Saturday, December 10, 2005

Poland named as main base for secret CIA terror interrogations News - International - Poland named as main base for secret CIA terror interrogations

POLAND is the CIA's main centre for detaining terrorist suspects in Europe at clandestine prisons, a leading human rights investigator has claimed.

Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst with Human Rights Watch, said his organisation had documents proving Poland was 'the main base' for interrogating prisoners and showing Romania was a transit point for moving terror suspects.

Poland's leaders continue vigorously to deny any involvement in alleged secret CIA prisons.

But Mr Garlasco claimed: 'Poland was the main base of interrogating prisoners and Romania was more of a hub.

'This is what our sources from within the CIA tell us and what is shown from the documents we gathered.'

Mr Garlasco said an 'operation on such a scale could not have happened without the knowledge of the Polish authorities. There are people who took part in it, there are flight records.'

He said about 25 important terror suspects were interrogated in Poland near a former military airport in Szymany, in the north, and in a much larger facility in the south.

Meanwhile, there was confusion over whether Scottish police were investigating claims by Green MSP Mark Ruskell that CIA 'torture flights' landed secretly at an RAF base en route to other countries. Fife Constabulary Chief Constable Peter Wilson wrote to Mr Ruskell informing him that 'inquiries' would be made into the claims. A force spokesman yesterday said an investigation was underway.

But Mr Wilson, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, later told The Scotsman that no formal inquiry would be held into claims that RAF Leuchars, or any other Scottish airport, had been used for the so-called 'extraordinary rendition' flights, as there was no evidence any crime had taken place or was being planned.

Several Scottish airports, including Prestwick, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness, are already known to have been used by at least 176 secret flights carrying Islamic militants abroad for interrogation that would be illegal in America.

Greater Manchester Chief Constable Michael Todd has agreed to meet the head of a leading human rights group to discuss a possible probe into claims the 'torture flights' have landed on airports throughout the UK."

A Sanctuary for Torturers

A Sanctuary for Torturers
By Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith, The Nation
Posted on December 7, 2005

Thousands of well-meaning people are mobilizing to pressure Congress to pass legislation banning torture. But the Bush Administration is maneuvering to turn it into legislation that would instead protect the torturers by eliminating a basic legal right. To stop them, torture opponents will need to be not just as innocent as doves but also as cunning as foxes.

When Congress returns to Washington on Monday, a campaign will unfold in support of Senator John McCain's legislation banning torture, which is attached to a defense bill. But McCain's amendment is accompanied by one from Senator Lindsey Graham that bans the appeals that prisoners at Guantanamo have used to take their cases to civilian courts.

In the 2004 case Rasul v. Bush, brought on behalf of Guantanamo captives, the Supreme Court established the right of foreigners held by the United States to habeas corpus, the 800-year-old legal procedure grounded in the Magna Carta and enshrined in the US Constitution, which requires government officials to explain to a court why they are holding someone in captivity. Graham's amendment strips courts of the power to hear such cases.

Graham sprang his amendment on the Senate in the closing days of the session with no hearings and little debate. A firestorm of criticism forced Graham to accept a compromise--negotiated with Democratic Senator Carl Levin--that allows captives limited appeals to civilian courts. (Newsweek has reported that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and White House Counsel Harriet Miers were also in on the negotiations.) But the Graham compromise still strips federal courts of jurisdiction to hear applications for habeas corpus brought by Guantanamo prisoners.

The Senate passed the compromise amendment 84 to 14. Republican Senator Arlen Specter, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, described it as "a sophisticated, blatant attempt at court-stripping."

Bill Goodman, legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which brought the first habeas corpus cases for Guantanamo captives, says the Graham amendment "will formalize the lawless policies of the Bush Administration that allow the Department of Defense to hold prisoners indefinitely without any requirement that it show any reason for doing so." That has and will continue to result in "torture of US prisoners."

The Graham amendment bans habeas corpus appeals against conditions of confinement. The consequence, according to Michael Dorf, the Sovern Professor of Law at Columbia University, is that "a prisoner cannot get into federal court by claiming (or presenting evidence) that he is being subject to torture or otherwise degrading treatment."

Deviously, the Graham amendment has been packaged with McCain's anti-torture amendment. But the package will make things worse, not better, for Guantanamo captives unless Graham's amendment banning habeas corpus is removed. As Bill Goodman points out, while the pair of amendments "profess to ban torture," without the right to judicial oversight, they are "defanged." They are "a right without a remedy and, as such, meaningless."

The Bush Administration is now negotiating with Graham and others to make the legislation even more restrictive. A Justice Department spokesperson told Newsweek, "We definitely agree with the principle behind the current bill, though there are still some concerns that the language may need to be improved." White House spokesman Trent Duffy also told Newsweek that the White House is positive about the Graham bill and is "working with Senator Graham on technical aspects" of the legislation.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has talked with Senator Graham about the bill at least twice. The Justice Department spokesperson told Newsweek Gonzales was "particularly focused on thwarting some of the 160 habeas lawsuits filed by Gitmo detainees." (Gonzales was the author of the notorious 2002 memo advising the President that the Geneva Conventions did not apply in order to provide "a solid defense to any future prosecution" of US officials under the War Crimes Act. Gonzales's personal role in laying the groundwork for torture is sufficient for professor Marjorie Cohn, now president-elect of the National Lawyers Guild, to have drafted an indictment of Gonzales for violating the War Crimes Act.)

The Bush Administration is apparently divided. Despite the role of the White House in preparing the Graham compromise amendment, Vice President Cheney opposed it. Indeed, Cheney has fought any legislation that would eliminate the government's right to torture, though he seems willing to compromise on language that leaves the CIA, but not the military, free to torture. In the past, President Bush has threatened to veto the entire defense bill if McCain's anti-torture amendment is included.

Both the Graham and McCain amendments are attached to a defense bill that now goes to a Senate-House conference. Graham and Levin plan to demand that the final legislation include both.

The conference committee will undoubtedly be the focus of pressure from those who want to preserve the right of habeas corpus. A statement by Habeas Counsel, the coalition of prestigious attorneys representing Guantanamo captives, says, "To legislate this way is disgraceful. It is also completely unnecessary. This is not an emergency situation. The Graham-Levin amendment should be stripped out in conference. The genuine deliberation required by the gravity of the issue can then begin."

Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts, a member of the Progressive Caucus and an outspoken opponent of torture and "extraordinary rendition" (a k a government-run kidnapping), describes the task facing cunning progressive foxes:

"If the US wants to demonstrate that we are a nation committed to justice and the rule of law, we should adopt the McCain amendment barring torture and drop the Graham amendment suspending habeas corpus rights for those detained at Guantanamo Bay. If persons held by the US lack the right to challenge their detention or their treatment, the McCain amendment's protections against torture and other forms of cruel or humiliating treatment may turn out to be illusory."

Only nine of the more than 500 Guantanamo captives have even been charged with crimes, and their trials are being prolonged year after year. This is exactly the situation habeas corpus is designed to remedy. And without it, the captives can rot in prison forever and possibly be subject to torture and inhumane treatment that the courts are unable even to learn about.

Graham and the Bush Administration oppose rights for Guantanamo detainees in part on the grounds that they are terrorists who deserve no better. They refuse to face the very real possibility of innocent people caught up in the system, acknowledged by the military's own commanders at Guantanamo. According to the Wall Street Journal:

"American commanders acknowledge that many prisoners shouldn't have been locked up here in the first place because they weren't dangerous and didn't know anything of value. 'Sometimes, we just didn't get the right folks,' says Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, Guantanamo's current commander."

Graham's original proposal to eliminate habeas corpus for foreign captives was met by extraordinary condemnation. Ten retired military leaders endorsed a letter from Rear Adm. John Hutson calling the restriction on habeas corpus a "momentous" change. "The practical effects of such a bill would be sweeping and negative." Signers included Army Lieut. Gen. Robert Gard, Marine Maj. Gen. Fred Haynes and other senior officers.

Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, the organization of military lawyers, said the Graham amendment would sanction "unreviewable executive detention that cannot be harmonized with the nation's longstanding adherence to the rule of law."

The American Bar Association has urged the Senate to reconsider and defeat the original Graham amendment. Michael Greco, president of the association, gave a stirring defense of habeas corpus, which "cannot and should not" be replaced by the "extremely limited review" provided by the Graham amendment, which "would undermine the very principles that distinguish us from our enemies."

Does Congress have the power to tell the Supreme Court what cases it can or cannot hear? In American law, courts have the power to review the constitutionality of legislation passed by Congress, but they tend to defer to the other branches of government, especially where national security issues are involved.

Both Graham's original amendment and his compromise amendment directly conflict with the Supreme Court's decision in Rasul v. Bush that Guantanamo captives have the right to habeas corpus. The Supreme Court recently agreed to hear Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, a challenge to the constitutionality of the Bush Administration's military tribunals for Guantanamo captives.

No one knows how the Court would respond to an instruction from Congress to reverse its interpretation of the Constitution. Indeed, the conflict over the power of courts to hear prisoners' appeals is plunging the country into an ongoing constitutional crisis in which all three branches of government are involved.

Since treatment of captives held by the United States has included well-documented cases of torture, brutality and even treatment leading to death, the Graham amendment would erect a screen behind which such crimes may be conducted with impunity. Opponents of torture need to make sure they are not inadvertently helping to pass an amendment that would protect torturers.

Goodbye, New Orleans

Goodbye, New Orleans
By Mike Tidwell,
Posted on December 9, 2005

As we reach the 90-day mark since Katrina hit, it's time we ended our national state of denial. Turns out House Speaker Dennis Hastert had it right all along, though his reasons were flawed. We should call it quits in New Orleans not because the city can't be made relatively safe from hurricanes. It can be. And not because to do so is more trouble than it's worth. It's not. But because the Bush Administration has already given New Orleans a quiet kiss of death now that the story has run its news cycle.

As someone who dearly loves New Orleans and has experienced many of her charms, it pains me immeasurably to call for this retreat. This is not a rhetorical stunt or a shock argument meant to invite compromise talks. I mean what I say: Shut the city down and board it up before thousands more lives are lost.

In the weeks after Katrina, the American media somehow portrayed the catastrophe as a matter of failed levees and flawed evacuation plans. The "What went wrong?" coverage involved autopsies of every breached dike and a witch hunt for those responsible for the Superdome and Convention Center fiascos. But these were just horrifying symptoms of a much larger disease.

Katrina destroyed the Big Easy -- and future Katrinas will do the same -- not because of engineering failures but because one million acres of coastal islands and marshland have vanished in Louisiana in the last century due to human interference. These land forms served as natural "speed bumps," reducing the lethal surge tide of past hurricanes and making New Orleans habitable in the first place.

But while encouraging city residents to return home and declaring for the media audience that "we will do whatever it takes" to save the city, the President earlier this month formally refused the one thing New Orleans simply cannot live without: A restored network of barrier islands and coastal wetlands.

Tens of billions of dollars have been authorized to treat the symptoms -- broken levees, insufficient emergency resources, destroyed roads and bridges -- but next to nothing for the disease itself, that of disappeared land, which ushered the ocean into the city to begin with. No amount of levee building or stockpiling of bottled water will ever save New Orleans until the state's barrier shoreline is restored.

Just since World War II an area of land the size of Rhode Island has turned to water between New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico, most of it former marshland. And every 2.7 miles of marshland reduces a hurricane surge tide by a foot, dispersing the storm's power. Simply put, had Katrina struck in 1945 instead of 2005, the surge that reached New Orleans would have been as much as 5-10 feet less than it was.

These marshes, as well as the barrier islands, were created by the sediment-rich flood waters of the Mississippi River deposited over thousands of years. But modern levees have prevented this natural flooding, and the existing wetlands, starved for new sediments and nutrients, have eroded and "subsided" and just washed away. Every ten months, even without hurricanes, an area of Louisiana land equal to Manhattan turns to water. That's 50 acres a day. A football field every 30 minutes!

A $14 billion plan to fix this problem -- a plan widely viewed as technically sound and supported by environmentalists, oil companies, and fishermen alike -- has been on the table for years and was pushed forward with greater urgency after Katrina hit. But for reasons hard to fathom, yet utterly lethal in their effect, the administration has turned its back on this plan. Instead of investing the equivalent of six weeks of spending in Iraq, or the cost of the Big Dig in Boston, we must now prepare to pay for another inevitable $200 billion hurricane just around the corner in Louisiana.

The grand plan to change all this, commonly known as the Coast 2050 plan, would use massive pipelines and pumps and surgically designed canals to guide a portion of the river's sediment-thick water back toward the coastal buffer zone without destroying existing infrastructure or communities. This would rebuild hundreds of thousands of acres of wetlands over time and reconstruct entire barrier islands in as little as 12 months. (It is estimated that the government's plan to rebuild the levees could take decades.) Everyone agrees the plan will work. The National Academy of Sciences confirmed the soundness of the approach just last week and urged quick action.

Yet in its second and final post-Katrina emergency spending package sent to Congress on November 8th, the White House dismissed the rescue plan with a shockingly small $250 million proposed authorization instead of the $14 billion requested.

How could this administration, found totally unprepared for the first Katrina, not see the obvious action needed to prevent the next one? My theory is that Bush hears "wetlands" and retreats to a blind, ideological aversion to all things "environmental." Which perhaps explains why in multiple speeches given during six photo-op trips to the Gulf since Katrina hit, the President has not one time mentioned the words barrier islands or wetlands. Not once.

"Either they don't get it or they just don't care," said Mark Davis, director of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. "But the results are the same: more disaster."

So stop the repairs; put the brooms and chain saws away. Close the few businesses that have re-opened. Leave the levees in their tattered state and get out. Right now. Everybody. It's utterly unsafe to live there.

To encourage people to return to New Orleans, as Bush is doing, without funding the only plan that can save the city from the next Big One, is to commit an act of mass homicide. If, after all the human suffering and expense of this national ordeal, the federal government can't be bothered to spend the cost of a tunnel from Logan Airport to downtown Boston, then the game is truly over.

Anyone who doesn't like this news -- farmers who export grain through the port of New Orleans, New Englanders who heat their homes with natural gas from the Gulf, cultural enthusiasts who like their gumbo in the French Quarter -- should all direct their comments straight to the White House. But don't wait around for a response.

Mike Tidwell is the author of Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana's Cajun Coast.

China's diplomatic and military muscle flexing

China?s diplomatic and military muscle flexing

President Bush?s recent Asia visit made little news ?by design. But that?s because Bush didn?t begin to address the issue that is looming ever larger in the region: the changing face of security in Asia in view of China?s growing economic and military might.

This summer, for example, China and Russia conducted their first-ever grand-scale joint military exercise. This was followed by Russian news reports that China, Russia, and India would conduct trilateral military exercises, named ?Indira 2005,? on the same scale before the end of this year.

In the past, such a combination of countries was almost unthinkable, and these exercises cannot be explained away as simple ?one-off? affairs with little resonance. Instead, they reflect China?s long-term strategic goal of establishing hegemony across Asia.

One tool of this ambition is the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) under which the Sino-Russian exercises took place. Established in June 2001, it includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The SCO?s original aim was to mitigate tensions on China?s borders and the Central Asian countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the arrival of the US military with the war in Afghanistan.

China regards the SCO as a stage for broadening its influence over a vast region, ranging from the Asia-Pacific to Southwest Asia, the Middle East, East Africa, and the Indian Ocean. Its members include about 45% of the world?s population, and 28% of the landmass across the Eurasian continent.

China?s active leadership of the SCO has resulted in policies that it favours.The SCO is often used as a forum to campaign against supposed American unilateralism and to provide a united front?especially between China and Russia? against the US with respect to security and arms-reduction issues in the region. This includes joint anti-terror training and demands to reduce US forces in the region, particularly from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

The SCO provides China not only with a platform to confront the existing US-led alliance in the Asia-Pacific region, but is increasingly being used to prevent the formation of a US-led network to restrain China?s advance. It is feared that it could develop into a military alliance similar to the Warsaw Pact of the Cold War era, with an embryonic ?Great China Union? at its core.

But China?s regional diplomacy goes far beyond the SCO. It seizes every opportunity that comes its way, including the Six Party Talks on North Korea?s nuclear ambitions, to emphasise its centrality to the settlement of any and all Asian issues. It continues to build its ?string of pearls? of military bases at key points on maritime transportation routes along the ?arc of instability? from the Middle East to China?s coast.

No one seems to know how to respond to China?s diplomatic and military muscle flexing in Asia, for the extent of China?s ambitions remains utterly unclear. But, while everyone else ponders China?s motives, its government is acting. Indeed, the UK?s premier security think-tank, the Institute for International Strategic Studies, recently warned that while the world focuses on the fight against international terrorism and the unfolding events in the Middle East, China is rapidly expanding its influence from Asia to Africa.

The ?pearls? in Africa include Sudan, Angola, Algeria, Gabon, Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Djibouti, Mali, Central Africa, Liberia, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In each, China is nurturing special military and commercial relations intended to promote loyalty to Chinese interests.

Growing Chinese influence begets increased support for Chinese policies. Of course, it?s a two-way street. Whenever complaints come up in the United Nations? Human Rights Committee, China can count on the support of many African countries that have their own human rights problems. Even the selection of Beijing as the site of the 2008 Olympics benefited from ?African votes.? And China has publicly stated it will back African nations in potential disputes at the WTO and other organisations.

Many African states seem to be leaning heavily towards China in its dispute with Taiwan. When Japan tried to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council, few African countries backed its bid, despite receiving economic aid for decades.

China likes to boast of its ?peaceful rise.? But the rise of Bismarck?s Germany at the end of the 19th century was also peaceful, for a while. The question is not whether China rises to great-power status peacefully, but whether it intends to remain peaceful when it gets there. Just as the world confronted the ?German Question? 125 years ago, it is now confronting the ?China Question.? We need a better answer this time.

The author, a former viceadmiral of Japan?s Defence Forces, is director of the Okazaki Institute, Tokyo
Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2005

CIA scandal deepens in Germany

CIA scandal deepens in Germany

UPI Germany Correspondent

KEHL AM RHEIN, Germany, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- The scandal surrounding a German national allegedly abducted by the CIA continues with fresh revelations almost daily.

According to a newspaper report, the German Federal Intelligence Service, known by the acronym BND, fed U.S. intelligence with information on Khaled el-Masri, who says he was kidnapped Dec. 31, 2003, by the CIA in Macedonia and held in a prison in Afghanistan for five months.

"We might have called attention to el-Masri through information we shared with U.S. intelligence," a German intelligence source, who did not want to be identified, told Friday's Berliner Zeitung. "It's quite conspicuous that the Americans asked el-Masri about information they obtained from us."

So far, news reports have claimed Masri was abducted because he shares his name with a high-ranking al-Qaida member linked to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Masri, however, claims he was not asked about his alleged connection to the terror attacks on New York City and Washington -- his interrogators squeezed him mainly for knowledge of the Islamist scene of his Bavarian hometown Neu-Ulm, a city of 50,000.

The interrogators repeatedly asked about Masri's Neu-Ulm-based acquaintance Reda Seyam, whom the U.S. believes to be a radical Islamist, the newspaper reported. The German intelligence official told the daily he believes Masri's interrogators knew quite well whom they had in custody. He said German intelligence had material on Masri because he popped up in Seyam's environments from time to time. "But he was far too inconspicuous to become a real suspect," he said.

The list of who knew what in the affair over Masri's kidnapping seems to grow longer with each day. Already, former Interior Minister Otto Schily and acting Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier have had to admit they knew of the case.

Opposition politicians have called for Steinmeier's head, but the left-right grand coalition of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has so far stood by him. Before becoming foreign affairs chief, Steinmeier had been chief-of-staff to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

As the political career of Schily, 73, is over, it won't have much of an effect on the former anti-terror chief, observers say.

Both politicians, however, will have to testify before a parliamentary commission in Germany that is dealing with the affair. The findings of the commission will stay classified.

But other findings likely won't.

Earlier this week, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in the name of Masri against former CIA Director George Tenet and 10 "John Doe" CIA employees involved in his abduction to Afghanistan.

Masri's German lawyer, Manred Gnjidic, said Merkel's remarks from her meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice significantly improve his client's chances in the legal struggle in the United States.

"Mrs. Merkel's comment was one of the most important steps for us in the last months," Gnjidic told Spiegel Online. "They're the first step toward the truth."

Asked over the fate of Masri, Merkel on Tuesday in a news conference after a private meeting with Rice said:

"We talked about that particular case, which has been accepted by the U.S. government as a mistake."

Gnjidic is even considering calling Merkel to the witness stand.

"The chancellor will have to explain to us precisely what she meant when she said it was a mistake and how she came about saying that," he said. "Her remarks have increased the pressure on the U.S. government to finally tell the truth about CIA practices."

Merkel's comment caused considerable discomfort with a Rice aide, who afterward said he didn't know "what went through (Merkel's) head" when she said it.

A German government spokesman, however, since has said Merkel's comments remain "valid."

"The whole affair is unpleasant for the old and for the new German government," Karl-Heinz Kamp, security expert at the Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung, a political think tank with close ties to Merkel's conservatives, told United Press International in a telephone interview.

Truth for the Troops-

Truth for the Troops
By Richard Cohen

Thursday, December 8, 2005; Page A33

If, as Samuel Johnson said, "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel," then "support our troops" is very close by. It is being used to deflect criticism of the war in Iraq, or to rebut those who call for a pullout or question how incompetents seized control of the government in a coup by ideologues. In the lexicon of some, the only way to support our troops is to ensure that more of them die.
The utter tastelessness of this approach was on display Tuesday when Vice President Cheney spoke to the 10th Mountain Division and the National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division at Fort Drum, N.Y. These are storied outfits. The Mountain Division is Bob Dole's own, and those of us who followed him as he campaigned for the presidency in 1996 will never forget the day in New Hampshire when some of the division's World War II veterans gathered to hear from their old comrade in arms. There was Dole, trying as ever to be stoical, but that day his voice cracked and emotion rocked him and, along the wall of the hall, a mighty cynical press corps fought hard to hold back the tears.
As for the 42nd Division, it is my own. Its famous Rainbow Patch -- Douglas MacArthur said "the 42nd Division stretches like a rainbow from one end of America to the other" -- is among my mementos. I make no great claim to military service -- I was a reluctant Vietnam-era enlistee in the National Guard -- but I trained at Fort Drum, wore the Rainbow Patch and keep it to this day on the bulletin board in my office. By accident and happenstance, it's my outfit. Somehow, it matters.
So I don't need any cheap reminders about supporting the troops. On the contrary, it's the other way around. It is the reminders who need reminding that they owe the troops the highest level of respect. That means, among other things, explaining clearly and honestly why they are being sent into harm's way. If that cannot be done -- if you cannot tell soldiers why they might die -- then you cannot send them. At the very least, you must stick to the strictest truth.
But Cheney was not strictly truthful. He turned the war in Iraq into a war against terrorism, when it is only partly that. The Sunni insurgents have no designs on America. And to say, as Cheney did, that terrorists "believe that, by controlling an entire country, they will be able to . . . establish a radical Islamic empire that encompasses a region from Spain, across North Africa, through the Middle East and South Asia, all the way to Indonesia" is to give credence to the fantasies of Islamic nut cases. This may or may not be the goal of certain terrorists, but it is clearly beyond their reach -- and no reason to fight in Iraq.
Similarly, Cheney once again implied a link between the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Saddam Hussein. His words were slippery, but his meaning was clear: "Some have suggested that by liberating Iraq . . . we simply stirred up a hornet's nest. They overlook a fundamental fact: We were not in Iraq . . . and the terrorists hit us anyway." Yes, and the crowing of the rooster makes the sun come up. Cause and effect is being mocked here.
As I recently wrote, I do not favor an immediate pullout from Iraq -- not yet, anyway. The arguments advanced for staying make sense to me, and Cheney mentioned some of them in his speech. There is reason to fear civil war in Iraq, the country's dissolution, the creation of a haven for terrorists and the precipitous loss of American prestige, which could encourage even more terrorism.
But I do not fear the emergence of a vast, radical Islamic empire stretching from Granada to Jakarta, and neither do I believe that toppling Hussein dealt a blow to terrorists or made the United States one iota safer. Soon enough we will exceed in military deaths the number of civilians killed on Sept. 11 -- and the culprits, including Osama bin Laden, are still on the loose, still posing a threat. This is a policy that collapsed of its own stupidity.
By dint of heroic effort, the Bush administration long ago lost any credibility. But if we are going to stay in Iraq -- if additional Americans are going to be asked to die -- then Bush, Cheney and others should avoid emotionally compelling, but intellectually fatuous, arguments. As far as the troops are concerned, pay them the ultimate respect for their ultimate sacrifice: Stick to the truth.

The Iron Fist of Jesus

The Iron Fist of Jesus

The Inmates are Running the Asylum

How much damage will men like George Bush, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Sam Brownback, Ralph Reed, and Rick Santorum inflict before reason prevails and they are unmasked as the twisted, malevolent charlatans that they are? Fundamentalist Christians, adherents to a nauseating perversion of Christianity (conjured from their twisted imaginations and their distorted interpretations of the Bible) wield a significant amount of power in the United States, socially and politically. Fund-raising, promotional, and organizational skills have enabled these Corpora-Fascist Capitalists masquerading as practitioners of the Christian faith to gain pervasive influence over the Republican Party. Despite recent blows, Republicans still control the Executive and Legislative branches of government, and are well on their way to dominating the Judicial branch by appointing judges who zealously rule in ways which promote the Social Darwinism, elitism, bigotry, property rights, and corporate power the Christo-Fascist Fundamentalist Christians crave.

God Bless America? Surely You Jest

One of the rationalizations for the illegal occupation of Iraq (and the murders of over one hundred thousand innocent Iraqi civilians) is that the United States is engaged in a struggle of "good versus evil". In spite of repeated heinous acts committed for years by the United States in the Middle East, including state terrorism resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, installation and/or support of ruthless dictators (i.e. Saddam Hussein, the Shah of Iran), and enabling the Israelis to commit genocide against the Palestinians, these pseudo-Christians have managed to convince many Americans that the US is "good" and the "terrorists" (i.e. the Resistance to US occupation in Iraq) are "evil". As the US government continues to rape the Middle East, Christo-Fascists slap "God Bless America" bumper stickers on their gas-guzzling SUV's actually believing that the Father, the Son, and/or the Holy Spirit would bless a nation governed by murderers, thieves and thugs.

Yes, I can visualize a Christian God sitting on his throne in the kingdom of heaven gazing down upon humankind. As he surveys humanity, he "wisely and judiciously" decides to answer Jane Morgan's prayer for a 2005 Hummer to replace her two year old Navigator. After all, he can't have Jane driving a "jalopy" to worship him on Sundays, now can he? Spying eight year old Mahmoud, a Palestinian in Gaza, God decides to let him die of malnutrition because he is not a Christian, and in fact is an "evil" Muslim who could become "terrorist" someday. Jerry Falwell, who does not appear to be struggling with malnutrition, would be most pleased with his Maker.

Not the Jesus I "Knew" When I was Younger

Growing up Methodist, my indoctrination into the Christian faith was rather moderate. I do not recall our ministers preaching fire, brimstone, or eternal damnation. Somehow I missed the interpretation of Revelations in which the Christo-Fascists have determined that Christ will return to Earth to "judge and make war". For those of you not fortunate enough to be blessed with the knowledge that Jesus will smite you down "with a rod of iron" (or do much worse) if you are deemed unworthy, click on this link to learn of your fate:


Powerful leaders of the Fundamentalist movement in America have devoted a great deal of time and energy toward their goal of convincing their loyal "Christian" soldiers that they will be saved in the "impending apocalypse" while "non-believers" will suffer beyond the scope of human imagination. Their dichotomous view of Christ as a compassionate and merciful champion of society's victims returning as a vengeful warrior bent on inflicting misery on his "enemies" reflects their psychologically impaired tendency to employ black and white thinking almost continuously.

In April of 2004 (in the New York Times) David Kirkpatrick wrote:

Writers and artists have been imagining the Second Coming of Jesus for 2,000 years, but few have portrayed him wreaking more carnage on the unbelieving world than Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

In their new apocalyptic novel, "Glorious Appearing," based on Dr. LaHaye's interpretation of Biblical prophecies about the Second Coming, their Jesus appears from the clouds on a white horse with a "conviction like a flame of fire" in his eyes. With all the gruesome detail of a Hollywood horror movie, Jesus eviscerates the flesh of millions of unbelievers merely by speaking.

"Men and women soldiers and horses seemed to explode where they stood," Dr. LaHaye and Mr. Jenkins write. "It was as if the very words of the Lord had superheated their blood, causing it to burst through their veins and skin.'' The authors add, "Even as they struggled, their own flesh dissolved, their eyes melted and their tongues disintegrated."

Dr. LaHaye and Mr. Jenkins did not invent fire and brimstone. But some scholars who study religion say that the phenomenal popularity of their "Left Behind" series of apocalyptic thrillers - now the best-selling adult novels in the United States - are part of a shift in American culture's image of Jesus. The gentle, pacifist Jesus of the Crucifixion is sharing the spotlight with a more muscular warrior Jesus of the Second Coming, the Lamb making way for the Lion."

Match Made in "Heaven"

Desperately yearning to rule with the "Iron Fist of Jesus", the Christo-Fascists and Machiavellian toadies like Karl Rove were instrumental in thrusting a grossly inept George Bush into the office of the President to do their malevolent bidding. While Bush has certainly made decisions which have displeased the masters of the Christo-Fascists, and has at times distanced himself from them, ?God?s Favorites? could not have conjured up a more desirable denizen of the Oval Office, even in their most gratifying wet dreams.

Under Bush (who believes he is fulfilling a divine mission), America's regime continues its ongoing military, economic, and social assault on the Arab world, which according to the Christo-Fascists, is populated by "evil" Muslims ready to slice the white, Christian throats of "good" Americans if given the chance. They point to the handful of beheadings of Western hostages by extremist Muslims as ?evidence? of this ?fact?. The US continues its complicity in committing genocide against the Palestinians to clear the way for Jewish inhabitation of the "Holy Land", the necessity of which is woven into Christo-Fascist mythology. Legislative and judicial actions continue to chip away at the gains made for social justice here in the US throughout the Twentieth Century. Christo-Fascists have their coveted religious war to set the stage for the coming of the Warrior Christ and their regressive social movement to crush the threats to their mythical beliefs (i.e. critical thinking, science, freedom of religion, separation of church and state). Consummating the marriage made in the Christo-Faschists? horrifying version of heaven (one man's heaven is another man's hell, eh?), the corporations and politicians comprising the military industrial complex reap the huge financial benefits of perpetual war, a significant percentage of the American public to support their perpetual war (who do you think is still showing up in the polls as supporting the war?), and loyal voters to help keep them in office.

In the Land of Oz, Science and Reality Cease to Exist

Living in Kansas and having a child in a Kansas public school, I have been following the farcical actions of the six Christo-Fascists who represent the majority on the Kansas State School Board. They recently decided it was time to rewrite the definition of science so that it is no longer "limited to" searching for natural explanations of phenomena. The board is also implementing new standards which will open the door for the introduction of the so-called "theory" of intelligent design into science classes.

As an aside, I will say that as a Deist (or a reasonable facsimile thereof), I believe in an intelligent designer, but that in no way diminishes my acceptance in the Theory of Evolution, which is supported by evidence and has withstood the tests of time and scientific scrutiny. Evolution is by no means complete, but there is no true theory of which I am aware that rivals Evolution, and until one emerges, I want my child learning Evolution. Comparing intelligent design and Evolution is absurd. ID is a theological argument based on one simple premise while Evolution is a legitimate scientific theory which has much more to say about the progressions and history of life on Earth than about the possible identity of its Creator or Initiator. I embrace both the notion of intelligent design and the Theory of Evolution simultaneously. However, intelligent design is a spiritual concept and does not belong in a science class.

Thankfully, rational thinkers came up with an appropriate response to the school board?s insanity. The University of Kansas recently announced it would offer a religious studies course which would include intelligent design in the curriculum. Unfortunately, Fundamentalist Pseudo-Christians discovered that Professor Paul Mirecki, the faculty member assigned to teach the course, wrote highly derogatory remarks on the Internet about them. The Christo-Fascist response? Several of their members who have infiltrated the Kansas State Legislature are calling for an investigation into the use of public funds at KU. On 12/5, Dr. Mirecki literally felt the Iron Fist of Jesus as two ?Christian soldiers? attacked and beat him in retaliation for his remarks about their dogma. Much to the delight of ?God's Warriors?, KU has cancelled the religious studies course.

Tell me to Have a Merry Christmas, or Else!

Recently, the Christo-Fascists have been wringing their hands over the "liberal attacks" on Christmas. Even their faithful Evangelical champion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has forsaken them. Bush?s sin? He dared to send out cards that said "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas". This has created a significant uproar amongst the ?Goodly Christian Fundamentalists?. Besides attacking their beloved president, they are threatening to boycott retailers (like Target) which do not include ?Merry Christmas? in their marketing or store displays. The American occupation of Iraq has caused the deaths of over 100,000 Iraqis, 2,000 plus American soldiers have died in Iraq, at least 1,000 Americans died (and hundreds of thousands lost virtually everything they owned) in Hurricane Katrina due to the federal government's abdication of its responsibility to "promote the general Welfare", 45 million Americans are without health insurance, over a million Americans are homeless, the CIA and US military regularly engage in abuse and torture, the Patriot Act has seriously eroded the Bill of Rights, and the US continues its neocolonial practices to economically rape nations around the globe. Christo-Fascist voters, leaders, and politicians bear a great deal of responsibility for these tragedies as they have supported, shaped and orchestrated the malevolent US government policies behind these violations of international law and human rights, war crimes, and instances of criminal neglect. Yet they have the hypocrisy to raise a significant issue over "Merry Christmas"? It is simply mind-boggling.

Frankly, I do not care if someone says "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" to me. As a non-Christian, I celebrate Christmas as a time for giving, family, and to place a particular emphasis on peace and goodwill. The Prince of Peace would have wanted it that way. While I do not worship him as the son of God, I do hold Jesus Christ in high esteem for his teachings, principals and act of martyrdom. I do not believe that Warrior Jesus will one day ride down from heaven on a white steed with eyes blazing as he prepares to ram a sword down my throat and obliterate my flesh with his devastating voice. However, I am convinced that were he alive today, he would be sickened by the greed, gluttony, commercialization, and over-consumption that comprise much of Christmas in the United States. Many of the Christo-Fascists are the first to shove their snouts into the trough to get their share of Christmas goodies. Since my spiritual awakening about twelve years ago, I have been doing a lot more giving than receiving, including to charities. In fact, donations to Oxfam (on my behalf) sit atop my very short wish list this year. The Christo-Fascist Jesus would pummel me to a bloody mass of unrecognizable flesh with his "Iron Fist" for not doing my part to support America by stimulating the economy. Somehow though, it seems far more reasonable to me to envision Jesus tending to the poor and down-trodden rather than preying on them like America's Social Darwinists do.

Terrorism, US Style

When the Higher Power set the universe in motion, they planned for the evolution of Christo-Fascists to lend balance to the universe. America has Pat Robertson, who has called for the assasination of Hugo Chavez, a leader dedicated to improving the lives of the impoverished in his nation. The Bush regime will probably answer Robertson?s call. The US capitalist aristocracy (built by stealing Native American land and resources, enslaving Africans, seriously exploiting American workers, and imposing neocolonialism and imperialism disguised as democracy and free market economics) can ill afford for a leader of one of its South American fiefdoms to threaten the prevalence of their exploitive system by rallying the serfs against them. For each Osama bin Laden in the fundamentalist Muslim world, there is a Pat Robertson in the Christo-Fascist world. The difference is that while the Pat Robertsons have the US government to perpetrate their acts of terror, the bin Ladens have little choice but to do their own dirty work.

Just How Does One Define a Christo-Fascist?

What qualities would one find in a Christo-Fascist? Greed, hubris, and self righteousness would probably top the list. Upon further inspection, one would find a streak of xenophobia, a significant amount of intolerance for those who do not fit the "traditional roles" of men and women and those who have not accepted Christ as their savior, and a passionate disdain for critical thinking. Lest I forget, Christo-Fascists are generally thin-skinned and highly hypocritical. A powerful persecution complex and an insatiable appetite for the revenge that they believe Warrior Jesus will one day perpetrate on their behalf arm them with conscience-blunting self-justifications for their mean-spirited actions. Hatred and bigotry gnaw at their malnourished souls like crows picking at the remains of a fallen soldier in the war for religious supremacy. Christo-Fascists wield their knowledge of scripture (and the commonly held Western belief that the Bible is sacrosanct) while performing unbelievable mental gymnastics to ensure they prevail in polemical discourse and successfully proselytize the weak and vulnerable. Narcissism and self hatred lie at the core of the personalities of the Fundamentalist Faithful. For a specific example of how the qualities of a Christo-Fascist manifest themselves, consider the Fundamentalist Christians? support of the illegal imperial Iraqi occupation involving the murders of tens of thousands of indigenous people, the deaths of over 2,000 American military personnel, the destruction of much of the nation's infrastructure, and the waste of hundreds of billions of federal tax dollars while US citizens suffer at home due to inadequately funded domestic programs. Iron Fist Jesus would approve!

In short, Fundamentalist Christians are the people whom the real Jesus would have hammered with his Iron Fist, if he had had one, and if he had been inclined to use it. Fortunately for them, Warrior Jesus is simply a myth the Christo-Fascist masters use to keep their minions in line. Unfortunately for the rest of us, America's religious extremists are as dangerous as those in the Middle East and around the globe.

Just in case there is an Iron Fisted Jesus and an impending Rapture, I am signing off by wishing you a Merry Christmas!

Authors Website:

Authors Bio: Jason Miller is a 38 year old activist writer with a degree in liberal arts. He works as a loan counselor in the transportation industry, and is a husband with three sons. His affiliations include Amnesty International and the ACLU. He welcomes responses at or comments on his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at

Bush on the Constitution: 'It's just a goddamned piece of paper'

Bush on the Constitution: 'It's just a goddamned piece of paper'
Dec 9, 2005, 07:53

Last month, Republican Congressional leaders filed into the Oval Office to meet with President George W. Bush and talk about renewing the controversial USA Patriot Act.

Several provisions of the act, passed in the shell shocked period immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, caused enough anger that liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union had joined forces with prominent conservatives like Phyllis Schlafly and Bob Barr to oppose renewal.

GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the act could further alienate conservatives still mad at the President from his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

?I don?t give a goddamn,? Bush retorted. ?I?m the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way.?

?Mr. President,? one aide in the meeting said. ?There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.?

?Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,? Bush screamed back. ?It?s just a goddamned piece of paper!?

I?ve talked to three people present for the meeting that day and they all confirm that the President of the United States called the Constitution ?a goddamned piece of paper.?

And, to the Bush Administration, the Constitution of the United States is little more than toilet paper stained from all the shit that this group of power-mad despots have dumped on the freedoms that ?goddamned piece of paper? used to guarantee.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, while still White House counsel, wrote that the ?Constitution is an outdated document.?

Put aside, for a moment, political affiliation or personal beliefs. It doesn?t matter if you are a Democrat, Republican or Independent. It doesn?t matter if you support the invasion or Iraq or not. Despite our differences, the Constitution has stood for two centuries as the defining document of our government, the final source to determine ? in the end ? if something is legal or right.

Every federal official ? including the President ? who takes an oath of office swears to ?uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says he cringes when someone calls the Constitution a ?living document.?

?"Oh, how I hate the phrase we have?a 'living document,?? Scalia says. ?We now have a Constitution that means whatever we want it to mean. The Constitution is not a living organism, for Pete's sake.?

As a judge, Scalia says, ?I don't have to prove that the Constitution is perfect; I just have to prove that it's better than anything else.?

President Bush has proposed seven amendments to the Constitution over the last five years, including a controversial amendment to define marriage as a ?union between a man and woman.? Members of Congress have proposed some 11,000 amendments over the last decade, ranging from repeal of the right to bear arms to a Constitutional ban on abortion.

Scalia says the danger of tinkering with the Constitution comes from a loss of rights.

?We can take away rights just as we can grant new ones,? Scalia warns. ?Don't think that it's a one-way street.?

And don?t buy the White House hype that the USA Patriot Act is a necessary tool to fight terrorism. It is a dangerous law that infringes on the rights of every American citizen and, as one brave aide told President Bush, something that undermines the Constitution of the United States.

But why should Bush care? After all, the Constitution is just ?a goddamned piece of paper.?

Rogue State? US Spurns Treaty After Treaty

Isaac Baker

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 8 (IPS) - In 1989, the United Nations put forth
the Convention on the Rights of the Child -- a treaty that protects
the civil and economic rights of children around the world.

To date, 192 nations have ratified the treaty. Only two have not.

A decade later, just seven countries voted against the Rome Statute
of the International Criminal Court (ICC), an independent body
created to prosecute genocide and crimes against humanity.

And in October of this year, members of the U.N. Educational,
Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) voted overwhelmingly
to pass a new treaty aimed at protecting cultural diversity
worldwide. Only two states voted against it.

The United States is the only nation to oppose all three. And the
list of U.N. treaties and conventions that Washington has not signed
or has actively opposed goes on and on.

While the vast majority of the world's governments support these
treaties, as well as other U.N. diplomatic efforts and conventions,
the U.S. government can almost be expected to stand in opposition
each time such treaty proceedings arise.

Indeed, the United States, especially in recent years, is
increasingly being seen in the world as a lone state, thumbing its
diplomatic nose at international pacts on everything from banning the
use and production of landmines to curbing global warming.

This staunch refusal to join with other nations on such a wide range
of treaties, experts say, is hurting the already tarnished image of
the world's sole superpower in the eyes of the international

"It sends the message that the United States has been the biggest
violator and thrasher of international law in the post-war period,"
Richard Du Boff, a professor emeritus of economic history at Bryn
Mawr College in the state of Pennsylvania, told IPS.

Du Boff added that while the U.S. has often opposed U.N. conventions
since the end of the Second World War, its isolationist posture "has
escalated dramatically and reached a level never before challenged"
during the presidency of George W. Bush.

This, Du Boff said, makes the U.S. a "rogue" in the realm of
international law.

"The term is inspired by U.S. officials themselves," he said. "This
is a term that they constantly apply to any country that does
something we may not like: 'rogue state'."

However, it is the record of the U.S. and its stance on international
legislation, he said, that stands in such stark contrast to that of
the rest of the world.

The U.S. stands alone with the East African state of Somalia in its
refusal to ratify the 1989 Convention on the Rights of a Child. The
treaty, which the U.N. calls "the most powerful legal instrument that
not only recognises but protects [children's] human rights", is one
of the most widely supported international agreements in the U.N.'s

While the U.S. government has publicly stated its support for the
treaty, it has not taken the necessary steps to ratify it.

Others that Washington has rejected include the Comprehensive Test
Ban Treaty, the Treaty Banning Antipersonnel Mines, a protocol to
create a compliance regime for the Biological Weapons Convention, the
Kyoto Protocol on global warming, and the Anti-Ballistic Missile

The U.S. is also not complying with the nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Commission, and the U.N. framework
Convention on Climate Change.

One of the touchiest areas in the rocky relationship between the U.S.
and the international community is Washington's overt hostility
toward the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague.

The U.S. was one of seven states to vote against the formation of the
ICC in 1998. In taking this stance, the U.S. defied the rest of the
democratic world's support for the court and aligned itself with
notorious human rights abusers like China, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.

The U.S. continues to stand alone among even its closest allies in
its refusal to recognise the authority of the ICC.

The Bush administration maintains that U.S. personnel must be exempt
from prosecution by the court, and has pressured ICC member states to
sign bilateral deals promising not to hand over any U.S. nationals to
the court's jurisdiction.

Human rights advocates and non-governmental organisations say the
U.S. government's stance toward ICC creates a two-tiered system of
international law: one for U.S. nationals and one for everyone else.

Organisations such as the New-York based Human Rights Watch (HRW)
have blasted the U.S. for its refusal to recognise the legitimacy of
the court, saying such a stance hurts the image of the U.S. in the

"U.S. ambassadors have been acting like schoolyard bullies," Richard
Dicker, director of HRW's International Justice Programme, said in a
statement. "The U.S. campaign has not succeeded in undermining global
support for the court. But it has succeeded in making the U.S.
government look foolish and mean-spirited."

The U.S. continues to reject the ICC, leaving no room for argument.

In the most recent example of the U.S.'s rejection of U.N.-backed
treaties, the U.S. and Israel voted against UNESCO's Convention on
the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions
in mid-October.

While the treaty is largely symbolic -- it doesn't carry any real
means of enforcement -- supporters say it is an important declaration
of the importance of cultural diversity and national aspirations.

Among other provisions, the treaty gives nations more leeway to
support local culture through subsidies of domestic films and
publications to help them stand up to foreign competition.

The U.S. government has called the treaty protectionist and says it
could be a barrier to international trade.

During the treaty negotiations, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice, in a letter to other governments, called for changes in the
text, saying the treaty would "sow conflict rather than cooperation".

The U.S. State Department has also said the treaty could be used by
governments to censor or block foreign films or other goods in the
name of preserving cultural diversity, a claim that supporters of the
treaty deny.

"The United States is a culturally diverse country and a vigorous
proponent of cultural diversity, which is based on individuals'
freedom to choose how to express themselves and how to interact with
others," the State Department says. "Governments deciding what
citizens can read, hear, or see denies individuals the opportunity to
make independent choices about what they value."

At the UNESCO meeting, Timothy Craddock, the ambassador from Britain,
one of Washington's staunchest allies, called the treaty, "clear,
carefully balanced, and consistent with the principles of
international law and fundamental human rights".

However, he added that Britain and the European Union had "agreed to
disagree" with "one country". (END/2005)

Foreign Ministry denounces U.S. lawsuit against ex-Shin Bet chief

By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz Correspondent, and AP

The Foreign Ministry condemned on Friday a civil lawsuit filed in the
U.S. against former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter for the deaths of 14
Palestinian civilians who were killed in a targeted hit on a senior
Hamas operative in 2002.

"We see this as a cynical manipulation of the courts by groups with
extremist agendas," said Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli
Foreign Ministry.

Palestinians filed the suit against Dichter in a U.S. federal court
Thursday, seeking millions of dollars in damages.

The plaintiffs are relatives of the 14 civilians who were killed when
Israel assassinated senior Hamas operative Salah Shehadeh in July

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court - Southern District of
New York.

While Palestinians have previously filed suit in the United States
against other Israeli security officials, Dichter, unlike the
defendants in those cases, is currently in the U.S. As a result, the
plaintiffs have been able to serve him with the papers, thereby
enabling the court to hear the case.

According to the suit, Dichter shares responsibility for the deaths
both because of his role in the decision to drop a one-ton bomb on
the building where Shehadeh was staying and because he supplied the
intelligence on which that decision was based.

The plaintiffs seek to hold Dichter responsible under customary
international law and the Torture Victim Protection Act. They say the
court would have jurisdiction for human rights violations and war
crimes under the U.S. Alien Tort Claims Act, a law that has been used
by Holocaust survivors and relatives of people killed or tortured
under despotic regimes from South America to the Philippines.

The lawsuit, brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, says
the bombing occurred as part of a series of targeted attacks on
suspected terrorists that has killed 327 people and at least 174 non-
targeted bystanders, including at least 47 children, since September

The lawsuit says Dichter had "developed, implemented and escalated
the practice of targeted killings."

A spokeswoman for the Center for Constitutional Rights said Dichter
was served with the lawsuit during a benefit Wednesday in New York

The Israel Defense Forces said at the time that it decided to drop
the bomb based on intelligence indicating that Shehadeh was alone in
the building.

While the suit does not ask for a specific sum in damages - that
would be decided by the jury - the total is expected to reach
millions of dollars. The plaintiffs are seeking both compensation and
punitive damages, arguing that the bombing constituted a war crime
that should not go unpunished.

Dichter has not yet responded to the suit.

Heads roll at Veterans Administration

Mushrooming depleted uranium (DU) scandal blamed

by Bob Nichols

Project Censored Award Winner
Preventive Psychiatry E-Newsletter charged Monday that the reason
Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi stepped down earlier this
month was the growing scandal surrounding the use of uranium
munitions in the Iraq War.

Writing in Preventive Psychiatry E-Newsletter No. 169, Arthur N.
Bernklau, executive director of Veterans for Constitutional Law in
New York, stated, "The real reason for Mr. Principi's departure was
really never given, however a special report published by eminent
scientist Leuren Moret naming depleted uranium as the definitive
cause of the `Gulf War Syndrome' has fed a growing scandal about the
continued use of uranium munitions by the US Military."

Bernklau continued, "This malady (from uranium munitions), that
thousands of our military have suffered and died from, has finally
been identified as the cause of this sickness, eliminating the
guessing. The terrible truth is now being revealed."

He added, "Out of the 580,400 soldiers who served in GW1 (the first
Gulf War), of them, 11,000 are now dead! By the year 2000, there were
325,000 on Permanent Medical Disability. This astounding number
of `Disabled Vets' means that a decade later, 56% of those soldiers
who served have some form of permanent medical problems!" The
disability rate for the wars of the last century was 5 percent; it
was higher, 10 percent, in Viet Nam.

"The VA Secretary (Principi) was aware of this fact as far back as
2000," wrote Bernklau. "He, and the Bush administration have been
hiding these facts, but now, thanks to Moret's report, (it) ... is
far too big to hide or to cover up!"

"Terry Jamison, Public Affairs Specialist, Office of the Deputy
Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Department of Veterans
Affairs, at the VA Central Office, recently reported that `Gulf Era
Veterans' now on medical disability, since 1991, number 518,739
Veterans," said Berklau.

"The long-term effects have revealed that DU (uranium oxide) is a
virtual death sentence," stated Berklau. "Marion Fulk, a nuclear
physical chemist, who retired from the Lawrence Livermore Nuclear
Weapons Lab, and was also involved with the Manhattan Project,
interprets the new and rapid malignancies in the soldiers (from the
2003 Iraq War) as `spectacular ? and a matter of concern!'"

When asked if the main purpose of using DU was for "destroying things
and killing people," Fulk was more specific: "I would say it is the
perfect weapon for killing lots of people!"

Principi could not be reached for comment prior to deadline.


1. Depleted uranium: "Dirty bombs, dirty missiles, dirty bullets: A
death sentence here and abroad" by Leuren Moret,

2. Veterans for Constitutional Law, 112 Jefferson Ave., Port
Jefferson NY 11777, Arthur N. Bernklau, executive director, (516) 474-
4261, fax 516-474-1968.

3. Preventive Psychiatry E-Newsletter. Email Gary Kohls,, with "Subscribe" in the subject line.

Email Bob Nichols at

Blair Tries to Cover Up $1.3 Billion Iraqi Theft

By Patrick Cockburn

12/09/05 "" -- -- Baghdad - The British government is
trying to stall an investigation into the theft of more than $1.3bn
(�740m) from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, senior Iraqi officials

The government wants to postpone the investigation to help its
favored candidate Iyad Allawi, the former prime minister, in the
election on December 15. The money disappeared during his

The UK's enthusiasm for Mr Allawi may have led it into promoting a
cover-up of how the money was siphoned off and sent abroad. One Iraqi
minister believes the investigation will be dropped when the next
government is formed.

The scandal is expected to explode with renewed force in the next few
weeks. The Independent has learnt of secret tape recordings of a wide-
ranging conversation between a Ministry of Defense official and a
businessman, naming politicians and officials involved.

"It is possibly one of the largest thefts in history," Ali Allawi,
Iraq's Finance Minister, said. "Huge amounts of money have
disappeared. In return we got nothing but scraps of metal." Most of
the military purchases were made in Poland and Pakistan. They
included obsolete helicopters, armoured vehicles unable to stop a
bullet and grossly over-priced machine guns and bullets. Payments
were made in advance. Often the Ministry of Defense did not even have
a copy of contracts under which it was paying hundreds of millions of

Ahmed Chalabi, the Deputy Prime Minister, says William Patey, the
British ambassador in Baghdad, asked him not to give prominence to
the scandal before the election because this might "politicise the
investigation". Mr Patey denies he had asked for the investigation to
be delayed.

A former senior British adviser was quoted as saying that Tony Blair
was convinced Mr Allawi "is the best hope" for Iraq. He added that Mr
Blair had sent a small team of operatives to give political help to
Mr Allawi. In background briefings, British officials have heavily
supported the former prime minister despite evidence that government
corruption was rife under his administration.

Mr Allawi is a former member of the Baath party who fell out with
Saddam Hussein in the 1970s. Resident in Britain for many years, he
became the leader of an opposition group, the Iraqi National Accord.
He has never denied a close association with British intelligence and
the CIA said he was justified in taking support from any foreign
intelligence service willing to help him fight Saddam.

Supporters of Mr Allawi have denounced allegations about widespread
fraud while he was prime minister in 2004-05 as an attempt to damage
him before a close-fought election next week. But documents seen by
The Independent show Mr Allawi's office authorising astonishingly
large sums of money to be spent by the Defense Ministry. The cabinet
was excluded at the request of Hazem al-Shaalan, the Defense Minister.

He asked for and received permission from the prime minister's office
to spend money without oversight in September 2004, citing the
gravity of the crisis facing the Iraq. In November, Mr Shaalan
received a letter from the cabinet secretariat saying the prime
minister had agreed to spend $1.7bn "for the purpose of creating two
rapid intervention divisions". By the winter of 2004, large sums were
being sent out of Iraq in sacks filled with $100 bills loaded on to
planes. One shipment of $300m was noticed and intercepted.

The Iraqi army and police have paid heavily in lives because of the
misappropriation of the almost all the defense procurement budget.
Insurgents are often better armed than government forces. Soldiers
travel through Baghdad in ageing white pick-ups normally used to
carry cabbages to the market.

The men chosen, primarily by the US, to run the Iraqi Defense
Ministry were extraordinarily inexperienced. They included Mr
Shalaan, the Defense Minister, who had worked in real estate in a
small way in London during the 1990s. He may have appealed to
American and British advisers because he was vociferously anti-

Ziyad Cattan was the head of military procurement at the Defense
Ministry who signed cheques for hundreds of millions of dollars. He
openly admits to knowing nothing about weapons. He returned to Iraq
just before the war in 2003 after 27 years in Poland. His previous
jobs included selling flowers, shoes and used cars. At one time he
ran a pizza parlour.

Mr Cattan is allegedly one of the voices secretly recorded when he
was talking in a car with Naer Mohammed Ahmed Jumaili. Mr Jumaili
acted as middle man for the arms deals, Mr Chalabi said at a press
conference in Baghdad this week. He said 35 cheques from the Ministry
of Defense worth $1.1bn were paid into Mr Jumaili's account at the Al
Warkah Bank in Baghdad.

A mystery surrounding the alleged misappropriation of military
procurement budget is that it passed unnoticed by American and
British officials in Baghdad. This was despite the fact that they
were supposedly supervising the build up of a new Iraqi army and
police force. Mr Shaalan and Mr Cattan both protest that nothing was
done in the Iraqi Ministry of Defense at this time that was not known
to the US.

A problem facing the investigation into the missing money is that so
many politicians and officials from the Sunni, Shia and Kurdish
communities in Iraq were either implicated or failed to notice what
was happening. The National Assembly has not lifted Mr Shaalan's
parliamentary immunity.

Supporters of Mr Allawi, the Kurdish parties and some members of Shia
religious parties have sought to delay the investigation.

Britain has backed Mr Allawi strongly in the hope that as a secular
Shia with nationalist credentials he can unite people from the three
main communities.

Despite British support, Iraqi political observers do not believe Mr
Allawi will be the next prime minister. Last weekend he was chased
from the shrine in the holy Shia city of Najaf by worshippers hurling
shoes whom he says were trying to kill him.

With most Iraqis voting on sectarian or ethnic lines Mr Allawi will
be doing well if he can win more than 25 seats in the 275-member

US Terror Watchlist 80,000 Names Long

US Terror Watchlist 80,000 Names Long
Agence France-Presse

Thursday 08 December 2005

Stockholm - A watchlist of possible terror suspects distributed by the US government to airlines for pre-flight checks is now 80,000 names long, a Swedish newspaper reported, citing European air industry sources.

The classified list, which carried just 16 names before the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington had grown to 1,000 by the end of 2001, to 40,000 a year later and now stands at 80,000, Svenska Dagbladet reported.

Airlines must check each passenger flying to a US destination against the list, and contact the US Department of Homeland Security for further investigation if there is a matching name.

The list contains a strict "no fly" section, which requires airline staff to contact police, and a "selectee" section, which requires passengers to undergo further security checks.

Some 2,000 passengers checking in at Stockholm's Arlanda airport have had to be cleared with the US authorities because of name matches on the "selectee" list this year, although none was prevented from boarding, Svenska Dagbladet said.

Eyewitness: "I Never Heard the Word 'Bomb'",8599,1138965,00.html

Eyewitness: "I Never Heard the Word 'Bomb'"
A passenger on Flight 924 gives his account of the
shooting and says Rigoberto Alpizar never claimed to
have a bomb

At least one passenger aboard American Airlines Flight
924 maintains the federal air marshals were a little
too quick on the draw when they shot and killed
Rigoberto Alpizar as he frantically attempted to run
off the airplane shortly before take-off.

"I don't think they needed to use deadly force with
the guy," says John McAlhany, a 44-year-old
construction worker from Sebastian, Fla. "He was
getting off the plane." McAlhany also maintains that
Alpizar never mentioned having a bomb.

"I never heard the word 'bomb' on the plane," McAlhany
told TIME in a telephone interview. "I never heard the
word bomb until the FBI asked me did you hear the word
bomb. That is ridiculous." Even the authorities didn't
come out and say bomb, McAlhany says. "They asked,
'Did you hear anything about the b-word?'" he says.
"That's what they called it."

When the incident began McAlhany was in seat 24C, in
the middle of the plane. "[Alpizar] was in the back,"
McAlhany says, "a few seats from the back bathroom. He
sat down." Then, McAlhany says, "I heard an argument
with his wife. He was saying 'I have to get off the
plane.' She said, 'Calm down.'"

Alpizar took off running down the aisle, with his wife
close behind him. "She was running behind him saying,
'He's sick. He's sick. He's ill. He's got a disorder,"
McAlhany recalls. "I don't know if she said bipolar
disorder [as one witness has alleged]. She was trying
to explain to the marshals that he was ill. He just
wanted to get off the plane."

McAlhany described Alpizar as carrying a big backpack
and wearing a fanny pack in front. He says it would
have been impossible for Alpizar to lie flat on the
floor of the plane, as marshals ordered him to do,
with the fanny pack on. "You can't get on the ground
with a fanny pack," he says. "You have to move it to
the side."

By the time Alpizar made it to the front of the
airplane, the crew had ordered the rest of the
passengers to get down between the seats. "I didn't
see him get shot," he says. "They kept telling me to
get down. I heard about five shots."

McAlhany says he tried to see what was happening just
in case he needed to take evasive action. "I wanted to
make sure if anything was coming toward me and they
were killing passengers I would have a chance to break
somebody's neck," he says. "I was looking through the
seats because I wanted to see what was coming.

"I was on the phone with my brother. Somebody came
down the aisle and put a shotgun to the back of my
head and said put your hands on the seat in front of
you. I got my cell phone karate chopped out of my
hand. Then I realized it was an official."

In the ensuing events, many of the passengers began
crying in fear, he recalls. "They were pointing the
guns directly at us instead of pointing them to the
ground," he says "One little girl was crying. There
was a lady crying all the way to the hotel."

McAlhany said he saw Alpizar before the flight and is
absolutely stunned by what unfolded on the airplane.
He says he saw Alpizar eating a sandwich in the
boarding area before getting on the plane. He looked
normal at that time, McAlhany says. He thinks the
whole thing was a mistake: "I don't believe he should
be dead right now."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

House, Senate Agree to Extend Patriot Act

House, Senate Agree to Extend Patriot Act

By JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer
9 minutes ago

House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement Thursday to extend the USA Patriot Act, the government's premier anti-terrorism law, before it expires at the end of the month. But a Democratic senator threatened a filibuster to block the compromise.

"I will do everything I can, including a filibuster, to stop this Patriot Act conference report, which does not include adequate safeguards to protect our constitutional freedoms," said Sen. Russ Feingold (news, bio, voting record), D-Wis., who was the only senator to vote against the original version of the Patriot Act.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., announced that the negotiating committee had reached an agreement that would extend for four years two of the Patriot Act's most controversial provisions ? authorizing roving wiretaps and permitting secret warrants for books, records and other items from businesses, hospitals and organizations such as libraries. Those provisions would expire in four years unless Congress acted on them again.

"All factors considered it's reasonably good, not perfect, but it's acceptable," Specter said of the agreement.

Also to be extended for four years are standards for monitoring "lone wolf" terrorists who may be operating independent of a foreign agent or power. While not part of the Patriot Act, officials considered that along with the Patriot Act provisions.

The Republican-controlled House had been pushing for those provisions to stay in effect as long as a decade, but negotiators decided to go with the GOP-controlled Senate's suggestion.

Most of the Patriot Act would become permanent under the reauthorization.

The White House applauded the agreement.

"The Patriot Act is critical to winning the war on terrorism," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. "The president urges both houses of Congress to act promptly to pass this critical piece of legislation."

Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada intends to vote against the measure as currently drafted, according to an aide.

Feingold and five other senators from both parties issued a statement that said, "We believe this conference report will not be able to get through the Senate." They said they wouldn't support it in any form.

The other senators are Republicans Larry Craig of Idaho, John Sununu of New Hampshire and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois and Ken Salazar of Colorado.

Feingold issued a separate statement threatening a filibuster, a stalling technique designed to block the measure from coming to a final vote.

It takes 60 senators to overcome a filibuster in the 100-member Senate.

"I don't think there will be a filibuster," Specter said. "I don't think it will succeed if there is one."

Sen. John Cornyn (news, bio, voting record), R-Texas, said the deal should satisfy everyone. "This agreement both preserves the provisions that have made America safer since 9/11 and increases congressional and judicial oversight, which should alleviate the concerns of those who believe the law enforcement tools endanger civil liberties," he said.

But the American Civil Liberties Union immediately denounced the deal, calling on lawmakers to reject the legislation because it intrudes too far into the privacy of innocent Americans.

"This sham compromise agreement fails to address the primary substantive concern raised by millions of Americans, as well as civil liberties, privacy and business organizations and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and in both chambers," said Caroline Fredrickson, the ACLU's Washington legislative office director.

The ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, has not yet decided whether to support the agreement, a spokesman said. But the GOP-majority negotiating committee has enough votes to send the House and Senate the compromise if all of the Republican negotiators agree to it.

The Senate is expected to vote on the compromise next week, Specter said. That would give them enough time to deal with any filibuster threats before the Patriot Act provisions expire on Dec. 31.

Congress overwhelmingly passed the Patriot Act after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The law expanded the government's surveillance and prosecutorial powers against suspected terrorists, their associates and financiers.

The compromise also makes changes to national security letters, an investigative tool used by the FBI to compel businesses to turn over customer information without a court order or grand jury subpoena.

Under the agreement, the reauthorization specifies that an NSL can be reviewed by a court, and explicitly allows those who receive the letters to inform their lawyers about them.

Rice Fails to Clarify US View on Torture

Rice Fails to Clarify US View on Torture
By David Holley and Paul Richter
The Los Angeles Times

Thursday 08 December 2005

Moscow - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday that an international ban on torture applies to US personnel overseas, in a statement that was apparently meant to ease growing concerns but that sowed new confusion about controversial American policies on treatment of terrorism suspects.

Rice said that "as a matter of US policy," American obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture, which also bans cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, applies to US personnel both in the United States and around the world.

Rice's remarks came amid complaints from Europeans about what they see as harsh and possibly illegal American treatment of terrorism suspects overseas. Rice's comments were interpreted by some US lawmakers and human rights advocates as a sign that the Bush administration was giving ground in the face of international and congressional pressure, but it was unclear whether her statement heralded any change in policies or practices.

The confusion underscored how much suspicion and uncertainty surrounds the subject, even among lawmakers, analysts and advocates who follow the subject closely.

On a tour of Europe that began Monday, Rice has been engulfed by criticism over reports that CIA planes used airports on the continent as stopovers while transporting prisoners to secret interrogation sites. Rice has insisted that US personnel don't use torture, and has argued that American counter-terrorism efforts on the continent help protect Europeans from extremist attacks.

Yet, questions about the behavior of US personnel abroad have lingered, fed in part by the revelation of abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq; the denial of civilian court trials to detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and the acknowledged American policy of "extraordinary renditions," in which terrorism suspects are seized in one country and flown to another nation for interrogation.

Rice's latest comments left much unclear. She did not try to define banned prisoner interrogation measures or specify what, in the American view, constitutes cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment. She also did not address restrictions imposed by the torture convention on US security contractors.

Some saw her statement, at a news conference in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, as a shift from a legal opinion offered by US Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales, who said in Senate testimony this year that US personnel overseas were not legally bound by the UN convention's restrictions on cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.

The United States is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture. Gonzales, however, told the Senate that the administration considered the restrictions on cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment to be tied to acts illegal or unconstitutional under US law, but that American law did not protect non-Americans overseas.

Rice did not repudiate Gonzales' legal opinion but said US policy was to not use cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment on captives.

That stand is not a new one. Although the administration does not believe US officials overseas are legally obligated to observe the ban on cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, it is nonetheless government policy to adhere to it, officials say.

Gonzales wrote in October in response to a questionnaire from the Senate Judiciary Committee: "It's the administration policy to abide by the requirements barring cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment even if such treatment is not legally required, regardless of whether the detainee in question is here in the United States or overseas," said a US official familiar with the response.

Adam Ereli, a State Department spokesman, speaking of Rice, said Wednesday: "Her statement is a statement of policy, and it's been the US policy."

Still, some saw her comments as a shift from recent stances taken by Bush administration officials.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the ranking minority member of the Armed Services Committee, said Rice's comments "represent a reversal from the administration's position on the convention up to now. It is an important and very welcome change from their previous position."

Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group, said the statement left many questions unanswered.

"I'd like to be able to say, 'I strongly welcome this, good for Condi Rice,' " said Tom Malinowski, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch in Washington.

"But if the administration is not willing to clarify this and say it's a change in the policy Alberto Gonzales articulated ? then I don't know."

Another group, Human Rights First, said US officials in the past had refused to address whether techniques such as simulated drowning, sleep deprivation, religious humiliation and solitary confinement were covered by prohibitions against mistreatment. "Does your statement now mean that these practices are prohibited as a matter of law and policy?" the group asked in a statement.

The White House has opposed an amendment sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would set new anti-torture restrictions barring "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment" of prisoners by all US personnel in all circumstances.

Vice President Dick Cheney has lobbied Congress to at least exempt the CIA from the tougher rules, which passed the Senate on a 90-9 vote in October. McCain is a former prisoner of war in Vietnam who endured torture.

CIA interrogators at overseas locations reportedly have been permitted to use techniques banned for use by the US military. The McCain amendment would make the Army Field Manual the authority on interrogation techniques for all US government agencies.

The administration, arguing that existing laws and regulations are adequate to prevent the torture of prisoners, has expressed concern that adoption of the McCain amendment could signal to detainees that they had little to fear during interrogations. But officials have been in negotiations with McCain to seek a compromise on his measure, which has not yet been passed by the full Congress.

One high-profile case that Rice has confronted this week is that of Khaled Masri, a German national of Lebanese descent. He filed a lawsuit Tuesday in US District Court in northern Virginia alleging that American intelligence operatives mistakenly abducted him in December 2003 and held him for five months, subjecting him to torture and mistreatment.

On Tuesday, without mentioning the Masri case directly, Rice said in Berlin that "any policy will sometimes result in errors, and when it does we will do everything we can to rectify them."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel indicated that she understood the comment to apply to Masri.

UN human rights chief Louise Arbour warned Wednesday that the US-declared war on terrorism was eroding a global ban on torture. In remarks at the United Nations in the run-up to Human Rights Day on Saturday, Arbour urged Rice to further clarify the US policy on torture and rendition.

"Pursuing security objectives at all costs may create a world in which we are neither safe nor free," Arbour said. "This will certainly be the case if the only choice is between the terrorists and the torturers."

US Ambassador John R. Bolton immediately responded, saying Arbour should be concentrating on "real" human rights abusers such as Zimbabwe and Myanmar - not the United States.

Holley reported from Moscow and Richter from Washington. Times staff writers Tyler Marshall, Bob Drogin and Greg Miller in Washington and Maggie Farley at the United Nations contributed to this report.

Condi's Trail of Lies

Condi's Trail of Lies
By Sidney Blumenthal
Thursday 08 December 2005

Condoleezza Rice's contradictory, misleading and outright false statements about the US and torture have taken America's moral standing - and her own - to new depths.

The metamorphosis of Condoleezza Rice from the chrysalis of the prot�g� into the butterfly of the State Department has not been a natural evolution but has demanded self-discipline. She has
1. burnished an image of the ultimate loyalist, yet betrayed her mentor, George H.W. Bush's national security advisor Brent Scowcroft.
2. She is the team player, yet carefully inserted knives in the back of her predecessor, Colin Powell, climbing up them like a ladder of success.
3. She is the person most trusted on foreign policy by the president, yet was an enabler for Vice President Cheney and the neoconservatives.

Now her public relations team at the State Department depicts her as
a. a restorer of realism,
b. builder of alliances
c. and maker of peace.

On her first trip to Europe early this year she left the sensation of being fresh by listening rather than lecturing. The flirtation of power appeared to have a more seductive effect than arrogance. So the old face became a new face. But on this week's trip the iron butterfly emerged.

Rice arrived as the enforcer of the Bush administration's torture policy. She reminded the queasy Europeans that their intelligence services, one way or another, are involved in the rendition of hundreds of suspected terrorists transported through their airports for harsh interrogation in countries like Jordan and Egypt or secret CIA prisons known as "black sites." With her warnings, Rice recast the Western alliance as a partnership in complicity. In her attempt to impose silence, she spread guilt. Everybody is unclean in the dirty war and nobody has any right to complain. "What I would hope that our allies would acknowledge," she said, "is that we are all in this together."

For the European leaders, facing publics hostile to U.S. policy in Iraq and torture, Rice's visit was disquieting. In Italy, prosecutors have issued indictments of 22 current and former CIA operatives for their "extraordinary rendition" of an Egyptian suspect; among those indicted is the former Rome CIA station chief, whom an Italian judge has ruled has no immunity from prosecution. Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini, asked about renditions, said, "We know absolutely nothing. We have not one single piece of knowledge." If the Italian government knew the facts, it would investigate, he added.

In Britain, the Foreign Office released a diplomatic disclaimer that it has "no evidence to corroborate media allegations about the use of UK territory in rendition operations." But upset members of the House of Commons have launched a parliamentary inquiry into whether the U.K. has violated the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations Convention Against Torture. Foreign Minister Jack Straw sent Rice a letter requesting any "clarification the U.S. can give about these reports in the hope that this will allay parliamentary and public concerns."

When the Washington Post reported on the eve of Rice's trip that CIA prisons holding U.S. detainees exist in Romania, Poland and other Eastern European nations, it triggered an explosion. Even though Romania and Poland denied the report, the European Commission and the Council of Europe began investigations. The E.C. declared that for any member state to harbor a CIA prison would be "extremely serious" and bring down sanctions upon it.

In Germany, Rice was greeted by the new chancellor, Angela Merkel, eager to repair relations with the Bush administration made awkward by former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's opposition to the Iraq war. Rice's visit was supposed to smooth over the conflicts of the past, but instead it surfaced new ones that indicated that the divisions between Germany - and Europe - and the U.S. are rooted in the Bush administration's fundamental policies.

Rice arrived in Berlin on the heels of a Washington Post report about the rendition, to a secret CIA jail in Afghanistan called the Salt Pit, of a German citizen, Khaled el-Masri, who was tortured and imprisoned for five months in a case of mistaken identity. After meeting with Rice, Merkel announced that Rice had acknowledged that the U.S. had made a "mistake" in the case. But Rice countered with a statement denying she had said that at all. The reconciliation with Germany was botched; Merkel was embarrassed; and Rice's credibility, at least in the German press, was left in tatters.

Rice had hoped to quell the controversy before she landed. On Monday, as she boarded her plane at Andrew Air Force base in Washington, she delivered a lengthy statement on torture. Her speech was remarkable for its defensive, dense and evasive tone. It was replete with half-truths, outright falsehoods, distortions and subterfuges.

Her remarks can never sway or convince any European leader, foreign ministry or intelligence service, which have the means to make their own judgments. In her effort to persuade world opinion and reassure the American public, she raised the debate over torture to greater prominence and virtually invited inspection of her claims.

Rice has made memorable statements in the past. There was her appearance before the 9/11 Commission, in which she had trouble recalling the CIA's Presidential Daily Briefing of Aug. 6, 2001, titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US," and dismissed its significance. There were her many assertions about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons: "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." There was her attack on Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism chief on the National Security Council, for his disclosure that both she and the president did not regard al-Qaida as an urgent threat before Sept. 11, 2001, as a "scurrilous allegation." But her remarks on torture may turn out to be her most unforgettable full-length speech, tainting her tenure as secretary of state as indelibly as Colin Powell's speech making the case for the Iraq war before the United Nations blotted him.

"Torture is a term that is defined by law," said Rice. "We rely on our law to govern our operations." She neglected to explain that "torture" as she used it has been defined by presidential findings to include universally defined methods of torture, such as waterboarding, for which U.S. soldiers were court-martialed in 1902 and 1968 specifically on the basis of having engaged in torture.

But the Bush administration has rejected adherence to the Geneva Conventions as "quaint," in the term of then White House legal counsel and now Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; rejects torture as it is defined in the United Nations Convention Against Torture (although the U.S. is a signatory); and rejects torture as it is interpreted by other international expert bodies, including the European Human Rights Court, whose judgments are binding on the nations of the Council of Europe.

"The United States does not permit, tolerate or condone torture under any circumstances," Rice insisted in her statement. "Moreover, in accordance with the policy of this administration: The United States has respected - and will continue to respect - the sovereignty of other countries." But was the kidnapping of the Egyptian suspect in Italy that has resulted in the 22 indictments of CIA operatives a fiction? Have the Italian prosecutors been made aware that the event was a figment of their imaginations? Was holding el-Masri, the innocent German, not a violation of the sovereignty of another country?

Rice continued: "The United States does not transport, and has not transported, detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture. The United States does not use the airspace or the airports of any country for the purpose of transporting a detainee to a country where he or she will be tortured." But the German government was reported to have a list of 400 flights over European airspace for the purpose of renditions. And Amnesty International reports that there have been 800 such flights. Once again, Rice relies upon her own definition of "torture" to deny it.

She went on: "The United States has not transported anyone, and will not transport anyone, to a country when we believe he will be tortured. Where appropriate, the United States seeks assurances that transferred persons will not be tortured." In fact, the U.S. receives assurances from those countries that it would be unlikely that the suspects will be tortured, a technical loophole that provides for a washing of hands. Everybody on all sides understands that there will be torture, as there has been.

***** Rice's legal interpretations were authoritative, bland and bogus. It is hard to say whether they should be called Orwellian for their intentional falsity or Kafkaesque for their unintentional absurdity.

"International law allows a state to detain enemy combatants for the duration of hostilities," she said. But the administration has vitiated international law with its presidential findings. The "global war on terror" is a conflict without end; its time limit extends into perpetuity. So long as terror is used as a tactic, or the threat of terror exists, which it always does, a state of war, such as it is, justifies indefinite detention.

Then, Rice presented as the administration's position precisely the position it opposes: "Detainees may only be held for an extended period if the intelligence or other evidence against them has been carefully evaluated and supports a determination that detention is lawful. The U.S. does not seek to hold anyone for a period beyond what is necessary to evaluate the intelligence or other evidence against them, prevent further acts of terrorism, or hold them for legal proceedings." But the Bush administration has refused to place detainees within the criminal justice system. Instead, they have been kept in a legal limbo, denied the protections of both the U.S. justice system and the Geneva Conventions. The administration has hid "ghost detainees" from the International Red Cross. If the suspects are criminals, they have not been tried as criminals.

Rice cited two cases to make her point: Carlos the Jackal, the international terrorist captured in Sudan in 1994, and Ramzi Youssef, the 1993 World Trade Center bomber. But, unlike current detainees, both were put on public trial, Carlos in France, Youssef in the United States. And the European Commission on Human Rights issued a report that Carlos' rights were not violated. Both cases refuted in their particulars the larger argument Rice was making.

One case Rice did not cite was that of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a captured al-Qaida operative, whose claims about Saddam Hussein's possession of WMD were used by the administration to build the case for the Iraq war. "We've learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases," President Bush said on Oct. 7, 2002, drawing on al-Libi's information. Al-Libi also provided the basis for a dramatic high point of Secretary of State Powell's U.N. speech: "the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these weapons to Al Qaeda. Fortunately, this operative is now detained, and he has told his story. I will relate to you now, as he himself, described it." But al-Libi had been tortured and repeated to his interrogators what they had suggested to him. The Defense Intelligence Agency reported in February 2002 that al-Libi's information was dubious, and the CIA also questioned its credibility in a report in January 2003 - both reports made before the war. Rice's various statements created a pandemonium across Europe that she tried to quiet with a clarification Wednesday in Ukraine. The policy she had just declared we did not follow she announced we would no longer pursue. "As a matter of U.S. policy, the United States' obligations under the CAT [U.N. Convention Against Torture], which prohibits cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment - those obligations extend to U.S. personnel wherever they are, whether they are in the United States or outside of the United States," Rice said at a press conference with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.

Rice's erratic journey also raises the question of her own part in the policy. The Washington Post story on el-Masri reports that Rice intervened on the side of informing the German government, a disclosure that resulted in el-Masri's release. This fact suggests that Rice has a degree of authority and knowledge in the realm of detainees and "black sites."

Since 2003, Rice has repeatedly told representatives of Human Rights Watch and other similar organizations that the U.S. does not torture. There is no trail of memos tracing her involvement in the titanic struggle over U.S. torture policy between Powell and the senior military on one side and Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft's Justice Department on the other. Was the national security advisor completely out of the loop? On Nov. 19., ABC News reported, "Current and former CIA officers tell ABC News there is a presidential finding, signed in 2002, by President Bush, Condoleezza Rice and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, approving the [harsh interrogation] techniques, including waterboarding."

That technique has its origin in the Spanish Inquisition. Indeed, in 1490, a baptized Christian who was a secret Jew, a converso named Benito Garcia, was subjected to water torture. The process drew out of him a confession of the ritual murder of a Christian child by crucifixion to get his blood for a magic ceremony to halt the Inquisition and bring about Jewish control. The incident greatly helped whip up the fear that led to the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, as described by James Reston Jr. in his new book, "Dogs of God: Columbus, the Inquisition, and the Defeat of the Moors."

Since the Inquisition, the method of waterboarding has been little refined. But Rice, like Bush, says we did not and will not torture anymore.