"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

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Yes to US Aid, No to USAID

How generous are Americans? Inconceivably so. An official collecting private donations for victims of the Asian tsunami has described American largess as a "tidal wave of generosity."

How generous are Americans compared to everyone else? Canada's Fraser Institute measured the "generosity gap" that separates Americans and Canadians, in both "the extent and the depth of charitable giving." It found that "the average donation in the U.S. is three-and-a-half times more than in Canada." As a percentage of their aggregate income, Americans give more to charity than citizens of any other country.

Foreign governments have been showcasing the "charitable" nature of their wealth transfers to the tsunami-stricken regions. Yet as hard as they try, they don't come close to private American charitable donations in any given year. Add up the amounts governments have appropriated from their citizens to help victims of the tidal wave. The total (including pledges from the World Bank and the Asian Bank of Development) comes to $3.7 billion. This is a mere 1.5 percent of what Americans gave privately in 2003.

According to the American Association of Fundraising Counsel (AAFRC), "American individuals, estates, foundations, and corporations" gave $241 billion to charity in 2003 – privately and voluntarily, a sum that excludes the cost of volunteer work.

Of course, most of the donated $241 billion is not private foreign aid. However, as Bruce Bartlett of the National Center for Policy Analysis points out, private foreign aid greatly exceeds U.S. government aid. And the former, unlike the latter, can be channeled to recipients the donor – not government – favors.

The late Sir Peter Bauer, author of Dissent on Development and the foremost authority on foreign aid, was acutely aware of the importance to civil society of voluntary giving. Foreign aid he saw as "outside the area of volition and choice." Concerning the "morality" of "taxpayer's money compulsorily collected," he said:

"[C]ontributors not only have no choice but quite generally do not even know they are contributing. It is sometimes urged that in a democracy taxpayers do have a choice, which restores the moral element to foreign aid. This objection is superficial. The taxpayer has to contribute to foreign aid whether he likes it or not and whether he has voted in its favor or against it."

If the extent, the depth, and the consistency of America's voluntary giving negates the need for political pelf, the president and his media embeds are not letting on. Instead, Bush has taken to touting USAID, the United States Agency for International Development.

Heir to the Marshall Plan, USAID is an arm of the American government and an executor of its policies, including the expansion of "the global community of democracies" as "a key objective of U.S. foreign policy." USAID maintains a presence in nearly a hundred countries, the newly "liberated" Iraq and Afghanistan included. Bush claims the agency is helping "democracy take root." And with typical fatuity, he adds that USAID is "instrumental to making the world a better place and … to protecting the American people."

Bush's claim that "the men and women of USAID have been at the center of the response [to the tsunami]" is highly unlikely. That honor goes to the non-profit organizations and their private donors. Aid is their art – and their vocation. As a spokesman for an NGO reminded the president, "We have been there for 30 or 40 years." Most major charities, the Salvation Army for example, have staff stationed in – and serving – most of the areas affected by the disaster, most of the world, in fact.

Consequently, private charities such as Oxfam and the International Red Cross know the lay of the land and have used that knowledge to build the infrastructure needed to funnel funds and food to the needy. This they achieve with minimum overheads and personnel. And, unlike the American military, they are unintrusive.

Indeed, private non-profits are many times more efficient than lumbering bureaucracies like USAID and the foreign equivalents it "interfaces" with. With pensions and perks in perpetuity, the mandarins manning these departments sell "love and compassion" at a premium.

Private non-profits are not only exceedingly more efficient but infinitely more ethical. Oxfam's trustees, for example, take "ultimate responsibility in law for the charity, its assets and activities." You might hear a great deal about government accountability, but when last did you see it in action? Condoleezza's contortions at the 9/11 commission's hearings? The time she claimed that a memo warning of planes doubling up as missiles was nothing but "historical," inactionable intelligence?

Some private charities, for example Doctors Without Borders USA, a branch of Medecins Sans Frontieres, have lately received more funds than they can use. They duly told their supporters they had raised enough to meet immediate tsunami-related needs. Imagine that. Howard Stern will discover modesty before a government official discovers such fiscal restraint and veracity.

Charities such as Oxfam aim to empower poor people globally; foreign aid, being a government-to-government transfer, invariably empowers and consolidates bureaucratic fiefdoms. Wherever USAID becomes established, it feeds the parasitic political class in the recipient countries at the expense of the productive private sector. As these governments fatten, real GDP growth is stunted. And where USAID leads, Halliburton and other corporate leeches follow – USAID provides these corrupt camp followers with direct infusions of taxpayers' funds.

By Jan. 5, private American donors had collected for Asia almost as much as the Bush government had unconstitutionally "pledged" on their behalf. And even as Bush's appropriation reached $350 million, private donations continued to keep pace – and more.

America's generosity in response to the Asian disaster makes USAID and other compassionate pickpockets as unnecessary as they are unethical.

Ilana Mercer

Where's Georege, Sr. and Bill?

Why are there no fundraisers for the Iraqi dead?

01/11/05 "The Guardian" -- I am bewildered by the world reaction to the tsunami tragedy. Why are newspapers, television and politicians making such a fuss? Why has the British public forked out more than £100m to help the survivors, and why is Tony Blair now promising "hundreds of millions of pounds"? Why has Australia pledged £435m and Germany £360m? And why has Mr Bush pledged £187m? Of course it's wonderful to see the human race rallying to the aid of disaster victims, but it's the inconsistency that has me foxed. Nobody is making this sort of fuss about all the people killed in Iraq, and yet it's a human catastrophe of comparable dimensions.

According to the only scientific estimate attempted, Iraqi deaths since the war began number more than 100,000. The tsunami death toll is in the region of 150,000. Yet in the case of Iraq, the media seems reluctant to impress on the public the scale of the carnage.

I haven't seen many TV reporters standing in the ruins of Falluja, breathlessly describing how, in 30 years of reporting, they've never seen a human tragedy on this scale. The Pope hasn't appealed for everyone to remember the Iraqi dead in their prayers, and MTV hasn't gone silent in their memory.

Nor are Blair and Bush falling over each other to show they recognise the scale of the disaster in Iraq. On the contrary, they have been doing their best to conceal the numbers killed.

When the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimated the figure of 100,000 killed in Iraq and published their findings in one of the world's leading scientific journals, the Lancet, Downing Street questioned their methodology, saying "the researchers used an extrapolation technique, which they considered inappropriate, rather than a detailed body count". Of course "a detailed body count" is the one thing the US military will not allow anyone to do.

What is so odd is the way in which so much of the media has fallen into line, downplaying the only authoritative estimate of casualties in Iraq with the same unanimity with which they have impressed upon us the death toll of the tsunami.

One of the authors of the forenamed report, Dr Gilbert Burnham, said: "Our data have been back and forth between many reviewers at the Lancet and here in the school, so we have the scientific strength to say what we have said with great certainty."

So, are deaths caused by bombs and gunfire less worthy of our pity than deaths caused by a giant wave? Or are Iraqi lives less worth counting than Indonesian, Thai, Indian and Swedish?

Why aren't our TV companies and newspapers running fundraisers to help Iraqis whose lives have been wrecked by the invasion? Why aren't they screaming with outrage at the man-made tsunami that we have created in the Middle East? It truly is baffling.

01/11/05 "The Guardian"
Terry Jones is a film director, actor and Python. His book Terry Jones's War on the War on Terror is published this month by the Nation www.terry-jones.net

Investigate Alleged Violations of Law in Fallujah Attack

At the beginning of their recent attack on Fallujah, U.S. Marines and Iraqi National Guard troops stormed Fallujah General Hospital, closing it to the city's wounded and confiscating cell phones from the doctors. A senior officer told The New York Times the hospital was "a center of propaganda."

Interviews with hospital personnel (which had revealed the extent of civilian casualties in an aborted April invasion) would not be a problem this time.

As the invasion proceeded, air strikes reduced a smaller hospital to rubble and smashed a clinic, trapping patients and staff under the collapsed structure. With the main hospital empty and other facilities destroyed, only one small Iraqi military clinic remained to serve the city.

U.S. forces cut off Fallujah's water and electricity. About 200,000 residents were forced to flee, creating a refugee population the size of Tacoma. Those who remained faced a grim existence; they were afraid to leave their homes for fear of snipers and they had little to eat and only contaminated water to drink.

Public buildings, mosques and residences were subjected to assault by air and ground forces. The city now lies in ruins, largely depopulated, but still occupied by U.S. forces. Convoys sent by the Iraqi Red Crescent to aid the remaining population have been turned back. Diseases brought on by bad water are spreading in Fallujah and the surrounding refugee camps.

The means of attack employed against Fallujah are illegal and cannot be justified by any conceivable ends. In particular, the targeting of medical facilities and denial of clean water are serious breaches of the Geneva Conventions. Continuation of these practices will soon confirm what many already suspect: that the United States of America believes it is above the law.

Imagine a world where such ferocious attacks become common. Imagine the Puget Sound region's hospitals and clinics as targets, our water supply fouled. Imagine our outrage. Let's not walk any farther down that path.

Instead, we can reaffirm our commitment to a community of nations and to the laws that govern their relations. We can demonstrate respect for the diverse peoples of the world, while holding no life of lesser value than our own. Unfortunately, as a result of illegal U.S. actions, the former residents of Fallujah have lost respect for us. Without that respect, there is little our military can contribute.

To prevent more harm, we should support: 1) a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Fallujah, allowing unrestricted access for independent relief agencies such as the Red Crescent; 2) an independent investigation into violations of international law in Fallujah, as called for by Louise Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Nov. 16; and 3) a campaign to deny any further supplemental budget requests that may, in fact, fund war crimes.

Join us in working to make respect for individual and collective rights, as expressed in international law and the U.S. Constitution, a central theme of our community's relations with the rest of the world.


Jim McDermott, M.D., represents the 7th District in Congress. Richard Rapport, M.D., is in the neurological surgery department at Group Health. Other authors are 17 area doctors and medical professionals.

Bush's 'Death Squads'

Refusing to admit personal misjudgments on Iraq, George W. Bush instead is pushing the United States toward becoming what might be called a permanent “counter-terrorist” state, which uses torture, cross-border death squads and even collective punishments to defeat perceived enemies in Iraq and around the world.

Since securing a second term, Bush has pressed ahead with this hard-line strategy, in part by removing dissidents inside his administration while retaining or promoting his protégés. Bush also has started prepping his younger brother Jeb as a possible successor in 2008, which could help extend George W.’s war policies while keeping any damaging secrets under the Bush family’s control.

As a centerpiece of this tougher strategy to pacify Iraq, Bush is contemplating the adoption of the brutal practices that were used to suppress leftist peasant uprisings in Central America in the 1980s. The Pentagon is “intensively debating” a new policy for Iraq called the “Salvador option,” Newsweek magazine reported on Jan. 9.

The strategy is named after the Reagan-Bush administration’s “still-secret strategy” of supporting El Salvador’s right-wing security forces, which operated clandestine “death squads” to eliminate both leftist guerrillas and their civilian sympathizers, Newsweek reported. “Many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success – despite the deaths of innocent civilians,” Newsweek wrote.

Central America Veterans

The magazine also noted that a number of Bush administration officials were leading figures in the Central American operations of the 1980s, such as John Negroponte, who was then U.S. Ambassador to Honduras and is now U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.

Other current officials who played key roles in Central America include Elliott Abrams, who oversaw Central American policies at the State Department and who is now a Middle East adviser on Bush’s National Security Council staff, and Vice President Dick Cheney, who was a powerful defender of the Central American policies while a member of the House of Representatives.

The insurgencies in El Salvador and Guatemala were crushed through the slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians. In Guatemala, about 200,000 people perished, including what a truth commission later termed a genocide against Mayan Indians in the Guatemalan highlands. In El Salvador, about 70,000 died including massacres of whole villages, such as the slaughter carried out by a U.S.-trained battalion against hundreds of men, women and children in and around the town of El Mozote in 1981.

The Reagan-Bush strategy also had a domestic component, the so-called “perception management” operation that employed sophisticated propaganda to manipulate the fears of the American people while hiding the ugly reality of the wars. The Reagan-Bush administration justified its actions in Central America by portraying the popular uprisings as an attempt by the Soviet Union to establish a beachhead in the Americas to threaten the U.S. southern border.

[For details about how these strategies worked and the role of George H.W. Bush, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq.]

More Pain

By employing the “Salvador option” in Iraq, the U.S. military would crank up the pain, especially in Sunni Muslim areas where resistance to the U.S. occupation of Iraq has been strongest. In effect, Bush would assign other Iraqi ethnic groups the job of leading the “death squad” campaign against the Sunnis.

“One Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Perhmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria, according to military insiders familiar with discussions,” Newsweek reported.

Newsweek quoted one military source as saying, “The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving the terrorists. … From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.”

Citing the Central American experiences of many Bush administration officials, we wrote in November 2003 – more than a year ago – that many of these Reagan-Bush veterans were drawing lessons from the 1980s in trying to cope with the Iraqi insurgency. We pointed out, however, that the conditions were not parallel. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “ Iraq: Quicksand & Blood.”]

In Central America, powerful oligarchies had long surrounded themselves with ruthless security forces and armies. So, when uprisings swept across the region in the early 1980s, the Reagan-Bush administration had ready-made – though unsavory – allies who could do the dirty work with financial and technological help from Washington.

Iraqi Dynamic

A different dynamic exists in Iraq, because the Bush administration chose to disband rather than co-opt the Iraqi army. That left U.S. forces with few reliable local allies and put the onus for carrying out counterinsurgency operations on American soldiers who were unfamiliar with the land, the culture and the language.

Those problems, in turn, contributed to a series of counterproductive tactics, including the heavy-handed round-ups of Iraqi suspects, the torturing of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and the killing of innocent civilians by jittery U.S. troops fearful of suicide bombings.

The war in Iraq also has undermined U.S. standing elsewhere in the Middle East and around the world. Images of U.S. soldiers sexually abusing Iraqi prisoners, putting bags over the heads of captives and shooting a wounded insurgent have blackened America’s image everywhere and made cooperation with the United States increasingly difficult even in countries long considered American allies.

Beyond the troubling images, more and more documents have surfaced indicating that the Bush administration had adopted limited forms of torture as routine policy, both in Iraq and the broader War on Terror. Last August, an FBI counterterrorism official criticized abusive practices at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more,” the official wrote. “When I asked the M.P.’s what was going on, I was told that interrogators from the day prior had ordered this treatment, and the detainee was not to be moved. On another occasion … the detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night.”

Despite official insistence that torture is not U.S. policy, the blame for these medieval tactics continues to climb the chain of command toward the Oval Office. It appears to have been Bush’s decision after the Sept. 11 attacks to “take the gloves off,” a reaction understandable at the time but which now appears to have hurt, more than helped.

TV World

Many Americans have fantasized about how they would enjoy watching Osama bin Laden tortured to death for his admitted role in the Sept. 11 attacks. There is also a tough-guy fondness for torture as shown in action entertainment – like Fox Network’s “24” – where torture is a common-sense shortcut to get results.

But the larger danger arises when the exceptional case becomes the routine, when it’s no longer the clearly guilty al-Qaeda mass murderer, but it is now the distraught Iraqi father trying to avenge the death of his child killed by American bombs.

Rather than the dramatic scenes on TV, the reality is usually more like that desperate creature in Guantanamo lying in his own waste and pulling out his hair. The situation can get even worse when torture takes on the industrial quality of government policy, with subjects processed through the gulags or the concentration camps.

That also is why the United States and other civilized countries have long banned torture and prohibited the intentional killing of civilians. The goal of international law has been to set standards that couldn’t be violated even in extreme situations or in the passions of the moment.

Yet, Bush – with his limited world experience – was easily sold on the notion of U.S. “exceptionalism” where America’s innate goodness frees it from the legal constraints that apply to lesser countries.

Bush also came to believe in the wisdom of his “gut” judgments. After his widely praised ouster of Afghanistan’s Taliban government in late 2001, Bush set his sights on invading Iraq. Like a hot gambler in Las Vegas doubling his bets, Bush’s instincts were on a roll.

Now, however, as the Iraqi insurgency continues to grow and inflict more casualties on both U.S. troops and Iraqis who have thrown in their lot with the Americans, Bush finds himself facing a narrowing list of very tough choices.

Bush could acknowledge his mistakes and seek international help in extricating U.S. forces from Iraq. But Bush abhors admitting errors, even small ones. Plus, Bush’s belligerent tone hasn’t created much incentive for other countries to bail him out.

Instead Bush appears to be upping the ante by contemplating cross-border raids into countries neighboring Iraq. He also would be potentially expanding the war by having Iraqi Kurds and Shiites kill Sunnis, a prescription for civil war or genocide.

Pinochet Option

There’s a personal risk, too, for Bush if he picks the “Salvador option.” He could become an American version of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet or Guatemala’s Efrain Rios Montt, leaders who turned loose their security forces to commit assassinations, “disappear” opponents and torture captives.

Like the policy that George W. Bush is now considering, Pinochet even sponsored his own international “death squad” – known as Operation Condor – that hunted down political opponents around the world. One of those attacks in September 1976 blew up a car carrying Chilean dissident Orlando Letelier as he drove through Washington D.C. with two American associates. Letelier and co-worker Ronni Moffitt were killed.

With the help of American friends in high places, the two former dictators have fended off prison until now. However, Pinochet and Rios Montt have become pariahs who are facing legal proceedings aimed at finally holding them accountable for their atrocities. [For more on George H.W. Bush’s protection of Pinochet, see Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

One way for George W. Bush to avert that kind of trouble is to make sure his political allies remain in power even after his second term ends in January 2009. In his case, that might be achievable by promoting his brother Jeb for president in 2008, thus guaranteeing that any incriminating documents stay under wraps.

President George W. Bush’s dispatching Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to inspect the tsunami damage in Asia started political speculation that one of the reasons was to burnish Jeb’s international credentials in a setting where his personal empathy would be on display.

Though Jeb Bush has insisted that he won’t run for president in 2008, the Bush family might find strong reason to encourage Jeb to change his mind, especially if the Iraq War is lingering and George W. has too many file cabinets filled with damaging secrets.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His new book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

Fear Stalks City Where The Police Hide Behind Masks

Journalism yields a world of clichés but here, for once, the first cliché that comes to mind is true. Baghdad is a city of fear. Fearful Iraqis, fearful militiamen, fearful American soldiers, fearful journalists.

That day upon which the blessings of democracy will shower upon us, 30 January, is approaching with all the certainty and speed of doomsday. The latest Zarqawi video shows the killing of six Iraqi policemen. Each is shot in the back of the head, one by one. A survivor plays dead. Then a gunman walks up behind him and blows his head apart with bullets. These images haunt everyone. At the al-Hurriya intersection yesterday morning, four truckloads of Iraqi national guardsmen - the future saviours of Iraq, according to George Bush - are passing my car. Their rifles are porcupine quills, pointing at every motorist, every Iraqi on the pavement, the Iraqi army pointing their weapons at their own people. And they are all wearing masks - black hoods or ski-masks or keffiyahs that leave only slits for frightened eyes. Just before it collapsed finally into the hands of the insurgents last summer, I saw exactly the same scene in the streets of Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad. Now I am watching them in the capital.

At Kamal Jumblatt Square beside the Tigris, two American Humvees approach the roundabout. Their machine-gunners are shouting at drivers to keep away from them. A big sign in Arabic on the rear of each vehicle says: "Forbidden. Do not overtake this convoy. Stay 50 metres away from it."

The drivers behind obey; they know the meaning of the "deadly force" which the Americans have written on to their checkpoint signs. But the two Humvees drive into a massive traffic jam, the gunners now screaming at us to move back.

When a taxi which does not notice the US troops blocks their path, the American in the lead vehicle hurls a plastic bottle full of water on to its roof and the driver mounts the grass traffic circle. A truck receives the same treatment from the lead Humvee. "Go back," shouts the rear gunner, staring at us through shades. We try desperately to turn into the jam.

Yes, the Russians would probably have chucked hand grenades in Kabul. But here were the terrified "liberators" of Baghdad throwing bottles of water at the Iraqis who are supposed to enjoy an American-imposed democracy on 30 January.

The rear Humvee has "Specialist Carrol" written on the windscreen. Specialist Carrol, I am sure, regards every damn one of us as a potential suicide bomber - and I can't blame him. One such bomber had just driven up to the police station in Tikrit, north of Baghdad, and destroyed himself and the lives of at least six policemen.

Round the corner, I discover the reason for the jam: Iraqi cops are fighting off hundreds of motorists desperate for petrol, the drivers refusing to queue any longer for the one thing which Iraq possesses in Croesus-like amounts - petrol.

I drop by the Ramaya restaurant for lunch. Closed. They are building a 20-floor security wall around the premises. So I drive to the Rif for a pizza, occasionally tinkling the restaurant's piano while I watch the entrance for people I don't want to see. The waiters are nervous. They are happy to bring my pizza in 10 minutes. There is no one else in the restaurant, you see, and they watch the road outside like friendly rabbits. They are waiting for The Car.

I call on an old Iraqi friend who used to publish a literary magazine during Saddam's reign. "They want me to vote, but they can't protect me," he says. "Maybe there will be no suicide bomber at the polling station. But I will be watched. And what if I get a hand-grenade in my home three days' later? The Americans will say they did their best, Allawi's people will say I am a 'martyr for democracy'. So, do you think I'm going to vote?"

At Mustansiriya university - one of Iraq's best - students of English literature are to face their end-of-term exam. January marks the end of the Iraqi semester. But one of the students tells me that his fellow students had told their teacher that - so fraught are the times - they were not yet prepared for the examination. Rather than giving them all zeros, the teacher meekly postpones the exam.

I drive back through the al-Hurriya intersection beside the "Green Zone" and suddenly there is a big black 4x4, filled with ski-masked gunmen. "Get back!" they scream at every motorist as they try to cut across the median. I roll the window down. The rear door of the 4x4 whacks open. A ski-masked Westerner - blond hair, blue eyes - is pointing a Kalashnikov at my car. "Get back!" he shrieks in ghastly Arabic. Then he clears the median, followed by three armoured pick-ups, windows blacked, tyres skidding on the road surface, carrying the sacred Westerners inside to the dubious safety of the "Green Zone", the hermetically-sealed compound from which Iraq is supposedly governed. I glance at the Iraqi press. Colin Powell is warning of "civil war" in Iraq. Why do we Westerners keep threatening civil war in a country whose society is tribal rather than sectarian? Of all papers, it is the Kurdish Al Takhri, loyal to Mustafa Barzani, which asks the same question. "There has never been a civil war in Iraq," the editorial thunders. And it is right.

So, "full ahead both" for the dreaded 30 January elections and democracy. The American generals - with a unique mixture of mendacity and hope amid the insurgency - are now saying that only four of Iraq's 18 provinces may not be able to "fully" participate in the elections.

Good news. Until you sit down with the population statistics and realise - as the generals all know - that those four provinces contain more than half of the population of Iraq.

Robert Fisk in Baghdad
Copyright: The Independent

Welcome back, Saddam!

From: George.W.Bush@whitehouse.gov

Sent: Wednesday, January 10, 2005 4:49 PM
To: Saddam.Hussein@undisclosed-location.gov
Subject: Welcome Back

Howdy, partner, it's your old friend George W. here in Washington , D.C.

I thought I would write with the hope of learning you are being treated well in your undisclosed location. I see you have a new haircut and are getting a bit grayer; so am I.

Sorry about the Uday and Qusay misunderstanding. Like they said in The Godfather (which I know is your favorite movie), "it's business, not personal." I hope both your sons made it to paradise and found their 72 virgins. As a devoted father, you have to be happy about that! Perhaps they’ll find multiple wives and settle down in paradise, and "I hope their first child is a masculine child."

It was a good year for me. You'll be quite proud to hear that I managed to steal another election! My brother, Jeb, came through once again in Florida , and Diebold rigged the Ohio vote count.

Kerry would have driven you crazy with his flip-flopping, and his wife is a "major league" pain in the butt - "big time".

Can you imagine dealing with Kerry? "Saddam, you were with us before you were against us.” And his wife might just tell you to go "shove it".

You're lucky you didn't have to deal with all this election nonsense when you were in power in Iraq. Your treachery and deception were pure, and you didn't have that idiot Michael Moore chasing you around, getting these morons all riled up and making a fortune doing it. You would have thrown the dope into Abu Ghraib. Hmm, now there's a thought…

Pretty cool, though, what we did at Abu Ghraib, huh? I bet you're disappointed your sons missed the fun with the red panties, whips, chains, dog leashes and hoods. That Lyndie England is one mean chick; bet she'd have made a perfect mate for your son, Uday, but I doubt she was a virgin. Oh, well, c'est la guerre.

Anyway, I know it's short notice, but I’m writing to invite you to my inauguration on January 20th. Do you think you can make it? Please come; you can even ride with Laura and me in the presidential limousine as we travel down Pennsylvania Ave. You can also stand beside us while I take my oath of office.

I must warn you that there may be demonstrations, but you were great at putting them down in Iraq; perhaps you can give me some ideas? If you have any WMDs left over from the ones we supplied you in the ‘80s, can you bring some along?

Great party afterwards! The usual $250,000 fee – well, it's on me!

Hope you will accept my sincere invitation and that we can be friends again, just like we were in the 1980s.

However, I have just one small favor to ask:

Please, I beg you, take your damn country back, and get me the hell out of this mess!

On January 30th, those crazy Shia are likely to elect an "Ayatollah" allied with Iran . I don't have enough time to make my brother Jeb the Governor of Iraq so he can fix the election, and Diebold machines only work with electricity. (Billions of dollars, and those Halliburton idiots can't get the lights to work, or even screw in a light bulb, for that matter.) I'm desperate and I know now, like in the movie, I can only come to you for justice, Godfather – I mean, "Allah-Father”.

These whiny liberals here are going to crucify me. By January 30th, nearly 1,400 Americans will be dead and over 10,000 wounded, so we can legitimately elect a government aligned with Iran and will possess the largest combined oil reserves in the world. You can't make this stuff up, Saddam, my dear friend.

All my lies, all the deception, all the money and blood wasted, just so we can have in power an Islamic theocracy that hates us even more than you hated us. We were together, fighting precisely this phenomenon, when we supplied you with the WMDs to defeat Islamic fundamentalism in the ‘80s, only to destroy the WMDs in the ‘90s, so the radical Islamics can now be elected legitimately in 2005. Now there's a flip-flop that would confuse even John Kerry.

Saddam, my friend, we cannot allow this to happen: we owe it to the good folks of "liberated" and "pacified" Fallujah.

Therefore, I have signed a decree that releases you immediately from prison, grants full amnesty and bestows honorary US citizenship on you as well. Ditto for the members of the Republican Guard. (I must admit I always did love the name Republican Guard; sounds much tougher than Democrat Guard).

Speaking of the Guard, I've instructed our National Guard troops stationed in Iraq to erect a new statue of you in Fardus Square, bigger and better than the one that they (not the Iraqi people) toppled in 2003. Problem is our National Guard troops are so old, paunchy and battle-weary that they may not be up to the task. Do you think we can borrow a few of your "remnants" to do some heavy lifting?

I've instructed Karl Rove to be your campaign manager, so together we can steal the January 30th Iraqi elections, get you back in power and get me the hell out of this mess. My "brain" Karl has already begun to work and has come up with some creative slogans for your campaign. Check these out and let me know what you think:

"Saddam Hussein: Four More Decades"

"Tyranny Beats Anarchy"

"Yes to Fears, No to Queers"

"Vote Baath or Get Hosed "

"Marriage is Between a Man and a Woman... or a Goat"

"Shias will Export Jobs to Iran "

"OJ Killed More Americans than I Did on 9/11"

and my personal favorite

"Are You Better off Today Than You Were Four Years Ago?"

Saddam, hopefully you will accept my invitation to the inauguration. I know we can be friends again, just like we were when Don Rumsfeld paid you a visit back in 1983. I’m sure you will be busy with the campaign, so I do understand if you can’t attend. Perhaps we'll see you at Camp David in the spring?

The campaign will be tough, "but when the going gets tough, the tough get going." So get going, and welcome back, Saddam!

Jerry Ghinelli
01/11/05 "ICH" -- Satire

Democrats Sugar-Coating Gonzales

Democratic senators who vote to confirm Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States are irredeemable whores who believe in nothing and will vote that way for reasons of political correctness -- to avoid the stigma of opposing the first Hispanic to be nominated for that office.

The Democrats should use every means at their disposal to thwart his nomination, and that means a filibuster. Opposing the manifestly unfit Gonzales is a profound moral issue that reaches to the very essence of what our nation stands for and what our Constitution means.

When I hear Democrats sugar-coating Gonzales -- based largely on his ethnicity and modest upbringing -- I cringe and understand why so many people wonder if the Democrats believe in anything.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer's lapdog praise of Gonzales was typical of those who simply shrug their shoulders and are willing to capitulate to President Bush's desire to have his longtime legal valet and fixer become the nation's top lawyer.

Schumer, weighing his own political benefits in view of New York's large Hispanic population, praised Gonzales without reservation.

"His story, where he comes from, is an American story and is great," Schumer said, as though that should qualify Gonzales to become attorney general.

No, Chuckie, the real Gonzales story is far from great. Even the most cursory examination of it makes anyone who respects the law and human decency shudder.

This is a man whose rise to prominence has everything to do with his willingness to provide legal cover for anything his boss and patron George W. Bush wanted, regardless of what the law says. Gonzales is a third-rate attorney and a first-rate political hack.

It is not enough for Gonzales to simply mouth the hollow words, "This administration does not engage in torture and will not condone torture." The words he wrote in legal opinions as White House counsel and the arguments he advanced created a framework and a climate whereby the torture of detainees in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay became widespread.

Gonzales' dismissal of the Geneva Conventions and international law and his willingness to offer justifications for using interrogation methods just short of murder should get him a trial date in The Hague instead of the big office at the Justice Department.

Gonzales, like all members of Bush's inner circle, is a self-professed, Bible-thumping, evangelical Christian. In spite of his religious zeal, he still hasn't answered an open letter from more than 200 American religious leaders who expressed "grave concern" over his views on torture.

The Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders invited Gonzales to join them in affirming that it is imperative "to treat each human being with reverence and dignity" and to acknowledge "that no legal category created by mere mortals can revoke that status."

They maintain that torture is a "deliberate effort to undermine human dignity" and "a grave sin and affront to God." Gonzales seems to view divine will as anything Bush wants.

You may say, so what? Those liberal religious types just don't understand the real world and how to deal with terrorists.

Consider, then, the letter a dozen high-ranking retired military leaders wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing "deep concern" over the Gonzales nomination. The group includes retired Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and retired Marine Gen. Joseph Hoar.

The military leaders blasted Gonzales' infamous series of memos arguing that the United States could lawfully ignore portions of the Geneva Conventions and that some forms of torture "may be justified" in the War on Terror.

Pulling no punches, they wrote, "Today, it is clear that these operations have fostered greater animosity toward the United States, undermined our intelligence-gathering efforts and added to the risks facing troops serving around the world."

Such public positions by retired military people on a Cabinet position are rare, if not unprecedented, and underline the gravity of their concern.

An August 2002 memo Gonzales prepared exploring how tactics tantamount to torture could be used on suspected terrorists drew criticism for its legal scholarship. International law professor and Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Gonzales' work "is perhaps the most clearly erroneous legal opinion I have ever read."

During the confirmation hearing, Gonzales distanced himself from many of his own decisions and his long record of providing legal justification for anything George Bush wanted. Don't worry. When he's confirmed, he'll be the nation's attorney general, not the president's hired gun. Sure.

Gonzales is firmly on the record asserting that the president essentially has unlimited powers to jail "enemies" without charges being filed, rights to an attorney or any kind of trial. He has argued in favor of the same omnipotent authority King George III claimed, which helped set off the American Revolution.

Gonzales displayed considerable vagueness and forgetfulness, especially when it came to answering questions about his role in the aborted nomination of the slimy Bernard Kerik to become Secretary of Homeland Security. Gonzales did some Clintonian parsing when he tried to explain that Kerik was not actually nominated for the job, but merely announced as the nominee. Had Gonzales lapsed into a moment of honesty, he would have said the reason his office so quickly gave the green light for Kerik was simply because he knew that was what the president wanted.

Gonzales has literally made a career out of being a Bush toady, in a relationship much like Kato Kaelin had with O.J. Simpson. You know. Clean up the pool, take out the garbage, do all those little odd jobs that make life easier for the boss.

After a stint with a Houston law firm that once represented Enron, Gonzales made the lucky choice of signing on as Texas Gov. George W. Bush's legal counsel. He helped shape executive orders that allowed industrial polluters in the state to decide for themselves how they should be regulated and what level of pollutants they could spew into the air and water.

One of his main tasks was overseeing the clemency petitions of people on death row in Texas, a crowded corridor. The government-sanctioned murder machine hummed along as Gonzales greased the gears. He knew that was what George W. wanted, and that's what he did. The merits of the pleas for clemency didn't really matter.

Alan Berlow wrote a revealing piece in the July/August 2003 "Atlantic Monthly" based on the appallingly inadequate memos Gonzales presented to the governor on the morning of each execution. Berlow wrote the summaries of the clemency petitions "repeatedly failed to appraise the Governor of crucial issues in the case at hand, ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence."

In one case, Gonzales failed to mention that the doomed man was mentally impaired and had been viciously abused as a child. Rather than treating these last-minute appeals as the matters of life and death they truly were, Gonzales handled them like real-estate closings, with his boiler-plate OKs for the executions to proceed.

Either Gonzales was legally inept and had no business reviewing the petitions or he was so eager to quench Bush's blood thirst that due process meant nothing to him. In either case, Gonzales is unfit to become attorney general. I guess Schumer missed that chapter in the "great story."

The only honorable thing the Democrats in the Senate can do is mount a filibuster and fight the Gonzales nomination with everything they have.

Already Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is talking about changing the Senate rules to end filibusters for judicial nominees and further solidify the tyranny of the Republican majority. Conservative columnist George Will worries about such impetuous and reactionary behavior.

"The filibuster is an important defense of minority rights, enabling democratic government to measure and respect not merely numbers but also intensity in public controversies. Filibusters enable intense minorities to slow the governmental juggernaut. Conservatives, who do not think government is sufficiently inhibited, should cherish this blocking mechanism. And someone should puncture Republicans' current triumphalism by reminding them that someday they will again be in the minority," Will wrote.

Alberto Gonzales is no pig in a poke. He's a known quantity and his record is both deplorable and dangerous. His nomination creates a perfect storm of "intensity in public controversies." The Democrats in the Senate can use their minority to stand on principle. They can show they actually do believe in something by going to the mattresses, fighting with all they have and giving filibustering a noble last hurrah in rejecting the Gonzales nomination. Now that would be a great American story.

Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News. His e-mail address is gallaghernewsman@aol.com.

Copyright: Niagara Falls Reporter

Advise And Rubber Stamp

The fact that Gonzales is a Latino with a compelling life story is clearly putting handcuffs on the hapless Democrats.

When John Ashcroft was up for confirmation as attorney general, the Democrat on the job, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., cautioned that the Constitutional role for the Senate was to “advise and consent” not “advise and rubber stamp.” Four years later comes the nomination of Alberto Gonzales and the cowed Democrats are poised for a policy of "advise, snarl, bombast and then rubber stamp."

I am shocked (not “shocked, shocked” but sincerely shocked) that Gonzales will get a single Democratic vote, much less a relatively less easy confirmation. And I would have expected that some Republicans -- the ones who profess deep belief in the American mission of fostering Arab democracy, the ones who have renounced Secretary Rumsfeld, like McCain, Hagel, Lugar – would be struggling with their votes, too. But no.

If the Democrats in Congress are willing to stand for anything, it seems to me, they ought to be standing against the Gonzales nomination. “Fight” was the favorite verb of the past two democratic presidential candidates: fight for the little guy, the patient, the pensioner and fight against the rich, mighty and powerful.

Here’s a fight worth having and the Democrats are settling for aggressively-intoned hearing questions and hand-wring aye votes.

The Gonzales hearing was a kabuki hazing. The most revealing and thus absurd moment came when Sen. Joe Biden harangued Gonzales for sidestepping tough questions, "This is not about your intelligence, this hearing is not about your competence, it's not about your integrity - it's about your judgment and your candor," he said. "We're looking for candor, old buddy. I love you, but you're not very candid so far."

But Biden used up his allotted time with this unpunctuated sermon leaving Gonzales no time to speak, much less speak with candor. That’s the essence of confirmation hearings.

And remember, modern confirmations hinge on small things, not big things --messing up the withholding taxes for cleaning lady can doom a nominee. But torture and execution? Forget about it.

The foundation of what should be the opposition to Gonzales (and it should be bipartisan) is the legal counsel he gave Governor Bush and President Bush on the most important issues he faced; not important issues, the most important legal issues.

As White House legal counsel, Gonzales had an essential and influential role in crafting the legal rules that would govern administration’s anti-terrorism policy. It’s been well documented and the Senate Judiciary did grill Gonzales about it.

The Gonzales record, as it stands now, is clear and ought to be anathema to any Democrat:

his sanctioning of an August 2002 Justice Department memo that essentially condones torture in interrogation

his memo to the president that argued the Geneva Conventions didn’t apply to aspects of the war on terror

his decisions to use military tribunals instead of courts and to designate U.S. citizens as “enemy combatants"

Gonzales erred at every juncture. These decisions have all since been renounced by courts or by the relevant agencies. And, of course, they are closely tied to national embarrassments of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and the abuse of Afghan and Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers. Thus Gonzales’ legal work for his client, the president, is tied to those failures.

Gonzales told the senators on both sides of the grand podium that he renounced all torture and believes that the United States should abide by international treaties on human rights. Gonzales did have to endure some more aggressive questions but the whole hearing virtually assumed Gonzales would be confirmed.

On the other key part of Gonzales’ career: as counsel to Texas Governor George W. Bush, Gonzales’ most important job (by Bush’s own measure) was to brief the governor on each execution in the state. And in Texas -- there were a lot – 150 in Bush’s six years as governor.

Alberto Gonzales wrote an “execution summary” for the first 57 of those cases. Those memos were obtained by writer Alan Berlow, who wrote about them extensively in The Atlantic Monthly in the summer of 2003.

Berlow wrote, “In these documents Gonzales repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence.”

Except for Sen. Russ Feingold, Democrats basically ignored his Texas record.

Gonzales’ wonderful Horatio Alger story seemed more important to the senators. “The road you've traveled,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, echoing the mood of his colleagues, “from being a 12-year-old boy, just about the age of your oldest son, selling soft drinks at football games, all the way to the state house in Texas and our White House is a tribute to you and your family.”

The fact that Gonzales is a Latino with a compelling life story is clearly putting handcuffs on the hapless Democrats. And what an irony it is that the Republicans are benefiting from a policy Republicans so routinely berate – essentially, it’s affirmative action.

It would be a fine milestone to see not only the first Latino attorney general, but the first Latino in a Big Four Cabinet job (AG, State, Defense, and Treasury).

But at the level of attorney general, neither moving personal sagas nor broken racial barriers are qualifications; they are important and meaningful accomplishments for otherwise qualified candidates, like Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.

Yet Henry Cisneros, Bill Clinton’s secretary of housing and urban development who resigned in scandal, wrote in The Wall Street Journal: “As an American of Latino heritage, I also want to convey the immense sense of pride that Latinos across the nation feel because of Judge Gonzales’ nomination … This is a major breakthrough for Latinos, especially since it is so important to have a person who understands the framework of legal rights for all Americans as attorney general.”

If Alberto Gonzales’s record shows one thing clearly, it’s that he is not such a person.

Four years ago, the Democrats rolled over on the Ashcroft nomination. Then they rolled over on the Bush tax cuts, the authority to invade Iraq, the Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind and the Medicare reforms. None of that did them one lick of good in November.

If the Democrats have the gumption to fight about anything, it ought to be about this nomination. But it appears they don’t.

Dick Meyer, a veteran political and investigative producer for CBS News, is the Editorial Director of CBSNews.com, based in Washington.