United States News Digest
Biden Asks Rice If Bolton Lied
Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del), the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on July 27, asking whether John Bolton had testified to a grand jury about the leak of Valerie Plame's identity as a covert CIA operative. Bolton had stated on a questionnaire for his confirmation hearing as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, that he had not been interviewed in any investigations during the past five years. MSNBC has reported that Bolton was among the State Department officials who "gave testimony" about the Department's classified memo concerning former Ambassador Joe Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame Wilson that circulated on Air Force One in July of 2003.
"I write to request that you or the nominee inform the committee whether Mr. Bolton did, in fact, appear before the grand jury, or whether he has been interviewed or otherwise asked to provide information by the special prosecutor or his staff in connection with this matter, and if so, when that occurred," Biden wrote.
Representative Jane Harman (D-Calif), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has asked the State Department for both versions of the State Department memo on Wilson.
Meanwhile, some Senate Republicans, such as Norm Coleman (Minn), are urging President Bush to give Bolton a recess appointment as soon as Congress adjourns for the month of August. Earlier in the week, White House spokesman Scott McClellan indicated that Bush might do so.
Cheney Muscles CAFTA Through House
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) by a vote of 217-215 a few minutes past midnight July 28; despite Dick Cheney's strong-arm tactics, 27 Republicans voted against the bill. House leaders held up the roll call (in violation of House rules) for an hour, instead of the usual 15 minutes, while they armtwisted votes: When the time for the vote had expired at 11:17 p.m., the tally had been 180-175 against. President Bush had made a rare appearance, accompanied by Vice President Dick "The Enforcer" Cheney, at the weekly meeting of the House Republican Conference to push the bill, and the night of the vote Cheney made an after-dinner trip to the second floor of the Capitol and stayed until shortly after 10 p.m.
Among the many statements for and against the bill, were some describing how free-trade/NAFTA has been all wrong, and must be stopped. Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), for example, called on people to look at just a few of the latest announcements of outsourcing by "icon" companies:
* Brunswick Bowling Balls, based in Michigan, is going to outsource.
* Louisville Ladder, in Louisville, Ky., is leaving town.
* Modine Manufacturing Co., in Emporia, Kansas, which makes radiators, announced July 25 that it is closing a factory after merging with a Connecticut-based company. One hundred thirty workers laid off, effective immediately. The work will be consolidated at two existing plants in Mexico.
The morning after the vote, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) denounced the "Let's Make a Deal" atmosphere that prevailed on the House floor during the vote. When asked if she would seek an ethics probe into how the vote was manipulated, she said, "This is the same thing that happened over the Medicare prescription-drug bill, and this has to stop; and you had the President on the Hill for an hour-and-a-half trying to get support. The Vice President was here on the Hill most of the day, having a hard time persuading their people to support CAFTA. It was like each vote was a test of President Bush's manhood."
Federal Judge Blasts Bush Administration Policies
While sentencing Ahmed Ressam, who allegedly planned to explode a Millennium Eve bomb at Los Angeles International Airport, a Federal judge in Seattle delivered a blast at the Bush Administration's policies, stating that the Ressam trial shows that the criminal justice system works. "All of this occurred in the sunlight of a public trial," Judge John Coughenour said. "There were no secret proceedings, no indefinite detention, no denial of counsel."
"The tragedy of Sept. 11 shook our sense of security.... Unfortunately some believe that this threat renders our Constitution obsolete," he said. "It is my sworn duty, and as long as there is breath in my body I'll perform it, to support and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Soldiers in Iraq Ill-Equipped for Convoy Duty
General Joseph J. Chaves, the commander of a Hawaii National Guard brigade in Iraq, wrote in a March 15 secret memo that his troops are ill-equipped for their convoy missions in Iraq, the Washington Times reported July 28. Chaves said that not having the proper weapons to be used on escort and convoy missions is needlessly killing more innocent civilians. He gave an example to a Times reporter, of having to use grenade launchers and other heavy machine guns during escort missions, because the proper weapons, which are more selective, were not available.
Reid Says Senate Should Finish Defense Bill
In a press release issued on July 27, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) blasted the Republican Senate leadership for pulling the Defense Authorization bill from the Senate floor, and called on the Senate to stay in session until the bill is finalized and passed.
"Republicans today decided they wanted to push our national security aside," Reid said. "Republicans decided they didn't want to support our veterans and give them the health care they deserve. Republicans decided they didn't want to take the strain off of our National Guard...."
And now, Reid stated, "instead of staying on defense, Republicans want to move on to guns." He insisted that the "DoD Authorization should be brought to the floor as soon as the gun bill is finished, and Senators should not leave for the August recess until it is done.... It's an abuse of power to put special interests ahead of our defense. We need to finish the Defense Authorization bill before we leave."
Reid said, during a press conference on July 27, that the Democrats had offered to Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn) that they could finish the defense bill by Wednesday night. But, Reid said, the Republican leadership refused because it would not allow certain amendments to be consideredincluding the McCain-Graham amendments on the treatment of detainees. And he said already then, that Democrats would be willing to stay next week to finish the billwhich of course Vice President Dick Cheney doesn't want, because it would mean that those Republican-sponsored and bipartisan amendments which have Cheney in a rage, would be certain to pass on the Senate floor.
Reid's statements came after the cloture motion on the defense bill, filed by Frist on July 22, failed on July 25 by a 50 to 48 vote, 10 short of the 60 needed to close debate on the bill. Cheney had threatened to have Bush veto the bill if it included either the John McCain (R-Ariz) amendment (prohibiting torture of all detainees), the Carl Levin D-Mich) amendment (for an independent commission to investigate the torture), or the John Thune (R-SD) amendment (postponing the Pentagon's base closing recommendations until the U.S. troops have come home from Iraq).
Use of Dogs at Abu Ghraib Recommended by Gitmo's Miller
The commander of Guantanamo Bay prison, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, recommended the use of military dogs during interrogations, when he visited Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003, according to testimony given by a former warden at the prison. "We understood that he was sent over by the Secretary of Defense," Maj. David Dinenna testified at a hearing July 27 for two Army dog handlers accused of prisoner abuse.
Dinenna said that teams of trainers were also sent to Abu Ghraib "to take these interrogation techniques, other techniques they learned at Guantanamo Bay, and try to incorporate them in Iraq." It was also reported at the hearings that sleep deprivation and forced nudity, first used at Guantanamo, were later approved for use at Abu Ghraib.
Dinenna's testimony supported defense assertions that using unmuzzled dogs to terrify Abu Ghraib inmates, had been approved high up the chain of command, and, contrary to government claims, it was not just a game played by two rogue soldiers.
Sweeney Blasts Breakaway Unions
AFL-CIO president John Sweeney blasted the secession of two major affiliates which, along with a train of lesser unions, have decided to break away from the central labor federation. Speaking before the actual July 25 announcement of the break, in his keynote address to the AFL-CIO annual meeting in Chicago, Sweeney called the move a "grievous insult" to working people and their families. "At a time when our corporate and conservative adversaries have created the most powerful anti-worker political machine in the history of our country, a divided movement hurts the hopes of working families," Sweeney said. However, he also vowed to "overcome [his] own anger and disappointment" and work to keep the federation together.
The two major unions that announced their departure are the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT). Several other unions, although they are boycotting the convention, have not yet seceded. The Change to Win Coalition, headed by SEIU head (and one-time Sweeney protégé) Andy Stern, represents about one-third, or just over 4 million, of the members of the AFL-CIO. They take with them about $20 million in annual dues, plus almost $10 million in unpaid back dues.