Saturday, October 20, 2007

Iran warns of 11,000 rocket retaliation

Warns that 'enemy bases' would be targeted after any possible attack

The Associated Press - Oct 20, 2007

Iran is capable of firing 11,000 rockets into enemy bases within the first minute after any possible attack, state-run television quoted a top Revolutionary Guards Corps commander as saying Saturday.

Gen. Mahmoud Chaharbaghi, the missile commander of the Guards, said Iran has identified all enemy positions and was prepared to respond in less than a minute to any possible attack.

"Enemy bases and positions have been identified. ... The Guards ground force will fire 11,000 rockets into identified enemy positions within the first minute of any aggression against the Iranian territory," the television quoted Chaharbaghi as saying.

Chaharbaghi did not specifically identify the bases or the enemy and did not refer to arch foes Israel or the United States by name. But the U.S. has 40,000 troops on various U.S. bases in other Persian Gulf countries and 20,000 in Mideast waters. Another 160,000 U.S. troops are in neighboring Iraq and about 25,000 are in another one of Iran's neighbors, Afghanistan.

Iran's semiofficial Fars news agency also quoted Chaharbaghi as saying that Iran's radar-avoiding rockets cover the entire Persian Gulf and the entire Iran-Iraq border. Both on state-run TV and in Fars, he only used the word rocket, not missile. A rocket is normally an unguided weapon whereas missiles usually have guidance systems.

Chaharbaghi was quoted by Fars as saying that rockets with a range of 250 kilometers 155 miles will be delivered to the Guards ground force soon. He didn't elaborate.

Nuclear tensions

Iran has periodically raised alarms over the possibility of war, particularly when the West brings up talk of sanctions over Tehran's rejection of a U.N. Security Council demand that it halt uranium enrichment.

Tensions are high between Washington and Tehran over U.S. accusations that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons and helping Shiite militias in Iraq that target U.S. troops. Iran denies the claims.

Washington has said it is addressing the Iran situation diplomatically, rather than militarily, but U.S. officials also say that all options are open.

Last month, a top Iranian air force general said Iran has drawn up contingency plans to bomb Israel should the Jewish state attack Iran. He made the comments days after French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that the international community should prepare for the possibility of war in the event Iran obtains atomic weapons, although he later stressed the focus is still on diplomatic pressures.

Iran denounces Bush's WWIII warning

Iran on Thursday denounced a warning by U.S. President George W. Bush that the Iran's nuclear activities could lead to World War III, saying the statement was warlike rhetoric geared at diverting U.S. attention from White House failures in Iraq.

The White House said Bush was simply making "a rhetorical point" when he suggested that if Iran could make nuclear weapons, it could lead to World War III.

Another top Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander warned last month that U.S. bases around Iran would be legitimate targets.

"Today, the United States is within Iran's sight and all around our country, but it doesn't mean we have been encircled. They are encircled themselves and are within our range," Gen. Mohammed Hasan Kousehchi told IRNA in September.

Last month, Iran showed off its military might during a parade that included torpedoes, surveillance drones and what Iran called its new domestically manufactured warplanes.

Iran recently also has upgraded its Shahab-3 missile to range of about 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles), capable of reaching Israel and carrying a nuclear warhead.

But last month, Adm. William Fallon, the top U.S. military commander in the Middle East, said he believes Iran is not as strong as it portrays itself. "Not militarily, economically or politically," he said.

Boston Jew and West Bank Muslim Build a Temple, and Bridges, in Arkansas

Bill Feldman, left, the president of Temple Shalom in Fayetteville, Ark., with Fadil Bayyari, a general contractor, on the site of a new temple. Mr. Bayyari, a Muslim, is donating his services.

by SAMUEL G. FREEDMAN - Oct 6, 2007

Just before the school year started in August 1971, Bill Feldman steered his Volvo amid the pickup trucks and horse trailers of small-town Arkansas, bound for his first job as a math professor. He was coming to the Bible Belt as a Jew reared in a Boston suburb, a scholar educated in Canada and Europe. To ease the culture shock, an uncle had given him three jars of kosher pickles for the trip.

The same month, 19-year-old Fadil Bayyari boarded the first plane of his life, carrying falafel from his mother for the journey from Tulkarem in the West Bank to Roosevelt University in Chicago. He handed a taxi driver at O’Hare the college’s address and was relieved of a month’s spending money when the cabby took the naïve newcomer downtown more or less by way of Indiana.

All these decades later, destiny or providence or something has delivered Mr. Feldman and Mr. Bayyari to the same acre of land at the bottom of one of Fayetteville’s many hills. There Mr. Bayyari, now a general contractor, will build the first permanent temple for the Reform Jewish congregation in Fayetteville, of which Mr. Feldman is president. And Mr. Bayyari, a Palestinian-American Muslim, is doing the job at no charge. Without his sacrifice, the congregation probably could not afford the project at all.

“To me, it’s a place of worship,” said Mr. Bayyari, 55. “In my mind and in my religion, I believe in Judaism as part of Islam. We believe in Abraham. We believe in Moses. In the Koran, there’s lots of talk about Isaac and Joseph. I am always fascinated by this, and I always feel I have a relationship with this faith. And knowing what’s happened in the Middle East, what better way to build bridges?”

For Mr. Feldman, the bond with Mr. Bayyari felt especially resonant during Rosh Hashana. One of the Torah readings told of God’s protection of Hagar and Ishmael in the desert, after Sarah had banished them as rivals for Abraham’s love. Muslims, of course, trace their lineage back through Ishmael.

“The humanity of it is thrilling,” Mr. Feldman, 62, said of Mr. Bayyari’s gesture. “We’re thinking not only of our temple but of continuing the relationships with Muslims. We hope to accomplish an understanding. We hope to ultimately bring peace.”

By coincidence, the congregation was named Temple Shalom — “peace” in Hebrew and linguistically close to “salaam” in Arabic — from the time of its founding in 1981. Now the Web site for its permanent building is, and the congregation has committed to raising a million dollars to endow programs with an emphasis on interfaith efforts. Mr. Bayyari’s decision to forgo payment will save Temple Shalom at least $250,000.

The contractor’s charity reflects factors beyond a shared religious heritage. It also attests to the odyssey of two men and the transformation of this corner of the Ozarks. Mr. Feldman had never expected to stay in Fayetteville, and Mr. Bayyari had never expected to be here at all. And Fayetteville itself has grown and diversified in ways unimaginable when Mr. Feldman came here 36 years ago.

To his own surprise, Mr. Feldman has spent his entire career in the math department at the University of Arkansas, becoming tenured and serving a decade as chairman. He married a local woman, who converted to Judaism, and after a relatively unobservant youth became a member, an officer and even a Hebrew-school teacher in Temple Shalom.

As for Mr. Bayyari, he did not last long at Roosevelt, instead learning the fast-food industry at McDonald’s Hamburger University, running franchises in Los Angeles and Hawaii, then picking up construction skills during four years with a conglomerate in Bahrain. He and his wife decided to move back to the United States to raise a family, and she had fond memories of Arkansas from childhood vacations.

The Boston Jew and the West Bank Muslim experienced similar isolation at the start. A circuit-riding rabbi came through Fayetteville just one Shabbat a month. The nearest synagogue was 60 miles away in Fort Smith, and the closest kosher meat was two and a half hours west in Tulsa. Mr. Bayyari worshiped in rented rooms with a small group of Muslim students from abroad and had to drive 12 hours to Chicago for a halal butcher.

Isolation, though, was not tantamount to prejudice. With his thriving construction business, Mr. Bayyari wound up serving on a regional planning board, joining the Rotary Club and even having an elementary school in nearby Springdale named for him. While he heard one accusatory comment after the Oklahoma City bombing, in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, he said, he received many calls from friends making sure he had not been insulted or attacked.

Partly because it is a university town, partly because it sits 15 miles from Wal-Mart’s world headquarters, Fayetteville itself has grown into a surprisingly cosmopolitan place. Yes, the football fans still scream “Pig, sooooey!” and, yes, the annual motorcycle rally is called “Bikes, Blues and BBQ.” But Thai and Mexican restaurants flourish, educational levels stand high in national rankings and magazines like Forbes rate Fayetteville a highly desirable place to live.

With the growth in its membership from about 15 families in 1981 to nearly 60 early this decade, Temple Shalom resolved two years ago to buy or build its own sanctuary, rather than to keep renting space. The congregation’s effort to buy a locally famous home ran into opposition from neighbors, who said they objected to having more traffic in a residential area.

While the city zoning commission was wrestling with the case, Mr. Bayyari heard about it from one of his Rotary Club buddies, Ralph Nesson, a member of Temple Shalom. In solidarity, Mr. Bayyari attended several zoning meetings to support the temple’s plan.

By last fall, Mr. Feldman and other leaders had decided to withdraw the application rather than prolong the controversy. Attention then turned to a plot of land on Sang Road and a prospective capital campaign of $2.2 million. The congregation had a bequest of $500,000 from a member, Miriam Alford, and has been able to raise about $450,000 more, leaving a gap of $1.3 million for construction and programming.

So Mr. Bayyari’s offer to work without a fee proved essential. The site is already being leveled and a formal groundbreaking is set for Oct. 14.

Jeremy Hess, the head of Temple Shalom’s building committee, numbers himself among the dazzled.

“In the middle of the Bible Belt, why should Jews and Muslims, two small communities, be working together on this building?” he said. “We really want a sacred space for everyone. Why God chose us, who knows?”

Following Hillary’s Money

by Justin Raimondo - Oct 18, 2007

Follow the money, as the old saying goes:

“The US arms industry is backing Hillary Clinton for President and has all but abandoned its traditional allies in the Republican party. Mrs Clinton has also emerged as Wall Street’s favourite. Investment bankers have opened their wallets in unprecedented numbers for the New York senator over the past three months and, in the process, dumped their earlier favourite, Barack Obama.”

The military-industrial complex is clearly betting on the Democrats, who, for the first time, are beating out the GOP in raising money from the war profiteers. What’s more, they’ve clearly settled on Hillary as their horse in this race, and here’s the numbers:

“So far, Mrs Clinton has received $52,600 in contributions from individual arms industry employees. That is more than half the sum given to all Democrats and 60 per cent of the total going to Republican candidates. Election fundraising laws ban individuals from donating more than $4,600 but contributions are often ‘bundled’ to obtain influence over a candidate.”

Yes, but, as she put it recently — I believe it was at the dailykos conference — lobbyists are people, too. They need to be represented — and Hillary will certainly do that.

End the war? Withdraw from Iraq? Re-evaluate American foreign policy?

Not on your life.

Senate & Neocons To Carve Up Bill of Rights

by Kurt Nimmo - Oct 18, 2007

It’s now official, the entire Senate is criminally complicit in undermining the Fourth Amendment.

“Senate Democrats and Republicans reached agreement with the Bush administration yesterday on the terms of new legislation to control the federal government’s domestic surveillance program, which includes a highly controversial grant of legal immunity to telecommunications companies that have assisted the program, according to congressional sources,” reports the CIA’s favorite newspaper, the Washington Post.

In standard doublespeak fashion, the Post is attempting to put the best face on the fact the Senate has dealt the telecoms a get out of jail free card. It is, as well, typical that the Post characterizes the legislation as a “control” mechanism when in fact it is a blank check. Of course, this hardly matters, as the NSA has worked with the telecoms for decades to subvert the constitutional rights of Americans, who are basically none the wiser when it comes down to the fact the government is a police state, long engaged in snooping of the sort Germany’s Stasi employed.

“Disclosure of the deal followed a decision by House Democratic leaders to pull a competing version of the measure from the floor because they lacked the votes to prevail over Republican opponents and GOP parliamentary maneuvers.” In other words, Democrats, who are a Senate majority, disrespect the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to the same disgusting degree as the neocon Republicans, and are thus as criminal. Naturally, this is nothing new, as you can turn your garden variety Democrat upside down and he or she will look identical to a Republican, never mind the corporate media turning somersaults in an effort to get us to buy into supposed differences, the very framework of the phony left-right paradigm on Capitol Hill. Millions of Americans—from your Rush Limbaugh Republican to your MoveOn Democrat—buy into this nonsense, apparently unable to break free of the voodoo trance of the corporate media buttressed fiction of ideological differences.

Said neocon traitor and so-called House Minority leader John A. Boehner: “There is absolutely no reason our intelligence officials should have to consult government lawyers before listening into terrorist communications with the likes of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda and other foreign terror groups.” Translation: there is no reason the neocons should have to follow the Constitution and rule of law when snooping the phone calls and internet communication of millions of Americans. As we know, Osama is dead and “al-Qaeda and other foreign terrorist groups” are covertly—or not so covertly—organized, financed, and unleashed by the CIA, MI6, Mossad, indeed the entire “intelligence” monolith, legendary for spinning off useful terrorist groups. Moreover, as a well-read tenth grader might tell you, the NSA engages in the vacuum cleaner approach to “intelligence gathering,” not pinpoint monitoring of “al-Qaeda” phone calls made from a pay phone in Ship Bottom, New Jersey.

More than anything, this “agreement” (criminal conspiracy) was reached in order to protect multinational telecoms, open to “pending lawsuits alleging violations of privacy rights by telecommunications companies that provided telephone records, summaries of e-mail traffic and other information to the government after Sept. 11, 2001, without receiving court warrants.” Of course, the Senate and House were long ago turned into whorehouse parlors for transnational corporations, so this really is not surprising. Question is, how long will the government continue the charade there is actually legal recourse for Americans when the Constitution is so egregiously violated? How long before we are pitched into full-fledged decider-commander guy fascism?

“Senate Democrats successfully pressed for a requirement that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court review the government’s procedures for deciding who is to be the subject of warrantless surveillance,” the CIA’s favorite fish wrapper continues. “They also insisted that the legislation be renewed in six years, Democratic congressional officials said. The Bush administration had sought less stringent oversight by the court and wanted the law to be permanent.”

In other words, treasonous Democrats want to continue the illusion that the “constitutional compromise” FISA Court is legal, when in fact is it is a long-standing violation of the Fourth Amendment, as all surveillance must follow probable cause with a court order. But then bogus “special needs” categories, mutating from the unconstitutional province of drunk driving checkpoints and random drug tests to the federal government as a whole, are the rule of the day. As previously noted, “highly intrusive and wholly discretionary warrantless wiretapping” is nothing new, as the NSA has worked with the telecoms since at least the 1940s.

Even so-called “civil libertarians” are not dedicated to the original principles held in the Bill of Rights, preferring to play footsy with “conservatives,” i.e., fascist corporatists (an admitted redundancy), and sell the Constitution out lock, stock, and barrel. “Most Democratic lawmakers and party members—backed by civil libertarians and even some conservatives—wanted the new legislation to ensure for example that future domestic surveillance in foreign-intelligence-related investigations would be overseen by the foreign surveillance court. The court was created in response to CIA and FBI domestic spying abuses unmasked in the mid-1970s.” Of course, these exposed “spying abuses” were an aberration—a sign of the times, part of the outrage over Watergate and government criminality—and the CIA and FBI are feeling much better now, knowing that there are few if any people in government willing to unmask current abuses, that is to say long term and ongoing and endemic abuses.

“But conservative Democrats worried about Republicans’ charges that the Democratic bill extended too many rights to suspected terrorists,” that is to say the American people, a few who actually believe they have an intact Constitution, as there are no “suspected terrorists” on phone lines, or rather no genuine terrorists, simply government plants and clueless patsies, programmed to exude an air of terrorist scariness, no matter how absurd as it emanates from remote caves (complete with kidney dialysis machines and internet servers) and MI6 sponsored mosques or ISI facilitated religious schools.

Finally, in order to better understand the fascistic character of our rulers, consider Rep. Louie Gohmert, who blathered: the supposed Democrat horse trading compromise “extends our Constitution beyond American soil to our enemies who want to cut the heads off Americans.” Of course, this is ridiculous, and what Gohmert intended to say is that the Constitution itself is no longer required, is in fact dangerous, as it provides black op terrorists with an excuse to cut off our heads, a colorful if entirely fallacious allusion.

But never mind, none of this matters, as the average American is wholly bereft of any sense of loss, and in fact it can be argued he or she does not need the Fourth Amendment as more than likely they will chime “I don’t got nothing to hide,” so why all the fuss? It was like this when Martin Niemoeller supposedly made his famous claim in Nazi Germany. “First they came for the Jews,” and then everybody else, but then it was too late.

Dare I say it is too late in America? Our once cherished, now ignored and largely unknown, Constitution and Bill of Rights are dead numbers. The NSA, CIA, FBI, et al, may snoop on us at will, without legal or moral hindrance, not that it matters to the masses. Most will not receive visits by the Ministry of Homeland Security, receive national security letters, or be sent packing to a FEMA camp, if it ever comes to that. Most will, however, suffer the results, as did the people of Germany—roundly fire-bombed, defeated, and reviled around the world for years to come.

Report says buildup in Iraq gained little

U.S. military, civilian officials warn progress will require years of work

by David Wood - Oct 19, 2007

Despite hopes that the U.S. military "surge" in Iraq would encourage economic and political headway and sap the strength of the insurgency, very little lasting progress has been achieved, according to a new U.S. report.

The study, based on the assessments of dozens of U.S. military and civilian officials working at local levels across Iraq, runs counter to the optimistic forecasts by the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. It said that with the exception of Anbar province, there has been "little progress" toward political reconciliation, a key U.S. goal in Iraq.

Withdrawal of U.S. troops would produce "open battlegrounds of ethnic cleansing" in some Baghdad neighborhoods and elsewhere in Iraq, the report said.

In high-profile congressional hearings last month, Petraeus and Crocker testified that the addition of 28,000 American troops in Iraq, ordered last winter by President Bush, was reducing violence and providing opportunity for economic projects, government reform and political reconciliation.

The troop "surge" is temporary, with the first of the reinforcement units scheduled to leave Iraq before Christmas.

But instead of charting progress, the new report, by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, warns that Iraq "will require years of steady engagement" before there is significant progress in providing Iraqis with power and clean water, jobs, health resources and government that works.

"Iraq's complex and overlapping sectarian, political, and ethnic conflicts, as well as the difficult security situation, continue to hinder progress in promoting economic development, rule of law, and political reconciliation," the report cautioned.

With a $44 billion investment by American taxpayers in rebuilding Iraq, there are some visible improvements, the report said. But it warned that local and provincial governments "have little ability to manage and maintain" new health clinics, water treatment plants, power-generating facilities and other projects.

One U.S. official in Iraq, quoted anonymously in the report, said he foresaw a "train wreck" ahead as costly U.S. projects in Iraq grind to a halt for lack of manpower or maintenance.

The report's grim conclusions parallel previous U.S. assessments, including a major national intelligence estimate in August that said there had been little economic improvement. That report forecast that sectarian violence would continue displacing Iraqis from their own neighborhoods and that Iraq's government would "become more precarious" over the next six to 12 months.

Nevertheless, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates dismissed the report's conclusion, which he said "doesn't square" with what he is hearing from senior U.S. military officers in Iraq.

The office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, created by Congress three years ago to probe U.S. spending in Iraq, is headed by Stuart W. Bowen, a lawyer who previously worked for then-Gov. Bush in Texas and served on Bush's White House staff in Washington.

His report, released yesterday, is based on assessments from 32 provincial reconstruction teams made up of U.S. military and civilian experts in local government.

Despite the arduous and often dangerous conditions these teams work under, they have achieved some "incremental" success, the report said. But it went on to document continuing problems that run deep and wide through Iraq.

The judicial system is not functioning because of police corruption and judges who are subject to intimidation by sectarian violence. To boost employment, U.S. military commanders are spending millions of dollars on short-term reconstruction projects that employ Iraqis, but these projects often are not coordinated with local governments and rarely provide long-term job opportunities, the report said.

The report documented "a growing public frustration" of Iraqis with their government. As a result, there has been "little progress" toward political reconciliation, which it said was being undermined by jockeying for power among rival Shiite groups and a "sense of alienation" on the part of the minority Sunnis.

Asked yesterday about the report, Gates said he had not read it and does not believe its assessment.

"The information that we're getting from the commanders and from the ambassador doesn't square with that," Gates said at a Pentagon news briefing. "Our sense is that, in fact, there is progress in these areas - more than we would have expected."

Adm. Mike Mullen, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also said the report's assessments differ from what he saw on a recent trip to Iraq.

As evidence of a growing economy, Mullen cited a butcher at a local market just outside Baghdad who until recently was selling a sheep every week. Now, the butcher is selling a sheep every day, Mullen said.

"I don't want to overly state it ... but it's starting to happen," he said.

Outside powers have turned Pakistan into a powder keg

The slaughter in Karachi is a brutal symbol of a nation blighted by political opportunism and western interference

by Ziauddin Sardar - Oct 20, 2007

The dreadful carnage in Karachi is a bloody but perfect metaphor for the politics of Pakistan. The country has shown once again that political opportunism, home grown and nourished by foreign interests, is deadly for ordinary Pakistanis.

The media hyperventilation over the return of Benazir Bhutto is a clear indication not only that nothing has changed - but that no meaningful change is intended. An army general is entrenched as president for another five years. If the promised elections are held, they would be anything but fair and free, given that Bhutto is supposed to win and provide a democratic front for a military ruler. The Pakistani Taliban - whom many are blaming for Thursday night's assassination attempts - continue their reign of terror in the northern provinces of the country, complete with suicide bombings and beheadings, with increasing impunity. The vast majority of Pakistanis feel utterly impotent and the poor and the innocent suffer the brunt of the violence unleashed by the fanatics.

Bhutto, the twice-failed prime minister, talks an impressive line about moderate Islam, development, and democracy. Her rhetoric is music to the ears of the White House, which has engineered her deal with General Musharraf. It allows her to evade the outstanding corruption charges which otherwise would have impeded her making another tilt for power.

None of Bhutto's rhetorical qualities - liberalising Islam, genuine development or empowering democracy - were much in evidence during her previous administrations. The father of the Pakistani bomb, AQ Khan, whom she is now willing to hand over to international authorities, was diligently at work developing his weapons while she was in power. The opportunities to tackle endemic poverty were frittered away in corrupt feathering of the fortunes of favoured citizens, most notably her husband. Not a single development project, not even a motorway, was completed during her two administrations. And the morass of religious fervour fuelling political agendas was left to take its own toxic course.

Over the six decades of its existence, Pakistan has functioned not as a nation but a geo-strategic utility. It has been picked up and put down as dictated by the proxy interests of outside powers. The latest Bhutto/Musharraf alliance enhances Pakistan's utility in the global war on terror, and more specifically acts as the base from which to curb the activities of the Taliban in Pakistan's northern provinces and Afghanistan. Thus, democracy has little to do with her return.

As a consequence, Pakistan has suffered from all the unintended yet predictable effects of being a sideshow to other people's strategic interests. Its good-guy/bad-guy lurching has taken little account of the genuine interests of its citizens. Military dictators and elected politicians have been interchangeable, each accepted or rejected by the US and Britain without recourse to what their governance of the country actually meant for its citizens.

Almost all financial assistance the country has received since the inception of the "war on terror" has found its way to the military to maintain the very problem that is the intractable heart of the country's nightmare. In Pakistan everything is owned either by the military or the feudal magnates - notably among them the Bhutto clan. Sustained investment in fostering the economy, creating employment, enterprise and hence hope for the majority, has been notable by its absence. In these bizarre conditions, the religiously inclined poor have proved to be an excellent recruiting ground for the Taliban. In the land created to be an Islamic nation, both the military and the politicians have used the murderous Taliban fanatics as pawns to further their opportunistic goals. Now the Taliban has turned on both.

Pakistan contains some of the most articulate, literate and thoughtful critique and analysis of Islam. It also nourishes mindless fanaticism. It is both the problem and the solution. But the solution requires empowering the middle classes, the voices of change. To date, all forms of political opportunism entertained by western interests have signally failed to engage with, listen to or empower the mainstream of Pakistani middle class. Not surprisingly, they dream only of a green card to America, entry points to Australia, and the riches of the Middle East.

The political opportunism of Bhutto is the shortest route to civil war and the break-up of Pakistan. Those who feel most powerless to affect the fate of Pakistan are the Pakistanis themselves. Until the capacities and interests of its own people set the national agenda, then hope, reform, change, moderation and new direction will never materialise.

The American Freedom Agenda Act of 2007 -- Both Conservatives and Liberals Endorse Ron Paul’s Bill to Uphold the Constitution

by Larry Greenley, JBS - Oct 20, 2007

On October 15, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) introduced the American Freedom Agenda Act of 2007 "To restore the Constitution's checks and balances and protections against government abuses as envisioned by the Founding Fathers."

Follow this link to the original source: "American Freedom Agenda Act of 2007"


On October 15, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) introduced the American Freedom Agenda Act of 2007 (H.R. 3835) "To restore the Constitution's checks and balances and protections against government abuses as envisioned by the Founding Fathers."

The issues addressed by this bill are:

* Military Commissions; Enemy Combatants; Habeas Corpus;

* Torture or Coerced Confessions;

* Intelligence Gathering;

* Presidential Signing Statements;

* Kidnaping, Detentions, and Torture Abroad;

* Journalist Exception to Espionage Act; and

* Use of Secret Evidence to Make Foreign Terrorist Designations.

On March 20, 2007, a group of nationally known conservatives (Bruce Fein, David Keene, Richard Viguerie, and Bob Barr) announced the formation of the American Freedom Agenda (AFA), a campaign to restore governmental checks and balances and civil liberties protections under assault by the Bush administration. The same day, the AFA "outlined a legislative package that would bind the current and all future occupants of the White House, irrespective of party affiliation, to restore congressional oversight, personal civil liberties, and governmental checks and balances...."

At the same meeting AFA unveiled a "Freedom Pledge" based on the principles contained in its legislative package, which it planned to issue to all presidential candidates of both parties to sign. It was also revealed that Rep. Ron Paul, who had already announced his candidacy for president, had already signed the "Freedom Pledge." Ron Paul's American Freedom Agenda Act of 2007 closely reflects the AFA's legislative package.

In the meantime, in July a group with a similar name and purpose was launched by some well-known liberals. The group is called the American Freedom Campaign. Its purpose is surprisingly similar to that of the American Freedom Agenda. Its founders include Wes Boyd, co-founder of; David Fenton, William Haseltine, and Naomi Wolf.

Wolf has already strongly endorsed Ron Paul�s American Freedom Agenda Act of 2007 bill:

There are two new organizations that are driving a grassroots push to restore the rule of law: the American Freedom Agenda was started by leaders who are conservative: Bruce Fein, who was a Reagan administration official in the Department of Justice, and others. The American Freedom Campaign was started by progressives. Both groups advance comparable 10 point legislative agendas that would stabilize democracy long enough for us to forestall the worst and regroup for more long-term reparation of the Constitution and the rule of law.... The big news is that this idea can now become a law and a law creates a reality.

On Monday, Rep. Ron Paul, the outsider Republican presidential candidate who has long upheld these values and who was an early voice warning of the grave danger to all of us of these abuses, introduced the AFA's legislative package into Congress.... It is the American Freedom Agenda Act of 2007, and you should read it in its entirety: just as accounts of the recent abuses send chills down your spine, this beautifully argued document feels historic and has the ring of great power to correct great injustice.

Earlier today the John Birch Society sent out an email alert in support of the American Freedom Agenda Act of 2007. The Birch Society has also added "Support the American Freedom Agenda Act of 2007" to the action items under its Freedom Campaign.

Iraq whistleblower Dr Kelly WAS murdered to silence him, says MP

by FIONA BARTON - Oct 20, 2007

Weapons expert Dr David Kelly was assassinated, an MP claims today.

Campaigning politician Norman Baker believes Dr Kelly, who exposed the Government's "sexed-up" Iraq dossier, was killed to stop him making further revelations about the lies that took Britain to war.

He says the murderers may have been anti-Saddam Iraqis, and suggests the crime was covered up by elements within the British establishment to prevent a diplomatic crisis.

The LibDem MP, who gave up his front bench post to carry out his year-long investigation, makes his claims in a book serialised exclusively in the Daily Mail today and next week.

The official Hutton Inquiry into the death of Dr Kelly ruled in 2004 that he slashed one of his wrists with a garden knife and took an overdose after being "outed" as the mole who revealed the flawed argument for invading Iraq.

But Norman Baker is convinced the scientist was murdered.

He says he was told by a secret informant that British police knew about the plot but failed to act in time and that the death was later made to look like a suicide to prevent political and diplomatic turmoil.

The highly-respected MP's personal quest to uncover the truth about Dr Kelly's death was prompted by deep concerns over the circumstances surrounding the apparent suicide.

He - and a group of eminent doctors - were greatly troubled by the evidence presented to Lord Hutton.

They claimed medical evidence proved that the alleged method of suicide - the cutting of the ulnar artery in the wrist and an overdose of co-proxamol painkillers - could not have caused the scientist's death.

Mr Baker said: "The more I examined [Lord Hutton's verdict], the more it became clear to me that Hutton's judgment was faulty and suspect in virtually all important respects."

His findings are today revealed in the first extract from his book The Strange Death of David Kelly. In it, he claims:

• No fingerprints were found on the gardening knife allegedly used by the scientist to cut one of his wrists;

• Only one other person in the whole of the British Isles committed suicide in the same way as the scientist allegedly did in 2003;

• There was an astonishing lack of blood at the scene despite death being officially recorded as due to a severed artery;

• The level of painkillers found in Dr Kelly's stomach was "less than a third" of a normal fatal overdose.

The Lewes MP also suggests that the knife and packs of painkillers found beside Dr Kelly's body were taken from his home in Southmoor, Oxfordshire, during a police search after his death and later planted at the scene.

He tells in his book how he was contacted by "informants" during his "journey into the unknown".

One is alleged to have told him Dr Kelly's death had been "a wet operation, a wet disposal".

Mr Baker explains: "Essentially, it seems to refer to an assassination, perhaps carried out in a hurry."

Another secret contact told him that a group of UK-based Iraqis had "named people who claimed involvement in Dr Kelly's death".

The informant was later the victim of "an horrific attack by an unknown assailant".

The MP, who has repeatedly called for the police to re-open the case, alleges that the scientist had "powerful enemies" because of his work on biological weapons. A colleague of Dr Kelly, Dick Spertzel, America's most senior biological weapons inspector, confirmed to Mr Baker that the scientist was "on an Iraqi hit list".

Mr Baker alleges that opponents of Saddam Hussein feared Dr Kelly would "discredit" them by revealing "misinformation" they had deliberately planted to bolster the case for Britain and America's intervention in Iraq.

The MP claims Kelly's integrity might have "signed his own death warrant".

The book also alleges that British police "had got wind of a possible plan to assassinate Dr Kelly but were too late to prevent his murder taking place".

The MP suggests that the police may have tried to make the killing appear to be a suicide "in the interests of Queen and country" and to prevent any destabilisation of the sensitive relationship between the Allies and Iraq.

Mr Baker adds: "It is all too easy to dismiss so-called conspiracy theories. But history shows us that conspiracies do happen - and that suicide can be staged to cover murderers' tracks.

"All the evidence leads me to believe that this is what happened in the case of Dr Kelly."

The reality of NSPD-51 is almost as bad as the paranoia.

by Ron Rosenbaum - Oct 19, 2007

Oh, god. I'm reluctant to write this particular column. I've been scarred by this kind of story before. I've learned that it's difficult to write about the sources of paranoia without spreading paranoia.

But the subject, NSPD-51—that's National Security Presidential Directive 51—and the attendant explosion of blogospheric paranoia about it deserve attention. Even if you don't believe, as I don't, that NSPD-51 is a blueprint for a coup in the guise of plans for "continuity of government" in the event of a national emergency (such as a terrorist attack during an election campaign). Even if you don't believe, as I don't, that it will be used as a pretext for canceling the upcoming presidential election and preserving "continuity" of this administration in office.

Nonetheless, the specifics of the directive are a matter of legitimate concern that has not been given the urgent and sustained attention it deserves by Congress or the mainstream media.

I first became aware of the extent of the paranoia when I read the following comment, which was appended to an essay Naomi Wolf wrote for the Huffington Post:

Scenario for 2008: Sometime in middle to late summer, perhaps early fall, a "terrorist attack," or a natural disaster occurs, allowing Bush to suspend the elections in the name of "national security," and take the control of the government via the "National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD 51" and "Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD-20," released by the WH May 9th of this year. He could remain in control as long as he wanted. Now, wouldn't THAT be an interesting nightmare?

Crazy, right? Well after I read it I Googled "NSPD-51" and got something like 36,000 hits. (HSPD-20 is essentially the same directive under a different title.) Most of the ones I sampled elaborated on the "nightmare" coup scenario above. Of course, Google hits are not evidence of the facts, only of the temper of the times, and the times are seething with paranoia.

But that doesn't mean NSPD-51 doesn't deserve careful scrutiny. Consider that an election-eve al-Qaida attack, for instance, is not inconceivable. What if a nuclear device goes off in New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles the weekend before the election and a warning is issued that the other two cities will be hit on Election Day?

Who will decide whether the elections in those heavily Democratic states should be put off or whether the entire election should be postponed until ... when? Until the bodies are cleared, the gamma radiation has subsided? Just how wise and fair—and constitutional—are the brand-new mechanisms for "continuity of government" that NSPD-51 has put into effect with almost no prior and little subsequent discussion last May?

And there's another paranoia-inducing element of the story: The existence of "classified continuity annexes" whose content has been kept secret even from the House Committee on Homeland Security. A troubling aspect of the story that, so far as I know, only one mainstream media reporter, Jeff Kosseff of the Portland Oregonian, has pursued.

As it happens, I had a troubling experience in the past writing about paranoid fears that an unpopular president will cancel a presidential election. The experience helped turn me into a conspiracy theory skeptic, so let me briefly recount that incident—which, curiously enough, also involved the Portland Oregonian—so you'll understand the perspective I bring to the question.

Return with me to 1970, another moment of seething paranoia two years before Richard Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign, before Watergate was even a gleam in Gordon Liddy's eyes. A time of war and of an increasingly frustrated and suspicious anti-war movement. It was my first year as a reporter, and the whole episode started with a cab driver from Staten Island.

As historian and frequent Slate contributor David Greenberg recounts it in his thoughtful book Nixon's Shadow, "the rumor [that Nixon had a secret plan to cancel the '72 presidential election] first appeared in print on April 5 in the Portland Oregonian, the Staten Island Advance and other Newhouse-owned newspapers. According to the item, the administration had asked the RAND Corporation ... to study whether 'rebellious factions using force or bomb threats would make it unsafe to conduct an election' and how the president might respond. Ron Rosenbaum, a reporter from the Village Voice, heard about the article from a Staten Island cab driver and investigated. He reported in The Voice on April 16 that RAND and the administration denied that any such study existed, but then playfully pointed out that they would surely deny it if it were true. Rosenbaum added that the country would just have to wait until 1972 to see."

Lesson here: Don't get too "playful" when writing about conspiracy theories. The problem with being "playful" back then was that much of the anti-war movement read the Voice at the time, and my story ignited a firestorm of paranoia. Soon there were "documents" of dubious authenticity circulating that purported to be RAND memos outlining plans to round up and lock up leaders of the anti-war movement. Eventually Pat Moynihan, then a Nixon consigliere, thundered against the rumor as an example of the intrusion of irrationality into politics.

The thing is, there's nothing wrong with planning for "continuity of government," especially in the nuclear age. Planning for continuity doesn't necessarily mean plotting a coup, although that's the way my story was read and spread. (Of course, meanwhile—proving that reality can outrun paranoia—the Nixon administration was planning to subvert the election, anyway, with the assortment of illegal actions and dirty tricks that became known as Watergate.)

Still, there's nothing I feel the need to apologize about for pursuing that story then (or this one now). Indeed, it was marginally possible back then, when the anti-war movement had become massive and some were turning to violence, that the RAND Corp. might have been involved in planning how to maintain "continuity" in the face of violent disruptions.

But the fact that the extreme worst-case scenario didn't happen in 1972 (no coup attempt) left one big question unanswered—and NSPD-51 illustrates it still hasn't been settled in any satisfactory way: What are the contingency plans for holding or postponing a national election in the midst of a traumatic national emergency?

I've studied the actual presidential directive, which you can find here.

In many respects, it's innocuous. It doesn't, for instance, tamper with the procedures for presidential succession in case, say, the chief executive and vice president are killed. And there's a value to requiring that every government agency prepare a plan to deal with a catastrophe.

But consider provision 2E of the directive:

"Enduring Constitutional Government," or "ECG," means a cooperative effort among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Federal Government, coordinated by the President, as a matter of comity with respect to the legislative and judicial branches and with proper respect for the constitutional separation of powers among the branches, to preserve the constitutional framework under which the Nation is governed and the capability of all three branches of government to execute constitutional responsibilities and provide for orderly succession, appropriate transition of leadership, and interoperability and support of the National Essential Functions during a catastrophic emergency. (Italics mine.)

Do you see those five weasel words "as a matter of comity"? Just what elements of the legislative and judicial branches will be allowed to participate in "executing constitutional responsibilities" and "providing for orderly succession [and] appropriate transfer of leadership"?

In other words, who gets to call the shots? What does comity mean in this context? Informally, it means good-natured, good-faith camaraderie. In its jurisprudential sense, the American Heritage Dictionary defines it as "the principle by which the courts of one jurisdiction may accede or give effect to the laws or decisions of another."

In other words, in the weasel-speak of NSPD-51, it implies that one or more branches of the government will have to cede power to another. And since everything is to be "coordinated by the president," I'm guessing that the members of the Supreme Court left alive and some congressional leaders left alive (How chosen? What party balance?) will in effect have to sit around a big conference table and do a lot of "ceding" to the executive.

And given the current state of relations between Congress and the executive, such comity will not necessarily translate into camaraderie.

If it comes down to whether to pull the nuclear trigger, who will get to vote, and how large a majority will be required to launch?

Comity—that innocent-sounding word—could well turn out to be the excuse for junking those pesky checks and balances the Founding Fathers seemed so obsessed with. For an indeterminate period of time.

The document is also hazy on when our new continuity policies will be set in motion. The directive tells us that they'll kick in whenever the nation faces a "catastrophic emergency." But look how vaguely "catastrophic emergency" is first defined:

"Catastrophic Emergency" means any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions.

These are profoundly, potentially calamitously, broad terms. Who defines what is extraordinary? Who defines how severe severely is? Is there any procedure to challenge the junking of constitutional government?

Worse, "catastrophic emergency"—woefully vague to start out with—is later expanded to include even "localized acts of nature and accidents" as well as "technological or attack-related" emergencies.

In other words, even if you don't believe the most sinister paranoid coup theories, the document does nothing to allay one's fears that it could be used in a sinister way.

I wish I did, but I see nothing in the document to prevent even a "localized" forest fire or hurricane from giving the president the right to throw long-established constitutional government out the window, institute a number of unspecified continuity policies, and run the country with the guidance of the "National Continuity Coordinator" and with the "Continuity Policy Coordination Committee" for as long as the president sees fit.

This order has been issued by executive fiat and has not been subjected to any public examination by the other two branches, which have behaved in a supine way that suggests how they'll behave when comity time arrives and urgent decisions on the fate of the nation and perhaps the world (nuclear retaliation being what it is) need to be made immediately.

The fact that Congress has not scrutinized and challenged the potential here for an emergency-situation power grab is scandalous, unacceptable.

Let Congress pass a law posthaste nullifying the directive, and then when the executive nullifies the nullification, challenge it in the courts. I can't believe even this Supreme Court, with its deference to executive power, could take this clownishly drafted document seriously.

It's not that others haven't noticed the problem. The Wikipedia entry on NSPD-51, for instance, cites rational warnings against it from both right and left:

Conservative activist Jerome Corsi and Marjorie Cohn of the [left wing] National Lawyers Guild have interpreted this as a break from Constitutional law in that the three branches of government are equal, with no single branch coordinating the others. … The directive does not specify whose responsibility it would be to either declare a catastrophic emergency or declare it over.

Good point. And then there are the final two provisions of the NSPD, which mysteriously refer to unseen secret "annexes" to the directive. Needless to say, if what they've made public is so shameless in its disregard for the Constitution, the following two sections on secret provisions don't allay suspicion:

(23) Annex A and the classified Continuity Annexes, attached hereto, are hereby incorporated into and made a part of this directive.

(24) Security. This directive and the information contained herein shall be protected from unauthorized disclosure, provided that, except for Annex A, the Annexes attached to this directive are classified and shall be accorded appropriate handling, consistent with applicable Executive Orders.

So, how many secret annexes are there in addition to "annex A," and what kinds of things do they say that even the paranoia-inducing public document can't include?

Here's where Jeff Kosseff of the Portland Oregonian comes in. In an e-mail to me, he said he believed he was the first mainstream media reporter to pursue the classified annex issue (although Charles Savage reported on the disturbing public aspects of the directive itself in the Boston Globe in May).

Kosseff told me he got onto the story when Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio expressed puzzlement that he was having trouble seeing what was in the classified "annexes." DeFazio was a member of the homeland security committee and cleared to read classified material in a supersecure "bubble room" designed to prevent any kind of surveillance. But DeFazio's initial request was, as Kosseff reported, "denied" by the White House, which cited "national security concerns."

DeFazio said this was the first time he had been denied access to classified documents. He brought in the chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, Bennie Thompson, and the chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Management, Investigation and Oversight, Chris Carney, to back his request for access to the classified annexes.

In a phone conversation, Jeff Kosseff told me the latest development. In August, these requests were denied as well. On grounds of "national security."

I don't want to be alarmist, I have no evidence there's a coup brewing. But I think the American people and their congressional reps deserve some say in how they will be ruled when the ordinary rules go out the window in a national emergency. For one thing, what will happen to the Bill of Rights' guarantees of individual liberty and the courts that are supposed to enforce them?

If you ask me, setting aside any paranoid fantasies, it is clear on the most basic level—read it yourself—that NSPD-51 is the creation of irresponsible incompetents, bulls in the china shop of our constitutional framework. It is a recipe for disaster. For a catastrophe of governance that would match whatever physical catastrophe it followed and threaten the re-establishment of constitutional democracy. It would make the partisan warfare over the 2000 election in Florida seem like child's play. We might recover from a disaster but we might never recover from the "continuity coordination" that followed, "coordination" that could forever undermine any faith in the actual continuity of constitutional liberty in America since it would put it at the mercy of any president who wants to "coordinate continuity" rather than govern legally.

I think it's urgent that we bring these questions out of the shadows of phony comity. I'd urge readers to call or e-mail their members of Congress and senators now. Call for an emergency joint congressional hearing to end this farce, give us some transparency about what our government will do if we suffer another 9/11. Let all branches of government participate in the attempt to reach some consensus on rational and effective continuity planning. Something more specific and sophisticated than the clumsy but dangerously Orwellian "Continuity Coordination Committee."

A Question for Israelis

by William Pfaff - Oct 19, 2007

Is it possible to say something new about the present Israel-Palestinian stalemate? Let me try, by raising a question that seems completely, even resolutely, ignored -- or repressed, in its Freudian signification – in Israeli appreciations of the situation.

The question is this: suppose that Israel is given all that its government seems to want. No Palestinian state, Israel continues colonization, annexing more of the Palestinian territories, or even all of them.

What then? What will happen to the Palestinians in the years ahead? What would the land of Israel, and what now are the Palestinian territories, look like in 50 years?

A former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Dore Gold, recently published a well-argued defense of Israel’s position with respect to the Palestinians. The International Herald Tribune, October 17, 2007.]

He wrote in response to the recent book by John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard, attacking the influence of the U.S. Israel lobby on American foreign policy and political life.

He wrote that “Israelis gave peace a chance and paid a huge price; they agreed in the 1993 Oslo Accords to bringing Yasser Arafat and his exile leadership from Tunis to the West Bank and Gaza, and in return got a spate of suicide bombing attacks that emanated from the very cities Israel turned over to the PLO.

He continued: “Over a thousand Israelis were killed. In 2005, Israel nonetheless unilaterally pulled out of the Gaxa Strip, hoping that the Palestinians and the international community would help create a ‘Dubai on the Mediterranean.’ Instead, in early 2006 Hamas won the Palestinian elections. It intensified the rocket attacks on southern Israel and Gaza came to resemble Mogadishu. Why should Israel feel a moral burden under these circumstances.”

Fine. Whatever the merits of the argument – and the Palestinians would make a different one -- it deals with the past. The question is what is to be done now. Forming a new state for the Palestinians is the solution that is being attempted. This is why Condoleezza Rice has made seven visits to Israel this year. She wishes to bring the parties to a meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, next month, to advance the creation of such a state.

It is hard to expect much to result from this initiative, since Israel gives no evidence of wishing to see progress in the matter. The government’s announcement of still another seizure of Palestinian land near Jerusalem a few days before Secretary Rice’s arrival seemed a deliberate slap in her face.

One must ask the Israeli government the following question. Suppose, as is probable, that no American administration, now or later, puts any obstacle in the way of whatever you want to do. Suppose there were no effective international pressures on you to stop colonization and land seizures. Suppose that no Palestinian state is created. What are you going to do about the Palestinians?

Israel’s present treatment of the Palestinian population has caused the UN’s representative on the so-called “Quartet” to recommend to UN Headquarters that the UN withdraw from that body (irrelevant as the Quartet has proven). There are calls in Europe for the EU to withdraw from the Quartet as well, for the same reason.

A former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, greatly respected for his humanitarian work and his freedom from the intolerant partisanship of current American politics, has been moved to write a book protesting what he describes as the conditions of “apartheid” in which Israel holds the Palestinians.

American opinion is shifting. The Walt-Mearsheimer book had had an effect. The deliberate Israeli sinking of the USS Liberty in 1967 has been taken up again in the mainstream press. War in Iraq and the possibility of attack on Iran has increased popular concern about Israeli influence on American policy.

Israeli human rights groups have denounced the treatment of the Palestinians, and recently have accused the Israeli authorities of trying to force Palestinians needing emergency medical help in Israeli hospitals to collaborate with Israel’s security services as a condition for treatment.

How long can this continue, even as a purely practical problem of physical control of a hostile population? The Palestinian population continues to grow more rapidly than Israel’s, and the average age grows younger, producing cohorts of young people who are politically radicalized, ready to turn again to violence to be free of these conditions of life. There are certain to be new Palestinian uprisings.

In international law, Israel is responsible for these people. What methods of permanent control does it envisage? There are some in Israel who hope their misery will force the Palestinians to abandon the territories. But to go where? In what conditions, and under what compulsion?

Is sustained control of a foreign population with such measures a politically supportable solution for the Israelis themselves, in view of the Jewish people’s own long experience of discrimination and suffering?

I am not asking this for polemical purposes. I am asking a practical question. What is Israel going to do with these people? The problem exists, and however convenient to ignore today, it will have to answered.

Shared Values Revisited

Shared Values Revisited - A Case Study in the Limits of Propaganda

by SHELDON RAMPTON - Oct 19, 2007

I received a request recently from a university professor who teaches a course about media literacy. She was wondering if I could help her find videos of the "Shared Values" television ads that the U.S. Department of State produced to improve the image of the United States in Muslim countries shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, so she could show them to her students.

I was a bit surprised to realize that the ads are fairly hard to locate online, but after some searching, we were able to find copies. To ensure that they will remain available, I uploaded the videos to two popular internet repositories: YouTube, where people can easily find them and drop them into their own web pages; and the Internet Archive, which should ensure that they survive for posterity.

Twenty or fifty years from now, scholars wishing to understanding the relationship between the United States and the rest of the world will certainly be interested in studying the "Shared Values" campaign. As my professor friend wrote back after finding the videos, "The ads are a great teaching tool about propaganda." Like most propaganda, they tell us a great deal about how the propagandists see themselves as well as how they want to be perceived by others.
"Shared Values" was part of a public relations campaign launched by Charlotte Beers, a former Madison Avenue advertising executive who was appointed by Colin Powell as U.S. Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and asked to help "rebrand" the United States to improve its image in Muslim countries.

In practice, the Shared Values campaign ran up against rising Muslim anger following the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and then Iraq. As we have pointed out on this website on numerous occasions, the U.S. image has plummeted internationally - especially among Muslims. Here is how John Stauber and I analyzed Charlotte Beers and her rebranding effort in our 2003 book, Weapons of Mass Deception:

Dubbed a "Muslim-as-Apple-Pie" campaign by the New York Times, the "Shared Values" videos featured photogenic Muslim-Americans playing with their children and going about their jobs. One TV commercial showed Rawia Ismail, a Lebanese-born schoolteacher who now lives in Toledo, Ohio. Her head covered with an Islamic scarf, Ismail was shown with her smiling children in her all-American kitchen, at a school softball game, and extolling American values as she taught her class. "I didn't see any prejudice anywhere in my neighborhood after September 11," she said.

The problem with these messages is not that they were necessarily false. The problem is that, like the rest of Charlotte's web, "Shared Values" avoided discussing the issues at the core of Muslim resentment of the United States-the Palestinian/Israel conflict and the history of U.S. intervention in the region. "We know that there's religious freedom in America, and we like that. What we're angry about is the arrogant behavior of the U.S. in the rest of the world," said Ahmad Imron, an economics student in Indonesia after watching one of the "Shared Values" TV ads.

Viewed today, the Shared Values campaign, and even our critique of it, looks rather quaint and naive. Since John and I wrote those words, America's reputation has been further eroded by the ongoing violence in Iraq and by photographs of America soldiers gleefully torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. The idea that the United States is a tolerant nation has been undermined by the behavior of the war's strongest supporters, as pro-war columnists like Michelle Malkin and blogs like Little Green Footballs regularly refer to Arabs and Muslims as "vermin" in need of "sterilization," while campaigning for the "free speech" of U.S. soldiers who compose humorous songs about killing Iraqis, or rallying to the defense of a student after his arrest for stealing stealing copies of the Koran and flushing them down toilets.

Does Propaganda Work?

After reviewing opinion polls that found steep declines in America's public image in every Muslim country surveyed, John and I concluded in Weapons of Mass Deception that the Shared Values campaign was an "abject failure." Most observers at the time agreed. The TV ads were controversial in the countries where they aired, and government-run channels in Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan flatly refused to run them at all. Less than a month after the launch of "Shared Values," the State Department abruptly suspended it. "Islamic opinion is influenced more by what the U.S. does than by anything it can say," commented an advertising executive in the Wall Street Journal. Charlotte Beers resigned two weeks before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and comments at O'Dwyer's, a leading public relations industry trade publication, greeted her departure with cries of "good riddance" and dismissive comments about her competence.

More recently, a couple of communications professors, Jami Fullerton and Alice Kendrick, have argued that the Shared Values ads were more effective than people realized. Fullerton and Kendrick reached their conclusions by conducting a survey that involved showing the ads to a test audience of university students in London and surveying their reactions. They first announced their findings in 2004, prompting a blistering critique from journalism professor Lawrence Pintak, who pointed out that only six of the 105 students surveyed were even Muslims.

Since Pintak wrote his critique, Fullerton and Kendrick have attempted to bolster their research by conducting a second survey in London and additional surveys in Singapore and Cairo. They have published their findings in a book, titled Advertising's War on Terrorism: The Story of the U.S. State Department's Shared Values Initiative. However, much of the substance of Pintak's criticism still applies. For one thing, all of their surveys involved small samples of students at international universities. (Can the reactions of English-speaking students at American University in Cairo really predict how the rest of the Muslim world will respond to the ads?) As one book review noted,

The two London samples included 5.8% and 17% Muslims respectively, and the Singapore sample 13% Muslims. Muslims were the largest group (82%) in the Egyptian sample but the total number of participants in that case was only 39, potentially compromising the validity of the findings.

Beyond these methodological concerns, moreover, Pintak correctly observed that "the whole issue of the effectiveness of the commercials is actually beside the point." Whatever positive impression the ads might have generated in people who viewed them was countered by the generally negative public outcry throughout the Muslim world about the very fact that they were being broadcast, and the Fullerton/Kendrick survey had no way of measuring this factor. More importantly still, any positive effects of the ads have been vastly outweighed by the negative attitudes that the U.S. has created toward itself through its invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Monologue About Dialogue

Regardless of whether the Shared Values ads were effective, they were in any case dishonest. Each "Shared Values" video ended with a tag line that said, "Presented by the Council of American Muslims for Understanding ... and the American people." But although "the American people" supposedly co-sponsored the ads, few Americans had ever heard of the Council of American Muslims for Understanding (CAMU). This is because CAMU was actually a PR front group, created and funded by the U.S. State Department.

Front groups are an example of a PR tactic known as the "third party technique," in which the sponsor of a message seeks to put their words in someone else's mouth. Usually this is done because the sponsor thinks the message will seem more credible if someone else says it. Here is how John and I described CAMU in Weapons of Mass Deception:

In another effort to achieve "third party authenticity," a group called the Council of American Muslims for Understanding (CAMU) launched its own web site, called "It will be government-funded, but it's not government-founded. I'd like to say we founded it," said the group's chairman, Malik Hasan, who nonetheless admitted that the idea for CAMU began with the State Department. Visitors to the website, whose declared mission was "bringing people and cultures together through dialogue," were invited to send away for a free copy of "Muslim Life in America," view the stories of Rawia Ismail and the others profiled in the "Shared Values" TV commercials, or to "tell us your story" by sending an e-mail.

The striking thing about the CAMU web site, however, is how little real dialogue it enabled. This is, after all, the twenty-first century. Internet newsgroups, web forums, email listservs and even web cams have long ago perfected the technologies that enable real dialogue to occur in real time between people throughout the world. The absence of opportunities for genuine dialogue may explain why has been irrelevant to most people seeking information about U.S.-Muslim relations. A Google search on April 8, 2003 found only 58 other web pages that link to OpenDialogue, most of which were sites run by U.S. embassies or other government agencies. For comparison's sake, there were 2,200 links to, a site that discusses world affairs from a Muslim point of view.

After the Shared Values campaign ended, CAMU's government funding dried up, and the group quietly disappeared, as did its website. When I visited just now, I found a commercial spam site with popup ads that crashed my web browser. You can still find a copy of the original website, however, at the Internet Archive. On its "questions and answers" page, CAMU described itself as "a private, non-profit, non-partisan and non-political organization."

This, of course, is deliberate deception. An organization created by the U.S. State Department is certainly not "private," and it is only "non-political" if we interpret that term in the narrow sense of "not involved in electoral politics." (Malik Hasan, its chairman, is a wealthy Republican activist who subsequently became a founding member of "Muslims for Bush.")

One of the hallmarks of propaganda is that its practitioners are wholly preoccupied with the question of whether their message "works" and are indifferent to the question of whether their message is "true." At the risk of sounding like a moralist and scold, I believe that honesty is important in communications, even if dishonest messages sometimes "produce the results we want." This, however, is a point that Fullerton and Kendrick do not seem to have considered in their analysis.

Ultimately, though, I think propaganda fails even the "effectiveness" test. Propaganda is the language through which power expresses itself. By its very nature, it is incapable of sustaining the sort of dialogue that creates genuine understanding between different cultures. If Americans truly wish to be respected and appreciated by the rest of the world, we have to find other ways of communicating.

A Tale of Two Atrocities

by RAHUL MAHAJAN -Oct 19, 2007

The recent public outrage over the conduct of Blackwater Security mercenaries in Iraq, after an unprovoked massacre of at least 17 Iraqi civilians in western Baghdad has been heartening; unfortunately, there has been virtually no attention a far more important concurrent development -- the ongoing collapse of the military prosecution in the Haditha massacre.

Paul Bremer's decision at the eleventh hour before his departure in June 2004 to set all private contractors in Iraq above the law (they are not subject to Iraqi law, U.S. military law, or U.S. civilian law) stands out as one of the more cynical decisions of a war that has redefined cynicism, and attention to that fact is a positive development.

At the same time, however, all the attention is being focused on an extremely minor issue. The U.S. military has possibly killed more civilians in a single incident than all the mercenary companies operating in Iraq in the last several years. According to Iraq Body Count, the first U.S. Marine assault on Fallujah in April 2004, claimed the lives of at least 600 Iraqi civilians, out of a total of at least 800 people.

That number is actually cited in a report by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform regarding Blackwater, but its implications are hardly appreciated.

According to the same report, since January 1, 2005, Blackwater has been involved in 195 shooting incidents -- other mercenary companies all together account for a similar number.

This is the equivalent of a couple of days' worth of shooting incidents for the U.S. military in Iraq. Not only are there more of them than there are of private mercenaries (roughly three times the number), mercenaries do not go on offensive operations or do routine patrolling. Those are the activities most likely to lead to shooting.

Even if U.S. soldiers are for the most part genuinely more careful about rules of engagement, the far greater volume of violent incidents means that it is actually the conduct of the U.S. military, not of mercenaries, that is the problem.

In that regard, consider the evolution of the prosecution for the Haditha massacre, one of the most iconic incidents of atrocity by the U.S. military.

The facts that are not in dispute are these: On November 19, 2005, after an IED attack that killed one of them, Marines from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment killed 24 people. The first killed were five men in a car who stopped, got out, and then were mown down. Afterwards, Marines entered a house and killed 15 civilians, including three women and seven children, ranging in age from 2 to 13.

In another house, four brothers, all adults, were killed, three of them with handgun shots to the head. Lance Corporal Justin Sharratt, the killer, said that they were armed and preparing to attack.

The Marines lied about what happened, indicating at first that there had been a firefight with insurgents and the others had been caught in the crossfire.

A series of higher-ranking officers didn't bother to investigate.

Court-martial hearings did not begin until this summer, almost two years after the incident.

Initially, 8 men were charged: Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, Sgt. Sanick Dela Cruz, Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt, and Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum, for unpremeditated murder, and Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, Capt. Lucas McConnell, Capt. Randy Stone, and 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson, for dereliction of duty and a series of more minor charges relating to not investigating or to covering up.

The hearings have been a circus. First of all, they were held in Camp Pendleton, California, rather than in Iraq, so the Iraqis who witnessed the events couldn't testify. Second, the families of the victims refused requests by military interrogators to exhume the bodies for forensic evidence. Third, Lt. Col. Paul Ware, who presided over the hearings, has been both excessively sympathetic to the defendants and excessively concerned with the effect that the verdicts will have on future Marine operations. Fourth, some rather odd plea bargains have been made.

Most recently, Ware recommended that all charges of murder (originally 13 counts) against Wuterich be dropped and replaced with charges of negligent homicide only for seven of the murdered women and children (many of them shot in their beds) -- and has added that he doesn't think Wuterich would be convicted on those charges either.

According to the testimony of fellow Marines, a week before the incident, Wuterich said that if something like that happened, they should kill everyone in the vicinity. Wuterich himself admitted to ordering his men breaking into the houses to "shoot first and ask questions later." And, contrary to Wuterich's claim that the first five men were running away after they got out of the car, Dela Cruz testified that the men "were just standing, looking around, had hands up."

Dela Cruz was given immunity for his testimony, but he may have deliberately made a hash of it, contradicting himself and at one time admitting that he was lying; events conspired nicely to get him and Wuterich both off.

Earlier, Ware recommended dropping all charges against Sharratt, accepting his claim that the execution-style killings of the three men shot in the head occurred in self-defense in the heat of combat. He also wanted charges dropped on Tatum, even though fellow Marine Lance Cpl. Humberto Mendoza testified that Tatum had ordered him to shoot the seven women and children, even after being informed of their identity and that they posed no threat.

Charges were dropped against the two captains, Grayson is still under investigation, and Ware recommended that Chessani be charged with dereliction of duty, although with none of the actual murderers on trial, apparently, he was derelict in investigating nothing.

Major General Eldon Bargewell's scathing outside report on the incident, which, though unclassified, has not been publicly released because of the ongoing hearings, found that "All levels of command tended to view civilian casualties, even in significant numbers, as routine and as the natural and intended result of insurgent tactics," adding, "Statements made by the chain of command during interviews for this investigation, taken as a whole, suggest that Iraqi civilian lives are not as important as U.S. lives, their deaths are just the cost of doing business, and that the Marines need to get 'the job done' no matter what it takes." He also found that found that "virtually no inquiry at any level of command was conducted," that officers looked at reports of civilian casualties as pro-insurgent propaganda to suppress and spin, and that reports filed by senior officers were "forgotten once transmitted."

Even so, no higher officers faced criminal charges; three were reprimanded.

Of course, not every court-martial in the Iraq war has been such a farce. The men who raped 14-year-old Abeer Hamza in Mahmudiyah, killed her family, then killed her and set her corpse on fire got severe sentences. In the Hamdaniyah case, where a squad of Marines murdered an innocent man and then planted a shovel on him to suggest that he was placing an IED, Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins was actually sentenced to 15 years, although it remains to be seen if he will serve his time; most of his accomplices got slaps on the wrist and are already out of jail.

The Haditha case is different from the others. It is not essential to U.S. military strategy in Iraq to leave soldiers free to rape and murder little girls or even to murder the wrong man when you're looking for insurgents; in fact, the military has an interest in discouraging such behavior. Aggressive house raids in which soldiers feel free to "shoot first and ask questions later," have been, however, fundamental to U.S. practice in Iraq; even Lt. Col. Ware, departing from his ostensible role as prosecutor, expressed concern about the chilling effect convictions would have on Marines operating in Iraq.

Overall, the record of accountability for atrocities committed by U.S. soldiers is pathetic. Soldiers who kill prisoners in custody routinely get administrative punishment; missing a troop movement gets a court-martial, but murdering a helpless man rarely does. In the particularly brutal killing of two young men in Bagram prison, in which soldiers testified that they used to assault one of them, Dilawar, a 22-year-old taxi driver, just because they liked to hear him scream "Allah!" in pain, nobody was charged with murder, on the incredibly specious reasoning that, since 27 different people used to enjoy torturing him, there was no way to determine which "unlawful knee strike" caused him to die. Try using that defense if you're a young black kid holding up a 7-11 when one of your accomplices shoots the clerk. Contractors may be subject to no law, but the law soldiers are subject to is rarely much better than nothing.

During the course of this trial, we learned that Marine rules of engagement allowed them to shoot in the back unarmed people running away from the scene of a car bomb explosion, even if there was no reason to connect them with the attack. We learned that in the second assault on Fallujah (in November 2004), approved procedure was to "clear" rooms by tossing in fragmentation grenades blind -- even though initial estimates were that perhaps as many as 50,000 civilians remained in the town -- and that many Marines used the same technique afterward in other areas. We learned about the routine practice of dead-checking -- if a man is wounded, instead of offering him medical aid, shoot him again, on the principle that "If somebody is worth shooting once, they're worth shooting twice." One of the Marines testified in the hearings that they were taught this practice in boot camp.

A sleepwalking nation paid little attention to these revelations. When future histories of the war are written, it will probably accept statements that the hearings proved the Haditha massacre was a hoax.

But we will all remain united in righteous indignation against peripheral targets.

WWIII – Bring It On

by Gordon Prather - Oct 20, 2007

Five years ago, in a new National Security Statement, President Bush announced that;

"The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security.

"The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction – and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack.

"To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively."

On August 26, 2002, in a major address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vice-President Cheney developed the theme.

"On the nuclear question, many of you will recall that Saddam's nuclear ambitions suffered a severe setback in 1981 when the Israelis bombed the Osirak reactor."

Nuclear ambitions? The Israelis launched a "pre-emptive" attack on a small French-built research reactor – safeguarded by the International Atomic Energy Agency – because of their assessment of Saddam's "nuclear ambitions"?

The UN Security Council "strongly condemned" the Israeli attack as constituting a clear violation of the UN Charter, and "a serious threat to the entire IAEA safeguards regime, which is the foundation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty."

Cheney continues;

"But we now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Among other sources, we've gotten this from the firsthand testimony of defectors -- including Saddam's own son-in-law, who was subsequently murdered at Saddam's direction."

Cheney lied. Contrarily, Saddam's son-in-law had provided the CIA documentary evidence in 1995 that all of Saddam's "weapons of mass destruction" and their means of production had been destroyed, either in the Gulf War or on Saddam's orders in the immediate aftermath. And UN inspectors had since confirmed that Saddam had made no effort to reconstruct them.

Nevertheless, quoth Cheney,

"Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon."

From the Tooth Fairy?

"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.

There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us. And there is no doubt that his aggressive regional ambitions will lead him into future confrontations with his neighbors – confrontations that will involve both the weapons he has today, and the ones he will continue to develop with his oil wealth."

How to thwart Saddam's alleged "aggressive regional ambitions"?

Well, how about launching a preventive attack, depriving him of ambitions – as well as "his oil wealth"?

Okay, but in the six months it took Bush to get the necessary invasion force amassed on Iraqi borders, those pesky UN inspectors had reentered Iraq and were reporting to the Security Council that Cheney was wrong – the Tooth Fairy had not supplied Saddam any nuclear weapons after all.


Worse still, China and Russia had made it clear to Bush that the UN Security Council Resolution [1441] they had allowed to pass did not authorize the use of force against Iraq. Furthermore, they would not allow any resolution to pass that did.

Nevertheless, Bush launched his war of aggression against Iraq, anyway.

Back in 2002, all the while he was preparing to invade and occupy Iraq, Bush insisted he wanted a "diplomatic" solution to the alleged Iraqi nuke threat.

And since 2003 Bush has been insisting that he wants a "diplomatic" solution to the alleged Iranian nuke threat.

The problem is that all Iranian nuclear programs were – and are – subject to IAEA Safeguards and Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei keeps reporting that "all the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities."

In late 2004, Iran voluntarily entered into negotiations with the British, French, and Germans [E3], who purported to be negotiating on behalf of the European Union. Iran voluntarily suspended for the duration of the negotiations all uranium-enrichment activities.

The negotiations were undertaken by the Iranians in the hope they could obtain "objective guarantees" that the EU would defy the United States, would re-establish normal diplomatic and trade relations, and would, inter alia, respect both Iran's "inalienable" rights and European obligations under the NPT.

Iranian officials made it clear (a) at the IAEA Board of Governors meetings in March and June, (b) at the Seventh Review Conference of the Treaty in April, and (c) in their Note Verbale to the IAEA of August 1st, 2005, that any attempt by the EU/E3 to turn their voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment activities into a cessation or long term suspension would be "incompatible with the letter and spirit of the Paris Agreement and therefore unacceptable to Iran."

But that is exactly what Bush has been attempting to do – using the strong-arm tactics he terms "diplomacy" – ever since, denying Iran its "inalienable rights," corrupting, in the process, the IAEA Board of Governors and the UN Security Council, itself.

Up until now the Russians and the Chinese have limited themselves to making it clear that failure by the Iranians to fully comply with the resolutions of the IAEA Board or Security Council could not be used by Bush as a pretext to launch another war of aggression.

Then, last week, Iran hosted a "summit" of leaders of the Caspian Sea littoral states – Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Iran.

Russian President Putin met with Iranian President Ahmadinejad, and afterwards declared that "Iran is an important regional and global power." Putin also said that he had seen no evidence that Iran was pursuing a nuclear weapons program and announced that Russia would go ahead and complete the Iranian nuclear power plant at Bushehr.

The summit, itself, resulted in a number of "milestone" agreements, including one prohibiting other countries – such as the United States – from using territory or facilities of one or more Caspian Sea littoral states for attacks on another "in any circumstances," and another "disallowing" the passage on the Caspian Sea of any ship not flying the national flag of a littoral state.

Bush's promptly convened an unusually lengthy press conference, in which to get off zingers like this one.

"We've got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel."

"So I've told people that, if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."

So, if Bush is to be believed, he's recently told Putin that he is willing to start World War III, not because Iran allegedly has nukes with which to allegedly attack Israel, or not because Iran has the capability of making the material to make nukes with which to allegedly attack Israel, or not even because Iran allegedly wants to make nukes with which to allegedly attack Israel. Now all it takes to start WWIII is some Iranians knowing how to make a nuke.

Well, since many Iranians have access to the internet, WWIII – bring it on!

Bush's Pentagon Papers: The Urge to Confess

by Tom Engelhardt - Oct 20, 2007

They can't help themselves. They want to confess.

How else to explain the torture memorandums that continue to flow out of the inner sancta of this administration, the most recent of which were evidently leaked to the New York Times. Those two, from the Alberto Gonzales Justice Department, were written in 2005 and recommitted the administration to the torture techniques it had been pushing for years. As the Times noted, the first of those memorandums, from February of that year, was "an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency." The second "secret opinion" was issued as Congress moved to outlaw "cruel, inhuman, and degrading" treatment (not that such acts weren't already against U.S. and international law). It brazenly "declared that none of the C.I.A. interrogation methods violated that standard"; and, the Times assured us, "the 2005 Justice Department opinions remain in effect, and their legal conclusions have been confirmed by several more recent memorandums."

All of these memorandums, in turn, were written years after John Yoo's infamous "torture memo" of August 2002 and a host of other grim documents on detention, torture, and interrogation had already been leaked to the public, along with graphic FBI emailed observations of torture and abuse at Guantánamo, those "screen savers" from Abu Ghraib, and so much other incriminating evidence. In other words, in early 2005 when that endorsement of "the harshest interrogation techniques" was being written, its authors could hardly have avoided knowing that it, too, would someday become part of the public record.

But, it seems, they couldn't help themselves. Torture, along with repetitious, pretzled "legal" justifications for doing so, were bones that administration officials – from the President, Vice President, and Secretary of Defense on down – just couldn't resist gnawing on again and again. So, what we're dealing with is an obsession, a fantasy of empowerment, utterly irrational in its intensity, that's gripped this administration. None of the predictable we're shocked! we're shocked! editorial responses to the Times latest revelations begin to account for this.

Torture as the Royal Road to Commander-in-Chief Power

So let's back up a moment and consider the nature of the torture controversy in these last years. In a sense, the Bush administration has confronted a strange policy conundrum. Its compulsive urge to possess the power to detain without oversight and to wield torture as a tool of interrogation has led it, however unexpectedly, into what can only be called a confessional stance. The result has been what it feared most: the creation of an exhausting, if not exhaustive, public record of the criminal inner thinking of the most secretive administration in our history.

Let's recall that, in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, the administration's top officials had an overpowering urge to "take the gloves off" (instructions sent from Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's office directly to the Afghan battlefield), to "unshackle" the CIA. They were in a rush to release a commander-in-chief "unitary executive," untrammeled by the restrictions they associated with the fall of President Richard Nixon and with the Watergate era. They wanted to abrogate the Geneva Conventions (parts of which Alberto Gonzales, then White House Council and companion-in-arms to the President, declared "quaint" and "obsolete" in 2002). They were eager to develop their own categories of imprisonment that freed them from all legal constraints, as well as their own secret, offshore prison system in which their power would be total. All of this went to the heart of their sense of entitlement, their belief that such powers were their political birthright. The last thing they wanted to do was have this all happen in secret and with full deniability. Thus, Guantánamo.

That prison complex was to be the public face of their right to do anything. Perched on an American base in Cuba just beyond the reach of The Law – American-leased but not court-overseen soil – the new prison was to be the proud symbol of their expansive power. It was also to be the public face of a new, secret regime of punishment that would quickly spread around the world – into the torture chambers of despotic regimes in places like Egypt and Syria, onto American bases like the island fastness of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, onto U.S. Navy and other ships floating in who knew which waters, into the former prisons of the old Soviet Empire, and into a growing network of American detention centers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

So, when those first shots of prisoners, in orange jumpsuits, manacled and blindfolded, entering Guantánamo were released, no one officially howled (though the grim, leaked shots of those prisoners being transported to Guantánamo were another matter). After all, they wanted the world to know just how powerful this administration was – powerful enough to redefine the terms of detention, imprisonment, and interrogation to the point of committing acts that traditionally were abhorred and ruled illegal by humanity and by U.S. law (even if sometimes committed anyway).

Though certain administration officials undoubtedly believed that "harsh interrogation techniques" would produce reliable information, this can't account for the absolute fascination with torture that gripped them, as well as assorted pundits and talking heads (and then, through "24" and other TV shows and movies, Americans in general). In search of a world where they could do anything, they reached instinctively for torture as a symbol. After all, was there any more striking way to remove those "gloves" or "unshackle" a presidency? If you could stake a claim to the right to torture, then you could stake a claim to do just about anything.
Think of it this way: If Freud believed that dreams were the royal road to the individual unconscious, then the top officials of the Bush administration believed torture to be the royal road to their ultimate dream of unconstrained power, what John Yoo in his "torture memo" referred to as "the Commander-in-Chief Power."

It was via Guantánamo that they meant to announce the arrival of this power on planet Earth. They were proud of it. And that prison complex was to function as their bragging rights. Their message was clear enough: In this world of ours, democracy would indeed run rampant and a vote of one would, in every case, be considered a majority.

The Crimes Are in the Definitions

This, then, was one form of confession – a much desired one. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and their subordinates (with few exceptions) wished to affirm their position as directors of the planet's "sole superpower," intent as they were on creating a Pentagon-led Pax Americana abroad and a Rovian Pax Republicana at home. But there was another, seldom noted form of confession at work.

As if to fit their expansive sense of their own potential powers, it seems that these officials, and the corps of lawyers that accompanied them, had expansive, gnawing fears. Given this cast of characters, you can't talk about a collective "guilty conscience," but there was certainly an ongoing awareness that what they were doing contravened normal American and global standards of legality; that their acts, when it came to detention and torture, might be judged illegal; and that those who committed – or ordered – such acts might someday, somehow, actually be brought before a court of law to account for them. These fears, by the way, were usually pinned on low-level operatives and interrogators, who were indeed fearful of the obvious: that they had no legal leg to stand on when it came to kidnapping terror suspects, disappearing them, and subjecting them to a remarkably wide range of acts of torture and abuse, often in deadly combination over long periods of time.

Perhaps Bush's men (and women) feared that even a triumphantly successful commander-in-chief presidency might – à la the Pinochet regime in Chile – have its limits in time. Perhaps they simply sensed an essential contradiction that lay at the very heart of their position: The urge to take pride in their "accomplishments," to assert their powers, and to claim bragging rights for redefining what was legal could also be seen as the urge to confess (if matters took a wrong turn as, in the case of the Bush administration, they always have). And so, along with the pride, along with the kidnappings, the new-style imprisonment, the acts of torture (and, in some cases, murder), the pretzled documents began to pour out of the administration – each a tortured extremity of bizarre legalisms (as with Yoo's August 2002 document, which essentially managed to reposition torture as something that existed mainly in the mind of, and could only be defined by, the torturer himself); each was but another example of legalisms following upon and directed by desire. (Yoo himself was reportedly known by Attorney General John Ashcroft as Dr. Yes, "for his seeming eagerness to give the White House whatever legal justifications it desired.") Each, in the end, might also be read as a confession of wrongdoing.

What made all this so strange was not just the "tortured" nature of the "torture memo" (just rejected by the new attorney general nominee as "worse than a sin, it was a mistake"), but the repetitious nature of these dismantling documents which, with the help of an army of leakers inside the government, have been making their way into public view for years. Or how about the strange situation of an American president, who has, in so many backhanded ways, admitted to being deeply involved in the issues of detainment and torture – as, for instance, in a February 7, 2002 memorandum to his top officials in which he signed off on his power to "suspend [the] Geneva [Conventions] as between the United States and Afghanistan" (which he then declined to do "at this time") and his right to wipe out the Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War when it came to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. That document began with the following: "Our recent extensive discussions regarding the status of al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees confirm…"

"Our recent extensive discussions…" You won't find that often in previous presidential documents about the abrogation of international and domestic law. It wasn't, of course, that the U.S. had never imprisoned anyone abroad and certainly not that the U.S. had never used torture abroad. Water-boarding, for instance, was first employed by U.S. soldiers in the Philippine Insurrection at the dawn of the previous century; torture was widely used and taught by CIA and other American operatives in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as in Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, and elsewhere. But American presidents didn't then see the bragging rights in such acts, any more than a previous American president would have sent his vice president to Capitol Hill to lobby openly for torture (however labeled). Past presidents held on to the considerable benefits of deniability (and perhaps the psychological benefits of not knowing too much themselves). They didn't regularly and repeatedly commit to paper their "extensive discussions" on distasteful and illegal subjects.

Nor did they get up in public, against all news, all reason (but based on the fantastic redefinitions of torture created to fulfill a presidential desire to use "harsh interrogation techniques") to deny repeatedly that their administrations ever tortured. Here is an exchange on the subject from Bush's most recent press conference:

"Q What's your definition of the word 'torture'?


"Q The word 'torture.' What's your definition?

"THE PRESIDENT: That's defined in U.S. law, and we don't torture.

"Q Can you give me your version of it, sir?

"THE PRESIDENT: Whatever the law says."

After a while, this, too, becomes a form of confession -– that, among other things, the President has never rejected John Yoo's definition of torture in that 2002 memorandum. Combine that with the admission of "extensive discussions" on detention matters and, minimally, you have a President who has proven himself deeply engaged in such subjects. A President who makes such no-torture claims repeatedly cannot also claim to be in the dark on the subject. In other words, you're already moving from the Clintonesque parsing of definitions ("It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is") into unfathomable realms of presidential definitional darkness.

On the Record

Of course, plumbing the psychology of a single individual while in office – of a President or a Vice President – is a nearly impossible task. Plumbing the psychology of an administration? Who can do it? And yet, sometimes officials may essentially do it for you. They may leave bureaucratic clues everywhere and then, as if seized by an impulsion, return again and again to what can only be termed the scene of the crime. Documents they just couldn't not write. Acts they just couldn't not take. Think of these as the Freudian slips of officials under pressure. Think of them as small, repeated confessions granted under the interrogation of reality and history, under the fearful pressure of the future, and granted in the best way possible: willingly, without opposition, and not under torture.

Sometimes, it's just a matter of refocusing to see the documents, the statements, the acts for what they are. Such is the case with the torture memos that continue to emerge. Never has an administration – and hardly has a torturing regime anywhere – had so many of its secret documents aired while it was still in the act. Seldom has a ruling group made such an open case for its own crimes.

We're talking, of course, about the most secretive administration in American history – so secretive, in fact, that Congressional representatives considering classified portions of an intelligence bill, have to go to "a secret, secure room in the Capitol, turn in their Blackberrys and cellphones, and read the document without help from any staff members." Such briefings are given to Congressional representatives, but under ground rules in which "participants are prohibited from future discussions of the information – even if it is subsequently revealed in the media…" So representatives who are briefed are also effectively prohibited from discussing what they have learned in Congress.

And yet, none of this mattered when it came to the administration establishing its own record of illegality – and exhibiting its own outsized fears of future prosecution. Let's just take one labor intensive – and exceedingly strange, if now largely forgotten – example of these fears in action. In 2002, a new tribunal, the International Criminal Court (ICC), was established in the Hague to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. "[T]hen-Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton nullified the U.S. signature on the International Criminal Court treaty one month into President Bush's first term" and Congress subsequently passed the American Servicemembers' Protection Act which prohibited "certain types of military aid to countries that have signed on to the International Criminal Court but have not signed a separate accord with the United States, called an Article 98 agreement." The Bush administration, opposed to international "fora" of all sorts, then proceeded to go individually, repeatedly, and over years, to more than 100 countries, demanding that the representatives of each sign such an agreement "not to surrender American citizens to the international court without the consent of officials in Washington."

In other words, they put the sort of effort that might normally have gone into establishing an international agreement into threatening weak countries with the loss of U.S. aid in order to give themselves – and of course those lower-level soldiers and operatives on whom so much is blamed – a free pass for crimes yet to be committed (but which they obviously felt they would commit). We're talking here about small, impoverished lands like Cambodia, still attempting to bring its own war criminals of the Pol Pot era to justice.

In the process of twisting arms, the administration suspended over $47 million in military aid "to 35 countries that ha[d] not signed deals to grant American soldiers immunity from prosecution for war crimes." In this attempt to get every country on the planet aboard the American no-war-crimes-prosecution train before it left the station, you can sense once again the administration's obsessional intensity on this subject (especially since experts agreed that the realistic possibility of the ICC bringing Americans up on war crimes was essentially nil).

The Bush administration regularly reached for its dictionaries to redefine reality, even before it reached for its guns. It not only wrote its own rules and its own "law," but when problems nonetheless emerged from its secret world of detention and pain and wouldn't go away – at Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, and elsewhere – it proceeded to investigate itself with the expectable results. For Bush's officials, this should have seemed like a perfect way to maintain a no-fault system that would never reach up any chain of command. Indeed, as Mark Danner has commented, such practices plunged us into an age of "frozen scandals" in which, as with the latest torture memos, the shocked-shocked effect repeats itself but nothing follows. As he has written: "One of the most painful principles of our age is that scandals are doomed to be revealed – and to remain stinking there before us, unexcised, unpunished, unfinished."

How true. And yet, looked at another way, the administration – with outsized help from outraged government officials who knew crimes when they saw them and were willing to take chances to reveal them – has already created a remarkable record of its own criminal activity, which can now be purchased in any bookstore in the land.

Back in the early fall of 2004, when the first collection of such documents arrived in the bookstores, Mark Danner's Torture and Truth, America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror, it was already more than 600 pages long. In early 2005, when Karen J. Greenberg, executive director of the Center on Law and Security at the NYU School of Law, and Josh Dratel, the civilian defense attorney for Guantánamo detainee David Hicks, released their monumental The Torture Papers, The Road to Abu Ghraib, another collection of secret memoranda, official investigations of Abu Ghraib, and the like, it was already an oversized book of more than 1,200 pages – a doorstopper large enough to keep a massive prison gate open. And, of course, even it couldn't hold all the documents. A later Greenberg book, The Torture Debate in America, for instance, has military documents not included in the first volume.

Then, there were the two years' worth of FBI memos and emails about Guantánamo that the ACLU pried loose from the government and released on line, also in 2005. This material was damning indeed, including direct reports from FBI agents witnessing – and protesting as well as pointing fingers at – military interrogators at the prison, as in an August 2, 2004 report that said: "On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water…Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18, 24 hours or more." Or a Jan. 21, 2004 email in which an FBI agent complained that the technique of a military interrogator impersonating an FBI agent "and all of those used in these scenarios, was approved by the DepSecDef," a reference to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz.

Other paperback volumes have also been published that include selections from these and other documents like Crimes of War: Iraq by Richard Falk, Irene Gendzier, and Robert Jay Lifton and In the Name of Democracy: American War Crimes in Iraq and Beyond by Jeremy Brecher, Jill Cutler, and Brendan Smith. If all of these documents, including the latest ones evidently in the hands of the New York Times, were collected, you would have a little library of volumes – all functionally confessional – for a future prosecutor. (And there are undoubtedly scads more documents where these came from, including perhaps a John Yoo "torture memo," rumored to exist, that preceded the August 2002 one.)

What an archive, then, is already available in our world. It's as if, to offer a Vietnam comparison, the contents of The Pentagon Papers had simply slipped out into the light of day, one by one, without a Daniel Ellsberg in sight, without anyone quite realizing it had happened.

The urge of any criminal regime – to ditch, burn, or destroy incriminating documents, or erase emails – has, in a sense, already been obviated. So much of the Bush/Cheney "record" is on the record. As Karen J. Greenberg wrote, back in December 2006, "What more could a prosecutor want than a trail of implicit confessions, consistent with one another, increasingly brazen over time, and leading right into the Oval Office?"

Looking back on these last years, it turns out that the President, Vice President, their aides, and the other top officials of this administration were always in the confessional booth. There's no exit now.