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Iraq's Government Approves Security Pact with US

BAGHDAD – Iraq's Cabinet overwhelmingly approved a security pact with the United States on Sunday, ending prolonged negotiations to allow American forces to remain for three more years in the country they first occupied in 2003.

The deal detailing the conditions of the U.S. presence still needs parliamentary approval, and lawmakers could vote as soon as Nov. 24. For Iraqis, the breakthrough was bittersweet because they won concessions from the Americans but must accept the presence of U.S. troops until 2012.

"It's the best possible, available option," said government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh. He was referring to the conflict between Iraq's desire for full sovereignty and control over security and its need for American support and cooperation to achieve that goal.

Al-Dabbagh described the pact — intended to supplant the U.N. mandate expiring Dec. 31 — as an "agreement on the withdrawal of U.S. troops," and Washington welcomed the Cabinet's approval.

"While the process is not yet complete, we remain hopeful and confident we'll soon have an agreement that serves both the people of Iraq and the United States well and sends a signal to the region and the world that both our governments are committed to a stable, secure and democratic Iraq," said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House's National Security Council.

There is a good chance parliament will pass the agreement with a large majority, since the parties that make up Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition government dominate the legislature.

The pact was due to be completed by the end of July, but negotiations stumbled over parts pertaining to Iraqi sovereignty and judicial oversight.

Al-Dabbagh said Iraq's government has received U.S. assurances that the President-elect Barack Obama would honor the agreement, and pointed out that each side has the right to repeal it after giving one year's notice. Obama, who takes office in January, has said he would pull U.S. combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months of moving into the White House — or May 2010.

Iraq's neighbors and U.S. adversaries, Iran and Syria, oppose the pact, arguing that the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces offered the best option for Iraq.


Security for any Afghan Taliban talks, Karzai says
By Sayed Salahuddin Sayed Salahuddin

KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Sunday he would guarantee security for Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar if he ever wanted to negotiate and said Western allies should remove him or leave if they disagreed with that.

With the Taliban insurgency spreading seven years after the hardline Islamists were forced from power, the possibility of talks with more moderate Taliban leaders is increasingly being considered, both in Afghanistan and among its allies.

The Afghan government says it is willing to talk to anyone who recognizes the constitution.

A tentative first step toward talks was taken in September when a group of pro-government Afghan officials and former Taliban officials met in Saudi Arabia for discussions on how to end the conflict.

But the Taliban have rejected any suggestion of talks as long as foreign troops remain. Karzai, who visited the United States and Britain last week, said that Taliban condition was unacceptable.

However, Karzai said he would guarantee the safety of fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar if he ever wanted to talk peace.

"If I hear from him that he is willing to come to Afghanistan or to negotiate for peace ... I, as the president of Afghanistan, will go to any length providing protection," Karzai said.

"If I say I want protection for Mullah Omar, the international community has two choices: remove me or leave if they disagree," he said.


But Karzai said there was a way to go before a security guarantee for Mullah Omar was even an issue. He was still waiting for the Taliban to prove that they wanted peace.

"We are not in that stage yet. Right now, I have to hear it from the Taliban leadership, that they are willing to have peace in Afghanistan. They must prove themselves," he said.

Mullah Omar carries a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head. As with Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders, Omar is believed to be in hiding somewhere along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

Violence in Afghanistan has surged over the past two years, raising the doubts about prospects for the country and its Western-backed government.

About 70,000 foreign troops, about half of them American, are struggling against the Taliban, whose influence, and attacks, are spreading through the countryside in the south, east and west.

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has also suggested he was open to talks with more moderate Taliban leaders to explore whether a strategy used in Iraq of talking to enemies, that is credited with helping turn around the situation there, would work in Afghanistan.


Pakistan Rejects 'America's War' 

The Pakistani parliament passed a resolution yesterday by an overwhelmingly majority which puts cooperation with the United States in the “war on terror” in question.

The resolution not only calls for dialogue with extremist groups but also for an end to military action in light of what Pakistan sees as an unacceptable price being paid by the country for fighting “America’s War”.

One leading party official claimed "As far as the US is concerned, the message that has gone with this resolution will definitely ring alarm bells, vis-a-vis their policy of bulldozing Pakistan."
Source: www.guardian.co.uk 


Shocker: Pentagon's Secret Budget Numbers
By Jeff Stein

The Pentagon has been struggling with what to spend money on in light of the coming financial squeeze, and now they have made their choice...everything!

As my CQ colleague Josh Rogin reports today, Pentagon officials have prepared a secret budget estimate that they plan to spring on the next president right before they leave town.

It's only $450 billion more than the apparently disingenuous number they put out last February.

With the economy circling the bowl, the next commander-in-chief might want to cast it aside.

But he would have to pay a political price -- and that's the point.

"This is a political document," said one former senior budget official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"It sets up the new administration immediately to have to make a decision of how to deal with the perception that they are either cutting defense or adding to it."

The Defense Department's comptroller's office declined to dispute the numbers.

Cdr. Darryn James, a Pentagon spokesman, said it was "premature to discuss future budgets because they were still being worked on."


Soldiers' Suicide Rate On Pace to Set Record
By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post

Suicides among active-duty soldiers this year are on pace to exceed both last year's all-time record and, for the first time since the Vietnam War, the rate among the general U.S. population, Army officials said yesterday.

Ninety-three active-duty soldiers had killed themselves through the end of August, the latest data show. A third of those cases are under investigation by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner's Office. In 2007, 115 soldiers committed suicide.

Failed relationships, legal and financial troubles, and the high stress of wartime operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are the leading factors linked to the suicides, Army officials said.

The officials voiced concern that an array of Army programs aimed at suicide prevention has not checked a years-long rise in the suicide rate. Still, they said, the number of deaths probably would have climbed even more without such efforts.

"What does success look like? Frankly, we do not know," said Col. Eddie Stephens, deputy director for human resources under the Army's personnel division.

The Army's suicide rate has increased from 12.4 per 100,000 in 2003, when the Iraq war started, to 18.1 per 100,000 last year. Suicide attempts by soldiers have also increased since 2003, Stephens said.

This year the death rate is likely to exceed that of a demographically similar segment of the U.S. population -- 19.5 per 100,000, Stephens said. According to service officials, the last time that occurred was in the late 1960s during the Vietnam War, when the United States had a draft Army that suffered from serious discipline problems. In 1973, the nation created an all-volunteer force that has generally enjoyed an above-average level of mental health, a condition contradicted by the recent rise in suicides.

The latest Army prevention efforts include the hiring of hundreds of new mental health providers, the production of an interactive video on the subject, to be released this fall, and the introduction of an intervention program aimed at teaching junior Army leaders not only suicidal symptoms but actions that can prevent suicides.

The ACE program includes handing out laminated cards decorated with the ace of hearts that advise three steps -- "ask," "care" and "escort" -- that spell "ACE": Ask your buddy direct questions such as "Are you thinking of killing yourself?"; care for your buddy by taking away weapons; and escort your buddy to a military chaplain or health provider.

"Take away the weapon if someone is playing Russian roulette with it. . . . Unfortunately, people have not always done that," said Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, the Army's assistant surgeon general for force protection. Army prevention programs to this point have not trained soldiers adequately in what to do after they learn a comrade is in crisis, she added.

Another measure that Cornum said has proven effective is for Army commanders in combat zones to take a more "humanistic" approach and to return soldiers home so they can deal with personal crises and thereby "live another day to keep serving."

Col. Scott McBride, commander of the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, said such measures have helped him prevent any suicides among his 4,000 soldiers, who have been deployed in northern Iraq for the past year.

"If they're having a problem at home and we can keep a family together, reduce stress by sending a soldier home so he can take care of that problem, we're doing that," McBride said yesterday by video link from Iraq.


Iraq Still Demanding Withdrawal Date, Right to Try U.S. Troops
Leila Fadel and Jonathan S. Landay | McClatchy Newspapers

BAGHDAD — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to Iraq Thursday in an effort to convince Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to consent to an agreement governing the conduct of U.S. forces in Iraq that will be needed when the U.N. mandate for U.S. military operations in Iraq expires at the end of this year.

A one-on-one meeting between Rice and Maliki was "deep and direct," said Sadiq al Rikabi, a top advisor to Maliki, but only time will tell if a compromise can be reached, he said.

"They tried to reach a compromise solution, but it is too early to say they reached an agreement about all issues," he said.

Iraqi and American officials have been claiming for weeks that they were on the brink of a security agreement. Maliki, however, has demanded a strict timetable for the withdrawal of American forces and insisted that U.S. troops must be subject to Iraqi law when they're outside their bases.

Maliki had demanded that U.S. combat forces leave his country by 2010, but the agreement includes only a vague goal of having combat troops out by 2011 if conditions permit, officials said.

"The Iraqi government wants as a sovereign country to be the master of the law in Iraq," said Ali al Adeeb, a Shiite legislator from Maliki's Dawa party. "There needs to be a strict timetable, otherwise these forces will stay forever. Not having a timetable means they will never leave."

The Iraqi government spokesman, Ali al Dabbagh, confirmed that while Thursday's talks made progress, an agreement remains days away.

U.S. and Iraqi officials said the major sticking point is whether American forces can be prosecuted under Iraqi law for killing civilians, destroying or stealing property and other possible crimes.

The current draft says that U.S. soldiers and contractors on American bases will be immune to Iraqi law, but possible violations of the law outside U.S. bases will be referred to an investigative committee for possible prosecution, Adeeb said.

Maliki will accept nothing less than American forces coming under Iraqi law outside their bases, he said.

While Shiite lawmakers and advisors to Maliki indicated that a plethora of issues remain to be ironed out, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters that a draft was complete and would be referred to the executive council on Friday.

If the council agrees to the draft, it will move to the Political Council for National Security before going to the Iraqi parliament, which must approve the agreement before the U.N. mandate expires.

Talking to reporters, Rice stressed that there was no agreement and put the burden of responsibility for completing the agreement on Maliki.

"The negotiators have made really, really good progress. They are satisfied with where they are," she said. "But obviously it is going to be the prime minister's call, so this is a chance for me to sit there with him."

In a press conference following her meetings with Maliki, Zebari, the top two U.S. officials in Iraq and other Iraqi officials, both Rice and Zebari said they were close but the agreement still needed to be reviewed by the Iraqi government.

"Time is of essence," Zebari said. "We are redoubling our efforts to bring this to a final and successful conclusion."

Rice said the security agreement was "advanced" and the Americans had shown "flexibility." The draft included "aspirational timetables." Iraqi officials have told McClatchy that the agreement would have combat troops out by 2011 and out of the nation's cities by the summer of 2009.

"What we're trying to do is put together an agreement that protects our people, that respects Iraqi sovereignty, that allows us to lay the kind of foundation that we need to make sure that we complete the work that we've all sacrificed so greatly to see accomplished," she said. "It will be an excellent agreement when we finally have agreement."


War Profiteers are Stealing our Tax Dollars

By: David Phillips

August 18, 2008


According to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) by the end of this year the Bush administration will have spent more than $100 Billion dollars on private firms working in Iraq since the invasion started in 2003. This total does not include corporations who have received billions of our tax dollars who are not in Iraq.


The United States has relied more heavily on contractors in Iraq than in any other war to provide services ranging from food service to guarding diplomats. About 20 percent of funding for operations in Iraq has gone to contractors, the report said.


Currently, there are at least 190,000 contractors in Iraq and neighboring countries, a ratio of about one contractor per U.S. service member, the report says.


Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., chairman of the Budget Committee, which requested the CBO review, said the use of contractors "restricts accountability and oversight; opens the door to corruption and abuse; and, in some instances, may significantly increase the cost to American taxpayers."


In May, an internal audit from the Defense Department's inspector general showed about $8 billion paid to U.S. and Iraqi contractors, found that nearly every transaction failed to comply with federal laws or regulations aimed at preventing fraud.


Below is a short list, a very short list, of companies who are fleecing American tax dollars:


·         Halliburton-The first name that comes to everyone’s mind here is Halliburton. According to MSN Money, Halliburton’s KBR, Inc. division bilked government agencies to the tune of $17.2 billion in Iraq war-related revenue from 2003-2006 alone.


·         Veritas Capital Fund/DynCorp-At first blush, a private equity fund (and not, say, Exxon-Mobil) being the number 2 profiteer in the Iraq war might sound strange. However, the cleverly run fund has raked in $1.44 billion through its DynCorp subsidiary.


·         Washington Group International- The Washington Group International has parlayed its expertise the repair, restore, and maintenance of high-output oil fields into $931 million in Iraq-related revenue from 2003-2006.


·         Fluor-Fluor scored a monster $1.1 billion contract in 2004 to build, service, and manage water/sewage systems in Iraq.


·         Parsons-Few Iraq contractors have come under fire as much as Parsons, who reportedly mismanaged the construction a police academy so poorly that human waste dripped from its ceilings. Far from being an isolated incident, reports from federal government auditor’s revealed lackluster work on 13 of the 14 Iraq projects entrusted to Parsons. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped the Pasadena-based firm from making off with $540 million in U.S. government funds for the poorly executed reconstruction projects at Iraq’s healthcare centers and fire stations.


·         L3 Communications-L3 Communications has carved out a neat $359 million slice of Iraq’s security screening needs as of fiscal 2006. The New York-based company has been charged with overseeing the screening and training of law enforcement personnel for the growing all-Iraqi security force, as well as replacing equipment in the field. Linguistics is another one of L3’s specialties, one that is heavily relied upon to interface with native speaking Sunni and Shia forces.


·         L3 Communications has also purchased Titan, a corporate intelligence company with a $1 billion Iraq contract. Prior to being acquired by L3, Titan plead guilty to international bribery charges (a felony) and paid a record-breaking $28.5 million under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.


·         HSBC Bank-Already the third largest financial institution on the planet, HSBC has seen its fortunes brighten beyond its wildest dreams since the start of combat. It has purchased a controlling stake (70%) of the newly created Iraqi national bank, Dar es Salaam Investment Bank, which, though small, has already amassed assets of $91 million.


The above list of war profiteers are not supplying the goods that they have been contracted to provide. According to numerous reports by both our government and independent watch dog groups these companies and many others are promising one thing and delivering another.


The Pentagon and those that have awarded the contracts (many no-bid contracts) have had carte blanche because Bush and the Republican controlled congress that Bush enjoyed, removed almost all oversight. In fact the latest Pentagon Inspector General had recently quit after only a few months on the job because he did not have adequate personnel to oversee the voluminous task that was before him.


This corruption must stop; most of the problems Americans are now confronted with are directly related to the failed War policies installed by Bush and the GOP.


Bush and the GOP have created a tax dollar siphoning machine with almost zero oversight and McCain wants to continue these policies.


Americans must demand oversight on every tax dollar spent on any program, period.



David Phillips is a Vietnam Era Veteran, a Democratic Party Activist, and David is also the Publisher and Editor of the online political magazine YodasWorld.org

 E-Mail Questions or Comments: oneyoda@aol.com


You can also read David’s weekly column in the Santa Ynez Valley Journal or you can go to their web site: www.Syvjournal.com


White House Forged Letter to Start Iraq War
By David Knowles

In an explosive new claim, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Ron Suskind details how the White House directed the CIA to forge and leak a letter to help buttress its case for invading Iraq. The letter, which found its way into the hands of a reporter from London's Sunday Telegraph, seemed to show proof that the 9/11 hijackers, including Mohammad Atta, had received training from Saddam Hussein's government.

The problem is, according to Suskind, the letter was a fake, and no such training took place. The White House adamantly denies the charges made in "The Way of the World," which was released last week. Other revelations from the book?

The author also claims that the Bush administration had information from a top Iraqi intelligence official "that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq--intelligence they received in plenty of time to stop an invasion."

While accusations of this magnitude should always be met with skepticism, one only needs to look back to the Gulf of Tonkin Incident to realize that such tactics of deception have been employed before to start a war. In fact, as Seymour Hersh recently uncovered, the Bush Administration was planning similar smoke-and-mirrors options for Iran.

And what if what Suskind claims is true?

The author claims that such an operation, part of "false pretenses" for war, would constitute illegal White House use of the CIA to influence a domestic audience, an arguably impeachable offense.

Given the duration remaining on the Bush's Last Day clock, that option seems unlikely.


Three Key Questions Still Unanswered in Anthrax Case
Greg Gordon | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Despite the Justice Department's pronouncement that former Army microbiologist Bruce Ivins unleashed the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people, three central questions about the case remain unanswered:

  1. Can the FBI prove that a flask of anthrax in Ivins' bioweapons laboratory at Ft. Detrick, Md., contained the same mutated strain of finely milled powder that was in the envelopes that were mailed to two U.S. senators?
  2. Did Ivins, who committed suicide last week, have the technical capability to produce that form of anthrax?
  3. Why, after he came under suspicion in 2005 or earlier, was Ivins allowed to retain a high-level security clearance that enabled him to continue working in the bioweapons laboratory at Ft. Detrick, apparently until this summer?

As federal prosecutors and FBI agents moved to close the seven-year investigation, former employees at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and other biological weapons experts Thursday expressed skepticism about the case that's been presented publicly.

The FBI said Wednesday that it had winnowed eight samples that contained all four of the genetic mutations in the anthrax-laced letters out of 1,000 anthrax samples from 16 laboratories and traced all eight to a batch in Ivins' lab that had the same "DNA fingerprint."

However, Jeffrey Adamovicz, who directed the bacteriology division at Ft. Detrick in 2003 and 2004, said the FBI trail is "a little disturbing" because it relies on a common contaminant in laboratories and in the environment.

While the FBI said it found a unique mutation of that contaminant, Adamovicz said, it has yet to say that this strain "was found in Dr. Ivins' lab and no one else's."

Further, he said, that strain of the anthrax organism "has to have a parent somewhere, which means their assertion that it was only in Ivins' lab doesn't make sense."

Donald Henderson, a scholar at the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Biosecurity who assisted the government in dealing with the attacks, said the FBI's case against Ivins "just doesn't add up." He said the FBI must produce its DNA evidence for scrutiny by scientists.

Some of Ivins' former colleagues also dispute the FBI's assertion that he had the capability to mill tiny anthrax spores and then bind them to silicon particles, the form of anthrax that was mailed to the office of then-senator Tom Daschle, D-S.D..

Adamovicz said the anthrax sent to Daschle was "so concentrated and so consistent and so clean that I would assert that Bruce could not have done that part."

"Just because you're off your rocker doesn't mean you can make something that no one else in the world can make with the kind of equipment that's available," said Richard Spertzel, who worked in the lab for 21 years before he retired in 1987.

Spertzel called the FBI's focus on records that Ivins had checked out a device that could freeze-dry tiny anthrax spores "a red herring," and said he doubted that the lab possessed the equipment needed to mill the spores.

Another mystery is why Ivins wasn't escorted from the facility until last month when the FBI had discovered by 2005 that he'd failed to turn over samples of all the anthrax in his lab, as agents had requested three years earlier.

Caree Vander-Linden, a spokeswoman for the institute, said that lab supervisors monitor their scientists' behavior and that, under a Biosurety Program that was implemented in 2003, all researchers undergo intrusive background checks.

Adamovicz said that under that program, scientists are required to disclose any mental health issues. Scientists also must undergo periodic FBI background checks to retain their security clearances.

Adamovicz said that Ft. Detrick officials knew by late 2006 that Ivins was a suspect, yet he retained his laboratory badge for nearly a year after that. His badge was withheld on Nov. 1, 2007, the day the FBI searched his home, but it apparently was reinstated.

"It's hard to understand if there was all this negative information out there on Bruce, why wasn't it picked up in the Biosurety Program or by law enforcement," Adamovicz said.

McCain Links the Anthrax Attacks to Iraq and Saddam Hussein in the Lead Up to the War in Iraq 


Bin Laden's Driver Convicted of Terror Charges
Salim Hamdan was convicted in the first U.S. war crimes trial since World War II

A military court last Wednesday convicted Osama bin Laden's driver of supporting terrorism but acquitted him on the more serious charge of conspiring with al Qaeda in the first U.S. war crimes trial since World War Two.

The trial of Yemeni captive Salim Hamdan at the remote U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba was the first full test of the controversial tribunal authorized by the Bush administration to try foreign captives on terrorism charges outside the regular U.S. court system.

The White House welcomed the conviction while human rights and civil liberties groups condemned it.

The judge scheduled a sentencing hearing for Wednesday afternoon for Hamdan, who faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

The jurors deliberated a little over eight hours before reaching their verdict.

Hamdan, wearing a white turban and long white robe topped with a tan blazer, stood tensely in the courtroom beside his lawyers as the verdict was announced, listening through headphones to the English-Arabic interpreter. He raised his hands and wept into them as the guilty verdict was read.

In Washington, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the administration was pleased that Hamdan received a fair trial and looked forward to trying other Guantanamo captives.

"The Military Commission system is a fair and appropriate legal process for prosecuting detainees alleged to have committed crimes against the United States or our interests. We look forward to other cases moving forward to trial," he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it viewed the tribunal process as deeply flawed.

"Any verdict resulting from such a flawed system is a betrayal of American values. The rules for the Guantanamo military commissions are so flawed that justice could never be served. From start to finish, this has been a monumental debacle of American justice," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero in a statement.

Interrogations and Confessions

The jury of military officers heard two weeks of testimony, including that of 10 federal agents who interrogated Hamdan without warning him that his confessions would be used against him in a criminal trial.

It was the Bush administration's third attempt to try Hamdan, who won a Supreme Court victory that scrapped the first version of the Guantanamo court system in 2006. The charges were twice dropped and refiled .

The charges he was cleared of on Wednesday -- two counts of conspiring with al Qaeda to attack civilians, destroy property, commit murder in violation of the laws of war -- were the only charges against him in the first prosecution attempt.

"The travesty of this verdict now is that had the case gone to trial in 2004 he would have been acquitted of all the charges," said Deputy Chief Defense Counsel Michael Berrigan.

Hamdan was convicted on Wednesday of five counts of providing material support for terrorism, specifically that his personal services to al Qaeda included driving and acting as a bodyguard for a man he knew to be the leader of an international terrorist organization.

The 11-page verdict form was so complicated that the judge called for a yellow highlighter pen and marked the portions the jury president was to read. Jurors were allowed to strike some of the language in the charges, so some specifics of the verdict were not immediately clear.

The rules allow four levels of appeal, first to the Pentagon appointee overseeing the Guantanamo tribunals. She can overturn convictions and shorten the sentence but cannot add convictions or lengthen the sentence.

After that, Hamdan could appeal to a special military appeals court, then to the U.S. federal appeals court in Washington and finally to the U.S. Supreme Court.


Rice Warns of More Sanctions Against Iran Over Nuke Issue

WASHINGTON, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reiterated last Thursday that Iran will face more sanctions if it fails to give an adequate response to the latest incentives package by the six major powers.

In an exclusive interview with Politico and Yahoo! News, Rice said Iran's latest response to a demand for the enrichment freeze in exchange for trade and technology incentives "is not a really serious answer."

"Iran has a way out if they ever wish, but we will seriously pursue sanctions if they don't," the top diplomat said.

On July 19, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalali held nuclear talks in Geneva over Tehran's disputed nuclear program. U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns attended the meeting.

Since that meeting, Iran has failed twice to give a clear answer to the package of incentives proposed by six major countries -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany, requiring the country to suspend its nuclear enrichment program in exchange for political and economic benefits.

The United States and its Western allies criticized Iran for its evasive answer to the offers by the six major countries, and warned that if no positive response is delivered by Tehran, there will be no choice but to ask the United Nations to proceed with further sanctions.

The United States and its allies have accused Iran of developing nuclear weapons, but Iran insists that its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes.


A Major Political Test for Iraq
NY Times

Since the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk has been a political tinderbox-in-waiting that was largely ignored as war-fighting took precedence. Now that violence is way down, Iraqi leaders have no excuse not to peacefully decide the city’s future. Their failure to do so has already raised tensions and could further shred Iraq’s fragile social fabric — and unleash more bloodshed.

Kurds who run the semiautonomous region of Kurdistan should not be allowed to unilaterally annex Kirkuk, which they regard as their ancient capital but is also home to Turkmen and Arabs. They were promised a referendum in the Iraqi Constitution, but no durable solution can result without the participation of all groups. Overconfident Kurds and their American supporters have not been looking seriously for compromise.

The problem came to a head two weeks ago when Iraq’s Parliament passed a law again postponing a referendum on Kirkuk (it was supposed to be held by the end of 2007). The law contained a measure diluting Kurdish power in the area’s provincial council.

The Kurds believe the referendum will endorse making Kirkuk and surrounding areas part of Kurdistan — giving them more oil revenue and furthering their goal of independence — while Turkmen and Arab leaders want the city to stay under the central government.

Kurdish parliamentarians boycotted the session, resulting in the election law being declared unconstitutional. Another session on Sunday dissolved without reaching a quorum; lawmakers were to try again on Monday.

The problem is not just with the Kirkuk referendum. If the Kurds continue to hold the election law hostage, provincial elections now expected in early 2009 will also be stymied. These elections are crucial to Iraq’s political stability and reconciliation efforts because they will give minority Sunni Arabs a chance to be in government for the first time since they boycotted the 2005 elections. Sunnis who played a key role fighting with American forces against Iraqi insurgents are already embittered by the failure of Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government to hire enough of them for promised security jobs.

Compromises on Kirkuk are theoretically possible, but only the U.N. seems to be seriously trying to find one. That’s baffling, since no one, other than the Iraqis, has more vested in keeping the lid on violence and on tension with Turkey and Iran than the United States.

Iraqis proved their post-Saddam political wheeling-and-dealing skills when they adopted budget, amnesty and provincial powers laws earlier this year. It’s worth testing whether horse-trading on the crucial but deadlocked oil law and other contentious issues like minority rights and redistribution of powers could produce a Kirkuk deal all ethnic communities could live with.

If Iraqi leaders cannot settle the matter, they might consider putting Kirkuk and its environs under United Nations administration as was done with Brcko after the Balkan wars. The imperative is to ensure that Kirkuk’s future is not drawn in blood.


Timetable for Troop Withdrawal From Iraq

By: David Phillips

July 28, 2008


As you may have seen in the News recently a timetable for removing our troops from Iraq has gained support not just from the majority of the American public, but from the Iraqi Government as well, and begrudgingly to some extent, from Bush.


Two weeks ago in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is quoted as saying he wanted the United States to leave "As soon as possible, as far as we're concerned."


Maliki called presidential candidate Barack Obama's suggestion of 16 months "the right timeframe for a withdrawal." He went on to say, "That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes," al-Maliki was quoted as saying. "Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic. Artificially prolonging the tenure of U.S. troops in Iraq would cause problems."


Within minutes of the release of the magazine story the Bush administration was on the phone to the Iraqi government after which an Iraqi government spokesman released a statement saying Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s  remarks in Der Spiegel were "misinterpreted and mistranslated.”


But that turned out to be wrong, first, two independent News organizations, CNN and the NY Times were offered to verify the translation and both said that it was translated correctly. And on top of that Maliki’s office personally reviewed the translation and signed off on it prior to the publication.


So Bush was caught between Iraq and a hard place, so after having a video teleconference with Maliki, President Bush announced that he and the Iraqi government had reached an agreement on the withdrawal of our troops which  Bush called a “Time Horizon”, which is PC for nonsense.


A “Time Horizon”, I’ll tell you what, step outside of your home and look out onto the horizon and start walking towards it for as long as you want, then stop, and the horizon will be as far away as when you started.


In May of 2007 President Bush said, “We are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government. This is a sovereign nation. Twelve million people went to the polls to approve a constitution. It’s their government’s choice. If they were to say, leave, we would leave.” So why is Bush not following through with his promise? Why has Bush come out with the rhetoric of a “Time Horizon” for bringing our troops home?


Senator McCain said after learning of Maliki’s timetable, "It will be directly related to the situation on the ground -- just as they have always said. And since we are succeeding, I am convinced, as I have said before; we will withdraw with honor, not according to a set timetable."


McCain still won’t accept the fact that Maliki has called for a timetable for our withdrawal.


Everyone on the Right has been saying that “The Surge” has worked, in fact McCain said last week the surge in not succeeding, but has succeeded.


Great, if everyone is saying the surge has worked, what is the problem?


When Bush announced his plans for “The Surge”, he said the surge was meant to quell the violence and give the Iraqi government time to gel so that Iraq can take over running their own country and so that we can bring our troops home.


So here is a thought, Americans want us to leave Iraq, and Iraqis want us to leave Iraq, so let’s leave Iraq.


Mission Accomplished.



David Phillips is a Vietnam Era Veteran, a Democratic Party Activist, and David is also the Publisher and Editor of the online political magazine YodasWorld.org

 E-Mail Questions or Comments: oneyoda@aol.com


You can also read David’s weekly column in the Santa Ynez Valley Journal or you can go to their web site: www.Syvjournal.com 

Pakistani Daily Warns: North West Frontier Province Falling into Taliban Hands

The secular Pakistani government, which came into power this year, recently made a peace deal with the Taliban, permitting it to establish shari'a rule in the Swat-Malakand region in the North WestFrontierProvince (NWFP). Since then, the Taliban has made continuous efforts to expand the areas under its control, and in recent weeks there has been growing concern that the NWFP capital Peshawar, is in danger of falling into Taliban hands.

The growing threat to Peshawar and to the entire NWFP was the topic of a recent editorial in the locally influential Urdu-language newspaper Roznama Mashriq. The following are excerpts from the editorial: [1]

Peshawar in Danger Due to Government Deal with Taliban"The [recent] clashes between the security forces and the Taliban in Swat revealed the real [nature] of the so-called peace deal between the NWFP government [and the Taliban]. The commitments made by the NWFP government to the Taliban were difficult, if not impossible, to implement... The failure [of the deal] was more than obvious as the government tried to take credit for it while [failing to involve the security forces in its planning] and despite being totally unable to implement it. Any optimism regarding this peace deal is [an act of] self-deception in light of the [Taliban's actions] of burning down [girls'] schools and firing on police vehicles, [and in light of the] recent clashes in which security personnel and a Taliban commander were killed...

"It is as a result of [this deal] that peace in Peshawar is now in danger. Every other day there are indications that suicide bombers and vehicles loaded with explosives have infiltrated the city. Interior Security Advisor [Rahman Malik] has told the National Assembly that the situation in the NWFP is volatile, and that a limited [military] operation will be needed. Maulana Fazlur Rahman, head of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F), has told the Assembly that the NWFP government no longer has any authority [in the province].

"[But despite this,] the [NWFP] government is not taking a serious view of the situation in the province. The Taliban are running various towns in the province, and we are sleeping. By the time we wake up, the province may be [completely] in the hands [of the Taliban]. The lack of concern on the part of the NWFP government, despite the statements [heard] in the National Assembly... [and despite the situation in Peshawar and Swat], raises doubts regarding the [life expectancy] of this government..."

"No One in Chief Minister [Hoti's] Government and In His Ruling Awami National Party (ANP) Knows How to Deal With the Situation in the NWFP?

"In the event of a [military] operation, there will not be peace [even] in Peshawar, [which has become a refuge for] people who fled from the clashes in Swat and Malakand, as well as in Parachinar and Miranshah [in the tribal districts]. The duration and outcome of this operation - no matter what its scale - will depend on the circumstances [of the conflict]. This is evident from the [previous military] operation in Swat, whose destructive consequences are still with us, and whose long-term effects are anyone's guess.

"No one in Chief Minister [Ameer Haider Khan Hoti's] government and in his ruling Awami National Party (ANP) knows how to deal with the situation in the NWFP - except [federally nominated] Governor Owais Ghani. [One hopes that] the NWFP governor discussed this issue in his [recent] meeting with President Pervez Musharraf.

"Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti [certainly] failed to discuss the NWFP's rights - and especially the issue of establishing peace - with President [Pervez Musharraf] and with Prime Minister [Yousuf Raza Gilani]... The ruling ANP was angry about Interior Security Advisor [Rahman Malik's] statement about the peace deal, which it characterized as [a federal] interference in the affairs of the province... With the peace of the province and the lives of its people at stake, the NWFP government's childish [complaints]... are tantamount to inviting disaster. The ANP has approved the deal [with the Taliban] in Swat while ignoring the Taliban's preparations for an aggressive [move on] Peshawar. It is not clear what sort of strategy led to this [the deal]...

"It is the responsibility of NWFP Governor Owais Ghani and Interior Security Advisor Rahman Malik to deal with the situation... and to respond to the public's concerns by taking concrete measures before [the situation in] the NWFP gets out of hand."


Bush Wants To Shift $226 million On Pakistan Money To F-16's

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department wants to use about two-thirds of its proposed military equipment aid for Pakistan's anti-terrorism programs to help the key U.S. ally upgrade its aging fleet of U.S.-made F-16 fighter planes.

The planes traditionally have not been used in anti-terrorism operations, and Pakistan sees the planes as a chit in its arms race against rival India. Congress must approve the switch, which was requested days before Pakistan's new prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, is due to meet President Bush at the White House.

The Bush administration is feeling its way in its dealings with Pakistan's new leaders, who are friendly to the U.S. but far less closely allied than the formerly supreme leader, President Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf retains his post but with less authority. The prime minister's government has struck proposed partnerships with tribal leaders in the volatile terror-breeding ground along the Afghan border that make U.S. officials nervous.

The request to Congress late last week would allow the key U.S. ally to purchase equipment to upgrade existing planes so that they have similar capabilities to equipment the Bush administration is already selling to Pakistan. The $226 million would come from an allotment already approved for other Pakistan anti-terror operations.

The previous request would have upgraded P3-C aircraft, which often are used in surveillance operations, and modernize AH-IF Cobra helicopters. The helicopter work still would be done using different funding, a State Department official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because discussions with Congress are still preliminary.

Switching the money to fix up F-16s would represent a change in the purpose for more than two-thirds of the $300 million that Pakistan will receive this year in U.S. military underwriting for Pakistan's equipment and training. Congress has required that the training and equipment money be spent for law enforcement or to fight terrorism.

F-16s are something of a badge of honor for Pakistan, and a sore point in the history of the U.S. relations with the Muslim nation.

The Bush administration approved the sale of 18 new jets last year. The package included an option for Pakistan to order more jets and to get used aircraft refurbished.

Pakistan signed a deal with Washington to buy the F-16s in the late 1980s, but the agreement was scrapped in the 1990s when the U.S. government imposed sanctions on Islamabad over its nuclear weapons program.

Although Washington lifted the sanctions because of Islamabad's support for the U.S. war on terror, the sale of the F-16s had remained on hold and some lawmakers have continued to criticize the deal, arguing the planes are more likely to be used in a war with India than against terrorists.

U.S. assistance and other payments to Pakistan have totaled $9.6 billion in the six budget years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, according to the State Department.


The 25 Most Vicious Iraq War Profiteers

1. Halliburton

The first name that comes to everyone’s mind here is Halliburton. According to MSN Money, Halliburton’s KBR, Inc. division bilked government agencies to the tune of $17.2 billion in Iraq war-related revenue from 2003-2006 alone. This is estimated to comprise a whopping one-fifth of KBR’s total revenue for the 2006 fiscal year. The massive payoff is said to have financed the construction and maintenance of military bases, oil field repairs, and various infrastructure rebuilding projects across the war-torn nation. This is just the latest in a long string of military/KBR wartime partnerships, thanks in no small part to Dick Cheney’s former role with the parent company.

2. Veritas Capital Fund/DynCorp

At first blush, a private equity fund (and not, say, Exxon-Mobil) being the number 2 profiteer in the Iraq war might sound strange. However, the cleverly run fund has raked in $1.44 billion through its DynCorp subsidiary. The primary service DynCorp has provided to the war efforts is the training of new Iraqi police forces. Often described as a ‘state within a state‘, the sizable company is headed by Dwight M. Williams, former Chief Security Officer of the upstart U.S. Department of Homeland Security. With this and other close ties to defense agencies, Veritas Capital Fund and DynCorp are well-positioned to capitalize on Iraq even more.

3. Washington Group International

The Washington Group International has parlayed its expertise the repair, restore, and maintenance of high-output oil fields into $931 million in Iraq-related revenue from 2003-2006. The publicly traded 25,000 employee company’s other specialties include the building and maintenance of schools, military bases, and municipal utilities, such as watering systems. Some have complained that Washington Group’s hefty government payoffs have served primarily to raise its trading price on the New York Stock Exchange. One thing is for sure - with oil prices continuing to rise, there will be no shortage of demand for the oil protection services Washington Group International brings to bear.

4. Environmental Chemical

All war zones eventually becomes cluttered with spent ammunition and broken/abandoned weapons, creating a lucrative niche for any company willing to clean it all up. In Iraq, this duty has fallen into the hands of Environmental Chemical. The privately held Burlingame, California company has stockpiled $878 million by the end of fiscal 2006 for munitions disposal, calling upon its “decade of experience planning and conducting UXO removal, investigation, and certification activities.” The company has close ties to several defense agencies and is staffed by graduates of the U.S. Navy’s Explosive Ordinance Schools, as well as the U.S. Army’s Chemical Schools at Anniston.

5. Aegis

Aegis has done the United Kingdom proud after reeling in a contract to coordinate all of Iraq’s private security operations. The Pentagon contract is good for $430 million (incredibly lucrative by any standard) but it has landed Aegis in some hot public relations water. The company’s decision to contribute to Iraq war efforts has lead to a rejected membership application from the International Peace Operations Association. According to The Independent, the influential trade organization does not consider Aegis worthy of inclusion in the “peace and stability industry.” It remains to be seen whether Aegis will continue to be ostracized for participating in the training of Iraqi security forces.



Iraqi PM Says US Should Leave As Soon As Possible

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says U.S. troops should leave Iraq "as soon as possible," according to a magazine report, and he called presidential candidate Barack Obama's suggestion of 16 months "the right timeframe for a withdrawal."

In an interview with Germany's Der Spiegel magazine released Saturday, al-Maliki said he was not seeking to endorse Obama. The Illinois senator and likely Democratic nominee has pledged to withdraw combat troops from Iraq within 16 months if he is elected.

"That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes," al-Maliki was quoted as saying. "Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic. Artificially prolonging the tenure of U.S. troops in Iraq would cause problems."

Asked when U.S. forces would leave Iraq, he responded, "As soon as possible, as far a we're concerned."

In Iraq on Saturday, Sadiq al-Rikabi, an adviser to al-Maliki, declined to discuss the prime minister's published remarks, but he said Iraqi officials do not intend to be "part of the electoral campaign in the United States."

"We will deal with any administration that comes to power," he said.

Obama's Republican presidential rival, John McCain, has supported Bush administration policy opposing a set timetable for taking troops out of Iraq. McCain's campaign did not return a call Saturday seeking comment on the Maliki interview.

Just days ago McCain told reporters on his campaign bus that Maliki "has exceeded a lot of the expectations."

"I think that much to the surprise of some Maliki has proved to be a more effective leader," McCain said Tuesday in New Mexico.

The national security adviser to the Obama campaign, Susan Rice, said the senator welcomed Maliki's support.

"This presents an important opportunity to transition to Iraqi responsibility, while restoring our military and increasing our commitment to finish the fight in Afghanistan," Rice said in a statement Saturday.

Obama arrived on his first visit to Afghanistan on Saturday, less than four months before the general election. He also is expected to stop later in Iraq.

McCain has criticized Obama for his lack of experience in the region. The Arizona senator has suggested he would pursue an Iraq strategy "that's working" — a reference to the troop buildup credited for sharply reducing violence in the country.

Al-Maliki is scheduled to visit Germany next week for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and business leaders amid a renewed German push in helping to rebuild Iraq. Berlin had opposed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.


Will the Bush Administration Strike Iran?

By Ken Silverstein

Laura Rozen has been running an interesting forum on Iran at Mother Jones, which asks: “How likely is a scenario in which the United States or Israel strikes Iran before Bush leaves office? (Or is the Left falling for the hawks’ propaganda?)”

From Danny Postel, the author of Reading Legitimation Crisis in Tehran: Iran and the Future of Liberalism and a member of Chicago’s No War on Iran Coalition:

None of us can be certain at this point whether the US or Israel will attack Iran, but I read recent signs as being just ominous enough that I’d rather err on the side of being too worried than of not being worried enough. Even that paragon of cool sobriety The Economist now concludes that Israel’s recent maneuvers suggest that it might not be bluffing. One thing we do know is that the intellectual runway is being slicked for an attack. John Bolton has floated the suggestion that Israel will attack after the November elections but before the next president takes office, while Daniel Pipes has evoked the same scenario, only with the US doing the job.

From Yossi Melman, a national security correspondent for Israeli daily Haaretz:

Very, very unlikely. The military and intelligence contingency plans to attack Iran are still in the making. From the operational point of view, Israel and the US are not ready yet. The supportive political-diplomatic environment has not been created yet. Attacking Iran is considered by Israeli military and political decision makers as a last resort. I assume that they and the international community, including the US, are waiting to see the results of next year’s presidential elections in Iran, to be held in May 2009.


Original Photo on Left-Doctored Photo on Right

Expert Says Missile Photo Appears to Be Doctored

Iran apparently doctored a photograph of missile test-firings and exaggerated the capabilities of the weapons, according to a defense analyst whose conclusions were backed by photography experts.

On Wednesday, Iran said it test-fired a series of long- and medium-range missiles, escalating the saber rattling over its nuclear program and frustrating U.S. officials who have cited glimmers of progress in recent weeks. Iranian officials said in state media that the barrage included a new version of the Shahab-3 missile with a range of 1,200 miles, enough to hit Israel.

A state-issued photograph, carried by Agence France-Presse and picked up by The Wall Street Journal and other newspapers for Thursday editions, showed four missiles firing simultaneously. But one of the missiles had apparently been added to the photo, borrowing elements from the smoke trail and dust clouds from two of the other missiles, skeptics said.

After being shown the photograph, Mark Fitzpatrick of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies told AFP: "It very much does appear that Iran doctored the photo to cover up what apparently was a misfiring of one of the missiles.

"The whole purpose of this testing was to send a signal, so Iran both exaggerated the capabilities of the missile in their prose and apparently doctored the photos, as well," Mr. Fitzpatrick said, according to AFP.

In addition, Mr. Fitzpatrick, a former U.S. State Department official, said: "In terms of capability, they claimed the Shahab-3 could travel 2,000 kilometers carrying a one-ton warhead. This is very unlikely.

"The Shahab-3 normally has a range of 1,300 kilometers, and the range can be extended to 2,000 kilometers, but it would require a much lighter warhead."

The photo on Iran's Sepah News site was replaced Thursday with an image showing three missiles -- which appear to be the same as the earlier photo. In place of the fourth missile, however, the photo showed one still on the ground in its launch position and what appears to be a vehicle nearby.

There was no immediate comment from Iranian government officials on the photos.

According to a U.S. official, analysts determined that Tehran on Thursday launched another weapon, an antiship missile -- one night after the string of tests.


World War III Proponent McCain Says It Will Take ‘All-Out World War III’ To Re-Institute A Military Draft

During a “tele-townhall meeting” last evening, John McCain was asked by a mother of two sons if he believes the nation will one day re-institute the military draft. It would take an “all-out World War III” to make that happen, McCain responded.

Indeed, if that’s true, then a military draft may indeed be a possibility. McCain himself has suggested we are in a “World War III” confrontation with Iran.

In July 2006, McCain appeared on CNN’s Larry King Live, where he was asked to respond to this quote from Newt Gingrich: “We’re in the early stages of what I would describe as the Third World War and, frankly, our bureaucracies aren’t responding fast enough. … You’d have to say to yourself this is in fact World War III. ” Here’s how McCain reacted to that quote:

KING: Senator McCain, do you agree?

MCCAIN: I do to some extent. I think it’s important to recognize that we have terrorist organizations which — who are dangerous by themselves, are now being supported by radical Islamic governments, i.e., the Iranians, which makes them incredibly more dangerous because they are trained, equipped, motivated and assisted in every way by the Iranians.

Last October, President Bush himself warned of a coming “World War III” with Iran. “I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III,” said the President. “It seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.”


US Using Communist Torture Techniques At Guantanamo
New York Times   |  Scott Shane  

The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of "coercive management techniques" for use on prisoners, including "sleep deprivation," "prolonged constraint," and "exposure."

What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.

The recycled chart is the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Some methods were used against a small number of prisoners at Guantánamo before 2005, when Congress banned the use of coercion by the military. The C.I.A. is still authorized by President Bush to use a number of secret "alternative" interrogation methods.

Several Guantánamo documents, including the chart outlining coercive methods, were made public at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing June 17 that examined how such tactics came to be employed.

But committee investigators were not aware of the chart's source in the half-century-old journal article, a connection pointed out to The New York Times by an independent expert on interrogation who spoke on condition of anonymity.


U.S State Dept. Role In Iraq Oil Deal Questioned
By James Glanz and Richard A. Oppel Jr.

Bush administration officials knew that a Texas oil company with close ties to President George W. Bush was planning to sign an oil deal with the regional Kurdistan government that runs counter to American policy and undercut Iraq's central government, a congressional committee has concluded.

The conclusions were based on e-mail messages and other documents that the committee released Wednesday.

United States policy is to warn companies that they incur risks in signing contracts until Iraq passes an oil law and to strengthen Iraq's central government. The Kurdistan deal, by ceding responsibility for writing contracts directly to a regional government, infuriated Iraqi officials. But State Department officials did nothing to discourage the deal and in some cases appeared to welcome it, the documents show.

The company, Hunt Oil of Dallas, signed the deal with the Kurdistan's semiautonomous government last September. Its chief executive officer, Ray Hunt, a close political ally of Bush, briefed an advisory board to Bush on his contacts with Kurdish officials before the deal was signed.

In an e-mail message released by the congressional committee, a State Department official in Washington, briefed about the impending deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government, wrote: "Many thanks for the heads up; getting an American company to sign a deal with the KRG will make big news back here. Please keep us posted."

The document release comes as the administration is defending help that United States officials provided in drawing up a separate set of no-bid contracts, still pending, between Iraq's Oil Ministry in Baghdad and five Western oil companies to provide services at other Iraqi oil fields.

In the no-bid contracts, the administration ultimately conceded that it had provided what it called purely technical help writing the contracts. The United States played no role in choosing the companies, the administration has said.

Disclosure of those contracts has provided fuel to critics of the Iraq war who contend that the enormous Iraqi oil reserves were a motivation for the invasion, an assertion the administration has repeatedly denied.

Iraq's oil minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, has condemned the Kurdistan deal as illegal because it was not approved by Iraq's central government and was struck without an oil law.

After the deal was signed last year, a senior State Department official in Baghdad criticized it, saying, "We believe these contracts have needlessly elevated tensions between the KRG and the national government of Iraq."


Mullen: Can’t have more troops in Afghanistan ‘until I have a reduced requirement in Iraq.

June 2008 was the deadliest month of the Afghanistan war and the second straight month that the number of troops killed there surpassed that of Iraq. “It has been a tough month in Afghanistan,” President Bush acknowledged today. This morning, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen said he cannot send more troops to Afghanistan until there are further troop reductions in Iraq:

MULLEN: What I said in my statement is also important as a part of that calculus, which is, I don’t have troops I can reach for, brigades I can reach to send into Afghanistan until I have a reduced requirement in Iraq.

“Unlike the insurgency in Iraq, we don’t have enough troops there to hold,” he added later, when asked about the Taliban’s growth.


White House: Dana Perino and the Politics of Fear

The White House said Thursday that dangerous detainees at Guantanamo Bay could end up walking Main Street U.S.A. as a result of last month's Supreme Court ruling about detainees' legal rights. Federal appeals courts, however, have indicated they have no intention of letting that happen.

The high court ruling, which gave all detainees the right to petition federal judges for immediate release, has intensified discussions within the Bush administration about what to do with the roughly 270 detainees held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"I'm sure that none of us want Khalid Sheikh Mohammed walking around our neighborhoods," White House press secretary Dana Perino said about al-Qaida's former third in command.

President Bush strongly disagreed with the Supreme Court decision that the foreigners held under indefinite detention at Guantanamo have the right to seek release in civilian courts. The 5-4 ruling was the third time the justices had repudiated Bush on his approach to holding the suspects outside the protections of U.S. law.


The Headmaster and the Schoolboy

David Addington and John Yoo visit the Hill.

By Emily Bazelon

Two hostile witnesses are better than one. This we learn today on Capitol Hill from the mashup of David Addington, the vice president's consiglieri, and John Yoo, author of the 2002 and 2003 torture memos. Appearing before a House subcommittee, Yoo-Addington is like the witness version of good cop-bad cop.

Yoo is wide-faced, plaintive, perplexed as to why anyone in Congress might be upset about anything he's written or done or his refusals to answer their questions. He goes for schoolboy sympathy. Addington, on the other hand, is all stern-faced headmaster. No one is schooling him today, thank you very much.

The purpose of hauling in these reluctant witnesses, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., says at the outset of the hearing, is to examine the role of Bush administration lawyers in developing interrogation policy—the policy that led to water-boarding and other harsh methods that are hard to square with the Geneva Conventions, no matter how long you squint at them. Addington and Yoo listen politely to Nadler's wishful thinking. Their lawyers have already done their best to whittle today's substance to the barest of bones. When the House judiciary committee initially asked Addington to testify, the Office of the Vice President said no, with lots of fighting words about how Congress couldn't compel Dick Cheney or anyone who works for him to talk. It seemed a foregone conclusion that Addington would go the way of nonwitnesses like Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten: to court rather than to the committee room.

Then, in May, Cheney's top aide and his office relented. Sort of. Addington would show up but only with a long off-limits list. As he and his lawyer understood it, Congress would not ask him to speak with authority about the nature and scope of presidential power in wartime, the administration's approach to those questions under U.S. and international law, or U.S. policy relating to interrogation by the CIA or the military. What would Addington discuss? This is the mystery when the gavel raps at 10 a.m.

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., optimistically opens with his own list. He wants Addington and Yoo to come clean about 1) the torture memos: how they were drafted and why; 2) the effect of Yoo's legal advice on interrogation at Guantanamo Bay; 3) the so-called War Council in which Addington and Yoo reportedly participated, which "made key legal decisions on national security issues outside of normal channels," as Conyers puts it in a written version of his remarks.

Addington parries with no written statement, just a list of exhibits, most of them about the back-and-forth between his lawyer and the subcommittee. (Oh, and a speech by the president, in case we missed it on C-SPAN.) He has five minutes to open. He uses about 30 seconds to correct two small errors in Nadler's rendition of his bio. Then he's done. Nadler is thrown off balance. "Is that the entirety of your statement?" he asks.* Addington sits back and nods. It's a great move—his version of nimbly stepping out of the way as his opponent lunges forward.

Yoo, on the other hand, has a written statement that is supposed to shield him with a shrinking spell. The Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department, where he worked when he wrote his infamous memos, "was not involved in the making of policy decisions," he asserts. He continues, "Those policy choices—adopting particular techniques within the lines that OLC had determined to be lawful—were not mine to make, and I did not make them." Also, he wants the subcommittee to know that his bosses at the Office of the Attorney General reviewed and edited everything he wrote. This opening gambit implicitly denies that Yoo had any role on any War Council, thereby refuting the much-cited reports of Jack Goldsmith, the OLC guy who later pulled Yoo's torture memos and denounced them (and then left the DoJ, too, and is now tapping away somewhere for Slate on the latest Supreme Court decisions).

Yoo is so determined to distance himself from interrogation-related policymaking that he pulls Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., into a tug-of-war over the meaning of the word implemented. Ellison wants to know whether the legal advice was implemented that reduced the definition of torture to acts that damage a suspect's internal organs. By which he means, Did interrogators use the tactics allowed by Yoo's theory of the law? The answer to this, of course, is yes, and to know that answer, all Yoo would have to admit is that he reads the newspaper. But he won't go there. "The memo was signed," he offers after much demurral. This exchange peters out, as do the next few, leading a further questioner, Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., to grimly mutter, "You guys sure are good at beating out the clock." To which Yoo replies, with an innocent shrug, "I don't play basketball." Too busy being captain of the debate team.

The next point, though, goes to Rep. Nadler. He asks a series of questions that other questioners have also gone through, along these lines: Did Yoo's memos allow the president to bury a suspect alive? To torture the child of a suspect? To cut off a suspect's fingers? To which Yoo replies with some variation of, "An American president would not issue such an order." Nadler responds that he hadn't asked what the president "would do. I asked what he could do," given Yoo's legal theory and advice.

"It's not fair to ask that question without any facts," Yoo complains. But that's not really what his questioners are doing. They're trying to establish whether anything is off limits to the president in Yoo's legal universe. And Yoo doesn't come up with a single example, even as he insists that "my memo does not authorize anyone to torture anyone." This is an assurance that's not reassuring.

As a result of all this back-and-forth, Addington gets less air time. That seems odd, since he's the higher-up and the one who's still in office. But if you could choose between going after the slightly whiny student and the caustic, blustery headmaster, what would you do? Addington does a lot of smacking down of the questioners. (I understand what I mean. I'm not sure exactly what you mean.) He doesn't admit to making interrogation policy, either, only to "monitoring what was going on" and, during a handful of visits to Guantanamo, observing "a detainee in an orange jumpsuit sitting in a chair talking" to an interrogator. It's all so benign that it bores him. As for the War Council, that was a name the Department of Defense seems to have come up with for a regular gathering that also included former DoD General Counsel William Haynes, former White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, and a few deputies. "To me, it was just the lawyers getting together to talk," Addington says. Need I add that his tone was dismissive?

Addington also gets in a little fear-mongering: When the torture memos were written, he says, "the smoke was still rising" from 9/11. Actually, by 2003, that was no longer the case. But never mind: Addington's point is that things were different then, "but not as different today as a lot of people may think. … No American should think that we're free, or that the war is over. Because that's wrong." He's the teacher. That's the lesson. Now, go copy it onto the blackboard 500 times, Congress.


IRAQ War Costs

Per Month - $10.3 billion
Per Week - $2.4 billion
Per Day - $343 million
Per Hour - $14 million
Per Minute - $238,425
Per Second - $3,973

Those numbers can be found along with many interesting tidbits in the following congressional report on the cost of the war:



Supreme Court Ruling Restores Habeas Corpus

By David Phillips

June 23, 2008


A couple of weeks ago the Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 vote that detainees held at Guantanamo Bay have the right to Habeas Corpus.


Habeas Corpus is a writ ordering a prisoner to be brought before a judge.


The Supreme Court ruling merely says that inmates held at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay had a right to challenge their detentions in US courts.

Many of the 270 prisoners being held have been there for years without seeing any court or judge.


President Bush, Republicans, right wing talking heads, and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) have all said that this is a bad ruling that will make our country less safe.


Some of these same people have also said that because the detainees are not Americans they are not entitled to the same protection under the Constitution because it only applies to American citizens.


Well that’s just not true. There are many laws that have come from the Constitution that do apply to non-Americans, and one of those laws is Habeas Corpus.


Bush knows this because he is the one who pushed through the Military Commissions Act of 2006, part of which suspended the right of Habeas Corpus for the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.


The Supreme Court ruling said Bush was wrong and he could not suspend Habeas Corpus because the detainees were being held at a U.S. military base and for that reason they are covered by the Constitution.


Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) criticized the Supreme Court ruling and said it is "one of the worst decisions in the history of this country."


One of the four dissenting Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the decision "will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed."


Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) has been attacked by Sen. McCain (R-AZ) and his spin machine because of what he said;


“Confidence that our system of justice and that our traditions of rule of law are strong enough to deal with terrorists. Senator McCain does not.  That is not the same as suggesting that we should give detainees the full privileges that afforded American citizens.  I never said that, the Supreme Court never said that and I would never do that as president of the United States.”


Sen. Obama (D-IL) went on to say: “So, either Senator McCain‘s campaign doesn‘t understand what the court decided or they are distorting my position, which is that we need not throw away 200 years of American jurisprudence while we fight terrorism.  We need not choose between our deeply held values and keeping this nation safe.”


So where does that leave us, what will happen to the detainees now that the Supreme Court ruling has granted them the right of Habeas Corpus?


United States attorney general Michael Mukasey said of the ruling, "I think it bears emphasis that the court's decision does not concern military commission trials, which will continue to proceed," regardless of the ruling by the US Supreme Court.


For almost eight years now, the Bush administration has whittled away at the Constitution, not only with the suspension of Habeas Corpus, but with other rights such as warrants being required for wiretaps on telephone calls, e-mails, financial records, education records, and search and seizures of both business and homes, etc.


Benjamin Franklin once said, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.  


But on this one day, the Supreme Court said no, and upheld our Constitution.



David Phillips is a Vietnam Era Veteran, a Democratic Party Activist, and David is also the Publisher and Editor of the online political magazine YodasWorld.org

 E-Mail Questions or Comments: oneyoda@aol.com




You can also read David’s weekly column in the Santa Ynez Valley Journal or you can go to their web site: www.Syvjournal.com 


We Are Led By War Criminals, Says General

By Jay Bookman | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Army Maj. Gen. Anthony Taguba led the military’s investigation into the abuse at Abu Ghraib, and he did so honestly and forthrightly. As reward for doing his job well, he was forced to retire from the service he loved.

The two-star general has now written a forward to a report on widespread, systematic, officially sanctioned torture by U.S. soldiers and civilians. His conclusion is stunning:

“This report tells the largely untold human story of what happened to detainees in our custody when the Commander-in-Chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture. This story is not only written in words: It is scrawled for the rest of these individuals’ lives on their bodies and minds. Our national honor is stained by the indignity and inhumane treatment these men received from their captors….

After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

The truth will emerge, and when it does this nation’s reputation will be seriously damaged in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of its own people. Our shame will be compounded by the fact that for so long we dumped blame for Abu Ghraib and other atrocities on the very lowest soldiers in the chain of command, those powerless to protect themselves, while allowing those at the top of that chain of command to claim clean hands.


Taliban Advance Only Made Possible By Al Qaeda’s Help

* Analyst believes Qaeda co-operation secured Taliban’s recent Afghan jailbreak

By Khalid Hasan

WASHINGTON: The Taliban advance in Afghanistan could not have taken place without support from Al Qaeda, according to Pakistani journalist and author Ahmed Rashid.

He told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an interview on Sunday that Al Qaeda has established a route to Iraq for the Taliban and “there is a lot of traffic” on it. He said Al Qaeda is also raking in vast amounts of money from the drugs trade, some of which it is siphoning off to the Taliban. The sophistication with which the Taiban carried out the recent jailbreak seems to have been carried out with the help of Al Qaeda. “Al Qaeda seems to be very much an organisational coup for the Taliban,” he added.

Rashid, asked about Osama Bin Laden’s capture, replied that President Bush would like to see him captured before the United States presidential elections but “we have no indication on the ground that anything dramatic is about to happen”. He said the US has stepped up its attacks, including attacks by drones, on the Pakistani side of the border and if intelligence indicates that there is a gathering of Taliban or Al Qaeda, the US acts very, very fast and does not always seem to have asked the Pakistanis for permission. Asked if the new government in Islamabad was really going to move against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, he replied, “The problem is that the military has been engaging the Taliban in peace deals for quite some years and they have not been able to get very much out of it. I think what the civilian government wants to do is to have a more comprehensive plan - political reform in the Tribal Areas, where the Taliban and Al Qaeda are based, and economic development. But such plans have to be backed by a strong military position and the problem now is that the military is in a very static position. The military is not on the offensive, it is not showing a picture of strength to the extremists and this is going to stymie the whole effort by the civilian government.”

Asked if the new government is going to take steps to go after the terrorists, Rashid answered that it would do so, provided the army and the new government were “speaking from the same page”, which he believes they are not. What is needed is a mixture of social and economic development, plus military power, which only the army can provide, he argues. Asked whether there are elements in the Pakistani military sympathetic to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, Rashid replied: “I think there is enormous sympathy for the Taliban within the military establishment and there is no doubt that the Taliban do have sanctuaries in Pakistan where they are not affected by any kind of military action.” He said 30-40 percent of the fighters coming into southern Afghanistan are coming from the Pakistani side of the border.


Waterboarding, Slapping, Sensory Deprivation – All On US Tactics List

American military officials tasked with training US troops to resist enemy interrogations provided Pentagon lawyers with a list of abusive tactics that could be used in prisons such as Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, the Senate armed services committee heard yesterday.

It also emerged at the hearing that US officials "hid" Guantanamo prisoners who had been harshly interrogated from the international committee of the Red Cross, the body empowered to monitor compliance with Geneva Convention rules on treatment of millitary prisoners.

The hearing is the committee's first look at the origins of the harsher methods used in the prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and how policy decisions on interrogations were vetted across the defence department.

Its review fits into a broader picture of the US government's handling of detainees, which includes FBI and CIA interrogations in secret prisons.

Democrat Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the committee, said harsh techniques were pursued despite strong objections in November 2002 by the US military's uniformed lawyers.

"If we use those same techniques offensively against detainees, it says to the world that they have America's stamp of approval," said Mr Levin.

"That puts our troops at greater risk of being abused if they're captured. It also weakens our moral authority and harms our efforts to attract allies in the fight against terrorism."

The committee released previously secret memos dating from the 2002 inception of the harsh interrogation programme at Guantanamo. In one of them, the top military lawyer there, Lieutenant-Colonel Diane Beaver, explains that the defence department had made a practice of hiding prisoners who were being treated harshly, even abusively, from the International Committee of the Red Cross, a non-governmental body empowered to monitor compliance with Geneva Convention rules for the treatment of military prisoners.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, said the administration's legal analysis on detainees and interrogations following the 9/11 attacks would "go down in history as some of the most irresponsible and shortsighted legal analysis ever provided to our nation's military and intelligence communities".

According to the Senate committee's findings, the Pentagon's top civilian lawyer at the time, Jim Haynes, became interested in using harsher interrogation methods as early as July 2002 when his office inquired into a military programme that trained soldiers on how to survive interrogations and deny foes valuable intelligence.

Mr Haynes and other officials wanted to know if the programme – known as "Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape" training – could be used to develop more effective interrogation methods.

Richard Shiffrin, Mr Haynes's former deputy on intelligence, said his interest was not so much in trying to "reverse engineer" tactics to be used against the enemy but rather in tapping military expertise in interrogation.

In response, the head of the joint personnel recovery agency, which ran the survival programme, said resistance training included sensory deprivation, sleep disruption, forcing prisoners to stay in stress positions, waterboarding (simulated drowning) and slapping. Several of those techniques, including stress positions, were approved by the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, in a 2002 memo.

Levin said these techniques were approved despite fierce objections a month earlier by the military services' lawyers.

In separate memos, the lawyers told the joint chiefs of staff that the techniques warranted further study and could be illegal.

Democrats contend that the Senate investigation will refute the Bush administration's argument that abuse in some military prisons was only the fault of a handful of personnel.

Shocking revelations from senior officer

The memos from Lieutenant-Colonel Diane Beaver are the most shocking aspect of the information revealed by the Armed Services Committee hearings. In essence, they confirm the US military was actively involved in hiding from the International Committee of the Red Cross prisoners it had "harshly" interrogated.

Lt-Col Beaver confirmed that the military was secretly using previously forbidden techniques, such as sleep deprivation, but hiding them so as not to draw "negative attention".

"Officially, it is not happening," she said, according to minutes from the meeting. "It is not being reported officially. The ICRC is a serious concern. They will be in and out, scrutinising our operations, unless they are displeased and decide to protest and leave. This would draw a lot of negative attention."

Lt-Col Beaver said interrogators should "curb the harsher operations while ICRC is around".

The officer was speaking at a meeting on 2 October, 2002, between CIA and military lawyers and military intelligence officials on how to counter the resistance of Guantanamo detainees to military interrogation.

Lt-Col Beaver's comments suggest the CIA's practice of hiding unregistered "ghost detainees" from the ICRC at military jails may have been as much in service to the Pentagon's interrogation programme as it was to the CIA's.

A senior CIA lawyer at the meeting, John Fredman, explained that whether harsh interrogation amounts to torture "is a matter of perception".

"If the detainees die, you're doing it wrong," he said.


Iraq Still Off Limits to US Tourists

Despite the lessening of violence in Iraq attributed to the surge, the US Embassy in Kuwait states that Iraq is too dangerous for visitors.

The Embassy warns: "Remnants of the former Baathist regime, transnational terrorists, criminal elements and numerous insurgent groups remain active throughout Iraq."

It also warns that attacks can occur anytime in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad. This is where the US Embassy for Iraq is located.


Afghanistan: The Forgotten War

By: David Phillips

June 16, 2008


A few days after the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center towers in New York, President Bush said that al-Qaida led by Osama Bin Laden and sheltered by the Taliban in Afghanistan were responsible for the attacks on September 11, 2001.


In an address to a joint session of Congress n September 20, 2001, President Bush delivered an ultimatum to the Taliban to:


·         Deliver al-Qaeda leaders located in Afghanistan to the United States

·         Release all imprisoned foreign nationals, including American citizens

·         Protect foreign journalists, diplomats, and aid workers in Afghanistan

·         Close terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and "hand over every terrorist and every person and their support structure to appropriate authorities"

·         Give the United States full access to terrorist training camps to verify their closure


The Taliban refused and adding insult to injury, the Taliban said that they refuse to speak with Bush because he was a non-Muslim leader, and on October 7, 2001. America went to war with Afghanistan.


Soon our forces had the Taliban and al-Qaida on the run. The enemy retreated to a mountainous region called Tora Bora which bordered Pakistan where it seemed that the enemy was to make their last stand.


Just as it seemed we had Osama Bin Laden cornered and on the verge of being captured or killed, President Bush stopped our advance and started to redeploy our forces to Kuwait because Bush wanted to invade Iraq.


So far 517 American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan and 322 coalition forced have been killed. (Source: iCasualties.org)


According to a recent Pentagon report the Taliban who are now based in the Waziristan tribal areas across the border in Pakistan have gained strength in numbers as well as weapons and money.


The Pakistan government led by President Pervez Musharraf has made a few attempts at capturing or killing the Taliban and al-Qaida in the lawless tribal region in Waziristan. In fact he found it to be politically advantageous for him to call a truce with our enemies. But every now and then Musharraf makes a half hearted attempt at going after the enemy to appease Bush and the billions that Bush has been giving Musharraf to appease him.


The Afghanistan war is now in the hands of NATO forces of about 40,000 strong with half of those forces being American. The NATO forces have not been able to contain the Taliban partly because of the lack equipment and forces that will actually fight.


Many of the NATO forces do NOT do any fighting because their nations would only send them if they were used as support such as supply and security.


Last month the Pentagon said that another 3,000 Americans (Marines) will be deployed.


President Barack Obama (I’m getting a little ahead of myself) said that many of the troops that he would bring home from Iraq would be deployed to Afghanistan to finish what Bush promised (Dead or Alive), to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden and those who attacked us on September 11, 2001.


Afghanistan is rarely mentioned in the news which seems to suit Bush just fine. Bush has done everything he could to keep Americans detached from the realities of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that he started and said that he will not finish. Bush said the next President will have to decide what course to take after he leaves office.


This year so far, forty two Americans have been killed in Afghanistan and for Bush and his administration, that’s a win. And for the press it seems to be a non-story.



David Phillips is a Vietnam Era Veteran, a Democratic Party Activist, and David is also the Publisher and Editor of the online political magazine YodasWorld.org

 E-Mail Questions or Comments: oneyoda@aol.com


You can also read David’s weekly column in the Santa Ynez Valley Journal or you can go to their web site: www.Syvjournal.com


Senate Committee: Bush Knew Iraq Claims Weren't True
Jonathan S. Landay | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other top officials promoted the invasion of Iraq with public statements that weren't supported by intelligence or that concealed differences among intelligence agencies, the Senate Intelligence Committee said on Thursday in a report that was delayed by bitter partisan infighting.

A second report found that a special office set up under then-secretary of defense Donald H. Rumsfeld conducted "sensitive intelligence activities" that were inappropriate "without the knowledge of the Intelligence Community or the State Department." That report revealed that Pentagon counterintelligence officials suspected that Iran might have tried to use the group to influence administration policymakers.

Committee chairman John D. Rockefeller, D-W. Va., said the administration's actions went far beyond simply being misled by bad intelligence.

"There is no question we all relied on flawed intelligence," Rockefeller said in a statement. "But, there is a fundamental difference between relying on incorrect intelligence and deliberately painting a picture to the American people that you know is not fully accurate."

"Before taking the country to war, this administration owed it to the American people to give them a 100 percent accurate picture of the threat we faced," Rockefeller said. "Unfortunately, our committee has concluded that the administration made significant claims that were not supported by the intelligence."

The White House dismissed the main report as a partisan rehash of what's already known about erroneous U.S. intelligence on Iraq.



Guantanamo Trials To Go Ahead Despite Court Ruling

United States attorney general Michael Mukasey today insisted military trials of foreign detainees at Guantanamo Bay would go ahead despite a ruling by the US Supreme Court.

The court ruled yesterday that the detainees have constitutional rights and can appeal to civilian courts.

And lawyers for two of those due to go on trial – an alleged September 11 2001 plotter and Osama bin Laden's former driver – said they would use the ruling to argue that charges against their clients should be dismissed.

But Mr Mukasey said the ruling would not affect the Guantanamo trials.

Some 270 men are held at Guantanamo, on suspicion of terrorism.

Navy Lt Cmdr Brian Mizer said he would try to stop the first scheduled war crimes trial, to start on July 14, by arguing that his client was denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial.

He is defending bin Laden's former driver, Salim Hamdan.

"The entire legal framework under which Mr Hamdan was to be tried has been turned on its head," Lt Cmdr Mizer said.

The ruling could have consequences for the five alleged September 11 conspirators, who were arraigned at Guantanamo last week.


Are we winning in Iraq?

By: David Phillips

June 9, 2008


Are we winning In Iraq? As long as we stay in Iraq we can never lose, so, if we do leave, we have won.


As you know Republicans say that if we leave we will lose, in fact the Republicans take it even further, if we leave as Sen. Obama wants to do, its surrender.  Well that’s just a bunch of hogwash and right wing rhetoric.

Republicans have been politicizing the War and using our troops for political gains and to create political divides among the American voter.


When Bush first misled America to War in Iraq, he spoke of regime change, removing Iraq’s WMD’s, and installing a democratically led government.


People in the Bush administration said things like six weeks, six months (regarding how long the war will last), we will be greeted as liberators, and the cost for the reconstruction will cost about $1.5 billion and that Iraq’s oil will pay for the reconstruction.


The Bush administration told the American people many things, most of which we have learned have been dead wrong.


What the Bush administration never said was what winning would be, or when we would ever leave.


I say we have already won, and the only reason we are now staying is so Bush can continue awarding defense contracts to his supporters as well as to our enemies.


Last week we learned that the US military has awarded an $80 million contract to a prominent Saudi financier who has been indicted by the US Justice Department.


Gaith Pharaon, whose company Attock Refinery Ltd which supplies jet fuel and is based in Pakistan, has been indicted by the Department of Justice and is wanted by the FBI in connection with his alleged role at the failed Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), and the CenTrust savings and loan scandal, which cost US tax payers $1.7 billion.


This is just one example of how Bush is wasting American tax dollars. I could point to dozens of other companies that Bush has squandered tax dollars on in the name of War, but I don’t have the space. But this one example is part of the reason why Bush has not left Iraq and declared the United States as winning the War.


Every reason that Bush gave leading up to his invasion has been either fulfilled or proven wrong. In fact about every six months since the Iraq invasion Bush has changed the reason for staying.


Fast forward to Bush’s last reason for staying, when the Iraqi government can stand up, we will stand down. Remember that line, Bush said once the Iraqi’s have enough trained security forces we would stand down. Bush can and has used that as the reason for us staying for the last eighteen months. This reason and this reason alone is now the only reason Bush has given to stay.


The United States has fulfilled every one of Bush’s reasons for going:


·         WMD’s, they had none

·         Regime Change, done

·         Formation of a new government, done

·         A new Constitution, done

·         Elections, done twice

·         Build up of new security forces, done


All of the reasons for staying have been met, there is no reason to stay, as long as we do stay, we will lose and Iraqi’s will lose. The only winners as long as we do stay are defense contractors and War Profiteers.


Last December Vice President Cheney said that by the middle of January 2009, it will be clear that “we have in fact achieved our objective in terms of having a self-governing Iraq that’s capable for the most part of defending themselves, a democracy in the heart of the Middle East, a nation that will be a positive force in influencing the world around it in the future.”


So, according to Cheney, we will win, when he and Bush leave office.


On that I agree.


David Phillips is a Vietnam Era Veteran, a Democratic Party Activist, and David is also the Publisher and Editor of the online political magazine YodasWorld.org

 E-Mail Questions or Comments: oneyoda@aol.com


You can also read David’s weekly column in the Santa Ynez Valley Journal or you can go to their web site: www.Syvjournal.com


Indicted Saudi Gets $80 Million US Contract

The Financier Has Been Indicted For His Alleged Role in a Scandal Costing US Taxpayers $1.7 billion


The US military has awarded an $80 million contract to a prominent Saudi financier who has been indicted by the US Justice Department. The contract to supply jet fuel to American bases in Afghanistan was awarded to the Attock Refinery Ltd, a Pakistani-based refinery owned by Gaith Pharaon. Pharaon is wanted in connection with his alleged role at the failed Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), and the CenTrust savings and loan scandal, which cost US tax payers $1.7 billion.

The Saudi businessman was also named in a 2002 French parliamentary report as having links to informal money transfer networks called hawala, known to be used by traders and terrorists, including Al Qaeda.

Interestingly, Pharaon was also an investor in President George W. Bush's first business venture, Arbusto Energy.

A spokesman for the FBI said Pharaon was not wanted in connection with the French report, but confirmed he was still sought by the US Justice Department.

"Ghaith Pharaon is an FBI fugitive indicted in both the BCCI and CENTRUST case," said Richard Kolko, a spokesman for the FBI. "If anyone has information on his location, they are requested to contact the FBI or the US Embassy."

The US military purchases jet fuel from Attock through the contractor Supreme Fuels, according to a US government website. The $80 million contract for 2008 was posted this week on a US government website . Attock supplied the US military more than $40 million in jet fuel in 2007, according to another spreadsheet posted on the site.

An official at Attock, who did not wish to be named, confirmed the refinery was supplying thousands of tons of jet fuel to the US base at Bagram Air Base every month.

The US military has not responded to requests for comment.

Pharaon could not be reached for comment.



Over the weekend, VA Secretary James Peake visited Alaska with Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK). While there, they met with Vietnam veteran John Guinn, who questioned the Secretary about the growing problem of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) amongst veterans.

Peake suggested that some concerns about PTSD are "overblown," adding that many of the brain injuries were "akin to what anyone who played football in their youth might have suffered."

On Saturday, Peake also said that many vets with PTSD may just need "a little counseling" and shouldn't "need the PTSD label their whole lives." Peake's comments are disturbing, especially in light of new numbers released by the Pentagon this week showing that the number of new PTSD cases "jumped by roughly 50 percent in 2007."

Additionally, as Brandon Friedman at VetVoice points out, Peake's comments are undermined by VA psychiatrist Jonathan Shay, who has stressed the seriousness of PSTD: "Combat PTSD is a war injury.

Veterans with combat PTSD are war wounded, carrying the burdens of sacrifice for the rest of us as surely as the amputees, the burned, the blind, and the paralyzed carry them."



The Pentagon, the White House and other conservatives have rallied against Sen. Jim Webb's (D-VA) 21st Century GI Bill, citing a recent CBO report that concluded that Webb's bill would reduce reenlistment rates by 16 percent.

In fact, the report says that the drop in reenlistment rate would be offset by a 16 percent increase in recruitment.

Slate has taken a closer look at the CBO's numbers and has noted that the military would in fact see several times as many new recruits as drop-outs because "the '16 percents'" in the CBO report "aren't necessarily equal." Slate explains: "the CBO estimate concluded that the 16 percent increase in recruitment would add an additional 30,000 recruits annually, while a 16 percent decline in re-enlistment would result in 7,000 fewer re-enlistments annually. In other words, new recruits would greatly outnumber soldiers who decline to re-enlist."



Last week, Jessica Yellin, a CNN journalist who covered the White House for ABC News in 2002 and 2003, said that during the lead-up to the Iraq war, "the press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives" to present the war in a way "that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president's high approval ratings."

She said that "the higher the president's approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives." "They would turn down stories that were more critical and try to put on pieces that were more positive, yes," Yellin added.

Last September, Katie Couric said she felt "corporate pressure" from NBC executives to "not rock the boat," particularly after a tough interview with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Former MSNBC pundit Phil Donahue, on last year's award-winning Bill Moyers documentary, said, "Our producers were instructed to have two conservatives for every liberal."

Salon's Glenn Greenwald emphasizes that, though there was in fact a vigorous debate about the war in 2002 and 2003, journalists "ignored it and silenced it because their jobs didn't permit them to highlight those questions."


“ Last Monday in May”


John T. Bird


We pause to remember those who died

With so much courage, so much pride

They’ll never come back, yet memories endure

To remind us of freedom: fragile, pure

We’re worthy of their sacrifice if we pause each day

Not just on the last Monday in May



The AP reported last week that Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has been issuing religious edicts, known as fatwas, "declaring that armed resistance against U.S.-led foreign troops is permissible -- a potentially significant shift by a key supporter of the Washington-backed government in Baghdad."

The edicts suggest that Sistani "seeks to sharpen his long-held opposition to American troops and counter the populist appeal of his main rivals, firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia."

The news of Sistani's shift is significant because he has been a "key stabilizing force in Iraq for refusing to support a full-scale Shi'ite uprising against U.S.-led forces or Sunnis."

The AP also reports that Sistani's position "underlines possible opposition to any agreement by Baghdad to allow a long-term U.S. military foothold in Iraq." The Wonk Room's Matt Duss adds, "I think it's possible that Sistani is responding to pressure from Sadrists who condemned him for his silence during the U.S. and Iraqi army siege of Sadr City."


A Few Good Soldiers: More members of the military turn against the terror trials.

By Emily Bazelon and Dahlia Lithwick

Legal commentators have argued for years about whether there might ever be legitimate trials for the so-called "enemy combatants" we're holding at Guantanamo Bay. Some say no. Others, like our friend Ben Wittes, argue that the evidence is inconclusive. They want to see what the Guantanamo military commissions produce before pronouncing them a failure.

We may never get there. Key actors are declining to play their part in a piece of theater designed to produce all convictions all the time. These refusals, affecting two trials this week, suggest that the whole apparatus—seven years and counting in the making—cannot ever be fixed. The trials are doomed, and they are doomed from the inside out.

We learned that the Pentagon has dropped charges against Mohammed al-Qahtani—the alleged 20th hijacker (or maybe the 21st or 22nd, since that title has gone to others before him). Along with five other "high value" detainees, al-Qahtani was facing capital charges at Guantanamo. The decision not to try him comes from the convening authority for the commissions, Susan Crawford. She didn't give an explanation for halting the prosecution, but, then, we don't really need one. As Phillip Carter notes elsewhere in Slate, it's been clear for a while that the evidence against al-Qahtani was torture (or near-torture) tainted, and prosecutors at Guantanamo had announced long ago that "what had been done to him would prevent him from ever being put on trial." In light of all that, you might wonder why he was one of the six trotted out for the big show trials in the first place.


Bush's Appeasement Malarkey

Boston Globe

When Bush hinted to the Israeli Knesset that Barack Obama was an appeaser for being willing to talk to Iran, President Bush broke an unwritten rule against partisan politicking on foreign shores. He also displayed confusion about his own policies - and about the cause of his calamitous foreign policy failures.

Perhaps Bush forgot that his ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, has been holding talks about Iraq with an Iranian counterpart. If so, there were Knesset members who could have reminded him. Israelis are intensely aware of the strategic gifts that Bush bestowed on Iran by toppling Saddam Hussein's regime and empowering Iran's Shi'ite proteges in Iraq. Indeed, few have done more to enable Iran than George W. Bush.

"Some seem to believe," Bush told the Knesset, "that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along." He was comparing unnamed appeasers of today to isolationists who thought they could negotiate with Nazi Germany and keep the United States out of World War II. Bush implied that Obama would be just that naive.

In reality, the likely Democratic nominee seems inclined toward a tough and prudent statecraft in the mold of Bush's father and his secretary of state, James Baker. It also seems to have slipped the younger Bush's mind that his own policy for keeping nuclear weapons out of Iran's grasp is to encourage diplomacy along with mild United Nations sanctions.

The diplomatic discussions have been conducted between Iran and key European allies, Britain, France, and Germany - with the explicit approval of Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Bush's secretary of defense, Robert Gates, also favors talking to Iran. Does Bush consider Rice and Gates appeasers, too?

On the matter of negotiating with radicals and terrorists, somebody on Bush's staff ought to remind him that among his few foreign policy achievements are the agreements his diplomats negotiated with Libya's Moammar Khadafy and Kim Jong Il of North Korea. Taking nuclear weapons out of the hands of those old terrorists has meant talking to them - and giving them some things they wanted badly.

Maybe the worst thing about Bush's Knesset attack on Obama is that it shows how oblivious Bush still is to his own failings. His unilateral military ventures, his disdain for international treaties and organizations, his refusal to negotiate with Iran when the regime in Tehran was eager to cut a deal with the United States - these mistakes produced the disasters that Obama or another successor will have to overcome.


Excerpt From An Interview Bush Gave To Mike Allen of Politico:


Allen: "Mr. President, you haven't been golfing in recent years. Is that related to Iraq?"


Bush: "Yes, it really is. I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander-in-chief playing golf. I feel I owe it to the families to be as -- to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal."


Allen: "Mr. President, was there a particular moment or incident that brought you to that decision, or how did you come to that?"


Bush: "No, I remember when de Mello, who was at the U.N., got killed in Baghdad as a result of these murderers taking this good man's life. And I was playing golf -- I think I was in central Texas -- and they pulled me off the golf course and I said, it's just not worth it anymore to do."


The Horror of it all, the weight of the World on his Shoulders, this Man made the ultimate Sacrifice....

He gave up Golf, it is Bush's way of saying, I feel your Pain....

As long as Americans are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan...I will Not Golf...So Help me God...

US military deaths in Iraq war at 4,101
Associated Press

As of Thursday, June 19, 2008, at least 4,101 members of the U.S. military have died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The figure includes eight military civilians killed in action. At least 3,340 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The AP count is two fewer than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Thursday at 10 a.m. EDT.

The British military has reported 176 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 21; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, seven; El Salvador, five; Slovakia, four; Latvia and Georgia, three each; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand, Romania, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, South Korea, one death each.


A new report from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has found that a "Pentagon program for providing workers' compensation for civilian employees in Iraq and Afghanistan has allowed defense contractors and insurance companies to gouge American taxpayers."

The report says that "insurance companies alone have collected nearly $600 million in excessive profits over the past five years" because defense contractors are allowed to negotiate their own insurance contracts.

Iraq war profiteer KBR "paid the insurance giant AIG $284 million for medical and disability coverage," but "because of the way KBR's contract is structured, this premium, along with an $8 million markup for KBR, gets billed to taxpayers."

Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) said, "Out of this amount, just $73 million actually goes to injured contractors, and AIG and KBR pocket over $100 million as profit." Asked if taxpayers were getting the most for their money, John Needham of the Government Accountability Office said, "It's not apparent they are."



On April 20, the New York Times published a blockbuster exposé revealing a secret Pentagon program that used retired military analysts to "generate favorable news coverage of the administration's wartime performance." Though the analysts often had "ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies" they assessed on air, their potential conflicts of interest were "hardly ever disclosed to the viewers."

Soon after the Times published its article, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) wrote letters to the heads of ABC News, CBS News, CNN News, Fox News Channel, and NBC News asking for "specifics about each outlet's policies surrounding the hiring and vetting of military analysts reporting on the Iraq War."

Politico reported last week that only ABC's David Westin and CNN’s Jim Walton have responded to DeLauro’s questions. In his response, Westin asserted that ABC News had "acted responsibly and has served its audience well."

Though the responses lacked genuine self-examination, it represented more than the other networks even attempted, proving that the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz was right when he said "the networks are ducking this one, big time."

In the week after the story broke, the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that "out of approximately 1,300 news stories, only two touched on the Pentagon analysts scoop -- both airing on PBS's 'NewsHour.'"



On Sunday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen told graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy that the military was ready to accept gay servicemembers if Congress repeals the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy.

"It's a law, and we follow it," Mullen said. Should the law change, the military will carry that out too," he said. Mullen's statement is a refreshing change from the rhetoric that has come from other Bush administration officials.

In March 2007, then-Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace stated publicly that homosexuality is "immoral" and that he supported DADT because "we should not condone immoral acts."

Mullen is also reflecting the growing rejection of DADT among the public and the military. A 2004 poll found that a majority of junior enlisted servicemembers believed gays and lesbians should be allowed to service openly in the military, up from 16 percent in 1992. The Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would lift the ban on openly gay servicemembers, currently has the support of 142 lawmakers


Is The United States Getting Closer To Invading Iran?

By: David Phillips

May 5, 2008


If the subject of Iran and the United States is starting to give you a sense of Déjà vu, it’s understandable because Bush and the Pentagon continue to thump their chests and bang their War drums for the world to see and hear.


A couple of weeks ago, the Pentagon announced for the entire world to know, that they have a “Plan” to attack more than 1200 targets in Iran. First, wow, the Pentagon has a “plan”, it’s good to hear that the Pentagon has a “plan”, because if we were to look at their past planning, specifically at what they did in Iraq, after Bush announced Mission Accomplished, you now know that the planning was not done, or if it was, it was just poor planning. And we have also learned that going into the sixth year of the Iraq war, the Pentagon has not even started a plan, to plan our exit, from Iraq.


Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Pentagon is planning for "potential military courses of action" against Iran, criticizing what he called the Tehran government’s "increasingly lethal and malign influence" in Iraq.


Adm. Mullen said a conflict with Iran would be "extremely stressing" but not impossible for U.S. forces, pointing specifically to reserve capabilities in the Navy and Air Force.


"It would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability," Mullen said at a Pentagon news conference.


So Adm. Mullen said going to War with Iran would be "extremely stressing", I guess it takes an Admiral to realize that. But he also says that we can, we can bomb them back to the Stone Age, but we really can’t do anything with ground forces, because they are currently being wasted in Iraq (his plan, my words).


Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is preparing a briefing soon to lay out detailed evidence of increased Iranian involvement in Iraq despite a promise to end that activity, Mullen said. The briefing will detail, for example, the discovery in Iraq of weapons that were very recently manufactured in Iran, he said.


Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in a speech at West Point a couple of weeks ago said, Iran "is hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons."  Gates went on to say, a war with Iran would be "disastrous on a number of levels. But the military option must be kept on the table given the destabilizing policies of the regime and the risks inherent in a future Iranian nuclear threat."




So here we are, we have Adm. Mullen the Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff saying he has a plan, and we have Sect. Gates saying, that it would be "disastrous on a number of levels.”


But everyone is first saying that we must first use all diplomatic avenues that we can, before jumping off into the deep end of another quagmire. Which, I am in favor of, the diplomacy that is, not the jumping.


But we have heard these words before, we heard them leading up to Bush’s folly that is Iraq. Bush used the UN, weapons inspections, received sanctions against Saddam, etc, etc, etc.


Well, I am guessing that you know what Bush would do; Bush is ready to jump into his cowboy truck, let out  a “Yee Haw”, and say, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead into Iran.


If Bush thinks that we can attack Iran even with our military stretched he will.


And you know I’m right.






David Phillips is a Vietnam Era Veteran, a Democratic Party Activist, and David is also the Publisher and Editor of the online political magazine YodasWorld.org

 E-Mail Questions or Comments: oneyoda@aol.com



You can also read David’s weekly column in the Santa Ynez Valley Journal or you can go to their web site: www.Syvjournal.com 



The Defense Department is delving deeper into the "news" business, "setting up a global network of foreign-language news websites, including an Arabic site for Iraqis, and hiring local journalists to write current events stories and other content that promote U.S. interests and counter insurgent messages."

USA Today reports that "neither the initiative nor the Iraqi site, www.Mawtani.com, has been disclosed publicly," and" at first glance" sites like Mawtani.com look like conventional news websites. Only by clicking on the "about" link can the reader learn that the site is sponsored by the Pentagon.

Journalism groups "say the sites are deceptive and easily could be mistaken for independent news." Local journalists are hired to write stories to promote U.S. aims while "military personnel or contractors review the stories to ensure they are consistent with those goals."

While the Pentagon has previously "paid for the placement of favorable stories in the Iraqi press," The New York Times recently revealed that the Defense Department has also used a group of "military analysts" in a "campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration's wartime performance."


CBS: Veteran Suicide Cover-Up Runs Deep

New information reveals that statistics related to veterans’ suicides was explicitly withheld from the public and from CBS News.

“People within the Veterans Administration who were withholding this information were not at the bottom of the totem pole, this went all the way to the top,” one veterans’ rights attorney told CBS chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian.

In one email, Keteyian reports that a VA media adviser wrote, “I don’t want to give CBS any more numbers on veteran suicides or attempts than they already have– It will only lead to more questions.”


John McCain Admits That The Iraq War Is About Oil

"My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East."

John McCain May 2, 2008 Town Hall Meeting in Denver CO.


The Army and Marines now accepting Felons

By: David Phillips

April 28, 2008


Both the US Army and US Marines are now allowing felons to join the ranks of our military. Over the past few years they both have lowered the minimum requirements to join by accepting those with a history of misdemeanors.


But now with the pressure to meet and maintain the troop levels of the Army and Marines, both have lowered their standards again, and are new accepting people who have been convicted of burglary, homicide, arson and rape.


The Army and the Marine Corps recruited considerably more felons into their ranks in 2007 than in 2006, according to data released two weeks ago by a House committee.


The number of waivers issued to active-duty Army recruits with felony convictions jumped to 511 in 2007, from 249 in 2006. Marine recruits with felony convictions rose to 350 from 208.


Overall, the numbers represent less than 1 percent of the 115,000 new enlistments last year in the active-duty Army and Marine Corps.


While our all volunteer military has only allowed the best of the best to join in the past, the military is now faced with the reality of two wars, a fighting force that is stretched to the breaking point and absolutely no end in sight. In fact, the future may hold even more war fronts to be opened such as Iran.


While the number of felons being accepted is low in comparison to the overall number, this trend raises questions about the military’s ability to attract quality recruits at a time when it’s trying to increase enlistment.


The Army, which has suffered more dead and wounded than any other branch of the military, faces an especially difficult challenge in attracting qualified men and women.


“It raises concerns,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who is chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which requested the information on felony waivers from the Department of Defense. “An increase in the recruitment of individuals with criminal records is a result of the strains put on the military by the Iraq war and may be undermining our military readiness.”


A Defense Dept. spokesman’s Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder of the Air Force said, dispensations are granted only after a careful review of any applicant’s record and the circumstances surrounding the charge or conviction. The charges often occurred when the recruits were juveniles and were less serious than they appeared initially.


Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington said, "low unemployment, a protracted War on Terror, a decline in propensity to serve," and the growing reluctance of parents, teachers and other adults to recommend that young people go into the military have made recruiting a challenge.


According to the Army, 18 percent of its recruits needed conduct waivers in the fiscal year ending last Sept. 30, compared with 15 percent in the previous 12-month period.


"We are growing the Army fast, and there are some waivers; we know that," said Army Lt. Gen. James D. Thurman, deputy chief of staff for operations. "It hasn't alarmed us yet."


With the Army and Marines scraping the bottom of the barrel for recruits, and with Bush’s two wars, and a third possible front in Iran, it is very possible that in the foreseeable future, we will see the Selective Service system, the agency responsible for a military draft, put back into action.


Bush has broken the Military, and like all the other things that Bush has broken in our country, it will be the next President who has to fix everything, because the Buck has never stopped at Bush’s desk.


You’ve done a heck of a job Bushy.


David Phillips is a Vietnam Era Veteran, a Democratic Party Activist, and David is also the Publisher and Editor of the online political magazine YodasWorld.org

 E-Mail Questions or Comments: oneyoda@aol.com


You can also read David’s weekly column in the Santa Ynez Valley Journal or you can go to their web site: www.Syvjournal.com


Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand

In the summer of 2005, the Bush administration confronted a fresh wave of criticism over Guantánamo Bay. The detention center had just been branded “the gulag of our times” by Amnesty International, there were new allegations of abuse from United Nations human rights experts and calls were mounting for its closure.

The administration’s communications experts responded swiftly. Early one Friday morning, they put a group of retired military officers on one of the jets normally used by Vice President Dick Cheney and flew them to Cuba for a carefully orchestrated tour of Guantánamo.

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.

Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.



In attempts to rally the country around a militant response to terrorism and terrorists, conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News' Sean Hannity often refer to the ideology that Muslim terrorists use to justify violence as "Islamofascism."

Right-wing talker David Horowitz has even organized "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" on college campuses to highlight the so-called "global threat from Islamo-Fascism, and to protest the oppression of women in Islam."

President Bush has used the term on a number of occasions, saying terrorists "try to spread their jihadist message -- a message I call ... Islamic radicalism, Islamic fascism."

Nearly two years ago, Muslim leaders in the United States spoke out, saying such language "offends the vast majority of moderate Muslims." Now, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is finally catching up. A new DHS report has concluded that "such words may actually boost support for radicals among Arab and Muslim audiences by giving them a veneer of religious credibility or by causing offense to moderates."

Federal agencies are "telling their people not to describe Islamic extremists as 'jihadists' or 'mujahedeen.'" "Lingo like 'Islamo-fascism' is out too," the AP notes.



Last week, President Bush nominated Army General David Petraeus, commander of multinational forces in Iraq (MNF-I), to lead Central Command (Centcom), the post responsible for U.S. military operations stretching from Kazakhstan, through the Middle East, and to the Horn of Africa.

Petraeus's number two in Iraq, Lt. Gen Ray Odierno, will take over command of MNF-I, thus elevating the status of the two men "most closely associated with President Bush's current strategy in Iraq."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates was asked if the promotions indicate that the United States will "stay the course" in Iraq. "Staying that course is not a bad idea," Gates said, citing "the security gains that had been achieved under General Petraeus's command."

Petraeus replaces Adm. William Fallon, who resigned last month over disagreements with the Bush administration's Iraq-centric strategy for the region. But Petraeus's new position will force him to answer a question he has previously refused to address: Does fighting in Iraq make the United States safer? "The big question of this appointment, therefore, is whether Petraeus's views will change as a result of wider responsibilities."


Carter Insist Hamas Meeting Brought Results

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Former US president Jimmy Carter insisted Monday his recent meetings with leaders of the radical Islamic group Hamas had yielded specific results, hitting back at criticism from Palestinian and Israeli officials.

"Through more official consultations with these outlawed leaders, it may yet be possible to revive and expedite the stalemated peace talks between Israel and its neighbors," Carter wrote in an opinion piece for The New York Times.

Earlier this month, Carter held two meetings in Damascus with exiled Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal, angering both Israel and the United States, who consider the movement a terror group despite its victory in 2006 Palestinian elections.

Since then, both Palestinian and Israeli officials have tried to downplay the importance of the meetings.

But Carter wrote he had received assurances that Hamas would accept any agreement negotiated by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel "provided it is approved either in a Palestinian referendum or by an elected government."

He added: "When the time comes, Hamas will accept the possibility of forming a nonpartisan professional government of technocrats to govern until the next elections can be held.

"Hamas will also disband its militia in Gaza if a nonpartisan professional security force can be formed."

Hamas would also permit Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured by Palestinian militants in 2006, to send a letter to his parents, Carter added.

If Israel agreed to a list of prisoners to be exchanged, and the first group was released, Corporal Shalit would be sent to Egypt, pending the final releases, Carter added.

He said Hamas would also accept a mutual ceasefire in Gaza, with the expectation that this would later include the West Bank, and international control of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

During Carters so called peace talks with the Terrorist organization Hamas, rockets continued to rain down on Israel.


US Sees Risk Of Terrorism For China Olympics
Associated Press

The State Department says terrorists may want to disrupt this summer's Olympics in China and warned of a heightened risk of terrorist attacks there in the coming months.

In a travel alert Friday, the department said that despite increased Chinese security measures, Americans who plan to attend the Games or who live in China should use caution at all times, especially in large crowds.

"There is a heightened risk that extremist groups will conduct terrorist acts within China in the near future," the alert said. "In light of these security concerns, U.S. citizens traveling in China are advised to use caution and to be alert to their surroundings at all times, including at hotels, in restaurants, on public transportation and where there are demonstrations and other large-scale public gatherings.

"American citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security," it said.

The alert was issued shortly after the international police organization Interpol issued a similar warning, saying that violence surrounding the games which begin in August is a real possibility.

Interpol chief Ronald Noble said in a statement earlier Friday that potential attacks could involve efforts to block transportation routes, interfere with competition, assault athletes or destroy property during the Olympics.

Chinese officials have said that terrorism is the biggest threat to the Aug. 8-24 Olympic Games and has called for closer international cooperation to prevent possible incidents.

"When thwarted attacks are coupled with the recent violent protests viewed by us all worldwide, prudence requires us to recognize the real possibility that groups and individuals could carry on their protests at the actual Games," said Noble, who spoke at an international security conference.

China's generally secretive police agencies have sought advice on Olympic security from the United States, Germany, Israel and other foreign governments.


Iran Says Iraq Situation Makes U.S. Attack Unlikely

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran said on Sunday a "disastrous situation" facing the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan coupled with Washington's domestic issues made any U.S. attack on the Islamic Republic unlikely.

The Foreign Ministry comments came two days after the U.S. Navy said a cargo ship hired by the U.S. military fired warning shots at approaching boats in the Gulf, underscoring tension in an area vital to world oil shipments, and driving up crude prices.

"We think it would be unlikely the Americans would take the decision to get themselves into a new fiasco, the consequences of which they themselves have acknowledged would be painful for the region and the world," spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said.

"We hope those who think better in America view the realities more closely and manage to correct such approaches," he told a news conference.

Don't they know already that if they say, Bush can't do something, he perceives it as a challenge, and that he will try to prove that he can?



Douglas Feith, former Undersecretary of Defense and an architect of the Iraq war, appeared on the Brian Lehrer radio show on Tuesday and claimed that the American people "weren't told" the war would be easy "by the administration.

Absolutely not." When Lehrer played a 2003 clip of Vice President Dick Cheney claiming U.S. troops would "be greeted as liberators," Feith dismissed it as "one of the more optimistic comments" but claimed that others, "especially" former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, "were a lot more reserved than that."

In fact, the entire administration and its allies declared repeatedly the war would be quick and painless, including Rumsfeld, who said the Iraqi people "will be enormously relieved and liberated" and claimed the war could last "six days, six weeks, I doubt six months."

Cheney said the war would take "weeks rather than months," and then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said that the U.S. will not "need to maintain a military presence in Iraq as was the case in Europe" after World War II.


Petraeus and Crocker go to Washington

By: David Phillips

April 14, 2008


This past week General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker paid homage with their biannual hearing before Congress on the progress of Bush’s War in Iraq.


If you recall back in January of 2007 President Bush announced that he was sending an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq, which turned into more than 30,000 troops, in what Bush called “The Surge”.


Bush said the surge was intended to quell the violence to allow the Iraqi government “breathing room” to govern and enact legislation that Bush outlined as benchmarks. Bush set eighteen benchmarks for the surge, at last Septembers hearings only three of the eighteen benchmarks had been reached.


In March of 2007 Gen. Petraeus said that at the end of July of that year there would be a 45 day period to re-evaluate where things stand, which would be followed up by a September 2007 congressional hearings by Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker.


Fast forward to April 2008, Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker again go before Congress with updates on how things are going in Iraq.


An excerpt from Gen. Petraeus’s testimony last week:


“Since Ambassador Crocker and I appeared before you seven months ago, there has been significant but uneven security progress in Iraq. Since September, levels of violence and civilian deaths have been reduced substantially, al-Qaida-Iraq and a number of other extremist elements have been dealt serious blows, the capabilities of Iraqi Security Force elements have grown, and there has been noteworthy involvement of local Iraqis in local security.”


“Nonetheless, the situation in certain areas is still unsatisfactory and innumerable challenges remain. Moreover, as events in the past two weeks have reminded us and as I have repeatedly cautioned, the progress made since last spring is fragile and reversible. Still, security in Iraq is better than it was when Ambassador Crocker and I reported to you last September, and it is significantly better than it was 15 months ago when Iraq was on the brink of civil war and the decision was made to deploy additional US forces to Iraq.”


When Gen. Petraeus was questioned about when we might actually be able to withdraw troops beyond the 20,000 troops that Bush just announced, he said “that at the end of July of 2008, this year, there would have a 45 day waiting period to re-evaluate where we stand.”


I have a strong sense of Déjà vu.


A couple of things that were notably missing from these hearings: there was no longer any talk of benchmarks, and when Gen. Petraeus was question about eventually leaving Iraq, we learned that he doesn’t even have a plan, to start the plan, that would be used for a withdrawal at anytime in the future.


After the hearings Bush made a speech and announced that troop deployments would change from fifteen month deployments to twelve month deployments starting August 1, 2008. Those that are there now or who will be deployed up to that date will have fifteen month deployments.


Bush also announced that on the advice of Gen. Petraeus, no more troops will leave Iraq after July of this year, which will leave at least 140,000 troops in Iraq when the next President takes office in 276 days.




David Phillips is a Vietnam Era Veteran, a Democratic Party Activist, and David is also the Publisher and Editor of the online political magazine YodasWorld.org

 E-Mail Questions or Comments: oneyoda@aol.com



You can also read David’s weekly column in the Santa Ynez Valley Journal or you can go to their web site: www.Syvjournal.com



Testifying to lawmakers on Capitol Hill this week, Gen. David Petraeus, commanding general of Multi-National Force in Iraq, recommended that this July, the United States "pause" the draw down of U.S. troops in Iraq for at least 45 days to assess the security situation there.

President Bush has now reportedly accepted that recommendation. However, the Associated Press reports that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "disagreed with Petraeus' proposal" to delay U.S. troop withdrawals, "citing the growing capabilities of Iraq's own security forces."

According to a "senior government adviser," Maliki "told President Bush during a 20-minute telephone conversation" last week "that Iraqi security forces are capable of carrying out their duties and U.S. troops should be pulled out as the situation permits."

Indeed, Bush has previously indicated his enthusiasm for Maliki's leadership and trust in his judgement saying he had seen "the strength of his character," that Maliki is a "strong leader," and a "good guy" with "deep determination." Just last year, Bush said that U.S. troops are in Iraq "at the invitation of the Iraqi government," adding, "If they were to say, leave, we would leave."



Last September, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that it was his "hope" that there would be "about 100,000" U.S. troops in Iraq by the time the next president takes office. Last week during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) noted what Gates had said last year and asked: "Do you still have that hope?" "No, sir," Gates replied.

Gates later said -- with somewhat of a smirk -- that hoping is "one of the benefits of being Secretary of Defense." Also during the hearing, Gates differed with President Bush and Gen. David Petraeus on troop levels in Iraq, the LA Times notes. In accepting Petraeus's recommendation to halt troop drawdown’s indefinitely this July, Bush said he would give Petraeus "all the time he needs" to decide on future troop cuts. But Gates "told a Senate hearing that he hoped to resume troop reductions soon after a 'brief' 45-day pause this summer."


1,300 Iraqi Troops, Police Dismissed
Associated Press

The Iraqi government has dismissed about 1,300 soldiers and policemen who deserted or refused to fight during last month's offensive against Shiite militias and criminal gangs in Basra, officials said Sunday.

Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said 921 police and soldiers were fired in Basra. They included 37 senior police officers ranging in rank from lieutenant colonel to brigadier general.

The others were dismissed in Kut, one of the Shiite cities where the fight had spread.

Last month, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the security forces to confront armed groups in Basra, Iraq's second largest city.

But they met fierce resistance and the attack quickly ground to a halt as fighting flared across the Shiite south and Baghdad.

Since then, government officials have revealed that about 1,000 members of the security forces — including an entire infantry battalion — had mutinied, on some cases handing over vehicles and weapons to the militias.

The majority of Iraqi soldiers and police are Shiites.

Speaking in Basra, Khalaf said those dismissed included 421 police officers and 500 soldiers who had not returned to duty in the southern port city and would be tried by military courts.

"Some of them were sympathetic with these lawbreakers, some refused to (go into) battle for political or national or sectarian or religious reasons," Khalaf said.

But he said that those who returned in coming days and could prove they had been prevented from doing so by the militias would be reinstated.

In Kut, a senior police officer said 400 local policemen have been sacked for refusing orders to combat the militias, including the Mahdi Army of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the Interior Ministry in Baghdad had ordered the policemen removed from duty on Saturday.

Although fighting in Basra eased in late March, security operations are continuing.

Fighting in Baghdad's Sadr City, a stronghold of al-Sadr's militia, has been ongoing for the past two weeks. Fresh clashes were reported Sunday and at least two rockets or mortar rounds were fired at the capital's Green Zone, which houses diplomatic missions and much of Iraq's government.

A senior military commander said Sunday that Iraqi forces in Basra were expanding their sweep of six neighborhoods, with army and police cordoning off the areas while searching for illegal weapons, ammunition and criminal elements.

Lt. Gen. Mohan al-Fireji said the operation, which started on Saturday, had netted significant amounts of weapons, roadside bombs and drugs. He said a large number of suspects had been detained, but he provided no figures.

Al-Sadr, who is believed to be in Iran, repeated on Saturday his demand for American soldiers to leave the country and urged his fighters not to target fellow Iraqis "unless they are helping the (U.S.) occupation."

Despite the strident rhetoric, however, there were signs that al-Sadr was trying to calm his militia to avoid all-out war with the Americans. Al-Sadr is also under pressure from al-Maliki, also a Shiite, to disband the Mahdi Army or face a ban from politics.

Meanwhile, an Apache helicopter accidentally destroyed a U.S. Humvee in eastern Baghdad when a Hellfire missile missed its target and struck the armored vehicle instead, the military said Sunday.

Two U.S. soldiers and three Iraqi civilians were injured in the incident on Saturday, the statement said.


Democrat Blames Weak Economy On Iraq War
Associated Press

The growing cost to the United States of fighting the war in Iraq "is not only linked to our economic skid, but is a leading cause of it," a Democratic congressman said Saturday.

Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky linked the costly, unpopular war with the growing economic troubles — some say recession — in this country.

Yarmuth said in the Democrats' weekly radio address that the testimony this week of Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker about the Iraq war served as reminder of the billions of dollars being poured into Iraq as the U.S. economy struggles.

"General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker failed to offer a plan to change direction in Iraq and redeploy our troops," Yarmuth said. "Instead, they offered more of the same, with U.S. troops and taxpayers paying the price."

The U.S. government has spent "more than half-a-trillion dollars" in support of the war effort, while that money could be spent on pressing needs in this country, he said.

In February, an Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that pulling out of Iraq was the most named remedy for fixing U.S. economic problems.

Forty-eight percent of those surveyed said a withdrawal would help the country's economic problems "a great deal" and 20 percent more said it would help somewhat. Some 43 percent said increasing government spending on health care, education and housing programs would help a great deal; 36 percent named cutting taxes.

"Across America, our roads and bridges are crumbling and are in desperate need of repair, yet taxpayer dollars are being squandered on an Iraqi government that is riddled with waste, fraud and corruption," Yarmuth said.

He said "the cost of one month in Iraq could extend the Children's Health Insurance Program, which the president vetoed, to 10 million children of working families for a full year."

He noted that Congress has passed an economic stimulus package to send millions of Americans up to $1,200 that could provide a boost to the economy.

But Yarmuth isn't satisfied.

"We know we must do more," he said, adding that Democrats are pushing for a second economic stimulus package to aid workers, their families and businesses.

The White House said the first economic stimulus package should be given a chance to work before a second is passed.


81 percent Americans say US on wrong track: Survey

Washington, April 4 (DPA) The US public is in the dumps about the direction of the country and its economy, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll released Friday.

The survey found that 81 per of the respondents believed 'things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track,' an increase from 69 percent in 2007 and 35 per cent in 2002.

Two-thirds of the 1,368 respondents said they thought the economy was already in a recession.

Worry about a recession was amplified earlier this week when Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, said for the first time publicly that a recession was 'possible.' Other analysts and economists have been using the word for more than a month.

The first official figures for the first quarter's gross domestic product won't be released until later this month.

At the heart of the economic woes is the mortgage credit crisis and a 75 percent increase in bank foreclosures in 2007 over 2006, a number that is climbing even more rapidly this year.

With the glut of homes on the market and declining home prices, consumers are tightening their belts as rising foreclosures have put investors at risk. The effect has rippled through the economy and prompted the US central bank to start bailing out Wall Street investors.

The gloomy public mood is likely to drag down the chances for election of the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, in November, analysts said.


US State Department Renews Blackwater Contract For Now; Probe Of Shooting Continues
AP Diplomatic Writer

WASHINGTON - The U.S. State Department said it will renew Blackwater USA's license to protect diplomats in Baghdad for one year, but a final decision is pending whether the private security company will keep the job.

A top State department official said Friday that because the FBI is investigating last year's fatal shooting of Baghdad civilians, there is no justification now to pull the contract when it comes due in May. Blackwater has a five-year deal to provide personal protection for diplomats, which is reauthorized each year.

The State Department uses Blackwater to guard diplomats in Baghdad, where the sprawling U.S. Embassy is headquartered. The private guards act as bodyguards and armed drivers, escorting government officials when they go outside the fortified Green Zone.

Iraqis were outraged over a Sept. 16 shooting in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed in a Baghdad square. Blackwater said its guards were protecting diplomats under attack when they opened fire. Iraqi investigators concluded the shooting was unprovoked.

An FBI probe began in November. Prosecutors want to know whether Blackwater contractors used excessive force or violated any laws during the shooting.

Prosecutors have questioned more than 30 witnesses here and in Iraq, but have announced no conclusions. One possibility is that individual contractors could be indicted; another is that the company could be indicted; or the FBI could conclude that no crime was committed.

The company also is the target of an unrelated investigation into whether its contractors smuggled weapons into Iraq. And lawmakers have asked for an investigation into whether Blackwater violated tax laws by classifying employees as independent contractors. The company says the claim is groundless.


Report On U.S. Policy In Iraq:  Political Development Could Take Five To Ten Years

Washington Post

WASHINGTON —A new assessment of U.S. policy in Iraq by the same experts who advised the original Iraq Study Group concludes that political progress is "so slow, halting and superficial" and political fragmentation "so pronounced" that the United States is no closer to being able to leave Iraq than it was a year ago.

The experts were reassembled by the U.S. Institute of Peace, which convened the congressionally mandated Iraq Study Group, a high-level panel that assessed U.S. policy in Iraq and offered recommendations in 2006. The new report predicts that lasting political development could take five to 10 years of "full, unconditional commitment" to Iraq, but also cautions that future progress may not be worth the "massive" human and financial costs to the United States.

Some recent favorable developments in Iraq come from factors "that are outside U.S. control" and susceptible to rapid change, the report said, including the cease-fire by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the new Sunni Awakening councils made up of former insurgents and tribal leaders opposed to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Should the United States opt to remain fully engaged in Iraq, the new report argues, a greater emphasis on political and economic development at the local level is critical, as the Maliki government, elected in 2005, has failed to connect with its own people.

The rise of local leaders and parties could then create the circumstances for genuine reconciliation, the report says.

The political, military and intelligence experts, some of whom have served in government, also urge consideration of a "grand bargain" to bring all Iraqi factions together to discuss the core disputes, including the distribution of power, federalism and constitutional revisions.

The report outlines two options should Washington seek to reduce its Iraq commitment. The first option would peg U.S. engagement to Iraq's agreement to decentralize power to its provinces, leaving the Baghdad government in charge of national defense and revenue distribution only. If Iraq fails to act, however, Washington should "cut its losses" and work out a withdrawal schedule; if Iraq complies, the United States should maintain a reduced troop presence to train the army and police.

The second option is unconditional redeployment of all U.S. forces in Iraq, possibly beginning in January and completed by 2011. At the same time, however, Washington would build an "enhanced" military presence in the region and stronger regional alliances, while providing political support for the Baghdad government.


Cheney On Two-Thirds Of The American Public Opposing The Iraq War: ‘So?’

On the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, ABC’s Good Morning America aired an interview with Vice President Cheney on the war. During the segment, Cheney flatly told White House correspondent Martha Raddatz that he doesn’t care about the American public’s views on the war:

CHENEY: On the security front, I think there’s a general consensus that we’ve made major progress, that the surge has worked. That’s been a major success.

RADDATZ: Two-third of Americans say it’s not worth fighting.


RADDATZ So? You don’t care what the American :people think?

CHENEY: No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.



Weapons Cost Overruns
With domestic programs being cut, Pentagon spending and delays are slap in the face

A new federal audit shows that the Defense Department’s weapons acquisitions are, for the sixth year in a row, billions over budget and years behind schedule.

The report released Monday by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, shows that the $1.6 trillion the government has spent on ships, aircraft, weapons systems and satellites is $295 billion over budget. And the delivery of these items is two years behind, on average, the GAO says.

For example, the GAO cites the Navy’s $5.2 billion Littoral Combat Ship project. The cost of the first two ships is expected to be more than twice the $472 million budgeted.

Such cost overruns and delivery delays have been documented in the GAO’s analyses of selected weapons acquisitions in each of the past six years. Yet, GAO auditors say, the Defense Department has yet to make marked improvements.

“It’s not getting better by any means,” Michael Sullivan, director of the GAO’s acquisition and sourcing team, told The Washington Post. In fact, Sullivan said, the process is “taking longer and costing more.” Part of the problem is that there are more projects than there is money, Sullivan said. And many of the technologies are not ready to go into production, and the systems take too long to design, develop and produce.

Certainly, our military needs the best equipment and weapons the nation can provide. But the Pentagon should get a handle on its spending by working harder to stay within its budget and setting budget projections that are more realistic.



USA Today reports that "the Army Reserve has reversed a serious recruiting drought by significantly increasing the amount of cash bonuses it pays to recruit and keep soldiers to bolster ranks thinned by five years of war in Iraq."

In 2006, the Army Reserve paid $215 million in recruitment and retention bonuses but still fell "5 percent short of its recruiting goal." However, the following year, bonuses shot up 46 percent to $315 million making the Army Reserve "one of four Reserve components that hit or exceeded its 2007 recruiting and retention goals."

But "the ever-increasing bonuses cannot be sustained," said Center for Strategic and International Studies Senior Fellow and former Pentagon official Christine Wormuth. She added, "Pretty soon we won't be able to afford the force" and that "prospect of repeated deployments -- 'the Iraq effect' -- means that finding and keeping good soldiers will continue to be tough for the Reserve."



The administration has gone on a desperate PR blitz to label renewed violence in Iraq as "byproduct of the success of the surge."

It is "what critics have wanted to see," said White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, calling it a struggle led by Iraqi security forces. "The State Department has instructed all personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad not to leave reinforced structures due to incoming insurgent rocket fire that has killed two American government workers this week."

As rockets rain down on the Green Zone and two American soldiers died -- Bush cast the activity as a "very positive moment" in an interview with the Times of London. "It was a very positive moment in the development of a sovereign nation that is willing to take on elements that believe they are beyond the law," the President said.

It's hard to see what Bush sees as positive. The explosion that burst an oil pipeline in Basra? Tens of thousands of Shiite protesters in Baghdad? A kidnapped "civilian spokesman for the Baghdad security operation?"

In reality, the violence is undoing the very goals of Bush's surge. Iraqi forces aren't trying to restore "the law," as Bush thinks, but are trying to do the opposite -- suppress its political enemies before the October elections, historian Reidar Vissar noted. Most ironically, if U.S.-backed efforts "succeed," Iran's hand in Iraq will be strengthened.

The Kingdom ’Braces For Nuclear War’
March 30, 2008

Saudi Arabia is reportedly preparing to counter any ’radioactive hazards’ which may result from a US strike on Iran’s nuclear plants.

Popular government-guided Saudi newspaper Okaz recently reported that the Saudi Shura Council approved of nuclear fallout preparation plans only a day after US Vice President Dick Cheney met with the Kingdom’s high ranking officials, including King Abdullah.

As a result of the Shura ruling, the Saudi government will start the implementation of ’national plans to deal with any sudden nuclear and radioactive hazards that may affect the Kingdom following expert warnings of possible attacks on Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactors’.

As the details of Cheney’s recent discussions with his Arab allies remain unclear, pundits have begun to question the timing of the drastic measure by the Shura.

Analysts claim the Bush administration had long rattled sabers with Iran over its nuclear program and is now informing its Arab allies of a potential war, in turn, allowing them to take precautionary measures.

With the sudden resignation of Admiral William Fallon, a high-ranking US military official who was a fierce critic of White House war rhetoric against Iran, and reports of the recent deployment of a US nuclear submarine in the Persian Gulf; there is speculation that Washington is moving forward with yet another war plan in the oil-rich Middle East.

It’s only 4000

By: David Phillips

March 22, 2008


While listening to the morning show on the radio of the local right wing talking heads on KXNT 840 AM in Las Vegas, NV this morning, Casey Hendrickson spoke of the nearly 4000 dead Americans who have been killed in Iraq.


He kept repeating,” It’s only 4000.” They did not say its 4000 dead Americans; they just kept repeating “it’s only 4000.” They continued on to illustrate how little and insignificant the number is when its compared to people who die on our highways every year or compared to the number of people who have died in previous wars.


It’s only 4000, they kept saying it over and over as if it was some justification that it’s not a big deal. In fact his side kick, Heather Kydd, said that it was no big deal.


33 American soldiers from Nevada have been killed in Bush’s wars, some of their family members certainly heard the words that these two spewed onto the air waves. I would like them both to say to these family members, that it was only 33, much less to have them say that to the family members of their “It’s only 4000” mantra.


Hendrickson says he is ex-military, he said that those who are former military, would understand on how insignificant 4000 dead Americans are from a War that has be going for so long.


Bullshit, I am ex-military and 4000 dead Americans are NOT insignificant.


Hendrickson is nothing more than apologist for the republicans and GW Bush to help smooth over all the lies and misdirection’s that we have seen from the Bush administration. Hendrickson is just like all the other extreme right wing talking heads that permeate right wing talk radio.


The right wing talking heads in this country, on most any given day will ALL be spewing the same rhetoric and talking points as if they are orchestrated by one conductor.


Senator Hillary Clinton in the past has spoken of a “Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.”


Conspiracies are very hard to prove, but proving that all right wing talking heads are receiving their marching orders and talking points from a single source, is not. All one has to do is monitor a few stations for a day or two to see that they all say the same thing in unison.


But, for Casey Hendrickson to say “Its only 4000”, to justify the number as to show it as inconsequential, is an injustice to all soldiers both past and present, as well as cowardly and Un-American.


David Phillips is a Vietnam Era Veteran, a Democratic Party Activist, and David is also the Publisher and Editor of the online political magazine YodasWorld.org

 E-Mail Questions or Comments: oneyoda@aol.com


You can also read David’s weekly column in the Santa Ynez Valley Journal or you can go to their web site: www.Syvjournal.com


McCain The Maverick Makes It Up

This week during a trip to the Middle East, McCain severely undermined his frequent claims to be "the one best to address a national security crisis" by repeatedly stating that Iran was supporting al Qaeda in Iraq. McCain claimed that Iranian operatives were "taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back." He insisted that it was "common knowledge...that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and coming back into Iraq from Iran."

McCain's confusion over Iran and al Qaeda puts him in lockstep with the rest of the Bush administration. As the Washington Post notes, "The last five years have produced ample evidence that American leaders were woefully ill-informed about the country they came to rescue." The Post points to a 2002 op-ed by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that erroneously pointed to a "Sunni majority" in Iraq, despite the fact that Sunnis make up only 15-20 percent of the population. Iraq war architect Bill Kristol famously insisted in April 2003 that "there's almost no evidence" of a conflict between Sunni and Shiite in Iraq "at all," claiming "Iraq's always been very secular."

According to author George Packer, Iraqi exiles meeting with President Bush before the war "spent a good portion of the time explaining to the president that there are two kinds of Arabs in Iraq, Sunnis and Shiites." At first, the McCain campaign claimed the senator simply "misspoke." Now the campaign is embracing the remarks, leaving voters all the more unsure about McCain's understanding of foreign policy.


Though Iran is 90 percent Shiite and al Qaeda is a Sunni group, it is not inconceivable that some aspects of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard are supporting some aspects of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), or that AQI members have ever crossed the border into Iran. However, there is simply no evidence to support McCain's claim that Iran is "training" AQI in Iran.

Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno stated last July, "We don't see any evidence, significant evidence, that shows that Iranian-controlled groups that are funding and providing arms to Shi’a extremists are directly related to al Qaeda." In a CNN interview on Wednesday, Gen. David Petraeus backed away from CNN's Kyra Phillips's statement that "it stands firm that Iran is funneling weapons and supporting al Qaeda." Petraeus said, "We're concerned very much about the lethal accelerants...that do come from Iran," but also emphasized that "the flow of foreign fighters and of suicide bombers that help al Qaeda typically is through Syria."

"The point is that John McCain’s misstatement is typical of conservatives, who have, through intentionally deceptive language, constantly tried to elide the differences between groups with different goals and ideologies in order to create the illusion of a united Islamofascist enemy."


After press coverage of McCain's gaffe, his campaign issued a statement claiming the senator "misspoke and immediately corrected himself." In an interview, McCain himself insisted that he "corrected it immediately," and that he "just simply misspoke."

However, as video proves, it was not until Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) whispered a correction in his ear that McCain corrected his mistake. Moreover, McCain conflated Iran and al Qaeda at least three times, not including another time last month -- hardly a case of "misspeaking."

By Thursday the McCain campaign had reversed course, insisting McCain did not misspeak at all. McCain advisor Max Boot asked Thursday, "What gaffe?" and insisted, "There is copious evidence of Iran supplying and otherwise assisting Al Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni terrorist groups (including Al Qaeda central)."

Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s senior foreign policy adviser, told the New York Sun, "There is ample documentation that Iran has provided many different forms of support to Sunni extremists, including Al Qaeda as well as Shi’ia extremists in Iraq. It would require a willing suspension of disbelief to deny Iran supports Al Qaeda in Iraq."


Just as McCain's campaign has flip-flopped on the veracity of his comments, the right-wing blogosphere has denied that McCain made any error, insisting "the truth" is that "al Qaeda has been receiving funding, training, and equipment from Iran."

Weekly Standard blogger Thomas Joscelyn wrote that McCain "shouldn't have taken his statement back," and National Review's Michael Ledeen lamented that the senator "got spooked." However, when pressed for evidence of the Iran-AQI tie, many of these right-wingers link back to a single New York Sun article from early 2007 claiming that a division of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard "is working with individuals affiliated with Al Qaeda in Iraq" -- a far cry from McCain's assertion that Iran was "training" AQI.

Like other conservatives, Eli Lake, the author of the Sun piece, dramatically simplifies the questions involved. "Listen this is not that hard a concept," he writes. "Al Qaeda is a terror cartel. Iran is also a terror cartel." Apparently that's a strong enough argument to satisfy the right.



On Feb. 29, President Bush issued an executive order revamping the President's Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB), "a nonpartisan body offering the President objective, expert advice on the conduct of U.S. foreign intelligence."

Historically, the PIAB has provided checks on administration's intelligence gathering. Nevertheless, the President has been determined to stack the board with his loyal Bushies. Federal government employees are barred from serving on the board.

But on Tuesday, Bush announced that he was appointing Gen. Peter Pace, who served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, to the PIAB. Pace has been a consistent defender of the Bush administration's failed policies, insisting in 2006 that everything in Iraq is "going very, very well from everything you look at" and claiming that Rumsfeld "leads in a way that the good Lord tells him is best for our country."

Earlier this month, Bush also appointed his former homeland security adviser Fran Townsend to the board. Townsend was a key player in broadening the administration's surveillance powers and vocally supported "special methods" of interrogation.



Last week, Vice President Dick Cheney asserted that it is "pretty clear" there was a connection between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Al Qaeda (despite all available evidence) and that the Iraq war has been a "successful endeavor."

Moreover, when confronted with the fact that a majority of Americans think the war was not worth fighting, Cheney dismissively replied, "So?"

Yesterday, White House press secretary Dana Perino defended Cheney's remarks, saying that Americans "had input" on the war in 2004: "The American people have input every four years, and that’s the way our system is set up."

While Perino clearly suggested that current opposition to the Iraq war is inconsequential to the White House, she ignored the fact that in the 2006 mid-term elections, Democrats took back control of both the House and Senate due largely to Americans' desire for a change of course in Iraq.



The Houston Chronicle reported last night that "at least a dozen soldiers and Marines have been electrocuted in Iraq over the five years of the war" and that "investigators now are trying to learn what role improper grounding of electrical wires played in those deaths."

At the center of the probe is private contractor KBR, a company that not only dodged $500 million in Medicare and Social Security taxes but also provided "unmonitored and potentially unsafe" water to U.S. troops in Iraq.

A soldier who was electrocuted last January while taking a shower prompted the investigation. The Army originally said he "had a small, electrical appliance with him in the shower" but further investigation by the soldier's mother revealed his death resulted in faulty wiring and that KBR had been contracted to provide maintenance on the building.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) recently wrote Defense Secretary Robert Gates seeking details of the investigation. Noting a 2004 Army-issued safety warning regarding improper grounding of electrical wires, Waxman asked, "You wonder how it even could happen one time. But if a tragedy does occur once -- because of a mistake -- how could it possibly occur 12 times?"


US military deaths in Iraq at 3,987

By The Associated Press

As of Wednesday, March 12, 2008, at least 3,987 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes eight military civilians. At least 3,238 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The AP count is 12 more than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Wednesday at 10 a.m. EST.

The British military has reported 175 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 21; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, seven; El Salvador, five; Slovakia, four; Latvia, three; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand, Romania, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, South Korea, one death each.


The latest deaths reported by the military:

• A soldier was killed Tuesday by an explosive near Diwaniyah.

• Three soldiers were killed Wednesday by indirect fire southwest of Nasiriyah.


Admiral Fallon Resigns Due To Disagreement With Bush On Iran

WASHINGTON —  Navy Adm. William Fallon, the head of U.S. Central Command, which leads U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, is stepping down, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Tuesday.

Fallon claimed ongoing misperceptions about differences between his ideas and U.S. policy are making it too difficult for him to operate, Gates said, agreeing. He added that the differences are not extreme, but the misperception had become too great.

"I believe it was the right thing to do, even though I do not believe there are, in fact, significant differences between his views and administration policy," Gates said at a Pentagon news conference, noting that he accepted the request to retire with "reluctance and regret."

"I don't know whether he was misinterpreted or whether people attributed views to him that were not his views, but clearly there was a concern," Gates said.

The misperceptions relate to an article published last week in Esquire magazine that portrayed Fallon as opposed to President Bush's Iran policy. It described Fallon as a lone voice against taking military action to stop the Iranian nuclear program.

In a statement distributed by Centcom headquarters in Tampa, Fla., Fallon said he requested permission to step down because the article showed disrespect toward the president and caused embarrassment and distractions that were the result of misrepresentations of his views of Centcom missions.

"Recent press reports suggesting a disconnect between my views and the president's policy objectives have become a distraction at a critical time and hamper efforts in the Centcom region. And although I don't believe there have ever been any differences about the objectives of our policy in the Central Command area of responsibility, the simple perception that there is makes it difficult for me to effectively serve America's interests there," Fallon said.

"I have therefore concluded that it would be best to step aside and allow the secretary and our military leaders to move beyond this distraction and focus on the achievement of our strategic objectives in the region," he continued.

In a statement issued by the White House, Bush said Fallon "has served his country with honor, determination and commitment."

"During his tenure at Centcom, Admiral Fallon's job has been to help ensure that America's military forces are ready to meet the threats of an often troubled region of the world, and he deserves considerable credit for progress that has been made there, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan," Bush said.

Democrats jumped on the news, expressing concern over the admiral's departure.

"Admiral Fallon's decision to resign is a disappointment to those of us who viewed his reputation for candor as an essential asset in his role as Centcom commander," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "Although his views on the best way to deal with the challenges in Centcom's area of responsibility may not have matched those held by White House officials, Adm. Fallon was viewed in Congress as someone who was careful, forthright and direct."

"I can only hope that the decision to retire was his own," said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich.



Earlier this week, State Dept. Coordinator for Iraq David Satterfield refused to say whether it was "a constitutional requirement" for the administration to "consult with Congress" on a long-term agreement with Iraq.

Last Thursday morning on Fox News, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino echoed Satterfield, saying that "we don't know" whether Congress has any constitutional role in authorizing such treating.

In reality, the administration does know it will bypass Congress.

In a follow-up letter to Satterfield's testimony obtained by The Progress Report, Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Bergner said the President does have "constitutional authority" to "continue combat operations" in Iraq without Congress's authorization.

As justification, Bergner cited the 2002 authorization of force against Saddam Hussein and the resolution passed after 9/11. In defending the executive agreement, Perino cited "the long-term relationship we have with countries Japan and Germany and South Korea." Of course, these "strategic framework agreements" were approved by Congress first, as Oona Hathway of Yale Law School noted.



Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, has agreed to testify on behalf of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's driver and a detainee facing trial.

Davis explained that, though he will not argue for Hamdan's innocence, he is concerned about "a potential for rigged outcomes" in Guantanamo's military commissions, and that he had "significant doubts about whether it will deliver full, fair and open hearings."

Davis resigned his prosecutorial post in October, protesting his placement under the command of torture advocate Defense Department General Counsel William Haynes. Last week Davis noted Haynes had specifically said that the military commissions at Guantanamo could not result in acquittals. "We've got to have convictions," Haynes apparently told Davis.

Davis has also objected to the political timing of the prosecution of Australian native David Hicks, the first Guantanamo detainee sentenced by a military commission. Davis said "he felt pressure to pursue" high-profile convictions" ahead of the 2008 elections.



During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell said that "the Afghan government under President Hamid Karzai controls just 30 percent of the country," "the resurgent Taliban controls 10 percent to 11 percent of the country," and that "the majority of Afghanistan's population remains under local tribal control."

Defense Intelligence Agency director Lt. Gen. Michael Maples told the same committee that "Pakistani military operations in the region have not fundamentally damaged al-Qaeda's position" and tribal areas in Afghanistan "remain largely ungovernable and, as such, they will continue to provide vital sanctuary to al-Qaida, the Taliban and regional extremism more broadly."

The last 12 months have seen the worst violence in Afghanistan since 2001, when U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban from power. More on the current state of Afghanistan here.


Bush To Stop Any Further Troop Withdrawals Before He Leaves Office




President Bush declined Saturday to promise more U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq before he leaves office, and underscored the need for a strong military presence during Iraqi provincial elections in October.


Security has improved markedly since last summer when the last of five Army brigades arrived in Iraq to complete the president's buildup of 30,000 troops. One brigade has already returned home and the four others are to leave by July. What remains unclear is whether Bush will order additional drawdown’s in the final months of his presidency.


"There is going to be enormous speculation," he said. "My sole criterion is, whatever we do, it ought to be in the context of success."


The president spoke at his Texas ranch where he hosted Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen for talks about NATO's complex mission in Afghanistan, climate change, Iran and other trans-Atlantic issues. They took time, though, for a two mountain bike rides at the dusty ranch at sunset Friday and again at sunrise Saturday.


"You made me work very hard out there on the terrific mountain bike trails," Fogh Rasmussen said.


Bush said the Danish prime minister did not "even break into a sweat."


At the news conference, Bush said decisions about troop cuts — beyond those now planned through July — would be based on recommendations from his generals. But he said there needs to be strong military support in place to ensure the viability of Iraqi provincial elections. It was an indication that more troop reductions might have to wait until after the voting in Iraq on Oct. 1.


"I think our generals ought to be concerned about making sure there's enough of a presence so that the provincial elections can be carried off in such a way that democracy advances," Bush said. "But I'll wait and hear what they have to say. But, yes, I mean, that ought to be a factor in their recommendation to me."



Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, has agreed to testify on behalf of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's driver and a detainee facing trial.

Davis explained that, though he will not argue for Hamdan's innocence, he is concerned about "a potential for rigged outcomes" in Guantanamo's military commissions, and that he had "significant doubts about whether it will deliver full, fair and open hearings."

Davis resigned his prosecutorial post in October, protesting his placement under the command of torture advocate Defense Department General Counsel William Haynes. Last week Davis noted Haynes had specifically said that the military commissions at Guantanamo could not result in acquittals. "We've got to have convictions," Haynes apparently told Davis.

Davis has also objected to the political timing of the prosecution of Australian native David Hicks, the first Guantanamo detainee sentenced by a military commission. Davis said "he felt pressure to pursue" high-profile convictions" ahead of the 2008 elections.



During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell said that "the Afghan government under President Hamid Karzai controls just 30 percent of the country," "the resurgent Taliban controls 10 percent to 11 percent of the country," and that "the majority of Afghanistan's population remains under local tribal control."

Defense Intelligence Agency director Lt. Gen. Michael Maples told the same committee that "Pakistani military operations in the region have not fundamentally damaged al-Qaeda's position" and tribal areas in Afghanistan "remain largely ungovernable and, as such, they will continue to provide vital sanctuary to al-Qaida, the Taliban and regional extremism more broadly."

The last 12 months have seen the worst violence in Afghanistan since 2001, when U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban from power. More on the current state of Afghanistan here.


"The surge is working tactically, but failing strategically

President Bush has repeatedly asserted that the "surge" is working. In January, he told an audience in "The surge is working. I know some don't want to admit that, and I understand." Speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference in early February, Bush said, "We stood our ground -- and we're seeing results."

The Washington Post's Tom Ricks gave a different assessment, stating recently, "The surge is working tactically, but failing strategically." Two developing stories in Iraq illustrate how precarious the situation remains. The first involves the Iraqi parliament's passing of legislation on three particularly contentious issues: national budget allocations, amnesty for Iraqi detainees, and provincial elections. The second involves the decision by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Mahdi Army militia, to extend the six-month cease-fire he declared back in August -- a cease-fire that has been acknowledged by Gen. David Petraeus as one of the main reasons for the drop in violence in Baghdad.


On Feb. 13, the Iraqi parliament passed three measures that conservatives are hailing as proof of the surge's success. Despite public claims of Iraqi unity, The New York Times wrote that "the parliamentary success was clouded because many of the most contentious details were simply postponed, raising the possibility that the accord could again break into rancorous factional disputes in future debates on the same issues."

The negotiations were extremely contentious; earlier in the session, the speaker threatened to disband the legislature, and the measures had to be bundled together and passed in a single vote "because of mutual suspicion that if one was voted on separately and approved, the faction that wanted that most would renege on the rest."

The Kurdish bloc held out for a budget agreement guaranteeing 17 percent of government revenue -- "most of it coming from oil" -- for the Kurds, with the caveat that this would be reconsidered for the 2009 budget.

The Shiite majority parties were most concerned with mandating provincial elections later this year, which are expected to further entrench their majority. The Sunnis in Parliament insisted on the amnesty law for Iraqi detainees, as over 80 percent of Iraq's more than 40,000 detainees are Sunnis.George Washington University professor Marc Lynch said that "as with the deBaathification reform (which looked so promising on first blush and then not so much when the details emerged), it all depends on the details of the laws, the implementation, and the reception."

Of the 18 benchmarks established for judging the surge's success, this legislation represents achievement of only the fourth.


Suicide Bomber Blast Kills 40 Iraqi Pilgrims

Leila Fadel and Yasseen Taha | McClatchy Newspapers

BAGHDAD -- At least 40 Shiite pilgrims were killed and 60 injured in a suicide bombing south of Baghdad Sunday in what was once known as the Sunni triangle of death.

The bombing in Iskandariyah came as hundreds of thousands of Shiites took to the streets to walk the 50 miles to the holy city of Karbala for Arbaeen. The ceremony on Thursday commemorates the anniversary of the 40th day following the martyrdom of Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Mohammed, a venerated figure in Shiite Islam.

As pilgrims stopped for water and food at a tent set up to serve them along their journey, a suicide bomber walked into the crowd and detonated, killing and wounding many of the pilgrims, said Muthanna Ahmed, spokesman for the police in Babil province. He expected the death toll to rise.

Attacks on Shiite pilgrims have become commonplace in the nearly five years of the Iraq war. Pilgrims walking to holy Shiite cities in the south are often met with sniper fire, bombings and grenades. But the walking did not stop. Young and old continued the trek Sunday, and millions of pilgrims were expected in Karbala by Thursday.

In south Baghdad three more pilgrims were killed when grenades were thrown into a crowd of people.

Meanwhile, in the north along the border with Turkey, a battle continued a third day between the Kurdistan Worker's Party, or PKK, and the Turkish military, which crossed into Iraq last week to fight the militant organization in the rugged Qandeel Mountains.

The PKK, considered a terrorist group by the United States, is battling for an independent Kurdistan in southeast Turkey. Turkey, meanwhile, has taken aim against the group's sanctuaries in northern Iraq; Sunday was the fourth day of shelling and artillery fire in the area.

The two sides issued sharply conflicting accounts of casualties in the initial days of fighting.

The president of the Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani, sent an urgent message to President Bush, asking him to intervene, according to Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani. He called the Iraqi government's reaction to the incursion "embarrassing" and "weak."

"We are angry because Turkey is targeting infrastructure and this is proof that the Turkish target is the Kurdistan region and not the PKK," he said, referring to five bridges knocked out by Turkish shelling. "If our citizens are attacked, we will defend ourselves. We don't want to fight anyone but if they fight us, we will defend ourselves."

Along the border, civilians were trapped inside, unable to move as shelling rained down.

Barzani warned that continued Turkish military operations would destabilize the region, one of the only secure places in Iraq.

The Union of Muslim Clerics in Kurdistan issued a religious edict that said it was an obligation to fight the Turkish forces inside Iraq.

"Facing the Turkish troops is a duty because it's a defense of one's self and land," said Mohammed Aqrawi, chairman of the union.

The PKK said the U.S. and Iraqi Kurdish parties played a role in the Turkish military incursion.

"What happened is not only a military invasion, it's a big political game," said Bahoz Ardal, a PKK commander. "Turkey wants to control Kurdistan."

He called for Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan and the Kurdish region in southeast Turkey to rise up against the Turkish military.

"We changed the city and the villages of Kurdistan into hell for the Turkish army and we demand the young and the brave in the Turkish cities inside Turkey to face the army and to change northern Kurdistan (southeast Turkey) into hell for the Turkish attackers," he said. "We changed Iraqi Kurdistan into their graveyard."



With the Bush administration negotiating a long-term security agreement with the Iraqi government, many lawmakers have argued that the White House is "trying to lock in a lasting U.S. military presence in Iraq before the next president takes office." A potential "deal-breaker for the Iraqis is contractor immunity" of the type that allowed Blackwater guards to escape punishment after killing 17 Iraqis in a Baghdad shoot-out last September.

But "in interagency discussions arranged in preparation for the start of negotiations, the Department of Defense has said it wants to ask the Iraqis to maintain status quo."

The State Department "has argued strongly against that position." Human Rights First claims that contractor immunity expired when the Coalition Provisional Authority dissolved in June 2004.

The United States could have initiated legal action against contractors in the United States, Iraq, or elsewhere but as Peter Singer of the Brookings Institution notes, "the political will to use them has been completely absent."


Planned Troop Withdrawals Won't Bring Much Relief To U.S. Military
By Nancy A. Youssef | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Top Defense Department officials testified last Wednesday that the Bush administration's plan to withdraw some 20,000 U.S. troops from Iraq this summer will do little to relieve the stress on the Army and Marine Corps.

Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the military was exhausted by the repeated deployments to Iraq.

Finding a way to reduce the amount of time troops are deployed to Iraq is critical, he said. Currently, soldiers are sent to Iraq for 15-month tours, and Marines serve seven-month stints, followed by seven months at home.

"The well is deep, but it is not infinite," Mullen said. "We must get Army deployments down to 12 months as soon as possible. People are tired."

Mullen and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates appeared before the committee to discuss the administration's request for $588.3 billion in defense spending for the 2009 budget year, which begins Oct. 1.

President Bush announced last year that the U.S. would reduce the number of American troops in Iraq by five combat brigades — about 20,000 people — during the first half of this year. U.S. troop strength in Iraq has hovered above 160,000 since June, when the military completed the deployment of an additional 30,000 troops as part of the so-called surge, which was intended to restore calm to Baghdad.

But security conditions will determine whether troop strength can be further reduced, officials have warned. Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, is expected to report this spring whether there can be more troop reductions.

Mullen said he favored reducing the number of troops in Iraq "sooner rather than later" so that Iraq deployments could return to 12 months. But he said that decision hasn't been made.

Others at the Pentagon doubt that the U.S. will be able to reduce troop strength in Iraq to 100,000 for some time.

"We need some time to make an assessment" of the initial troop withdrawals, said a senior Pentagon official, who asked not to be named because he wasn't authorized to discuss the issue publicly. "We are not going to do a precipitous withdrawal again," he said, referring to past efforts to hand over security responsibility to Iraqi forces and withdraw U.S. troops.

Reducing U.S. troop strength to 10 combat brigades would hurt the United States' ability to conduct multiple operations in Iraq, said Jeffrey White, a military analyst at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a center-right policy institute.

The number of brigades could become a key issue in the presidential campaign, as that number will determine what kind of defense posture the next president can mount.

If the U.S. maintains 15 combat brigades in Iraq — the pre-surge troop presence — it won't be able to mount major military operations in places such as Iran, Afghanistan or North Korea, White said


Memo Blasts State Dept. Iraq Effort
GOP Loyalist Says U.S. Brought 'Worst of America' to Iraq

In a confidential memo, a long-time Republican operative who has served in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad for the past year says the State Department's efforts in Iraq are so poorly managed they "would be considered willfully negligent if not criminal" if done in the private sector.

"We have brought to Iraq the worst of America -- our bureaucrats," writes Manuel Miranda in the memo, which was addressed to U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and cc'd to "ALCON" or "all concerned" at the State Department.

"You are doing a job for which you are not prepared as a bureaucracy or as leaders," Miranda writes. "The American and Iraqi people deserve better."

Asked to respond to the allegations made in Miranda's memo, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Miranda is entitled to his opinion, but "We think Ambassador Crocker and his team are doing a very good job under extremely challenging circumstances. We have great confidence in their ability to carry out their mission."

Miranda previously held senior Republican leadership positions on Capitol Hill, including counsel for then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. While on Capitol Hill, Miranda was embroiled in a controversy when he obtained a confidential memorandum written by Senate Democrats and leaked it the press. Democrats accused Miranda of hacking into their computer systems. Miranda said the Democratic staffers had left the memo on a computer server accessable to all Senate staffers.


Analyst: Surge may be hampering Iraq reconciliation
Filed by David Edwards and Muriel Kane

President Bush argued in his State of the Union Address that "the American and Iraqi surges have achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago."

It is true that violence has declined and some Sunni groups have made common cause with the Americans in fighting al Qaeda extremists. However, Reuters reports that US cooperation with Sunni tribesmen may also be blocking political reconciliation.

Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress told Reuters, "It's very fragile, because this is basically an alliance of convenience. ... The Iraqi government, which we're trying to get to reconcile, sees this as a threat, as one more reason not to reconcile."

Korb also said that the reduction in violence may be temporary, because is not clear how long Shi'ite militant Moqtada al-Sadr will continue to suspend operations.



A new report by the Commission of the National Guard and Reserves "determined that 88 percent" of National Guard units are not prepared for a catastrophic attack on the country.

The 400-page report "concludes that the nation 'does not have sufficient trained, ready forces available' to respond to a chemical, biological or nuclear weapons incident, 'an appalling gap that places the nation and its citizens at greater risk.”

Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, head of U.S. Northern Command, said about 4,000 Guard and Reserve troops would be trained over the next year to be "assigned to a three-tiered response force."

Bush's escalation last spring has left the U.S. military overstretched. Last week, Gen. David Petraeus "said the Pentagon wants to bring troops home quickly to reduce the strain on the armed services." Last fall, Army Chief of Staff George Casey said it would take "three or four years" for the military "to put ourselves back in balance" after the Iraq war.


9/11 Commissioner: 'We had to go through Karl Rove'
Filed by Nick Langewis and David Edwards

Two recent segments delve into a new book that accuses the head of the ostensibly independent 9/11 Commission, Philip Zelikow, of being beholden to the Bush Administration during his tenure.

The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation, by New York Times reporter Philip Shenon, indicts Zelikow on his ties with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and his frequent contact with senior political adviser Karl Rove, during what was touted as an independent investigation into the events surrounding the 2001 World Trade Center attack. This seeming conflict of interest, the book says, led Commission staffers not to trust Zelikow.

"We found him to be very fair-minded," counters co-chair Lee Hamilton, "quite impartial, very rigorous in his searching out of the facts; and he certainly did not try to protect the Bush Administration, or to protect anybody else."

9/11 Commission member John Lehman goes on to tell MSNBC that it was impossible not to go through Karl Rove when documents such as presidential daily briefings were needed. Many Commission members, he says, pressed the White House to provide more information and lift restrictions on a regular basis.

"We had to go through Karl Rove, and through [Attorney General Alberto] Gonzales and the other most senior members," says Lehman. He indeed hoped that Zelikow was talking to Karl Rove, although he expressed disappointment that contact with the White House wasn't more frequent towards the beginning of the investigations.

On charges that a mass of NSA records on al-Qaeda went unreviewed by the Commission, Lehman says that nothing new would have come about as a result of obtaining that data besides more text to put into the final Commission report.

The Commission is due to be published on February 5.


935 False Statements (Lies and Misdirection))From the Whitehouse Preceded War
Associated Press

A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."

The study was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel did not comment on the merits of the study Tuesday night but reiterated the administration's position that the world community viewed Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, as a threat.

"The actions taken in 2003 were based on the collective judgment of intelligence agencies around the world," Stanzel said.

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both.

"It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al-Qaida," according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study. "In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003."

Named in the study along with Bush were top officials of the administration during the period studied: Vice President Dick Cheney, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan.

Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 28 about Iraq's links to al-Qaida, the study found. That was second only to Powell's 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq and al-Qaida.

The center said the study was based on a database created with public statements over the two years beginning on Sept. 11, 2001, and information from more than 25 government reports, books, articles, speeches and interviews.

"The cumulative effect of these false statements — amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts — was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war," the study concluded.

"Some journalists — indeed, even some entire news organizations — have since acknowledged that their coverage during those prewar months was far too deferential and uncritical. These mea culpas notwithstanding, much of the wall-to-wall media coverage provided additional, 'independent' validation of the Bush administration's false statements about Iraq," it said.


Violence Increases And Tensions Rise Among Iraqi Shiites

Steve Lannen | McClatchy Newspapers

BAGHDAD — A police raid Saturday on an extremist Shiite Muslim mosque thought to be the headquarters of an extremist cult capped a weekend of violence in southern Iraq, while elsewhere tensions between Iraq's Shiite-led government and renegade Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr continued to escalate.

Iraq's national security advisor said he was briefly taken hostage Saturday in a Baghdad mosque and implied that his captors were Sadr supporters. Mowaffak al Rubaie was released only after Iraq's interior minister, who oversees the police, intervened.

In an e-mail to McClatchy, Rubaie said that Sadr's followers "used the same tactics that they used before on Abdul Majid al Khoei." Sadrists were accused of fatally stabbing Khoei, a moderate young Shiite cleric who was considered a rival to Sadr, in 2003. A warrant for Sadr was issued in 2004, but it's never been executed, and he's denied any involvement.

On Friday, a spokesman for Sadr warned that the cleric might not extend a six-month cease-fire by his Mahdi Army militia, which U.S. officials say has contributed to the reduction in violence in Iraq. In a statement, Salah al Obeidi charged that rival Shiite militias have infiltrated Iraq's security forces and that some senior security officials remain in their jobs although they've been charged with human rights offenses.

"This will force us to reconsider the decision to extend the cease-fire despite repeated public statements in the past that we will," Obeidi said.

Police attacked the booby-trapped mosque on the outskirts of Nasiriyah the day after its members attacked police in Basra and Nasiriyah, killing more than 100 people and injuring more than 200 in the two cities.

Officials later said the group intended to kill religious clerics and other noteworthy people who were among the thousands of pilgrims for the culmination of Ashura, one of the most important Shiite Muslim holidays. In the southern city of Basra, the group also briefly took control of an oil company's offices before being repelled.

Elsewhere in Iraq, three suicide bombers attacked a police checkpoint in Ramadi, killing six police and injuring 13 in the predominantly Sunni city. In western Iraq, a rocket killed seven people in Tal Afar on the Syrian border. Northeast of Baghdad in Diyala province, a roadside bomb killed three bodyguards in the provincial governor's convoy.

Friday's clashes were the worst violence in months in Basra, where British forces handed over control of the city a month ago. Nearly 100 were killed, including 80 cult members, another 112 were reported injured and Brig. Gen. Shamkhi Nour Hussein, the head of national intelligence and investigations in Basra, said that about 100 people were arrested.

Some reports identified the attackers as the Shiite cultist group Jund al Samaa, or Soldiers of Heaven, but police officials said more information on the group's identity would be released in coming days.

The Soldiers of Heaven was responsible for an attack a year ago that ended with the deaths of more than 350 cult members after a shootout with U.S. and Iraq security forces outside Najaf and the Shiite holy city of Karbala.



The White House, Pentagon, and senior military officials made the decision last September "to begin a slow withdrawal of troops from Iraq." But now President Bush said he is "open to slowing or stopping the withdrawal of troops to avoid jeopardizing recent security gains in Iraq."

This rethinking of strategy comes as Army Chief of Staff George Casey and other high-ranking officials "worry the high troop levels in Iraq are causing growing manpower strains on the army."

In an interview last week, Casey told the Wall Street Journal that escalation has "sucked all of the flexibility out of the system" and the Army must "find a way of getting back into balance."


Iraq War Has Ground Forces Stretched Thin
By William H. McMichael

If the U.S. were to face a new conventional threat, its military could not respond effectively without turning to air power, officials and analysts say.

That is the ultimate upshot of the war in Iraq: a response elsewhere would consist largely of U.S. fighters and bombers — even, perhaps, some degree of nuclear strike — because so many ground troops are tied up in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

And that leaves at least some senior U.S. leaders and analysts crossing their fingers.

“I believe that we, as a nation, are at risk of mission failure should our Army be called to deploy to an emerging threat,” Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services readiness subcommittee, said last year, basing his assessment on classified Army readiness reports.

“Iraq is sort of sucking all the oxygen out of the room,” said Tammy Schultz, who studies ground forces for the Center for a New American Security, a relatively new Washington think tank dedicated to “strong, pragmatic and principled” security and defense policies.

“My huge fear is that ... we’re really putting the nation at risk,” Schultz said. “It could reach absolutely tragic levels if the United States has to respond to a major contingency any time in the near future.”

The Army is bearing the brunt of the fight, and senior leaders readily acknowledge that.

“We are consumed with meeting the demands of the current fight and unable to provide ready forces as rapidly as necessary for other contingencies,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Nov. 15.

The Congressional Budget Office reported in 2006 that Army readiness rates had declined to the lowest levels since the end of the Vietnam War, with roughly half of all Army units, active and reserve, at the lowest readiness ratings for currently available units. Casey told the Senate committee that training and readiness levels for nondeployed units have “actually stayed about the same since last summer — and it’s not good.”

The Marine Corps isn’t as heavily committed in Iraq in terms of raw numbers, but leathernecks’ shorter deployments come more frequently. And as the heavy requirements of Iraq shorten the time back home to train for missions other than counterinsurgency, most nondeployed forces simply are not ready for other types of combat, be it amphibious assault or combined-arms warfare.

“While the readiness of deployed units remains high, we have experienced a decrease in the readiness of some nondeployed units,” Gen. Robert Magnus, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, told Ortiz’s subcommittee March 13.

The Corps has “a limited ability to provide trained forces to project power in support of other contingencies,” Magnus said.


McCain: I Would Have Started Iraq War Regardless Of WMD
Filed by David Edwards and Katie Baker

According to presidential candidate John McCain, only the handling of the Iraq war was a mistake -- not the war itself.

"It's not American presence that bothers the American people, it's American causalities," said McCain in an interview with Tim Russert on NBC's "Meet The Press" on Sunday.

The validity of this conjecture is questionable, as fifty-nine percent of Americans say the U.S. should “stick to a withdrawal timetable." But McCain said in a recent New Hampshire debate -- and reasserted as much on Sunday -- that as long as Americans aren't dying, he sees nothing wrong with US troops staying as many as 100 years in Iraq.

"What I believe we can achieve is a reduction in casualties to the point where the Iraqis are doing the fighting and dying [and] we're supporting them," McCain said.

He said it would be "hard to say" how many U.S. troops would need to stay in Iraq, but assured that they would be "out of harm's way."

When Russert asked him if, like Bush, McCain would have supported the Iraq war even if no weapons of mass destruction were believed present in Iraq, McCain seemed to dismiss the question as irrelevant.

"If frogs had wings ... we can talk about lots of hypotheticals," he said. "The point is if we had done it right, you and I wouldn't even be discussing it now."


Israel to brief George Bush on options for Iran strike

ISRAELI security officials are to brief President George W Bush on their latest intelligence about Iran’s nuclear programme - and how it could be destroyed - when he begins a tour of the Middle East in Jerusalem this week.

Ehud Barak, the defence minister, is said to want to convince him that an Israeli military strike against uranium enrichment facilities in Iran would be feasible if diplomatic efforts failed to halt nuclear operations. A range of military options has been prepared.

Last month it was revealed that the US National Intelligence Estimate report, drawing together information from 16 agencies, had concluded that Iran stopped a secret nuclear weapon programme in 2003.

Israeli intelligence is understood to agree that the project was halted around the time of America’s invasion of Iraq, but has “rock solid” information that it has since started up again.

While security officials are reluctant to reveal all their intelligence, fearing that leaks could jeopardise the element of surprise in any future attack, they are expected to present the president with fresh details of Iran’s enrichment of uranium - which could be used for civil or military purposes - and the development of missiles that could carry nuclear warheads.

In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot this weekend, Bush argued that in spite of the US intelligence assessment, Iran still posed a threat.

“I read the intelligence report carefully,” Bush said. “In essence, what the report said was that Iran had a secret plan to develop nuclear weapons.

“I’m saying that a state which adopted a nontransparent policy and had a secret plan for developing nuclear weapons could easily develop an alternative plan for the same purpose. So to conclude from the intelligence report that there is no Iranian plan to develop nuclear weapons will be only a partial truth.”

Israeli security officials believe the only way to prevent uranium enrichment to military grade is to destroy Iranian installations. Many Israelis are eager to know whether America would give their country the green light to attack, as it did last September when Israel struck a mysterious nuclear site in Syria.

Bush refused to be drawn when asked whether he would support an Israeli attack. “My message to all countries in the region is that we are able to solve the problem in a diplomatic way,” he said, “but all options are on the table.”



Under immense pressure from retired military lawyers, the Bush administration abandoned its plan to take control of the promotions of members of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) corps, the 4,000-member uniformed legal force.

As first reported by the Boston Globe last Saturday, the proposal would have mandated that JAGs receive approval from "politically appointed Pentagon lawyers" before promotions could be awarded. Retired JAGs immediately objected to the administration's proposal, characterizing it as "an attempt to politicize the corps of military lawyers."

Maintaining independence is essential to the JAGs, who have disagreed with the President's torture policies. Promotions would have been overseen by the Pentagon's general counsel William Haynes, a Bush appointee and close Cheney ally who has been the Pentagon's point man in the disputes with the JAGs.

In 2003, Haynes appointed and supervised a working group that argued the Geneva Conventions' prohibition of torture "must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to Bush's Commander-in-Chief authority."



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