United States News Digest
Murtha Describes Burnout of the Military
April 26 (EIRNS)Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, described the burnout of the military, and demanded that the Bush Administration be held accountable, during his April 25 speech on the House floor, at the conclusion of the debate on the supplemental war spending bill. He reported rumors that military tours in Iraq, recently extended from a year to 15 months, will be extended to 18 months. A general had told him, he said, "If you're there more than nine months, you start making mistakes. I question myself after nine months." A psychologist told Murtha's committee, the figure is more like three months in heavy combat, dealing daily with insurgents' improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Murtha said of the bill itself, "We have an accountability bill, this is called the 'Iraq Accountability Bill.' This war has been so mismanaged that we have the responsibility to force the White House to be accountable. The policy is not set by the military, the policy is set by the White House, and we have to hold the White House accountable for the mistakes they have made."
The U.S. Senate voted up the bill passed by the House yesterday, which would require troop withdrawals from Iraq starting Oct. 1. The 51-46 vote on the supplemental appropriations bill was largely along party lines, with GOP Sens. Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Gordon Smith (Ore.) voting for the bill, and apostate Democrat Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) voting against it. The bill now goes to the White House, where President Bush has vowed to veto it.
The April 26 Wall Street Journal reported that its recent poll with NBC shows that in the emerging showdown between the President and Congress, "most Americans side with Congress by a lopsided 56% to 37%."
Defense Department: Extend 'Big Stick' Policy To Space
April 26, 2007 (EIRNS)Ryan Henry, the Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, called today for a "new Mahan for the Space Age," referring to Alfred Thayer Mahan, the U.S. naval theorist from the turn of the 20th Century, whose policies on sea power became the basis for Theodore Roosevelt's expansionist policy. Henry was the luncheon speaker at a conference on "Spacepower," sponsored by the National Defense University.
Henry reiterated the general thrust of the Bush space policy of retaining "space dominance." He lambasted China's shooting down of its own satellite as "irresponsible behavior." Henry also praised the launch by Teddy Roosevelt of the Great White Fleet for an around-the-world cruise, a cruise, one of the conference participants later pointed out, totally supported by the British, who re-supplied the fleet at their coal ports every step of the way. Henry pointed out to possible "dangers" in space activities to which the Pentagon was looking. These included the deployment by the Russians of their Globnass system (an alternative to the U.S.-controlled GPS system), the creation by India of a new aerospace command, the launching by the British-based Surrey Satellite Systems of 30 small satellites (on behalf of small countries with no launch capabilities), and the Japanese deployment of a four-satellite system (also a competitor to GPS). "These are developments that we must closely watch over the years. We can't miss the warning signs," Henry said.
During the Q&A, Henry was pelted with questions, including from EIR, criticizing his in-your-face policy; questioners noted that the U.S. refusal to cooperate with other space-faring nations in working out collaborative efforts for working in space, gave the appearance of saying "My way or the highway" to the entire international community. Henry lamely defended his position, somewhat surprised by the hefty response.
Everything Cheney Said About Guantanamo Was False
WASHINGTON, April 26, 2007 (EIRNS)Despite claims by top Administration officials that those being held at Guantanamo were "the worst of the worst," captured on the battlefield while fighting Americans, and had valuable intelligence vital to protecting Americans, the Senate Armed Services Committee was told today that "almost everything said by our highest officials about who was detained at Guantanamo, and why they were detained, was false."
This is what emerged from a detailed study of the U.S. government's own records. The Committee heard from Prof. Mark Denbeaux of Seton Hall Law School, who conducted the study of Pentagon records. Denbeaux reported that 55% of those at Guantanamo have never been accused of committing a single hostile act; 60% were neither "members of" or "fighters for" al-Qaeda or the Taliban; 92% were not captured by Americans; and two-thirds were not even picked up in Afghanistan. Only a handful were ever accused of shooting a weapon at U.S. soldiers.
The first witness at today's hearing, called to consider changes in the 2006 Military Commissions Act (otherwise known as the "torture bill"), was Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Leahy called last year's passage of that bill "a mistake of historic proportions." He particularly focussed on the law's elimination of the writ of habeas corpus, which, he stressed, applies not only to those at Guantanamo, but to 12 million legal permanent resident aliens in America today. Any of them could be picked up and detained forever without access to a lawyer or to the courts. "This is the kind of 'disappearance' that America has criticized and condemned in parts of the world ruled by autocratic regimes," Leahy declared. "It is unconstitutional. It is un-American."
Other witnesses went further, stating that the whole scheme of Combat Status Review Tribunals (CSRT) and Military Commissions should be scrapped. Former Navy Judge Advocate General Rear Adm. John Hutson (ret.) said in his testimonyand reiterated the point to EIRthat the CSRTs (which were created as a substitute for habeas corpus and the provisions of the Geneva Conventions) "cannot be fixed. They mock justice and due process and must be jettisoned."
Appearing at the end of the hearing, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) made a strong argument for closing Guantanamowith which a number of the witnesses fully agreed.
Wolfowitz Sinks Deeper in the Quagmire
April 24 (EIRNS)World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz is sinking into a quagmire as deep as the one he created in Iraq. He is willing to hire a coach to help him improve his "leadership style," according to the Washington Post April 24. But, more to the point, he has hired lawyer Robert Bennett, a partner at the prominent Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom law firm, to represent him. Bennett stated on April 23 that the beleaguered World Bank president "is not going to resign ... he did not hire me to help him work out a separation agreement. He feels people are trying to interfere with his job to get at world poverty, and wants to get the thing behind him so that he can concentrate 100% on his work," the Post reported.
On April 20, the World Bank created a special ad hoc committee to examine Wolfowitz's conduct in arranging for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, to be hired by the State Department at a unprecedentedly high salary for her position. The committee said it would act "expeditiously" to resolve the matter.
One day later, Wolfowitz hired Bennett, who immediately urged the Bank's board not to "rush to judgment" on his client, but to provide an extended period of time for Bennett to prepare Wolfowitz's defense. The pressure against Wolfowitz is intensifying however. The April 21-27 edition of the London Economist documented how the Wolfowitz scandal has affected the Bank's ability to obtain funding for its International Development Association (IDA), and on April 24, German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul called for Wolfowitz's resignation. "He should do the Bank a service and take the consequences himself. The sooner the better," said Wieczorek-Zeul, as reported by Xinhuanet.
Did Stress Lead to NASA Murder/Suicide?
April 23 (EIRNS)On April 20, contract aerospace engineer William Phillips, who had worked at NASA's Johnson manned space center in Houston for more than a decade, killed a NASA co-worker and then shot himself. Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt told a press conference this afternoon, that Phillips had received an e-mail about his "poor job review," and was afraid he would lose his job. Johnson Space Center Director, and former astronaut, Mike Coats, said April 22 that the stress level at NASA installations needs to be looked at.
Since President Bush announced his Vision for Space Exploration in early 2004, which will phase out the Space Shuttle in 2010, hundreds of engineers who have worked for up to 30 years on the Shuttle program have been told to take "early retirement," and many of those who remain, face the unemployment line when the Shuttle stops flying. Many, like the 60-year-old Phillips, will have no possibility of future employment when the Shuttle program ends. Because the space program has been so seriously underfunded, it will be at least four years after Shuttle retirement before the replacement manned space vehicle is ready to fly.
In the late 1960s, when the Apollo program was winding to a close, thousands of aerospace workers at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, who had committed their lives to the space program, lost their jobs. As engineers faced the prospect of no future, homes were abandoned, alcoholism and divorce became rampant, and the suicide rate climbed. NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has repeatedly warned, that this upcoming four-year hiatus in manned space flight could lead to tragedies similar to those suffered at the end of the Apollo program.