United States News Digest
Senate Dems Demand Investigation of Oil Executives
Senate Democrats are calling for an investigation into whether major oil company executives lied to Congress in answers to questions posed to them by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) during a Nov. 9 hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. The questions posed by Lautenberg dealt with whether the oil executives testifying had participated in a 2001 task force set up by Vice President Dick Cheney. The oil executives answered "no," but subsequently told the Washington Post (Nov. 16 edition) that they had talked to people at the White House. This sparked a letter from Lautenberg to Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, demanding an investigation. In the two weeks since that request, Gonzales has not responded.
Lautenberg's office reported that he was scheduled to speak to Gonzales the morning of Dec. 1, but that Gonzalez had cancelled at the last minute. Shortly afterwards, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) joined the call for an investigation, issuing a letter which says, "Despite the Vice President's active efforts to thwart open and transparent government, Congress has the right and the responsibility to seek and obtain information from witnesses that is honest and complete. When evidence arises that some of the statements made to Congress may be false, it calls into question a witness's entire testimony and undermines Congress's constitutional role."
Lying Cheney Crew Feeding Stories into Iraqi 'Free Press'
The revelations that a military information operations cell has been feeding articles into the Iraqi press, which could be damaging for Cheney and Rumsfeld, were first reported in the Los Angeles Times and the Financial Times of London on Nov. 30. The report says that the U.S. military is paying Iraqi media to publish stories, written by U.S. "information operations" troops, and translated, with the aid of a defense contractor, the Lincoln Group, based in Washington, D.C. The planted articles praise the U.S. troops, denounce the resistance, and talk up "reconstruction" efforts.
The press coverage notes that, "The military's effort to disseminate propaganda in the Iraqi media is taking place even as U.S. officials are vowing to promote democratic principles, political transparency, and freedom of speech to a country emerging from decades of dictatorship and corruption...." The articles recall Rumsfeld's statement on Nov. 29 about how the proliferation of newspapers in Iraq was so successful, and offered a "relief valve" for the people.
One senior Pentagon official, speaking on condition of anonymity, stated his opposition to the ploy: "Here we are trying to create the principles of democracy in Iraq. Every speech we give in that country is about democracy. And we're breaking all the first principles of democracy when we're doing it."
Among the papers being fed articles for which they pay, is Al Mutamar, a Baghdad-based daily, run by associates of the discredited Ahmad Chalabi. Another paper, Addustour, paid $1,500 for an Aug. 2 article titled "More Money Goes to Iraq's Development," without knowing it was a U.S.
Khalilzad Will Hold Talks with Tehran
The Iran Daily confirmed, on Nov. 29, that U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has been mandated to start talks with Tehran on Iraq. Khalizad urged Iranians to "positively consider the proposal in a calm and rational manner," said Iran News in its Nov. 29 editorial.
Khalilzad, who speaks Farsi (the language spoken in Iraq), is quoted, "I've been authorized by the president to engage the Iranians as I engaged them in Afghanistan directly. There will be face to face meetings." The editorial continued, "Some observers believe the U.S. has finally come to the realization that stability in the region is not achievable without Iran," and pointed to Iran's "enormous geo-political, geo-strategic and geo-economic significance."
The paper said the offer should be accepted, since it "has significant long-term interests in Iraq. The Islamic Republic's interests in its next-door neighbor to the west include the return of peace and stability, border security, the departure of foreign troops, the fate of the Iraq-based Iranian terrorist group MKO, etc."
Will Cheney-Rumsfeld Try Bombing Campaign in Iraq?
Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh is mooting the possibility that the Cheney/Rumsfeld gang may try to launch a Vietnam-era style "air power" campaign in an attempt to cut their losses in Iraq. Interviewed on CNN's "Late Edition," on Nov. 27, by Wolf Blitzer, Hersh says his analysis, published in the Dec. 5 issue of the New Yorker, is based on discussions with high-level military personnel, who have become concerned over the nature of the options apparently being mooted within the administration for a possible "draw-down" of American troops in Iraq. Given the weakness of any Iraq forces left to fend for themselves, so goes the reasoning, only a back-up by significant U.S. air power to destroy insurgency targets in support of the Iraq forces would give them the needed leverage. "Quick deadly strikes by U.S. warplanes," Hersh wrote, "are seen as a way to improve dramatically the combat capability of even the weakest Iraqi combat units."
Hersh drew parallels to Vietnam: "During the Vietnam war we got a total of how many missions, sorties per day, how much tonnage. We have no idea [in Iraq] how many bombs are actually dropping every day, and where," Hersh said. "But the idea is, you increase the pace of the bombing. And that will make an adequate Iraqi unit be able to stand up a little bit, certainly against the insurgency. That's the thinking."
Blitzer noted that Hersh, in his article, expressed the concerns of senior Air Force officials over such a policy. "It's not my concern," Hersh replied. "It's the concern of many senior generals in the air business, you know, in the Air Force. And planners, because they say, this is, you know, the power of American air is enormous....
"People talk in terms, to me, the Air Force planners, of the exquisite nature of air bombing. The idea that you're going to turn over this control, this kind of force, to Iraqi units who can be penetrated by the insurgency, that have a lot of internal battles, as I say, many are militias. And they have problems that other people and other militiaswho knows what will motivate them?" Hersh said. "It is good to know there is a lot of ethics in the Air Force. There's a lot of guys that are, that drop the bombs, they know the force of the weapons they have, and they don't want to be responsible for bombing the wrong targets. They don't want non-Americans telling them what to do. This is a real doctrinal issue that's being fought right now in the Pentagon."
More Revelations That the White House Is Going Bonkers
The New York Daily News ran a news story, on Nov. 27, based on discussions with top Republican Party figures, revealing mounting GOP concern that the White House is paralyzed, and President Bush is incapable of making the kinds of sweeping changes necessary to save his Presidency. The story reported that Bush has been urged by close friends to fire Donald Rumsfeld and bring Karen Hughes back from the State Department to run the White House. But, a former Presidential aide told the Daily News that it won't happen. "He [Bush] thinks that would be an admission he's screwed up, and he can't bring himself to do that." One thing driving Bush nuts is the constant stream of leaks from the White House staff, about how bad things are. "He's asking [friends] for opinions on who he can trust and who he can't," one unnamed source said. Another exasperated GOPer told the Daily News, "There is just no introspection there at all. It is everybody else's faultthe press, gutless Republicans on the Hill. They're still in denial."
Pentagon Expanding Its Domestic Spying Operations
The Pentagon has significantly expanded its domestic spying, including on American citizens, through a number of little-known programs, including the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA). CIFA, according to a Nov. 27, expose by Walter Pincus in the Washington Post, has over 1,000 employees and a secret budget. The unit, according to a public Pentagon document quoted by Pincus, uses "leading edge information technologies and data harvesting," "exploiting commercial data." Among the outside contractors working for CIFA are White Oak Technologies, Inc. and MZM, Inc. MZM, Inc. is linked to disgraced former Rep. Randy Cunningham (R-Calif), who just resigned from Congress after pleading guilty to Federal bribery charges. Pincus reported that the White House is reviewing a Pentagon plan that would allow military intelligence units to engage in domestic spying, even in law enforcement activities, and access more FBI data on American citizens. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), a member of the Senate intelligence panel, has blown the whistle on these administration moves, and has already forced some changes in legislation expanding the domestic spying and law enforcement powers of the military. That legislation was quietly attached to the intelligence authorization bill, until Wyden intervened. Wyden told Pincus, "We are deputizing the military to spy on law-abiding Americans in America. This is a huge leap without even a [Congressional] hearing."
The Emperor Makes No Clothes
On Nov. 29, President George W. Bush stood at the Arizona-Mexico border, wearing the uniform of a U.S. border guard of the Homeland Security Department, and pompously proclaimed that the United States would "enforce its border laws" against Mexican and Central American illegal immigration. One hilarious problem emerged, howeverthe uniform Bush put on, and all Homeland Security border guard's uniforms along the southwestern border of the United States, are being ordered from Mexico! Border guards have protested the contract, fearing that uniforms might get into the hands of immigrant smugglers and other gangs, who could pose as border agents; Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) is trying to get Congress to terminate the contract.
At least, they could be made in China.