War with IranPlesch's sources are British military officials who tell him, "the US military switched its whole focus to Iran" as soon as Saddam Hussein was kicked out of Baghdad. It continued this strategy, even though it had American infantry bogged down in fighting the insurgency in Iraq. The planning envisions the destruction of virtually all of Iran's military infrastructure in one massive blitzkrieg. The plans, for what the military calls "Operation Iranian Freedom," involve the US Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force, and have been in the works for four years. Bases have been built, including three large bases in Azerbaijan, troops and equipment have been emplaced, and incoming CENTCOM head Admiral James Fallon has inherited computerized plans under the name TIRANNT (Theatre Iran Near Term). A day after Plesch's report, the BBC concurs, reporting, "[D]iplomatic sources have told the BBC that...senior officials at Central Command in Florida have already selected their target sets inside Iran. That list includes Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. Facilities at Isfahan, Arak and Bushehr are also on the target list, the sources say. BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says the trigger for such an attack reportedly includes any confirmation that Iran was developing a nuclear weapon -- which it denies. Alternatively, our correspondent adds, a high-casualty attack on US forces in neighboring Iraq could also trigger a bombing campaign if it were traced directly back to Tehran."
Attack on civil libertiesThe provision weakens two key bulwarks of American liberty: posse comitatus and the Insurrection Act of 1807. Posse comitatus is a law passed in the aftermath of the Civil War that prohibits the use of the US military in domestic situations except in extreme situations. The Insurrection Act provides the few exceptions to posse comitatus, and limits the president's use of the military in law enforcement to putting down lawlessness, insurrection and rebellion, where a state is violating federal law or depriving people of constitutional rights. But the new provision upsets this balance, giving the president the ability to use the military as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or to any "other condition." In essence, the law gives Bush the ability to deploy the military inside the US for any reason he chooses.
George W. Bush"Today, we're fighting a new war to defend our liberty and our people and our way of life," says Bush during a speech at Washington's home in Mount Vernon. "And as we work to advance the cause of freedom around the world, we remember that the father of our country believed that the freedoms we secured in our revolution were not meant for Americans alone." He calls Washington "the first George W," makes a few jokes at Washington's expense -- "[h]e doesn't look a day over 275 years old" -- and then continues with the comparisons. (Washington Post)
Lewis Libby perjury trialThe New York Times observes, "The trial against Mr. Libby has centered on a narrow case of perjury, with days of sparring between the defense and prosecution lawyers over the numbing details of three-year-old conversations between White House officials and journalists. But a close reading of the testimony and evidence in the case is more revelatory, bringing into bolder relief a portrait of a vice president with free rein to operate inside the White House as he saw fit in order to debunk the charges of a critic of the war in Iraq. The evidence in the trial shows Vice President Dick Cheney and Mr. Libby, his former chief of staff, countermanding and even occasionally misleading colleagues at the highest levels of Mr. Bush's inner circle as the two pursued their own goal of clearing the vice president's name in connection with flawed intelligence used in the case for war." The article continues, "While others on the White House team were primarily concerned about Mr. Bush, the evidence has shown that Mr. Libby had a more acute concern about his own boss. Unbeknownst to their colleagues, according to testimony, the two carried out a covert public relations campaign to defend not only the case for war but also Mr. Cheney's connection to the flawed intelligence. In doing so, they used some of the most sensitive and classified intelligence data available, information others on Mr. Bush's team was not yet prepared to put to use in a public fight against a war critic."
"Now in 2007, the Bush administration is accusing Iran of interfering in Iraq. When Saddam was in power, [Iran and Iraq] were natural enemies, but now the US has invaded and is accusing Iran of becoming overly powerful in Iraq, when it had been a natural enemy before the US invasion. That seems tragically ironic." -- Buzzflash, in an interview with historian and author Barry Lando, February 20
Walter Reed scandal(See the February 18 item above.) That building was the focus of the report by reporters Dana Priest and Anne Hull. The facility's commander, Major General George Weightman, says that after the report was published, Army staff members inspected each of the 54 rooms at the building and discovered that outstanding repair orders for half the rooms had not been completed. He says that mold removal has begun on several rooms and that holes in ceilings, stained carpets and leaking faucets are being fixed. Weightman adds that a broken elevator in the building had been repaired and soldiers are working to improve the outside of the building, including removing ice and snow. The slippery conditions have kept some soldiers, with limited mobility due to their wounds, in their rooms. A garage door that has been broken for months will soon be repaired as well.
Walter Reed scandalApparently, while Wagner was steering families of wounded veterans towards private donors who would help them feed their children, pay their bills, or find lodging near their wounded family members, he was also seeking funders and soliciting donations for his own new charity based in Texas. Many families say Wagner was callous towards them, and impeded their efforts to receive assistance. A lawyer for the commander of Reed, Major General George Weightman, says that "it would clearly be a conflict of interest," prohibited by federal law, Army regulations and Defense Department ethics rules if Wagner used his position to solicit funds for his own organization. Wagner resigned last month to work full time on his own charity, the Military, Veteran and Family Assistance Foundation, based in Dallas. The foundation includes the Phoenix Project, which runs marriage retreats for soldiers returning from combat. According to its Web site, the foundation is supported by several corporations, other foundations and individuals.
US intelligenceHe is a career intelligence officer who once headed the National Security Agency. Many current and former intelligence officials believe that Negroponte was eased out because of long-running conflicts with Dick Cheney and his office, and McConnell will be a far more amenable and compliant fit for Cheney. These officials also believe that with McConnell at the helm of the nation's intelligence, the administration will have an ally in its attempts to intensify its belligerence towards Iran and escalate its domestic surveillance program. Negroponte was never fully on board with either stance, the officials say. "McConnell will go along with whatever [Cheney tells him to do] and make sure that no objective NIE [on Iran] comes out," says one former senior intelligence officer. Vincent Cannistraro, the former chief of counterterrorism under the elder Bush, calls McConnell's selection "a disaster." And former CIA officer Larry Johnson says, "McConnell's not an effective manager. He will be likely to acquiesce to White House pressure on issues. ...He doesn't have a clear vision. He's not a strong manager."
Lewis Libby perjury trialProsecutor Patrick Fitzgerald implies during his arguments that he may be considering a further investigation of Dick Cheney. In his closing arguments, "[T]here is a cloud over the vice president...a cloud over the White House over what happened. We didn't put that cloud there. That cloud's there because the defendant obstructed justice. That cloud is something you just can't pretend isn't there." He also notes that Libby discussed the leak investigation with Cheney even after being instructed by the FBI not to talk about it with anyone. Libby is "not supposed to be talking to other people," Fitzgerald says. But "the only person [Libby] told is the vice president. Think about that." Fitzgerald also excoriates Bush for failing to uphold a promise to fire anyone in his administration that was found to have been involved in the Plame leak.
Lewis Libby perjury trialOn June 20, 2002, then-Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham, received a telephone call at home from Cheney. Cheney angrily recounted a news article in the morning paper that said telephone calls intercepted by the National Security Agency on September 10, 2001, apparently warned that al-Qaeda was about to launch a major attack against the United States, possibly the next day. But the intercepts were not translated until September 12, 2001, the story said, the day after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The story itself was bad enough, but Cheney was doubly angry about the leak of the highly classified information from the NSA intercepts. Cheney warned Graham that the White House was considering ending all cooperation with the joint inquiry by the Senate and House Intelligence committees on the government's failure to predict and prevent the 9/11 attacks. Classified records would no longer be turned over to the Hill, Cheney snarled, and administration witnesses would not be available for interviews or testimony. Cheney, according to Graham, also threatened Graham, saying that if the leaders of Congress's various intelligence committees didn't take serious action to find out who leaked the NSA intercept information, and made sure no such leak ever happened again, Bush would directly make the case to the American people that Congress could not be trusted with vital national security secrets. "Take control of the situation," Graham recalls Cheney instructing him. Graham told Cheney that he, too, was frustrated over the leaks. But his attempt to calm Cheney down was unsuccessful.
Congressional DemocratsThose two interest groups, says Schumer, are "theocrats and economic royalists." Schumer says that America's founders did not want religion determining what their government does, and neither does he. "I respect faith -- I'm a person of faith myself," he says. "I've been in too many inner-city black churches, working-class Catholic parishes, rural Methodist congregations, little Jewish synagogues to not know that faith is a gift -- it's a gift. But the theocrats are a narrow band of the faithful who want to impose that faith on American government." Schumer goes on to say that the Republicans' "economic royalists" are people of enormous wealth who do not think they should have to pay taxes. "I bought those 10,000 acres with my money; it's my land," he says, demonstrating what he sees as the attitude of an economic royalist. "How dare your government tell me what I can put in the air or put in the water. ...I built my company with my own bare hands; how dare your government tell me what I should pay my worker, how I should treat my worker -- and if I want to discriminate against blacks or women or gays, that's my business. Get your government out of my way." He says the GOP has, over the last 35 years and with the aid of conservative think tanks and talk radio, has had a philosophy centered "around narrow greed." (One News Now)
Iraq war and occupation"We are paying a very heavy price for the mismanagement -- that's the kindest word I can give you -- of Donald Rumsfeld, of this war," McCain tells a crowd of rich retirees in Hilton Head, South Carolina. "The price is very, very heavy and I regret it enormously." McCain says that Rumsfeld consistently refused to put enough troops into Iraq to get the job done. "I think that Donald Rumsfeld will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history," he says. In November, when Rumsfeld stepped down, McCain sounded a much different note: "While Secretary Rumsfeld and I have had our differences, he deserves Americans' respect and gratitude for his many years of public service."
Iraq war and occupationSome 1,500 British troops will return home in the next few weeks, and by the end of the year, Blair plans on withdrawing a total of 3,000, if the security situation in that country permits. Currently Britain has about 7,100 troops in Iraq, mostly in the southern part of the country.
Walter Reed scandalOn PBS's NewsHour, Kiley says, "But, remember, more than half the rooms were actually perfectly OK. And those that are problems like mold, there were only about seven of them that had that. The mice and cockroach issue was something that, in fact, the command did address last year, and that was due to soldiers leaving food in their rooms. We policed that up, and the rodent problem and cockroach problem has been corrected." Setting aside the fact that Kiley is lying about the Army's approach to "solving" the endemic problems at Reed, for the Army Surgeon General to blame the troops for the abysmal living conditions they are forced to endure goes beyond reprehensible.
Islamist terrorismBut Bush officials have said in recent days that al-Qaeda's leadership has been reduced to little more than symbols, and Bush said just before the November 2006 elections, "Al-Qaeda is on the run." They ask the obvious question: "Which is it, then, a hounded, faltering al-Qaeda or an enemy that has regrouped and become a greater threat than ever? The answer is crucial not only for national security but for America's open society."
Plame outingReporter James Gordon Meek reminds readers, "Any staffer proven to have leaked CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity 'would no longer be in this administration,' former White House spokesman Scott McClellan promised in September 2003. But three years later, President Bush hasn't sacked anyone, even though the perjury trial of Lewis (Scooter) Libby -- which resumes today -- shows at least 10 other top officials blabbed about the spy whose job as a covert agent was classified as an official government secret." Those ten officials -- not including Libby -- are, as Meek reports:
Walter Reed scandalHe writes, in part, "There's a great deal more to supporting our troops than sticking a $2 yellow ribbon magnet made in China on your SUV. There's a great deal more to it than making 'Support Our Troops' a phrase that every politician feels obliged to utter in every speech, no matter how banal the topic or craven the purpose. This week, we were treated to new revelations of just how fraudulent and shallow and meaningless 'Support Our Troops' is on the lips of those in charge of spending the half a trillion dollars of taxpayer's money that the Pentagon eats every year." Galloway decries the military's practice of forcing wounded veterans to be "warehoused in quarters unfit for human habitation...living in rat and roach-infested rooms, some of which are coated in black mold." Galloway asks, "Who among the smiling politicians who regularly troop over to the main hospital at Walter Reed for photo-op visits with those who've come home grievously wounded from the wars the politicians started have bothered to go the extra quarter-mile to see the unseen majority with their rats and roaches? Not one, it would seem, since none among them have admitted to knowing that there was a problem, much less doing something about it before the reporters blew the whistle."