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
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
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
*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 . 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
*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
*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
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
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 -
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
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
<http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070212/holtzman>; 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