speaking the truth. http://liberalpro.blogspot.com/2009/01/who-started-war-on-gaza-rick-sanchez.html I have been following Rick’s career since I lived in Fort Lauderdale when he was the anchor on WSVN 7. I can only hope that he continues to speak truth to power.

The rest of us have a duty to our fellow citizens to free them from their ignorance. One way is to hit the networks in their most vulnerable area, and that is by hurting them in their ratings. It’s their rating that determines how much they can charge for their ad spots. If every Progressive, left-leaning, independent and politically savvy person in the United States would refuse to watch or listen or read the networks , radio stations and newspapers that spew propaganda and mistruths, it wouldn’t be long before they would be begging us to stop the boycott. I propose that during the month of February as a good time to start. This gives us one month to get the word out. It’s also time to put the Obama administration on notice that we will not accept half-truths and government propaganda disguised as news.

If we want an unfettered press, we must work toward that end. Nothing will come of doing nothing when it comes to thwarting the desires of those that would manipulate the truth in order to keep the present paradigm. This will take a comprehensive effort by all of us that realize what the stakes are, and that is our entire representative democracy, for only a well informed citizenry can decide what our actions should be. Don't let the corporations along with the Military Industrial Complex decide what actions America should take.This should be a government by the people and for the people, not moneyed interests that don't have America's best interests at heart.

War Crimes Report says White House rejected all advice from government agencies that torture was illegal - report names 30 high Bush officials

War Crimes Report says White House rejected all advice from government agencies that torture was illegal - report names 30 high Bush officials complicit in torture

by Sherwood Ross

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President Bush and his aides repeatedly ignored warnings that their torture plans were illegal from high State Department officials as well as the nation’s top uniformed legal officers, the Judge Advocates General of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, a new published report states.

“These warnings of illegality and immorality given by knowledgeable and experienced (government) persons were ignored by the small group of high Executive officers who were determined that America would torture and abuse its prisoners and who had the decision-making power to secretly require this to be done,” said Lawrence Velvel, chairman of the “Steering Committee of the Justice Robert H. Jackson Conference On Planning For The Prosecution of High Level American War Criminals.” Velvel is a noted reformer in the field of American legal education.

“Far from American officials and lawyers authorizing or engaging in torture because it was lawful, they authorized and engaged in it because they wanted to (and) kept their actions secret from interested officials for as long as they could lest there be strong opposition to the torture and abuse they were perpetrating,” Velvel said. “They deliberately ignored repeated warnings that the torture and abuse were illegal and could lead to prosecutions, and they ignored these warnings even when they came from high level civilian and military officers.”

A preliminary Report by the Steering Committee seeking Federal prosecution of American officials “who ordered, authorized, approved or committed war crimes,” released January 9th, 2009, says they are guilty of “wholesale” violations of statutes that include Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, the Federal War Crimes Act, the Convention Against Torture, plus numerous other violations of U.S. and international laws.

The Report said prisoners were subjected to savage beatings, sleep deprivation, slow drowning, hanging by chains, being slammed head-first into concrete walls, temperature extremes, food deprivation, burial alive in coffin-like boxes for extended periods, and even threats against their families.

Among other things, the Report charges the General Counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency(CIA), knowingly approved of at least 117 renditions to torture and that such renditions were “personally encouraged by President George W. Bush…”

In addition to President Bush, those named for prosecution by the Steering Committee include:

Vice President Dick Cheney and his former chief of staff and legal counsel David Addington, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and her predecessor Colin Powell, former Attorneys-General John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and his aide Alice Fisher, former deputy assistant Attorney General; and Tim Flanigan, a deputy White House attorney.

Also named by the Steering Committee is I. Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, former assistant to President Bush. Libby was convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to Federal investigators in the Valerie Plame affair. President Bush commuted Libby’s 30-month prison sentence. Additionally, Douglas Feith, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy; Defense Undersecretary Stephen Cambone, General Michael Dunlavey, and Major General Geoffrey Miller, former commander of Guantanamo prison, Cuba.

CIA officials cited in the Report are former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet; Cofer Black, head of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center; James Pavitt, former CIA Deputy Director for Operations; General Counsel Scott Muller; Acting General Counsel John Rizzo; David Becker; contract officer James Mitchell, and an unidentified woman that formerly headed the CIA’s Al Qaeda unit and also briefed President Bush.

Among the lawyers guilty of war crimes are former Assistant Attorneys General Jay Bybee and John Yoo; Defense Department chief legal officer Jim Haynes; Robert Delahunty, special counsel with Office of Legal Counsel, Department of Justice; Patrick Philbin, deputy assistant Attorney General; Steven Bradbury, head of the White House’s Office of Legal Counsel; Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, a former Staff Judge at Guantanamo; Mary Walker, General Counsel of the Air Force and Jack Goldsmith, former head of the Office of Legal Counsel, Department of Justice.

“Torture and abuse were discussed at meetings of the so-called Principals Committee, where George Tenet presented graphic details of interrogations to a Committee which included some of Bush’s highest associates, including Rice, Powell, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft and Cheney and, at times, John Yoo.

The above-mentioned Bush officials were involved in shaping or carrying out torture policies despite written and/or verbal warnings given by high government officials in the Pentagon, State Department, FBI, and other agencies. Among these objectors were:

# William Howard Taft IV, the Legal Advisor to the State Department whose 40-page memo of January 11, 2002 warned Bush’s claim the Geneva Conventions were not applicable to prisoners held by the U.S. could subject Bush to prosecution for war crimes. State Department lawyer David Bowker further warned “there is no such thing” as a person that is not covered by the Geneva Conventions.
# The Defense Department’s own Criminal Investigative Task Force headed by Col. Brittain Mallow warned Haynes that tactics used at Guantanamo could be illegal. His warnings were ignored by Haynes, whose position was based on statements of Yoo and Chertoff.
# FBI Director Robert Mueller barred FBI agents from participating in coercive CIA interrogations, “a warning-fact well known to many in the Executive,” the Steering Committee Report said. Also, Marion Bowman, head of the FBI’s national security law section in Washington called lawyers in Jim Haynes’ office in the Pentagon to express his concern but said he never heard back.
# David Brant, head of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service learned about the torture and abuse at Guantanamo and took the position that “it just ain’t right” and expressed his concern to Army officials in command authority over military interrogators at Guantanamo but “they did not care,” the Report said.
# A senior CIA intelligence analyst that visited Guantanamo in 2002 reported back that the U.S. was committing war crimes there and that one-third of the detainees had no connection to terrorism. The report alarmed Rice’s lawyer John Bellinger and National Security Council terrorism expert General John Gordon but their concerns were “flatly rejected and ignored” by Addington, Flanigan and Gonzales, as well as by Rumsfeld’s office.
# Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora carried his concern over Guantanamo torture to Haynes and to Mary Walker, head of a Pentagon working group that was drafting a DOD memo based on Yoo’s work that authorized torture. Mora said what was occurring at Guantanamo was “at a minimum cruel and unusual treatment, and, at worst, torture.” His warning was ignored.


“The Judge Advocates General of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines are the country’s top uniformed legal officers,” appointed to Walker’s working group, “were appalled at what they were seeing, and each wrote a memo of dissent to torture and abuse,” the Steering Committee’s Report said.

“Their memos warned not just that what was being approved was contrary to the legal and moral training American servicemen have always received, and not just that there would be international criticism, but also that interrogators and the chain of command were being put at risk of criminal prosecutions abroad.” But these warnings by the nation’s top uniformed legal officers were ignored.

“If Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and others are not prosecuted,” Velvel said, “the future could be threatened by additional examples of Executive lawlessness by leaders who need fear no personal consequences for their actions, including more illegal wars such as Iraq.”

Besides Velvel, members of the Steering Committee include:

Ben Davis, a law Professor at the University of Toledo College of Law, where he teaches Public International Law and International Business Transactions. He is the author of numerous articles on international and related domestic law.

Marjorie Cohn, a law Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, Calif., and President of the National Lawyers Guild.

Chris Pyle, a Professor at Mount Holyoke College, where he teaches Constitutional law, Civil Liberties, Rights of Privacy, American Politics and American Political Thought, and is the author of many books and articles.
Elaine Scarry, the Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value at Harvard University, and winner of the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism.
Peter Weiss, vice president of the Center For Constitutional Rights, of New York City, which was recently involved with war crimes complaints filed in Germany and Japan against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others.
David Swanson, author, activist and founder of AfterDowningStreet.org/CensureBush.org coalition, of Charlottesville, Va.
Kristina Borjesson, an award-winning print and broadcast journalist for more than twenty years and editor of two recent books on the media.
Colleen Costello, Staff Attorney of Human Rights, USA, of Washington, D.C., and coordinator of its efforts involving torture by the American government.
Valeria Gheorghiu, attorney for Workers’ Rights Law Center.
Andy Worthington, a British historian and journalist and author of books dealing with human rights violations.

Initial actions considered by the Steering Committee, Velvel said, are as follows:

# Seeking prosecutions of high level officials, including George Bush, for the crimes they committed.
# Seeking disbarment of lawyers who were complicitous in facilitating torture.
# Seeking termination from faculty positions of high officials who were complicitous in torture.




The Report follows:

I. INTRODUCTION.

An extensive complaint seeking federal prosecution of American officials who ordered, authorized, approved or committed war crimes is currently being prepared. While the complaint is in preparation, the Steering Committee of the Justice Robert H. Jackson Conference is issuing this preliminary memorandum setting forth several of the points to be presented more extensively in the complaint itself. Such points include the acts of torture and abuse which constitute war crimes, the high level individuals of the American Government who ordered, authorized, or approved these acts plus some of the lower level officials who committed them, and the warnings of illegality and immorality given to the culpable American officials — as news of their secret actions slowly began to percolate within the Executive branch — by persons ranging from FBI officials on the ground, to other executive investigative personnel on the ground, to military Judge Advocates General, to general counsels of the armed services. These warnings of illegality and immorality given by knowledgeable and experienced persons were ignored by the small group of high Executive officers who were determined that America would torture and abuse its prisoners and who had the decisionmaking power to secretly require this to be done.

We note that the information in this preliminary memorandum on criminal acts, officials who authorized them or carried them out, and warnings of criminality and illegality which were ignored, has become available in the last four years in a host of investigatory books, investigatory articles, initially secret government memoranda which have now been publicly released, internal governmental investigations, statements of present and former governmental officials and generals (e.g., Dick Cheney and Antonio Taguba), investigatory television programs, legal complaints and other legal documents, transcripts of interviews, congressional hearings and congressional reports (such as the recent report of the Senate Armed services’ Committees).

Among the books which extensively detail the matters written of here are Jane Mayer’s The Dark Side, Philippe Sands’ The Torture Team, Jack Goldsmith’s The Terror Presidency (Goldsmith is a former head of the Office of Legal Counsel), and Steven Wax’s Kafka Comes To America.

II. ACTS OF TORTURE AND ABUSE, AND THE LAWS THEY VIOLATED.

There are a large number of “standard” acts of torture and abuse that were co