Friday, November 30, 2007


November 30, 2007

From Invasion to "Partnership"

The Iraqi Miracle


What the U.S. had in mind for Iraq was already clear in the Fall of 2001, even though it would take another year and a half to implement the attack, mercilessly known as shock and awe. By the time of the attack, many millions of U.S. citizens knew full well the real motivation behind it. Not that it mattered, or could matter.

The propaganda campaign waged by the government proved too effective for the scared, at large population. Their gullibility level was pushed to record heights by the administration's deep handbag of shifting rationalizations and calls to patriotism. In short, the population was overmatched.

With some admirable exceptions, congresspersons, not known for gullibility, went along for different reasons. Ultimately not to stick their necks out.

A politician's main job is to stay elected. This is true because they are not limited to a single term. If they were limited to a single term they might be more inclined to assert their individuality. The usual argument against the single term limit is that by then they are just learning their way around. But that's the trouble--that there is a "way around". That means knowing who to kiss up to, who's useful, who will deal and who will pay. Do we really think that if we had a totally new Congress nothing could get done, because nobody knows their way around? We did have an all new Congress in this country. Once.

The media, again with a few admirable exceptions, took the occasion to demonstrate their compliancy. Distinguished less by gullibility than by hard-boiled cynicism, they nonetheless faithfully repeated every administration handout without challenge, indeed, without comment.

Now what was it that was so clear to some from the very beginning? That a takeover of Iraq was a natural way to establish a permanent military presence in the heart of the resource-rich Middle East. This was not a departure from longstanding American foreign policy goals but merely its latest iteration. Iraq happens to harbor the second largest proven oil reserves and oil just happens to be entering its scarcity mode.

The morning newspaper carries an Associated Press story detailing the signing by President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki of a "declaration of principles" between the two countries, which, for those still interested in the real reason we invaded Iraq, amounts to a full confession. Not in front of the International Criminal Court (that's not for us) but mainstreamed, normalized, now fit to print.

Iraq's government will "embrace a long-term U.S. troop presence in return for U.S. security guarantees [referred to in another business as a protection racket] as part of a strategic partnershipan enduring relationship in military, economic and political terms." In addition, the agreement provides for U.S. support for the "democratic regime in Iraq against domestic and external dangers" (the "danger" being that they would be outside our influence).

One should not be surprised that Iraq's U.S. supported leaders find amenable the terms set for them by Washington. What else would one expect between a dependent client state and its master, the client obliged to obey and the master prepared to reward useful service?

The agreement specifically seeks (details have to be worked out you see) "preferential treatment for American investments." At this point we might recall that the clever war marketeers chose not to use Operation Iraqi Liberation which would be lampooned as OIL.

Cutely, Lt. Gen. Lute, Bush's adviser on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, claims the question of whether military bases are required is "on the negotiating table". Not according to the Iraqi officials cited in the same story who "foresee a long-term presence of about 50,000 U.S. troops" at those bases.

In keeping with established practices of imperialist plunderers, the invader now guarantees the security of the invaded. When you think security, don't think of being secure. Think prison and graveyard. The security is for the government. And when a state of emergency is declared in this country (just suppose), think that the emergency has nothing to do with the population. The emergency will be real, but it will be to the government.

James Rothenberg can be reached at:

Mike Gravel

Let the People Decide

President Bush is disdained by seven in ten Americans. That’s bad enough, but only one in five Americans believe Congress is doing a good job. Most of us believe our government is the best one money can buy, and that it benefits those who spend the most to buy it. We are right.

Campaign finance laws won’t fix the problem by limiting political speech. Busting the occasional crooked Senator or Representative isn’t making the underlying problem any better. Electing new crooks won’t repair government. Is there any hope for putting government back on the right track? Yes, we can put the people in charge. Although politicians always pay lip service to the people being sovereign, their actions speak louder than their words.

If the people were in charge, the drug wars would be ended, personal accounts for Social Security and medical savings would exist, the war in Iraq would be over, the income tax would end and other taxes would be lower.

But the people aren’t in charge and Congress isn’t about to pass any sort of National Initiative legislation that would put the people in charge. Why should they, since they know it will mean the end of their ability to pass out goodies to the people who buy influence?

The solution is to use the Bill of Rights to let the people decide! The First Amendment guarantees the people the right to petition their government to resolve grievances and to freely assemble – that’s exactly what an election is. The Ninth and Tenth Amendments reserve any power not delegated to the central government by the Constitution to the states and the people.

Using those rights the people can enact Legislation – a Constitutional Amendment and a Federal Statute as a package called the National Initiative – by a majority vote of the people eligible to vote in the United States. Once about sixty million of us vote in a fair election on a measure that has a Ratification provision similar to that used to ratify the United States Constitution, the National Initiative will become the law of the land.

The National Initiative creates the machinery to enable the people to act as a legislative body adding a fourth branch of government while leaving the first three in place, essentially adding a fourth check to our three existing checks and balances. You can vote today to empower yourself at Check it out.

I am running for President to draw attention to this way of solving the problems that have made our government dysfunctional, led to a stifling federal bureaucracy, oppressive taxes and foreign wars.

Whether you agree or disagree, you must admit that this is at minimum a creative way to break the partisan gridlock funded by special interests in search of special privilege.

Let the people decide!

November 29, 2007

Mike Gravel [send him mail] is a former Democratic U.S. Senator from Alaska, having served for two terms, from 1969 to 1981.


US War Vets to Speak Publicly About War Crimes

by Aaron Glantz

SAN FRANCISCO — U.S. war veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have announced they’re planning to descend on Washington, DC this March to testify about war crimes they committed or personally witnessed in Iraq.1130 09

“The war in Iraq is not covered to its potential because of how dangerous it is for reporters to cover it,” said Liam Madden, a former Marine and member of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War. “That’s left a lot of misconceptions in the minds of the American public about what the true nature of military occupation looks like.”

Iraq Veterans Against the War argues that well-publicized incidents of American brutality like the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the massacre of an entire family of Iraqis in the town of Haditha are not the isolated incidents perpetrated by “a few bad apples,” as many politicians and military leaders have claimed. They are part of a pattern, the group says, of “an increasingly bloody occupation.”

“This is our generation getting to tell history,” Madden told OneWorld, “to ensure that the actual history gets told — that it’s not a sugar-coated, diluted version of what actually happened.”

Iraq Veterans Against the War is calling the gathering a “Winter Soldier,” named after a similar event organized by Vietnam veterans in 1971.

In 1971, over 100 members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions.

“Initially even the My Lai massacre was denied,” notes Gerald Nicosia, whose book Home to War provides the most exhaustive history of the Vietnam veterans’ movement.

“The U.S. military has traditionally denied these accusations based on the fact that ‘this is a crazy soldier’ or ‘this is a malcontent’ — that you can’t trust this person. And that is the reason that Vietnam Veterans Against the War did this unified presentation in Detriot in 1971.

“They brought together their bonafides and wore their medals and showed it was more than one or two or three malcontents. It was medal-winning, honored soldiers — veterans in a group verifying what each other said to try to convince people that these charges cannot be denied. That people are doing these things as a matter of policy.”

Nicosia says the 1971 “Winter Soldier” was roundly ignored by the mainstream media, but that it made an indelible imprint on those who were there.

Among those in attendance was 27-year-old Navy Lieutenant John Kerry, who had served on a Swift Boat in Vietnam. Three months after the hearings, Nicosia notes, Kerry took his case to Congress and spoke before a jammed Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Television cameras lined the walls, and veterans packed the seats.

“Many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia,” Kerry told the Committee, describing the events of the “Winter Soldier” gathering.

“It is impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen in Detroit — the emotions in the room, and the feelings of the men who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam. They relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do.”

In one of the most famous antiwar speeches of the era, Kerry concluded: “Someone has to die so that President Nixon won’t be — and these are his words — ‘the first President to lose a war’. We are asking Americans to think about that, because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

Nicosia says Americans and veterans find themselves in a similar situation today.

“The majority of the American people are very dissatisfied with the Iraq war now and would be happy to get out of it. But Americans are bred deep into their psyches to think of America as a good country and, I think, much harder than just the hurdle of getting troops out of Iraq, is to get Americans to realize the terrible things we do in the name of the United States.”

© 2007 One

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE)

Hagel on Bush WH: ‘most arrogant, incompetent’ ever.

Yesterday in an address to the Council on Foreign Relations, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) stepped up his rhetoric against the Bush administration, calling it one of the most “incompetent” in history:

Hagel, who considered running for the GOP presidential nomination as an antiwar candidate, told the foreign policy experts that he would give the Bush administration “the lowest grade of any I’ve known.”

“I have to say this is one of the most arrogant, incompetent administrations I’ve ever seen or ever read about,” Hagel said, according to our colleague Robert Kaiser, who attended the speech. In case his audience didn’t get the point, Hagel also said: “They have failed the country.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

As The World Turns...

November 28, 2007

Quiet Before a New Iraq Storm?

In the Fox's Lair


One reason parts of Iraq have quieted down, at least for a while, has received widespread attention: the Sunni split from al-Qaeda. AI-Qaeda's own tactics alienated its base, which is usually a fatal political mistake, and for once we were wise enough not to get in the way of an enemy who was making a blunder.

But there has been little comment on an equally important reason for improved stability in Iraq, Muqtada al-Sadr's stand-down order to his Mahdi Army militia. Just as it seemed we were headed straight for a war with the Shiites, they sheered away. We now appear to be doing the same; at least the papers here no longer report daily raids and air strikes on Shiite areas. That too suggests we may have learned something.

But it does not explain the Mahdi Army's quiescence. I have no secret agent in the Desert Fox's lair, so I cannot report what Mr. al-Sadr is thinking. I doubt he is afraid of a confrontation with the U.S. military. Fighting the Americans is more likely to strengthen than weaken his hold on his own movement. So what gives?

The Sunday, November 18 New York Times made passing mention of a possible clue. It suggested that the Mahdi Army and some other Shiites have backed away from confronting the U.S. because Iran asked them to.

If that is true, it bumps the same question up a level. Why are the Iranians asking their allies in Iraq to give us a break? I doubt it is out of charity, or fear, although elements within Iran that do not want a war with the United States seem to be gaining political strength.

Here's a hypothesis. What if the Iranians had determined, rightly or wrongly (and I suspect rightly), that the Bush administration has already decided to attack Iran before the end of its term? Two actions would seem logical on their part. First, try to maneuver the Americans into the worst possible position on the moral level by denying them pretexts for an attack. Telling their allied Shiite militias in Iraq to cool it would be part of that, as would reducing the flow of Iranian arms to Iraqi insurgents and improving cooperation with the international community on the nuclear issue. We see evidence of the latter two actions as well as the first.

Second, they would tell their allies in Iraq to keep their powder dry. Back off for now, train, build up stocks of weapons and explosives and work out plans for what they will do as their part of the Iranian counter-attack. Counter-attack there will certainly be, on the ground against our forces in Iraq, in one form or another. In almost all possible counter-attack scenarios, it would be highly valuable to Iran if the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias could cut the Americans' supply lines running up from Kuwait and slow down their movements so that they could not mass their widely dispersed forces. In John Boyd's phrase, it would be a classic Cheng-Chi operation.

Again, I cannot say this is what lies behind the Mahdi Army's stand-down; Zeppelin reconnaissance over Iran has been inconclusive. But it is consistent with three probabilities: that the Bush administration has decided to bomb Iran, that the Iranians plan in response to roll up our army in Iraq and that Muqtada al-Sadr and other Iraqi Shiite leaders coordinate their actions closely with Tehran.

In past wars, quiet periods at the front have often preceded a "big push" by one side or both. Such may prove to be the case in Iraq as well, at least as far as Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army are concerned. If so, in view of the situations in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Lebanon and the almost certain failure of the Tea Lady's Annapolis initiative, 2008 may see the Islamic world in flames from the Himalayas to the Mediterranean. To paraphrase Horace Greeley, buy gold, young man, buy gold.

William S. Lind
, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tuesday's gone...

White House’s new benchmark: ‘enduring’ presence.

The New York Times recently reported that the Bush administration has “scaled back” its benchmarks for political progress in Iraq, instead “focusing their immediate efforts on several more limited but achievable goals.” Today, the administration announced one of its goals: an endless, unqualified, “enduring” presence in Iraq. Spencer Ackerman reports that the White House and the Maliki government released a joint declaration of “principles” for “friendship and cooperation.” The key principle:

Iraq’s leaders have asked for an enduring relationship with America, and we seek an enduring relationship with a democratic Iraq. We are ready to build that relationship in a sustainable way that protects our mutual interests, promotes regional stability, and requires fewer Coalition forces.

The White House’s embrace of a permanent presence contradicts their long record of declarations against permanent bases. White House war czar Gen. Doug Lute said the new long-term occupation plan won’t require Congress’ approval. November 26, 2007 9:09 pm |

Stunned by Lack of Outrage, Not Outrageous Acts

by Beth Quinn

I continue to be stunned.

Not by Bush any longer. There was a time when I was stunned by nearly everything he did. Or said. Who wouldn’t be stunned by a president who could say, “They misunderestimated me,” and sincerely believe he’s on top of things?

Nor by Cheney. His pure evil no longer surprises me, although there was a time when he routinely stunned me. Torture? Torture??

Not by Congress, either. There was a time when I was stunned by that crowd’s sheeplike mentality. I’d hear them decry the war, decry torture, decry Bush’s growing deficit, then I’d drop my jaw as they voted time and again to give the president carte blanche.

No longer. I fully expect Congress to disappoint, to fail to do its job in balancing the White House power grab.

I’m no longer stunned by the politicized courts nor by the media, which is unwilling to offend and uses vague, watered-down language instead of strong condemnations of this, the worst presidency in history.

So who continues to stun me?

I will tell you. I am stunned by all that is left of America: Americans.

I am stunned by the public’s lack of outrage over all this presidency has done to ravage our nation. Where is the outrage over this war-without-end? Over waterboarding? Over our dead and maimed soldiers?

I am stunned that Americans aren’t writing angry letters to the editor about the Iran rhetoric, this carbon copy of lies that led up to Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

I am stunned that Americans didn’t take to the streets with placards condemning Bush for vetoing a bill that would have ensured health care for children.

I am stunned that Americans aren’t rioting over federal money that has helped only the rich in New Orleans rebuild while the poor still live homeless.

I am stunned that Americans aren’t storming the White House as Bush accuses the Democrats of irresponsible spending on domestic programs even as he destroys the economy with his war and his deficit.

I am stunned that Americans haven’t marched on Washington over the rising unemployment rate, over corporate greed that is causing millions to lose their homes, over our rotting infrastructure.

People on the margins are already making hard choices. I know a young woman who wanted to drive to Vermont to be with her family for Thanksgiving but couldn’t afford to put that much gas in her car.

The middle class should take note. People are wandering the mall charging Christmas presents, but that bill comes due in January when the price of oil will be more than $100 a barrel and gasoline will cost $4 a gallon at the pump. Where is the outrage?

I am stunned by people in Monroe who want to take away a veteran’s rights to free speech when he paints angry signs about Bush on his van.

I am stunned by those same people who want to shut me up, shout me down, spew viciousness into my telephone because I exercise my own right to speak. They are so confused, these people who believe in free speech until someone says something they disagree with.

I am stunned by those who say, “He’s our president, so he deserves our respect.” No he doesn’t. He deserves our fury for bringing shame to the presidency and embarrassment to Americans around the world.

Sometimes, those of us who continue to be outraged by this administration sound like a broken record, even to our own ears.

We keep singing the same tune while our critics say enough is enough.

But that the same old tune has to be sung as long as Bush continues to wage the same old war against America’s poor and shrinking middle class.

We have to keep singing. I have to keep singing.

But what I’d like to know is, where is the chorus?

There are 421 days ’til Jan. 20, 2009.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The President We Were Warned About

by Robert Scheer

George W. Bush is the imperial president that James Madison and other founders of this great republic warned us about. He lied the nation into precisely the "foreign entanglements" that George Washington feared would destroy our experiment in representative government, and he has championed a spurious notion of security over individual liberty, thus eschewing the alarms of Thomas Jefferson as to the deprivation of the inalienable rights of free citizens. But most important, he has used the sledgehammer of war to obliterate the separation of powers that James Madison enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

With the "war on terror," Bush has asserted the right of the president to wage war anywhere and for any length of time, at his whim, because the "terrorists" will always provide a convenient shadowy target. That's just the "continual warfare" that Madison warned of in justifying the primary role of Congress in initiating and continuing to finance a war — the very issue now at stake in Bush's battle with Congress.

In his "Political Observations," written years before he had served as fourth president of the United States, Madison went on to underscore the dangers of an imperial presidency bloated by war fever.

"In war," Madison wrote in 1795, at a time when the young republic still faced its share of dangerous enemies, "the discretionary power of the executive is extended ... and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people."

How remarkably prescient of Madison to anticipate the specter of our current King George, imperiously undermining Congress' attempts to end the Iraq war. When the prime author of the U.S. Constitution explained why that document grants Congress — not the president — the exclusive power to declare and fund wars, Madison wrote, "The delegation of such powers (to the president) would have struck, not only at the fabric of our Constitution, but at the foundation of all well organized and well checked governments."

Because "no nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare," Madison urged that the constitutional separation of powers he had codified be respected. "The Constitution expressly and exclusively vests in the Legislature the power of declaring a state of war ...the power of raising armies," he wrote. "The separation of the power of raising armies from the power of commanding them is intended to prevent the raising of armies for the sake of commanding them."

That last sentence perfectly describes the threat of what President Dwight Eisenhower would describe 165 years later as the "military-industrial complex," a permanent war economy feeding off a permanent state of insecurity. The collapse of the Soviet Union deprived the military profiteers and their cheerleaders in the government of a raison d'etre for the enormous war economy supposedly created in response to it.

Fortunately for them, Bush found in the 9-11 attack an excuse to make war even more profitable and longer lasting. The Iraq war, which the president's 9-11 commission concluded never had anything to do with the terrorist assault, nonetheless has transferred many hundreds of billions in taxpayer dollars into the military economy. And when Congress seeks to exercise its power to control the budget, this president asserts that this will not govern his conduct of the war.

There never was a congressional declaration of war to cover the invasion of Iraq. Instead, President Bush acted under his claimed power as commander in chief, which the Supreme Court has held does allow him to respond to a "state of war" against the United States. That proviso was clearly a reference to surprise attacks or sudden emergencies.

The problem is that the "state of war" in question here was an al-Qaida attack on the United States that had nothing whatsoever to do with Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Perhaps, to spare Congress the embarrassment of formally declaring war against a nation that had not attacked America, Bush settled for a loosely worded resolution supporting his use of military power if Iraq failed to comply with U.N. mandates.

This was justified by the White House as a means of strengthening the United Nations in holding Iraq accountable for its weapons of mass destruction arsenal, but as most of the world looked on in dismay, Bush invaded Iraq after U.N. inspectors on the ground discovered that Iraq had no WMD.

Bush betrayed Congress, which in turn betrayed the American people — just as Madison feared when he wrote, "Of all the enemies of public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other."

E-mail Robert Scheer at To find out more about Robert Scheer, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at

Credit: John Stoner

The Revelation 13 Beast from the Earth: Deception of False Religion

Looking around in the USA in 2007, nothing is more painful to observe than the hold which a tissue of lies has on the popular culture. People are deceived, and one wonder’s how much of the deception is willfully self-imposed by resolute ignorance of truth readily available, and how much is imposed from without by powers which are greater than the average person’s ability to discern truth and reality.

Revelation 13 portrays a process of calculated deception managed by the beast from the earth in the service of the empire (beast from the sea). As mentioned yesterday, elsewhere in Revelation, 16:13, 19:20 and 20:10, the beast from the earth is called the false prophet. Starting with the name itself, as false prophet, this beast from the earth has all the marks of religious authority demanding allegiance to the satanic rule of the beast from the sea, imperial power. Having “two horns like a lamb,” the beast from the earth is described as a counterfeit of the lamb that was slain; but in the same sentence John says it had a voice like dragon, so it’s true character is disclosed.
In their chapter on “Liturgy and Worship in Revelation” Howard-Brook and Gwyther disclose the religious/worship essence of the work of the false prophet/earth beast:

“For the few who are not taken in by the power of the Dragon exercised by the Beasts, a different fate awaits: the “icon of the Beast” itself “cause(s) those who would not worship” it to be killed (13:15). The beast does not deign to exercise the power of capital punishment itself. John sees that it has delegated this authority to its “icon” (Greek eikona). [The image/icon does this by speech--notice the power of words, of propaganda and Fox News, the medium and power of the prophet. The beast gives “spirit/breath” to the image, and it speaks. You have the essence of prophecy here, by the spirit and by speech]. This close association between the Beast and its icon is continued throughout Revelation (14:11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4). At one level, the icon is the collection of imperial cult objects: the schrines, statues, and coins that bear the image of the emperor and the slogans of imperial propaganda such as Lord and God.” At a deeper level, however, the “icon of the Beast” is the public face of empire: the flags and other patriotic paraphernalia that accompany civic rituals in all imperial settings. Consider how deeply felt are people’s emotional reactions to those who refuse to salute the flag, wehether the Nazi swastika or the U. S. Stars and Stripes. This is what John’s apocalyptic insight has revealed, not only about the Rome of his day, but also more broadly about the nature of how empire gains and keeps its subjects loyal to its demonic agenda. It is this power that both insists on being worshiped and eliminates those who refuse to submit to ts authority” (p. 216).

Deception lies at the heart of flag worship, and the deception is nowhere more evident than in the heated (or calm and deceptive) denials of those who fly the flag in their churches that there is anything idolatrous about it. The flag as image of the empire puts the empire, like the image created by the beast from the earth, the false prophet, one move away from the hardware and houses which embody its power. The flag is not the missiles, the guns and bombs, nor the courthouses and their judges. It is only an image of them.

Tomorrow, more on image and ideology. -- John Stoner 11/26/07

Doug Thompson speaks truth...

November 26, 2007 - 8:14am.

In the end, nothing may really change

Slightly less than a year away from the 2008 Presidential elections and many readers of this web site tell me they are already sick of the whole thing.

Little wonder. Many of the incredibly large gathering of Presidential wannabes on both sides of the political fence - a crowd by anyone's standards - have been raising money, running ads and sniping each other for more than a year now and the level is only increasing with the primary season just 39 days away.

By the time voters cast their ballots in November 2008 this Presidential campaign season will have set many records: the longest election season on record - beginning for most candidates in 2006 - the most money ever raised, the most ever spent and the most television and Internet political ads ever purchased.

Despite campaign reform laws aimed at limiting the influence of special interest groups on elections, more such groups will spend more money and buy more ads in their attempts to influence voters than at any time in American history.

In the end, Americans will most likely elect another flawed leader who is not up to the job of leading this country out of the morass left by previous administrations and a government ruled by scandal, hidden agendas and votes for sale to the highest bidder.

America is long past the point where an election can change its course. Too many voters foolishly believed that simply putting the Democrats back in charge of Congress in the 2006 mid-term elections would end George W. Bush's failed Iraq war and, by some miracle, restore honesty and integrity to our government.

Didn't happen: Couldn't happen: Won't happen. America is a victim of its own flawed belief in freedoms that don't exist, saviors who aren't real and expectations that cannot be met. We put our trust in political leaders with too many shortcomings and then expect them to rise above their levels of incompetence.

Our government is dominated by leaders controlled by greed, a thirst for power and an uncontrollable lust - a dangerous combination in any situation but both deadly and volatile in politics.

Even those who venture to Washington with the noblest of intentions soon fall victim to the seductress named power. The system swallows up idealists and spits out opportunistic cynics who prey on the very people they promised to serve. I saw it happen too many times during my 40 years in journalism and politics. I fell victim to it myself, trading ethics for money and principles for power. I've yet to meet a human being who can resist. Such a person may not exist.

By the time the primary season is over, both parties will have picked candidates molded by professional consultants and handlers, defined by expensive ad campaigns and changed by a system that demands compliance. Voters, weary from the blitz of campaign propaganda and exhausted by the process, will walk into their voting places next November to elect a stranger to office because few will really know the truth about those on the ballot. They will know only an image crafted by media analysts, a failed media and partisan web sites.

With luck - and luck is the only uncontrollable variable left in politics - we might get someone better than the current President: Or we might not.

We won't know until it is over: By then it's too late.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Still in Iraq...

The Primary Point of the Occupation of Iraq is the Occupation Itself

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Posted on November 23, 2007, Printed on November 24, 2007

Over in Iraq special coverage, I'm running a piece by Jeffrey Feldman, who argues that we're about to see a monumental shift in the discourse around Iraq. Here's the nut of it:

The change can be summed up in 4 simple words:

troops leave, violence drops

As the deafening hubbub of propaganda drowns out every attempt to talk real policy change on Iraq, this simple descriptive formula--troops leave, violence drops--cuts through it all…

The British pullout from Basra, and the subsequent logic of violence dropping as a result of that pullout, will change the debate again by reimposing a simple logic of up and down, in and out.

The up-and-down-in-and-out logic of this description is more powerful than any protest argument about the war to date, and has an almost unlimited potential to sweep through both the broadcast media and face-to-face conversations that make up American political debate.

He's got much more to say, so be sure to read the whole thing.

I don't mean to single out Jeffrey Feldman here -- he's a good guy, and a contributor to AlterNet from time to time -- but I want to highlight the piece because it's such a good example of the kind of perfectly rationalist analysis that dominates in progressive America. There's a persistent belief that if opponents of the occupation could only win the "debate" over Iraq on the merits, then a U.S. withdrawal will somehow follow.

There are a number of problems with this idea, not least of which is the fact that to a very significant degree we've already won the debate -- majorities of Americans now say that it is no longer possible for the U.S. to "win" in Iraq (whatever that means) and favor a timetable for pulling troops out -- but the public's views have so far had only minimal impact on the foreign policy elite.

But more than that, the commonly-held rationalist analysis denies a crucially important reality: that for various (and differing) reasons, a significant portion of Washington's strategic class is determined to maintain a "soft" occupation of Iraq for a long time to come, and that means that regardless of how soundly opponents of the occupation thrash whatever the argument du jour for keeping troops in the country may be, there will always be a new and pressing need to maintain U.S. forces in the country. The goalposts will always be perfectly mobile, and they'll keep shifting until something changes structurally.

The point of the occupation, at this point, is the occupation itself, and I'm not sure why so many people fail to see that. After all, the U.S.-led "coalition" could, reasonably, claim to have successfully:

  • Guaranteed that Iraq does not possess stockpiles of illicit weapons, including those which Donald Rumsfeld said were known to be "in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat"
  • Deposed the evil dictator (the one we helped to power and supported for three decades), and killed his devil-spawn sons

Yet after both of those previous rationales for keeping U.S. boots on the ground evaporated, there was no widespread call for declaring victory and pulling out. Instead, U.S. forces became necessary to A) keep Iraqis from slaughtering one another wholesale, and, later, B) to keep "al Qaeda in Iraq" in check. Both arguments were, in my view, ridiculous on their face -- "unembedded" journalist Dahr Jamail addressed the first one best when he said: "The bogus idea that if the U.S. leaves things will worsen is both inherently racist and ignorant," and Raed Jarrar and I have argued that only the occupation itself has allowed al Qaeda in Iraq to operate -- but they were accepted by the media and political establishments as legitimate rationales in their time.

And the dance continues to this day. Last month, the military declared that it had defeated al Qaeda in Iraq, yet no new calls for withdrawal followed the announcement.

And just as the disappearance of one excuse for staying in Iraq has had zero impact on the discourse, there's no reason to expect, that a drop in the levels of violence in Iraq is likely to cause a shift in the national debate. Consider for a moment how the decrease is being framed in the traditional media. The following, from Matt Frei of the BBC's Washington bureau, is typical of the narrative emerging this week:

Compared to the beginning of the year, attacks against Iraqi civilians have declined by 55% in the country as a whole and by 75% in Baghdad, according to US military figures confirmed by the UN…

Military commanders on the ground are very careful not to crow about the successes. Nor is the White House doing so. They are hoping that the facts will eventually speak for themselves.

The idea of the White House allowing anything resembling the facts to "speak for themselves" is preposterous -- we're talking about the same administration that used a plastic turkey for a Thanksgiving photo-op in Iraq. One can choose to believe that they're not hyping the drop in violence with the same gusto that they've spun past "benchmarks" and "milestones" of "success," as does the BBC's Frei ("In the past, boastful words have turned to dust almost as soon as they were uttered"), but the idea of rhetorical caution among supporters of the occupation is, simply, incongruous with everything we've seen from the war's supporters during the past four years.

The truth is that the drop off in violence poses a serious messaging problem for Iraq hawks. In arguing again and again that U.S. troops need to remain in order to keep some portion of the violence in check, they've painted themselves into a rhetorical corner. The situation is now ripe for someone in Congress, perhaps one of the presidential candidates, to declare victory in Iraq and call for the troops to come home. That would be a very appealing message for an American public that doesn't approve of the war but is also averse to losing.

If the drop in violence persists -- history suggests that absent a broader and widely accepted political settlement it won't -- the next justification for maintaining forty or fifty thousand troops in Iraq will be to check the creation of a "Shiite Crescent" in the region, led by Iran. That new rationale will be linked, but somewhat independent of any charge of Iranian "meddling" in Iraq. It will never be fully explained why the American public should give a shit about the emergence of that Shiite Crescent, and most reporters won't even think to ask the question -- it will simply become conventional wisdom.

What our rationalist friends need to understand is that A) the reasons for the invasion still stand today, and B) the concept of not "wasting lives" -- soldiers' lives -- is sufficiently powerful to keep our troops in Iraq for the 50 years that Bush has predicted.

As regular readers know, I think all monocausal explanations for what motivated the U.S. invasion of Iraq miss the mark. In even a nominal democracy, no policy as serious as an unprovoked attack of a defenseless country like Iraq happens with just one constituency pushing for it. And all the various goals that originally motivated different constituencies to push for the attack -- whether it was opening the Iraqi economy to foreign investment, selling the DoD gazillions of dollars in military hardware, securing our energy supply chain, compensating for the loss of military bases in Saudi Arabia, taking out a supposed threat to Israel, etc., -- they're all still as relevant today as they were in 2003. In some cases, even more so.

And the idea that pulling troops out of Iraq -- conceding "defeat" -- would mean that the American blood shed over there was in vain (Iraqi lives don't enter into the equation), is not going to go away while it retains any rhetorical power. Progressives need to grasp the simple fact that we didn't invade Iraq to bring peace or stability or democracy to the Iraqi people -- we invaded to advance what are known, I think euphemistically, as "U.S. interests" -- and we're not staying for any other reason.

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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U.S. Embassy in Iraq...

November 24 / 25, 2007

$144 Million Over Budget and Still Not Open for Business

Iraq Embassy as Gilded Palace


I was half right. In late May I wrote that September was going to be an exciting month in Iraq. I observed that that was the month in which funding for the war would end and the debate about the future of the war would begin. That has happened and the debate has not yet drawn to a close. I also said it was going to be exciting because that was the month in which the new United States Embassy in Iraq would be opened. I said it was not only exciting because it would soon be opening but because it was going to be the first major construction project in Iraq that had been completed on time and right on budget, an unusual occurrence in the United States but even more unusual in a place like Iraq. I also observed that unlike the rest of Iraq, this splendid edifice (as large as the Vatican with an ambassador's residence of 16,000 square feet) would have its own water and power supply. That served to distinguish it from the rest of Iraq where many residents have electricity only 4 hours a day and only 32% of the population has access to potable water.

As columnists always are, it is a pleasure to read in subsequent reports that one's earlier comments prove accurate. Thus, I was delighted to learn of the testimony of Major Gen. Charles Williams (Ret.), the Director of Overseas Building Operation (OBO) at the State Department before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. On July 26, 2007, he tesitified that: "the project is on schedule and on budget. We are slated to complete the project in September of this year and personnel can begin to move into offices and residences shortly thereafter. As to project quality, OBO is proud of its employees' and contractors' work on this project. We have received numerous accolades as to the extremely high quality of construction. It is among the best that OBO has managed." That was then. This is now. November. No one has moved in. No one knows when anyone will move in. It is $144 million over budget.

On October 9, Henry Waxman, Chair of the Committee sent a letter to Condoleezza Rice inquiring about the embassy project and describing some problems uncovered by inspectors from the State Department's Fire Protection Division who inspected the project during the last two weeks in August. They observed that since fire service mains were deficient there was no reliable automatic fire sprinkler system coverage in any building on the compound. No fire alarm detection systems were ready for testing, "most buildings have a complete lack of fire stopping in fire rated walls and floors" as a result of which "a fire could spread very quickly from one area to another." The report then has the fairly global condemnation that "[T]he entire installation is not acceptable."

According to Mr. Waxman, the September 4, 2007 report does not simply disclose deficiencies in construction. It disclosed that OBO and First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting, the prime contractor on the job "had been aware of these problems for nearly a year. In October 2006, OBO received reports that First Kuwaiti 'is installing underground fire protection service mains that are not of the correct material, which has already resulted in stress cracking. This condition is unacceptable and was discussed with the contractor."

Mr. Waxman's letter does not content itself with describing deficiencies in the construction. He describes some things about First Kuwaiti that would lead some to question why it got the job in the first place. Mr. Waxman observes that Pentagon auditors released a report "several months before the award of the contract that questioned more than $130 million that First Kuwaiti had billed for services provided to the U.S. military." He also observed that the Justice Department had asserted in court papers that "the Managing partner of First Kuwaiti bribed officials to obtain subcontracts for First Kuwaiti."

I am sure that if Mr. Williams happens to hear about any of this he will be sorely disappointed since it suggests that he was not only clueless about the state of the project two months earlier when testifying, but not troubled by the corruption of the contractor, describing it as a contractor that wanted to "get it right". (He was not referring to the payment of bribes but completion of the project.)

In the real world Mr. Williams would be fired for incompetence, being so ignorant of the project about which he was reporting. That won't happen.

Incompetence in the Bush administration may be an excuse but not an excuse for firing someone. Were it otherwise, the White House and countless executive offices would be unoccupied. Were it otherwise the embassy project might in fact be on budget and on schedule.

Christopher Brauchli is a lawyer in Boulder, Colorado. He can be reached at:

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Commercialization of Christmas: What Would Jesus Buy?

The topic of this post is one that has concerned me for quite some time now, and continues to increasingly irritate me year after year. I am talking about the blatant crass commercialization of Christmas, and how the retailers have usurped our Christian holiday for corporate profit, and how we just seemingly happily go along with it all.

By Emily Wilson, AlterNet. Posted November 23, 2007.

A camera crew followed the Reverend Billy across the country as he preached against our shopping-hungry culture. His message is just in time for the holiday frenzy.

Bill Talen, known as Reverend Billy, doesn't mind making a fool of himself. He is happy to throw himself on the floor in a fit of religious ecstasy, perform cash register exorcisms or go caroling with the 35 members of the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir, singing such favorites as "Fill the malls with wealthy people," to the tune of "Deck the Halls." He does all this and much, much more in the new documentary about him and his Church of Stop Shopping, What Would Jesus Buy?

Ten years ago Talen came to New York and, struck by the commercialization in Times Square, wanted to do something. He saw the people getting the most attention were the street preachers, so getting into his role, he bought a clerical collar to go with his white caterer's jacket, dyed his hair blonde, combed it into a tall pompadour and started preaching against over-consumption.

Now Talen is known for his protests against, among others, Disney (the "High Church of Retail"), Victoria's Secret, and Starbucks. The coffee chain has banned Talen from going into any of the stores in California, and he is the subject of a memo to its employees, "What Should I Do If Reverend Billy Is In My Store?" When he decided to take his church across the country in two biodiesel buses in December 2005 to face the Christmas season head on and preach against the Shopocalypse, Filmmaker Rob VanAlkemade and his crew tagged along.

If people can change how they act at Christmas, Talen says, that could bleed over into the rest of the year. And he thinks people are ready for change. He sees it with all the emails the church gets supporting its anti-consumer message and in other ways, such as the dozens of communities across America that have successfully resisted Wal-Mart. He points to the town of Hercules, in California, that used eminent domain to take the land that the giant retailer planned to build on. In the city council's definition, a Wal-Mart store is "urban blight."

"That was creative, using eminent domain," Talen says. "And we're looking for creativity in protests. Progressive people have been protesting exactly the same way for a long, long time."

Savitri Durkee, the choir director and Talen's wife, says she is also feeling optimistic. She emphasizes that small changes are important.

"I know that people are going to shop one way or another," she says. "I just hope they'll think about what they buy and try and support local economies. Utopian ideas are really important, but if I can get 100 people to shop less, that's great."

In the movie, shoppers, the recently homeless, ministers, and consumer specialists face the camera and talk about what they think about Christmas, shopping, and where the products we buy come from. Both Talen and Durkee say they learned a lot from these people and hearing their stories made them more compassionate.

Talen says the movie's producer, Morgan Spurlock, who made a documentary about his month-long McDonald's diet, was the one who encouraged them to talk to all kinds of Americans.

"Morgan wanted us to make a movie everyone could like," Talen says. "Old progressives have these habits of division and we need to find a way for us to have a social conscience without screaming bloody murder at each other."

Talen was surprised and gratified by the response from the Christian community to the movie, which he says has been overwhelmingly supportive, particularly from the youth Christian movement. He says the movie's message of Christmas being a time to connect with family and friends and remember what matters most resonates with them.

"With Christians half of the work is already done," Durkee adds. "They are activists. They have a value system. They know their actions have repercussions."

In a scene that Talen and Durkee call the heart of the movie, three teenage girls from the Upper East Side start to wonder about where their clothes come from. They check the labels on their shirts. "A little kid probably made that," one says to another. They do research online read about workers in Bangladesh being forced to work overtime and getting burns from hot glue machines.

That is a moment where a connection is made, Talen says.

"We want to collapse the distance between the product and labor," he says. "Our present economy is based on alienation from products."

Because of his work as an actor and playwright, Talen sees the value in putting some theater into protests with retail interventions and songs about $5 lattes rather than merely marching and chanting. In "What Would Jesus Buy?" a choir member talks about how excited she is to do political work in a creative, fun way. The woman, Laura Newman, came over from the other side of the counter-she is a former Starbucks employee who first met Rev. Billy when he protested in her store.

Being with choir members like Newman gives them strength and hope, Talen and Durkee say. One scene in the movie shows them in a motel room, clearly discouraged and depressed. You can see how the long hours spent preaching at malls and Wal-Mart parking lots are wearing them down. "I just don't know if anyone hears us," Durkee tells her husband in the movie. "Or if they do hear us, they so don't want to hear us."

"That is when the value of community is so apparent," Talen says. "We have all these great people around us. When we fall down, they raise us up again."

As well seeing the value of community, Talen and Durkee say ritual is important. In the movie, Rev. Billy leads a funeral for small town America next to a Wal-Mart in Arkansas and baptizes a baby in a super mall in Los Angeles as the choir sings softly, some wiping tears away. The security guard, who has been telling Talen to leave, steps aside to let him complete the ritual.

"Oh, that felt so good," Talen says after the baptism. "Wow. That makes it all worth it. You can take me to jail now."

Talen says getting asked to perform a baptism was a powerful experience.

"That was the Christmas moment right there," he says. "That's what Christmas is about. A child is born and is supposed to grow up and teach us peace. That is Christmas. Change-a lujah."

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I've said it before, listen to this man...

Good Riddance to Them All
By Joseph L. Galloway
McClatchy Newspapers

Wednesday 21 November 2007

There was little for the unindicted co-conspirators of the Bush administration to give thanks for this week as the clock winds down on the 14 months they have left in power.

With former White House press secretary Scott McClellan spilling the beans on who told him to lie to the American people and cover up the White House's responsibility for the criminal act of revealing the identity of a covert CIA officer, it clearly was time for some folks to begin drafting their requests for presidential pardons.

McClellan, in a forthcoming book that will tell some, if not all, reveals that his 2003 statements absolving top White House aides Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby of any involvement in leaking the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame were untrue - and that the orders to make those statements came from President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, White House chief of staff Andrew Card, Rove and Libby.

McClellan's revelation makes it abundantly clear that a subsequent statement by Bush that White House aides had no involvement in outing Ms. Plame, and that anyone who did would be fired was also, shall we say, inoperative.

It also confirms long-held suspicions that the whole despicable affair - an attempt to punish former Ambassador Joseph Wilson for debunking a bit of the bogus intelligence the administration wheeled out to justify invading Iraq - was orchestrated in the offices of Bush and Cheney, and with their knowledge.

It also might shed new light on why Bush quickly commuted Cheney's hatchet man Libby's prison sentence after he was convicted on four counts of lying to federal investigators. It simply wouldn't do to have Libby rolling over on his bosses.

Somehow, I have a strong feeling that this isn't the only or the last revelation of wrong-doing and criminality that we're likely to hear before and after Bush and Co. leave office, or that additional presidential acts of clemency will be needed to spare other top administration officials from prison and buy their silence.

What we've witnessed and endured during seven long years of the Bush presidency is the inevitable consequence of bringing vicious and unprincipled but successful political campaigners - attack dogs - into top White House jobs.

The idea that a political campaign should address any and all criticism by going for the throats of those who dare to question it may work on election day but it doesn't work, or shouldn't, when the full weight and power of the federal government is put behind it.

We are a better people and this is a better country than that, and this is why, when it's weighed and judged, the Bush presidency will be found to have perverted not only our system but also the very principles on which our nation was founded.

We don't rush into a war that has cost so many lives and so much national treasure, and has so damaged our standing in the world, based on a tissue of lies. But under the leadership of George W. Bush, that's what we did in Iraq.

We don't stand idly by, backs turned and eyes closed, while in wartime our friends and political contributors loot the national treasury of billions of taxpayer dollars. But the Bush administration and a Republican-controlled Congress did just that.

We don't send our soldiers and Marines into combat without enough of everything they need to fight, survive and win. But that's what this administration and its political operatives in charge of the Pentagon did.

We don't turn the office of the attorney general and key parts of the Justice Department into a branch of a partisan political campaign - gutting offices charged with protecting the civil rights of minorities and directing the prosecution of those of a different political party - but this administration did.

We don't declare war and then expect that the entire sacrifice will be borne by the half a percent of our population who wear uniforms. We don't fight a long and costly war by cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans and borrowing trillions of dollars to finance it from foreign competitors such as China. But this administration did.

We don't prosecute a war to spread democracy by curtailing democracy and suspending the Bill of Rights at home. We cannot promote our principles abroad by denying the same principles - the right to a lawyer, the right to a fair trial, the right to be secure in our homes - to ourselves. But this administration did.

We don't beat or torture confessions out of prisoners in violation of our laws and the laws of the civilized world. We don't lock people up and hold them incommunicado for years without charges or trials. But this administration did and does.

We don't applaud and cheer an administration and a Congress that make the rich vastly richer, the middle class less secure and the poor even poorer. But this administration has done just that, in violation of our principles and the principles of love, peace and charity that are engrained in the Christianity that these rogues and charlatans embrace so publicly but violate every day.

It will be a good day when they are gone, and good riddance to them all.

Thanksgiving Day 2007

Holiday has little in common with colonists' feast

By Regis Behe
Saturday, November 17, 2007

When Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, the nation was being torn apart by the Civil War.

A famous Thomas Nast illustration first printed in Harper's Weekly, "Thanksgiving-Day 1863," depicts a young woman as Lady Liberty, kneeling in prayer. Surrounding her are images of slaves praying for freedom and church-goers praying for peace.

There's nary a Pilgrim to be found.

Nor were there many of the contemporary fixings at what is now regarded as the first Thanksgiving, held in the Plymouth Colony in 1621. If one could go back in time and ask for directions to the pilgrims' feast, thou wouldst be greeted with a cold eye.

"They never called themselves pilgrims," says Nathaniel Philbrick, a former Pittsburgh resident who is the author of "Mayflower: A Story of Community, Courage and War" (Penguin, $16 paperback).

The name, he says, comes from William Bradford's "History of Plymouth Plantation" when he said, "Their ultimate destination wasn't of this world, it was of heaven. They were pilgrims on this earth."

What is known about that 1621 celebration comes from a letter written by Edward Winslow, one of the colonists. Bradford organized the three-day feast to thank the Wampanoag Indians for their help earlier that year with the planting of crops, without which the settlers would have likely perished.

Bradford's desire to give thanks for sustenance was not unprecedented. The ancient Greeks celebrated the bounty of Demeter, the goddess of corn, with the festival Thesmosphoria. The Chinese harvest festival, Chung Ch' ui, featured moon cakes stamped with a picture of a rabbit to celebrate the birthday of the moon.

"Every culture has some sort of ceremony to deal with the fullness of the fall harvest," says Marshall Brain, the founder of "I don't think we can appreciate this in a modern culture, but for any agrarian culture, its survival over the winter depended on the crops working and the harvest being successful in the fall. You can't appreciate how incredibly important it was to them, how grateful they were."

Thus, the invitation to the Wampanoags to join a feast where, according to Winslow's short account, the guests outnumbered their hosts by at least a 2-1 ratio.

Turkeys probably were a no-show as a main course.

"We do know they had plenty of ducks and geese," Philbrick says, adding the celebration was held at the end of September or in early October. "I grew up with this Currier & Ives image of people sitting around a table, but that wasn't the case."

Wasn't even close. Because there were so many guests, the feast had to be held outdoors to accommodate the estimated 100 Wampanoags that attended. There were no tables, no plates, and few utensils outside of knives to slice the meats. The Wampanoag's contribution were five deer, ready for roasting.

"It was very different from the sort of grim dinner we often have with our in-laws," Philbrick says with a chuckle.

That tradition -- the turkey, the trimmings, the awkward conversations -- almost never came about. When Lincoln decided to set aside a national day of thanks, the South, seeing it as a political ploy, didn't embrace the holiday. Thanksgiving gradually caught on, but it wasn't until the middle of the 20th century that the holiday got "locked down" when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared Thanksgiving would be the fourth Thursday of November.

By then, another tradition slowly had been taking hold, at least in New York City. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade originated in 1924 when "some genius" in Macy's ad department thought it would be a good promotional vehicle.

"They wanted to get the public ready for the Christmas shopping season," Brain says." It was purely an advertising ploy, totally commercial."

Canceled from 1942 to 1944 because of World War II, the parade returned in 1945, and in 1948 the Macy's parade was broadcast nationally on NBC-TV.

But what about that other institution that's become synonymous with Thanksgiving? Football has become -- for better or worse -- as important to the holiday as stuffing and pumpkin pie. The Detroit Lions had scheduled Thanksgiving Day games since 1934, and in 1956, the first Thanksgiving national television audience watched as the Lions met the Green Bay Packers.

"You had a lot of people sitting around with their families and not really doing anything," Brain says, "and it was in the middle of football season. It did uproariously well on television, and once something works, they keep doing it."

Romanticized visions vs. reality

Here are a few Thanksgiving myths dispelled by Nathaniel Philbrick in his book, "Mayflower: A Story of Community, Courage and War" (Penguin, $16 paperback).

Myth: The first Thanksgiving took place in November.

Fact: The exact date isn't known, but the feast we celebrate on the fourth Thursday in November likely occurred in late September or early October, shortly after the harvest of such fall crops as corn, beans, squash and barley. It also was not referred to as Thanksgiving by the Pilgrims, as the term applied to a time of spiritual devotion.

Myth: The Pilgrims gathered for the big feast as curious Indians looked on.

Fact: The Wampanoag tribe, led by Massasoit, dominated the proceedings, outnumbering their hosts two to one. About 100 Wampanoags arrived bearing welcome gifts: five freshly killed deer.

Myth: Celebrants dined at long tables draped in linen.

Fact: There weren't nearly enough chairs for everyone, so participants likely gathered around fires where deer and birds were roasted on spits. Forks had yet to be invented, so diners ate with knives and fingers.

Myth: Turkeys were the centerpiece of the first Thanksgiving.

Fact: Turkeys were plentiful in the fall of 1621, and likely shared space on the spit with other popular fowl. But turkeys were more a side dish than main course. Ducks, geese and fish were the culinary centerpieces until the deer arrived.

Myth: The puritanical Pilgrims enjoyed an alcohol-free Thanksgiving feast.

Fact: Puritans or not, Pilgrims loved a good beer. No doubt ale was plentiful thanks to a recently harvested barley crop.

Myth: The native people thought highly of Pilgrim intelligence, since the English citizens brought with them advanced technology.

Fact: The Pilgrims might have had durable shoes, woven clothes and powerful muskets, but their lack of survival skills earned them little respect among the natives. Massasoit considered the Pilgrims "as a little child."

Myth: The first Thanksgiving led to years of peace.

Fact: Fear and suspicion constantly stalked the Pilgrims as well as the many Indian tribes in the area. Violent skirmishes peppered the uneasy relationships among cultures, and not long after the first Thanksgiving, Pilgrims killed the sachem (chief) of a nearby tribe, thrusting his head on a pole outside the colonists' recently built fort.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Lid Comes Off...

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former White House spokesman Scott McClellan says top administration officials -- including President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney -- were involved in his "unknowingly" passing along false information about the leak of a CIA operative's identity.

In October 2003, as controversy grew about the leak of Valerie Plame's name, McClellan stood at the White House podium and said that Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser, and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, had not been involved.

"There was one problem. It was not true," McClellan writes in his new book, "What Happened," which is to be released in April.

The excerpt -- three paragraphs from a 400-page book -- reads in full:

"The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White House briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

"There was one problem. It was not true.

"I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff, and the president himself."

McClellan has not given any specifics about how he believes Bush, Cheney, Libby, Rove and then-Chief of Staff Andrew Card were involved in the dissemination of false information.

Asked about the released excerpt, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said, "The president has not misled his spokespeople, nor would he."

McClellan, who was White House press secretary from July 2003 until April 2006, said he's still writing the book and that his publisher had highlighted the excerpt to build interest.

Plame, who has filed a civil suit against Cheney, Libby and Rove over the leak, issued a statement saying she was "outraged to learn" that McClellan had confirmed "he was sent out to lie to the press corps and the American public."

"McClellan's revelations provide important support for our civil suit against those who violated our national security and maliciously destroyed my career," she said. (A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in July, but the case has been appealed.)

Plame's husband, Joe Wilson, said Wednesday the excerpt shows Bush is "out of touch or an accessory of obstruction of justice before the fact and after the fact

Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador who accused the Bush administration of misrepresenting intelligence on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, called for a new congressional investigation.

"I think it would be helpful to have congressional hearings on this matter," Wilson said. "This is a betrayal of the national security of the country."

In March, Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying to investigators and a federal grand jury about his contacts with reporters concerning Plame.

Just before Libby was to report to a federal prison in July to serve 30 months behind bars, Bush commuted his sentence, although the president stopped short of a full pardon and Libby still had to pay a $250,000 fine.

Rove, who left the White House staff at the end of August, was not charged in the case. His attorney has acknowledged he was one of two sources cited by syndicated columnist Bob Novak, who first disclosed in July 2003 that Plame worked for the CIA shortly after Wilson wrote a critical op-ed piece for The New York Times.

Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has since acknowledged he was Novak's original source for the information that Plame worked at the CIA, although he said the disclosure was not deliberate and he did not know at the time she was a covert agent.

Because deliberately leaking a CIA operative's name can be a federal crime, a special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, was appointed to investigate the case.

No one was charged in connection with the leak itself; Libby's charges resulted from statements he made during the investigation.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux contributed to this report.