United States News Digest
Gary Hart: Reject Cheney's Confrontation with Russia
Former Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.), in an open letter to Democrats posted on Huffingtonpost.com April 7, challenges the Democratic Party to take a more enlightened approach towards Russia, in contrast to that of the Bush Administration and the New York Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Hart notes that the Bush Administration has adopted a policy, "largely promoted by Vice President Richard Cheney," of confrontation toward Russia.
The CFR, in a report released in March of 2006, entitled "Russia's Wrong Direction," and endorsed by Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards, endorses the Bush policy outlook. "Both [the Bush Administration and the CFR] reflect a degree of antipathy toward the Russians that has never been fully accounted for or rationalized." One sign of this fact is that the Cold War-era Jackson-Vanik amendment, which denies Russia normal trade relations with the United States, allegedly as leverage to liberate dissidents and refuseniks, is still U.S. policy, 15 years after the end of the Cold War.
The open letter, Hart writes, "represents an appeal to Democrats ... to challenge this antipathy and to propose a more positive, constructive relationship between the United States and Russia, less in Russia's interest than in the strategic interest of the United States."
Hart also reminds us that when he was co-chair of the U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st Century, he and his fellow commissioners agreed that the United States should expand ties to Russia, China, and India, in order "to increase their positive contributions to regional stability, and to encourage them to undertake economic and political leadership in their own venues." Not only has no effort been made to implement these recommendations "in the case of Russia, [but] exactly the opposite has occurred."
Hart concludes that, "It is patently not in our interest to demonize and isolate Russia and it is patently in our interest to integrate it into the West."
Leahy To Join Feingold, Reid To Cut Off Iraq War Funds
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced on April 5 that, when the Senate reconvenes next week, he will be joining Democratic Senators Russ Feingold (Wisc.) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) in introducing legislation that would effectively end the current military mission in Iraq, and begin the redeployment of U.S. forces. The bill will require the President to begin redeploying American troops within 120 days of enactment. President Bush has repeatedly declared he will veto it. "The new Congress has charted a way to end our involvement in a civil war," Leahy said. "The American people want a way out of this foreign policy disaster and I hope the President will reconsider his veto threat."
Byrd May Join Webb, Sanders on Anti-Iran War Amendment
When the Senate passed its version of the $123 billion Iraq war supplemental, two amendments by Senators Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), which would have required President Bush to go to Congress before initiating military action against Iran, were both excluded, the National Iranian American Council reported April 5. However, some sort of amendment could return when the Senate takes up this year's defense authorization bill (Webb has already introduced a separate bill on the matter). Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) is considering allying with Webb and Sanders on an amendment which could be introduced in the Armed Services Committee, on which both Webb and Byrd are members, some time in May or June, when the bill is expected to go to the Senate floor.
On the House side, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), under pressure from anti-war Democrats ever since she pulled a similar House amendment, has recently asked House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) to draft a separate bill prohibiting arbitrary military action against Iran, although the current status of that effort is not clear.
Levin Releases DOD IG Report Showing Feith's Fraud
On April 5, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) released the now-declassified Pentagon Inspector General's report showing Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith's creation of fraudulent intelligence. Levin, who requested the declassification, said: "It is important for the public to see why the Pentagon's Inspector General concluded that Secretary Feith's office 'developed, produced and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al-Qaeda relationship,' which included 'conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community,' and why the Inspector General concluded that these actions were 'inappropriate.' Until today, those details were classified and outside the public's view."
Bush Names Swift-Boater Moneybags in Recess Appointment
President Bush used the Congressional Easter recess to appoint a top Swift-Boat financier and a leading Social Security privatizer to offices, after they had been rejected by the Senate. Sam Fox, who put $50,000 into the Swift-Boat operation, was confronted by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who had been smeared by the Swift-Boaters during the 2004 Presidential campaign, and others in Senate hearings, leading Bush to withdraw his nomination as Ambassador to Belgium, before the Senate vote. Bush then gave Fox the recess appointment on April 5.
Also, Andrew Biggs was appointed Deputy Director of Social Security, after he was rejected by the Senate in February. Biggs, with degrees from Cambridge and the London School of Economics, was the Cato Institute's man on Social Security, and appeared regularly with Bush during the latter's failed 2005 push for privatization. Kerry said he found the appointment sad but not surprising, while Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said he would ask the Government Accountability Office to rule on its legality.
John Edwards Flunks Nuclear Power Test
Speaking at a University of New Hampshire town meeting April 2, Presidential candidate John Edwards rejected nuclear power as a safe, pollution-free solution to the nation's energy needs.
As monitored on C-SPAN, an engineering student asked the candidate at the end of the meeting why, if he is concerned about global warming, isn't he supporting clean nuclear energy which produces no carbon dioxide. The student spoke of the future he intends to create with his engineering skills, and noted that the global warming and other environmental scares deny our proven ability to solve problems with science and technology.
Edwards showed his ignorance of nuclear power, by claiming, against the facts, that we don't know how to deal with long-lived radioactive waste.
To learn why spent nuclear fuel is not "waste" but a valuable, renewable resource, see: http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com.
Top Bush Campaign Manager Splits
Matthew Dowd, who was President Bush's chief campaign strategist in 2004, gave an interview to the April 1 New York Times, attacking Bush and calling for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. The Times, identifying Dowd as the first member of Bush's inner circle to break so publicly with him, quotes Dowd as saying that he's disappointed in Bush, accusing him of a "my way or the highway" mentality, reinforced by a shrinking circle of trusted aides, and that the President has become isolated, "secluded and bubbled in."
Dowd, who was a key operative in the attacks on John Kerry during the 2004 campaign, recently wrote an unsubmitted op-ed entitled "Kerry Was Right," saying that the 2004 Democratic President candidate was correct last year in calling for withdrawal from Iraq. Dowd says he was dumbfounded when Bush didn't fire Rumsfeld after Abu Ghraib; and then events during 2005 led to further doubts: particularly Bush's handling of Katrina; his refusal to meet with anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan; and his recess appointment of John Bolton to the UN.
White House counselor Dan Bartlett, on CBS April 1, attributed Dowd's defection to "personal turmoil" in his private life, and to an emotional response to Iraq, since his son is about to be deployed there.
Was Guantanamo Plea Bargain a Cheney-Howard Deal?
Many observers, particularly in Australia, believe that the David Hicks plea bargain, that resulted in only a nine-month prison sentence, combined with a gag order that prevents Hicks from discussing torture and the conditions of his confinement, was part of a deal worked out in February between Dick Cheney and Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Howard is one of a handful of remaining allies of the Bush Administration; he and his party are in deep trouble going into upcoming elections, with the issue of Hicks and Guantanamo being a major factor in their decline.
Under the plea agreement, which was worked out behind the backs of the military prosecutors trying the case, Hicks pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of providing material support to a terrorist organization; he is barred from talking to the press for a year, and he was compelled to state that he was never "illegally treated" while in U.S. custodywhich contradicts his earlier sworn affidavit in which Hicks declared he had been repeatedly beaten, sodomized, and forced into painful positions during interrogations.
Hicks' lawyer bypassed prosecutors, and worked out the deal with Susan Crawford, the "convening authority" who is in charge of the military commission trials. Crawford is a long-time GOP appointee, who was DOD Inspector General when Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defensewhich adds to the suspicions of a dirty deal.