Iraq war and occupationSunni Muslims are incensed at the brutality of Ibrahim's death. A government video of the hangings shows Ibrahim's head being sliced off by the hanging rope, falling to the floor, and rolling several yards before coming to a stop, still covered in a black hood. The decapitation appears inadvertent, and Iraqi officials are anxious to dodge accusations that they mutilated Ibrahim's remains. Ibrahim and al-Bandar were both convicted of war crimes related to the killing of 148 Shi'ites in Dujail, north of Baghdad, in 1982, following a failed assassination attempt against Hussein. Ibrahim, Hussein's half-brother, once ran the feared Iraqi intelligence service, the Mukhabarat. At least 3,000 angry, weeping Sunnis gather to witness the burials of the two men in the small town of Ouja, near Tikrit, very near Hussein's burial site. "Where are those who cry out in demands for human rights?" demands one mourner. "Where are the UN and the world's human rights organizations? Barzan had cancer. They treated him only to keep him alive long enough to kill him. We vow to take revenge, even if it takes years." Ibrahim's son-in-law, Azzam Saleh Abdullah, says, "We heard the news from the media. We were supposed to be informed a day earlier, but it seems that this government does not know the rules." Abdullah says the executions reflect what he calls the Shi'ite-led government's hatred of Sunnis. "They still want more Iraqi bloodshed," he says. "To hell with this democracy."
Bush's foreign policiesThe Israeli government is openly advertising for bids on the construction of 44 homes in the largest Jewish settlement in the West Bank, a direct violation of pledges by Israel to Washington to halt construction under the "road map." Palestinian militants regularly fire rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel, breaking their own agreement with Washington. Now the White House has announced that Rice will host a three-way meeting with Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas within the next month. Olmert broke his own promise to Abbas, made in December, to ease restrictions at security checkpoints in the West Bank. And Abbas has made it clear to Rice that he rejects a proposal to establish a temporary Palestinian state within temporary borders, fearing that Israel's security wall would become a de facto frontier if permanent status negotiations fail. And Abbas's leadership is in serious question, with factional disputes between Abbas's Fatah and the more revolutionary Hamas threatening to erupt into a civil war. Both Israel and the US want to shore up support for Abbas and weaken Hamas, whose electoral victory last year halted Western funding for the Palestinian territories because of its refusal to recognise the Jewish state. (London Times)
Bush's foreign policiesWhile there, Rice never mentions the concept of democracy except in the most broad and general terms, and never complains about Egypt's horrendous human rights violations of its citizens. For the last few days, Egyptian newspapers have been rife with stories of civilians beaten, tortured, raped, sodomized, and killed for daring to speak out against the government of Hosni Mubarak. Rice mentioned none of this in her meetings with Mubarak and with Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. Instead, she praised Egypt for supporting American aims in the Middle East. According to Egyptian political commentators, aides, and human rights advocates, it is clear that Rice and the US have decided that stability, not democracy, is its priority. Egypt had in earlier years come under some polite criticism from the Bush administration for its horrific human rights policies, even as the CIA routinely ships suspected terrorists to Egypt for torture and interrogation. "The former pressure was an illusion and the lack of any pressure now will push the crisis between the people and their rulers to the edge," says Ibrahim Eissa, the editor of Al Dustoor, a weekly independent newspaper in Egypt that is critical of the government. That eliminates "all false appearances that the Arab regimes are against the United States in defense of their independent sovereignty and that the United States is supporting democracy when it is in strict alliance with the oppressive regimes," says Eissa. (New York Times)
"In all fairness, I see Condoleezza Rice -- she goes on a plane, she gets off a plane, she waves, she goes there to meet some dictator. ...They talk, she leaves, she waves, the plane takes off. Nothing happens, it's a joke, nothing ever happens." -- Donald Trump on Condoleezza Rice and her lack of effectiveness as Secretary of State, January 14
Iraq war and occupation"Iraq is like a fire," says Mohammed Bashar Faidi. "Instead of putting water on the fire, Bush is pouring gasoline." The MSA represents thousands of Sunni clerics throughout Iraq, and though it reflects some of the aims of the Sunni insurgents, also represents the views of a significant segment of the Sunni Arab population, which has largely turned to Islamic political ideologies since the downfall of the secular Arab nationalism represented by Saddam Hussein's regime.
Iraq war and occupationIt took three decades for peace to "break out" in Northern Ireland. The Russians are still mired in conflict in Chechnya over ten years after rebellion first broke out there. And, Coll notes, "these are examples involving the sovereign territory of the occupying army, not some distant land conquered by an expeditionary force." Though the stabilization of Bosnia by NATO is cited as a recent success, that happened largely because all the warring factions had agreed to renounce violence before the occupying forces arrived, and NATO forces were much larger in comparison to the size of the local population than US forces are in comparison to the Iraqi citizenry. Coll writes, "By none of the common measures of counterinsurgency doctrine -- ratios of force size, the strength of local political agreements, or the credibility of the occupying army -- does the President's plan look convincing."
Islamist terrorism"Certainly, we haven't made any progress," Crumpton says. "In fact, we've lost ground." Crumpton cites the war in Iraq as the biggest cause for the rise in resentment and aggression against the US. Crumpton notes some successes, such as improved joint efforts with foreign governments and a weakening of al-Qaeda's leadership structure, but he warns of future attacks. "We don't want to acknowledge we're going to get hit again in the homeland, but we are," he says. "That's a hard, ugly fact. But it's going to happen." Crumpton cites no specific intelligence, but says he and his agency worries most about lone operatives who slip into the country and take directions through cyberspace. "How do you penetrate that?" he asks. Crumpton says he is leaving office because of family financial pressures; State may not move to replace him for the time being. (MSNBC)
Iraq war and occupationAccording to Huffington's analysis, the "triumphalists" are Bush and his most loyal followers. She writes, "They are convinced that saying something is so can somehow make it so, and that any acknowledgment of reality is defeatist, cowardly, and un-American. The use of rah-rah pep-talk nonsense is at the heart of the triumphalists' playbook. The president has told us again and again...that he believes we can succeed in Iraq. Despite all evidence to the contrary, and despite the fact that all he's offering are the same failed strategies. He -- like all other triumphalists -- has clearly abandoned concrete thinking and moved on to the political equivalent of clapping your hands for Tinkerbell. ...Yes, Bush is finally admitting mistakes. But only because, politically, he realizes he has to if he's going to be allowed to continue making more mistakes. And even then, his admissions are strangely detached, like when he told 60 Minutes [on January 14]: "No question, decisions have made things unstable." And who, pray, made those decisions? Wasn't it the Decider? The rest of the triumphalists are in lockstep with their triumphal leader. "I believe that the war is still winnable," Sen. John McCain told the American Enterprise Institute. Boolah-boolah." As for triumphalist Dick Cheney, his plan for victory is simply: "We have to prevail, and we have to have the stomach for the fight, long term." Huffington writes, "So the plan to prevail is to... prevail? Gotcha." Huffington adds independent Democratic senator Joe Lieberman, who she terms a "de facto Republican," who himself told the neoconservatives at the AEI, "Senator McCain has shown the way to forge and advance a new strategy that will lead us to victory in Iraq and to victory in a larger war against terrorism." For sheer boneheaded simple-mindedness, no one can beat Lieberman's January 14 assertion on Meet the Press: "My own sense of history tells me that in war, ultimately, there are two exit strategies. One is called victory; the other is called defeat." Huffingto has no patience with such claptrap: "It's shameful that this is the level of thinking that's sending American men and women into harm's way."
Conservative hate speech and intoleranceO'Reilly says to guest Greta van Susteren, a Fox legal analyst, "You know the Stockholm syndrome thing, I don't buy it, I never bought it, I don't think it happened in the Patty Hearst Case. I don't think it happened here...." Van Susteren tries to head off O'Reilly, but O'Reilly has a head of steam up. Apparently, from his commentary, which is not fully reprinted here but available at the links below, his prime evidence of Hornbeck's complicity in his own kidnapping is Hornbeck's several body piercings. "Authorities actually say that he taunted his own parents on his website," O'Reilly says, an allegation that is not established. "He's got these piercing. This is a troubled kid in my opinion." Again, van Susteren tries to interject some sanity into the discussion, but O'Reilly isn't having any. "The situation here with this kid is looks to me to be a lot more fun then when he had under his own parents. He didn't have to go to school, he could run around and do what he wanted." Van Susteren again interjects, "Some kids like school --" but O'Reilly, thundering in his slander and his ignorance, says without basis of fact, "Well I don't believe this kid did. And I think when it all comes down what's going to happen is there was an element here that this kid liked about his circumstances. ...The situation here for this kid looks to me to be a lot more fun than what he had under his old parents. He didn't have to go to school. He could run around and do whatever he wanted." On the January 16 broadcast of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly added, "I hope he did not make a conscious decision to accept his captivity because" his kidnapper "made things easy for him. No school, play all day long."
Conservative hate speech and intoleranceMany come in faux gang apparel. One photo, posted on a Facebook account, shows students mocking African-American step shows. Another shows a student wearing an Aunt Jemima costume and carrying a gun. "I feel like there is no excuse for this type of ignorance," says Donald Ray Elder, president of the TSU chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). "That upsets me," Elder says of the photo of the student carrying a gun. "That's someone who knows nothing about Dr. King, because Dr. King was totally about nonviolence." The school plans to investigate the party. A university-sponsored forum held to discuss the divide between black and white students, held after the party, "escalated into a shouting match," says Elder. The university president, Dennis McCabe, calls the photos reprehensible: "I am personally insulted by these photographs and am disappointed that Tarleton students have demonstrated such insensitivity." (AP/My Way News)
Iraq war and occupationThe level of frustration in Congress is mounting. The last NIE on Iraq was released in late 2004. During a closed-door session of the Senate Armed Services Committee, when senators are prepared to hear briefings on the new NIE from an intelligence official, senators are thunderstruck when the official turns up empty-handed. The official tells the senators that the intelligence community hadn't been able to complete the NIE because it had been dealing with the many demands placed upon it by the Bush Administration to help prepare the new military strategy on Iraq. He then said that not all of the relevant agencies had contributed to the NIE, which has made it impossible to put together a finished product. Together all of this makes up what reporter Ken Silverstein calls a "dog ate my homework" alibi. Both Democrats and Republicans on the committee believe that Negroponte is stalling on the completion of the NIE because it will likely be grim to a degree unmatched by any of its predecessors. Silverstein writes, "Given the Bush Administration's 'surge' policy and the extraordinary danger faced by US troops in Iraq (27 U.S. servicemembers died there this weekend), the need for a new NIE is urgent. The intelligence community is doing the nation a disservice by making Congress wait for the truth." (Harpers)
Middle East peace processA formal peace agreement will be signed between the two countries once both sides fulfill their commitments to one another. Israel agrees to withdraw from the Golan Heights to the lines of June 4, 1967. The timetable for the withdrawal remains open: Syria wants the pullout be carried out over a five-year period, while Israel wants the withdrawal to be spread out over 15 years. The border area will be demilitarized in Israel's favor, helping to ensure Israel's security. And perhaps most importantly, Syria will agree to end its support for both Hezbollah and Hamas, and will distance itself from Iran. The document is described as a "non-paper," a document of understandings that is not signed and lacks legal standing -- its nature is political. It was prepared in August 2005 and has been updated during a number of meetings in Europe. The meetings were carried out with the knowledge of senior officials in the government of former prime minister Ariel Sharon. The last meeting took place during last summer's war in Lebanon. The Syrians have asked for help in improving their relations with the United States, and particularly in lifting the American embargo on Syria. In return, Syria would exercise its influence for a solution to the conflict in Iraq, through an agreement between Shi'a leader Moqtada al-Sadr and the Sunni leadership, and in addition, would contribute to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the refugee problem. The Israeli government has officially denied, thus far, that any such agreement exists.
Military-industrial complexOne case cited by investigators involves a Pakistani arms broker who had been convicted of exporting US missile parts to Iran, and who resumed his business after his release from prison. He was soon ferrying Chinook helicopter engine parts to Iran from a US company that bought them at a Pentagon surplus sale. These "surplus sales" often prove bonanzas to arms dealers. "Right Item, Right Time, Right Place, Right Price, Every Time. Best Value Solutions for America's Warfighters," the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service says on its Web site, calling itself "the place to obtain original US Government surplus property." Although such material is supposed to be demilitarized, too often it is not. Iran is particularly interested in parts for its aging fleet of F-14 "Tomcat" fighters purchased from the US in the 1970s. In another case, convicted middlemen for Iran bought Tomcat parts from the Defense Department's surplus division. Customs agents confiscated them and returned them to the Pentagon, which sold them again -- customs evidence tags still attached -- to another buyer, a suspected broker for Iran. With the recent retirement of the F-14 from the US military, thousands of valuable parts are headed for the surplus bins. Iran is the only other nation flying F-14s.
Military-industrial complexThe vote comes five days after Democrats won a compromise victory to pass legislation bringing more transparency and disclosure to the practice of "earmarks," riders tucked into legislation that provide funding for various pet projects for individual lawmakers. The Senate agreed to follow the more stringent definition of "earmarks" as recently passed by the House. In a turnabout, Democrats found themselves challenged by Republicans to expand and broaden the definition of "earmarks." The concept of "earmarks" became notorious after former GOP House member Randy Cunningham, convicted of fraud, bribery, and corruption, used his position to gain some $70 to $80 million in "earmarks" that helped his friends and business colleagues. (AP/WVEC-TV)
Jack Abramoff scandalThe groups say that proposed restrictions and regulation of what they call "grassroots lobbying" would put heavy burdens on citizen groups wanting to lobby Congress. They worry that the section in question defines a constituent contacting a lawmaker as "grassroots lobbying." Of course, their idea of "grassroots lobbying" centers around money-flush, well-connected K Street lobbyists. The National Right to Life Committee says, in an e-mail to its supporters, that the purpose of the ethics bill is an attempt to curtail freedom of speech, targeting groups such as the NRLC and Focus on the Family. The American Family Association claims, "Senators favoring this bill are simply tired of hearing from you. That is the bottom line. They don't want to hear from you. They don't want you to be informed. They want to silence you. How? By simply keeping you from receiving information that AFA provides." Former Abramoff colleague Grover Norquist, who runs the influential and corrupt Americans for Tax Relief, has joined the Christian conservatives in opposing the ethics legislation. Abramoff was proven, in his criminal trial, of using such "grassroots lobbying" of illegally funneling millions of dollars to ATR and other conservative organizations. ATR served as a conduit for funds that flowed from Abramoff's clients to surreptitiously finance grass-roots lobbying campaigns. As the money passed through, Norquist's organization kept a cut. A second group Norquist was involved with, the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, received about $500,000 in Abramoff client funds; the council's president has told Senate investigators that Abramoff often asked her to lobby a senior Interior Department official on his behalf. The committee report said the Justice Department should further investigate the organization's dealings with the department and its former deputy secretary, Steven Griles. (Seattle Times)
Conservative smear campaignsIn one of the most overtly racist pronouncements of her despicable career, conservative pundit Ann Coulter says, in an interview on Sean Hannity's syndicated radio show, that the only reason Democrats support the presidential candidacy of Senator Barack Obama is because "they're just stunned to find a black man who can walk and talk." (Of course, she says that it is Democrats who are the real racists, not herself.) Coulter tells Hannity, "When Gerald Ford died a few weeks ago, all of the coverage kept saying, you know, coyly suggesting that he was a mediocrity, that he had never passed any major legislation, never passed any major legislation -- which, you know, on one hand, we're Republicans; we don't want them passing legislation, we want them repealing legislation -- but leaving that point aside, I mean, everything they were saying to point out how little qualified Ford was as this accidental president is surely true, you know, tenfold in the case of Obama. And I do think it does show -- it further confirms my point that Democrats are racist, and they're just stunned to find a black man who can walk and talk. And, you know, not being a racist, I'm not really that impressed with a black man who can walk and talk. I knew that." (MediaMatters)
Conservative media slantTancredo is a virulent opponent of immigration and is basing his presidential platform on that agenda. Fox and Friends hosts Brian Kilmeade, Steve Doocy, and Gretchen Carlson often indulge in the same kinds of attacks on immigrants. "Thanks for picking our venue," Kilmeade simpers; Doocy then prompts Tancredo to speak about his need to raise money and give out his Web site address. Carlson leads the news break with the announcement of Tancredo's intention to run for president; within moments, Doocy makes the celebratory announcement that he has just received an e-mail from a viewer who sent Tancredo a $100 donation. (Democrat Barack Obama also announces the same morning that he intends to run for president; the Fox hosts make no mention of this event.) The slobbering, cheerleading treatment of Tancredo takes place minutes after the show features Fox talk show host Bill O'Reilly, who attacks NBC as a "left-leaning" network and then holds up Fox as "fair and balanced." "This is the only place you can get it fair and balanced," says Doocy; "We try and other places don't," responds O'Reilly. (Fox News/NewsHounds [link to video])
Iraq war and occupation"Iran will be attacked. And it will be a disaster," he writes. "It may also be that the famous 'surge' is actually in preparation for Iran rather than Iraq." Williams calls it "deja vu all over again. In the run up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the steady drum beat from the NeoCons and quasi-Likudnik Israel supporters, and the statements from the Bush administration showed that they were intent on doing it. And of course there was the matter of military resources being diverted away from Afghanistan towards Iraq. ...History shows that George W. Bush, executioner in chief of Texas, does not need a long rope to lose his head. And now he supports continuing the war in Iraq from the safety of the White House and even when he is on his frequent vacations in his ranch in Texas. He is not going to give up on this war, no matter how many people die to exorcise whatever deep personal 'Rosebud' the Deserter-in-Chief has impelling him forward to match his father's genuine war record."