United States News Digest
Odom Reiterates Call for Iraq Pullout
"Cut and Run? You Bet!" is the title of an article in the May/June issue of Foreign Policy, in which Gen. William Odom (ret.), the director of the National Security Agency (NSA) from 1985 to 1988, reviews and refutes the arguments for "staying the course" in Iraq. "The problem in Iraq is not military competency; it is political consolidation," Odom says. "Iraq has a large officer corps with plenty of combat experience from the Iran-Iraq war. Moktada al-Sadr's Shi'ite militia fights well today without U.S. advisors, as do Kurdish Pesh Merga units. The problem is loyalty. To whom can officers and troops afford to give their loyalty?"
On the question of undermining U.S. credibility in the world, Odom makes a clear reference to the need for the resignation of Bush and Cheney: "I served as a military attaché in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow during Richard Nixon's Watergate crisis. When Nixon resigned, several Soviet officials who had previously expressed disdain for the United States told me they were astonished. One diplomat said, 'Only your country is powerful enough to do this. It would destroy my country.'"
On the war on terror: "Tied down like Gulliver in the sands of Mesopotamia, we simply cannot attract the diplomatic and military cooperation necessary to win the real battle against terror. Getting out of Iraq is the precondition for any improvement."
And most importantly, on Iran: "Following a withdrawal, all the countries bordering Iraq would likely respond favorably to an offer to help stabilize the situation. The most important of these would be Iran. It dislikes al Qaeda as much as we do. It wants regional stability as much as we do. It wants to produce more oil and gas and sell it. If its leaders really want nuclear weapons, we cannot stop them. But we can engage them."
Bush Claims Authority To Disobey Over 750 Laws
"President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution," the Boston Globe reported April 30. While all Presidents in recent decades have used "signing statements" to a limited degree, Bush is using them to a degree that is unprecedented in U.S. history. And with this record of ignoring laws, Bush has never bothered to veto a bill.
Bruce Fein, a Deputy Attorney General in the Reagan Administration, said that Bush has declared himself the sole judge of his own powers. "This is an attempt by the President to have the final word on his own Constitutional powers, which eliminates the checks and balances that keep the country a democracy," Fein said. "There is no way for an independent judiciary to check his assertions of power, and Congress isn't doing it, either. So this is moving us toward an unlimited Executive power." New York University Law Prof. David Golove says: "Bush has essentially said that 'We're the Executive branch and we're going to carry this law out as we please, and if Congress wants to impeach us, go ahead and try it.'"
Senate Democratic leaders reacted strongly the day after the Boston Globe report. Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) declared that Bush has "disregarded the Constitution." Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) stated that "The Bush-Cheney Administration has cultivated an insidious brand of unilateralism that regularly crosses into an arrogance of power," and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass) noted that the Republican Congress has failed to "guard against abuses of power."
Powell Cautions on Iran
In an interview with Jonathan Dimbleby, broadcast on Britain's ITV April 30, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said of Iran, "I don't know that there is a very robust plan, or menu of sanctions. I think that the menu of sanctions would be quite limited ... those that could actually get through the Security Council. "[The Iranians] have decided to go forward even in the face of potential sanctions which suggests to me that they have pretty much decided that they can accept whatever sanctions are coming their way."
Asked about the possibility of a U.S. nuclear strike, he said: "No, nuclear weapons have not been used since Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think it most unlikely that anybody would seriously contemplate use of a nuclear weapon in the 21st Century and especially for such a purpose." He added, "We are far from a point where any Prime Minister or President has to sit down and say it's time for an ultimatum or something more drastic will happen. You never take a military option off the table; it's always an option, but I think we are far from any consideration of using such an option."
Cheney Stonewalls on Classification Reporting
The Office of the Vice President is refusing to comply with a 2003 Executive Order issued by President Bush, and a follow-up directive from the National Archives, which requires all agencies and entities within the Executive branch to provide an annual accounting of their classification and declassification of documents, according to the Baltimore Sun on April 20. Cheney claims that his dual roles as Vice President and as President of the Senate make him unique, and therefore, the reporting requirements don't apply to him.
Government Accountability Office head David Walker views this as part of the Executive branch power grab that Cheney et al. have been carrying out. (Cheney's stonewalling is especially telling, given his vastly exaggerated claims about his authority to declassify secret documents.) The Sun article also notes that the Bush-Cheney Administration has drastically increased the extent of secrecy and classification, and has even reclassified information that had been public for years.
Specter Agrees To Hold New Hearings on Kavanaugh
On May 4, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa) acceded to Democratic demands for a new hearing on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has been stalled for almost two years. The hearing will be held on Tuesday, May 9, and Kavanaugh will be questioned about any role he may have played in developing or approving Bush-Cheney policies on torture, rendition, and domestic wiretapping.
Kavanaugh, who was an assistant to Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr and then a deputy to White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, recently had his approval rating from the American Bar Association downgraded, something which Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) said he has seen only once or twice in 30 years in the Senate. Specter said the ABA's refusal to comment on their reasons for this is "unsatisfactory," and he intends to call the ABA to the hearing.
Democrats are threatening filibusters of both Kavanaugh and Terence Boyle, whom Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) described as "somebody who has violated every judicial ethic you can think of." The seven Democrats of the "Gang of 14" that blocked Cheney's "nuclear option" last year, also sent a letter to Specter urging a new hearing on Kavanaugh, so that Senators can make an "informed decision."
Sanchez Wanted Interrogators To 'Break' Detainees
General Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq from mid-2003 to mid-2004, wanted interrogators to "go to the outer limits" to extract information from prisoners, and to "break the detainees," according to a May 2004 Defense Intelligence Agency document just obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the American Civil Liberties Union. Already in September 2003, Sanchez authorized use of dogs to exploit "Arab fear of dogs," and stress positions. This was right after Guantanamo commander Geoffrey Miller was sent to Iraq by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Undersecretary Stephen Cambone.
Republicans Block Amendment on Iraq Inspector General
Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont blasted Republicans for ruling "non-germane," an amendment to the Iraq war supplemental spending bill, that would ensure continued funding for the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. The Special Inspector General, said Leahy May 3, "has uncovered numerous instances of waste and fraudsome, shocking in their audacityand there are dozens of investigations and prosecutions underway." Without the amendment, the Special Inspector will have no oversight over reconstruction funds. "Projects have been poorly designed, grossly overpriced, and many will never be finished, while U.S. contractors like Halliburton have made off with huge profits," Leahy charged.
Lieberman Faces Serious Primary Challenge
Ned Lamont, the great grandson of Morgan Bank chief Thomas Lamont, is posing a serious challenge to Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn) in the upcoming Democratic primary race. The anti-war candidate Lamont is seen as likely to get on the primary ballot by either of the two legal means, by receiving the support of 15% of delegates to Connecticut's May 20 Democratic nominating convention, or by collecting 15,000 voters' signatures. Connecticut polls show strong majorities opposed to Lieberman's neo-con war views. Lieberman has floated the possibility he might file as an independent if he loses the Democratic nomination.