Tuesday, February 27, 2007

FOX and Torture

For some of us, just watching FOX is torture. But all joking aside, FOX's show "24," as the following article reveals, has been playing a signal role in the cultural arena in fostering torture, thus following the lead of the Bush/Cheney regime. This is, of course, nothing short of appalling. But it tells us very clearly, if we choose to listen, that we live in terrible times where the Geneva Conventions have been rendered "quaint" by our government and torture is considered acceptable. The trope of this show, that there is a "ticking time bomb," is an utter fabrication convenient for the justification of such barbaric measures. Note the show's co-creator, Joel Surnow's comments below:

"We've had all of these torture experts come by recently, and they say, 'You don't realize how many people are affected by this. Be careful.' They say torture doesn't work. But I don't believe that."

Oh, that settles it then, Joel. Torture experts be damned. You don't believe it. My mind can rest easy now.

Army Says Fox TV's "24" Promotes Use of Torture in Iraq Prisons
By Sherwood Ross
t r u t h o u t | Guest Contributor

Tuesday 27 February 2007

After interrogators began torturing Iraqi prisoners using methods they saw on Fox TV's popular "24," the Army's Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan warned the producers "24" is negatively impacting the training and performance of American troops.

Finnegan, dean of the US Military Academy at West Point, accompanied by veteran military and FBI interrogators, met with the "24" creative team in Southern California last November to tell them, "I'd like them to stop. They should do a show where torture backfires," according to an article in the February 19-26 issue of The New Yorker by Jane Mayer. The "24" show is said to have a weekly audience of fifteen million viewers, and it reaches millions more through DVD sales.

The general, who said "24" is popular with his students, told Mayer, "The kids see it and say, 'If torture is wrong, what about '24'?"

Finnegan also told the producers their suggestion that the US perpetrates torture is hurting America's image internationally.

The Fox show producers retorted that they are careful not to glamorize torture. They said their fictional "Counter Terrorist Unit" agent Jack Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland, never enjoys inflicting pain. Finnegan and his experts disagreed, stating Bauer remains coolly rational after committing barbarous acts, including the decapitation of a state's witness with a hacksaw, Mayer reported.

Tony Lagouranis, a former Army interrogator in Iraq and one of the meeting's participants, told the show's staff that "24" DVDs are circulated widely in Iraq. Lagouranis told Mayer, "People watch the shows, and then walk into the interrogation booths and do the same things they've just seen."

Lagouranis added, "I used severe hypothermia, dogs, and sleep deprivation. I saw suspects after soldiers had gone into their homes and broken their bones, or made them sit on a Humvee's hot exhaust pipes until they got third-degree burns. Nothing happened."

Joe Navarro, an FBI official who has conducted some 12,000 prisoner interviews, attended the meeting. He said torture was not an effective response, explaining, "These are very determined people, and they won't turn just because you pull a fingernail out."

Joel Surnow, co-creator and executive producer of "24," told The New Yorker's Mayer, "We've had all of these torture experts come by recently, and they say, 'You don't realize how many people are affected by this. Be careful.' They say torture doesn't work. But I don't believe that."

"Young interrogators don't need our show. What the human mind can imagine is so much greater than what we show on TV. No one needs us to tell them what to do. It's not like somebody goes, 'Oh, look what they're doing, I'll do that.' Is it?"

The delegation of interrogators left the meeting, Mayer wrote, "with the feeling that the story lines on '24' would be changed little, if at all." Lagouranis said of the Fox producers, "They were a bit prickly. They have this money-making machine and we were telling them it's immoral."

The Army-"24" meeting was arranged by Human Rights First official David Danzig, long active in the nonprofit's campaign to end torture and its portrayal in the media. Before the 9/11 attacks, fewer than four acts of torture appeared on prime-time TV each year, Danzig told Mayer. Now there are more than 100, and "It used to be almost exclusively the villains who tortured. Today, torture is often perpetrated by the heroes."

Melissa Caldwell, senior director of programs for The Parents' Television Council, said there were 67 torture scenes during the first five seasons of "24," calling the Fox show "the worst offender on television: the most frequent, most graphic, and the leader in the trend of showing the protagonists using torture."

Mayer commented, "The show's villains usually inflict the more gruesome tortures: their victims are hung on hooks, like carcasses in a butcher shop; poked with smoking-hot scalpels; or abraded with sanding machines. In many episodes, however, heroic American officials act as tormentors, even though torture is illegal under US law."

She noted the Bush administration has "firmly rejected" the idea that physical coercion in interrogations is unreliable. Last September, Mayer noted, Bush defended the Central Intelligence Agency's use of "enhanced" measures to extract "vital information" from "dangerous" detainees aware of "terrorist plans we could not get anywhere else."

Surnow said, "People in the administration love the series, too."

They would.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

She Speaks for Many and Growing Numbers of People

Open Letter to Rep. Mike Honda
Angry constituent wants action, not words
By Maureen D. Mackenzie 02/22/07 8:35 am

Dear Representative Honda,

I have written to you several times with specific requests and, in reply, received vague letters that aim to give the general impression that you are on the principled side of an issue without giving assurance that you will take any action. In the past, frustration at this manner of communication has caused me to give up my effort to communicate with your office, convinced that no one is listening. Now I refuse to give up.

Letters from your office voice opposition to the occupation of Iraq and yet you've three times voted for funds to continue the assaults on Afghanistan, Iraq and the sinister, so-called "Global War on Terror." This aggression is resulting in genocide in Iraq, human rights abuses and fear and hatred of the USA across the globe. Even after exposure of the lies used to wage war on Iraq, and a strong voter mandate to get out of Iraq, you're poised to vote for yet another supplemental appropriation of $93,000,000,000 to continue the killing.

You claim to be sympathetic to the plight of immigrants from Mexico, but you voted to fund construction of a wall at the border that will drive desperate immigrants further into dangerous territory and ensure that the casualties of NAFTA and US racism will increase.

And most recently, I wrote to request that you "call on HUD to drop its suit against public housing residents in New Orleans" but in reply I received a long, vague letter that says you want me to believe you care but will do nothing for the HUD targets in New Orleans.

By espousing the rhetoric of those resisting injustice, war and fascism you paint a public image of a defender of justice and human rights. Meanwhile you've risen to the appropriations committee on a tide that has washed away habeas corpus, legalized torture and cleared the way to martial law.

A little research on your part would tell you that national elections have twice been stolen and the Bush Administration/PNAC were at least complicit in the attacks of 9/11/2001. (See Impeach the President: The Case Against Bush and Cheney by Dennis Loo and Peter Phillips, and The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11 by David Ray Griffin) But all of these crimes against humanity will remain uninvestigated by Congress while Democrats like you are more concerned with rising to power than with their obligation to uphold the constitution and democracy.

At this time, when the people are being so vigorously lied to and the survival of life on the planet is at stake, true leadership requires a sacrifice of ambition. I know that if you summon the courage to communicate honestly with your constituents, and speak the truth about what is happening in this crazy government--if you stand up for what is right instead of the Democratic party line--you will draw rapturous support from people. I'd work for you for free. If instead, you continue to go along with wars of aggression, torture, eroding human rights and the countless other crimes of this government you may someday find yourself the defendant in an international war crimes court.

Mr. Honda, please wake up! Reasonable people are calling for the overthrow of this increasingly fascist government. Stand up for what's right soon, while you still can.

One of many outraged constituents,
Maureen D. Mackenzie
Editor's Note: Guest Columnist Maureen Mackenzie's opinions are her own.
Printed from the Los Gatos Observer (http://losgatosobserver.com) 02/22/07 10:15 am

The One-Percent Doctrine and Iran

In his 2006 book The One Pecent Doctrine, Ron Suskind cites Cheney making an extraordinary claim that: “it’s not about our analysis, or finding a preponderance of evidence. It’s about our response.” And, in the phrase that Suskind took for his book's title, Cheney goes on to say that even if there's even a one-percent chance that terrorists might do such and such (e.g., a one-percent chance that Iraq might have nukes, or to make this more contemporary, that Iran might develop nukes), then the government must treat this contingency "as a certainty in terms of our response."

As Robert Parry points out in his article that follows: "Wouldn’t even the most dimwitted foreign policy novice recognize the absurdity of striking out at one-percent risks around the world?

"The answer to that conundrum might simply be that the one-percent doctrine is less a doctrine than another excuse used by the Bush administration to justify actions, such as invading Iraq, that it always wanted to do."

Undoubtedly this is so. The one-percent doctrine allows Smirk and Sneer to rationalize any actions they wish. It undergirds their scare tactics directed at the US populace that if there's even the remotest chance of an attack of any kind, then the most overblown and disproportionate responses and "preventive" measures are suitable.

But there is also another component to this doctrine that bears close scrutiny. Note Sneer's words: it's not about our analysis, and it's not about evidence. It's about our response. As Suskind revealed in his 10/17/04 NYT article, "Without a Doubt," the White House is a proud member of the "faith-based community" as opposed to the "reality-based community." "We're an empire now," the senior White House spokesman told Suskind, "and when we act, we create our own reality.... We're history's actors...and you, all of you will be left to just study what we do."

Thus, Smirk and Sneer's cabal overthrow the entire history of humankind's painstaking development of science and of logic based on evidence. Evidence and analysis mean nothing. Action means everything. We can therefore revise Descartes' famous dictum that "I think therefore I am" to read: "I act, therefore I am." For S/S, their actions bring into being whatever they want to make real. They don't need to collect evidence, that's for losers, and they don't need to weigh evidence and come up with an analysis - sure makes Smirk's antipathy for reading and self-definition as a gut player easier!

This helps to explain their complete lack of preparation for the post-invasion Iraq situation and it also helps to explain their presently, rapidly evolving plans to attack Iran which many observers see as utter madness. There's a method to this madness. Their anti-rationalist, anti-scientific stance makes this regime the worst of all possible combinations: the most powerful regime in world history led by madmen who expressly reject reason as superfluous.

Their one-percent nonsense side-by-side with their criminal refusal to respond sensibly to the overwhelming evidence of global warming and other dire threats such as avian flu makes this an extraordinary brew that can only bring further, much greater disasters to the world. It's time we ended their reign of terror.

One Percent Madness

By Robert Parry
June 27, 2006

Author Ron Suskind’s account of Dick Cheney’s “one percent doctrine” – the idea that if a terrorist threat is deemed even one percent likely the United States must act as if it’s a certainty – supplies a missing link in understanding the evolving madness of the Bush administration’s national security strategy.

A one-percent risk threshold is so low that it negates any serious analysis that seeks to calibrate dangers within the complex array of possibilities that exist in the real world. In effect, it means that any potential threat that crosses the administration’s line of sight will exceed one percent and thus must be treated as a clear and present danger.

The fallacy of the doctrine is that pursuing one-percent threats like certainties is not just a case of choosing to be safe rather than sorry. Instead, it can suck the pursuer into a swollen river of other dangers, leading to a cascading torrent of adverse consequences far more dangerous than the original worry.

For instance, George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq may have eliminated the remote possibility that Saddam Hussein would someday develop a nuclear bomb and share it with al-Qaeda. (Some intelligence analysts put that scenario at less than one percent, although Bush called it a “gathering danger.”)

But the U.S. military invasion of Iraq had the unintended consequence of bolstering the conviction in North Korea and Iran that having the bomb may be the only way to fend off the United States.

The unending scenes of bloodshed in Iraq also have inflamed anti-American passions in other Middle East countries, including Pakistan which already possesses nuclear weapons and is governed by fragile pro-U.S. dictator Pervez Musharraf.

So, while eradicating one unlikely nightmare scenario – Hussein’s mushroom cloud in the hands of Osama bin-Laden – the Bush administration has increased the chances that the other two points on Bush’s “axis of evil,” North Korea and Iran, will push for nuclear weapons and that Pakistan’s Islamic fundamentalists, already closely allied with Osama bin-Laden, will oust Musharraf and gain control of existing nuclear weapons.

In other words, eliminating one “one-percent risk” may have created several other dangers which carry odds of catastrophe far higher than one percent. Bush now must decide whether to swat at these new one-plus-percent risks, which, in turn, could lead to even greater dangers.

Say, for example, that Bush orders air strikes against Iran’s suspected nuclear sites and kills large numbers of civilians in the process. That could trigger riots in Pakistan and lead to Musharraf’s downfall, putting Islamic extremists in control of nuclear weapons immediately, instead of possibly years into the future.

An attack on Iran also could backfire on the United States in Iraq, where Iranian-allied Shiite militias could retaliate against vulnerable U.S. and British troops, raising the death toll and endangering the entire U.S. mission in Iraq.

Swallowing Flies

In effect, Bush has found himself in a geopolitical version of “the little old lady who swallowed a fly.” As the children’s ditty goes, the little old lady next swallows a spider to catch the fly but soon finds that the spider “tickles inside her.” So, she engorges other animals, in escalating size, to eliminate each previous animal. Eventually, she swallows a horse and “is dead of course.”

Similarly, if Bush seeks to eradicate a succession of one-percent threats, he could well find himself trapped within a growing web of interrelated consequences, each pulling in their own entangling complexities. The end result could leave the United States in a much worse predicament than when the process began.

Charging headstrong after one-percent risks also makes you vulnerable to getting lured into traps. Al-Qaeda strategists, for instance, understood that the 9/11 attacks would lead to a furious reaction from the United States and welcomed the prospect that the American military would strike back at targets in the Islamic world.

Al-Qaeda hoped that the United States would overreact and thus sharpen what al-Qaeda saw as the contradictions within the Islamic world, forcing Muslims to take sides either with the “crusaders” and their regional allies or with the revolt against those forces.

Al-Qaeda’s gamble was that the United States might strike a well-aimed, powerful blow that would eliminate al-Qaeda’s leadership and its key supporters without alienating the larger Muslim populations.

But in late November and early December 2001, the failure to cut off escape routes at Tora Bora, near the Afghan-Pakistani border allowed Osama bin-Laden to evade capture along with Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s second in command.

Then, Bush – prematurely celebrating victory in Afghanistan – shifted the U.S. military’s focus to Iraq, which had long been an obsession with Bush and his neoconservative advisers. Bush and Cheney judged that Saddam Hussein represented another one-percent-plus danger that required eliminating.

Perception Management

But there remained a political problem in the United States. The American people, while strongly favoring retaliation against al-Qaeda, were less convinced about the need to launch a series of “preemptive wars” against nations that were not implicated in 9/11.

Though the “one-percent doctrine” may transcend the need for any hard evidence among policymakers, it did not eliminate the political need to generate public support behind a war effort, especially when even casual observers could note that the new target country – Iraq – posed no immediate threat to the United States.

So, the Bush administration saw little choice but to engage in exaggerations and outright falsehoods, what the CIA calls “perception management.” Bush, Cheney and their subordinates spoke in absolute terms about evidence of the Iraqi threat, including vast stockpiles of terrifying unconventional weapons and secret work on a nuclear bomb.

“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,” Cheney told a VFW convention on Aug. 26, 2002. “There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us. And there is no doubt that his aggressive regional ambitions will lead him into future confrontations with his neighbors – confrontations that will involve both the weapons he has today, and the ones he will continue to develop with his oil wealth.”

It’s now clear that Cheney was wildly overstating the level of confidence within the U.S. intelligence community about Hussein’s WMD programs. There was little hard evidence at all, more a case of conventional wisdom about unconventional weapons than actual intelligence reporting.

CIA analysts also didn’t believe that Hussein had any intent of using whatever WMD he did have unless his nation was attacked or he was cornered.

But intelligence took on a different dimension inside the “one-percent doctrine,” a strategy that cherished action over information. In the new book, The One Percent Doctrine, Suskind describes Cheney first enunciating his new approach when he heard about Pakistani physicists discussing nuclear weapons with al-Qaeda.

“If there’s a one percent chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response,” Cheney said. “It’s not about our analysis, or finding a preponderance of evidence. … It’s about our response.”

Suskind reports that Cheney’s new “standard of action … would frame events and responses from the administration for years to come. The Cheney Doctrine. Even if there’s just a one percent chance of the unimaginable coming due, act as if it is a certainty. …

“This doctrine – the one percent solution – divided what had largely been indivisible in the conduct of American foreign policy: analysis and action. Justified or not, fact-based or not, ‘our response’ is what matters. As to ‘evidence,’ the bar was set so low that the word itself almost didn’t apply.”


By making careful evaluation of the evidence irrelevant, however, the U.S. government made itself vulnerable to willful deceptions by interested parties, such as Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, which easily could funnel enough disinformation into the decision-making process to push decisions over the one-percent brim.

American enemies also could manipulate the process by exaggerating their goals. For instance, Bush and Cheney have repeatedly defended the continuation of the U.S. military operation in Iraq by citing the supposed goal of Islamic extremists to build an empire from Spain to Indonesia.

But the real prospect for such an empire is miniscule, arguably close to zero. After all, prior to 9/11, nearly all key al-Qaeda leaders had been driven from their home countries and chased to Afghanistan, one of the most remote corners of the earth.

These al-Qaeda leaders had lost battles with fellow Muslims in Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Though heroes to some Islamists, al-Qaeda leaders were dangerous but fringe operatives on the run.

Without the clumsy intervention of the United States and Great Britain in Iraq, al-Qaeda had few prospects for any significant expansion of its power base.

In an intercepted letter, purportedly written in 2005 by Zawahiri to Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq, al-Qaeda’s second in command fretted about the problems that would occur if the United States military withdrew from Iraq.

The “Zawahiri letter” cautioned that an American withdrawal might prompt the “mujahedeen” in Iraq to “lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal.” To avert this military collapse if the United States did leave, the letter called for selling the foreign fighters on a broader vision of an Islamic “caliphate” in the Middle East, although only along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, nothing as expansive as a global empire.

But the “Zawahiri letter” indicated that even this more modest “caliphate” was just an “idea” that he mentioned “only to stress … that the mujahedeen must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Bush’s Latest Iraq War Lies.”]

Brer Rabbit

In other words, assuming the “Zawahiri letter” is accurate, al- Qaeda’s leaders wanted to keep the United States bogged down in Iraq because that allowed the terrorists to swell their ranks with new fighters and to use the Iraq War as a training ground to harden them into dangerous militants.

The one-percent doctrine, therefore, empowers America’s enemies to influence U.S. policy in ways favorable to them. It lets al-Qaeda play the role of Brer Rabbit from the Uncle Remus tales, where the wily rabbit begs not to be thrown into the briar patch when that is exactly where he wants to go.

Bush has said the United States must take the word of the enemy seriously and act accordingly. But what if the enemy is exaggerating his capabilities or his goals? Do the enemy's words alone push matters beyond the one percent threshold and force the United States into responses even if they are not in America's best interests?

The one-percent doctrine is also developing a domestic corollary. Any home-grown threat – no matter how unlikely – must bring down the full force of U.S. law enforcement, as happened in last week’s arrest of seven young black men in Miami for a terrorist plot that one FBI official called more “aspirational than operational.”

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales conceded that the men had no weapons, no equipment and no real plans. Mostly, the seven seem to have been encouraged by an FBI informant posing as an al-Qaeda operative to talk loosely about waging a “full ground war” against the United States.

As absurd as this notion of a “full ground war” was – given the hapless nature of the alleged warriors – Gonzales said, “left unchecked, these homegrown terrorists may prove to be as dangerous as groups like al-Qaeda.”

Gonzales’s domestic declaration rang with an echo of Dick Cheney’s one-percent doctrine. If there is the slightest risk of terrorist activities, “it’s not about our analysis, or finding a preponderance of evidence,” Cheney reportedly said. “It’s about our response.”

Obvious Flaws

But another curious aspect of this one-percent doctrine is how obvious its flaws are. Wouldn’t even the most dimwitted foreign policy novice recognize the absurdity of striking out at one-percent risks around the world?

John Dunne wrote that “no man is an island, entire of itself,” meaning that every person is connected to other people. But surely, not even George W. Bush thought that Iraq was an island, somehow disconnected from a host of intersecting regional and global relationships.

The answer to that conundrum might simply be that the one-percent doctrine is less a doctrine than another excuse used by the Bush administration to justify actions, such as invading Iraq, that it always wanted to do.

If the slimmest possibility of grievous harm – such as Saddam Hussein developing nuclear weapons and then slipping one to Osama bin-Laden – can be cited to trump more circumspect policymakers, then it could be a powerful way to defeat bureaucratic rivals who show up at meetings with binders of intelligence analyses under their arms.

Then, when Bush and Cheney want to ignore other threats, they can simply revert to the posture of careful leaders not ready to jump hastily into an unfamiliar thicket. In other words, whether or not to invoke the one-percent doctrine gives them the ultimate debate-stopping argument.

Nevertheless, if Suskind is right and Bush is following the one-percent doctrine as his guiding light in the post-9/11 world, the American people can expect to find themselves led into an endless series of wars that only worsen the dangers.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Iran and Who's Crying Wolf?

In the 2/24/07 online edition of the Herald Sun:

"Cheney hints at Iran strike"
By Greg Sheridan
February 24, 2007 01:20am
Article from: The Australian

[excerpts, with a few comments by me in bold brackets]

US Vice-President Dick Cheney has raised the possibility of military action to stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

He has endorsed Republican senator John McCain's proposition that the only thing worse than a military confrontation with Iran would be a nuclear-armed Iran. [The only thing worse than a nuclear armed Iran would be a superpower up to its eyeballs in WMD; a superpower that has actually demonstrated its willingness to use nuclear weapons on mass civilian populations and its willingness to carry out mass murder (see Hiroshima and Nagasaki); a rogue state that doesn't recognize international law, that has committed the ultimate war crime of invading a country that posed no threat to it, that is threatening as we speak to do it again, and that has legalized and daily practices torture].

In an exclusive interview with The Weekend Australian, Mr. Cheney said: "I would guess that John McCain and I are pretty close to agreement." [Huh. Imagine that? The Vice said something true! Quick, write that down before it self-destructs.]

The visiting Vice-President said that he had no doubt Iran was striving to enrich uranium to the point where they could make nuclear weapons.

He accused Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of espousing an "apocalyptic philosophy" and making "threatening noises about Israel and the US and others." [There's a big difference between their apocalypse and ours. We are on a mission from a Christian god and Smirk talks directly to a Christian god. When we make threatening noises about Iran or Syria or whoever, this is because they deserve it and we're only doing it for the interests of all of humanity. So, repeat after me: "rapture doesn't equal apocalypse."]

He also said Iran was a sponsor of terrorism, especially through Hezbollah. However, the US did not believe Iran possessed any nuclear weapons as yet. [As Borat said to the American rodeo audience: "We support your war OF terror!"]

"You get various estimates of where the point of no return is," Mr. Cheney said, identifying nuclear terrorism as the greatest threat to the world. [Not the "US and of A." Not global warming. Not avian flu. Now let me be clear here so everyone understands this difference. When I speak of nuclear terrorism, I don't mean nuclear terrorism when it's committed by a superpower such as the US. It's only nuclear terrorism when it's a country that doesn't even have a nuke yet. Because, you see, when non-superpowers have nukes this is bad. When superpowers have nukes, this is good because they can use their nukes to prevent non-nuclear nations from developing nukes. Exceptions: when it involves certain Asian nations with "North" in front of their names and "Korea" as their last names, these rules don't apply since they already have nukes that they could use against the US if the US attacks them. Big superpowers only use their force in situations where the material advantages are all on our side.]

Earlier, in an address in Sydney to the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue, Mr Cheney had emphasised the importance of the challenge of defeating Islamist terror, underlining the long-term nature of the struggle for the US and its allies.

"We have never had a fight like this, and it's not a fight we can win using the strategies from other wars," he said. [Strategies like the too "quaint" rules of the Geneva Conventions or protecting "civil" liberties and personal "privacy"].

Mr. Cheney, who is regarded as the most hardline member of the Bush administration, was unrepentant about the Iraq operation.

"The world's better off now that (Saddam Hussein) is dead and there's a democratically elected Government in his place in Baghdad," he said.

"The Iraqi people are well on the road to establishing a viable democracy." [See how we've transformed that nasty place where Saddham Hussein used to torture and kill his political opponents at Abu Ghraib? Why, now the guards conducting the torture speak ENGLISH! And when they blare loud music to keep the prisoners from sleeping at all the songs are in ENGLISH! See how stable this viable democracy is and how people love the US and the current Iraqi administration? See how co-operative everyone is and how well basic services such as water and electricity and the educational system operate?]

"In the long term when we look back on this period of time that will be a remarkable achievement. We're not there yet. We've still got a lot to do." [Yep. And so do we.]

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Avian Flu: One More Disaster Bush Is In Denial About

Another excuse for Bush to invoke the Warner Act, after failing yet again to anticipate, move to mitigate or avoid, and make concrete arrangements for an appropriate and speedy response to a potential disaster. In the case of a worldwide outbreak of avian flu, we're talking potential catastrophe with tens of millions likely dying and possibly far more. Whether it's global warming or avian flu, Bush/Cheney are equal opportunity deniers.

The following article contains a number of shocking revelations, but this one probably takes the cake:

"The plan also calls for a national stockpile of 133 million courses of antiviral treatment. The administration has bought 4.3 million."

New York Times
October 8, 2005
Bush Plan Shows U.S. Is Not Ready for Deadly Flu

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 - A plan developed by the Bush administration to deal with any possible outbreak of pandemic flu shows that the United States is woefully unprepared for what could become the worst disaster in the nation's history.

A draft of the final plan, which has been years in the making and is expected to be released later this month, says a large outbreak that began in Asia would be likely, because of modern travel patterns, to reach the United States within "a few months or even weeks."

If such an outbreak occurred, hospitals would become overwhelmed, riots would engulf vaccination clinics, and even power and food would be in short supply, according to the plan, which was obtained by The New York Times.

The 381-page plan calls for quarantine and travel restrictions but concedes that such measures "are unlikely to delay introduction of pandemic disease into the U.S. by more than a month or two."

The plan's 10 supplements suggest specific ways that local and state governments should prepare now for an eventual pandemic by, for instance, drafting legal documents that would justify quarantines. Written by health officials, the plan does not yet address responses by the military or other governmental departments.

The plan outlines a worst-case scenario in which more than 1.9 million Americans would die and 8.5 million would be hospitalized with costs exceeding $450 billion.

It also calls for a domestic vaccine production capacity of 600 million doses within six months, more than 10 times the present capacity.

On Friday, President Bush invited the leaders of the nation's top six vaccine producers to the White House to cajole them into increasing their domestic vaccine capacity, and the flu plan demonstrates just how monumental a task these companies have before them.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration's efforts to plan for a possible pandemic flu have become controversial, with many Democrats in Congress charging that the administration has not done enough. Many have pointed to the lengthy writing process of the flu plan as evidence of this.

But while the administration's flu plan, officially called the Pandemic Influenza Strategic Plan, closely outlines how the Health and Human Services Department may react during a pandemic, it skirts many essential decisions, like how the military may be deployed.

"The real shortcoming of the plan is that it doesn't say who's in charge," said a top health official who provided the plan to The Times. "We don't want to have a FEMA-like response, where it's not clear who's running what."

Still, the official, who asked for anonymity because the plan was not supposed to be distributed, called the plan a "major milestone" that was "very comprehensive" and sorely needed.

The draft provided to The Times is dated Sept. 30, and is stamped "for internal H.H.S. use only." The plan asks government officials to clear it by Oct. 6.

Christina Pearson, a spokeswoman for Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt, responded, "We recognize that the H.H.S. plan will be a foundation for a governmentwide plan, and that process has already begun."

Ms. Pearson said that Mr. Leavitt has already had one-on-one meetings with other cabinet secretaries to begin the coordination process across the federal government. But she emphasized that the plan given to The Times was a draft and had not been finalized.

Mr. Leavitt is leaving Saturday for a 10-day trip to at least four Asian nations, where he will meet with health and agriculture officials to discuss planning for a pandemic flu. He said at a briefing on Friday that the administration's flu plan would be officially released soon. He was not aware at the briefing that The Times had a copy of the plan. And he emphasized that the chances that the virus now killing birds in Asia would become a human pandemic were unknown but probably low. A pandemic is global epidemic of disease.

"It may be a while longer, but pandemic will likely occur in the future," he said.

And he said that flu planning would soon become a national exercise.

"It will require school districts to have a plan on how they will deal with school opening and closing," he said. "It will require the mayor to have a plan on whether or not they're going to ask the theaters not to have a movie."

"Over the next couple of months you will see a great deal of activity asking metropolitan areas, 'Are you ready?' If not, here is what must be done," he said.

A key point of contention if an epidemic strikes is who will get vaccines first. The administration's plan suggests a triage distribution for these essential medicines. Groups like the military, National Guard and other national security groups were left out.

Beyond the military, however, the first in line for essential medicines are workers in plants making the vaccines and drugs as well as medical personnel working directly with those sickened by the disease. Next are the elderly and severely ill. Then come pregnant women, transplant and AIDS patients, and parents of infants. Finally, the police, firefighters and government leaders are next.

The plan also calls for a national stockpile of 133 million courses of antiviral treatment. The administration has bought 4.3 million.

The plan details the responsibilities of top health officials in each phase of a spreading pandemic, starting with planning and surveillance efforts and ending with coordination with the Department of Defense.

Much of the plan is a dry recitation of the science and basic bureaucratic steps that must be followed as a virus races around the globe. But the plan has the feel of a television movie-of-the-week when it describes a possible pandemic situation that begins, "In April of the current year, an outbreak of severe respiratory illness is identified in a small village."

"Twenty patients have required hospitalization at the local provincial hospital, five of whom have died from pneumonia and respiratory failure," the plan states.

The flu spreads and begins to make headlines around the world. Top health officials swing into action and isolate the new viral strain in laboratories. The scientists discover that "the vaccine developed previously for the avian strain will only provide partial protection," the plan states.

In June, federal health officials find airline passengers infected with the virus "arriving in four major U.S. cities," the plan states. By July, small outbreaks are being reported around the nation. It spreads.

As the outbreak peaks, about a quarter of workers stay home because they are sick or afraid of becoming sick. Hospitals are overwhelmed.

"Social unrest occurs," the plan states. "Public anxiety heightens mistrust of government, diminishing compliance with public health advisories." Mortuaries and funeral homes are overwhelmed.

Presently, an avian virus has decimated chicken and other bird flocks in 11 countries. It has infected more than 100 people, about 60 of whom have died, but nearly all of these victims got the disease directly from birds. An epidemic is only possible when a virus begins to pass easily among humans.

Lawrence K. Altman contributed reporting for this article.

Has Time Run Out?
The Coming Avian Flu Pandemic
By Mike Davis

Deadly avian flu is on the wing.

The first bar-headed geese have already arrived at their wintering grounds near the Cauvery River in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. Over the next ten weeks, 100,000 more geese, gulls, and cormorants will leave their summer home at Lake Qinghai in western China, headed for India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and, eventually, Australia.

An unknown number of these beautiful migrating birds will carry H5N1, the avian flu subtype that has killed 61 people in Southeast Asia and which the World Health Organization (WHO) fears is on the verge of mutating into a pandemic form like that which killed 50 to 100 million people in the fall of 1918. As the birds arrive in the wetlands of South Asia, they will excrete the virus into the water where it risks spreading to migrating waterfowl from Europe as well as to domestic poultry. In the worst-case scenario, this will bring avian flu to the doorstep of the dense slums of Dhaka, Kolkata, Karachi, and Mumbai.

The avian flu outbreak at Lake Qinghai was first identified by Chinese wildlife officials at the end of April. Initially it was confined to a small islet in the huge salt lake, where geese suddenly began to act spasmodically, then to collapse and die. By mid-May it had spread through the lake's entire avian population, killing thousands of birds. An ornithologist called it "the biggest and most extensively mortal avian influenza event ever seen in wild birds."

Chinese scientists, meanwhile, were horrified by the virulence of the new strain: when mice were infected they died even quicker than when injected with "genotype Z," the fearsome H5N1 variant currently killing farmers and their children in Vietnam.

Yi Guan, leader of a famed team of avian flu researchers who have been fighting the pandemic menace since 1997, complained to the British Guardian in July about the lackadaisical response of Chinese authorities to the unprecedented biological conflagration at Lake Qinghai.

"They have taken almost no action to control this outbreak. They should have asked for international support. These birds will go to India and Bangladesh and there they will meet birds that come from Europe." Yi Guan called for the creation of an international task force to monitor the wild bird pandemic, as well as the relaxation of rules that prevent the free movement of foreign scientists to outbreak zones in China.

In a paper published in the British science magazine Nature, Yi Guan and his associates also revealed that the Lake Qinghai strain was related to officially unreported recent outbreaks of H5N1 among birds in southern China. This would not be the first time that Chinese authorities have been charged with covering up an outbreak. They also lied about the nature and extent of the 2003 SARS epidemic, which originated in Guangdong but quickly spread to 25 other countries. As in the case of SARS' whistleblowers, the Chinese bureaucracy is now trying to gag avian-flu scientists, shutting down one of Yi Guan's laboratories at Shantou University and arming the conservative Agriculture Ministry with new powers over research.

Meanwhile, as anxious Indian scientists monitor bird sanctuaries throughout the subcontinent, H5N1 has spread to the outskirts of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet; to western Mongolia; and, most disturbingly, to chickens and wildfowl near the Siberian capital of Novosibirsk.

Despite frantic efforts to cull local poultry, Russian Health Ministry experts have expressed pessimism that the outbreak can be contained on the Asian side of the Urals. Siberian wildfowl migrate every fall to the Black Sea and southern Europe; another flyway leads from Siberia to Alaska and Canada.

In anticipation of this next, and perhaps inevitable, stage in the world journey of avian flu, poultry populations are being tracked in Moscow; Alaskan scientists are studying birds migrating across the Bering Straits, and even the Swiss are looking over their shoulders at the tufted ducks and pochards arriving from Eurasia.

H5N1's human epicenter is also expanding: in mid-July Indonesian authorities confirmed that a father and his two young daughters had died of avian flu in a wealthy suburb of Jakarta. Disturbingly, the family had no known contact with poultry and near panic ensued in the neighborhood as the press speculated about possible human-to-human transmission.

At the same time, five new outbreaks among poultry were reported in Thailand, dealing a terrible blow to the nation's extensive and highly-publicized campaign to eradicate the disease. Meanwhile, as Vietnamese officials renewed their appeal for more international aid, H5N1 was claiming new victims in the country that remains of chief concern to the WHO.

The bottom line is that avian influenza is endemic and probably ineradicable among poultry in Southeast Asia, and now seems to be spreading at pandemic velocity amongst migratory birds, with the potential to reach most of the earth in the next year.

Each new outpost of H5N1 - whether among ducks in Siberia, pigs in Indonesia, or humans in Vietnam - is a further opportunity for the rapidly evolving virus to acquire the gene or even simply the protein mutation that it needs to become a mass-killer of humans.

This exponential multiplication of hot spots and silent reservoirs (as among infected but asymptomatic ducks) is why the chorus of warnings from scientists, public-health officials, and finally, governments has become so plangently insistent in recent months.

The new US Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt told the Associated Press in early August that an influenza pandemic was now an "absolute certainty," echoing repeated warnings from the World Health Organization that it was "inevitable." Likewise Science magazine observed that expert opinion held the odds of a global outbreak as "100 percent."

In the same grim spirit, the British press revealed that officials were scouring the country for suitable sites for mass mortuaries, based on official fears that avian flu could kill as many as 700,000 Britons. The Blair government is already conducting emergency simulations of a pandemic outbreak ("Operation Arctic Sea") and is reported to have readied "Cobra" - a cabinet-level working group that coordinates government responses to national emergencies like the recent London bombings from a secret war room in Whitehall - to deal with an avian flu crisis.

Little of this Churchillian resolve is apparent in Washington. Although a sense of extreme urgency is evident in the National Institutes of Health where the czar for pandemic planning, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warns of "the mother of all emerging infections," the White House has seemed even less perturbed by migrating plagues than by wanton carnage in Iraq.

As the President was packing for his long holiday in Texas, the Trust for America's Health was warning that domestic preparations for a pandemic lagged far behind the energetic measures being undertaken in Britain and Canada, and that the administration had failed "to establish a cohesive, rapid and transparent US pandemic strategy."

That increasingly independent operator, Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), had already criticized the administration in an extraordinary (and under-reported) speech at Harvard at the beginning of June. Referring to Washington's failure to stockpile an adequate supply of the crucial anti-viral oseltamivir (or Tamiflu), Frist sarcastically noted that "to acquire more anti-viral agent, we would need to get in line behind Britain and France and Canada and others who have tens of millions of doses on order."

The New York Times on its July 17 editorial page, a May 26 special issue of Nature and the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs have also hammered away at Washington's failure to stockpile enough scarce anti-virals - current inventories cover less than 1% of the US population - and to modernize vaccine production. Even a few prominent Senate Democrats have stirred into action, although none as boldly as Frist at Harvard.

The Department of Health and Human Services, in response, has sought to calm critics with recent hikes in spending on vaccine research and antiviral stockpiles. There has also been much official and media ballyhoo about the announcement of a series of successful tests in early August of an experimental avian flu vaccine.

But there is no guarantee that the vaccine prototype, based on a "reverse-genetically-engineered" strain of H5N1, will actually be effective against a pandemic strain with different genes and proteins. Moreover, trial success was based upon the administration of two doses plus a booster. Since the government has only ordered 2 million doses of the vaccine from pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur, this may provide protection for only 450,000 people. As one researcher told Science magazine, "it's a vaccine for the happy few."

At the least, gearing up for larger-scale production will take many months and production itself is limited by the antiquated technology of vaccine manufacture which depends upon a vulnerable and limited supply of fertile chicken eggs. It would also likely mean the curtailment of the production of the annual winter flu vaccine that is so often a lifesaver for many senior citizens.

Likewise, Washington's new orders for anti-virals, as Senator Frist predicted, will have to wait in line behind the other customers of Roche's single Tamiflu plant in Switzerland.

In short, it is good news that the vaccine tests were successful, but that does little to change the judgment of the New York Times that "there is not enough vaccine or antiviral medicine available to protect more than a handful of people, and no industrial capacity to produce a lot more of these medicines quickly."

Moreover, the majority of the world, including all the poor countries of South Asia and Africa where, history tells us, pandemics are likely to hit especially hard, will have no access to expensive anti-virals or scarce vaccines. It is even doubtful whether the WHO will have the minimal pharmaceuticals to respond to an initial outbreak.

Recent theoretical studies by mathematical epidemiologists in Atlanta and London have raised hopes that a pandemic might be stopped in its tracks if 1 to 3 million doses of oseltamivir (Tamiflu) were available to douse an outbreak in a failsafe radius around the early cases.

After years of effort, however, the WHO has only managed to inventory about 123,000 courses of Tamiflu. Although Roche has promised to donate more, the desperate rush of rich countries to accumulate Tamiflu will be certain to undercut the World Health Organization's stockpile.

As for a universally available "world vaccine," it remains a pipe-dream without new, billion-dollar commitments from the rich countries, above all the United States, and even then, we are probably too late.

"People just don't get it," Dr. Michael Osterholm, the outspoken director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota recently complained. "If we were to begin a Manhattan Project-type response tonight to expand vaccine and drug production, we wouldn't have a measurable impact on the availability of these critical products to sufficiently address a worldwide pandemic for at least several years."

"Several years" is a luxury that Washington has already squandered. The best guess, as the geese head west and south, is that we have almost run out of time. As Shigeru Omi, the Western Pacific director of WHO, told a UN meeting in Kuala Lumpur in early July: "We're at the tipping point."

US Mulls Federal Troops for Bird Flu Quarantine

Wednesday 12 October 2005

Washington - The Pentagon is looking at the possibility of using federal troops to enforce a quarantine in the event of an outbreak of pandemic bird flu in the United States, a senior official said on Wednesday.

President George W. Bush said last week he would consider using the military to "effect a quarantine" in response to any outbreak of avian influenza, but provided few details.

Bush at the time also suggested he might place National Guard troops, normally commanded by state governors, under federal control as part of the government's response to the "catastrophe" of such a flu pandemic.

Paul McHale, assistant defense secretary for homeland defense, said quarantine law historically has been under the primary jurisdiction of states, not the federal government.

"And my expectation is that any quarantine measures that would be put in place would likely involve a substantial employment of the National Guard, probably under command and control of the governor of an affected state," McHale told a group of reporters.

"However, we are looking at a wide range of contingencies, potentially involving Title 10 forces (federal troops) if a pandemic outbreak of a biological threat were to occur," McHale added.

The H5N1 avian influenza virus has killed or forced the destruction of tens of millions of birds and infected more than 100 people, killing at least 60 in four Asian nations since late 2003.

Experts fear that the virus, known to pass to humans from birds, could mutate and start to spread easily from person to person, potentially killing millions worldwide. Experts have questioned America's preparedness.

McHale said he believed there would be a clearer understanding within a few weeks of the military role in response to pandemic bird flu as part of a broader federal response. Pentagon officials were meeting on Wednesday to discuss the department's role in a flu pandemic.

Legal Barriers

One issue that could face the U.S. government in the event of an outbreak is whether or how to cordon off parts of the country to prevent the disease from spreading.

The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, enacted during the post-Civil War reconstruction period, prohibits federal military personnel from taking part in law-enforcement within the United States. But a president can waive the law in an emergency.

National Guard troops under the command of state governors are permitted to perform law enforcement duties, but would not be permitted to do so if they were put under federal control.

McHale noted that the military has been used only under extraordinary circumstances for domestic law enforcement and restoring civil order.

While not specifically referring to enforcing a quarantine, McHale said the Pentagon has active-duty federal military units on alert and deployable at the direction of the president "to deal with occurrences of massive civil disturbance." He did not identify the units.

On the topic of possible domestic attack involving biological, chemical or nuclear weapons, McHale said the government needs "a more robust civilian capability" to respond so the country is not exclusively dependent on the military.

McHale said the Pentagon is working to help make the Department of Homeland Security better able to make strategic plans for natural disasters or domestic attacks involving weapons of mass destruction. The department's Federal Emergency Management Agency was strongly criticized for its slow response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster on the U.S. Gulf Coast in August.

Impeach07 Launched!

As I wrote previously on this site:

"The political leadership and the opinion-leaders of this country are fundamentally restructuring what it means to be an American and what America is. They are normalizing - and getting people to accept - torture. They are normalizing massive surveillance and intrusion upon our lives. They are hacking away at due process and abrogating habeas corpus. They are doing all of these things because they need to remake what the terms of unity are, what people will accept and come to see as customary, and what the expectations are in this country. This is what the new normalcy will be. They are doing these things because they need to create new conditions in order to pursue the empire they are building. Long-standing, much vaunted principles, many of which date from the founding documents of this country, are being eliminated because they stand in the way of their imperialist plans. As they do this, a large majority of Americans...are deadset against this... this large majority faces a choice: do we remain passive and get more and more depressed and afraid, or do we act? The restructuring that this government is conducting is creating a great deal of distress in the country because these government moves are violating on a fundamental level principles and practices that most Americans consider essential to living in a 'free society.' This wrenching process creates the potential for popular upheaval against these tyrants. That is the basis for a groundswell to turn into a massive, determined, irresistible movement for an entirely different future."

For Immediate Release: February 22, 2007

Press Contacts:

David Swanson, 202.329.7847, david@davidswanson.org

Jacob Park, jacob@a28.org

Impeach07 Campaign Launched

A growing network of organizations and individuals has launched a new campaign to pursue the immediate impeachment of George Bush and Dick Cheney through widespread public protest, creative dissent, media activism, education, and coordinated lobbying. Members of the Impeach07 campaign believe that Bush and Cheney have committed high crimes and misdemeanors, including - among many others - misleading the nation into an aggressive war, spying in open violation of the law, and sanctioning the use of torture. The campaign is demanding that Congress Members hold Cheney and Bush accountable through the Constitutional remedy of impeachment.

Impeach07 exists to organize people throughout the U.S. to demand that Congress impeach. Newsweek reported in October that a majority of Americans favor impeachment, and in January that 58% said they wished the Bush administration were over. Impeach07 will draw on this energy to mobilize people from all walks of life. As Howard Zinn, noted historian, has said, "Only a great popular upheaval can push both Republicans and Democrats into compliance with the national will."

Speaking of the significance of Impeach07, Debra Sweet, Director of The World Can't Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime, said: "To end the war in Iraq, prevent Bush from widening the conflict to Iran, stop the dangerous direction of this administration, Bush and Cheney must be impeached. If we do not demand this now, not only will the death and destruction continue for two more years, but all that Bush has done will be legitimized and we will send a terrible message of impunity. We will not accept war crimes being committed in our name."

On March 17, the anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, Impeach07 will mobilize for a march on the Pentagon to demand: "End the War and Impeach Bush Now!" Throughout the spring, Impeach07 will spread across the country through a variety of projects. April 28 will be a nationwide day of protest in towns and cities across the country. Preparations have begun for a massive outpouring of creative dissent including rallies, concerts, public forums, street theater, and more.

Initial participating organizations represent hundreds of thousands of antiwar, impeachment, military family, peace, youth and women activists and lawyers. They include After Downing Street, Backbone Campaign, Center for Constitutional Rights, Citizens Impeachment Commission, CODE PINK Women for Peace, Constitution Summer, Consumers for Peace, Democrats.com, Democracy Rising, Gold Star Families for Peace, Green Party of the United States, Hip Hop Caucus, Impeach the President, ImpeachBush.org, Military Free Zone, National Lawyers Guild, Patriotic Response to Renegade Government, Progressive Democrats of America, Independent Progressive Politics Network, Velvet Revolution, and World Can't Wait: Drive Out the Bush Regime.

Initiatives being organized include, among others:

*-Early- to mid-March: New impeachment efforts announced by prominent persons in a surprising location

*-March 2-4: "Town Meeting Democracy Tour" with Cindy Sheehan, John Nichols, and Vermont Iraq war vets, calling for impeachment and withdrawal from Iraq.


*-March 18- 20: Local marches and events

*-March 19-April 21: A Make Hip-Hop Not War bus tour promoting peace and impeachment

*-April 15- 22: We Are Not Buying It -- a boycott of major corporations that are profiting from the Bush administration’s policies, making a killing off of killing


*-National, state and local impeachment hearings, resolutions, town meetings, and debates, ongoing since the publication of the Downing Street Memos in May 2005

The Reverend Lennox Yearwood, president of the Hip Hop Caucus, said "While the Bush administration spends hundreds of billions of dollars on an immoral and unjust war, millions of people across America are without basic healthcare, housing, education and jobs. More than a year after Hurricane Katrina, the people of New Orleans remain abandoned by an administration that was criminally negligent of its duty to provide for their well-being. Every day that Congress allows Bush and Cheney to continue to serve sends a clear message to America that they care more about politics than people."

Cindy Sheehan, founder of Gold Star Families for Peace, said "The Impeach07 campaign represents an important alliance of the peace movement with those that support impeachment. Congress's refusal to impeach Bush and Cheney for the lies that got us into Iraq has perpetuated an illegal war that has already cost the lives of my son Casey and 3,146 other Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. By turning a blind eye they have laid the groundwork for the Bush administration to lie us into a whole new war with Iran, which they are obviously trying to do."

Jacob Park, coordinator of the upcoming April 28 nationwide day of protest, said "The time has come for all Americans—especially the members of a Congress which claims to represent us—to decide what they believe in. Do we stand for lying, spying, and torture? Or do we stand for truth, freedom, and justice? Impeachment is a self-evident moral imperative and we hope that all people of conscience will join us in sending Washington a resounding message that to allow Bush and Cheney to continue ruling as self-appointed 'deciders' makes a mockery of our most basic values and the very notion of democracy."

Elaine Brower, mother of a U.S. Marine who has served in Afghanistan and Iraq, said "Enough is enough. If we do not demand impeachment of Bush and Cheney for war crimes, the entire world will be facing endless death and devastation. We are allowing our government officials free reign to wreak havoc unless we, the people, get a backbone to stop them."

For more information see the campaign website at impeach07

A list of speakers available for interviews can be found at afterdowingstreet.org

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The "Banality of Evil"

The Bush regime and radical right have built their appeal to a significant extent on the really outrageous claim of being "morally superior" by wrapping themselves in the cloak of religion. In reponse to the question: "Who would Jesus torture?" their answer, among those who lead this movement, is: Iraqis, Afghanis, people of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent, Jose Padilla, Muslims, anyone, in other words, who they think stands in their way of conquest. Among this movement's followers the question seems like a non sequitar because they don't recognize, don't realize, or are in denial that their august leaders are liars, thieves, murderers, tyrants and torturers. For some of them it's too much of a stretch to believe that their "god-fearing" leaders could be such monsters.

Yet I don't want to personalize this too much, even though despising "W" and Dick comes spontaneously to anyone who understands even a little about what's going on - and has a conscience. What is more to the point here is that these two bastards personify larger forces than any individuals and any personalities. They personify, concentrate, and embody a specific set of social and economic relations in the world wherein imperialist plunder and oppression are the accepted and legal norm; where certain nations such as the US can carry out murder on a grand scale and steal resources willy nilly from other countries; where the richest 497 individuals in the world own more than the bottom HALF of the world's population (who live on less than $500/year); where the very survival of this planet is being endangered and criminally ignored by these leaders because it suits their short-term interests for profit and their anti-scientific, anti-rationalist outlook; and where literally hundreds of millions of people are either living on the edge or falling off the edge of existence every single day.

The theocratic fascist movement's leaders have gotten away with their crimes so far because their allies in the right-wing media have lied, twisted and bullied their way to power and dominant influence. And what of the corporate, mainstream media, who have been full and willing participants in this as well? What about the New York Times and CNN? As Hannah Arendt pointed out in her work on Adolf Eichmann, one doesn't have to be a moral monster to commit crimes against humanity. One need only accept the basic premises of the state one is serving to commit horrible crimes. Arendt aptly dubbed this the "banality of evil." This helps to explain the role of mainstream corporate media in their colluding with the radical right. Accepting the basic premises of the state also helps us explain the bizarre excuses being offered by Democrats and certain "leftists." They tell us that the only "realistic" way to seek change is by backing someone like John Edwards, who says that no options are off the table in our confrontation with Iran (by which he, of course, means to include nukes), or someone like Hillary Clinton, who says that the problem with the war on Iraq is not that the invasion was wrong, immoral and illegal, but that it isn't being carried out competently! These answers are acceptable only if one accepts the basic premises of this state. The Democrats and their apologists are telling us, in essence, that mass murder is acceptable and that illegal invasions of countries that haven't threatened and haven't attacked you is acceptable.

The genius of the A28 formulation is that it reframes the issue of impeachment on the very issue that the radical right/Bush regime have staked their claim - the moral high ground. As I see it, there are two central problems that the movement for impeachment faces at this point. One: many, many more people must come to understand the true magnitude of the crimes committed by Bush and Cheney and their movement as a whole. As this happens and to the extent that it happens, more and more will feel driven to becoming politically involved in resistance and the movement's ranks will swell. We already have at least 58% of the people supporting impeachment according to polls, but I'm speaking here of the ranks of those who come into direct political participation.

Two: the vacuum in leadership created by the bankruptcy of the existing leadership and opinion-leaders must be filled by an alternative leadership. Otherwise the people cannot move, because leadership is critical. One of the reasons that more of the public has not moved into direct political action is because they see that the Democratic Party and the mainstream media aren't acting like there's a problem so this must mean then that it must not be that serious. Another reason is that people are accustomed to following the lead of the existing leaders. It takes a lot to get people to stray from the existing leaders. It's a wrenching process. For them to do so requires that they, frankly, be shocked into awareness by what this government and its apologists/enablers have been doing. We need to heighten the contrast and the contradiction between Bush et al's lofty words of freedom, demcracy and liberty and their actual practices. If we think that downplaying any of this will get us further, by making concessions to ethnocentrism, national chauvinism and American exceptionalism, we make a critical mistake. Remember that scene from The Matrix when Neo (Keanu Reeves) discovers that he is in fact hooked up to the matrix with tubes?

Both these goals are extremely challenging given what we're up against. The first goal our book Impeach the President is designed (in part) to meet. (That is why it is the most comprehensive of the impeachment books: we are, after all, facing a movement, not just a handful of despicably evil individuals.) The second goal can be met if we very clearly articulate the moral choice that we face today and advance a crystal clear moral authority in opposition to the other side's utter immorality and inhumanity. Moral leadership in this sense constitutes an extremely potent alternative. I don't mean necessarily that this moral leadership must come from religious figures - although this must happen as well.

Our adversaries are committing and advocating war crimes and have legalized torture. Think about that for a minute. Not even Hitler dared to openly legalize torture! What does this tell you about the brave new world of US imperialism that they are routinizing torture and war crimes? The sharper that we draw out this contrast, the more we make clear to people that our own government is daily committing war crimes and torture, the better. Given the fact that we cannot rely upon - what could be clearer? - the existing political leadership and mass media to do this and that we ourselves must do this, we have a very tall order to fulfill. But what choice do we have? As World Can't Wait succinctly puts it: Silence = Complicity.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

More On Martial Law and Mass Detentions Plans

Note in the following article by Kurt Nimmo that the roots of the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 predate 9/11. In particular, see this passage below:

"In '1970 he [Louis Giuffrida, Reagan's FEMA Director] had written a paper for the Army War College in which he called for martial law in case of a national uprising by black militants. Among his ideas were "assembly centers or relocation camps" for at least 21 million "American Negroes,"'writes Sam Smith. 'During 1968 and 1972, Reagan ran a series of war games in California called Cable Splicer, which involved the Guard, state and local police, and the US Sixth Army. Details of this operation were reported in 1975 in a story by Ron Ridenour of the New Times, an Arizona alternative paper, and later exhumed by Dave Lindorff in the Village Voice…. Cable Splicer, it turned out, was a training exercise for martial law. The man in charge was none other than Edwin Meese, then Reagan’s executive secretary. At one point, Meese told the Cable Splicer combatants: This is an operation, this is an exercise, this is an objective which is going forward because in the long run … it is the only way that will be able to prevail [against anti-war protests].'"

I'm glad to report that the New York Times has finally discovered the Warner Act, passed back in October 2006, and yesterday (2/19/07) editorialized about it. I guess I cannot continue to say that the mass media haven't said anything about this martial law enabling act!

As we all know by now, the Bush/Cheney regime's modus operandi is to screw something up on a grand scale (e.g., allowing New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to be unprotected against hurricanes by slashing levee funds by 44%, allowing private developers to drain the marshlands that are natural buffers against storm surges, failing - miserably - to act in a timely fashion to rescue the people hit by Katrina; doing absolutely nothing - at best - to prevent the 9/11 attacks from occurring) and then claim that they need even more power, secrecy and lack of accountability or oversight in order to fix what they themselves have ruined.

I'm going to post soon a commentary on avian flu and how it, as Mike Davis in particular has warned, is a global disaster that the Bush regime is completely and criminally unprepared for. One of the grounds, by the way, for the president to declare a "public emergency" under the Warner Act is a health crisis. So they have laid the groundwork for millions or more to die, including right here in the good ole USA, because of criminal negligence and the deadly logic of neoliberalism (recall what Susan George said about neoliberalism deciding who will live and who will die), and can then declare martial law to respond to the disaster that they themselves have paved the way for.

Bush’s Martial Law Act of 2007
Posted by: APR (Alternative Press Review) on Oct 29, 2006 - 06:49 AM
Rights & Liberties
Bush’s Martial Law Act of 2007

By Kurt Nimmo
On October 17, with little fanfare, the unitary decider signed H.R.5122, or the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007. “The act provides $462.8 billion in budget authority for the department. Senate and House conferees added the $70 billion defense supplemental budget request to the act, so overall, the act authorizes $532.8 billion for fiscal 2007,” explains Jim Garamone of the American Forces Press Service.

According to a press release from the office of Senator Patrick Leahy, however, the bill takes a “sizable step toward weakening states’ authority over their [National] Guard units, according to the congressional leaders who are leading the fight for Guard empowerment.” Leahey and senator Kit Bond, a Montana Republican, “said the conference agreement is expected to include a provision making it easier for the President to declare martial law, stripping state governors of part of their authority over state National Guard units in domestic emergencies. The provision is opposed by the National Governors Association and by key leaders in both the House and Senate.”

Frank Morales, an Episcopal priest and activist in New York City, writes that the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 actually encourages the establishment of martial law “by revising the Insurrection Act, a set of laws that limits the President’s ability to deploy troops within the United States. The Insurrection Act (10 U.S.C.331 -335) has historically, along with the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C.1385), helped to enforce strict prohibitions on military involvement in domestic law enforcement. With one cloaked swipe of his pen, Bush is seeking to undo those prohibitions.”

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Bush demanded Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco yield to him the command over any National Guard troops sent to the area. “Bush wanted to invoke the Insurrection Act, which would have allowed him to take control over all armed forces deployed, including Louisiana’s National Guard troops. But under the terms of the act, he had to get the assent of the legislature or the governor of the state. The legislature was not in session and Blanco refused,” writes Deirdre Griswold. As of September 11, 2005, Griswold notes, citing the Los Angeles Times, “Bush has not yet invoked the Insurrection Act, but his administration is still discussing how to make it easier for the federal government to override local authorities in the future.”

Leaning on Blanco was considered politically sensitive. “Can you imagine how it would have been perceived if a president of the United States of one party had pre-emptively taken from the female governor of another party the command and control of her forces, unless the security situation made it completely clear that she was unable to effectively execute her command authority and that lawlessness was the inevitable result?” an anonymous senior administration official told the New York Times on September 8, 2005. Blanco “rejected a more modest proposal for a hybrid command structure in which both the Guard and active-duty troops would be under the command of an active-duty, three-star general—but only after he had been sworn into the Louisiana National Guard,” the New York Times adds.

Bush’s Martial Law Act of 2007 modifies the Insurrection Act and deals yet another blow to the Posse Comitatus Act. “Section 1076 of the massive Authorization Act, which grants the Pentagon another $500-plus-billion for its ill-advised adventures, is entitled, ‘Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies,’” explains Morales. “Section 333, ‘Major public emergencies; interference with State and Federal law’ states that ‘the President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service, to restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of (’refuse’ or ‘fail’ in) maintaining public order, ‘in order to suppress, in any State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy.’”

For the current President, “enforcement of the laws to restore public order” means to commandeer guardsmen from any state, over the objections of local governmental, military and local police entities; ship them off to another state; conscript them in a law enforcement mode; and set them loose against “disorderly” citizenry—protesters, possibly, or those who object to forced vaccinations and quarantines in the event of a bio-terror event.

The law also facilitates militarized police round-ups and detention of protesters, so called “illegal aliens,” “potential terrorists” and other “undesirables” for detention in facilities already contracted for and under construction by Halliburton. That’s right. Under the cover of a trumped-up “immigration emergency” and the frenzied militarization of the southern border, detention camps are being constructed right under our noses, camps designed for anyone who resists the foreign and domestic agenda of the Bush administration.

Back in January, the Army Corps of Engineers awarded Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root a $385 million contract to construct detention centers at undisclosed locations in the United States. As usual, the New York Times either missed over glossed over the significance of this development, characterizing it instead as a waste of taxpayer money. Peter Dale Scott, however, hit the nail right on the head. “For those who follow covert government operations abroad and at home, the contract evoked ominous memories of Oliver North’s controversial Rex-84 ‘readiness exercise’ in 1984. This called for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to round up and detain 400,000 imaginary ‘refugees,’ in the context of ‘uncontrolled population movements’ over the Mexican border into the United States. North’s activities raised civil liberties concerns in both Congress and the Justice Department. The concerns persist.”

As Scott notes, plans for detention camps are nothing new, and indeed “have a long history, going back to fears in the 1970s of a national uprising by black militants. As Alonzo Chardy reported in the Miami Herald on July 5, 1987, an executive order for continuity of government (COG) had been drafted in 1982 by FEMA head Louis Giuffrida. The order called for ’suspension of the Constitution’ and ‘declaration of martial law.’ The martial law portions of the plan were outlined in a memo by Giuffrida’s deputy, John Brinkerhoff.”

Brinkerhoff told PBS: “The United States itself is now for the first time since the War of 1812 a theater of war. That means that we should apply, in my view, the same kind of command structure in the United States that we apply in other theaters of war.”

Giuffrida was the Reagan administration’s first director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency from 1981 to 1985 and was the head of then-Governor Reagan’s California Specialized Training Institute, a National Guard school. In “1970 he had written a paper for the Army War College in which he called for martial law in case of a national uprising by black militants. Among his ideas were ‘assembly centers or relocation camps’ for at least 21 million ‘American Negroes,’” writes Sam Smith. “During 1968 and 1972, Reagan ran a series of war games in California called Cable Splicer, which involved the Guard, state and local police, and the US Sixth Army. Details of this operation were reported in 1975 in a story by Ron Ridenour of the New Times, an Arizona alternative paper, and later exhumed by Dave Lindorff in the Village Voice…. Cable Splicer, it turned out, was a training exercise for martial law. The man in charge was none other than Edwin Meese, then Reagan’s executive secretary. At one point, Meese told the Cable Splicer combatants: This is an operation, this is an exercise, this is an objective which is going forward because in the long run … it is the only way that will be able to prevail [against anti-war protests.]”

In response to Richard Nixon’s October 30, 1969, issuance of Executive Order 11490, “Assigning Emergency Preparedness Functions to Federal Departments and Agencies,” which consolidated some 21 operative Executive Orders and two Defense Mobilization Orders issued between 1951 and 1966 on a variety of emergency preparedness matters, Howard J. Ruff noted: “The only thing standing between us and a dictatorship is the good character of the President and the lack of a crisis severe enough that the public would stand still for it” (see Diana Reynolds, Civil Security Planning).

Not only is Bush’s lack of “good character” obvious, he also considers himself our unitary decider with the power to ignore over 750 laws. “Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ‘whistle-blower’ protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research,” the Boston Globe reported in April.

“From the inception of the Republic until 2000, Presidents produced signing statements containing fewer than 600 challenges to the bills they signed. According to the most recent update, in his one-and-a-half terms so far, President George W. Bush (Bush II) has produced more than 800,” explains the American Bar Association Task Force on Presidential Signing Statements and the Separation of Powers Doctrine.

“It has become clear in recent months that a critical mass of the American people have seen through the lies of the Bush administration; with the president’s polls at an historic low, growing resistance to the war Iraq, and the Democrats likely to take back the Congress in mid-term elections, the Bush administration is on the ropes,” concludes Morales. “And so it is particularly worrying that President Bush has seen fit, at this juncture to, in effect, declare himself dictator.”


Kurt Nimmo is the author of Another Day in the Empire: Life in Neoconservative America. Visit his blog at www.kurtnimmo.com.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Not Bound by the Non-Binding Irresolute Congress

So Congress spends a week or more debating whether or not to have a debate about the mass slaughter going on in Iraq. Then they vote for a non-binding resolution. This prompted the ridicule of John Yoo, one of the Bush regime's key torture and "unitary executive" (read: unfettered executive) architects, in a piece he co-wrote with Lynn Chu, on February 12, 2007 in the New York Times. They point out that the Democrats in Congress could, if they really wanted to and really meant it, stop the war by withdrawing the funding.

They go on to say:

"Most also understand that that [sic] leaving Iraq to a sectarian power struggle would break our word and lead to slaughter. A failed state in Iraq would breed more terrorism, not less, by becoming a haven for more radical training camps.

"Most in Congress, in fact, are not eager to replay Vietnam. The United States has had far fewer casualties in this conflict. Our national security interests here are high. If we falter now, it would be read as a 'defeat' and embolden more terrorist attacks on us. Once again the world would begin to doubt American strength. This would undermine our ability to conduct credible diplomacy, while electrifying Islamists to further jihad."

There is so much wrong with the above that the very idea of trying to untangle each falsehood is imposing. Probably the most important problem with it is its outrageous American chauvinism. From their perspective, the lives of the hundreds of thousands, possibly as high as a million since our 2003 invasion, of Iraqis - who had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11 - are cheap compared to US national security interests - read: US imperialist interests. They go on to claim that if we leave Iraq we'll create a sectarian power struggle. I suppose the slaughter going on now between the US and Iraqis and between different factions in Iraq, Sunni v. Shia, isn't already happening and wasn't caused by our very invasion. And the state in Iraq isn't a "failed state" yet even though they are unable to rule, the police forces are themselves riddled with sectarian militia, and the US must stay to prevent the very scenario that is already being played out before our eyes everyday. "Strength" here means launching a war on a people who weren't threatening us before this invasion.

The only really accurate elements here are their recognition that US (imperialist) interests here are high, that Congress as a whole also doesn't want a repeat of Vietnam and that withdrawal would be seen as a defeat. So to avoid a defeat we must go on slaughtering and torturing Iraqis. Sounds right to me. Good going. What role models you are, Lynn and John, for other Asian-Americans! What people for others to aspire to!

In a directly related matter, see this piece in the February 15, 2007 issue of the NYT. The 20k plus troops being sent as part of Bush's so-called surge are going to be going there without body armor until at least summer. These are the very body armor units designed to protect them against the IED's that Bush claims is being supplied by Iran to be used against American soldiers. So we need to send in more American troops sans body armor so that more can die from IED's? Bush certainly takes seriously his slogan about supporting the troops.

Here's part of the NYT article:

"How do you explain to the thousands of American troops now being poured into Baghdad that they will have to wait until the summer for the protective armor that could easily mean the difference between life and death?

"It’s bad enough that these soldiers are being asked to risk their lives without President Bush demanding that Iraq’s leaders take any political risks that might give the military mission at least an outside chance of success. But according to an article in The Washington Post this week, at least some of the troops will be sent out in Humvees not yet equipped with FRAG Kit 5 armor. That’s an advanced version designed to reduce deaths from roadside bombs, which now account for about 70 percent of United States casualties in Iraq.

"The more flexible materials used in the FRAG Kit 5 make it particularly helpful in containing the damage done by the especially deadly weapon the Bush administration is now most concerned about: those explosively formed penetrators that Washington accuses Iran of supplying to Shiite militias for use against American troops."

And they say that Americans have no sense of irony!

To those people who continue to say that we must follow the lead of the Democratic Party and that this is our only "realistic" hope for change: how do you like them apples now? Seems to me there's some old saw about rotten apples that might apply here. For those of us who, by contrast, find torture and slaughter utterly abhorrent, being bound (and tied) by such notions surpasseth the absurd.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Warner Act: A Martial Law Enabling Act

I'm reposting an excellent article by Frank Morales that was written in October 2006 about the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007. This act was passed by Congress in October and signed by Bush the same day he signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006. The Warner Act, however, was signed in a private ceremony and hardly anyone has even heard about it. When I speak to groups most of the time no one raises their hand when I ask if anyone knows about this law.

In effect, the Warner Act enables martial law. It overrides the Posse Comitatus Act that dates from the civil war and that prohibits the use of military forces in domestic affairs. The Warner Act allows the President to take control over the National Guard units over the objections of state governors and use the guard to conduct roundups, mass detentions and anything else that might be justified by him upon his declaration of a "public emergency." The legislation specifies that should the President deem it necessary to declare a public emergency that he must consult with a select group of Congress members to tell them why he is doing this and what he is doing. In Bush's signing statement he declares in essence that he reserves the right not to consult with anyone:

"The executive branch shall construe sections 914 and 1512 of the Act, which purport to make consultation with specified Members of Congress a precondition to the execution of the law, as calling for but not mandating such consultation, as is consistent with the Constitution's provisions concerning the separate powers of the Congress to legislate and the President to execute the laws."

In other words, he can declare martial law and not tell anyone why he's doing it or what he's doing. There is a word for this: dictatorship. Yet, in spite of this outrageous law and his outrageous signing statement, the media have been silent on this. We, the people, however, cannot be silent in the face of these moves towards a fascist state.

"Bush Moves Towards Martial Law"
by Frank Morales
October 26, 2006

In a stealth maneuver, President Bush has signed into law a provision which, according to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), will actually encourage the President to declare federal martial law (1). It does so by revising the Insurrection Act, a set of laws that limits the President's ability to deploy troops within the United States. The Insurrection Act (10 U.S.C.331 -335) has historically, along with the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C.1385), helped to enforce strict prohibitions on military involvement in domestic law enforcement. With one cloaked swipe of his pen, Bush is seeking to undo those prohibitions.

Public Law 109-364, or the "John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007" (H.R.5122) (2), which was signed by the commander in chief on October 17th, 2006, in a private Oval Office ceremony, allows the President to declare a "public emergency" and station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to "suppress public disorder."

President Bush seized this unprecedented power on the very same day that he signed the equally odious Military Commissions Act of 2006. In a sense, the two laws complement one another. One allows for torture and detention abroad, while the other seeks to enforce acquiescence at home, preparing to order the military onto the streets of America. Remember, the term for putting an area under military law enforcement control is precise; the term is "martial law."

Section 1076 of the massive Authorization Act, which grants the Pentagon another $500-plus-billion for its ill-advised adventures, is entitled, "Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies." Section 333, "Major public emergencies; interference with State and Federal law" states that "the President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service, to restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of ("refuse" or "fail" in) maintaining public order, "in order to suppress, in any State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy."

For the current President, "enforcement of the laws to restore public order" means to commandeer guardsmen from any state, over the objections of local governmental, military and local police entities; ship them off to another state; conscript them in a law enforcement mode; and set them loose against "disorderly" citizenry - protesters, possibly, or those who object to forced vaccinations and quarantines in the event of a bio-terror event.

The law also facilitates militarized police round-ups and detention of protesters, so called "illegal aliens," "potential terrorists" and other "undesirables" for detention in facilities already contracted for and under construction by Halliburton. That's right. Under the cover of a trumped-up "immigration emergency" and the frenzied militarization of the southern border, detention camps are being constructed right under our noses, camps designed for anyone who resists the foreign and domestic agenda of the Bush administration.

An article on "recent contract awards" in a recent issue of the slick, insider "Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International" reported that "global engineering and technical services powerhouse KBR [Kellog, Brown & Root] announced in January 2006 that its Government and Infrastructure division was awarded an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract to support U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities in the event of an emergency." "With a maximum total value of $385 million over a five year term," the report notes, "the contract is to be executed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers," "for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to augment existing ICE Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) - in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs." The report points out that "KBR is the engineering and construction subsidiary of Halliburton." (3) So, in addition to authorizing another $532.8 billion for the Pentagon, including a $70-billion "supplemental provision" which covers the cost of the ongoing, mad military maneuvers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places, the new law, signed by the president in a private White House ceremony, further collapses the historic divide between the police and the military: a tell-tale sign of a rapidly consolidating police state in America, all accomplished amidst ongoing U.S. imperial pretensions of global domination, sold to an "emergency managed" and seemingly willfully gullible public as a "global war on terrorism."

Make no mistake about it: the de-facto repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act (PCA) is an ominous assault on American democratic tradition and jurisprudence. The 1878 Act, which reads, "Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both," is the only U.S. criminal statute that outlaws military operations directed against the American people under the cover of 'law enforcement.' As such, it has been the best protection we've had against the power-hungry intentions of an unscrupulous and reckless executive, an executive intent on using force to enforce its will.

Unfortunately, this past week, the president dealt posse comitatus, along with American democracy, a near fatal blow. Consequently, it will take an aroused citizenry to undo the damage wrought by this horrendous act, part and parcel, as we have seen, of a long train of abuses and outrages perpetrated by this authoritarian administration.

Despite the unprecedented and shocking nature of this act, there has been no outcry in the American media, and little reaction from our elected officials in Congress. On September 19th, a lone Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) noted that 2007's Defense Authorization Act contained a "widely opposed provision to allow the President more control over the National Guard [adopting] changes to the Insurrection Act, which will make it easier for this or any future President to use the military to restore domestic order WITHOUT the consent of the nation's governors."

Senator Leahy went on to stress that, "we certainly do not need to make it easier for Presidents to declare martial law. Invoking the Insurrection Act and using the military for law enforcement activities goes against some of the central tenets of our democracy. One can easily envision governors and mayors in charge of an emergency having to constantly look over their shoulders while someone who has never visited their communities gives the orders."

A few weeks later, on the 29th of September, Leahy entered into the Congressional Record that he had "grave reservations about certain provisions of the fiscal Year 2007 Defense Authorization Bill Conference Report," the language of which, he said, "subverts solid, longstanding posse comitatus statutes that limit the military's involvement in law enforcement, thereby making it easier for the President to declare martial law." This had been "slipped in," Leahy said, "as a rider with little study," while "other congressional committees with jurisdiction over these matters had no chance to comment, let alone hold hearings on, these proposals."

In a telling bit of understatement, the Senator from Vermont noted that "the implications of changing the (Posse Comitatus) Act are enormous". "There is good reason," he said, "for the constructive friction in existing law when it comes to martial law declarations. Using the military for law enforcement goes against one of the founding tenets of our democracy. We fail our Constitution, neglecting the rights of the States, when we make it easier for the President to declare martial law and trample on local and state sovereignty."

Senator Leahy's final ruminations: "Since hearing word a couple of weeks ago that this outcome was likely, I have wondered how Congress could have gotten to this point. It seems the changes to the Insurrection Act have survived the Conference because the Pentagon and the White House want it."

The historic and ominous re-writing of the Insurrection Act, accomplished in the dead of night, which gives Bush the legal authority to declare martial law, is now an accomplished fact.

The Pentagon, as one might expect, plays an even more direct role in martial law operations. Title XIV of the new law, entitled, "Homeland Defense Technology Transfer Legislative Provisions," authorizes "the Secretary of Defense to create a Homeland Defense Technology Transfer Consortium to improve the effectiveness of the Department of Defense (DOD) processes for identifying and deploying relevant DOD technology to federal, State, and local first responders."

In other words, the law facilitates the "transfer" of the newest in so-called "crowd control" technology and other weaponry designed to suppress dissent from the Pentagon to local militarized police units. The new law builds on and further codifies earlier "technology transfer" agreements, specifically the 1995 DOD-Justice Department memorandum of agreement achieved back during the Clinton-Reno regime.(4)

It has become clear in recent months that a critical mass of the American people have seen through the lies of the Bush administration; with the president's polls at an historic low, growing resistance to the war Iraq, and the Democrats likely to take back the Congress in mid-term elections, the Bush administration is on the ropes. And so it is particularly worrying that President Bush has seen fit, at this juncture to, in effect, declare himself dictator.

(1) http://leahy.senate.gov/press/200609/091906a.html and http://leahy.senate.gov/press/200609/092906b.html See also, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, "The Use of Federal Troops for Disaster Assistance: Legal Issues," by Jennifer K. Elsea, Legislative Attorney, August 14, 2006

(2) http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill+h109-5122

(3) Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International, "Recent Contract Awards", Summer 2006, Vol.12, No.2, pg.8; See also, Peter Dale Scott, "Homeland Security Contracts for Vast New Detention Camps," New American Media, January 31, 2006.

(4) "Technology Transfer from defense: Concealed Weapons Detection", National Institute of Justice Journal, No 229, August, 1995, pp.42-43.