Saturday, April 29, 2006
The Untold Story of Israel's Bomb
By Avner Cohen and William Burr
Sunday, April 30, 2006; Page B01
On Sept. 9, 1969, a big brown envelope was delivered to the Oval Office on behalf of CIA Director Richard M. Helms. On it he had written, "For and to be opened only by: The President, The White House." The precise contents of the envelope are still unknown, but it was the latest intelligence on one of Washington's most secretive foreign policy matters: Israel's nuclear program. The material was so sensitive that the nation's spymaster was unwilling to share it with anybody but President Richard M. Nixon himself.
The now-empty envelope is inside a two-folder set labeled "NSSM 40," held by the Nixon Presidential Materials Project at the National Archives. (NSSM is the acronym for National Security Study Memorandum, a series of policy studies produced by the national security bureaucracy for the Nixon White House.) The NSSM 40 files are almost bare because most of their documents remain classified.
With the aid of recently declassified documents , we now know that NSSM 40 was the Nixon administration's effort to grapple with the policy implications of a nuclear-armed Israel. These documents offer unprecedented insight into the tense deliberations in the White House in 1969 -- a crucial time in which international ratification of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was uncertain and U.S. policymakers feared that a Middle Eastern conflagration could lead to superpower conflict. Nearly four decades later, as the world struggles with nuclear ambitions in Iran, India and elsewhere, the ramifications of this hidden history are still felt.
Israel's nuclear program began more than 10 years before Helms's envelope landed on Nixon's desk. In 1958, Israel secretly initiated work at what was to become the Dimona nuclear research site. Only about 15 years after the Holocaust, nuclear nonproliferation norms did not yet exist, and Israel's founders believed they had a compelling case for acquiring nuclear weapons. In 1961, the CIA estimated that Israel could produce nuclear weapons within the decade.
The discovery presented a difficult challenge for U.S. policymakers. From their perspective, Israel was a small, friendly state -- albeit one outside the boundaries of U.S. security guarantees -- surrounded by larger enemies vowing to destroy it. Yet government officials also saw the Israeli nuclear program as a potential threat to U.S. interests. President John F. Kennedy feared that without decisive international action to curb nuclear proliferation, a world of 20 to 30 nuclear-armed nations would be inevitable within a decade or two.
The Kennedy and Johnson administrations fashioned a complex scheme of annual visits to Dimona to ensure that Israel would not develop nuclear weapons. But the Israelis were adept at concealing their activities. By late 1966, Israel had reached the nuclear threshold, although it decided not to conduct an atomic test.
By the time Prime Minister Levi Eshkol visited President Lyndon B. Johnson in January 1968, the official State Department view was that despite Israel's growing nuclear weapons potential, it had "not embarked on a program to produce a nuclear weapon." That assessment, however, eroded in the months ahead. By the fall, Assistant Defense Secretary Paul C. Warnke concluded that Israel had already acquired the bomb when Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin explained to him how he interpreted Israel's pledge not to be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the region. According to Rabin, for nuclear weapons to be introduced, they needed to be tested and publicly declared. Implicitly, then, Israel could possess the bomb without "introducing" it.
The question of what to do about the Israeli bomb would fall to Nixon. Unlike his Democratic predecessors, he and his national security adviser, Henry A. Kissinger, were initially skeptical about the effectiveness of the NPT. And though they may have been inclined to accommodate Israel's nuclear ambitions, they would have to manage senior State Department and Pentagon officials whose perspectives differed. Documents prepared between February and April 1969 reveal a great sense of urgency and alarm among senior officials about Israel's nuclear progress.
As Defense Secretary Melvin R. Laird wrote in March 1969, these "developments were not in the United States' interests and should, if at all possible, be stopped." Above all, the Nixon administration was concerned that Israel would publicly display its nuclear capabilities.
Apparently prompted by those high-level concerns, Kissinger issued NSSM 40 -- titled Israeli Nuclear Weapons Program -- on April 11, 1969. In it he asked the national security bureaucracy for a review of policy options toward Israel's nuclear program. In the weeks that followed, the issue was taken up by a senior review group (SRG), chaired by Kissinger, that included Helms, Undersecretary of State Elliot Richardson, Deputy Defense Secretary David Packard and Joint Chiefs Chairman Earle Wheeler.
The one available report of an SRG meeting on NSSM 40 suggests that the bureaucracy was interested in pressuring Israel to halt its nuclear program. How much pressure to exert remained open. Kissinger wanted to "avoid direct confrontation," while Richardson was willing to apply pressure if an investigation to determine Israel's intentions showed that some key assurances would not be forthcoming. In such circumstances, the United States could tell the Israelis that scheduled deliveries of F-4 Phantom jets to Israel would have to be reconsidered.
By mid-July 1969, Nixon had let it be known that he was leery of using the Phantoms as leverage, so when Richardson and Packard summoned Rabin on July 29 to discuss the nuclear issue, the idea of a probe that involved pressure had been torpedoed. Although Richardson and Packard emphasized the seriousness with which they viewed the nuclear problem, they had no threat to back up their rhetoric.
Richardson posed three issues for Rabin to respond to: the status of Israel's NPT deliberations; assurances that "non-introduction" meant "non-possession" of nuclear weapons; and assurances that Israel would not produce or deploy the Jericho ballistic missile. Rabin, however, was unresponsive except to say that the NPT was still "under study."
Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir would have to address the nuclear issue when they met in late September.
Perhaps the most fateful event of this tale was Nixon's one-on-one meeting with Meir in the Oval Office on Sept. 26, 1969.
In the days before Meir's visit, the State Department produced background papers suggesting that the horse was already out of the barn: "Israel might very well now have a nuclear bomb" and certainly "already had the technical ability and material resources to produce weapon-grade material for a number of weapons." If that was true, it meant that events had overtaken the NSSM 40 exercise.
In later years, Meir never discussed the substance of her private conversation with Nixon, saying only, "I could not quote him then, and I will not quote him now." Yet, according to declassified Israeli documents, since the early 1960s, Meir had been convinced that "Israel should tell the United States the truth [about the nuclear issue] and explain why."
Even without the record of this meeting, informed speculation is possible. It is likely that Nixon started with a plea for openness. Meir, in turn, probably acknowledged -- tacitly or explicitly -- that Israel had reached a weapons capability, but probably pledged extreme caution. (Years later, Nixon told CNN's Larry King that he knew for certain that Israel had the bomb, but he wouldn't reveal his source.) Meir may have assured Nixon that Israel thought of nuclear weapons as a last-resort option, a way to provide her Holocaust-haunted nation with a psychological sense of existential deterrence.
Subsequent memorandums from Kissinger to Nixon provide a limited sense of what the national security adviser understood happened at the meeting. Kissinger noted that the president had emphasized to Meir that "our primary concern was that the Israeli [government] make no visible introduction of nuclear weapons or undertake a nuclear test program." Thus, Israel would be committed to conducting its nuclear affairs cautiously and secretly; their status would remain uncertain and unannounced.
On Feb. 23, 1970, Rabin told Kissinger privately that he wanted the president to know that, in light of the Meir-Nixon conversation, "Israel has no intention to sign the NPT." Rabin, Kissinger wrote, "wanted also to make sure there was no misapprehension at the White House about Israel's current intentions."
Kissinger informed Nixon that he told Rabin that he would notify the president. And with that, the decade-long U.S. effort to curb Israel's nuclear program ended. That enterprise was replaced by understandings negotiated at the highest level, between the respective heads of state, that have governed Israel's nuclear conduct ever since.
That so little is known today about the tale of NSSM 40 is not surprising. Dealing with Israel's nuclear ambitions was thornier for the Nixon administration than for its predecessors because it was forced to deal with the problem at the critical time when Israel appeared to be crossing the nuclear threshold.
Yet, even as Nixon and Kissinger enabled Israel to flout the NPT, NSSM 40 allowed them to create a defensible record. As was his typical modus operandi, Kissinger used NSSM 40 to maintain control over key officials who wanted to take action on the problem.
Politically, the Nixon-Meir agreement allowed both leaders to continue with their old public policies without being forced to openly acknowledge the new reality. As long as Israel kept the bomb invisible -- no test, declaration, or any other act displaying nuclear capability -- the United States could live with it.
Over time, the tentative Nixon-Meir understanding became the foundation for a remarkable U.S.-Israeli deal, accompanied by a tacit but strict code of behavior to which both nations closely adhered. Even during its darkest hours in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel was cautious not to make any public display of its nuclear capability.
Yet set against contemporary values of transparency and accountability, the Nixon-Meir deal of 1969 now stands as a striking and burdensome anomaly. Israel's nuclear posture is inconsistent with the tenets of a modern liberal democracy. The deal is also burdensome for the United States, provoking claims about double standards in U.S. nuclear nonproliferation policy.
It is especially striking to compare the Nixon administration's stance toward Israel in 1969 with the way Washington is trying to accommodate India in 2006. As problematic as the proposed nuclear pact with New Delhi is, it at least represents an effort to deal openly with the issue.
Unlike the case of Iran today -- where a nation is publicly violating its NPT obligations and where the United States and the international community are acting in the open -- the White House in 1969 addressed the Israeli weapons program in a highly secretive fashion. That kind of deal-making would be impossible now.
Without open acknowledgment of Israel's nuclear status, such ideas as a nuclear-free Middle East, or even the inclusion of Israel in an updated NPT regime, cannot be discussed properly. It is time for a new deal to replace the Nixon-Meir understandings of 1969, with Israel telling the truth and finally normalizing its nuclear affairs.
Avner Cohen is a senior research fellow at the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland and author of "Israel and the Bomb" (Columbia University Press). William Burr is a senior analyst at the National Security Archive at George Washington University. A longer version of this article appears in the May/June issue of theBulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
By JIM KRANE, Associated Press WriterFri Apr 28, 4:49 PM ET
With oil prices above $70 a barrel fouling the world economy, dismay is focusing on Iraq, whose exports have slipped to their lowest levels since the 2003 invasion.
"Iraq could be making a tremendous difference," said Dalton Garis, an economist at the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi. Instead, its shortfall is "a significant contributing factor to the high price of oil," he said.
Iraq, a founding member of OPEC, sits atop the world's third-highest proven reserves. Its estimated 115 billion barrels is more than any other OPEC member except for Saudi Arabia and Iran.
But contrary to optimistic expectations, Iraq's oil production has slipped further and further since the U.S.-led invasion, to an average of 2 million barrels a day. It has never regained even the reduced production levels that prevailed in the 1990s, when Iraq was under tough U.N. sanctions.
Iraq's oil could be providing relief to world markets, strained by high demand from China, the nuclear-related showdown with Iran and unrest near Nigeria's oil fields. Instead, it's not even covering its own needs.
The rickety Iraqi oil system has been damaged repeatedly by insurgent sabotage and attacks on maintenance crews. Corruption, theft of oil, and widespread mismanagement compound the problems, analysts say.
Iraq also lacks laws that would protect foreign investment, and its government is still sorting out whether oil will be controlled by the central government or the provinces.
The result: Iraq is importing refined oil products at record high prices at a time that it should be boosting exports to take advantage of those prices to earn money for reconstruction.
In 2005, Iraq's exports averaged just 1.4 million barrels a day, which earned the country about $26 billion. This winter proved disastrous, with January exports failing to reach even 1 million barrels a day, said George Orwel, an analyst with Petroleum Intelligence Weekly in New York.
"It's a mess," he said. "At some point Iraq is going to be back in the picture, but it's been a very bad couple of years. They're missing out."
In 1990, probably its peak production year, Iraq extracted about 3.5 million barrels a day. Restoring production to that level would require years and a $30 billion investment, Orwel said, even in the "best case scenario."
Those figures suggest misplaced optimism by Iraq's oil ministry, which in 2005 predicted crude production would reach 2.5 million or even 3 million barrels a day by the end of 2006. Analysts have called that prediction a pipe dream.
The outlook for this year looks about the same as 2005, Orwel said, casting doubt even on the ministry's revised plans to raise exports to 1.8 million barrels a day by year's end.
Orwel, author of a forthcoming book on Iraq's oil sector, said many of the problems thwarting Iraq's exports have no simple solution — but some do.
For instance, exports from Iraq's southern oil fields have been hampered by the decrepit tugboats needed to pilot tankers to Persian Gulf terminals. The tugs, so old that spare parts can't be bought, frequently broke down or weren't seaworthy enough to handle rough winter seas.
As a result, charges from tankers forced to delay loading cost Iraq $50 million over the past year, which the oil ministry paid by giving away oil, Orwel said.
Insurgents have been so deft at shutting down the pipelines from the giant fields around the northern city of Kirkuk that Iraqi authorities tried to move crude by truck to its refineries and crude-burning power plants. But after insurgents attacked the trucks, drivers became difficult to recruit and the oil ministry was forced to cut production, Orwel said.
Corruption has worsened the situation, according to a report release Tuesday by the oil ministry's inspector general. The loss of oil revenue to corruption and theft has become the biggest threat to Iraq's economy, costing Baghdad's beleaguered treasury billions of dollars, it said.
"For example, about 20 percent of the oil products that Iraq imported last year, worth $4.2 billion, were smuggled to neighboring countries," the report said.
Iraq's sputtering oil sector has defied optimists led by Vice President Dick Cheney and former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who hoped booming exports from Iraq could pay for its reconstruction and help satisfy world demand.
Instead, repercussions from the U.S.-led invasion are now slowing the global economy, said Saadallah al-Fathi, a former OPEC official who advised Iraq's oil ministry under Saddam Hussein.
"The invasion of Iraq hasn't only been devastating to the Iraqi people, but it has been detrimental to the rest of the world," al-Fathi said from his home in Sharjah, in the UAE. "Iraq has lost a third of its production due to the American invasion."
"Now that Iraq has to import many petroleum products, it's a double whammy," he said.
Oil production was more successful under Saddam, he said. "There were technical problems. But they were contained. Things were improving slowly. We didn't have sabotage. We had full security in the oil fields."
By Sharon Behn
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Published April 28, 2006
The former head of the Nicaraguan resistance said in Washington yesterday that he fears U.S. policies toward Nicaragua are paving the way for a return to power by left-wing Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega in the November elections.
Adolfo Calero, feted by the Reagan administration during the Cold War struggles in Central America, also said former allies in the U.S. government were not returning his calls.
"They have clammed up and refused to see me," Mr. Calero told The Washington Times. He said he thinks he is getting the cold shoulder because he is "presenting a different picture of the situation" in Nicaragua than what U.S. officials wanted to hear.
A State Department official said he had never heard of Mr. Calero and could not comment on his statements.
Mr. Calero and colleague Rafael Aguirre-Sacasa said U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Paul A. Trivelli was actively encouraging the emergence of a third party for the November elections, which threatened to split the conservative vote.
A third party could act as a spoiler, presenting a "very serious danger" that Mr. Ortega's far-left party could retake the presidency through the ballot box, they warned.
Nicaragua's past left-wing and right-wing governments have been unable to change the country's status as one of the poorest in the Western Hemisphere -- and one of the most corrupt.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters on April 18 that Mr. Trivelli had met with representatives of the governing Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC), and that the United States was engaging with all parties in Nicaragua that are interested in transparent, democratic elections.
The current Nicaraguan president, Enrique Bolanos, took office in 2002 after a landslide victory over Mr. Ortega. But Mr. Bolanos' own PLC members joined forces with the Sandinistas when he allowed the government to prosecute Liberal Party leader Arnoldo Aleman on corruption charges.
Aleman is serving a 20-year sentence for fraud and money laundering.
"We have been pleased to see strong grass-roots opposition to Aleman and his corrupt politics, and we urge the Nicaraguan people to continue to reject discredited figures of the country's political past as represented by Aleman and former dictator Daniel Ortega," Mr. McCormack said.
Mr. Calero and Mr. Aguirre-Sacasa, however, doubt that the apparent U.S. favorite, the National Liberal Alliance-Conservative Party led by Eduardo Montealegre, can defeat the Sandinistas.
"The American ambassador has been making statements saying there is room for a third party, but we know that third parties never win elections; they just change the result," said Mr. Calero, who turns 75 this year.
"We would be shooing in Ortega," he said, adding that the Sandinista leader could then team up with leftist Presidents Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Fidel Castro in Cuba.
"We would be building up a cadre of enemies of the United States," Mr. Calero said.
U.S.: FBI Sought Info Without Court OK
Friday April 28, 2006 11:31 PM
By MARK SHERMAN
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - The FBI secretly sought information last year on 3,501 U.S. citizens and legal residents from their banks and credit card, telephone and Internet companies without a court's approval, the Justice Department said Friday.
It was the first time the Bush administration has publicly disclosed how often it uses the administrative subpoena known as a national security letter, which allows the executive branch of government to obtain records about people in terrorism and espionage investigations without court approval.
Friday's disclosure was mandated as part of the renewal of the Patriot Act, the administration's sweeping anti-terror law.
The FBI delivered a total of 9,254 NSLs relating to 3,501 people in 2005, according to a report submitted late Friday to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate. In some cases, the bureau demanded information about one person from several companies.
The department also reported it received a secret court's approval for 155 warrants to examine business records last year, under a Patriot Act provision that includes library records. However, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has said the department has never used the provision to ask for library records.
The number was a significant jump over past use of the warrant for business records. A year ago, Gonzales told Congress there had been 35 warrants approved between November 2003 and April 2005.
Many questions linger
By WILL BUNCH
VIRTUALLY EVERYTHING that is known about United Flight 93, the hijacked jetliner that crashed into a coal field in western Pennsylvania, has been put into the new Hollywood feature film about the doomed voyage.
Director Paul Greengrass not only relied on known transcripts and accounts of real conversations that took place during the Sept. 11, 2001, drama, but he even used some real pilots, crew and flight controllers in filming "United 93."
"They also believed, as the families believed, that making this film an accurate account - not a conspiratorial effort - would help us," Greengrass told the Boston Herald recently. "It gave the film a veracity, an authenticity."
But while Greengrass tackled everything known about the flight - which the government believes was purposely crashed by its four al Qaeda hijackers because of the uprising by passengers who'd learned of the World Trade Center crashes - there were things the movie could not address.
Those are the unknowns of Flight 93.
Today, few but the most radical skeptics about 9/11 would question the events at the core of "United 93," the struggle with heroic passengers that was captured on the cockpit voice recording played in a Virginia courtroom earlier this month.
But other questions remain - most notably about the government's response. Why was the hijacked jet not intercepted by the military jets that had been sent aloft after the Trade Center strikes? Did President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney order a shoot-down as the plane neared Washington? And why didn't it happen?
"Unfortunately, we have yet to have a serious and honest investigation into what happened on 9/11," said Paul Thompson, the author of "The Terror Timeline: Year by Year, Day by Day, Minute by Minute."
Thompson believes that officials should still be held accountable for what he considers a flawed military response.
Here are some other questions:
Q. Why weren't military fighters under the command of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, able to intercept the doomed flight?
A. Ever since 9/11, Pentagon officials have insisted that NORAD was geared toward a foreign attack and not set up to deal with a domestic hijacking, but there is considerable evidence to contradict that. In fact, the 9/11 Commission found that NORAD had been planning for a June 2002 exercise called Amalgam Virgo 2 that involved a scenario with two simultaneously hijacked planes.
NORAD also told the 9/11 Commission that it hadn't been informed of the Flight 93 hijacking until it was much too late to respond. However, NORAD Commander Larry Arnold told an author in 2004, "We watched the 93 track as it meandered around the Ohio-Pennsylvania area and started to turn south toward D.C." That was about 27 minutes, or more, before Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pa.
In defending its actions, NORAD has said that it launched its remaining F-16 fighters from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia at approximately 9:30 a.m. - roughly 33 to 36 minutes before Flight 93 crashed - but after another hijacked jet had struck the Pentagon, the fighters were needed to defend the perimeter of Washington.
Q. Did high-ranking officials from the Bush administration order fighters to shoot down Flight 93, and did Bush know about it?
A. The 9/11 Commission said that it was about 10 a.m. when Cheney - running the White House command center because Bush had been speaking at a Florida elementary school - was told that a hijacked plane was 80 miles away and was asked for military authority to shoot it down.
Joshua Bolten, the aide who is now White House chief of staff, testified that he suggested that Cheney reconfirm that order with Bush, and the two top officials and other aides said such a call had been made.
But according to a June 24, 2004, article in Newsweek, "some on the [9/11] commission staff were, in fact, highly skeptical of the vice president's account and made their views clearer in an earlier draft of their staff report. According to one knowledgeable source, some staffers 'flat out didn't believe the call ever took place.' "
Some have even speculated this issue is why Bush and Cheney took the unusual step of testifying jointly to the 9/11 Commission.
Q. Who was flying the fast-moving, low-flying white jet that was seen by a dozen or more Shanksville residents just seconds after Flight 93 crashed?
A. After several accounts, the government and a supporting 2005 article in Popular Mechanics said the mystery jet had been a Dassault Falcon 20 business jet owned by the VF Corp., a North Carolina clothing firm. The magazine said the jet was descending into Johnstown Airport and circled the crash site at the request of the Federal Aviation Administration.
The plane was seen by about a dozen witnesses, including Susan McElwain, who told Britain's Daily Mirror in 2002: "It had two rear engines, a big fin on the back like a spoiler on the back of a car and two upright fins at the side... . It definitely wasn't one of those executive jets." Several residents said the plane resembled the military's A-10 Warthog.
Q. Why haven't we heard cockpit recordings nor seen the flight-data recording from the other three flights?
A. Government agencies have insisted that the "black boxes" (actually orange) found at the Pentagon were too badly damaged, while the four in New York were never recovered, which was a first.
However, the Daily News reported in 2004 that two Ground Zero rescue workers claimed they helped the FBI recover three of the four "black boxes" there. Last year, Philadelphia free-lance writer Dave Lindorff reported that a National Transportation Safety Board source told him: "Off the record, we had the boxes. You'd have to get the official word from the FBI as to where they are, but we worked on them here."
Lawmakers say deal that supplies military parts was scrutinized, poses no security threat
By PAUL BLUSTEIN
WASHINGTON - President Bush on Friday approved the takeover by a Dubai company of U.S. plants that make precision-engineered components for the Pentagon — and this time, with little opposition in Congress.
The approval allows Dubai International Capital LLC, which is owned by the Dubai government, to take control of nine plants in the United States, some of which supply the military with parts used in aircraft and tanks. The plants are owned by a British firm, Doncasters Group Ltd., which is being purchased by the Dubai company for $1.2 billion.
The move comes seven weeks after Dubai Ports World, another government-owned company, dropped plans to take over terminal operations at several U.S. seaports because of an uproar over the security implications of handing such facilities to an Arab-owned concern.
Dubai is one of seven states that make up the United Arab Emirates.
Lawmakers said the Doncasters deal underwent a lengthier, full investigation by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a secretive interagency panel charged with screening foreign takeovers for national security problems. The panel, which is chaired by the Treasury Department, includes representatives from the Pentagon, the Homeland Security Department and a number of other agencies.
"This investigation was a significant improvement over what happened before," Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who spearheaded opposition to the ports takeover, agreed, saying in a statement: "There are two differences between this deal and the Dubai Ports deal. First, this went through the process in a careful, thoughtful way; and second, this is a product not a service and the opportunity to infiltrate and sabotage is both more difficult and more detectable. Unless new information comes out, I will not oppose this deal."
Administration officials contend that the investigation of the ports deal was thorough. But they took care to put the Doncasters transaction through a longer series of formal hurdles, including a 45-day review that requires submission of findings to the president for a final decision. They also briefed congressional leaders in advance.
Still unclear is the fate of another Dubai takeover that has gone almost unnoticed. In January, a Dubai government-owned firm bought Inchcape Shipping Services, a London-based company that provides ship agency services — arranging the smooth arrival and departure of vessels — at 200 ports around the world, including more than two dozen in the United States.
BY ANDREW GREELEY
May military officers for reason of conscience criticize the political leadership of the armed forces, even after they've retired, on the grounds that the behavior of the leadership is immoral? As Marine Gen. Gregory Newbold said, the "decision to invade Iraq was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who never had to execute these missions or bury the results." This judgment does not differ from that of George Packer, an early supporter of the war in his extraordinary book, The Assassin's Gate. Two men with different backgrounds and perspectives come to exactly the same judgment and use the same word, "casual."
One may be prepared to agree that the protesting generals should have resigned from the services if they thought that the war was being run by civilian cowboys. But, should they not, like Colin Powell, have maintained a stoic silence about their discontent? One hears two arguments in favor of this position: regard for the morale of the troops and respect for the American tradition of civilian control of the military.
It seems to me that if an officer is convinced his civilian leadership is reckless with his soldiers' lives, then he must resign and speak out. Otherwise he is cooperating in evil and is as much a war criminal as the "casual, swaggering civilian leadership."
The "support our troops" theory is a much weaker one. If "our troops" are in an impossible situation, devised by arrogant, incompetent leadership, the best support is to demand they be removed from the situation into which folly has placed them. Taken literally, ''support our troops'' means the same thing as ''our country, right or wrong.''
The issue becomes not whether it is right to criticize the leadership but whether the criticism is valid. If it is, then there should be a resignation, but of the president instead of the secretary of defense. Another book on the war -- Cobra II by military historians Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor -- addresses the same issue. Their craft requires a careful and detailed description of the battles, major and minor, of a campaign that future generations of cadets will study in the service academies. Such men have no particular ideological bias. They are diagnosticians whose duty it is to describe what worked and what didn't work.
There can be no doubt after reading the 500 pages of battlefield reconstructions in Cobra II that American soldiers and Marines fought with tenacity and courage and that their noncommissioned officers and lower level commissioned officers were resilient and ingenious, even up to regimental, brigade and divisional commands, as they always have been in American military history. The problems were at the very highest level -- Franks, Sanchez, Bremer, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz.
Gordon and Trainor sum up their work at the beginning: "The Iraq War is a story of hubris and heroism, of high-technology wizardry and cultural ignorance. The bitter insurgency American and British forces confront today was not pre-ordained. There were lost opportunities, military and political, along the way. The commanders and troops who fought the war explained them to us. A journey through the war's hidden history, demonstrates why American and allied forces are still at risk in a war the president declared all but won on May 1, 2003."
The hubris and devotion to high technology and total ignorance of the enemy are not the problems of the officer corps or the troops. They are problems at the very top level of the country, from the president on down. Why have the generals spoken out now? Doubtless because they see the same group that created the mess in Iraq preparing to incite a war against Iran, using the same techniques of stirring up fear and pseudo-patriotism. They actually seem to believe they can carry it off again, despite their failures in Iraq. It is almost as though there is a Karl Rove scenario. As part of the War on Terrorism we begin to create shock and awe in Iran during October. The Republicans are the party of victory and patriotism. We must keep them in power to support our brave troops and our brave president, and to avenge the heroes of 9/11.
As Vice President Dick Cheney is alleged to have argued to the president, "If we don't finish Iran now, no future administration will be able to finish them."
By Terence Hunt
The Associated Press
Friday 28 April 2006
Washington - President Bush on Friday rejected calls by some lawmakers for a tax on oil company windfall profits, saying the industry should reinvest its recent gains into finding and producing more energy.
"The temptation in Washington is to tax everything," Bush said in an exchange with reporters in the White House Rose Garden. "The answer is for there to be strong reinvestment to make this country more secure from an energy perspective."
With gasoline at over $3 a gallon in some areas, Bush said there was "no evidence" of price-gouging of consumers.
Soaring gas prices have become a top political issue in Congress in this midterm congressional election year. Bush spoke a day after Exxon-Mobil, the nation's biggest oil company, said its earnings climbed by 7 percent to $8.4 billion during the January-March period.
Bush said energy companies should use their increased cash flows to build more natural gas pipelines, expand refineries, explore "in environmentally friendly ways," and invest in renewable sources of energy.
"That's what the American people expect. They also expect to be treated fairly at the pump," he said. "These oil prices are a wake-up call. We're dependent on oil. We need to get off oil."
In a hastily arranged news conference to tout strong economic growth figures, Bush also:
* Declared the national anthem should be sung in English - not Spanish - in response to the recent release of a Spanish language version. "And I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English," he said.
* Endorsed yet again a temporary worker program as a way to enforce border security.
* Was cool to calls in Congress to abolish the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the wake of the government's poor response to Hurricane Katrina, stressing that the next hurricane season starts in just five weeks. "We're much more ready this time than last time. And we're taking very seriously the lessons learned from Katrina," Bush said. "I've looked at all suggestions, but my attitude is, let's make it work."
* Criticized the Sudanese government's thwarting of efforts by the U.N. and other international organizations to take a firmer control of fighting atrocities in the Darfur region. "My message to them is we expect there to be full compliance with the international desire for there to be peace in the Darfur region," he said.
* Sidestepped a question on whether recent staff changes at the White House could help reverse his slump in the polls, saying, "We've got big challenges for this country, and I've got a strategy to deal with them," he said.
* Said "the world is united and concerned" about Iran's suspected desire to build nuclear weapons and that he will work with other countries to achieve a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
On surging oil prices and energy-industry profits, Bush said it was "important for the people to understand that one of the reasons why the price of gasoline is up is, there's tight gasoline supplies. And one reason there's tight gasoline supplies is, we haven't built any new refineries since the 1970s."
Bush, a former Texas oilman, said Congress needs to provide regulatory relief so refineries can be expanded and new ones built.
"So it's a combination of people investing the cash flows, as well as regulatory relief, to enhance the ability for people to achieve the objective, which is more gasoline on the market which will help our consumers," he said.
The president announced a series of steps earlier this week designed to slightly ease upward pressure on gasoline prices, including temporarily halting the filling of the government's emergency petroleum reserve and easing environmental standards on gasoline additives.
He also asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into whether price-gouging was going on.
"I have no evidence that there's any rip off taking place, but it's the role of the Federal Trade Commission to assure me that my inclination and instinct is right," he told reporters.
It's up to the FTC "to assure the American people that they're being treated fairly at the pump," he added.
The Associated Press
Friday 28 April 2006
West Palm Beach - Rush Limbaugh was arrested Friday on prescription drug charges, law enforcement officials said.
Limbaugh turned himself in to authorities on a warrant issued by the State Attorney's Office, said Teri Barbera, a spokeswoman for the State Attorney's Office.
The conservative radio commentator came into the jail at about 4 p.m. with his attorney Roy Black and bonded out an hour later on a $3,000 bail, Barbera said.
The warrant was for fraud to conceal information to obtain prescription, Barbera said.
Black said his client and authorities reached a settlement on a single count charge of doctor shopping filed Friday by the State Attorney will be dismissed in 18 months.
Prosecutors seized Limbaugh's records after learning that he received about 2,000 painkillers, prescribed by four doctors in six months, at a pharmacy near his Palm Beach mansion. They contend that Limbaugh engaged in "doctor shopping," or illegally deceived multiple doctors to receive overlapping prescriptions.
Limbaugh has not been charged and maintains he's innocent. He has acknowledged he became addicted to pain medication, blaming it on severe back pain, and took a five-week leave from his radio show to enter a rehabilitation program in 2003.
Friday , April 28, 2006
MEXICO CITY Mexico's Congress approved a bill Friday decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine and heroin for personal use a measure sure to raise questions in Washington about Mexico's commitment to the war on drugs.
The only remaining step was the signature of President Vicente Fox, whose office indicated he would sign it.
Supporters said the law would let police focus on drug smuggling, rather than on busting casual users. The bill also would stiffen many drug-related penalties: for trafficking, for possession near schools, and for possession of even small quantities by government employees.
Criminal penalties for drug sales would remain on the books.
"We can't close our eyes to this reality," said Sen. Jorge Zermeno, of Fox's conservative National Action Party. "We cannot continue to fill our jails with people who have addictions."
The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush scrambled to come up with a response.
"We're still studying the legislation, but any effort to decriminalize illegal drugs would not be helpful," a U.S. diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
The bill, passed by Mexico's Senate on a 53-26 vote with one abstention, had already been quietly approved in the lower house of Congress and was sent Friday to the president's desk. Presidential spokesman Ruben Aguilar indicated Fox would sign it.
"This law gives police and prosecutors better legal tools to combat drug crimes that do so much damage to our youth and children," he said.
If signed into law, the bill could have an impact on Mexico's relationship with the United States and on the vast numbers of vacationing students who visit Mexico, often to take advantage of its rarely enforced drinking age of 18.
The bill says criminal charges will no longer be brought for possession of up to 25 milligrams of heroin, five grams of marijuana about one-fifth of an ounce, or about four joints and half a gram of cocaine about half the standard street-size quantity, which is enough for several lines of the drug.
"No charges will be brought against ... addicts or consumers who are found in possession of any narcotic for personal use," the Senate bill reads. It also lays out allowable quantities for a large array of other drugs, including LSD, MDA, ecstasy about two pills' worth and amphetamines.
Some of the amounts are eye-popping: Mexicans would be allowed to possess a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of peyote, the button-sized hallucinogenic cactus used in some native Indian religious ceremonies.
Mexican law now leaves open the possibility of dropping charges against people caught with drugs if they are considered addicts and if "the amount is the quantity necessary for personal use." But the exemption isn't automatic.
The new bill drops the "addict" requirement automatically allowing any "consumers" to have drugs and sets out specific allowable quantities.
Sale of all drugs would remain illegal under the proposed law, unlike the Netherlands, where the sale of marijuana for medical use is legal and it can be bought with a prescription in pharmacies.
While Dutch authorities look the other way regarding the open sale of cannabis in designated coffee shops something Mexican police seem unlikely to do the Dutch have zero tolerance for heroin and cocaine. In both countries, commercial growing of marijuana is outlawed.
In Colombia, a 1994 court ruling decriminalized personal possession of small amounts of cocaine, heroin and other drugs. But President Alvaro Uribe, who is almost assured of re-election next month, wants to change that with a constitutional amendment.
"Allowing the personal dosage of drugs is inconsistent with a country committed to fighting the war on drugs," Uribe said at a campaign stop.
The effects could be significant, given that Mexico is rapidly becoming a drug-consuming nation as well as a shipment point for traffickers, and given the number of U.S. students who flock to border cities or resorts like Cancun and Acapulco on vacation.
"This is going to increase addictions in Mexico," said Ulisis Bon, a drug treatment expert in Tijuana, where heroin use is rampant. "A lot of Americans already come here to buy medications they can't get up there ... Just imagine, with heroin."
U.S. legalization advocates greeted the bill with glee.
Ethan Nadelmann, director of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, called it "a very good move," saying it removed "a huge opportunity for low-level police corruption." In Mexico, police often release people detained for minor drug possession in exchange for bribes.
Friday, April 28, 2006
US war costs 'could hit $811bn'
The cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has soared and may now reach $811bn (£445bn), says a report by the Congressional Research Service.
It estimates that Congress has appropriated $368bn for the global war on terror, including both conflicts.
It says that if the current spending bill is approved, US war costs will reach $439bn, and it estimates that an extra $371bn may be needed by 2016.
On that basis, the two wars would cost more than the $579bn spent in Vietnam.
The future costing assumes that US troop levels will drop from the 258,000 currently engaged in all operations to 74,000 by 2010.
The rising cost of the war is leading to growing concerns in Congress, where attempts to control the budget deficit have been hindered by the "supplementary" requests received each year for war spending.
The CRS estimates that the US Department of Defense's annual war funding has risen from $73bn in 2004 to $120bn in 2006, with an increase of 17% this year alone.
There have also been concerns that extra non-related appropriations are often tucked inside the war funding bill.
On Thursday Senators deleted funding for a $15m seafood promotion programme that had been tucked away in the current bill.
Earlier, Senators diverted $1.9bn in war funds to pay for increased immigration controls at US borders.
The cost of the war in Iraq has been increasing since US troops have become bogged down in the conflict.
The CRS says the real cost of the conflict in Iraq has risen to $8bn monthly, nearly double the cost in 2003.
It points out that it is difficult to estimate the exact cost of individual operations, such as the Iraq conflict, because the Defense Department does not break down the figures for individual operations.
And it says that the Defense Department has also minimised the cost of the war by not including other costs, including intelligence and the training of Iraqi and Afghan security forces, in its estimates.
Overall, 71% of the total war costs have been spent in Iraq, 21% in Afghanistan, and 7% on increased protection for US forces worldwide.
The main reason for the rapidly escalating costs is increased spending on ammunition, equipment and operational materials such as petrol.
Over $60bn has been spent on procurement, including improved armour, replacement of damaged vehicles, and the building of a more extensive infrastructure to support the troops on the ground.
The CRS says that "if the global war is likely to become the long war as some administration spokesman have suggested, Congress may want to consider requiring that the Department of Defense request a full year's war funds concurrently with its regular budget".
The estimates do not include the costs of reconstruction, which the US originally estimated at $56bn.
A recent report from the General Accounting Office suggested these costs would be much higher, but also said much of the money disbursed so far had been spent on security, not rebuilding.
The Next Unnecessary War
Tell A Friend
by Mick Youther
President Bush has gotten himself into a bind. His wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are going badly, his poll numbers are down; and if the Republicans lose control of Congress in November, he will probably be impeached. Under these circumstances, there is only one thing Bush can do to save his legacy. He has to start another war. Maybe number three will be his lucky number.
If you’ve been keeping up with the news, it will come as no surprise that Iran is the Bush Administration’s next victim. There is no legitimate reason to attack Iran, but they’ve never let that stop them before.
If you look past the Bush Administration, the neoconservatives, and their media stooges, you will find that most people don’t think America starting another war is a good idea—especially against Iran.
• “Analysts fear a military strike would ‘rally the Iranian public around an otherwise unpopular regime, inflame anti-American anger around the Muslim world, and jeopardize the already fragile U.S. position in Iraq.’” --The Progress Report, April 10, 2006
In February, the Oxford Research Group’s released a prediction:
• “A US military attack on Iranian nuclear infrastructure would be the start of a protracted military confrontation that would probably involve Iraq, Israel and Lebanon as well as the United States and Iran, with the possibility of western Gulf States being involved as well.”
Their report concludes: “A military response to the current crisis is a particularly dangerous option and should not be considered further. Alternative approaches must be sought, however difficult these may be.” (Prior to the Iraq War, they predicted that Saddam’s regime would be easily beaten, but Iraq would become a “hotbed of insurgency”.)
• “…[A] repeat of any "Shock and Awe" tactics is not advisable given that Iran has installed sophisticated anti-ship missiles on the Island of Abu Musa, and therefore controls the critical Strait of Hormuz. In the case of a U.S. attack, a shut down of the Strait of Hormuz – where all of the Persian Gulf bound oil tankers must pass – could easily trigger a market panic with oil prices skyrocketing to $100 per barrel or more.” --William Clark , author of Petrodollar Warfare - Oil, Iraq and the Future of the Dollar, Media Monitors Network, 8/3/05
• “After [running numerous high-level war-gaming sessions], I am left with two simple sentences for policymakers: You have no military solution for the issues of Iran. And you have to make diplomacy work.” --Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel who has run war games at the National War College for the past two decades, quoted in the Atlantic Monthly, December 2004.
• “… the president of the United States does not have a military option. He can say he has a military option; he does not have a military option.” --Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), MSNBC, 3/19/06
No one seriously believes that Bush can order an invasion of Iran because he has already squandered too much of his military resources on his twin quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, the plan is to bomb some 450 sites across Iran. Then, according to the same masterminds who started the Iraq War, the Iranian people will see the error of their ways, overthrow their Islamic government, and become a bastion of American-style democracy—just like in Iraq.
Just in case bombing Iran doesn’t sound crazy enough for you; how about “nuking” Iran?
• “The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons.” --former CIA Officer Philip Giraldi, a, The American Conservative, 8/1/05
The beauty of the Cheney plan is that Iran doesn’t even have to be involved in the terrorist attack. If the Bush Administration can’t come up with any better excuse, they can use their new expanded definition of terrorism to attack Iran if someone sneaks into a Bush rally wearing a “NO WAR FOR OIL” tee-shirt.
• According to Giraldi: “Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing—that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack—but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections”
• “[A military strike] would accelerate, not delay, the Iranian nuclear program. Hard-liners in Tehran would be proven right in their claim that the only thing that can deter the United States is a nuclear bomb. Iranian leaders could respond with a crash nuclear program that could produce a bomb in a few years.” --Joseph Cirincione, nonproliferation expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, quoted in Foreign Policy, 3/27/06
The obvious question becomes: Why wouldn’t Iran want nuclear weapons?
• “From Iran ‘s perspective, it is surrounded by an aggressive, unpredictable United States that is willing to lie to its own people to make war in Iran ‘s front yard.” --according to Richard Clarke, former head of counterterrorism in the Bush Administration, TomPaine.com, 1/30/06
• “Obviously, we don’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons and I don’t know if they’re developing them, but if they’re not developing them, they’re crazy.” --Martin van Creveld, one of Israel’s leading military historians, quoted in The New Statesman, 2/13/06
Now suppose: 5 or 10 years from now, Iran did manage to build a nuclear weapon. What could they do with it? Do you think they would launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (which they don’t have) at the U.S., which happens to have thousands of nuclear weapons ready to annihilate any attacker at a moment’s notice? Or would they choose to attack Israel with their nuclear weapon, knowing that Israel also has nuclear weapons, and knowing what Israel does when someone attacks them? If Iran attacked Israel with a nuclear weapon; Israel would level Iran’s cities, destroy their oil production facilities, burn their crops, salt their land, poison their wells, and kill their dog. Israel does not need our protection.
So, the question is not whether we should attack Iran or not. The question is how can we stop the Bush Administration before it starts its third war in 4 years. It will not be easy. George W. Bush has made it clear that he considers himself to be above the law and answerable to no one.
It is up to Congress to let Mr. Bush know that his war-starting days are over. The U.S. Constitution gives the power to declare war to Congress--not the President. Now is the time to contact your Senators and Representatives and demand they reassert their Constitutional powers to check an out-of-control War President.
Please act now! Call Congress, write letters, march in the streets. Time is running out. After the bombs start falling, it will be too late--again.
Mick Youther is an American citizen, an independent voter, a veteran, a parent, a Christian, a scientist, a writer, and all-around nice guy who has been aroused from a comfortable apathy by the high crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush Administration.
Powerful Iraqi Cleric Call for Disarmament
By Bruce Wallace and Saad Fakhrildeen
Special to The Times
8:56 AM PDT, April 27, 2006
NAJAF, Iraq — Reaching across a sectarian divide, Iraq's highest-ranking Shiite Muslim cleric called on militias to disarm today, saying only government forces should be permitted to carry weapons on the streets.
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the Iranian-born religious leader regarded as the Shiite majority's most powerful moral voice, also urged Iraqis to form a government blind to religious and ethnic differences.
"Weapons must be in the hands of government security forces that should not be tied to political parties but to the nation," said a statement of remarks released by Sistani's office in the Shiite holy city of Najaf.
"The first task for the government is fighting insecurity and putting an end to the terrorist acts that threaten innocents with death and kidnapping."
Leaders of Iraq's Sunni minority have claimed to be under siege from marauding gangs of Shiite gunmen, some alleged to be working within the government's own security forces.
Sistani's statement followed a visit to his home in Najaf by Prime Minister-designate Nouri Maliki. The new Iraqi leader came to pay political homage to Sistani while in the midst of trying to form a government acceptable to all of Iraq's fractious political parties, some of whose claim to power is backed by heavily armed militias.
The new leader is getting plenty of advice as he works to pull a government together.
Many here worry Maliki may be forced to fill key government posts according to a sectarian formula for sharing power across the spectrum of Shiite, Sunni, Kurdish and secular parties.
Avoiding a government with sectarian hues was the main subject of discussions between Maliki and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her visit, along with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, to Baghdad this week. Rice left for Bulgaria later today, telling reporters in the heavily guarded Green Zone she was convinced Maliki and his advisors were committed to appointing ministers based on competence.
"Obviously, the key now is to get the government up and running, to get ministers who are capable and who also will reflect the value of a national unity government, and then to get about the work of dealing with the security situation, dealing with the economic situation," she said, according to news agencies.
But it was the unusually direct political intervention from Sistani that rang loudest here. The cleric is regarded as the voice of Shiite moderation, though he prefers to exercise his influence through subtle backroom whispers. Last week, it was a nudge from Sistani that contributed to the decision by interim Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari to abandon his quest to keep the top job in the face of great opposition.
Sistani was more direct today. Maliki emerged from their meeting to tell reporters that the cleric had "advised us, as always, to be Iraqis first."
Maliki also said his government would merge militias into the legitimate state security forces, a proposal that challenges the power of some of his own strongest backers, notably radical cleric Muqtada Sadr.
The two men held a joint news conference in which Sadr denounced the Rice-Rumsfeld visit for "its blatant interference in Iraqi affairs," repeated his call for an end to the U.S. occupation, but dodged the question of whether he would disband his own militia known as the Al Mahdi army.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch today said insurgent attacks in Baghdad had decreased by 10% last week and said the number of victims of ethnic and sectarian violence in the capital was the lowest last week since the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra.
"We don't see us moving toward a civil war in Iraq," he said. "In fact we're seeing a movement away."
But the violence continued at a steady throb across Iraq. The sister of Tariq Hashemi, Iraq's new vice president and leading Sunni politician, was killed along with her bodyguard in a drive-by shooting as she left home for work in Baghdad.
The murder came just two weeks after one of Hashemi's brothers was assassinated, and two days after a video from Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab Zarqawi declared that Sunnis who cooperated with the new government were American "agents" and would be killed.
Elsewhere, three Italian and a Romanian soldier died in a roadside bombing of their convoy near their base in Nasiriyah, 200 miles south of Baghdad. There were also clashes between U.S. forces and insurgents in Ramadi.
Police said 16 bodies were also recovered in Baghdad and other cities, victims of execution-style killings.
Timers staff writer Wallace contributed from Baghdad and Fakhrildeen from Najaf. Staff writer Borzou Daragahi
Of Imperial Presidents and Congressional Cowards
by Patrick J. Buchanan
Now that Congress is back from spring break and looking ahead to Memorial Day, July 4, the August recess and adjournment early in October for elections, perhaps it can take up this question.
Does President Bush have, or not have, the authority to take us to war with Iran? Because Bush and the War Party are surely behaving as though this were an executive decision alone.
No sooner had President Ahmadinejad declared that his country had enriched a speck of uranium than the war drums began again.
Bush has said of Iran that even "a process which would enable Iran to develop a nuclear weapon is unacceptable." John McCain has said too many times to count, "The military option is on the table." The 2006 National Security Strategy re-endorses preventive war and elevates Iran to the No. 1 threat to the United States.
This is not enough for The Weekly Standard, which equates our situation with that of France in 1936, when Paris sat immobile while Hitler marched three lightly armed battalions back into the German Rhineland, which had been demilitarized by the Versailles Treaty.
"To Bomb or Not to Bomb, That Is the Iran Question," is the title of an extended piece in the Standard, whose editorial calls for "urgent operational planning for bombing strikes." As that would likely ignite Shia and Revolutionary Guard terror attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, the Standard wants Bush to send more troops.
In an editorial "Iran, Now," National Review is already into target acquisition. It calls for plans for a massive bombing campaign "coupled with an aggressive and persistent efforts to topple the regime from within." Ideally, U.S. bombs "should hit not just the nuclear facilities, but also the symbols of state oppression: the intelligence ministry, the headquarters of the Revolutionary Guard, the guard towers of the notorious Evin Prison."
In The Washington Post, Mark Helprin, who is identified as having "served in the Israeli army and air force," says "the obvious option is an aerial campaign to divest Iran of its nuclear potential: i.e., clear the Persian Gulf of Iranian naval forces, scrub anti-ship missiles from the shore and lay open antiaircraft-free corridors to each target. … Were the targets effectively hidden or buried, Iran could be shut down, coerced and perhaps revolutionized by the simple and rapid destruction of its oil production and transport."
Since Muslims may not like what we are up to, Helprin cautions, we should prepare "for a land route from the Mediterranean across Israel and Jordan to the Tigris and Euphrates," and, presumably, from there the final push on to Tehran.
In all this hawk talk, something is missing. We are not told how many innocent Iranians we will have to kill as we go about smashing their nuclear program and defenses. Nor are we told how many more soldiers we will need for the neocons' new war, nor how long they will have to fight, nor how many more wings we should plan for at Walter Reed, nor when it will be over – if ever.
Moreover, where does Bush get the authority to launch a war on a nation that has not attacked us? As few believe Iran is close to a nuclear weapon, while four neighbors – Russia, India, Pakistan, and Israel, not to mention the United States – already have the bomb, what is America's justification for war?
If we sat by while Stalin got the bomb, and Mao got the bomb, and Kim Jong-Il got the bomb, why is an Iranian bomb a threat to the United States, which possesses thousands?
There is a reason the Founding Fathers separated the power to conduct war from the power to declare it. The reason is just such a ruler as George W. Bush, a man possessed of an ideology and sense of mission that are not necessarily coterminous with what is best for his country. Under our Constitution, it is Congress, not the president, who decides on war.
Many Democrats now concede they failed the nation when they took Bush at his word that Iraq was an intolerable threat that could be dealt with only by an invasion. Now, Bush and the War Party are telling us the same thing about Iran. And the Congress is conducting itself in the same contemptible and cowardly way.
It is time for Congress to tell President Bush directly that he has no authority to go to war on Iran and to launch such a war would be an impeachable offense. Or, if they so conclude, Congress should share full responsibility by granting him that authority after it has held hearings and told the people why we have no other choice than another Mideast war, with a nation three times as large as Iraq.
If Congress lacks the courage to do its constitutional duty, it should stop whining about imperial presidents. Because, like the Roman Senate of Caesar's time, it will have invited them and it will deserve them.
COPYRIGHT CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
| Steppingstone to War |
House passes 'Iran Freedom Support Act'
|by Justin Raimondo|
It is "a steppingstone to war," said Rep. Dennis Kucinich, during the debate over the so-called Iran Freedom Support Act, and if this vote is any measure of the degree of congressional opposition to the looming prospect of war with Tehran, then we have a lot to worry about.
Only 21 members of the House stood up against the overwhelming bipartisan wave of support for the bill, which would impose economic sanctions on the Iranians – and openly proclaims the goal of effecting "regime change." Rep. Ron Paul, a Texas Republican, said the bill reminds him of a 1998 congressional resolution – the Iraq Liberation Act – that paved the way for the Iraqi debacle. Yet most of the "antiwar" contingent in the House of Representatives caved and voted in favor, including Democrats John Conyers, Maxine Waters, Jack Murtha, Bernie Sanders, Barbara Lee, and Lynn Woolsey.
The bill was opposed by the Bush administration, which officially holds that diplomacy is the way to go on the Iranian nukes issue. Thus it was supported by many Democrats, including the voluble Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), a co-author of the bill along with Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Passage is a major goal of AIPAC, Israel's premier lobbying organization in the U.S., which for the past two years has featured the alleged Iranian threat to America as its convention theme: this year's conclave featured a multimedia exhibit supposedly dramatizing how Iran is "pursuing nuclear weapons and how it can be stopped." As Middle East expert Trita Parsi, of the John Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies, put it: "I don't see any other major groups behind this legislation that have had any impact on it."
The Israelis have made no secret of their efforts to get Uncle Sam to launch an attack. If you guys don't, a number of Israeli officials have implied, then we will. This last, however, is an empty threat, as the Israelis don't have the military capacity to wipe out Iran's widely dispersed nuclear research facilities in a single blow, and, in any case, are more than likely to wait until the last possible moment before they take the unusual step of fighting their own war. After all, why should they, when the U.S. is perfectly willing to sacrifice American troops and treasure on the altar of Israel's alleged national security interests?
Iran represents a threat to nothing and no one but Israel, and everybody knows it. It is likewise universally acknowledged that the one Middle Eastern power we definitely know to be in possession of a substantial nuclear stockpile is Israel. The Iranians, then, could be seen as engaging in a defensive policy of deterrence: after all, Israel has never even acknowledged its nukes, let alone declared a policy of "no first strike." Unlike the Israelis, the Iranians are signatories of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. But of course we aren't allowed to mention that, because depicting the government of Israel as a gang of duplicitous scheming aggressors intent on holding a nuclear sword of Damocles over the entire Middle East would be "anti-Semitic," according to the latest definition of anti-Semitism, albeit all too true.
The timing on this vote is significant on two counts. Coming as it did at a time when the debate about Israel's inordinate influence over U.S. foreign policy is getting heated, this vote demonstrates that, as John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt point out in "The Israel Lobby":
"AIPAC, which is a de facto agent for a foreign government, has a stranglehold on the U.S. Congress. Open debate about U.S. policy towards Israel does not occur there, even though that policy has important consequences for the entire world."
The sheer power of what Mearsheimer and Walt call "the Lobby" is further demonstrated by the general public revulsion against the consequences of our very similar policy in Iraq. The unpopularity of our military presence in the Middle East has not deterred politicians from jumping on the war-with-Tehran bandwagon. Even as (some) Democratic lawmakers decry the occupation of Iraq and call for a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal, they join in the war whoops of the neoconservatives who are pushing to ignite a new war with Tehran. So much for the Democratic Party as a vehicle for antiwar sentiment.
While the Iran Freedom Support Act contains language explicitly disavowing the charge that it represents a blank check for war with Iran, that is precisely what it does. It sets the stage for isolating Iran economically and paves the way for the creation of an Iranian version of Ahmed Chalabi and his "heroes in error." We will, once again, pay for the privilege of being lied to. As that old Peter, Paul, and Mary song goes: "When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?"
In the Senate, the primary proponents of this bill are likely to be Hillary Clinton and the rabidly neocon wing of the Republican Party. Hillary came out for sanctions long ago, and, in a fiery speech to AIPAC, stopped just short of calling for war with Iran if the mullahs did not cease and desist. Go here for an entirely plausible "future history" account of "the tragedy that followed Hillary Clinton's bombing of Iran in 2009." The matter-of-fact opening of Timothy Garton Ash's near-future scenario is frighteningly plausible:
"May 7, 2009, will surely go down in history alongside September 11, 2001. '5/7,' as it inevitably became known, saw massive suicide bombings in Tel Aviv, London, and New York, as well as simultaneous attacks on the remaining Western troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Total casualties were estimated at around 10,000 dead and many more wounded. The attacks, which included the explosion of a so-called dirty bomb in London, were orchestrated by a Tehran-based organization for 'martyrdom-seeking operations' established in 2004. '5/7' was the Islamic Republic of Iran's response to the bombing of its nuclear facilities, which President Hillary Clinton had ordered in March 2009."
Seymour Hersh and others seem to think the Bush administration will beat President Hillary to it, and that military operations involving both the Americans and the Israelis have already commenced. The Iran Freedom Support Act would merely drag these covert activities up into the sunlight, although their roots would stay submerged in the murky underworld of shadowy exile groups and Pentagon subcontractors. Passage of the Act would give rise to a whole new sector of the democracy-export business. Iranian exile groups – including monarchists, Marxists, and a motley collection of alleged "democrats" – would vie for funds and the American imprimatur. A new gold rush for the democracy exporters would commence, shifting the scene of the action from Iraq to Iran, even as the War Party sets its sights on the latter.
Let no one say they were against this war with Iran, when it comes, if they didn't vote with the heroic 21 naysayers. These sanctions against Iran are but a prelude to war, just as sanctions were the first step in the long run-up to the invasion of Iraq. However, we may not enjoy such a lengthy interval between cause and effect this time around. Events are proceeding at an ever accelerating pace, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice now saying the time for talking is over and the time for action has begun – not military action (at least not yet), but action by the Security Council of the United Nations, whose "credibility is at stake." I wonder if that same standard applies to the many UN resolutions that Israel continues to defy. Hasn't the UN already lost all credibility when such brazen defiance has gone unnoticed by the Security Council?
Let no one say they weren't warned. Using Iraq as a "model" for the methodology of the War Party, we can see, when it comes to Iran, that all the elements are falling neatly into place. Once again, we have the specter of WMD and their possible existence or nonexistence: a mirage projected by the credulous Western "mainstream" media, one that is sure to dissipate only after we're waist-deep in an Iranian quagmire. Another familiar phenomenon: dubious exile groups, along the lines of the infamous Iraqi National Congress, only this time even wackier, wilder, and woolier.
The Bush administration is going too slow for the Lobby's taste, and the House vote is a good indication of their displeasure. In spite of widespread antiwar sentiment and a general disgust with the notion of meddling in the affairs of other nations, the War Party has effectively seized control not only of major policymaking bodies of the U.S. government, but also both major political parties. Mearsheimer and Walt describe the campaign by Israel's amen corner to rush us into another war:
"The Bush administration has responded to the Lobby's pressure by working overtime to shut down Iran's nuclear program. But Washington has had little success, and Iran seems determined to get a nuclear arsenal. As a result, the Lobby has intensified its pressure on the U.S. government, using all of the strategies in its playbook."
One new strategy is to be prepared to abandon the Republicans if a sufficiently warlike Democrat – such as Hillary Clinton – wins the nod for a White House run. As for this White House, while it may have developed plans for an attack on Iran, the current administration seems eager to draw out the diplomatic dance as long as possible, even in the face of what Mearsheimer and Walt depict as a Katrina-like storm of propaganda and political pressure:
"Op-eds and articles now warn of imminent dangers from a nuclear Iran, caution against any appeasement of a 'terrorist' regime, and hint darkly of preventive action should diplomacy fail. The Lobby is also pushing Congress to approve the Iran Freedom Support Act, which would expand existing sanctions on Iran. Israeli officials also warn they may take preemptive action should Iran continue down the nuclear road, hints partly intended to keep Washington focused on this issue."
The Lobby is on the march, and war is in the wind. The cries of the banshee pundits and the sonorous resolutions coming out of Israeli-occupied Capitol Hill, are portents of the coming storm. Mearsheimer and Walt, two distinguished professors from two of our nation's most prestigious universities, have been vilified by the Amen Corner and have had their thesis twisted and willfully misunderstood by ultra-Zionists and anti-Semites alike. They have admirably refused to get down in the gutter with such dishonest, agenda-driven scribblers, and instead have let their work speak for itself as a predictor and critic of U.S. policy in the Middle East:
"One might argue that Israel and the Lobby have not had much influence on U.S. policy toward Iran, because the United States has its own reasons to keep Iran from going nuclear. This is partly true, but Iran's nuclear ambitions do not pose an existential threat to the United States. If Washington could live with a nuclear Soviet Union, a nuclear China, or even a nuclear North Korea, then it can live with a nuclear Iran. And that is why the Lobby must keep constant pressure on U.S. politicians to confront Tehran. Iran and the United States would hardly be allies if the Lobby did not exist, but U.S. policy would be more temperate and preventive war would not be a serious option."
As for this essay's predictive value: in light of the knowledge that it was commissioned by The Atlantic magazine and written sometime last year, the section on the Iran nuke issue seems prescient, an ample demonstration of the paper's thesis – that the Israel lobby has hijacked American foreign policy, especially when it comes to the Middle East.
Mearsheimer and Walt's critique of U.S. policy, as distorted by neoconservative fealty to Israel, is more than borne out by the Iran nuke brouhaha. Iranian missiles trained on Tel Aviv, or even London, do not a threat to the U.S. make. It is doubtful they represent a plausible threat even to the targeted cities, as the threat of massive retaliation in kind would successfully deter such a heinous act, just as it deterred Stalin and his successors for half a century.
It is both alarming and baffling that we have any number of lobbies operating out of Washington on behalf of dozens of foreign countries: not only Israel, but all sorts of overseas potentates and unsavory dictators of one sort or another have their bought-and-paid-for Amen Corners in the form of at least one pricey public relations firm. But I have yet to hear of a foreign policy lobby that operates on behalf of Americans – that looks out for exclusively American interests. Why isn't there a countering force arrayed against all these foreign agents and their domestic allies who push for the narrow interests of the "homeland" – usually at Uncle Sam's expense? Who will lobby Congress to start putting America first?
Bush Set to Approve Takeover of 9 Military Plants by Dubai
By JIM RUTENBERG and DAVID E. SANGER
WASHINGTON, April 27 — President Bush is expected on Friday to announce his approval of a deal under which a Dubai-owned company would take control of nine plants in the United States that manufacture parts for American military vehicles and aircraft, say two administration officials familiar with the terms of the deal.
The officials, who were granted anonymity so they could speak freely about something the president had not yet announced, said that the final details had not yet been set and that Mr. Bush might put conditions on the transaction to keep military technology in the United States.
But his action is almost certain to attract scrutiny in Congress, because of the political furor that erupted over the administration's approval of a deal earlier this spring that would have given another Dubai-owned company, Dubai Ports World, leases to operate several American port terminals through its acquisition of a British company, the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company.
Dubai Ports agreed to drop the port deal after it became clear that Republicans were abandoning Mr. Bush and opposing the takeover.
In this case, the plants in question are owned by Doncasters Group Ltd., a British company that is being purchased for $1.2 billion from the Royal Bank of Scotland Group by Dubai International Capital, which is owned by the United Arab Emirate government.
Because the plants make turbine blades for tanks and aircraft, the deal was reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which sent it on to Mr. Bush himself for a decision, a step used only when the potential security risks or political considerations are particularly acute.
Administration officials alerted Congress that the deal would go through the committee's review process in an effort to head off the kind of public debate that surrounded the ports deal.
Opponents of the ports transactions argued that the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks had filtered money through the United Arab Emirates, where Dubai is the major shipping center. Mr. Bush argued that blocking the deal would have sent the wrong message to a friendly Arab state. His support, however, was not enough to quell the political furor.
One official who was briefed on the Doncasters transaction said there would be provisions in the agreement protecting American military secrets. But it was unclear whether that would satisfy Congressional objections. With nine Doncasters plants in Georgia and Connecticut making parts for American military contractors, the prospect of a takeover by the Dubai company has already caused nervousness among some lawmakers.
Representative John Barrow, Democrat of Georgia, likened the Doncasters deal to "outsourcing" part of the nation's industrial-military complex.
But Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and one of the foremost critics of the ports deal, said on Thursday that he would not necessarily have a problem this time around, in large part because the White House had given the deal a thorough review.
"It's a significant improvement over what happened before," Mr. King said. "It's been much more thorough, much more detailed."
A senior Republican Congressional aide who was granted anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the matter, said he did not believe the president's approval of the deal would cause quite the same stir as the ports deal.
Osama Connected to 9/11? Not According to the F.B.I.
If you take a minute to visit the F.B.I. website and check out their most wanted list you will run across a familiar face; Osama bin Laden. Of course we know that Osama is wanted by the F.B.I. but did you know he is NOT wanted in connection to the events of September 11th 2001?
As of today, 4/28/06, the F.B.I. website listing for Osama notes that it was last updated in November, 2001, after the events of September 11th 2001. While the site notes several crimes for which Osama is suspected, the site makes no mention of the events of September 11th.
Quote from the F.B.I. listing (copied on 4/28/2006):
USAMA BIN LADEN IS WANTED IN CONNECTION WITH THE AUGUST 7, 1998, BOMBINGS OF THE UNITED STATES EMBASSIES IN DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA, AND NAIROBI, KENYA. THESE ATTACKS KILLED OVER 200 PEOPLE. IN ADDITION, BIN LADEN IS A SUSPECT IN OTHER TERRORIST ATTACKS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD.
I find it very interesting that the F.B.I. sees no direct connection between bin Laden and the events of September 11th. Don’t you? Maybe they know something that we don’t know about the events! Think about it!
The war on drugs has created more problems than it has solved
By GEORGE JURGENSEN
I applaud former prosecutor Peter Letang's call for a re-examination of the drug war and welcome him to the cause. He is not the first. Many other prosecutors, judges, and, most significantly, members of law enforcement who conduct the war out on the streets have also come forward, risking their careers and reputations. They have come together to form an organization to end drug prohibition. The organization is known as LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting with a decorated member of the U.S. Marshal Service, Matthew Fogg. Mr. Fogg began as a marshall in 1978 and he has worked with the Drug Enforcement Administration and other areas of the Department of Justice on numerous drug interdiction efforts, including SWAT teams, and participated in the arrests of hundreds of drug dealers and drug users.
Mr. Fogg echoes Mr. Letang, observing that despite the massive number of arrests, the drug trade, drug availability and drug usage have not declined, and far too many lives have been lost or damaged and more are drawn into peril each day.
He also points out selective enforcement tactics that tend to target lower income neighborhoods and dealers (why do they target East Wilmington but not Greenville, Centreville, don't those people do drugs?) and the disparate effect the drug war has had in the black community, but he gives better voice than I on those issues.
It's now nearly 35 years since President Nixon escalated drug prohibition in first declaring the war on drugs and later forming the DEA. The drug war has produced the thriving and violent illegal market that exists today while drug addiction remains about 1.3 percent, as it has since 1914, when this prohibition began.
Vast profits in the illegal market draw drug dealers to the trade.
Because they operate illegally, they bear no responsibility for the "products" they offer, offer no product labeling, and they enhance purity or chemically alter to make transportation easier and weight-based penalties easier to avoid. Vast profit leads them to aggressively market their wares at street corners, in drug-free zones, at workplaces, and in the shadows of even our newest suburban plazas, as I recently observed outside Newark.
The dealers, ruthless and fearless, move their wares and defend their turf. Should they be removed by police, others spring up to capture the profit. Should they be too successful, a dispute with would-be competition is sure to result. Denied legal avenues to settle disputes, drug dealers, as participants in illegal markets, settle disputes violently on the streets.
Today, well over a million more Americans are in prison or jail than in 1972 and incarceration rates per capita have increased more than fivefold. Hundreds of thousands more have died in the "drug war," and either way the cost to lives is ruinous.
Direct financial costs to taxpayers have soared, with increased prison population the reflection of increased interdiction efforts. Here in Delaware, prison facilities such as the former Gander Hill in Wilmington, now renamed the Young Correctional Facility, and the high-security prison in Smyrna are overflowing with prisoners and hazardous to both prisoners and employees, despite a four-year, $180 million expansion completed in 2000 and further expansions since. These prisons overflow despite the fact that prison capacity has been increased at a rate that far exceeds population growth and despite the fact that both violent and property- crime-related prisoners are given early release so that drug users and dealers can fulfill their minimum mandatory sentences.
There are many other arguments to end the drug war. There is the corrupting influence on the police, whose departments and governments seek financial gain through property seizures even when no one is charged with a crime (so the cycle is not broken) and sporadic reports of the planting of evidence. There is the fact that the government, in declaring that it will control what over 280 million people may ingest at any time of any day, has disenfranchised people from making choices in their own lives while it has also debased the emphasis of the choice each of us faces from being based on the natural consequences of drug use on one's life and ambition to simply whether one will be caught.
Meanwhile, cancer patients, those with degenerative nerve disorders like ALS, and AIDS patients are denied cost effective and natural treatment that can improve appetite or relieve pain.
And there are the effects on foreign nations and foreign policy, where Colombia is largely controlled by violent drug kingpins because of the massive profits involved while at the same time we intervene with and condemn peaceful practices in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, where locals have for centuries chewed unprocessed coca leaves and drunk coca tea to stave off hunger or boost energy with little harmful effect. Prohibition can leave even the most casual user or one-time experimenter scarred for life with a criminal record that will destroy opportunity for a lifetime or unable to seek help or treatment for fear of facing the risk of arrest.
The drug war reflects a political arrogance that the government can solve bad habits by passing a law and sending police out on the streets to arrest the way to an improved society.
The collateral damage of this arrogance is clear. It is time to end the drug war, to seek education, treatment, product labeling and testing, and a more orderly yet much less profitable market for the measure of drug usage, which society cannot stem or prevent, with or without force.
The transition will be difficult as people adjust to taking more personal responsibility, just as the transition from a centrally planned economy did not go smoothly in Russia or Eastern Europe, but the end result is a more just, more peaceful and more prosperous society. Of course there will be those that use drugs to their demise, there always was and there is today. At least there will not be vast profits for dealers and the associated violence and property crime or the other side effects of the drug war.
Logic compels that we end the drug war and with all my heart and soul I believe we must.
George Jurgensen is state chairman of the Libertarian Party of Delaware.