"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

'They Hate Our Policies, Not Our Freedom'

Pentagon report contains major criticisms of administration.

Late on the Wednesday afternoon before the Thanksgiving holiday, the US Defense Department confirmed the contents of a report by the Defense Science Board that is highly critical of the administration's efforts in the war on terror and in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report had been originally placed on the DSB's website in early November.

'Muslims do not hate our freedom, but rather they hate our policies [the report says]. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the long-standing, even increasing, support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf states. Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.'

The Pentagon confirmed the study after The New York Times ran a story about the report in its Wednesday editions.

The Defense Science Board, reports Disinfopedia, is "a Federal advisory committee established to provide independent advice to the Secretary of Defense."

'The current Board is authorized to consist of thirty-two members plus seven ex officio members': the chairmen of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Policy, Ballistic Missile Defense Advisory Committee, and Defense Intelligence Agency Science and Technology Advisory Committee. 'Members, whose appointed terms range from one to four years, are selected on the basis of their preeminence in the fields of science, technology and its application to military operations, research, engineering, manufacturing and acquisition process.'

China's Xinhuanet reported that the board's report criticized the US for failing in its efforts to communicate its military and diplomatic actions to the world, and the Muslim world in particular, "but no public relations campaign can save America from flawed policies." The report also takes the administration to task for talking about Islamic extremism in a way that offends many Muslims.

In stark contrast to the cold war, the United States today is not seeking to contain a threatening state empire, but rather seeking to convert a broad movement within Islamic civilization to accept the value structure of Western Modernity – an agenda hidden within the official rubric of a 'War on Terrorism,' [the report states].

MSNBC notes that the report, in a comment that directly goes against statements made by President Bush and senior cabinet members, says the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have united otherwise-divided Muslim extremists and given terrorists organizations like Al Qaeda a boost by "raising their stature."
In fact, Wired News reported the board as saying, the US has not only failed to separate "the vast majority of nonviolent Muslims from the radical-militant Islamist-Jihadists," but American efforts may have "achieved the opposite of what they intended."

Al Jazeera reported Thursday that the board called for the creation of a strategic communication's "apparatus" within the executive branch and "an overhaul of public diplomacy, public affairs and information dissemination efforts by the Pentagon and State Department."

If we really want to see the Muslim world as a whole [the report states], and the Arabic-speaking world in particular, move more toward our understanding of moderation and tolerance, we must reassure Muslims that this does not mean that they must submit to the American way.
As columnist Thomas Freidman of The New York Times wrote Monday in an opinion piece, the lack of planning and a 'clear channel of communication to the Muslim world' means that the US is losing the PR war to people that "saw off the heads of other Muslims."

Wars are fought for political ends. Soldiers can only do so much. And the last mile in every war is about claiming the political fruits. The bad guys in Iraq can lose every mile on every road, but if they beat America on the last mile – because they are able to intimidate better than America is able to coordinate, protect, inform, invest and motivate – they will win and America will lose.
The New York Times reported last Wednesday that although the board's report does not constitute official government policy, it captures "the essential themes of a debate that is now roiling not just the Defense Department but the entire United States government."

Tom Regan | csmonitor.com

They Fight and Die, But Not For Their Country

Why Soldiers Make the Ultimate Sacrifice

On Veteran's Day, Kyle Burns of Laramie, Wyoming lost his life in Iraq. At his memorial service, the Associated Press reported, he was remembered "as a marine who died for his country." Another fallen American was honored in Topeka the same week. Clinton Wisdom, said a reporter for Channel 13 news, was "a soldier who had died for his country." There was another service in Belington, West Virginia, for Romulo Jiminez, killed at age 21 in Fallujah. "He not only died for his country, he died for each one of us individually to preserve freedom," said the funeral director. Wisconsin lost three men in Iraq that week, including Todd Cornel, 38. "What he did was what he wanted to do, and he died for his country, for our freedom," said his father.

Did he? Have any of the Iraq war dead really "died for their country"?

At a time when every other Arab oil-guzzling SUV bears a yellow "support our troops" sticker and probable antiwar liberal Dan Rather "salutes fallen heroes" of Iraq on the evening news, the red-blue divide hasn't altered traditional perceptions of military service. But with 1,500 U.S. soldiers dead in Afghanistan and Iraq and influential Bushists calling for invading Iran, the question bears asking: What does it mean to fight (or die) for the United States?

When we hear that soldiers fight for our country, we immediately think of their role guarding our borders, protecting us from invaders. Yet the U.S. has only been invaded twice, when Great Britain attempted to bring us back into the colonial fold during the War of 1812 and in 1846, when Mexico launched a brief incursion across the disputed Rio Grande. During the ensuing 158 years, no member of the U.S. military has fought or died while repelling an invader. 9/11 demonstrated that the Pentagon doesn't consider a foreign incursion a major threat; that's why they assigned 12 "ground-based" Air National Guard jets to guard the the entire country.

If you participate in a war of retribution, are you "fighting for your country"? There have only been four attacks on American soil by a foreign power. All were carried out by Japan during World War II: Pearl Harbor, the now-forgotten submarine strafing of a California oil refinery, balloon-borne bombs dropped without casualties on Oregon and Washington state, and an air raid on Dutch Harbor, a remote U.S. outpost on Alaska's Aleutian Islands, in which 43 residents died. Japan and Germany's declarations of war intuitively appear to justify the sacrifice of 291,557 American soldiers in World War II, but were those deaths necessary to defend us? There is no evidence that the Axis intended to invade the U.S., nor did it possess the logistical capability to occupy it. The defeat of Nazism liberated millions from tyranny, but that was a happy byproduct of a war we fought to expand our military and economic influence. Right or wrong, World War II was a war of choice against Germany and one of retribution against Japan.

What about avenging an attack, not on U.S. soil, but against an American facility overseas? In 1986 President Reagan ordered bombings in Libya in retaliation for the bombing of a German disco that killed off-duty American soldiers. Moammar Khaddafi's young daughter, among others, were killed. Subsequent intelligence proved that Libya had had nothing to do with the nightclub attack, but--even setting that aside--it's a stretch to argue that the pilots who bombed Libya were "fighting for their country." Moreover, even retaliatory strikes don't occur frequently. The most recent bona fide assault on a foreign asset by another country took place in 1979 when Iranians took over the American embassy in Tehran. U.S. overseas assets are rarely attacked.

The truth is, U.S. troops are hardly ever called upon to defend the territory of the U.S. or its outposts--military bases, embassies and consulates. Of the approximately 250 deployments of U.S. armed forces since 1798, the majority have been preemptive actions against possible future threats, or wars of aggression waged to advance American geopolitical interests.

81,243 American soldiers died in combat during the Korean, Vietnam and first Gulf wars. True, had the U.S. not gotten involved, a unified Korea might be suffering under the dictatorship of Kim Jung Il and Kuwait could be Iraq's 19th province. But those problems wouldn't have been ours. The snuffing out of over 80,000 young lives didn't do anything to make the U.S. safer, but that wasn't the point. We lost Vietnam and made a friend; we won in Korea and created our most dangerous enemy today.

For one American president after another, winning or losing doesn't matter. For an empire, military action is its own reward. Our willingness to wage war intimidates adversaries and their neighbors into giving us what we want: cheaper oil, military bases, favorable trading terms. When American sailors invaded the Falkland Islands in 1832, it was "to defend American interests." Ditto for 1855, when U.S. forces stormed Fiji. Ditto for the 1903 Dominican Republic action (where defending U.S. interests meant suppressing a popular revolution), Honduras in 1911, the Soviet Union in 1918, Lebanon in 1953...you get the idea. The soldiers who fought in those invasions were told they were fighting for their country. Those who lost their lives were called heroes.

Repeating a lie doesn't make it true.

Now we're at it again, this time in Iraq, a nation that would never have invaded us. Everyone, even the Bushists who manufactured the war from whole cloth, admits that Iraq never had weapons that could hurt us or means to hit us with them if they had. And we know that they didn't attack us--not on 9/11, not ever. Our soldiers may be doing their duty, fighting fiercely, and giving their lives in the bargain. But since Iraq neither threatens our freedom nor our borders, they're neither protecting our freedoms or fighting for America. The best anyone can say is that they're fighting for our country's geopolitical interests--and what those are is subject to interpretation.

"Private ______ died for his country's geopolitical interests." Huh. Doesn't quite have the same ring.

Ted Rall writes for a generation unjustly maligned as a pack of lazy slackers. He voices Generation X's frustration and resentment at the excesses of the baby boomers who've left a spent America in their mammoth wake.

© 2004 Ted Rall

Worse Than Ashcroft

Bush's new attorney general helped write the Patriot Act and supported torture

His sharp intellect and sound judgment have helped shape our policies on the war on terror, policies designed to protect the security of all Americans while protecting the rights of all Americans. —George W. Bush, announcing the appointment of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general, The New York Times, November 11

The American people expect and deserve a Department of Justice guided by the rule of law. —Alberto Gonzales, accepting the nomination, The New York Sun, November 11

When you encounter a person who is willing to twist the law . . . even though for perhaps good reasons, you have to say you're really undermining the law itself. —Jim Cullen, retired chief judge of the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals, referring to Alberto Gonzales, National Public Radio, November 11

I do not approve of filibustering presidential nominees, no matter who is president, because the Constitution, along with the Federalist Papers, makes clear that the whole Senate is to give advice and consent to these presidential nominees. But if I were a senator, I would be sorely tempted to filibuster Alberto Gonzales. The Democrats, still shell-shocked by their second loss to Bush, and by the size of the Hispanic vote for the president, are not likely to filibuster Gonzales. But since Gonzales will be more dangerous to our liberties than Ashcroft, I will begin here to show how low the standards have become for the chief law enforcement officer of the nation. Maybe at least the American Bar Association and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York will stand up against Gonzales.

I must credit National Public Radio's Nina Totenberg, an experienced analyst of constitutional law and a reporter who never stops digging to get to the core of Gonzales's ominous record as White House counsel. On November 11, she pointed out: "Gonzales was responsible for developing the administration's policies on the treatment of prisoners; for developing a new definition of torture to allow more aggressive questioning of prisoners. He developed the policy that allowed the indefinite detention of American citizens deemed to be enemy combatants without [being charged] or [having] access to counsel. . . . The Supreme Court, though, rejected that [Gonzales] theory . . .

"Top legal brass in the army, air force, and navy say that Gonzales deliberately left them out of developing policy on the treatment of prisoners because he knew they would oppose."

On November 10, Totenberg quoted retired general Jim Cullen of the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals, who says Gonzales directly contradicted established military and international law. He added that Gonzales realized that "the Judge Advocate Generals Corps would never sanction departures from the Geneva Conventions or engaging in practices that the common man would regard as torture." (Emphasis added.)

Says the Senate Judiciary Committee's clueless attack dog in these matters, Charles Schumer, about Gonzales: "I can tell you already he's a better candidate than John Ashcroft."

There's a lot more about Alberto Gonzales that will prepare you for what to expect for the next four years from the Justice Department. In a January 2002 memorandum to George W. Bush, he emphasized that this new war on terror "renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions." (Emphasis added.)

Gonzales also told George W. Bush that in denying these "detainees"—many of them now held at Guantánamo for nearly three years without charges—prisoner of war status under the Geneva Conventions, the president didn't have to worry about being held accountable by the courts. As commander in chief, his actions were unreviewable.

Said the Supreme Court, in June, concerning the accuracy of the advice from the next attorney general of the United States about deep-sixing U.S. citizens, "We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of [American] citizens." And the Court also ruled he was wrong about the noncitizen prisoners at Guantánamo.

Alberto Gonzales, moreover, will not in the least disturb John Aschroft's beloved USA Patriot Act, because Gonzales helped write it, and he wholly agrees with his patron, the president, that nothing in it should be changed despite the act's "sunset clause" that allows Congress to review sections of the act by December 2005.

As the February 11 Financial Times reports, Gonzales, as counsel to the president, worked "to bar top White House officials from testifying before the commission that investigated the September 11 attacks." Nor has Gonzales shown any interest in an investigation of the accountability of leading administration officials, including their compliant lawyers, for the egregious abuses of the Abu Ghraib prisoners, to which Gonzales contributed.

Bluntly, an editorial in Financial Times (not a notably radical newspaper) says of Gonzales: "As well as being a longtime personal friend of the president, he is publicly associated with discussion within the administration of how to sidestep national as well as international constraints on the use of torture in interrogation in the prison camp at Guantánamo."

If there ever is an honest investigation of who is ultimately responsible for what happened there and at Abu Ghraib, Mr. Gonzales might well be in the dock, along with Donald Rumsfeld and a number of the defense secretary's closest aides.

Next week: Alberto Gonzales's role, and record, as legal counsel to the then chief executioner of the United States, Texas Governor W. Bush, in deciding on the petitions for clemency from 57 of the 150 men and two women executed during Bush's six years as governor. Gonzales was central to amassing that record—unrivaled by any other governor.

Those who know Gonzales, however, keep saying he's a nice guy.

Nat Hentoff

FBI Searches Offices of Pro-Israel Lobby

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents conducted searches Wednesday in AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee) offices, as part of the investigation into suspicions that senior AIPAC officials received classified information from Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin, and transferred that information to Israel.

When the investigation began in August, the pro-Israel AIPAC lobby denied serving as a conduit for documents from Franklin, who is connected to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's office.

Three months ago, FBI agents interrogated AIPAC officials, and confiscated computer files. According to AIPAC, the organization is fully cooperating in the investigation, and they hope they will soon prove that the accusations are groundless.

Shortly after the investigation began, American media reported that the U.S. administration believes that the FBI will refrain from charging Franklin with espionage. The FBI apparently lacks any evidence that the Pentagon data analyst was operated by either Israel or AIPAC.

Nathan Guttman, Haaretz Correspondent

Protesters in Canada Express Anger at Bush

OTTAWA - Thousands of protesters marched on Parliament Tuesday, rallying against President Bush (news - web sites)'s visit and the U.S.-led war in Iraq (news - web sites). Twelve people were arrested after scuffling with police on the fringes of the peaceful demonstration.

Making his first official visit to Canada, Bush was greeted by many placards and signs along his motorcade route to a meeting with Prime Minister Paul Martin, including a truck that was emblazoned with the phrase "Bush is a war criminal."

Much the anger seemed focused on the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The Canadian government decided against sending troops to Iraq — a position that strained U.S.-Canadian ties but drew overwhelming support from Canadians.

"Canada is not against America. We're totally against Bush," explained Fredric White, a 40-year-old who works for an entertainment company.

Organizers said the march drew at least 13,000 people, many of whom came from Ontario and Quebec, but police put the figure at closer to 5,000.

Bush was also met by protests against the war in his last foreign trip as thousands demonstrated in Santiago, Chile, 11 days ago during a economic summit of Pacific region leaders.

The Canadian protesters also voiced disapproval over the U.S. ban on the import of Canadian cattle following the discovery of mad cow disease on a Canadian farm as well as U.S. efforts to get Canada involved in the continental missile defense program. Martin has promised an open parliamentary debate on whether Canada should join the missile shield effort.

Joe Cressy, a rally organizer and student at Carlton University in Ottawa, said the protests were not only meant for Bush, but also were intended to send "a message to our prime minister that he should not support Bush's policies."

COLIN McCLELLAND, Associated Press Writer

What Happened to Iraq’s Oil Money?

Former U.S. official says billions of dollars were ‘squandered’

After the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the United States took control of all of the Iraqi government’s bank accounts, including the income from oil sales. The United Nations approved the financial takeover, and President Bush vowed to spend Iraq’s money wisely. But now critics are raising serious questions about how well the United States handled billions of dollars in Iraqi oil funds.


Iraq's oil resources generate billions of dollars — money the United States promised to protect after overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

Now, Frank Willis, a former senior American official in Iraq, tells NBC News the United States failed to safeguard the oil money known as the Development Fund for Iraq.

"There was, in my mind, pervasive leakage in assets of Iraq, and to some extent, those assets were squandered," says Willis.

Willis helped run Iraq’s Transportation Ministry. He says government agencies and private contractors had to be paid in cash because Iraq’s banking system was decimated.

"A lot of money did get to the Iraqi people at the grass-roots level, and a lot of it got into the wrong hands," he says.

In one photograph, Willis and colleagues showed off a $2 million payment to a security contractor.

"It was time for payment," he remembers. "We told them to come in and bring in a bag. It reminded me of the Wild West."

In a series of reports on U.S. management of the oil money, auditors working for the United Nation's Iraq Advisory and Monitoring Board and the Inspector General of the Coalition Provisional Authority found:

Insufficient controls
Missing records
Two sets of books at Iraq's Finance Ministry, which did not match
In one example of insufficient controls, the United States stored hundreds of millions of oil dollars in a vault in a Baghdad palace. Government auditors found that the key to the vault was kept “unsecured” — in a U.S. official’s backpack.

Iraq’s U.S. administrator, Paul Bremer, pledged last year to hire a certified public accounting firm to ensure proper controls. But the United States gave the contract not to an accounting firm but to a tiny consulting company, Northstar — which NBC News found is headquartered at a private home near San Diego.

"They violated the rules. They picked a contractor who didn’t meet their requirements," says Paul Light, a government contracting expert and professor at New York University.

Northstar’s president says the Pentagon knew Northstar was not a certified public accounting firm and that four experienced employees went to Iraq and did a good job. However, one audit notes that a single Northstar employee maintained spreadsheets tracking billions of dollars.

Bremer would not comment. His aides say Iraq is a war zone and their top priority was getting money quickly where it was needed, even if the accounting wasn't perfect.

But NBC News has learned that a draft government audit faults the United States for “inadequate stewardship” of up to $8.8 billion in oil money, handed over to Iraq’s ministries but never fully accounted for.

Lisa Myers & the NBC investigative unit
NBC News
Updated: 7:21 p.m. ET Nov. 30, 2004After

Human Rights Group Sues Rumsfeld for War Crimes

A U.S. human rights group has filed a criminal complaint in Germany against U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, accusing him and other senior U.S. officials of war crimes and torture at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison.

On Tuesday, the New York-based U.S. Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Berlin's Republican Lawyers' Association, and four Iraqi civilians, who have been subjected to various forms of torture and abuse by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison, filed a criminal complaint with Germany's Federal Prosecutors.

CCR said it has chosen Germany because of its Code of Crimes Against International Law, introduced in 2002, which grants German courts universal jurisdiction in cases involving war crimes or crimes against humanity.

The CCR accused Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, a senior defense official and seven U.S. military officers, including the former top U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, of being responsible for all forms of torture and abuses that the Iraqi civilians were subjected to at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.

"We filed these cases here because there is simply no other place to go," CCR vice president Peter Weiss said in a statement.

"It is clear that the U.S. government is not willing to open an investigation into these allegations against these officials," he added.

The human rights group, moreover, said that this move was the last resort after the U.S. Congress failed to conduct a proper investigation into Abu Ghraib scandal.

"In a way I am here with a very heavy heart... I would have preferred that our own courts would have taken what happened seriously... but that is not the case in the United States at the moment," CCR President Michael Ratner said on Tuesday.

On the other hand, the U.S. embassy in Berlin refused to comment on the move. Mr. Rumsfeld, Sanchez and the other senior officers mentioned in the complaint also did not comment on the case.

The Abu Ghraib scandal broke out when photographs showing U.S. soldiers torturing, abusing, and sexually humiliating Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison first surfaced last April, sparking outrage all over the world.

Also, a top-level U.S. inquiry accused the military chain of command of being responsible for creating the environment that allowed the abuses to take place, however, only seven lower ranking military police and an intelligence soldier faced trial so far.

The group said that while U.S. soldiers were facing court martial for abusing and torturing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib jail, their superiors looked set to escape discipline.

"From Donald Rumsfeld on down, the political and military leaders in charge of Iraq policy must be investigated and held accountable," the CCR president said.

CCR urged German prosecutors to launch an immediate investigation, but has no firm expectation as to the outcome.

"I would also want to see this case possibly prompting the United States government to say we have to seriously investigate these crimes ourselves," Ratner told reporters.

"I don't know where this will lead but certainly if war crimes have been committed it should lead to significant jail sentences for people," he added.

CCR vice president Peter Weiss said that U.S. government’s failure to pursue those responsible and its justification of various forms of violations due to "extraordinary circumstances" had set a dangerous example.

"This authorization that has come from the highest levels... gives a green light for those kinds of violations throughout the world," he said.

11/30/2004 10:00:00 PM GMT