Friday, February 29, 2008

Disturbing New Photos From Abu Ghraib

By Staff : Disturbing New Photos From Abu Ghraib

02.28.08 | 12:00 AM


As an expert witness in the defense of an Abu Ghraib guard who was court-martialed, psychologist Philip Zimbardo had access to many of the images of abuse that were taken by the guards themselves. For a presentation at the TED conference in Monterey, California, Zimbardo assembled some of these pictures into a short video. obtained the video from Zimbardo's talk, and is publishing some of the stills from that video here. Many of the images are explicit and gruesome, depicting nudity, degradation, simulated sex acts and guards posing with decaying corpses. Viewer discretion is advised.

1 - 10 of 10 images

Abu Ghraib Prison Turned Soldiers Evil by Design: Researcher

MONTEREY, California - The very design of Abu Ghraib in Iraq turned good soldiers into evil tormentors that humiliated and brutalized prisoners, a famed social psychologist said Thursday.0229 02

Stanford University professor Philip Zimbardo described a “Lucifer effect” as he flashed shocking images of Abu Ghraib horrors for those at an elite Technology, Entertainment and Design conference in California.

“If you give people power without oversight it is a formula for abuse,” Zimbardo said to a stunned audience the included famous actors, entrepreneurs and politicians.

“Abu Ghraib abuses went on for three months … Who was watching the store? Nobody, and it was on purpose.”

Zimbardo, 75, is renowned for the 1971 Stanford prison experiment in which students on summer break play roles as guards or prisoners in a mock prison in the basement of a building on the university’s campus in Northern California.

The pretend guards grew so sadistic and the prisoners so cowed that the experiment was halted prematurely out of concern for the students.

Zimbardo detailed stark parallels to abuses of suspected terrorists by US soldiers at Abu Graib prison in Iraq, and how environment can turn people into heroes or demons.

“I was shocked when I saw those pictures but I wasn’t surprised,” Zimbardo said of the images he was privy to while a member of a legal defense team for a sergeant charged in connection with prison abuses.

“Because I had seen those cells before at Stanford. The power is in the system. It’s not bad apples, but bad barrel makers.”

Zimbardo, wearing a black T-shirt with a picture of a devil flanked by two angels, paced the stage as images of horrors flashed on large screens. He lays out his conclusions in a recently released book titled “The Lucifer Effect.”

“There is an infinite capacity to make us behave kind or cruel, or make some of us heroes,” Zimbardo said, convinced that environment dictates the outcome far more than people’s characters or personalities.

“The Stanford prison experiment shows the power of institutions to change behavior. We took good apples and put them in a bad situation.”

As a witness for a US military police reservist that was a guard at the Abu Ghraib interrogation center when abuses occurred, Zimbardo got access to records and pictures gathered in the case.

The guards were told to “soften” prisoners to make them more cooperative with military intelligence interrogators, according to Zimbardo.

Photos showed naked and hooded prisoners beaten bloody and being made to commit humiliating acts such as human pyramids or simulating homosexual sex. Soldiers posed proudly with battered corpses and nude, injured prisoners.

A picture shows a soldier firing a bullet into a camel’s head at point blank range.

“They took pictures of everything,” Zimbardo said.

A “hero” at Abu Ghraib turned out to be a lowly private that called for abuses there to be stopped, according to the professor.

“Heroism is the antidote to evil,” Zimbardo said. “Let’s focus on justice and peace, which sadly our administration has not been doing.”

© 2008 Agence France Presse

Causes and Consequences of Our Foreign Policy in the Middle East

What It Means for Americans

Karen Kwiatkowski | Information Clearing House, Feb. 28, 2008

The following is the text of a speech given at Virginia Tech on February 12, 2008.

I want to thank the Libertarians at Virginia Tech, the Political Science Club and the Institute for Humane Studies for the kind invitation to speak to you tonight.

I want to talk about the "Causes and Consequences of our Foreign Policy in the Middle East and What it Means for Americans." The original title of this speech was "Causes and Consequences of our Foreign Policy in the Middle East and What it Means for Libertarians." But I interchanged Americans for Libertarians. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy in Berlin, 1963, in times like these, when the American dream seems overwhelmed by what has become known as the American empire, perhaps we are all libertarians.

Let me start first with the consequences of our foreign policy in the Middle East, circa 2008.

  • We are nearly five years past the moment where George W. Bush declared "Mission Accomplished."
  • 400,000 to 1.2 million Iraqis are dead by our decisions and actions. Over two million are internally displaced, and over two million Iraqis have fled the country.
  • 5,000 Americans are dead (soldiers and contractors) as a result, 30–50,000 physically injured, and over 100,000 mentally disturbed, receiving or awaiting treatment.
  • Army and Marines are morally and physically bankrupt – and burdened by executive pressure for more forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan and trouble in Iran.
  • A trillion dollars has been spent, another trillion to be spent before we are finished – and if McCain has his way, we will never be finished, and we will bleed ourselves for the duration of the 21st century.
  • Beyond Iraq, we have Secretary of Defense Bob Gates alternately screaming in an empty room and crying in despair because NATO won’t pick up the slack of propping up our preferred government in Kabul.
  • The one republic with nuclear weapons and a means to deploy them is led by an unstable dictator, threatened by his own subordinates, at odds with his very powerful and well-funded intelligence arm, and disliked by the majority of his citizens. And in case you were wondering, I am talking about Perez Musharraf.
  • Jordan, once reliable and trustworthy, is feeling the heat of over two million unemployed and impoverished Iraqis swelling their refugee camps.
  • Syria – who helped us with torture and renditions after 9-11 – has been both accused and attacked by her neighbor, our other nuclear-armed friend in the region.
  • Lebanon suffered a silly war in the summer of 2006 – a war that was considered an embarrassing defeat for Israel, and a war that Washington, D.C. collaborated on and quietly cheered.
  • Our steadfast friends, the House of Saud, don’t understand us anymore.
  • We publicly threaten Iran for all kinds of reasons, even though Tehran is signatory to and compliant with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and even as we happily work with all kinds of Iranian-backed interests in southern Iraq.
  • Four key undersea communication cables get cut in a week, isolating and seriously degrading much of the banking and communication traffic for our friends in the region, including in Dubai, which just bailed out some of our banks and credit card companies. Instead of decrying bad cable construction, and offering to send our own teams to help repair these cables in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, our government has said nothing. The entire region thinks we did it, either to send a message, test a military strategy, or to funnel information into a channel our vast intelligence bureaucracy can monitor.
  • The price of oil, adjusted for inflation, is not yet at the level of the 1979 oil crisis. But it is within 10% of that. Given the drastic increase in global demand for oil today, relative to that in 1979, our foreign policy in the Middle East might be said to be harmful, but not disastrous. But you must consider two things – the amount of oil the United States imports from the Middle East is around 10–15% of all the oil we import – but interfering with the free market in this region costs the American taxpayer billions and billions every year in maintaining a large overseas military presence, military and economic aid to major and minor allies in the region, the costs of periodic off-the-book interventions, like Iraq, and the costs involved with protecting your countrymen from people who hate you enough to want to kill you and topple your tall buildings.

Such is the state of the Middle East, and such indeed are the consequences of our foreign policy.

Continued . . .

Vets Break Silence on War Crimes

U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are planning to descend on Washington from Mar. 13-16 to testify about war crimes they committed or personally witnessed in those countries.

Aaron Glantz |, Feb. 29, 2008

“The war in Iraq is not covered to its potential because of how dangerous it is for reporters to cover it,” said Liam Madden, a former Marine and member of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War. “That’s left a lot of misconceptions in the minds of the American public about what the true nature of military occupation looks like.”

Iraq Veterans Against the War argues that well-publicised incidents of U.S. brutality like the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the massacre of an entire family of Iraqis in the town of Haditha are not the isolated incidents perpetrated by “a few bad apples”, as many politicians and military leaders have claimed. They are part of a pattern, the group says, of “an increasingly bloody occupation”.

“The problem that we face in Iraq is that policymakers in leadership have set a precedent of lawlessness where we don’t abide by the rule of law, we don’t respect international treaties, so when that atmosphere exists it lends itself to criminal activity,” argues former U.S. Army Sergeant Logan Laituri, who served a tour in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 before being discharged as a conscientious objector.

Continued . . .

German Jewish leader urges Merkel to back Israel's stance on Iran, Feb. 29, 2008


Munich - The leader of Germany's Jewish community called on the German government Thursday to support Israel in the dispute over Iran's controversial nuclear program.

Israel's intelligence community has information about a threat posed by Iran that strongly contradicted the "loose" assessment of the United States, said Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

The council expects German to support the Israeli view that a hard line needs to be taken against Tehran, Knobloch said after a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel during a visit to a new Jewish center in Munich.

Merkel said there were suspicions that Iran's nuclear program "does not conform to the rules of transparency and one cannot be certain, therefore, that it serves peaceful purposes."

The chancellor, who plans to visit Israel with members of her cabinet in the middle of March, said Germany had a special responsibility towards the Jewish state.

Knobloch said after the meeting that Merkel told her she believed the United Nations Security Council could tighten sanctions against Iran, despite diverging views among its members.

Continued . . .

Hamas calls for demonstrations after deadly Israeli raids

AFP, Feb. 29, 2008

GAZA CITY (AFP) - - Hamas called on Palestinians and Arabs to hold demonstrations after Friday prayers to protest at Israeli raids that have killed 30 people in two days in its Gaza Strip stronghold.

"Hamas calls on the Palestinian people to organise massive marches immediately after Friday prayers to denounce the Israeli crimes against our people," the Islamist movement that seized control of Gaza more than eight months ago said in a statement.

"We also call on the masses in Arab and Islamist countries to march in solidarity with the Palestinian people after Friday prayers," it said.

About 30 Palestinians, including six children, have been killed since early Wednesday in Gaza by Israeli military raids launched in response to rocket fire from the territory. One Israeli civilian was also killed in a rocket attack.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

US Army Official: Yes, Waterboarding Breaks International Law

With the parade of administration officials who've testified about waterboarding in the past several weeks -- that it was once legal, but is not anymore (though it could be found legal again); that it may "feel like" torture, but that doesn't mean it is torture; that as the U.S. practices it, it bears no relation to the technique used by the Spanish Inquisition (it's more in line with the Khmer Rouge way of doing things) -- you can be excused for feeling more than a little confused.

And you may have despaired of ever seeing a clear, unequivocal exchange on the topic with a government official. Like this one from today's hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, with Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency:

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) asked, "General, do you believe that waterboarding is consistent with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions?"

After pausing a moment to think, Maples replied, "No, sir, I don’t."

"Do you think it’s humane?" Levin asked.

"No, sir, I think it would go beyond that bound."

Later, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), apparently uncomfortable with the deceptive simplicity of that exchange, added some much needed context, pointing out that CIA interrogators had waterboarded detainees "only three times," and that they had done so before the Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the Geneva Conventions must apply.

On the Pakistan Elections

WEll Done

By Badri Raina | ZNet, February 24, 2008

Badri Raina's ZSpace Page

There comes a tide in the life of nations,
Which, if taken at the crest,
Leads to fortune. (Shakespeare mangled)

Remember those two kinds of people—the ones who always see the glass half empty and those that see it half full?

And, oh, the experts, especially the Indian ones; they never do see the bright side of most things, least of all Pakistan. It is as though you could not be an expert if you ceased to be ifsy and butsy and joyed in innocence for a bit.

All of which recalls that most instructive experiment that the good doctor of Austria once conducted.

Dear Sigmund, we are told, put up an easel with a spotless white sheet plastered over; not quite spotless though, for at the dead centre he planted a needle-point black dot as well.

Then came the ten subjects; and nine of them when asked said they saw a black dot; just one cretin blurted that he saw a white board!

Add to that the other conundrum. Most of us who would hold forth on affairs of the world tend to conflate the end of time with our own particular mortality. So just as we imagine ourselves to be the persons we are today, rather than processes that have spanned a lifetime of making and unmaking, we bear on events not as processes but as products.

And when was there a product that was not first an aspect of processes? To this I have spoken rather more in an earlier article titled “Essentialising Pakistan” (Znet, January 13, 08).


For the wary, let me say that it is not my incautious case that democracy has finally arrived in Pakistan (when does anything ever arrive finally?). An election, alas, does not a democracy make all by itself.

Continued . . .

America Loves Peace? Odd, Since We're Always at War

By David Michael Green, AlterNet. Posted February 28, 2008.

We've been in conflict for about half the period between World War II and the present, but consider ourselves a "peace-loving" nation.

Americans love to think that we're a peaceful people, and that we fight wars only when we must.

Unfortunately, you can count in nanoseconds how long those assertions hold up when exposed to such insidious commie dirty tricks as the application of logic or the examination of empirical history.

Sure, any war can be spun as some necessity against some Very Bad Person, preferably of brown skin, slanted eyes and/or differing deity. Not only can any war be so spun, probably every war there ever was has been, at least since the days when governments had to start offering some justification or another for their little foreign adventures.

But pick your barometer -- any one will work -- and you'll quickly see who the militant folks on the planet really are. For America, it turns out -- gulp -- to be that bloated, frightened meth-addict staring back at us in the mirror, not some overseas evil emperor du jour.

For example, suppose you wanted to measure comparative national warlike tendencies by simply counting wars. Since World War II, the United States has messed around, in ways big and small, in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Lebanon, Grenada, Iraq, Panama, Colombia, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, Afghanistan again, and Iraq again. No country in the world can begin to match this record in the last half-century. And I'm not even listing here the covert operations (almost everywhere), including the ones that toppled democratically elected governments (Iran, Guatemala, Chile, etc.), the long-term occupations of Latin American countries by the U.S. military, the gunboat diplomacy of the American Navy around the world, the aiding and abetting of other killers (Saddam invading Iran, for example, apartheid South Africa or the Israeli occupation of Palestine), the militarization of the oceans and of space, or the myriad other ways in which the United States leads the planet in aggressive tendencies. (For a whole century's worth of overseas fun -- not even counting the big stuff -- Stephen Kinzer's Overthrow is highly recommended reading.)

Continued . . .

More troops for Iraq and Afghanistan, Defense Department says

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey gestures during an appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Captiol Hill in Washington, DC.
Dennis Cook/AP

An Army general warns of strain on deployed troops.

The Defense Department says it needs more troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. But an Army general warns that troops already in the fight are under too much strain. The warning comes as violence in Afghanistan – unlike Iraq, where violence is down - is expected to increase.

The Defense Department announced that by July 2008, it will have more troops on the ground in Iraq than when the "surge was announced last January, while troop levels in Afghanistan will be at their highest since 2001, the Associated Press reports:

Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, operations chief for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that by July, the troop total [in Iraq] is likely to be 140,000. That compares with 132,000 when President Bush approved orders to send an additional five Army brigades to Iraq to improve security and avert civil war.

Ham also announced that the Pentagon believes U.S. force levels in Afghanistan will stand at 32,000 in late summer, up from about 28,000 currently. The current total is the highest since the war began in October 2001, and another 3,200 Marines are scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan this spring.

As that announcement comes, "Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff, told a Senate panel that the Army is under serious strain from years of war-fighting and must reduce the length of combat tours as soon as possible," the Associated Press reports.

"The cumulative effects of the last six-plus years at war have left our Army out of balance, consumed by the current fight and unable to do the things we know we need to do to properly sustain our all-volunteer force and restore our flexibility for an uncertain future," Casey said.

USA Today adds that Casey pointed out that stress in the Army has added to these concerns:

"Discipline. Desertions and unexcused absences have increased," Casey said. "You're seeing folks not showing up for deployments."

Divorce and suicide. Divorce rates spiked in 2004 but have leveled off, he said. Suicides have increased, however. "That is a disturbing trend," he said. He maintained that the Army, while stressed, is resilient and able to meet its commitments. "It's not broken; it's not hollow."

Continued . . .

The Arab-Israeli Conflict

Global Research, February 25, 2008

Freud would not have been surprised at the continuing conflict in the Middle East. He predicted as much 70 years ago.

We can predict Freud's response because of a letter he wrote to Dr. Chaim Koffler in 1930.

In February 1930 Freud was asked, as a distinguished Jew, to contribute to a petition condemning Arab riots of 1929, in which over a hundred Jewish settlers were killed. This was his reply:

Letter to the Keren Hajessod (Dr. Chaim Koffler)

Vienna: 26 February 1930

Dear Sir,

I cannot do as you wish. I am unable to overcome my aversion to burdening the public with my name, and even the present critical time does not seem to me to warrant it. Whoever wants to influence the masses must give them something rousing and inflammatory and my sober judgement of Zionism does not permit this. I certainly sympathise with its goals, am proud of our University in Jerusalem and am delighted with our settlement's prosperity. But, on the other hand, I do not think that Palestine could ever become a Jewish state, nor that the Christian and Islamic worlds would ever be prepared to have their holy places under Jewish care. It would have seemed more sensible to me to establish a Jewish homeland on a less historically-burdened land. But I know that such a rational viewpoint would never have gained the enthusiasm of the masses and the financial support of the wealthy. I concede with sorrow that the baseless fanaticism of our people is in part to be blamed for the awakening of Arab distrust. I can raise no sympathy at all for the misdirected piety which transforms a piece of a Herodian wall into a national relic, thereby offending the feelings of the natives.

Now judge for yourself whether I, with such a critical point of view, am the right person to come forward as the solace of a people deluded by unjustified hope.

Your obediant servant,


Since Wednesday: Palestinian death toll climbs to at least 16

Al Bawaba, 28-02-2008

clashes,-gazaIsrael killed three Palestinian activists in air strikes in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Thursday, said Palestinian sources and hospital officials. According to Reuters, those killed in Thursday's air strikes were a fighter from Hamas movement and two from the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) armed group.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said the air force had mounted an attack on Palestinian gunmen.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, two Palestinian activists were killed early Thursday when Israeli forces raided Balata refugee camp. Another activist was injured.

The two were identified as members of al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the military wing of Fatah movement.

On Wednesday Israel killed at least 11 Palestinians, ten of them from Gaza Strip, and one in Nablus.

© 2008 Al Bawaba (

Karzai only controls 1/3 of Afghanistan

Yahho! News, Feb. 28, 2008

By PAMELA HESS, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - More than six years after the U.S. invaded to establish a stable central regime in Afghanistan, the Kabul government under President Hamid Karzai controls just 30 percent of the country, the top U.S. intelligence official said Wednesday.

National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the resurgent Taliban controls 10 percent to 11 percent of the country and Karzai's government controls 30 percent to 31 percent. The majority of Afghanistan's population and territory remains under local tribal control, he said.

Underscoring the problems facing the Kabul government, a roadside bomb in Paktika province killed two Polish soldiers who are part of the NATO force in the country and opium worth $400 million was seized in the southern part of Afghanistan. That brought the number of foreign troops killed in Afghanistan to 21 this year, according to an Associated Press tally.

In 2007, insurgency-related violence killed more than 6,500 people, including 222 foreign troops. Last year was the deadliest yet since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

Continued . . .

Former SAS man condemns British role in torture tactics

Richard Norton-Taylor | The Guardian, Tuesday February 26 2008

Hundreds of Iraqis and Afghans captured by British and American special forces were rendered to prisons where they faced torture, a former SAS soldier said yesterday. Ben Griffin said individuals detained by SAS troops in a joint UK-US special forces taskforce had ended up in interrogation centres in Iraq, including the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, and in Afghanistan, as well as Guantánamo Bay.

Griffin, 29, left the British army last year after three months in Baghdad, saying he disagreed with the "illegal" tactics of US troops. While ministers had stated their wish that the Guantánamo Bay camp should be closed, they had been silent over prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said. He added: "These secretive prisons are part of a global network in which individuals face torture and are held indefinitely without charge. All of this is in direct contravention of the Geneva conventions, international law and the UN convention against torture."

Referring to the government's admission last week that two US rendition flights containing terror suspects had landed at the British territory of Diego Garcia, Griffin said the use of British territory and airspace "pales into insignificance in light of the fact that it has been British soldiers detaining the victims of extraordinary rendition in the first place".

Continued . . .

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The truth about rendition

New Statesman, Feb 25, 2008

Sean Carey

An apology by David Miliband over the use of UK territory in US rendition flights leaves questions about claims of a secret prison facility on Diego Garcia

At any one time, there are three or four British policemen on the island of Diego Garcia. Ostensibly they are there to maintain law and order in this tropical, palm-fringed part of the British Indian Ocean Territory.

In reality, they confine themselves to confiscating pornographic DVDs and drugs from the island’s population of 3,500 which is made up of 1,000 US military personnel and 2,500 civilian workers - all but three of whom come from the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

What the members of the Royal Overseas Police certainly haven’t been doing is collecting evidence about the use of the island’s military base for the CIA’s practice of extraordinary rendition.

Last week David Miliband was obliged to make a humiliating apology to MPs after it emerged that - contrary to previous government statements from Tony Blair, Jack Straw, Kim Howells and Lord Malloch-Brown - two CIA flights carrying rendition suspects did, in fact, land at Diego Garcia in 2002.

Continued . . .

The World's Most Wanted

Antiwar, Feb. 27, 2008

by Noam Chomsky

On Feb. 13, Imad Moughniyeh, a senior commander of Hezbollah, was assassinated in Damascus. "The world is a better place without this man in it," State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said: "one way or the other he was brought to justice." Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell added that Moughniyeh has been "responsible for more deaths of Americans and Israelis than any other terrorist with the exception of Osama bin Laden."

Joy was unconstrained in Israel too, as "one of the U.S. and Israel's most wanted men" was brought to justice, the London Financial Times reported. Under the heading, "A militant wanted the world over," an accompanying story reported that he was "superseded on the most-wanted list by Osama bin Laden" after 9/11 and so ranked only second among "the most wanted militants in the world."

The terminology is accurate enough, according to the rules of Anglo-American discourse, which defines "the world" as the political class in Washington and London (and whoever happens to agree with them on specific matters). It is common, for example, to read that "the world" fully supported George Bush when he ordered the bombing of Afghanistan. That may be true of "the world," but hardly of the world, as revealed in an international Gallup Poll after the bombing was announced. Global support was slight. In Latin America, which has some experience with U.S. behavior, support ranged from 2 percent in Mexico to 16 percent in Panama, and that support was conditional upon the culprits being identified (they still weren't eight months later, the FBI reported), and civilian targets being spared (they were attacked at once). There was an overwhelming preference in the world for diplomatic/judicial measures, rejected out of hand by "the world."

Continued . . .

US Quietly Breaks UN Treaty

The Huffington Post, Feb 26, 2008

by Leslie Griffith

On Friday, at a United Nations meeting in Geneva, the United States broke a series of legal promises. Keeping those promises would have proved extremely embarrassing to the United States government by pointing out that human rights abuses are being committed here at home, and at U.S. military installations abroad.

In 1994 the United States senate ratified the U.N. Convention on Elimination of all forms of racial discrimination promising to provide reports every two years on racial discrimination in the United States. The reports were to include anywhere in the world where the U.S. military is in charge. In other words, the United States military no matter where it was on the globe, agreed to report discrimination. That now includes Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

The treaty is the “supreme law of the land” under the U.S. Constitution, article 6, clause 2. Every nation that signed the treaty was charged with giving a national report on such basic areas of discrimination as health care, education, and prison terms. According to the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute and the National Lawyers Guild, the United States on Friday presented a report to the United Nations Committee, never mentioning Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, or the behavior of U.S. corporations working under U.S. military contracts.

Continued . . .

Afghanistan: The Brutal and Unnecessary War the Media Aren't Telling You About

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet. Posted February 26, 2008.

It's easy to forget that the road to Guantánamo began in places like Kandahar and Jalalabad.

They say journalists provide the first draft of history. With the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, that draft led to an almost universal consensus, at least among Americans, that the attack was a justifiable act of self-defense. The Afghanistan action is commonly viewed as a "clean" conflict as well -- a war prosecuted with minimal loss of life, and one that didn't bring the kind of international opprobrium onto the United States that the invasion of Iraq would lead to a year later.

Those views are also held by many Americans who are critical of the excesses of the Bush administration's "War on Terror." But there's a disconnect there. Everything that followed -- secret detentions, torture, the invasion of Iraq, the assault on domestic dissent -- flowed inevitably from the failure to challenge Bush's claim that an act of terror required a military response. The United States has a rich history of abandoning its purported liberal values during times of war, and it was our acceptance of Bush's war narrative that led to the abuses that have shattered America's moral standing before the world.

In his book, The Guantánamo Files, historian and journalist Andy Worthington offers a much-needed corrective to the draft of the Afghanistan conflict that most Americans saw on their nightly newscasts. Worthington is the first to detail the histories of all 774 prisoners who have passed through the Bush administration's "legal black hole" at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. But his history starts in Afghanistan, and makes it abundantly clear that the road to Guantánamo -- not to mention Abu Ghraib -- began in places like Kandahar.

Continued . . .

Cabinet minutes in run-up to Iraq war ‘must be made public’

The Times, UK, February 27, 2008

Soldiers from 7th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland at Basra Airport

The intimate discussions about Iraq around the Cabinet table in the weeks leading up to the invasion in March 2003 must be made public, the Information Commissioner told the Government yesterday. It would be the first disclosure of Cabinet minutes recent enough for some members still to be serving in the Cabinet.

In a ruling that the Government is expected to fight to the High Court, the commissioner, Richard Thomas, decided that the Cabinet meetings should not be exempt under his interpretation of the Freedom of Information Act because of the “gravity and controversial nature” of the ministerial discussions.

If the Government loses appeals in the Information Tribunal and High Court it can impose a ministerial veto on the release of the minutes. There is no power to oppose such a veto.

Mr Thomas said that the Cabinet meetings took place between March 7 and March 17, 2003. The Cabinet Office confirmed that there had been two Cabinet meetings in this period and both are believed to have been attended by Lord Goldsmith, QC, then the Attorney-General.

Continued . . .

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Reflections of Fidel Castro

What I wrote on Tuesday 19 [Feb. 2008]
Granma Internacional, Feb. 22, 2008

THAT Tuesday, there was no fresh international news. My modest message to the people of Monday, February 18 had no problem being widely circulated. I began to receive news from 11:00 a.m. The previous night I slept like never before. My conscience was at rest and I had promised myself a vacation. The days of tension, with the proximity of February 24, left me exhausted.

Today I shall not say anything about people in Cuba and the world who are close and who expressed their emotions in thousands of different ways. I also received a large number of comments collected from people on the street via confirmed methods who, almost without exception, and spontaneously, voiced their most profound sentiments of solidarity. One day I shall approach that subject.

At this point I am dedicating myself to the adversaries. I enjoyed watching the embarrassing position of all the candidates for the United States presidency. One by one they were obliged to announce their immediate demands of Cuba in order not to risk losing a single voter. Not that I am a Pulitzer Prize winner interrogating them on CNN on the most delicate political and even personal matters from Las Vegas, where the logic of chance of the roulette rules and where one has to make ones humble presence if aspiring to be president.

Continued . . .

One year in prison for Egyptian blogger

Amnesty International, Feb. 22, 2008

Call for Karim Amer's immediate and unconditional release

UK demonstration demanding the release of Karim Amer

One year ago, Egyptian blogger Karim Amer was sentenced to four years' imprisonment for the "crime" of publishing on the internet material critical of Islam and President Mubarak.

The then 23-year-old former al-Azhar University student was sentenced on 22 February 2007 and the Court of Appeal confirmed the sentence on 12 March of the same year. Amnesty International described the sentence as yet another slap in the face of freedom of expression in Egypt.

Amnesty International considers Karim Amer to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned on account of the peaceful expression of his views. The organisation condemned the four-year sentence he received and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

Karim Amer, who is serving his prison sentence in Borg Al-Arab Prison, Alexandria, wrote in his letters to one of his legal counsels that he was beaten on 24 October 2007.

Continued . . .

Indian police reveal Kashmiri custody death toll

James Orr and agencies, Wednesday February 20 2008

A Kashmiri boy walks in a graveyard in Srinagar, India

A Kashmiri boy walks in a graveyard in Srinagar, India. Photograph: Mukhtar Khan/AP

More than 330 people have died while in police custody in Indian-controlled Kashmir over the past 18 years, official figures revealed today.

A police investigation found a further 111 people had disappeared from cells with no further information on what had happened to them.

Human rights groups believe government forces could be behind far more disappearances, claiming up to 10,000 people have gone missing since 1989.

India has an estimated 700,000 soldiers stationed in the disputed Himalayan region in an effort to combat groups fighting for independence.

The Jammu-Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society said today the police figures were likely to be the tip of the iceberg.

The group said 178 Kashmiris had died in police custody in the past five years alone. A further 239 had disappeared after being taken by government forces.

Pervez Imroz, a spokesman for the coalition, said: "It's anybody's guess how brutal security apparatus with a sweeping policy of catch and kill would have been in early 90s."

Indian forces have been fighting nearly a dozen separate rebel groups in Kashmir since the outbreak of an Islamist insurgency in 1989.

Factions include militants who support the fight for Kashmir's independence from India and those who support its merger with a Muslim-majority Pakistan.

Police and rebel groups have been accused of human rights violations against civilians living in the territory. More than 40,000 people have been killed since the fighting began.

Imroz claimed police in Kashmir regularly killed innocent people and said up to 10,000 people had disappeared after being detained by government forces.

Police officials stood by their figures however, and said any human rights abuses were properly investigated.

"We believe in facts and figures, and whenever allegations have been found true, action has been taken," said Kuldeep Khoda, the state police chief.

Last year, authorities charged seven policemen with the murder of five civilians whom they allegedly attempted to pass off as militants and claim substantial rewards.

The charges were the first to be brought against policemen since the start of the insurgency.

The disputed region of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan. The countries have fought two wars over control of the territory since they gained independence from Britain in 1947.

General Welch's Whitewash

What We Still Don't Know About That Minot Nuke Incident

CounterPunch, Feb. 25, 2008


A new report on the August 30 incident in which six nuclear-armed advanced cruise missiles were effectively "lost" for 36 hours, during which time they were, against all regulations, flown in launch position mounted on a pylon on the wing of a B-52H Stratofortress, from Minot AFB in North Dakota across the continental US to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana, has left unanswered some critical questions about the event.

Directed by retired Air Force Gen. Larry D. Welch, the task force's Report on the Unauthorized Movement of Nuclear Weapons found plenty wrong with the way the US military handles its nuclear weapons, but appears to have dealt lightly with the specific incident that sparked the inquiry-only giving it a few paragraphs.

According to the report, when nuclear-capable missiles are placed onto a pylon assembly (in the case of the B-52, these pylons can hold six missiles), procedures call for a clear distinction to be made as to whether they are armed with nuclear weapons or with dud warheads. In the storage bunker, pylons with dud warheads are supposed to be encircled with orange cones like those used by highway repair crews, and placards announcing that the warheads are duds are supposed to be hung on all four sides. This reportedly was not done, leaving no distinction between one pylon containing six nuclear-armed missiles, and two others that had missiles carrying nukes.

Continued . . .

U.S. expects 140,000 troops in Iraq after drawdown, Feb. 25, 2008

By Andrew Gray

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States expects to have about 140,000 troops in Iraq even after completing a planned drawdown of combat forces in July, the Pentagon said on Monday.

The forecast, which prompted swift criticism from Democrats, means there will still be 8,000 more U.S. troops in Iraq than when President George W. Bush ordered a surge of extra forces in January 2007 to curb violence.

Army Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, director of operations for the U.S. military's Joint Staff, also said it was too soon to predict if troop numbers could go below the pre-surge level of 132,000 any time this year.

"In Iraq, we're now projecting approximately 140,000 troops there in July," Ham told reporters at the Pentagon.

"There certainly is full expectation that there will be further reductions," he said. "When those will begin and at what pace they will continue -- it's premature at this point to talk about that."

There are currently some 158,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Continued . . .

Clinton accused of smear over Obama picture

Hillary Clinton highlights her foreign policy experience while campaigning in Washington yesterday

    Monday, February 25, 2008

    Hamas says Abbas not to represent Palestinian people

    China View, Feb. 25, 2008

    GAZA, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) -- The spokesman of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) Ayman Taha said Monday that President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Mahmoud Abbas doesn't represent all the Palestinian people.

    The spokesman told reporters in Gaza that "Abbas will only represent Ramallah, if a peace settlement is reached with Israel. We are certain that there will be no (peaceful) settlement (with Israel) amid the status of division that the Palestinians have now."

    Hamas, which has been controlling Gaza since June last year, is not joining the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. "In this case Abbas doesn't represent all the Palestinian people," added Taha.

    He stressed that the only exit out of the current Palestinian crisis "is through confronting the Israeli occupation, resisting it and ending the status of internal division, but not through (a peaceful) settlement (with Israel)."

    However, Abbas and his Fatah movement, the major rival for Hamas, accused Hamas movement after it seized the Gaza Strip for trying to isolate Gaza from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories.

    "The Gaza Strip can never be part of any future (peaceful) settlement Abbas would reach (with Israel) because he doesn't control Gaza anymore," said Taha. He also said his movement favors a mutual cease-fire with Israel.

    "We are in favor of any imitative or any effort exerted to serve the highest interests of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause. We in Hamas will not be an obstacle to this effort," said Taha.

    The Israeli Agenda and the Scorecard of the Zionist Power Configuration for 2008

    Axis of Logic, February 23, 2008

    By James Petras*

    Email this article Printer friendly page

    The Israeli Agenda openly defended, publically practiced and aggressively pursued by the Zionist power configuration (ZPC) has greatly influenced the US Presidential elections and the likely future course of Washington’s Middle East policy.

    The strategy of the Jewish state is the complete Zionization of Palestine, the takeover of land, water, offshore gas (estimated to be worth $4 billion dollars) and other economic resources and the total dispossession of the Palestinian people. Tel Aviv’s tactics have included daily military assaults, giant walls ghettoizing entire Palestinian towns, military outposts and controls undermining commerce and production to force bankruptcy, poverty, severe deprivation and population flight. The second priority of the Israeli colonial state is to bolster the Jewish state’s political and military supremacy in the Middle East, using preposterous arguments of ‘survival’ and ‘existential threats’. The key postulate of Israeli Middle East policy is to destroy or intimidate the principle adversaries of its Zionization of Palestine and its expansionist Middle East policy. In pursuit of that policy, it invaded southern Lebanon to destroy Hezbollah, bombing neighborhoods and critical infrastructure in Beirut and other cities, bombed Syria as a provocation.

    Continued . . .

    Communist Wins in Cyprus, Pledging Reunification Effort

    Petros Karadjias/Associated Press

    Supporters of President-elect Demetris Christofias of Cyprus shouted slogans during victory celebrations on Sunday evening outside his campaign headquarters in Nicosia, the capital.

    The New York Times, February 25, 2008

    NICOSIA, Cyprus (Reuters) — The Communist Party leader Demetris Christofias won Cyprus’s presidential election on Sunday and agreed to meet the leader of the island’s breakaway Turkish Cypriot community to revive reunification efforts.

    The Turkish Cypriot president, Mehmet Ali Talat, called Mr. Christofias to congratulate him, and they agreed to meet “at the earliest possible date,” Mr. Talat’s spokesman said.

    Mr. Christofias’s election has revived hopes of reunifying Cyprus, divided along ethnic lines since 1974, when Turkey invaded after a brief Greek-inspired coup.

    Reunification efforts broke down in 2004 when Greek Cypriots rejected a United Nations plan, and Cyprus joined the European Union a short time later as a divided island.

    Mr. Christofias’s supporters poured into the streets waving red party banners and Cypriot flags. He won 53.4 percent of the vote, and his right-wing rival, Ioannis Kasoulides, had 46.6 percent.

    Mr. Christofias, 62, told a noisy crowd, “From tomorrow we unite our strengths. We shall work collectively and in unison to achieve reunification of our homeland.”

    He will be Cyprus’s first Communist president and the only one in the 27-member European Union. Although proud to be a Communist, he says he will leave the free-market economy alone.

    His party, Akel, has busts of Lenin and red flags at its headquarters but it also owns a number of large businesses on the island. It has been instrumental in electing presidents but had never fielded its own candidate.

    The island’s division between Greek and Turkish Cypriots is a major obstacle to neighboring Turkey’s aspirations for European Union membership. The division also is an obstacle to better ties between NATO allies Greece and Turkey, who have come close to war over the island.

    The surprise elimination of President Tassos Papadopoulos in the first round of voting on Feb. 17 raised hopes the Greek Cypriots might be ready for a deal. Turkish Cypriots, who have watched wealthier Greek Cypriots enjoy the benefits of European Union membership, welcomed the result, saying they were eager for new talks.

    “We see the change as an opportunity, and we expect negotiations to start immediately and without the need for preliminaries,” said Hasan Ercakica, a Turkish Cypriot spokesman.

    Initial reaction from Turkey was more lukewarm. “We are a little cautious at the moment,” said a Foreign Ministry official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “We have to see whether Christofias gave promises to Papadopoulos or not,” adding that Mr. Christofias “will face a sincerity test.”

    The scourge of child soldiers

    The Toronto Star, Feb. 22, 2008

    Lost generations of children around the world are victims of warlords and tyrants
    | The Toronto Star, February 22, 2008

    They stood in the warm sun of the dry season. Seasoned combat veterans of years of conflict, their eyes darted nervously back and forth, glancing at me from time to time, not sure what to make of the situation they found themselves in. The breeze stirred the lush green trees of the bush upcountry in Sierra Leone, near Kabalah. United Nations peacekeepers fanned out around the perimeter nervously holding their weapons at high port.

    The Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone was about to hold a town hall meeting with several hundred child soldiers who were now back in school trying to make some sense of their ruined lives. Standing before the prosecutor were murderers, rapists, mutilators and pillagers of all kinds, their average age around 15.

    I took the bullhorn from one of the peacekeepers and asked them in Krio how they were all doing. They all mumbled "body fine." I stepped among them and for almost two hours talked to them and listened to them, developing a sense of what it must be like to be a member of what I call the lost generation of children in West Africa; children forced to kill their parents and then rip their way across the countryside in a whirlwind of terror the likes of which civilization rarely has seen, if at all.

    Continued . . .

    A Poem: Riding Roughshod

    Palestine Chronicle, Feb. 20, 2008

    Riding Roughshod: How to Choose Your Neighbours

    By Ingrid B Mørk – Norway

    You steal their land and their water,
    Destroy their hopes and their dreams,
    You break their bones with bloody great stones,
    `Cause nobody heeds their screams.

    You can lock them up in your prisons,
    With no form for legal appeal,
    Freeze them and harm them
    Hunger and starve them
    `Till despair is all that they feel.

    Destroy their homes and their culture,
    Every dream, every seed that they sow,
    Beat them and bruise them and if you can, use them,
    They are DIS-POSE-ABLE don’t you know.

    Show no mercy for the sick or the hungry,
    The dying, the dead or the lame,
    No worries about world opinion,
    Since no one gives much of a damn.

    They’ve been demonised by world leaders,
    The press and the “anti-Islam,”
    No worries about retribution,
    The “Bushies” will keep us from harm.
    They lie for us, they die for us,
    They will for us, they kill for us
    The US, our giant pet lamb.

    Make certain they constantly suffer,
    That their days are a living hell,
    That they’re battered and torn, wish they’d never been born,
    With a neighbour like Israel.

    Sunday, February 24, 2008

    Pakistan elections put Bush's efforts into question

    By Paul Richter and Laura King
    Los Angeles Times Staff Writers | Los Angeles Times, February 23, 2008

    Two victorious opposition parties may not embrace U.S. anti-militant aims. Some critics fear Washington will interfere on Musharraf's behalf.

    WASHINGTON — The legislative elections that radically reshuffled political power in Pakistan this week also have thrown the Bush administration's efforts in the country into even deeper disarray.

    The election handed new power to two opposition parties that are at best ambivalent about Washington's chief interest in the South Asian country: the military pursuit of Islamic militants.

    And it gave rise to widespread suspicions that U.S. officials are maneuvering to preserve the dwindling power of their chief ally, President Pervez Musharraf. The administration has invested $10 billion in foreign and military aid to Musharraf's government since 2001, much of it to encourage Pakistani counterinsurgency efforts.

    The elections concentrated the country's parliamentary seats among members of the party of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated late last year, and the party led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The outcome greatly reduced the influence of Musharraf's party.

    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday that the Bush administration would continue to deal with Musharraf as president but that it was up to Pakistanis to organize their government.

    The White House is viewed in Pakistan as the former general's chief protector, and Washington's staunch support for him during six weeks of emergency rule last year, a period widely seen as martial law, is recalled with resentment.

    Continued . . .

    Chomsky: Where's The Iraqi Voice?

    By Noam Chomsky | Information Clearing House, February 23, 2008

    THE US occupying army in Iraq (euphemistically called the Multi-National Force-Iraq) carries out extensive studies of popular attitudes. Its December 2007 report of a study of focus groups was uncharacteristically upbeat.

    The report concluded that the survey "provides very strong evidence" to refute the common view that "national reconciliation is neither anticipated nor possible". On the contrary, the survey found that a sense of "optimistic possibility permeated all focus groups ... and far more commonalities than differences are found among these seemingly diverse groups of Iraqis."

    This discovery of "shared beliefs" among Iraqis throughout the country is "good news, according to a military analysis of the results", Karen deYoung reports in The Washington Post.

    The "shared beliefs" were identified in the report. To quote deYoung, "Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of 'occupying forces' as the key to national reconciliation."

    So, according to Iraqis, there is hope of national reconciliation if the invaders, responsible for the internal violence, withdraw and leave Iraq to Iraqis.

    Continued . . .

    Cheney Impeachment: Courageous, but Not Surprising

    The Huffington Post, February 22, 2008

    By Elizabeth Holtzman

    For the first time since the Bush administration took office, three members of the House Judiciary Committee, Robert Wexler (D-FL), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), are calling for hearings on the impeachment of Vice President Richard Cheney.

    Their position, while courageous, is not surprising. What is surprising is that it took this long for members of Congress to invoke impeachment, and that even now, they do so against enormous political resistance and cyncial indifference from the media.

    No serious student of the Constitution would question that sufficient grounds exist to impeach both President Bush and Vice President Cheney. The Constitution provides that an Executive who puts himself above the law and abuses the powers of his office may be impeached, a point confirmed in the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon, for abuses such as illegal wiretapping.

    There is little serious debate about whether Bush administration actions -- wiretapping without court approval (violating the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act), authorizing and facilitating mistreatment of detainees (violating US treaties and criminal laws), starting the Iraq war on a basis of lies, exaggerations and misstatements (an abuse of power) -- meet the constitutional standard.

    Continued . . .

    The “other occupation” unravels

    Socialist Worker, February 22, 2008 | Page 16

    NICOLE COLSON reports on the worsening crisis that U.S. and NATO forces face in Afghanistan--and the price being paid by the Afghan people.

    AFGHANISTAN WAS hit by the worst suicide bombing since 2001 in mid-February, offering further evidence that the “other” U.S. occupation continues to falter--and that growing numbers of ordinary people are paying with their lives in the “war on terror.”

    More than 100 people were killed and another 100 injured in the February 17 bombing, which occurred at a crowded festival held on the outskirts of Kandahar, in the southern part of the country.

    The next day, a car bombing that was targeted at a Canadian military convoy killed at least 35 civilians and wounded 28 others, including three Canadians, at a crowded market in the town of Spin Boldak, also in southern Afghanistan.

    The attacks show that despite the presence of approximately 50,000 foreign troops (26,000 of them from the U.S. and the rest from other NATO countries) and some 140,000 Afghan soldiers, the Taliban have largely regrouped as a fighting force and continue to control many parts of the country.

    Continued . . .

    Fidel Castro rebuts U.S. candidates, Feb. 22, 2008

    By Anthony Boadle

    HAVANA (Reuters) - Three days after stepping down as Cuban leader, Fidel Castro was back in the fray on Friday rebutting U.S. presidential hopefuls who called for political change in Cuba.

    Castro said he was "exhausted" by the "days of tension" leading up to his retirement after 49 years in power and needed a holiday, but could not keep silent over the reactions in the United States to his departure announcement on Tuesday.

    Castro said in a newspaper article that the reactions to his retirement, including calls for "liberty" in Cuba, forced him to "open fire" again on his ideological enemies.

    "I enjoyed seeing the embarrassing position of all the presidential candidates in the United States," he wrote in a column published by the Communist Party daily Granma.

    "One by one, they felt obliged to proclaim their immediate demands of Cuba so as not to risking losing a single vote," Castro said.

    "'Change, change, change!'" they cried in chorus. I agree, 'change!' but in the United States," he wrote.

    Continued . . .

    Saturday, February 23, 2008

    Arresting Musharraf

    If He Doesn't Vacate Office, He Should be Charged with Treason

    By LIAQUAT ALI KHAN | Counterpunch, Feb. 22, 2008

    Pervez Musharraf, who usurped power in Pakistan on November 3, 2007 by virtue of his Proclamation of Emergency, refuses to relinquish the office of the President, an office he unlawfully occupies against the will of the people and contrary to the Constitution of Pakistan. This essay argues that if Musharraf does not voluntarily vacate the Presidency, Pakistan's newly-elected Parliament is authorized to pass an Emergency Bill to capture him, charge him with treason, and prosecute him under Article 6(1) of the Constitution, under which: "Any person who abrogates or attempts or conspires to abrogate, subverts or attempts or conspires to subvert the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason."

    Arresting Pervez Musharraf will establish the sovereignty of the Parliament, fulfill the demands of justice, and restore the rule of law for which the judiciary and lawyers of Pakistan have paid a heavy price. Any compromise with Musharraf that keeps him in office might please foreign constituencies. But it will be lethal for democracy and constitutionality in Pakistan. Any such compromise will encourage future military coups. The time has come for Pakistan to show to the world that a fearless democracy can remove usurpers in a strong but lawful manner.

    Incarceration, not Impeachment

    Article 47 of the Constitution of Pakistan furnishes a procedure to impeach the President. The President is impeached if he violates the Constitution or engages in gross misconduct. The National Parliament comprised of the Senate and the Assembly investigates the charges. During the investigation, the President has the right to appear before the joint sitting of the two Houses. If, after investigation of the charges, a two-thirds majority of the Parliament passes an impeachment resolution, "the President shall cease to hold office immediately on the passing of the resolution."

    Continued . . .

    More Lies From The Bush Fascists

    By Dr Paul Craig Roberts | Information Clearing House, 22/02/08

    President George W. Bush and his director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, are telling the American people that an unaccountable executive branch is necessary for their protection. Without the Protect America Act, Bush and McConnell claim, the executive branch will not be able to spy on terrorists, and we will all be blown up. Terrorists can only be stopped, Bush says, if Bush has the right to spy on everyone without any oversight by courts.

    The fight over the Protect America Act has everything to do with our safety, only not in the way that Bush and McConnell assert.

    Bush says the Democrats have put our country more in danger of an attack by letting the Protect America Act lapse. This claim is nonsense. The 30 year old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act gives the executive branch all the power it needs to spy on terrorists.

    The choice between FISA and the Protect America Act has nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism, at least not from foreign terrorists. Bush and his brownshirts object to FISA, because the law requires Bush to obtain warrants from a FISA court. Warrants mean that Bush is accountable. Bush and his brownshirts argue that accountability is an infringement on the power of the president.

    To escape accountability, the Brownshirt Party came up with the Protect America Act. This act eliminates Bush's accountability to judges and gives the telecom companies immunity from the felonies they committed by acquiescing in Bushs illegal spying.

    Bush began violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in October 2001 when he spied on Americans without obtaining warrants from the FISA court.

    Bush pressured telecom companies to break the law in order to enable his illegal spying. In court documents, Joseph P. Nacchio, former CEO of Qwest Communications International, states that his firm was approached more than six months before the September 11, 2001, attacks and asked to participate in a spying operation that Qwest believed to be illegal. When Qwest refused, the Bush administration withdrew opportunities for contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Nacchio himself was subsequently indicted for insider trading, sending the message to all telecom companies to cooperate with the Bush regime or else.

    Bush has not been held accountable for the felonies he committed and for leading telecom companies into a life of crime.

    As the lawmakers who gave us FISA understood, spying on people without warrants lets a political party collect dirt on its adversaries with which to blackmail them. As Bush illegally spied a long time before word of it got out, blackmail might be the reason the Democrats have ignored their congressional election mandate and have not put a stop to Bushs illegal wars and unconstitutional police state measures.

    Perhaps the Democrats have finally caught on that they cannot function as a political party as long as they continue to permit Bush to spy on them. For one reason or another, they have let the Orwellian-named Protect America Act expire.

    With the Protect America Act, Bush and his brownshirts are trying to establish the independence of the executive branch from statutory law and the Constitution. The FISA law means that the president is accountable to federal judges for warrants. Bush and the brownshirt Republicans are striving to make the president independent of all accountability. The brownshirts insist that the leader knows best and can tolerate no interference from the law, the judiciary, the Congress, or the Constitution, and certainly not from the American people who, the brownshirts tell us, wont be safe unless Bush is very powerful.

    George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison saw it differently. The American people cannot be safe unless the president is accountable and under many restraints.

    Pray that the Democrats have caught on that they cannot give the executive branch unaccountable powers to spy and still have grounds on which to refuse the executive branch unaccountable powers elsewhere.

    Republicans have used the war on terror to create an unaccountable executive. To prevent the presidency from becoming a dictatorial office, it is crucial that Congress cease acquiescing in Bushs grab for powers. As the Founding Fathers warned us, the terrorists we have to fear are the ones in power in Washington.

    The al Qaeda terrorists, with whom Bush has been frightening us, have no power to destroy our liberties. Compared to the loss of liberty, a terrorist attack is nothing.

    Meanwhile, Bush, the beneficiary of two stolen elections, has urged Zimbabwe to hold a fair election. America gets away with its hypocrisy because no one in our government has enough shame to blush.

    Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Mitterrand.