Monday, December 31, 2007

Glenn Greenwald: Bloomberg's Mission: Derail the Democrats

Greenwald once again ably deconstructs the motives -- this time behind those pushing a Bloomberg independent candidacy. Another right-wing, even neo-con move to keep the very worst elements in this country in power by dividing the Democrat opposition, especially a possible Edwards (or Obama?) campaign. In addition to the information below, Bloomberg's ruthless right wing support for the war was plainly in evidence when he did much to defuse the energy behind the million person February 2003 NYC protest against the war -- and similarly during the Republican convention in the summer of 2004.

A note on Bleier's Blog: Some readers will have noted that from time to time, I post blog entries without sending them to my lists. Also, there has been more activity in the comments section, especially in recent days which readers might like to check out. Lately, when readers write to me, I've been better at posting their remarks --usually with initials only -- and in some cases with a change of initials -- to preserve anonymity.

A New Year's wish to all for a healthy, productive and happy 365 days, and as I recently wrote to a friend, fervent hopes that we'll be able to wish the same to each other a year from now. If we manage that -- a comfort in a whirlwind -- it will be some kind of victory.


Glenn Greenwald
Monday December 31, 2007
Michael Bloomberg: Trans-partisan savior

Following along in David Broder's excited footsteps, Sam Roberts in The New York Times reports that Michael Bloomberg "is growing increasingly enchanted with the idea of an independent presidential bid, and his aides are aggressively laying the groundwork for him to run." And a handful of retired, mediocre politicians with no following are issuing self-absorbed, thug-like demands, complete with deadlines:
Former Senator David L. Boren of Oklahoma, who organized the session with former Senator Sam Nunn, a Democrat of Georgia, suggested in an interview that if the prospective major party nominees failed within two months to formally embrace bipartisanship and address the fundamental challenges facing the nation, "I would be among those who would urge Mr. Bloomberg to very seriously consider running for president as an independent."
Is it even theoretically possible for Democrats to "cooperate" more with Republicans than they've been doing since taking over control of Congress?

The NYT article quotes actor Sam Waterston of the painfully silly, substance-free Unity '08 group describing the promise of Bloomberg's candidacy as promoting "Unity08's principal goals of a bipartisan, nonpartisan, postpartisan ticket." The website Unite for Mike -- a grass-roots movement that now has 500 supporters! -- says that Bloomberg "has the vision, experience and passion of a true and demonstrated leader" and that Bloomberg can solve this problem: "Our international leadership has become confused and directionless. We are no longer the shining beacon of freedom and justice to our fellow nations."

Here's Bloomberg's record of Independence, Judgment, Competence, and Trans-partisan Wisdom. Consider how sterling his judgment is and how able he would be to make the world respect us again:

NYT, May 11, 2004:
Laura Bush and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg stood shoulder to shoulder yesterday in an appearance that may well dispel any lingering doubt as to the mayor's feelings about the president, or of the mayor's own political identity. . . .

[T]here he was yesterday, throwing in his words of support for the president's decision to invade Iraq -- promoting one of the notions that is central to the rationale for the attack, that the conflict was justified by what happened on Sept. 11.

"Let me add something to that," Mr. Bloomberg said after Mrs. Bush gave her defense of her husband and his decision to go to war. "Don't forget that the war started not very many blocks from here."
Joe Conason, Salon, June 22, 2007:
Dating back to his infatuation with Bush, the mayor has always been an enthusiastic supporter of the war in Iraq. He marched lockstep in the Bush drive toward invasion when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly in September 2002: "Freedom comes at a price, and tragically, sometimes that price is the commitment to defend freedom by arms. America has been, is, and always will be willing to do its duty -- to sacrifice even its own blood, so that people everywhere can live as individuals responsible for their own destinies." (As Wayne Barrett once pointed out in the Village Voice, the man spouting this brave talk got out of the Vietnam draft because his feet are flat.)

Bloomberg's pro-war rhetoric dutifully echoed the White House line connecting Saddam Hussein with al-Qaida and 9/11, almost as if Karl Rove had programmed his brain. "I'm voting for George W. Bush and it's mainly because I think we have to strike back at terrorists," he said in September 2004. "To argue that Saddam Hussein wasn't a terrorist is ridiculous. He used mustard gas, or some kind of gas, against his own people."
Bloomberg's speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention:
I want to thank President Bush for supporting New York City and changing the homeland security funding formula and for leading the global war on terrorism.


The president deserves our support.


We are here to support him.


And I am here to support him.

NYT, January 29, 2004:
We are going to get George W. Bush re-elected as president of the United States! We are going to carry New York City and New York State. Everybody thinks I'm crazy, but I think we can do it.
Wayne Barrett, Village Voice, October 18, 2005:
Even though the City Council passed a resolution opposing the war, Bloomberg called an old friend, Paul Wolfowitz, to express his desire to host a ticker tape parade "to say thank you," apparently as unaware as the "Mission Accomplished" president that the troops would not be coming home for years. Bloomberg actually contributed $5 million to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Affairs in the late '90s, when war architect Wolfowitz was dean. . . .

Even before the war, Bloomberg brought his mother and daughter to the United Nations, where he addressed the General Assembly a day after Bush did in September 2002. Echoing Bush's warnings that the U.S. would go it alone if the U.N. didn't act, Bloomberg "praised" Bush's war on terror "and offered support for an attack on Iraq," according to the Daily News.
Michael Bloomberg Press Release, July 17, 2006, as the Israeli bombing of Lebanon proceeded:
Israel rightly continues to defend itself from unprovoked attacks on innocent civilians, and the killing and abduction of Israeli soldiers by the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah. Let there be no doubt: Hamas and Hezbollah must return the Israeli soldiers they abducted and cease their attacks against Israel.

I have said time and again that you cannot negotiate when there is a gun to your head. The international community needs to send a clear message to these terrorist organizations -- and the countries that fund and support their reign of terror -- that these kinds of attacks on peaceful, democratic nations will not be tolerated. . . . .

I commend President Bush and his cabinet for their continued support of Israel and its right to defend itself. I deeply hope that the fighting will end soon, and that all the innocent people affected by this conflict will again be safe. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those soldiers who have fallen in combat, the brave sons and daughters of Israel who are defending Israel's freedom at this very moment, and with the people of Israel who are an inspiration to all of us as they continue to go about their lives in the face of such uncertainty.

I have always believed that the fate of Israel and the future of New York City are deeply connected. If Israel's democracy is compromised, so too are our freedoms here at home. A strong Israel means a strong America and a strong New York. And as Americans and New Yorkers, we must continue to stand with Israel as we have done for the past 58 years, and we must never lose our hope for peace.
Rolling Stone, August 22, 2006:
Bloomberg, in fact, identifies strongly with the defeated Democrat from Connecticut. "I think what they're doing to Joe Lieberman is a disgrace," the mayor volunteered when I met with him in his offices in July, shortly before anti-war bloggers helped Ned Lamont beat Lieberman in the primary. . . . A few days later, Bloomberg was offering to campaign for Lieberman.
He also is as enamored of government control, police powers and surveillance as anyone in the Bush administration. He is an unrestrained advocate and enforcer of the War on Drugs (despite his own acknowledged use of marijuana, of course) and advocates the creation of "a DNA or fingerprint database to track and verify all legal U.S. workers," about which the NY Civil Liberties Union said, with extreme understatement: "It doesn't sound like the free society we think we're living in. It will inevitably be used not just by employers but by law enforcement, government agencies, schools and all over the private sector."

Clearly, this is just exactly what our country desperately needs, what it is missing most -- a neoconservative, combat-avoiding, Bush-supporting, Middle-East-warmonger who sees U.S. and Israeli interests as indistinguishable and inextricably linked, with a fetish for ever-increasing government control and surveillance, and a background as a Wall St. billionaire. We just haven't had enough of those in our political culture. Our political system, more than anything, is missing the influence of people like that. That's why it's broken: not enough of those.

Bloomberg is basically just Rudy Giuliani with a billion or two dollars to spend to alter the election. When it comes to foreign policy, war-making and government power, he offers absolutely nothing that isn't found in destructive abundance among the most extremist precincts in the Republican Party, while his moderate to liberal stance on social issues would prevent him from actually winning the support of his natural GOP base.

In fact -- despite his steadfast neoconservatism -- it's hard to see how the candidacy of a divorced, unmarried, stridently pro-gun-control, pro-choice, socially liberal New York City billionaire would accomplish anything other than offering the Republicans their best hope of winning in 2008. All of this seems to be intended as punishment meted out by the Establishment to the Democrats -- using Bloomberg's billions as the weapon -- for not repudiating their loudmouth, restless liberal base strongly enough. That, more than anything, seems to be the oh-so-noble and trans-partisan purpose of David Broder, David Boren and Sam Nunn: to find a way to stifle the populist anger at our political establishment after 8 years of unrestrained Bush-Cheney devastation, increasingly represented (on the Democratic side) by the Scary, Angry, Intemperate John Edwards campaign.

A Bloomberg candidacy would have no purpose other than satisfy his bottomless personal lust for attention and bestow the wise old men threatening the country with his candidacy with some fleeting sense of rejuvenated relevance and wisdom. His political views are conventional in every way and he's little more than an establishment-enabling figurehead. The whole attraction to his candidacy has nothing to do with any issues or substance and everything to do with an empty addiction to vapid notions of Establishment harmony and a desire to exert control, whereby our Seriousness guardians devote themselves to a candidate for reasons largely unrelated to his policies or political views, thus proving themselves, as usual, to be the exact antithesis of actual seriousness.

-- Glenn Greenwald

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Rawstory: Anomalies in Bhutto Assassination point to ISI/CIA Responsibility

From we get some of the anomalies regarding the Bhutto assassination pointing the finger at Musharraf/Bush-Cheney as the parties responsible.

a. the crime scene was hosed down within an hour with a high pressure hose

b. Police bodyguards were withdrawn

c. No autopsy was permitted in a situation that would normally require one by law. Although the NYT story (12.29.07) highlighted Bhutto's email charging Musharraf with responsibility in case of her death, it parroted the Pakistani government line that her husband wanted no autopsy.

d. The change in the government story about how she was killed is very strange. Even if the Pakistani ISI were responsible, one would have thought that the first story about a shooting would be more credible, -- unless it's clear that as in JFK, the alleged assassin couldn't have produced the shots that killed her. According to some reports now emerging she was shot professionally from multiple angles -- as was JFK. But you'd think such minor details could be more easily covered up -- as in JFK -- than the surreal sunroof story.

Raw story also carried a separate story on fanatical right winger Josh Bolton's charges criticizing the US for arranging the return of Bhutto. The relevant quote below, pointing to the destabilization of a nuclear armed Pakistan also points to the motive for her assassination. As he says, we have a prescription for chaos. And we thought we were gonna survive Bush-Cheney's term in office.


Bolton said the primary concern of the US needs to be the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. With Bhutto's death plunging the country into chaos, there is now a "very grave danger" the weapons will fall under control of radical Islamist militants within the Pakistani military.

"What we have now is a prescription for chaos," Bolton said.



Revealed: Pakistan hosed away scene after Bhutto attack

12/29/2007 @ 9:48 am
Filed by John Byrne

May have violated law by skipping autopsy

Despite official reports by Pakistan's interior ministry claiming that the government had intercepted congratulatory messages sent by al Qaeda surrounding the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, a motley of strange occurrences has sparked new suspicion of the government's official story.

On Friday, doctors at Rawalpindi General Hospital, where she died, said that Bhutto had been killed by shrapnel to the head from an explosion, not by two bullets that Bhutto supporters cited in the aftermath of the attack. Bhutto, 54, was killed as in the aftermath of a shooting and suicide bombing as she left a political rally in the city of Rawalpindi.

The government soon changed their story, saying she'd been killed by hitting the sunroof of her LandCruiser after she'd stood up to wave to a crowd. Doctors said there were no bullet marks on the former prime minister's body, and released a limited x-ray of what they said was her skull.

More alarming, however, to Bhutto supporters was the fact no autopsy was conducted prior to burial. The official line -- according to Pakistan's interim prime minister Mohammadmian Soomro -- was that Bhutto's husband had insisted no autopsy be performed.

But according to veteran lawyer Athar Minallah who spoke to McClatchy Newspapers Friday, "an autopsy is mandatory under Pakistan's criminal law in a case of this nature."

"It is absurd, because without autopsy it is not possible to investigate," Minallah told McClatchy's Saeed Shah and Warren Strobel in a little publicized piece. "Is the state not interested in reaching the perpetrators of this heinous crime or there was a cover-up?"

Autopsies are generally not conducted in Islam unless ordered by a court, because the religion calls for burial as quickly as possible. It's unclear whether Bhutto's circumstances would have warranted an exception.

According to the reporters, "the scene of the attack also was watered down with a high-pressure hose within an hour, washing away evidence."

Shah, who reported from the scene Thursday, wrote in a second piece that police rangers charged with protecting her "abandoned their posts" shortly before the bombing, leaving just a handful of Bhutto's own bodyguards protecting her.

"Police officers had frisked the 3,000 to 4,000 people attending Thursday's rally when they entered the park, but as the speakers from Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party droned on, the police abandoned many of their posts," Shah wrote. "As she drove out through the gate, her main protection appeared to be her own bodyguards, who wore their usual white T-shirts inscribed: 'Willing to die for Benazir.'"

Some of Bhutto's supporters were suspect of the "sunroof theory."

A "senior official" of Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party called the claim "false," saying he'd seen at least two bullet marks on her body after the attack.

"It was a targeted, planned killing," BPP's Babar Awan said. "The firing was from more than one side."

Another newspaper also asserted witnesses saw her shot.

Multiple reports said Bhutto had shown disregard for her personal safety by waving to the crowd.

"In her enthusiasm, she got carried away, and exposed herself in ways" she shouldn't have, a former State Department official told Shah.

Pakistan indicated Saturday it would delay January elections because of turmoil caused by Bhutto's death. Protests and looting have left at least 38 people dead.

Updated to include background on autopsies as regards Islam.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Jeremy Page: Did Pakistan's ISI Kill Benazir Bhutto

One of the things we learned in the wake of 9/11 is that there is no daylight between the ISI and the CIA: no Pakistani policy of any importance is undertaken before the CIA signs off, if they haven't first directed it. After all, who pays their salaries?
After the first assassination attempt on Benazir Bhutto on her return to Pakistan in October 2007, the NYTimes reported that the former Prime Minister clearly pointed to the ISI as the responsible party.(See below: The author notes that Bhutto's husband directly blamed the ISI.) In other words, according to the equation above, if it was the ISI, it was the CIA. If it was the CIA, it was Bush and Cheney. Now why would they want to further destabilize an already tottering, nuclear armed country?
Now that Bhutto is dead, she can't point any fingers and there is no one of sufficient stature to do the pointing even to the level of making it to the columns of the NYT. However, BBC TV news reported that one of the surviving, slightly injured members of Bhutto's party noticed that at the time of the shooting/bombing there happened to be very few police in the vicinity.

Did Pakistan’s ISI Kill Benazir Bhutto?
Jeremy Page
Times Online
December 27, 2007

The main suspects in Benazir Bhutto’s assassination are the Pakistani and foreign Islamist militants who regarded her as a heretic and an American stooge and had repeatedly threatened to kill her.

But fingers will also be pointed at Inter-Services Intelligence, the agency that has had close ties to the Islamists since the 1970s and has been used by successive Pakistani leaders to suppress political opposition.

Ms Bhutto narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in October, when a suicide bomber killed about 140 people at a rally in the port city of Karachi to welcome her back from eight years in exile.

That month, two militant warlords based in the lawless northwestern areas of Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan, had threatened to kill her on her return.

One was Baitullah Mehsud, a top commander fighting the Pakistani army in the tribal region of South Waziristan. He has close ties to al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taleban.

The other was Haji Omar, the “amir” or leader of the Pakistani Taleban, who is also from South Waziristan and fought against the Soviets with the Mujahidin in Afghanistan.

After that attack Ms Bhutto revealed that she had received a letter signed by a person who claimed to be a friend of al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden threatening to slaughter her like a goat.

She accused Pakistani authorities of not providing her with sufficient security and hinted that they may have been complicit in the bomb attack. Asif Ali Zardari, her husband, directly accused the ISI of being involved in that attempt on her life.

Ms Bhutto stopped short of blaming the Government directly, saying that she had more to fear from unidentified members of a power structure that she described as allies of the “forces of militancy”.

Analysts say that President Musharraf himself is unlikely to have ordered her assassination, but that elements of the army and intelligence service would have stood to lose money and power if she had become Prime Minister.

The ISI, in particular, includes some Islamists who became radicalised while running the American-funded campaign against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and remained fiercely opposed to Ms Bhutto on principle.

Saudi Arabia, which has strong influence in Pakistan, is also thought to frown on Ms Bhutto as being too secular and Westernised and to favour Nawaz Sharif, another former Prime Minister.

Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, December 22, 2007

James Petras: Dual Loyalty Cripples Anti-War Jews

I was especially interested in this subject since I had come to essentially the same conclusion in my article on "The Israel Lobby, the Grassroots and the Radical Bush-Cheney Regime" (available on line). I argued that the progressive grassroots reflexively supports whatever policy choices come down from Tel Aviv or from AIPAC no matter the implications for US interests, the US Constitution, much less Palestinian or Arab interests.

American Jews on War and Peace:
What Do the Polls Tell Us and Not Tell Us?

by James Petras

December 15, 2007


Once again, a poll recently released by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) (1) has confirmed that on some questions of major significance there are vast differences between the opinion of the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations and the mass of American Jews. On questions of the Iraq war, the escalation of US military forces in Iraq (the 'Surge') and military action against Iran, most Jewish Americans differ from the leaders of the major American Jewish organizations.

Most liberal, progressive or radical Jewish commentators have emphasized these differences to argue, "most American Jews resoundingly reject the Middle East militarism and GOP foreign policy championed by right-wing Jewish factions." (2) This progressive interpretation however avoids an even more fundamental question: How
is it that a majority of US Jews who, according to the AJC poll (and several others going back over two decades) differ with the principal American Jewish organizations, have not or do not challenge the position of the dominant Jewish organization, have virtually no impact on the US Congress, the Executive and the mass media in comparison to the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations?

The issue of the 'silent majority' is questionable since all Jewish and non-Jewish commentators point to the highly vocal and disproportionate rates of participation of American Jews in the political process, from electoral campaigns to civil society movements. Not is it clear that the progressive majority lacks the high incomes of the reactionary 'minority'. There are some Jewish millionaires and even a few billionaires who hold views opposing the leadership of the major Jewish organizations. There are several probable explanations that account for the power of Jewish leaders in shaping US Middle East policy and the relative impotence of the
majority of American Jews.

The Poll: A Re-Analysis

The poll results highlighted by progressive Jewish analysts point to the 59% to 31% majority of Jews disapproving the way the US is handling the 'campaign against terror." The problem with using the answers to this question to indicate progressive opinion is that a number of Zionist ideologues and their followers also
oppose the 'handling of the campaign' because it is not sufficiently brutal, authoritarian and arbitrary. Other findings cited include a 67% to 27% majority currently believing that the US should have stayed out of Iraq, a 76%
to 23% majority who believe the war is going 'somewhat' or 'very badly' in Iraq, a 68% to 30% majority believing that the 'surge' has either made things worse or has no impact.

Even more important, a large majority (57% to 35%) of American Jews oppose the United States launching a pre-emptive military attack against Iran, even if it were taken 'to prevent (Iran) from developing nuclear weapons." The progressive analysts then cite the polls finding that most American Jews are 'some shade of liberal' rather than 'conservative' (42% to 25%) and overwhelmingly identified as Democrats rather than Republicans by 58% to 15%. Most Jews believe that Democrats will make the 'right decisions on the war in Iraq (61% to 21%). Finally, the progressives have very favorable views of the top three Democratic presidential candidates.

On the surface these polling results would suggest that American Jews would be at the cutting edge of the congressional anti-war movements, arousing their fellow Jews to join and resurrect the moribund peace movement. Nothing of the sort has occurred.

One reason for the gap between the 'progressive' polling results and the actual pro-war behavior of the major American Jewish Organizations is found in several of the opinions not cited by progressive analysts but emphasized by the 52 leaders of the major communal organizations (Daily Alert, December 13, 2007). Over eighty percent (82%) of American Jews agree that 'the goal of the Arabs is not the return of occupied territories but rather the destruction of Israel'. Only 12% of Jews disagree. And 55% to 37% do not believe Israel and its Arab
neighbors will settle their differences and live in peace. On the key issue of a compromise on the key issue of Jerusalem, by 58% to 36% American Jews reject an Israeli compromise to insure a framework for permanent peace.

Given the high salience of being pro-Israel for the majority of American Jews and the fact that the source of their identity stems more from their loyalty to Israel than to the Talmud or religious myths and rituals, then it is clear that both the 'progressive, majority of Jews and the reactionary minority who head up
all the major American Jewish organizations have a fundamental point of agreement and convergence: Support and identity with Israel and its anti-Arab prejudices, its expansion and the dispossession of Palestine. This overriding convergence allows the reactionary Presidents of the Major Jewish Organizations in America to speak for
the Jewish community with virtually no opposition from the progressive majority either within or without their organizations. By raising the Israeli flag, repeating clichés about the 'existential threat' to Israel at each and every convenient moment, the majority of Jews have bowed their heads and acquiesced or, worst, subordinated
their other 'progressive' opinions to actively backing the leaders 'identity' with Israel. Their franchise on being the recognized Jewish spokespeople intimidates and/or forces progressive Jews to publicly abide to the line that 'Israel (sic) knows what is best for Israel' and by extension for all American Jews who identify with Israel.

A second important factor in undermining progressive American Jewish activity against US-Israeli war policy in the Middle East (Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and Palestine) is the influence of Israeli public opinion. A Haaretz report (December 9, 2007) documents a civil rights poll showing that 'Israel has reached new heights of
racism…', citing a 26% rise in anti-Arab incidents (Association for Civil Rights in Israel Annual Report for 2007). The report cites the doubling of the number of Jews expressing feelings of hatred to Arabs. Fifty percent of Israeli Jews oppose equal rights for their Arab compatriots. According to a Haifa University study,
74% of Jewish youth in Israel think that Arabs are 'unclean'.

Progressive American Jews, identifying with a racist colonial state, face a dilemma: Whether to act against their primary identity in favor of their progressive opinions or whether to back Israel and submit to its American franchise holders and recognized leaders.

Given these issues, a serious analyst clearly must distinguish between 'opinions' and 'commitment'. While a majority of American Jews may voice private progressive opinions, their commitments based on their identity as Jews rests with the State of Israel and its principal mouthpieces in the US.

This probably explains the unwillingness of progressive Jews to criticize the principal reactionary Jewish leaders and their mass organizations, even worse to attack and slander any critics of the pro-Israel power
configuration. Progressive Jews have subordinated their progressive opinions to their loyalty and identity with Israel. Organizationally this has meant that the majority of major American Jewish organizations are still led
and controlled by pro-war, pro-Israel leaders. Progressive Jewish organizations are on the fringe of the organizational map, with virtually no influence in the Congress or Presidency and backers of a pro-war Democratic Party and Congress.

Progressive analysts who cite overwhelming Jewish support for the Democratic Party, its top three Presidential candidates and their preference for the liberal label as differentiating them from the leaders of
the major organizations, commit an elementary logical and substantive fallacy. Liberals, like the Clintons, supported the wars against Iraq and are among the driving forces promoting a military attack on Iran. The Democratic majority in Congress has backed every military appropriation demanded by the Republicans and the White House. Being Democrat and 'liberal' is no indicator of being 'progressive' using any foreign policy indicator, from the Middle East wars to destabilizations efforts in Venezuela.

The apparent paradox of progressive anti-war Jews contributing big bucks to pro-war Democrats is based on the latter's unconditional support for Israel which trumps any 'dissonance' that might exist in the head of progressive Jewish political activists.

With the American Pro-Israel Power Configuration leading the way to savaging the National Intelligence Estimate study, released in December 2007, on the absence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, progressive Jewish opinion is silent or complicit. Worse still, progressive liberal and radical Jewish peace
activists have acted as gate-keepers in the anti-war movement – prohibiting any criticism of Israel and labeling individuals or citizen activists critical of the pro-war Zionist lobby as 'anti-Semites'.

The AJC opinion poll on the high proportion of American Jewish with more progressive opinions than the leadership of all the major mainstream organizations would be officially welcomed if it led to something else besides private opinions compromised by Israeli identities.



2. Glen Greenwald, "New Poll Reveals How Unrepresentative Neo-Con Jewish Groups Are", on

James Petras is the author of The Power of Israel in the United States (Clarity Press 2006); The Rulers and the Ruled in the US Empire: Bankers, Zionists and Militants (Clarity Press 2007)

He is a specialist on US Zionist politics and a close reader of the Israeli and American Jewish Press.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Best Arab Photo of 2007

It's a really good picture and an interesting story. Hint: View the picture before you read the text.
In these tragic times it's like grabbing onto a raft, a piece of wood in the ocean, to run into a story of an individual who can be helped.

Here's a link to the photo:

A*** wrote:

Dear Ghada ***and all recipients of this message.

It was nice to receive your message advising us that there is a noble man
who is willing to make a fund for this clever girl to complete her
education up to university level. It occurred to me when I posted the
photo and the story somebody would volunteer to make this grant.

As you can read from the story attached to the photo the photographer's
name is Wasim Kheir Beik .وسيم خير بيك

The association that gave him the prize id Association of Arab News
Agencies -- إتحاد وكالات الأنباء العربية

I shall contact a journalist friend of mine to find out how to contact the
union and of course they should have his address and ask him to get hold
of the girl and give her and her family the good news.

I am going to circulate this message and may be some recipient could also

Just a note that when I posted this message and the photo it was widely
circulated by a number of groups.

Shukran in advance

Is it possible to find the little syrian girl who was

studying while there were no people to buy her sweets?

The photo that was said to be the best in 2007?

I am asking for this, because somebody who saw the

picture wants to make a fund to let her continue her

studying till the end of university.

Can you put me in contact with the person who took

that photography?

Thank you for answering.


The best Arab photograph of 2007

أفضل صوره عربيه لعام 2007

"Education and work"

The Challenge""

Translated by: Adib****

The Union of Arab News Agencies granted it prize for the best photograph
for 2007-12-10 to

SANA the, "The Syrian News Agency" for a seven years old girl busy
studying while sitting at a side walk in Damascus selling candies.

The young photographer Wasim Kheir Beik 27 was able to snap the photo
after many trials after the refusal of the girl to be photographed, and
was covering her face with her small hands every time he tried to snap the
photograph. Wasim said that he was able to snap the photo by using a zoom
lens at a distance of 30 meters, while he was accidentally at her usual
working and studying sitting place.

As for the message that he wanted to relay though the photo, Kheir Beik
said, "I want to prove that a human being by will and toil can defeat
poverty and divestment.

The Union called the photo "Education and work".

Wasim called it: "Challenge".

The value of the prize was us$ 1,000.—

العلم والعمل


منح اتحاد وكالات الأنباء العربية فانا جائزة أفضل صورة لعام 2007 لوكالة

السوريةسانا عن صورة تظهر طفلة في السابعة من عمرها منهمكة في

إنجاز واجباتها المدرسية بموازاة بيعها الحلوي علي أحد أرصفة دمشق.

ونجح المصور الشاب وسيم خير بيك 27 عاماً بالتقاط تلك الصورة بعد عدة

محاولات كانت الطفلة ترفض فيها أن تتصور وتغطي وجهها بيديها الصغيرتين

كلما أراد وسيم تصويرها،كما قال ل الراية

. وأضاف: تمكنت بعد عدة مرات من التقاط هذه الصورة لها باستخدام عدسة

زووم عن بعد يزيد علي 30 متراً، وذلك أثناء تواجدي صدفة قرب مكان

جلوسها المعتاد .

وحول الرسالة التي أراد ايصالها من خلال هذه الصورة قال خير بيك

انها تتلخص في أن الإنسان بالإرادة والعمل الجاد يستطيع أن يهزم الفقر
والحرمان .

وأطلق الاتحاد علي الصورة اسم العلم والعمل ..

وكان وسيم قد سماها التحدي ، وبلغت قيمة الجائزة ألف دولار.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Glenn Greenwald: The Lawless Surveillance State

Another bulls eye from the indefatigable Glenn Greenwald. I've mercilessly cut out the bulk of his blog entry for space reasons. So all that is left is some notion of his focus and enough for me to emphasize or bring up an issue or three.

For Greenwald's complete blog entry, visit:

I've kept his reference to "the strange criminal prosecution of former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio, who refused to comply with several government requests to enable warrantless spying, after which he was prosecuted."
Why haven't we heard more about this? Has Democracy Now covered this case? Is anyone in Congress interested in finding out more about what would seem to be the political prosecution of the only CEO apparently who has stood up to Bush-Cheney on warranties spying of all our telephone and internet communications?

I've included the issue of Harry Reid making sure that the telecoms get their amnesty. Greenwald doesn't tackle the question of why Reid is abetting Bush-Cheney on this issue. Like the whole "war on terror" could it be the government's choice of victims?
[As I write, the Senate is "debating" as per Harry Reid's cave-in -- which means that the administration will get the retroactive amnesty it desires.]

Also, Greenwald's last sentence in the selection below caught my eye.
As but the latest example, read Mark Benjamin's superb though now-numbingly-familiar account of how we tortured Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah for 19 months and then just let him go once we realized that -- like so many others we've detained and tortured -- he was guilty of nothing.

What's my quibble? Regular readers will have guessed. If the State is responsible for virtually all the high profile (and a great deal of the low profile) terror actions of the last decade or so such as 9/11, London, Madrid, Jordan Hotel bombing, Oklahoma City bombing, African Embassy bombings, Tel Aviv Disco bombing and on and on, then the detention and torture of its victims like Mohamed Bashmilah was done with the full knowledge that he was guilty only of being chosen as a patsy, one more victim.

Selections from
Glenn Greenwald
December 16, 2007
The Lawless Surveillance State

There are several vital points raised by the new revelations in The New York Times that "the N.S.A.'s reliance on telecommunications companies is broader and deeper than ever before" and includes both pre-9/11 efforts to tap without warrants into the nation's domestic communications network as well as the collection of vast telephone records of American citizens in the name of the War on Drugs. The Executive Branch and the largest telecommunications companies work in virtually complete secrecy -- with no oversight and no notion of legal limits -- to spy on Americans, on our own soil, at will.
That's precisely why our political class is about to bestow amnesty on telecoms which broke multiple laws in how they enabled the government to spy on us, even though what the telecoms did -- on purpose and for years -- is unquestionably illegal. Our political leaders in both parties plainly want this limitless surveillance to continue, and they don't think that telecoms do anything wrong even when they work with the government in spying on Americans in ways that are against the law.

And they're saying that explicitly. The legislation jointly created and about to be enacted by Jay Rockefeller, Dick Cheney, Congressional Republicans and Harry Reid -- with a vital assist from the Jane-Harman-led "Blue Dogs" in the House -- is all designed to conceal and protect this state of affairs and to enable it to grow.

In mid-October, numerous documents were made publicly available in the strange criminal prosecution of former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio, who refused to comply with several government requests to enable warrantless spying, after which he was prosecuted. Those documents detailed the unbelievably extensive and secret cooperation between the federal government and large telecoms in creating domestic spying programs. [snip]...

It's the same process that led our political class to decide astoundingly that it would do nothing upon learning that the President also broke the law for years in how he ordered spying on American citizens. The Washington Post's Congressional reporter Jonathan Weisman recognized on Friday the indispensable role the Senate Majority Leader is playing in all of this:
San Francisco: Why is Harry Reid ignoring the Judiciary Committee's FISA bill and bringing up the SSCI bill? Is telecom amnesty that important to Sen. Reid? If so, why?

Jonathan Weisman: A very good question. Reid has said he will bring up the Intel Committee bill, then allow advocates of the Judiciary Committee bill to bring up theirs as a substitute. That's a big blow, since it will take 60 votes even to consider a vote on the Judiciary version.

Reid says he opposes retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies, but he seems to be stacking the decks for it.

Ultimately, what is most significant about all of this is how the most consequential steps our government takes -- such as endless expansion of its domestic spying programs with literally no oversight and constraints of law -- occur with virtually no public debate or awareness.


The very nature of our country and our government fundamentally transforms step by step, with little opposition. We all were inculcated with the notion that what distinguished our free country from those horrendous authoritarian tyrannies, both right and left, of the Soviet bloc, Latin America and the Middle East were things like executive detentions, torture, secret prisons, spying on their own citizens, unprovoked invasions of sovereign countries, and exemptions from the law for the most powerful -- precisely the abuses which increasingly characterize our government and shape our political values. As but the latest example, read Mark Benjamin's superb though now-numbingly-familiar account of how we tortured Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah for 19 months and then just let him go once we realized that -- like so many others we've detained and tortured -- he was guilty of nothing.

For more, visit:

Monday, December 17, 2007

Xymphora: Henry Kissinger: Not so closet a Zionist

Xymphora's hitting the bull's eye consistently these days. (Helps to explain why he's so popular.) Even for veteran Kissinger haters like myself (but who haven't done sufficient reading), there are some eye-opening things here. I knew he was a ruthless Zionist but I hadn't realized how far his power extended and was used.
Xymphora's blog entry also makes a point I hadn't thought of: the obviously wrongheaded war for oil folks--will they finally admit that that's not happening? -- have a tendency to use oil as a way to obscure the war for Israel factor. And even fewer seem to recognize --here I depart from Xymphora -- that devastating Iraq (and Afghanistan, Jordan and Syria and Lebanon, and elsewhere) does not advance Empire or Imperialism either. In that case there would be some advantage to the US, which is not the case. While Bush-Cheney destroy Iraq -- as intended -- they are also destroying the US and the rest of the world -- as intended.


Xymphora wrote:

December 15, 2007
Henry the K's Noamian moment

International war criminal Henry the K, who is Jewish, has always managed to deflect accusations of being a covert ‘dual loyalist’ Zionist, despite the fact that his advice always seemed to follow the dictates of the Israeli right-wingers, all on the basis of his reputation as the ultimate foreign policy ‘realist’. Since he was such a bastard of an America-firster, it was always assumed that evidence which pointed to his favoring certain Israeli interests was just a coincidence reflecting the Chomskean idea – now known to be largely false, and manufactured to cover secret support for Zionism – that American support for Israel was entirely based on the fact that such support mirrored the interests of the American Establishment. Not only was Kissinger responsible for the ‘special relationship’ which led directly to billions of dollars of military aid to Israel over the years, but he actually delayed telling Nixon about the Yom Kippur war so he could secretly put the U. S. on a full war footing to be prepared to fight for Israel (he no doubt feared that the ‘anti-Semite’ Nixon would nix the idea). Philip Giraldi summarizes what amounts to a treason case against Kissinger:

“In 1972, Kissinger and Nixon ceded to Israel a veto over any peace proposals that Washington might be considering in dealing with the Arab states, basically accepting the principle that Tel Aviv would call all the shots in the region without regard to American interests. In October 1973, the same duo airlifted military supplies to Israel during the Yom Kippur War to the tune of $2.2 billion in impromptu aid, leading to the Arab oil embargo and its catastrophic impact on the U.S. economy, which amounted to nearly $50 billion in 1974 alone (equivalent to $140 billion in 2000 dollars.

In late October 1973 Kissinger was sent to Moscow to negotiate with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to pursue a comprehensive peace process for the Middle East, but he ignored Nixon's instructions and pressed instead for a cease-fire that left Israel dominant and destroyed any chance for a multilateral peace effort. According to Mearsheimer and Walt, ‘The American-compiled minutes of the three meetings that Kissinger attended with Brezhnev unequivocally show that he accurately and repeatedly represented Israeli interests to Moscow, almost totally contrary to Nixon's preferences.’ When the UN Security Council subsequently passed a cease-fire resolution, Kissinger allowed the Israelis to ignore it for 12 hours so they could consolidate their gains.

In 1975, while secretary of state, Kissinger signed a memorandum of understanding that pledged the U.S. to provide for Israel's oil needs in the event of a crisis and to finance and stock a strategic reserve. He also agreed that Washington would not ‘recognize or negotiate with’ the PLO as long as the group refused to recognize Israel's right to exist. This made it impossible to talk to the only group that represented the aspirations of most Palestinians, a dialogue that the Israelis wished to derail but which would have served America's interests. Kissinger's last year as secretary of state also saw Israel's aid from the U.S. skyrocket from $1.9 billion in 1975 to $6.29 billion for 1976.”

You can thus blame Kissinger for the American oil guarantee to Israel, the continuing failure of negotiations with the Palestinians, the Arab oil embargo, the massive American monetary support to the Zionist Empire, and the beginnings of the United States fighting the Wars for the Jews.

Now, with his ridiculous dismissal of the NIE on Iran, he finally admits his true colors. Just as Noam’s political philosophy now appears to be a carefully constructed ruse to hide underlying advocacy for Zionism, Henry the K’s Realpolitik has suddenly been shown to be a cover for his real interests, the promotion of a Zionist Empire in the Middle East (and note that his connecting an attack on Iran to oil – not to mention Greenspan’s connection of the attack on Iraq to oil – is intentionally misleading in the usual Zionist way of hiding Zionist interests behind American interests). It is curious that Chomsky was forced to reveal himself by denying the importance of the Lobby, and Henry the K had to come out as a Zionist because of the inconvenience of the NIE for ultra-right-wing Zionist interests. In both cases, the siren lure of a Zionist Empire was so strong that it led directly to the destruction of a lifetime’s reputation. All the books on Henry the K now need to be rewritten to reflect who he is really working for.

Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman: Will the GOP Steal the 2008 Election (as they did in 2000 and 2004)?

Will the GOP election theft machine do it again in 2008?
by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
October 19, 2007 -

With record low approval ratings for the Bush/Cheney regime and the albatross of an unpopular war hanging from the GOP's neck, do you think that a Democratic presidential candidate will win the White House, get us out of Iraq, and end our long national nightmare?

Think again – the mighty election theft machine Karl Rove used to steal the US presidency in 2000 and 2004 may be under attack, but it is still in place for the upcoming 2008 election.

With his usual devious mastery, Rove has seized upon the national outrage sparked by his electoral larceny and used it as smokescreen while he makes the American electoral system even MORE unfair, and even EASIER to rig. Thus the administration has fired federal attorneys when they would not participate in a nationwide campaign to deny minorities and the poor their access to the polls. It has spent millions of taxpayer dollars to install electronic voting machines that can be "flipped" with a few keystrokes. And under the guise of "reforming" our busted electoral system, it is setting us up for another presidential theft in 2008.

Thus it should come as no surprise that our exclusive investigations into the firings of eight federal prosecutors who refused to execute Rove’s plans for massive disenfranchisement of Democratic voters reveal a pattern of illegalities and fraud aimed at reducing the number of minority, poor and young voters at the core of Democratic support. In the wake of major news breaks, two felony convictions have come from the rigging of the illegal Ohio 2004 vote count and recount that gave George W. Bush a second illegitimate term. Stunning new admissions from county election boards that illegally destroyed voter records will almost certainly lead to new convictions. And the multi-million-dollar electronic voting machine scam that made possible the biggest electoral frauds in US history is under massive new attack, with key states moving to scrap the machines altogether in a desperate attempt to restore American democracy – but with the job far from done.

Rove, Ney and the undead

Indeed, the Rovian theft engine is far from dead. The media groundwork has already been laid out for the Republicans to claim that hordes of illegal aliens have registered to vote. The Bush administration has been caught ordering public agencies – possibly in violation of the law – to cease registering voters. In an April, 2006 speech to the Republican National Lawyers Association, Rove openly alluded to the strategy of demanding photo ID and purging voter roles of poor, minority voters just as had been done in 2000 and 2004. And, as always with Bush/Rove, there is much more beneath the surface.

All that has happened to challenge the GOP death grip on the American vote count has been reported in the pages of Hustler and on the internet at, bradblog and elsewhere, and is being seized upon by a national grassroots movement determined to restore American democracy next year.

Nowhere has that movement been more in evidence than with the high profile firestorm surrounding Bush administration Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ firing of eight federal prosecutors without legitimate cause.

Evidence continues to surface from throughout the United States about this blatant Bush abuse of executive power. But we have traced the roots of the firings to an obscure Congressional hearing held at the statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, on March 21, 2005, and to a shadowy GOP operative named Mark F. "Thor" Hearne.

The hearing was conducted by none other than former US Rep. Bob Ney (R-18th OH). The once-powerful Ohio Congressman (who is now behind bars) was the godfather of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), the national boondoggle that mandated electronic voting machines for the American electoral process.

That the machines would cost taxpayers billions was a big plus for Ney. They would come from Diebold and other companies that poured money into Republican coffers. Thanks largely to the manipulations of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, these e-voting machine companies would help guarantee the GOP’s ability to steal elections.

Ney’s hearing featured a marquee appearance by J. Kenneth Blackwell, the Secretary of State responsible for delivering Ohio’s decisive 2004 electoral votes to Bush. Blackwell was a key operative for the Bush election campaign in Florida in 2000 and co-chaired the Bush-Cheney 2004 re-election campaign in Ohio.

"Haul butt!"

Congressional protocol required that Ney allow Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Cleveland) to question Blackwell. Soon Blackwell and Jones were yelling at each other in a legendary exchange that ended with Jones telling Blackwell to "haul butt" out of the chamber.

Not quite so high profile was the ensuing testimony by Hearne, who identified himself as the head of the American Center for Voting Rights. Hearne is a long-time GOP dirty trickster, with a Rovian rap sheet dating to the 1970s. He did not explain that the ACVR had a post box in a Dallas mall, but no office, few staff, a board stacked with GOP operatives, no grassroots mailing list or much else to confirm the functioning of a real organization. Nor did Ney clarify that Hearne had served as election counsel to the Bush-Cheney campaign, and had founded ACVR the previous month, at the urging of Karl Rove.

While the press corps rushed to report the Jones-Blackwell dust-up, Hearne laid out for Ney and the few of us left listening the essential template for the new GOP strategy for disenfranchising millions of suspected Democrats from voting in future elections. In classic Rovian terms, Hearne bemoaned a litany of "voter fraud" abuses allegedly committed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Association for Communities Organizing for Reform Now (ACORN) and other multi-racial coalitions working to register millions of new voters across the United States.

Among other things, Hearne told Ney the voter registration campaigns were using "crack cocaine" as an "incentive" for registering new voters. Adding the AFL-CIO and ACT-Ohio to his list of evil-doers, Hearne warned that millions of "fraudulent" ballots would be cast in future elections unless something was done to curb the ability of ordinary citizens to vote without extensive identification papers.

Hearne’s testimony drew little press. But it has led directly to the national Bush/Rove push for new laws requiring voters to show picture IDs at the polls and other methods of mass disenfranchisement – and the firing of eight US prosecutors who apparently refused to go along.

The cover-up

References to Hearne’s ACVR have now mysteriously disappeared from the internet. But the McClatchy Newspapers have reported that Hearne’s ACVR and the Republican Lawyers Association have actively campaigned – with a war chest of at least $1.5 million – in at least nine battleground states. They stump for voter ID laws and rigid registration restrictions and other tactics aimed at radically reducing the ability of Democrat-leaning organizations to register new voters.

The ACVR agenda embraces the Administration’s illegal demand that public agencies stop registering new, mostly poor voters. And the pressure to rid our democracy of such voters has carried over to the offices of the nation’s federal prosecutors, even in the face of widespread investigations showing the numbers of people illegally trying to register and vote have been miniscule.

Emblematic of the firings is the case of David Iglesias of New Mexico. Iglesias has testified to Congress that Albuquerque lawyer Patrick Rogers pressured him to prosecute alleged vote fraud perpetrators. When he resisted, Iglesias was fired by Gonzales.

Rogers is listed as "secretary" of Thor Hearne’s American Center for Voting Rights, as well as a former general counsel to the New Mexico Republican Party.

Meanwhile, the Bush Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has reversed its mandate by fighting to narrow rather than broaden the voting rights of minorities, and to prosecute voter registration operations without just cause. An ACVR director, Cameron Quinn, is now the Division’s voting counsel.

A key target has been Project Vote, which registered 1.5 million voters in 2004 and 2006. Five days before the 2006 election, Bush’s interim US attorney in Kansas City issued indictments against four ACORN workers under contract with Project Vote. Prosecutions that close to election day have traditionally been discouraged by the Justice Department. Acorn officials had notified the federal officials when they noticed the doctored forms. But ACVR’s "job was to confuse the public about voter fraud and offer bogus solutions to the problem," said Michael Slater, the deputy director of Project Vote, They used "deception and faulty research" to help Rove’s GOP.

The common denominator in the firings of the federal attorneys has been an unwillingness to pursue prosecutions on the basis of such research. Iglesias, for example, told Newsweek magazine he "had been repeatedly pushed by New Mexico GOP officials to prosecute workers for ACORN" who were registering voters.

Media missed it again

The media has missed what DID happen when the attorneys complied with the Bush/Rove game plan. Just four days prior to the 2004 vote, Assistant Attorney-General Alex Acosta, the civil rights chief of the Bush Justice Department asked a federal judge in Ohio to sign off on policies that would disenfranchise thousands of black voters. The move almost certainly had a significant impact on Bush’s subsequent victory in the Electoral College. Joseph Rich, a former chief of the Justice Department’s Voting Rights Section, has called the Ohio scheme "vote caging," which is illegal.

The case arose when Republicans allegedly sent "caging" letters to thousands of registered voters in inner city districts. The letters had "do not forward" stamped on them, with a return receipt requested. When some 23,000 came back as undeliverable, GOP operatives demanded the right to get the names removed from voter rolls. Acosta argued in his letter that restricting such challenges would "undermine" the electoral process.

But an exclusive investigation by found that at least 25% of the people being removed from the voter rolls were in fact still living at their registered address. Greg Palast has reported that the GOP deliberately targeted black soldiers still fighting in Iraq.

Acosta says his letter endorsed the GOP challenges as "permissible" as long as they were not racially motivated, and that anyone whose eligibility was challenged could still get a provisional ballot.

But due to the actions of former Ohio Secretary of State Blackwell, more than 16,000 provisional ballots from the 2004 election remain uncounted. Independent observers have testified that thousands more may have been discarded right at the polling stations. (Bush’s official margin of victory in Ohio was less than 119,000 votes.)

Robert Kengle, who served under Acosta at the Justice Department’s Voting Rights Section, says Acosta’s unsolicited letter to the courts was "cheerleading" for the GOP. "It was doubly outrageous," he said, "because the allegation in the litigation was that these were overwhelmingly African-American voters that were on the challenge list," precisely those whose right to vote the Justice Department was charged to protect.

Acosta was not among the attorneys fired by Bush. In fact, he is now the federal attorney in Miami.

Eyewitness testimony from throughout the state confirms that scores of GOP activists did challenge voters in numerous inner city polling stations. Many carried Blackberries and used sophisticated lists that may have included those illegally garnered caging rosters. The challenges did lead to numerous voters being turned away, and increased the long delays suffered by inner city voters throughout the state.

Surveys show it took blacks nearly an hour to vote on average in Ohio in 2004, while whites voted in less than fifteen minutes. In the inner city of Columbus, black voters waited between three and seven hours to vote, while in the nearby suburb of Bexley it took just five minutes. The delays in Columbus alone may have cost Kerry up to 60,000 votes.

Similar challenges were also endorsed by White House operative Tim Griffin, who has been widely accused of trying to cage mostly black voters in Florida. Rich says the scheme became public before the election, and the GOP apparently dropped the idea.

But as he was firing the federal attorneys who refused to cage, Bush appointed Griffin to be US attorney for Arkansas. Griffin has since resigned the post under fire. But along with Ohio, the administration used similar tactics in the key swing states of Florida and Pennsylvania, as well as in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas and Washington. Bush’s Justice Department also supported former California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson’s rejection of 20,000 voter registration forms, a move later reversed in court. And it has helped push photo ID requirements – again rejected in court – devised by Georgia to restrict black and poor voter access.

A 35-year veteran of the Justice Department’s Voting Right Sections, Rich told the McClatchey papers that he quit over political appointees who "skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of the elections." Thus Thor Hearne’s original blueprint for disenfranchising minorities and the poor is now established administration policy, supported by Bush’s Justice Department, and backed by his firing of federal attorneys – illegal or otherwise – who refuse to go along. Whether the Democrats in Congress do anything about it, and whether the GOP successfully uses these tactics again in 2008, remain to be seen.

New cyber-thuggery

Alongside the Bush/Rove commitment to mass disenfranchisement, the key to the outcome of the 2008 election may be the rise and incomplete fall of electronic voting machines.

Unmonitorable DRE (Direct Record Electronic) voting machines have been center stage at every Bush-era stolen election. In Florida 2000, some 16,000 votes that "disappeared" from Al Gore’s tallies in Volusia County helped turn the tide for Bush at a key election night moment, even though they were later reinstated. In 2002, fraudulent electronic vote counts in Georgia almost certainly deprived Vietnam war hero Max Cleland of his US Senate seat in a race which all credible polls showed him winning by a substantial margin.

The spread of DREs is at the core of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) pushed through by then-Congressman (now jailbird) Bob Ney. High-powered studies from the likes of the Government Accountability Office, the Brennan Center on Voting Rights, the Carter-Baker Commission on Voting Rights, Princeton University and US Representative John Conyers all conclude that DRE’s can be easily manipulated, with entire elections illicitly shifted by a few keystrokes.

The GOPs HAVA means to put the nation on DREs as thoroughly as possible by 2008. But a public rebellion has slowed that plan. In Ohio, grassroots campaigners stopped Blackwell from giving Diebold an unbid $100 million contract to put virtually the entire state on DREs. Elsewhere, state and local election boards rebelled against the high cost of maintaining the machines, which often must be kept air conditioned around the clock, resulting in huge electric bills. Programming and other costs make administering elections on DREs far more expensive than doing it on paper ballots. The DREs have become infamous because of widespread testimony in Ohio that 2004 voters were pushing John Kerry’s name, only to see George Bush’s name light up, or to have their Kerry vote simply disappear moments later.

In response to nationwide opposition, US Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) proposed federal legislation that would have forced all electronic voting machines to be fitted with devices that would produce a paper trail. An accredited scientist, Holt also wanted to force manufacturers to make public the software that ran their machines.

Holt’s proposed House Bill 811 divided the election protection movement, much of which saw it as an endorsement of DREs. And as the bill progressed, the GOP gutted it, killing the software transparency requirements and settling for unworkable paper trail provisions.

The governors of Florida and Maryland have already moved to ban DREs in 2008, and to use paper ballots instead. Grassroots confrontations over how to cast and count votes will rage right up to election day.

The need for electronic safeguards has been confirmed to the hilt by an astonishing flood of revelations from Ohio. To report Ohio’s 2004 election-night vote count, Blackwell contracted with the same GOP computer programmer who created the Bush-Cheney web site in 2000. Those GOP-programmed results were then run through servers housed in the basement of a bank in Chattanooga, Tennessee which also housed the servers for the Republican National Committee (through which Karl Rove ran his off-the-record e-mails, now being sought by Congress).

Supervised by Blackwell, those results showed a substantial victory for John Kerry until about 12:20 at night, when reporting inexplicably stopped. When it resumed about 90 minutes later, Ohio’s margin – and the presidency – suddenly switched to Bush.

After the election, a citizen-based federal lawsuit (in which we are attorney and plaintiff) was filed, aimed at preserving all of Ohio’s 2004 election materials for further investigation. Those materials were protected by federal law until September 2, 2006, when Blackwell intended to destroy them. But a week prior, we won a federal court decision barring the counties from destroying any of these materials. Ohio’s new Secretary of State (SOS), Jennifer Brunner, then ordered the boards of election to deliver this evidence to her.

But in July 2007, 56 of Ohio’s 88 county BOEs admitted to illegally destroying all or some of their records. John M. Williams, Director of Elections in Hamilton County (Cincinnati) told Brunner he was "...unable to transfer the unvoted precinct ballots and soiled ballots" essential to an accurate audit because they "...were inadvertently shredded between January 19th and 26th of ’06 in an effort to make room for the new Hart voting system."

In Clermont County, a key Republican stronghold permeated with election irregularities, Director Mike Keeley told Brunner that "in interviewing the staff, no one could remember the disposition of said ballots," meaning the actual number of votes cast remains a mystery. In neighboring Butler County, Director Betty L. McGary informed the SOS on May 9, 2007 that they had lost the "ballot pages" thus making it impossible to confirm how votes were counted.

Delaware County, where the last 359 votes cast in one precinct were all counted for Bush, informed Brunner that they had 29 boxes of ballots, but then delivered only 26. The Delaware BOE initially reported 1872 provisional ballots, but the official number is now 1462, feeding suspicions the boxes were stuffed.

Two election officials in Cleveland have thus far been convicted of felonies stemming from rigged recount procedures after 2004. Now a solid majority of Ohio’s election boards face potential federal criminal action. They have made a reliable reconstruction of the true 2004 outcome virtually impossible.

Brunner has pledged to preside over a fair election in Ohio 2008. Like Debra Bowen, California’s new Secretary of State, Brunner is running extensive tests on the state’s electronic voting machines. Most or all of California and Ohio’s DREs could be gone by 2008, possibly to be replaced by paper ballots counted by electronic scanners.

But even those are not immune to fraud. In 2004, Diebold technicians provided inner city precincts with malfunctioning opti-scan machines. Throughout the state, more than 90,000 ballots were never counted because of voting machine malfunctions. At a mostly Democratic precinct in Toledo, poll workers handed out pencils whose marks could not be read by the electronic counters, thus voiding the votes cast there.

Overall, our nation’s history has been filled with stolen elections. Most have been robbed with paper ballots and stuffed ballot boxes. But under Bush/Rove, electronics are at center stage.

High tech Tammany

Bush/Rove stole the 2000 and 2004 elections by intimidation, vote caging, rigged machines, rigged recounts, and much more. Bush’s firing of the eight federal attorneys only underscores the fraud perpetrated by those who weren’t fired.

Whether Congress gets to the bottom of those firings remains to be seen. But there is little doubt the Democrats were able to retake the House and Senate in 2006 only because of the increased vigilance of a national grassroots voter protection movement.

Though Democrats carried Ohio in the off-year elections of 2006, our research indicates that the GOP still stole as much as 12% of the vote, and is still intent on disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of minority, poor and young voters. In a single election in Franklin County in 2006, a magistrate found that more than 83% of all the precincts were miscounted on the DRE machines.

And though DRE machines are under intense attack, their presence in 2008 will still be substantial, and will still subject the election to GOP theft.

The lessons of 2000 and 2004 are in the terror imposed on the registration process and the error perpetrated in the vote count. Only by saying "never again" can Americans hope to see a return to actual democracy.

Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman co-wrote How the GOP Stole America’s 2004 Election & Is Rigging 2008.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Robert Sheer: CIA Tapes Destruction Raises 9/11 Issues

This is a very important article (thanks to JM for the pointer). Scheer connects the dots in the first few paragraphs in directions that I doubt will be seen elsewhere in the mainstream left or right media. He surprisingly raises questions that go to the heart of the 9/11 official story and its aftermath,the endless "war on terror" that, as he puts it, is bankrupting us (and the world, he might have added) financially and morally.

One of the implications of the CIA's destruction of the interrogation tapes is that the official narrative of 9/11 cannot be corroborated; but neither can it can be contradicted. Thus we have more circumstantial evidence, this time in the mainstream, that there are issues with the 9/11 official story.

Similarly, we can more clearly see now some of the motivation for not allowing the Guantanomo detainees due process. If they were allowed their day in court, what would be the odds that the government could produce evidence that there are some "really bad guys" there. If 9/11 was an inside job, then the bad guys aren't inside cages in Guantanamo.

For my money, Sheer could have ended his article after the first 5 paragraphs or else followed up on some of these issues.. When he goes onto the question of what Harman and Pelosi should have done after their "briefings," he's obscuring the main point and mixing up different issues, and when seen in context, perhaps made unreasonable demands on ordinary politicians. Undoubtedly Harman and Pelosi, and Rockefeller and Feinstein have plenty to answer for, but let's focus
on the major criminals in the executive.

Waterboarding Our Democracy
By Robert Scheer
Wednesday 12 December 2007

When the CIA destroyed those prisoner interrogation videotapes, was it also destroying the truth about 9/11? After all, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, the basic narrative of what happened on that day-and the definition of the enemy in this war on terror that George W. Bush launched in response to the tragedy-comes from the CIA's account of what those prisoners told their torturers. The commission was never allowed to interview the prisoners, or speak with those who did, and was instead forced to rely on what the CIA was willing to relay.

On the matter of the existence of the tapes, we know the CIA lied, not only to the 9/11 Commission but to Congress as well. Given that the Bush administration has for six years refused those prisoners any sort of public legal exposure, why should we believe what we've been told about what may turn out to be the most important transformative event in our nation's history? On the basis of what the CIA claimed the tortured prisoners said, President Bush launched a "Global War on Terrorism" (GWOT), an endless war that threatens to bankrupt our society both financially and morally.

How important to the 9/11 Commission Report were those "key witnesses"? Check out the disclaimer on Page 146 about the commission's sourcing of the main elements laid out in its narrative:
Chapters 5 and 7 rely heavily on information obtained from captured al Qaeda members. ... Assessing the truth of statements by these witnesses ... is challenging. Our access to them has been limited to the review of intelligence reports based on communications received from the locations where the actual interrogation took place. We submitted questions for use in the interrogations, but had no control over whether, when, or how questions of particular interest would be asked. Nor were we allowed to talk to the interrogators so that we could better judge the credibility of the detainees and clarify ambiguities in the reporting. We were told that our requests might disrupt the sensitive interrogation process.

Videos were made of those "sensitive" interrogations, which were accurately described as "torture" by one of the agents involved, John Kiriakou, in an interview with ABC News. Yet when the 9/11 Commission and federal judges specifically asked for such tapes, they were destroyed by the CIA, which then denied their existence.

Of course our president claims he knew nothing about this whitewash, and he may be speaking the truth, since plausible deniability seems to be the defining leadership style of our commander in chief. But what about those congressional leaders who were briefed on the torture program as early as 2002? That includes Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi, who has specialized in heartfelt speeches condemning torturers in faraway places like China.

Pelosi press aide Brendan Daly told me that The Washington Post report on her CIA briefing was "overblown" because Pelosi, then the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, thought the techniques described, which the CIA insists included waterboarding, were merely planned and not yet in use. Pelosi claimed that "several months later" her successor as the ranking Democrat, Jane Harman, D-Calif., was advised that the techniques "had in fact been employed." Harman wrote a classified letter to the CIA in protest, and Pelosi "concurred." Neither went public with her concerns.

Harman told The Washington Post, "I was briefed, but the information was closely held to just the Gang of Four. I was not free to disclose anything." The "Gang of Four" is an insider reference to the top members of the House and Senate intelligence committees and not to the thugs who ran Mao's China during the Cultural Revolution.

Not only did the congressional Gang of Four fail to inform the public about the use of torture by our government, but it also kept the 9/11 Commission in the dark. Pelosi testified before the commission on May 22, 2003, but uttered not a word of caution about the methods used. However, more than two years later, on Nov. 16, 2005, Pelosi stated correctly that on the basis of her "many years on the intelligence committee," she knew that "[t]he quality of intelligence that is collected by torture is ... uncorroborated and it is worthless."

Having admired Pelosi for decades, I hope I am missing something here. If she and the others in the know have another version of these events it's time to come clean. As matters now stand, they not only concealed torture but, more significantly, they abetted the waterboarding of our democracy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Israel Shahak (1993): Ehud Barack -- Utterly mendacious and viciously anti-Arab

Now that Ehud Barak has been sufficiently resurrected to occupy the posts of Israel's Defense Minister, deputy prime minister and head of the Labor Party, and seems destined to remain for a long time at the center of Israel's political elite, it may be apropos to remind ourselves of the views of the late and sorely missed Israel Shahak regarding one of his chief bete noirs. --RB

(1993) Shahak's dislike for Chief of Staff Ehud Barak,

Shahak was particularly outraged by Ehud Barak when the latter was chief of Staff of the Israeli Army during Rabin’s tenure. In February 1993, Shahak translated two articles which detailed Barak’s behavior and then added his own comments. In the first article Alex Fishman reviewed Israeli Army regulations concerning the disposal of Palestinian victims of Israeli gunfire (Hadashot , Feb 12, 1993). In his notes, Shahak refers to the damage done to the Army by “Ehud Barak’s extravagance in mendacity and deceit.” Later Shahak makes reference to “The Nazi-like bestiality of the Israeli regime…evident in the official explanation of these regulations” which included disinterring some of the dead Palestinians, and requiring Palestinian burials to be held in the middle of the night, and limiting numbers of Palestinians who might attend. (From the Hebrew Press: Monthly Translations and Commentaries from Israel, by Israel Shahak, February, 1993, Volume V, No. 2, p. 27.)

The second article by Ranny Talmor also in Hadashot the same day took Chief of Staff Ehud Barak to task for misreporting the numbers of Palestinians killed by the Israeli Defense Forces. In his notes to the article, Shahak wrote:

Among the Israeli chiefs of staff, Barak beats all records of mendacity. Not only is his data mendacious, but so are his opinions about the situation in the territories. He is also an inveterate warmonger, always advocating wars against all conceivable enemies, from Lebanon to Iran. His warmongering is invariably accompanied by often crass assurances of easy Israeli victory. No wonder he is Rabin’s favorite. As Israeli folk wisdom claims, compared to Barak, even Rabin appears clever and reliable. (From the Hebrew Press: Monthly Translations and Commentaries from Israel, by Israel Shahak, February, 1993, Volume V, No. 2, p. 29.)

In note to an article discussing Iran as “A New Enemy in the Middle East,” Aluf Ben, Ha’aretz, Feb 4, 1993, Shahak had more harsh words about Ehud Barak. Mr. Ben made reference to a new Israeli military doctrine where the “aim is no longer territorial conquest. Shahak’s note pointed out that the

“doctrine implies a reliance on well-trained ‘elite units’ to physically eliminate enemy leaders and damage crucial installations heavily enough to determine the next war’s outcome. Although the idea is not mentioned in the article, another role of such ‘elite unites’ is to assure Israeli hegemony overt the entire Middle East without territorial conquests and permanent occupation of vast land areas. This insane doctrine is the brainchild of the two last Israeli chiefs of staff, Dan Shomron and the even more insane Ehud Bark, both of whom had devoted most of their military service to such ‘elite unites.’ In the summer of 1992 the concept was mercilessly criticized (unfortunately not without many censorial interventions) by several retired armor generals whom Rabin totally ignored. The doctrine has already been acted out against Hizbollah. The kidnapping of Sheikh Obeid and the assassination of Sheikh Mussawi (together with his family) were carried out in accordance with this insane doctrine with the expectation that Hizbollhah would thereby collapse, or at least ask Israel for a cease-fire. Thus, the Israeli army brass was completely surprised when the military power of Hizbollah subsequently increased, when it pursued its military operations from the position of greater strength. But making the Israeli arm revise any of its insane assumptions about the region did not suffice.

Readers may find it interesting to contrast Shahak’s views of Barak’s mendacity with Ehud Barak’s views of Arab mendacity as published in an interview with The New York Review of Books, June 13, 2002. (As quoted in a July 2002 article by Uri Avnery, “A Villa in the Jungle” available on the internet.)

Barak: “They (the Palestinians, and especially Arafat) are the products of a culture in which to tell a lie…creates no dissonance. They don’t suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture. Truth is seen as an irrelevant category…The deputy director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation told me that there are societies in which lie detector tests don’t work, societies in which lies do not create cognitive dissonance (on which the tests are based)."

“Ehud Barak and the Establishment of the Security Zone” Ha’olam Ha’ze, August 25, 1993, by Uzi Mahanaimi. In a note to a reference by the Israeli reporter on “the heroic days of Ehud Barak and Amnon Lipkin-Shahak” Israel Shahak writes:

Lipkin-Shahak is the deputy chief of staff. He, Barak, the commander of military intelligence, Uri Saguy, and several other important generals of the general staff, all began their military careers as commandos in the “General Staff Patrol”—the top elite unite of the Israeli army, their infantile outlook on military affairs was established at that period of their service. Barak and Lipkin-Shahak are very proud of having participated in the murder of Kanafani and several other PFLP cadres in Beirut.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Xymphora: No Iran Attack???!!! Neocons, Zionists Furious

I haven't been distributing Xymphora much lately, in part because he seems to have gotten so shrill on the Jewish/Zionist issue. So much depends on the red wheelbarrow and on the tone of the thing. However his shrillness, if that's what it is, seems very well suited to the subject at hand: the Bush-Cheney, and the Zionist reaction to pulling the rug out of the main justification for enlarging the war to Iran. (I haven't exhaled yet. There's more than a year to go and Pakistan is flaming, and Lebanon is that close to civil war. Who knows what brilliancy Elliott Abrams will come up with?)

(check out Xymphora's site for some excellent links)
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Proof of the war between the Establishments

by Xymphora
The new Zionist meme is that all 16 (!) of the American intelligence agencies that burst the Zionist war bubble by putting an end to all the ‘Iran talk’ are part of an anti-Semitic plot to attack the Jewish people through protecting the enemies of Zionism. Following up on Podhoretz’s ‘darker suspicions’ theory (‘darker’ is the code word to mean that it is actually a theory about anti-Semitism, but I note with amusement that it is not possible to point that out in polite society, and all discussions of Podhoretz claim he was just making the baffling theory that it was an intelligence agency attack on Bush), Gerald Posner is resurrecting his old Zionist propaganda that the CIA had, and is repressing, absolute proof that the Saudis and Pakistanis were behind September 11. It is not a coincidence that this theory is brought up at this time.

There is a lite Zionist theory circling that the leaking of the NIE was a Bush Administration plot to prove how powerful Bush Administration diplomacy has been in dissuading the Iranians from their nuclear program. This theory is obvious nonsense, disproved immediately by the disarray of Bush Administration officials in dealing with it (Cheney was completely surprised at the release of the NIE, although, of course, he was aware of its content, and had lied about Iran throughout), the complete shock from Israel (this story about Gates and Barak looks like Zionist mythologizing in order to minimize the rift, proven by the fact that Israel in fact was not ready for the NIE release) and the agents of World Jewry (who would have been informed if it was a Bush Administration move), the lack of foreknowledge in the American media (Blitzer’s Zionist operatives at CNN had to do a last-minute cancellation of their smear-job on Iran), and the utter horror and sputtering from the neocons (note Ledeen in particular: no women were involved in the NIE!). Even more conclusive proof is that the NIE not only destroyed the prospect of war on Iran, it completely undermined the entire stated basis of the Bush Administration for the placing of American missile sites in Eastern Europe.

I don’t buy the ‘scientific’ anti-Semitic theories that much of world history consists of a surreptitious war of the Jews against the Gentiles. However, there is simply too much evidence to ignore that current American politics does actually involve a war between the Jewish Establishment and the Old American Establishment (note that doctrinaire Noamian lite Zionism holds that no such war is possible, as the Old American Establishment runs everything). Annapolis was the last straw (can’t you just hear James Baker saying ‘Fucking Jews’?!). The NIE, which only weeks before was never going to be released, according to Mike McConnell, suddenly appears, and at a time when a coherent Zionist counterattack was difficult because of the Jewish Holidays (candle lighting interfered with propaganda!). Since everything is supposed to be about control of oil, which is achieved, according to lite Zionism, by attacks just like the one on Iraq, isn’t it odd that the intelligence agencies (all 16 of them!) of the American Establishment decided to throw a wrench in the works of such a war?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Glenn Greewald : Democrats complicit on CIA tapes destruction

Glenn Greenwald is at the top of the blogger heap for relevance, pertinence and readability, not to mention his in depth coverage of key issues. On the other hand, he leaves out the power of the Israeli lobby and their Capitol Hill partisans, their effects on policy, and thus on our lives. For example, he correctly focuses on California legislator Jane Harman detailing how she has played a key role enabling Bush's ravages of the Constitution and his lawless outrages. Yet, Greenwald neglects to mention how her rabid pro Israeli partisanship factors into her behavior (and Jay Rockefeller's too?)
In this instance we see Harman covering up for the torture of Muslims, the perceived enemies of Israel. We might guess Harman could be thinking: In this case the intelligence and security services should be allowed a free hand to do what is necessary in the "war on terror."
If Greenwald felt free to address this portion of the issue, we might have a better idea of how powerful and destructive to our own society and the rest of the world is the pro Israeli world view.

FROM -- Glenn Greenwald's
Friday December 7, 2007
"Missing" evidence is familiar Bush pattern
(click on this link for the entire blog entry)

Glenn Greenwald wrote:
There is another aspect of this pattern of lawlessness highlighted by yesterday's revelations: the endless complicity by two key Democrats on the Intelligence Committees -- Jay Rockefeller and Jane Harman -- in many, if not most, of the incidents of Bush law-breaking. As the ranking Democrats on the Intelligence Committees (Harman's tenure as such ended this year when Nancy Pelosi wisely refused to name her as Committee Chairman), both have been notified of most of these abuses, and in virtually every case, they have done nothing to stop them.

Both lawmakers were, for instance, briefed about the administration's illegal warrantless eavesdropping long before it was revealed. Rockefeller's reaction was confined to a pity-inducing, hostage-like, self-protective handwritten letter of meek protest he sent to Dick Cheney in 2003. He did nothing else.

Harman was even worse. Upon disclosure of the lawbreaking, she quickly turned herself into the leading Democratic defender of Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program -- and a leading critic of the NYT for having reported it. From Time in January, 2006:
G.O.P. strategists argue that Democrats have little leeway to attack on the issue because it could make them look weak on national security and because some of their leaders were briefed about the National Security Agency (NSA) no-warrant surveillance before it became public knowledge. Some key Democrats even defend it. Says California's Jane Harman, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee: "I believe the program is essential to U.S. national security and that its disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities."
The same exact enabling behavior occurred with the CIA's destruction of these interrogation videos. In his confession letter yesterday, CIA Director Michael Hayden said that "the leaders of our oversight committees in Congress were informed of the videos years ago and of the Agency's intention to dispose of the material." Rockefeller admits he learned of this in November, 2006. And he did nothing.

Identically, AP reported: "Rep. Jane Harman of California, then the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and one of only four members of Congress informed of the tapes' existence, said she objected to the destruction when informed of it in 2003." But as was true with Rockefeller's "objections" to the NSA lawbreaking, her objections were confined to private expressions of "concern" to the CIA, and she took no steps -- no press conferences, no investigations, no demands for a criminal referral, no court action -- to impede this destruction-of-evidence plan in any way

Gareth Porter: Admiral Fallon blocked Bush's Plan to Atttack Iran

Is it possible that there remains in these United States (or the rest of the world) a force sufficinetly strong to counter Cheney's mad drive for a wider war? I'll see it when I believe it. Meanwhile there's actually some evidence for hope. --RB

IPS News
Commander's Veto Sank Threatening Gulf Buildup

by Gareth Porter*

WASHINGTON, May 15 (IPS) - Admiral William Fallon, then President George W. Bush's nominee to head the Central Command (CENTCOM), expressed strong opposition in February to an administration plan to increase the number of carrier strike groups in the Persian Gulf from two to three and vowed privately there would be no war against Iran as long as he was chief of CENTCOM, according to sources with access to his thinking.
Fallon's resistance to the proposed deployment of a third aircraft carrier was followed by a shift in the Bush administration's Iran policy in February and March away from increased military threats and toward diplomatic engagement with Iran. That shift, for which no credible explanation has been offered by administration officials, suggests that Fallon's resistance to a crucial deployment was a major factor in the intra-administration struggle over policy toward Iran.

The plan to add a third carrier strike group in the Gulf had been a key element in a broader strategy discussed at high levels to intimidate Iran by a series of military moves suggesting preparations for a military strike.

Admiral Fallon's resistance to a further buildup of naval striking power in the Gulf apparently took the Bush administration by surprise. Fallon, then Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, had been associated with naval aviation throughout his career, and last January, Secretary of Defence Robert Gates publicly encouraged the idea that the appointment presaged greater emphasis on the military option in regard to the U.S. conflict with Iran.

Explaining why he recommended Fallon, Gates said, "As you look at the range of options available to the United States, the use of naval and air power, potentially, it made sense to me for all those reasons for Fallon to have the job."

Bush administration officials had just leaked to CBS News and the New York Times in December that the USS John C. Stennis and its associated warships would be sent to the Gulf in January six weeks earlier than originally planned in order to overlap with the USS Eisenhower and to "send a message to Tehran".

But that was not the end of the signaling to Iran by naval deployment planned by administration officials. The plan was for the USS Nimitz and its associated vessels, scheduled to sail into the Gulf in early April, to overlap with the other two carrier strike groups for a period of months, so that all three would be in the Gulf simultaneously.

Two well-informed sources say they heard about such a plan being pushed at high levels of the administration, and Newsweek's Michael Hirsh and Maziar Bahari reported Feb. 19 that the deployment of a third carrier group to the Gulf was "likely".

That would have brought the U.S. naval presence up to the same level as during the U.S. air campaign against the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, when the Lincoln, Constellation and Kitty Hawk carrier groups were all present. Two other carrier groups helped coordinate bombing sorties from the Mediterranean.

The deployment of three carrier groups simultaneously was not part of a plan for an actual attack on Iran, but was meant to convince Iran that the Bush administration was preparing for possible war if Tehran continued its uranium enrichment programme.

At a mid-February meeting of top civilian officials over which Secretary of Defence Gates presided, there was an extensive discussion of a strategy of intimidating Tehran's leaders, according to an account by a Pentagon official who attended the meeting given to a source outside the Pentagon. The plan involved a series of steps that would appear to Tehran to be preparations for war, in a manner similar to the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

But Fallon, who was scheduled to become the CENTCOM chief Mar. 16, responded to the proposed plan by sending a strongly-worded message to the Defence Department in mid-February opposing any further U.S. naval buildup in the Persian Gulf as unwarranted.

"He asked why another aircraft carrier was needed in the Gulf and insisted there was no military requirement for it," says the source, who obtained the gist of Fallon's message from a Pentagon official who had read it.

Fallon's refusal to support a further naval buildup in the Gulf reflected his firm opposition to an attack on Iran and an apparent readiness to put his career on the line to prevent it. A source who met privately with Fallon around the time of his confirmation hearing and who insists on anonymity quoted Fallon as saying that an attack on Iran "will not happen on my watch".

Asked how he could be sure, the source says, Fallon replied, "You know what choices I have. I'm a professional." Fallon said that he was not alone, according to the source, adding, "There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box."

Fallon's opposition to adding a third carrier strike group to the two already in the Gulf represented a major obstacle to the plan. The decision to send a second carrier task group to the Gulf had been officially requested by Fallon's predecessor at CENTCOM, Gen. John Abizaid, according to a Dec. 20 report by the Washington Post's Peter Baker. But as Baker reported, the circumstances left little doubt that Abizaid was doing so because the White House wanted it as part of a strategy of sending "pointed messages" to Iran.

CENTCOM commander Fallon's refusal to request the deployment of a third carrier strike group meant that proceeding with that option would carry political risks. The administration chose not to go ahead with the plan. Two days before the Nimitz sailed out of San Diego for the Gulf on Apr. 1, a Navy spokesman confirmed that it would replace the Eisenhower, adding, "There is no plan to overlap them at all."

The defeat of the plan for a third carrier task group in the Gulf appears to have weakened the position of Cheney and other hawks in the administration who had succeeded in selling Bush on the idea of a strategy of coercive threat against Iran.

Within two weeks, the administration's stance had already begun to shift dramatically. On Jan. 12, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had dismissed direct talks with Iran in the absence of Tehran's suspension of its uranium enrichment programme as "extortion". But by the end of February, Rice had gotten authorisation for high level diplomatic contacts with Iran in the context of a regional meeting on Iraq in Baghdad.

The explanation for the shift offered by administration officials to the New York Times was that the administration now felt that it "had leverage" on Iran. But that now appears to have been a cover for a retreat from the more aggressive strategy previously planned.

Throughout March and April, the Bush administration avoided aggressive language and the State Department openly sought diplomatic engagement with Iran, culminating in the agreement confirmed by U.S. officials last weekend that bilateral talks will begin with Iran on Iraq.

Despite Vice President Dick Cheney's invocation of the military option from the deck of the USS John C. Stennis in the Persian Gulf last week, the strategy of escalating a threat of war to influence Iran has been put on the shelf, at least for now.

*Gareth Porter is an historian and national security policy analyst. His latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in June 2005. (END/2007)