United States News Digest
Hersh Slams Bush Administration for Iraq War
In a lecture at McGill University in Canada on Nov. 2, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, who writes for The New Yorker magazine, described video footage depicting U.S. atrocities in Iraq, which he had viewed but not yet published a story about. The video that he described has not been allowed to be shown in the United States. According to Hersh, the video shows American soldiers massacring a group of people playing soccer, and then dragging bodies together, and dropping weapons there; they reported that 20 to 30 insurgents were killed that day.
Hersh commented that there has never been an American army as violent and murderous as our army in Iraq.
Hersh also came out hard against President Bush for his involvement in the Middle East. "In Washington you can't expect any rationality. I don't know if he's in Iraq because God told him to [be there], because his father didn't do it, or because it's the next step in his 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous program," said Hersh. He described post-Sept. 11 foreign policy as being allowed by a collapsed Congress and a collapsed press.
In an interview prior to the lecture, Hersh was asked about an exit from Iraq. "We have two options. We can get out by midnight tonight or get out by midnight tomorrow." He described the U.S. presence in Iraq as the 200-octane fuel driving the insurgency. Before the U.S. was on the scene, he noted, Sunni and Shi'a were intermarrying and even the Saddam Hussein, by the mid-1990s, had begun placing Shi'ites into senior officer corps.
Cheney-Bush Crossing the GOP on Iraq, Rumsfeld
White House strategists clearly made the decision on Oct. 31 to spend at least 48-72 hoursincluding major campaign speeches by both Cheney and Bushattacking Sen. John Kerry for what everyone knows was a verbal slip on troops "stuck in Iraq." But that strategy has Cheney and Bush bringing the Iraq issue, currently more of a chaotic disaster than ever, back into the center of the public campaign debate, the New York Times reported Nov. 1. Ironically, as Karl Rove's geniuses were launching this campaign, a national parade of Republican candidates and incumbents was in the process of "cutting and running" from the Administration with campaign ads calling for Donald Rumsfeld's ouster. These included Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Senate candidate Thomas Kean, Jr. in New Jersey, Senate candidate Bob Corker in Tennessee, senior Republican Rep. Richard Hostettler of Indiana, Rep. Anne Northup of Kentucky, Senate candidate Mike McGavick in Washington State, and Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. RNC money may even be paying for some of these anti-Rumsfeld ads!
In response to this GOP parade, George W. Bush on Nov. 1, in Iowa, stated unequivocally that he wants and intends Dick Cheney to remain Vice President and Don Rumsfeld to remain Defense Secretary for the remainder of Bush's Presidential term.
Lynne Cheney Exposed Again on CNN
After Lynne Cheney denied in her interview with Wolf Blitzer on Oct. 27, that she had ever "written anything sexually explicit," or that her novel Sisters had lesbian characters in it, CNN managed to obtain a copy of Sister Cheney's 1981 book, and read passages from it on the air Oct. 29.
The passages, about "Eve and Eve" embracing, kissing, and going to bed, seem pretty clear as to what Sister Cheney's own lesbian fantasies, put in print, consist of.
Lynne Cheney also labelled as "absolutely not true" and "lies" a Democratic Senate Campaign Committee description of the book as being about brothels and attempted rapes. But the CNN correspondent who was assigned to read the book, said the book does indeed reference prostitution and two rapes.
More Vote Suppression Underway in Ohio
"Ohio's electoral process is thus once again sinking into a fog of confusion, disenfranchisement, and theft perfectly designed to prolong the GOP control of the government," write Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman in the Free Press of Columbus, Ohio. They cite a recent decision from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals which has thrown the whole voting system into disarray; this involves the requirement in a 2005 law that a driver's license ID number, or equivalent, be put on absentee ballots; however, Ohio driver's licenses have two such numbers, and up to 10% of absentee ballots sent in have the wrong number.
Additionally, the state has quadrupled the fees required for a recount, making it almost financially impossible. And, since 2005, nearly 500,000 voters have been purged from the voting rolls in heavily-Democratic districts.
Padilla Charges He Was Tortured While in U.S. Custody
Jose Padilla, an American citizen who was arrested in Chicago in 2002 and thrown into a military prison as an "enemy combatant," is asking a Federal court to throw out the indictment against him on the grounds that he was "tortured by the United States government without cause or justification," the McClatchy Newspapers reported Oct. 30. Padilla charges that he was isolated in a tiny cell around the clock, deprived of sleep on a steel bunk with no mattress, shackled and manacled for hours on end, and threatened with being cut with a knife, and with having alcohol poured on the wounds. Padilla also claims that he was given drugs against his willbelieved to be LSD or PCP"to act as a sort of truth serum during his interrogations."
A Federal judge in Miami gave the Justice Department until Nov. 13 to respond to Padilla's allegations.
New Voting Systems Could Mean Chaos at the Polls
The introduction of new voting system mandated by the ill-conceived HAVA (Help America Vote Act) could result in major problems at the polls this Election Day, a new report by the non-partisan Electionline.org says. The report estimates that one-third of all voters will cast ballots on voting systems which have never been used in a general election.
"Any time you have new procedures, new voting systems that many poll workers and voters might not be familiar with, and combine that with an election that could decide the fate of one or both branches of Congress, the potential is there for a messy Nov. 7," said Electionline director Doug Chapin. "The steps that have been taken to improve and modernize elections as part of HAVA could make things worse this year, before it makes voting better in the future."
The report identifies ten states in particular that bear watching, because of changes in procedures, legal challenges to state policies, close races, and new equipment, or in some cases, a combination of all of these. These states are: Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington State. A New York Times gridding of potential problem states lists South Dakota in addition to most of those above.
It should be recalled that the chief promoter of HAVA in Congress was Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who's now on his way to jail.
Washington Post Displays Fiasco of Iraq Adventure
The Oct. 29 Sunday Washington Post featured a prominent front-page story by Thomas Ricks and Peter Baker, and a lead Outlook section story by Anthony Shadid, both illustrating that the Iraq situation has reached a point of no return. The front-page Ricks-Baker story identified Sen. John Warner's (R-Va) early-October fact-finding trip to Iraq as a tipping point. Warner came back deeply pessimistic about the U.S. strategy in Iraq and the deteriorating situation on the ground, and his call for a change in policy opened the floodgates of Republican criticism of the Bush-Cheney failures, which had been simmering below the surface for a long time. Even such hard-core Bush backers as the two Texas Republican Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison came out demanding a change in course, once the Warner remarks registered. As Ricks and Baker reported, "October 2006 may be remembered as the month that the U.S. experience in Iraq hit a tipping point, when the violence flared and shook both the military command in Iraq and the political establishment back in Washington." The article noted that the addition of 12,000 American troops to the contingent in Baghdad did little to stabilize the situation in the capital, and led to the biggest one-month toll of American deaths since January 2005.
The lead Outlook story featured a quote from George Bush, "Absolutely, we're winning," from Oct. 25, 2006, above a large color photograph of a decimated Baghdad street, and the bold letter headline, "This is Baghdad. What could be worse?" The article summarized what author Anthony Shadid, a Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent, found on his recent return to Baghdad. "It had been almost a year since I was in the Iraqi capital, where I worked as a reporter in the days of Saddam Hussein, the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, and the occupation, guerilla-war, and religious resurgence that followed. On my return, it was difficult to grasp how atomized and violent the 1,250-year-old city has become. Even on the worst days, I had always found Baghdad's most redeeming quality to be its resilience, a tenacious refusal among people I met over three years to surrender to the chaos unleashed when the Americans arrived. That resilience is gone, overwhelmed by civil war, anarchy, or whatever term could possibly fit. Baghdad now is convulsed by hatred, paralyzed by suspicion; fear has forced many to leave. Carnage its rhythm and despair its mantra, the capital, it seems, no longer embraces life. 'A city of ghosts,' a friend told me, her tone almost funereal."
The long feature story highlighted Shadid's encounters with friends from his earlier postings in Baghdad, filling out the picture of a nation-state in total collapse.