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What Do We Stand For?
by Paul Craig Roberts
February 18, 2008
Americans traditionally thought of their country as a "city upon a hill," a "light unto the world." Today only the deluded think that. Polls show that the rest of the world regards the US and Israel as the two greatest threats to peace.
This is not surprising. In the words of Arthur Silber: "The Bush administration has announced to the world, and to all Americans, that this is what the United States now stands for: a vicious determination to dominate the world, criminal, genocidal wars of aggression, torture, and an increasingly brutal and brutalizing authoritarian state at home. That is what we stand for."
Addressing his fellow Americans, Silber asks the paramount question, "why do you support " these horrors?
His question goes to the heart of the matter. Do we Americans have any honor, any humanity, any integrity, any awareness of the crimes our government is committing in our name? Do we have a moral conscience?
How can a moral conscience be reconciled with our continuing to tolerate our government which has invaded two countries on the basis of lies and deception, destroyed their civilian infrastructures and murdered hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children?
The killing and occupation continue even though we now know that the invasions were based on lies and fabricated "evidence." The entire world knows this. Yet, Americans continue to act as if the gratuitous invasions, the gratuitous killing, and the gratuitous destruction are justified. There is no end of it in sight.
If Americans have any honor, how can they betray their Founding Fathers, who gave them liberty, by tolerating a government that claims immunity to law and the Constitution and is erecting a police state in their midst?
Answers to these questions vary. Some reply that a fearful and deceived American public seeks safety from terrorists in government power.
Others answer that a majority of Americans finally understand the evil that Bush has set loose and tried to stop him by voting out the Republicans in November 2006 and putting the Democrats in control of Congress – all to no effect – and are now demoralized as neither party gives a hoot for public opinion or has a moral conscience.
The people ask over and over, "What can we do?"
Very little when the institutions put in place to protect the people from tyranny fail. In the US, the institutions have failed across the board.
The freedom and independence of the watchdog press was destroyed by the media concentration that was permitted by the Clinton administration and Congress. Americans who rely on traditional print and TV media simply have no idea what is afoot.
Political competition failed when the opposition party became a "me-too" party. The Democrats even confirmed as attorney general Michael Mukasey, an authoritarian who refuses to condemn torture and whose rulings as a federal judge undermined habeas corpus. Such a person is now the highest law enforcement officer in the United States.
The judicial system failed when federal judges ruled that "state secrets" and "national security" are more important than government accountability and the rule of law.
The separation of powers failed when Congress acquiesced to the executive branch’s claims of primary power and independence from statutory law and the Constitution.
It failed again when the Democrats refused to impeach Bush and Cheney, the two greatest criminals in American political history.
Without the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, America can never recover. The precedents for unaccountable government established by the Bush administration are too great, their damage too lasting. Without impeachment, America will continue to sink into dictatorship in which criticism of the government and appeals to the Constitution are criminalized. We are closer to executive rule than many people know.
Silber reminds us that America once had leaders, such as Speaker of the House Thomas B. Reed and Senator Robert M. LaFollette Sr., who valued the principles upon which America was based more than they valued their political careers. Perhaps Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich are of this ilk, but America has fallen so low that people who stand on principle today are marginalized. They cannot become Speaker of the House or a leader in the Senate.
Today Congress is almost as superfluous as the Roman Senate under the Caesars. On February 13 the US Senate barely passed a bill banning torture, and the White House promptly announced that President Bush would veto it. Torture is now the American way. The US Senate was only able to muster 51 votes against torture, an indication that almost a majority of US Senators support torture.
Bush says that his administration does not torture. So why veto a bill prohibiting torture? Bush seems proud to present America to the world as a torturer.
After years of lying to Americans and the rest of the world that Guantanamo prison contained 774 of "the world’s most dangerous terrorists," the Bush regime is bringing 6 of its victims to trial. The vast majority of the 774 detainees have been quietly released. The US government stole years of life from hundreds of ordinary people who had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and were captured by warlords and sold to the stupid Americans as "terrorists." Needing terrorists to keep the farce going, the US government dropped leaflets in Afghanistan offering $25,000 a head for "terrorists." Kidnappings ensued until the US government had purchased enough "terrorists" to validate the "terrorist threat."
The six that the US is bringing to "trial" include two child soldiers for the Taliban and a car pool driver who allegedly drove bin Laden.
The Taliban did not attack the US. The child soldiers were fighting in an Afghan civil war. The US attacked the Taliban. How does that make Taliban soldiers terrorists who should be locked up and abused in Gitmo and brought before a kangaroo military tribunal? If a terrorist hires a driver or a taxi, does that make the driver a terrorist? What about the pilots of the airliners who brought the alleged 9/11 terrorists to the US? Are they guilty, too?
The Gitmo trials are show trials. Their only purpose is to create the precedent that the executive branch can ignore the US court system and try people in the same manner that innocent people were tried in Stalinist Russia and Gestapo Germany. If the Bush regime had any real evidence against the Gitmo detainees, it would have no need for its kangaroo military tribunal.
If any more proof is needed that Bush has no case against any of the Gitmo detainees, the following AP News report, February 14, 2008, should suffice: "The Bush administration asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to limit judges’ authority to scrutinize evidence against detainees at Guantanamo Bay."
The reason Bush doesn’t want judges to see the evidence is that there is no evidence except a few confessions obtained by torture. In the American system of justice, confession obtained by torture is self-incrimination and is impermissible evidence under the US Constitution.
Andy Worthington’s book, The Guantanamo Files, and his online articles make it perfectly clear that the "dangerous terrorists" claim of the Bush administration is just another hoax perpetrated on the inattentive American public.
Recently the non-partisan Center for Public Integrity issued a report that documents the fact that Bush administration officials made 935 false statements about Iraq to the American people in order to deceive them into going along with Bush’s invasion. In recent testimony before Congress, Bush’s Secretary of State and former National Security Advisor, Condi Rice, was asked by Rep. Robert Wexler about the 56 false statements she made.
Rice replied: "I take my integrity very seriously and I did not at any time make a statement that I knew to be false." Rice blamed "the intelligence assessments" which "were wrong."
Another Rice lie, like those mushroom clouds that were going to go up over American cities if we didn’t invade Iraq. The weapon inspectors told the Bush administration that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, as Scott Ritter has reminded us over and over. Every knowledgeable person in the country knew there were no weapons. As the leaked Downing Street memo confirms, the head of British intelligence told the UK cabinet that the Bush administration had already decided to invade Iraq and was making up the intelligence to justify the invasion.
There is no one in the Bush administration with enough integrity to resign. It is a government devoid of truth, morality, decency and honor. The Bush administration is a blight upon America and upon the world.
An Idea Whose Time Has Come - G. Edward Griffin - Freedom Force International
There is no point in worrying about the erosion of personal freedom that is the reality of our present era if we can do nothing about it. ... all » They say that knowledge is power, but that is one of the greatest myths of all history. Knowledge without action is useless and leads only to apathy and despair. So the question is: what type of action can reverse this trend? Writing letters and signing petitions to the same people who have created the problem is not going to do it. Voting for candidates selected by power brokers with hidden agendas will not do it either. There have been many proposals to reverse the tide of totalitarianism but, after decades of effort, none of them have worked. In this address, G. Edward Griffin, Founder of Freedom Force, tells us why; and the reason is so simple, it will astound you. Once we clear away that single barrier, the plan for a pro-active counter-force falls quickly into place. This is the missing piece of the puzzle, the ultimate solution we have been seeking
Olbermann: The president is demanding immunity for the telecoms yet, he can’t confirm they did anything for which they need to be cleared
Bernanke: “You are all Dead Ducks”
Information Clearing House
February 16, 2008
Even veteran Fed-watchers were caught off-guard by Chairman Bernanke’s performance before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday. Bernanke was expected to make routine comments on the state of the economy but, instead, delivered a 45 minute sermon detailing the afflictions of the foundering financial system. The Senate chamber was stone-silent throughout. The gravity of the situation is finally beginning to sink in.
For the most part, the pedantic Bernanke looked uneasy; alternately biting his lower lip or staring ahead blankly like a man who just watched his poodle get run over by a Mack truck. As it turns out, Bernanke has plenty to worry about, too. Consumer confidence has dropped to levels not seen since the 1970s recession, real estate has gone off a cliff, credit-brushfires are breaking out everywhere, and the stock market continues to gyrate erratically. No wonder the Fed-chief looked more like a deck-hand on the Lusitania than the monetary-czar of the most powerful country on earth.
Bernanke’s prepared remarks were delivered with the solemnity of a priest performing Vespers. But he was clear, unlike his predecessor, Greenspan, who loved speaking in hieroglyphics.
Bernanke: “As you know, financial markets in the United States and in a number of other industrialized countries have been under considerable strain since late last summer. Heightened investor concerns about the credit quality of mortgages, especially subprime mortgages with adjustable interest rates, triggered the financial turmoil. However, other factors, including a broader retrenchment in the willingness of investors to bear risk, difficulties in valuing complex or illiquid financial products, uncertainties about the exposures of major financial institutions to credit losses, and concerns about the weaker outlook for the economy, have also roiled the financial markets in recent months.”
Yes, of course. The banks are ailing from their subprime investments while Europe is sinking fast from $500 billion in unsellable asset-backed garbage. The whole system is clogged with crappy paper and deteriorating collateral. Now there are problems popping up in auction rate sales and the normally-safe municipal bonds. The whole financial Tower of Babel is cracking at the foundation.
Bernanke continues: “Money center banks and other large financial institutions have come under significant pressure to take onto their own balance sheets the assets of some of the off-balance-sheet investment vehicles that they had sponsored. Bank balance sheets have swollen further as a consequence of the sharp reduction in investor willingness to buy securitized credits, which has forced banks to retain a substantially higher share of previously committed and new loans in their own portfolios. Banks have also reported large losses, reflecting marked declines in the market prices of mortgages and other assets that they hold. Recently, deterioration in the financial condition of some bond insurers has led some commercial and investment banks to take further markdowns and has added to strains in the financial markets.”
Bernanke sounds more like an Old Testament prophet reading passages from the Book of Revelations than a Central Banker. But what he says is true; even without the hair-shirt. The humongous losses at the investment banks have forced them to go trolling for capital in Asia and the Middle East just to stay afloat. And, when they succeed, they’re forced to pay excessively high rates of interest. The true cost of capital is skyrocketing. That’s why the banks are protecting their liquidity and cutting back on new loans. Most of the banks have also tightened lending standards which is slowing down the issuance of credit and threatens to push the economy into a deep recession. When banks cramp-up; the overall economy shrinks. It’s just that simple; no credit, no growth. Credit is the lubricant that keeps the capitalist locomotive chugging-along. When it dwindles, the system screeches to a halt.
“DOWNSIDE RISKS TO GROWTH HAVE INCREASED”
Bernanke again: “In part as the result of the developments in financial markets, the outlook for the economy has worsened in recent months, and the downside risks to growth have increased. To date, the largest economic effects of the financial turmoil appear to have been on the housing market, which, as you know, has deteriorated significantly over the past two years or so. The virtual shutdown of the subprime mortgage market and a widening of spreads on jumbo mortgage loans have further reduced the demand for housing, while foreclosures are adding to the already-elevated inventory of unsold homes. Further cuts in homebuilding and in related activities are likely…..Conditions in the labor market have also softened. Payroll employment, after increasing about 95,000 per month on average in the fourth quarter, declined by an estimated 17,000 jobs in January. Employment in the construction and manufacturing sectors has continued to fall, while the pace of job gains in the services industries has slowed. The softer labor market, together with factors including higher energy prices, lower equity prices, and declining home values, seem likely to weigh on consumer spending in the near term.”
So, let’s summarize. The banks are battered by their massive subprime liabilities. Housing is in the tank. Manufacturing is down. Food and energy are up. Unemployment is rising. And consumer spending has shriveled to the size of an acorn. All that’s missing is a trumpet blast and the arrival of the Four Horseman.
How is it that Bernanke’s economic post-mortem never made its way into the major media? Is there some reason the real state of the economy is being concealed from ‘we the people’?
Bernanke continues: “On the inflation front, a key development over the past year has been the steep run-up in the price of oil. Last year, food prices also increased exceptionally rapidly by recent standards, and the foreign exchange value of the dollar weakened. …(If) inflation expectations to become unmoored or for the Fed’s inflation-fighting credibility to be eroded could greatly complicate the task of sustaining price stability and reduce the central bank’s policy flexibility to counter shortfalls in growth in the future.”
Right. So, if the Fed’s rate-cutting strategy doesn’t work and the economic troubles persist (and prices continue to go through the roof) then we’re S.O.L. (sh** out of luck) because the Fed has no more arrows in its quiver. It’s rate cuts or death. Great. So, we can expect Bernanke to hack away at rates until they’re down to 1% or lower (duplicating the downturn in Japan) hoping that the economy shows some sign of life before it takes two full wheelbarrows of greenbacks to buy a quart of milk and a few seed-potatoes.
Sounds like a plan!
We don’t blame Bernanke. He’s been remarkably straightforward from the very beginning and deserves credit. He’s simply left with the thankless task of mopping up the ocean of red ink left behind by Greenspan. It’s not his fault. He should be applauded for dispelling the decades-long illusion that a nation can borrow its way to prosperity or that chronic indebtedness is the same as real wealth. It’s not; and the bill has finally come due.
Of course, now that the low-interest speculative orgy is over; there’s bound to be a painful unwind of hyper-inflated assets, falling home prices, tumbling stock markets, increased unemployment, and a generalized credit-contraction throughout the real economy. Ouch. Who said it was going to be easy?
“At present, my baseline outlook involves a period of sluggish growth, followed by a somewhat stronger pace of growth starting later this year as the effects of monetary and fiscal stimulus begin to be felt….It is important to recognize that downside risks to growth remain, including the possibilities that the housing market or the labor market may deteriorate to an extent beyond that currently anticipated, or that credit conditions may tighten substantially further.”
(Editor’s translation) “Discount everything I’ve said here today if the economy blows up—as I fully-expect it will—from decades of regulatory neglect and the myriad multi-trillion dollar Ponzi-schemes which have put the entire financial system at risk of a major heart attack”.
Bernanke’s candor is admirable, but it is little relief for the people who will have to soldier-on through the hard times ahead. Perhaps, next time he could spare us all the lengthly oratory and just forward a brief cablegram to Congress saying something like this:
“We are deeply sorry, but we have totally fu**ed up your economy with our monetary hanky-panky. You are all in very deep Doo-doo. Prepare for the worst.”
our sincerest regrets,
New Threat to US Economy
Internet and the Iran oil bourse
The Iranian Oil Bourse will hasten the speed with which major oil
countries dump the dollar for the euro; thus hastening the collapse of
the US economy. It is pertinent that public opinion in America and other
western nations is still ignorant that Saddam Hussain?s decision to
switch from dollars to euros for the purchase of Iraqi oil was the
principal factor behind the invasion of Iraq.
Political observers feel the Iran government?s plan to inaugurate its
Oil Bourse this month had a connection with the sudden inexplicable
cutting of several undersea internet cables. All internet access in Iran
was cut and total internet blackout was experienced for a few days.
Indian BPOs and focus of media attention for the slowdowns that nearly
crippled the industry for almost a week, were probably unintentional
targets of what appears to be a far deeper conspiracy.
Possibly nine cable cuts have been detected since January 23. The first
report said two cables were cut off the Egyptian Mediterranean coast,
disrupting three-quarters of the international communications between
Europe and the Middle East. These cuts were initially attributed to hits
by ships anchors. But later, the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and
Information Technology said video footage of coastal waters in the
region of the two cables showed there was no ship traffic for 12 hours
preceding and 12 hours following the time of the cable cuts.
In view of subsequent developments, sabotage seems more likely. A few
days later, another undersea cable was found cut in the Persian Gulf, 55
kilometers off Dubai. There followed reports of another damaged undersea
cable between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Soon another report
mentioned a cut undersea cable running through the Suez to Sri Lanka. As
media interest caught on, the Khaleej Times reported on February 4, 2008
that as many as five undersea cables were damaged, including a cable in
the Persian Gulf near Bandar Abbas, Iran; and SeaMeWe4 undersea cable
near Penang, Malaysia.
There is no logical explanation for the sudden damage to nearly nine
undersea cables in the course of a week. The known list so far includes
one near Marseille, France; two near Alexandria, Egypt; one near Dubai,
Persian Gulf; one off Bandar Abbas, Iran, Persian Gulf; one between
Qatar and the UAE, in the Persian Gulf; one in the Suez, Egypt and one
near Penang, Malaysia. The Bharti Airtel-VSNL-seven global telecom
firms? new submarine cable from India to France via the Middle East was
cut in more than one place. In fact, the most affected region is the
Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.
It is striking that almost all these cuts have taken place near Muslim
countries, which are naturally affected. Thus suggests the handiwork of
parties capable of undersea cable sabotage, having a pronounced
anti-Muslim bias, and a record of brutal aggression in the region. Most
observers concur that two nations fit the bill.
Israel is in conflict with Lebanon and Syria, and the Palestinian
territories. America has invaded and occupied Iraq and Afghanistan, with
no signs of retreat. More importantly, Israel and America have
heightened their rhetoric against Iran. Linked to this is America?s
demand to increase its military presence in Pakistan?s tribal areas
which border Iran.
This brings us back to the Oil Bourse that Iran planned to open in
February 2008, for trade in ?non-dollar currencies?. Obviously, this has
enormous geo-political and economic implications for America, as
hitherto the dollar had been dominant international reserve currency for
oil transactions. The American economic meltdown on account of sheer
fiscal indiscipline spanning decades has, however, caused corporates,
bankers, and governments to look for alternative currencies. In the age
of sovereign wealth funds, no nation wants to buy the sharply falling
dollar. A functional Iranian Oil Bourse, selling oil tankers in
non-dollar currencies, is a terrible snub to America.
As discussed previously in these columns, members of the Gulf
Cooperation Council (GCC), namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia
and the UAE, propose to adopt a monetary union and single currency by
2010 (like the euro). Last May, Kuwait ended the dominance of the dollar
and adopted a basket of currencies, triggering rumours that the UAE and
Qatar would follow suit. In December 2007, the GCC, barring Kuwait,
agreed to continue to peg their currencies to the American dollar, but
experts expect this to change as the dollar continues to slide.
Certainly, by 2010, they will go for the new GCC currency.
It is equally certain that if Iran manages to open its own Oil Bourse,
the GCC will trade there on account of geographic proximity. This will
make Iran the main hub for oil deals in the Middle East. The three
damaged undersea cables in the Persian Gulf are an ex-pression of anger
and frustration at the inevitability of this development. For Iran,
there is an additional message that its nuclear programme is riling the
The Iranian Oil Bourse will hasten the speed with which major oil
countries dump the dollar for the euro; thus hastening the collapse of
the US economy. It is pertinent that public opinion in America and other
western nations is still ignorant that Saddam Hussain?s decision to
switch from dollars to euros for the purchase of Iraqi oil was the
principal factor behind the invasion of Iraq. This could have encouraged
other OPEC nations, besides Nigeria, Mexico, Venezuela, to follow, and
thus endangered US economy.
Despite the invasion of Iraq and the possible threat to Iran, the US
monopoly over the oil trade is now in peril. Hitherto, oil has been
valued in dollars and mainly traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange
or London?s International Petroleum Exchange, both of which are owned by
American corporates. This monopoly compelled national banks the world
over to buy dollars, and this compulsion allowed the US to build a debt
of over eight trillion dollars. Once the euro emerges as the principal
oil currency, the dollar will plummet in value, sinking the American and
British economies. Political observers fear a knee-jerk reaction from
Detention camps at undisclosed locations in the US? Rule by Fear or Rule by Law?
by Lewis Seiler and Dan Hamburg
Global Research, February 13, 2008
San Francisco Chronicle
"The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist."
-- Winston Churchill, Nov. 21, 1943
Since 9/11, and seemingly without the notice of most Americans, the federal government has assumed the authority to institute martial law, arrest a wide swath of dissidents (citizen and noncitizen alike), and detain people without legal or constitutional recourse in the event of "an emergency influx of immigrants in the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs."
Beginning in 1999, the government has entered into a series of single-bid contracts with Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) to build detention camps at undisclosed locations within the United States. The government has also contracted with several companies to build thousands of railcars, some reportedly equipped with shackles, ostensibly to transport detainees.
According to diplomat and author Peter Dale Scott, the KBR contract is part of a Homeland Security plan titled ENDGAME, which sets as its goal the removal of "all removable aliens" and "potential terrorists."
Fraud-busters such as Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, have complained about these contracts, saying that more taxpayer dollars should not go to taxpayer-gouging Halliburton. But the real question is: What kind of "new programs" require the construction and refurbishment of detention facilities in nearly every state of the union with the capacity to house perhaps millions of people?
Sect. 1042 of the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), "Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies," gives the executive the power to invoke martial law. For the first time in more than a century, the president is now authorized to use the military in response to "a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, a terrorist attack or any other condition in which the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to the extent that state officials cannot maintain public order."
The Military Commissions Act of 2006, rammed through Congress just before the 2006 midterm elections, allows for the indefinite imprisonment of anyone who donates money to a charity that turns up on a list of "terrorist" organizations, or who speaks out against the government's policies. The law calls for secret trials for citizens and noncitizens alike.
Also in 2007, the White House quietly issued National Security Presidential Directive 51 (NSPD-51), to ensure "continuity of government" in the event of what the document vaguely calls a "catastrophic emergency." Should the president determine that such an emergency has occurred, he and he alone is empowered to do whatever he deems necessary to ensure "continuity of government." This could include everything from canceling elections to suspending the Constitution to launching a nuclear attack. Congress has yet to hold a single hearing on NSPD-51.
U.S. Rep. Jane Harman, D-Venice (Los Angeles County) has come up with a new way to expand the domestic "war on terror." Her Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 (HR1955), which passed the House by the lopsided vote of 404-6, would set up a commission to "examine and report upon the facts and causes" of so-called violent radicalism and extremist ideology, then make legislative recommendations on combatting it.
According to commentary in the Baltimore Sun, Rep. Harman and her colleagues from both sides of the aisle believe the country faces a native brand of terrorism, and needs a commission with sweeping investigative power to combat it.
A clue as to where Harman's commission might be aiming is the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, a law that labels those who "engage in sit-ins, civil disobedience, trespass, or any other crime in the name of animal rights" as terrorists. Other groups in the crosshairs could be anti-abortion protesters, anti-tax agitators, immigration activists, environmentalists, peace demonstrators, Second Amendment rights supporters ... the list goes on and on. According to author Naomi Wolf, the National Counterterrorism Center holds the names of roughly 775,000 "terror suspects" with the number increasing by 20,000 per month.
What could the government be contemplating that leads it to make contingency plans to detain without recourse millions of its own citizens?
The Constitution does not allow the executive to have unchecked power under any circumstances. The people must not allow the president to use the war on terrorism to rule by fear instead of by law.
Lewis Seiler is the president of Voice of the Environment, Inc. Dan Hamburg, a former congressman, is executive director.
Since 1992, the United States has exported more than $142 billion dollars worth of weaponry to states around the world. The U.S. dominates this international arms market, supplying just under half of all arms exports in 2001, roughly two and a half times more than the second and third largest suppliers. [2 ] U.S. weapons sales help outfit non-democratic regimes, soldiers who commit gross human rights abuses against their citizens and citizens of other countries, and forces in unstable regions on the verge of, in the middle of, or recovering from conflict.
U.S.-origin weapons find their way into conflicts the world over. The United States supplied arms or military technology to more than 92% of the conflicts under way in 1999. The costs to the families and communities afflicted by this violence is immeasurable. But to most arms dealers, the profit accumulated outweighs the lives lost. In the period from 1998-2001, over 68% of world arms deliveries were sold or given to developing nations, where lingering conflicts or societal violence can scare away potential investors.
Of course, a loss of investment opportunities is not the only way Americans are impacted by the weapons trade. In addition to paying billions of dollars every year to support weapons exports, Americans may also feel the impact of increasing instability overseas. The United States military has had to face troops previously trained by its own military or supplied with U.S. weaponry in Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, and now in Afghanistan. Due to the advanced capabilities these militaries have acquired from past U.S. training and sales, the U.S. had to invest much more money and manpower in these conflicts than would have otherwise been needed.
There are few restrictions on whom the government may export arms to. One notable exception is the Leahy Law, which prohibits U.S. military aid or training to foreign military units known to have committed human rights abuses. Under the Pentagon's interpretation of the law, however, these restrictions may be lifted if the foreign government filters out the "few bad apples" in that particular unit. An International Code of Conduct on Arms Sales is also being negotiated with other arms exporters in the hopes of creating a common set of export criteria.
Read on for more facts.
New Bill To Allow Police Misconduct Be Hidden From Public
Written by: Jonny Glines
Last Update: 2/12 10:50 pm
Bill To Seal Police Misconduct Records
Senator Chris Buttars (Four Points Media) A new bill proposed at the legislature would allow for police to withhold misconduct reports from the public. Supporters of the bill believe that police misconduct should be kept secret from the public so to not discredit police testimony. Others say that a forthright police unit is essential to the community.
In September, Jared Massey was zapped with a taser by Trooper John Gardner. A video of the incident was recorded from Gardner’s patrol car. Gardner can be seen shocking Massey until he hits the ground while Massey’s wife screams from the side of their SUV.
More than a million people watched thevideo on “YouTube. ” Massey was shocked to see his new found fame. The footage may have never been seen had Massey not made a records request to obtain the tape.
Currently, misconduct reports are available in Utah with an official records request. Under the bill SB260, sponsored by Senator Chris Buttars, the video and investigation report from Massey’s tazering might have been kept secret from the public and journalists.
The bill is certainly said to be controversial. But controversy is not new to Buttars.
In the past, Buttars has received much criticism for being the topic in heated controversial issues involving homosexuality, racism and the challenging of evolution in schools.
Now, with SB260, some believe that Buttars would be allowing for hidden misconduct from those who are expected to live the highest of society’s standards.
Representative David Litvak says “I think what’s critical with law enforcement is public trust. If it appears that things are swept under the rug or not done in the light of the public; you can comprise that trust.”
But, Buttars says that the bill would only include non-criminal reports to be withheld from the public and that currently, non-criminal reports can be used in court to discredit police testimony.
A main concern of SB260 supporters is with the business “rate-my-cop,” which is a national company that has made requests for misconduct reports on every officer in every agency in the area. Buttars believes that “rate-my-cop” will put the information into a data base and sell it to defense attorneys.
“Some defense attorney can say, ‘did you do x-y-z,’ and you (the officer) would have to say yes, even though it was dismissed and not founded,” says Buttars.
It appears that like past issues; SB260 will be an item in which Buttars will have people in his support...and against him.
Please click here to view videos so tounderstand just how serious this issue is.
U.S.-IRAQ: Pentagon Gives Blackwater New Contract
By Ali Gharib
WASHINGTON, Sep 28 (IPS) - A U.S.-based private security firm received a contract worth up to 92 million dollars from the Department of Defence amid hard questions about its involvement in two separate violent incidents in Iraq.
"Blackwater has been a contractor in the past with the department and could certainly be in the future," said the U.S.’s top-ranking military officer, General Peter Pace, at an afternoon press conference here.
The future arrived just two hours later when the Pentagon released a new list of contracts -- Presidential Airways, the aviation unit of parent company Blackwater, was awarded the contract to fly Department of Defence passengers and cargo between locations around central Asia.
The announcement comes as a cloud of suspicion is gathering around the "professional military" firm for its actions as a State Department security contractor in Iraq in which at least eight Iraqis and possibly as many as 28 were killed, including a woman and child.
Last week, the Iraqi government announced that it had revoked Blackwater's license to operate in the country.
The initial report by the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security on the incident was put together by the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and details of the event where a car bomb exploded near a meeting attended by officials from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Some of the Blackwater team hired as security for the officials was involved in the shootout while apparently trying to clear an evacuation path.
In a statement issued last week, Blackwater USA spokesperson Anne Tyrrell denied any wrongdoing and said that, "Blackwater's independent contractors acted lawfully and appropriately in response to a hostile attack in Baghdad on Sunday. Blackwater regrets any loss of life but this convoy was violently attacked by armed insurgents, not civilians, and our people did their job to defend human life."
However, an official with knowledge of the investigation told the New York Times that the evacuation effort was marked by confusion and chaos -- the Blackwater employees believed they were being fired on, but this contradicted the initial Iraqi report on the incident that said there was no enemy fire. There was also apparently an incident of infighting when one guard did not heed a ceasefire call.
In a press conference Wednesday, the deputy press secretary of the State Department gave a non-denial of reports in the press that the Department of Defence has hinted to the State Department that the investigation into Blackwater should be reined in, only highlighting that the departments were working together and that the reports in the press had come from anonymous sources.
Blackwater USA, which has an estimated 1,000 employees in Iraq and 800 million dollars in U.S. government contracts, has been one of the most prominent private security firms operating in the country. Some of its notable assignments have included protecting L. Paul Bremer, the former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, as well as Crocker, who is currently the leading U.S. diplomatic envoy to Iraq.
The firm came into the public eye in March 2004, when four of its employees were killed and mutilated by an Iraqi mob in Fallujah, the war-torn Iraqi city that was an insurgent stronghold at the time. The incident touched off the unsuccessful U.S. attempt to retake the city in April 2004.
Family members of the four employees slain in Fallujah have since sued Blackwater, alleging that the firm failed to provide necessary equipment and manpower that could have saved the employees' lives.
A separate report by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee faulted Blackwater’s conduct in the Fallujah incident, in which Blackwater was transporting flatbed trucks when its team was ambushed.
"Blackwater embarked on this mission without sufficient preparation, resources and support for its personnel," concluded the report, saying that the firm had ignored warnings by another security company, cut the staff for the mission by putting rear gunners for both involved security vehicles on administrative duties, and went out with insufficiently armoured vehicles.
"Management in North Carolina made the decision to go with soft skin due to the cost" despite the fact that the contract paid for armoured vehicles, said a Blackwater employee quoted in the report, referring to Blackwater’s headquarters in Moyock, North Carolina.
The Congressional report noted that the Blackwater men had been sent on their mission without maps and ended up at the wrong military base, where they had to spend the night because of fighting nearby.
Control Risks Group, another security force working in the area at the time, warned Blackwater about the mission after they had twice been offered the same task but "refused both times due to the obvious risk transporting slow-moving loads through such a volatile area."
On the heels of the House Committee report, Congressman David E. Price of North Carolina will introduce legislation next week to extend the reach of U.S. civil courts to include security contractors in Iraq. The proposed bill, H.R. 2740, will also establish F.B.I. investigative units in the war zone charged with investigating allegations of misconduct.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week, Price wrote, "The allegations related to the Sept. 16 incident have the potential to become a flashpoint in terms of Iraqi antagonism toward U.S. personnel, with wide-ranging implications for our mission and our troops. There is no question that the lack of clarity surrounding the legal options for prosecuting criminal acts has significantly undermined our efforts in Iraq."
The various investigations into security contractors working for the U.S. government in Iraq and related legislation are heralded by critics of the Bush administration’s approach to the war, pointing to the failures of the so-called [Donald] Rumsfeld doctrine, which promotes a more streamlined and greatly privatised military based on an "entrepreneurial approach" and raising questions about rampant war-profiteering.
WASHINGTON (AFP) — US President George W. Bush said Thursday he plans to veto legislation passed by the Senate to bar the CIA from using harsh interrogation methods including waterboarding.
"The reason I'm vetoing the bill -- first of all, we have said that whatever we do ... will be legal," Bush said in an interview with the BBC.
"Secondly, they are imposing a set of standards on our intelligence communities in terms of interrogating prisoners that our people will think will be ineffective."
The Democratic-led Senate voted 51-45 on Wednesday in favor of a bill calling for the Central Intelligence Agency to adopt the US Army Field Manual, which forbids waterboarding and other types of coercive interrogation methods.
However, the vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to overcome a presidential veto. The House of Representatives passed similar legislation in December.
"I think the president must give his professionals, within the law, the necessary tools to protect us," Bush said.
Earlier, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the president would veto the measure because "the United States needs the ability to interrogate effectively, within the law, captured Al-Qaeda terrorists."
Democratic New York Senator Charles Schumer said that if Bush "vetoes intelligence authorization, he will be voting in favor of waterboarding."
Asked by a reporter if Bush, who leaves office in 2009, would be labeled as the first US president who favored torture, Perino rejected the assertion and dismissed Schumer's argument as "simplistic."
"Across the board people will see, over time, that this was a president who put in place tools to protect the country against terrorists," Perino said.
"The president does not favor torture. The president favors making sure we do all these programs within the law," she said, adding that "all the interrogations that have taken place in this country have been done in a legal way."
Rights groups have alleged that abuse and torture of detainees routinely take place at secret CIA detention facilities around the globe.
On Wednesday, Cuba demanded that the United States return Guantanamo Bay to the island and denounced the "war on terror" prison, saying suspects have been subjected to torture and face unfair legal treatment.
Separately, a report by professors and students at Seton Hall Law School in New Jersey, citing official documents obtained mostly from the Pentagon under Freedom of Information rules, said some 24,000 interrogations at the US naval base on Cuba's southeastern tip have been videotaped.
"The two CIA tapes that were destroyed were only a tiny fraction of perhaps 24,000 recorded interrogations," the report's authors said, referring to the CIA's admission in December that it had destroyed videotapes showing the interrogations of two presumed terrorists.
The Pentagon did not immediately comment on the report.
Perino said the United States does not currently use waterboarding, a simulated drowning technique denounced by rights groups as torture, even though the CIA has admitted using the technique in the past.
She reiterated the administration's assertion last week that it would not rule out the use of such techniques in the future.
"As we said last week as well, we are not going to talk about what may or may not be lawful in the future."
The Senate bill would limit the CIA and other intelligence agencies to the 19 interrogation techniques outlined in the military's manual. Waterboarding is not among them.
Perino said the intelligence community's view is that the manual sets an inappropriate standard for seasoned CIA interrogators who are working to extract information from sophisticated militant operatives.
"This Army Field Manual is something that is public for all to see, and we know that Al-Qaeda trains to resist interrogation techniques such as those."
Rival Democratic White House hopefuls Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were on the road campaigning and did not take part in the vote Wednesday.
The likely Republican nominee, Arizona Senator John McCain, voted against the bill. The former prisoner of war however said that his vote was consistent with his anti-torture stance.
"We always supported allowing the CIA to use extra measures," he said. "I believe waterboarding is illegal and should be banned," McCain said.
Russia threatens nuclear attack on Ukraine
By Bruno Waterfield in Brussels
Last Updated: 7:57pm GMT 12/02/2008
Russia has threatened to target the Ukraine with nuclear warheads if the former Soviet republic joins Nato and accepts the deployment of United States anti-missile defences on its territory.
President Vladimir Putin of Russia warned Ukraine's leader Viktor Yushchenko of "retaliatory actions" should his country join the Western alliance during a joint press conference in Moscow.
"It's frightening not just to talk about this, but even to think about, that in response to such deployment, the possibility of such deployments - and one can't theoretically exclude these deployments - that Russia will have to point its warheads at Ukrainian territory," he said.
The Russian and Ukrainian leaders had just held emergency talks in the Kremlin to avert a energy supply crisis over Kiev gas bill - a similar dispute two years ago led to power cuts across Europe.
Mr Yushchenko responded to the Russian pressure by insisting on Ukraine's right to decide its own foreign policy while stressing that his country's constitution would not allow US military bases on its territory.
"You understand well that everything that Ukraine does in this direction is not in any way directed at any third country, including Russia," he replied.
"We follow the principle that any nation has the right to define its own security. Our constitution does not allow deployment by a third country or bloc on Ukrainian territory."
Mr Putin has condemned Washington's plans to include Poland and the Czech Republic in a missile defence shield as a "new phase in the arms race".
Russia fears the shield will threaten its national security and tip strategic military balance in Europe.
"The goal [of the missile shield] is to neutralise our nuclear capabilities," said Mr Putin.
"This would prompt Russia to take retaliatory action."
Moscow has already declared that Russia will pull out of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE), which came into force in 1992 and restricts the deployment of troops and tanks near sensitive European frontiers.
Last week, John Chipman, the head of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, warned that the "next target of Moscow's assertive revisionism "could be the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty of 1987.
Both would be moves that would allow Russia to build a new generation of medium-range nuclear missiles capable of striking Western Europe. As relations between Russia and many of its near neighbours deteriorate, Ukraine has submitted a formal membership request to Nato, to be considered a summit of alliance leaders in the Romanian capital of Bucharest this April.
Mr Putin has accepted an invitation to attend the meeting and Russia's parliament last month voted to stop using Soviet-built military radars in Ukraine because of Kiev's Nato ambitions.
The prospect of Nato membership is also deeply controversial in the Ukraine, where opinion polls show that over half of the country opposes it.
Russia has revived the long-range air patrols that were once a standard feature of the Cold War and US defence officials confirmed that a pair of Russian TU-95 Bear bombers overflew a US aircraft carrier in the western Pacific at an altitude of 2,000 feet (660 meters) over the weekend.
Four F-18 fighters jets intercepted the Russian bombers on Saturday morning, but not before they had overflown the USS Nimitz.
It was the second time since July 2004 that a Russian Bear bomber has overflown a US aircraft carrier.
It was not immediately known whether the United States issued any protests with the Russians.