Saturday, March 25, 2006

Playing liar's poker-DOUG THOMPSON

Mar 24, 2006, 07:57

Almost any debate about the problems facing the United States and its faltering government centers on truth - or the lack of it.

Truth is an unneeded commodity in the political system that defines the American government.

Even worse, truth may be a lost cause in American society.

Pollsters often ask Americans if they tell the truth. Assuming they are telling the truth in their answers (and that's a big assumption), Americans admit lying as a natural course of life.

More than half admit lying on employment applications as well as cheating on their income taxes. Sixty-four percent of American men admit cheating on their wives while 53 percent of American women say they have slept around on their husbands.

Sports stars lie about their use of performance-enhancing drugs. Celebrities lie about trouble in their marriages and then announce divorces days later. Defense attorneys lie on behalf of their clients while prosecutors lie about whether or not they have the evidence to convict someone.

Journalists, the ones who are supposed to separate truth from fiction, lie in the name of fame and fortune. Jayson Blair conned The New York Times into publishing stories that he made up while sitting in his apartment. Stephan Glass nearly brought down The New Republic with his lies. An author conned Oprah Winfrey and her publisher into a book about a drug problem he didn't have and it became a best-seller.

Our culture is built around spin, hype and make-believe. We too quickly buy into fantasy because it allows us to avoid the harshness of reality.

As a teenager I lied all the time to young girls in an attempt to get them into the back seat of my 1957 Ford and out of their clothes. During service to my country, Uncle Sam taught me to lie about who I was, where I was going and what I did in the name of truth, justice and the American Way. Even my family didn't know the truth.

After my return to private life, I used my well-honed skills at deception to journalistic advantage, twisting the truth to gain access to forbidden data or coax information out of reluctant sources. It also came in handy to, once again, talk women into bed or, if the need arose, out of one.

Such abilities served me well in politics where truth is an unwelcome complication to the goals of power and success. If any morality got in the way, I quickly drowned it in a bottle -- until a night several years ago when I walked into a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous and took the first of 12 steps to regain my life and sanity.

AA teaches you to face the truth about yourself and those around you. I began to see the damage that a culture of deception can inflict on society.

But George W. Bush, an admitted alcoholic, never went to AA, never took the pledge, and, I don't believe, ever faced the demons of deception. His words, actions and deeds showcase a man still in denial, incapable of facing the Beast or admitting his own fallibility.

Bush is a product of a culture built on deception. So were many of his predecessors and, unfortunately, most likely will be those who follow him.

A society built on deceit cannot heal itself by changing the political party that controls government or the occupant of the White House until it takes a long, hard look inward and realizes the problem is more widespread than just our elected leaders.

Until we stop lying to ourselves and those around us we can never expect honesty in those who lead us. At this point, we don't deserve it anyway.

Hired guns unaccountable Pentagon releases 400 'serious incident reports' voluntarily filed by security contractors in Iraq

March 24, 2006

About 6,000 non-Iraqi security contractors are operating in Iraq. During nine months in 2004-05, contractors reported firing into 61 civilian vehicles; no one was ever prosecuted. Security analysts say it is likely that such incidents are vastly underreported.

Security contractors supporting the U.S. effort in Iraq regularly shoot into civilian cars with little accountability, according to a News & Observer analysis of more than 400 reports contractors filed with the government.

In the documents, which cover nine months of the three-year-old war, contractors reported shooting into 61 vehicles they believed were threatening them. In just seven cases were Iraqis clearly attacking -- showing guns, shooting at contractors or detonating explosives.

There was no way to tell how many civilians were hurt, or how many were innocent: In most cases, the contractors drove away. No contractors have been prosecuted for a mistaken shooting in Iraq.

"What you've done is privatize the fog of war," said Peter W. Singer, an expert on military contracting with the Brookings Institution in Washington.

There are thought to be about 20,000 non-Iraqi civilian contractors supporting a range of U.S. efforts, including about 6,000 security contractors. According to Department of Labor statistics, more than 400 U.S. civilians have died there.

One of the biggest security contractors is Blackwater Security Consulting of Moyock, N.C. The News & Observer began reporting on the industry after four Blackwater men were killed and mutilated in Fallujah in 2004. At least 22 Blackwater contractors have died in Iraq, most in ambushes.

The activities of security contractors have been difficult to quantify, though they are a major force on the ever-changing battlefield. Until now, only a few of their "serious incident reports" to U.S. authorities had been released. The nearly 800 pages that The N&O received this week are the first extensive sampling of contractors' accounts of Iraq's chaos.

The documents include stories of a contractor team shooting at a car in the morning and another in the evening, U.S. forces firing at contractors and contractors shooting at one other.

The government released reports only for nine months ending last April. They detail more than 80 attacks against security contractors that resulted in 48 contractor injuries and 14 deaths. The Pentagon removed the names of the contractors and companies, citing security concerns.

Contractors use standard rules of escalating force for dealing with threats on Iraq's jammed roads:

A gunner in the rearmost vehicle gestures for cars behind him to stop and stay back. If one moves closer, he waves it back again, then points a flashlight. If it keeps coming, warning shots are fired over the top of the suspect vehicle, then into the engine. If that doesn't work, he can shoot to kill.

Here's the narrative from a typical shooting report:

"1 warning shot fired in a safe direction at a black OPEL that refused to adhere to the [private security detail] signals [big torch and hand signals] to stay back. After 1st warning shot car accelerate. When he accelerate we made another 2 warning shots, no reaction from driver we had to open fire directly in to that car using AK[-47 assault rifle] and PKM [machine gun]. The car was stop after we made 23 shots from PKM and 9 shots from AK. Driver ... survived."

Because the reports are voluntary, experts say they probably represent only a fraction of such incidents, and cases in which contractors broke laws or rules are unlikely to be reported.

"If you've got 60 cases where contractors shot into cars, there are probably 600," said James Yeager, a Camden, Tenn., arms trainer whose team shot at cars half a dozen times during his 11 months as a security contractor.

But Doug Brooks, head of the International Peace Operations Association industry group, said he thinks attacks are underreported by perhaps 50 percent.

Whatever the number of shootings, it's likely fewer than similar shootings by U.S. troops. Stars and Stripes reported last week that a military study of an eight-week period late this winter indicated that soldiers killed about 30 Iraqis who drove too close to checkpoints or military convoys.

Hundreds of soldiers in Iraq have been prosecuted under military justice for offenses ranging from drinking to murder. No contractors have been prosecuted for any crimes, Singer and Brooks said.

The advent of civilian security contractors and insurgents who look like civilians has made it hard for anyone on the battlefield to figure out who's who.

The reports paint a picture of such threats as ambushes, suicide car bombers maneuvering to get close, roadside bombs and the possibility of being shot by U.S. troops.

About half the reports involve security contractors. The rest detail incidents involving construction contractors working on projects such as power, water and sewer plants and schools. These list more than 60 kidnappings and 25 murders of Iraqi workers by insurgents trying to stop reconstruction projects.

The difference between living and dying -- for contractors, their clients, insurgents and innocent civilians -- can hinge on decisions that security contractors make in seconds.

"On one side, you've got insurgents who are melting into the civilian population, so you don't know you're being attacked until the actual point of the attack," said Singer, the Brookings expert. "The flip side is, the contractors are often not very well marked, and for the local civilian driving along, sometimes it's very clear they're coming into a contractor convoy; other times it's not."

None of the reports released indicate the rules of escalating force were broken. "You're not going to see those reports," said Yeager, the former contractor. "No one is going to file them."

Yeager said all shootings that he knew of were justified. "The Iraqis knew exactly what cars not to drive up to," he said. "If a guy breaks away from the pack and keeps coming, he knows what's going to happen, and he's either going to try to detonate a bomb, or rake us with gunfire."

Brooks said contracting industry groups are commissioning a radio and newspaper advertising campaign to reinforce to Iraqis what they should do when they see a civilian convoy. The U.S. military is planning a similar campaign, Stars and Stripes reported.

Staff writer Jay Price can be reached at 829-4526 or .

Key facts about Israel's election

Saturday, March 25, 2006 · Last updated 9:30 a.m. PT

Some facts about Israel's national elections Tuesday:

Population: 7 million (76 percent Jewish, 20 percent Arab)

Eligible voters: 5,014,622. 2003 turnout: 67.8 percent
AT STAKE: The 120-member Knesset, or parliament. Voters choose party lists, not individuals. Seats are allocated according to each party's percentage of the vote.
WHO'S RUNNING: Thirty-one parties. Key ones are Kadima, formed in November by Ariel Sharon to set Israel's final borders; Sharon's former Likud, now led by Benjamin Netanyahu, a former prime minister who takes a hard line against the Palestinians; and Labor, headed by former union chief Amir Peretz, who favors a peace deal with the Palestinians and a more equitable economy.

A party must receive at least 2 percent of votes cast to get in to parliament.

In the 2003 election, 28 parties ran and 13 won seats.
FORMING A GOVERNMENT: No party has ever won an outright majority of 61 seats, and the country has always been governed by a coalition. Within seven days of the April 5 publication of official results, the president appoints the person most likely to form a coalition - usually the head of the largest party. That person has six weeks to present a government to parliament and is sworn in as prime minister.
KEEPING UP: TV stations are expected to release preliminary results and exit polls immediately after polls close at 3 p.m. EST.

Gush Shalom - Israeli Peace Bloc--INCITEMENT TO MURDER

Gush Shalom - Israeli Peace Bloc
**when assassination becomes commonplace, no one is safe from it. EG:) **

At an election meeting, the leader of the "Jewish National Front" list, Baruch Marzel, called upon the Israeli army to kill Uri Avnery - this was reported by the right-wing Haaretz reporter, Nadav Shragai on March 21. The story was also published in Maariv, and the day before in all the important on-line papers.

Clearly, the Israeli army was mentioned only in order to disguise the incitement to murder - a criminal offence - as a proposal to the military.

The call came after the official radio, Kol Israel, broadcast remarks made by Avnery to a reporter during a demonstration against the Israeli army attack on the Jericho prison.

The declared aim of this action was to capture the leader of the Palestinian Popular Front, who allegedly ordered the killing of the Israeli minister, Rehav'am Ze'evi, after the killing of the former leader of the Popular Front.

Answering a question, Avnery said that the killing of Ze'evi was a Palestinian 'targeted killing", much like the killing of Palestinian political leaders by the Israeli army.

The radio did not quote his next words: "I am against all assassinations, both by Israelis and Palestinians."

On the day of publication, one of the most popular Israeli TV programs, "Five in the Evening", asked him to take part in a joint interview with Marzel. Avnery refused, of course. But "Channel 10" interviewed Marzel at length, with a huge picture of Avnery in the background. Avnery was not invited.

Marzel's participation in the elections contravenes Israeli law, which prohibits racist lists.

Marzel vows to realize the program of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose election list was prohibited years ago by the Supreme Court.

However, in his election broadcasts, which were confirmed by the chairperson of the Election Committee, there appears a picture of Kahane.

The news of the call for murder was published abroad.

It alerted several peace and human rights organizations, who issued statements of condemnation and sent protest letter to the Israeli embassies.

Especially active was the "AAchen Peace Prize" committee in Germany, which years ago had awarded its prestigious prize to Gush Shalom and Uri Avnery.

It demanded that the German Foreign Ministry and the Israeli ambassador in Berlin intervene in order to induce the Israeli government to indict Marzel for incitement to murder.

U.S. Plans New Bases in the Middle East

William M. Arkin on National and Homeland Security
**still think the US is going to leave Iraq? It's not going to happen. Oh, they'll call it something else, I'm sure, but the US isn't leaving EG:) **

The U.S. military has developed a ten-year plan for "deep storage" of munitions and equipment in at least six countries in the Middle East and Central Asia to prepare for regional war contingencies.

The plans, revealed in March 2006 contracting documents, call for the continued storage of everything from packaged meals ready to eat (MREs) to missiles in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman, as well as the establishment of two new storage hubs, one in a classified Middle Eastern country "west" of Saudi Arabia ("Site 23") and the other in a yet to be decided "central Asian state."

Though President Bush yesterday expressed the view that U.S. forces would stay in Iraq past 2008, the plans to continue to "pre-position" war materiel in the Persian Gulf region leave ambiguous whether the U.S. military foresees the ability to establish a permanent present in Iraq in the long-term.

By 2016, the contracting documents show that the tonnage of air munitions stored at sites outside Iraq will double from current levels.

Central to the U.S. military presence in the Middle East to fight both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars has been the use of pre-positioned war materiel and the quick establishment of expeditionary bases. At the height of operations in both countries in 2003, the Air Force, for instance, operated from 36 bases in and around the region. That number has since shrunk to 14 today, including four main operating bases in Iraq.

The Department of Defense conducted a Global Posture Review in 2004-2005 focused on the realignment of forward-deployed forces in Europe and Asia in light of the military’s predominant focus on the Middle East.

Under the Review, up to 70,000 troops will be relocated to the continental United States, primarily drawn from forces in Germany and Europe, and the Cold War presence in many parts of the world will end altogether (Washington just announced the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iceland, for instance.)

More central to the review though was the articulation of a basing strategy for those parts of the world - especially the Middle East - where no "permanent" combat forces are assigned. Here the strategy relies on a network of forward operating sites (FOS) capable of supporting rotational forces, as well as a set of more austere cooperative security locations (CSL) used for contingency purposes.

With the elimination of a permanent American presence that includes families and the typical Cold War accoutrements, the United States will not only have greater flexibility, but many political impediments will be eliminated as host countries will also be able to claim that there are no American "bases" on their soil.

**and the US and war apologists will also make the claim that the US doesn't have bases there either EG:) **
Though the United States began to pre-position war material in the Middle East after President Jimmy Carter established the Rapid Deployment Force to operate against a Soviet attack on the Gulf, it was the build-up for the 1990 Gulf War that cemented many of the basing relationships today.

The U.S. withdrew most of its forces from the region in 1991 and established the ability to surge its forces from the United States while continuing to conduct air operations from a half dozen countries in support of the enforcement of the Iraq no-fly zones.

After 9/11, these airbases as well as the continued presence of pre-positioned material in countries like Oman and Qatar became central to the U.S. rapid response in Afghanistan. After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, it took the United States five months to forward deploy its forces.

In 2001, existing headquarters and bases were used to run air operations from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, ground operations were directed from a virtual U.S. permanent base in Kuwait, and special operations were centered on Oman. New expeditionary bases were established in places like Pakistan and Uzbekistan(as well as new bases in places like Bulgaria and Romania), but it was the existing web of forward operating locations and contingency facilities that allowed the immediate deployment.

Another factor that began to influence U.S. basing in the Middle East during the 1990's was information technologies that allowed forward operations with reduced manpower. The concept is called "reachback," defined in the Air Force Glossary as "the process of obtaining products, services, and applications or forces, equipment, or material from Air Force organizations that are not forward deployed."

In English, reachback allows much of the support infrastructure of the U.S. military to be deployed outside the region, even in the United States. For example, forward deployed reconnaissance aircraft can transfer their take electronically to analysis center in the continental United States. Similarly, the proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles such as the Predator has enabled a smaller forward footprint as even pilots and planners are centrally located outside the Middle East.

After the current Iraq war, whenever that is, the Defense Department plans to shift the future U.S. forward presence in the Middle East from the "ever present" posture to one characterized as "enduring access" and "episodic employment."
**whatever the hell that means...smells like a constant state of war to me EG:) **
Pre-positioned materiel and ready-to-use though largely unoccupied bases are central to this strategy. This allows the maintenance of military capabilities without a large or visible U.S. presence, and compensates for the loss of Saudi Arabian bases and infrastructure closed with the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Despite impressive physical facilities in Saudi Arabia, freedom of action from Saudi bases had always been a sticking point between the United States and the Kingdom. Prior to 9/11, the U.S. was already in the process of moving capabilities to Qatar and Kuwait and Air Force aircraft operations shifted to Al Dhafra air base in the United Arab Emirates. Now bases in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the UAE constitute the permanent basing of the United States, no matter what the new fangled Pentagon labeling. Countries like Jordan, Egypt, and Yemen, and even Saudi Arabia, will continued to be pressured to support episodic operations and clandestine forces, just as they actually are doing today. The bases contract calls for the maintenance of at least a dozen equipment "sets" to establish quick air bases in these countries in the future.

As one looks at the U.S. military presence in the region today, the only real wild card is Iraq. Clearly, the pre-positioning contract indicates the plans of the United States to shift heavy material and supplies out of the country in the long-run. While planning for an Iran war doesn't hinge on Iraqi bases or access, clearly a friendly government to the United Statesand the prospects for "episodic" operations from Iraq changes the calculus of any war. It may also explain the "deterrent" or coercive effect accrued to the United States government in not making it clear what its long-term plans are in the country.

As the United States built up its forces in the region to fight the Afghanistan war, commanders and planners with the big picture saw Iraq in the future. The establishment of bases and headquarters and the communications infrastructure to support a modern military paved the way for the Iraq war. In fact, it can not be overstated the degree to which the forward deployment of U.S. military forces influenced the timing and seductiveness of a follow-on Iraq campaign. Who wanted to send everyone home and start all over with negotiations and access and networks when the capability to accommodate U.S. ground forces was in place and relatively "hot"?

If Iraq wasn't such a mess, the same thinking would be influencing the view of future war with Iran. But when Iraq is finished ... the U.S. military will already be ready. The sun never sets.

Navy Won't File Charges in Iraq Contractor Fracas

By Griff Witte and Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, March 25, 2006; A15

Military investigators said yesterday that they will not file any charges after completing their investigation into an incident in Iraq last May in which a group of Marines alleged they had been fired on by U.S. security contractors.

The contractors, in turn, had said they were detained by the Marines for three days in a holding facility normally reserved for suspected insurgents, and subjected to rough treatment. The incident highlighted tension in the field between active-duty military personnel and the burgeoning ranks of private contractors the Defense Department has hired to support the war effort.

But the Naval Criminal Investigative Service said there was not sufficient evidence to warrant prosecution of Marines or employees of North Carolina-based Zapata Engineering.

"There was evidence that shots had been fired by Zapata, but there was no way to connect the dots together in a way that we could go forward with the case," said NCIS spokesman Ed Buice.

The 16 American contractors have never denied that they fired shots on May 28, 2005, as they traveled through Fallujah. But they say their shots -- three in total -- went straight into the ground as they tried to get the attention of a truck driver who was moving precariously close to their convoy.

The Marines told a different story, accusing the contractors of firing indiscriminately at civilians and at a Marine checkpoint. Buice said yesterday that investigators had not been able to verify that conclusion.

"It's a world of relief," said Pete Ginter, one of the contractors who were detained. "We knew from the beginning that we didn't do anything wrong. But we were being penalized for something we didn't do."

Ginter said he and the other contractors involved have been effectively blacklisted since the incident, with many of them having trouble finding work and unable to return to Iraq, where demand for contractors is high.

Mark Schopper, an attorney for four of the detained contractors, said that while he welcomed the NCIS's decision, questions remain. "We're still incensed at what happened to them," Schopper said.

Marine officials at the Pentagon yesterday referred questions on the matter to military spokesmen in Baghdad, who were unable to comment immediately.

The contractors claim they were changing a tire at a Marine checkpoint last May when they were suddenly ordered to report to a nearby base. From there they were taken to a detention facility where they each were handed an orange jumpsuit, a bottle in which to urinate, a Koran and a prayer mat. The contractors, many of whom were ex-Marines, said they received rough treatment, with guards shoving them to the ground and, in Ginter's case, squeezing his testicles.

The men were held for three days in the same facility where the military held suspected insurgents. During that time, they have said, they were refused all requests to contact the Red Cross, their employer or their families. Once released, they were barred from operating in a large area of Iraq. They also lost their jobs with Zapata, which had a contract with the Army Corps of Engineers to dispose of ordnance.

Buice, the NCIS spokesman, said investigators never formally looked into the allegations of abuse because the contractors did not go through the proper channels of filing a complaint. He also said the treatment they received appeared to be standard for incoming prisoners. "The fact that you're asked to take off all your clothes and put on an orange jumpsuit, that's not mistreatment," he said.

But Gary Myers, a lawyer representing several of the contractors, said the way the military handled the case was unjust.

"These men did nothing wrong. They were forced out of the country by the Marines who in fact had engaged in conduct that was abusive to our own citizens," Myers said. "I'm pleased that whatever cloud that was hanging over those men is now removed, even if the Marine Corps will not admit it made a mistake."

An estimated 20,000 private security contractors are operating in Iraq. Tension between contractors and active-duty personnel has run high in some cases because the contractors fall outside the normal military chain of command and make considerably higher salaries than their counterparts in the armed forces. In this case, Schopper said the Marines taunted the contractors while they were in custody by asking, "How does it feel to be a rich contractor now?"

Gary Simpler, a 20-year Army veteran who was among the contractors detained, said in an e-mailed response to questions that the Marine Corps was "heavy-handed, abusive to fellow American citizens and should apologize."

Iran Focus-Iran stages war games near Iraq border - Special Wire - News

Iran Focus-Iran stages war games near Iraq border - Special Wire - News

Iran Focus

Tehran, Iran, Mar. 24 – Islamist militiamen affiliated to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps have launched military exercises near the Iraqi border to “deal with possible unrest”, Iran’s official news agency IRNA reported.

Members of the paramilitary Bassij force staged military exercises in the western town of Dehloran. The paramilitary forces attacked dummy enemy sites during the operation.

“The objective of the military exercises here is to raise the level of readiness of the Bassij forces”, said Alireza Bazdar, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in Dehloran. “Our forces were able to capture the positions taken by the enemy and destroy the enemy forces”.

“This will help us prepare ourselves to deal with possible outbreaks of unrest with force and determination”, Bazdar said.

The Revolutionary Guards and the Bassij have been staging a series of military and security exercises in Tehran and its suburbs since February.

Iraq on own to rebuild on Yahoo! News

By Thomas Frank, USA TODAYFri Mar 24, 6:43 AM ET

The head of the U.S.-led program to rebuild Iraq said Thursday that the Iraqi government can no longer count on U.S. funds and must rely on its own revenues and other foreign aid, particularly from Gulf nations.

"The Iraqi government needs to build up its capability to do its own capital budget investment," Daniel Speckhard, director of the U.S. Iraq Reconstruction Management Office, told reporters.

The burden of funding reconstruction poses an extraordinary challenge for a country that needs tens of billions of dollars for repairing its infrastructure at the same time it's struggling to pay its bills. Iraq's main revenue source - oil - is hampered by insurgent attacks on production facilities and pipelines, forcing the country to spend $6 billion a year on oil imports.

Iraq's deputy finance minister, Kamal Field al-Basri, said it was "reasonable" for the United States to sharply cut back its reconstruction efforts after spending about $21 billion. "We should be very much dependent on ourselves," al-Basri said in an interview.

Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, called the U.S. reconstruction effort "a dismal failure. It hasn't met any of its goals. It's left a legacy of half-built projects, built to U.S. standards, which Iraq doesn't have the capability to maintain."

Al-Basri said Iraq needs to increase its capacity to produce oil, which generates 93% of government's revenues.

Insurgent attacks also have hampered efforts to rebuild electrical, sewer and water systems. A report last month by the U.S. inspector general overseeing reconstruction said so much money was being spent on security that most sewer, irrigation and drainage projects have been canceled.

Speckhard said 16% to 22% of each reconstruction dollar went to protect projects and contractors. He noted that Iraq was generating less electricity now than before the U.S.-led invasion in spring 2003 and acknowledged that "significant challenges remain" in rebuilding Iraq.

The total rebuilding cost is now $70 billion to $100 billion - up from a $60 billion World Bank estimate in 2003, Speckhard said.

Speckhard said the U.S. aid program sought to "kick-start the economy" and "lay a foundation" that Iraq could build on with its own money, private investment and other international donors, particularly from the Gulf region. "That kick-starting process has occurred," he said, noting that per capita income jumped to $1,200 a year from $500 before the war and that 30,000 new businesses had started in the last year.

Iraq must increase oil exports from their current level of about 1.6 million barrels a day to 2 million barrels a day, Speckhard said.

Al-Basri said Iraq needs foreign investment to lift exports to 3 million barrels - a level last reached by Iraq in the 1980s.

Are the Neocons Losing It? - by Pat Buchanan


While President Bush appears serenely confident about Iraq, the same cannot be said of the War Party propagandists who were plotting this conflict when Dubya was still a rookie governor of Texas.

William Kristol of The Weekly Standard now demands the firing of Donald Rumsfeld. William F. Buckley, whose National Review branded the antiwar Right "unpatriotic conservatives" who "hate" America, now calls upon Bush for an "acknowledgement of defeat."

Richard Perle says the administration "got the war right and the aftermath wrong." Self-described "humiliated pundit" Andrew Sullivan confesses to "a sense of shame and sorrow." Michael Ledeen says of Bush's war, "Wrong war, wrong time, wrong way, wrong place."

Frank ("The End of History") Fukuyama concedes that "Iraq has now replaced Afghanistan as a magnet, a training ground and an operational base for jihadists, with plenty of American targets to shoot at."

But it is a March 20 essay in The Wall Street Journal that suggests the neocons may be coming unhinged. Written by Weekly Standard Executive Editor Fred Barnes, the piece urges Bush to begin the "rejuvenation of his presidency by shocking the media and political community with a sweeping overhaul of his administration."

The purge Barnes recommends would have caused Stalin to recoil.

Barnes calls on Bush to fire press secretary Scott McClellan, chief of staff Andy Card, political adviser Karl Rove, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Treasury Secretary John Snow – and Vice President Richard Cheney.

"The trickiest issue is how to handle Karl Rove," says Barnes.

I don't think so, Fred. I think "the trickiest issue" will be how to handle Dick and Lynne when they are told by Dubya they must give up a constitutional office to which Cheney was elected by the nation, vacate the vice presidential mansion and turn the keys over to Condi Rice.

That's right, Barnes urges Bush to appoint Condi vice president and "anoint" her as "presidential successor."

Who would replace Condi at State? Pro-war liberal Joe Lieberman.

I should like to be in earshot when Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, hears that he has been passed over for secretary of state by the junior Democratic senator from Connecticut.

"Mr. Cheney would probably be happy to step down and return to Wyoming," Barnes assures us.

Is he sure? Why would Cheney not regard any such attempt by Bush as a stab in the back by a friend to whom he has given years of service? For if Cheney is forced to quit his office, he goes down in history as a failed vice president and, along with Rumsfeld, the Bush-designated scapegoats of the Iraq war.

What, other than poor poll ratings, would be the rationale for removing Cheney, who is infinitely more qualified than Condi Rice by philosophy, experience and knowledge to take over the presidency?

All of Cheney's problems are tied to Iraq. But so are Bush and Condi tied to Iraq. Her failure at the National Security Council to screen the intelligence and ensure that Defense did due diligence for the occupation produced today's crisis. And what has Condi's crusade for democracy produced, other than historic gains for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas on the West Bank, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Moqtada al-Sadr and the Shia clerics in Iraq?

Exactly what qualifies her to be president?

Well, says Barnes, it would be a "spectacular move."

I'll say. Putting Rice directly in the line of succession to the Oval Office would detonate an explosion far more ruinous to Bush than the Dubai ports deal. It would instantly jump-start the presidential campaign of 2008. Conservatives who consider Condi weak on life and a pro-affirmative-action social liberal would start carving her up before she reached the Senate hearing room.

Did not the firestorm over the Dubai deal wake these Beltway dreamers up?

Would John McCain stand aside for Rice? Would George Allen? Would the evangelical Christians? All would move to block her. And no one would worry about any damage this would do to a George Bush who was so arrogant as to try to impose, as his choice for the 2008 nominee of the GOP, another ex-staffer and spinster like Harriet Miers.

That Bush is in trouble is undeniable. But his people are not Bush's problem. His policies are. It is these policies, not his advisers, that have given us huge deficits and a no-win war that is bleeding our country.

If Bush should follow Barnes' advice and throw his most loyal people to the wolves as a P.R. stunt, he will have earned their lasting contempt, and that of the country. For all will know he was scapegoating them for his own failures – failures that come of having listened to the neocons who are even now slipping out of camp, rehearsing alibis and blaming Bush for not heeding their brilliant advice.


Apocalyptic president

Even some Republicans are now horrified by the influence Bush has given to the evangelical right

Sidney Blumenthal
Thursday March 23, 2006
The Guardian

In his latest PR offensive President Bush came to Cleveland, Ohio, on Monday to answer the paramount question on Iraq that he said was on people's minds: "They wonder what I see that they don't." After mentioning "terror" 54 times and "victory" five, dismissing "civil war" twice and asserting that he is "optimistic", he called on a citizen in the audience, who homed in on the invisible meaning of recent events in the light of two books, American Theocracy, by Kevin Phillips, and the book of Revelation. Phillips, the questioner explained, "makes the point that members of your administration have reached out to prophetic Christians who see the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism as signs of the apocalypse. Do you believe this? And if not, why not?"

Bush's immediate response, as transcribed by CNN, was: "Hmmm." Then he said: "The answer is I haven't really thought of it that way. Here's how I think of it. First, I've heard of that, by the way." The official White House website transcript drops the strategic comma, and so changes the meaning to: "First I've heard of that, by the way."

But it is certainly not the first time Bush has heard of the apocalyptic preoccupation of much of the religious right, having served as evangelical liaison on his father's 1988 presidential campaign. The Rev Jerry Falwell told Newsweek how he brought Tim LaHaye, then an influential rightwing leader, to meet him; LaHaye's Left Behind novels, dramatising the rapture, Armageddon and the second coming, have sold tens of millions.

But it is almost certain that Cleveland was the first time Bush had heard of Phillips's book. He was the visionary strategist for Nixon's 1968 presidential campaign; his 1969 book, The Emerging Republican Majority, spelled out the shift of power from the north-east to the south and south-west, which he was early to call "the sunbelt"; he grasped that southern Democrats would react to the civil-rights revolution by becoming southern Republicans; he also understood the resentments of urban ethnic Catholics towards black people on issues such as crime, school integration and jobs. But he never imagined that evangelical religion would transform the coalition he helped to fashion into something that horrifies him.

In American Theocracy, Phillips describes Bush as the founder of "the first American religious party"; September 11 gave him the pretext for "seizing the fundamentalist moment"; he has manipulated a "critical religious geography" to hype issues such as gay marriage. "New forces were being interwoven. These included the institutional rise of the religious right, the intensifying biblical focus on the Middle East, and the deepening of insistence on church-government collaboration within the GOP electorate." It portended a potential "American Disenlightenment," apparent in Bush's hostility to science.

Even Bush's failures have become pretexts for advancing his transformation of government. Exploiting his own disastrous emergency management after Hurricane Katrina, Bush is funneling funds to churches as though they can compensate for governmental breakdown. Last year David Kuo, the White House deputy director for faith-based initiatives, resigned with a statement that "Republicans were indifferent to the poor".

Within hours of its publication, American Theocracy rocketed to No 1 on Amazon. At US cinemas, V for Vendetta - in which an imaginary Britain, ruled by a totalitarian, faith-based regime that rounds up gays, is a metaphor for Bush's America - is the surprise hit. Bush has succeeded in getting American audiences to cheer for terrorism.

· Sidney Blumenthal, a former senior adviser to President Clinton, is the author of The Clinton Wars

Democratizing The World - One Torture Victim At A Time

By Jason Miller

Analysis of the Long, Repulsive History of the United States Inflicting Torture on Its "Suspected Enemies" (in Conjunction with a Review of A Question of Torture by Alfred W. McCoy)

Psychological torture, sleep deprivation, brutality, severe sexual humiliation, and murder summon visions of a dank dungeon in a remote region of pre-invasion Iraq, Iran, or North Korea, replete with evil inquisitors and hooded executioners. However, those manifestations of horror did not spring forth from the Axis of Evil. They are actually drawn from official post-9/11 US policy. Despite its fabled commitment to human rights, the United States government has been committing and enabling acts of torture for half a century. Not even Superman had the power to snatch "Truth, Justice and the American Way" from the crushing jaws of imperialistic ambition and avarice.

Ironically titled, Albert McCoy's A Question of Torture probes and exposes the extent of "the Land of the Free's" involvement in human torture over the years. Only a mainstream media 90% controlled by five major corporations (whose executives and major stockholders are amongst the de facto rulers of the America's so-called republic) could so effectively maintain the illusion that the United States is the world leader in protecting human rights. Somewhere out there, David Copperfield is burning with envy. Rest easy, David. They are running out of magic. Destroying our Constitution and reversing the humanitarian gains achieved by millions of Americans with a social conscience throughout our nation's history , the Bush Regime is extinguishing the candle of hope America once offered to humanity. Despite the exhaustive efforts of the media handmaidens, people are taking notice.

Painstakingly slow ascent....high velocity decline

From our nation's birth, many fine Americans labored vigorously to attain a higher moral plane by ending slavery and advancing the rights of children, minorities, women, and workers. Contrary to the fairy tale of America's benevolent government "of the people", many amongst the plutocracy and emerging corporatocracy fought the American evolution of human rights tooth and nail. Rumsfeld, Gonzales, and company have taken that resistance to new heights and are plunging the United States into an abyss of evil, at home and abroad. Minority Americans, Native Americans, and citizens of other nations have been aware of this descent for years, even before the Neocon catalyzed acceleration. However, as the ruthlessly brazen disciples of Strauss have fervently attacked human rights, many amongst America's indoctrinated White working class are smelling the coffee, and it is not the best part of waking up.

On March 8, 2006, the US State Department released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005, in which it detailed human rights abuses occurring in over 190 nations. In an act of supreme hypocrisy, they excluded themselves. As one can readily discern simply from reading McCoy's expose' of human torture committed by the United States since 1950, the United States is far from being a bastion of "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness".

"Torture is evil, pure and simple," is the powerful lesson Peggy Piel imparted to her son, Alfred McCoy. Having spent a year of her childhood in Nazi Germany, this erudite Jewish American knew a bit about the subject of torture. Despite his mother's moralistic viewpoint, McCoy penned his examination of the history of torture committed and facilitated by the United States in a detached, analytical manner, without imposing a moral judgment. Noting over 30 pages of sources, McCoy meticulously researched his chilling glimpse into America's Heart of Darkness, yet still maintained relative objectivity. No easy task in light of the virtually countless egregious violations of human rights and acts of murder committed by the American Empire and its proxies.

Abu Gharib was simply a sign of a "few bad apples"....or was it?

In 1950, the intelligence organization of the "leader of the free world" began to take a strong interest in research involving psychological torture.

McCoy summarizes:

"From 1950 to 1962, the CIA became involved in torture through a massive mind-control effort, with psychological warfare and secret research into human consciousness that reached a cost of a billion dollars annually-a veritable Manhattan Project of the mind."

While the United States was trumpeting its deep devotion to universal human rights, the CIA was busily developing and funding research to yield "new and improved" torture tactics with which they could extract information from Cold War enemies. Utilizing its unique capacity to wield tremendous power clandestinely, the United States' intelligence juggernaut infiltrated and exploited hospitals, divisions of the military, and universities to enable its research.

Many of the nauseating acts of inhumanity depicted in the Abu Gharib photos reflect the rotten fruits of CIA labors. Years of study and experimentation determined that torture involving physical pain lacked efficacy. The CIA found that strong subjects usually responded by stiffening their resistance and weaker ones often gave false information just to end the pain. Psychological torture, including sensory deprivation, sensory disorientation, assault on personal identity and self-inflicted pain appeared to provide a much richer yield of information. The Abu Gharib photos are a window through which one can view the CIA-created world of psychological torture. Hooding, stress positions, extreme intimidation with ferocious dogs (for which a soldier was convicted on 3/21), and sexual humiliation are recurring images in the Abu Gharib pictures and are powerful examples of CIA torture protocol. Other techniques of psychological torture the US military and CIA have used on detained suspects in the "War on Terror" are sleep deprivation, isolation, and dietary manipulation. As the Command Responsibility report by Human Rights First indicates, 45 detainees in the US "War on Terror" have been murdered or have died as a result of physical abuse. As McCoy argues, there is a fine line between psychological torture and physical torture, and as the American Gulag has demonstrated, torturers usually cross that line.

As an aside, it is important to remember that there are currently over 14,000 "suspected terrorists" or "enemy combatants" in US custody. These individuals have been charged with no crime and have been denied due process. Guilty until proven innocent. Now that is justice the American way. Abu Gharib is only an aberration because the torturers were caught. Inflicting severe psychological and mental anguish on suspected enemies of the Empire is now official policy and has taken place at Bagram Air Base, Camp Cropper, Guantanamo Bay and throughout the American Gulag. As for the McCain Anti-Torture Law, Bush and his fellow war criminals are already inventing ways to circumvent it.

Abu Gharib is simply a public display of the psychological and physical torture the CIA has been implementing and practicing for years. From 1962 to 1974, the CIA sharpened its talons through a federal entity called the Office of Public Safety, a branch of US AID. According to McCoy, the OPS trained one million police officers in 47 countries. Not surprisingly, it was not long before these same law enforcement entities began committing severe human right rights abuses and acts of torture.

"Practice makes perfect"

It was morally repugnant enough that the United States killed three million Vietnamese civilians in their imperialistic escapade into Southeast Asia, euphemistically labeling them as "collateral damage". However, McCoy describes torture policies and techniques which resulted in the murder of tens of thousands more Vietnamese. The Phoenix program was implemented by the CIA to eradicate the Vietcong underground. Under CIA administration and supervision, the PRUs (aka Provincial Interrogation Centers) of the Phoenix program degenerated into a collection of South Vietnamese murderers, thugs and criminals who accepted bribes, presumed guilt based on gossip, and murdered their detainees after they completed their interrogation. Ultimately, (if one is gullible enough to take the word of former CIA director William Colby), the Phoenix program murdered 20,587 "Vietcong". Saigon's government puts the figure at 40,994.

Educating them on the finer points of torture and murder

The CIA also bears responsibility for the creation of SAVAK, the Shah of Iran's ruthless secret police force. SAVAK killed 20,000 Iraqi "dissidents" during the Shah's reign. In the Philippines, CIA instruction resulted in 3,257 murders and 35,000 victims of torture by the Ferdinand Marcos regime.

After its defeat in Vietnam, the United States government infiltrated Latin America with a vengeance (to stop the spread of the "Communist threat"). Project X, represented another CIA endeavor to impart their wisdom in the arts of torture to ruthless US allies Not satisfied with their 1963 torture manual called Kubark, the CIA wrote a sequel in Spanish entitled Handling of Sources, Interrogation, Combat Intelligence, and Terrorism and the Urban Guerilla.

Of the sequel, McCoy writes,

"Apart from these cold-blooded tactics of kidnapping, murder, beatings, and betrayal, the manual evidences, in its 144 single-spaced pages, an amorality, a studied willingness to exploit an ally without restraint or compunction, hardened on the anvil of the Vietnam conflict."

Once located in Panama, an odious US Army institution known as the School of Americas (sometimes called the School of Assassins) bestowed the CIA's torture wisdom upon hundreds of Latin American military officers. The School of Americas fell under the auspices of Project X and provided the "hands on" training to accompany the CIA torture manuals. Interestingly, by 1983 the CIA had begun to re-emphasize the use of psychological over physical torture when it wrote its Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual. A laundry list of CIA-trained Latin American military personnel and dictators murdered and tortured hundreds of thousands thanks to the tutelage of Project X.

Of war crimes, evasion of responsibility and impunity

McCoy notes that the United States took a break and out-sourced torture to its allies throughout the 1990's. Unfortunately for the world, the Bush Regime opportunistically seized 9/11 to begin its PNAC inspired quest for global military dominance. In the process, the administration implemented torture as official United States policy. Desperately attempting to fend off critics and preserve the crumbling façade of moral superiority, America's ruling class has sacrificed several from amongst those near the bottom of the food chain. However, calling the prosecution and conviction of a handful of military personnel justice would be a farce. Those ultimately responsible for America's abject torture continue to act with impunity.

As McCoy has vividly illustrated, America's "grunts" at Abu Gharib and throughout the American Gulag were acting under the orders of the Bush Regime and under the supervision of the CIA:

1. On September 11, 2001, George Bush told Donald Rumsfeld and his staff, "Any barriers in your way, they are gone." When they reminded him of legal constraints, Bush shouted, "I don't care what the international lawyers say; we are going to kick some ass."

2. Six days later, Bush authorized the CIA to begin rendition of terror suspects to nations known to commit torture.

3. On November 13, the President determined that Al Qaeda suspects would be denied access to domestic or international courts.

4. Close to the end of 2001, Bush's Justice Department approved the use of "sleep deprivation and deployment of 'stress factors'" for counter-terror interrogation.

5. Bush decided the Geneva Conventions did not apply to his "War on Terror" on January 8, 2002.

6. On January 9, 2002, John Woo of the Justice Department crafted a memo denying application of the Geneva Conventions and the US War Crimes Act to suspected members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, whom he characterized as "enemy combatants". Since they were now neither soldier nor citizen, the articles of the Geneva Convention barring "cruel treatment and torture" and "humiliating and degrading treatment" did not apply to them (according to Yoo's perverse logic).

7. As Afghans captured in the "War on Terror" started populating Guantanamo Bay prison on January 11, Donald Rumsfeld stated that those "unlawful combatants do not have any rights under the Geneva Convention."

8. On January 18, the man Bush later elevated from White House legal counsel to Attorney General (for his loyalty to the Empire) informed the President that the Justice Department "had issued a formal legal opinion concluding that the Geneva Convention III on the Treatment of Prisoners of War does not apply to the conflict with Al Qaeda."

9. The following day, Rumsfeld advised his field commanders that "Al Qaeda and Taliban individuals under the control of the Department of Defense are not entitled to prisoner of war status for purposes of the Geneva Conventions of 1949."

10. January 22, 2002: Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee presented Alberto Gonzales with a 37 page memo which outlined the means to implement "coercive interrogation" without legal consequences, affirming that "neither the federal War Crimes Act nor the Geneva Conventions would apply to the detention conditions of al Qaeda prisoners", and that Bush had the Constitutional power to suspend US treaties with Afghanistan.

11. Behind the scenes, Bush and Rumsfeld approved an SAP or "special-access program" within the CIA. By its very nature, only a handful of top level government officials are aware of the existence of an SAP. This particular SAP endowed the CIA, Navy Seals, and Army Delta Force with the power to assassinate, kidnap and, of course, to torture. Concurrently, the CIA began creating the American Gulag by establishing secret prisons in places like Diego Garcia Island and Thailand.

12. The Bush administration entrusted the CIA with "operational command" of its long coveted "War on Terror", which enabled the United States to abandon FBI and military restrictions on torture.

13. In August of 2002, Bybee, Yoo, and Vice Presidential counsel David Addington created another Justice Department memo "legitimizing" torture. Employing reasoning which defied the laws of reality, this trio determined that federal law and the UN anti-torture conventions only prohibited torture that was "specifically intended to inflict severe pain or suffering, whether mental or physical." They concluded that to be a crime, the torture must "be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." Utilizing this memo, the CIA could evade responsibility for torturing "enemy combatants" simply by claiming they were attempting to gain information rather than to inflict pain. The memo also constructed a very strict definition of psychological torture, interpreting many CIA techniques as legal. Most significantly, in defiance of the Supreme Court's decision in Youngstown Sheet and Tube et al vs. Sawyer, Bybee and his cohorts asserted that restraints on Bush's directives to interrogate would "represent an unconstitutional infringement of the President's authority to conduct war."

14. At about the same time as the release of the Bybee memo, the Justice Department gave the CIA classified permission to utilize harsher interrogation tactics than the military, including water boarding, a practice which leads the victim to believe they are drowning.

Bush and his murderous cabal gave the authorization, the CIA provided supervision, and the military carried out the "coercive interrogation". A Question of Torture sheds significant light on the culpability of Generals Miller and Sanchez in implementing the policy of inflicting excruciating psychological and physical pain on "enemy combatants" throughout the military prison system in Iraq, the nation America "rescued" from Saddam Hussein. America's leaders condoned torture and ordered their subordinates to carry it out. In the tradition of monsters like Pol Pot and Idi Amin, they revel in their endless access to money, power, and immunity. Small wonder much of the world hates the American Empire, and its de facto rulers in particular.

Playing with fire

The CIA has repeatedly demonstrated that they are slow learners. Brutality, abuse, and torture, whether physical or psychological, are not only gross violations of a person's inalienable human rights; they are ineffective means of extracting information or modifying behavior. The FBI is one of the few federal law enforcement or military entities not implicated in the web of torture emerging in the "War on Terror" and, according to McCoy's research, its agents' legal, humane interrogation tactics were yielding respectable results before Bush superseded them with the CIA.

Besides lacking value beyond its capacity to satisfy a primal urge for revenge, torture is a double-edged sword which harms both perpetrator and victim. McCoy points out that committing torture intoxicates one with power. Organizations and governments engaging in mass torture deteriorate as the rule of law and respect for humanity disintegrates, breaking down their political and social structures. Objectifying and inflicting suffering upon helpless human beings leaves deep scars upon the souls of the torturers and creates monstrous sociopaths Contrary to the wishful thinking of the Bush Regime, the United States will reap a bitter harvest once the noxious weeds of torture grow to maturity.

Realistically, except in the minds of those who tenaciously cling to their indoctrination from the American Empire, there is no question that the United States egregiously violates human rights on a frequent basis. For a more thorough examination of the cancer of torture ravaging the United States, read A Question of Torture by Alfred McCoy.


Jason Miller is a 39 year old activist writer with a degree in liberal arts. When he is not spending time with his wife and three sons, researching, or writing, he is working as a loan counselor. He is a member of Amnesty International and an avid supporter of Oxfam International and Human Rights Watch. He welcomes responses at or comments on his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at

Dixie Chicks turn death threats to song

Oliver Burkeman in New York
Saturday March 25, 2006
The Guardian

Three years is a long time in geopolitics. In 2003 the Dixie Chicks were condemned as traitors in America after telling a London audience they were ashamed that their president came from Texas. Now the group's angry new song addressing that controversy looks set to become a hit.

Not Ready to Make Nice, due to be released in May, refers to death threats the three Texans received after the Guardian reported how they had criticised George Bush during a concert at the Shepherd's Bush Empire. "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas," singer Natalie Maines told the audience.

Article continues
Numerous US radio stations removed the group from their playlists. "In my book the Dixie Chicks are traitors," one columnist wrote at the time. "Not only to America but also to everything good that country music stands for."

But that was in a year when Mr Bush, who actually comes from Connecticut, enjoyed approval ratings of up to 70%. This month his rating reached a new low of 36%, according to a CNN/Gallup poll.

The song's lyrics pull no punches: "Forgive, sounds good/Forget, I'm not sure I could/They say time heals everything/ But I'm still waiting ... And how in the world can the words that I said/Send somebody so over the edge/That they'd write me a letter/Sayin' that I better shut up and sing/Or my life will be over?"

Some Texas stations still refuse to air the group's music, but those that have played it say it has been well received, and Billboard Radio Monitor predicts a hit.

Maines describes the album as "pure therapy". "I'm way more at peace now. Writing these songs and saying everything we had to say makes it possible to move on," she says on the Dixie Chicks website.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Pentagon report says Russia gave Iraq intelligence


Fri Mar 24, 2006 3:33 PM ET

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Russia provided intelligence to Iraq's government on U.S. military movements in the opening days of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, a Pentagon report released on Friday said.

The report said an April 2, 2003, document from the Iraqi minister of foreign affairs to President Saddam Hussein stated that Russian intelligence had reported information on American troops plans to the Iraqis through the Russian ambassador.

The intelligence, the document stated, was that the American forces were moving to cut off Baghdad from the south, east and north, that U.S. bombing would concentrate on Baghdad and that the assault on Baghdad would not begin before around April 15. In fact, Baghdad fell about a week before that date.

"Significantly, the regime was also receiving intelligence from the Russians that fed suspicions that the attack out of Kuwait was merely a diversion," the report stated.

Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Cucolo of U.S. Joint Forces Command told a briefing he viewed Russia's decision to give intelligence to Saddam's government as "driven by economic interests." The report noted Russian business interests in Iraqi oil.

The revelations were contained in a report by the U.S. military's Joint Forces Command assessing the Iraqi view of events in the opening months of the war, from March to May 2003, based on interviews with senior Iraqi officials and captured documents.

The report said a document sent to Saddam on March 24, 2003, stated, "The information that the Russians have collected from their sources inside the American Central Command in Doha is that the United States is convinced that occupying Iraqi cities are (sic) impossible, and that they have changed their tactic," to avoid entering cities.

The report said this kind of information was "only one of the fog-generators obscuring the minds of Iraq's senior leadership."

The report also dealt with the issue of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. President George W. Bush cited the threat posed by such weapons as the prime justification for the invasion. No such weapons ever were found.

The authors stated that the report was not intended to examine "the technical extent of Saddam's WMD capabilities," noting that other investigators had done so.

"But the tension created by the regime's steadfast refusal to 'come clean' with regard to WMD shaped the actions and interactions of both sides leading up to war," the report stated. "Saddam walked a tightrope with WMD because as he often reminded his close advisors, they lived in a very dangerous global neighborhood where even the perception of weakness drew wolves."

It stated that there were benefits for Saddam to let his enemies believe he had such weapons, even if he did not, while at the same time it was critical to his survival for the United States and the rest of the West to believe he did not have them.

"He had placed himself into a diplomatic and propaganda Catch-22," the report said.

In 1976 Posada was actively working for the CIA -

In 1976 Posada was actively working for the CIA

BY JEAN-GUY ALLARD —Special for Granma International—

LUIS Posada Carriles was actively working for the CIA in February 1976 in Caracas, just a few months before the sabotage of the Cubana Aviation passenger plane, although the agency tried to cover up the relationship by means of a deceptive document.

This was confirmed by a recently declassified document from headquarters of the Venezuelan Intelligence Agency (DISIP) during the Carlos Andrés Pérez government, which describes the terrorist’s activities and clearly defines the level of relationship that he maintained at that time with the U.S. embassy in Caracas.

For now, Posada is to remain detained in the United States, According to a written statement from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency issued on March 22, which does not rule out "removing him to a third country" other than Cuba or Venezuela.

To date, the U.S. authorities have not expressly stated the true status of Posada’s relationship with the CIA at the time of the attack, which led to the death of 73 people, apart from declassifying scant elements of information that were released with the obvious intention of deflecting responsibility for the terrorist act from the Agency.

Dated February 26, 1976, the aforementioned document was written on a form titled AGENT REPORT with the control number 00314.

In the first box is written verbatim:

Subject: LUIS POSADA CARRILES (aka.) EL BAMBI, C.I. 5.304.069

Place: Caracas.

Regarding: INFORMATION ABOUT THE SUBJECT, COPEY AND U.S. AGENT (COPEY is an obvious misspelling of the political party acronym COPEI)

The text is typed and in the bottom corner a box titled "Agent Code," reads "A-12."


The first point of the document explains that the agency "has information" that Posada is carrying out an investigation into the whereabouts of a DISIP Inspector, "specifically in his residence."

It details that "the subject has threatened the life of civilian William Casas for accusing the subject’s employee, civilian Adolfo Reyes Mejias (aka. Hernan), of blackmail and extortion."

According to the text, this Hernan used his job in the National Inspectorate of Identification and Aliens "to facilitate investigations carried out by the agency headed by the subject, which is located at Edificio Majestic, Piso 7, Oficinas-apartamento 78" on the downtown Avenida Libertador.

This document is of course referring to the Commercial and Industrial Investigations Agency (ICICA) that Posada created in June 1975.

In the document’s second point, agent "A-12" defines the subject as having 36 employees who engage in investigations, track individuals, tap telephones, and enter homes with the aid of modern locksmiths’ equipment, etc."

"Much of this equipment was unduly appropriated and is the property of the DISIP. The equipment was stolen by civilian Adolfo Reyes Mejías", specified the individual who drafted the report.


Listed in the third point, among the names of Posada’s collaborators, is Joaquín Chaffardet Ramos, the Venezuelan lawyer who was the sole witness for the defense in Luis Posada Carriles’ recent trial before an immigration judge in El Paso, Texas.

Also mentioned is "Hermes José Rojas Peralta, C.I. 3.185.945". Incredibly, up until 2004, Rojas occupied the post of police chief for the state of Miranda, Venezuela and was the right-hand man of coup leader Governor Enrique Mendoza. Fortunately, both were swept away in the 2004 elections.

It has also been revealed, 30 years later, that this character worked under the orders of Luis Posada Carriles during the operations leading to the overthrow and death of Chilean President Salvador Allende.

He currently maintains relations with Venezuelan and Cuba- American terrorist circles in Miami, including Rodolfo Frómeta, who heads the paramilitary group Comandos F4, tolerated by the FBI. Frómeta was one of the most loquacious of the extremists who made a recent statement on Miami television in favor of the use of terrorist violence against Cuba.


Regarding the clandestine character of Posada’s activities and those of his investigation agency, the declassified DISIP document states in a fourth point:

"We have information that the subject has undertaken special tasks for the U.S. embassy, specifically for the CIA, which has him classified as a mercenary."

And added as a "note" to signal the importance of the reported matter: "Regarding the present report, Inspector (NAME CROSSED OUT) would like to personally discuss other points with the ranking Colonel of the Interior Security Division."

According to another document declassified in May 2005 by the National Security Archives of George Washington University, Luis Posada Carriles was recruited by the CIA when he was in the U.S. army, between 1963 and 1965. However, other sources reveal his ties to the Agency began when he was recruited as a participant in Operation 40, which united a group of specially trained thugs at the same time as the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961.

The CIA placed Posada Carriles in Venezuela in 1967, as a functionary of DIGEPOL, which later became the DISIP where, under the name Commissioner Basilio, he directed bloody operations of repression.

In the course of 1976, Posada and his investigations agency was linked to a series of violent actions carried out in various countries by the CORU, an organization which he directed in partnership with Orlando Bosch and with the complicity of terrorists such as José Pepe Vázquez Blanco, Ricardo Morales Navarrete, Héctor Carbonel Arenas, Francisco Pimentel, Nelly Rojas and Salvador Romaní Orúe, several of whom are still engaging in conspiratorial activities.

The U.S. declassified document tries to place the end of relations between Posada and the CIA in 1974, although it admits to some contact with him as late as June 1976.

The sabotage of the Cuban passenger plane occurred on October 6, 1976. Venezuelans Freddy Lugo and Hernán Ricardo Lozano concealed two bombs on the DC-8. All 73 passengers died, including a pregnant woman.

Upon interrogation by the Barbados police, Lugo and Ricardo stated that they had contacts with the CIA – a notebook with the telephone numbers of various officers located in Caracas was taken from them – and they immediately exposed their bosses: Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch. The DISIP subsequently arrested both Posada and Bosch and found abundant evidence in Posada Carriles’ office not only of his participation in this crime together with his accomplices, but also of various other crimes.

Oddly, it was through the FBI — and NOT its own agency — that this document was declassified in May 2005. The CIA report dated October 16, 1976 attempts to explain the agency’s relation with Posada just days after the explosion of the aircraft. The author of the declassified text maintained the necessary confusion and did not specify when Posada joined that controversial U.S. intelligence agency.

The text simply says:

The employer in Caracas of both Lugo and Lozano is Luis Posada Carriles, former chief of the counterintelligence division of the DISIP (…). Posada is a former agent of the CIA. He was amicably terminated in July 1967 but contact was reestablished in October 1967. He lost his position with the DISIP in March 1974 as a result of a change in the Venezuelan government and was amicably terminated. We have maintained occasional contact with him. His last reported contact with us was in June 1976 when he unsuccessfully sought assistance regarding a visa problem."

Lies. The facts demonstrate much more clearly the real relationship of Posada and his partner Orlando Bosch with the CIA at that time: only four days after having been arrested, due to the confessions of Lugo and Lozano regarding the sabotage of the plane in Barbados, the U.S. government began maneuvers to extradite both terrorists to the United States for reasons still undisclosed.

Another secret report, written only days after the explosion of the plane and declassified by the Venezuelan Direction of Military Intelligence, literally explains not only the support given by the U.S. State Department to Posada and his agency but also the material aid provided to him precisely by the CIA.

This recently revealed document specifies that "information has been received that the U.S. Department of State, through the CIA, assisted him with technical equipment for the tracking and interception of communications and to set up an Investigations Office."

Posada escaped from the San Carlos Prison in Caracas August 18, 1985, and immediately joined the trafficking of drugs for weapons operation devised by the CIA and managed by Félix Rodríguez Mendigutía, operating out of the Salvadorian airport of Ilopango.

What is irrefutable is that in one way or another, with or without a formal contract, U.S. authorities maintained a frequent, close, and constant relationship with their "mercenary" and his investigations agency and that they not only learned of his plans but also could have perfectly known, directed, revised, authorized and even financed them.

And for this reason, they have always protected, in one way or another, Posada, Bosch and other related criminals. Just like they are doing now in the totally manipulated immigration case of Posada, a man who, under the nickname Commissioner Basilio, freely tortured and murdered people in the basement of the DISIP offices for years.

That is why the work of the five Cubans still imprisoned in the United States for having infiltrated the ranks of the Miami mafia is so deserving of respect and why the struggle for their liberation is such a noble one.

Iran Focus-Iran, China discuss Tehran’s nuclear impasse - Special Wire - News

Iran Focus-Iran, China discuss Tehran’s nuclear impasse - Special Wire - News

Iran Focus

Tehran, Iran, Mar. 24 – Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and his Chinese counterpart Li Zhao Xing discussed the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program during a telephone conversation on Friday, the government-run news agency Fars reported.

The pair discussed Tehran-Beijing bilateral relations and Iran’s nuclear program, the report said, adding that the conversation was held at the request of the Iranian side.

China and Russia have so far refused to sign up to a statement at the United Nations Security Council condemning Tehran for its non-compliance with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The IAEA has said that it cannot confirm that Iran’s nuclear activities are peaceful in nature.

John W. Dean | Bush's Defiance of the Law

John W. Dean | Bush's Defiance of the Law

An Update on President Bush's NSA Program:
The Historical Context, Specter's Recent Bill and Feingold's Censure Motion
By John W. Dean

Friday 24 March 2006

President George Bush continues to openly and defiantly ignore the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) - the 1978 statute prohibiting electronic inspection of Americans' telephone and email communications with people outside the United States without a court-authorized warrant. (According to US News & World Report, the President may also have authorized warrantless break-ins and other physical surveillance, such as opening regular mail, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.)

Bush's position is that he does not need Congressional approval for his measures. Even he does not claim that Congress gave him express power to undertake them, but he does claim that Congress indirectly approved such measures when it authorized the use of force to go after those involved in the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States. He also argues that, in any event, approval was not necessary - for he argues that he has such authority under Article II of the Constitution, as the chief executive, and Commander in Chief, charged with faithfully executing the laws of the land and protecting the Constitution.

These arguments are hauntingly familiar to this observer.

The Nixon Precedent

No one can question President Bush's goal: Protecting Americans from further terror attacks. But every American should question his means: Openly defying a longstanding statute that prohibits the very actions he insists on undertaking, when done in the very manner he insists upon doing them.

In some two hundred and seventeen years of the American presidency, there has been only one President who provides a precedent for Bush's stunning, in-your-face, conduct: Richard Nixon. Like Bush, Nixon claimed he was acting to protect the nation's security. Like Bush, Nixon broke the law - authorizing, among other things, illegal wiretaps.

Ironically, a stronger case might be made for Nixon's warrantless wiretaps, than for Bush's. Nixon's were installed to track leaks of national security information relating to the war in Vietnam. (He never found the leaker.) He pursued domestic intelligence by illegal means because he believed - based on information from President Lyndon Johnson - that communists had infiltrated the anti-war movement. (No such evidence was ever found.) In addition, he believed that extreme measures were necessary to deal with domestic terrorists, who were responsible for hundreds of deadly bombings. (This is the same argument Bush makes today.)

Nixon also claimed he was only doing what his predecessors had done. That was not untrue - but what had, in the past, been the exception to the rule became standard operating procedure under Nixon.

Bush, however, can only claim one predecessor for his actions: Nixon. And, of course, he has not made this claim - for Nixon was forced from office because of his defiance of the law.

Prior Presidents Have Always Gone to Congress

Bush has admitted he is ignoring FISA. His Attorney General has offered lame and loose legal justifications that he ought not to dare attempt in any court of law. Only blind partisan followers buy the president's bogus legal arguments. The US Supreme Court's prescient discussion of presidential powers reveals how weak these arguments really are.

In May 1952, President Truman directed his Secretary of Commerce, Charles Sawyer, to take charge of the nation's steel mills, rather than permit a strike by steelworkers - and intransigent management - from hampering national security. The nation was at war in Korea, and without steel, the war effort would be in jeopardy. Truman informed Congress of his actions, but rather than asked for emergency legislation, he proceeded by executive order.

The owners of the steel mills immediately sought an injunction, which was granted by a federal district court judge, and the government appealed directly to the US Supreme Court. In a 6-3 ruling, the Court, in Youngstown Co. v. Sawyer, held that Truman's attempted takeover of the steel mills was unconstitutional. Truman then asked Congress for emergency legislation, but Congress turned him down too.

As the strong dissent in Youngstown notes, the "diversity of views expressed in the six opinions of the majority, the lack of reference to authoritative precedent, the repeated reliance upon prior dissenting opinions, the complete disregard of the uncontroverted facts showing the gravity of the emergency and the temporary nature of the taking all serve to demonstrate how far afield one must go to" deny Truman this power. It seems Bush believes he can ride on that dissent. But in the end, the dissent not only is not the law; it is not persuasive.

Truman's actions were not unprecedented: President Lincoln had seized rail and telegraph lines during the Civil War; President Theodore Roosevelt was ready to seize Pennsylvania coal mines if a strike created shortages; President Wilson seized industrial plants and railroads during World War I; and six months before Peal Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt seized a California aviation plant when a strike occurred. These presidents, however, went to Congress - as Truman also eventually did. Only Bush (like Nixon) refuses to do so.

As Donald McCoy's study of the Truman presidency (for the University Press of Kansas) points out, "Truman had sought not only to resolve the steel crisis but also substantially to expand the president's power in a single action that matched his sense of gravity of the emergency that was confronting the nation. He had gambled badly, and he had lost badly." The same could be said of Nixon, who lost even worse because he - like Bush, and unlike Truman - was acting secretly.

Bush, once it was learned what he was doing, could have asked Congress to grant him the authority that he believed he needed. Instead, he has taken the Nixon approach, and wants to do what he wants to do - the Congress be damned.

Will he succeed? What if he does? What if he doesn't?

Bush's Gambling With Presidential Powers

Like Nixon, Bush has wrapped himself in the American flag, national security, his high office, and a claim to be the defender of America - the man who can show terrorists not to mess with the USA. His critics are attacked as being soft on fighting terrorism, or being knee-jerk partisans, when all they want is for their president to stay within the law.

If the issue stays out of court - and continues to be debated by many as if it were purely a policy issue, and FISA does not exist - Bush may prevail; it will be up to the voters in this Fall's election to judge him, and to decide whether to sweep out of office those legislators who are preventing a full investigation of this matter.

But if this issue goes to court, Bush should worry. Even Republican-appointed judges would have to comprise their judicial integrity to rule in his favor.

One reason it may stay out of court, though, is the difficulty of finding a plaintiff with proper standing: someone who has been illegally harmed by reason of Bush's surveillance. The ACLU has looked for such plaintiffs and then filed a lawsuit but its chances are not strong.

Another reason it might stay out of court is if legislation moots the issue. Senators Dewine, Graham, Hagel and Snowe have sponsored legislation, S. 2455, that would retroactively (as well as prospectively) legalize the president's refusal to seek FISA warrants. The bill provides for nominal oversight by the Senate and House Select Intelligence Committees. And this approach, which has in the past, usually been requested by presidents, rather than simply granted by Congress, has been a satisfactory remedy.

But Bush does not want this retroactive approval by Congress. Instead, he wants to keep on breaking the law to try to set a precedent - enlarging his presidential powers (and those of subsequent presidents) permanently, to the detriment of Congress.

Another possible solution, and probably the most thoughtful and intelligent to be offered, is the legislation proposed by Senator Arlen Specter, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Specter - who was once considered by Nixon for a seat on the US Supreme Court, even before he had been elected to the Senate - is now one of the Senate's best legal minds. But I suspect the Bush White House will fight Senator Specter's proposal because under it, they may lose.

Senator Specter's Proposed "National Security Surveillance Act of 2006"

On March 16, Senator Specter introduced his proposed legislation, following hearings in which his Judiciary Committee quizzed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for seven hours about the legality of the president's action. Neither Gonzales nor anyone on the panel of legal experts that followed, made anything approaching a compelling case that this was legal activity, although several were highly persuasive that it was transparently illegal.

Implicit in Chairman Specter's proposal, S. 2453, is the fact that the president's actions are, indeed, not legal. Although Specter does not so state, his bill would appropriately place the question of the legality of Bush's actions before the FISA Court, where that court could judge it. No doubt he knows how, in fact, they would judge the matter: They would likely find that the President's bypassing their statutorily-granted authority was, and continues to be, illegal.

Specter recognizes the seriousness of the dilemma here: We are a nation at war, yet also a nation that believes in the rule of law. To have it both ways, he has drawn from a recommendation made decades ago by former Attorney General Edward Levi - a staunch defender of the executive powers: Turn the matter over the FISA Court, where it can, if the Administration presents a solid case (of need balanced against the invasion of civil liberties), rule in the President's favor, but can also reject the President's actions if the balance cuts the other way.

Specter's is a great solution. It preserves secrecy: The FISA Court has shown itself capable of keeping secrets, and while the bill requires bi-annual reports to Congress, they would not reveal secrets. Most importantly, whereas the President claims he is protecting liberties by reviewing the program every forty-five days, Specter's bill imposes a similar requirement.

No doubt the Bush Administration will fight Specter's bill - for the simple reason that it does not want to be tested by a court, for it wants neither checks nor balances, but simple the unilateral exercise of executive power. And even if Specter can get the bill through the Senate, Bush's soldiers in the monocratic House will kill it.

Feingold's Motion for Censure

While Specter's bill may be the best idea yet as to how to deal with Bush's behavior, the approach that has received the most media attention is Senator Russ Feingold's resolution calling for censure of President Bush. The resolution condemns Bush's actions in authorizing the illegal wiretapping program of Americans as part of his war on terror, and then misleading the country about the existence and legality of the program.

Even though nearly half of Americans favor censure, it too is a long shot. Yet is probably the most damning of the documents before Congress.

Feingold's preamble points out that Bush openly lied to Americans about his secret wiretapping, on repeated occasions: On April 20, 2004, Bush said, "When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."; on July 14, 2004, he claimed that "the government can't move on wiretaps or roving wiretaps without getting a court order"; and on June 9, 2005, he said, "Law enforcement officers need a federal judge's permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist's phone, a federal judge's permission to track his calls, or a federal judge's permission to search his property. Officers must meet strict standards to use any of these tools."

All this was untrue. Bush had authorized these very law enforcement officials to bypass federal judges, and proceed without warrants. Why he engaged in such bald-faced lies, in circumstances where it was not necessary, is unclear.

Senator Feingold's proposal has no chance of being adopted in a GOP-controlled Senate - one that includes, as well, more than a few spineless Democrats. Still, he has made his point. As Feingold told the New York Observer, "What [the Republicans had] succeeded in doing, [since this issue has arisen] was to sweep the illegality under the rug." Feingold added, "I decided it was time to include that on the record and came up with the censure proposal, to bring accountability back into the discussion. And I succeeded in doing that. That's been achieved."

Election 2006 Is the Key

In the end, this issue is going to be resolved by the 2006 midterm election. If Republicans lose control of either the House or Senate, the investigations of the Bush/Cheney White House will begin. It won't be pretty. It will make dealing with lying about sex look like High School hazing. It will even make Richard Nixon look like a piker when it comes to staying within the law.

If the early polls are half correct, independent swing voters have had it with Bush. Democrats want no part of him. Moderate Republicans are keeping their distance; they are no longer willing to hold their noses and vote for him.

The big question is whether there will be an "October Surprise" - a dramatic event that will bump up Bush's currently dismal polling numbers, and help his party. Right now, Republican friends tell me they are doing all they can to keep the mid-terms from being a referendum on Bush. They know they have a better chance if they focus on local races - absent an October Surprise. If you have any knowledge of how White Houses operate, you can be sure they are working night and day to pull off such a surprise.

If they do it, Bush will get away with his lawlessness. If not, he and Cheney are in for two very bad years. They have earned them.

John W. Dean, a FindLaw columnist, is a former counsel to the president.


Capitol Hill Blue: Wiccan vets want gravesite recognition

Mar 23, 2006, 21:04

While President Bush laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, a self-declared witch embarked on a clandestine mission to mark a grave most dear to her.

It was 2003, and neo-pagan high priestess Rosemary Kooiman, 75, was determined that the gravesite of her recently departed husband, Abraham, bear a Pentacle as the symbol of the Wiccan faith the two shared.

Unlike thousands of headstones bearing a Christian cross, Jewish Star of David, Islamic Crescent and Star, or other religious emblems, Abraham Kooiman's had none because the Department of Veterans Affairs does not permit symbols of Wicca and related pagan sects to be depicted on government-issued stones or markers.

Taking advantage of the attention turned elsewhere that day, Rosemary Kooiman affixed a vinyl Pentacle _ a five-pointed star within a circle _ to the gravesite of her husband, a decorated World War II combat veteran.

That guerrilla action by Kooiman came as part of a decade-long battle by those of her faith to bring recognition to troops and veterans who are Wiccans and believers in other "nature" religions.

Long wrongfully tagged by the misinformed as being Satan worshippers or the casters of evil spells, they say their ancient religion is a peaceful, benign one centered on celebrating nature through rituals, meditations and other spiritual practices.

Why then, they ask, has their religion been snubbed when more than 30 others _ including such relatively obscure ones as Seicho-No-Ie, Eckankar, Sufism and Humanism _ are permitted? Even atheists have their own approved symbol, which features an atom and the letter "A" in the center.

"These people served their country. Isn't America about freedom of religion? They fought for that freedom," said the Rev. Selena Fox, a senior minister and frequent spokeswoman for her neo-pagan faith, as well as a prime mover in the effort for government recognition.

That crusade may be nearing an end. The Veterans department said this week that it is nearing a decision on several requests for memorial markers adorned with Pentacles, including one from the widow of a National Guardsman killed in a helicopter attack in Afghanistan.

"We expect a decision soon," said Jo Schuda, a VA spokeswoman.

In a step interpreted as partially smoothing the way for Pentacle approval, the VA's National Cemetery Administration amended a rule last October that had been a bureaucratic roadblock. Until then, applicants had to submit a letter from a "recognized central head" of the faith attesting to the fact that the requested symbol in fact represented the religion.

But because the Wiccan faith and its related sects are substantially decentralized, that requirement was essentially impossible to meet. Now, the National Cemetery Administration asks for a letter from "a recognized leader."

No one is quite sure how many Wiccans there are in the ranks of military veterans and active-duty troops. Estimates by the Pentagon's chaplains' board put the number of Wiccans at under 2,000, out of the 1.4 million troops in uniform.

Fox, whose Wisconsin-based Circle Sanctuary church claims nearly 54,000 U.S. members, thinks the number of Wiccans in uniform is substantially higher than the Pentagon estimate. Many more likely remain in the religious closet, concerned that they would be tainted by misconceptions about the faith, she said.

But for nearly a decade, the armed services have made it a point to be tolerant of Wiccans and other faiths outside the mainstream. Military chaplains, who are trained to meet the needs of all faiths, held their first Wiccan service in 1997 at Fort Hood, Texas. Today, it is not uncommon to find listings for Wicca rituals on many military base coming-events announcements.

One soldier who was open about his Wiccan faith was Nevada National Guard Sgt. Patrick Stewart, who was killed last September along with four other U.S. troops when the Chinook helicopter carrying them was shot down in Afghanistan. His widow, Roberta Stewart, vowed to push the VA to accept the Wiccan faith and allow a Pentacle on her husband's plaque hung on a memorial wall at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

Her cause got a substantial boost when Nevada GOP Rep. Jim Gibbons spoke out in her behalf this month. So, too, did Lt. Col. Robert Harington, battalion commander of Patrick Stewart's Guard unit.

"Every family should have the ability to honor their fallen loved ones who made the ultimate sacrifice in defending freedom and this nation," Gibbons, a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, said in a statement. "It is my hope that the VA will act expeditiously to resolve this matter."

Whatever the resolution, one who will not be around to see it _ at least in her incarnation as Abraham's wife, mother of three, government safety officer, and founder of the Wiccan Nomadic Chantry of the Gramarye _ is Rosemary Kooiman. She died of a heart attack at her home in Laurel, Md., on March 5.

"I'm sad that she wasn't able to see this approved before she died," Fox said.

(Contact Lisa Hoffman at HoffmanL(at)