Wednesday, March 30, 2005

War News for Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Bring ‘em on: One person killed and seventeen others wounded, five seriously, in Kirkuk car bombing targeting a Kurdish official. Another Kurdish official escaped an assassination attempt on Saturday.

Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqi soldiers injured in car bombing east of Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqi soldiers and four guerillas killed in two hour firefight in Al-Touz. Three Iraqi truck drivers executed by guerilla group, video of killings released. US Embassy in Bucharest announces that it has received report that an American was kidnapped along with the three Romanian journalists mentioned yesterday. Director of South Oil Company survived an assassination attempt in Basra. One Iraqi contractor killed and his driver injured east of Balad. Three farmers injured in roadside bombing in Al-Is’haqi.

Bring ‘em on: Four civilians killed in bomb attack aimed at a US Humvee on a bridge in Mosul, no word on US casualties. Convoy of security forces ambushed in Mosul, police claim they killed 17 attackers and captured 14.

“Non-hostile”: One US Marine killed in a “non-hostile incident” in Iraq. The statement said the soldier died "in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom."

Executions: A video surfaced Tuesday on the Internet showing three drivers who said they worked for a Jordanian trucking company being shot by gunmen claiming to belong to a militant Islamic group in Iraq.

The three men were shown being shot in the back of the head in a desert-like area. The identities and nationalities of the men were unclear due to the poor quality of the tape, but their accents appeared to be Iraqi.

"We don't see any difference between them and the Americans," a statement attached to the video said. "On the contrary, they work night and day in aiding the Americans to find the houses and locations of the mujahedeen (holy warriors)."

Kidnapping: One of three Romanian journalists abducted Monday night near their Baghdad hotel later sent a text message to her newsroom saying, "Help, this is not a joke, we've been kidnapped." Petre Mihai Bacanu, managing editor of Romania Libera, said the three had disappeared shortly after interviewing interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Bacanu said no group had claimed responsibility and no ransom demand had been made.

Iraqi security forces: Over the past 18 months, Washington's estimate of the number of trained Iraqi security forces has gyrated up and down as if it were a stock market index.

In April of 2004, for instance, the Defense Department estimated that 206,000 Iraqi security forces were in place. But that number simply reflected personnel on the payroll - many of whom were either administrative officials, or otherwise unprepared to fight. So a year ago the Pentagon revised its Iraqi force figure downward, to 132,000.

By September of 2004, the number had crept back up to 160,000. But further investigation proved that this figure included substantial numbers of people who protect facilities - in essence, night watchmen. In addition, some trained forces did not have equipment rendering them able to fight.

So last fall the number was revised downward again, to 90,000, Rear Adm. William Sullivan, Vice Director for Strategic Plans and Policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a House hearing. "We are just now beginning ... a qualitative assessment of how the various Iraqi security forces are doing, modeling it after the kinds of systems we use for our own military to measure unit readiness," said Adm. Sullivan.

Due to missteps and a misjudgment about the strength of the insurgency at its onset, the US really did not begin a concerted training effort until 10 months ago, said Cordesman. "The Iraqis actually involved in shaping Iraq's new forces are not pessimistic," he noted. "Most believe that Iraqi forces are growing steadily better with time, will acquire the experience and quality to deal with much of the insurgency during 2005, and should be able to secure much of the country by 2006." Fundamentalists: Celia Garabet thought students were roughhousing. Sinan Saeed was sure a fight had erupted. Within a few minutes, on a sunny day at a riverside park, they realized something different was afoot. A group of Shiite Muslim militiamen with rifles, pistols, thick wire cables and sticks had charged into crowds of hundreds at a college picnic. They fired shots, beat students and hauled some of them away in pickup trucks. The transgressions: men dancing and singing, music playing and couples mixing.

That melee on March 15 and its fallout have redrawn the debate that has shadowed Iraq's second-largest city since the U.S. invasion in 2003: What is the role of Islam in daily life? In once-libertine Basra, a battered port in southern Iraq near the Persian Gulf, the question dominates everything these days, from the political parties in power to the style of dress in the streets. Iraqi Politics

Crisis: Iraq's parliament erupted in acrimony at only its second sitting on Tuesday and journalists were thrown out after legislators berated leaders for failing to agree on a new government, two months after elections.

When parliamentarians were told that despite last-minute talks that delayed the session no agreement had been reached, even on the post of parliamentary speaker, several stood up to say leading politicians were letting down the Iraqi people.

"The Iraqi people who defied the security threats and voted -- what shall we tell them?" Hussein al-Sadr, a politician in the bloc led by interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, asked the assembly before the news blackout.

As the meeting grew heated, the interim speaker ordered journalists to leave and Iraqi television abruptly switched to Arab music. Allawi walked out of the session shortly afterwards.

"You can say we are in a crisis," Barham Salih, a leading Kurdish politician, told reporters.

Allawi walks out: Prime Minister Iyad Allawi walked out of a meeting of Iraq's parliament on Tuesday after angry scenes erupted, with assembly members berating Shi'ite and Kurdish leaders for failing to agree on a government.

The speaker of parliament ordered journalists to leave and declared the meeting would be held in secret, after politicians -- one of them a leading member of Allawi's bloc -- denounced a failure to reach agreement two months after the historic Jan. 30 polls.

Deadlines move back: At immediate issue was the appointment of a speaker for the 275-member parliament. But the broader concern was the failure to form a transitional government and start work on a new Iraqi constitution.

With the setback yesterday, the seating of a government remains several days if not weeks away. And leading officials admitted that a mid-August deadline for the writing of the constitution now seems impossibly optimistic.

Instead, they predicted, the assembly ultimately would have to invoke a clause in the transitional law giving it an extra six months to work. That would delay full elections for a permanent government, perhaps until June 2006.

"Realistically you cannot write a constitution in three and a half months," said Hajem al-Hassani, the interim minister of industry and minerals who is a member of the largest — with only five seats — Sunni bloc in the assembly. "Some people say we have lots of things in common, but I think this is just wishful thinking. It is going to be very difficult. There are going to be lots of negotiations."

Writing the constitution is expected to be a far thornier process, with far greater implications, than setting up an interim government that is scheduled to hold office only until the end of 2005. Yet the Shiites and Kurds have spent weeks negotiating and renegotiating issues of authority, territory and money.

Public reaction: After a chaotic session yesterday that was delayed for nearly three hours, then abruptly closed to the public, the Sunni Arab minority – dominant under former dictator Saddam Hussein and believed to be the backbone of the insurgency – was given until Sunday to come up with a candidate to serve as speaker.

“We saw that things were confused today, so we gave (the Sunnis) a last chance,” said Hussein al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric and member of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s coalition. “We expect the Sunni Arab brothers to nominate their candidate. Otherwise, we will vote on a candidate on Sunday.”

Iraqis, already frustrated with drawn-out negotiations, were angered by the meeting.

“They haven’t been able to even name a parliament speaker, so how will they rule Iraq when they’re only after their personal interests and gains?” said 35-year-old Sunni Sahib Jassim, a college student. “They don’t care about the Iraqi people.”

More public reaction: Iraqi voters aren't happy. They don't care that some of the biggest political changes ever to happen in their lifetime are going on in their country. All they know is that the electricity still is off for hours every day, the water doesn't always flow out of the faucets, there are still long gas queues at the stations, and the situation still seems pretty lawless in the streets.

"We're very disappointed," said Hathem Hassan Thani, 31, a political science graduate student at Baghdad University. "Some personalities are trying to make the political operation fail, and they don't want to give positions to the Sunni Muslims."

"The Iraqi people are very itchy. The street is very nervous," said Saad Jawar Qindeel, a spokesman for the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq, one of two dominant religious-based parties that won the United Iraqi Alliance ticket. "There's a lot of talk of people ready to protest."

Commander Codpiece weighs in: President Bush, on a day of political turmoil in Baghdad, acknowledged Tuesday that Iraqis are divided over the future of their country but said the differences "will be resolved through debate and persuasion instead of force and intimidation."

In Baghdad, the fledgling parliament failed to agree on who would be its speaker in a chaotic session that exposed deep divides among the National Assembly's Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish members who were elected Jan. 30.

Bush called Tuesday's session "another step on the road to a free society" and said the United States looks forward to working with the government that emerges.

So exactly why is it that the Iraqis must settle their internal differences through debate and persuasion but we got to settle our differences with Iraq through force and intimidation?

Our new model for the Arab world: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has alarmed many reformist Arabs with comments suggesting a new U.S. approach that promotes rapid political change without regard for internal stability.

Rice said in an interview with the Washington Post last week the Middle East status quo was not stable and she doubted it would be stable soon. Washington would speak out for "freedom" without offering a model or knowing what the outcome would be.

"This a very dangerous scheme. Anarchy will be out of control," said Hassan Nafaa, a professor of political science at Cairo University and an advocate of gradual change.

A liberal Arab diplomat, who asked not to be named, said: "They seem to be supporting chaos and instability as a pretext for bringing democracy. But people would rather live under undemocratic rule than in the chaotic atmosphere of Iraq, for example, which the Americans tout as a model."

Helena Cobban, a writer on Middle East affairs based in the United States, said: "She (Rice) reveals a totally cavalier attitude to the whole non-trivial concept of social-political stability in Middle Eastern countries."

"So it looks as though Arc of Instability may now actually be the goal of U.S. policy, rather than its diagnosis of an existing problem," she added.

Yes, that’s the same Helena who regularly graces our comments section. Kudos to her for being a voice of sanity. We might add to her analysis that that the interim rules established by the CPA all but guarantee a deadlock in forming a permanent Iraqi government and there are also credible reports that the Shiite votes were deliberately undercounted to ensure that they couldn’t muster a majority without a coalition, thus rendering the whole situation even more unstable.

Traitor Bob explains: Determination high in the Bush administration to begin irreversible withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq this year is reinforced by the presence at the State Department of the most dominant secretary since Henry Kissinger three decades ago. Condoleezza Rice is expected to support administration officials who want to leave even if what is left behind does not constitute perfection.

Amid the presidential campaign's furious debate over Iraq, I reported last Sept. 20 ("Quick exit from Iraq is likely") about strong feeling in the policymaking apparatus to get out of Iraq in 2005 even if democracy and peace had not been achieved there. My column evoked widespread expressions of disbelief, but changes over the last six months have only strengthened the view of my Bush administration sources that the escape from Iraq should begin once a permanent government is in place in Baghdad.

Traitor Robert Novak is a revolting excuse for a human being and he belongs in prison but he does have excellent sources throughout the Bush administration. This column is worth a read to help put the above articles into a perspective. It would be just like the Busheviks to declare victory and pull out enough troops to make it look credible just in time for the 2006 elections. You can’t get more cynical than this crew. Weapons of Mass Destruction

It’s final – it’s all the CIA’s fault: The final report of a presidential commission studying U.S. intelligence failures regarding illicit weapons includes a searing critique of how the CIA and other agencies never properly assessed Saddam Hussein's political maneuverings or the possibility that he no longer had weapon stockpiles, according to officials who have seen the report's executive summary.

The report particularly singles out the Central Intelligence Agency under its former director, George Tenet, but also includes what one senior official called "a hearty condemnation" of the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, two of the largest intelligence agencies.

The report particularly ridicules the conclusion that Mr. Hussein’s fleet of “unmanned aerial vehicles,” which had very limited flying range, posed a major threat. All of those assertions were repeated by Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other senior officials in the prelude to the war. To this day, Mr. Cheney has never backed away from his claim, repeated last year, that the “mobile laboratories” were probably part of a secret biological weapons program, and his office has repeatedly declined to respond to inquiries about whether the evidence has changed his view.

But does the report address the pressure put on intelligence agencies by the administration? Does it discuss Cheney’s multiple completely unprecedented visits to CIA headquarters in the run up to the war? Does it address the stovepiping of overhyped intelligence from little Dougy Feith’s office to the highest levels? For that matter, does it even mention the construction of parallel intelligence analysis operations in the Pentagon intended to counter the conclusions of legitimate intelligence agencies? Preconceived conclusions: The report examines factors that might have led to errors, the official said, such as whether policy-makers were seeking preconceived conclusions, whether foreign intelligence agencies had reached similar conclusions and whether analysts had little information to work with.

The panel considered a range of intelligence issues going beyond Iraq, including congressional oversight, satellite imagery and electronic snooping. Among numerous soft spots, officials familiar with the findings say "human intelligence" — the work of actual operatives on the ground — is lacking.

New doubts: A presidential commission that's investigating U.S. intelligence failures in Iraq has concluded that many of the same weaknesses that plagued American efforts to investigate Saddam Hussein's regime are preventing the United States from collecting accurate intelligence on Iran's and North Korea's nuclear programs.

One official who's intimately familiar with the commission's work described the report as "unusually blunt." It's expected to raise new doubts about the reliability of U.S. intelligence on North Korea and Iran, in addition to those already prompted by the lack of evidence to substantiate many of the Bush administration's charges about Iraq's weapons programs and ties to terrorism.

We lost the real ones: The world now knows that Iraq had no threatening WMD programs. But two years after US teams began their futile hunt for weapons of mass destruction, Iraq has something else: a landscape of ruined military plants and of unanswered questions and loose ends, some potentially lethal, a review of official reporting shows.

''There is nothing but a concrete slab at locations where once stood plants or laboratories," the Iraq Survey Group said in its final report. But that report from inside Iraq, 986 pages thick, is at times thin on relevant hard information and silent in critically important areas.

Days after the report was issued last fall, for example, news leaked that tons of high-grade explosives had been looted a year earlier from the Iraqi complex at Al-Qaqaa. It was a potential boon to Iraq's car bombers, but the US document did not report this dangerous loss.

Similarly, the main body of the US report discusses Iraq's al-Samoud 2, but it does not note that many of these ballistic missiles have not been found. Only via an annex table does the report disclose that as many as 36 Samouds may be unaccounted for in the aftermath of the US-led invasion.

Speaking of hacks – Judith Miller: Bonnie Powell of the university’s news center reported that Miller acidly proclaimed journalists “are not perfect. We’re not saints. But try running a functioning democracy without a free press.” And who better to make the case regarding non-sainthood, following her dangerously wrong 2002-2003 reporting on WMD in Iraq, which at times was based on outright collusion with confidential sources in and out of government who had wanted the United States to invade Iraq?

She repeated several times at Berkeley (I have watched the video) her excuse that “you go with what you’ve got,” when referring both to her WMD sources and the unidentified leakers she is now protecting in the Plame case. Miller carries on with her now-tired argument that if she was duped by her unnamed sources on WMD, well, so was the Bush Administration.

Despite her eloquent passion in defense of freedom of the press, her historical revisionism on the WMD story, when passing off such falsehoods, boggles the mind.

Creeping Stalinism

Not further substantiated: U.S. officials say one terror suspect imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay is a former Iraqi soldier and al-Qaida member who plotted with an Iraqi intelligence agent in August 1998 to attack the American and other foreign embassies in Pakistan with chemical weapons.

There is no public record of such an attempt being made, although the Islamabad embassy staff was reduced that month amid heightened security concerns following the Aug. 7 truck bomb attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

These accusations are contained in a two-page "summary of evidence" presented to the Iraqi for his appearance before a Combatant Status Review Board at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba late last year. The evidence was meant to convince the three-member review board — which has heard all 558 detainee cases at Guantanamo Bay — that the government properly classified him as an "enemy combatant."

The assertion that the Iraqi was involved in a plot against embassies in Pakistan is not further substantiated in the document. It states only that he traveled to Pakistan in August 1998 with a member of Iraqi intelligence "for the purpose of" striking at embassies with chemical mortars.

The proof keeps piling up – this is official policy: The top U.S. commander in Iraq authorized prisoner interrogation tactics more harsh than accepted Army practice, including using guard dogs to exploit "Arab fear of dogs," a memo made public on Tuesday showed.

The Sept. 14, 2003, memo by Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, then the senior commander in Iraq, was released by the American Civil Liberties Union, which obtained it from the government under court order through the Freedom of Information Act.

"The memo clearly establishes that Gen. Sanchez authorized unlawful interrogation techniques for use in Iraq, and in particular these techniques violate the Geneva Conventions and the Army's own field manual governing interrogations," ACLU lawyer Amrit Singh said in an interview.

Freedom of the Press

We don’t kill journalists and when we do it’s an accident: The US military has acknowledged it was responsible for killing two journalists working for Dubai-based satellite channel al-Arabiya who were shot close to a checkpoint in the Iraqi capital earlier this month.

Al-Arabiya cameraman Ali Abd al-Aziz died on 18 March from a gunshot wound to the head. Correspondent Ali al-Khatib died from his wounds in hospital the next day. Both were Iraqis.

Colleagues said US troops fired on their car near a checkpoint in central Baghdad. The US military initially said it was unlikely its bullets had killed them.

On Monday, a US military official said an investigation into the deaths showed troops were responsible, but had acted "within the rules of engagement".

US soldiers were aiming at a different car, a white Volvo that had driven through the checkpoint at high speed, the investigation said.

Or it’s their own damn fault: Amid the furor over the incident in which U.S. troops wounded an Italian reporter and killed an Italian intelligence agent, the Pentagon has appointed a brigadier general to head an investigation and says the Italians can participate in it. The results are expected in three to four weeks. Not all run-ins between the military and the press get that kind of attention.

On April 8, 2003, a U.S. tank shell hit Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, where many reporters were staying. Two cameramen were killed. In the immediate aftermath, the military said insurgents had been firing from the hotel. The story changed in the official investigation four months later, which said troops fired at an enemy spotter seen at the hotel. "They fired a single round in self-defense in full accordance with the rules of engagement," the report found, adding, "Baghdad was a high-intensity combat area, and some journalists had elected to remain there despite repeated warnings of the extreme danger of doing so."

But studies of the incident by both Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists found that the military failed to alert troops to who was in the hotel. The CPJ report wonders how the tank crew managed to see the glint of binoculars—which the troops suspected were being used to spot them—but not the numerous TV cameras set up on the hotel's balconies.

Main Battle Tank

Eighty? Wow…: The U.S. military's Abrams tank, designed during the Cold War to withstand the fiercest blows from the best Soviet tanks, is getting knocked out at surprising rates by the low-tech bombs and rocket-propelled grenades of Iraqi insurgents.

In the all-out battles of the 1991 Gulf War, only 18 Abrams tanks were lost and no soldiers in them killed. But since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, with tanks in daily combat against the unexpectedly fierce insurgency, the Army says 80 of the 69-ton behemoths have been damaged so badly they had to be shipped back to the United States.

At least five soldiers have been killed inside the tanks when they hit roadside bombs, according to figures from the Army's Armor Center at Fort Knox, Ky. At least 10 more have died while riding partially exposed from open hatches.

The Price

Homeless vet: When "Iraqi Freedom" began, Private First Class Herold Noel was a soldier in the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, pounding a path into Baghdad. "I fought for this country," he said. "I shed blood for this country. I watched friends die." And like so many, Herold Noel came home a hero, but he wound up homeless.

Lost opportunity: Matthew Brown has wanted to be a police officer since he was 8 years old.

He came within 10 days of fulfilling that dream in December 2003, but his Army Reserve unit was called to duty in Iraq before he was sworn in to the Peoria Police Department.

Brown, serving as a first lieutenant with the Bartonville-based 724th Transportation Company, earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for leadership in Iraq.

But the 26-year-old also lost his left eye during an ambush last year that killed two other members of his unit. As a result, he will never get a police badge in Peoria; the department requires officers to have vision in both eyes.

Dying for Halliburton: Tony Johnson died in a gun battle near Baghdad International Airport. But Johnson was not a soldier; he was a truck driver for Halliburton. His family claims he died because the company decided to endanger his life in its pursuit of profit.

On Tuesday, nearly one year after his death, Johnson's ex-wife and daughter brought a federal lawsuit against Halliburton. It is just the first of what is expected to be a string of lawsuits to be filed against the Houston-based company by families of the men who lost their lives on one fateful day in April, 2004.

Johnson was one of 19 truck drivers carrying fuel for the United States military from Camp Anaconda to the airport. The convoy soon drove straight into a major gun battle on what has become the world's most dangerous highway. Two hours later six drivers were dead, one had been kidnapped and one had disappeared. Only 11 made it to their destination alive.

Johnson's daughter April and ex-wife Kim want the world to know that these men were willfully misled by Halliburton, both about the dangers of working in Iraq and their rights to protect their own lives.

Female soldiers: Death has claimed a record number of female soldiers serving in the U.S. military in the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Despite rules that have prohibited women from fighting on the front lines, female soldiers in these conflicts are facing virtually the same risks as men because of the nature of these missions and because of overall troop shortages in Iraq, some military analysts say. In light of this -- and in response to charges that the military has failed to adequately protect its female soldiers -- the House Armed Services Committee is preparing a report on the feasibility of assigning women to combat-related positions.

The report -- due this spring -- has stirred debate on how female soldiers should serve alongside men and whether the military can and should uphold rules meant to minimize women's risks.

This Is Pathetic

We got a “D”: Since 1977, the United States State Department has issued an annual global report card called the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

The document has long been a thorn in the side of authoritarian governments, including China's, which responds with a nettled review of its own, called "The Human Rights Record of the United States," the 2004 version of which was recently released.

China's assessment, unlike the sober State Department tome, is a frank indictment and draws a picture of America that approaches caricature. But that doesn't mean it won't buttress the negative image of the United States held by its critics around the world.

This is revolting. The bloody-handed perpertrators of the Teineman Square massacre can castigate the US for human rights violations and it's actually credible. This is where George Walker Bush has brought us.


Comment: At the end of this week’s edition of ABC’s “This Week,” in a discussion that felt like the discussion the week before and the week before that, it was noted that the Hill seems strangely silent in protesting the war.

In fact, as an InterPress Service report noted, “No leading politician from the opposition Democratic Party participated in the anti-war protests, nor made any speeches at the rallies. The event was organized by a nationwide coalition representing an array of grassroots community peace and social justice groups.”

Not surprisingly, the absence of members of the political elite in the streets was mirrored by the paucity of coverage in the elite press- which is not particularly partial to covering grass roots activism. The New York Times focused on one small civil disobedience protest at a military recruiting office in Times Square, just down the street from the Times office. A protest at the Times itself may have made real news.

There were more anti-war actions in more cities than ever but that proliferation of protest or the presence of military families at the protests seemed not too newsworthy. A media that routinely plays down the size of all protests in this case seemed to be obsessed with nothing more than their size, as in the protests were “smaller than ever.” What were they saying?

Editorial: News coverage of the unfortunate Florida woman sidelined all major stories — the war in Iraq, Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the Lebanon-Syria crisis and even a coup in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan — all took second place.

And fact should raise concerns among people who expect the US to remain focused on international issues. American foreign policy has consistently been accused of suffering from attention deficit disorder.

Those who rely on the support of the US around the world worry that domestic issues may, at a moment’s notice, derail the attention needed, as is currently the case in the Middle East. Palestinians worry that the US could be sidetracked from the peace talks, during which time the Israelis would try and put through plans for additional housing units in the West Bank, as is happening in Maaleh Adoumim. Or, as some Lebanese worry, that pressures on Syria to continue its withdrawal might abate

In the midst of the current turmoil in Iraq, Lebanon and other parts of the world, where a discreet mix of American political pressures and nudges are needed, fears of sudden American abandonment resulting from other issues grabbing Washington’s interest has many people worried.

Book review: Not since Vietnam has foreign policy been at the center of political debate in America in the way that it is now. For two years, the U.S. has been divided by passionate arguments about whether the Iraq war was morally justifiable or politically wise. Meanwhile, the unsettled aftermath of the U.S. occupation ensures that these debates are unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.

Strikingly, the debate over Iraq - and about President Bush's international policies in general - has scrambled some traditional (albeit simplistic) assumptions about ideology and foreign policy. Since the time of Woodrow Wilson, moral idealism in foreign policy has generally been seen as a Democratic position. But it is a Republican president who now purports to espouse an idealistic approach to world affairs, seeking to establish a new international order on the basis of ending tyranny and advancing freedom. In pushing the expansion of democracy, Bush said in his recent inaugural speech, "America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one."

By contrast, the Democratic candidate in last year's presidential election, Senator John Kerry, emphasized primarily the costly and counterproductive nature of the war in Iraq, describing it as an unnecessary distraction from the more important objective of defeating Al Qaeda. In contrast to Bush, Kerry took a position closer to the foreign policy tradition of realism - an outlook which aims at the promotion of national security, wealth, and power through conventional diplomatic means. Realists, who distrust talk of a world order based on values like democracy or self-determination, have more often been associated with the Republican political tradition.

Of course, many people opposed the war in Iraq precisely because they thought it was immoral - thus adopting an idealist anti-war view. But at a minimum, the national debate over Bush's global policies illustrates how contested the notions of national interest and morality in foreign policy have become.

Book review: Inside the Pentagon Papers tells a wonderful story, and it is a significant book today. For the effects that the Pentagon Papers controversy had on some institutions in our society seem to have worn off.

The press, for one, has retreated from the boldness it showed in 1971. The New York Times and The Washington Post have apologized for having failed adequately to examine the government's claims in the run-up to the Iraq war. The press was slow to give serious coverage to the Bush administration's assaults on civil liberty, such as the claim that the President can imprison American citizens indefinitely as alleged "enemy combatants" without trial or access to counsel. (Newspapers have more recently emerged from their torpor, for example in vigorously reporting the widespread torture of prisoners held by the US in Iraq, Guantánamo, and Afghanistan, and the Bush administration's legal memoranda that opened the way to torture. Even there, though, some of the breakthrough reporting came from Seymour Hersh and Jane Mayer in The New Yorker.)

The crucial lesson of the Pentagon Papers and then Watergate was that presidents are not above the law. So we thought. But today government lawyers argue that the president is above the law—that he can order the torture of prisoners even though treaties and a federal law forbid it. John Yoo, a former Justice Department official who wrote some of the broad claims of presidential power in memoranda, told Jane Mayer recently that Congress does not have power to "tie the president's hands in regard to torture as an interrogation technique." The constitutional remedy for presidential abuse of his authority, he said, is impeachment. Yoo also told Ms. Mayer that the 2004 election was a "referendum" on the torture issue: the people had spoken, and the debate was over. And so, in the view of this prominent conservative legal thinker, a professor at the University of California law school in Berkeley, an election in which the torture issue was not discussed has legitimized President Bush's right to order its use.

Casualty Reports

Local story: Fort Carson, CO, honors two soldiers killed in a vehicle accident in Beiji.

Local story: Jefferson City, TN, soldier killed in Kirkuk.

Local story: Seneca, PA, holding memorial service to honor local soldiers who have died in Iraq.

Local story: Watsonville, CA, native soldier killed in Ramadi, to be interred in Tulsa City, OK.

Local story: Dallas, TX, high school honors a graduate Marine killed in Iraq.

Local story: Natchitoches, LA, soldier killed in Iraq.

Local story: Summersville, WV, Marine killed in Al-Anbar province.

Medal Awarded

Local story: Tampa, FL, soldier to receive posthumous Medal of Honor.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?