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Bush Calls Constitution: ‘Just a Goddamned Piece of Paper’

December 18th, 2005 - by admin

Doug Thompson / Capitol Hill Blue – 2005-12-18 01:14:11

http://www.capitolhillblue.com/artman/publish/article_7779.shtml

(Dec 9, 2005) — Last month, Republican Congressional leaders filed into the Oval Office to meet with President George W. Bush and talk about renewing the controversial USA Patriot Act.

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

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

“I don’t give a goddamn,” Bush retorted. “I’m the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way.”

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

“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back.

“It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”
I’ve talked to three people present for the meeting that day and they all confirm that the President of the United States called the Constitution “a goddamned piece of paper.”

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

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, while still White House counsel, wrote that the “Constitution is an outdated document.”
Put aside, for a moment, political affiliation or personal beliefs.

It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat, Republican or Independent.

It doesn’t matter if you support the invasion or Iraq or not. Despite our differences, the Constitution has stood for two centuries as the defining document of our government, the final source to determine — in the end — if something is legal or right.

Every federal official — including the President — who takes an oath of office swears to “uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says he cringes when someone calls the Constitution a “living document.”

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

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

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

Scalia says the danger of tinkering with the Constitution comes from a loss of rights.
“We can take away rights just as we can grant new ones,” Scalia warns. “Don’t think that it’s a one-way street.”

And don’t buy the White House hype that the USA Patriot Act is a necessary tool to fight terrorism. It is a dangerous law that infringes on the rights of every American citizen and, as one brave aide told President Bush, something that undermines the Constitution of the United States.
But why should Bush care? After all, the Constitution is just “a goddamned piece of paper.”

NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this
material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a
prior interest in receiving the included information for research and
educational purposes.***

A Holiday Miracle Reborn

December 18th, 2005 - by admin

Gar Smith / Berkeley Daily Planet – 2005-12-18 01:10:40

http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/article.cfm?archiveDate=12-24-04&storyID=20360

Last December, songwriter John McCutcheon (the man the Oakland Tribune calls “the Bruce Springsteen of folk music” slowly approached a microphone at Berkeley’s Freight and Salvage and announced a special song. Those who knew the song grew silent. Those who heard it for the first time were soon nodding their heads in quiet affirmation. Some wept.

My name is Francis Tolliver, I come from Liverpool.

Two years ago, the war was waiting for me after school.

To Belgium and to Flanders, to Germany to here,

I fought for King and country I love dear.

McCutcheon’s wrenching ballad, “Christmas in the Trenches,” celebrates a nearly forgotten incident from WW I — the “Christmas Miracle.”

It was Christmas Eve, 1914. After four months of fighting, more than a million men had perished in bloody conflict. The bodies of dead soldiers were scattered between the trenches of Europe, frozen in the snow. Belgian, German, French, British and Canadian troops were dug-in so close that they could easily exchange shouts.

Lt. Kurt Zehmisch, a German soldier who had been a schoolteacher in Leipzig, blew a two-fingered whistle toward
the British trenches. To the delight of Zehmisch’s Saxon regiment, the Brits whistled back. Some of the Germans who had worked in England before the war shouted greetings across the battlefield in English.

On the Allied side, the Brits watched in amazement as candle-lit Christmas trees began to appear atop German trenches. The glowing trees soon appeared along the length of the German front.

Henry Williamson, a young soldier with the London Regiment wrote in his diary: ‚ÄúFrom the German parapet, a rich baritone voice had begun to sing a song I remembered my German nurse singing to me…. The grave and tender voice rose out of the frozen mist. It was all so strange… like being in another world‚Äîto which one had come through a nightmare.”

The cannon rested silent, the gas clouds rolled no more,

As Christmas brought us respite from the war….

“They finished their carol and we thought that we ought to retaliate,” another British soldier wrote, “So we sang “The First Noel” and when we finished, they all began clapping. And they struck up “O Tannebaum” and on it went… until we started up “O Come All Ye Faithful” [and] the Germans immediately joined in …. this was really a most extraordinary thing‚ “two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.”

“There’s someone coming towards us!” the front-line sentry cried.

All sights were fixed on one lone figure trudging from their side.

His truce flag, like a Christmas star, shone on that plain so bright

As he, bravely, strode unarmed into the night.

Soldiers rose from their trenches and greeted each other in No Man’s Land. They wished each other a Merry Christmas and agreed not to fire their rifles the next day.

The spontaneous cease-fire eventually embraced the entire 500-mile stretch of the Western Front, from the Belgian coast to the Swiss border. On Christmas day, more than a million soldiers put down their guns, left their trenches and celebrated the birth of the Prince of Peace among the bodies of their dead.

Soon one by one on either side walked into No Man’s Land.

With neither gun nor bayonet, we met there hand to hand.

The soldiers exchanged handshakes and food. Some cut badges and buttons from their uniforms to exchange. Others shared prized photos of wives and children. Many exchanged addresses and promised to write after the war ended.

The German troops rolled out barrels of dark beer and the men from Liverpool and London reciprocated with offerings of British plum pudding. Some soldiers produced soccer balls, while others fashioned balls from sacks of bundled straw and empty jam boxes. Belgians, French, Britons and Germans kicked their way across the icy fields for hours as fellow soldiers shouted encouragement.

Officers on both sides, aghast at the spectacle of peace breaking out between the lower ranks, exploded with shouts of “treason” and threats of courts martial. Their threats were ignored.

Along some stretches of the Front, the truce lasted several weeks. But, slowly, under threats from their officers, the troops returned to the trenches and rifles once more began to bark. (But many soldiers aimed so their bullets flew well above the heads of the “enemy.”

Soon daylight stole upon us and France was France once more.

With sad farewells, we each prepared to settle back to war.

But the question haunted every heart that lived that wondrous night:
“Whose family have I fixed within my sight?”

WW I lasted another two years. In that time, another 4.4 million men would die — an average of 6,000 each day. In
all, 8.5 million soldiers perished.

It’s Christmas Eve and John McCutcheon’s voice echoes in the room:

My name is Francis Tolliver, in Liverpool I dwell.

Each Christmas come since World War I, I’ve learned its lesson well:

That the ones who call the shots won’t be among the dead and lame,

And on each end of the rifle, we’re the same.

John McCutcheon has recorded 30 albums and has received five Grammy nominations. Christmas in the Trenches‚ appears on his 1984 album, Winter Solstice. McCutcheon’s website is http://www.folkmusic.com.

© John McCutcheon/Appleseed Music. Reprinted by permission.

Gar Smith is Web editor of EAW and associate editor of Common Ground magazine, where a version of this essay first appeared.

Christmas in the Trenches

December 18th, 2005 - by admin

John McCutcheon – 2005-12-18 00:57:02

http://www.earthisland.org/project/newsPage2.cfm?newsID=522&pageID=177&subSiteID=44

My name is Francis Toliver, I come from Liverpool.

Two years ago, the war was waiting for me after school.

To Belgium and to Flanders, to Germany, to here,

I fought for King and country I love dear.

‘Twas Christmas in the trenches, where the frost so bitter hung.

The frozen fields of France were still, no Christmas song was sung.

Our families back in England were toasting us that day:

Their brave and glorious lads so far away.

I was lying with my messmate on the cold and rocky ground

When across the lines of battle came a most peculiar sound.

Says I, “Now listen up, me boys!” each soldier strained to hear

As one young German voice sang out so clear.

“He’s singing bloody well, you know!” my partner says to me.

Soon, one by one, each German voice joined in harmony.

The cannons rested silent, the gas clouds rolled no more,

As Christmas gave us respite from the war.

As soon as they were finished and a reverent pause was spent,

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen struck up some lads from Kent.

The next they sang was Stille Nacht, “‘Tis Silent Night, says I.

And in two tongues one song filled up that sky.

“There’s someone coming towards us!” the front-line sentry cried.

All sights were fixed on one lone figure trudging from their side.

His truce flag, like a Christmas star, shone on that plain so bright

As he, bravely, strode unarmed into the night.

Soon one by one on either side walked into No Man’s Land.

With neither gun nor bayonet, we met there hand to hand.

We shared some secret brandy and wished each other well

And in a flare-lit soccer game we gave ’em hell.

We traded chocolates, cigarettes, and photographs from home.

These sons and fathers far away from families of their own.

Young Sanders played his squeeze-box and they had a violin,

This curious and unlikely band of men.

Soon daylight stole upon us and France was France once more.

With sad farewells, we each prepared to settle back to war.

But the question haunted every heart that lived that wondrous night:

“Whose family have I fixed within my sights?”

‘Twas Christmas in the trenches where the frost so bitter hung.

The frozen fields of France were warmed as songs of peace were sung.

For the walls they’d kept between us to exact the work of war

Had been crumbled and were gone forevermore.

My name is Francis Toliver, in Liverpool I dwell.

Each Christmas come since World War I, I’ve learned its lessons well:

That the ones who call the shots won’t be among the dead and lame

And on each end of the rifle we’re the same.

Words & Music by John McCutcheon.
copyright 1984 by John McCutcheon / Appalsong

The Crimes of US ‘Democracy’

December 17th, 2005 - by admin

Ghali Hassan / GlobalResearch.ca – 2005-12-17 11:35:27

www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle=HAS20051216=1491

Introductory CommentKeith Lampe, Ponderosa Pine

[This article by Chali Hassan was submitted to EAW by Keith Lampe (aka Ponderosa Pine) — a founding father of the US environmental movement who has been living abroad in Thailand. His observation of the corporate media’s dumbing-down and coarseing of US culture is a matter of great concern.]

(December 17, 2005) — I’m glad Ghali Hassan below has chosen to emphasize not only the mass murder of Iraqi civilians but also that such viciousness is being “normalized in Western conscience.” Here from a recent email to 9/11 colleagues is my sense of how it and other atrocious behavior are being normalized in the US:

These comments remind me of the seven weeks I spent in California last summer. It was the first time in five years that I’d been in the US and I found it quite exhausting to have to absorb all-at-once what had taken place during that period.

I already had intellectual knowledge of the “dumbing-down” that had occurred — but nevertheless was appalled by my gut experience that not only had there been lots of dumbing-down but also most folks had been subtly conditioned to be proud of having been dumbed-down.

Related to this was a perception that within the broad corporate-media propaganda mix (“news,” sitcoms, cop dramas, etc) there’d been a relatively successful effort to give crudeness the status of a major virtue. In fact, this propaganda mix seemed to aim at creating a younger generation who’d fire automatic weapons into clusters of peaceful unarmed civilians without even giving it a second thought. These are some of the reasons I think [the peace movement] should concentrate on the 15-to-25 age group. . .

Another thing we must concentrate on is strengthening our own independent media, including much greater use of the oral tradition — e.g., Truth Teams going door-to-door with the news in person but also supported with video, audio and print.

— Keith Lampe, Ponderosa Pine prez@usa-exile.org


The Crimes of US ‘Democracy’
The Crimes of US ‘Democracy’ / Ghali Hassan / GlobalResearch.ca

“How many Iraqi citizens have died in this war? I would say; 30,000, more or less, have died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence against Iraqis. We’ve lost about 2,140 of our own troops.”
— George W. Bush, 12 December 2005.

(December 16, 2005) — As the Occupation of Iraq is approaching three years, the mass murder of Iraqi civilians is not questioned, but normalised in Western conscience. President Bush reached the stage where he is able to make his own figure of Iraqi deaths, with no remorse or sadness. The war was not the result of “wrong intelligence”; the war was an illegal act of aggression, and a premeditated mass murder. ‘Democracy’ is used as a tool to manipulate the public and justify war crimes.

The most conservative estimate of Iraqi deaths was reported in October 2004 by a group of medical scientists from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Columbia University and Al-Mustansiriyah School of Medicine in Baghdad. The conservative estimate of more than 100,000 Iraqi deaths was published in the reputed and peer-reviewed British medical journal the Lancet. If one includes the atrocities in Fallujah, Ramadi, al-Qaim, Tel Afar, Hillah, Baghdad and the daily mayhem instigated by US forces and their collaborators, the number of Iraqis killed since March 2003 would be in the 200,000 mark or even more. It also estimated that 85 per cent of all violent deaths are by “coalition forces” and that many of these are due to US aerial bombardments. The majority of the victims were innocent women and children.

According to Robert Fisk of the Independent; “The Ministry of Health figures in July alone, was 1,100 Iraqi deaths in Baghdad alone. If you spread that across, Mosul, Kirkuk, maybe Irbil [in the north], all the way down to Basra [in the south], through the months, and you must be talking of 3,000 to 4,000 a month. That’s 36,000 to 48,000 a year”. This makes the “100,000 figure of [the Lancet study] rightly as being quite conservative”, added Fisk. This figure has been recently substantiated.

However, The Lancet study was deliberately ignored or dismissed by the US-British corporate mass media. In fact the study is now censored by mainstream media because it shows a mass murder. The media and Western elites’ roles have always been to selectively describe crimes allegedly – never proven – committed by the regime of Saddam Hussein as “mass murder”, while dismissing crimes committed by Western powers.

Since October 2004, the violence of the Occupation is increasing, and the daily bloodshed is mounting. The indiscriminate and savage aerial and ground bombardments – with chemical bombs, fire bombs (fuel-air bombs), napalm and other non-conventional weapons (WMD) – of population centres continue the destruction of the country and the killing of innocent Iraqis en masse. In addition, the US and British governments are secretly sponsoring the killings of prominent Iraqi politicians, intellectuals, academics, religious leaders and trade union leaders, including leaders of the Oil Workers Union, using US-British trained death squads and criminals. The aim is to incite civil strife and destroy the unity of Iraq to serve US imperialist strategy. The US invaded Iraq to destroy its unity and conquest its oil resources at the expense of the Iraqi people.

The real motives for the war remain conspicuously hidden from the public: the colonisation of Iraq to enhance US imperial dominance, the destruction of Arab nationalism, and most importantly support for Israel’s Zionist expansion and criminal policies against the Palestinians. Moreover, the most relevant was that public consent in the West has been manufactured and the US had its way to commit a ‘Supreme International Crime’ against defenceless people, disguised as ‘spreading democracy’. Iraq under US-British Occupation is a far more dictatorial and miserable place to live in than under Saddam Hussein’s regime. Occupation is just another clone of Fascism.

The view from Iraq is that since the invasion: “Iraqis have been living in fear, poverty, oppression and a lack of freedom… The occupation troops have resorted to excessive force, indiscriminate killing and collective punishment of the population. They have besieged entire towns, storming into them, instilling fear and horror among residents and destroying their homes. Iraqis have been humiliated and stripped of their basic human rights; they have been subjected to brutal and ghastly forms of torture, as the infamous Abu Ghraib prison case and the British troops’ abuse of detainees in Basra have shown”. (The Guardian, 15 December 2005).

A recent UNICEF rapid assessment survey reveals that acute malnutrition among Iraqi children had almost doubled since before the war, jumping from 4 per cent to almost 8 per cent. The survey adds that: “Acute malnutrition sets in very fast and is a strong indicator of the overall health of children”. The general health of Iraqi children, the elderly and pregnant women in particular, has declined because of continued deterioration of the living conditions. Since the invasion three years ago, Iraq still lacks access to potable water, food, adequate electricity supply, hospital care, and a sharp decline in Iraqis purchasing power due to the 70 per cent unemployment.

As the war continues and the bloodshed mounts, the US and British powers are orchestrating elections that will legitimise their imperial interests at the expense of the Iraqi people. Illegitimate and fraudulent elections are no substitute for free, fare and democratic elections. This is consistent with the West’s own demand for Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon before last March’s elections. The Bush Administration should apply the same in Iraq. There can be no legitimate elections while Iraq is under occupation and its oil wealth is looted by the invaders. It is not democracy; it is criminal.

Like the January 2005 elections, these elections are for propaganda purposes designed to fool the rest of the world and cover up the US colonial aim in Iraq. Behind the scenes and against the wishes of the Iraqi people, the looting of Iraq’s oil wealth and the colonisation of Iraq’s economy is a reality. The new production-sharing agreements (PSAs) between big US and British oil corporations enforced foreign control of Iraq’s resources. As every day passes, the occupation of Iraq is becoming more deadly and long lasting.

Furthermore, the US and Britain are interfering directly in the elections by planting false articles in the Iraqi press to report favourably on the US Occupation and to promote US candidates. Iyad Allawi is presented by the US and British mass media as the “strong man” and “only hope”, for Iraq. In October, Iraqis were forced to vote on a divisive and sectarian US-crafted Constitution and now they are voting to implement that division. It doesn’t matter how many Iraqis vote in the elections, these elections do not represent the aspiration of the Iraqi people for free, democratic and sovereign Iraq. These elections are imposed from outside and at gun point.

The outcome of these fraudulent elections is a forgone conclusion. The result won’t change the situation on the ground. Imported Iraqi expatriate conmen and religious clerics, with their own militias and death squads, are serving as the façade of the Occupation. The current coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), which includes conman Ahmed Chalabi, is poised to win most of the votes. The C.I.A stooge, Iyad Allawi, may be added to give the new puppet government a ‘secular’ colour with a corruption test. Together with the Kurdish warlords, the UIA will most likely continue to serve the US Occupation, because they depend on its ongoing presence. The Occupation and its associated violence benefit the US and its allies. Iraqis are stuck in the Occupation’s quagmire.

In addition to the US and Britain, the Iranian regime is doing everything to keep its fanatic stooges in power in Iraq. There have been reports of ballot forgery and rigging on a massive scale, including the participation of over a million illegal Iranians in the Iraqi elections. A stable Iraq has never been part of Iran policy, and the current environment of ongoing US Occupation of Iraq is in Iran’s interests.

The vast majority of Iraqis are rejecting the US Occupation. A recent poll conducted by the British Ministry of Defence in August 2005 reveals that over 82 per cent of Iraqis are “strongly opposed” to the presence of the occupying forces in Iraq. Less than 1 per cent of Iraqis think the Occupation forces are responsible for any improvement in security. If one excludes the Kurdish region of Iraq – where the US has some support – from the poll, the anti-Occupation sentiment is even higher. George Bush’s refusal to set a time for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq is also contrary to the “tentative agreement” reached on 21 November 2005 at the Arab League-sponsored Cairo conference, by Iraqi leaders, including the current puppet government.

So, if the elections have any chance of achieving the aim of the Iraqi people, which is the FULL and immediate withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, then Iraqis will look forward to a better future in independent Iraq. Only after liberation and national independence, can Iraq have truly free, fair and democratic elections. Westerners, Americans in particular, should liberate themselves from the anti-Arab colonial ideology of deep-seated belief in cultural superiority to indigenous Iraqis. Iraqis do not need to prove their capability and place in history. Democracy cannot be imposed and achieved by violence; democracy is planted and nurtured by the people.

For three years, the mass media didn’t dare to ask about the number of Iraqi deaths, and have deliberately covered up the mass murder of innocent Iraqis. President Bush wasn’t asked by a reporter, but by someone from the public, when he responds to a question. Bush’s lowest estimate of Iraqi deaths is consistent with his style of deception, 30,000 or 200,000 deaths; Bush is admitting to having committed mass murder. What for?

There were no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, and Iraqis have never posed a threat to the American people. It wasn’t because of faulty intelligence, as the Bush-media spin suggests. The war was instigated with a clear consciousness of the truth. The UN declared the war on Iraq an “illegal” act of aggression in violation of the UN Charter. The invasion of Iraq is rightly described by Noble laureate Harold Pinter as: ”An act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law”.

It is legally argued by attorney Michael Ratner, the former director of the Centre for Constitutional Rights and past president of the National Lawyer’s Guild, that: “Article 2131 of the UN Charter requires that international disputes be settled by peaceful means so that international peace, security and justice are not endangered; Article 2141 requires that force shall not be used in any manner that is inconsistent with the purposes of the UN and Article 33 requires that parties to a dispute shall first of all seek a solution by negotiation, inquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies, or other peaceful means”. Force can not be used based on assumption and bogus intelligence.

It follows that there is an overwhelming prima facia evidence to indict George W. Bush and his accomplices with war crimes and crimes against humanity. If the American people justify the death penalty for Americans who committed murderous crimes in America, they should not ignore those who committed mass murder in Iraq.

Global Research Contributing Editor Ghali Hassan lives in Perth, Western Australia.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

The Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) at www.globalresearch.ca

© Copyright Ghali Hassan, GlobalResearch.ca, 2005


War in Iraq a Crime, Say Legal Experts
The Star (Malaysia)

KUALA LUMPUR (December 17, 2005) — Leaders of the United States, Britain and Australia are criminals who have committed crimes against humanity and should be hauled up and tried for war crimes, according to two law professors.

Prof Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi of Universiti Teknologi Mara Malaysia said George W. Bush, Tony Blair, John Howard and their accomplices had blatantly disregarded the laws of war. He said the international community must file reports against them for genocide and crimes against humanity with the International Criminal Court for violating the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal. “Terrorism is a crime against humanity and must be combated by concerted international action that examines causes as well as cures.”

Prof Francis A. Boyle of Illinois University said Bush’s attempt to assassinate the president of Iraq was an international crime in its own right. “His administration’s war of aggression against Iraq also constituted a crime against peace as defined by the Nuremberg Charter, the Nuremberg Judgement and the Nuremberg Principles as well as by paragraph 498 of US Army Field Manual 27-10 (1956),” he added.

According to him, the US government’s installation of the Interim Government of Iraq was nothing more than a “puppet government” under the laws of war. “As the belligerent occupant of Iraq, the US government is free to establish a puppet government if it so desires. But under the laws of war, it remains fully accountable for the behaviour of its puppet government.”

Prof Dr Shad said unlawful use of force by the US in Iraq threatened to “return us to a world in which the law of the jungle prevails over the rule of law.”

This, he said, had potentially disastrous consequences for human rights not only for Iraqis but for the whole world. He suggested the United Nations General Assembly to pass a resolution to end the US occupation of Iraq and leave within a declared time frame. “Iraqi government should have authority over its economy and oil revenues. It should have the right to set terms for the operation of foreign troops on its soil,” he said.

© Copyright, The Star (Malaysia), 2005

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Bush Fools America by “Accepting” a Ban on Torture

December 17th, 2005 - by admin

Evan Augustine Peterson, III & American Progress Report – 2005-12-17 11:32:20

Bush Fools America by “Accepting” a Ban on Torture
Evan Augustine Peterson, III / Special to EAW

WASHINGTON (December 17, 2005) — In Washington politics, things are seldom what they appear to be — especially when devious Machiavellians are running the White House. And we often end up getting a fairy-tale version of reality because the USA’s government-corporate-media complex prefers to ignore unpleasant-but-true stories while it promotes pleasant-but-false stories.

For instance, the mainstream media is burying a major Bushite deception right now, so as to leave the American people with the rosy-but-false impression that Mr. Bush has adopted a “new position” concerning torture. [1]

On Wednesday of this week, a non-binding House vote overwhelmingly favored the McCain Amendment, which would ban torture by the military, the CIA, and mercenaries under contract with the US government. [2]

Then on Thursday, Mr. Bush reportedly RESCINDED his opposition to the McCain Anti-Torture Amendment (which he had threatened to veto). [3]

BUSHITES MISLEADING THE PUBLIC TO A ROSY-BUT-FALSE CONCLUSION.
Oh happy day! The US government finally appears to have understood what civilized people everywhere already knew: torture isn’t wrong merely because it’s illegal (i.e., “malum prohibitum”, or “wrong because prohibited”); rather, torture is illegal because it’s just plain wrong (i.e., “malum in se”, or “wrong in itself”).

However, human-rights groups should not prematurely celebrate a “victory.” Mr. Bush has learned nothing, and he hasn’t changed his position on torture. He misled us into war under false pretenses, and now he’s trying to mislead Congress and the public into believing that his administration has forsworn its advocacy and use of torture.

Consider this: Bush ONLY rescinded his opposition to McCain’s Anti-Torture Amendment because he’d already circumvented its most important provision! The key provision would have made the Army’s formal interrogation standards — which can be found in the Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation — the UNIFORM STANDARD for the entire government. And torture-survivor McCain chose the Army’s long-standing interrogation standards because they were written to conform with international-law conventions that strictly prohibit belligerents from humiliating, abusing, or torturing prisoners and detainees.

So how did Mr. Bush fool everyone? [4]

By getting his Pentagon minions to issue their first official change to the Army Field Manual in 13 years. More importantly, the Pentagon radically altered the Army Field Manual by inserting a 10-page CLASSIFIED addendum that contains new, highly-permissive interrogation standards. The DOD’s new interrogation standards intentionally BLUR the Army’s formerly clear-cut standards.

Furthermore, these new standards not only permit, but also teach, abusive interrogation techniques that will violate international law because they are obviously tantamount to torture. [5]

WHAT CONCLUSIONS CAN WE DRAW FROM THIS STORY-WITHIN-THE-STORY?
Don’t be fooled, folks! The McCain Anti-Torture Amendment WON’T ban torture, depite the fact that its operative provision would have made the Army Field Manual‘s clear-cut standards the uniform standard for the entire government. But now it won’t, because the Pentagon hasrevised those interrogation standards not only PERMIT, but also TEACH, techniques of humiliation and abuse that are tantamount to TORTURE.

Here’s the bottom-line conclusion: “The idea that we have a ‘Vice President For Torture’ now appears quaint. What we really have is an entire administration [that is] openly and unapologetically for torture.” [6]

Of course, the Pentagon’s re-write of the Army Field Manual, the chief executive’s approval thereof, and every human-rights violation flowing therefrom, will be a PROSECUTABLE WAR CRIME.

WHAT’S THE MORAL OF THIS STORY-WITHIN-THE-STORY?
The ultra-militaristic Bushites and their Pentagon minions are arrogant,
treacherous, “above-the-law” despots who will stop at nothing to have
their way. Even if their way is clearly “malum in se.” [7]

Even if their way destroys our nation’s moral credibility. [8]

Even if their way dooms democratic governance under the rule of law. [9]

If there is any justice left inside the USA, “having their way” will lead directly to their IMPEACHMENT and REMOVAL from office.

ENDNOTES

[1] In all fairness to the mainstream press, New York Times reporter Eric Schmitt probably broke this unpleasant-but-true story. Nevertheless, it would have had a swift burial if it hadn’t been picked up by online journalists and pundits.

[2] Eric Schmitt 12-15-05 CD/NYT article, “House Backs McCain On Detainees, Defying Bush.”
http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/1215-04.htm

[3] Liz Sidoti’s 12-15-05 AP/AOLNews article, “Bush Accepts McCain’s Ban On Torture: Move Comes After House And Senate Back Language.”
http://aolsvc.news.aol.com/news/article.adp?id-20051214093209990014&_ccc=3&cid=842

[4] He fooled almost everyone. Mr. Bush probably consulted beforehand with Republicans like House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who has vehemently opposed the McCain Amendment. The ultra-militaristic Hunter undoubtedly would applaud — if he didn’t actually propose — the Pentagon’s vile revisions to eviscerate the Amendment.

[5] Judd Legum, et al., in the American Progress Action Fund’s 12-15-05 Progress Report article, “Torture: Bush Administration Changes Army Field Manual To Skirt Anti-Torture Legislation.”

“With Congress on the verge of passing the sweeping McCain Anti-Torture Amendment, the Bush Administration has moved to get around the proposed rules should they become law.
[A] The McCain Amendment would make the ‘Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation’ the standard for questioning subjects.
[B] That manual explicitly prohibits the use of ‘coercive interrogation techniques.’ Realizing this, the Pentagon one-upped McCain and simply re-wrote the manual. For the first time in thirteen years, the Pentagon approved ‘a 10-page classified addendum to a new Army Field Manual‘ that ‘would help teach [interrogators] how to walk right up to the line between legal and illegal interrogations.’
[C] ‘This is a stick in McCain’s eye,” one official said. ‘It goes right up to the edge.'”

[A] Nico Pitney’s 12-14-05 ThinkProgress.org article, “As Torture Amendment Nears Passage, Pentagon Rewrites Army Detainee Standards.”

[B] DOD’s addendum to the Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation.
http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/library/policy/army/fm/fm34-52/toc.htm

[C] Eric Scmitt’s 12-14-05 IHT/NYT article, “New Army Rules May Snag Talks
With McCain On Detainee Rights.”
http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/12/14/news/torture.php

[6] Ibid; see Nico Pitney at [4][a] above.

[7] Ray McGovern’s 12-13-05 CD/TD essay, “McCain’s Defining Moment,” contains excellent moral reasoning about torture, but it no longer matters if Senator McCain compromises his amendment’s language in negotiations with the Republican leaders. Mr. Bush’s minions in the Pentagon have already checkmated McCain by issuing a major revision to the Army Field Manual‘s interrogation standards. Even if the McCain Amendment passes, their revision’s purpose is to ensure the continuation of “coercive interrogation techniques” that humiliate, abuse, and torture prisoners and detainees.
http://www.commondreams.org/views05/1213-34.htm

[8] NY Times’ 12-16-05 editorial, “Ban Torture. Period.” This is a good editorial, so far as it goes. However, its theme should’ve gone farther than “when it comes to torture, the nation and its military men and women need moral clarity, not more legalistic wiggle room.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/16/opinion/16fri1.html?th&emc=th

[9] Elisa Massimo’s 11-21-05 CD essay, “Heading Toward the Dark Side.” The Bushites claim they’re “above the law” whereas their enemies are “below the law.” These claims are calculated to subvert the rule of law and convert Americans to the Dark Side.
http://www.commondreams.org/views05/1121-25.htm

This essay was written by Evan Augustine Peterson III, J.D., who is the Executive Director of the American Center for International Law (“ACIL”).


The Torture Two-Step
Judd Legum, Faiz Shakir, Nico Pitney
Amanda Terkel and Payson Schwin / The Progress Report

(December 16, 2005) — Yesterday, the Bush administration finally reversed position and accepted Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill prohibiting “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment” of U.S. detainees, establishing “the Army Field Manual as the uniform standard for the interrogation of Department of Defense detainees.” This agreement was an important step in restoring American values and reaffirming America’s long-standing prohibition on torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. It’s a positive step but it doesn’t resolve the issue.

The White House, in its effort to defeat the anti-torture amendment, has done serious harm to the moral standing of the United States and has provided fuel for a destructive anti-Americanism that makes winning the war on terrorism more difficult. Even as Bush yesterday held a photo-op on the amendment with McCain, the White House continued to undermine the McCain amendment through other means. To reverse this damage, the federal government must now “undertake a full reevaluation of the treatment of persons captured and detained by the United States, wherever they are held.”

ONE STEP FORWARD
The Bush administration is finally beginning to realize what the Senate and the House already knew: torture does not work. Abusive interrogations often produce unreliable and inaccurate information and put our troops at greater risk abroad.

In October, the Senate approved McCain’s amendment 90 to 9, and on Wednesday, the House voted 308 to 122 to line up behind Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), who sponsored McCain’s language in “an unusual bipartisan rebuke to the Bush administration.” “Today’s agreement by the White House and congressional leaders means that interrogators will be given clear, unambiguous rules to follow. … America’s black eye is finally healing,” said Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA). (For more info on this issue, check out tortureisnotus.org.)

TWO STEPS BACK
At yesterday’s White House press conference, Bush declared that this agreement makes “it clear to the world that this government does not torture and that we adhere to the international convention of torture.” But the Army is already maneuvering to skirt McCain’s amendment, which holds the Army Field Manual as the standard for interrogations, by adding a 10-page classified addendum to the manual that provides “specific guidelines that would help teach them how to walk right up to the line between legal and illegal interrogations.”

Also, several detainee attorneys say that they believe the White House “is still trying to protect its ability to use techniques they believe amount to torture” by supporting the Graham-Levin amendment, which would undercut the McCain amendment by chipping away at protections for Guanatanamo detainees and by allowing the government to use evidence in court that has been obtained through the use of torture or abuse at Guanatanamo.

THE NEXT STEP
Since reports that the “CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a [secret] Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe,” the Bush administration has acted with defiance and secrecy, rather than with investigations and explanations. Before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice departed for Europe earlier this month, she “answered” European concerns over the U.S. covert prison system by giving a “condescending salvo to Europeans” that was meant to “put [them] on notice that they should back off.”

CIA sources also revealed that since media reports about the existence of the European prisons, those facilities have been shut down and the prisoners discreetly transferred “to a CIA site somewhere in north Africa.” Fully accepting the McCain amendment means more than photo ops and public appearances. The Bush administration now needs to take the next step and openly investigate the prisons, instead of going after the person who “leaked” the story to the media.

The PATRIOT Act:
Welcome To The Surveillance State

The Bush administration is trying to jam through a permanent extension of the PATRIOT Act before Congress adjourns for the year. But Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) has assembled a bipartisan coalition advocating a more deliberative approach — a temporary, three month extension until the Senate can resolve remaining concerns that certain provisions give “government too much power to investigate its citizens.”

An effort by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) to block a permanent extension of the act this year appears to have enough votes to be successful. But it does it matter? The New York Times reported that in 2002, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on Americans and others in the United States in ways that “go far beyond the expanded counterterrorism powers granted by Congress under the USA Patriot Act.” The program has revived a domestic spying operation at the NSA not seen since the 1960s when the agency routinely eavesdropped “on Vietnam War protesters and civil rights activists.”

BUSH MAY HAVE AUTHORIZED CRIMINAL ACTIVITY
Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, “said the secret order may amount to the president authorizing criminal activity.” Some officials at the NSA agree. According to the New York Times, “[S]ome agency officials wanted nothing to do with the program, apparently fearful of participating in an illegal operation.”

Others were “worried that the program might come under scrutiny by Congressional or criminal investigators if Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, was elected president.” In 2004, “concerns about the program expressed by national security officials, government lawyers and a judge prompted the Bush administration to suspend elements of the program and revamp it.” But it continues to this day.

DESPERATE TO AVOID EVEN NOMINAL OVERSIGHT
The administration’s actions are particularly suspicious because they already have all requisite authority to conduct surveillance under the law. Under the PATRIOT Act, for example, law enforcement and intelligence officials are required to seek a warrant from the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court (FISA) “every time they want to eavesdrop within the United States.”

The court is notoriously compliant with government requests for warrants. In its first 25 years “the secret court…approved over 10,000 warrants — with the numbers growing every year — and never turned down a single request.” (In 2002, the court rejected its first request ever from Attorney General John Ashcroft.) Why was the administration so desperate to avoid oversight, even from an extremely cooperative court?

THE YOO FACTOR
The domestic spying program was justified by a “classified legal opinion” written by John Yoo, a Justice Department official. Yoo also authored a memo arguing that interrogation techniques only constitute torture if they are “equivalent in intensity to…organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.”

The Bush administration was forced to repudiate that memo once it became public. (Yoo continues to defend it.) Yoo has also argued that “President Bush didn’t need to ask Congress for permission to invade Iraq.” (Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice echoed the argument when she told a congressional committee that “the president has the right to attack Syria, without congressional approval, if he deems that a necessary move in the war on terror.”)

NYT REJECTS ADMINISTRATION EFFORT TO AVOID EMBARRASSMENT
The administration asked the New York Times not to publish this article, arguing it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny.” It’s a specious argument because a would-be terrorist could be under scrutiny by an number of existing legal procedures, including through the FISA court. The Times delayed publication for a year but ultimately didn’t buy the White House argument, publishing its report in this morning’s edition.

The Coming Exit Strategy

December 17th, 2005 - by admin

Tom Hayden / Tom Hayden.com – 2005-12-17 11:30:26

The peace movement is struggling with success, as measured by public surveys favoring withdrawal alongside confusion about what’s next. The Democrats seem paralyzed by their anti-war past while hiding behind John Murtha. Meanwhile, events on the ground and assessments by US military commanders seem to be pushing the US down the path of an exit strategy, perhaps sooner rather than later.

It is nothing if not complicated. But the basic dynamics are these.

(1) the insurgents are winning the war strategically, or at least creating a long-term stalemate.
(2) the US military is “broken”, according to Rep. Murtha. Recruiting prospects are dim.
(3) American public opinion, led partly by the peace movement, has hardened against the war at a more rapid pace than during Vietnam.
(4) the Bush Administration is mired in scandals not seen since Watergate.
(5) Republican politicians are distancing themselves from the White House.
(6) While not calling for withdrawal, Democratic politicians have resumed attacking the Administration’s Iraq policies.
(6) the “coalition of the willing” is becoming that of the dearly departed.

There are three options for the Administration. First, escalation to Syria and/or Iran, which seems doubtful if only because of the limited resources available. Second, a persistent quagmire lasting through 2006, roiling both Iraq and US politics. Third, an exit strategy including direct or indirect political negotions with the insurgents, de-escalation of the US presence in Sunni areas, and the beginning of military withdrawal.

The third option seems the most likely, if one can read through the false paradigms of the media. I almost lost my grip when the NY Times on December 15 described the Iraqi election as “participatory democracy.” That foolishness aside, the more important distortion is the Times’ description of the current election as a beginning to “draw ordinary Sunnis away from the insurgency and encourage them to support democracy.” [dec. 16] The truth is the opposite, that most supporters of the insurgency are adopting a dual, or two-track, strategy of both armed and political struggle [which Danny Morrison once described in Belfast as fighting with an Armalite in one hand and a ballot in the other]. This shift is made possible in part by a US concession that has been little reported, allowing elections to be district-based instead of nationwide – which assures Sunnis electoral victories in at least twenty percent of the newly-designed Iraqi parliamentary districts, and important minority numbers in many others.

If over one hundred members of the outgoing parliament signed a letter demanding the “departure of the occupation” last July, one can be sure that those anti-war numbers will rise after the new parliament is seated.

The relative peace during the current elections is a clear sign that the insurgency supports a large turnout in Sunni areas.

The Cairo conference of the Arab Summit last month supported resolutions calling for a near-term withdrawal and supporting nationalist resistance to the occupation. The US may not have been happy, but did not object.

That is because US military commanders and the US ambassador in Baghdad have opened lines of recognition and communication with the same nationalist resistance, speaking openly of such contacts since late November. [see Gareth Porter, IPS, Dec. 15 analysis]

They are doing so because the US war cannot be won, certainly not within the political and time restraints placed on the White House by the 80 percent of Iraqis who say they want the US to withdraw and the 52 percent of Americans who endorse the same message.

Once a new government is chosen, it will take up amendments to the earlier Iraqi constitution which froze the Sunnis out and empowered a sectarian war by the Shiite and Kurdish powers in the saddle, which only intensified the conflict and resulted in damaging reports of death squads and secret torture cells in Baghdad.

Those amendments will certainly seek a different course towards the opposition, attempting to co-opt or integrate as many as possible into a transitional arrangement allowing the US to begin substantial or complete withdrawals starting in the next few months and ending in 2007, ahead of the US presidential campaign.

What about the escalating and secret air war, and the obvious resurrection of the Vietnam-style Phoenix programs? Considered as escalation, they will fail to defeat the insurgency and leave the US without an exit strategy. Considered as insurgency-cleansing, they can be seen as policies designed to cripple or destroy as much of the insurgency base of support as the US decides to begin withdrawing.

What about the “foreign jihadists”? They will have little popular support when it appears that the US is planning to leave. Left with diminished support, they will be targeted by the “nationalist” resistance forces, US air power and special forces. In fact, US policy now is designed to turn the Sunnis and the “nationalist resistance” against the Zarqawis, as if the US occupation has favored its own dismantling all along.

The peace movement will inevitably plan large protests in March, the third anniversary of the 2003 invasion. In addition, the campaigns against military recruitment and, in selective races, against pro-war hawks and in favor of peace candidates will continue. Will the message be anything beyond “out now”, and how will the peace movement grow if the troops start coming home? MoveOn.com has joined the call for an exit strategy with a mailing to tens of thousands of its members, but the exit plan is not described. Rep. Lynn Woolsey held the first hearings on the exit strategy, then decided to drop the subject.

The Democrats seem unable to agree on anything beyond criticisms of the president, although nearly-all Senate Democrats and 134 House members [ten months ago] have called for a withdrawal timetable of one year to 18 months and all have applauded John Murtha but few than forty have co-authored his bill.

Both the peace movement and the Democrats have failed to define an exit strategy, leaving the initiative to the White House and the military commanders. Is it possible that Bush will erase memories of his 2003 invasion with images of withdrawn American troops being welcomed at the White House?

No one can say. The façade of “Iraqization” could collapse tomorrow with insurgent attacks on the Green Zone and mass defections from the Iraqi army. The sectarian civil war could heat up so intensely that political negotiations will be spurned. Restoration of Iraqi unity may be impossible, leaving a “three state” or “five state” solution to evolve.

But there is a peace opportunity now, through an exit strategy that negotiates an inclusion of most of the opposition in a reconstituted Iraqi government in exchange for a concrete promise of US military withdrawal and a renewed effort at economic reconstruction.

Tom Hayden is a former US State Assemblymember and Senator.

ACTION ALERT! Contact Bush Before His Sunday Speech to Nation

December 17th, 2005 - by admin

CPT Net – 2005-12-17 11:27:43

(December 17, 2005) — Background: President Bush will be making a rare address from the Oval Office this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time to address the nation about how the US war effort should proceed in Iraq.

Based on CPT’s on-the-ground work in Iraq, the Iraq team would like the President to know what team members have observed and the appropriate steps they and the CPT constituency think he should take toward ending violence and human rights abuses in Iraq.

The Iraq team has observed the following with respect to the presence of US and Multinational Forces in Iraq:

· Loss of faith and trust in the United States government by both Iraqis and Americans

• Absence of security

• Iraqi and American injuries and deaths

• Lack of basic services

• Limited reconstruction

• Continued bombing of civilians

• Kidnapping, torture and extrajudicial deaths

• Continued illegal detentions

• Continued mass arrests, house raids and theft of personal property

• Alienation of Iraqi people and of the Muslim world

• Growing number of people in the international community who perceive the United States as the enemy because of our policies and actions in Iraq

• Please e-mail President George W. Bush at
comments@whitehouse.gov
• Please e-mail Vice-President Richard Cheney at
vice_president@whitehouse.gov

• Please copy your members of congress by going to
http://capwiz.com/fconl/home and entering your zip code.

• For those of you outside the US, please e-mail your US embassy
(http://usembassy.state.gov/)

The following is a sample of text you might use:

“Based on reports from Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq, I know that you have failed in your stated goals of bringing peace and true democracy to Iraq. In light of your upcoming speech Sunday, December 18, I make the following recommendations:

1. Clearly state your intention to withdraw all US troops and military bases promptly

2. Recognize the human rights of all people of Iraq by:

• Withdrawing US troops from urban areas immediately

• Stopping US bombing

• Providing sufficient funds to the Iraqi people to rebuild basic infrastructure

• Ending illegal detentions and torture in US detention facilities both in Iraq and in locations outside Iraq

• Ensuring a fair and speedy judicial process for detainees held in US facilities

• Using diplomatic means to pressure the Iraqi government to take corresponding actions regarding detainees held in Iraqi detention facilities

• Using diplomatic means to pressure the Iraqi Ministry of Interior to end the use of government sponsored commando units and extrajudicial killings

Although this post does not mention the four Christian Peace Team captives in Iraq, who may still be alive, please ask Bush to pray for their safety in his speech tonight. He does not love the Christian Peace Teams, as they are so critical of his policies, but surely, if he is at all a Christian as he claims, Bush must recognize that they are following the Prince of Peace, and deserve his prayers.

Life Under the Bombs

December 16th, 2005 - by admin

Dahr Jamail / Tom Dispatch – 2005-12-16 09:51:40

http://www.motherjones.com/news/dailymojo/2005/02/iraq_air_war.html

(February 2, 2005 ) — One of the least reported aspects of the US occupation of Iraq is the oftentimes indiscriminate use of air power by the American military. The Western mainstream media has generally failed to attend to the F-16 warplanes dropping their payloads of 500, 1,000, and 2,000-pound bombs on Iraqi cities -– or to the results of these attacks.

While some of the bombs and missiles fall on resistance fighters, the majority of the casualties are civilian –- mothers, children, the elderly, and other unarmed civilians.

“Coalition troops and Iraqi security forces may be responsible for up to 60% of conflict-related civilian deaths in Iraq — far more than are killed by insurgents, confidential records obtained by the BBC’s Panorama programme reveal.”

As the BBC reported recently, these numbers were compiled by Iraq’s Ministry of Health, in part because of the refusal of the Bush and Blair administrations to do so. In the case of Fallujah, where the US military estimated 2,000 people were killed during the recent assault on the city, at least 1,200 of the dead are believed to have been non-combatant civilians.

“Some of my friends in Fallujah, their homes were attacked by airplanes so they left, and nobody s found them since,” said Mehdi Abdulla in a refugee camp in Baghdad. His own home was bombed to rubble by American warplanes during the assault on Fallujah in November — and in Iraq today, his experience is far from unique.

All any reporter has to do is cock an ear or look up to catch the planes roaring over Baghdad en route to bombing missions over Mosul, Fallujah and other trouble spots on a weekly – sometimes even a daily basis. It is simply impossible to travel the streets of Baghdad without seeing several Apache or Blackhawk helicopters buzzing the rooftops.

Their rumbling blades are so close to the ground and so powerful that they leave wailing car alarms in their wake as they pass over any neighborhood.

With its ground troops stretched thin and growing haggard — 30% of them, after all, are already on their second tour of duty in the brutal occupation of Iraq – US military commanders appear to be relying more than ever on airpower to give themselves an edge. The November assault on Fallujah did not even begin until warplanes had, on a near-daily basis, dropped 500-1000 pound bombs on suspected resistance targets in the besieged city. During that period, fighter jets ripped through the air over Baghdad for nights on end, heading out on mission after mission to drop their payloads on Fallujah.

“Airpower remains the single greatest asymmetrical advantage the United States has over its foes,” writes Thomas Searle, a military defense analyst with the Airpower Research Institute at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. “To make airpower truly effective against guerrillas in that war, we cannot wait for the joint force commander or the ground component commander to tell us what to do. Rather, we must aggressively develop and employ airpower’s counterguerrilla capabilities.”

“Aggressively employ airpower’s capabilities” — indeed they have.

“Even the Chickens and Sheep Are Frightened”
“The first day of Ramadan we went to the prayers and, just as the Imam said Allahu Akbar (“God is great”), the jets began to arrive.” Abu Hammad was remembering the early stages of the November Fallujah campaign. “They came continuously through the night and bombed everywhere in Fallujah. It did not stop even for a moment.”

The 35 year-old merchant is now a refugee living in a tent on the campus of the University of Baghdad along with over 900 other homeless Fallujans. “If the American forces did not find a target to bomb,” he said, “they used sound bombs just to terrorize the people and children. The city stayed in fear; I cannot give you a picture of how panicked everyone was.”

As he spoke in a strained voice, his body began to tremble with the memories, “In the morning, I found Fallujah empty, as if nobody lived in it. It felt as though Fallujah had already been bombed to the ground. As if nothing were left.”

When Abu Hammad says “nothing,” he means it. It is now estimated that 75% of the homes and buildings in the city were destroyed either by warplanes, helicopters, or artillery barrages; most of the remaining 25% sustained at least some damage as well.

“Even the telephone exchange in Fallujah has been flattened,” he added between quickening breaths because, as he remembers, as he makes the effort to explain, his rage grows. “Nothing works in Fallujah now!”

Several men standing with us, all of whom are refugees like Hammad, nod in agreement while staring off toward the setting sun to the west, the direction where their city once stood.

Throughout much of urban Iraq, people tell stories of being terrorized by American airpower, often which is often loosed on heavily populated neighborhoods that have, in effect, been declared the bombing equivalents of free-fire zones.

“There is no limit to the American aggression,” comments a sheikh from Baquba, a city 30 miles northeast of the capital. He agreed to discuss the subject of air power only on the condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals from the U.S. military.

“The fighter jets regularly fly so low over our city that you can see the pilots sitting in the cockpit,” he tells me, using his hand to measure the skyline and indicate just how low he means. “The helicopters fly even lower, so low, and aim their guns at the people and this terrifies everyone. How can humans live like this? Even our animals, the chickens and sheep are frightened by this. We don’t know why they do this to us.”

“My Whole House Was Shaking”
The terror from the air began on the first day of the invasion in March, 2003.. “On March 19th at two AM, we were sleeping,” Abdulla Mohammed, father of four children,, says softly as we sit in his modest home in Baghdad. “I woke up with a start to the enormous blasts of the bombs. All I could do was watch the television and see that everything was being bombed in Baghdad.”

Near his home, a pile of concrete blocks and twisted support beams that once was a telephone exchange remains as an ugly reminder of how the war started for Baghdadis. “I was so terrified. My whole house was shaking,” he continues, “and the windows were breaking. I was frightened that the ceiling would fall on us because of the bombs.”

Nearly two years later, he still becomes visibly upset while describing what it felt like to live through that first horrific “shock and awe” onslaught from the air. “It was unbelievable to see things in my house jump into the air when the bombs landed. They were just so powerful.”

He pauses and holds his hands up in a gesture of helplessness before he says, “Nowhere felt safe and there was nothing we could do. People were looking for bread and vegetables so they could survive in their homes, but they didn’t know where to go because nowhere was safe.”

He lives with his wife and sons in central Baghdad, but at a location several miles from where the heaviest bombings in the Bush administration’s shock-and-awe campaign hit. Nevertheless, even at that distance in the heavily populated capital, it was a nightmare. “Everyone was so terrified. Even the guards who were on the streets left for their homes because everything was being destroyed,” he says.

“The roads were closed because there were so many explosions.”

“My family was shivering with fear,” he adds, staring at the floor. “Everyone was praying for God to keep the Americans from bombing them. There was no water, no electricity, and all we had were the extra supplies that we had bought before.”

Like the sheikh from Baquba, he and his family continue to live in fear of what American warplanes and helicopters might at any moment unleash. “Now, there are always helicopters hovering over my neighborhood. They are so loud and fly so close. My sons are afraid of them. I hear the fighter jets so often.”

He suddenly raises his hushed voice and you can hear the note of panic deep within it. “Even last night the fighter jets were so low over my home. We never know if they will bomb.” After pausing, he concludes modestly, “We can only hope that they won’t.”

“Even the Mosques Quit
Announcing Evening Prayers…”

There is no way to discuss American reliance on air power in a war now largely being fought inside heavily populated cities without coming back to Fallujah. While an estimated 200,000 refugees from that city continue to live in refugee tent camps or crowded into houses (with up to 25 families crammed under a single roof), horrendous tales of what it was like to live under the bombs in the besieged city are only now beginning to emerge.

Ahmed Abdulla, a gaunt 21 year-old Fallujan, accompanied most of his family on their flight from the city, navigating the perilous neighborhoods nearest the cordon the American military had thrown around their besieged city. On November 8, he made it to Baghdad with his mother, his three sisters (aged 26, 20, and 18), and two younger brothers (10 and 12).

His father, however, was not permitted to leave Fallujah by the US military because he was of “fighting age.” Ahmed was only allowed to exit the besieged city because his mother managed to convince an American soldier that, without him, his sisters and younger brothers would be at great risk traveling alone. Fortunately, the soldier understood her plea and let him through.

Ahmed’s father told the family that he would instead stay to watch over their house. “The house is all we have, nothing else,” commented Ahmed despondently. “We have no land, no livestock, nothing.”

Recounting an odyssey of flight typical of those of many Fallujans, Ahmed told me his father had driven them in the family car across winding, desert roads out the eastern side of the city, considered the quietest area when it came to the fighting. They stopped the car a kilometer before the American checkpoints and walked the rest of the way, holding up white “flags” so the soldiers wouldn’t mistake them for insurgents. “We walked with our hands up, expecting them to shoot at us anytime,” said Ahmed softly, “It was so bad for us at that time and there were so many families trying to get out.”

Those inhabitants still trapped in the city had only two hours each day to emerge and try to find food. Most of the time their electricity was cut and water ran in the faucets only intermittently. “Every night we told each other goodbye because we expected to die,” he said. “Every night there was extremely heavy bombing from the jets. My house shook when bombs hit the city, and the women were crying all of the time.”

In his mind, he still couldn’t shake the buzzing sound of unmanned surveillance drone aircraft passing overhead, and the constant explosions of the “concussion bombs” (or so he called them) that he claimed the Americans fired just to keep people awake.

“I saw a dead man near our home,” he explained, “But I could barely see his face because there were so many flies on him. The flies were so thick and I couldn’t bear the smell. All around his body, his blood had turned the ground black. I don’t know how he died.”

The sighting of such bodies, often shot by American snipers, was a commonplace around the city. They lay unburied in part because many families dared not venture out to one of the two football stadiums that had been converted into “Martyr Cemeteries.” Instead, they buried their own dead in their gardens and left the other bodies where they lay.

“So we stayed inside most of the time and prayed. The more the bombs exploded the more we prayed and cried.” So Ahmed described life inside Fallujah as it was being destroyed. Each night in the besieged city seemed, as he put it, to oscillate between an eerie quiet and sudden bursts of heavy fighting. “Even the mosques quit announcing evening prayers at times,” he said. “And then it would be so quiet — except for the military drones buzzing overhead and the planes of the Americans which dropped flares.”

It was impossible, he claimed, to sleep at night because any sound — an approaching fighter jet or helicopter — and immediately everyone would be awake. “We would begin praying together loudly and strongly. For God to protect us and to take the fighting away from our city and our home.”

Any semblance of normalcy had, of course, long since left the environs of Fallujah; schools had been closed for weeks; there were dire shortages of medicine and medical equipment; and civilians still trapped in the city had a single job -– somehow to stay alive. When you emerged, however briefly, nothing was recognizable. “You could see areas where all the houses were flattened. There was just nothing left,” he explained. “We could get water at times, but there was no electricity, ever.”

His family used a small generator that they ran sparingly because they could not get more fuel. “We ran out of food after they Americans started to invade the city, so we ate flour, and then all we had was dirty water…so eventually what choice did we have but to try to get out?”

“Why do the Americans bomb all of us in our homes,” asked Ahmed as our interview was ending. And you could feel his puzzlement. “Even those of us who do not fight, we are suffering so much because of the US bombs and tanks. Can’t they see this is turning so many people against them?”

“I Saw Cluster Bombs Everywhere”
Fifty-three year-old Mohammad Ali, who is living in a tent city in Baghdad, was one of those willing to address the suffering he experienced as a result of the November bombings. Mohammad is a bear of a man, his kind face belying his deep despair as he leans on a worn, wooden cane.

He summed up his experience this way: “We did not feel that there was an Eid [the traditional feasting time which follows Ramadan] after Ramadan this year because our situation was so bad. All we had was more fasting. I asked God to save us but our house was bombed and I lost everything.”

Refugees aren’t the only people ready to describe what occurred in Fallujah as a result of the loosing of jets, bombers, and helicopters on the city. Burhan Fasa’a, a gaunt 33 year-old journalist is a cameraman for the Lebanese Broadcasting Company.

He was inside the city during the first eight days of the November assault. “I saw at least 200 families whose homes had collapsed on them, thanks to American bombs,” he said. “I saw a huge number of people killed in the northern part of the city and most of them were civilians.”

Like so many others I’ve talked with who made it out of Fallujah, he described scenes of widespread death and desolation in what had not so long before been a modest-sized city. Most of these resulted from bombings that – despite official announcements emphasizing how “targeted” and “precise” they were – seemed to those on the receiving end unbearably indiscriminate.

“There were so many people wounded, and with no medical supplies, people died from their wounds,” he said. He also spoke of cluster bombs, which, he — and many other Fallujan witnesses — claim, were used by the military in November as well as during the earlier failed Marine siege of the city in April. The dropping of cluster bombs in areas where civilians live is a direct contravention of the Geneva Conventions.

“I saw cluster bombs everywhere,” he said calmly, “and so many bodies that were burned — dead with no bullets in them.”

A doctor, who fled Fallujah after the attacks began and is now working in a hospital in a small village outside the city, spoke in a similar vein (though she requested that her name not be used): “They shot all the sheep. Any animals people owned were shot,” she said. “Helicopters shot all the animals and anything that moved in the villages surrounding Fallujah.”

“I saw one dead body I remember all too well. My first where there were bubbles on the skin, and abnormal coloring, and burn holes in his clothing.” She also described treating patients who, she felt certain, had been struck by chemical and white-phosphorous-type weapons. “And I saw so many bodies with these strange signs, and none of them with bullet holes or obvious injuries, just dead with discoloring and that bubbled skin, dark blue skin with bubbles on it, and burned clothing. I saw this with my own eyes. These bodies were in the center of Fallujah, in old Fallujah.”

Like Burhan, while in the city she too witnessed many civilian buildings bombed to the ground. “I saw two schools bombed, and all the houses around them too.”

“Why Was Our Family Bombed?”
I was offered another glimpse of what it’s like to live in a city under attack from the air by two sisters, Muna and Selma Salim, also refugees from Fallujah and the only survivors of a family of ten, the rest of whom were killed when two rockets fired from a U.S. fighter jet hit their home.

Their mother, Hadima, 65 years old, died in the attack along with her son Khalid, an Iraqi police captain, his sister Ka’ahla and her 22 year-old son, their pregnant 45 year-old sister Adhra’a, her husband Samr, who had a doctorate in religious studies, and their four year-old son Amorad.

Muna, still exhausted from her ordeal, wept almost constantly while telling her story. Even her abaya, which fully covers her, could not hide her shaking body as waves of grief rolled through her tiredness. She was speaking of her dead sister Artica. “I can’t get the image out of my mind of her fetus being blown out of her body,” said Muna. Artica was seven months pregnant when, on November 10, the rockets struck. “My sister Selma and I survived only because we were staying at our neighbor’s house that night,” she said, sobbing, still unable to reconcile her survival with the death of most of the rest of her family in the fierce pre-assault bombing of the city.

“There were no fighters in our area, so I don’t know why they bombed our home,” cried Muna. “When this happened there were ongoing full-scale assaults from the air and tanks were attacking our city, so we slipped out of the eastern side of Fallujah and came to Baghdad.”

Selma, Muna’s 41 year-old sister, recounted scenes of destruction in the city — houses that had been razed by countless air strikes and the stench of decaying bodies that swirled through the air borne on the area’s dry, dusty winds.

“The rubble from the bombed houses covered up the bodies, and nobody could get to them because people were too afraid even to drive a bulldozer!” She held out her hands as she spoke, as if to ask her God how such things could happen. “Even walking out of your house was just about impossible because of the snipers.”

Both sisters described their last months in Fallujah as a nightmarish existence. It was a city where fighters controlled the area, medicine and food were often in short supply, and the thumping concussions of U.S. bombs had become a daily reality. Rocket-armed attack helicopters rattled low over the desert as they approached the city only adding to the nightmarish landscape.

“Even when the bombs were far away, glasses would fall off our shelves and break,” exclaimed Muna. Going to market, as they had to, in the middle of the day to buy food for their family, both sisters felt constant fear of warplanes roaring over the sprawling city. “The jets flew over so often,” said Selma, “but we never knew when they would drop their bombs.”

They described a desolate city of closed shops and mostly empty streets on which infrequent terrorized residents could be spotted simply wandering around not knowing what to do. “Fallujah was like a ghost town most of the time,” was the way Muna put it. “Most families stayed inside their houses all the time, only going out for food when they had to.”

Like many others, their family soon found that it needed to ration increasingly scarce food and water, “Usually we were very hungry because we didn’t want to eat our food, or drink all of the water.” She paused, took a deep breath undoubtedly thinking of her dead parents and siblings, and added, “We never knew if we would be able to get more, so we tried to be careful.”

I met the two sisters in the Baghdad home of their uncle. During the interview, both of them often stared at the ground silently until another detail would come to mind to be added to their story.

Unlike Muna who was visibly emotional, Selma generally spoke in a flat voice without affect that might indeed have emerged from some dead zone. “Our situation then was like that of so many from Fallujah,” she told me. “None of us could leave because we had nowhere to go and no money.”

“Why was our family bombed?” pleaded Muna, tears streaming down her cheeks, “There were never any fighters in our area!”

Today fighting continues on nearly a daily basis around Fallujah, as well as in many other cities throughout Iraq; and for reporters as well as residents of Baghdad, the air war is an omnipresent reality.

Helicopters buzz the tops of buildings and hover over neighborhoods in the capital all the time, while fighter jets often scorch the skies.

Below them, traumatized civilians await the next onslaught, never knowing when it may occur.

Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who has been reporting from Iraq since November, 2003.
Copyright C2005 Dahr Jamail
This piece first appeared at Tomdispatch.com.

“This Election is to Make People Forget about the Occupation”

December 16th, 2005 - by admin

David Enders / Mother Jones – 2005-12-16 09:45:09

www.motherjones.com/news/ update/2005/12/iraq_election_zarqa.html

ZARQA, Jordan (December 14 , 2005) — Ever since the United Nations leveled sanctions against Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, Iraqis have come to this Amman suburb in Jordan to find work or purchase goods from the city’s tax-free import zone.

Zarqa is the hometown of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the purported leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, one of the extremist groups threatening death for anyone participating in the US-backed Iraqi political process. But this Tuesday, Zarqa was also one of dozens of places in 15 countries where Iraqis living outside the country could go to cast absentee ballots for the nationwide election that will take place December 15th.

If expatriate voting is any indicator, Iraq’s Sunnis are already making good on their promise to participate in this round of elections. In part, the decision is pragmatic: Sunnis had either boycotted or were too afraid to participate in the national elections last January, but this time, the 275-member National Assembly that will be elected will hold office for four years, and will be in a position to settle a number of still-unresolved constitutional issues.

Even in Fallujah, one of the most potent symbols of resistance to the occupation and the transitional government, local leaders have risked death to encourage their followers to vote.

Moayed Jassim Abed is a truck driver from Ramadi — the capital of Al-Anbar province and a site of frequent fighting between guerillas and the US military and its Iraqi proxy forces. Different guerilla groups have also clashed in the city, and on Tuesday, Mizhar Dulaimi, a Sunni candidate in the election, was assassinated there.

Abed said he boycotted the last election because he felt it was unfair to open polls in the dangerous Sunni areas. But on Tuesday he voted for Saleh Mutlaq, a secular Sunni whose National Dialogue Party will likely compete for the Sunni vote with that of Adnan Dulaimie, a religious Sunni candidate and a member of the Association of Muslim Scholars. “We want security and stability. Saddam Hussein is much better than the Americans. They have been there three years and they have done worse than Saddam has done,” Abed said.

Even George W. Bush has admitted resistance to the occupation is unlikely to abate as a result of the vote, and Iraqis voting in Zarqa voiced that opinion as well. One man, who identified himself only as “an exile of the new democracy” said he was also voting for the first time.

“What brought me here are the American boots and the sectarian divide that is occurring in Iraq — the democratic terrorism,” the man said. “This election is to make people forget about the occupation and what is happening in Iraq.”

Khalid Kareem, a truck driver from Hit—a city west of Ramadi which in recent weeks has seen fighting between guerillas and the US military and the new Iraqi army—complained about the ongoing violence and said he had been forced to come to Jordan to look for work. He said he distrusts the current government in Iraq, which is dominated by conservative Shiite parties, and that he also voted for Mutlaq of the National Dialogue Party.

“He represents Sunnis, and Sunnis are oppressed,” Kareem said. “[The current government] has accused Saddam of killing people, but they are doing much worse. This is why I am voting, so there will be people in the government who represent us. We want people who will set a timetable for the Americans to leave and who will call for the UN to be involved as well.”

Mutlaq spent part of the campaign in Jordan, claiming that the current government had plans to assassinate him ahead of the election. Asked whether he sees any possibility of cooperation between his party and the religious Shiite parties that are once again likely to dominate, he was not optimistic.

“I don’t see any real cooperation with them because they came for revenge,” Mutlaq said. “They didn’t come to build up the country. We cannot cooperate with such kind of people unless they change their mentality, and only God can change their mentality, because they have been brought up like this for a long time.”

One of the National Dialogue Council’s key planks is the reversal of de-Baathification — fifteen members of Mutlaq’s electoral list were purged by the Election Commission earlier this month because they had previously held too high a rank in the Baath Party under Saddam Hussein.

Mutlaq also won much respect for taking a hard line in negotiations with other Iraqi legislators when he was invited, along with 14 other Sunni representatives, to join the committee that drafted Iraq’s new constitution, which narrowly passed in a national referendum in October. At one point, Mutlaq and other Sunni representatives had boycotted the drafting process for a time after the murder of two other Sunni members of the committee, complaining that the government either wasn’t doing enough to protect Sunni representatives or else carrying out the assassinations itself. Recently, Mutlaq commented on the ongoing trial of Saddam Hussein by saying that if he were to take power after this round of elections, he would put members of the current government on trial as well.

Mustafa Al-Hiti, one of the politicians on Mutlaq’s electoral list, hasn’t been in Iraq since 2003, when he left his job as dean of Baghdad’s University’s College of Pharmacy after the second attempt on his life, which he blames on pro-government forces.

“They are the new Baathists,” he said of the current government.

Al-Hiti praised the system being used in this election, in which each of Iraq’s 18 governorates will elect a predetermined number of representatives based on their population, rather than the system used in the last election, which treated the entire country as a single district, and ensured that low Sunni voter turnout would result in marginal representation in the legislature. “The situation after the election must be better. Every governorate will have their own representatives — no one party will dominate.”

“The Cairo meeting was a start,” Al-Hiti said, referring to the reconciliation conference held in November under the auspices of the Arab League.

Other Iraqis in Jordan have no interest in the political process at all. Twenty-three-year-old Taif Naimi, a Sunni from the Baghdad neighborhood of Adamiyah, a stronghold of former regime support, says his father was kidnapped earlier this year by government security forces and that the family was forced to pay $100,000 to secure his release. Naimi fled to Amman soon after and says he plans to return only to marry his fiancée and bring her back to Jordan.

“After the disaster with my father, I can’t trust anyone in the Iraqi government,” said Naimi. “I come here to take a breath like someone in the water. I hate Iraq now.”

David Enders is the author of Baghdad Bulletin: Dispatches on the American Occupation. This article has been made possible by the Foundation for National Progress, the Investigative Fund of Mother Jones, and gifts from generous readers like you.

© 2005 The Foundation for National Progress

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Coalition Files FOIA Request on Pentagon Spying on Antiwar Movement

December 16th, 2005 - by admin

Partnership for Civil Justice & National Lawyers Guild – 2005-12-16 09:41:49

http://justiceonline.pephost.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7429&news_iv_ctrl=1221&abbr=PCJ_

Coalition Files FOIA Request on Pentagon Spying on Antiwar Movement
Partnership for Civil Justice & National Lawyers Guild

WASHINGTON, DC (December 15, 2005) — The Partnership for Civil Justice, a civil rights litigation firm, today filed a Freedom of Information Request, on behalf of the antiwar group the ANSWER Coalition, and also on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild, after learning that the Department of Defense (DOD) is maintaining a database of identified “threats” that includes information on protests and political activists who oppose the war.

Defense officials responded to reports of the database on Tuesday by saying that the Pentagon has a right to maintain information to help protect military installations. One of the database listings was a major anti-war protest on March 19, 2005 identified in the Pentagon’s records as taking place at Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles.

A confidential DOD document, according to NBC News, indicates in-depth domestic surveillance such as the specific monitoring of vehicles and specific individuals from one protest to another. The database lists 1,500 “suspicious incidents” around the country over a 10-month period, including four dozen anti-war meetings or protests.

The Partnership for Civil Justice has for years filed litigation challenging unlawful government tactics that infringe on the First Amendment rights of protesters, including peace activists and war opponents. Free speech is now considered a threat by the Pentagon. The exposure of the “threat incident” database containing information on protests and political activists makes clear that the US military is spying on civilians in the United States who oppose the war in Iraq and US militarism.

The Department of Defense’s assertion that it is keeping this list to protect military bases is belied by its collecting and maintaining information on the anti-war protest in downtown Los Angeles as well as activities on campuses and organizing meetings across the country.

The “threat” that the Pentagon is protecting against is a powerful mass movement of opposition to the US war drive, said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, attorney and co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice and co-chair of the NLG Mass Defense Committee.

The FOIA request asks for information maintained by the Pentagon including in its Talon database system on protests and political activists. The request includes data and documents relating to the Hollywood and Vine demonstration, the ANSWER Coalition which organized the March 19, 2005 Los Angeles anti-war demonstration, and the National Lawyers Guild, a progressive bar association that has worked to defend the rights of protestors and to challenge illegal and unconstitutional police practices.

“The Pentagon and other government agencies are routinely violating the First Amendment rights of people in the United States who are coming together to demand an end to the criminal war and occupation in Iraq. No amount of government intimidation can stop the antiwar movement, now that opposition to the war has become a majority sentiment,” stated Brian Becker, National Coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition.

The Partnership’s litigation has successfully challenged illegal domestic spying and unconstitutional government policies designed to discourage lawful dissent. The Partnership for Civil Justice also on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild, first exposed the use of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces against political dissenters, and revealed that the District of Columbia police department has been carrying out an illegal ongoing domestic spying operation in which officers are sent on long-term assignments to pose as political activists. PCJ’s First Amendment litigation has been featured on NOW with Bill Moyers and in the movie Unconstitutional.

Founded in 1937 as the first racially integrated national bar association, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States, with more than 200 chapters.

The Guild has a long history of representing individuals who the government has deemed a threat to national security. Guild members defended FBI-targeted individuals and helped expose illegal FBI and CIA surveillance, infiltration and disruption tactics (COINTELPRO) that the U.S. Senate AChurch Commission@ hearings detailed in 1975-76 and which led to enactment of the Freedom of Information Act and other specific limitations on federal investigative power.

Click here to see the FOIA request.


Pentagon Database on US Citizens Labels Protests ‘Suspicious’
Walter Pincus / Washington Post

( December 15, 2005) — Pentagon officials said yesterday they had ordered a review of a program aimed at countering terrorist attacks that had compiled information about U.S. citizens, after reports that the database included information on peace protesters and others whose activities posed no threat and should not have been kept on file.

The move followed an NBC News report Tuesday disclosing that a sample of about 1,500 “suspicious incidents” listed in the database included four dozen anti-war meetings or protests, some aimed at military recruiting.

Although officials defended the Pentagon’s interest in gathering information about possible threats to military bases and troops, one senior official acknowledged that a preliminary review of the database indicated that it had not been correctly maintained.

“On the surface, it looks like things in the database that were determined not to be viable threats were never deleted but should have been,” the official said. “You can also make the argument that these things should never have been put in the database in the first place until they were confirmed as threats.”

The program, known as Talon, compiles unconfirmed reports of suspected threats to defense facilities. It is part of a broader effort by the Pentagon to gather counterterrorism intelligence within the United States, which has prompted concern from civil liberties activists and members of Congress in recent weeks.

To some, the Pentagon’s current efforts recall the Vietnam War era, when defense officials spied on anti-war groups and peace activists. Congressional hearings in the 1970s subsequently led to strict limits on the kinds of information that the military can collect about activities and people inside the United States.

The review of the program, ordered by Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen A. Cambone, will focus on whether officials broke those rules, a Pentagon statement said. The regulations require that any information that is “not validated as threatening must be removed from the TALON system in less than 90 days,” it said.

The Pentagon stopped short of officially acknowledging fault but strongly implied some information had been mishandled. “There is nothing more important to the US military than the trust and goodwill of the American people,” said the statement. “The Department of Defense . . . views with the greatest concern any potential violation of the strict DoD policy governing authorized counter-intelligence efforts.”

The Talon database — and several affiliated programs — has been described by officials as a sort of neighborhood watch for the military, an important tool in trying to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the military.

Under the programs, civilians and military personnel at defense installations are encouraged to file reports if they believe they have come across people or information that could be part of a terrorist plot or threat, either at home or abroad. The Talon reports are fed into a database managed by the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, a three-year-old Pentagon agency whose budget and size are classified.

The Talon reports — the number is classified, officials said — can consist of “raw information” that “may or may not be related to an actual threat, and its very nature may be fragmented and incomplete,” according to a 2003 memo signed by then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz.

Cambone’s review came one day after a sample of the CIFA database, containing reports of 1,519 “suspicious incidents” between July 2004 and May 2005, was disclosed first by NBC News, and by William M. Arkin, a former military intelligence officer and author, on his washingtonpost.com blog Early Warning.

Arkin said he obtained the information, which included a list of entries in the CIFA database, from a military source. The database document included references to incidents in several categories that were deemed suspicious.

Dozens of them involved anti-war and anti-recruiting protests by civilians dating to 2004. A Feb. 5, 2005, Talon report described as a “threat” the planned protest against recruiting at New York University by Army Judge Advocate General personnel. Another entry, concerning Feb. 14, 2005, involved a demonstration planned outside the gates of the base at Fort Collins, Colo.

One refers to a July 3, 2004, “surveillance” report of “suspicious activity by US persons … affiliated with radical Moslems” in Big Bend National Park in Texas.

Another category of reports involved missing identification cards and uniforms of military personnel, which pose threats because they can be used to gain illegal access to Pentagon facilities. Other reports dealt with “test of security,” such as when someone drives up to the gate of a military facility or takes photographs or shoots videotape.

There have been no congressional hearings on the Defense Department’s growing involvement in domestic intelligence collection, but Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, began raising questions about CIFA’s programs after recent articles in The Washington Post.

“CIFA needs to be a tightly controlled program,” Harman said yesterday, after she and intelligence committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) met privately with Cambone on Capitol Hill. She would not discuss the meeting.

Staff writer Bradley Graham contributed to this report.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Posted in accordance with Title 17, U S Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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