United States News Digest
Bush Administration in 'Confused and Difficult' Moment
The Bush Administration is in a "confused and difficult moment," a British intelligence source told EIR on Feb. 22. This source, who previously was cocksure that the Bush Administration was insane enough to launch a war despite all opposition, questioned whether they could really carry it off and then be able to deal with the consequences. On a scale of 1 to 10, he put the war danger at 5, of course with the proviso that it could change for the worse overnight.
He pointed to the tremendous attacks on British Prime Minister Tony Blair as indicative of the widespread understanding that an attack on Iran would be a "colossal disaster."
The Bush Administration's foreign policy appears in such disarray, he wondered whether it could manage to bring anyone along with them. He pointed to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's trip to the region as accomplishing nothing, since the policy of doing nothing was already decided from the White House. Even within Israel and the in American Israeli Lobby there is serious concern over the consequences of an attack on Iran. The Saudis are also angry that they brokered the Mecca agreement between Fatah and Hamas only to have it rejected by the U.S.
The source also speculated that Vice President Dick Cheney's current Asian tour might bring on a heart attack. He pointed out that Cheney was not well received in Saudi Arabia a few weeks ago, nor in Japan.
While agreeing with Lyndon LaRouche's assessment that Bush-Cheney could still make a decision to attack Iran, he concluded by saying it was a "confused and difficult moment" that will clear up in the coming weeks.
Nichols Charges FBI Aid in OK City Bombing Plot
A Feb. 9, 2007 affidavit by Terry Nichols, serving a life term in Federal prison in Colorado, purports to give details of other people involved in the plot to bomb the Oklahoma City Federal building on April 19, 1995, to give closure to himself and the survivors of the crime's victims; he says he offered these details in a September 2004 letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft, but received no response.
According to the Salt Lake City Tribune Feb. 23, Nichols claims that his partner Tim McVeigh (executed in June 2001) angrily told him at a January 1995 meeting, that a high-ranking FBI official, Larry Potts, was manipulating him and forcing him "to go off script," which Nichols says he took to mean that Potts had changed the target of the bombing. Among the other things alleged by Nichols are that McVeigh told him in 1992, that he'd been recruited while in the U.S. Army to carry out undercover missions, without giving Nichols any further details. He also claims that the bomb he helped McVeigh construct on the morning of April 18, 1995, "did not resemble in any fashion" the Oklahoma City bomb described by McVeigh in the book American Terrorist, and that, "The bomb McVeigh described also displayed a level of expertise and sophistication which neither McVeigh nor I had in building a bomb."
Nichols' affidavit was filed in an FOIA lawsuit against the FBI in Salt Lake City by attorney Jesse C. Trentadue. Trentadue claims that Nichols' brother Kenneth was mistaken by authorities for an Oklahoma bombing conspirator, and that Federal prison guards killed him in an interrogation that got out of hand.
Readers are cautioned that prisoners' claims of secret knowledge are a common phenomenon, and of varying reliability (frequently, none). However, if McVeigh made the statements to Nichols about Larry Potts, it is interesting. Potts at the time was the FBI's Assistant Director heading the agency's Criminal Division, and as such, oversaw domestic security and terrorism investigations. Potts was, in fact, in charge of the 1993 Branch Davidian operations by the elite Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) (which Oklahoma City was allegedly meant to avenge), and the 1992 Ruby Ridge incident involving HRT snipers.
Murtha Details Legislation To Stop Surge
On Feb. 19, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, detailed his legislation to stop President Bush's plan to surge additional troops into Iraq. He said it would go before the full House Appropriations Committee on March 14, and reach the House floor a few days later. His bill will be a rider on the Administration's $100 billion supplemental funding request for Iraq.
It will not allow Bush to extend the tours of forces in Iraq beyond one year, nor to send troops who have not had one year between tours to retrain and re-equip. They normally have two years between combat tours. It would also bar "stop-loss" orders, which bar troops from leaving the service when their term of commitment expires.
"That stops the surge, for all intents and purposes," he said. "They know they can't sustain the surge if these restrictions pass the House and Senate. The President can always veto it, but then he won't have any money."
Murtha answered critics by noting that, "We have found that our military bases at home lack the necessary equipment and training and are rated at an unacceptable state of combat readiness. The surge will force the Administration to send many of our troops back into Iraq with less than one year at home, and some troops already in Iraq will be extended in excess of one year.... This is a disservice to those who have served. This is a policy that weakens our military and threatens our military readiness."
Murtha also wants provisions that would shift the U.S. effort from military to civilian reconstruction, and limit dependence on private contractors. "We're going to try to reduce their presence substantially," he said. The Pentagon admits it doesn't know how many private military contractors there are in Iraq; some experts told Murtha there are 100,000.
Murtha proposes to "bulldoze" Abu Ghraib and close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo. His legislation will also bar permanent military bases in Iraq, and prohibit the Administration from launching war against Iran without Congressional approval.
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), another decorated Vietnam veteran, supported Murtha in a floor speech on Feb. 15. Citing Pentagon reports showing continuing shortages of critical equipment such as body armor, Kerry asked, "Aren't we putting our troops at risk when we send over 20,000 more Americans into the crossfire of a civil war without life-saving equipment?"
Wounded U.S. Soldiers Return to Neglect at Home
On Feb. 18, the Washington Post published a lengthy front-page exposé, of the kind of horror that returning wounded soldiers are facing at the Walter Reed Medical Center, whose vast but aging facilities outside the hospital itself have become deteriorating, depressing, rodent- and roach-infested holding pens for physically and psychologically wounded outpatients who have been released from the hospital but are either still in need of treatment or are awaiting a decision on discharge or return to active duty.
Authors Dana Priest and Anne Hull wrote: "They suffer from brain injuries, severed arms and legs, organ and back damage, and various degrees of post-traumatic stress. Their legions have grown so exponentiallythey outnumber hospital patients at Walter Reed 17 to 1that they take up every available bed on post and spill into dozens of nearby hotels and apartments leased by the Army. The average stay is ten months, but some have been stuck there for as long as two years." Some have disappeared from the rosters, some have died in the outpatient facilities, some have been transferred without records and are often lost in the shuffle. Families, especially non-English-speaking family members, who come to live with their wounded relatives, feel abandoned without information, without translators and, sometimes, without money. A number of soldiers are assigned responsibility to watch over others, especially those on suicide watch. All are frustrated by mountains of paperwork.
Dozens of personal stories from the solders reveal a tremendous frustration and resentment at a government that used them, and is now neglecting them. As one social worker put it, they get medical care and are saved. "But then they get into the administrative part of it and they are like, 'You saved me for what?' The soldiers feel like they are not getting proper respect. This leads to anger."
The Post exposé has ignited an uproar both in the Congress and among veterans' groups, and promises by the Army to improved conditions for wounded soldiers at the hospital. Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley charged, during a briefing at the facility for reporters, on Feb. 22, that the Post exposé was "a one sided representation" and that the problems that it reported were not widespread or "emblematic" of the Army's treatment of wounded soldiers. Nonetheless, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has ordered an independent investigation of what he termed an "unacceptable" situation for outpatients at the hospital.
Call for Expanded GOP Rebellion vs. Bush's Surge
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne wrote, in a Feb. 20 op-ed, that the Republican opposition must be widened beyond the 17 Republican House members who voted against the troop surge into Iraq, and he endorsed the legislation by Sens. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) to revoke the original 2002 Iraq resolution as the means to do it. The legislation revokes the authorization for the war on the basis originally it was to stop Saddam Hussein, who is now dead, and prevent his use of weapons of mass destruction, which were non-existent. Dionne writes, "Changing our policy will require a substantial Republican rebellion," and adds, "The Biden-Levin idea has the advantage of pushing the Republicans who are quietly doubtful about Bush's path out in the open."