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Monday, November 15, 2004

US Denies Need for Falluja Aid Convoy

US military chiefs said yesterday that they saw no need for the Iraqi Red Crescent to deliver aid inside Falluja because they did not think any Iraqi civilians were trapped there.
"There is no need to bring [Red Crescent] supplies in because we have supplies of our own for the people," said Colonel Mike Shupp of the marines.

A convoy of food and medicine brought by the group on Saturday was not allowed into the city.

Col Shupp said casualties could be brought out over the reopened bridge and treated at Falluja's hospital, adding that he had not heard of any civilians trapped inside the city.

The Red Crescent believes at least 150 families are trapped, with many people in desperate need of food, blankets, water and medicine.

Some residents still inside the city, contacted by Reuters yesterday, said their children were suffering from diarrhoea and had not eaten for days.

Asked what he would do about the families and other non-combatants in the city, Col Shupp said: "I haven't heard that myself and the Iraqi soldiers didn't tell me about that. We want to help them as much as we can. We are on the radio telling them how to come out and how to come up to coalition forces."

Red Crescent trucks and ambulances stopped at Falluja's main hospital, outside the city.

There is almost no one at the hospital for doctors to treat because most residents were too scared to leave their homes amid the fighting. The Red Crescent has said the only way it can help is to go into the city.

As the military nears the end of its assault, some community leaders have said resentment of the US presence will only grow more violent.

Although US commanders believed the second attack on Falluja in eight months would stamp out the insurgency centred in the city, many residents believe the rebellion is spreading steadily nationwide.

Much of Falluja has been destroyed and hundreds of thousands of residents are refugees but the attack seems only to have deepened the city's anger and antagonised much of the Sunni minority.

One Sunni Muslim cleric, an aide to Abdullah Janabi, the wanted head of the "mujahideen council" that ran Falluja until the US assault, said the rebellion would intensify.

"Maybe the Americans will come into Falluja," said the cleric, who asked not to be named. "Maybe they will take it. But it is not the end. There are 18 provinces in Iraq and the resistance will continue to grow tougher ... America has taken its last breath."

It is not an opinion the Iraqi government wants the world to hear. Baghdad warned journalists last week to endorse the position that the operation has been an overwhelming success or face legal action.

Reporters were "not to promote unrealistic positions or project nationalist tags on terrorist gangs of criminals and killers", it said.

The cleric, aged in his 40s spoke to the Guardian for two hours in a private house in Baghdad. He spent six years fighting in Saddam Hussein's army in both the Iran-Iraq war and the first Gulf war and largely supported the former dictator. In April last year he fought alongside Iraqi troops at Baghdad airport and has helped run the rebellion.

"I felt like every human being feels when someone comes into their country: sad and terrified. Now we have to fight to change our sadness to happiness," he said. He fled to Baghdad as the assault began last week.

"I didn't want negotiations. I knew they would come and bomb us," he said. "I saw fighting everywhere, destruction of the houses and a lot of fighters, from Falluja, from Ramadi, Baghdad, Diyala, Mosul and Samarra."

He said the insurgency and its guerrilla tactics were improving daily. "For every weapon there is an opposing weapon," he said. "For a Bradley or a tank, a mine blows it to pieces. For a Humvee, a BKC [a Russian machine gun] can put holes in it. Our people are tough and have only small weapons but they can defeat them with skill and pride and dignity. You have to have belief and trust that if you die there is going to be a victory."

Although the cleric represents the extreme, his views are broadly shared by more secular and moderate figures.

In a separate interview at another Baghdad house, Mohammad Hassan al-Balwa, a businessman, spoke of his frustration. He once ran Falluja's council but resigned during the US assault in April.

"The Americans don't want this place to be quiet," he said. "From the beginning they brought chaos and treated people badly. The pressure the Americans put on the Fallujan people is what has made them so tough."

He said clerics should not take political positions, but defended the role of the mujahideen council, much-criticised by the US military for "terrorist" behaviour.

Dr Balwa and the cleric said some groups were often too extreme, particularly Tawhid and Jihad, which was behind the killing of Ken Bigley.

Rory McCarthy in Baghdad
Monday November 15, 2004
The Guardian

Iraq's Allawi Is a 'Straw Man' and a 'Criminal,'

NEW YORK Speaking at New York University this week, famed investigative reporter Seymour Hersh called Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi a "straw man" and a "criminal" and said the key story the press is missing in Iraq is the recent upsurge in U.S. bombing -- even before the Fallujah operation.

"One story the press doesn't touch is this criminal -- this straw man that's been put in -- Allawi, this ridiculous figure that we've installed as the prime minister," Hersh said. "To keep him in power, we've exponentially increased the bombing. ...

"The bombing of Iraq has gone up extraordinarily, by huge numbers. It's now a daily occurrence, around-the-clock on some occasions. Some of the carriers but much of it done by the Air Force from Doha. We don't know where. We don't know how many. We don't know, and nobody's asking and nobody wants to know, how many sorties a day? How much tonnage? We used to get all of these numbers. But we have no idea if they're dropping X-thousand. We don't know how much ordinance is being dropped on a country we're trying to save."

According to Jesse Tarbert, online editor for the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, which co-sponsored the talk by Hersh and Nation columnist Jonathan Schell, both writers blamed the news media's failures in covering the war in Iraq mainly on top editors at national news outlets. He quoted Hersh telling the audience, made up partly of student journalists, "I would get rid of the top editors of the networks, The New York Times, I would just cut 'em all off," drawing laughs.

Both reporters, Tarbert wrote, compared the coverage of the current war in Iraq to that of the Vietnam War. "Incredibly, all these years later, we're making the same fundamental mistakes," Schell said. When he arrived in Vietnam in 1966, Schell found that many of the reporters "were imbued with a sort of narrative or an idea of what that war was that derived from their editors back in the United States." Mental "constructs," he said, could "block out the evidence of one's own eyes."

But Hersh acknowledged that it can be difficult for reporters to go against the status quo. "Nobody wants to be too much of a pain in the ass in a newspaper," he said. "And if you keep on pushing the envelope you'll get in trouble."

E&P Staff


Last month, Helen Chenoweth-Hage attempted to board a United
Airlines flight from Boise to Reno when she was pulled aside by
airline personnel for additional screening, including a pat-down
search for weapons or unauthorized materials.

Chenoweth-Hage, an ultra-conservative former Congresswoman (R-ID),
requested a copy of the regulation that authorizes such pat-downs.

"She said she wanted to see the regulation that required the
additional procedure for secondary screening and she was told that
she couldn't see it," local TSA security director Julian Gonzales
told the Idaho Statesman (10/10/04).

"She refused to go through additional screening [without seeing the
regulation], and she was not allowed to fly," he said. "It's
pretty simple."

Chenoweth-Hage wasn't seeking disclosure of the internal criteria
used for screening passengers, only the legal authorization for
passenger pat-downs. Why couldn't they at least let her see that?
asked Statesman commentator Dan Popkey.

"Because we don't have to," Mr. Gonzales replied crisply.

"That is called 'sensitive security information.' She's not
allowed to see it, nor is anyone else," he said.

Thus, in a qualitatively new development in U.S. governance,
Americans can now be obligated to comply with legally-binding
regulations that are unknown to them, and that indeed they are
forbidden to know.

This is not some dismal Eastern European allegory. It is part of a
continuing transformation of American government that is leaving
it less open, less accountable and less susceptible to rational
deliberation as a vehicle for change.

Harold C. Relyea once wrote an article entitled "The Coming of
Secret Law" (Government Information Quarterly, vol. 5, no. 2,
1988) that electrified readers (or at least one reader) with its
warning about increased executive branch reliance on secret
presidential directives and related instruments.

Back in the 1980s when that article was written, secret law was
still on the way. Now it is here.

A new report from the Congressional Research Service describes with
welcome clarity how, by altering a few words in the Homeland
Security Act, Congress "significantly broadened" the government's
authority to generate "sensitive security information," including
an entire system of "security directives" that are beyond public
scrutiny, like the one former Rep. Chenoweth-Hage sought to

The CRS report provides one analyst's perspective on how the secret
regulations comport or fail to comport with constitutional rights,
such as the right to travel and the right to due process. CRS
does not make its reports directly available to the public, but a
copy was obtained by Secrecy News.

See "Interstate Travel: Constitutional Challenges to the
Identification Requirement and Other Transportation Security
Regulations," Congressional Research Service, November 4, 2004:


Much of the CRS discussion revolves around the case of software
designer and philanthropist John Gilmore, who was prevented from
boarding an airline flight when he refused to present a photo ID.
(A related case involving no-fly lists has been brought by the

"I will not show government-issued identity papers to travel in my
own country," Mr. Gilmore said.

Mr. Gilmore's insistence on his right to preserve anonymity while
traveling on commercial aircraft is naturally debatable -- but the
government will not debate it. Instead, citing the statute on
"sensitive security information," the Bush Administration says the
case cannot be argued in open court.

Further information on Gilmore v. Ashcroft, which is pending on
appeal, may be found here:


Outing Specter, Finally!

For Specter, a Showdown Over Judiciary Chairmanship
GOP Senator Battles Conservatives Angered by His Comments

After winning a bruising battle for a fifth term, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) is struggling to keep the fruits of victory with the same aggressiveness, agility and finely honed survival skills that have marked most of his idiosyncratic 24-year career on Capitol Hill.

He is in line to achieve his long-sought goal of chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee but could be denied the post by fellow Republicans as a result of a furious backlash among conservatives about his post-election comments suggesting the Senate is likely to reject staunchly antiabortion nominees to the Supreme Court.

Many major conservative groups -- including the Family Research Council, Traditional Values Coalition and Concerned Women for America -- have called for Specter's rejection, with some of them bitterly recalling that Specter joined with Democrats in blocking the Supreme Court nomination of Robert H. Bork, a conservative hero, in 1987.

"The problem with Senator Specter is not merely his warning to President Bush on judicial nominees," said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, "but a political career full of positions more suitable for the likes of John Kerry or Ted Kennedy than a Republican senator from Pennsylvania."

The campaign against Specter represents an effort by conservatives to lay down their markers in the coming battles over Bush's anticipated Supreme Court nominations. The stakes are high because the chairman wields considerable power within a committee that may consider as many as four nominations to the court during Bush's second term. Christian antiabortion groups are planning a "pray-in" on Capitol Hill tomorrow to try to block Specter.

With phone calls, television appearances and sit-down chats, Specter is working hard to convince skeptical colleagues that he will push for swift action on Bush's judicial nominations, regardless of whether they share his views in favor of abortion rights.

Publicly at least, Specter shrugs off his latest challenge, contending that conservative groups are gunning for him now after failing to defeat him in a GOP primary earlier this year. "It's an occupational hazard . . . just another bump in the road," he said in an interview last week.

Specter could be blocked by a majority vote of either committee Republicans or the full Senate GOP caucus. The showdown is officially scheduled for early January but could come as soon as this week when Congress returns for a post-election session. Specter appears to have made some headway, but the White House has been tepid in its support of the maverick Republican, and the Senate GOP leadership has not weighed in on his behalf. Specter's fate remains in doubt.

Appearing yesterday on "Fox News Sunday," Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) called Specter's comments "disheartening" and said the Pennsylvanian had "not yet" made a persuasive case for the chairmanship. Frist said Specter will meet this week with the Senate GOP leadership as well as Judiciary Committee Republicans but that a final decision will not be made until January.

Frist also said he is determined to stop Democrats from filibustering judicial nominations and again suggested one option would be a majority vote of the Senate to declare such filibusters unconstitutional, an idea that has prompted angry protests from Democrats.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on ABC's "This Week" that he supports Specter and thinks he would become chairman.

Specter, also appearing on ABC, defended his record, reiterating that he never has and never would impose a litmus test on judicial nominees. Asked whether he would support Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas if Bush nominated him as chief justice, Specter declined to answer, saying votes should not be taken through "sound bites on national television."

At 74, Specter is the dean of a vanishing breed in Congress, a Republican moderate and abortion rights advocate in a party dominated by antiabortion conservatives. He frequently finds himself in a pivotal position on close votes, enhancing his power but often irritating colleagues of both parties as he weighs his choices. Just as he enraged conservatives by opposing Bork, he infuriated liberals with his prosecutorial treatment of Anita F. Hill on sexual harassment charges that Hill brought against Thomas during his 1991 confirmation hearings.

A loner with a contrarian streak and a sometimes abrasive manner, Specter is more respected than liked, admired by colleagues for his hard work, keen legal mind and prosecutorial skills developed as a district attorney in Philadelphia. He is an outsider's insider, using his incumbency and committee positions to spread federal dollars through Pennsylvania, earning the gratitude of many voters who do not share his political views. "A lot of people who don't like him say, 'Yeah, he was there when we needed him,' " said G. Terry Madonna, a political scientist at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa.

He enjoys the perks of power, including foreign junkets tailored to meet his unusual demands, such as air-conditioned squash courts and suitable partners. But colleagues also say he is an especially diligent lawmaker who demands as much of himself as his staff.

Specter is also a nimble political operator who has straddled the liberal-moderate-conservative ideological line on taxes and other major issues, giving him ammunition to fend off attacks from both left and right, as he did in his most recent reelection campaign. He is a thoughtful and courageous pragmatist, according to friends, and a wily opportunist, according to critics.

"He's a very smart man and a very hardworking politician who always wants to have it both ways," said Rep. Joseph M. Hoeffel III (D-Pa.), his opponent in the Nov. 2 election. Democrat Lynn Yeakel, who almost defeated Specter 12 years ago, put it more harshly, calling him "a back-and-forth windshield-wiper kind of senator."

"He considers the issues, one by one," responded David Urban, a former Specter chief of staff. "That's not being an opportunist; that's being thoughtful." Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), ranking Democrat on the judiciary panel, agreed: "He's an independent thinker, which is what a senator is supposed to be."

Throughout his career, Specter has sometimes toed the GOP line and sometimes crashed through it. Congressional Quarterly ranked him 48th of 51 GOP senators in support for Bush's positions in 2003. Often he makes mid-course corrections, as he did in voting against legislation to ban what critics call "partial birth" abortions and then voting to override President Bill Clinton's veto of the bill. Sometimes he offers complicated, legalistic explanations that confound both enemies and friends.

This is one of those moments.

With his reelection, Specter was poised under the Senate's seniority tradition to succeed Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), who must relinquish the post under the Senate GOP's six-year term limits for chairmen. But at a post-election news conference, Specter said, in words that lent themselves to varying interpretations, that it is unlikely the Senate would confirm a Supreme Court nominee who would overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision establishing a woman's right to an abortion.

"When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe versus Wade, I think that is unlikely," Specter said at the Nov. 3 news conference. He noted that he previously said the Roe decision is "inviolate" and did not back away from that characterization.

Even though Specter expressed similar sentiments during the campaign, conservative groups immediately mobilized to oppose him, flooding Senate offices with demands that Republicans reject him as judiciary chairman. Relying on some news accounts of his remarks, they interpreted the comments as warning the White House against sending antiabortion nominees to the Senate and suggesting he would apply a "litmus test" to block nominees who oppose abortion rights.

Specter promptly denied he had issued a warning to the president, saying he was "very respectful of his constitutional authority on the appointment of federal judges." Nor, he said, has he suggested any kind of litmus test. He noted that he has voted for all of Bush's first-term judicial nominations and supported the confirmation of William H. Rehnquist as chief justice even though Rehnquist opposed the Roe decision. "I expect to support the president's nominees," he said in interviews.

He was simply stating the political facts of life, Specter said: that Republicans next year will be five votes short of the 60 needed to break a Democratic filibuster that is almost certain if Bush names a resolutely antiabortion person to the Supreme Court.

But Specter's entanglement with Supreme Court nominees -- from Bork to the current controversy -- has had deep and enduring consequences.

Although he says no one has raised any substantive fault with his combative interrogation of Hill, it helped inspire the 1992 "Year of the Woman" in politics and nearly cost Specter his Senate seat to Yeakel.

And it did nothing to mollify conservatives, who continue to evoke the memory of Bork after 17 years. "He ran for reelection in 1986 as someone who would help get President Reagan's nominees approved . . . and then turned around and dealt a lethal blow to Bork," complained Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee. "He's a chameleon."

But Johnson and others also suggested a broader concern over Specter.

"Many Republicans fear an opportunity to govern would be squandered by someone who doesn't share the core principles of the party," said Rep. Pat Toomey (Pa.), a conservative who gave Specter a scare in the Pennsylvania GOP primary last spring.

Some Republicans are especially miffed that Specter appeared to distance himself from Bush during the campaign, even after Bush weighed in on behalf of Specter during the primary, apparently figuring Specter would be the stronger defender of the seat in November.

In the Senate, Specter has championed tough anti-crime laws, more spending for education and health research and, more recently, more federal support for embryonic stem cell research.

Specter's independent streak showed through vividly when he tried to invoke Scottish law to vote "not proven" during Clinton's impeachment trial. Rehnquist, who was presiding over the trial, was not impressed and recorded Specter as voting for acquittal.

Helen Dewar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 15, 2004; Page A03