Saturday, November 24, 2007

Glenn Greenwald: Bush's mockery of his audience

Glenn Greenwald performs a great service by pointing out not only that Bush and Cheney are dumping on us and the world, but are laughing at us while they do it. Bush especially has a predilection, not merely for lying which all politicians and especially presidents do, but for mocking his audience, we the people. Greenwald gets it mostly right but he stumbles in the beginning by suggesting that Bush's speech writers are "knowingly satirizing him" meaning satirizing Bush. His speech writers are not satirizing Bush: they and Bush are mocking us.
They've started doing just that from the very beginning when they stole two elections: they understood that they were acting beyond the law and everything followed from that.
The interesting question about Greenwald's take is whether by misdirecting the satire to the speech writers, Greenwald is trying to soft peddle or avoid the harder question of the implications of Bush's mockery. Once we understand for example that the catastrophe that is Iraq did not happen by accident, that the destruction of the country was deliberately planned and intended, then we will have an idea of the extent of the criminal psychopathology of Bush-Cheney and the danger we still very much face.
(P.S.) Interestingly Greenwald has a note at the end from the McClatchy papers about the extent of Bush's financial profligacy, how he has exceeded the spending even of LBJ. Once again, Bush's trashing of the economy is a symptom of the sociopathology of Bush-Cheney who have embarked on a policy of bankrupting the US, in large part, I suspect, just as in the Reagan years, to weaken the power of government to assist the people in any meaningful way.


Glenn Greenwald
Friday November 16, 2007
Self-satire scales new heights

It's genuinely hard to believe that the writers of George Bush's speech last night to the Federalist Society weren't knowingly satirizing him. They actually had him say this:

When the Founders drafted the Constitution, they had a clear understanding of tyranny. They also had a clear idea about how to prevent it from ever taking root in America. Their solution was to separate the government's powers into three co-equal branches: the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. Each of these branches plays a vital role in our free society. Each serves as a check on the others. And to preserve our liberty, each must meet its responsibilities -- and resist the temptation to encroach on the powers the Constitution accords to others.
Then they went even further and this came out:

The President's oath of office commits him to do his best to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." I take these words seriously. I believe these words mean what they say.

To top it all off -- by which point they must have been cackling uncontrollably -- they had him say this:

Others take a different view. . . . They forgot that our Constitution lives because we respect it enough to adhere to its words. (Applause.) Ours is the oldest written Constitution in the world. It is the foundation of America's experiment in self-government. And it will continue to live only so long as we continue to recognize its wisdom and division of authority.

Here is the still-valid and binding September 25, 2001 Memorandum, written by then-Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, concerning Bush's view of his own power:

In both the War Powers Resolution and the Joint Resolution, Congress has recognized the President's authority to use force in circumstances such as those created by the September 11 incidents. Neither statute, however, can place any limits on the President's determinations as to any terrorist threat, the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing, and nature of the response. These decisions, under our Constitution, are for the President alone to make.

That Memorandum also "conclude[d] that the Constitution vests the President with the plenary authority, as Commander in Chief and the sole organ of the Nation in its foreign relations, to use military force abroad" and hailed "the President's inherent constitutional powers to use military force" free of Congressional interference. It declared "the centralization of authority in the President alone . . . in matters of national defense, war, and foreign policy." And while the powers of Congress are virtually non-existent, "congressional concurrence is welcome." Thus:
The President's broad constitutional power to use military force to defend the Nation. . . would allow the President to take whatever actions he deems appropriate to pre-empt or respond to terrorist threats from new quarters.

And when the Gonzales-led Justice Department issued a 42-page single-spaced Memorandum in 2006 justifying the President's decision to spy on Americans in violation of our "laws," it was explained to us that the President is the "sole organ for the Nation in foreign affairs"; that "the President has independent authority to repel aggressive acts by third parties even without specific congressional authorization, and courts may not review the level of force selected"; and that statutes restricting the President's actions relating to war "could probably be read as simply providing 'a recommendation' that the President could decline to follow at his discretion." [That letter is here (.pdf)].

These are the still-valid premises that led the Constitution-revering George W. Bush to spend the last six years ignoring and violating statutes whenever he wanted to, keeping Congress completely in the dark about what he was doing, and issuing one signing statement after the next explaining why he has no obligation to comply with what Congress adorably calls their "laws."

Tonight the President will give a speech warning of the evils of torture. Tomorrow night he will speak out against the immorality of deficit spending. And on Sunday he will vigorously condemn those who preemptively attack other countries. Then, next week, Rudy Giuliani -- with his his ex-mistress (and now-third-wife) in the other room -- will explain how vital it is to protect the sanctity of marriage. Oh, wait -- that was last month.

UPDATE: I should really know better than to try to satirize the Bush administration. No matter how far you go, no matter how absurd of a caricature you depict, they always manage to surpass it. From earlier this week: "President Bush, delivering another budget veto to a Democratic-led Congress whose spending he calls out-of-control, accuses leaders of "acting like a teenager with a new credit card" (h/t Kitt).

From McClatchy last month:
George W. Bush, despite all his recent bravado about being an apostle of small government and budget-slashing, is the biggest spending president since Lyndon B. Johnson. In fact, he's arguably an even bigger spender than LBJ. . . .

Take almost any yardstick and Bush generally exceeds the spending of his predecessors. . . ."He has presided over massive increases in almost every category . . . . a dramatic change of pace from most previous presidents," said [Stephen] Slivinski, [the director of budget studies at Cato Institute].
The same hilarious speechwriters who wrote last night's Constitution-revering speech must have written the righteous line about Congress acting like a "teenager with a new credit card."

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Pat Shannon: August 2007 Nuke Incident: Was it really an accident

The unanswered questions relating to the Aug 29-30 “bent spear” incident suggest that one possible explanation is that it was the result of a sinister U.S. operation that was somehow halted before the nukes could leave the U.S. The term 'bent spear' refers to a nuclear-weapons incident that is serious but does not include the threat of detonation.
The following is a summary of an article, “Official Air Force Version of Nuke ‘Mishandling’ Full of Gaping Holes, Unanswered Questions,” by Pat Shannon, in the American Free Press (11.19.07). Other media accounts I’ve seen don’t mention the anomalies detailed below. --RB

Summary of “Official Air Force Version of Nuke ‘Mishandling’ Full of Gaping Holes, Unanswered Questions,” by Pat Shannon, AFP, 11.19.07

The official report on the bent spear incident in which six nuclear weapons were mounted on six Advanced Cruise Missiles and improperly removed from a nuclear weapons storage bunker at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, then were improperly loaded on a B-52, and improperly flown to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana attributed the whole thing to a “mistake.”

The problem with the official explanation is that such weapons are supposedly protected against unauthorized transport or removal from bunkers by electronic anti-theft systems. This means that not one but two people had to be involved in deliberately disabling those alarms.

Since the Air Force report doesn’t explain how this anti-theft hurdle could have been surmounted by “mistake,” the report has to be considered a whitewash or a cover up.

The loading of nuclear-armed missiles or bombs onto an American bomber has been barred since 1991, even for practice or training purposes. The carrying of nuclear weapons by bombers flying over U.S. airspace has been banned for 40 years.

The evidence suggests that in addition to the intentional and authorized removal of the nukes from the bunker in Minot the loading of the nukes onto the plane and their flight to Barksdale must also have been authorized.

The Air Force maintains that some low ranking ground crew personnel at Minot AFB simply walked out of a nuclear bunker with six nuclear armed Advanced Cruise Missiles, not knowing what they were carrying, and labored for eight hours to mount those missiles and their launch pylon on the wing of a B-52 strategic bomber without ever noticing that they were armed with nuclear weapons. Moreover not one of the electronic alarm and motion sensors built into the system went off during the whole process.

Strangely there have been no demands for public hearings into this incident. No one in authority seems to want to know who authorized this clumsy operation, or who disabled the alarm systems on those weapons and on the bunker itself; and who mounted six nuclear weapons on the noses of six cruise missiles and put those missiles onto a B-52 launch platform?

[Pat Shannon might also have asked who approved the flight plan? Besides the pilot(s) were there any other officers in Minot or Barksdale who had knowledge of the particulars of the fight?]

And why, asks Shannon, were the nukes being moved to Barksdale, the main staging base for B-52s flying to the Middle East?

Monday, November 19, 2007

I Am Dick Cheney: Destruction, Destruction, Destrurction

This is an interactive, collaborative poem. Add your own lines. Be creative. Reflect reality.

I am Dick Cheney

I am the darkness
Destruction, destruction, destruction

The pot is boiling
Musharraf is squirming
The dollar is falling
Gas prices are rising
Iraq is stewing
Syria is convulsing, Lebanon a basket case
Iran is next
And so is the U.S.
(We didn’t steal two elections for nothing.)
Look at our deficit –it’s impressive, no?

You want chaos? You want pandemonium?
We did it in Iraq. It’s happening in Afghanistan,
It’s happening on the Turkish border
(Who gave the Turks permission to elect a Muslim government?
Not on our watch!)

We –me and lil Bushie -- are rubbing our hands in glee
(Karl is in a corner sucking his thumb and Rummy and John are
cheering from the sidelines)

Destruction, destruction, destruction
Iraq civil society gone – poof!!
(Who do you think blew up UN HQ and terminated with
Extreme prejudice
That troublemaker Sergio Vieira de Mello)

Destruction, destruction, destruction

Iraq mired in ethnic conflict
(Who do you think ordered the Samarra bombing
That insured an unending communal bloodbath?)

Destruction, destruction, destruction

I am the darkness, I devour the light.

I am Dick Cheney

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cindy Sheehan asks for 10,000 handwritten letters to Pelosi demanding that she proceed with Impeaching VP Cheney

This campaign to get 10,000 hand written letters to Nancy Pelosi’s desk via Cindy Sheehan reminds me of that scene from the movie Malcolm X where Malcolm was thrown into a local jail on trumped up charges. In a short time there were hundreds of his membership impeccably dressed standing outside the police station in quiet protest. Soon after Malcolm was freed.

It’s that kind of power and moral authority in the hands of a reformer – someone challenging the status quo – that had to be eliminated. And that’s why,after they killed our leaders in the 60s, we’ve had only a record of pusillanimity for the most part from the Democratic leadership.

Well here’s our chance to help create such a leader. If you can copy the short letter below and send it today, it’s better than doing it tomorrow. And tomorrow is better than doing it after Thanksgiving, etc.

Also, if you take the trouble to visit Cindy’s website, and you have $10 or $20 to spare, remember that money – and money from many of us – talks very loudly. It may even get some media coverage.

Cindy Sheehan asks for 10,000 HANDWRITTEN letters to Nancy Pelosi demanding she proceed w/ IMPEACH CHENEY, put HR333 back ON the table

House Resolution 333 for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney is off the House floor, and has instead been sent to the Judiciary Committee for "further study." This maneuver, organized by Pelosi and the Democratic leadership, is consistent with their mantra that impeachment is "off the table." But, we are told Nancy Pelosi is reported to have replied to the question of impeachment that if she received 10,000 hand written letters she would proceed with it. What are we waiting for?

Cindy Sheehan wrote:

Dear Friends:

Instead of sending your impeachment letters for Dick Cheney to Nancy Pelosi's office, send them to my office so we can get an official count.

Please send them to:Nancy Pelosi
c/o Cindy Sheehan
RE: Impeach Dick Cheney
1260 Mission Street
San Francisco, Ca 94103

Please pass this around and have them sent by Friday, November 16th and we will have them delivered to her office in San Francisco before Thanksgiving.

Spread this far and wide so we can take sacks of letters to her.

Don't include anything besides the letter.


Here's Dan Elliot's letter which I liked and copied.

Nancy Pelosi
c/o Cindy Sheehan
RE: Impeach Dick Cheney
1260 Mission Street
San Francisco, Ca 94103

Dear Speaker Pelosi:
Please move immediately to proceed with HR 333 and thereby initiate the process of impeaching Vice President Richard Cheney.
Please follow up by taking all necessary steps to initiate the Impeachment of Geo W. Bush. Meanwhile, please see that no legislation authorizing further funding of the Iraq fiasco reaches the floor of the House.
Thank you,
Dan Elliott Sacramento, CA 95838

Cindy Sheehan's Website

From Cindy Sheehan's Blog for Oct 25, 2007

Pete, Nancy, George and WWIII
"You don't have money to fund the war or children. But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement.? Pete Stark (D-Ca) ?While Members of Congress are passionate about their views what Congressman Stark said during the debate was inappropriate." Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, (D-Ca) ?But this -- we got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have (sic) the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.? George Bush, War Criminal I cheered inside my head when I heard, Rep. Stark unbelievably utter his words condemning the murderous acts of BushCo on the House floor and I was impressed with his candor, compassion and what I consider an appropriate amount of rage and honesty. How many of us were not thinking the same thing about the S-CHIP votes? I knew, however, that it would not be long until Pete Stark had to apologize and it happened today. I believe that Speaker Pelosi?s comments about Rep. Stark were utterly inappropriate and out of line. I believe that when she said that impeachment was ?off the table,? her remarks were not only inappropriate but also antithetical to our Constitution and directly in opposition to why the people of this country put Democrats back in power.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Badruddin Khan: Musharraf's Collapse and the Israel Lobby

Khan has so many good things to say in his short article and he highlights perhaps the second most important policy issue currently facing the world: Israel's interest in chaos, tension and war in the Middle East and the Lobby's interest in furthering that interest. The most important issue facing humankind (which I didn't notice that Khan addressed directly): Bush and Cheney's psychopathic, criminal intention to destroy civilization by means of permanent war.

One quibble goes to the heart of Khan's thesis that it's the Lobby which has determined or at least influenced Bush-Cheney's policy on Pakistan. I'd like to see some of the evidence. Musharraf has been smart enough not to cross Israel in any significant way that I've seen so far. And for their part, you'd think that the Israelis would have an interest in a stable nuclear-armed Pakistan, keeping said nukes pointed at Delhi rather than Tel Aviv.

The Bush-Cheney Pakistan policy has been the same as it's been everywhere (the one thing they're good at is consistency): do as much harm and cause as much suffering as possible.

One could guess that Musharraf would have been smart enough, if left to his own devices, to plan from the earliest possible date, for the transition back to Pakistan's version of democracy, and making it a point to leave his civilian office at the peak of popularity, so that, afterwards, when the time inevitably came to remove yet another corrupt civilian government, the country would once again be looking to him as a savior.

But enter from stage right, Bush and Cheney, warning him not to leave until they decide to allow him to leave, i.e., never. And the White House of course holds all the cards, seeing as how they've become the Paki Army's indispensable paymaster, not to mention bodyguard. Who knows but that close call assassination attempt in December 2003 was not one of the CIA/ISI's warning shots to ensure that Musharraf stays in line.

And as a result we are presented with the current chaotic situation in Pakistan, deteriorating by the day -- which once again suits the psychopaths just fine. The situation reminds me of the last Lebanon war of 2006 where Israel (Olmert) was begging Bush to call for an early cease fire so that they could say they won. And now Bush-Cheney and Elliott Abrams are rubbing their hands in anticipation of the coming Lebanon Civil war. It just occurred to me that they may not have to bomb, bomb, bomb Iran after all. Pakistan and Lebanon blowing up will do nicely instead, thank you, and the White House will suffer less pushback domestically and internationally. They won't even be seen to be blamed for it.

November 9, 2007

Monopoly Power
Pakistan and the Israel Lobby


Recent events in Pakistan should serve as a wake up call. There is more to the Mideast region than Israel and its Arab antagonists. The Israel Lobby has been successful in inducing the United States into mis-allocating its resources to protect Israeli interests, and this is now having a profound and lasting impact. It is time for supporters of the Israel Lobby to face up to the fact that what is good for Israel is not necessarily good for the United States. The Mideast is not best viewed through Israeli interests, and there is much more at stake than Israel's welfare.

Pakistan is for all practical purposes under martial law. This is hardly a surprise outcome. Management of the "war on terror" was delegated by the Bush administration to strongman General Pervez Musharraf, who quickly fell in line after being presented with the alternative of Pakistan being bombed into the stone-age. Musharraf has managed the situation as well as he could, given his pre-condition that he stay in power (the economy, for example, has grown nicely during his tenure). This pre-condition, however, is clearly not acceptable to Pakistanis, and he is now being forced into elections. For the US, the shift in focus from Afghanistan, Bin Laden, and Al Qaeda to Iraq, Iran, and Israel's interests has proved to be seriously distracting.

Our Mideast strategy is managed directly or indirectly by the Israel Lobby. This Lobby functions as a "monopoly" in the manner of Microsoft. Until recently, no alternate viewpoints were seriously considered, and the Israel Lobby has represented itself as the establishment. Monopolies, however, corrupt the system; Microsoft distorted the software industry, and the Israel Lobby is corrupting our body politic. We are now seeing clear and tangible evidence of the consequences of this betrayal of American interests. Rather than pursue Bin Laden, vanquish the Taliban, and guide Pakistan towards democracy, the Bush administration was misdirected into attacking Iraq, and US power is now being targeted at Israel's perceived enemies such as Iran.

The Israel Lobby has labored at caricaturizing Muslims as natural enemies of the United States. It has succeeded in skillfully amplifying Israel's contempt and fear of Arabs, into contempt and fear of Muslims by mainstream Americans. This has required a sustained campaign, and the results speak for themselves: after 9/11 80%+ of Muslims the world over were pro-US, and today a similar percentage is anti-US. Such swings in public opinion are not accidental, and reflect US actions under the "war on terror", and a calculated strategy to provoke an adversary into being.

There are now numerous excellent and well documented books that describe the Israel Lobby, its machinations, and the detrimental impact of its pervasive influence. It is time for us to switch our priorities to other countries that are being neglected at our peril, foreign policy things that matter, reduce the importance of Israel and its concerns, and refocus to American interests.

Badruddin Khan lives in San Francisco. He can be reached at:

Friday, November 09, 2007

Bruce Cumings (and IF Stone): South Korea and US Started the Korean War

Many of us learned from IF Stone's indispensable The Hidden History of the Korean War that it is far from clear that the Korean was started because of an invasion by the North as advertised. Now I come to find that Professor Bruce Cumings has written extensively on the matter suggesting, as Stone indicated, that the matter was far more complicated. In a letter to the NYRB, he cogently summarizes some of the evidence indicating that the war was essentially started by the South Korean military leadership, put in place and supported, as we learned from Stone by the US (MacArthur).
New York Review of Books
Bruce Cumings writes:
To the Editors:

In his review of David Halberstam's book on the Korean War, The Coldest Winter [NYR, October 25], Richard Bernstein mentions the thesis "advanced in particular by Bruce Cumings" that Syngman Rhee or the South Korean military might have provoked Kim Il Sung's attack in June 1950. In a long chapter entitled "Who Started the Korean War?" I examined just about every thesis on how the war started including this thesis, first advanced not by me but by I.F. Stone in his Hidden History of the Korean War. I used formerly secret archival documents in English and Korean (including a large captured North Korean archive) to conclude this chapter by saying that all the theses were wrong, because civil wars do not start, they come along after years or even decades of internecine conflict—as in Korea.

Because the top US commander in Korea had secretly told his superiors that South Korean military forces started the majority of fighting along the 38th parallel in 1949, with attacks from the South beginning in May and ending in December and with a near war in August, it was incumbent upon me to examine Stone's thesis in any event. The South Korean commander of the parallel in the summer of 1949 was Kim Sok-won, a quisling who had chased after Kim Il Sung and other guerrillas in Manchuria in the 1930s, on behalf of the Japanese Kwantung Army—an army well known for provoking incidents, such as the one resulting in Japan's invasion of Manchuria in 1931. My main point, though, was that the commanders of the respective Korean armies had chosen different sides in the long anticolonial struggle against Japan, and it should not have been surprising that once they had the means to do so, they would again clash with each other. What is more surprising is the direct American role, during the US occupation of Korea from 1945 to 1948, in putting in power an entire generation of Koreans in the military and the national police who had served Japanese imperialism.

David Halberstam and I spent an afternoon together before his tragic death, talking about this war, and his warmth and generosity did not hide the fact that he was entirely unaware of what might be found in an archive, apart from selected documents that came out after the Soviet Union collapsed. Neither is Richard Bernstein, whose last review lauded a completely shoddy book on North Korea by Jasper Becker, Rogue Regime [NYR, March 1], a book rife with elementary errors and thus a laughingstock among scholars. I don't believe The New York Review would treat many other fields of scholarship as if anyone can come along and offer their judgments without the slightest evidence that they know what they are talking about.

Bruce Cumings
Professor and Chair, History Department
University of Chicago
Chicago, Illinois

Esquire: US Squelched Negotiations with Iran so that war can proceed

A nice long article from Esquire (I couldn't find the name of a particular author) that reviews the history of the Bush Cheney pursuit of war with Iran. It also contains some new tidbits as to how they managed to shut down Powell's efforts and others. There's also the powerful description of a meeting with the Saudi monarch.

The article also conveys how Bush and Cheney have intimidated former high level officials to keep them from revealing even more.

Another tidbit: Even Kissinger understood (does he still?) that war with Iran is total madness. Another clue as to the real intentions of the White House.

No gang, Bush's wars are not for oil. You'd think that $100/barrel would be a sufficient clue.And they are only partly for Israel. Their purpose is simply war and the destruction of civilization and they make use of Israel's similar interest in perpetual war to make extending the war first to Iraq and now Iran possible.


Esquire -- November 2007

The Secret History of the Impending War with Iran That

the White House Doesn't Want You to Know

Two former high-ranking policy experts from the Bush

Adminstration say the U.S. has been gearing up for a

war with Iran for years, despite claiming otherwise.

It'll be Iraq all over again.

In the years after 9/11, Flynt Leverett and Hillary

Mann worked at the highest levels of the Bush

administration as Middle East policy experts for the

National Security Council. Mann conducted secret

negotiations with Iran. Leverett traveled with Colin

Powell and advised Condoleezza Rice. They each played

crucial roles in formulating policy for the region

leading up to the war in Iraq. But when they left the

White House, they left with a growing sense of alarm --

not only was the Bush administration headed straight

for war with Iran, it had been set on this course for

years. That was what people didn't realize. It was just

like Iraq, when the White House was so eager for war it

couldn't wait for the UN inspectors to leave. The steps

have been many and steady and all in the same

direction. And now things are getting much worse. We

are getting closer and closer to the tripline, they


"The hard-liners are upping the pressure on the State

Department," says Leverett. "They're basically saying,

'You've been trying to engage Iran for more than a year

now and what do you have to show for it? They keep

building more centrifuges, they're sending this IED

stuff over into Iraq that's killing American soldiers,

the human-rights internal political situation has

gotten more repressive -- what the hell do you have to

show for this engagement strategy?' "

But the engagement strategy was never serious and was

designed to fail, they say. Over the last year, Rice

has begun saying she would talk to "anybody, anywhere,

anytime," but not to the Iranians unless they stopped

enriching uranium first. That's not a serious approach

to diplomacy, Mann says. Diplomacy is about talking to

your enemies. That's how wars are averted. You work up

to the big things. And when U.S. ambassador to Iraq

Ryan Crocker had his much-publicized meeting with his

Iranian counterpart in Baghdad this spring, he didn't

even have permission from the White House to schedule a

second meeting.

The most ominous new development is the Bush

administration's push to name the Iranian Revolutionary

Guards a terrorist organization.

Read more:

Some hope re Iran War: 30 Democratic Senators Warn Bush against attacking Iran

Thanks to Laura Rozen of the indispensable this posting below on Mother Jones blog (has anyone seen this anywhere else?) with the news that 30 Democratic Senators sent a sharp warning to Bush about his and Cheney's unrestrained rhetoric on Iran and consequently? in a speech afterwards Cheney failed to mention Iran.

Rozen noticed that Barak Obama didn't sign, Neither did Harry Reid or Joe Biden. Obama is a surprise outlier. You'd think he'd have sufficient cover with Clinton signing, not to mention Dodd. Needless to say, one can suspect the Israel lobby had something to do with the missing senators, especially the presidential candidates, but it would be nice to have some evidence.--RB

Laura Rozen wrote:

Among the thirty members who signed, Senators James Webb, John Kerry, Robert Byrd, Dick Durbin, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chris Dodd, Patrick Leahy, Dianne Feinstein, Herb Kohl, Byron Dorgin, Jack Reed, Max Baucus, Debbie Stabenow, Claire McCaskill, Barbara Boxer, Daniel Akaka, Tom Harkin, Thomas Carper, Amy Klobuchar, Jay Rockefeller, Robert Casey, Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray, Sheldon Whitehouse, Sherrod Brown, John Tester, Ron Wyden, Bernie Sanders, and Barbara Mikulski. [I counted 29. Why didn't Rozen give us the last name? --RB]

Senators Warn White House on Iran

Thirty Senators have signed a letter sent to President Bush today, expressing concern with the administration's increasingly bellicose rhetoric on Iran.

"We are writing to express serious concern with the provocative statements and actions stemming from your administration with respect to possible U.S. military action in Iran," the letter states. "These comments are counterproductive and undermine efforts to resolve tensions with Iran through diplomacy."

"We wish to emphasize that no congressional authority exists for unilateral military action against Iran," it continues.

Among the thirty members who signed, Senators James Webb, John Kerry, Robert Byrd, Dick Durbin, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chris Dodd, Patrick Leahy, Dianne Feinstein, Herb Kohl, Byron Dorgin, Jack Reed, Max Baucus, Debbie Stabenow, Claire McCaskill, Barbara Boxer, Daniel Akaka, Tom Harkin, Thomas Carper, Amy Klobuchar, Jay Rockefeller, Robert Casey, Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray, Sheldon Whitehouse, Sherrod Brown, John Tester, Ron Wyden, Bernie Sanders, and Barbara Mikulski.

You can read it here.

Meantime, as David Kurtz points out, it is notable that Vice President Cheney gave a speech today at the American Legion in Indiana in which he did not once mention Iran. An accidental omission? I doubt it.

More here and here.

Update: Now Barack Obama has introduced his own Iran measure. "Obama introduced a Senate resolution late Thursday that says President George W. Bush does not have authority to use military force against Iran, the latest move in a debate with presidential rival Hillary Rodham Clinton about how to respond to that country's nuclear ambitions."

for more and for the links, go to:

A.K. Gupta: Is the US Committing Genocide in Iraq?

Is the U.S. Committing Genocide in Iraq?
By A.K. Gupta
From the October 7, 2007 issue

By A.K. Gupta

There is a simple rule that defines the U.S. occupation of Iraq: no matter how bad a situation may seem the reality is far worse.

Take torture. Individual accounts began surfacing in the fall of 2003 at U.S.-run prisons, but the Abu Ghraib scandal that erupted the following spring unmasked a regime of industrial-scale torture.

Or take the number of Iraqi dead. By 2004 it was believed to be in the thousands but no one thought, as two rigorous studies found, that some 98,000 Iraqis had died by the fall of ’04 or that a mind-boggling 655,000 had died by June 2006.

Or take refugees. The U.S. military and ethnic militias are known to have caused massive displacement, but few could imagine that nearly one in five Iraqis, at least 4.7 million people, would have been driven from their homes by the fall of 2007.

Then there’s “random killings.” Two new revelations point to how many killings stem from systemic forces. Foreign mercenaries are called the most-hated men in Iraq, but who knew that Blackwater, the most notorious hired gun in Iraq, had been involved in “nearly 200 shootings in Iraq since 2005”? Mercenary killings could number in the thousands as Blackwater’s record does not appear to be out of line with the 100 other mercenary outfits in Iraq. The Washington Post reported in June that “one security company reported nearly 300 ‘hostile actions’ in the first four months” of 2007.

And there are killings by U.S. forces, which happen at checkpoints, on patrol and during home raids. Now it seems these killings are a matter of policy in some instances. Reports indicate that military commanders pressed troops to rack up “body counts,” despite declamations otherwise. Some snipers were apparently instructed to leave weaponry lying around and shoot anyone who picked it up.

Despite this hell we’ve created, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama reject a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq before 2013 — the end of the next presidential term. They appear committed to ensuring the conflict becomes the longest-running war in U.S. history.

But they couldn’t advocate a never-ending war unless a majority of the public believed G.I.s are there to protect Iraqis. One of the great myths of the Iraq War is that the U.S. military buffers religious and ethnic factions who have been at each others’ throats since time immemorial.

What’s curious is that many opponents of the Iraq War, a group marked by its loathing of Bush, essentially accept his latest rationale for staying the course: that a “humanitarian nightmare” could result if U.S. forces withdrew. They are in effect arguing that we must continue to slaughter Iraqis for years on end lest someone else possibly do so in the future.

To maintain that U.S. troops are there to protect civilians, it is necessary to discredit the enormity of the killing. This is a problem within the peace movement as many shy away from discussing the impact of the Iraq War except to discuss how it affects “us.” For example, United for Peace & Justice has easily accessible information on its website about U.S. casualties and the financial costs of the war, but nothing about the extent of Iraqi deaths.

According to a study published in the British medical journal The Lancet in October 2006, some 655,000 excess Iraqi deaths occurred from the March 2003 invasion to June of 2006. In 45 percent of cases of violent death, the perpetrator was listed as unknown, 31 percent was attributed to “the coalition” and 24 percent to “other.” Thus, U.S. and U.K. forces were responsible for the deaths of 185,000 Iraqis in barely three years. Air strikes were responsible for about 78,000 deaths.

A more recent survey by ORB, a British polling firm, is more shocking still. It reported in September that it polled 1,499 Iraqi adults and came up with a figure of 1.22 million dead. The scale of the killing is so great that it raises the question: Is the United States committing genocide in Iraq?

This issue has dominated the response to the Darfur conflict. In an influential essay last March titled “The Politics of Naming: Genocide, Civil War and Insurgency,” African scholar Mahmood Mamdani likened the violence in the Sudan region to U.S.-occupied Iraq, noting that in Iraq “it is said to be a cycle of insurgency and counter-insurgency; in Darfur, it is called genocide.” Mamdani does not say so, but the implication is clear: If Darfur is genocide, then why not Iraq?

Numbers do not a genocide make. Intent is needed. And that’s where things get fuzzy (and political). According to the U.N. Convention on Genocide, one standard is “intent to destroy, in whole or in part” of a group. Iraq, then, is most definitely genocide — this is what happened in Fallujah. More than that, virtually all the Sunni Arab regions have been subjected to extreme levels of violence.

I contacted some of the researchers involved in the two Lancet studies on excess mortality in Iraq, Gilbert Burnham and Richard Garfield (who was involved in only the 2004 study), and statistician, Shannon Doocy. They found in the second study that the excess death rate amounted to 7.8 per thousand per year in a population of 27 million.

In the 2006 study, they stated “the highest death rates [are] much where they would be expected, in the Sunni Arab provinces.” Garfield, a professor at Columbia University, added the death rates were highest in these provinces because “that’s where most of the military-reported deaths were occurring.”

This backs up reports that it is the U.S. war that has killed more Sunni Arabs. The strategy has been to depopulate towns and cities or at least large swaths — Fallujah, Tal Afar, Al Qaim, Ramadi, Samara and others — through blockades, cutting off food, fuel and electricity, mass arrests and aerial bombardment. The goal was to turn these towns into free-fire zones where anyone left could be killed, no questions asked.

In the case of Fallujah, during the November 2004 razing, an AP photographer watched entire neighborhoods turned to rubble from a bombardment so devastating civilians were too afraid to even step outside — implying many never fled. When he tried to leave the city, he witnessed “U.S. helicopters firing on and killing people who tried to cross the river,” including a family of five. From this and other anecdotal accounts, the goal appeared to be wholesale extermination.

With a scarcity of independent reporting from other towns that the U.S. military turned into battlefields, it’s not known what the effects were. So I asked the researchers to crunch the numbers for 13 “clusters” in the four Sunni Arab-majority provinces — Anbar, Diyala, Ninewa and Salah al-Din.

The researchers used a method called “cluster-sample survey.” Garfield says 20 to 25 are needed “to get a representative sample,” but they choose 50 clusters to give added precision. Iraqi surveyors sampled 40 houses in each cluster, which were spread around the country.

They cautioned a smaller sample meant a larger margin of error. But aggregating the four does reduce some of the added uncertainty. It appears that the excess death rate for the four Sunni Arab provinces is nearly twice the national rate of 7.8 — 14.5 per thousand per year. This may mean that almost 1.5 percent of people in these provinces, mainly Sunni Arabs, are being killed year after year.

It’s also probable that Sunni Arabs are being displaced at a higher rate. Much has been made of an alleged drop in civilian casualties in September, but this maybe more due to widespread ethnic cleansing. One recent report noted that in Baghdad, home to one-quarter of Iraq’s population, “U.S. military officers say [the capital] has gone from being 65 percent Sunni to being 75 percent Shiite.”

Seymour Hersh argues that “The surge means basically that, in some way, the president has accepted ethnic cleansing.” This works two ways. Reporter Rick Rowley, who just returned from Anbar Province, says that some of the Sunni militias being set up and armed by the Pentagon have been violently displacing thousands of Shiites.

This is where intent starts to creep in. Ahmed Hashim, author of Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in Iraq, writes that the Bush administration “thought that the Sunnis could be treated with disdain, discounted and swept aside with little in the way of adverse reaction.”

This is a long way from genocide, but this is the attitude that defined the beginning of the occupation, which progressed into collective punishment, mass detentions, torture, massacres such as Haditha, “baiting” programs, Fallujah and possibly 1.2 million dead Iraqis.

What many in the antiwar movement fail to see is that by raising the question that the occupation may be genocidal in nature, we allow the myth of U.S. benevolence to live on in future wars, such as the looming one against Iran. Peace activists have shied away from talking about Iraqi deaths; the focus is mainly on U.S. casualties. But this historical narcissism ensures that the public remains primed for war after war.