Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Imperial Vice President Cheney

Source: Salon (6-28-07)

The imperial vice presidency

By Sidney Blumenthal

When Huey P. Long left the governorship of Louisiana in 1932 to become a U.S. senator, he filled the position with a childhood friend named Oscar Kelly Allen, known as O.K., who gave the OK to whatever the Kingfish wished. The story is still told, perhaps apocryphal, that one day a leaf wafted through an open window and landed on O.K.’s desk and, without hesitation, he signed it.

Two months after 9/11, on the day of the fall of Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 13, 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney appeared in the Oval Office with a four-page executive order designating terrorism suspects as enemy combatants to be held indefinitely, with no right to have their detention reviewed by any court except newly created military commissions, where they would not be permitted to learn the accusations or evidence against them, or be represented by counsel, or even know that their case had been heard and decided.

The secretary of state and the national security advisor were deliberately kept uninformed as the White House staff secretary prepared the order for signature. According to a four-part series published this week in the Washington Post on the extraordinary power of the vice president, “When it [the order] returned to the Oval Office, in a blue portfolio embossed with the presidential seal, Bush pulled a felt-tip pen from his pocket and signed without sitting down. Almost no one else had seen the text.” Colin Powell was stunned when he learned of the fait accompli. “What the hell just happened?” he asked. Condoleezza Rice was described as “incensed.” But neither of them, then or later, effectively challenged Cheney’s usurpation of executive authority. And, as can be gathered inferentially, Bush never bothered to ask Cheney about their opinions on the executive order or to call them; nor did he seem to care.

More

Bush: Israel as a model for Iraq!

Source: Informed Comment June 29, 2007

Bush Turns Iraq into Israel/Palestine


By Juan Cole

[Mr. Cole is Professor of Modern Middle Eastern and South Asian History at the University of Michigan. His website is http://www.juancole.com/.]

Bush said in a speech on Thursday that he hopes Iraq will be like Israel, a democracy that faces terrorist violence but manages to retain its democratic character:

In Israel, Bush said, 'terrorists have taken innocent human life for years in suicide attacks. The difference is that Israel is a functioning democracy and it's not prevented from carrying out its responsibilities. And that's a good indicator of success that we're looking for in Iraq.'

These words may be the stupidest ones ever uttered by a US president. Given their likely impact on the US war effort in the Middle East, they are downright criminal.

The US political elite just doesn't get it. Israel is not popular in the Middle East, and it isn't because Middle Easterners are bigots. It is because Israel is coded as the last European colonial presence in the region, an heir to French Algeria, British Egypt, and Dutch Indonesia-- and because the Israelis pugnaciously continue to try to colonize neighboring bits of territory. (This enmity is not inevitable or eternal; in 2002 the Arab League offered full recognition of Israel in return for its going back to 1967 borders, but the Israeli government turned down the offer.) But for the purposes of this analysis it does not really matter why Israel is unpopular. Let us just stipulate that it is. Why would you associate American Iraq with such an unpopular project, if you were trying to do public diplomacy in the region? Bush had just announced a new push to get the American message out to the Muslim world, the day before.

Let's just take the analogy seriously for a moment. Israel proper is a democracy of sorts, though its 1 million Arab citizens are in a second class position. But it rules over several million stateless Palestinians who lack even the pretence of self-rule. It is hard to characterize a country as a democracy when it has millions of disenfranchised subjects. Bush manages to only think about Jewish Israelis in the above analogy, wiping out millions of other residents of geographical Palestine who don't get to participate in 'democracy' or exercise popular sovereignty.

It is true that the Israelis managed to blunt the terror attacks of Islamic Jihad, the Qassam Brigades, and the al-Aqsa Martyrs brigades over the years after the eruption of the 2nd Intifada. But there are still attacks, including by rocket. The reason for those attacks is that the Palestinians had mostly been driven from their homes and off their land, and were militarily, politically and economically subjected to the Israelis. The Israelis reduced the terror attacks by essentially imprisoning millions of stateless Palestinians in the territories, further restricting their movements, destroying their trade and livelihoods. The Israeli government continues to grab Palestinian land and put more colonists on it, even as we speak.

Israel-Palestine is among the world's hottest trouble spots, and the conflict has poisoned politics throughout the Middle East. It was among the motives for Bin Laden's attack on the US on September 11, so it has spilled over on America, too. A second one of those would be a good thing?

So who would play the Palestinians in Bush's analogy? Obviously, it would be the Sunni Arabs, who apparently are meant to be cordoned off from the rest of Iraqis and put behind massive walls and barbed wire, and deprived of political power. That is not a desirable outcome and is not politically or militarily tenable in the long run.

And, let's just stop and think. Even if it were true that an Israel-Palestine sort of denouement were in Bush's mind for Iraq, was it wise for him to make it public?

That sort of scenario is precisely the propaganda message broadcast by the Jihadi websites in Iraq and the Arab world! They say that the US military occupation of Iraq, in alliance with Shiites, has turned the Sunni Arabs into Palestinians! Bush could not have handed the guerrillas a better rhetorical gift. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that DVD's of Bush's comments will be spread around as a recruiting tool for jihadis, and that US troops will certainly be killed as a result of this speech. You could say that the US military presence is already pretty unpopular in the Sunni Arab areas. But what of the progress in al-Anbar Province? Will Bush's speech help or hurt Sunni Arabs who want to ally with the US against the foreign Salafi Jihadis? Hurt, obviously.

If Bush had said something like that in 2002, you could have written it off as inexperience and lack of knowledge of the Middle East. But he has been the sitting president for so many years, and has had so much to do with the Middle East that this faux pas is just inexcusable. I don't know the man and can't judge if he is just not very bright. I can confirm that he says things that are not very bright. And, worse, he says things that are guaranteed to put more US troops into the grave in Diyala, Baghdad, Salahuddin and al-Anbar Provinces.

I don't know whether to sob in grief or tear my hair out in frustration. How much longer do we have to suffer?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Who speaks and decides for Palestine?

Counterpunch

Weekend Edition,June 16 / 17, 2007

The Wages of Corruption and Occupation
Welcome to "Palestine"

By ROBERT FISK

How troublesome the Muslims of the Middle East are. First, we demand that the Palestinians embrace democracy and then they elect the wrong party - Hamas - and then Hamas wins a mini-civil war and presides over the Gaza Strip. And we Westerners still want to negotiate with the discredited President, Mahmoud Abbas. Today "Palestine" - and let's keep those quotation marks in place - has two prime ministers. Welcome to the Middle East.

Who can we negotiate with? To whom do we talk? Well of course, we should have talked to Hamas months ago. But we didn't like the democratically elected government of the Palestinian people. They were supposed to have voted for Fatah and its corrupt leadership. But they voted for Hamas, which declines to recognise Israel or abide by the totally discredited Oslo agreement.

No one asked - on our side - which particular Israel Hamas was supposed to recognise. The Israel of 1948? The Israel of the post-1967 borders? The Israel which builds - and goes on building - vast settlements for Jews and Jews only on Arab land, gobbling up even more of the 22 per cent of "Palestine" still left to negotiate over?

And so today, we are supposed to talk to our faithful policeman, Mr Abbas, the "moderate" (as the BBC, CNN and Fox News refer to him) Palestinian leader, a man who wrote a 600-page book about Oslo without once mentioning the word "occupation", who always referred to Israeli "redeployment" rather than "withdrawal", a "leader" we can trust because he wears a tie and goes to the White House and says all the right things. The Palestinians didn't vote for Hamas because they wanted an Islamic republic - which is how Hamas's bloody victory will be represented - but because they were tired of the corruption of Mr Abbas's Fatah and the rotten nature of the "Palestinian Authority".

I recall years ago being summoned to the home of a PA official whose walls had just been punctured by an Israeli tank shell. All true. But what struck me were the gold-plated taps in his bathroom. Those taps - or variations of them - were what cost Fatah its election. Palestinians wanted an end to corruption - the cancer of the Arab world - and so they voted for Hamas and thus we, the all-wise, all-good West, decided to sanction them and starve them and bully them for exercising their free vote. Maybe we should offer "Palestine" EU membership if it would be gracious enough to vote for the right people?

All over the Middle East, it is the same. We support Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, even though he keeps warlords and drug barons in his government (and, by the way, we really are sorry about all those innocent Afghan civilians we are killing in our "war on terror" in the wastelands of Helmand province).

We love Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, whose torturers have not yet finished with the Muslim Brotherhood politicians recently arrested outside Cairo, whose presidency received the warm support of Mrs - yes Mrs - George W Bush - and whose succession will almost certainly pass to his son, Gamal.

We adore Muammar Gaddafi, the crazed dictator of Libya whose werewolves have murdered his opponents abroad, whose plot to murder King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia preceded Tony Blair's recent visit to Tripoli - Colonel Gaddafi, it should be remembered, was called a "statesman" by Jack Straw for abandoning his non-existent nuclear ambitions - and whose "democracy" is perfectly acceptable to us because he is on our side in the "war on terror".

Yes, and we love King Abdullah's unconstitutional monarchy in Jordan, and all the princes and emirs of the Gulf, especially those who are paid such vast bribes by our arms companies that even Scotland Yard has to close down its investigations on the orders of our prime minister - and yes, I can indeed see why he doesn't like our coverage of what he quaintly calls "the Middle East". If only the Arabs - and the Iranians - would support our kings and shahs and princes whose sons and daughters are educated at Oxford and Harvard, how much easier the "Middle East" would be to control.

For that is what it is about - control - and that is why we hold out, and withdraw, favours from their leaders. Now Gaza belongs to Hamas, what will our own elected leaders do? Will our pontificators in the EU, the UN, Washington and Moscow now have to talk to these wretched, ungrateful people (fear not, for they will not be able to shake hands) or will they have to acknowledge the West Bank version of Palestine (Abbas, the safe pair of hands) while ignoring the elected, militarily successful Hamas in Gaza?

It's easy, of course, to call down a curse on both their houses. But that's what we say about the whole Middle East. If only Bashar al-Assad wasn't President of Syria (heaven knows what the alternative would be) or if the cracked President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad wasn't in control of Iran (even if he doesn't actually know one end of a nuclear missile from the other).
If only Lebanon was a home-grown democracy like our own little back-lawn countries - Belgium, for example, or Luxembourg. But no, those pesky Middle Easterners vote for the wrong people, support the wrong people, love the wrong people, don't behave like us civilised Westerners.

So what will we do? Support the reoccupation of Gaza perhaps? Certainly we will not criticise Israel. And we shall go on giving our affection to the kings and princes and unlovely presidents of the Middle East until the whole place blows up in our faces and then we shall say - as we are already saying of the Iraqis - that they don't deserve our sacrifice and our love.

How do we deal with a coup d'état by an elected government?

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent.

Blair a caller for peace or a war criminal?

Al Quds Al-Arabi

On June 28, the Palestinian-owned Al Quds Al Arabi carried the following opinion piece by Chief Editor Abdel-Beri Atwan:


“Choosing former British PM Tony Blair as the peace envoy
of the international quartet committee to the Middle East
confirms once again the insistence of the western states
and the US in particular on provoking the feelings of the
Arabs and Muslims and continuing to adopt wrong policies
which led to the current state of bloody chaos in the
Middle East. Blair, whom President Georges Bush wanted to
reward for blindly following his administration, completely
lost his credibility and is considered the most hated
person by Arabs and Muslims after President Bush.

“His name was linked to wars, lies, deceit and bias toward
the Israelis, their aggressions and their massacres against
the Palestinian people. The Arab and Islamic people can’t
forget how Blair promoted the war on Iraq and fabricated
lies before the British parliament to mobilize public
opinion and get it to support his decision and send British
troops to partake in it… The person lied to his people
and misled them. He was the most eager among his peers to
engage in an unfair, illegal and illegitimate war. He can’t
be a peace envoy in the same region that was afflicted by
his lies and their destructive outcome in Iraq, Afghanistan
and Palestine.

“This man should not be rewarded but rather tried before a
tribunal as a war criminal, for he has not assumed his
responsibility for the deaths of over 200 British troops
and over a million Iraqis along with President George Bush
and all of the gang of the neoconservatives… Some might
argue that Blair has a lot of experience in defusing
conflicts, one which he has acquired while handling the
Northern Ireland case… Some might also argue he was also
the most eager to find a solution to the Arab-Israeli
conflict and pledged more than once to work for the
establishment of a viable and independent Palestinian
state…

“Northern Ireland is not Palestine and Blair’s role in the
first is completely different from his role in the second.
When he decided to knock on the doors of peace in Belfast,
he was prime minister and the British people were pushing
in that direction after the explosions reached the heart of
London. In the New Middle East, his role will be nothing
more than a mailman delivering messages and positions and
organizing meetings and conferences without enjoying any
real prerogatives. Blair remained in power for ten years
without ever giving the Arabs and Muslims anything
beneficial especially at the level of the Palestinian
cause.

“More importantly, he appointed Lord Levy - a British Jew
known for his strong relations with the Hebrew state - as
his envoy in the Arab region… During the Israeli massacre
in Jennin, I was a member of a Palestinian delegation of
four people which visited the headquarters of the
Ministers’ Council (10 Downing Street) to meet with Blair
as a representative of the Diaspora to urge him to
interfere and use his influence to stop the massacre. I
remember saying to him after he avoided condemning Israel
and its crimes: “Mr. Blair, are you human like us? Do you
feel like us? Does blood run in your veins like it runs in
ours?… Don’t you know that you the British are the reason
behind our ordeal?”…

“Blair answered me with his usual British coldness and a
yellow smile: “I can’t do anything. America is the only one
capable of doing anything. I am going to Washington in one
week and I will use my influence on President Bush to solve
the Palestinian issue”. Blair indeed visited President Bush
and didn’t do anything for the Palestinians as usual but,
instead, to the Iraqis, since he sent them more bombs,
missiles, death squads, security mayhem and a dreadful
sectarian conflict… The Israelis warmly welcomed Blair’s
appointment in his new position and the fact that occupied
Jerusalem was chosen as [the quartet’s] headquarters while
most of the Arabs states remained silent.

“Both reactions summarize the meaning of this step and its
repercussions. The man started on a mission to sabotage the
region and spread destruction and chaos when he was in
power and now he wants to continue that mission after
leaving power. This is where the disaster lies. The quartet
which Blair will represent did not do anything useful to
the Arabs and Muslims throughout the last four years
because it was never formed to be successful…, but rather
to give the Arabs and Muslims the impression that the
American administration is determined to solve the
Palestinian problem as it was spitting its fires over Iraq
and its people…

“The Arab and Muslim people should raise their voice and
oppose Blair whom Bush wants to turn from a war criminal to
a caller for peace, thinking that these people are stupid
and have short-term memories. The only reception befitting
of Blair is with rotten eggs and tomatoes on his first
visit to occupied Jerusalem or any other Arab capital.”
-Al Quds Al Arabi, United Kingdom

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Castro: An honourable response

Source: Granma International
June 28, 2007

Reflections of President Fidel Castro

(Translated by ESTI)

EVENTS follow each other at an incredible pace. Sometimes, several occur simultaneously. Their inherent significance and usefulness as examples is what I wish to, or, better, feel compelled to comment on. I am not referring, today, to what occurred in Geneva, which is considered a well-deserved revolutionary victory for Third World nations. Rather, I shall refer to Cuba's response to the European Council on Foreign Relations, published last Friday, June 22, on Granma's front page.

The statement was a response worthy of our Revolution and its high political leadership. One by one, all points calling for an immediate response from Cuba were addressed and clarified. Allow me to enumerate and go over them again:

"A dialogue between sovereign and equal partners, devoid of any conditions or impending threats, is the only possible dialogue with Cuba. If the European Union wishes to engage in any form of dialogue with Cuba, it must definitively eliminate those sanctions, which have since proved impracticable and unsustainable”.

“The 'Conclusions’ also failed to mention the so-called ‘Common Position', hastily agreed upon by EU Ministers of Finance in 1996 under pressures from Aznar and on the basis of a draft drawn up by the US State Department”.

“After so many mistakes and failures, the only obvious conclusion that the European Union should fittingly draw is that the so-called 'Common Position’ must disappear, since there were and there are no reasons whatsoever for its existence and because it hinders any normal, mutually respectful relationship of common interest with our country”.

Continued

Blair’s new job: Success or failure?


Aljazeera.com

June 28, 2007

Blair’s appointment as the quartet’s Middle East envoy “shows how the people behind this live in a rarefied atmosphere and have no concept of what is happening on the ground…”

By Emma Sabry

Tony Blair is facing a tough job in his new role as the quartet’s Middle East envoy. His task is exceptionally challenging because of the current Palestinian turmoil following Hamas’ seizure of the Gaza Strip.

The appointment, suggested by the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, drew mixed reactions worldwide. The former British premier is seen as a “friend” in Israel, whose Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he believes that “Blair can have a favourable impact.”

Perhaps Blair’s close relations with Israel could be traced back to his alliance with the United States; the main backer of Israel, something that could be seen as a major drawback in the Arab world, which has little faith that a close friend to President George W. Bush could bring peace after years of failed U.S. diplomacy.

Blair is also reviled in the Arab world because of his decision to join the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and his support to Israel in its war against the Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah last summer. However, some analysts say Bair sees this task as his last chance to counter the criticism he has suffered over the Iraq War.

Despite these drawbacks, Blair is a European statesman with very good negotiating skills; consider his success in Northern Ireland. He is also more outspoken that Washington in stressing the need for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and this could be seen as an advantage for him as a special Middle East envoy who will report to the so-called quartet - the U.S., the UN, the EU and Russia, according to an article on AFP.

“Tony Blair is distinguished from the United States in that respect,” said Reginald Dale, a scholar at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. “He is not going to be representing the United States but also the United Nations and the European Union particularly, which is much more likely to counterbalance the United States by being more sympathetic to the Palestinians,” said Dale, a senior fellow of the center’s European program.

The quartet announcement about Blair’s appointment Wednesday said he would support their efforts to promote an end to the Palestinian-Israel conflict, “in conformity with the road map,” whose key objective is a two-state solution for Palestinians and Israelis. According to the BBC, Blair’s mandate is to focus on helping the Palestinians, but it includes the right to “liaise with other countries… in support of the agreed Quartet objectives”. These include a final settlement.

During his last appearance in Parliament, Blair spoke about his high hopes.

“The only way of bringing stability and peace to the Middle East is the two-state solution, which means a state of Israel that is secure and confident of its security, and a Palestinian state that is not merely viable in terms of its territory, but in terms of its institutions and governance,” he said.

Despite Blair’s enthusiasm, it’s not hard to find critics about his new post. Reports said the EU and Russia were not too keen about this appointment but decided not to block it. Brussels sources say Javier Solana, EU foreign policy chief who has a long track-record in the region, is also unhappy.
Apparently, they are not alone.

“I am flabbergasted,” said Rosemary Hollis of the think-tank Chatham House in London, who is writing a book about Blair and the Middle East.

“It beggars belief on so many levels. It shows how the people behind this live in a rarefied atmosphere and have no concept of what is happening on the ground… It is not just the question of Iraq. There is a whole combination of factors. He had little enough influence as prime minister. How can he have more now?

“There might be an element of giving him the job simply because he wants it so badly but beyond that, the game plan, if there is one, might be to try to out-manoeuvre Hamas and build up President Abbas,” Hollis added.

It isn’t clear whether Blair, who will make his first working visit to Ramallah in the West Bank next month, will engage with Hamas, which now controls the Gaza Strip. Blair’s main point of contact with the Palestinians will be President Mahmoud Abbas and the new government formed without Hamas, which has been boycotted diplomatically and slapped by economic sanctions after it won the legislative elections last year, mainly because it refused to meet the quartet’s demands: recognize Israel, give up anti-Israeli attacks and accept past peace deals.

“The experience of our people with Blair was bad,” a Hamas spokesman said.

On the other hand, Abbas’ Fatah party welcomed Blair’s appointment.
“President Abbas welcomes the nomination of Blair as envoy of the Quartet…(and) has given the assurance that he will work with (him) to arrive at a peaceful solution on the basis of two states,” said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

But normal Palestinians do not think that Blair would really make a difference. “Is he going to be listened to? Are his comments going to be respected? Can he really intervene?” asked Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian MP and former peace negotiator.

Stressing that the Palestinians don’t need help building up their institutions, she said: “We need third party involvement to achieve peace, to curb Israeli measures, to end the occupation and to build a state.”

What’s clear now is that Blair will not want to suffer the fate of the previous Quartet envoy, the former head of the World Bank James Wolfensohn, who left in frustration in 2006 after only a year.

In fact, the history of Middle East envoys and mediators is a troubling one, although there have been some achievements. Top negotiator Henry Kissinger invented the concept of “shuttle diplomacy”, which eased tensions in the region after the 1973 war. President Jimmy Carter helped efforts to forge the Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel in 1978. Other negotiators have not been so fortunate. President Clinton thought he came close when brought Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak to Camp David in 2000, but his efforts fizzled out.

More recently, the Peruvian diplomat Alvaro de Soto ended his time as the UN’s Middle East envoy (a post that, like that of the EU Middle East envoy, few people know exists) with a bitter report dismissing the Quartet as irrelevant and slamming the United States for bowing to Israeli pressure.

Now Bush, with 18 months to go before leaving the White House, is depending on Blair to realize a two-state solution, five years to the month after the U.S. President proposed an independent Palestinian state.

“Over the last six years, the United States has continued to champion the two-state solution in theory but to undermine it in practice,” said Nathan Brown of the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “In sum, official U.S. statements reflect a deep disconnect from and a denial of the realities on the ground,” he said.

Although the State Department said that despite Blair’s appointment, Rice would continue to push ahead with Middle East peace talks, many analysts blamed the Bush administration’s abdication of leadership for the current mess in the region.

Citing the “endemic” violence and the “hardened” attitudes of the Israelis and Palestinians, among other factors, The New York Times said: “If Blair is prepared to speak these home truths to his good friend George Bush and insist on more consistent and even-handed American engagement, he could restore some of his luster and increase the chances for peace.”

Bush, Cheney and the Nixon Principle

OpedNews.comJune 27, 2007 at 12:34:59

By Randolph T. Holhut

DUMMERSTON, Vt. — Dictatorships thrive on secrecy. The ability to operate free of public scrutiny, oversight and accountability is the cornerstone of a totalitarian state.

Such is the case with the Bush administration. Everything it has done over the past six years — from unauthorized wiretapping of Americans, to the suspension of habeas corpus, to the detention of prisoners is the legal limbo that is Guantanamo — has been cloaked in secrecy and shielded from public oversight in the name of national security.

So it was hardly shocking to hear President Bush and Vice President Cheney declare late last week that the offices of both men are exempt from independent oversight.

Cheney got all the attention last week when he said that the vice president is not actually part of the executive branch, and thus does not have to comply with any rules or orders applying to the executive branch. But his statement is not nearly as outrageous as what the president did when no one was watching.

In March 2003, Bush issued an executive order requiring all government agencies that are part of the executive branch submit to the Independent Security Oversight Office — which is part of the National Archives — to monitor the handling of classified materials.

Cheney’s office filed the reports in 2001 and 2002. It stopped filing them in 2003. Not so coincidentally, that is about the time his office leaked the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame in order to intimidate her husband, Joseph Wilson, who was critical of the intelligence used to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Bush apparently hasn’t had a problem with Cheney not filing the reports because, according to a White House spokesman, Bush’s executive order wasn’t meant to apply to either his office or Cheney’s.

So, the two offices that have access to the most highly classified information in the federal government claim they are completely exempt from any independent monitoring on how that information is used.

Not only have both Bush and Cheney declined to cooperate with the Information Security Oversight Office, they have tried to eliminate it altogether. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., revealed that bit of information last week.

Even worse, who must the Information Security Oversight Office turn to in seeking resolution on the matter? The Justice Department, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Any guesses on how he will rule in this dispute?

This whole affair is in keeping with the Bush administration’s pattern of avoiding accountability for their actions. And the Plame leak shows that the White House cannot be trusted with sensitive information, because they have more than demonstrated a pattern of putting political considerations ahead of national security.

Bigger than that, however, is what might be called the Nixon Principle. This comes from what Richard Nixon said to David Frost in 1977 during their now infamous interviews: “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”

Bush and Cheney have clearly operated under this principle. They don’t see the need to follow rules, and thus set the example for everyone else. If the president and vice president can ignore executive orders and subpoenas from Congress, why should anyone else follow the rules?

Bush and Cheney are dead wrong in their interpretation of the law. They are subject to the same laws as any other member of the executive branch. But it’s hard to get a band of lawless men to obey the Constitution, not when Congress and the courts will not effectively challenge them. And it’s even hard to rein in a band of lawless men when the American people are still snoozing fitfully, unaware of the damage that has been done.

It’s time to demand accountability and respect for the rule of law. Without it, this nation becomes nothing more than a land ruled by tin pot dictators.<

Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited “The George Seldes Reader” (Barricade Books). He can be reached at randyholhut@yahoo.com.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cheney’s Real Opinion of Democracy


CommonDreams.org

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

By Firmin DeBrabander

I am forever amazed at the great irony that one of this nation’s most bullish proponents of spreading democracy abroad- especially in the Middle East- is one of the greatest opponents of democracy at home. The vice president’s antidemocratic streak was on display again this week when his office refused to hand over classified documents to the National Archives. This requirement applies to the executive branch of government, Cheney argued, but not to his office, which is not in fact part of the executive branch. Who knew?

Immediately, questions come to mind. Why is the vice presidency suddenly not part of the executive branch? Which branch of government is his office under, then? Why is this the first vice president to discover this constitutional loophole regarding government oversight of his office, if it is indeed authentic, and appeal to it? More importantly, why is he the first vice president to feel the need to appeal to this loophole in the first place? What does he have to hide?

No explanation has been given as of yet, which only sows greater suspicion among critics. But we all know what Cheney would or will eventually say, which has been his recurring theme through his many attempts to avoid political transparency and accountability: it is for the sake of national security. The war on terror is really most convenient for the executive branch of government. It is the ideal excuse for retaining secrets, curtailing constitutional rights, spying on the citizenry, bullying the press, disposing of trial by jury, etc. In other words, the war on terror is the ideal excuse for limiting the power of the people, and increasing that of the executive branch. This is Cheney’s real agenda. The vice president has long been in favor of making a ‘more robust’ executive office, in his words, capable of greater and swifter action. His attempt to elude the National Archives is a right, I suppose, he would expect to be vested in the president as well.

More

CIA conspired with mafia to kill Castro

The Guardian,
Wednesday June 27, 2007

· Agency publishes secret documents detailing plot
· 702 pages reveal illegal activities up to 1973

Simon Tisdall in Washington


The CIA conspired with a Chicago gangster described as "the chieftain of the Cosa Nostra and the successor to Al Capone" in a bungled 1960 attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro, the leader of Cuba's communist revolution, according to classified documents published by the agency yesterday.
The disclosure is contained in a 702-page CIA dossier known as the "Family Jewels" compiled at the behest of then agency director James Schlesinger in 1973. According to a memo written at the time, the purpose of the dossier was to identify all current and past CIA activities that "conflict with the provisions of the National Security Act of 1947" - and were, in other words, illegal.

The dossier covers operations including domestic surveillance, kidnapping, infiltration of anti-war movements, and the bugging of leading journalists.
But its detailed information on assassination attempts against foreign leaders is likely to attract most attention.
The plot to kill Mr Castro, whom the US government at the time considered a threat to national security and a stooge of the Soviet Union, begins quietly and sinisterly in August 1960.
The documents released yesterday describe how a CIA officer, Richard Bissell, approached the CIA's Office of Security to establish whether it had "assets that may assist in a sensitive mission requiring gangster-type action. The mission target was Fidel Castro".
The dossier continues: "Because of its extreme sensitivity, only a small group was made privy to the project. The DCI (Director of Central Intelligence Allen Welsh Dulles) was briefed and gave his approval."
Following the meeting with the Office of Security, Bissell employed a go-between, Robert Maheu, and asked him to make contact with "gangster elements". Maheu subsequently reported an approach to Johnny Roselli in Las Vegas. Roselli is described as "a high-ranking member of the 'syndicate' (who) controlled all the ice-making machines on the (Las Vegas) Strip and (who) undoubtedly had connections leading into the Cuban gambling interests".
The CIA is careful to cover its tracks. According to the dossier, Maheu told Roselli that he (Maheu) has been retained by international businesses suffering "heavy financial losses in Cuba as a result of Castro's action. They were convinced that Castro's removal was the answer to their problem and were willing to pay the price of $150,000 (£75,000) for its successful accomplishment".
Roselli was also told that the US government was not, and must not become aware of the operation.
Roselli in turn led the CIA to a friend, known as Sam Gold. In September 1960, Maheu was introduced to Gold and his associate, known as Joe. In a development that appears to underscore the amateurishness of the whole operation, Maheu subsequently accidentally spotted photographs of "Sam and Joe" in Parade magazine.
Gold was in fact Momo Salvatore Giancana, "the chieftain of Cosa Nostra (the mafia) and the successor to Al Capone". Joe was actually Santos Trafficante, Cosa Nostra boss of Cuban operations.
At a meeting at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Gold/Giancana suggested that rather than try to shoot or blow up Mr Castro, "some type of potent pill that could be placed in Castro's food or drink would be much more effective".
He said a corrupt Cuban official, named as Juan Orta, who was in debt to the syndicate and had access to the Cuban leader, would carry out the poisoning. The CIA subsequently obtained and supplied "six pills of high lethal content" to Orta but after several weeks of abortive attempts, Orta demanded "out" of the operation.
Another disaffected Cuban was recruited to do the job, but he demanded money up front. In the event, the dossier relates, "the project was cancelled shortly after the Bay of Pigs episode" (in April, 1961).
Yesterday's document release under the Freedom of Information Act also reveals details of CIA bugging and surveillance operations and the handling of a Soviet defector and KGB agent, Yuri Ivanovich Nosenko, in 1965-67. Also made public are 147 pages of documents relating to CIA assessments of the Soviet and Chinese cold war leaderships.
"The CIA fully understands it has an obligation to protect the nation's secrets, but it also has a responsibility to be as open as possible," CIA director Michael Hayden said yesterday. "The declassification of historical documents is an important part of that effort."
The documents are available at: www.foia.cia.gov/

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Triumph of US/Israeli Policy in Palestine

Counterpunch.org

June 25, 2007

Brothers-in-Arms

By Jennifer Lowenstein

Contrary to the many claims that the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip represents the failure of US and Israeli policies in Palestine, the violent civil infighting that has dominated the Gaza Strip over much of the last year and a half and that led directly to the Hamas coup of June 2007, marks yet another major foreign policy victory for the occupiers. Hamas will never be allowed to remain in power in Gaza so we must fear for the future of that tiny, desperately overcrowded strip of land and its 1.4 million inhabitants; additionally, Abbas ­in order to maintain his role as “Good Guy”- will have to accede to the dictates of Israel and the United States or suffer the same fate as his predecessor, Yassir Arafat.

Western nations are standing by in silence as the deadly siege of Gaza and the dismemberment of the West Bank continue unabated. What we are witnessing in full view each day are unprecedented steps taken by the world’s only superpower and its favorite client state, Israel, to ensure the death of a nation. While friction between the two key political factions in the occupied Palestinian territories has long undermined the smooth functioning of internal affairs, it was the direct, cynical involvement of US and Israeli policy-makers in these affairs that guaranteed the breakdown of internal stability and paved the way for the Hamas “coup” in Gaza.

Media reports have been careful to leave out important facts leading up to the coup such as that Hamas was the legitimate, democratically elected ruling party in the Palestinian territories following the January 2006 Palestine Legislative Council elections; that it was the US-Israeli dismissal of those election results that fueled the civil infighting between Hamas and Fatah; that obvious US backing of Fatah against Hamas helped create popular mistrust of Fatah increasing Hamas’ popularity in Gaza and leading directly to Hamas’ takeover of the Fatah military apparatus in the Gaza Strip. In other words, there were real and understandable reasons for the coup. But in the end, Hamas’ seizure of the power it should have had in the first place ends up serving the interests not only of Mahmoud Abbas and the warlord Muhammad Dahlan. It also provides the perfect opportunity for US-Israeli policy in the region to move forward with even fewer objections, if that is possible to imagine, than have heretofore been made. Who will stand up for a “terrorist organization that seeks the destruction of Israel”? The line has been beaten into our heads with every mention of the word “Hamas” for years. We should not expect a change in the behavior of the American public or of other western audiences until, when Israel is mentioned, we immediately say to ourselves, “a terrorist state that seeks the destruction of Palestine.” Seeks and is succeeding in it.

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The War Criminal Blair As Peace Envoy?

Source: CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
June 23 / 24, 2007

How Could Blair Possibly Get This Job?

The Bumbling Envoy

By ROBERT FISK

I suppose that astonishment is not the word for it. Stupefaction comes to mind. I simply could not believe my ears in Beirut when a phone call told me that Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara was going to create "Palestine". I checked the date--no, it was not 1 April--but I remain overwhelmed that this vain, deceitful man, this proven liar, a trumped-up lawyer who has the blood of thousands of Arab men, women and children on his hands is really contemplating being "our" Middle East envoy.
Can this really be true? I had always assumed that Balfour, Sykes and Picot were the epitome of Middle Eastern hubris. But Blair? That this ex-prime minister, this man who took his country into the sands of Iraq, should actually believe that he has a role in the region--he whose own preposterous envoy, Lord Levy, made so many secret trips there to absolutely no avail--is now going to sully his hands (and, I fear, our lives) in the world's last colonial war is simply overwhelming.
Of course, he'll be in touch with Mahmoud Abbas, will try to marginalise Hamas, will talk endlessly about "moderates"; and we'll have to listen to him pontificating about morality, how he's absolutely and completely confident that he's doing the right thing (and this, remember, is the same man who postponed a ceasefire in Lebanon last year in order to share George Bush's ridiculous hope of an Israeli victory over Hizbollah) in bringing peace to the Middle East...
Not once--ever--has he apologised. Not once has he said he was sorry for what he did in our name. Yet Lord Blair actually believes--in what must be a record act of self-indulgence for a man who cooked up the fake evidence of Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction"--that he can do good in the Middle East.
For here is a man who is totally discredited in the region--a politician who has signally failed in everything he ever tried to do in the Middle East--now believing that he is the right man to lead the Quartet to patch up "Palestine".
In the hunt for quislings to do our bidding--ie accept even less of Mandate Palestine than Arafat would stomach--I suppose Blair has his uses. His unique blend of ruthlessness and dishonesty will no doubt go down quite well with our local Arab dictators.
And I have a suspicion--always assuming this extraordinary story is not untrue--that Blair will be able to tour around Damascus, even Tehran, in his hunt for "peace", thus paving the way for an American exit strategy in Iraq. But "Palestine"?
The Palestinians held elections--real, copper-bottomed ones, the democratic variety--and Hamas won. But Blair will presumably not be able to talk to Hamas. He'll need to talk only to Abbas's flunkies, to negotiate with an administration described so accurately this week by my old colleague Rami Khoury as a "government of the imagination".
The Americans are talking--and here I am quoting the State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack--about an envoy who can work "with the Palestinians in the Palestinian system" to develop institutions for a "well-governed state". Oh yes, I can see how that would appeal to Lord Blair. He likes well-governed states, lots of "terror laws", plenty of security--though I'm still a bit puzzled about what the "Palestinian system" is meant to be.
It was James Wolfensohn who was originally "our" Middle East envoy, a former World Bank president who left in frustration because he could neither reconstruct Gaza nor work with a "peace process" that was being eroded with every new Jewish settlement and every Qassam rocket fired into Israel. Does Blair think he can do better? What honeyed words will we hear?
I bet he doesn't mention the Israeli wall which is taking so much extra land from the Palestinians. It will be a "security barrier" or a "fence" (like the famous Berlin "fence" which was actually called a "security barrier" by those generous East German Vopo cops of the time).
There will be appeals for restraint "on all sides", endless calls for "moderation", none at all for justice (which is all the people of the Middle East have been pleading for over the past 100 years).
And Israel likes Lord Blair. Indeed, Blair's slippery use of language is likely to appeal to Ehud Olmert, whose government continues to take Arab land for Jews and Jews only as he waits to discover a Palestinian with whom he can "negotiate", Mahmoud Abbas now having the prestige of a rabbit after his forces were crushed in Gaza.
Which of "Palestine"'s two prime ministers will Blair talk to? Why, the one with a collar and tie, of course, who works for Mr Abbas, who will demand more "security", tougher laws, less democracy.
I have never been able to figure out why the Middle East draws the Balfours and the Sykeses and the Blairs into its maw. Once, our favourite trouble-shooter was James Baker--who worked for George W's father until the Israelis got tired of him--and before that we had a whole list of UN Secretary Generals who visited the region, frowned and warned of serious consequences if peace did not soon come.
I recall another man with Blair's pomposity, a certain Kurt Waldheim, who--no longer the UN's boss--actually believed he could be an "envoy" for peace in the Middle East, despite his little wartime career as an intelligence officer for the Wehrmacht's Army Group "E".
His visits--especially to the late King Hussein--came to nothing, of course. But Waldheim's ability to draw a curtain over his wartime past does have one thing in common with Blair. For Waldheim steadfastly, pointedly, repeatedly, refused to acknowledge--ever--that he had ever done anything wrong. Now who does that remind you of?
Robert Fisk is a reporter for The Independent and author of Pity the Nation. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's collection, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. Fisk's new book is The Conquest of the Middle East.

President Castro: Another argument for the Manifesto

Source: Cuban News Agency
June 26, 2007

Another argument for the Manifesto
Reflections by Cuban President Fidel Castro

Why did I once claim, in one of my reflections, that Bush had authorized or ordered my death?
That phrase may appear ambiguous and vague. Perhaps it would be more accurate, though even more confusing, to say that he both authorized and ordered my death.


Allow me to explain immediately:

The denunciation surrounding his plan to assassinate me was made before he snatched an electoral victory from his opponent through fraud.

As early as August 5, 2000, I denounced these plans in Pinar del Rio, before a vast congregation of combative citizens who had gathered there for the traditional July 26 festivities, held in that province, in Villa Clara and Ciudad de La Habana in recognition of their merits that year.

Attempts to identify those responsible for the hundreds of plans to
assassinate me meet with a shroud of secrecy. All direct and indirect
means have been used to bring about my removal. Following Nixon's
morally forced renunciation Ford forbade the participation of
government employees in assassination schemes.

I am convinced that Carter, bound by ethical convictions of a religious
nature, would never have ordered any such action against me. He was the
only U.S. president who had a gesture of friendship towards Cuba in
several important areas, including the establishment of the U.S.
Interests Section in Cuba.

I don't know that Clinton ever ordered my death, so I cannot accuse him
of such an action. Unquestionably, he showed respect for the law and
acted with political savvy when he accepted the judicial decision that
called for the kidnapped child's return to his father and closest
relatives, a decision by then backed by the overwhelming majority of
the U.S. people.

However, it is also a fact that, during his administration, Posada
Carriles hired Central American mercenaries to place bombs in the
hotels and recreational centers of cities like Havana and Varadero in
order to strike at Cuba's economy, hit by the blockade and the special
period. The terrorist had no reservations about declaring that the
young Italian tourist who perished in one of the explosions was "in the
wrong place at the wrong time", a phrase Bush repeated recently like
the line from a poem. The money and even the electronic materials used
to assemble those bombs were provided by the Cuban American National
Foundation (CANF), which distributed the handsome sums at its disposal
through shameless lobbying with members of different parties at the
U.S. Congress.

At the close of 1997, the 7th Latin American Summit of Heads of State
and Government, which I was obliged to attend, was to be held on Isla
Margarita, Venezuela.

On October 27 that year, a vessel called "La Esperanza" was en route to
Isla Margarita. While sailing very close to Puerto Rican coasts, it was
intercepted by a patrol boat of the Coast Guard and Customs Service of
that occupied island on suspicion of drug trafficking. On the vessel
were four Cuban-born terrorists carrying two 50-calibre Barrett
semi-automatic assault rifles with infrared-guided telescopic sights,
capable of delivering precision rounds to armor-plated vehicles and
planes in mid-air or about to take off or land from a distance of over
a thousand meters, and 7 boxes of munitions.

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The CIA and Fatah; Spies, Quislings and the Palestinian Authority

Source: Information Clearing House

June 20, 2007

By Mike Whitney

When Hamas gunmen stormed the Fatah security compounds in Gaza last week they found huge supplies of American-made weaponry including 7,400 M-16 assault rifles, dozens of mounted machine guns, rocket launchers, 7 armored military jeeps, 800,000 rounds of bullets and 18 US-made armored personnel carriers. They also discovered something far more valuable— CIA files which purportedly contain “information about the collaboration between Fatah and the Israeli and American security organizations; CIA methods on how to prevent attacks, chase and follow after cells of Hamas and the Committees; plans about Fatah assassinations of members of Hamas and other organizations; and American studies on the security situation in Gaza.” (Aaron Klein, WorldNetDaily.com)

If the documents prove to be authentic, they will confirm what many critics of Fatah believed from the beginning; that US-Israeli intelligence agencies have been collaborating with high-ranking members of the PA to help crush the Palestinian national liberation movement. The information could be disastrous for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his newly-appointed “emergency government”. It could destroy their credibility before they even take office.

The extent of Fatah’s cooperation with the CIA is still unknown, but an article in The New York Sun, (“Hamas Takes over Gaza Security Services” 6-15-07) suggests that the two groups may have been working together closely. Former Middle East CIA operations officer Robert Baer, who was interviewed in the article, said that the discovery of the documents was “a major blow to Fatah” and will show “a record of training, spying on Hamas”.

Baer added ironically, “Fatah equals CIA is not a good selling point.”

Baer is right. The uncovering of the documents is “big trouble” for Abbas who is already facing a loss of public confidence from his closeness to Israel and for his appointment of Salam Fayyad, the ex-World bank official who the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz calls “everyone’s favorite Palestinian.”

Perhaps more significant is the fact that members of Hamas who spoke with WorldNetDaily claimed that “the files contain, among other information, details of CIA networks in the Middle East” and that Hamas plans to “use these documents and make portions public to prove the collaboration between America and traitor Arab countries.” Imagine what a headache it will be for the Bush administration if Hamas exposes the broader network of US spies and Arab quislings operating throughout region.

Bush Support for “Regime Change” in the PA

More …

The legacy of Blair

RINF.alternative news. com

June 20, 2007

By Frances Webber

As Blair leaves office, he leaves a country more divided - by race, class and status - than he found it.

As Tony Blair finally relinquishes power, much has been and will be written about the legacy of his ten years. In the fields of immigration and asylum, as in other fields, his reign presents a strange paradox. His government was responsible for bringing in the Human Rights Act 1998, which was designed to ‘bring human rights home’ and which has forced government to confront the impact of legislative, executive and judicial acts on the human rights of those affected. At the same time, his government has been responsible for serious encroachments on fundamental rights, a shift in the balance of power from individual liberty and towards state control; a similar shift as between the executive and the judiciary; entrenchment of xeno-racism and, in particular, erosion of the idea of universality of human rights.

Extending and curtailing human rights


One of the Blair government’s first acts, in 1997, was to abolish the hated ‘primary purpose’ rule which kept thousands of foreign husbands apart from their British wives. Shortly after, cohabitees and same-sex partners were given the right to live in the UK. The Human Rights Act, which came into force in 2000, brought the European Convention of Human Rights, which protects the right to life, the right not to be tortured (or expelled to torture), rights to liberty, fair trial, family life, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and association, into the law of the United Kingdom. The Act enables executive action to be challenged in UK courts on the basis that it violates one of the protected rights. The Act is a significant achievement. But the government has endeavoured to ensure that it is applied restrictively, on the basis that immigrants do not have the same rights as others. Thus, thousands of families have been broken up by the removal of the foreign partner - the government argues that the ‘imperatives of immigration control’ outweigh the families’ rights.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Who Are the Terrorists?

Counterbias.com

May 29 2007

by Rosemarie Jackowski

“You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong no matter who does it or who says it.” - Malcolm X

The big question that has been the sleeping elephant in the national living room has finally been voiced. Rosie O’Donnell was not the first to ask the question, but she is the one who brought it to mainstream television now. The question caused a meltdown at Fox News and resulted in thousands of comments at the ABC News blog. Justifiably so. It might be the most important question facing the United States today.

The question is since 655,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed, who are the terrorists? Rosie made a little mistake. Her question is a bit misleading because the correct number of dead Iraqis is estimated to be more that two million. Rosie’s 655,000 number does not include any of those who were killed prior to the Shock and Awe bombing campaign which started on March 20, 2003. The United States has been bombing Iraq since 1991. In addition to those killed in the bombings, 500,000 Iraqi children died as a result of the U.S. sanctions.

When Rosie asked, “Who are the terrorists?” it resulted in an onslaught of ad hominem attacks against her. There was apparent sexism in much of the criticism. Never have two men who debated an issue been the objects of such viscous attacks. The sexist, degrading, and mean spirited nature of the attacks on Rosie could lead an observer to believe that the dumbing down of the population is worse than anyone had imagined. Those who are not sufficiently informed to make a credible argument in a debate often resort to such mean spirited tactics.

The one thing that was missing from the great surge of public discourse on the airways and in the blogosphere was an intelligent discussion of the issue. The issue is, who are the terrorists? That is the question that CNN, MSNBC, CBS, FOX, and most of the print media have refused to explore. The challenge is now out there. Those who have offered such harsh criticism of Rosie should welcome a debate. Qualified debaters on the other side of the issue could include, but not be limited to, Mickey Z, William Blum, Harry Belafonte, Howard Zinn, and Ramsey Clark. I would bet my best protest poster that this is one debate that Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity will avoid by any means necessary.

There may be some questions that are more important, “What is the meaning of life? What is the origin of the universe? Does Ultimate Causality exist? How does the brain function? What is the cure for cancer?” To the families of the slaughtered Iraqis, Rosie’s question might be more relevant: “Who are the terrorists?” It is a question that has been suppressed in the United States, but is a question that has been a topic of conversation elsewhere around the world.

Thanks to Rosie, the sleeping elephant in the living room has been awakened. The big question is now out there. Who are the terrorists? No need for a team of philosophers or military men. No need for a Congressional Investigation. It is not complicated. It is not like trying to explain String Theory, Black Holes, and Anti-Gravity. It is very clear and simple. Just do a body count. The answer is obvious.

==

Rosemarie Jackowski resides in Vermont. She can be reached at dissent@sover.net.

The People Of Palestine Want Freedom

Source: Antiwar.com
June 25, 2007

Palestine: Freedom Is What They Want

by Charley Reese

You might recall how President George W. Bush was wont to wax eloquent on the virtues of democracy and how often he spoke of spreading democracy to the Middle East.You might not recall that there was a free and fair election in the occupied territories last year. Palestinian voters overwhelmingly chose a Hamas government over a slate of candidates offered by Fatah, a secular Palestinian organization.They didn’t make this choice out of religious beliefs or because they preferred “terrorists” to politicians. They made the choice because they were fed up with the corruption and brutality of the Fatah faction. They made the choice because Hamas had and still has a reputation for honesty and for a wide-ranging and compassionate health, education and welfare program.

Alas, President Bush discovered that he didn’t like democracy after all. In his mind, democracy is only good if the election produces the results he wants it to produce. He immediately cut off aid and contact to the Palestinians, boycotted them and began a campaign to get other countries to withhold aid. These actions only harmed innocent Palestinian people. Since Hamas officials, unlike Fatah, were not in the habit of squandering public money on personal luxuries, the only people deprived by Bush’s actions were ordinary people.

Now the president is pretending that the Fatah gunmen, whom he has been arming, were just sitting peacefully in the shade recently, trying their hand at knitting or crocheting, when all of the sudden those bad Hamas guys came up and started shooting. Regardless of Bush’s lies, the truth is that Hamas fought back in self-defense. Between Fatah’s gunmen and Israeli assassins, the Hamas guys must have felt like targets in a shooting gallery.

The Gaza Strip is a hellhole. It’s a small patch of land, 41 kilometers long and about 6 to 12 kilometers wide. Its 360 square kilometers are crammed with 1.4 million Palestinians, about 1 million of them refugees from Israel’s earlier wars. Unemployment is over 50 percent, and the poverty level is 60 percent. Nearly 18 percent of all children there suffer from malnutrition.

Israel controls its water supply and its air and land routes, and subjects its people to frequent closures, not to mention military attacks. It’s true that some members of Hamas have resorted to terrorist acts, but the ratio of Israelis killed by Palestinians is small in comparison with Palestinians killed by Israelis. In the year 2006, according to B’Tselem, a respected Israeli human-rights organization, 660 Palestinians, including 141 children, were killed by Israelis, while only 23 Israelis were killed.

Try to visualize, if you can, 141 children. That’s about the population of four average classrooms. Now visualize a heap of dead children. Those shot in the head are probably not recognizable, but you can see the bullet holes in the young, tender bodies of the others. If you can visualize this, then maybe you will get an inkling of the suffering inflicted on Palestinians by the Israelis.

The Palestinians don’t deserve this. Their only sin was to be born in their own country, a country that was coveted by European Zionists and taken from them with the help of British colonialism. The fact that most American politicians prefer the indignity of acting like a crowd of timid foot-kissers for the Israeli lobby adds our own guilt to that of the Israelis.

Americans should remember the clich√© “what goes around, comes around.” Nobody gets a free pass to sin against humanity. The rest of the world sees us as we are. Other countries see the hypocrisy, the lies, the deliberate negligence of the American press. They see the callous disregard for death and suffering. To use the vernacular, we ain’t making any friends in heaven or on Earth.

The tragedy is that nobody has to destroy Israel to provide justice to the Palestinians, but if they don’t get justice, then Israel will eventually destroy itself, just as one of its best intellects has predicted. Palestinians want what William Wallace and our own ancestors wanted – freedom.

The CIA's torture teachers

Source: salon.com

Psychologists helped the CIA exploit a secret military program to develop brutal interrogation tactics -- likely with the approval of the Bush White House.

By Mark Benjamin

June 21, 2007

WASHINGTON -- There is growing evidence of high-level coordination between the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. military in developing abusive interrogation techniques used on terrorist suspects. After the Sept. 11 attacks, both turned to a small cadre of psychologists linked to the military's secretive Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape program to "reverse-engineer" techniques originally designed to train U.S. soldiers to resist torture if captured, by exposing them to brutal treatment. The military's use of SERE training for interrogations in the war on terror was revealed in detail in a recently declassified report. But the CIA's use of such tactics -- working in close coordination with the military -- until now has remained largely unknown.

According to congressional sources and mental healthcare professionals knowledgeable about the secret program who spoke with Salon, two CIA-employed psychologists, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, were at the center of the program, which likely violated the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners. The two are currently under investigation: Salon has learned that Daniel Dell'Orto, the principal deputy general counsel at the Department of Defense, sent a "document preservation" order on May 15 to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other top Pentagon officials forbidding the destruction of any document mentioning Mitchell and Jessen or their psychological consulting firm, Mitchell, Jessen and Associates, based in Spokane, Wash. Dell'Orto's order was in response to a May 1 request from Sen. Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who is investigating the abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

American killing fields in Afghanistan

Nasir Khan

Even the American installed regime of Hamid Karzai has vigorously protested against the American and NATO forces who have killed more than a hundred civilians in a few days. But they are also killing by hundreds all those who oppose the occupation of Afghanistan by America.

As far as we are concerned we see the killing of more than a hundred of civilians or hundreds of resistance fighters by American and NATO forces has no significance for them in purely human terms. They use their high-tech weapons to kill the Muslim enemy in any manner they choose. They have been taught that they are doing God's work and bringing 'democracy' and 'Western values' to Afghanistan.

---------------------------------------
Source: The New York Times

Hamid Karzai Saturday criticized military operations in Afghanistan.

By BARRY BEARAK

Published: June 24, 2007



KABUL, Afghanistan, June 23 — Somber, impatient and angry, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan on Saturday accused the United States military and its NATO allies of carrying out “careless operations” that lead to civilian casualties, asserting that “Afghan life is not cheap and should not be treated as such.”

His remarks, made on the front lawn of the presidential palace, came in response to a week in which more than 100 civilian deaths have been reported from airstrikes and artillery fire against the Taliban.

“The extreme use of force, the disproportionate use of force to a situation, and the lack of coordination with the Afghan government is causing these casualties,” he said. “You don’t fight a terrorist by firing a field gun from 37 kilometers away into a target. That is definitely bound to cause civilian casualties. You don’t hit a few terrorists with field guns.”

Mr. Karzai has made these criticisms before in recent months. While his rebuke on Saturday was more irate in tone, he was still vague about his government’s intended recourse if the civilian deaths continue to mount. “Either this cooperation and coordination will be created and applied, or Afghanistan will take its decision in this regard,” he said.

More than 50,000 foreign troops are operating in Afghanistan, the bulk of them Americans. The Taliban insurgency has employed guerrilla tactics that include attacks on police stations, aid workers and schools. The Taliban commonly hide among civilians, and NATO officials insist that it is the insurgents who deserve blame when innocents die.

Late Saturday, there were fresh reports of civilian deaths, this time in Paktika Province along the frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where NATO forces and the United States-led coalition said they had killed 60 insurgents. During the fighting, a rocket landed across the border and hit a house, killing nine civilians, according to a Pakistan Army spokesman quoted by The Associated Press.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Americans voice no confidence in a congress that bows to Bush

Source: Mathaba.com
June 23, 2007

By John Nichols
(The Nation)


Confidence in Congress has hit an all-time low. A mere 14 percent of Americans tell Gallup pollsters that they have a great deal or quite a lot of faith in the US House and Senate.
Since Gallup began using the current measure of confidence in Congress in 1973, the worst rating had been the 18 percent figure accorded it in the early years of the 1990s, when the House was being rocked by scandals that would eventually see a number of top Democratic lawmakers rejected in their own party primaries and the "Republican revolution" vote of 1994.
To give a sense of just how bad things are for Congress, consider this notion: Americans express more confidence in corporate HMOs--the most despised manifestation of a health-care industry that lends itself to all of the scorn heaped upon it by Michael Moore's new film Sicko -- than in their elected representatives at the federal level.
It is true that confidence in Congress had been sinking in recent years, in large part because of frustration by the American people with the acquiescence by the formerly Republican-controlled House and Senate to the neo-conservative foreign policies of the Bush administration and to the Wall Street-driven domestic policies.
But the shift in control of both chambers after last November elections was supposed to change that.
No one expected Democrats to fix everything that was wrong with the United States, let alone the world.
But there was an expectation of progress--especially on the central issue of the moment: ending the war in Iraq.
That expectation, a basic and legitimate one in a functioning democracy, has not been met. And it has created a sense of frustration, and in many cases anger, on the part of Americans who really did want the Democrats to succeed--not in gaining partisan advantage but in the far more essential work of checking and balancing the Bush administration. Some leading voices of opposition, including anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, have simply given up on the Democratic Party. And no one should underestimate that, even if Sheehan says she no longer wants to be the face of the anti-war movement, Sheehan's denunciation of the Democrats for failing to seriously challenge Bush's management of the war is an honest and clear expression of the sense of betrayal that a great many Americans who voted Democratic in 2006 are now feeling.
That's the bad news for Democrats.
The good news is that they still have time to change course.
Doing so is easier than political pundits and cautious politicians would have Americans believe.
If Congressional Democrats want to reconnect with the great mass of Americans who want this war to end, they need only turn to Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold for advice and counsel. Feingold, who voted against authorizing Bush to attack Iraq and has been the steadiest voice of Senate opposition to the war since then, has been calling for the better part of two years for Congress to establish a timeline for withdrawal.
For a long time, Feingold stood alone. But, slowly, he has built a base within the Senate Democratic Caucus for the premise that Congress must lead.
Earlier this year, Feingold got Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, on board with his proposal to begin redeploying US troops from Iraq in 120 days. Under the Feingold-Reid plan, the process of withdrawal would be completed by April 2008.
When the Senate considered the Feingold-Reid proposal in May, as an amendment to a broader war funding measure, it received 29 votes--far short of a majority. The problem then was that leading Democrats in the Senate, particularly Senate Armed Services Committee chair Carl Levin and a key Democratic senator on military matters, Rhode Island's Jack Reed, actively criticized the plan Feingold had offered. Levin went to far as to echo White House talking points that suggested setting a timeline for withdrawal might undermine both the security of the troops on the ground in Iraq and the prospects for a smooth transition of that country from US to Iraqi control.
But Levin and Reed now seem to be changing their tune. Levin indicated this week that he and Jack Reed would introduce an amendment to the upcoming Defense Authorization bill that is likely to mirror the Feingold-Reid proposal's call for redeployment in 120 days and the completion of a fuller withdrawal by April 2008. Levin is now trying to suggest that his proposal is an improvement on Feingold's plan. It's not. And Levin's inability to gracefully acknowledge that his colleague from Wisconsin has been right all along is both embarrassing and counterproductive.
But the acceptance by the Senate Armed Services Committee chair of the wisdom on a time a timetable for redeployment with a hard deadline represents genuine progress. For Congressional Democrats it is, as well, essential progress. If they want to win the confidence of the American people, they must do something. And the "something" most Americans want most at this point in an end to a war that should never have been launched in the first place.
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John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure for Royalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use of the 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democratic leaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by the founders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

If Bush-Cheney Can’t Be Impeached, Nobody Can

Source: Dissident Voice.org

by Glen Ford / June 22nd, 2007

If the Democrats don’t even make an effort to impeach George Bush or Dick Cheney before these criminals’ terms are up, then no president of the United States will ever face punishment for crimes against his own people or humanity at-large. So said David Swanson, of the Internet treasure trove of impeachment information, AfterDowningStreet.org.

Swanson was speaking at a discussion of impeachment at the Take Back America Conference, in Washington, earlier this week. Swanson presented an encyclopaedic list of 12 categories of impeachable crimes committed by the Bush regime - not 12 crimes, but 12 whole categories of crimes, each containing many separate instances and counts of crimes, any one of which is enough to send Bush and Cheney back where they came from before January, 2009. Taken together, the list shows there is no rule of law in the United States - that Bush has effectively destroyed the Constitution as a barrier to executive dictatorship. If laws can be broken at will, there is no law. Congress may as well stop enacting them, and go home, themselves.

That goes for the Congressional Black Caucus as an institution, as well. At least 40 of the 42 Black members of the House of Representatives should be co-sponsors of a measure to impeach Dick Cheney - but only four have signed on. What are they afraid of? Huge majorities of African Americans would have voted to impeach George Bush before he was even sworn in, in January, 2001, for having stolen the 2000 election. He did it again, in 2004, committing myriad crimes in the process. And he was still at it, this year, firing his own Republican U.S. attorneys for not being vigorous enough in systematically suppressing the voting rights of Blacks and Latinos - in preparation for Republican theft of the election in 2008. Yet only four Black congresspersons have signed on for impeachment.

They fear House Speaker Nancy Pelosi more than they respect the will of their own constituents, who would endorse impeachment in an instant. Pelosi says impeachment will remain “off the table” - meaning the rule of law is off the table. Pelosi’s defenders, including Black lawmakers, say there’s not enough time left in Bush’s and Cheney’s terms to bother with impeaching them. That’s a lie that flies in the face of history. Richard Nixon’s impeachment proceedings took only three months, after which he resigned in disgrace. It took only four months for Bill Clinton to go through the entire process, and be acquitted. The Democrats have been in the majority in the House and Senate for five months, and have not raised a finger to defend the rule of law.

Impeachment, like all criminal processes, is designed not just to punish current lawbreakers, but to prevent future criminality. George Bush and his gang have been running a massive criminal enterprise for more than six years, effectively nullifying the Constitution. The Constitution does not automatically come back to life after the two top criminals leave. It must be enforced, or it is just an old, moldy piece of paper. The question is not whether there is time to impeach Bush and Cheney, but whether there is time to rescue the rule of law - domestic and international.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Cheny Says White House Rules Don't Apply to Him

abcnews.com

June 21, 2007 12:57 PM

Justin Rood Reports:

Vice President Dick Cheney has asserted his office is not a part of the executive branch of the U.S. government, and therefore not bound by a presidential order governing the protection of classified information by government agencies, according to a new letter from Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., to Cheney.

Bill Leonard, head of the government's Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), told Waxman's staff that Cheney's office has refused to provide his staff with details regarding classified documents or submit to a routine inspection as required by presidential order, according to Waxman.

In pointed letters released today by Waxman, ISOO's Leonard twice questioned Cheney's office on its assertion it was exempt from the rules. He received no reply, but the vice president later tried to get rid of Leonard's office entirely, according to Waxman.

Leonard did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In a statement e-mailed to the Blotter on ABCNews.com, Cheney spokeswoman Megan McGinn said, "We are confident that we are conducting the office properly under the law.”

As director of the tiny, 25-person Information Security Oversight Office, Leonard is responsible for keeping track of the nation's secrets and making sure they are properly protected.

For the first two years of the George W. Bush administration, Cheney's office complied with a presidential order that requires officials to report statistics on the number of documents it classifies and declassifies.

Since 2003, however, Cheney's office has refused to submit the data to ISOO. And when ISOO inspectors tried in 2004 to schedule a routine inspection of the vice president's offices, they were rebuffed, Waxman's letter claims.

Other White House offices, including the National Security Council, did not object to similar inspections, according to Waxman.

"Serious questions can be raised about both the legality and advisability of exempting your office from the rules that apply to all other executive branch officials," Waxman said in his letter to the vice president, and asked him to explain why he felt the rules didn't apply to him and his staff and how he was protecting classified information in his office.

Former Cheney aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was recently convicted on several counts of perjury and obstruction of justice stemming from the leak of the identity of former covert CIA officer Valerie Plame, Waxman noted, and in 2006, former Cheney aide Leandro Aragoncillo pleaded guilty to sharing classified U.S. documents with foreign nationals. Aragoncillo also worked under former Democratic Vice President Al Gore, who complied with ISOO's requests.

Re-open investigation of Abu Ghraib

McClatchy.com

By Joseph L. Galloway

Posted on Wed, June 20, 2007


We were reminded again this week that in this administration, no good deed goes unpunished, and that no scandal is so great that it can’t be hidden until it’s forgotten.

The sad spectacle that transpired inside the crumbling walls of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq came roaring back to life with Seymour Hersh’s on-target article in The New Yorker magazine telling the story of an honest general who investigated and reported on events that shocked the world.

Maj. Gen. Anthony Taguba, U.S. Army retired, was an accidental choice to conduct one of 17 Pentagon investigations of the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib. He was grabbed because he wore two stars, and they needed someone of that rank to probe a case that involved a one-star general.

The trouble was that Tony Taguba was honest and thorough and reported in detail, early and often, to his superiors on the evidence he was uncovering - film and photos of abuses far worse than those the public saw. There was sexual abuse of female prisoners by their American military guards and forced sex acts between a father and his young son.

He wasn't authorized to investigate any higher up the chain of command than the hapless Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, and so he didn't.

But when his report was completed, Taguba had a hard time getting anyone in the Pentagon - where the powers that be were determined to push responsibility down to a staff sergeant and even lower ranking guards - to read it.

Both President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld went on record declaring that the first they knew of the Abu Ghraib scandal was when they saw the less-offensive photographs in the media.

If you believe that, I’ve got some oceanfront property in Arizona that I'd like to sell you.

Within 48 hours of the photographs first coming to the notice of the high command in Baghdad, the back channel was rippling with e-mails detailing the terrible scandal that had befallen the American military and its civilian bosses.

As the investigations unfolded, it was clear that the primary motivation of most of them was to protect Rumsfeld and the president from any blame or responsibility for what had transpired at Abu Ghraib. Blame, unlike cream, settles as close to the bottom of any bureaucracy as can be arranged.

For his honesty in revealing what he uncovered in Iraq in his report and in testimony before Republican-controlled congressional committees, Tony Taguba found himself sidelined for a decent interval, then forced to retire.

The president and the secretary of defense expressed their shock and surprise that a few rogue reserve military police soldiers - a few "bad apples" - had treated prisoners in their charge so badly.

That when it was obvious that President Bush and his White House counsel Alberto Gonzales had done everything they could to unleash military and CIA interrogators from the constraints of the Geneva Convention and common human decency.

There are those who know that Rumsfeld himself ordered Maj. Gen. Geoff Miller, who ran things at the detention center at Guantanamo, Cuba, to take a "tiger team" of specialists in rough interrogation techniques to Abu Ghraib in the summer of 2003 and share their knowledge.

A dozen people in the chain of command were reprimanded or, in the case of Gen. Karpinski, reduced in rank. Half a dozen enlisted reserve MP’s were court-martialed and given prison sentences for their actions.

The president and his men, and Rumsfeld and his, happily put Abu Ghraib behind them and went merrily along knowing that the network of secret CIA prisons where high-value prisoners were subjected to extreme interrogation techniques was still secret.

The examples made of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki and Gen. Taguba weren't lost on military commanders in the field or at home: If you dare speak truth to power in this administration, your career is toast, and any hopes you have of landing a cushy job in one of the defense industry behemoths are finished.

It’s long past time for Congress to reopen the matter of who's really responsible for Abu Ghraib and let the chips fall where they may - even if that means they pile up around the retirement home of a former secretary of defense or the gates of the White House itself.

How many more high crimes and misdemeanors will be revealed in the months to come? How long is it going to take to clean, polish and restore the White House and the Pentagon and all the other agencies of our government when this bunch moves out?

Let’s begin right here by serving subpoenas on all the rats that are lining up to skitter down the hawsers of a sinking ship, and getting to the TOP of all the sorry scandals of this administration, one by one.

Bush's Mafia Whacks the Republic

Consortiumnews.com

June 20, 2007

By Robert Parry

In years to come, historians may look back on U.S. press coverage of George W. Bush’s presidency and wonder why there was not a single front-page story announcing one of the most monumental events of mankind’s modern era – the death of the American Republic and the elimination of the “unalienable rights” pledged to “posterity” by the Founders.

The historians will, of course, find stories about elements of this extraordinary event – Bush’s denial of habeas corpus rights to a fair trial, his secret prisons, his tolerance of torture, his violation of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches, his “signing statements” overriding laws, the erosion of constitutional checks and balances.

But the historians will scroll through front pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post and every other major newspaper – as well as scan the national network news and the 24-hour cable channels – and find not a single story connecting the dots, explaining the larger picture: the end of a remarkable democratic experiment which started in 1776 and which was phased out sometime in the early 21st century.

How, these historians may ask, did the U.S. press corps miss one of history’s most important developments? Was it a case like the proverbial frog that would have jumped to safety if tossed into boiling water but was slowly cooked to death when the water was brought to a slow boil?

Or was it that journalists and politicians intuitively knew that identifying too clearly what was happening in the United States would have compelled them to action, and that action would have meant losing their jobs and livelihoods? Perhaps, too, they understood that there was little they could do to change the larger reality, so why bother?

As for the broader public, did the fear and anger generated by the 9/11 attacks so overwhelm the judgment of Americans that they didn’t care that President Bush had offered them a deal with the devil, he would promise them a tad more safety in exchange for their liberties?

And what happened to the brave souls who did challenge Bush’s establishment of an authoritarian state? Why, the historians may wonder, did the American people and their representatives not rise up as Bush systematically removed honorable public servants who did their best to uphold the nation’s laws and principles?

One could go down a long list of government officials who were purged or punished for speaking up, the likes of Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson and Deputy Attorney General James Comey.

The Taguba Purge

Yet possibly the most troubling case was revealed in mid-June by The New Yorker’s investigative reporter Seymour M. Hersh, the case of Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, who investigated the abuses of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and issued a tough report that prevented the scandal from being swept entirely under the rug.

Rather than thank Taguba for upholding the honor of the U.S. military, the Bush administration singled out this hard-working, low-key general for ridicule, retribution and forced retirement in early 2007.

In an interview with Hersh, Taguba described a chilling conversation he had with Gen. John Abizaid, head of Central Command, a few weeks after Taguba’s report became public in 2004. Sitting in the back of Abizaid’s Mercedes sedan in Kuwait, Abizaid quietly told Taguba, “You and your report will be investigated.”

“I’d been in the Army 32 years by then,” Taguba told Hersh, “and it was the first time that I thought I was in the Mafia.”

It was also an early indication that Taguba’s military career was nearing its end. In January 2006, Gen. Richard Cody, the Army’s Vice-Chief of Staff, called Taguba and without pleasantries or explanation told Taguba, “I need you to retire by January 2007.”

So, the general who had violated the omerta code of silence was banished from Bush’s Mafia.

Hersh wrote that the sensitivity over Taguba’s report went beyond its graphic account of physical and sexual abuse of Iraqis detained at Abu Ghraib; it also brought unwanted attention to a wider pattern of criminal acts committed with the approval of President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

“The administration feared that the publicity would expose more secret operations and practices,” including a special military task forces or Special Access Programs set up to roam the world and assassinate suspected terrorists, Hersh wrote.

Hersh quoted a recently retired CIA officer as saying the task-force teams “had full authority to whack – to go in and conduct ‘executive action,’” a phrase meaning assassination.

“It was surrealistic what these guys were doing,” the ex-officer told Hersh. “They were running around the world without clearing their operations with the ambassador or the [CIA] chief of station.” [New Yorker, June 25, 2007, edition]

In other words, President Bush not only had arrogated to himself the right to snatch people off the street and lock them up indefinitely without trial but he had dispatched assassins around the world to eliminate alleged “bad guys.”

The bigger picture – the stark and grim image of what had transpired over the past half dozen years in the name of the American people – was that the United States could no longer claim to be a nation of laws and liberties. It had become a country governed by a criminal mob deploying an unsavory collection of capos, consiglieres and hit men.

In this view, George W. Bush was no longer President of a Republic but Godfather of the world’s most intimidating crime syndicate. But that was a reality that the U.S. news media could not afford to acknowledge in real time, though it might become the unavoidable conclusion of future historians.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It’s also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth.’

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The poems of Guantanamo Prisoners

Source: Independent online

Published: June 21, 2007


The publication of an anthology of works, composed on paper cups by detainees, provides a harrowing insight into the torments and fading hopes of prisoners.

Leonard Doyle reports

The words of the celebrated Pakistani poet were scratched on the sides of a Styrofoam cup with a pebble. Then, under the eyes of Guantanamo Bay's prison guards, they were secretly passed from cell to cell. When the guards discovered what was going on, they smashed the containers and threw them away, fearing that it was a way of passing coded messages.
Fragments of these "cup poems" survived, however, and are included in an 84-page anthology entitled Poems from Guantanamo: the Detainees Speak, to be published later this year by the University of Iowa Press.
The verses provide a harrowing insight into the torments and fading hopes of the prisoners. Only two Guantanamo inmates have been charged with a crime.
They were brought to light by Marc Falkoff, a US professor of law with a doctorate in American literature. He represents 17 Yemeni inmates and has made 10 visits to Guantanamo. He dedicates the book to "my friends inside the wire".
In the summer of 2005 Professor Falkoff was sent two poems from his clients. Written in Arabic, they were included in letters they could legally send. Because all communication with the detainees is deemed a potential threat to national security, everything - letters, interview notes, legal documents - must be sealed and sent to a US intelligence facility for review. The two poems were deemed a potential risk and remain classified to this day.
Professor Falkoff contacted other lawyers and discovered that several had received poems from their clients. Other detainees, like the two released Britons, Moazzam Begg and Martin Mubanga, wrote poetry while in prison and brought them with them on their release.
Censorship remains absolute at the camp however. As far as the US military is concerned: "poetry ... presents a special risk, and DoD [Department of Defence] standards are not to approve the release of any poetry in its original form or language". The fear, officers say, is that allegorical imagery in poetry may be used to convey coded messages to militants outside.
That is scoffed at by Professor Falkoff. "These are the same military censors who in 2004 tried to stop me receiving allegations of abusive treatment of my clients who were being subjected to intense heat and cold and forced to remain standing." He added: "If the inmates were writing words like 'the Eagle flies at dawn,' the censors might have a case, but they are not. I fully accept their right to stop any coded messages to militants outside. But what the military fears is not so much the possibility of secret messages being communicated, but the power of words to make people outside realise that these are human beings who have not had their day in court."
The thoughts of the inmates are considered so potentially dangerous by the US military that they are not even trusted with pen and paper. The only exception is an occasional 10-minute period when they are allowed to write to their families via the International Red Cross. Even then the words they write are heavily censored.
The 380 or so inmates of Guantanamo include some avowed Islamic militants and al-Qa'ida fighters. But the majority are there because they were swept up by the police and intelligence services of other countries working on behalf of the US. In their despair many of these detainees have turned to verse to express their innermost feelings.
Others have attempted or committed suicide. One of the poets is a Bahraini man who has been held in solitary confinement since the end of 2003. He has tried to kill himself 12 times while in the prison. On one occasion, he was found by his lawyer, hanging by his neck and bleeding from a gash to his arm.
There are other tragic tales behind the verses. The "cup poems" of Guantanamo speak of the strange absence of flowers in spring, the bangles worn by young women and handcuffs on the militants.
Fragments survived in the memory of the poet Shaikh Abdurraheem Muslim Dost after his eventual release, but thousands of lines of poetry he wrote in prison have disappeared.
Dost, a respected religious scholar, poet, and journalist - and author of nearly 20 books - until his arrest in 2001, spent nearly three years in Guantanamo with his brother. Sent home two years ago, the brothers were picked up by Pakistani intelligence and they too disappeared. Nothing has been heard of them since.
Aami al Haj, a Sudanese national, was a journalist covering the war in Afghanistan for al-Jazeera television, when, in 2001, he was arrested stripped of his passport and press card and handed over to US forces. He was tortured at both Bagram air base and Kandahar before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay. The US military says he was a financial courier for Chechen rebels and that he assisted al-Qa'ida but has offered no evidence to support the claims.
"When I heard pigeons cooing in the trees, Hot tears covered my face," he wrote from his prison cell. "They have monuments to liberty And freedom of opinion, which is well and good. But I explained to them, that Architecture is not justice."
THE POEMS
Humiliated In The Shackles
By Sami al Hajj
When I heard pigeons cooing in the trees,
Hot tears covered my face.
When the lark chirped, my thoughts composed
A message for my son.
Mohammad, I am afflicted.
In my despair, I have no one but Allah for comfort.
The oppressors are playing with me,
As they move freely around the world.
They ask me to spy on my countrymen,
Claiming it would be a good deed.
They offer me money and land,
And freedom to go where I please.
Their temptations seize
My attention like lightning in the sky.
But their gift is an empty snake,
Carrying hypocrisy in its mouth like venom,
They have monuments to liberty
And freedom of opinion, which is well and good.
But I explained to them that
Architecture is not justice.
America, you ride on the backs of orphans,
And terrorize them daily.
Bush, beware.
The world recognizes an arrogant liar.
To Allah I direct my grievance and my tears.
I am homesick and oppressed.
Mohammad, do not forget me.
Support the cause of your father, a God-fearing man.
I was humiliated in the shackles.
How can I now compose verses? How can I now write?
After the shackles and the nights and the suffering and the tears,
How can I write poetry?
My soul is like a roiling sea, stirred by anguish,
Violent with passion.
I am a captive, but the crimes are my captors'.
I am overwhelmed with apprehension.
Lord, unite me with my son Mohammad.
Lord, grant success to the righteous.
An Al-Jazeera cameraman, Sami al Hajj, a Sudanese, was visiting his brother in Damascus after the 11 September attacks when he got a call asking him to go to Pakistan to cover the impending war in Afghanistan. Instead, he ended up in Guantanamo where he claims he has been severely and regularly beaten, scarring his face.
Death Poem
By Jumah al Dossari
Take my blood.
Take my death shroud and
The remnants of my body.
Take photographs of my corpse at the grave, lonely.
Send them to the world,
To the judges and
To the people of conscience,
Send them to the principled men and the fair-minded.
And let them bear the guilty burden, before the world,
Of this innocent soul.
Let them bear the burden, before their children and before history,
Of this wasted, sinless soul,
Of this soul which has suffered at the hands of the "protectors of peace".
Arrested in Pakistan and held in solitary confinement since 2003, Jumah al Dossari's mental wellbeing is worrying his lawyers. The 33-year old Bahraini national has tried to kill himself 12 times since his incarceration in Guantanamo. On one visit, his lawyer found him hanging in a bedsheet noose, with a deep gash in one wrist. In a letter Mr Dossari wrote in 2005, he said: "The purpose of Guantanamo is to destroy people and I have been destroyed."
Is It True?
By Osama Abu Kadir
Is it true that the grass grows again after rain?
Is it true that the flowers will rise up again in the Spring?
Is it true that birds will migrate home again?
Is it true that the salmon swim back up their streams?
It is true. This is true. These are all miracles.
But is it true that one day we'll leave Guantanamo Bay?
Is it true that one day we'll go back to our homes?
I sail in my dreams. I am dreaming of home.
To be with my children, each one part of me;
To be with my wife and the ones that I love;
To be with my parents, my world's tenderest hearts.
I dream to be home, to be free from this cage.
But do you hear me, oh Judge, do you hear me at all?
We are innocent, here, we've committed no crime.
Set me free, set us free, if anywhere still
Justice and compassion remain in this world!
Shortly after 11 September, Osama Abu Kadir travelled to Pakistan to perform charity work in Afghanistan with the Islamic missionary group Tablighi Jamat. The US claims Tablighi was providing fighters for jihad in Afghanistan and arrested Mr Kadir near Jalalabad in November 2001. In his native Jordan, he was known as a dedicated family man who worked as a truck driver. In Guantanamo, he is known as prisoner number 651.