From Volume 5, Issue Number 33 of EIR Online, Published Aug.15, 2006

United States News Digest

U.S. Neo-Cons Press Israel Not To 'Wimp Out' in Lebanon

The Jewish weekly Forward reported in its Aug. 11 issue that "Staunchly pro-Israel conservatives with close ties to the Bush administration say that Jerusalem is hindering America's global war on terror by failing to wage an all-out war to eliminate Hezbollah," and cites Newt Gingrich, Charles Krauthammer, and Ariel Cohen of the Heritage Foundation. MSNBC reported Aug. 8 on an article in the Washington Times' Insight magazine, that a State Department source said, "quote, 'One Jewish friend of Bush actually called up a senior Israeli official and began yelling, What the hell's going on here? Are you going to fight, or what?'"

Gingrich is quoted in the Forward article dismissing Israel's bombing campaign and saying that Israel should have called up the reserves "and gone all out in Lebanon from the first 24 hours." Gingrich told Forward, that any Israeli restraint is "an absolute formula for disaster."

Charles Krauthammer's Washington Post column is also quoted, to the effect that Prime Minister Olmert's "unsteady and uncertain leadership" is threatening the Bush Administration's confidence in Israel as a dependable and strategic ally in the war on terror. In that article, Krauthammer threatened that "Israel's leaders do not seem to understand how ruinous a military failure in Lebanon would be to its relationship with America, Israel's most vital lifeline." He also remarked that the U.S. green light to Israel for operations in Lebanon is not simply a favor to Israel, because America needs Hezbollah defeated; unlike other terrorist groups, he said, Hezbollah is a serious enemy of the U.S.

Entire Army Brigade Dissolved After Its Return from Iraq

The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which received highly publicized praise from President Bush last winter for its counterinsurgency work in Tal Afar, Iraq, practically dissolved after its return home to Fort Carson, Colo. As soon as the stop-loss order—a measure that keeps soldiers in the Iraq, even after their tour of duty is up—was lifted, 1,500 soldiers in the unit left the Army. Another 1,500 were given early discharges for a variety of physical, medical, mental, and behavioral problems, leaving 2,000 soldiers in the unit.

Senate Slashes Funds for Traumatic Brain-Injury Research

In yet another example of how budgets can kill, both the House and Senate versions of the Fiscal 2007 Defense Appropriations Bill cut funding for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center by half, from $14 million allocated in 2006 to $7 million for next year, USA Today reported Aug. 8. The center does research on how to treat military personnel suffering from traumatic brain injury, described as the "signature injury" of the Iraq war.

"I find it basically unpardonable that Congress is not going to provide funds to take care of our soldiers and sailors who put their lives on the line for their country," says Martin Foil, a member of the center's board of directors. "It blows my imagination." A spokesman for the Senate Appropriations Committee complained that there wasn't enough money in the budget for the center. The senators, she said, "didn't have any flexibility in such a tight fiscal year."

The center estimates that 10% of all troops who serve in Iraq, and 20% of front-line infantry troops, suffer concussions during their combat tours, and many experience both physical and mental-health problems as a result. The Pentagon, however, still refuses to screen returning troops for symptoms of brain injury.

Israeli Spy Company Charged with Securities Fraud

Three former officials of Comverse Technology Inc.—one of the Israeli telecommunications companies profiled by EIR in 2001-02 as part of the Israeli spy apparatus inside the United States—were charged with securities fraud Aug. 9, in a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in Brooklyn.

As EIR reported Feb. 1, 2002, Comverse is one of the leading suppliers of wiretapping equipment to the U.S. government, and many intelligence and law-enforcement officials believe that Israeli intelligence obtained direct access to U.S. government wiretap information through Comverse. The company was established in the U.S. in 1984; one of its founders was Kobi Alexander, described in media reports as having served in the Israeli armed services "as an intelligence officer in an elite commando unit." Ariel Sharon was reportedly a major investor in Comverse.

Alexander, who became chairman and CEO, was one of those charged Aug. 9, along with former VP and CFO David Kreinberg, and former General Counsel and Secretary William Sorin. All three resigned in May while under investigation.

The Justice Department says that more than $57 million of illegal proceeds of the stock options back-dating scheme, was secretly transferred to accounts in Israel.

Interestingly, the charges were announced by Deputy U.S. Attorney General Paul McNulty, who personally headed the investigation into another piece of the Israeli spy network, which resulted in the indictment of former Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin and two top AIPAC officials in Alexandria, Virginia.

FEMA Contractors Made Billions from Hurricane Katrina

Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Mary Landrieu (D-La) demanded that the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security investigate, for the second time, four no-bid contracts for 150,000 trailers to house Katrina evacuees, which went to Bechtel, CH2M Hill Inc., Fluor Corp., and Shaw Group Inc., according to the Brookings Institute's August "Katrina Index." One aspect under investigation, is how it has come to pass that the four contracts let out originally for $400 million have ballooned to $3.4 billion! The trailers, rather than temporary housing, were signed off on by Vice President Cheney during the immediate aftermath of the Katrina and Wilma hurricanes despite his knowledge that they could not all be delivered in a timely manner.

The investigation comes none too soon, as FEMA, under DHS chief Michael Chertoff, who has championed "the re-engineering of FEMA to tap private expertise," as the Washington Post put it, has just forward-contracted $4 billion with big engineering firms and the U.S. military for emergency supplies and services to be activated when a new disaster strikes.

Meanwhile, an index compiled by the Brookings Institution indicates that displacement and despair continues in New Orleans one year after Hurricane Katrina. Here are the most notable indicators:

* The housing market tightened as rents and home prices rose, e.g., rents are up 39% over a year ago;

* unemployment rates remain higher than pre-Katrina, now at 7.2% in New Orleans; and

* public services and infrastructure remain thin and slow to rebound; e.g., only half the city bus routes are usable, with only 17% of buses in use, meaning that the level of service has not changed since January 2006.

Governors Have 'Utter Disdain' for Congress

"Utter disdain for Congress" was the common theme weaving through Democratic and Republican governors' interviews and informal comments at the annual National Governors Association (NGA) conference over the Aug. 5-6 weekend. According to Washington Post columnist David Broder, "relationships between governors and Washington are poisonous."

Mike Huckabee, Republican Governor of Arkansas, newly retired as chairman of the NGA, said, "What upsets us is the same thing that frustrates our voters. Whatever problem you're concerned about, all you see in Washington is gridlock." Huckabee described as "dysfunctional" the refusal of the Republican leadership to attempt to reconcile the competing House and Senate immigration bills. The new NGA chairman, Democrat Janet Napolitano of Arizona, said, "They're just not getting it done.... Immigration is the biggest issue in my state. A million people are marching in the streets. States are spending hundreds of millions trying to cope with the influx. So they pass two bills, and they won't even go into a meeting room to put them together. It's ridiculous!"

Gov. Bill Richardson, Democrat of New Mexico, said, "Congress has gone from unresponsive to hopeless. On everything from the minimum wage to immigration to energy, they've just given up. No one expects anything from them." Republican Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts repeats his wife's assessment, that Congress is like "two guys in a canoe that is headed for the falls, and all they do is hit each other with their paddles." He continues, "the bickering is becoming more and more dangerous because the current is sweeping us toward the falls."

Rice: Anti-U.S. Protests in Baghdad Mean Democracy Is Working

"And that people would go out and demonstrate and say what they feel is one sign that perhaps Iraq is one place in the Middle East where people are exercising their right to free speech," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, during an Aug. 6 appearance on ABC's This Week. A rather disconcerted Rice tried to portray this as a success for Bush's "new Middle East" policy.

When grilled by Tim Russert of Meet the Press Aug. 6 about former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage's complaint that the Administration has refused to talk with Syria, Rice went through a laundry-list of Syrian "violations" in Lebanon, commenting that, "It's an odd strategy to say that Syria is somehow going to be part of stabilizing Lebanon."

All rights reserved © 2006 EIRNS