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House of Representatives Approves NATO Membership for Ukraine and Georgia

Created: 07.03.2007 10:22 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 09:34 MSK

MosNews

The House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to endorse further enlargement of the NATO alliance which will allow admission of two former Soviet republics — Ukraine and <>mnuser=georgiaGeorgia, the Reuters news agency reports. A brief debate took place before the voting, in which no one mentioned Moscow’s nervousness about such an expansion.

On a voice vote, the House backed a resolution calling for the “timely admission” to the alliance of Albania, Croatia, Macedonia, and two former republics of the old Soviet Union, Georgia and Ukraine. Identical legislation was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.

The goal is to encourage those five countries to continue working to join the military alliance, the legislation’s sponsor, Rep. John Tanner, a Tennessee Democrat, said.

“It is a statement from Congress that we believe what they are doing is important, and we believe they are moving in the right direction,” Tanner told the House during debate.

Recently Moscow’s leadership has harshly criticized U.S. foreign policy, including its support for another round of NATO enlargement. “We have the right to ask, against whom is this expansion directed,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in widely-noted speech last month to a conference in Europe.

NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was set up in 1949 as a military alliance to deter the Soviet Union from expanding into Western Europe.

But lawmakers said the U.S. resolution was a routine expression of support for the next crop of NATO aspirants. NATO has expanded before into Eastern Europe, including right up to Russia’s borders when the former Soviet states of the Baltics joined NATO in 2004.

“I would counsel the president of Russia not to be defensive,” the sponsor of the Senate version of the legislation, Indiana Republican Richard Lugar, told Reuters.

“From the beginning whoever the Russian leader has been at the time, that leader has expressed sensitivity with regard to any expansion of NATO,” Lugar said.

The NATO summit last November welcomed reform efforts in Albania, Croatia and Macedonia and said those that met alliance criteria could expect to receive invitations to join at a 2008 summit. NATO also declared support for membership of Georgia and Ukraine, but without promising to accept them.

One analyst said U.S. lawmakers were sending an important signal.

“Given the new assertiveness of Russia, it’s really important for Congress to voice continued support for what is in fact our major military alliance,” said Gary Schmitt, director of strategic programs at the American Enterprise Institute think-tank in Washington.

Paralyzed Veterans' President Testifies on Capitol Hill Link

On Thursday, March 8, Paralyzed Veterans of America President Randy L. Pleva, Sr., testified before the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs. Pleva’s testimony focused on Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care and the need for adequate funding to expand programs for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan while maintaining a high level of care for current veterans.

Paralyzed Veterans recommends approximately $36.3 billion for FY 2008, an increase of $4 billion over the FY 2007 appropriation level and approximately $2.1 billion over the Administration’s request for FY 2008. “It is time for the political wrangling over the VA’s budget to stop. The needs of the men and women who have served and continue to serve in harm’s way are far more important,” Pleva said.

In his statement, Pleva underscored the importance of achieving seamless transition from active duty military status to veteran status so that critically injured service members who require expert, specialty care have immediate access to quality care. VA medical centers are prepared to meet the complex needs of individuals with spinal cord injuries; however, Paralyzed Veterans has received reports of critically injured veterans experiencing significant delays in accessing the VA system. “It is simply unacceptable to prevent these men and women from receiving specialty care in a timely manner,” Pleva said.

Paralyzed Veterans also wants funding for federal mental health programs to be expanded and programs adapted to meet the needs of the newest generation of combat service personnel while continuing to address the needs of older veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other combat-related mental health challenges. A seamless transition between Department of Defense and VA coupled with adequate funding will establish early intervention services to help returning service members from Iraq and Afghanistan obtain effective treatment and follow-up services for war-related mental health problems.

Pleva also testified about Paralyzed Veterans’ concerns that VA has not requested adequate staffing to deal with the ever-growing benefits claims backlog in the Veterans Benefits Administration. A core mission of VA is to provide financial disability compensation to veterans and their dependent family members and survivors. The ability of disabled veterans to feed, clothe, and provide shelter for themselves and their families often depends on these benefits. Recently VA has demonstrated great speed and efficiency in adjudicating the claims of service members wounded in current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, there are hundreds of thousands of older claims, filed by veterans of prior conflicts that lie dormant.

Iraq neighbors to work together to end sectarian violence

Russia Herald

Sunday 11th March, 2007

(Barry Newhouse )

At a regional security conference in Baghdad, Iraqi leaders focused on the positive role Iraq's neighbors can play in improving security, but they also warned the country must not be used as a battleground for international conflicts.

Representatives from the United States and Iran talked with each other during the meeting about security in Iraq.

The one-day Baghdad conference brought together representatives from Iraq's neighboring countries as well as the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to try to find a way to end Iraq's crippling sectarian fighting.

The conference focused on what delegates said were common goals of ending violence, supporting the Iraqi government and trying to improve the lives of Iraq's citizens. Representatives agreed to form three committees that would address Iraq's security, the needs of Iraqis fleeing violence and the country's desperate need for fuel.

But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also told delegates that Iraq would not tolerate foreign nations trying to exert influence in Iraq by backing certain groups. Mr. Maliki said Iraq is changing from a totalitarian to a democratic state, and will not allow its streets to be used as an arena for international disputes. He also said Iraq does not allow its territory to be used to launch attacks against other nations, and he expects other nations to have the same policy.

As the delegates met in closed-door meetings inside the tightly-guarded Foreign Ministry, a reminder of Baghdad's perilous security situation came when a mortar round struck near the building, sending people outside running for cover. Elsewhere in Baghdad, officials said, at least 18 people were killed and scores of others wounded when two suicide bombers detonated their explosives in the predominantly Shi'ite district of Sadr City.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari urged delegates to recognize that improving Iraq's security is in the long-term interest of all nations. "It is in nobody's interest to see Iraq fail, because there would be a spillover. Your interests would be affected, and you should look beyond any short-term self interest to long-term strategic interests to see a viable, a stable recovered Iraq," he said.

U.S. and Iraqi officials have accused Iran and Syria of not doing enough to secure their borders to stop the flow of weapons and fighters that fuel the insurgency.

The United States has also accused Iran of directly supporting militia fighters by suppling them with explosive projectile weapons that are capable of piercing thick armor. In the past, the United States has opposed discussing those issues directly with Iran.

But U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said American delegates on Saturday spoke about the weapons concerns with their Iranian counterparts. "I did talk with them directly, and in the presence of others. We engaged across the table, as well. I did raise those concerns," he said.

The ambassador also said Iranian representatives voiced support for improving security in Iraq, but he said statements alone are not enough. "They have stated today that they support Iraq, that they support the reconciliation effort, that they support the effort to bring security to the people of Iraq. The next step is to see that these good sentiments, good statements be translated into concrete action," he said.

The head of Iran's delegation, Abas Arakchi, said security in Iraq is necessary for stability in the region, so there is no reason for Iran to interfere in Iraqi politics, other than to support peace. He blamed Iraq's violence on the presence of foreign forces in the country. "The presence of foreign forces in Iraq justifies violence in that country, or serves the benefit of terrorists and violence in Iraq. And, violence is used to justify the presence of foreign forces. So, for the sake of peace and stability in Iraq, and to keep its integrity and unity, we need a timetable for the withdrawal of the foreign forces," he said.

Delegates from all of the attending countries did agree to attend a future meeting on Iraq's security. The date and location have not been decided, although Egypt and Turkey have offered to host.

Pentagon contemplating futuristic war plans

China National News

Tuesday 13th March, 2007

(Jack A Smith )

"We will export death and violence to the four corners of the Earth in defense of our great nation." - President George W Bush in Bob Woodward's book Plan of Attack.

While most Americans are concentrating on extricating the US government from the debacle in Iraq, and most peace activists are simultaneously concerned that the Bush administration will launch a war against Iran, the leaders of the Pentagon are planning how to win wars 10, 20, and 50 years from now.

Washington is preparing for every contingency, from rooting out a handful of suspected terrorists halfway around the world to possible wars with Russia and China.

The Defense Department's drawing boards are groaning under the weight of blueprints for sustaining total military dominance of land, sea, air and outer space throughout this century. The costs of supporting the US government's martial propensities will be astronomical in terms of the social programs and benefits denied American working people, not to mention the consequences of living in a state of permanent warfare.

The recent decision to escalate the Iraq war with a "surge" of 21,500 more troops, the plan to increase the armed forces by another 92,000 troops, and President George W Bush's request for $716 billion to meet the Pentagon's warmaking needs in fiscal year 2008 are a harbinger of what's coming next - new technologies for fighting future wars on the ground, improvements in the nuclear stockpile and delivery systems, and the militarization of outer space, among other military goals.

The Pentagon's futuristic war plans and the 2008 war budget leave no doubt that the US has discarded president George Washington's warning in 1796 to avoid "overgrown military establishments", or president Dwight D Eisenhower's advice in 1961 to "guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence by the military-industrial complex".

The 2008 war budget not only exceeds the combined military budgets of the rest of the world's nations, but means the cost of Bush's "war on terrorism" (including Iraq and Afghanistan) amounts to more in inflation-adjusted dollars than the cost of the Korean or Vietnam wars.

Washington's ever-expanding forces of war, combined with more than 750 major military bases around the world to secure America's economic and political empire, mean that the United States, despite the absence of helmeted brutes in hobnailed boots parading on cobblestone streets, is a militaristic society that is a danger to world peace.

"Today, as never before in their history," writes Andrew J Bacevich in his stunning book The New American Militarism, "Americans are enthralled with military power. The global supremacy that the US presently enjoys, and is bent on perpetuating, has become central to our national identify. Americans in our own time have fallen prey to militarism, manifesting itself in a romanticized view of soldiers, a tendency to see military power as the truest measure of national greatness, and have come to define the nation's strength and well-being in terms of military preparedness and military action."

Unless militarism is curtailed, Chalmers Johnson predicts in The Sorrows of Empire, four things will happen: "First, there will be a perpetual state of war, leading to more terrorism against Americans wherever they may be. Second, there will be a loss of democracy and constitutional rights. Third, an already well-shredded principle of truthfulness will increasingly be replaced by a system of propaganda, disinformation, and glorification of war, power and the military legions. Lastly, there will be [national] bankruptcy."

Let's look at some of those Pentagon blueprints for the next war, and the next, and the next, focusing first on America's high-tech plans for ground wars (Future Combat Systems), then nuclear wars (Complex 2030), and, following directly, space wars (the new National Space Policy).

Future Combat Systems (FCS) is the Pentagon's name for an effort to "build an entirely new army, reconfigured to perform the global policing mission", according to the Office of Management and Budget. This is a system of modern warfighting based on dominating any possible adversary through the use of nearly 50 new technologies. The objective is to improve strategic agility, increase battlefield lethality, and kill more of the "enemy" while reducing American casualties even further.

The New York Times has described FCS as "a seamless web of 18 different sets of networked weapons and military robots. The program is at the heart of [a Defense Department] plan to transform the army into a faster, lighter force in which stripped-down tanks could be put on a transport plane and flown into battle, and information systems could protect soldiers of the future as heavy armor has protected them in the past. Combat soldiers, weapons and robots are to be linked by a $25 billion web [known as] Joint Tactical Radio Systems. The network would transmit the battlefield information intended to protect soldiers."

The February 2007 issue of Harper's magazine contains a revealing article on FCS titled "The coming robot army" by Steve Featherstone, who writes:

"The practice of warfare has changed dramatically in the past 60 years. Since Vietnam, the American military machine has been governed by two parallel and complementary trends: an aversion to casualties and a heavy reliance on technology. The Gulf War reinforced the belief that technology can replace human soldiers on the battlefield and the Black Hawk Down incident in Somalia made this belief an article of faith. Today, any new weapon worth its procurement contract is customarily referred to as a "force multiplier", which can be translated as doing more damage with fewer people. Weaponized robots are the ultimate force multiplier, and every branch of the military has increased spending on new unmanned systems."

At $145 billion [not including the cost of the radio network mentioned above], the army's Future Combat Systems is the costliest weapons program in history, and in some ways the most visionary as well. The individual soldier is still central to the FCS concept, but he has been reconfigured as a sort of plug-and-play warrior, a node in what is envisioned as a sprawling network of robots, manned [and unmanned] vehicles, ground sensors, satellites, and command centers. In theory, each node will exchange real-time information with the network, allowing the entire system to accommodate sudden changes in the "battle space". The fog of war would become a relic of the past, like the musket, swept away by crystalline streams of encrypted data. The enemy would not be killed so much as deleted.

According to a report last June by the congressional Committee on Appropriations, the cost of FCS could reach an extraordinary $200 billion to become fully operational by the projected date of 2025. Even then, all this money will be able to equip only 15 out of 70 combat brigade teams with the full array of FCS technology. The original cost was supposed to be $100 billion, and some sources are predicting the price may go up to $300 billion before its finished.

The US Navy is modernizing, as well. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), "The navy in 2006 introduced a new ship force structure plan that calls for achieving and maintaining a 313-ship fleet," including another three aircraft carriers to join the existing dozen already in service.

US Air Force modernization includes obtaining 60 F-22A Raptors (out of 183 on order, each costing more than $100 million (but $300 million each when research and development expenses are added to production costs) and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, which the CRS describes as the largest aviation program in terms of estimated cost ($276 billion) and numbers (2,458 aircraft). In addition, contracts are out for building 180 C-17 Globemaster strategic airlifters, a sure sign the Pentagon anticipates quickly flying a great deal of military tonnage to distant countries.

According to Article VI of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the existing nuclear powers - primarily the US and Russia - are obligated to "pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control".

Washington and Moscow did in fact reduce the number of nuclear warheads in the 15 years since the end of the Cold War, but there have been absolutely no steps toward general and complete nuclear disarmament - the only way to end nuclear proliferation and to prevent nuclear war. Russia (including when it was the USSR) affirms a willingness to rid the world of nuclear weapons but insists that all states, including the US, must be willing to do so as well before Moscow destroys its stockpiles. Washington will not agree.

At this stage, the US has about 6,000 strategic warheads compared with Russia's 5,000, down from the 1990 total of about 14,000 and 11,000 respectively. (A "strategic" nuclear weapon can produce thousands of kilotons of explosive force. One kiloton equals 1,000 tons of TNT. The largest ever tested was 50,000 kilotons in 1961. A "tactical" nuclear weapon possesses the explosive power of a fraction of a kiloton. The small 12-kiloton atomic bomb with which the United States decimated Hiroshima in 1945 killed more than 150,000 people immediately or in its aftermath.)

According to the terms of the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), the US and Russia must reduce the number of their deployed strategic warheads to 2,200 by 2012 when the treaty expires - a size that can still destroy the entire population of our planet many, many times over. The key word here is "deployed", meaning mounted and ready to be fired in minutes. SORT does not call for the remaining strategic warheads to be destroyed, which means the weapons will be put in storage, along with thousands of tactical weapons. The treaty does not cover tactical weapons.

The latest plan for increasing US nuclear power was made public on October 20 under the title Complex 2030, the number standing for the year of its supposed completion. The cost at minimum will be $150 billion, but it will end up with a much higher price tag. This program, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, will "entail upgrading the entire US nuclear-weapons complex while designing and producing a series of new nuclear warheads".

These new weapons, produced through the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) Program, would ultimately replace the entire US nuclear arsenal. Under Complex 2030, "the US nuclear weapons laboratories would return to the Cold War cycle of nuclear weapon design, development, and production. This initiative would risk a return to underground nuclear testing and would undercut US efforts to limit the development of new nuclear weapons by other countries."

The Bush administration's proposed new budget calls for spending $89 million in 2008 on research and development of the new warheads, double the amount for fiscal 2007. Incidentally, the Pentagon's existing stockpile of nuclear weapons is expected to remain viable for another 50 years, but the new warheads evidently will be more technically proficient.

The Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Agency, which is in charge of the warheads, claims Complex 2030 will not entail nuclear-weapons testing, but this could change. The US signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996, but it has not been ratified by the Senate. Under the terms of the NPT, the US was supposed to have ratified the treaty years ago.

War hawks in and around the Bush administration are worried about reducing the strategic arsenal to 2,200 warheads at the ready, even when enhanced by Complex 2030. A subcommittee of the Defense Science Board, an important advisory group to the Defense Department, reported in December that the new program does "not provide for a nuclear-weapons enterprise capable of meeting the nation's future needs".

Wade Boese, writing in Arms Control Today (January-February 2007), says the task force wants the reduction to be "reversible in case relations sour with China or Russia". The Defense Science Board is evidently contemplating World War III, and it is clearly not alone.

According to the authoritative magazine Foreign Affairs (March/April 2006), "Today, for the first time in almost 50 years, the United States stands on the verge of attaining nuclear primacy. It will probably soon be possible for the United States to destroy the long-range nuclear arsenals of Russia or China with a first strike.

"This dramatic shift in the nuclear balance of power stems from a series of improvements in the United States' nuclear systems, the precipitous decline of Russia's arsenal, and the glacial pace of modernization of China's nuclear forces. Unless Washington's policies change or Moscow and Beijing take steps to increase the size and readiness of their forces, Russia and China - and the rest of the world - will live in the shadow of US nuclear primacy for many years to come."

To ensure its ability to deliver a knockout blow with a first strike, the Bush administration is moving ahead with a so-called "defensive" anti-missile system intended to destroy any possible retaliatory blow from the few possible nuclear weapons that were not destroyed in the initial US attack.

During the Cold War the US and USSR avoided a nuclear war through the policy of mutually assured destruction (MAD). The nuclear equivalency of the time meant that a first strike would not be able to destroy all the other side's retaliatory strike force, assuring that any attack would be met with a counterattack, killing hundreds of millions on both sides - so there was no nuclear war. Now, with the US moving swiftly toward first-strike supremacy and an anti-ballistic-missile system under construction, a catastrophic nuclear exchange in the decades ahead cannot be ruled out.

As an indication of the present world danger, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in January moved the hands of its Doomsday Clock two minutes ahead to 11:55pm - five minutes to annihilation midnight.

Much to Russia's and the world's disappointment, the Bush administration withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002 to develop an ABM system to eliminate the chance that a nuclear-wounded "enemy" might be able to launch its few remaining nuclear warheads toward the United States. In addition, despite pleas to do so from Moscow, Washington has no intention of renewing - or even discussing renewing - the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) when it expires in 2009.

According to an article about the end of START in the January Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (online) by Pavel Podvig of the Center for International Security and Cooperation, the US "plans to keep the capability to maintain an arsenal of thousands of nuclear warheads for decades to come".

There is not much hope that the current political climate will produce proposals that could change the substance of nuclear-policy discussions. Instead, we see the growing acceptance of the idea that nuclear forces should be preserved (more or less) in their current form, even if no one can clearly formulate missions for these forces.

At the very least, the START process has kept some pressure on the United States and Russia (and indirectly on other countries) to think about nuclear-arms reductions and has provided the framework for implementing these reductions. Now that this process is ending, there is nothing to replace it.

Not only Russia but other countries will strengthen or create their own atomic strike force as a result of America's quest for nuclear domination. For instance, the fear of a US nuclear attack was certainly a motive for North Korea to develop a rudimentary nuclear weapon. In this connection, Russia long ago agreed to a no-first-strike pledge, but the US still refuses to follow suit, maintaining that such a pledge would reduce its options. Washington even maintains it has the right to use nuclear weapons preemptively against non-nuclear states.

Both Russia and China are acutely aware that they are potential targets of a US attack, not least because of their strenuous objections to the concept of a unipolar world with Washington at its epicenter. This was one of the reasons Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered an exceptionally strong critique of US foreign-military policy on February 10 during the Munich Conference on Security Policy. Obviously exercising Russia's new sense of having restored itself to great-power status in recent years, the Russian leader declared: Unilateral and frequently illegitimate actions have not resolved any problems. Moreover, they have caused new human tragedies and created new centers of tension. Judge for yourselves: wars as well as local and regional conflicts have not diminished. Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper-use of force - military force - in international relations, force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts. As a result, we do not have sufficient strength to find a comprehensive solution to any one of these conflicts. Finding a political settlement also becomes impossible.

We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one state's legal system. One state, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations. Well, who likes this? Who is happy about this? And of course this is extremely dangerous. It results in the fact that no one feels safe. I want to emphasize this - no one feels safe! (Jack A Smith is former editor of the (US) Guardian Newsweekly and editor of the Hudson Valley (New York) Activist Newsletter).

(Copyright 2007 Jack A Smith.)

A Victory for Self-Defense In the D.C. Gun Law Case, a Chance to Affirm the Second Amendment

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By Robert A. Levy

Monday, March 12, 2007; Page A13

Unless and until the Supreme Court says otherwise, it looks as though the District of Columbia's 31-year-old gun ban is history. Good riddance.

In a landmark opinion Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed a lower federal court on all counts and concluded that "the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms."

The case, Parker v. District of Columbia, was brought by six D.C. residents who want to possess functional firearms within their homes for self-defense. Their lawsuit was not about machine guns and assault weapons. They didn't ask for the right to carry guns outside their houses. Parker was about ordinary handguns, in the owner's private residence.

Senior Judge Laurence H. Silberman wrote the majority opinion, joined by Judge Thomas B. Griffith, a recent Bush appointee. Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson dissented. The court majority stated unequivocally that activities protected by the Second Amendment "are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual's enjoyment of the right contingent upon his or her continued or intermittent enrollment in the militia."

Indeed, said the court, "the right to arms existed prior to the formation of the new government" in 1789.

Fast-forward more than two centuries. Shelly Parker lived in a high-crime neighborhood in the heart of Washington. People on her block were harassed relentlessly by drug dealers and addicts. Parker called the police, time and again, then encouraged her neighbors to do the same. She organized block meetings to discuss the problem. For her audacity, Parker was labeled a troublemaker by the dealers, who threatened her at every opportunity.

One dealer tried to pry his way into her house, repeatedly cursing, then yelling, "I'll kill you. I live on this block too!"

For obvious reasons, Shelly Parker would like to possess a functional handgun within her home for self-defense; but she feared arrest and prosecution because of the District's unconstitutional gun ban.

Killers who are not deterred by laws against murder are not going to be deterred by laws against guns. Anti-gun regulations don't address the deep-rooted causes of violent crime -- such as illegitimacy, unemployment, dysfunctional schools, and drug and alcohol abuse. The cures are complex and protracted. But that doesn't mean we have to become passive prey for criminal predators. Americans who want to defend themselves by possessing suitable firearms should be able to do so.

Off and on over the years, Washington has reclaimed its title as the nation's murder capital. The D.C. government has been minimally effective in disarming violent criminals. But it has done a superb job of disarming decent, peaceable residents. For starters, no handgun can be registered in the District. Even pistols registered before the District's 1976 ban cannot be carried from room to room in a home without a license, which is never granted. Moreover, all firearms in the home, including rifles and shotguns, must be unloaded and either disassembled or bound by trigger locks.

In effect, no one in the District can possess a functional firearm in his or her residence. And the law applies not just to "unfit" persons such as felons, minors or the mentally incompetent, but across the board to ordinary, honest, responsible citizens who live in the District, pay their taxes in the District and obey the laws of the District.

Sadly, if someone breaks into their homes, their only choice is to call 911 and pray that the police arrive quickly. That's not good enough. The right to keep and bear arms, guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the Constitution, includes the right to protect your property and your life. No government should be allowed to take that right away.

Unless the Court of Appeals elects to rehear Parker, the case will probably head to the Supreme Court; and that is where it belongs. The citizens of this country deserve a foursquare pronouncement from the nation's highest court about the real meaning of the Second Amendment. For those of us eagerly awaiting a clear statement in support of an individual's right to keep and bear arms, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has declared that the Constitution is on our side.

The writer, senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute, served as co-counsel to the plaintiffs in Parker v. District of Columbia

Political Purging and Spying on Americans

Patriot Act Unbound

by Prof. Marjorie Cohn

Global Research, March 12, 2007

Last year, Republican Senator Arlen Specter slipped a clause into the reauthorized USA Patriot Act that allows Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to appoint U.S. Attorneys without Senate confirmation. Gonzales took advantage of that crafty little provision to fire eight U.S. Attorneys who weren't goose-stepping to the Bush agenda and replace them with Bush loyalists. Denying any impropriety, Gonzales dismissed the significance of the mass ouster (seven federal prosecutors were asked to resign on the same day last December), calling it an "overblown personnel matter."

The Attorney General swore to the Senate Judiciary Committee in January that he "would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney for political reasons." But the evidence belies Gonzales' protestations.

Why did these prosecutors run afoul of the Bush gang?

David Iglesias from Albuquerque received an evaluation that said he was "respected by the judiciary, agencies and staff." But he didn't file a corruption case involving New Mexico Democrats before the 2006 election which would've embarrassed the Democrats. New Mexico Republican Senator Pete Domenici called Iglesias and asked whether charges were "going to be filed before the election." Iglesias said he felt "sick" after Domenici called him. "I felt leaned on, I felt pressured to get these matters moving." Iglesias also received a call from Republican Representative Heather Wilson, who was running neck-in-neck with a Democrat in a race where the corruption investigation was a campaign issue. Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse admitted Domenici's complaint to Gonzales about Iglesias was a factor in the prosecutor's removal.

Carol Lam, "an effective manager and respected leader" from San Diego, conducted an investigation of Republican Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham for taking over $2 million in bribes from defense contractors. It resulted in a guilty plea and an eight-plus year sentence. In February, Lam indicted Kyle Dustin Foggo, formerly the number 3 man at the CIA. If Lam were permitted to continue, she might have uncovered more official wrongdoing in defense-contracting. Lam was replaced by a member of the Federalist Society with almost no criminal law experience.

Bud Cummins, a "very competent and highly regarded" U.S. Attorney from Little Rock, Arkansas, was removed and replaced with J. Timothy Griffin, one of Karl Rove's key researchers. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty testified that Cummins had done nothing wrong to justify his removal. "I'm not aware of anything negative," he said. Cummins said a senior Justice Department official warned him that the fired U.S. Attorneys should keep quiet about "their" firings.

Daniel Bogden, a "highly regarded" and "capable leader" from Las Vegas, had opened an investigation into allegations that Nevada's Republican governor had accepted inappropriate gifts.

Paul Charlton, from Phoenix was "well respected" for his "integrity, professionalism and competence." He had undertaken an investigation of two Republican Arizona Representatives.

John McKay, "an effective, well-regarded and capable leader" from Seattle was called by a well-placed Republican, who inquired about whether McKay intended to convene a grand jury to examine claims of voter fraud in a close gubernatorial election, which was won by a Democrat. McKay also favored a computerized law enforcement information-sharing system that the Justice Department opposed.

These prosecutors were punished for doing their jobs too well. In the Bush administration, justice has become politicized. Democrats have been investigated by the Department of Justice seven times more frequently than Republicans.

On the defensive as a result of the U.S. Attorney firing scandal, the administration has engaged in damage control. It has agreed not to oppose legislation overriding the Specter Patriot Act loophole.

Another Patriot Act provision that has been misused by the Gonzales Justice Department authorizes the use of "national security letters." These are administrative subpoenas that enable the FBI to obtain our e-mails and telephone records, and travel and financial information without approval from a judge. An audit by the Inspector General concluded last week that the FBI has used this provision to illegally force businesses to turn over customer data, then lied to Congress about it.

The Bush gang has engaged in a pattern and practice of misconduct, including a war of aggression, torture and war crimes, and spying on Americans without warrants. Congress has begun to hold hearings and conduct investigations. As increasing evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors emerges, it is high time for the House of Representatives to undertake its constitutional duty to initiate impeachment proceedings.

Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, is president of the National Lawyers Guild, and the U.S. representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists. Her new book, Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law, will be published in July. See http://www.marjoriecohn.com/.

Global Research Articles by Marjorie Cohn

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Former Pakistan Intel Chief: US puts Pressure on Pakistan to Support a US Led Attack on Iran

Global Research, March 13, 2007

paktribune.co

US pressurizing Pak to get its support for attack on Iran:

ISLAMABAD: Former ISI Chief, Gen (retd) Hameed Gul has said that the Untied States is paving the way to use Pakistan's territory for its expected attack on Iran in order to shift the blame of its failure in Afghanistan to Pakistan.

Talking to a private TV Channel, Gen (retd) Hameed Gul said that NATO forces have intensified their activities on Pak-Afghan border as they are frustrated due to their failure in Afghanistan.

Former ISI Chief has said that US backed Karzai government has been completely failed in Afghanistan and the United States has now realized that they are now facing strong resistance from Taliban.

General (retd) Hamid Gul said that its an American policy to use different tactics to pressurize Pakistan and the main objective of recent visit of US Vice President Dick Cheney to pressurize Pakistan as US would need Pakistan's support and Balochistan land to attack Iran. He said that it may be the possibility that Pakistani government is refusing the United States to given permission to use its land.

Criticizing severely on the government, former ISI Chief said that Pakistan presently facing difficult time of its history due to weak politics of present government. Pakistan is a strong and nuclear capable country and has impregnable defence, he added.

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