Showing posts with label decider. Show all posts
Showing posts with label decider. Show all posts

Thursday, February 01, 2007

George the Decider


At last, we have a President with a better name than Arbusto, another great achievement for The Absurd Times. The name is much like Eric the Red who, if I remember correctly, gave Greenland its name in order to encourage others to join in his real estate ventures.

With this change should come some changes in protocol. For example, when addressing him, the proper salutation should be “My Decider.” In the third person, “The Decider,” “The Great Decider,” or “George the Decider,” are all appropriate, although this last probably should be used for the past tense or historians.

Some members of Congress are upset at this because they think they should have some say in some things. (Something about branches of government, representing the people, and other such annoying issues.) Even Arlen Specter, he of the magic, er, single bullet theory in the Kennedy Assassination is upset. They seem to be jealous of the new name, George the Decider.

It reminds me of a defunct television series, The Pretender. It was about a group of psychologists and psychiatrists (the Center) who kidnapped children and turned them into geniuses, often psychotic ones. One of the projects kept writing “I decide who lives of dies” over and over in his notebook. But I digress.

George the Decider led us into Iraq, decider we should go there, and then found people like Chalabi (remember him, the one who first swindled Jordan out of 300 million and spent a good deal of time going back and forth from Iraq and Iran?) to provide the facts.

The Great Decider snapped into inaction when hurricane Katrina hit, and still neglects all but the upper 10% income group members there. What made New Orleans an international attraction was its spirit and expression, its art, especially music, and energy. Those people are kept out now.

George the Decider is about as low as he can get in the polls now. About a quarter of the population will support anybody, so why bother? Why not make more decisions?

For example, the election was mainly about getting us out of Iraq. So, he spent a month deciding how to handle that. His decision was to send another 21,500 troops there. Now the debate is over the extra 21,500, the “Surge,” rather than getting out altogether. There is a bill, HR-508, that would take care of it, but even if congress approves it and passes it, George will decide to Veto it. Or else, add a signing statement saying “this only applies to future administrations, not that of George the Decider.”

Actually, before things have a chance to get back to the original question, he has decided to do something to Iran. Believe me, we do not want to go there. You can tell he is because, when asked about it, he sneers and denies it.

He has also made a number of other decisions from turning over vast federal reserve property, wildlife preserves, etc., to corporations. He has also decided that global warming is a fiction.

I’m sending along four articles, below, that you may have missed:

1) Robert Fisk on Lebanon

2) Scott Ritter on preparation for war in Iran and potential impact on Iraq.

3) Cockburn on what life is like in Iraq.

4) Elizabeth Holzman on Impeachment.


*ZNet | Mideast*

*World Ignores Signs of Civil War in Lebanon *

*by Robert Fisk; Independent; January 29, 2007*

This is how the 1975-90 conflict began in Lebanon. Outbreaks of

sectarian hatred, appeals for restraint, promises of aid from

Western and Arab nations and a total refusal to understand that

this is how civil wars begin.

The Lebanese army lifted its overnight curfew on Beirut

yesterday morning but the smouldering cars and trucks of a gun

battle was matched only by the incendiary language of the

country's bitterest antagonists. Beirut's morning newspapers

carried graphic pictures of gunmen - Sunni Muslims loyal to the

government and Shia supporters of Hizbollah - which proved

beyond any doubt that organised, armed men are on the capital's

streets. The Lebanese army - which constantly seeks the help of

leaders on all sides - had great difficulty in suppressing the

latest battles.

One widely-used picture showed a businessman firing a pistol at

Shia during the fighting around the Lebanese Arab university,

another a hooded man with a sniper's rifle on a rooftop.

All three dead men were Hizbollah supporters whose funerals in

south Beirut and in the Bekaa Valley yesterday were accompanied

by calls for revenge and - in one case - by a colour guard of

militiamen and farewell shots over his grave. After 29-year old

Adnan Shamas's widow and young children were brought to his

funeral in Ouzai, there were cries of "blood for blood".

It was all very far from the self-congratulations of the western

and Arab leaders in Paris yesterday, where European and American

diplomats - after drumming up £4bn in aid for Lebanon (strings

attached, of course) - seemed to believe they had just saved

Fouad Siniora's government from the forces of Islamic "extremists".

Samir Geagea, the ex-civil war militia killer turned ardent

government supporter - and host to the US ambassador this week -

angrily turned on Hizbollah's leader, Sayad Hassan Nasrallah

yesterday, chiding him over Hizbollah's war with Israel last

summer, when Shia fighters fired thousands of rockets into Israel. "Don't think, Sayad Hassan, that Beirut is Haifa or

Mount Carmel," he warned. "Let's sit together and we will

discuss things together ... Otherwise the country is heading for

the worst."

Talal Arslan, a pro-Syrian Druze leader, ferociously referred to

government groups as an "organised crime syndicate" that wanted

to turn Lebanon into another Iraq.

Which is exactly the language of 1975. It all seemed so far away

in Paris where Siniora, talking to Lebanese residents and

journalists, mystifyingly found himself fielding questions on

Lebanon's agricultural industry and future tourism prospects.

There is certainly plenty of history for any tourists in Lebanon

but right now a new and terrible page appears to be opening

while the rest of the world blithely looks on.

© 2007 The Independent

*ZNet | Iran*

*Iraq, Iran, and WMDs*

*by Scott Ritter and Foaad Khosmood; January 29, 2007*

*Foaad Khosmood: Let’s start with the Iraq war. There is a very

popular line in Washington that gets repeated to this day and

that was that “everyone thought Saddam had WMDs” and “both

Republicans and Democrats were convinced this was true.” But you

are actually on record prior to the 2003 invasion saying that

Iraq did not possess WMDs. So what can we conclude about the

claims that were made about WMDs prior to the invasion? *

*Scott Ritter: *First, let’s be absolutely correct. I’m not on

record saying Saddam did not have any WMD. I’m on the record

saying that no one has demonstrated that he has any WMD. The

weapons inspectors said clearly that we can account for 95 to 98

percent of the WMD and we could mitigate against the concerns of

the unaccounted for portion by knowing that we had then in

place, in Iraq, the most intrusive, technologically advanced

inspection regime in the history of arms control. Also whatever

material that was unaccounted for has a definite shelf-life that

has since passed.

We also discussed whether or not unaccounted-for material could

possibly constitute a threat. And we need to also understand

that just because something is unaccounted for it does not mean

that Saddam Hussein has retained it. This is a point I made. We

still had a need for inspections to complete the mission of 100%

verification of the final disposition of Iraq’s WMD. The point I

made is that those who say Iraq retains weapons have failed to

put forth anything other than politically motivated rhetoric to

back up their assertion. Saying something is not accounted for

does not automatically translate into its retention.

I’m also on the record as saying that the Bush administrations

case that had been made was fundamentally flawed because the

intelligence did not back up anything that Bush was saying, that

it was purely speculative and this is the same argument that can

be made against anyone who says “you know everybody believed it.”

I can’t be accountable for what somebody believes. I can tell

you what the Intelligence communities of the world were saying.

And there was 100% agreement that Iraq had been fundamentally

disarmed by 1998. There was not a single intelligence agency out

there saying we have hard data that Saddam retains huge

stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction or that he has

reconstituted a meaningful WMD program. Not a single agency! And

the reason is that because we had weapons inspectors in place

and we could bring facts to table to show that Iraq did not had

these weapons, that we had accounted for the vast majority of

its weapons and there was no evidence of a reconstituted program.

Now where there was some unanimity that there were concerns over

unaccounted-for materials. Not that these unaccounted-for

materials presented a weapons threat as they were but that they

might be part and parcel of an undeclared weapons program that

had been dismantled and was in hiding and could be reconstituted

at some later date. This is where the world shared some concern.

But again the point I make, is that while you can be concerned,

concern does not automatically translate to reality.

Not a single Senator, not a single Congressman was presented

with viable intelligence that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt

that Iraq retained weapons of mass destruction. Therefore you

have to ask yourself: What intelligence did they receive? If

you’re talking about going to war – and they voted for war –

they need to be shown incontrovertible proof that a situation

exists that manifests itself as a threat that warrants the use

of military force. What I can tell you is that Senators and

Congressmen may have believed Saddam had WMD, but that’s

faith-based analysis not fact-based analysis. And there is a

singular failure across the board for anyone who voted in favor

of this war void of any hard, irrefutable evidence. I again

re-iterate not a single one of them received such a briefing

because frankly speaking such a briefing could not have existed.

*FKh: However, in the court of public opinion, essentially the

fact that some of the material was unaccounted for was sold as

proof of WMD existence. The burden was shifted to Saddam Hussein

having to “show” where all the material is…*

*SR: *You have a situation where Saddam was called upon to prove

a negative.

*FKh: That’s right and this became the standard by which you

judge weather or not someone has WMD.*

*SR: *That was an argument put forward early on in the stages of

the debate. Yet if you advance the debate beyond the real of

public opinion in the realm of policy makers, proving the

negative might a cute debate trick that was put forward to try

to sway public opinion. But at the end of the day prior to

taking action, you need to demonstrate that a threat exists. You

can’t just speculate that the threat exists, you need to

demonstrate it. And this is something that no one was able to do.

*FKh: Right. Given all this, and the fact that it would be very

irresponsible to go to war with no evidence, what do you believe

was the real impetus to attack Iraq?*

*SR: *My belief has nothing to do with it. We can assemble a

case based on the statements of the proponents of this war. The

framers of this war were people who believed in a dominate

American role in global affairs following the collapse of the

Soviet Union. These are people who believed that the US had a

duty and the obligation to step into the power vacuum created by

the collapse of the Soviet Union to ensure that no single power

or group of power rose up to confront the United States

decisively. It’s basically the dividing of the world into

strategic spheres of national interest where the United States

could intervene unilaterally, preemptively, militarily,

exploiting our economic, diplomatic, military advantages to our


Iraq was identified as one of these nations that was compatible

with the American vision of how the world should operate,

dominated by the United States. What we saw is Iraq being taken

care of according to this plan which goes well beyond Iraq. This

is inclusive of Iran and Syria and North Korea. If you read any

of the deeper analytical papers of these ideologues who were

formulating policy, you will see that China and Russia are

included as failed states, failed regimes that require dramatic

change before they can be compatible with America. This is what

was happening. This is about the new American Empire.

*FKh: Let’s now turn to Iran and your new book /Target Iran/.

Who is the MEK?*

*SR: *MEK is the Mojahedin-e-Khalq [1]. It’s an Iranian Marxist

organization that came into being in the 1970’s. It was a force

that was opposed to the rule of the Shah of Iran. It was

primarily a military opposition group to the Shah and it carried

out a number of attacks against the governmental institutions

and the military and American military advisors in Iran.

When the Islamic revolution took place in 1979, the MEK

initially allied with the Ayatollahs but soon fell out of favor

with them. MEK went into exile and they took root first in

Europe and later in Iraq where it became a very powerful

military wing of the Iraqi Mukhaberat or the intelligence

service. Today it’s funded by the CIA in their policy of using

this organization to be a stick in the side of Iran. Even now,

the MEK continues to be listed by the State department as an

international terrorist organization.

*FKh: OK, so this is a terrorist organization that is

responsible for attacks against American civilians. There are

many negative things against this group, especially in this

political climate. Yet it has managed to have favorable public

relations in Washington. Is this all because of CIA backing or

are there other benefactors? *

SR: Well, if you’re dealing with a population that is

pre-programmed to accept at face value anything that is put

forth by the mainstream media or other punditry which opposes

the Islamic Republic, as being good, then all these negatives go


The MEK also has the support of the state of Israel. It has the

support of the powerful pro-Israeli lobby here in the United

States. It has the support of many members of congress, whether

they have arrived at their position independently or as a result

of intensive lobbying. The MEK does have a base of support among

the anti-Tehran groups in Washington.

*FKh: In your new book, /Target Iran/ you say that Israeli

intelligence was the true source of the new information on

Iran’s hidden nuclear facilities. You also say that Michael

Ledeen and some Washington neocons arranged for MEK to be the

conduit of this information. Why was it important for another

organization to be the deliverer of this news?*

SR: The answer is twofold. One, Israel has a PR problem if it

comes out as the lead element in tackling Iran’s nuclear

program. Two, if your goal is regime change and one of the

organizations that you’re backing is the MEK – you would also

like to… As you say, there are a number of negatives to this

organization, so you would position the MEK as an organization

that is capable of getting quality information on Iran. This was

the same strategy that was used with the Iraqi National Congress

and Ahmad Chalabi.

*FKh: You also write that this information was known to George

Tenet ahead of time. Does this mean Washington is once again

engaged in manipulation of intelligence by withholding and

strategically releasing information?*

*SR: *I don’t think this was premeditated by Washington. I have

written that the United States was almost 100% focused on the

Iraqi problem and barely concerned about this particular issue.

Tenet was aware of this information, as were many other people

concerned about the Iranian nuclear program, but he did not

treat this information as credible.

I don’t think this is part of a conspiracy trying to manipulate

data. This was simply the United States putting this information

on the back burner and not giving it the attention it needed

which is why the Israelis needed to find more dramatic, publicly

accessible means of giving this data to the mainstream press.

This is one of the reasons they chose the MEK.

*FKh: So what happened to these sites? Were there inspections of

the specific sites that were revealed by the MEK?*

*SR: *These sites were inspected by the International Atomic

Energy Agency. Some of the sites like Natanz have emerges as

having been involved in a uranium enrichment program. None of

the sites have been found to have been involved in a nuclear

weapons program. In fact there has been no evidence found of a

nuclear weapons program existing in Iran, just a nuclear

enrichment program for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Some of the information the MEK later put out turned out to be

false. Basically the release of this information - which was

debunked - was an effort to take control the headlines and

interpretation of what’s going on to take out voices other than

those who detest Iran by providing information that is not accurate.

This happened a lot when I was a weapons inspector. We dealt

with Israel. Israel provided outstanding information up front.

But later on, as the investigation went on, the well dried up.

No more information could be provided while the Israeli data

turned out to be inaccurate.

*FKh: Why was Iran hiding these sites for over 18 years if it is

not pursuing any weapons or does not possess a weaponization



*SR: *First of all, it’s true that Iranian have at times not

been upfront about their peaceful use of nuclear energy. This

goes back to the 1970s to the time of the Shah or Iran, where

Iran’s need for nuclear energy was judged to be accurate by

American think tanks. Iranians trying to required nuclear energy

was something that was just and supportable by the United

States. I need to point out also that Donald Rumsfeld was the

Secretary of Defense and the White House chief of staff was Dick


After the revolution, the United States withdrew technical

support for Iran’s nuclear energy program. Then we had the

Iran-Iraq war. During that time there was an effort to ensure

that much more restrictions were placed on Iran.

The majority of Iran’s refining capacity - located in Abadan and

other areas along the Iraqi border - were destroyed in the

fighting with Iraq. By the late 80’s when they started talking

about restarting their nuclear energy program, there was a

question as to what it would take to win the war against Iraq.

There were three options: Increasing the size of the Iranian

fighting force, acquisition of superior military technology and

acquisition of nuclear weapons. The Ayatollah Khomeini said that

all three were non-starters: The people were not ready to accept

a massive increase of the army, there was no money to buy more

weapons and nuclear weapons were not in the interest of Iran.

So right from the start we see an admission by Iranian leaders

that nuclear weapons were not going to be a part of our future.

But they did attempt to restart their nuclear energy program.

Why did they keep it a secret? Because the United States would

not accept it. If Iran went out and said, “Hey we want to

acquire this,” the United States would shut it down. Case in

point is the Bushehr reactor where the Iranian government tried

to get the German company Siemens to abide by its pre-revolution

contract and Siemens was persuaded by the United States to

withdraw. When Iran would look to the Russians and the Chinese,

the United States would follow up and put pressure so that these

contracts would be withdrawn.

As a result, in order for the Iranians to make any progress they

had to continue their program in secret and they did so. At the

time the information became public, I point out, that it’s

always been a nuclear energy program; it has never been a

nuclear weapons program. And this is why when the inspectors

went in, even though the program had been secret for 18 years,

they could find no evidence of a weapons program. There is none.

*FKh: What is the normal reaction or punishment toward a

concealment violation? What does IAEA normally do in a situation

like this?*

*SR: *First of all, everything is governed by the

Nonproliferation treaty. Iran is a signatory to the NPT.

Normally, if a situation like this occurs, the IAEA will go in

and do a series of inspections to prove or disprove weather or

not a violation had taken place. A lot of activities that Iran

is accused of doing, are activities that actually fall outside

the scope of the IAEA. For example you can engage in research

and development of nuclear technologies and don’t need to report

this to the IAEA unless you introduce controlled nuclear

material. Also, it’s not illegal to buy nuclear material as long

as you clear the material through the IAEA and place it under

safeguards so the IAEA can account for this material.

With Iran, there were certain violations of this because the

program had been secret and material had been procured which had

only later been declared to the IAEA. In some of the testing of

the centrifuges, nuclear material was introduced. There were

certain items that were separated in research and development

experiments. [These are] all very minor in scale. Some of the

polonium separation was on the order of micrograms, miniscule

amounts that are meaningless. This is blown way out of

proportion by people who are saying “aha, this is proof that

Iran was engaged in illicit activities.” But my point is that

normally the IAEA comes in and establishes a safeguard regime

and embarks on inspections.

What happened here is that this program became politicized.

There was pressure on Iran to sign onto what’s called the

“Additional Protocol” inspections. This is a series of safeguard

inspections that began after the first Gulf War and pushed again

in 1993 when it became clear that Iraq had successfully evaded

safeguard inspections. Most nations in the world signed on to

the Additional Protocols, Iran did not. It’s not a violation of

the law, it’s voluntary action and can’t be imposed. In dealing

with the IAEA Iran indicated its willingness to sign up to

Additional Protocol inspections. Indeed Iran voluntarily

submitted for Additional Protocol site inspections without

making these part of the Iranian law. It was voluntary and not


*FKh: But it was the same inspections?*

*SR: *It was the same inspections. Indeed it was more as the

IAEA put in even more stringent inspections which the Iranians

agreed to under the premise that they would be permitted to

continue enriching uranium as is their right under the article

IV of the Nonproliferation treaty. What occurred here is that

there was pressure on Iran to suspend its program until the time

when the Additional protocols could be brought into force. Iran

agreed to do that. But once it suspended, the United States

tried to make that suspension permanent.

This is the crux of the problem between Iran and the

international community today. It has been demanded that Iran

suspend its nuclear enrichment program. Iran has refused saying

it has the legal right under the NPT to do this.

What occurred is that the IAEA has created an extra-legal

Iran-only stance on this which says “It doesn’t matter what the

NPT says, Iran must suspend enrichment.” Then, it decided to

transfer to the Security Council. The Security Council

resolution formalized this position, that Iran suspend its

nuclear enrichment indefinitely, that Iran does not have the

right to enrich uranium even though article IV of the NPT

clearly states that it does have that right.

*FKh: What about other nations that are enriching Uranium

despite similar reporting violations. Why haven’t countries like

Brazil and South Korea been dealt with this harshly?*

*SR:* The big difference with these nations is that they are not

Iran and they don’t have Israel.

*FKh: How was the US able to orchestrate a unanimous Security

Council vote on this?*

*SR: *The big thing to understand is that Iraq has changed

everything. The international community did not do a very good

job of standing up to the administration on Iraq. So there is a

misplaced desire to reduce American unilateralism by keeping

America “contained” – so to speak – within the framework of

international engagement context.

By giving into American desires, within the framework of

international institutions, they believe that this reduces

American unilateralism. This is what’s happening here: Nobody

wants to take a hard line against the United States, because to

do so would drive the United States outside of this framework.

And this framework is the only thing that gives Europeans any

status. To be frank, what does Europe bring to bear on this?

Nothing. Nothing whatsoever. It’s all in this framework of

negotiating that gives it any status.

What they’re finding is that now that Europe is facilitating

America’s goals and desires in terms of pushing for this

Security Council resolution, America is acting unilaterally anyways.

*FKh: To what extend it there a genuine fear of another

Holocaust upon the Israeli people? In the book you’re saying

that this is a motivating factor for Israel. But how much of it

is politics, how much of it is genuine? *

*SR: *I’d say it’s a combination of the two. Politics can be an

extension of genuine fear. When you’re a nation the size of

Israel and have five million people and a nuclear device goes

off over your territory, you cease to exist.

They are very concerned about recent history in Europe. The

Holocaust was an effort to eradicate the Jews of Europe. That is

one of the main facts behind the creation of the modern Israeli

state… that there be a Jewish homeland so that never again they

could be placed in this position.

So it is psychological. And it has even more weight, when one

considers some of the posturing that has taken place by the

Iranian president when he questions the Holocaust, when he

invokes the imagery of driving the Israeli state into the sea.

Whether or not he’s uttered the exact words he’s been accused of

or not, it invokes the imagery of driving Israel to the sea.

I would also say though that the Israeli government is smart

enough to know the difference between irresponsible rhetoric and

the rhetoric of the people who truly have their fingers on the

pulse of power. There is a whole lot of politics at play here

because the Israelis know that power is held by the supreme

leader the Ayatollah Khamenei not by President Ahmadinejad, and

at the end of the day, Iran poses absolutely no threat to

Israel. It is a hyped up reality.

*FKh: To what extend does Israel’s own nuclear program come into

this picture? Recently Israel shockingly broke with its

long-held policy of nuclear ambiguity. Is there any possibility

of Israel coming to international terms with its own nuclear

program and perhaps joining the NPT at some point in the future?*

*SR: *I don’t know what the future holds, but for the short

term, absolutely not. Israel is a unilateral nuclear power. Its

nuclear deterrence is a cornerstone of its national security

policy. It has a long held a position of nuclear ambiguity.

Olmert apparently broke with that policy by alluding to the

nuclear forces in Israel. This nuclear ambiguity policy is

something that has always played well with people. People know

that Israel has nuclear weapons but they just don’t admit to it.

It’s a very dangerous situation for Israel. There’s a huge

amount of hypocrisy at play here. Unless the Israeli government

can close the gap between its condemnation of irresponsible

behavior and its embarkation on irresponsible behavior… I mean

there is such a huge amount of hypocrisy and this is much more

commented-on in Europe than the United States but it’s hypocrisy

that exists nonetheless.

*FKh: Thinking of positive and realistic solutions to the

current standoff, one can’t help but ponder the idea of a region

wide nuclear free zone as a bargaining chip which could be

something that would save face for Iran and at the same time

could neutralize its nuclear ambitions. What do you think of

this possibility?*

*SR: *This would require Israel to feel a lot more secure. I

think right now Israel is a very insecure nation.

*FKh: What steps can be taken in that direction?*

*SR: *Well, the simplistic step is for Israel to accept the

nuclear free Middle-East and all this stuff. But first we have

to get there. A key element to this is to create a condition of

sound security psychology in Israel and that can only come with

the resolution of the Palestinian problem.

Until such time as Israel can peacefully coexist with a

legitimate Palestinian state, we’re always going to have a siege

mentality inside of Israel that will manifest itself in the

embrace of irresponsible, destabilizing policies such as a

unilateral nuclear capability.

If you can’t create a stable Palestinian situation… and the

process for that has to be an inclusive process that will have

to bring in players like Syria and Iran. And that process can

create confidence building that will lead to a reduction of

insecurity and maybe down the road, willingness by Israel to

trade its unilateral nuclear advantage for a situation that

brings about a regional peace in the Middle East.

*FKh: The outcome of last November’s elections has been widely

interpreted as a rejection of the Iraq policy by Americans.

There’s even more public resistance to the idea of escalating

the war. The majority of congress is now against the escalation.

George Bush’s popularity is in record lows. Yet, today I would

say we’ve never actually been closer to a strike against Iran.

This is puzzling. Why is there such a big disconnect? Why are we

still going in this direction?*

*SR: *Well, Bush can take us in this direction because he is a

single-faceted individual. There’s nothing else to the man.

These are not complex policies. In terms of the roots of this

war, these are really simplistic policies around the need and

desire for global domination by the United States. You’re not

going to see Bush walking away from the embrace of this

political direction.

There are a lot of people who are taking a look at the November

elections and are saying this is proof positive that the people

of the United States have taken an anti war leaning. We’re not

anti war. This was just a reaction to the Iraq fiasco.

When it comes to Iran, this population is still susceptible to

the same misrepresentation of facts, falsification of data and

playing upon the popular themes such as “We Americans can’t

stand still in the face of such a threat as Iran.”

Iran is a state that has been subject to extreme demonization.

The American people are pre-programmed to be negative toward

Iran. That’s why you can see a disconnect between this supposed

anti-war posturing vis-à-vis Iraq and this very real probability

of military action against Iran.

I try to point out that America isn’t so much anti war as its

anti losing. We’re just against getting beat in Iraq. What

happens when somebody who hates to lose is losing? They’re

looking for victory. There is a real risk that the Bush

administration might exploit this by pushing a policy that says

victory in Iraq can only be achieved by victory in Tehran.

*FKh: What is your personal political affiliation? Is it true

that you voted for George W. Bush? *

*SR: *I declare my affiliation to be American first and

foremost. I’m a registered Republican and I did vote for George

Bush in 2000 primarily because the Clinton administration had

betrayed my ability to support it through its Iraq policies.

George Bush was the only alternative to it. There’s no way I

could’ve voted for Al Gore as an extension of Clinton policies

that I condemned.

*FKh: You’ve been touring the country with Jeff Cohen of FAIR

and have been speaking mainly to anti war audiences. As someone

who is a conservative, do you ever feel like you are outside

your element appearing in front of these liberal and maybe

leftist crowds? *

*SR: *Well, it’s different. This kind of speaking in the first

place is not what I prepared to do or trained to do.

*FKh: I have to say your style of speaking is very different.

You sound like a wrestling coach while a lot of peace oriented

speakers tend to sound a lot mellower and less strategic. *

*SR: *I do have a strategic focus and my approach to

articulating it is more “in your face” than people are

accustomed to. But I have to say despite the social and cultural

difference between myself and those who are in attendance. We’re

pretty much talking the same language and are on the same side.

It’s about doing what’s best for America. I think there’s

agreement that policies that have been undertaken by the Bush

administration are not good for America, that there is a need to

come up with a new direction.

It’s been frustrating, interesting and rewarding to travel

around the country and to meet with a different strata of

American society that I might not have otherwise interfaced

with. But I think one of the more interesting things is that at

the end of the day we can all agree that we are Americans who

love our country and we want to do the best thing for our country.

I think it’s pretty cool that you can bring together people of

different politics and beliefs who can come together and

struggle for the same cause.

*FKh: Let me end by asking about your prescription of what the

ordinary citizen can do at this point to prevent a war with

Iran, or to curb this war or to curb the general militaristic

policies that have gotten us where we are.*

*SR:* It’s tough to talk about a prescription that gives the

average American citizen the kind of discernable influence that

they might desire. Meaning “Hey, I’ve got to go out and do

something and here’s the result I will see.” There’s not going

to be too many examples of instant gratification.

If you read the constitution – and that’s one of the first thing

I request that people do – you’d see that we have a system of

governance that has the transfer of authority from the people to

their elected representatives. The bulk of the genuine power

lies with the legislative branch, the executive branch and the


The American people, per se don’t have that much power. We have

rights, and maybe that’s where a lot of our power inherently

lies, with these rights that we’ve been given. But when it comes

to the ability to change policies, basically it boils down our

ability to elect good representatives.

So that’s a long term process. I think the first thing, though,

is for Americans to empower themselves with a sense of

citizenship. And you can only do that if you know who we are and

what we are as a nation. And the only document that defines that

is the constitution. Americans need to develop their own

individual sense of American citizenship and you start off by

reading the constitution. Once you recognize the absolute

requirement of the representative democracy of an involved

citizenry, and you understand the limitations of that

involvement - not only what you can achieve, but what you can’t

achieve – then you can put forward your strategies and tactics

that seek to accomplish your goals.

/Scott Ritter was one of the UN's top weapons inspectors in Iraq

between 1991 and 1998. Before working for the UN, he served as

an officer in the US Marines and as a ballistic missile adviser

to General H. Norman Schwartzkopf in the first Gulf War. His

latest book is /Target Iran: The Truth About the White House's

Plans for Regime Change/./


*ZNet | Iraq*

*Inside Baghdad: A City Paralysed By Fear*

*by Patrick Cockburn; The Independent; January 27, 2007*

*B*aghdad is paralysed by fear. Iraqi drivers are terrified of

running into impromptu checkpoints where heavily armed men in

civilian clothes may drag them out of their cars and kill them

for being the wrong religion. Some districts exchange mortar

fire every night. This is mayhem beyond the comprehension of

George Bush and Tony Blair.

Black smoke was rising over the city centre yesterday as

American and Iraqi army troops tried to fight their way into the

insurgent district of Haifa Street only a mile north of the

Green Zone, home to the government and the US and British

embassies. Helicopters flew fast and low past tower blocks,

hunting snipers, and armoured vehicles manoeuvred in the streets


Many Iraqis who watched the State of the Union address shrugged

it off as an irrelevance. "An extra 16,000 US soldiers are not

going to be enough to restore order to Baghdad," said Ismail, a

Sunni who fled his house in the west of the city, fearing he

would be arrested and tortured by the much-feared Shia police


It is extraordinary that, almost four years after US forces

captured Baghdad, they control so little of it. The outlook for

Mr Bush's strategy of driving out insurgents from strongholds

and preventing them coming back does not look good.

On Monday, a helicopter belonging to the US security company

Blackwater was shot down as it flew over the Sunni neighbourhood

of al-Fadhil, close to the central markets of Baghdad. Several

of the five American crew members may have survived the crash

but they were later found with gunshot wounds to their heads, as

if they had been executed on the ground.

Baghdad has broken up into hostile townships, Sunni and Shia,

where strangers are treated with suspicion and shot if they

cannot explain what they are doing. In the militant Sunni

district of al-Amariyah in west Baghdad the Shia have been

driven out and a resurgent Baath party has taken over. One

slogan in red paint on a wall reads: "Saddam Hussein will live

for ever, the symbol of the Arab nation." Another says: "Death

to Muqtada [Muqtada al-Sadr, the nationalist Shia cleric] and

his army of fools."

Restaurants in districts of Baghdad like the embassy quarter in

al-Mansur, where I once used to have lunch, are now far too

dangerous to visit. Any foreigner on the streets is likely to be

kidnapped or killed. In any case, most of the restaurants closed

long ago.

It is difficult for Iraqis to avoid joining one side or the

other in the conflict. Many districts, such as al-Hurriya in

west Baghdad, have seen the minority - in this case the Sunni -

driven out.

A Sunni friend called Adnan, living in the neighbouring district

of al-Adel, was visited by Sunni militiamen. They said: "You

must help us to protect you from the Shia in Hurriya by going on

patrol with us. Otherwise, we will give your house to somebody

who will help us." He patrolled with the militiamen for several

nights, clutching a Kalashnikov, and then fled the area.

The fear in Baghdad is so intense that rumours of even bloodier

battles sweep through the city. Two weeks ago, many Sunni

believed that the Shia Mehdi Army was going to launch a final

"battle of Baghdad" aimed at killing or expelling the Sunni

minority in the capital. The Sunni insurgents stored weapons and

ammunition in order to make a last-ditch effort to defend their

districts. In the event, they believe the ultimate battle was

postponed at the last minute. Mr Bush insisted that the Iraqi

government, with US military support, "must stop the sectarian

violence in the capital". Quite how they are going to do this is

not clear. American reinforcements might limit the ability of

death squads to roam at will for a few months, but this will not

provide a long-term solution.

Mr Bush's speech is likely to deepen sectarianism in Iraq by

identifying the Shia militias with Iran. In fact, the most

powerful Shia militia, the Mehdi Army, is traditionally

anti-Iranian. It is the Badr Organisation, now co-operating with

US forces, which was formed and trained by the Iranian

Revolutionary Guards. In the Arab world as a whole, Mr Bush

seems to be trying to rally the Sunni states of Saudi Arabia,

Egypt and Jordan to support him in Iraq by exaggerating the

Iranian threat.

Iraqis also wonder what will happen in the rest of Iraq while

the US concentrates on trying to secure Baghdad. The degree of

violence in the countryside is often underestimated because it

is less reported than in the capital. In Baquba, the capital of

Diyala province north-east of Baghdad, US and Iraqi army

commanders were lauding their achievements at a press conference

last weekend, claiming: "The situation in Baquba is reassuring

and under control but there are some rumours circulated by bad

people." Within hours, Sunni insurgents kidnapped the mayor and

blew up his office.

The situation in the south of Iraq is no more reassuring. Five

American soldiers were killed in the Shia holy city of Karbala

last Saturday by gunmen wearing American and Iraqi uniforms,

carrying American weapons and driving vehicles used by US or

Iraqi government forces. A licence plate belonging to a car

registered to Iraq's Minister of Trade was found on one of the

vehicles used in the attack. It is a measure of the chaos in

Iraq today that US officials do not know if their men were

killed by Sunni or Shia guerrillas.

US commanders and the Mehdi Army seem to be edging away from

all-out confrontation in Baghdad. Neither the US nor Iraqi

government has the resources to eliminate the Shia militias.

Even Kurdish units in the capital have a high number of

desertions. The Mehdi Army, if under pressure in the capital,

could probably take over much of southern Iraq.

Mr Bush's supposedly new strategy is less of a strategy than a

collection of tactics unlikely to change dramatically the

situation on the ground. But if his systematic demonising of

Iran is a precursor to air strikes or other military action

against Iran, then Iraqis will once more pay a heavy price.

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

*ZNet | Anti War*

*Impeachment: The Case in Favor*

*by Elizabeth Holtzman; The Nation

<>; January 28, 2007*

Approximately a year ago, I wrote in this magazine that

President George W. Bush had committed high crimes and

misdemeanors and should be impeached and removed from office.

His impeachable offenses include using lies and deceptions to

drive the country into war in Iraq, deliberately and repeatedly

violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) on

wiretapping in the United States, and facilitating the

mistreatment of US detainees in violation of the Geneva

Conventions and the War Crimes Act of 1996.

Since then, the case against President Bush has, if anything,

been strengthened by reports that he personally authorized CIA

abuse of detainees. In addition, courts have rejected some of

his extreme assertions of executive power. The Supreme Court

ruled that the Geneva Conventions apply to the treatment of

detainees, and a federal judge ruled that the President could

not legally ignore FISA. Even Attorney General Alberto

Gonzales's recent announcement that the wiretapping program

would from now on operate under FISA court supervision strongly

suggests that Bush's prior claims that it could not were untrue.

Despite scant attention from the mainstream media, since last

year impeachment has won a wide audience. Amid a flurry of

blogs, books and articles, a national grassroots movement has

sprung up. In early December seventy-five pro-impeachment

rallies were held around the country and pro-impeachment efforts

are planned for Congressional districts across America. A

Newsweek poll, conducted just before election day, showed 51

percent of Americans believed that impeachment of President Bush

should be either a high or lower priority; 44 percent opposed it

entirely. (Compare these results with the 63 percent of the

public who in the fall of 1998 opposed President Clinton's

impeachment.) Most Americans understand the gravity of President

Bush's constitutional misconduct.

Public anger at Bush has been mounting. On November 7 voters

swept away Republican control of the House and Senate. The

President's poll numbers continue to drop.

These facts should signal a propitious moment for impeachment

proceedings to start. Yet House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has taken

impeachment "off the table." (Impeachment proceedings must

commence in the House of Representatives.) Her position doesn't

mean impeachment is dead; it simply means a different route to

it has to be pursued. Congressional investigations must start,

and public pressure must build to make the House act.

This is no different from what took place during Watergate. In

1973 impeachment was not "on the table" for many months while

President Nixon's cover-up unraveled, even though Democrats

controlled the House and Senate. But when Nixon fired the

special prosecutor to avoid making his White House tapes public,

the American people were outraged and put impeachment on the

table, demanding that Congress act. That can happen again.

Congressional and other investigations that previously found

serious misconduct in the Nixon White House made the public's

angry reaction to the firing of the special prosecutor--and the

House response with impeachment proceedings--virtually

inevitable. Early in 1973, once it appeared that the cover-up

might involve the White House, the Senate created a select

committee to investigate. The committee held hearings and

uncovered critical evidence, including the existence of a White

House taping system that could resolve the issue of presidential

complicity. The Senate also forced the Attorney General to

appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Watergate. Other

committees looked into related matters. None of the

investigations were prompted by the idea of impeachment. Still,

they laid the groundwork for it--and the evidence they turned up

was used by the House impeachment panel to prepare articles of

impeachment against Nixon.

The same approach can govern now. Senate and House committees

must commence serious investigations that could uncover more

evidence to support impeachment. The investigations should

ascertain the full extent of the President's deceptions,

exaggerations and lies that drove us into the Iraq War. (They

can simply in effect resurrect Republican Senator Howard Baker's

famous questions about Richard Nixon: "What did the President

know and when did he know it?") Congress should also explore the

wiretapping that has violated the FISA law, the President's role

in mistreatment of detainees and his gross indifference to the

catastrophe facing the residents of New Orleans from Katrina.

Investigations should also be conducted into Vice President

Cheney's meetings with oil company executives at the outset of

the Administration. If divvying up oil contracts in Iraq were

discussed, as some suggest, this would help prove that the Iraq

War had been contemplated well before 9/11, and that a key

motivation was oil. Inquiries into Halliburton's

multibillion-dollar no-bid contracts should also be conducted,

particularly given Cheney's ties to the company.

White House documents about Katrina that have not already been

turned over to Congress should be sought to document further the

President's failure to discharge his constitutional duty to help

the people of New Orleans.

Our country's Founders provided the power of impeachment to

prevent the subversion of the Constitution. President Bush has

subverted and defied the Constitution in many ways. His defiance

and his subversion continue.

Failure to impeach Bush would condone his actions. It would

allow him to assume he can simply continue to violate the laws

on wiretapping and torture and violate other laws as well

without fear of punishment. He could keep the Iraq War going or

expand it even further than he just has on the basis of more

lies, deceptions and exaggerations. Remember, as recently as

October 26, Bush said, "Absolutely, we are winning" the war in

Iraq--a blatant falsehood. Worse still, if Congress fails to

act, Bush might be emboldened to believe he may start another

war, perhaps against Iran, again on the basis of lies,

deceptions and exaggerations.

There is no remedy short of impeachment to protect us from this

President, whose ability to cause damage in the next two years

is enormous. If we do not act against Bush, we send a terrible

message of impunity to him and to future Presidents and mark a

clear path to despotism and tyranny. Succeeding generations of

Americans will never forgive us for lacking the nerve to protect

our democracy.