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As Bush Team Erodes Freedoms, Law Students Turn their Backs on US Attorney General

February 27th, 2006 - by admin

Bill Petz / Ashville Citizen-Times & a Report from Georgetown Universisty – 2006-02-27 23:24:22


An Analysis of the Bush Presidency
Suggests A Nation Overthrown

Bill Petz / The Ashville Citizen-Times

(August 9, 2002) — Consider this:

An inarticulate, politically inexperienced man with family links to a previous national regime comes to provincial leadership.

Subsequently he gains the highest national office without winning the popular vote.

The election in which he was declared the victor is considered compromised by his brother’s province.

He appoints a chief law enforcement officer who has repeatedly called for constitutional revisions.

Regulatory agencies are filled with those previously regulated.

Soldiers patrol transportation centers.

International treaties are abrogated.

International legal organizations are shunned.

Roles of police and military are blurred.

Law enforcement agencies are centralized.

Individual civil rights are reduced.

A “shadow” government is created.

Domestic surveillance is increased.

People are encouraged to spy on each other.

Military budgets are increased.

The military establishes a disinformation program.

Media access to government is limited.
Consultations with the legislative branch decline.

Connections to corrupt corporate sponsors are disavowed.

Efforts to further plunder natural resources for profit are initiated.

Access to past administrations’ documents is limited.

A war mentality is established with imprecise enemies.

Nebulous fear-inducing alerts are periodically released.

National level profiling is introduced.

People are imprisoned without public charges and unknown others are “disappeared.”

Does the word “coup” come to mind?

Law Students Turn their Backs on Attorney General Gonzales.
Pride in the Civil Civil Disobedience.
Future American Lawyers To Be Proud of.

(February 26, 2006) — Alberto Gonzales spoke before law students at Georgetown today, justifying illegal, unauthorized surveillance of US citizens, but during the course of his speech the students in class did something pretty brave. They got up from their seats and turned their backs to him.

To make matters worse for Gonzales, additional students came into the room, wearing black cowls and carrying a simple banner, written on a sheet.

Fortunately for him, it was a brief speech… followed by a panel discussion that basically ripped his argument in half.

And, as one of the people on the panel said:

“When you’re a law student, they tell you that if you can’t argue the law, argue the facts. They also tell you if you can’t argue the facts, argue the law. If you can’t argue either, apparently, the solution is to go on a public relations offensive and make it a political issue… to say over and over again “it’s lawful”, and to think that the American people will somehow come to believe this if we say it often enough.

In light of this, I’m proud of the very civil civil disobedience that was shown here today.”

— David Cole, Georgetown University Law Professor

It was a good day for dissent.

Joint Report on Human Rights Abuses of Guantanamo Detainees

February 27th, 2006 - by admin

The United Nations – 2006-02-27 23:10:07


Human Rights Experts Issue Joint Report on Situation of Detainees in Guantanamo Bay Prison

NEW YORK (16 February 2006) — The following statement was issued today by the Chairman Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Leila Zerrougui; Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Leandro Despouy; the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak; the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir, and the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Paul Hunt:

Five independent investigators of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights are calling on the United States to close immediately the detention centre in Guantánamo Bay and bring all detainees before an independent and competent tribunal or release them.

The call comes in a report published today following an 18-month joint study by the experts into the situation of detainees at that United States Naval Base. The report’s findings are based on information from the United States Government, interviews conducted by the experts with former Guantánamo Bay detainees currently residing or detained in France, Spain and the United Kingdom and responses from lawyers acting on behalf of some current detainees.

It also relies on information available in the public domain, including reports prepared by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), information contained in declassified official United States documents and media reports. The experts expressed regret that the Government did not allow them the opportunity to have free access to detainees in Guantanamo Bay and carry out private interviews, as provided by the terms of reference accepted by all countries they visit.

The five experts – specializing in issues related to arbitrary detention, freedom of religion, the right to health, torture and the independence of judges and lawyers – conclude that the persons held at Guantánamo Bay are entitled to challenge the legality of their detention before a judicial body and to obtain release if detention is found to lack a proper legal basis.

The continuing detention of all persons held at Guantánamo Bay amounts to arbitrary detention, they state, adding that – where criminal proceedings are initiated against a detainee – the executive branch of the United States Government operates as judge, prosecutor and defence counsel in violation of various guarantees of the right to a fair trial

According to the experts, attempts by the United States Administration to redefine “torture” in the framework of the struggle against terrorism in order to allow certain interrogation techniques that would not be permitted under the internationally accepted definition of torture are of utmost concern.

The confusion with regard to authorized and unauthorized interrogation techniques over the last years is particularly alarming. The interrogation techniques authorized by the Department of Defense, particularly if used simultaneously, amount to degrading treatment. If in individual cases, which were described in interviews, the victim experienced severe pain or suffering, these acts amounted to torture as defined in article 1 of the Convention against Torture.

Furthermore, the general conditions of detention, in particular the uncertainty about the length of detention and prolonged solitary confinement, amount to inhuman treatment and to a violation of the right to health as well as a violation of the right of detainees to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person. They add that force-feeding of competent detainees violates the right to health as well as the ethical duties of any health professionals who may be involved.

Among their recommendations, the experts say terrorism suspects should be detained in accordance with criminal procedure that respects the safeguards enshrined in relevant international law. Accordingly, the United States Government should either expeditiously bring all Guantánamo Bay detainees to trial or release them without further delay.

They also call on the Government to close down the Guantánamo Bay detention centre and to refrain from any practice amounting to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, discrimination on the basis of religion, and violations of the rights to health and freedom of religion. The investigators also request full and unrestricted access to the Guantánamo Bay facilities, including private interviews with detainees. Consideration should also be given to trying suspected terrorists before a competent international tribunal.

Chronology Leading Up to the Report
The five mandate holders have been following the situation of detainees held at the United States Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay since January 2002. In June 2004, the Annual Meeting of special rapporteurs/representatives, experts and chairpersons of working groups of the special procedures and the advisory services programme of the Commission on Human Rights, decided that they should continue this task as a group because the situation concerns each of their mandates.

In studying the situation, they have continuously sought the cooperation of the United States authorities. They sent a number of letters requesting the United States Government to allow them to visit Guantánamo Bay in order to gather first hand information from the prisoners themselves.

By letter dated 28 October 2005, the Government of the United States of America extended an invitation for a one-day visit to three of the five mandate holders, inviting them “to visit the Department of Defense’s detention facilities [of Guantánamo Bay]”. The invitation stipulated that “the visit will not include private interviews or visits with detainees”.

In their response to the Government dated 31 October 2005, the mandate holders accepted the invitation, including the short duration of the visit and the fact that only three of them were permitted access, and informed the US Government that the visit was to be carried out on 6 December 2005.

However, they did not accept the exclusion of private interviews with detainees, as that would contravene the terms of reference for fact-findings missions by special procedures and undermine the purpose of an objective and fair assessment of the situation of detainees held in Guantánamo Bay. In the absence of assurances from the Government that it would comply with the terms of reference, the mandate holders decided on 18 November 2005 to cancel the visit.

For use of information media; not an official record

Playing Politics with Aid: The Unholy Trinity of Defense, Diplomacy and Development in the War on Terrorism

February 27th, 2006 - by admin

Anuradha Mittal / CommonDreams – 2006-02-27 23:01:59


“The fundamental character of regimes now matters more than the international distribution of power. In this world it is impossible to draw neat, clear lines between our security interests, our development efforts and our democratic ideals. American diplomacy must integrate and advance all of these goals together.”
– Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, January 18, 2006

(February 27, 2006) — For decades US foreign aid has been accused of prioritizing US political and military agenda over the needs of the poor around the globe. Now, the Bush administration has declared this to be the official foreign assistance policy of the United States.

Changes in the way the US directs foreign aid, announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in January 2006, bring the administration of aid under the control of the State Department and ties foreign assistance to US strategic military interests. This move marks the Bush administration’s abandonment of any attempts at subtlety in their efforts to undermine growing opposition to the Washington Consensus.

The foreign aid changes include the creation of a new post, “Director of Foreign Assistance” (DFA) who will report directly to the Secretary of State.

The DFA’s mandate is to oversee the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator and the Millennium Challenge Corporation as well as head the US Agency for International Development (USAID), bringing the agency under State Department’s control and placing a single official in charge of coordinating about $19 billion worth of US foreign assistance programs. A closer look reveals the true aim behind this reorganization: align aid agencies with the military interests of the US government.

Transformational Diplomacy:
A Fix for Foreign Aid?

Couched in the Bush administration’s code language of promoting “democracy” and strengthening “national security”, Secretary of State, Rice introduced the overhaul of the US foreign assistance programs by saying, “In today’s world, America’s security is linked to the capacity of foreign states to govern justly and effectively…We were attacked on 9/11 by terrorists who had plotted and trained in a failed state: Afghanistan. Since then, we have cycled tens of thousands of troops through the country, spent billions of dollars, and sacrificed precious lives to eliminate the threat — and to liberate the brutally repressed people of Afghanistan. In the final analysis, we must now use our foreign assistance to help prevent future Afghanistans — and to make America and the world safer…”

Rice also rationalized the move as an effort to remove bureaucratic redundancies to better serve the goals of US diplomatic strategy, stating that authority to allocate foreign assistance is too fragmented among various State Department bureaus, and between the State Department and USAID, thereby impeding “our efforts to integrate our foreign assistance with our broader foreign policy objectives.”

To top it all, Secretary Rice has picked Randall Tobias as the Director of Foreign Assistance, granting him vast authority over a range of foreign assistance accounts previously managed by separate entities. Tobias is the former head of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co., and now, in his capacity as Director of Foreign Assistance, heads the Bush Administration’s global AIDS effort. This, in spite of the fact that he is known for taking an ideological approach to AIDS assistance by supporting abstinence-only programs and avoiding the use of cheap, generic drugs to fight AIDS in poor countries. Tobias has also come under criticism for being a major Republican campaign contributor.

This centralization of foreign aid is accompanied by a change in location of many US Diplomats, or what Rice termed as “forward deployment” of diplomats. This movement will shift hundreds of Foreign Service Positions from Europe and Washington to the Middle East, Asia, and elsewhere, in what Rice described as “transformational diplomacy”.

The unstated implication of these moves as well as the consolidation of forces is that the pro-Bush administration policy advocates who replace the more traditional aid experts will coordinate closely with the US military through political advisors. The end goal being, to ease the process of aligning foreign assistance programs with foreign policy goals.

The forward deployment is complemented by plans for regional public diplomacy centers, American Presence Posts outside capital cities, Virtual Presence Posts, and local interactive websites to counter anti-US media and to appeal to the youth and provide support to civil society groups sympathetic to the US

The current shifts in US Foreign aid policy are part of a long history of supposedly benevolent assistance being used strategically by the United States. The Marshall Plan, the first major US foreign aid program, was designed largely to prevent Soviet expansion in Europe. During the Cold War, aid went to reward anti-communist allies — the largest recipients being countries like South Korea and South Vietnam.

Since 9/11, foreign aid has gained broader strategic significance under the War on Terrorism. But this new shift signifies a further blurring of the line between military and diplomacy. In the last four years the Bush Administration has preferred preemptive military action and now there is a clear shift to preemptive “diplomacy”.

US Foreign Assistance: A Murky Past
In 1961, dissatisfaction with the foreign assistance structures that had evolved from the days of the Marshall Plan with its stated goal being of stabilizing Europe after the World War II, resulted in reorganization of the US foreign aid programs and the creation of the USAID.

When the Marshall Plan expired on June 30, 1951, Congress pieced together a new foreign aid proposal designed to unite military and economic programs with technical assistance. In October 1951, the Mutual Security Act was passed, creating the Mutual Security Agency.

This was followed in 1953, by the creation of the Foreign Operations Administration, an independent government agency created outside the Department of State to consolidate economic and technical assistance on a world-wide basis.

A year later, however, its responsibilities were merged into the International Cooperation Administration (ICA), established as part of the Department of State, with many limitations placed upon it.

These restrictions led to growing dissatisfaction with foreign assistance, so much so that it became an electoral issue during the 1960 US presidential campaign. The new Kennedy Administration made reorganization of, and recommitment to, foreign assistance a top priority, stating, “…there is no escaping our obligations: our moral obligations as a wise leader and good neighbor in the interdependent community of free nations–our economic obligations as the wealthiest people in a world of largely poor people, as a nation no longer dependent upon the loans from abroad that once helped us develop our own economy–and our political obligations as the single largest counter to the adversaries of freedom.”

Supposed to be free from political and military functions that plagued its predecessor organizations like the ICA, the Kennedy administration created USAID to support long-range economic and social development assistance efforts in the developing nations of the world. However, almost since its inception, USAID has primarily promoted US political and military interests abroad, and it has not enjoyed the level of autonomy it was supposed to have maintained.

After the end of the Cold War, foreign assistance continued to be a tool to promote the US interests. Foreign assistance programs have helped create major markets for agricultural goods, created new markets for American industrial exports and meant hundreds of thousands of jobs for Americans. In fact USAID follows and implements the Buy American Act, which requires that American money aid and grants be used to purchase goods and services which are US produced and US delivered.

In 1996, the US estimated that 71.6% of bilateral aid commitments were tied to the purchase of US goods and services. Since then the US has no longer provided data on the tied status of their aid, though these figures were repeated in the USAID Agency Performance Report published in April 1999.

Foreign Aid in the War on Terrorism

With the launch of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) after September 11, 2001 US foreign aid once again underwent changes to become a central team member of the Bush administration’s War on Terrorism. The war on terrorism has replaced the war on communism, thereby providing a new rationale for US foreign aid and helping to further integrate foreign assistance with military policy.

The inclusion of development in the 2002 National Security Strategy (NSS), along with defense and diplomacy, enlisted USAID as a significant contributor and a public relations tool for the Bush administration. For example, in Afghanistan, the volume of food aid doubled, from 277,000 tons in 2001, to 552,000 tons in 2002, after the US victory over the Taliban regime.

However, this aid was cut by half to 230,000 tons, in 2003 (much below the volume of aid provided in 2001) as the priority shifted to Iraq after the US invasion. Food aid deliveries to Iraq increased from 2,100 tons in 2002 to more than 1 million tons in 2003. It was reduced to 10,000 tons in 2004 with food aid not being deemed necessary by the invasion forces to win domestic and international public opinion.

Recent developments in foreign assistance make it clear that there is a concerted effort underway to further politicize US foreign assistance. Plans to reposition diplomatic resources from Europe and Washington to Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East, along with centralization of aid programs are all moves to ensure that USAID’s “development” workers coordinate more closely with US military and diplomats.

In fact the “dual-hatting” of DFA and USAID Administrator is aimed at ensuring that development programs cater to political and military strategic interest of the United States instead of being driven by a development agenda. Carol Lancaster, former deputy administrator of USAID, wrote in the Financial Times that “where two agencies have different goals and modes of operation, the mission of the bigger, stronger agency will almost always overwhelm that of the smaller agency and undercut its effectiveness. The day-to-day decisions on how USAID uses its funds for development – which countries receive the aid, how much they get and how it is used – can be very different from the priorities of the State Department.”

Aid or Abet: Defeating Terror and Advancing Liberty and Democracy?

Despite the rhetoric of “providing a helping hand to people overseas struggling to make a better life, recover from a disaster or striving to live in a free and democratic country,” US aid is aimed at advancing its own political agenda. The reorganization of the foreign assistance programs along with recent diplomatic moves makes this even more obvious.

On February 15, the State Department requested $75 million to promote democracy in Iran, which would be added to $10 million already appropriated for that purpose—the total being an increase from only $3.5 million the year before. This is to include $25 million to support political dissidents and to work with nongovernmental organizations outside Iran to build support inside the country.

The administration plans $50 million to increase television broadcasting to 24 hours a day all week in Farsi in Iran. Another $5 million is aimed at bringing Iranian students and scholars to study in the West and $5 million more is earmarked for setting up internet sites.

The goal is to promote political change through supporting dissent groups, unions, student fellowship and radio and television broadcasts in much the same way that Congress appropriated funds to Iraqi dissidents in the 1990s, or supported the coup in Iran in 1953.

Speaking at the Senate hearing, Secretary Rice said, “We will use this money to develop support networks for Iranian reformers, political dissidents and human rights activists… Over the past two years, the Department of State has invested over $4 million in projects that empower Iranian citizens in their call for political and economic liberty, freedom of speech, and respect for human rights. We are funding programs that train labor activists and help protect them from government persecution…We will devote at least $10 million to support these and other programs during this year (FY 2006), and we are eager to work more closely with Congress to help Iranian reformers build nationwide networks to support democratic change in their country.”

This follows multiple examples of previous ‘aid’ efforts in other countries including Cuba and North Korea that have been primarily focused on building support for groups that are in line with US policy.

In another case, the US has threatened to sever humanitarian aid to the people of Palestine for exercising their right to vote. In the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, the Palestinian people voted massively in support of Hamas, giving it 76 of the 132 seats. Alarmed by its victory, President Bush’s announced to his Cabinet that “the Hamas party has made it clear that they do not support the right of Israel and I have made it clear that so long as that’s their policy, that we’ll not support a Palestinian government made up of Hamas.” The US has put pressure on other international donors to follow similar action with the intention of bankrupting the future Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. Hamas leader, Ismael Haniyeh, has in the meanwhile assured the international community that all aid revenues will be used on salaries, daily lives and infrastructure.

According to the World Bank, nearly one-half of all Palestinians already live below the poverty line and as many as 600,000 people are unable to meet their basic needs in food, clothing and shelter. James Wolfensohn, the former head of the World Bank and the quartet’s special envoy has warned that cutting off aid would push the Palestinian territories into chaos.”

This move by the US to threaten the Palestinians with siege and starvation for voting the wrong way has not necessarily generated international support. The Russian President Putin, has asked the international donor community to continue aid to Palestine. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal has urged countries to accept the will of the people that was expressed “through democratic means,” and is advocating for international engagement with a democratically elected government rather than reactions that could close the door to peaceful settlement.

The war on terror has also resulted in increases in military assistance, which come largely at the expense of humanitarian and development assistance and in blatant disregard of a country’s record on democracy or human rights.

On September 22, 2001, the Bush administration asked Congress for blanket authority to wave economic sanctions against countries whose help is needed in the anti-terror coalition. This was done to enlist countries like Pakistan in fighting terrorism, where virtually all US aid to the country had been cut off after the Pakistanis revealed they had conducted nuclear weapons tests in 1998.

Washington also restored military ties with Indonesia, another key ally in the war on terror in 2005. In 1999, the US had severed relations with Indonesia following public pressure about its military’s long track record of brutal repression. The restoration of ties has revitalized two military aid programs that had been cut off for years and additional spending is providing loans and credits to buy new US weapons and technology.

In fiscal year 2007, the State Department has requested $6.2 billion to further strengthen the coalition partners in the fight against terrorism. Excluding Iraq, the largest recipient remains Israel with $2.34 billion, followed by Egypt with $1.3 billion. Other requests include $739 million for Pakistan with $300 million designated for military financing, $560 million for Colombia, $154 million for Indonesia, $457 million for Jordan, and $335 million for Kenya. In addition, the FY 2007 request for International Military Education and Training (IMET) is $88.9 million with focus on building military alliances and capabilities in member countries of the international coalition against terrorism.

Geopolitical Goals Undermine Development
“Secretary Rice’s reforms are likely to take even more money from real development. An Agency for International Development Director inside the State Department will be under tremendous political pressure to take money away from effective antipoverty programs, which have very small political constituencies and divert it to the State Department’s geopolitical goals, which have little to do with development.” – Editorial, Wrong Fix for Foreign Aid, The New York Times, February 6, 2006

Foreign assistance, the third pillar of US national security policy, along with military power and diplomacy, is progressively shifting aid away from poverty-focused assistance to poor countries. Already development assistance is only 30 percent of the U.S foreign aid budget, while military and economic aid for strategic allies constitutes more than half of the same budget.

The 2007 foreign operations budget of $23.72 billion – less than 1 per cent of the total federal budget – further reduces poverty-focused development assistance programs by over $400 million. These cuts will affect vital programs such as the Child Survival and Health Fund (cut by 13 percent, undermining a long term development assistance program that has emphasized expanding basic health services and strengthening national health systems to improve people’s health, especially that of women, children and other vulnerable populations in the developing world), Development Assistance, Disaster and Famine Assistance, among others.

Included in the president’s proposal are cuts of $15 million to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the primary development agency in the UN system that works to alleviate poverty, solve environmental problems, and fight HIV/AIDS.

The drug war is the real winner with the budget, envisioning a 70% increase in anti-drug spending, to $1.5 billion worldwide, particularly aimed at Afghanistan which, since the ousting of the Taliban has become the world’s biggest source of opium and heroin. That is more than the total amount devoted to the core Development Assistance account. At the same time, economic assistance for Iraq will increase from $60 million in 2006 to nearly $500 million in 2007. While the lion’s share goes to Iraq and Afghanistan, Latin America and the Caribbean face a 28.5 percent cut in development assistance.

Making Aid Work
Addressing threats to national security is perhaps the biggest challenge facing America at this moment in history. It was out of this concern that the 9/11 Commission Report recommended that “[the US government] should offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring to our neighbors.”

Foreign assistance is one key way through which the US can prove itself to be a generous, caring member of the international community and to make a crucial contribution to strengthening global security. This notion is not new. In his inaugural address in 1949, President Harry S. Truman noted that “more than half the people of the world are living in conditions approaching misery… Their poverty is a handicap and a threat both to them and to more prosperous areas.”

Our world today is characterized by widespread hunger, poverty, and disease amidst plenty. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, an estimated 852 million people are affected by hunger worldwide while the National Priorities Project estimates that over $242,535,575,550 has been spent on the war in Iraq. This is enough to fully fund global anti-hunger efforts for 10 years or fully fund world-wide AIDS programs for 24 years or ensure basic immunizations for every child in the world for 80 years.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration’s agenda does not consist of genuine development aid that can serve long-term interests in poverty reduction and stability abroad. At a time of shrinking budgets, it is in the interest of the United States to ensure that each dollar of development aid is invested in building self-reliant societies abroad instead of subjecting them to its short-term foreign and military policy goals.

Years and years of foreign aid, driven by US political interests have not won Washington real allies, and in fact have contributed to the destabalization of national economies and governments, causing resentment against the US. It is time for the US to realize that the promotion of decentralization of resources and decision-making to the local level as well as encouraging self-reliance by investing in small producers, such as farmers producing food for the domestic market, will reap more long-term political profits for the country.

Properly targeted aid can benefit millions of people. It can provide healthcare, education, electricity, clean water, and fight disease and poverty. It can help promote economic development, human rights and even foster democracy. In other words, well-targeted foreign assistance can make the world a safer and better place – for all of us. It is time for the Bush administration to step back and rethink its strategy for the war on terrorism.

Anuradha Mittal is the executive Director of the Oakland Institute, a policy think tank, whose mission is to bring dynamic new voices into policy debates to promote public participation and fair debate on critical economic and social policy issues. (www.oaklandinstitute.org).

US Christian Leaders Apologise For Iraq War

February 27th, 2006 - by admin

Ximena Diego / IPS News – 2006-02-27 22:57:11


NEW YORK (February 24, 2006) — Christian leaders from the United States lamented the war in Iraq and apologised for their government’s current foreign policy during the 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Porto Alegre, Brazil, which ended Thursday.

“We lament with special anguish the war in Iraq, launched in deception and violating global norms of justice and human rights,” the Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, the moderator of the US Conference for the WCC, told fellow delegates from around the world.

Kishkovsky is the rector of Our Lady of Kazan Church in Sea Cliff, New York, and is an officer in the Orthodox Church of America.

Taking an unusual stand among US Christian leaders, the United States Conference for the World Council of Churches (WCC) criticised Pres. George W. Bush’s actions in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“We are citizens of a nation that has done much in these years to endanger the human family and to abuse the creation,” says the statement endorsed by the most prominent Protestant Christian churches on the Council.

“Our leaders turned a deaf ear to the voices of church leaders throughout our nation and the world, entering into imperial projects that seek to dominate and control for the sake of our own national interests. Nations have been demonised and God has been enlisted in national agendas that are nothing short of idolatrous.”

The message, written like a prayer of repentance and backed by the 34 Christian churches that belong to the WCC, mourns those who have died or been injured in the Iraq war and says, “We confess that we have failed to raise a prophetic voice loud enough and persistent enough to deter our leaders from this path of preemptive war.”

Among the attendees was the Rev. Bernice Powell-Jackson, North American President of the World Council of Churches. A civil rights activist for more than 25 years, Jackson previously served as executive director of one of the Justice and Witness Ministries predecessor bodies, the Commission for Racial Justice.

The US Conference of the WCC also criticised the government’s position on global warming. “The rivers, oceans, lakes, rainforests, and wetlands that sustain us, even the air we breathe continue to be violated… Yet our own country refuses to acknowledge its complicity and rejects multilateral agreements aimed at reversing disastrous trends,” reads the message.
Earlier this month, a group of more than 85 US evangelical Christian leaders called on Congress to enact legislation that would reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, which most scientists believe contribute to global warming.

The US Conference of the WCC message also said, “Starvation, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the treatable diseases that go untreated indict us, revealing the grim features of global economic injustice we have too often failed to acknowledge or confront.”

“Hurricane Katrina,” it continues, “revealed to the world those left behind in our own nation by the rupture of our social contract. As a nation we have refused to confront the racism that infects our policies around the world.”
The statement comes days after the National Council of Churches (NCC), the United States chapter of the WCC, endorsed a U.N. report on the situation of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

Separately, in a letter addressed to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, NCC General Secretary Robert W. Edgar called on the US to bring the detainees to trial, release them, or to “close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility without further delay”. It also asked Rice for access to the Guantanamo facility “to monitor the physical, spiritual and mental conditions of the detainees”.

At the Brazilian conference, the Rev. John Thomas, president of United Church of Christ, was quoted as saying: “An emerging theme in conversation with our partners around the world is that the US is being perceived as a dangerous nation.”

He called the Assembly “a unique opportunity to make this statement to all our colleagues” in the ecumenical movement. The statement says, “We come to you seeking to be partners in the search for unity and justice.”
Thomas acknowledged that not all church members would agree with the thrust of the statement, but said it was their responsibility as leaders to “speak a prophetic and pastoral word as we believe God is offering it to us”.

The final WCC event featured a candlelit march for peace through downtown Porto Alegre with up to 2,000 people — including two Nobel Prize-winners — taking part.

Organised by local churches as part of the World Council of Churches’ Decade to Overcome Violence, it was accompanied by Latin American music from Xico Esvael and Victor Heredia. Young people carried banners highlighting peace and justice issues. One, depicting the world held in God’s hand, read “Let God change you first, then you will transform the world.”

WCC president Powell-Jackson urged the crowd to commit themselves to overcoming violence. Prawate Khid-arn of the Christian Conference of Asia told them, “If we do not take the risk of peace, we will have to take the risk of war.”

Israel Batista of the Latin American Council of Churches spoke of poverty, injustice and abuse of women and children and asked, “How are we to speak of peace?” Still, he said, “In spite of violence, we will persist in the struggle for peace.”

After an address by Julia Qusibert, a Bolivian indigenous Christian, the marchers sang the Samba of the Struggle for Peace and the Taizé chant Ubi Caritas, among other songs. The march paused while Nobel prize-winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel improvised a poem and addressed the crowd at the Esquina Democrática or Democratic Corner.

The evening was brought to a climax with an address by the second Nobel Prize-winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He began his impassioned speech by saying, “We have an extraordinary God. God is a mighty God, but this God needs you. When someone is hungry, bread doesn’t come down from heaven. When God wants to feed the hungry, you and I must feed the hungry. And now God wants peace in the world.”

The WCC is the largest Christian ecumenical organisation, comprised of 340 Christian denominations and churches in 120 countries, and said to represent 550 million Christians throughout the world. The US Conference of the World Council of Churches alone represents 34 Christian churches, including Orthodox, Evangelical, Lutheran and Anglican churches, and four million members throughout the country.

The Roman Catholic Church is not a member of the WCC but has worked closely with the Council in the past. Since its origins in 1948, the WCC gathers in an Assembly every seven years with each member church sending a delegate. (END/2006)

UN Calls Guantánamo a US Torture Camp

February 26th, 2006 - by admin

Sam Cage / The Associated Press – 2006-02-26 23:31:52


GENEVA (February 16, 2006) — The United States must close its detention facility at Guantánamo Bay because it is effectively a torture camp where prisoners have no access to justice, a UN report released Thursday concluded.

The White House rejected the recommendation.

The 54-page report summarizing an investigation by five UN experts accused the United States of practices that “amount to torture” and demanded detainees be allowed a fair trial or freed. The investigators did not visit the detention camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

brought before an independent court,” Manfred Nowak, the UN investigator for torture, told The Associated Press. “That should not be done in Guantánamo Bay, but before ordinary US courts, or courts in their countries of origin or perhaps an international tribunal.”

The United States should allow “a full and independent investigation” at Guantánamo and also give the United Nations access to other detention centers, including secret ones, in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, Nowak said by telephone from his office in Vienna, Austria.

“We want to have all information about secret places of detention because whenever there is a secret place of detention, there is also a higher risk that people are subjected to torture,” he said.

The United States is holding about 490 men at the military detention center. They are accused of links to Afghanistan’s ousted Taliban regime or to al-Qaida, but only a handful have been charged.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan rejected the call to shut the camp, saying the military treats all detainees humanely and “these are dangerous terrorists that we’re talking about.”

The UN investigators said photographic evidence — corroborated by testimony of former prisoners — showed detainees shackled, chained and hooded. Prisoners were beaten, stripped and shaved if they resisted, they said.

The report’s findings were based on interviews with former detainees, public documents, media reports, lawyers and questions answered by the US government, which detailed the number of prisoners held but did not give their names or the status of charges against them.

Some of the interrogation techniques — particularly the use of dogs, exposure to extreme temperatures, sleep deprivation and prolonged isolation — caused extreme suffering.

“Such treatment amounts to torture, as it inflicts severe pain or suffering on the victims for the purpose of intimidation and/or punishment,” the report said.

The UN experts who wrote the report had sought access to Guantánamo Bay since 2002. Three were invited last year, but refused in November after being told they could not interview detainees.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the UN report “clearly suffers from their unwillingness to take us up on our offer to go down to Guantánamo to observe first-hand the operations.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross is the only independent monitoring body allowed to visit Guantánamo’s detainees, but it reports its findings solely to US authorities.

Legislators and journalists have been allowed in on guided tours but few are permitted to see interrogations.

The US ambassador to UN offices in Geneva, Kevin Moley, wrote in a response that the investigation had taken little account of evidence provided by the United States.

“We categorically object to most of the unedited report’s content and conclusions as largely without merit and not based clearly in the facts,” Moley said.

Although his statement did not address specific allegations, the Pentagon has acknowledged 10 cases of abuse or mistreatment at Guantánamo, including a female interrogator climbing onto a detainee’s lap and a detainee whose knees were bruised from being forced to kneel repeatedly.

In Strasbourg, France, the European Parliament condemned the treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo and renewed its calls for the detention center to be closed.

Human rights activists also supported the investigators’ findings.

Amnesty International said the report was only the “tip of the iceberg.”

“The United States also operates detention facilities at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq and has been implicated in the use of secret detention facilities in other countries,” an Amnesty statement said.

Many of the allegations in the report have been made before. But the document represented the first inquiry launched by the 53-nation UN Human Rights Commission, the world body’s top rights watchdog.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric stressed it was compiled by independent experts. Asked whether Secretary General Kofi Annan endorsed the panel’s findings, Dujarric said: “The secretary-general has often said, and repeatedly said, that there is a need for proper understanding and effective balance between action against terrorism and the protection of civil liberties and human rights.”

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

Guns Over Butter, Abroad and at Home

February 26th, 2006 - by admin

Jim Lobe / Inter Press Service – 2006-02-26 23:20:25


WASHINGTON (February 7, 2006) — Despite his administration’s growing concerns about preventing the collapse of states in strategic parts of the world, US President George W. Bush has proposed cuts in development and disaster assistance while increasing the defence budget by almost seven percent.

Under his 2007 budget request submitted to Congress Monday, Pentagon spending next year would rise to some 440 billion dollars, not including another 120 billion dollars that the administration is expected to ask for as a supplemental appropriation to fund US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through September, when fiscal 2006 ends.

By contrast, Bush’s proposed 2007 foreign-aid request will remain roughly the same as last year’s at some 24 billion dollars, the equivalent of what Washington spends in less than five months in Iraq.

Moreover, the president is calling for a nearly 20 percent cut in development aid — from roughly 1.5 billion dollars to 1.26 billion dollars in development aid — and similar cuts in disaster assistance and child-survival and health programmes.

“This administration has said there are three components to national security — diplomacy, defence, and development,” said Mohammad Akhter, president of InterAction, a coalition of some 160 US non-governmental organisations (NGOs) active in developing countries. “We see that diplomacy and defence are well taken care of, but development is the weakest tool in our kit. Yet that’s where our long-term security lies.”

While reducing aid in those areas, however, Bush asked for major increases in his two signature aid programmes: the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), which was set up to reward “good performers” among poor countries, and his three-year-old programme PEPFAR, to combat AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria — most of which is to be spent in 14 selected countries in Africa and the Caribbean and Vietnam.

He is asking for a total of four billion dollars for the latter, including only 300 million dollars for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria — a multilateral agency especially favoured by AIDS activists who oppose US conditions on the aid — and three billion dollars for the MCA, an increase of 1.25 billion dollars from the current level.

While Congress has generally approved the administration’s AIDS-related requests, however, it has not hesitated to slash requests for the MCA, in large part because the fund has been very slow to qualify eligible countries for the assistance.

“Historical precedent suggests that the Millennium Development Corporation (which administers the MCA) may not come out with the funding requested,” noted Stewart Patrick, a research fellow at the Centre for Global Development (CGD). He also said Congress was likely to increase aid for child survival, as it has in the past.

The defence and foreign-aid requests were contained in a proposed 2007 budget that totals 2.7 trillion dollars, an increase of 2.3 percent over the current fiscal year. Despite the increase, the federal deficit, if approved, would decline from this year’s current estimate of a record 423 billion dollars to 354 billion dollars, according to the administration. However, its deficit forecasts have consistently proven over-optimistic.

With such a large increase in proposed Pentagon (Defence Department) spending, Bush’s 2007 budget calls for either holding the line or reducing spending in social and education programmes, and even in community policing. In what could prove especially controversial in an election year, he is also calling for cuts in anticipated spending for Medicare, a popular health insurance programme for elderly and disabled people.

Bush combined the release of his budget proposal with a new appeal to make permanent tax cuts on corporations and the wealthy that were enacted during his first term. In a Washington Post column published Sunday, Bush’s former top economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, warned that tax increases were inevitable unless the budget and the size of the government were reduced.

With the Pentagon budget trajectory still headed upwards, however, such a prospect looks increasingly doubtful. On Friday, the Defence Department released its latest Quadrennial Defense Report (QDR) which, while rejecting calls to increase the size of its over-stretched ground forces in the Army and marines, urged major increases in its special operations forces (SOF), which are particularly costly to train and equip.

Also as part of its “war on terror”, which has the Pentagon has renamed “The Long War”, it is pushing full speed ahead on expensive new weapons systems that can intimidate potential rivals, such as China or Russia.
“Like the QDR, the fiscal 2007 budget reflects the department’s continuum of change as we defend our nation, engage in the long war against terrorist extremism, and prepare for future potential adversaries,” Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Monday.

The proposed foreign-aid bill also suggested continuity with the recent past despite Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s recent call for major changes in the ways Washington conducts its business overseas, a process which she called “transformational diplomacy.”

Apart from Bush’s pet anti-AIDS and MCA programmes, the new foreign aid bill calls for a 70-percent increase in anti-drug spending, to some 1.5 billion dollars worldwide. Much of that will be spent in Afghanistan which, since the ouster of the Taliban in late 2001, has become by far the world’s biggest source of opium and heroin. “The drug war comes out a real winner in the budget allocation,” said Patrick.

He also expressed disappointment that development and disaster-aid programmes, which are designed to promote good governance and help the poorest and most vulnerable sectors in countries that risk becoming “failed states”, fared relatively poorly in the budget request compared to the MCA, which is targeted exclusively on countries that perform well in both areas.

“It reaffirms the fears of a lot of folks that that the creation of these signature programmes, particularly PEPFAR and MCC, will lead to a gradual decrease in some of the other accounts that are critical for righting poverty and advancing development,” he added.

The point was echoed by InterAction’s Akhter. “It doesn’t really make any sense to cut that component because, until you provide development assistance and health, people won’t arrive at a point where they can take advantage of the MCA,” he said.

State Department officials said some of the declines in the child-survival and health accounts will be made up in the expanded PEFAR programme. They also said funding for malaria prevention would increase significantly under the proposed budget.

Aside from changes in the overall spending on development and disaster aid and counter-drug assistance, most of the levels to both specific countries and multilateral programmes, including the United Nations and peacekeeping operations, are similar to those approved by Congress for 2006.

Economic aid to Central and Eastern Europe, including parts of the former Soviet Union, would decline. On the other hand, State Department-administered economic assistance for Iraq, previously part of an 18-billion-dollar package controlled by the Pentagon, will skyrocket from just 60 million dollars this year to nearly 500 million dollars in 2007. Substantial increases in economic aid are planned for Afghanistan, Sudan, and Indonesia.

Some 6.2 billion dollars altogether are earmarked for countries that are considered key strategic allies in the “war on terror.”

Military aid and sales overseen by the State Department — nearly five billion dollars — would remain roughly the same, with the bulk going to Washington’s two biggest economic and military aid recipients, Israel and Egypt.

Patrick said he was surprised that the budget did not feature stronger support for democracy promotion and other political and institutional initiatives designed to strengthen states and make them more responsive to its citizens, particularly given the administration’s recent rhetoric.

“A main premise of Rice’s transformational diplomacy is that the US needs to marshal all of its resources to advance democracy and good governance in weak and failing states,” he said. “But it’s not clear how this budget request addresses the challenge.”

A nearly 100-million-dollar Democracy Fund established by Congress last year will be parceled out to other existing programmes under Bush’s proposal, while mainly nominal increases are planned for Middle East democratisation initiatives, the National Endowment for Democracy, and even public diplomacy.

Copyright © 2006 IPS-Inter Press Service

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

Bush is to Blame for Destroying Iraq

February 26th, 2006 - by admin

Robert Dreyfuss / TomPaine.com – 2006-02-26 23:15:46


WASHINGTON (February 25, 2006) — With Iraq perched at the very precipice of an ethnic and sectarian holocaust, the utter failure of the Bush administration’s policy is revealed with starkest clarity. Iraq may or may not fall into the abyss in the next few days and weeks, but what is no longer in doubt is who is to blame: If Iraq is engulfed in civil war then Americans, Iraqis and the international community must hold President Bush and Vice President Cheney responsible for the destruction of Iraq.

The CIA, the State Department, members of Congress and countless Middle East experts warned Bush and Cheney — to no avail — that toppling Saddam could unleash the demons of civil war. They said so before, during and in the aftermath of the war, and each time the warnings were dismissed.

Those warnings came from people like Paul Pillar, the CIA veteran who served as the US intelligence community’s chief Middle East analyst; from Wayne White, the State Department’s chief intelligence analyst on Iraq; and from two CIA Baghdad station chiefs who were purged for their analysis. Pillar, who wrote this month in Foreign Affairs that prewar intelligence on Iraq was distorted by the Bush-Cheney team, is being excoriated by the right.

For the most radical-right neoconservative Jacobins amongst the Bush-Cheney team, the possibility that Iraq might fall apart wasn’t even alarming: They just didn’t care, and in their obsessive zeal to overthrow Saddam Hussein they were more than willing to take the risk.

David Wurmser, who migrated from the Israeli-connected Washington Institute on Near East Policy to the American Enterprise Institute to the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans to John Bolton’s arms control shop at the State Department to Dick Cheney’s shadow National Security Council in the office of the vice president from 2001 to 2006, wrote during the 1990s that Iraq after Saddam was likely to descend into violent tribal, ethnic and sectarian war.

In a paper for an Israeli think tank, the same think tank for which Wurmser, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith prepared the famous “Clean Break” paper in 1996, Wurmser wrote in 1997 wrote in 1997 : “The residual unity of the nation is an illusion projected by the extreme repression of the state.” After Saddam, Iraq would “be ripped apart by the politics of warlords, tribes, clans, sects and key families,” he wrote. “Underneath facades of unity enforced by state repression, [Iraq’s] politics is defined primarily by tribalism, sectarianism and gang/clan-like competition.”

Yet Wurmser explicitly urged the United States and Israel to “expedite” such a collapse. “The issue here is whether the West and Israel can construct a strategy for limiting and expediting the chaotic collapse that will ensue in order to move on to the task of creating a better circumstance.”

Such black neoconservative fantasies — which view the Middle East as a chessboard on which they can move the pieces at will — have now come home to roost. For the many hundreds of thousands who might die in an Iraqi civil war, the consequences are all too real.

The bankruptcy of the Bush-Cheney Iraq policy is revealed in the fact that the United States has succeeded in pitting itself now against two major “resistance” groups in Iraq. The first is the Sunni-led, mostly Baathist and military resistance, which has battled US forces in Baghdad and the so-called Sunni triangle to the north and west.

The second, which is growing in the ferocity of its anti-Americanism, is the Shiite religious force led by the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Moqtada Al Sadr’s Mahdi Army and their allies, who have begun routinely to denounce the United States for its opposition to their plans to create a Shiite-dominated, Iranian-allied Islamic Republic of Iraq.

Abdel Aziz Al Hakim, SCIRI’s chieftain and former commander of its Badr Brigade paramilitary force, has all but declared war on the United States, blaming Ambassador Khalilzad for giving a “green light” to the bombers by insisting that Shiite militias be disarmed. Proclaimed Hakim:

For sure, the statements made by the ambassador were not made in a responsible way. and he did not behave like an ambassador. These statements were the reason for more pressure and gave green lights to terrorist groups. And, therefore, he shares in part of the responsibility.

And even the oracle-like Ayatollah Ali Sistani, whose supposedly nonpolitical stance looks more and more like a cover for shrewd and calculating political ambition, overtly threatened this week to order the unleashing of Shiite militias in a civil war mode.

But the escalating political rhetoric is built on a foundation of escalating inter-communal violence. Ethnic cleansing is proceeding apace. The bombing of the Golden Dome in Samarra ought not to be seen as a conspiratorial effort to provoke civil war, but merely as a symptom of that incipient war.

Ethnic cleansers likely planned the attack on Samarra, a Sunni city north of Baghdad, as a means of terrifying Shiites in that part of Iraq to flee southward to the Shiite enclaves. Scores of Iraqi cities, towns and neighborhoods are undergoing a similar pattern of terrorism and death squads aimed at ethnic cleansing.

What is especially scary to Shiites is that the destruction of the Golden Dome follows a historic pattern first laid down by the Wahhabi conquerors of the Arabian Peninsula in the 19th and early 20th century, when the Wahhabi Arab army made demolition of Shiite mosque domes its signature and launched a crusade against alleged idolatry by Shiites, who were disparaged by the Wahhabis as heretics.

The Kurds, too, standing back from the Sunni-Shiite battles, are engaging in their own anti-Arab ethnic cleansing in and around the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which President Jalal Talabani of Iraq, a Kurd, has called “the Jerusalem of Kurdistan.”

It is all ugly and likely to get much uglier. So far, hundreds of Iraqis on all sides have died since Tuesday, scores and perhaps hundreds of mosques attacked, execution-style slayings proliferated and ordinary Iraqis driven into hiding or into exile. A weekend curfew has Iraq on the knife’s edge.

Like the Sarajevo assassination that precipitated World War I, the attack on the mosque may trigger a war, but it won’t be the cause. The cause is far more deep-rooted, embedded in the chaos and bitterness that followed the US invasion of Iraq and America’s deliberate efforts to stress sectarian differences in creating the Iraqi Governing Council and subsequent government institutions. If the current crisis doesn’t spark a civil war, be patient. The next one will.

Robert Dreyfuss is a contributing editor at The Nation and a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone. His book, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, will be published by Henry Holt/Metropolitan Books in the fall.

© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

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

US Invasion Responsible for the Deaths of over 250,000 Iraqi Civilians

February 26th, 2006 - by admin

John Stokes / Agora Cosmopolitan – 2006-02-26 23:09:38


New studies make the Bush administration’s “liberation” argument for a ‘pre-emptive’ war against Iraq seem questionable.

The invasion of Iraq in March 2003 by US-led coalition forces has been responsible for the death of at least 150,000 civilians (not including certain of Iraq), reveals a compilitation of scientific studies and corroborated eyewitness testimonies.

The majority of these deaths, which are in addition those normally expected from natural causes, illness and accidents, have been among women and children, documents a well-researched study, that had been released by The Lancet Medical Journal.

The report in the British journal is based on the work of teams from the Johns Hopkins University and Columbia University in the U.S., and the Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad.

A similar methodology was used in the late 1990’s to calculate the number of deaths from the war in Kosovo, put at 10,000.

The information was obtained as Iraqi interviewers surveyed 808 families, consisting of 7,868 people, in 33 different “clusters” or neighbourhoods spread across the country.

In each case, they asked how many births and deaths there had been in the home since January 2002.

That information was then compared with the death rates in each neighbourhood in the 15 months before the invasion that toppled president Saddam Hussein, adjusted for the different time frames, and extrapolated to cover the entire 24.4 million population of Iraq.

The most common cause of death is as a direct result of a worsening ‘culture of violence’, mostly caused by indiscriminate US co-ordinated air strikes, and related military interventions, reveals the study of almost 1000 households scattered across Iraq. And the risk of violent death just after the invasion was 58 times greater than before the war. The overall risk of death was 1.5 times more after the invasion than before.

The on-going American Occupation has also created worsened civil strife as well as mass environmental destructions and related public health problems that is associated with American bomb-related released radioactive and other life-threatening pollutions. The American Occupation has also prevailed over the neglect to the repairing of vital public services-related infrastructure, which include US-led destructions of water systems.

The figure of 100,000 had been based on somewhat “conservative assumptions”, notes Les Roberts at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, US, who led the study.

That estimate excludes Falluja, a hotspot for violence. If the data from this town is included, the compiled studies point to about 250,000 excess deaths since the outbreak of the US-led war.

Many Americans have complained that more than $200 billion US tax dollars have been diverted from vitally needed public services in the United States, into apparently reckless activities. These activities are resulting in inflicted mass-casualities against totally innocent civilians, which have worsened conditions for political extremism, and ensuing “terrorism”.

It is well documented that such activities are being viewed by many Iraqis, and other peoples internationally, to undermine a popular feeling of international security in general. Indeed, polls suggest that Americans felt much more secure under the former political ledership of US President Bill Clinton, as compared to the militaristic strategies which are being pursued by the George W. Bush administration.

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

Suppressing Dissent, Shredding the Constitution: Where Does This Road Lead?

February 26th, 2006 - by admin

Evan Augustine Peterson III, J.D. – 2006-02-26 09:39:52


Bushites Suppressing Dissent,
Retaliating Against Whistleblowers,
Shredding the Constitution.
Ask Yourself: Where Does This Road Lead?

Evan Augustine Peterson III, J.D.

February 25, 2006) — The following five essays, when taken as a whole, illustrate that the Bushites are a dysfunctional authoritarian cult in which:
(1) they’ve arrogated to themselves the absolute authority to do whatsoever they please because they’re “above the law”;
(2) everyone else has been stripped of their constitutional rights and civil liberties because they’re “below the law”; and
(3) they’ve replaced the democratic principle of equal justice under the law with their loyalty-fetish belief in the absolute-and-perfect authority of George W. Bush — formerly known as the “Fuhrer Principle.”


Sandi Burtseva’s February 23, 2006 essay, “Democracy’s Regression,” provides clear and convincing evidence that the Bush administration is actively suppressing the right to engage in political dissent inside the USA. Of course, this means they’re destroying the very freedoms that distinguish democratic governments from authoritarian regimes.


As William Fisher’s 2-24-06 essay, “The Plight Of National Security Whistle Blower” demonstrates: If you find illegal activity in the US national security agency you work for and, if you report it to your superiors, you get rewarded by being demoted, or having your security clearance revoked — tantamount to losing your career – while those whose conduct you’ve reported get promoted.

This was the picture painted to a Congressional committee last week, as its members heard from five soldiers and civilians who say their livelihoods and reputations have been destroyed, or placed in serious jeopardy, by their attempts to expose and correct waste, fraud, or abuse in their workplaces.


Tom Regan’s 2-24-06 Christian Science Monitor article, “NSA Continues Controversial Data-Mining Program,” reveals how, emboldened by the Bush administration’s lawlessness, the NSA has defied Congress by continuing to spy on American citizens inside the USA. Facts:
(a) the Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness (“TIA”) project was shut down by Congress in 2003; but
(b) the NSA funded and continued TIA by concealing its identity under a different name.


Brian Foley’s January 30, 2006 Jurist essay, “The Real Danger Of Presidential Spying,” uses excellent hypotheticals to explain why presidential spying on American citizens is dangerous: it chills the independent exercise of free speech among potential political rivals, journalists, and activists who would otherwise balance, oppose, or constrain the imperial expansions of executive power that lead to dictatorship. http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/forumy/2006/01/real-danger-of-presidential-spying.php


Bernard Weiner’s February 22, 2006 essay, “Slicing Away Liberty: 1933 Germany, 2006 America,” elucidates the many striking parallels between 1933 Germany and 2006 America; admonishes that the Bush adminstration has taking us quite far down the road to totalitarian ruin through the old fascist tactic of incrementally slicing away our civil liberties; and advises us that we must oppose this regression into fascism or we will lose our democracy.

Evan Augustine Peterson III’s 1-11-06 essay, “On The Necessity Of Impeachment: All We Are Saying Is Give The Constitution A Chance” [Explains why impeachment proceedings are the proper constitutional remedy for this totally out-of-control president’s lawlessness. The endnotes cite 88 recent articles about impeachment.

Please ask your US Representative to:
(a) co-sponsor H.R. 635, the impeachment resolution by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI); and
(b) demand that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales promptly appoint a special prosecutor to independently investigate whether Mr. Bush’s warrantless domestic wiretapping program is illegal.

Evan Augustine Peterson III, J.D., is the Executive Director of the American Center for International Law (“ACIL”). His essays on international law, human rights, civil liberties, politics, theology and ethics have been published by more than 30 websites worldwide. © 2006 EAP IIII

Rumsfeld’s 9-11 Notes and Cheney’s Coup

February 26th, 2006 - by admin

Julian Borger / The Guardian & Sidney Blumenthal / Der Spiegel – 2006-02-26 09:38:23


Blogger Bares Rumsfeld’s Post-9/11 Orders
Julian Borger / The Guardian

WASHINGTON (February 24, 2006) — Hours after a commercial plane struck the Pentagon on September 11 2001 the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, was issuing rapid orders to his aides to look for evidence of Iraqi involvement, according to notes taken by one of them.

“Hard to get good case. Need to move swiftly,” the notes say. “Near term target needs – go massive – sweep it all up, things related and not.”

The handwritten notes, with some parts blanked out, were declassified this month in response to a request by a law student and blogger, Thad Anderson, under the US Freedom of Information Act. Anderson has posted them on his blog at outragedmoderates.org.

The Pentagon confirmed the notes had been taken by Stephen Cambone, now undersecretary of defence for intelligence and then a senior policy official. “His notes were fulfilling his role as a plans guy,” said a spokesman, Greg Hicks.

“He was responsible for crisis planning, and he was with the secretary in that role that afternoon.”

The report said: “On the afternoon of 9/11, according to contemporaneous notes, Secretary Rumsfeld instructed General Myers [the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff] to obtain quickly as much information as possible. The notes indicate that he also told Myers that he was not simply interested in striking empty training sites. He thought the US response should consider a wide range of options.

“The secretary said his instinct was to hit Saddam Hussein at the same time, not only Bin Laden. Secretary Rumsfeld later explained that at the time he had been considering either one of them, or perhaps someone else, as the responsible party.”

The actual notes suggest a focus on Saddam. “Best info fast. Judge whether good enough [to] hit SH at same time – not only UBL [Pentagon shorthand for Usama/Osama bin Laden],” the notes say. “Tasks. Jim Haynes [Pentagon lawyer] to talk with PW [probably Paul Wolfowitz, then Mr Rumsfeld’s deputy] for additional support … connection with UBL.”

Mr Wolfowitz, now the head of the World Bank, advocated regime change in Iraq before 2001. But, according to an account of the days after September 11 in Bob Woodward’s book Plan of Attack, a decision was taken to put off consideration of an attack on Iraq until after the Taliban had been toppled in Afghanistan.

But these notes confirm that Baghdad was in the Pentagon’s sights almost as soon as the hijackers struck.

Cheney’s Coup
Sidney Blumenthal / Der Spiegelhttp://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/0,1518,402588,00.html

President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney arrive in the East Room of the White House.After shooting Austin lawyer Harry Whittington, Dick Cheney’s immediate impulse was to control the intelligence. Rather than call the president directly, he ordered an aide to inform White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card that there had been an accident but not that Cheney was its cause. Then a host of surrogates attacked the victim for not steering clear of Cheney when he was firing. Cheney attempted to defuse the subsequent furor by giving an interview to friendly Fox News. His most revealing answer came in response to a question about something other than the hunting accident.

Cheney was asked about court papers filed by his former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice in the investigation of the leaking of the identity of an undercover CIA operative, Valerie Plame. (She is the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of disinformation used to justify the invasion of Iraq.)

In those papers, Libby laid out a line of defense that he had leaked classified material at the behest of “his superiors” (to wit, Cheney). Libby detailed that he was authorized to disclose to members of the press classified sections of the prewar National Intelligence Estimate on Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. (The NIE was exposed as wrongly asserting that Saddam possessed WMD and was constructing nuclear weapons.) Indeed, Cheney explained, he has the power to declassify intelligence. “There is an executive order to that effect,” he said. Had he ever done that “unilaterally”? “I don’t want to get into that.”

On March 25, 2003, President Bush signed Executive Order 13292, a hitherto little known document that grants the greatest expansion of the power of the vice president in American history. The order gives the vice president the same ability to classify intelligence as the president. By controlling classification, the vice president can in effect control intelligence and, through that, foreign policy.

Bush operates on the radical notion of the “unitary executive,” that the president has inherent and limitless powers in his role as commander in chief, above the system of checks and balances. By his extraordinary order, he elevated Cheney to his level, an acknowledgment that the vice president was already the de facto executive in national security. Never before has any president diminished and divided his power in this manner. Now the unitary executive inherently includes the unitary vice president.

The unprecedented executive order bears the earmarks of Cheney’s former counsel and current chief of staff, David Addington. Addington has been the closest assistant to Cheney through three decades, since Cheney served in the House of Representatives in the 1980s. Inside the executive branch, far and wide, Addington acts as Cheney’s vicar, bullying and sarcastic, inspiring fear and obedience. Few documents of concern to the vice president, even executive orders, reach the eyes of the president without passing first through Addington’s agile hands.

To advance their scenario for the Iraq war, Cheney & Co. either pressured or dismissed the intelligence community when it presented contrary analysis. Paul Pillar, the former CIA national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, writes in the new issue of Foreign Affairs, “The administration used intelligence not to inform decision-making, but to justify a decision already made.”

On domestic spying conducted without legal approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Addington and his minions isolated and crushed internal dissent from James Comey, then deputy attorney general, and Jack Goldsmith, then head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

On torture policy, as reported by the New Yorker this week, Alberto Mora, recently retired as general counsel to the U.S. Navy, opposed the Bush administration’s abrogation of the Geneva Conventions — by holding thousands of detainees in secret camps without due process and using abusive interrogation techniques — based on legal doctrines Mora called “unlawful” and “dangerous.” Addington et al. told him the policies were being ended while continuing to pursue them on a separate track. “To preserve flexibility, they were willing to throw away our values,” Mora said.

The first vice president, John Adams, called his position “the most insignificant office ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.” John Nance Garner, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first vice president, said it was not worth “a warm bucket of spit.” When Dick Cheney was secretary of defense under the first President Bush, he reprimanded Vice President Dan Quayle for asserting power he did not possess by calling a meeting of the National Security Council when the elder Bush was abroad. Cheney well knew the vice president had no authority in the chain of command.

Since the coup d’état of Executive Order 13292, however, the vice presidency has been transformed. Perhaps, for a blinding moment, Cheney imagined he might classify his shooting party top secret.

Sidney Blumenthal, a former assistant and senior advisor to President Clinton and the author of The Clinton Wars, is writing a column for Salon and the Guardian of London.

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

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