Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Stop Arming Israel

by Philip Giraldi

Nearly everyone, with the possible exception of Dick Cheney, would agree that eight years of President George W. Bush did major damage to the good name and reputation of the United States. President Barack Obama, citing the sharp decline in favorable opinions of the U.S., repeatedly asserted that he would give top priority to restoring the country’s reputation in the eyes of the world. On a practical level, he has understood that a nation’s good name is a major component of an effective foreign policy, a highly desirable element that costs no money or lives but which can be more effective than any aid program.

That Obama gave his first interview with a foreign broadcaster to al-Arabiya, a Saudi Arabian-owned satellite service, is significant. It demonstrates that the president truly understands how low the U.S. has fallen in the view of the rest of the world. The Bush campaign against "Islamofascism" did far more damage than good, unnecessarily alienating more than a billion people who practice Islam. Obama followed up his al-Arabiya debut with an address that was aired in Iran, challenging the Iranian people and government to enter into dialogue to improve relations. Critics note that Obama has not deviated from key U.S. demands against Iran, demands that were crafted by George Bush, which include renouncing its nuclear program and its support of groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. But to be fair to Obama, if he moves too fast on the Iran issue, he will lose any backing from Congress, which will respond in Pavlovian fashion if the pro-Israel lobby indicates that it has been affronted. The Iranians, for their part, are demanding deeds, not words, from the new administration.

It would convince much of the world that change and sanity have finally arrived in Washington if Obama were to look seriously at the issue of U.S. weapons sales to Israel. This would not be to pick on Israel but rather to make it a country like any other. Israel has long enjoyed a special status, committing war crimes as a matter of policy and, uniquely, still being able to buy weapons on the international market. Stopping the sale of weapons to Israel is a proportionate response, because Israel is not militarily threatened by any or even all of its neighbors acting together. A ban on weapons sales would send a strong message while not detracting from Israel’s ability to defend itself. Israel also has its own sophisticated arms industry, which is more than capable of manufacturing the basic weapons that it needs.

U.S.-made weapons have been used to commit war crimes by the Israelis in 1982, 2006, and, most recently in Gaza in January. In 1982, the United States did suspend the sale of cluster weapons to Israel when it was determined that they had been used against Lebanese and Palestinian civilians in violation of the conditions of sale. In 2006 and 2009, the United States not only looked the other way when cluster and white phosphorus weapons were used, it also empowered the Israelis by permitting the fighting to continue and providing political cover for the crimes that were being committed. After the fact, Washington intervened at the UN to stop any condemnation of Israeli crimes, and it has refused to consider any reports by investigative bodies that have attempted to document the Israeli actions. Most recently, the U.S. has described a UN report on atrocities committed in Gaza "biased."

To be sure, many countries have engaged in war crimes in the past 50 years, but Israel has done so repeatedly as a policy of intimidation, using American weapons and political cover to carry out the crimes. Israel’s war crimes have damaged America’s reputation all around the world. When Israel acts badly, the rest of the world sees Washington behind it, sometimes obscenely so, as when then secretary of state Condoleezza Rice described the "birth pangs of a new Middle East" after Israel devastated Lebanon in July 2006. It is the Muslim world’s perception that Israel can do anything to Arabs and never be rebuked by the U.S.

Washington’s connivance in Israeli war crimes does grave damage to America’s interests both overseas and at home. Osama bin Laden has repeatedly cited America’s blind support of Israel as one of his justifications for terrorist attacks against the American people. Opinion polls suggest that foreigners who dislike the United States frequently do so because of Washington’s support of Israel. Scenes of Israeli abuse of the Palestinians are a staple of nightly television throughout the Muslim world, where America is seen as Tel Aviv’s enabler. If Obama truly wants to do what is right for the American people, then he can take no more significant step than cutting off arms sales to Israel.

Israel has been engaging in war crimes since the country’s founding, when it deliberately terrorized Palestinian civilians to make them flee their homes. In 1967, Israel attacked the USS Liberty in international waters, killing 34 American sailors and Marines, apparently because it believed that the Liberty had intercepted orders by the Israeli government to execute thousands of Egyptian prisoners captured in Sinai. In 1982, Israel used cluster weapons on Lebanese and Palestinian civilians and its army officers stood by while its Phalangist allies killed thousands of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

In its 2006 invasion of Lebanon, Israel used phosphorus shells and cluster bombs against civilians. Israeli forces targeted and killed United Nations peacekeepers because they were independent observers of crimes against the civilian population. Israel devastated Lebanon’s infrastructure, causing $7 billion in damage. The U.S. provided Israel with new weapons while the fighting was going on and stalled proceedings at the UN to enable Tel Aviv to finish the job. In the last four days of the conflict, while a cease-fire was being negotiated, Israel tried to create an uninhabitable zone along the border by saturating the south of Lebanon with 1,800 cluster bombs containing over 1.2 million bomblets. Many did not explode, converting more than one quarter of south Lebanon’s cultivable land into minefields that still take a toll when farmers attempt to plant their crops.

Most recently, in January’s fighting in Gaza, the tally of Israeli war crimes seems almost too incredible to believe. The violations have been carefully documented by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the United Nations, Israel’s Physicians for Human Rights, and the International Red Cross. The UN rapporteur for Gaza, Richard Falk, called the Israeli offensive, in which nearly 300 children and 121 women died, "a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law." The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) used phosphorus artillery shells against a United Nations compound where more than 700 people were sheltering, killing 42. The UN had called the Israelis repeatedly to tell them there were hundreds of civilians seeking shelter in the building. A UN school sheltering 1,600 civilians was hit two days later. The spent phosphorus shell casings left in Gaza revealed that they had been made by Thiokol Aerospace and the Pine Bluff Arsenal in the United States.

Journalists and the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz have provided other accounts of crimes against civilians, including the refusal to allow ambulances to pass checkpoints to assist the wounded, the killing of 16 ambulance workers and doctors trying to help the injured, the shelling of hospitals and clinics, and the use of Palestinian children as human shields. All such actions are violations of the Geneva Conventions. Israel also used drones to target and kill civilians and shot down women and children advancing under cover of a white flag. A tank fired into an apartment building, killing the three daughters of a Palestinian physician, with an IDF board of inquiry subsequently finding the deaths "reasonable."

Israeli soldiers have provided separate accounts of a sniper who shot a mother and her two children and another who killed an old woman. One soldier said the rules of engagement had changed, that if they saw an Arab walking down the road, they could "just shoot him." Another squad leader said his soldiers understood that "we should kill everyone there. Everyone there is a terrorist." Another soldier said that anyone who had not fled was considered a viable target, ignoring the fact that there was nowhere to flee to. The Israeli media has reported that extremist rabbis told soldiers heading into Gaza that they were fighting a holy war and should be prepared to expel all non-Jews. One brigadier general rabbi issued "a rabbinical edict against showing the enemy mercy." Some army units raised among settlers on the West Bank are reported to be made up of extremists and led by hard-line rabbis who call for the establishment of a Greater Israel by getting rid of all the Arabs.

In both south Lebanon and Gaza, Israel clearly was waging war against an entire people, belying its repeated claims that its military responses were proportionate and "moral." This mindset, that Israel has carte blanche to annihilate its "enemies," loosely defined, surfaces again and again in Israel’s all-too-frequent conflicts with its neighbors. Whether it derives from a desire to terrorize or is a reflection of a religious or cultural belief that an Arab life is worthless compared to a Jewish one would almost seem to be beside the point. But the fact is that Israel has never hesitated to use any weapon in its arsenal and to create fear through overwhelming punishment of the civilian population in every conflict that it has been involved in.

Israel’s largely reservist and often poorly trained army might also be partly to blame for the contempt for Palestinian lives, turning heavily armed and racially indoctrinated adolescents with little adult supervision loose on a defenseless civilian population. Col. Pat Lang, who served as the U.S. Army liaison to the IDF while in uniform and later in a similar capacity with the Defense Intelligence Agency as a civilian, observed Israeli soldiers using a tank’s machine gun to shoot at Palestinian Christian women who were hanging up their laundry, "just for the fun of it." He once was caught up in an Arab street demonstration and was told by an Israeli officer afterward that he would have been shot dead but for the fact that he did not look Palestinian and to kill a foreigner would have caused trouble. Israeli snipers finishing their training courses order T-shirts with distinctive artwork. One recent shirt featured a pregnant Arab woman with a bull’s-eye centered on her and the English slogan "1 shot, 2 kills" underneath.

The Israelis also devastated Gaza as they withdrew, wrecking buildings, dumping furniture and other possessions into the street, tearing up shops and farm buildings, destroying equipment and food supplies, and bombing water purification and electricity generating plants. One can only assume that they were trying to make it uninhabitable so the Arabs would just leave, much as was done to south Lebanon in 2006. Overall, the IDF’s record is not one to be proud of, and any American president should be ashamed to be associated with it, particularly as Washington is frequently called on to defend Israel against charges of war crimes. President Obama has pledged to change things. He could start by telling Tel Aviv that the sale of additional weapons to the IDF has been suspended and is under review. It would be a message that even Bibi Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman would be able to understand.

Vow to Fight Raises Question: Is Calm in Iraq Just the Eye of the Storm?

by Leila Fadel

GARMA, Iraq — Mohammed walked in disbelief through the rich green grass that carpets the farm behind his modest family home. For more than three years, he'd seen no green, no hanging branches in the orchards near his home in Garma, in Anbar province in western Iraq.

For more than three years, he'd worn a yellow jumpsuit in the U.S. detention center of Bucca in the hot desert outside Basra, hundreds of miles from home. He waited for his family's rare visits, and his heart lifted.

Between those visits, there was darkness. He was convinced that he'd never see this familiar place, his fiancee or his family again.

"Sometimes I ask myself, 'Am I truly here or am I dreaming?' " he said.

Even with his release, however, the 23-year-old never surrendered his principles, though he learned what he had to say in order to be freed: "Yes, I fought you. No, I won't do it again."

In America, the U.S. "surge" of additional troops to Baghdad is heralded as a success, and President Barack Obama has said he'll draw down American forces in Iraq and turn his attention to Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Iraq, however, what the U.S.-led invasion and occupation started is far from over.

Most Iraqis think that today's lower level of violence is the eye, not the end, of the storm, and that the decisive power struggles are just beginning. The U.S.-backed Iraqi government is widely regarded as an undeserving group of exiles who returned to Iraq on the backs of American tanks.

Over the weekend, fighting broke out between Sunni Muslims and Iraq's Shiite Muslim-led security forces, and it's unclear whether the security forces, still heavily backed by U.S. air and ground support, are loyal to their nation rather than their sect, tribe, town or ethnicity.

Although the Sunni insurgency that earlier had battled U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces and killed thousands of civilians is weakened, Mohammed is one of many Iraqis who still believe in what he calls the muqawima, the resistance. He always will.

Mohammed is one of the thousands of detainees who're being released from U.S. detention centers as America prepares to withdraw forces from Iraq. There are about 13,400 detainees in U.S.-run prisons, and on average 50 are released each day. Some are guilty of crimes, others are innocent, many have never been afforded due process and some have become radicalized by their time in prison.

A U.S. military study of 138,000 Iraqi detainees found that economics motivated 70 percent of them and local issues another 20 percent; fewer than 10 percent were Islamic radicals.

Iraqi officials worry that releasing detainees will trigger a new wave of violence. In some cases, local police are using vigilante law and killing people who've been released from U.S. detention centers, according to residents in Anbar. Most are too afraid to talk about it.

Mohammed came home late last year still determined to resist. He has one rule: Target only American troops, never civilians.

However, the resistance, a movement that he believes is the only way to restore dignity to the Iraqi people, was damaged by zealots who used a warped interpretation of Islam to justify killing Iraqis by the thousands. Damaged by the fatigue and terror that the sectarian war of 2006 and 2007 instilled in every Iraqi heart. Damaged by money and damaged by greed.

"There are people who are just killers, and then there are people who are resistance," Mohammed said. "I am resistance."

Mohammed is from a family of "resistance." His late father, Farouq, is almost legendary in nearby Fallujah. He's known as the first man to face American forces in that town, once the heart of the Sunni insurgency and a death trap for U.S. forces.

Farouq was detained shortly after the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. For months, his family didn't know where he was. That May, he came home a changed man, said his brother Abu Sleiman. Farouq became obsessed with avenging his personal and national humiliation.

"They wanted to mold him like dough in their hands," Abu Sleiman said of the Americans. "He was so hurt."

Farouq organized with others in Garma, and the emerging resistance fighters trained in the vast land behind his home as U.S. tanks drove through the streets and American soldiers raided homes.

At the end of 2003, Farouq went to the outskirts of Fallujah with nine other men to attack the Americans. He and his compatriots wouldn't plant a bomb and run away, as others had. For them, there'd be no retreat.

Mohammed followed his father to the battle. Farouq protested, so Mohammed trailed the fighters by almost a mile.

In the dark of night, he watched the tracer fire of the battle. His father didn't retreat. The lone survivor of the battle said that Farouq had drawn fire to himself to help him get away. His family says that Farouq became a martyr that day, a hero.

"This was my brother, strong to the end," said Mohammed's uncle Abu Sleiman, who's a teacher.

Farouq's wife — Mohammed's mother, Umm Mohammed — was widowed with her seven children, and Abu Sleiman became a father figure to his nieces and nephews. Her grief, however, was mixed with pride.

"I tell my children to follow his footsteps. Walk the same path your father did," Umm Mohammed said. She cradled her 7-year-old daughter in her arms. "The Americans have done us an injustice, a very big injustice."

She ticked off the men in her family, one of them her young son, whom U.S. troops have killed; some with stray American bullets, others as they attacked the Americans.

She thinks that her 16-year-old son was caught in a crossfire and killed by the Americans. Others, however, say that out of desperation and sadness, he turned to al Qaida in Iraq, seeking revenge. U.S. troops killed him while he was with the radical Islamists, and his family never got his body back from the group, and never buried him.

Abu Sleiman still sobs when he's reminded of his nephew's death. He couldn't protect the boy, and his silence carries the guilt that he cannot voice.

"An uncle is not a father," is all he can say.

Mohammed and the rest of his family never worked with al Qaida in Iraq. When the militant group made it halal, or permissible, to kill Muslims, specifically Shiites, it undermined what the family calls the "honorable resistance."

"Al Qaida broke the back of the resistance," said Mohammed's uncle Abu Sleiman.

Another one of Abu Sleiman's brothers, a religious sheik, left the country for a time rather than work with al Qaida in Iraq. Abu Sleiman blames America for the rise of the violent extremist group, which emerged only after American tanks rolled into the country.

Still, Abu Sleiman and his family will continue to resist.

"This generation has learned to hate, more and more," Mohammed said

Throughout the war, the family members joke, their home was a pit stop for American soldiers. Every time a tank passed, another member of the clan was picked up. Almost every man in the family was detained. Mohammed and his uncle Abu Izzuddin, a tribal sheik, spent the longest time in prison.

Abu Izzuddin wrote poetry to remind himself of his loved ones and his beloved town. A respected leader in the community, he was detained in his home in front of a crowd of guests. Only one other act could be more humiliating: his guests being detained in his home.

Mostly, Abu Izzuddin wrote about love and his longing for his wife and children:

"And in me is grief and pain that hurt me in a way
"That no pen and paper can describe

"Injustice, subjugation and deprivation are crushing me

"And the wounds of my heart are oozing pus and pain

"When I see you, I see Paradise approaching

"Towards me, and all the wounds of my soul will heal.

Before they were detained, the U.S. fought two bloody battles to try to retake Fallujah from Sunni fighters, and the city morphed into a prison. Residents were forced to walk in and out of Fallujah through U.S. checkpoints with American-issued IDs.

While Mohammed and his uncle waited in prison, stripped of power and forced to follow the orders of foreigners, Iraq changed. The schism between Sunnis and Shiites grew, and the corpses of people killed in sectarian feuds were thrown into the streets.

Al Qaida in Iraq, initially an ally to Sunni "resistance" fighters, grew stronger and eventually declared an Islamic state in Anbar and other Sunni areas. The extremists forced the population to live under their brand of Islamic law.

A new, U.S.-backed central government formed in Baghdad.

The Sunni Awakening sprang up when tribal leaders grew tired of al Qaida in Iraq assassinating prominent leaders, forcing local women to marry fighters and in some cases cutting into smuggling profits. The U.S. military started doling out cash to Sunni fighters and others to stop shooting or join the fight against al Qaida in Iraq.

After three years, Mohammed lost all hope of returning home. Three times, he was called before an American panel to review his case. Three times, the Americans asked him whether he'd attacked U.S. forces. Three times he denied it.

"Terrorist," they called him, and back to detention he went.

The fourth time he told the truth.

"I am resistance. I had weapons," he said.

"Why?" they asked.

"You are an occupier. You humiliate our people," he replied.

"Will you continue to do it?" they asked.

"No. You were acting bad, but I hear you're behaving in a better way."

A little more than a month later, his jailers let him go.

Mohammed had told one lie, however. He'd never abandon the fight.

"I wanted to save myself," he said, explaining why he'd faked rehabilitation.

The day after he was released, Mohammed married his fiancee. His wife is four months pregnant now.

Mohammed scorns much of the Sunni Awakening, now known as the Sons of Iraq, for selling out its principles, taking cash from the occupier and turning against its own people.

"The people who are with the occupier, we consider him an occupier. These are the same looters, criminal gangs and killers who were in for money," Mohammed said. "If the resistance is stopped, the U.S. will not leave. . . . They want Iraq to be subjugated and to strip it, and now the police and sahwa (Awakening) do their work for them."

The police, known for brutalizing anyone slightly under suspicion of connections to al Qaida in Iraq, detained and beat one of Mohammed's brothers. When he was released, his mother sighed with relief, even at the sight of her son's bruises.

"I thanked God he was released; so many boys never come back," she said.

Mohammed was offered a job with the police. He refused it. He paused and thought about why. Would he be able to detain all these men that Americans said were terrorists?

"If I became a policeman, would I shake the hands of the Americans when they came to the police station?" he asked. "If I was ordered to detain a man whom I knew to be resistance, could I say no?"

"At this moment, it is better for us to sit and be quiet. Once we start fighting . . . ," Mohammed said, and then his words trailed off. "Everything I'm doing is being watched."

As Umm Mohammed offered fruit and other food to her guests, the gracious host stood firm in her beliefs. She needed it to be understood, however, that it isn't Americans she wants to fight, or her children to fight, it's the occupier. If it were any other foreigners, she and her family would fight them, as well.

"The Americans should get out of Iraq, leave Iraq to the Iraqis," she said. "What happened here is because of them, and they will be held accountable."

No one thinks that the Americans will leave, despite Obama's promises to draw down troops. Iraqis have heard American promises before, promises that never came to be.

"History will not have mercy on America," Abu Sleiman said. "I believe that it reached its peak, and now it is on its way down. America was hijacked from the Americans."

© McClatchy Newspapers 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009

US Soldier Guilty in Killing of 4 Iraqis in 2007

by George Frey

VILSECK, Germany - A military court convicted a second U.S. soldier of murder in the execution-style slayings of four bound and blindfolded Iraqi detainees in 2007 after the soldier pleaded guilty at his court-martial Monday.

A US soldier cycles past a sign for the 5th Judicial Circuit Courtroom in Rose Barracks in Vilseck, southern Germany where a US sergeant has become the second non-commissioned officer to be convicted of murder for the summary executions of four bound and blindfolded prisoners in Iraq in 2007. (AFP)Wearing his dress uniform and speaking crispy and confidently, Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Mayo of Fort Bragg, N.C., pleaded guilty to charges of premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit premeditated murder at the proceeding at the U.S. Army's Rose Barracks in southern Germany.

He pleaded not guilty to a charge of obstruction of justice in the incident, which occurred while he was deployed to Iraq. Military prosecutors dropped that charge.

The 27-year-old will be sentenced later Monday and faces the possibility of life in prison, along with a reduction in rank to private, forfeiture of all pay and a dishonorable discharge.

Col. Jeffrey Nance, the judge overseeing the proceedings, told Mayo that he "entered into an agreement to commit premeditated murder" that saw the four Iraqi men shot in the head by the side of a canal in Baghdad between March and April 2007.

In February a military court convicted Sgt. Michael Leahy, 28, of Lockport, Ill., to life in prison with the possibility of parole after he admitted to the execution-style killing of one of the detainees and shooting another. He was acquitted of murder over a separate incident in Baghdad in January 2007.

According to testimony at previous courts-martial, at least four Iraqis were taken into custody in spring 2007 after a shootout with a patrol.

The Iraqis were taken to the U.S. unit's operating base in Baghdad for questioning and processing, although there was not enough evidence to hold them for attacking the unit. Later that night patrol members took the Iraqis to a remote area and shot them in retribution for the attacks on the unit, according to testimony.

Mayo, Leahy and Master Sgt. John Hatley, 40, are accused of pulling the trigger.

"Hatley stated that if we took (the) individuals to detention they'd be released in a matter of days," Mayo told the court. "He said we should take care of them. I agreed."

All were with the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. The unit is now part of the Germany-based 172nd Infantry Brigade.

Hatley's court-martial on charges of premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit premeditated murder and obstruction of justice is scheduled for April.

The Army has also not released a hometown for Hatley. Hatley also faces murder charges from the separate incident in Baghdad.

Two soldiers - Spc. Steven Ribordy, 26, of Salina, Kansas, and Spc. Belmor Ramos, 24, of Clearfield, Utah - pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit premeditated murder and were sentenced to prison last year.

Staff Sgt. Jess Cunningham, 29, of Bakersfield, California, and Sgt. Charles Quigley, 28, of Providence, Rhode Island, had charges of conspiracy to commit premeditated murder dropped this year. It is unclear whether they will testify in the upcoming courts-martial.

© 2009 Associated Press

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Can Uncle Sam Ever Let Go?

by Patrick J. Buchanan

"In 1877, Lord Salisbury, commenting on Great Britain's policy on the Eastern Question, noted that 'the commonest error in politics is sticking to the carcass of dead policies.'

"Salisbury was bemoaning the fact that many influential members of the British ruling class could not recognize that history had moved on; they continued to cling to policies and institutions that were relics of another era."

"Relics of another era" – thus did Stephen Meyer, in Parameters in 2003, begin his essay "Carcass of Dead Policies: The Irrelevance of NATO."

NATO has been irrelevant for two decades, since its raison d'être – to keep the Red Army from driving to the Rhine – disappeared. Yet Obama is headed to Brussels to celebrate France's return and the 60th birthday of the alliance. But why is NATO still soldiering on?

In 1989, the Wall fell. Germany was reunited. The Captive Nations cast off communism. The Red Army went home. The USSR broke apart into 15 nations. But, having triumphed in the Cold War, it seems the United States could not bear giving up its role as Defender of the West, could not accept that the curtain had fallen and the play was closing after a 40-year run.

So, what did we do? In a spirit of "triumphalism," NATO "nearly doubled its size and rolled itself right up to Russia's door," writes Richard Betts in The National Interest.

Breaking our word to Mikhail Gorbachev, we invited into NATO six former member states of the Warsaw Pact and three former republics of the Soviet Union. George W. Bush was disconsolate he could not bring in Georgia and Ukraine.

Why did we expand NATO to within a few miles of St. Petersburg when NATO is not a social club but a military alliance? At its heart is Article V, a declaration that an armed attack on any one member is an attack on all.

America is now honor-bound to go to war against a nuclear-armed Russia for Estonia, which was part of the Russian Empire under the czars.

After the Russia-Georgia clash last August, Bush declared, "It's important for the people of Lithuania to know that when the United States makes a commitment – we mean it."

But "mean" what? That a Russian move on Vilnius will be met by U.S. strikes on Mother Russia? Are we insane?

Let us thank Divine Providence Russia has not tested the pledge.

For can anyone believe that, to keep Moscow from re-establishing its hegemony over a tiny Baltic republic, we would sink Russian ships, blockade Russian ports, bomb Russian airfields, attack Russian troop concentrations? That would risk having some Russian general respond with atomic weapons on U.S. air, sea and ground forces.

Great powers do not go to war against other great powers unless vital interests are imperiled. Throughout the Cold War, that was true of both America and Russia.

Though he had an atomic monopoly, Harry Truman did not use force to break the Berlin blockade. Nor did Ike intervene to save the Hungarians, whose 1956 revolution Moscow drowned in blood.

John F. Kennedy did not use force to stop the building of the Berlin Wall. Lyndon Johnson fired not a shot to halt the crushing of Prague Spring by Soviet tanks. When Solidarity was snuffed out on Moscow's orders in 1981, Ronald Reagan would not even put the Polish regime in default.

In August 1991, George Bush I, in Kiev, poured ice water on Ukraine's dream of independence: "Americans will not support those who seek independence in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local despotism. They will not aid those who promote a suicidal nationalism based upon ethnic hatred."

Many Americans were outraged. But outrage does not translate into an endorsement of Bush 43's plan to bring Ukraine into NATO and risk war with Russia over the Crimea.

Bush 43 bellowed at Moscow last summer to keep hands off the Baltic states. But his father barely protested when Gorbachev sent special forces into all three in 1991.

Bush I's secretary of state, Jim Baker, said it was U.S. policy not to see Yugoslavia break up. Bush 43 was handing out NATO war guarantees to the breakaway republics.

"Washington ... succumbed to victory disease and kept kicking Russia while it was down," writes Betts. "Two decades of humiliation were a potent incentive for Russia to push back. Indeed this is why many realists opposed NATO expansion in the first place."

Few Americans under 30 recall the Cold War. Yet can anyone name a single tripwire for war put down in the time of Dean Acheson or John Foster Dulles that we have pulled up?

Dwight Eisenhower, writes Richard Reeves, in his first meeting with the new president-elect, told JFK, "'America is carrying far more than her share of the free world defense.' It was time for the other nations of NATO to take on more of the cost of their own defense."

Half a century later, we are still stuck "to the carcass of dead policies."

March 28, 2009

Patrick J. Buchanan is co-founder and editor of The American Conservative. He is also the author of seven books, including Where the Right Went Wrong, and A Republic Not An Empire. His latest book is Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War.

Copyright © 2009 Creators Syndicate

Friday, March 27, 2009

Leaving Iraq

by Karen Kwiatkowski

It will cost more to leave Iraq than to continue to occupy it, according to the latest GAO report.

The headline from the bankrupt Washington Post yesterday read, "GAO Calls Iraq Pullout A 'Massive,' Costly Effort." Many of us, weary from years of watching the American way of war and those of us personally impacted by the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, recall that the asinine Post and moronic New York Times reliably echoed the White House. An invasion of Iraq would cost us little to nothing. One vaguely remembers the term "cakewalk" and recalls the flowers and candy to be thrown at our liberating troops. In April 2003, Treasury Secretary Snow informed us that "America can afford the cost of this war, which at $74.7 billion makes up less than 1 percent of GDP."

Newsflash! $75 billion represents nearly 2.5% of the US GDP today. And the Iraq war has cost us directly over $600 billion, and even if we stop now, its total cost will amount to nearly $3 trillion. War on the cheap it wasn’t.

Before the invasion, two administration officials cautiously tried to tell a slightly truer story about the Iraq invasion costs. Overnight, economic advisor Lawrence Lindsey and Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill were sent packing. The truth that was so dangerous? The war would cost at least $200 billion, and the invasion was on the Washington agenda for years and never had a real policy debate.

When Army Chief Eric Shinseki suggested to Congress that it would take several hundred thousand troops to occupy Iraq, he too was unceremoniously marginalized. Same for Bush’s Middle East Envoy, Anthony Zinni.

What was the mainstream media response to these tentative truth-telling transients? CNN reported that the departures of Lindsey and O’Neill were "predicted," in O’Neill’s case because "He is generally seen as not being able to get along with Republicans in Congress, as well as not having the support of Wall Street." Hmmm. The Washington Post and New York Times strenuously reported the administration’s anger and outrage about O’Neill and Lindsey. In the case of Shinseki, a quiet man who did not seek the media limelight, seven years later CNN accused him of being too passive in making his case in 2002. Zinni was dropped from the media radar.

The new GAO report contains some excellent observations and advice for the Congress six years into the occupation. One wonders what the GAO said about the costs of the Iraq war when it started. Looking at all GAO reports on Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002 (there are 182), only two occurred prior to the March 2003 invasion. These were the largely irrelevant Weapons of Mass Destruction: U.N. Confronts Significant Challenges in Implementing Sanctions against Iraq in May 2002, and Gulf War Illnesses: Similarities and Differences Among Countries in Chemical and Biological Threat Assessment and Veterans' Health Status in January 2002. On May 15, 2003, the GAO published a report focused on Rebuilding Iraq. It was little noted, a correct response by the way, as rebuilding Iraq and Iraqi society, for Iraqis, was never really what we had in mind.

What should we take away from this latest bit of after-the-fact analysis from the GAO and the media’s sudden hovering concern about the Iraq war’s cost to taxpayers?

First, war is a racket. Not much has changed since Smedley Butler made his name in valiantly intervening on behalf of Washington, and then more valiantly denouncing the game as it is indeed played.

Second, the mainstream media functions to cheer politics, to cheer war, and to advertise the benefits of war. This arm-of-government lackey-ism desensitizes citizens to the costs of war, while increasing their sensitivity to being called traitor, disloyal, unpatriotic or doing anything that could get them mentioned in the MIAC Report.

Third, invasion of small, poorly defended, unpopular but resource-rich countries is good business for the well-connected. This mirrors war as a racket – but it’s more personal than that. AIG, even with its recent $170 billion infusion of tax dollars has nothing on the tax-eating complicity of the major defense contractors in Iraq. Phil Giraldi reports in the current issue of The American Conservative that on top of everything else, American military officers and other American officials in Iraq have created their own little bailout, skimming from the till to the tune of $125 billion.

Lastly, it will NOT cost more to leave Iraq than to stay. It’s all in the attitude. Ship the people home, auction off the facilities, have a big bonfire. It could even be fun. Abandoning the Iraqi outpost, destroying the military bases we constructed and outfitted (as we must do), concluding this chapter of the Iraq tragedy and fully accounting for the terrible waste of lives and money that it was – all this has a price. Feelings will be hurt, defensive memoirs written, taxpayers and soldiers will wonder whither the sacrifice, and Americans will increasingly feel that they cannot trust their government to make policy, go to war, or manage taxpayer resources.

This loss of faith, the evaporation of contracts (until the next gyration of the corporate state is sold to us on the cheap), the contraction of American credibility, and the incredible silent emptiness that settles when people realize that the lessons learned will never compensate for the losses sustained – well, all that is expensive.

Like the famous movie about a bridge built by prisoners, war apologists have created a fantasy of what Iraq means. Our generals, many of our soldiers, tour after tour, are invested in Iraq. What meaning will there be if all that America has created in Iraq is abandoned? As those Mesopotamian monuments to Pentagon power fall to dust, and the stories of America’s expenditures and actions in Iraq are airbrushed out of our textbooks, what will be left?

At the end of The Bridge Over the River Kwai, Colonel Nicholson somehow realizes that the work he had done – for its functionality, its perceived integrity, for the glory of British tradition – was in opposition to the real national security needs of his country. He destroys his beloved creation – and in doing so we understand that doing the right thing destroys more than just buildings and bases. It can and will destroy many cherished fantasies about who we are, and what we are about.

Screaming defenders of the Iraq project – in Congress, the media, in uniform and throughout the military-industrial complex and in the White House and in Tel Aviv – all should be disabused of their fantasies. Many Obama supporters felt that the administration would move quickly in this regard – by charging, trying and sentencing the war profiteers and the war liars.

The latest GAO report on withdrawing from Iraq makes one thing clear. We can’t simply shoot the policymakers, and throw their heaving carcasses on the detonators. Not yet, anyway.

March 27, 2009

LRC columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D., a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, has written on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for MilitaryWeek.com, hosted the call-in radio show American Forum, and blogs occasionally for Huffingtonpost.com and Liberty and Power.

Copyright © 2009 Karen Kwiatkowski

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Zionists Bearing Gifts?–Israeli Soldiers Admit To Religious Reasons for Recent Gaza Genocide

by Mark Glenn

Almost immediately after the day Christians and Muslims celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, Israel made good on threats issued the previous year by then-Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai when he warned that a “shoah“–the Hebrew word for holocaust–was about to befall the beleaguered people of Gaza. Termed “Operation Cast Lead” (in reference to the process of pouring molten lead into a small, confined space resulting in a desired shape) the Jewish state did indeed wage a 3 week mini-holocaust of sorts upon the Gentiles living in Gaza, the same area considered to be the most densely-populated piece of real estate on earth.

Following her humiliating defeat in Lebanon in the summer of 2006 and knowing a full year ahead of time what she was about to do in Gaza, Israel decided that priority #1 was to make sure the upcoming fight was an easy one. Seeing all persons in Gaza as enemy combatants (by virtue of the fact they were gentiles “polluting” the land given expressly to the Jews by their god Yahweh) she began by starving the Palestinian population of even the most basic necessities of life–including food, fuel, writing paper and even children’s clothes (which Israel said could be made into military uniforms) for over a year.

Having then determined that through this process of deliberate starvation Gaza’s immune system had been weakened to the point it posed no substantial threat to the virus-in-waiting, Israel then made sure there would be no media coverage of the upcoming massacre by driving out reporters and international human rights monitors and refusing them re-entry. In the words of one Rabbi Pruzansky–

“Israel was most clever in keeping Western media out of the conflict zone. No pictures means no lasting story, and no lasting story means no consequences…”

…or so the Jewish state had hoped…

When all was finished, close to 7,000 civilians had been killed or wounded, most of them women and children. 100,000 + had been made homeless, thousands of structures–including homes, hospitals, churches, mosques, schools, food storage facilities, water treatment plants, etc–were demolished. Livestock and farms (the only sustenance for a population of people being deliberately starved as a result of Israel’s blockade) had been destroyed. Otherwise fertile soil was permanently poisoned with phosphorus, making any future cultivation of food impossible.

In sum, what was an already barely-functioning infrastructure for close to 1.5 million people–over half of them children–received a bullet to the back of the head, execution style by La Kosher Nostra, the gangster syndicate known as the Jewish state.

Apart from the new types of high-tech weapons used on the hapless victims however there were few substantive differences between this massacre and the hundreds of others taking place the previous 60 years. Just as in places such as Deir Yassin, Sabra and Shatilla (as well as the 400 Palestinian villages and towns systematically wiped off the map over the last half century) Gentiles were killed en mass. Bodies were piled up like cordwood, most of them women and children. The only thing not taking place this time was the bellies of pregnant women being slashed open and the children ripped out as had happened in previous massacres.

Otherwise, as far as Israel’s history goes, it was a case of “SSDD”, meaning “Same slaughter, different day”.

The one difference however between this most recent slaughter and its predecessors was this miracle of sorts known as the internet that–as in the case of Lebanon in 2006–caused serious problems for Israel and her ability to control the flow of information to the outside world. This being the case, what had previously been the simple task of neutralizing negative world opinion concerning her actions had now been made much more difficult.

As a result, stories from eyewitnesses on the ground in Gaza came flooding in like a tidal wave. Billions of people worldwide (who otherwise would never have known) now were witness to information and photos that left the civilized world in a state of shock and awe for all its raw, organic brutality. Women and children having the flesh burned off their bones by outlawed white phosphorus that Israel denied using…Fathers watching as their children were gunned down before their eyes in broad daylight after being ordered by IDF to leave their homes…Children watching their fathers and mothers being executed from as far away as a mere 30 feet…Attack dogs ripping the body of a little 4 year old Palestinian girl to pieces while at the same time Israeli soldiers opened fire on family members trying to rescue her…The body of 9 year-old Palestinian boy being used as target practice for an hour by the IDF while his father was forced to watch…

Every day, all day, for a full 3 weeks…

Despite the sense of surrealism, as if all of this were part of any typical slash and gore film produced in Hollywood rather than real-life events affecting real-life people, the truth is that the aforedescribed was not only real, but daily fare in the alternative media. Indeed, so voluminous were the accounts of raw savagery on the part of the Jewish state towards her Gentile victims in Gaza that time and space permit only brief mention of even a smattering of the brutal 3 week ordeal. Realistic estimates suggest the number of books required to cover the history of the massacre would no doubt require the size of any modest-sized library.

And at the very same time stories such as these (and thousands more) made their way across the internet, burning the details and images of this recent slaughter into the memories of people in every corner of the globe, almost every night for 3 weeks the same gangster state responsible for the carnage did what she always does best–she lied.

Knowing it is much easier to sell a lie with a pretty face than some Golda Meir look-alike, she did so by bringing front and center some semi-attractive, hair-flitting, eye-batting, smiling, giggling, alluring female spokesperson to seduce a morally-outraged world into believing the rapist’s version of events rather than the victim. Employing that old “By way of deception, thou shalt do war“ business espoused by her intelligence service Mossad, press conference after press conference after press conference she told the world with a straight face that everything being alleged by eyewitnesses was mere fantasy and fabrication.

Then, in the same breath, and especially when confronted with damning photos that do not lie, she contradicted herself–over and over and over–saying the victim “had it coming“, followed again by denial after denial after denial of the particulars and doing so with smirks, snide smiles, and snickering/sneering tones, casting an air of ridicule over the incalculably-high number of war crimes that–had the victims been Jews instead of Gentiles–would no doubt have already been made the subject of a half dozen/full-length/star-studded films a mere month afterward their occurrence.

According to the “eternal victims” side of the story, there was no use of phosphorus bombs, and the photos and videos alleging such were the result of sophisticated, well-organized and well-funded Islamic cinemagraphic magic designed to fool people. There was no humanitarian crisis, no civilian casualties…The photos of children with bullet holes in the middle of their heads or in their chests were child actors recruited to do such by Hamas. Those children without rams, legs, heads, or internal organs were the victims of Hamas snipers, because Jews simply do not kill civilians. She denied the deliberate targeting of Red Cross and Red Crescent ambulances, mosques, schools, churches, hospitals, electric power plants, water treatment and food storage facilities saying that indeed if such structures suffered any damage, it had to have been sabotage by Ahab the Arab who then made it look like Israel did it.

Besides the violence itself, there were other eyewitness reports to consider as well which Israel also denied vehemently. Detailed accounts of IDF troops going into Arab homes and–like a gaggle of drunk, marauding bandits–destroying everything in sight, smearing their own defecation on walls, beds, kitchen tables and eating utensils, or spray-painting the walls of homes with racist graffiti such as “Arabs need 2 die,” “Make war not peace”, and “1 down, 999,999 to go” and a host of other goodies were made available to a captivated world audience.

In the meantime, an army of “activists” (professional troublemakers, liars and obfuscators) were recruited by Israel’s intelligence services to flood the internet, print media and talk radio with conflicting and contradictory propaganda concerning this latest manifestation of undeniable, institutionalized hatred of Gentiles taking place in Gaza. And, as usually takes place when discussing Jewish issues, rather than a sane, rational, intelligent discussion of the “facts on the ground” taking place, the mob working for Israeli interests ascribed all the outrage felt and expressed by billions of persons around the world to the typical business of–surprise, surprise–“anti-Semitism” rather than to Israel‘s evil deeds.

Technically speaking however–according to Jewish law Israel’s defenders were correct in everything they said, minus of course the business of it all being faked by Hamas. Junkies addicted to the narcotic of Jewish exceptionalism could go to sleep at night with a clear conscience knowing they had not violated that infamous commandment with regards to bearing false witness and thus had not sinned in the eyes of their god Yahweh as pertains operation Cast Lead. They could deny everything, from deliberately killing innocent women ad children to the humanitarian crisis to the deliberate destruction of infrastructure with a straight face, just as their spokesbabes did, knowing that what they said was the God’s honest truth.

Of course, the hitch in all of it was a technicality of sorts they did not bother sharing with the rest of the outraged world, namely this thing known as Jewish law based on the teachings of both the Old Testament and the Talmud. Since Palestinians (and Gentiles in general) are considered animals created in human form to serve the Jews, therefore all the aforementioned war crimes did not apply. Furthermore, as it was seen through Jewish eyes, the assault on Gaza was a fulfillment of the commands given by Yahweh to the forbearers of the Jewish state thousands of years ago as recounted in the 1st 5 books of the Old Testament, and God did not put a time limit on all of the bloodshed. Speaking through people such as Moses, Joshua, Saul, David, Solomon and the rest of the gang, it was an ‘eternal’ struggle, an idea echoed by various rabbis in the run-up to Cast Lead. Besides, and even if it weren’t this “eternal“ thing as some believed, to not follow in the footsteps of their founding fathers who “made their bones” thousands of years ago in slaying the ancient Canaanites, Jebusites, Midianites, Perizzites et al would have been the ultimate show of disrespect to their “blessed” memories.

However, Israel and her supporters knew this would never fly. They knew the consequences of the Gentile world finding out what it is Judaism teaches concerning Gentiles, and given the fact that Israel’s very existence is tied to her feeding off the Gentile western world’s lifeblood–whether it is money, technology or military armaments–therefore, rather than introduce this ‘evidence’ into the record–that Gentiles were not human and therefore according to Jewish law what took place in Gaza was not technically a war crime–Israel and her spokespersons simply lied and said the eyewitnessed events “never happened”.

Now however, in an admission stunning for its frankness and seemingly out of the clear blue members of Israel’s military are coming forward and admitting what the rest of the sane world already knew to be the case–that the war waged against the civilians of Gaza was deliberate and that all persons–women and children included–were considered enemy combatants from the get-go.

Appearing first in Israeli’s Haaretz news service and then picked up by virtually ever mainstream news source in the US and throughout the West, the statements from IDF who were there on the ground in Gaza are an almost-mirrored reflection of the charges made months ago by those in the alternative media. Stories of women and children being deliberately targeted by machine gun fire, missiles, bombs, mortars, every instrument of death unleashed upon a civilian population that the angel of death known as the Jewish state had in her arsenal, and now rather than it being limited to the testimony of only “anti-Semites” “conspiracy theorists” and “Jew haters” (meaning the victims themselves) now “wise guys” from within “La Famiglia” are singing too.

Besides the inordinate (dare we say unprecedented) sense of honesty surrounding the press stories, the other thing sticking out like a sore thumb is the quite-noticeable absence of the all-too-typical censorship on the part of a western media held almost entirely by Jewish interests. Things that would never be discussed openly (much less even mentioned) in the last week are now found emblazoned across pages in some of the biggest media outlets in the US with the same kind of enthusiasm as the Bernie Madoff scandal or the coverage of Elliot Spitzer’s troubles a year ago, and not just newspapers, but TV and radio as well.

In the meantime, the world–Jew and Gentile alike–are now reacting with shock over this latest admission that Israel indeed engaged in targeting civilians in Gaza as if it were the last thing any sane person should have expected. Those who scoffed and scowled at the alternative media in its coverage months ago and reacted with hostility to the assertion that ‘the most moral army in the world’ deliberately targeted civilians now find themselves eating some bitter crow.

The truth however is that this latest disclosure should have been as much a shock to the ‘enlightened’ west as a farmer coming out to find his chickens ripped to pieces after leaving the fox in charge of guarding the henhouse.

After all, one need do no more than consider the tidal wave of barking and snarling just in the last year from the various “big dogs” in the pack that gave ample warning of what was to come. Besides the aforementioned “shoah” comment from Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai there is former chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu writing to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert saying there was “absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza”, citing as precedence the biblical story of the Shechem massacre and adding that “an entire city holds collective responsibility for the immoral behavior of individuals.” His son Shmuel (also a rabbi and obviously a chip off the old block) famously pontificated that “If they don’t stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand, and if they do not stop after 1,000 then we must kill 10,000, and if they still don’t stop we must kill 100,000, even a million. Whatever it takes…” IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Avichai Ronsky, in addition to the many statements he has made over the years glorifying the good old days of Old Testament butchery of Gentiles is credited with “whuppin” up IDF fighting spirit prior to Operation Cast lead by comparing the Palestinians to the Old Testament Philistines while advocating the idea that Israel cannot afford to be “enticed by the folly of the Gentiles” in “showing mercy”. Rabbi Dov Lior, another religious capo overseeing the “religious needs” of the IDF remarked in a speech to recent military graduates that “The sons of Torah are taught not to pity their enemies” adding “We need ethics from the Torah, not the Christian world, which teaches to turn the other cheek…” Rabbi David Bar-Chayim, another prominent religious leader in the Jewish state wrote in the run-up to the massacre that “We’re talking about a society dedicated to murder and savagery and barbarism…These people are evil. When such people are destroyed, we have no tears to shed… I don’t believe there are innocent civilians.” Another pamphlet distributed to IDF bases just prior to the initiation of the assault read “…As for the population, it is not innocent, and we call on you to ignore any strange doctrines and orders that confuse the logical way of fighting the enemy.”

For her part Israel is–surprise, surprise–denying it all. Through her various spokesman she still maintains her innocence in the face of overwhelming evidence and stands by the worn out assertion that her military–yes, the same that now stands self-accused of deliberately shooting, bombing and incinerating over a thousand innocent women and children–is the “most moral army in the world”.

Naturally, a significant number of people are jumping for joy over these latest revelations being made public. It is in many ways similar to the jubilation that occurred following CBS’ program 60 Minutes airing Jan 25, entitled “Time Running Out For A Two-State Solution?” that gave untypically fair coverage of Palestinian suffering.

However, it is again important to keep in mind several old sayings, the first of which is that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, followed by that old one concerning “Greeks bearing gifts” that resulted from hard lessons learned during the Trojan war.

But most important of all, it is the motto of Israel’s intelligence service Mossad, “By way of deception, thou shalt do war” that people should consider before breaking out the champagne and celebrating.

The truth is, as indicated earlier the only difference between the latest carnage taking place in Gaza and what has taken place over the course of the last 60 years is that in this case Israel and her paid liars were not as successful this time around in painting the kind of deceptive picture needed to neutralize bad press and manipulate public opinion in her favor.

Due to the internet and the availability of raw information, analysis and commentary that has not passed through the kosher filter, Merlin is not able to cast the kind of magic spell he did in years past. Every mother cut to pieces or incinerated by Israeli bombs, every child shot in the head by one of God’s chosen snipers accompanied by denials on the part of the Jewish state underscores who the real liars and terrorists are, and Jewish interests, who have made the business of controlling entire societies by controlling what they see, hear and read, are losing control over this sector and they know it.

Long before articles dealing with IDF forces “coming clean” and admitting they witnessed deliberate targeting of civilians were articles quoting Israeli officials and their worry over the fact Israel’s image had suffered as a result of the war. They are quoted saying that a “re-branding” of the Jewish state’s image was necessary, one Israeli foreign ministry official saying after Gaza that “The country needs to position itself as an attractive personality“ if they are to “get where we need to go over the long term.” As a result, Israel’s Foreign Ministry was granted an extra $2 million to improve Israel’s image through “cultural and information diplomacy”. Arye Mekel, the ministry’s deputy director general for cultural affairs was quoted saying “We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits…This way you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”
In other words, it is all a matter of marketing, of slapping a new coat of paint on an old, dilapidated house and calling it a mansion. It is a facelift of sorts for a woman whose loose morals and fast living are beginning to betray the fact she has a lot of miles under the hood. It is no different than an convicted murderer appearing before the court on sentencing day with a fresh shave, combed hair, clean hands and new suit and begging the court for mercy, saying he has “found Jesus” and has made up his mind to confess his sins, do his penance and amend his life, amen, in the interest of avoiding the death penalty.

At this point, the parasite Israel cannot exist without the host. She needs the good will and cooperation of the west, with its wealth, technology and, lest we forget, military power if this great experiment in Jewish self rule is to remain viable. Having made enemies of 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide, knowing Russia is wise to her ways and not banking on good relations with up-and-coming powerhouses such as China, Israel must remain firmly attached to the West for “existential” reasons, and the only way to achieve this is to “re-brand” herself in the eyes its people. Let all hope that Zionism’s magic spell is beginning to wear off and the West will decide to give most favored nation status to someone else besides the Jewish state.

Whatever the case, the one thing all can walk away knowing it that someone is lying, and considering which of the two characters has the most to lose by such accusations being made public, it is not hard to figure out who that might be.
In the meantime those who up to this moment have enjoyed a love affair of sorts with the Jewish state, believing she could do no wrong and who automatically gave her the benefit of the doubt in 11 out of 10 cases need to start asking relevant questions. What other infamous events have taken place where Israel was caught red-handed in the midst of the dirtiest business there is–terrorism, mass murder, etc, etc, etc–and yet managed to talk her way towards a public acquittal? Is the world now justified in questioning Israel’s version of events regarding her 2-hr attack on the USS Liberty in 1967 resulting in the deaths of 34 servicemen? What about the hundreds of Israeli spies arrested on 9/11, some seen by witnesses cheering as the Twin Towers were collapsing, an event these spies later admitted on Israeli TV they were “sent to document“? What about the murder of America’s president, JFK, the only US president to stand up to and actively work against the Jewish state? What about his brother RFK, who as JFK’s Attorney General planned to reign in the American Zionist Council, forerunner to today’s spy/blackmail agency AIPAC and whose top 2 leaders are currently under indictment for espionage against the US?

So many instances of Zionist denial and yet, so many reasons to doubt….

But one thing the world should have learned by now is that a leopard does not change its spots, and therefore it is wise to beware of Zionists bearing gifts.

(c) 2009 Mark Glenn

Correspondent, American Free Press Newspaper



Neocons Launch New Foreign Policy Group

by Daniel Luban and Jim Lobe

A newly-formed and still obscure neoconservative foreign policy organization is giving some observers flashbacks to the 1990s, when its predecessor staked out the aggressively unilateralist foreign policy that came to fruition under the George W. Bush administration.

The blandly-named Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) – the brainchild of Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, neoconservative foreign policy guru Robert Kagan, and former Bush administration official Dan Senor – has thus far kept a low profile; its only activity to this point has been to sponsor a conference pushing for a U.S. "surge" in Afghanistan.

But some see FPI as a likely successor to Kristol's and Kagan's previous organization, the now-defunct Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which they launched in 1997 and which became best known for leading the public campaign to oust former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein both before and after the Sep. 11 attacks.

PNAC's charter members included many figures who later held top positions under Bush, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and his top deputy, Paul Wolfowitz.

FPI was founded earlier this year, but few details are available about the group, which has so far attracted no media attention. The organization's website lists Kagan, Kristol, and Senor, who came to prominence as a spokesman for the occupation authorities in Iraq, as the three members of its board of directors.

Two of FPI's three staffers, policy director Jamie Fly and Christian Whiton, have come directly from foreign policy posts in the Bush administration, while the third, Rachel Hoff, last worked for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Contacted by IPS at the group's office, Fly referred all questions to Senor, who did not return the call.

The organization's mission statement argues that the "United States remains the world's indispensable nation," and warns that "strategic overreach is not the problem and retrenchment is not the solution" to Washington's current financial and strategic woes. It calls for "continued engagement – diplomatic, economic, and military – in the world and rejection of policies that would lead us down the path to isolationism."

The mission statement opens by listing a familiar litany of threats to the U.S., including "rogue states," "failed states," "autocracies" and "terrorism," but gives pride of place to the "challenges" posed by "rising and resurgent powers," of which only China and Russia are named.

Their prominence may reflect the influence of Kagan, who has argued in recent years that the 21st century will be dominated by a struggle between the forces of democracy (led by the U.S.) and autocracy (led by China and Russia). He has called for a League of Democracies as a mechanism for combating Chinese and Russian power, and the FPI statement stresses the need for "robust support for America's democratic allies."

This emphasis may also indicate that FPI intends to make confrontation with China and Russia the centerpiece of its foreign policy stance. If this is the case, it would mark a return to the early days of the Bush administration, before 9/11, when Kristol's Weekly Standard took the lead in attacking Washington for its alleged "appeasement" of Beijing.

For its formal coming out, however, FPI has chosen to push for escalating the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan. The organization's first event, to be held here Mar. 31, will be a conference entitled "Afghanistan: Planning for Success."

The lead speaker will be Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate and long a favorite of both Kagan and Kristol. In February, McCain gave a well-publicized speech at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) arguing that the U.S. could not afford to scale back its military commitment in Afghanistan and calling for a redoubled effort to win the war.

Other speakers will include AEI fellow Frederick Kagan, Robert's brother and one of the key proponents of the "surge" strategy in Iraq, counterinsurgency expert Lt. Col. John Nagl, the new director of Center for a New American Security, and hawkish Democratic Representative Jane Harman.

FPI has inevitably drawn comparisons to PNAC, a "letterhead organization" founded by Kristol and Kagan shortly after their publication in Foreign Affairs of an article entitled "Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy" which called for Washington to exercise "benevolent global hegemony" and warned against what they saw as the post-Cold War drift of the Republican Party toward "neoisolationism" after it lost the White House to Bill Clinton.

"This reminds me of the Project for the New American Century," said Steven Clemons, director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation. "Like PNAC, it will become a watering hole for those who want to see an ever-larger U.S. military machine and who divide the world between those who side with right and might and those who are evil or who would appease evil."

PNAC's membership was a veritable who's-who of neoconservatives and other future Bush administration hawks. In addition to Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, charter members included then-Florida governor Jeb Bush, who was at the time considered a more likely presidential candidate than his elder brother; Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who left the administration after being indicted for perjury in October 2005; and Elliott Abrams, who became Bush's top Middle East aide at the National Security Council; among several others who later served in senior Bush administration posts.

The group's June 1997 statement of principles called for "a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity" that entailed "increas[ing] defense spending significantly" and "challeng[ing] regimes hostile to our interests and values."

In January 1998, PNAC published an open letter to President Clinton calling for "the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power," by military force if necessary. The letter was signed by many who would become architects and backers of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, including Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Abrams, future deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, and future U.N. ambassador John Bolton.

In September 2001, only days after the 9/11 attacks, another PNAC letter called on President Bush to broaden the scope of the "war on terror" beyond those immediately responsible for the attacks to include Iraq and Lebanon's Hezbollah.

And in April 2002, the group labeled Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority (PA) "a cog in the machine of Middle East terrorism," compared Arafat to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and called on the U.S. to end support for both the PA and the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations as a whole.

"Israel's fight against terrorism is our fight," it said, urging Bush to "accelerate plans for removing Saddam Hussein from power."

That FPI's debut public event should focus on why Washington should escalate its involvement in Afghanistan is ironic given the role played by PNAC and other hawks in and outside the administration in pushing for the invasion of Iraq so soon after the U.S. campaign to oust the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in late 2001. Many experts believe the diversion of military and intelligence resources to Iraq made it possible for both the Taliban and al Qaeda's leadership to survive and rebuild.

The top priority given by the Bush administration – again, with the strong encouragement of PNAC and its supporters – to Iraq as the "central front in the war on terror" also meant that aid needed to bolster the western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai was unavailable.

PNAC effectively ceased its activities at the beginning of Bush's second term. This may partly have been due to the large amount of bad publicity the group attracted for its seminal role in bringing about the Iraq war.

But the formation of FPI may be a sign that its founders hope once again to incubate a more aggressive foreign policy during their exile from the White House, in preparation for the next time they return to political power.

(Inter Press Service)

Despite Obama’s Vow, Combat Brigades Will Stay in Iraq

By Gareth Porter

March 25 (IPS) - Despite President Barack Obama’s statement at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina Feb. 27 that he had "chosen a timeline that will remove our combat brigades over the next 18 months," a number of Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs), which have been the basic U.S. Army combat unit in Iraq for six years, will remain in Iraq after that date under a new non-combat label.

A spokesman for Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates, Lt. Col. Patrick S. Ryder, told IPS Tuesday that "several advisory and assistance brigades" would be part of a U.S. command in Iraq that will be "re-designated" as a "transition force headquarters" after August 2010.

But the "advisory and assistance brigades" to remain in Iraq after that date will in fact be the same as BCTs, except for the addition of a few dozen officers who would carry out the advice and assistance missions, according to military officials involved in the planning process.

Gates has hinted that the withdrawal of combat brigades will be accomplished through an administrative sleight of hand rather than by actually withdrawing all the combat brigade teams. Appearing on Meet the Press Mar. 1, Gates said the "transition force" would have "a very different kind of mission", and that the units remaining in Iraq "will be characterised differently".

"They will be called advisory and assistance brigades," said Gates. "They won't be called combat brigades."

Obama’s decision to go along with the military proposal for a "transition force" of 35,000 to 50,000 troops thus represents a complete abandonment of his own original policy of combat troop withdrawal and an acceptance of what the military wanted all along - the continued presence of several combat brigades in Iraq well beyond mid-2010.

National Security Council officials declined to comment on the question of whether combat brigades were actually going to be left in Iraq beyond August 2010 under the policy announced by Obama Feb. 27.

The term that has been used internally within the Army to designate the units that will form a large part of the "transition force" is not "Advisory and Assistance Brigades" but "Brigades Enhanced for Stability Operations" (BESO).

Lt. Col. Gary Tallman, a spokesman for the Joint Staff, confirmed Monday that BESO will be the Army unit deployed to Iraq for the purpose of the transition force. Tallman said the decision-making process now underway involving CENTCOM and the Army is to determine "the exact composition of the BESO".

But the U.S. Army has already been developing the outlines of the BESO for the past few months. The only change to the existing BCT structure that is being planned is the addition of advisory and assistance skills rather than any reduction in its combat power. The BCT is organised around two or three battalions of motorized infantry but also includes all the support elements, including its own artillery support, needed to sustain the full spectrum of military operations.

Those are permanent features of all variants of the BCT, which will not be altered in the new version to be deployed under a "transition force", according to specialists on the BCT.

They say the only issue on which the Army is still engaged in discussions with field commanders is what standard augmentation a BCT will need for its new mission.

Maj. Larry Burns of the Army Combined Arms Centre at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, told IPS that Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey directed the Combined Arms Centre, which specialises in Army mission and doctrine, to work on giving the BCTs the capability to carry out a training and advisory assistance mission.

The essence of the BESO variant of the BCTs, according to Burns, is that the Military Transition Teams working directly with Iraqi military units will no longer operate independently but will be integrated into the BCTs.

That development would continue a trend already begun in Iraq in which the BCTs have gradually acquired operational control over the previously independent Military Transition Teams, according to Maj. Robert Thornton of the Joint Centre for International and Security Force Assistance at Fort Leavenworth.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command, has issued Planning Guidance calling for further refinement of the BESO. After further work on the additional personnel requirements, Casey was briefed on the proposed enhancement of the BCT for the second time in a month at a conference of four-star generals on Feb. 18, according to Burns.

Other names for the new variant that were used in recent months but eventually dropped made it explicitly clear that it is simply a slightly augmented BCT. Those names, according to Burns, included "Brigade Combat Team-Security Force Assistance" and "Brigade Combat Team for Stability Operations".

The plan to deploy several augmented BCTs represents the culmination of the strategy of "relabeling" or "remissioning" of BCTs in Iraq that was developed by U.S. military leaders in the wake of the surge of candidate Barack Obama to near-certain victory in the presidential election last year.

Late last year, Gen. David Petraeus, the CENTCOM chief, and Gen. Ray Odierno, the top commander in Iraq, were unhappy with Obama’s pledge to withdraw all U.S. combat brigades within 16 months. But military planners quickly hit on the relabeling scheme as a way of avoiding the complete withdrawal of BCTs in an Obama administration.

The New York Times revealed Dec. 4 that Pentagon planners were talking about "relabeling" of U.S. combat units as "training and support" units in a Dec. 4 story, but provided no details. Pentagon planners were projecting that as many as 70,000 U.S. troops would be maintained in Iraq "for a substantial time even beyond 2011".

That report suggested that the strategy envisioned keeping the bulk of the existing BCTs in Iraq as under a new label indicating an advisory and support mission.

Secretary Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen discussed a plan to re-designate U.S. combat troops as support troops at a meeting with Obama in Chicago on Dec. 15, according a report in the Times three days later.

Gates and Mullen reportedly speculated at the meeting on whether Iraqis would permit such "re-labeled" combat forces to remain in Iraqi cities and towns after next June, despite the fact that the U.S.-Iraq withdrawal agreement signed in November 2008 called for all U.S. combat forces to be withdrawn from populated areas by the end of June 2010.

That report suggests that Obama was well aware that giving the Petraeus and Odierno a free hand to determine the composition of a "transition force" of 35,000 to 50,000 troops meant that most combat brigades would remain in Iraq rather than being withdrawn, as he ostensibly promised the U.S. public on Feb. 27.

*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in 2006.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Obama's Triple Surge Into Afghanistan

by Jim Hightower

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to war we go!

As President Barack Obama begins winding down the Bush war in Iraq, he is building up his own war farther east. We're told that it will be a new, expanded, extra-special American adventure in Afghanistan, involving a vigorous surge strategy to "stabilize" this perpetually unstable land.

The initial surge will add 17,000 troops to the 36,000 already there. Then, later this year, there is to be a second troop surge of another 17,000 or so. This mass of soldiers is expected to be deployed to a series of new garrisons to be built in far-flung regions of this impoverished, rural, mostly illiterate warlord state that is ruled by hundreds of fractious, heavily armed tribal leaders. We're not told how much this escalation will cost, but it will at least double the $2 billion a month that American taxpayers are already shelling out for the Afghan war.

The extra-special part of this effort is to come from a simultaneous "civilian surge" of hundreds of U.S. economic development experts. "What we can't do," said Obama in an interview last Sunday, "is think that just a military approach in Afghanistan is going to be able to solve our problems." To win the hearts (and cooperation) of the Afghan people, this development leg of the operation will try to build infrastructure (roads, schools, etc.), create new crop alternatives to lure hardscrabble farmers out of poppy production and generally lift the country's bare-subsistence living standard.

What Obama has not mentioned is that, in addition to soldiers and civilians, there is a third surge in his plan: private military contractors. Yes, another privatized army, such as the one in Iraq. There, the Halliburtons, Blackwaters and other war profiteers ran rampant, shortchanging our troops, ripping off taxpayers, killing civilians and doing deep damage to America's good name.

Already, there are 71,000 private contractors operating in Afghanistan, and many more are preparing to deploy as Pentagon spending ramps up for Obama's war. The military is now offering new contracts to security firms to provide armed employees (aka, mercenaries) to guard U.S. bases and convoys. Despite the widespread contractor abuses in Iraq, Pentagon chief Robert Gates defends the ongoing privatization push: "The use of contractor security personnel is vital to supporting the forward-operating bases in certain parts of the country," he declared in a February letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

What the gentle war secretary is really saying is this: "We don't have a draft, and I don't see a lot of senators' kinfolks volunteering to put their butts on the line in Afghanistan, so I've gotta pay through the nose to find enough privateers to guard America's Army in this forbidding place."

Meanwhile, here's an interesting twist to Obama's contractor surge: the for-hire guards protecting our bases and convoys will not likely be Americans. The Associated Press has reported that of the 3,847 security contractors in Afghanistan, only nine are U.S. firms.

Actually, being an American contractor is not a plus in the eyes of the Afghan people, for they've had bitter experiences with them. They point to DynCorp, a Virginia-based contractor that got nearly a billion dollars in 2006 to train Afghan police. The bumbling "Inspector Clouseau" of comic fame could've done a better job. At least he might have amused the people.

What they got from DynCorp was a bunch of highly paid American "advisors" who were unqualified and knew nothing about the country. Some 70,000 police were to be trained, but less than half that number actually went through the ridiculous eight-week program, which included no field training.

A 2006 U.S. report on the DynCorp trainees deemed them to be "incapable of carrying out routine law enforcement work." Meanwhile, no one knows how many of the trainees ever reported for duty, or what happened to thousands of missing trucks and other pieces of police equipment that had been issued for the training.

The punch line of this joke is that DynCorp got another contract ($317 million) last August to "continue training civilian police forces in Afghanistan."

Excuse me for saying it, but Obama is about to sink us - and his presidency - into a mess.

© 2009 Creators Syndicate

National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Welcome to Gitmo II

Obama doesn’t talk like Bush; he just acts like him

By Ted Rall

March 24, 2009 " State Journal-Register" -- NEW YORK — You can’t blame Dick Cheney for being annoyed at Barack Obama. Obama is closing Guantánamo. He’s ordering the CIA to interrogate prisoners according to the rules written in the Army Field Manual, which doesn’t allow torture. He’s even phasing out such classic Bushian phrases as “enemy combatant” and “war on terror.”

But the dark prince of neoconservatism should relax. Obama’s inaugural address may have promised to “reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals,” but — in all the ways that matter — he’s keeping all of Bush’s outrageous policies in place. Sure, he talks a good game about “moving forward.” But nothing has really changed. From reading your e-mails to asserting the right to assassinate American citizens to bailing out companies whose executives pay themselves big bonuses, Obama’s changes are nothing but toothless rhetoric.

Closing Gitmo, reported The New York Times, was merely “a move that seemed intended to symbolically separate the new administration from Bush detention policies. But in a much anticipated court filing, the Justice Department argued that the president has the authority to detain terrorism suspects there without criminal charges, much as the Bush administration had asserted. It provided a broad definition of those who can be held, which was not significantly different from the one used by the Bush administration.”

What will happen to the 241 POWs still at Gitmo? They won’t be called “enemy combatants” anymore but most won’t be going home. “The filing signaled that, as long as Guantánamo remains open, the new administration will aggressively defend its ability to hold some detainees there,” wrote the Times. Where will they go after that?

Welcome to Gitmo II — courtesy of Barack Obama.

Countless victims have been tortured by U.S. military personnel at Bagram, the U.S. air base in Afghanistan where Bush imprisoned 600 people without charges. Some were murdered in the camp’s notorious “salt pit.”

“Even children have not been spared,” says Amnesty International.
Now Bagram is being expanded — nearly doubled in size — in order to accommodate 200-plus detainees from Gitmo, as well as future POWs from Obama’s expanded war against Afghanistan. As bad as Guantánamo was, conditions at Bagram are worse.

Extraordinary renditions, the Times reports in a different article, will continue under Obama.

“In little-noticed confirmation testimony recently,” says the paper, “Obama nominees endorsed continuing the CIA’s program of transferring prisoners to other countries without legal rights, and indefinitely detaining terrorism suspects without trials even if they were arrested far from a war zone.”

During the 2008 campaign Obama’s critics accused him of saying nothing, albeit beautifully. Now that we’ve gotten to know him a bit, it’s time to refine that assessment: He’s just a weasel. An eloquent weasel. But a weasel who says the right things while doing the opposite.

On March 9, Obama ordered federal agencies to suspend Bush’s infamous “signing statements,” sneaky documents issued after the signing of a bill that ordered government agencies not to enforce the very same bill he’d just approved in front of the cameras. Signing statements, says the American Bar Association, use one-man dictatorial rule to negate the people’s will as expressed by Congress and are thus “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional separation of powers.”

“Yet two days later — literally — Obama signed a $410 billion spending bill and appended to it a signing statement claiming that he had the constitutional authority to ignore several of its oversight provisions,” writes Glenn Greenwald of Slate.

Greenwald regrets having to quote the vile Rich Lowry of the right-wing National Review magazine. So do I. But even the right is right sometimes:

“Barack Obama has perfected a three-step maneuver that could never even be attempted by a politician lacking his rhetorical skill or cool cynicism. First: Denounce your presidential predecessor for a given policy, energizing your party’s base and capitalizing on his abiding unpopularity. Second: Pretend to have reversed that policy upon taking office with a symbolic act or high-profile statement. Third: Adopt a version of that same policy, knowing that it’s the only way to govern responsibly or believing that doing otherwise is too difficult.”

This week’s example is Obama’s grandstanding over $165 million in bonuses paid to executives of AIG, which received billions in federal bailout money. He feigned outrage: “How do they justify this outrage to the taxpayers who are keeping the company afloat?” But his Treasury Department knew about the bonuses — which amount to roughly 55 cents per American — ages ago. He also knows there isn’t much the government can do legally to claw the money back.

Unlike the word count limit of this column, Obama’s perfidy knows no limits. He’s already become more dangerous to democracy and basic human rights than George W. Bush. Unlike Bush, he has no political opposition. Cheney may nitpick, but most Republicans are happy to see Bush’s policies remain in place. Meanwhile, liberals remain loyal, silent and tacitly pro-torture.

Ted Rall is a columnist for Universal Press Syndicate.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

What Can Bush Teach Us?

by Ralph Nader

George W. Bush is hitting the lecture circuit. Represented by the Washington Speakers Bureau, Mr. Bush for a fee of at least $150,000 flew up to Calgary, Canada and spoke to a conservative business audience amidst street protests.

He also has signed a book contract with Crown Publishers tentatively titled "Decision Points" about a dozen personal and presidential decisions ranging from giving up booze to choosing Dick Cheney to invading Iraq.

Now that he is becoming a lecturer and an author, why not also be a teacher? The 43rd president has much to teach Americans about how weak their democracy is-rights, institutions, processes and the sovereignty of the people.

His first lecture to students could be how he and Cheney violated, circumvented and trampled our Constitution. It was as if they replaced the opening preamble of "we, the people" with "we, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney."

Early in his Administration, Mr. Bush showed a determination to pick up on King George III and root himself in something called "the inherent powers of the Presidency," often called the "unitary Presidency." With that, King George IV was establishing his unilateral kingdom, though instead of invoking his divine right, his mantra was the "war on Terror."

He became the most recidivist criminal president, the most variously impeachable president on a regular day-to-day basis in American history. Violating repeatedly our Constitution, laws and treaties, Mr. Bush warred, terrorized, tortured, imprisoned without charges, illegally snooped on masses of Americans and set a record for signing statements saying he "the decider" would determine which laws he signed he would obey and when. And that's just what is public knowledge so far from a very secretive regime.

The ways this outlaw President devastated the rule of law has been well documented in many firsthand accounts of former members of his government in the military, intelligence, and diplomatic service. The lies and deceptions that took our country to war, with immense loss of life and limb, and turned the rights and lives of millions of families upside down have been the material of many books, public hearings and admissions. Even the conservative American Bar Association condemned the Bush White House three times for unconstitutional practices.

Mr. Bush taught us how cowardly the Congress could be in not defending its constitutional authorities and the crucial checks and balances to hold the White House accountable. He taught us the degree of abdication by the major opposition Democratic Party which allowed him and his ilk to do what they did and to leave office on January 20, 2009 without being subjected to impeachment and trial, without even being subjected to a Congressional censure resolution.

He taught us that the courts, with few exceptions, cannot be counted on to defend the constitution from the marauding President-avoiding doing so by excuses that these seizures of power are "political questions." Sure, Bush going to war without a declaration of war is too political? Tell that to Jefferson, Madison and other founding fathers who made a big matter out of taking away the war-making authority from any future would-be monarch and decisively repositing it with the Congress.

He taught us how easily you could fool, manipulate, delay or intimidate the mainstream media into becoming a cheerleader for war and a collaborator in covering up what a few intrepid reporters uncovered.

He showed that truth is indeed the first casualty of war and that lies have no consequences for him other than a 70% disapproval rating.

He did tell the truth, however, when he announced to a big business audience in Texas early in his first term that they were "his base." Acting like a corporation masquerading as a human in the White House, Mr. Bush pursued policies unleashing the greed and control of Wall Street that tanked the economy and destroyed trillions of dollars of the people's money in an orgy of reckless speculation.

As Jamal Simmons wrote recently, "Unlike the story of King Midas, everything Bush touched turned to coal."

Mr. Bush threw the gauntlet down to 800,000 American lawyers and unlike the marching Pakistani lawyers, only a handful such as Michael Greco, Ramsay Clark, David Cole and Jonathan Turley took up his challenge. The vast majority of lawyers went about their own business, shrugging off what it means to be "officers of the court."

Bush, former American Caesar tore the pretense off our democratic pretensions. By not holding him and his top collaborators responsible for violating the constitutional, criminal and civil laws of the land, those persons, entrusted with their observance, took a holiday. These outrageous practices-still unchecked-are becoming institutionalized as illustrated in the several (but not all) ways that President Obama is continuing Bush's legacy of license.

Democracies when they are eroded must show resiliency to recover and strengthen what was lost by way of freedom and justice. Otherwise the erosions fester and deepen. Who, you might ask, must be the tribunes of such resiliency? You will not find them now in officialdom.

The wise early twentieth century judge, Learned Hand, gave us the compass. He wrote these words: "Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it."

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book is The Seventeen Traditions.

Iraqis Burn US Flags to Mark War Anniversary

Protesters march as bombers strike in several cities

by Hamid Ahmed

BAGHDAD - American flags were set on fire yesterday to chants of "no, no for occupation" as followers of an anti-US Shi'ite cleric marked the sixth anniversary of the Iraq war.
In five other Iraqi cities, supporters of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr also marched or stood in protest after prayers to demand the release of their allies detained at Iraqi and US-run prisons.

Karim Kadim/Associated PressFollowers of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr burned an American flag during a demonstration yesterday marking the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad. (Karim Kadim/Associated Press) The protests came as a suicide bomber in Fallujah killed an Iraqi police officer and five other people, including civilians, in an attempted attack on the home of the local leader of Sunni security volunteers who turned against Al Qaeda.

Also, a pair of roadside bombs exploded within 10 minutes of one another after sundown yesterday, wounding four policemen and three civilians in Baghdad's Karradah district, police said. A police colonel and his aide were wounded in a bombing yesterday in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, police said.

In the capital, Sadr aide Sheik Haidar al-Jabiri urged supporters to join an April 9 march to protest the sixth anniversary of Americans taking over the city.

"Today, a remembrance of the cruel occupation of Iraq, and on April 9, there will be a chant for liberation," Sadr aide Sheik Haidar al-Jabiri told worshipers gathered in Baghdad's Shi'ite district of Sadr City for Friday sermons.

He added: "Sayed Moqtada invites you to march by the millions on April 9, the anniversary of the cruel occupation."

Baghdad fell to US forces on April 9, 2003.

The war began with a missile and bombing attack on south Baghdad before dawn on March 20, 2003 - March 19 in Washington.

Demonstrators responded by lifting a banner reading: "To the Iraqi government, when will you be trustful and release our detainee sons?"

"No, no for occupation. Yes, yes for liberation. Yes, yes for Iraq," the demonstrators chanted.

Two American flags were set on fire.

Thousands of Sadrist followers in five other cities - Basra, Kut, Diwaniyah, Amarah, and Nasiriyah - also took to the streets in an apparent planned series of protests.

In Kut, up to 1,000 worshipers marched from the grand mosque in the center of the city to Sadrist offices a short distance away, denouncing the US occupation and calling for detainees to be released.

Outside Fallujah, an Iraqi police officer and a small group of civilians died yesterday while trying to stop a suicide bomber from reaching the home of Saadoun al-Eifan, who runs the local branch of the Sunni volunteers, the Sons of Iraq.

Police Major Hamed al-Jumaili said the bomber was trying to get past guards monitoring a bridge in rural Albu Eifan, where Eifan lives, about 6 miles south of Fallujah.

He detonated his explosives belt after bring confronted by the police officer and residents, Jumaili said.

The protests and bombings came a day after a US airstrike on a militant hideout north of Baghdad killed at least 11 insurgents, the United States said.

A search of the site by ground forces after the strike found a cache of weapons, munitions, and parts to build improvised explosive devices, US military spokesman Major Derrick Cheng said yesterday.

Cheng did not immediately know yesterday whether any civilians were killed or injured in the strike, or exactly when it occurred.

© 2009 Associated Press