"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Followed By A Goon Shadow

With any luck, the hilariously stupid incarceration and expulsion of Cat Stevens will help convince Americans just how paranoid the Department of Homeland Security and its ilk are.

The DHS is a dysfunctional agency, run by the Bush administration’s single most incompetent civil servant—and that’s saying a lot—Tom Ridge. Ever since he was named to lead the White House’s homeland security effort right after 9/11, Ridge has looked confused, lost and hoping that no one notices.

Now we learn that Cat, who uses the name Yusuf Islam, was nailed over a spelling error. The real (supposed) bad guy is “Youssouf Islam.” Here’s Time, via AFP :

Time magazine, in its online edition, quoted aviation sources with access to the "no-fly" list as saying there is no entry on the list under the name "Yusuf Islam," but that there is a "Youssouf Islam" on the list. They said the incorrect name was added to the list this summer.
Could anything be dumber? Earth to DHS: The bad guys’ names are not written in English. You can transliterate them a million ways: Mohammed, Mohammad, Muhammad, Muhamad, Muhammed. It is literally an impossible chore, since Middle Easterners can write their names any way they like, without lying. (Meanwhile, I can’t resist the irony that Cat’s adopted last name was “Islam.” I mean, that is hard to miss, even for a sleepy DHS agent. Maybe if he’d picked the name “Joe Terrorist,” they might have looked twice.)

Kerry has turned the corner on Iraq—not completely, no, since I haven’t heard him say he agrees with Kofi Annan that the war was illegal. Now he needs to do the same on terrorism. Of course, he’s hampered by the fact that he voted for the PATRIOT Act, the analogue of his vote to authorize the war in Iraq. Still, the Bush administration’s police state is scary to a lot of citizens. The next time Kerry says that Iraq is a “diversion” from going after Al Qaeda (it was), and that he would focus on going after Osama bin Laden (he should), maybe he ought to add that we ought to stop looking for bin Laden here. He’s in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

Time for Kerry to start ridiculing the Tangerine Alerts, the emergencies based on three-year-old Al Qaeda files, and, in general, the Bush administration’s obvious efforts to scare voters into staying the course. Even conservatives know this is a scare tactic and a hoax—why can’t Kerry say it, if Jay Leno and Jon Stewart can? Meanwhile, a little inoculation about the potential for an October Surprise might be a good idea, too. Right now, if Bush captured Osama bin Laden, it might look so suspicious that it would end up backfiring, in electoral terms. But maybe not. Just to make sure, the Democrats need to remind everyone that the White House isn’t above pulling some stunt in the next four weeks.

September 27, 2004
Dreyfuss Report

Truths Worth Telling

On a tape recording made in the Oval Office on June 14, 1971, H. R. Haldeman, Richard Nixon's chief of staff, can be heard citing Donald Rumsfeld, then a White House aide, on the effect of the Pentagon Papers, news of which had been published on the front page of that morning's newspaper:

"Rumsfeld was making this point this morning,'' Haldeman says. "To the ordinary guy, all this is a bunch of gobbledygook. But out of the gobbledygook comes a very clear thing: you can't trust the government; you can't believe what they say, and you can't rely on their judgment. And the implicit infallibility of presidents, which has been an accepted thing in America, is badly hurt by this, because it shows that people do things the president wants to do even though it's wrong, and the president can be wrong."

He got it exactly right. But it's a lesson that each generation of voters and each new set of leaders have to learn for themselves. Perhaps Mr. Rumsfeld - now secretary of defense, of course - has reflected on this truth recently as he has contemplated the deteriorating conditions in Iraq. According to the government's own reporting, the situation there is far bleaker than Mr. Rumsfeld has recognized or President Bush has acknowledged on the campaign trail.

Understandably, the American people are reluctant to believe that their president has made errors of judgment that have cost American lives. To convince them otherwise, there is no substitute for hard evidence: documents, photographs, transcripts. Often the only way for the public to get such evidence is if a dedicated public servant decides to release it without permission.

Such a leak occurred recently with the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which was prepared in July. Reports of the estimate's existence and overall pessimism - but not its actual conclusions - have prompted a long-overdue debate on the realities and prospects of the war. But its judgments of the relative likelihood and the strength of evidence pointing to the worst possibilities remain undisclosed. Since the White House has refused to release the full report, someone else should do so.

Leakers are often accused of being partisan, and undoubtedly many of them are. But the measure of their patriotism should be the accuracy and the importance of the information they reveal. It would be a great public service to reveal a true picture of the administration's plans for Iraq - especially before this week's debate on foreign policy between Mr. Bush and Senator John Kerry.

The military's real estimates of the projected costs - in manpower, money and casualties - of various long-term plans for Iraq should be made public, in addition to the more immediate costs in American and Iraqi lives of the planned offensive against resistant cities in Iraq that appears scheduled for November. If military or intelligence experts within the government predict disastrous political consequences in Iraq from such urban attacks, these judgments should not remain secret.

Leaks on the timing of this offensive - and on possible call-up of reserves just after the election - take me back to Election Day 1964, which I spent in an interagency working group in the State Department. The purpose of our meeting was to examine plans to expand the war - precisely the policy that voters soundly rejected at the polls that day.

We couldn't wait until the next day to hold our meeting because the plan for the bombing of North Vietnam had to be ready as soon as possible. But we couldn't have held our meeting the day before because news of it might have been leaked - not by me, I'm sorry to say. And President Lyndon Johnson might not have won in a landslide had voters known he was lying when he said that his administration sought "no wider war."

Seven years and almost 50,000 American deaths later, after I had leaked the Pentagon Papers, I had a conversation with Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon, one of the two senators who had voted against the Tonkin Gulf resolution in August 1964. If I had leaked the documents then, he said, the resolution never would have passed.

That was hard to hear. But in 1964 it hadn't occurred to me to break my vow of secrecy. Though I knew that the war was a mistake, my loyalties then were to the secretary of defense and the president. It took five years of war before I recognized the higher loyalty all officials owe to the Constitution, the rule of law, the soldiers in harm's way or their fellow citizens.

Like Robert McNamara, under whom I served, Mr. Rumsfeld appears to inspire great loyalty among his aides. As the scandal at Abu Ghraib shows, however, there are more important principles. Mr. Rumsfeld might not have seen the damning photographs and the report of Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba as soon as he did - just as he would never have seen the Pentagon Papers 33 years ago - if some anonymous people in his own department had not bypassed the chain of command and disclosed them, without authorization, to the news media. And without public awareness of the scandal, reforms would be less likely.

A federal judge has ordered the administration to issue a list of all documents relating to the scandal by Oct. 15. Will Mr. Rumsfeld release the remaining photos, which depict treatment that he has described as even worse? It's highly unlikely, especially before Nov. 2. Meanwhile, the full Taguba report remains classified, and the findings of several other inquiries into military interrogation and detention practices have yet to be released.

All administrations classify far more information than is justifiable in a democracy - and the Bush administration has been especially secretive. Information should never be classified as secret merely because it is embarrassing or incriminating. But in practice, in this as in any administration, no information is guarded more closely.

Surely there are officials in the present administration who recognize that the United States has been misled into a war in Iraq, but who have so far kept their silence - as I long did about the war in Vietnam. To them I have a personal message: don't repeat my mistakes. Don't wait until more troops are sent, and thousands more have died, before telling truths that could end a war and save lives. Do what I wish I had done in 1964: go to the press, to Congress, and document your claims.

Technology may make it easier to tell your story, but the decision to do so will be no less difficult. The personal risks of making disclosures embarrassing to your superiors are real. If you are identified as the source, your career will be over; friendships will be lost; you may even be prosecuted. But some 140,000 Americans are risking their lives every day in Iraq. Our nation is in urgent need of comparable moral courage from its public officials.

Daniel Ellsberg is the author of "Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers."

Europe's Quieter Fight Against Terror

Some EU members question Bush's plan

MADRID A citybound train rumbled along with purpose on the same commuter line where bombs inflicted brutal carnage on March 11, killing 191 people and wounding hundreds more.

On a day this month, passengers read their newspapers, snoozed and chatted. The mood suggested that Spaniards, hardened by decades of struggle against terrorism, have moved on, and that Americans and Europeans have responded in vastly different ways to the threat of global terrorism.

For the United States, the response to Sept. 11 was to launch a "war on terror," one cast in terms of good and evil and marked with somber ceremonies, fought more with armies than with indictments. But for Spain, as well as for France, Germany and Britain, all countries that have suffered a history of terrorist violence, the focus is a "struggle" against a criminal element.

These European countries have expressed a more quiet but collective resolve to work within an international consensus to fight terrorism. In the eyes of many European counterterrorism specialists and officials, the Bush administration's reliance on conventional military means can serve to provoke more terrorism.

The contrasting strategic visions translate into diverging tactics on the ground.

The United States' confrontation with terrorism turns now on a long-term commitment of troops in Iraq. Spain's newly elected prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, fulfilled a campaign promise to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq, but also increased Madrid's commitment to peacekeeping in Afghanistan.

And at home, the Spanish authorities have staged a series of raids against Islamic extremist cells, making numerous arrests.

"When Spain pulled out its troops, it was completely wrong to say the Spanish people had gone soft on terrorism," said Gijs de Vries, the European Union's first counterterrorism chief, a post created in response to the Madrid bombing to help European countries coordinate efforts against terrorism.

"They were instead exerting their belief that the war in Iraq was not connected to the war on terrorism, and that in fact it undercut the war on terrorism," de Vries added.

De Vries, of the Netherlands, said that the effort against terrorism needed to combine conventional military force, police investigations and a political dimension that is "more than just hearts and minds, but truly analyzing the context and the conditions that create terrorism." He said that the United States and Europe had cooperated very effectively in many ways, especially in criminal investigations, but that the United States had unnecessarily alienated many of its allies by relying too heavily on a military response and consistently undervalued the political dimension.

Zapatero has politically reunited his country with France and Germany, which have led Europe's opposition to the war in Iraq. Spain's former conservative prime minister, José María Aznar, had aligned himself with President George W. Bush and had supported the war in Iraq.

On the week that Spain marked the six-month anniversary of the bombings, Zapatero welcomed President Jacques Chirac of France and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany to Madrid. Zapatero and his Socialist Party were swept into power just three days after the bombings.

Zapatero derided the comment by the U.S. secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, disparaging "old Europe," which had opposed the Iraq war. "You have before you three fervent pro-Europeans," Zapatero said. "I am glad to say that old Europe is as good as new."

The three leaders agreed to share police databases and vowed closer cooperation in the continent's fight against terrorism. They also agreed to pursue a united approach to address the anger and despair among Muslims in the Middle East and those who come as immigrants to Europe, and who sometimes become recruits for terrorist groups.

Across Europe, terrorism has claimed 5,000 lives in the past three decades, in attacks from such groups as the Irish Republican Army, the Basque separatist group ETA, anarchists, Italy's Red Brigades, Arab nationalists and Islamic militants.

This month, the European Union released a report that it had commissioned to reassess Europe's ability to confront terrorism. The study was compiled by an independent group of counterterrorism and military specialists. It showed that Europe must increase its capacity to intervene in regional conflicts worldwide, and to help root out security risks at the source. To do this, the report said, leaders must stress the importance of reexamining outdated notions of protecting states in favor of an approach that protects people and that offers a wider and more interlocking concept of security. "In an era of interdependence, Europeans can no longer feel secure when the rest of the world is insecure," said the report, which was published on Wednesday. The report also emphasized a need to complement conventional military means with improved civilian elements, such as the police and their trainers who can provide assistance in peacekeeping missions and in the promotion of democracy and the rule of law. The report also illustrated the approaches of the United States and Europe.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush and his administration responded with a swift invasion of Afghanistan to crush the Taliban government that provided logistical support for Al Qaeda. Then, Bush pushed toward the war in Iraq, ignoring widespread opposition among longtime U.S. allies.

After the attacks in Madrid, Spaniards reacted with a demonstration of collective resolve that brought 10 million people to the streets to protest the terrorists, as well as Spain's involvement in Iraq. The new government deployed investigators to follow up leads and penetrate Moroccan cells with purported links to Al Qaeda, which turned out to be behind the attacks. Antiterrorism police have arrested 68 people in connection with the train bombings, including 20 believed to have been directly involved. The suspects are alleged to form a web that ranges from Moroccan cell-phone store owners who perhaps unwittingly helped the terrorists obtain and program phones used to trigger bombs, to Spanish nationals who helped secure some of the explosives, to a core of 20 militants who more actively took part in the bombings.

The core cell has been dismantled, according to Spanish law enforcement officials. A suspected mastermind of the operation, Rabei Osman Ahmed, is awaiting extradition from Italy under a new EU extradition agreement. A second purported coordinator is in custody in Spain and a third was killed when he exploded a bomb as the police tried to capture him, authorities said.

German and French counterterrorism officials have also made significant gains in disrupting Islamic militant cells through sweeps and key arrests. However, these countries have also suffered setbacks in obtaining convictions. In some cases this is because the United States is reluctant to share intelligence on Al Qaeda; in others it is because the kind of information obtained by the United States is deemed inadmissible in European courts.

Charles M. Sennott
The Boston Globe

Copyright © 2004 The International Herald Tribune