Iraq war and occupationThat service is widely considered unreliable, and elements were described in July by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as "more dangerous than the militias." Reed says, "The prime minister said he wanted to get rid of the FPS as fast as possible," recalling his meeting with al-Maliki in Baghdad last summer. There are "bad elements" in FPS units that "are carrying out murders and kidnappings [and] attacking the infrastructure that they are supposedly protecting," Reed said in his trip report about what al-Maliki had told him. "Because of the FPS," he wrote, al-Maliki said that "some governmental ministries' guards are more dangerous than the militias." The FPS was formed in 2003 by order of Paul Bremer, then administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, to protect the 27 Iraqi ministries and their facilities throughout Iraq. Each minister, who generally represents one of Iraq's political parties, has his or her own FPS unit, whose armed members wear military uniforms. The Iraq Study Group described FPS members as having "questionable loyalties and capabilities." It quoted an unnamed senior US official as saying that they are "incompetent, dysfunctional and subversive," with some serving the manpower needs of sectarian party militias and death squads.
Middle East unrestAvnery remembers discussing the matter with a member of the Israeli Knesset on the way back from Arafat's funeral in 2004, when Avnery asked if the member, Jamal Zahalka, believed Arafat was murdered. Zahalka, a doctor of pharmacology, answered "Yes!" without hesitation, Avnery recalls. He admits that at the time he had no proof, merely a hunch based on "intuition, common sense and experience."
Antiwar protestsThe Times reports that Sparling spat "back" at the protester. Sparling, who had just taken part in a counterdemonstration, later says of the protesters, "These are not Americans as far as I'm concerned." Unfortunately, the Times fails to give any further details of the alleged incident, though, as the media watchdog site Media Matters notes, recalls "the apocryphal tales of Vietnam War veterans being spit on as they returned to the United States." (Media Matters notes an April 30, 2005 op-ed in the Boston Globe that none of the Vietnam-era stories of veterans being spat upon by protesters can be verified.) Sparling's story is being picked up and elaborated upon by right-wing commentators like Michelle Malkin and several bloggers. But, as Media Matters notes, the Times found no witnesses to the spitting incident; indeed, reporter Ian Urbina writes the article so ambiguously that it seems Urbina himself may be the witness, though the article does not state this as the case. And, even if the spitting incident did occur, it is still an open question whether the unidentified spitter meant to spit near Sparling's feet, or merely spit to clear his throat and got uncomfortably near Sparling. Urbina's next phrase, that Sparling "spit back," certainly implies intent and retaliation. But apparently, Urbina did not bother to find any further details. Neither did he discuss the alleged incident with the Capital police, who were closely monitoring the protest.
Iraq war and occupationAs a result, hundreds of thousands of National Guard and Reserve members previously mobilized for tours in Iraq and Afghanistan are one again exposed to involuntary call-up under Gates's policy change. These troops, and their families, believed that the rule protected them from being called up for duty a second time, though Brigadier General James Nuttall, deputy director of the Army National Guard, says, "The reality is that most soldiers, having served once in theater, knew that this was going to be a long war and that at some point we were going to have to come back to them. ...Sacrifices have to be made by these soldiers but the fact that we shortened the mobilization for them is a huge benefit." Nuttall is referring to Gates's decision to shorten second mobilizations to 12 months. He says that out of 350,000 Army National Guard members, roughly 270,000 have deployed since the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. (Montgomery Advertiser)
US nuclear programThe two-part series, by reporter Sam Roe, is based on an archive of the US's largely failed attempts to retrieve the uranium, provided by scientist Armando Travelli. The archive contains thousands of records and documents never before reviewed publicly. Roe also pored over congressional testimony, previously classified records, foreign and US research papers, and reports by government agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the report. He interviewed Travelli, who led the uranium retrieval effort for a quarter of a century, and also interviewed dozens of US and foreign scientists, nuclear reactor operators, and top energy officials in the US and in Russia.
Conservative smear campaignsIt notes the "fad among some conservatives to refer to [Obama] by his full name: Barack Hussein Obama. This would be merely juvenile if it weren't so contemptible." Rush Limbaugh has, as usual, sunk into the mire by twisting Obama's name into "Barack Hussein Odumbo." But mocking Obama's name is just the beginning. Insight magazine, as documented in above items, attempted to smear Obama by falsely accusing him of going to school at a radical Islamic madrassah in Indonesia, then further tried to link the smear to the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. Fox News eagerly leaped on the bandwagon and touted the story. The Post observes, "When the madrassa story was debunked by CNN and the Associated Press, Insight didn't even have the decency to slink away. Instead, the magazine, an offshoot of the Moonie-owned Washington Times, wrote, 'The media uproar over our reporting reveals a media establishment choosing not to ask the tough questions about Obama's Muslim past: If he was raised in a secular household (as he claims), why does he have -- or retain -- Muslim names, Barack and Hussein? ...Were his father and stepfather as secular as he says? What is the exact nature of Obama's current religious affiliation and what are the beliefs and teachings of his current church in Chicago, the Trinity United Church of Christ?' Mr. Obama's slimers seem to think such name-calling and Muslim-baiting can score points with the American people. On the contrary, Mr. Obama's multicultural background (his father was Kenyan, and he spent several years living in Indonesia with his mother and stepfather) ought to be viewed as a plus. A president with an understanding of Islam and the developing world would be welcomed by those who too often feel misunderstood and slighted by the United States."
Iraq war and occupationGates not only wants to drastically speed up the deployment of the 21,500 troops to Iraq, but earlier in the week said that if things went well in Iraq, the US might not even need to deploy all 21,500 alloted troops. Gates and outgoing US commander General George Casey even said that troops could start coming home as early as the summer of 2007. Veteran foreign policy reporter William Arkin writes, "Regardless of politics and the Washington talk show, we are supposed to have confidence in this well thought out plan for Iraq when the Secretary is already making adjustments and changes? Of the speeded-up deployment, Arkin writes, "Let's see: We are in the fight of our lives, where failure isn't an option, and yet the prime architect of the new, new strategy is already admitting that he made a mistake in the design." He is also contradicting the incoming supreme commander of US forces in the region, Lieutenant General David Petraeus, who recently told the Senate that he needs all the troops he can get. Gates said in response, "As long as he [Petraeus] feels he needs them, they're all going to flow" to Iraq. Arkin writes, "That's definitive, as long, that is, as nothing different happens next week to change his mind."
War with IranThe resistance threatens to open a new rift between Europe and the United States over Iran. The administration is trying to reduce exports to Iran and cut off its financial transactions in order to continue isolating the nation. Preliminary reports indicate that the global pressure on Iran is damaging its oil production and hurting its economy. The pressure may also be contributing to the rising political dissent within Iran. At issue now is how the resolution is to be carried out, with Europeans resisting American appeals for quick action, citing technical and political problems related to the heavy European economic ties to Iran and its oil industry. "We are telling the Europeans that they need to go way beyond what they've done to maximize pressure on Iran," says a senior administration official. "The European response on the economic side has been pretty weak." The main targets are Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and Britain, all with extensive business dealings with Iran, particularly in energy. Administration officials say that Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, the current head of the European Union, has been responsive. Europe has more commercial and economic ties with Iran than does the United States, which severed relations with Iran after the revolution and seizure of hostages in 1979.
Lewis Libby perjury trialAccording to Fleischer, Libby told him about Valerie Plame Wilson's job at the CIA over lunch on July 7, 2003, three days before Libby says he learned of Plame's identity. Libby has told FBI investigators and a grand jury that he first learned about Plame on July 10 or 11 from NBC's Tim Russert. Fleischer, testifying under an immunity agreement, insists he believed the information was not classified, though this is hard to countenance, considering Plame's extremely covert classification, her senior position with the Joint Iraqi Task Force, and Fleischer's testimony that Libby told him of Plame's position in the CIA's Counterproliferation Division. Fleischer also testifies that Libby told him during that July 7 lunch that Wilson was sent to Africa by Plame, which is untrue. Libby told Fleischer "something on the lines of 'This is hush-hush. This is on the QT. Not very many people know about this,'" Fleischer tells the jury. Fleischer says Libby's disclosure about Wilson's wife was "new to me." He says he thought the point of bringing up Wilson's wife was "nepotism at the CIA."
Prewar intelligence on IraqNot unexpectedly, Drumheller refuses to talk about a number of issues because of security and confidentiality agreements, but he is quite forthcoming for the questions he is able to answer.
Oil profiteering and the "oiligarchy"Shell insists that it has yet to decide whether to finalize the deal. Shell's arch-rival, BP, has declared it will not invest in Iranian oil or gas. The United Nations has imposed limited sanctions on Iran to stop it enriching uranium and Washington is pushing for harsher sanctions against a program it believes is aimed at building an atom bomb, an accusation tehran rejects. Washington has increased pressure on non-US companies in the past year not to invest in Iran and some analysts believe it could be hard for oil companies to maintain operations in both Iran and the United States, where Shell and its Spanish partner Repsol both have fields. Oil analysts Fadel Gheit says Shell is right to proceed in Iran: "This is very positive for the company because those that get in at an early stage will be rewarded. They are clearly willing to ignore Bush because he is coming to the end of his presidency and when he goes everything could change." (Guardian)
Dick CheneyCheney's rigid obduracy can be seen as almost pathological. Of Iraq's Nouri al-Maliki, proven unreliable and far more willing to participate in the extermination of his Sunni rivals than willing to cooperate in building a representative democracy, Cheney says simply, "At this stage, we don't have any reason to doubt him." Of Iran, he seems comfortable with the idea of beginning a potentially horrific and calamitous military confrontation with that country, justifying such an invasion by saying, "A lot of people in the area -- I don't want to attribute this to any one particular government -- but a lot of people in the area feel directly threatened. ...Most of the nations in that part of the world believe their security is supported, if you will, by the United States. They want us to have a major presence there. When we—as the president did, for example, recently -- deploy another aircraft-carrier task force to the gulf, that sends a very strong signal to everybody in the region that the United States is here to stay, that we clearly have significant capabilities and that we are working with friends and allies as well as the international organizations to deal with the Iranian threat."
Terrorism detainees and "enemy combatants"In a radio interview in mid-January, Stimson stated the names of a dozen law firms that volunteer their services to represent detainees, and suggested that the CEOs of the firms' corporate clients should make the lawyers "choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms." Instead of generating a wave of criticism against the lawyers, as he says he intended, Stimson himself has become a target for criticism, forcing Stimson first to apologize for his remarks and later triggering his resignation. The episode has escalated the level of public support for the legal rights of the detainees, nearly 400 of whom just marked the start of their sixth year of incarceration at the base.
Conservative smear campaignsMorris, who himself calls the Insight accusation against Obama "inaccurate," gives no substantiation for his assertion beyond his own "belie[f]." The smear against Clinton's campaign remains, in the words of ABC News, "unproven and unsubstantiated." Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said of the smear, "We have no connection to this story." Similarly, Obama strategist David Axelrod said he did not "believe...for a second" the allegation that Clinton's camp was behind the story. As documented in several items above, the story originated, not with the Clinton campaign, but with writers at Insight, a Web-based news magazine published by the conservative Washington Times. The article gave no information as to the authenticity of the charge except to cite anonymous sources.
Conservative hate speech and intoleranceA legitimate reaction, one supposes, though one could be forgiven for having trouble believing that Gallagher became physically ill at the sight of Jane Fonda, or anyone else. But what is noteworthy is Gallagher's recommendation for keeping Fonda and her ilk from being heard. "Unless we speak out against the Jane Fondas and Tim Robbins and Sean 'Spiccoli' Penn[s] of the world, we will deserve them," Gallagher writes. "Until we drown their pitiful, leftist voices out with shouts of patriotism and support, this will be our fault." And how to do this? "[I]t will take another terror attack on American soil in order to render these left-leaning crazies irrelevant again. Remember how quiet they were after 9/11? No one dared take them seriously. It was the United States against the terrorist world, just like it should be." So, is Gallagher recommending that terrorists conduct another horrific attack against the US in order to shut the antiwar activists up? (Mike Gallagher)