Thursday, January 15, 2009
By HELEN THOMAS
WASHINGTON -- Outgoing President Bush admits to some "disappointments" during his eight White House years but he hesitates to call them "mistakes."
At his last news conference as president, Bush cited Abu Ghraib --the notorious Iraq prison where U.S. soldiers abused and tortured prisoners -- as a "huge disappointment," even though he had approved of harsh interrogation techniques.
"I don't know if you want to call those mistakes or not," Bush told reporters "but there were things that didn't go according to plan."
Here's a bizarre Bushism. In one of his strangest statements as president, Bush said that Iraq's "not having weapons of mass destruction was a significant disappointment."
Wait a minute. The absence of those weapons should have been good news.
In an interview airing tonight on PBS's Newshour, host Jim Lehrer asks Vice President Cheney about the U.S. soldiers who have lost their lives in the war in Iraq. Cheney shows little remorse:
Q: But Mr. Vice President, getting from there to here, 4,500 Americans have died, at least 100,000 Iraqis have died. Has it been worth that?
CHENEY: I think so.
CHENEY: Because I believed at the time what Saddam Hussein represented was, especially in the aftermath of 9/11, was a terror-sponsoring state so designated by the State Department. … He had produced and used weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological agents. He'd had a nuclear program in the past. … And he did have a relationship with al Qaeda. […]
And so I think given the track record of Saddam Hussein, I think we did exactly the right thing. I think the country is better off for it today.
Cheney's comments mirror those of other conservatives, such as House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), who said that the lives lost in Iraq have been a "small price" to pay, and right-wing commentator Frank Gaffney, who declared that all these troops "did have to die" in Iraq.
The United States did not invade in Iraq because Saddam "had a nuclear program in the past," nor did he have a relationship with al Qaeda. We went to war because Bush administration officials made everyone believes that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction at that time and an active relationship with al Qaeda. The Iraq war has decimated the readiness of the U.S. military, radicalized insurgents in the Middle East, and strengthened many of America's enemies. As David Sanger of the New York Times notes, the war also "occupied so much of the attention and the resources of the top levels of the U.S. government that we ignored much bigger threats, short-term and long-term." Matt Yglesias has also written:
The harsh reality is that this was not a noble undertaking done for good reasons. It was a criminal enterprise launched by madmen cheered on by a chorus of fools and cowards. And it's seen as such by virtually everyone all around the world — including but by no means limited to the Arab world.
Evidently, all this was worth losing more than 4,500 Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqis.
by Greg Gordon
Former acting Justice Department civil rights chief Bradley J. Schlozman lied to Congress, according to a report by the Justice Department's inspector general. (Photo: Getty Images)
Washington - A former acting Justice Department civil rights chief illegally favored conservative job applicants as "real Americans," kept liberal lawyers off key cases and lied in Senate testimony to conceal his misconduct, internal investigators say in a report made public Tuesday.
Bradley Schlozman privately dubbed liberal department lawyers "commies" and "pinkos" and told a subordinate that the Civil Rights Division shouldn't be limited to hiring "politburo members" who belong to some "psychopathic left-wing organization designed to overthrow the government," the department's inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility found.
Last March, officials from the two offices asked the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to investigate whether Schlozman had committed perjury in June 2007 Senate testimony and written follow-up responses. Federal prosecutors decided last week not to bring charges.
The 70-page report, the last to be publicly released on four joint internal investigations stemming from the 2007 scandal over politicization of the Justice Department, was completed in July but had been kept secret pending the outcome of the criminal inquiry.
It concludes that Schlozman kept tight control over hiring in five key sections of the Civil Rights Division and "improperly used political or ideological affiliations" in assessing applicants for experienced and entry-level career jobs, violating the federal Civil Service Reform Act and department policy.
Of 65 lawyers whom Schlozman hired from 2003 to 2006 and whose political affiliations were evident, 63, or 97 percent, were Republicans or conservatives and only two were Democrats or liberal, it said.
President-elect Obama this week said his team was in the middle of "evaluating" Bush administration policies to see whether a criminal investigation would be worthwhile. NPR reports that Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) says that he understands Obama's reluctance to pursue investigations but that he may take matters into his own hands:
"I think that there's a lot that remains to look at, and I appreciate that President Obama doesn't want to make it his purpose as a new president, with America in real distress in many directions, to go back and look at all this, but I think we in Congress have an independent responsibility, and I fully intend to discharge that responsibility," Whitehouse said.
In a 487-page report out today recapping Bush's "imperial presidency," House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) recommends that "the incoming Administration finally begin an independent criminal review of activities of the outgoing Administration."
By Ali Frick
In an interview with Brit Hume that aired today on Fox News Sunday, President Bush admitted that he personally authorized the torture of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He said he personally asked "what tools" were available to use on him, and sought legal approval for waterboarding him:
BUSH: One such person who gave us information was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. … And I'm in the Oval Office and I am told that we have captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the professionals believe he has information necessary to secure the country. So I ask what tools are available for us to find information from him and they gave me a list of tools, and I said are these tools deemed to be legal? And so we got legal opinions before any decision was made.
Bush staunchly defended the program, saying it saved American lives — despite interrogators' claims to the contrary. He waved away the debate over torture by saying dismissively, "Look, I understand why people can get carried away on this issue."
Last year, Bush admitted that he was "aware" that his national security team met to discuss KSM's interrogation, and that he approved of the meeting. His admission today suggests Bush had a far more direct role in developing the specific torture program, which included waterboarding, a freezing cell, and long periods of standing and stress positions (all of which have long been considered torture).
What's more, a former Pentagon intelligence analyst told Vanity Fair that "K.S.M. produced no actionable intelligence"; another former CIA official, who read all the reports from KSM's interrogation, said, "90 percent of it was total f*cking bullsh*t."
(Mediterranean Sea, 15 January 2009) - The Israeli navy today threatened to kill unarmed civilians aboard a mercy ship on its way to deliver medical supplies and doctors to besieged Gaza.
The Free Gaza Movement ship, SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, left Cyprus Wednesday morning carrying doctors, journalists, human rights workers, and parliamentarians. The ship also carried over a ton of desperately needed medicines donated by the European Campaign to Break the Siege, and intended for overwhelmed hospitals in the Gaza Strip. At the request of the ship's organizers the passenger list and manifest were publicly released, and Cypriot authorities searched the boat prior to its departure in order to certify that it only carried humanitarian items. The organizers also sent an official notification to the Israeli government of their intent to break through the blockade of Gaza.
At roughly 3am UST (1am GMT), in international waters 100 miles off the coast of Gaza, at least five Israeli gunboats surrounded the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY and began recklessly cutting in front of the slow-moving civilian craft. The Israeli warships radioed the SPIRIT, demanding that the ship turn around or they would open fire and "shoot." When asked if the Israeli navy was acknowledging that they intended to commit a war crime by deliberately firing on unarmed civilians, the warships replied that they were prepared to use "any means" to stop the ship.
An earlier attempt by Free Gaza to deliver doctors and medical supplies ended on 30 December when Israeli gunboats deliberately and repeatedly rammed the DIGNITY, almost sinking that ship. Rather than endanger the lives of its passengers, the SPIRIT is now returning to Cyprus.
Israel's reckless and shocking threats against an unarmed ship on a mission of mercy are a violation of both international maritime law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states that "the high seas should be reserved for peaceful purposes."
Posted by Xeni Jardin
A Boing Boing reader writes:
I do not take sides, as the Gaza civilians are victims of both Hamas and the Israelis. FYI my nephew works for the ICRC in Gaza, and therefore has first-hand knowledge of what's happening on the ground. Here is a summary of what he said in a recent phone call to his family.
- He's holding on in a bunker with metal shutters, he cannot bail out because he is responsible for too many people looking up to him, but 4 ICRC expats have left because of physical/mental exhaustion, and his Palestinian colleagues (Red Cross/Red Crescent) are equally exhausted, plus they have to get back to their families at night and organize survival (assuming their home hasn't been destroyed yet.)
- He has to organize the evacuation and taking care of the dead and wounded (100 yesterday.)
- The Israeli army deliberately intimidates, and aims at humanitarian groups, and they did shoot at an ICRC ambulance convoy three days ago, nearly killing a driver.
- Everything is demolished, and sometimes the ICRC has to use donkey carts because it is the only way to get through, and get at the dead and wounded. The Israeli army refuses to help.
- Palestinian kids are traumatized mentally, and forever.
- Both sides [Hamas & Israelis] have turned mad.
Stop the U.S.-backed genocidal Israeli war on Gaza!
Nearly a thousand women, men and children killed by U.S.-made Israeli bombs
Thousands more wounded
1.5 million under siege for the past 18 months, without food, water, medicine, fuel
Collective punishment for resisting occupation; emergency aid blocked
Massive violations of international law
Homes and land stolen
Forced into refugee camps
60 years of occupation, from the river to the sea
Jews in Solidarity with Palestine
No to Israel! Yes To Self-Determination, Democracy & Freedom!
Stop U.S. Funding of the War on Palestine!
The whole world is horrified by the murderous Israeli assault against the suffering people of Gaza. From Seoul to Caracas, from Johannesburg to Amman to London, millions of people have poured into the streets to demand an end to this genocidal campaign, which is funded by the United States and carried out with U.S.-supplied weaponry.
There have also been protests in U.S. cities. While most of those marching are Arab-Americans, many African Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans and whites have joined in. Many Jewish people, outraged at Israel's war crimes and anguished that they are carried out in their name, are speaking out.
It's good that Jewish people of conscience are disassociating themselves from the Gaza aggression. But it's not enough. This atrocity is only the latest, and it's no aberration. It reflects the program of the Israeli settler statewhich is based on the theft of Palestine, the ouster and suppression of the Palestinian people, and the racist ideology of Zionismand of its primary sponsor, the Pentagon and U.S. business establishment.
It's not enough to oppose the bombing. It's not enough to demand an end to the 41-year occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. We stand in complete and unconditional support for the self-determination of the Palestinian people. This includes the right to return to Palestine, from the river to the sea, and the right to democratically determine the form and the future of the Palestinian state.
Nothing less will undo the historic crime of al Nakbathe 1948 catastrophe of the establishment of the state of Israel based on the ouster of the Palestinian people from their homeland, oppression and inequality.
That crime betrayed the whole history of the Jewish people. From helping topple the czar in Russia and build the unions in New York, to resisting pogroms and fighting to the last breath in the Warsaw Ghetto, opposition to persecution, oppression and racism was central to the Jewish heritage.
We call on Jewish people around the world, including those inside Israel, to join us in reclaiming that heritage. Reject racism and genocide. Reject the Zionist state, the very concept of which is racist to the core. Take the hand of our Palestinian sisters and brothers. Defend their righteous struggle to restore their stolen land and build a democratic Palestine.
This is not an impossible quest. Remember how mighty the settler state in South Africa seemed, only a little over two decades ago? The racist regime there was buttressed by U.S.and Israelisupport. But it was battered by the unstoppable political and military struggle against apartheid, which gained worldwide support. Apartheid fell, replaced by a new state based on legal equality.
A future of equality for all is possible in Palestine too. Until this future is won, the Palestinian struggle will go on. We stand with that struggle.