Newsweek man said mannerisms rehearsed
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Newsweek man said mannerisms rehearsed
Petrified of the ramifications, Americans adopt denial as primary strategy to ignore 9/11 Scam | 435 Patriots to Take Back Congress
Petrified of the ramifications, Americans adopt denial as primary strategy to ignore 9/11 Scam
Jim Fetzer:  has a psychological dimension to it, because the very idea that the government that's supposed to protect you might in fact be abusing you- it's a lot like incest. Something that's so traumatic and so devastating to contemplate that- you know how many mothers deny that it's even taking place, or in this case- so many citizens deny that it's even taking place- because they're petrified of the ramifications.
Pyschologists call it cognitive dissonance when there are beliefs that threaten your previous beliefs that you find it impossible to reconcile, and denial becomes the role that you adopt.
George Noory: It's almost as, 'if it is true, we don't want to know it.'
JF: That's right. But we have to know- it's like cancer, that claim that what you don't know can't hurt you has never been more false. This government has fallen into the hands of gross abusers- they're committing incest on the nation on a grand scale, and if we don't stop them, we are going to suffer the ravages, it's going to get worse and worse and worse.
GN to Victor Thorn and Lisa Guliani: Based on some of the things you've heard tonight, what do you think?
VT: Well George, everything they've said is so right on the mark. And I want to go back to a quote that Morgan Reynolds said- he said, "We can convict them in a court of law, our evidence is strong enough." Right now, we have the awareness, we have the proof- it's time now to start taking action and doing something about this to get this into a court of law and convict the people that were behind this.
LG: And we don't have to use any conspiracy theories to do this, because we have Galileo and Isaac Newton on our side- the truth can stand on it's own two feet.
VT: Right- our biggest fear George is that this case is going to become like the John F. Kennedy case- everyone knows that Lee Harvey Oswald was not the lone nut assassin, but not one single individual that was responsible for Kennedy's assassination was convicted. We need to get the people behind this convicted. Jim Fetzer gave a whole string of names, I agree with every single one of them that he said. We need these people in a court of law and we need to convict them.
JF: What I must say in relation Victor and Lisa's mild optimism, I'm apprehensive that this administration is not going to relinquish power, that they're going to use the occurence of another contrived terrorist attack in order to suspend the Constitution. They're trying to undermine the Posse Commitatus law by all sorts of subtle techniques. I believe what happened with Katrina, I mean they knew for days that Katrina was going to hit, yet somehow FEMA fumbled the ball. How could that possibly happen? FEMA was the marvel of the world under Bill Clinton- they could have made all kinds of responses.
I believe they wanted to send in the military to make it look as only the military could cope with a situation like this. It's the sort of thing they suggest regarding Bird Flu and having Quarantines. They've suggested the military- this is a role the military should never take in American society.
GN: You know Jim, Bill Clinton wasn't a saint...
JF: No, Clinton was no saint, but my God! What's gone on in this administration- this is raping and pillaging and looting the country, even the world, this is a shocking situation.
Iran sues Saddam
From correspondents in Iraq
May 28, 2006
IRAN has filed a lawsuit against ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein for his regime's 1980s war against Teheran, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in a joint statement with his Iraqi counterpart.
"The two sides, noting the crimes committed by Saddam Hussein's regime in its aggression against the people of Iraq, Iran and Kuwait, confirmed the need to seek justice for that," the statement read.
"To this end the Iranian Republic has passed on to the foreign ministry of Iraq a complaint against Saddam and his agents for examination by the Iraqi High Tribunal", where Saddam already faces charges of crimes against humanity, the statement added.
The document did not list any specific charges Iran wished to bring against Saddam or any of his aides.
Relations between Iran and Iraq, which fought a bloody war from 1980-1988, have improved dramatically since the fall of Saddam and the coming to power of Iraq's long disenfranchised Shi'ite majority - many of whose leaders once sought refuge in Iran.
The ex-President and seven co-defendants are on trial for the 1980s killing of nearly 150 Shi'ite villagers in Dujail, after a botched assassination attempt was carried out in the village against Saddam.
Mr Mottaki was in Baghdad yesterday pledging his support for Iraq's new Government and promising to aid its reconstruction effort.
The Iranian diplomat went to the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf, south of the capital, today to pray in the Imam Ali shrine, one of Shi'ite Islam's holiest sites.
He visited a number of religious leaders, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who have a great deal of influence on Iraqi politics.
What's the most important movie of the year? It's a movie I think will knock your socks off. It's so important I'm sending this request to all 6 million Care2 members. I'd like you to see the movie and then come back to Care2 and talk about it. A simple and fun request that I believe could help change the world.
The movie is called An Inconvenient Truth. It received standing ovations during its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, and Roger Friedman, the movie critic for Fox News said:
Find theater near you »
Join the conversation »
I thought I knew a lot about global warming, and frankly, that I had watched enough documentaries about it. But this is not a movie about some distant island nation getting submerged or endangered species in Africa dying off. And it's not about problems that will happen in 50 or 100 years. This is a stunning look at facts (that some folks don't want us to know about) that will shatter your image of what you thought "global warming" was and how it will affect you.
Be among the first to see it when it opens this week in NYC and LA, or during the next couple of weeks as it opens across the country. Bring your friends and family. This is an important movie you'll want them to see.
After the movie, join in the conversation at the global warming site on Care2 (http://www.Care2.com/globalwarm
Please join us.
Founder and President, Care2
p.s. I was fortunate enough to meet Al Gore a few weeks ago and see his incredible presentation on global warming. I told him Care2 members were changing the world and I was going to ask all 6 million of you to go watch this movie and become a powerful force for good in this campaign against global warming. Let's show him we care!
p.p.s. Here's what the critics are saying about An Inconvenient Truth
— Larry King, CNN
"Made me want to buy a hybrid and shoot my old car, so no one else could drive it... Amazing and smartly done film."
— Bob Mondello, NPR
"This is activist cinema at its very best, for it serves to popularize and demythologize a problem long obscured by those most threatened by the solution. With humor and searing intelligence, Gore outlines crucial steps we must take to avert impending disaster and proves that inaction is no longer an option-in fact, it's immoral."
— Sundance Film Festival
"Not to be missed. It doesn't matter whether you're a Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative... your mind will be changed in a nanosecond."
— Roger Friedman, Fox News
By Tony Perry and Julian E. Barnes
The Los Angeles Times
Saturday 27 May 2006
An official involved in an investigation of Camp Pendleton Marines' actions in an Iraqi town cites "a total breakdown in morality."
Washington - Photographs taken by a Marine intelligence team have convinced investigators that a Marine unit killed as many as 24 unarmed Iraqis, some of them "execution-style," in the insurgent stronghold of Haditha after a roadside bomb killed an American in November, officials close to the investigation said Friday.
The pictures are said to show wounds to the upper bodies of the victims, who included several women and six children. Some were shot in the head and some in the back, congressional and defense officials said.
One government official said the pictures showed that infantry Marines from Camp Pendleton "suffered a total breakdown in morality and leadership, with tragic results."
The case may be the most serious incident of alleged war crimes in Iraq by US troops. Marine officers have long been worried that Iraq's deadly insurgency could prompt such a reaction by combat teams.
An investigation by an Army general into the Nov. 19 incident is to be delivered soon to the top operational commander in Iraq. A separate criminal investigation is also underway and could lead to charges ranging from dereliction of duty to murder.
Both investigations are centered on a dozen Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. The battalion was on its third deployment to Iraq when the killings occurred.
Most of the fatal shots appear to have been fired by only a few of the Marines, possibly a four-man "fire team" led by a sergeant, said officials with knowledge of the investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The same sergeant is suspected of filing a false report downplaying the number of Iraqis killed, saying they were killed by an insurgent's bomb and that Marines entered the Iraqis' homes in search of gunmen firing at them. All aspects of his account are contradicted by pictures, statements by Marines to investigators and an inspection of the houses involved, officials said.
Other Marines may face criminal charges for failing to stop the killings or for failing to make accurate reports.
Of the dead Iraqis, 19 were in three to four houses that Marines stormed, officials said. Five others were killed near a vehicle.
The intelligence team took the pictures shortly after the shooting stopped. Such teams are typically assigned to collect information on insurgents after firefights or other military engagements.
Investigators and top officers of the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, which oversees Marine infantry, aviation and support units in Iraq, have viewed the pictures.
The incident began when a roadside bomb attached to a large propane canister exploded as Marines passed through Haditha, a town on the Euphrates River. Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, who was driving a Humvee, was killed and two other Marines were wounded.
Marines quickly determined that the bomb was a "line-of-sight" explosive that would have required someone to detonate it. Marines and Iraqi forces searched houses and other structures in the narrow, dusty streets. Jets dropped 500-pound bombs and a drone aircraft circled overhead.
Time magazine, in a report published in March, quoted witnesses, including a 9-year-old girl, Eman Waleed, who said that she saw Marines kill her grandparents and that other adults in the house died shielding her and her 8-year-old brother, Abdul Rahman.
An elder in Haditha later went to Marine officials at the battalion's headquarters to complain of wanton killings.
The Marines involved in the incident initially reported that they had become embroiled in a firefight with insurgents after the explosion. However, evidence that later emerged contradicted that version.
"There wasn't a gunfight, there were no pockmarked walls," a congressional aide said.
"The wounds indicated execution-style" shootings, said a Defense Department official who had been briefed on the contents of the photos.
The Marine Corps backed off its initial explanation, and the investigations were launched after Time published its account.
Some lawmakers are asking the Marine Corps why an investigation wasn't launched earlier if the intelligence team's pictures contradicted the squad's account. The pictures from the intelligence team would probably have been given to the battalion intelligence officer, and they should have raised questions immediately, one congressional aide said.
The intelligence teams typically comprise Marine Corps reservists, often police officers or other law enforcement officials in civilian life who travel with active-duty battalions or regiments.
Such questions were put to Marine Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee during a series of individual briefings over the last week. One focus of the administrative investigation by Army Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell is to find out how high up the Marine Corps chain of command the misreporting went.
Military officials say they believe the delay in beginning the investigation was a result of the squad's initial efforts to cover up what happened. Military and congressional sources said there was no indication that the members of the intelligence team did anything improper or delayed reporting their findings.
"They are the guys that probably provided the conclusive, demonstrative evidence that what happened wasn't as others had described," a congressional staffer said.
The Marine Corps apologized to the families of several of those killed and made payments to compensate them for their losses. The families have denied permission to have the bodies exhumed for investigation.
Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), a retired Marine colonel, said there was clearly an attempt to cover up the incident by those involved. But he said he did not think the Marine command was slow in investigating.
"There is no question that the Marines involved, those doing the shooting, they were busy in lying about it and covering it up - there is no question about it," Kline said. "But I am confident, as soon as the command learned there might be some truth to this, they started to pursue it vigorously. I don't have any reason now to think there was any foot dragging."
As Marines moved across the desert into Iraq on March 19, 2003, each Marine received a signed statement from then-Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, exhorting his troops to fight vigorously but to treat noncombatants with "decency ?chivalry and soldierly compassion."
"Engage your brain before you engage your weapon," he said.
As detailed in Bing West's book "The March Up: Taking Baghdad With the 1st Marine Division," Brig. Gen. John Kelly, assistant division commander, was concerned about instances of seemingly random firing by Marines, most of them untested in combat. Kelly is now the Marine Corps' congressional liaison and has helped Hagee deliver briefings to legislators on the investigations into the Nov. 19 incident.
Hagee left for Iraq on Thursday to sternly remind Marines that harming noncombatants violates Marine policy and numerous laws governing warfare. He plans to give the same message to troops at Camp Pendleton and other Marine bases when he returns.
Haditha has been a particularly difficult area for the Marines. Officers have said they lack enough troops to do an adequate job of developing intelligence and then confronting insurgents.
A documentary shown this week on the A&E Network detailed the frustrations of a company of Marine reservists who had 23 members killed and 36 wounded during a deployment last year in Haditha.
One Marine sergeant, in an interview after his unit had returned to Columbus, Ohio, remembered a raid in which he burst into a home and came close to killing two women and a teenage boy out of rage for the deaths of fellow Marines.
Sgt. Guy Zierk, interviewed in the documentary, "Combat Diary: The Marines of Lima Company," said he knew at that point that he had been in Iraq too long.
Official: Iraq Civilian Deaths Unjustified
By Robert Burns
The Associated Press
Saturday 27 May 2006
Washington - Military investigators probing the deaths last November of about two dozen Iraqi civilians have evidence that points toward unprovoked murders by Marines, a senior defense official said Friday.
The Marine Corps initially reported 15 deaths and said they were caused by a roadside bomb and an ensuing firefight with insurgents. A separate investigation is aimed at determining if Marines lied to cover up the events, which included the deaths of women and children.
If confirmed as unjustified killings, the episode could be the most serious case of criminal misconduct by US troops during three years of combat in Iraq. Until now the most infamous occurrence was the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse involving Army soldiers, which came to light in April 2004 and which President Bush said Thursday he considered to be the worst US mistake of the entire war.
The defense official discussed the matter Friday only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly about the investigation. He said the evidence found thus far strongly indicated the killings in the insurgent-plagued city of Haditha in the western province of Anbar were unjustified. He cautioned that the probe was not finished.
Once the investigation is completed, perhaps in June, it will be up to a senior Marine commander in Iraq to decide whether to press charges of murder or other violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Three officers from the unit involved - 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. - have been relieved of duty, although officials have not explicitly linked them to the criminal investigation.
In an indication of how concerned the Marines are about the implications of the Haditha case, their top officer, Gen. Michael W. Hagee, flew to Iraq on Thursday. He was to reinforce what the military said was a need to adhere to Marine values and standards of behavior and to avoid the use of excess force.
"Many of our Marines have been involved in life or death combat or have witnessed the loss of their fellow Marines, and the effects of these events can be numbing," Hagee said a statement announcing his trip. "There is the risk of becoming indifferent to the loss of a human life, as well as bringing dishonor upon ourselves."
A spokesman at Marine Corps headquarters in the Pentagon, Lt. Col. Scott Fazekas, declined to comment on the status of the Haditha investigation. He said no information would be provided until the probe was completed.
According to a congressional aide, lawmakers were told in a briefing Thursday that it appears as many as two dozen civilians were killed in the episode at Haditha. And they were told that the investigation will find that "it will be clear that this was not the result of an accident or a normal combat situation."
Another congressional official said lawmakers were told it would be about 30 days before a report would be issued by the investigating agency, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Both the House and Senate armed services committees plan to hold hearings on the matter.
The New York Times reported on Friday that the civilians killed at Haditha included five men who had been traveling in a taxi and others in two nearby houses. The newspaper quoted an unidentified official as saying it was a sustained operation over as long as five hours.
Hagee met with top lawmakers from those panels this week to bring them up to date on the investigation.
"I can say that there are established facts that incidents of a very serious nature did take place," Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Senate panel, said Thursday. He would not provide details or confirm reports that about 24 civilians were killed. He told reporters he had "no basis to believe" the military engaged in a cover-up.
Separately, the Marines announced this week that a criminal investigation was under way in connection with an alleged killing on April 26 of an Iraqi civilian by Marines in Hamandiyah, west of Baghdad. No details about that case have been made public.
In the Haditha case, videotape aired by an Arab television station showed images purportedly taken in the aftermath of the encounter: a bloody bedroom floor, walls with bullet holes and bodies of women and children. An Iraqi human rights group called for an investigation of what it described as a deadly mistake that had harmed civilians.
On May 17, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a former Marine, said Corps officials told him the toll in the Haditha attack was far worse than originally reported and that US troops killed innocent women and children "in cold blood." He said that nearly twice as many people were killed as first reported and maintained that US forces were "overstretched and overstressed" by the war in Iraq.
Pentagon spokesman Eric Ruff said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was being kept apprised. Ruff said he did not expect any announcements in the next few days.
Rome speeds up leaving of U.S. subs
By John Phillips
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
May 26, 2006
ROME -- Italy's new center-left government will accelerate planned closure of a U.S. nuclear submarine base on the northern coast of the island of Sardinia amid fears nearby residents suffer higher-than-average cancer rates, Defense Minister Arturo Parisi said.
Mr. Parisi, sworn in last week in Prime Minister Romano Prodi's Cabinet, said he would meet the left-wing regional president of Sardinia, Renato Soru, to plan the departure of the 3,000 U.S. Navy personnel at the NATO submarine base of La Maddalena and the adjoining support base on the isle of Santo Stefano.
"We will see each other immediately about the Sardinian military bases," said Mr. Parisi, who was elected to a Sardinian constituency in April's general election that ousted Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld announced Nov. 23 that the submarine base will close so that the nuclear-class vessels can be transferred to other strategic areas of the Mediterranean.
No official date was set then for winding down the longstanding facility, however, Italian defense sources at the time said the closure would happen by the end of this year.
Mr. Parisi said Wednesday he would honor a pledge to speed up the base closure in response to a report published April 21 by Sardinia's regional health department.
Sardinians living near La Maddalena suffered "significantly excessive numbers of deaths and hospitalization for lymphatic" tumors "more than 178 percent higher than the regional average," La Repubblica newspaper quoted the report saying.
Environmentalists also want Italy to close the several Italian bases on the island, many of them live-fire areas chosen because of the low density of population living in rugged parts of Sardinia.
In all nearly 100,000 acres of land are fenced off as restricted areas in Sardinia, more than any other Italian region, and "too much with one of the highest tourist potential of the nation," commented La Repubblica.
Also in the sights of the minister is a NATO base at Capo Teulada in southern Sardinia from, where the alliance has staged war games since 1965, and an experimental live fire practice base at Perdasdefogu-Salto di Quirra managed jointly by the Italian army and navy.
"I committed myself during the election campaign to ensure Sardinia received proper attention and I have not forgotten that," Mr Parisi said.
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Lawmakers approved an agreement on Friday allowing the U.S. troops to use Bulgarian military facilities.
The ratification was the last formality before the deal takes effect, and opened the way for the first U.S. soldiers to arrive at the end of the year or early next year as planned.
The agreement was supported by 150 lawmakers of the 172 present in the 240-seat chamber. Twenty lawmakers voted against, and two abstained.
Under the 10-year deal, signed in April by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin, up to 2,500 U.S. troops will use four military facilities.
“The agreement is not directed against any third country,” Kalfin told parliament before the vote. Rather, it is “an answer to the new threats ... connected to terrorism, proliferation of nuclear weapons and irrational use of weapons,” he said.
Along with ratifying the deal, lawmakers voted on a declaration hailing the agreement as “an important factor promoting security and stability in southeastern Europe and the Black Sea region.”
The declaration also sought to make clear that the agreement would not lead to nuclear weapons being stationed on Bulgarian soil.
The deal would be a guarantee that “the U.S. shall have no intention, plan or reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of Bulgaria,” it said.
The four facilities that the United States will use with Bulgaria’s military are the Bezmer and the Graf Ignatievo air bases, the Novo Selo training area and some storage facilities near Aitos.
The deal is part of the Pentagon’s plan to shift troops based in Europe further east, to small, flexible bases closer to potential hotspots in the Middle East.
Restrictions on Free Speech
May 25, 2006
Blair's crackdown on freedom is an inspiration to tyrants
If you looked behind David Cameron at yesterday's Question Time, you would have noticed something odd. Several MPs were wearing similar and very garish ties, decorated with the kind of motif you might see on a pavement on a Saturday night. This Jackson Pollock baby-vomit neckwear was, in fact, a sign of respect.
It was to mark the passing of our colleague Eric Forth, the knuckle-dustered and fob-watched libertarian Tory, whose death is being mourned by people more deeply than they might have expected while he was alive.
We suddenly feel the loss of Eric, because we realise that he represents a strain of politician that is in danger of extinction, the man who believes that it is his job to say whatever he damn well pleases, the man who gets into the old crate marked "Free Speech", lets off the handbrake, revs it up, and then takes it to quite terrifying speeds.
It is with awestruck admiration that I learn how this free-marketeer dealt with a tearful constituent, who told him she could not afford to live in her childhood area. Eric told her to move to a "grottier part of town". He defended the right of Gerry Adams to speak at British universities, not because he in any way sympathised - far from it - but because he saw that repression of free speech was the action of tyrants.
In his rebarbative cynicism, his mordant clarity, he represented an authentically British school of politics, of a kind that is found hardly anywhere else in the world; and we forget how strange and precious his approach can seem to foreign eyes.
I can't say I deeply regret the containment in Parliament Square of Brian Haw, the father of seven, anti-war loony who used to bellow at me on my bicycle. Call me finickety, but I thought his posters and general gubbins were a disgrace and spoiled the look of the place; and yet he also, like Eric, represented something dementedly British, and we should remember the impact he must have had on the world's television audiences as they watched the prime ministerial cavalcade sweep past.
There he was, one of the most powerful men in the world, joint toppler of Saddam, barrelling past in his tint-windowed armour-plated Blairmobile; and yet every time Blair or any of us passed by, the British state was so weirdly generous that it allowed this Haw fellow to yodel his imprecations from his ragged throne; and now his freedoms have been lessened.
In the global village, people will notice, and in a small way it will make a difference. Across the world, Britain still stands for a certain idea of liberty, a particular concept of the relationship between the citizen and the state. The tragedy is not so much that this reputation is being lost, but that we are collaborating in its destruction.
I have been talking to Agnes Callamard, who leads a free speech charity called Article 19, and she tells me that wherever she now goes on her missions, she finds a shocking new phenomenon. She has just been to the Maldives, where the government is engaged in active repression of the press, shutting down radio stations and locking up journalists if they even carry quotations from the opposing MDP. When she remonstrated, she was told that any criticism was a bit rich coming from a British organisation, given that the British Government has just passed draconian new measures against incitement in the Terrorism Bill.
It was the same story in Nepal, where torture has been used regularly against opponents of the regime, and where there are similar restrictions on free speech. "A senior government official told us that they were only cracking down on terrorists, in the way that they do in the UK," said Callamard.
The same excuse is deployed in Belarus, by the totalitarian government of Alexander Lukashenko, and of course the same logic is used by the Sri Lankans in their crackdown on the Tamil Tigers. In June 2005, the Malaysian Inspector General of Police, Tun Sri Mohamed Bakri Omar, defended Malaysia's continuing to detain people indefinitely without charge. And how did he justify it? By reference to the Labour proposals to detain suspects without charge for 90 days.
From tyrant to tyrant, from Mubarak to Mugabe, the argument is the same: the UK and the US crack down on those who support terrorists; they pass detailed restrictions on free speech; they outlaw the glorification of terror - why shouldn't we?
How can we urge governments to allow free speech when we round up a 25-year-old chef, Maya Evans, and prevent her from reading out the names of the Iraq war dead at the Cenotaph?
It doesn't make it much easier for British organisations to defend liberty abroad when anti-war protesters are arrested for merely eating toast and tea in Parliament Square, or when old socialists are scragged by the police and hauled from the room for heckling Jack Straw.
Of course these analogies are opportunistic and false, and of course there is no real comparison between Britain and Malaysia, let alone Zimbabwe. Thanks to the goodness of the editor of this paper, I can say more or less whatever I want, provided it is not too catastrophic for circulation. But what Blair fails to understand, when he promulgates this endless succession of new and ineffective Criminal Justice Bills, and when he curtails trial by jury and freedom of speech, and when he enacts all the other potential erosions of liberty that we have seen over the past nine years, is that he is handing a perfect pretext to the despots of the world.
This plague of Labour legislation may not much affect the criminals and illegal asylum-seekers of Britain. But the laws give the likes of Mugabe the pleasure of saying, tu quoque: you are up to it as well.
Britain has something far more precious and more important to give the world than the £4.6 billion of overseas aid, and that is the idea of freedom. It is not shortages that cause famine, but tyranny. No tyrant can survive for too long in the face of a free press and a free civil society. The sad thing is that we are losing our moral authority to export our greatest asset.
People have had it up to here with The Lobby
by Justin Raimondo
Perhaps Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) didn't quite realize what she was getting into when she voted against the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, so-called, which would cut off all aid to the Palestinians, impose economic sanctions, and make it impossible for any entity, public or private, to operate in Palestine. Or maybe she's just brave.
A liberal Democrat, Rep.McCollum had always been a strong supporter of Israel, but on the issue of how to deal with the democratically elected Hamas government of the Palestinian Authority, she had real differences with what Stephen Walt and John J. Mearsheimer call "the Lobby," in their pathbreaking and provocative study of "The Israel Lobby," published by Harvard University. In that work, the two professors have this to say about the power of the Lobby over the U.S. Congress:
"The bottom line is that AIPAC, a de facto agent for a foreign government, has a stranglehold on Congress, with the result that U.S. policy towards Israel is not debated there, even though that policy has important consequences for the entire world. In other words, one of the three main branches of the government is firmly committed to supporting Israel. As one former Democratic senator, Ernest Hollings, noted on leaving office, 'you can't have an Israeli policy other than what AIPAC gives you around here.'"
What AIPAC had been giving out was that the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 was a litmus test – either you voted for it, or, as a local AIPAC representative, Amy Rotenberg, put it to Bill Harper, Rep. McCollum's chief of staff:
"On behalf of [myself] the Jewish community, AIPAC, and the voters of the Fourth District, Congresswoman McCollum's support for terrorists will not be tolerated."
Rep. McCollum's response to this smear has been exemplary – and indicative of a growing backlash against the Lobby. Her letter to AIPAC takes them out to the woodshed and gives them such a thrashing that the sound of it is reverberating throughout Washington. Averring that "During my nineteen years serving in elected office, including the past five years as a Member of Congress, never has my name and reputation been maligned or smeared as it was last week by a representative of AIPAC," McCollum goes on to say in a letter to AIPAC President Howard Kohr that "until I receive a formal, written apology from your organization I must inform you that AIPAC representatives are not welcome in my offices or for meetings with my staff."
That Rep. McCollum would take such a stance, shows, I think, that the power of the Lobby is waning. With an espionage investigation and upcoming trial of its chief Washington lobbyist at hand, the Walt-Mearsheimer controversy, and indications of a growing chasm between Washington and Tel Aviv over the latter's arms sales to China and covert activities in the U.S., the power of the Lobby is being openly challenged as never before. What Walt and Mearsheimer describe as the distortion of American foreign policy in favor of a foreign power – Israel – has now become a major topic of debate. And how that debate has been conducted shows that the future does not bode well for the Lobby…
The response to the Walt-Mearsheimer study, for example, underscores the very point made by the authors: that the motive and purpose of the Lobby is to squelch any debate about U.S. policy in the Middle East, especially as it concerns Israel, and to smear anyone who questions the centrality of the "special relationship" to that policy as an "anti-Semite." The viciousness and volume of the attacks on Walt and Mearsheimer amply illustrate the contention of the authors: but it is the brazenness of the smears, and their complete lack of any relationship to reality, that is particularly striking. The more moderate of these compared it to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion; Christopher Hitchens pronounced the Walt-Mearsheimer thesis "smelly," while the New York Sun ran a front page story reporting the "news" that David Duke agreed with it.
On the other hand, the two really memorable responses – because they stand out for their measured reasonableness in a controversy not given to thoughtfulness – came from Tony Judt, in the New York Times, and Michael Massing, in the New York Review of Books (which also reprints the McCollum letter). The contrast with the critics of the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis could not be more telling. Not that Judt and Massing are uncritical. Massing, in particular, takes issue with much of what Walt and Mearsheimer have to say – particularly about the historical record of Israel's founding, and the moral questions involved. Yet he goes on to make a quite justified criticism when he avers that the documentation for the contention that the Lobby effectively crushes all opposition to Israel in government and the media is remarkably "thin." He then proceeds to do what Walt and Mearsheimer should have done: document the power and reach of the Lobby, particularly in Washington, D.C.
Massing shows how the Lobby, utilizing an effective combination of money, organization, and relentless insistence on absolute fealty to AIPAC's agenda, runs roughshod over anyone so foolish as to oppose it. Money is pumped into the coffers of its sock-puppets:
"AIPAC itself is not a political action committee. Rather, by assessing voting records and public statements, it provides information to such committees, which donate money to candidates; AIPAC helps them to decide who Israel's friends are according to AIPAC's criteria. The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that analyzes political contributions, lists a total of thirty-six pro-Israel PACs, which together contributed $3.14 million to candidates in the 2004 election cycle. Pro-Israel donors give many millions more. Over the last five years, for instance, Robert Asher, together with his various relatives (a common device used to maximize contributions), has donated $148,000, mostly in sums of $1,000 or $2,000 to individual candidates.
"A former AIPAC staff member described for me how the system works. A candidate will contact AIPAC and express strong sympathies with Israel. AIPAC will point out that it doesn't endorse candidates but will offer to introduce him to people who do. Someone affiliated with AIPAC will be assigned to the candidate to act as a contact person. Checks for $500 or $1,000 from pro-Israel donors will be bundled together and provided to the candidate with a clear indication of the donors' political views."
On the other hand, anyone who so much as questions a single part of its legislative program is targeted for political destruction:
"This year, pro-Israel forces are targeting Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. A Republican, Chafee has taken a number of positions that run counter to AIPAC's, including a vote against the Syria Accountability Act, which prepared the way for U.S. sanctions against that country. His challenger in the Republican primary, Stephen Laffey, has taken a strong pro-Israel position, and already he has received $5,000 (the maximum allowed) from the pro-Israel Washington Political Action Committee. In a recent report, the Forward noted that a Providence lawyer and pro-Israel activist named Norman Orodenker was preparing to send out a letter to other pro-Israel PACs praising Laffey's lifelong record of support for Israel."
After describing the Lobby's largely successful efforts to cow the Clinton administration, Massing illustrates a point made by Mearsheimer and Walt, that the Lobby serves as the de facto agent of a foreign power:
"Sometimes, the former Clinton official noted, the pressures on U.S. policy come from domestic groups, sometimes they come from Israel, and sometimes they come from Israel using its allies in the U.S. to influence administration policy. When Bibi Netanyahu was premier between 1996 and 1999, the former official recalls, 'he made the implicit threat that he could mobilize allies on the Hill or on the Christian right if President Clinton did not do what he wanted.' Later, at Camp David, 'Barak made a whole lot of calls when he felt he came under too much pressure – calls to allies in the Jewish community, and to politicians.'"
The success of the Lobby has been achieved by the careful application of pressure at key points: Congress, the executive branch, and the media. Yet the goals of the Lobby – succinctly summed up by Massing as "a powerful Israel free to occupy the territory it chooses; enfeebled Palestinians; and unquestioning support for Israel by the United States" – have never been supported by the American people. That is why such a tremendous lobbying effort is required, why so much money and political pressure is brought to bear on politicians to make sure they don't deviate one iota from the AIPAC party line. Because once someone – like, say Betty McCollum – gets away with a display of independence, it could turn into the equivalent of a run on a bank – there will be no stopping it.
Speaking of the Walt-Mearsheimer study, Tony Judt wrote: "I think this essay, by two 'realist' political scientists with no interest whatsoever in the Palestinians, is a straw in the wind."
And the wind appears to be rising…
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
The current issue of The American Conservative (June 5) carries my cover piece, "Out of Iraq, Into Darfur?" Hey, if you don't subscribe to TAC, then isn't it time you did? I can't think of a single magazine that devotes more space and attention to the issue of foreign policy from a noninterventionist point of view. And there's no telling if they'll put my piece online in a couple of weeks or not. So, c'mon, get smart: subscribe!
Vice President Refuses to Report Classification Activity
For the third year in a row the Office of Vice President Dick Cheney has refused to disclose data on its classification and declassification activity, in an apparent violation of an executive order issued by President Bush.
"The Office of the Vice President (OVP), the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), and the Homeland Security Council (HSC) failed to report their data to ISOO this year," the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) noted in its new 2005 Annual Report to the President (pdf) (at page 9, footnote 1).
The Office of the Vice President has declined to report such data since 2002. Yet it is clear that disclosure is not optional.
"Each agency that creates or handles classified information shall report annually to the Director of ISOO statistics related to its security classification program," according to ISOO Directive 1 (at section 2001.80).
This and other ISOO directives "shall be binding upon the agencies," President Bush wrote in Executive Order 13292 (section 5.1). And an "agency" is not only a statutorily defined executive branch agency, but also includes "any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information."
Despite this straightforward language, a spokeswoman for Vice President Cheney told the Chicago Tribune in April that his Office is "not under any duty" to provide the required information.
On prior refusals by the Vice President to disclose classification and declassification data, see "Cheney exempts his own office from reporting on classified material" by Mark Silva, Chicago Tribune, April 29, 2006.
Historically, the OVP has "not reported quantitatively significant data," according to ISOO. So the Vice President's current defiance of the executive order does not greatly distort the overall presentation of classification activity.
But it signals an unhealthy contempt for presidential authority and undermines the integrity of classification oversight.
Justice Dept. Talked of Big Resignations If White House Agreed to Return Papers
By Dan Eggen and Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, May 27, 2006; A01
The Justice Department signaled to the White House this week that the nation's top three law enforcement officials would resign or face firing rather than return documents seized from a Democratic congressman's office in a bribery investigation, according to administration sources familiar with the discussions.
The possibility of resignations by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales; his deputy, Paul J. McNulty; and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III was communicated to the White House by several Justice officials in tense negotiations over the fate of the materials taken from Rep. William J. Jefferson's office, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Justice prosecutors and FBI agents feared that the White House was ready to acquiesce to demands from House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and other lawmakers that the materials be returned to the Louisiana congressman, who is the subject of a criminal probe by the FBI. Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, David S. Addington, was among the leading White House critics of the FBI raid, telling officials at Justice and on Capitol Hill that he believed the search was questionable, several sources familiar with his views said.
Administration officials said yesterday that the specter of top-level resignations or firings at Justice and the FBI was a crucial turning point in the standoff, helping persuade President Bush to announce a cease-fire on Thursday. Bush ordered that the Jefferson materials be sealed for 45 days while Justice officials and House lawmakers work out their differences, while also making it clear that he expected the case against Jefferson to proceed.
Spokesmen for the White House, Cheney's office, the Justice Department and the FBI declined to comment, saying they would not discuss internal deliberations.
White House officials were not informed of the search until it began last Saturday and did not immediately recognize the political ramifications, the sources said. By Sunday, however, as the 18-hour search continued, lawmakers began lodging complaints with the White House.
Addington -- who had worked as a staffer in the House and whose boss, Cheney, once served as a congressman -- quickly emerged as a key internal critic of raiding the office of a sitting House member. He raised heated objections to the Justice Department's legal rationale for the search during a meeting Sunday with McNulty and others, according to several sources.
The talk of resignations adds another dramatic element to the remarkable tug of war that has played out since last Saturday night, when about 15 FBI agents executed a search warrant on Jefferson's office in the Rayburn House Office Building.
The raid -- the first physical FBI search of a congressman's office in U.S. history -- sparked an uproar in the House, where Hastert joined Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in demanding that the records be returned because they viewed the search as an illegal violation of the constitutional separation of powers.
Hastert wrote in an article published in USA Today yesterday that House lawyers are working with the Justice Department to develop guidelines for handling searches of lawmakers' offices. "But that is behind us now," Hastert wrote. "I am confident that in the next 45 days, the lawyers will figure out how to do it right."
Also yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) met with Gonzales at the senator's Capitol Hill office.
"We've been working hard already, and we'll continue to do so pursuant to the president's order," Gonzales told reporters on his way into Frist's suite just off the Senate floor.
Jefferson, 59, has been under investigation since March 2005 for allegations that he took hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for using his congressional influence to promote business ventures in Africa. Two people have pleaded guilty to bribing him, including Brett Pfeffer, one of his former aides, who was sentenced yesterday to eight years in prison by a federal judge in Alexandria.
An FBI affidavit released this week alleged that Jefferson was videotaped taking $100,000 in bribe money and that a search of his Washington apartment turned up $90,000 of that money wrapped in foil inside his freezer. Jefferson, who has not been charged, has denied any wrongdoing.
The unprecedented FBI raid on Jefferson's office triggered an extraordinary chain of events. Hastert, long one of the president's staunchest allies in Congress, and his chief of staff, Scott Palmer, were immediately angered by the tactic. On Monday, Hastert pushed Bush strongly on the issue during a trip the two shared on Air Force One coming back from Chicago. "Hastert was white-hot," said a senior administration official.
Bush expressed sympathy but did not take sides, the official said: "He did not say, 'I share your view.' He said, 'Look, we're going to try to work with you to help resolve this.' "
The view of the emerging political landscape was notably different at Justice, where officials feared they were quickly losing the debate. Prosecutors and FBI agents felt the materials were obtained from Jefferson through a lawful and court-approved search and that returning them -- as demanded by Hastert and others -- would amount to an intolerable political intervention in the criminal justice process.
Justice had one ally at the White House in Frances Fragos Townsend, the homeland security adviser and former prosecutor, who spoke in defense of the raid's legality at a meeting on Monday, according to two sources familiar with her remarks. Townsend was not invited to participate in subsequent discussions on the issue, however. A senior administration official said she would not normally be involved in the topic.
At a particularly contentious meeting Monday night at the Capitol, Palmer angrily upbraided William E. Moschella, the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, and two other Justice officials, saying they had violated the Constitution, several sources said.
As the week progressed, the confrontation escalated further. At some point in the negotiations, McNulty told Palmer that he would quit if ordered to return the materials to Jefferson, according to several officials familiar with the conversation.
McNulty, a former Alexandria prosecutor who was recently named Gonzales's deputy, was a central player in the contentious negotiations with Capitol Hill and the White House, sources said. He had also worked in the House for 12 years, as chief counsel for both the majority leader's office and a crime subcommittee.
A message that McNulty might quit was passed along to the White House, along with similar messages for Gonzales and Mueller. Sources familiar with the discussions declined to say which Justice officials communicated those possibilities to the White House.
The discussion of Gonzales and the others resigning never evolved into a direct threat, but it was made plain that such an option would have to be considered if the president ordered the documents returned, several sources said. "It wasn't one of those things of 'If you will, I will,' " one senior administration official said. "It was kind of the background noise."
"One of the reasons the president did what he did was these types of conversations and other types of conversations in the House were escalating," the official said, referring to murmured threats by some House Republicans to call for Gonzales's resignation.
The desire to do something before the Memorial Day recess also created an "artificial deadline" that Bush considered counterproductive. "As the week moved on," the official said, "there's no question emotions were running high on both sides. . . . People had a gun to their head, and it was really making people not more flexible but more intense. It was his view to say let's get more time."
The White House grew especially concerned about a House Republican Conference meeting scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday and later rescheduled for 3:30 p.m. In the heat of the moment, it could have gotten out of hand and wound up with some sort of resolution demanding that Gonzales step down. "You never know what's going to happen in a conference," the official said.
Bush decided to head off the situation. He summoned Cheney, Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten, Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, counselor Dan Bartlett, legislative director Candida Wolff, White House Counsel Harriet Miers, Deputy White House Counsel William K. Kelley and some other staff members to the Oval Office on Thursday morning and announced that he had decided to seal the Jefferson documents.
"I'm going to put an end to the escalation," one official quoted Bush as saying. "We've got to calm this down."
Bush directed Cheney to inform Hastert, while Bolten told Gonzales.
Bush aides were also worried about a war with the Republican House if the president did not act.
"If you tell the House to stick it where the sun don't shine, you're talking about a fundamentally corrosive relationship between two branches of government," the senior administration official said. "They could zero out funding; they could say, 'Okay, you can do subpoenas, so can we.' "
Staff writer Jim VandeHei and researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
Nevada blast plan implodes
Feds postpone test indefinitely to double-check the risks
By Robert Gehrke
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune
WASHINGTON - Divine Strake, a massive explosives test originally planned for next month at the Nevada Test Site, has been put on hold.
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said Friday it was postponing the test - which entails detonation of 700 tons of explosives - so it can reassess the potential for radioactive contaminants left in the ground from earlier nuclear tests becoming airborne.
Darwin Morgan, a spokesman at the Nevada Test Site, said the agency plans to do additional sampling at the blast site to measure background radiation in the soil.
"We'll do the analysis of background radiation, what will happen as it's suspended into the dust cloud, and that will become part of our finding'' for the environmental assessment, Morgan said.
The test will be put off until agency completes the new studies. Its findings could lead it to reaffirm its earlier decision of no significant impact or it could order even more in-depth environmental studies, leading to still further delays of the test.
The decision comes after concerns were raised by Nevada environmental officials, Utah's U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Jim Matheson, and a lawsuit by Utah Downwinders, who blame deaths and illnesses on exposure to Cold War nuclear testing.
"We have always been concerned about background radiation at the site. We have been repeatedly told, even during my staff's visit to the site, that this was not a concern," Hatch said in a statement. "But since we've asked them to back up their conclusions with scientific evidence, it looks like our concerns are justified."
Matheson said he became concerned after reading about "mushroom clouds" and low-yield nuclear weapons, and urged the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency to release all the health and safety data "so that people's fears about being once again exposed to radioactive contamination could be addressed."
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also had asked Defense Threat Reduction Agency to hold public meetings to answer questions about the test and is happy to hear about the delay and outreach effort.
"It is incumbent upon the Department of Defense to take every possible precaution before going ahead with tests of this kind," said Reid spokeswoman Sharyn Stein.
The Pentagon also has committed to holding public meetings in Utah and Nevada to answer questions about the tests.
"Clearly the public wants to know, have a better understanding of that background radiation, what is going to happen to it," Morgan said. "There is a clear concern from the Downwinders and we understand that and we need to better explain it so they can understand it."
The National Nuclear Security Administration already had issued a revised environmental assessment earlier this month and postponed the test from June 2 to sometime after June 23 after it was sued by the Utah Downwinders and a Nevada Indian tribe.
"We need to make sure the concerns that have been raised have been satisfied before moving on with that," said Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah.
The Divine Strake test entails the detonation of 700 tons of explosives. The goal is to measure the ground tremors that would be produced and use the information to build computer models to simulate explosions.
Originally, Defense Department budget documents said that the test would help war planners choose the smallest possible nuclear weapon to destroy buried and fortified targets, but the Pentagon later said that the inclusion of the word "nuclear" in the document was a mistake.
The blast would use explosives similar to those used in the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, but the blast would be 280 times larger. It would also be nearly 50 times larger than the biggest known conventional weapon in the U.S. arsenal and on par with the smallest U.S. nuclear weapons.
That fact, along with efforts by the Bush administration to repeal a ban on development of low-yield nuclear weapons, prompted concern among nonproliferation advocates that the aim was to create new tactical nuclear weapons.
Vanessa Pierce, program director at the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah, said it is hard to imagine that the soil at the test site wouldn't be contaminated from past nuclear testing, and the Friday announcement lends weight to those suspicions.
"We hope the NNSA will conduct a thorough and independent analysis of the soil out there to ensure the public isn't put at risk by fallout from this test," Pierce said. That testing should be done by an entity outside of the Pentagon or Energy Department.
"Ultimately, the safest way to protect health from any contaminated fallout would be to cancel the test altogether," she said.
Not so divine
* What: A federal agency withdrew its finding that a huge explosives test planned for Nevada next month will have little environmental impact.
* Next: Agencies will do additional studies to see if radioactivity already in the ground could cause environmental or health problems if it becomes airborne.
* Possible outcomes: The agency could reaffirm its earlier decision of no significant impact or order more in-depth environmental studies that could delay the explosion even further.
No restrictions on arms exports to Venezuela - defense minister
ST. PETERSBURG, May 26 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's defense minister said Friday that Russian military hardware supplies to Venezuela did not violate international law.
"There are no legal restrictions on arms exports to Venezuela. I mean of course conventional weapons," Ivanov, who is also deputy prime minister, said after talks in Russia's second city with his German counterpart. "Venezuela is not on any sanctions or restricted regime list and has the right to buy any unrestricted weaponry in any country."
Venezuela has recently raised the possibility of purchasing weapons from Russia after relations worsened between South America's largest oil producer and the United States, which slapped a ban on arms sales to Venezuela at the beginning of last week, saying that the South American country has an intelligence-sharing relationship with Iran and Cuba, both of which it considers state sponsors of terrorism.
A Venezuelan television channel previously quoted the country's Ambassador to Moscow, Alexis Navarro Rojas, as saying that the Venezuelan government was preparing for negotiations with Moscow on acquiring Su-35 Flanker multi-role fighters to replace its current contingent of 21 American F-16s.
Venezuela bought dozens of civilian and military helicopters from Russia at the start of 2006, as well as 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles, in a move that drew sharp criticism from Washington.
But Ivanov reiterated that Russia was ready to sell weapons to any country that had not violated international regulations and intended to strictly observe the conditions of each arms deal.
"Russia always meets it obligations under contracts, and not only in the military sphere," Ivanov said, adding that Russia will also honor its commitments to supply Tor-M1 air defense systems to Iran.
Bush says Abu Ghraib was biggest mistake of Iraq war - President George W. Bush said Thursday that the Abu Ghraib p...
Bush says Abu Ghraib was biggest mistake of Iraq war
WASHINGTON, May 25, 2006 (AFP) - President George W. Bush said Thursday that the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal was the "biggest mistake" made by the United States in Iraq.
Speaking after a summit with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush said "I think the biggest mistake that's happened so far, at least from our country's involvement, is Abu Ghraib.
"We've been paying for that for a long period of time," Bush told a joint White House news conference.
The Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal broke with the release of photos of Iraqi prisoners being mistreated and sexually humiliated at the prison outside Baghdad and drew international criticism.
Bush said he also regretted some of his tough talk during the war campaign such as his "bring them on" challenge to Iraqi insurgents in July 2003, four months after the US-led invasion.
In an unusually candid assessment of the Iraq war, which has sent his popularity ratings plunging, Bush strongly defended the operation but acknowledged "setbacks and missteps."
"Not everything since liberation has turned out the way we had expected or hoped," he said.
"We've learned from our mistakes, adjusted our methods and built on our successes, from changing the way we train the Iraqi security forces to rethinking the way we do reconstruction."
Blair said the US-led forces misread the problems they would face in Iraq after the move to overthrow dictator Saddam Hussein.
"I think inevitably some of the things that we thought were going to be the biggest challenge proved not to be, and some of the things we didn't expect to be challenges at all have proved to be immense," he said.
But he expressed specific regret over the wholesale exclusion of members of Saddam's Baath Party from leadership roles in the post-invasion US occupation.
"I think that probably in retrospect, though at the time it was very difficult to argue this, we could have done de-Baathification in a more differentiated way than we did," Blair said.
Friday, May 26, 2006
By Thom Shanker, Eric Schmitt and Richard A. Oppel Jr.
The New York Times
Friday 26 May 2006
Two lawyers involved in discussions about individual marines' defenses said they thought the investigation could result in charges of murder, a capital offense. That possibility and the emerging details of the killings have raised fears that the incident could be the gravest case involving misconduct by American ground forces in Iraq.
Officials briefed on preliminary results of the inquiry said the civilians killed at Haditha, a lawless, insurgent-plagued city deep in Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, did not die from a makeshift bomb, as the military first reported, or in cross-fire between marines and attackers, as was later announced. A separate inquiry has begun to find whether the events were deliberately covered up.
Evidence indicates that the civilians were killed during a sustained sweep by a small group of marines that lasted three to five hours and included shootings of five men standing near a taxi at a checkpoint, and killings inside at least two homes that included women and children, officials said.
That evidence, described by Congressional, Pentagon and military officials briefed on the inquiry, suggested to one Congressional official that the killings were "methodical in nature."
Congressional and military officials say the Naval Criminal Investigative Service inquiry is focusing on the actions of a Marine Corps staff sergeant serving as squad leader at the time, but that Marine officials have told members of Congress that up to a dozen other marines in the unit are also under investigation. Officials briefed on the inquiry said that most of the bullets that killed the civilians were now thought to have been "fired by a couple of rifles," as one of them put it.
The killings were first reported by Time magazine in March, based on accounts from survivors and human rights groups, and members of Congress have spoken publicly about the episode in recent days. But the new accounts from Congressional, military and Pentagon officials added significant new details to the picture. All of those who discussed the case had to be granted anonymity before they would talk about the findings emerging from the investigation.
A second, parallel inquiry was ordered by the second-ranking general in Iraq to examine whether any marines on the ground at Haditha, or any of their superior officers, tried to cover up the killings by filing false reports up the chain of command. That inquiry, conducted by an Army officer assigned to the Multinational Corps headquarters in Iraq, is expected to report its findings in coming days.
In an unusual sign of high-level concern, the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Michael W. Hagee, flew from Washington to Iraq on Thursday to give a series of speeches to his forces re-emphasizing compliance with international laws of armed conflict, the Geneva Conventions and the American military's own rules of engagement.
"Recent serious allegations concerning actions of marines in combat have caused me concern," General Hagee said in a statement issued upon his departure. The statement did not mention any specific incident.
The first official report from the military, issued on Nov. 20, said that "a U.S. marine and 15 Iraqi civilians were killed yesterday from the blast of a roadside bomb" and that "immediately following the bombing, gunmen attacked the convoy with small-arms fire."
Military investigators have since uncovered a far different set of facts from what was first reported, partly aided by marines who are cooperating with the inquiry and partly guided by reports filed by a separate unit that arrived to gather intelligence and document the attack; those reports contradicted the original version of the marines, Pentagon officials said.
One senior Defense Department official who has been briefed on the initial findings, when asked how many of the 24 dead Iraqis were killed by the improvised bomb as initially reported, paused and said, "Zero."
While Haditha was rife with violence and gunfire that day, the marines, who were assigned to the Third Battalion, First Marines, and are now back at Camp Pendleton, Calif., "never took what would constitute hostile fire of a seriously threatening nature," one Pentagon official said.
Women and children were among those killed, as well as five men who had been traveling in a taxi near the bomb, which killed Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas of El Paso.
Although investigators are still piecing together the string of deaths, Congressional and Pentagon officials said the five men in the taxi either were pulled out or got out at a Marine checkpoint and were shot.
The deaths of those in the taxi, and inside two nearby houses, were not the result of a quick and violent firefight, according to officials who had been briefed on the inquiry.
"This was not a burst of fire, but a sustained operation over several hours, maybe five hours," one official said. Forensic evidence gathered from the houses where Iraqi civilians died is also said to contradict reports that the marines had to overcome hostile fire to storm the homes.
Members of the House and Senate briefed on the Haditha shootings by senior Marine officers, including General Hagee and Brig. Gen. John F. Kelly, the Marine legislative liaison, voiced concerns Thursday about the seriousness of the accusations.
Representative John Kline, a Minnesota Republican who is a retired Marine colonel, said that the allegations indicated that "this was not an accident. This was direct fire by marines at civilians." He added, "This was not an immediate response to an attack. This would be an atrocity."
The deaths, and the role of the marines in those deaths, is being viewed with such alarm that senior Marine Corps officers briefed members of Congress last week and again on Wednesday and Thursday.
The briefings were in part an effort to prevent the kind of angry explosion from Capitol Hill that followed news of detainee abuse by American military jailers at Abu Ghraib prison, which had been quietly under investigation for months before the details of the abuse were leaked to the news media. "If the accounts as they have been alleged are true, the Haditha incident is likely the most serious war crime that has been reported in Iraq since the beginning of the war," said John Sifton, of Human Rights Watch. "Here we have two dozen civilians being killed - apparently intentionally. This isn't a gray area. This is a massacre."
Three Marine officers - the battalion commander and two company commanders in Haditha at the time - have been relieved of duty, although official statements have declined to link that action to the investigation.
Senator John W. Warner, a Virginia Republican who heads the Armed Services Committee, said he expected senators would review investigators' evidence, including photographs by military photographers that Mr. Warner said were "taken as a matter of routine in Iraq on operations of this nature when there's loss of life."
Lawyers who have been in conversations with the marines under investigation stressed the chaotic situation in Haditha at the time of the killings. And they expect that the defense will stress that insurgents often hide among civilians, that Haditha on the day of the shootings was suffering a wave of fluid insurgent attacks and that the marines responded to high levels of hostile action aimed at them.
Much of the area around Haditha is controlled by Sunni Arab insurgents who have made the city one of the deadliest in Iraq for American troops. On Aug. 1, three months before the massacre, insurgents ambushed and killed six Marine snipers moving through Haditha on foot. Insurgents released a video after the ambush that appeared to show the attack, and the mangled and burned body of a dead serviceman. Then, two days later, 14 marines were killed when their armored vehicle was destroyed by a roadside bomb near the southern edge of the city.
The Marines also disclosed this week that a preliminary inquiry had found "sufficient information" to recommend a criminal probe into the killing of an Iraqi civilian on April 26 near Hamandiyah, a village west of Baghdad.
Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt reported from Washington for this article, and Richard A. Oppel Jr. from Baghdad, Iraq.
Top Marine Visits Iraq As Probe of Deaths Widens
By Thomas E. Ricks
The Washington Post
Friday 26 May 2006
The commandant of the Marine Corps flew to Iraq to address his troops yesterday, and members of the Senate Armed Services Committee were briefed on allegations that Marines had purposely killed as many as two dozen Iraqi civilians in November.
The two developments were indications of the growing seriousness of two investigations into the incident in Haditha that has led to charges from a congressman that Marines killed civilians "in cold blood."
"When these investigations come out, there's going to be a firestorm," said retired Brig. Gen. David M. Brahms, formerly a top lawyer for the Marine Corps. "It will be worse than Abu Ghraib - nobody was killed at Abu Ghraib."
An Army lawyer who has heard some accounts of the investigation said, "It's a lot more serious than people thought at the beginning. It's really bad timing," coming as the repercussions of the Abu Ghraib detainee abuse scandal are waning, he added. He requested anonymity because he is on active duty and not authorized to be interviewed.
If so, the case is likely to make it more difficult for the Bush administration to bolster support for the war.
Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, was briefed Wednesday by Gen. Michael W. Hagee, the Marine commandant, and again yesterday by Brig. Gen. John Kelly, the legislative liaison for the Corps. Warner described the case as consisting of "very, very serious allegations" that resulted in "a significant loss of life, civilian."
Hagee flew to Iraq yesterday "to reinforce the ideals, values and standards" of the Corps, the Marines said. "There is a risk of becoming indifferent to the loss of a human life, as well as bringing dishonor on ourselves," Hagee said in a statement announcing his trip. "We do not employ force just for the sake of employing force."
Two military investigations of events in Haditha are expected to be completed soon, and charges could be brought by late June, according to a person familiar with some aspects of the case. A civilian lawyer tracking the case said he has heard from Marine contacts that there could be as many as a dozen court-martial proceedings.
At issue is what occurred on Nov. 19, 2005, after a Marine convoy was allegedly hit by a roadside bomb, killing Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas. An initial inquiry found that 15 civilians were killed in the crossfire of a subsequent Marine firefight with insurgents.
In April, the Marine Corps relieved Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani of his command of the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Marine Regiment, the unit involved in the incident. Two of his company commanders were also relieved of command. The 1st Marine Regiment is part of the 1st Marine Division and is based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., just north of San Diego.
Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) said last week that there was neither a bomb nor a firefight, and that 24 civilians had been killed "in cold blood."
"It's much worse than reported," said Murtha, who like Warner is a former Marine and maintains close ties with senior Marine officers despite his vigorous opposition to the war.
Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), a retired Marine helicopter pilot, said in an interview he thought Hagee was doing the right thing.
"I was saddened, surprised and outraged that this could happen," Kline said. He said he thought the incident would be regarded as "a horrific aberration" for the Marines.
By Shane Harris and Murray Waas
The National Journal
Thursday 25 May 2006
An internal Justice Department inquiry into whether department officials - including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft - acted properly in approving and overseeing the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping program was stymied because investigators were denied security clearances to do their work. The investigators, however, were only seeking information and documents relating to the National Security Agency's surveillance program that were already in the Justice Department's possession, two senior government officials said in interviews.
The investigation was launched in January by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility - a small ethics watchdog set up in 1975 after department officials were implicated in the Watergate scandal. The OPR investigates allegations of official misconduct by department attorneys, not crimes per se, but it does issue reports and recommend disciplinary action. The current Justice Department inspector general has determined that OPR is the office responsible for investigating the professional actions of the attorney general involving the NSA program.
The only classified information that OPR investigators were seeking about the NSA's eavesdropping program was what had already been given to Ashcroft, Gonzales and other department attorneys in their original approval and advice on the program, the two senior government officials said. And, by nature, OPR's request was limited to documents such as internal Justice Department communications and legal opinions, and didn't extend to secrets that are the sole domain of other agencies, the two officials said.
It is not clear who denied the OPR investigators the necessary security clearances, but Gonzales has reiterated in recent days that sharing too many details about the surveillance program could diminish its usefulness in locating terrorists, and he indicated that giving OPR investigators access to the program could jeopardize it.
Gonzales said that Justice attorneys examined and approved the surveillance, and that decisions on whether to share information about it are weighed in light of national security needs. "We don't want to be talking so much about the program that we compromise [its] effectiveness," the attorney general said at a public appearance last week.
Gonzales asserted to other senior officials that only people who have been "read into the [NSA] program," meaning they know its details and have pledged not to divulge them, should be allowed access, one of the two senior officials said in an interview. Traditionally, the decision on whether to grant access to a highly classified program is made by the agency that runs it, in this case the NSA.
Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., and three other Democrats - John Lewis of Georgia, Henry Waxman of California, and Lynn Woolsey of California - requested the OPR investigation after the surveillance program was revealed in late 2005, and asked the agency to determine whether it complied with existing law. OPR investigates "allegations of misconduct involving department attorneys that relate to the exercise of their authority to investigate, litigate, or provide legal advice," according to the office's policies and procedures.
Justice attorneys approved the NSA's warrantless eavesdropping in 2001, and Gonzales has vehemently defended President Bush's powers to order it ever since.
OPR's lead counsel, H. Marshall Jarrett, wrote to Hinchey in early February saying he had launched the investigation. "I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your January 9, 2006, letter, in which you asked this office to investigate the Department of Justice's role in authorizing, approving, and auditing certain surveillance activities of the National Security Agency, and whether such activities are permissible under existing law. For your information, we have initiated an investigation. Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention."
But earlier this month, Jarrett again wrote [PDF] to Hinchey: "We have been unable to make any meaningful progress in our investigation because OPR has been denied security clearances for access to information about the NSA program. Beginning in January 2006, this office made a series of requests for the necessary clearances. On May 9, 2006, we were informed that our requests had been denied. Without these clearances, we cannot investigate this matter and therefore have closed our investigation."
Jarrett didn't say which official or agency denied the requests for clearances. Asked whether the NSA had done so, agency spokesman Donny Weber pointed to Gonzales's public comments last week. Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, when asked which agency or person denied the security clearances to OPR investigators, also said Gonzales's comments of last week addressed that question.
After the clearances were denied, a reporter asked Gonzales, "Did Mr. Jarrett come to you and ask you to assist him in getting those clearances?" Gonzales replied, "It would not be appropriate, and I would not get into internal discussions or the give and take that happened between the attorney general and other folks within the Department of Justice."
"You were aware of this personally?" the reporter asked.
"Again, I'm not going to comment on anything," Gonzales replied.
Asked which agency or official decided not to grant the OPR investigators security clearances, Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said, "We aren't commenting on internal decisions." He noted that the attorney general had addressed the topic in his public comments. If the decision to deny the clearances was in fact an "internal decision" of the Justice Department, that raises the prospect that Gonzales himself or another senior Justice official denied the clearances, and hence quashed the OPR investigation.
Michael Shaheen, who headed the OPR from its inception until 1997, said that his staff "never, ever was denied a clearance," and that OPR had conducted numerous investigations involving the activities of attorneys general. "No attorney general has ever said no to me," Shaheen said. He added that, over the past several years, the OPR's muscle has degraded, in part because it was stripped of its authority to pursue criminal investigations. But under the Bush administration, the weakening has been especially pronounced, Shaheen said. "I just think that the White House has so frightened everybody.... If I were still at OPR and was told I couldn't have security clearances, the first word out of my mouth ... would have been, 'Balderdash!' "
In an interview, Hinchey argued that Gonzales and other Bush administration officials have an obligation to cooperate in every manner possible with any OPR investigation: "The Justice Department has an Office of Professional Responsibility to assure that the highest ethical standards are met by those who enforce our laws. That's why we have Jarrett.... The idea that they are not going to give him the necessary security clearances to do his job and the proper oversight is absurd."
Regarding Gonzales, Hinchey said: "The attorney general has said that he does not have to allow an investigation to go forward because he has talked about the legal underpinnings of the NSA program. He has not done that because it does not have any. It is devoid of any legal underpinnings."
Hinchey has drafted a resolution of inquiry requesting that Bush, Gonzales, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld turn over documents relating to the OPR investigation's closure and the denial of security clearances. The resolution asks for "telephone and electronic-mail records, logs and calendars, personnel records, and records of internal discussions." Hinchey said he planned to get other members of Congress to sign on to the resolution this week.
The OPR investigation also set out to determine whether the NSA's surveillance activities were legal and complied with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the sole law on intelligence-gathering inside the United States. Gonzales has averred that the legal underpinnings have already been laid out in public testimony and in detailed department analyses of the president's authority to order warrantless eavesdropping. He has also asserted that Justice's inspector general, not the OPR, has the authority to investigate whether department officials' conduct is lawful.
But in January, the Justice Department's inspector general deferred to the OPR on questions about authorization of the NSA program. In declining a request by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., to investigate Gonzales's role, Inspector General Glenn Fine wrote, "The actions of the attorney general or other department attorneys in providing legal advice regarding the legality of warrantless surveillance by NSA ... falls within the jurisdiction of the [OPR]." Fine then sent Lofgren's request to that office.
Previous coverage of pre-war intelligence and the CIA leak investigation from Murray Waas. Brian Beutler provided research assistance for this report.
Hinchey Introduces Measure to Force Bush Administration to Reveal Who
Blocked Justice Dept. Probe of NSA Warrantless Surveillance Program
t r u t h o u t | Press Release
Thursday 25 May 2006
Measure would require President, Attorney General & Defense Secretary to hand over documents related to closure of investigation.
Washington, DC - In an effort to find out who blocked an internal U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation of the agency's role in the National Security Agency (NSA) warrantless surveillance program and the reasons for doing so, Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) today introduced a resolution of inquiry in the House that would force top members of the Bush administration to turn over all materials related to the termination of the probe. In January, Hinchey and three of his House colleagues requested that DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) conduct the investigation. OPR Counsel H. Marshall Jarrett informed Hinchey in February that a probe was underway, but on May 10 he wrote the congressman to say that the investigation had been closed because OPR was denied the necessary security clearances.
According to a National Journal article published online today, all of the information that OPR was seeking was already in DOJ's possession and did not involve any top secret data. However, OPR was still blocked from conducting its investigation. Top administration officials have refused to explain who denied the security clearances for OPR investigators that effectively closed the probe and have also failed to offer a substantive justification for shutting down the investigation. Since the administration has not been forthcoming, Hinchey introduced his resolution to require President Bush, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to turn over to Congress all documents, including telephone and electronic mail records, logs and calendars, personnel records, and records of internal discussions related to the termination of OPR's investigation.
"The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility is designed to ensure that the highest ethical standards are met by those who enforce our laws. For administration officials to deny OPR officials security clearances needed to do their job and conduct the proper oversight is absurd and is contradictory to what the American people expect and deserve from their government," Hinchey said. "The Bush administration cannot get away with designing a secret, illegal spy program and then shutting down an investigation into its creation and implementation. Since the Attorney General and others have refused to be forthcoming in a genuine way on their own, this resolution of inquiry will force them to pull back the curtain of secrecy and reveal who stopped the OPR investigation and why."
Among other things, Hinchey and his colleagues - Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), and Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) - specifically requested an investigation to find out who within the DOJ first authorized the domestic surveillance program and what that official's justification was for doing so; if the Bush administration had already enacted the program before getting original DOJ approval; what the reauthorization process for the surveillance initiative entails; and why, according to news reports, did then-Acting Attorney General James Comey refuse to reauthorize the program and why then-Attorney General John Ashcroft expressed strong reservations about the program and may have rejected it as well.
"Administration officials can't just go around and say that disclosing information about the evolution and execution of the NSA program would jeopardize national security because it wouldn't," Hinchey said. "We are not requesting transcripts of tapped phone calls or asking for any specific information gathered from the program. We just want to know how the administration came to develop a surveillance program that ignores the fact that this country has a Constitution."
The Hinchey measure to acquire the documents surrounding the termination of the OPR investigation is a resolution of inquiry, which is a type of bill that seeks factual information from the executive branch. A House committee must debate the Hinchey measure or else the matter can be brought directly before the full House. If the full House adopts the measure, President Bush, Attorney General Gonzales, and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld would have 14 days to present Congress with all of the requested documents.
Hinchey has also written back to OPR Counsel Jarrett in an attempt to find out what individuals and agencies refused to grant the security clearances needed for the probe.
To view a copy of Congressman Hinchey's Resolution of Inquiry, click here.