James Ridgeway

James Ridgeway

In 1965, James Ridgeway helped launch the modern muckraking era by revealing that General Motors had hired private eyes to spy on an obscure consumer advocate named Ralph Nader. He worked for many years at the Village Voice, has written 16 books, and has codirected Blood in the Face, a film about the far right. In 2012, he was named a Soros Justice Media Fellow.

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A Roundup of News Stories on the Middle East War

| Mon Jul. 24, 2006 3:12 PM EDT

Rice in Lebanon

U.S. Strategy: A Necon Method Behind the Apparent Madness

Hope for a ceasefire and possible international border force is tied to U.S. neoconservative policy aimed at forcing change in Syria and Iran. ( LINK)

Rice lands in Beirut amidst fierce fighting in the south (LINK)

Rice: "What we're seeing here ... are the birth pangs of a new Middle East and whatever we do, we have to be certain that we are pushing forward to the new Middle East, not going back to the old one." (LINK)

The Wider Region

Al-Sadr's Shiite militia reportedly prepares to join the fight in Lebanon

The Washington Times, in a report based on an interview in Baghdad, says Sadr's vicious militia is forming a 1500 member unit to fight in Lebanon. If true, this will be taken in Washington as evidence of ties among Shiites across the Middle East--a key element in the neoconservative dream scenario in widening the war for regime change in both Syria and Iran. (LINK)

Israeli Plans

Israel set plans for invasion more than a year ago.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports, "Israel's military response by air, land and sea to what it considered a provocation last week by Hezbollah militants is unfolding according to a plan finalized more than a year ago." (LINK)

The Humanitarian Crisis

Fleeing refugees inundate Syria.

Lebanon's border crossings with Syria to the north and east have been inundated with people, with up to a million Lebanese seeking refuge, according to state-run Syria TV. (LINK)

Hezbollah

Hezbollah adopting Viet Cong-Style Tactics.

Jane's Defense Weekly says Hezbollah is proving a tough opponent for Israel because of its Viet Cong-style network of tunnels in southern Lebanon. (LINK)

--from the Mother Jones Washington Bureau

Geneva Conventions: More Bush PR

| Wed Jul. 12, 2006 12:41 PM EDT

WASHINGTON—Yesterday's embrace of the Geneva Conventions by the Pentagon isn't likely to change much of anything. But it can mean plenty of trouble for top Bush officials, including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who had conveniently gone to Iraq to be with the troops.

That's because the Pentagon brass have speculated among themselves that adherence to Geneva could end up exposing top administration officials to war crimes charges.

There are a number of loopholes in the Pentagon announcement, which render it more of a PR exercise than anything else. "I'm really chuckling away reading all these headlines about how the adminstration's done an about face, an 180 degree turn, to which I say I'll believe it when I see it," said Scott Horton, professor of international law at Columbia University and an expert on human rights issues. A few loopholes:

*Even if the CIA is brought in under this ruling, it is unlikely the Agency will be prevented from sending prisoners to jails in other countries. The government can argue the US has no control over what happens to such prisoners.

*While the Supreme Court's decision symbolically gave all prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay the rights afforded to them by the Geneva Convention, it also leaves an opening for Congress to introduce new legislation and essentially reinstate the military tribunals that were just deemed unconstitutional. As the Washington Times reports, "Now it is up to Congress to create a judicial system that meets Geneva's requirement for a regularly constituted court system, but does not, in the Pentagon's view, give detainees all the rights afforded a criminal defendant in the U.S."

*According to White House Spokesman Tony Snow, about 100 of the 450 prisoners being held at Gitmo will now be able to return to their homelands, but there's a catch: many of these inmates, particularly those from Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, are enemies of their own governments and would undoubtedly be re-imprisoned or killed as soon as they set foot on their native soil. Our government might then be obligated to grant these "terrorists" political asylum in U.S.

Such a directive has apparently been under consideration for some time, but has met resistance at high levels of the Pentagon -- particularly by undersecretary of defense for intelligence Stephen Cambone and the Defense Department's general counsel William Haynes, who rejected the idea of establishing an official DOD policy to ensure that detainees were treated in accordance with Common Article Three. As described in an article by the New Yorker's Jane Mayer, though "military officers argued for returning the U.S. to what they called the high ground" during a Pentagon meeting held last year, Haynes and Cambone "argued that the articulated standard would limit America's 'flexibility.' It also might expose Administration officials to charges of war crimes: if Common Article Three became the standard for treatment, then it might become a crime to violate it. Their opposition was enough to scuttle the proposal."

--The staff of Mother Jones' Washington bureau

Overthrow the Minimum-Wage Earners!

| Sun Jun. 25, 2006 2:25 AM EDT

Ted Kennedy's proposal to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 over three years, offered in the form of an amendment to the defense authorization bill, failed in the Senate last week; no surprise there, alas, though only in the U.S. Senate do you lose even when you win a majority (the measure would have needed 60 votes to pass, but garnered only 52). It was, you see, a vote against oppression: This is "a classic debate between two different philosophies,''
said Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican. "One philosophy believes in the marketplace, the competitive system…and entrepreneurship. And secondly is the argument that says that government knows better, and the top down mandate works.''

NYC to Bush: Drop Dead!

| Wed Jun. 21, 2006 6:47 PM EDT

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and police commissioner Ray Kelly lambasted the Bush administration's plan to cut terrorism funding to New York and Washington by more than 40 percent this morning in a hearing before Long Island Congressman Peter King's House Committee on Homeland Security. King, himself a conservative Republican, has been furious with the administration over department's plan to reduce New York City's antiterrorist funds to $124.4 million in 2006, down from $207.5 million a year ago. "It was indefensible, it was disgraceful, and it raises very real questions about the competency of this department," he said in the hearing.

The process of applying for antiterror funding "should not be a contest to see who could write the best term paper for their college class," argued Bloomberg. The administration, however, has called New York's antiterror program "ineffective", and has argued that the city doesn't have any national monuments or icons worth protecting.

In the same hearing, New York congresswoman Nita Lowey pointed out that while New York was responding to warnings of a planned cyanide attack on its subways, Columbus, Ohio was buying bulletproof vests for its police dogs.

It's worth remembering that on 9/11 itself, the administration was severely lacking in its ability to so much as communicate with New York and Washington. The President on Air Force One had no telephone contact with D.C. for much of the day; the military was not informed of the hijackings until it was too late to act; and neither the airlines nor the FAA told New York city officials about the attacks in progress until the planes hit the buildings, even though they had blow-by-blow accounts from flight attendants 10 minutes after the hijackings began—early enough to begin getting people out of the second World Trade Center Tower. There's little indication matters have improved much since then.

In the wake of 9/11, Bush fought to prevent an investigation of the attacks, and tried his best to keep information from a congressional inquiry under wraps. Having used the attacks as justification for the war in Iraq, the president now seems ready to dump New York and move on to places where Republicans must attend to their electoral base. Here, (via CBS), are a few of the places that will be getting more antiterrorism money under the administration's plan:

  • Jacksonville, Fla. 2005 funds: $6.8 million. 2006 funds: $9.2 million. Increase: 26%. Major landmark: Alltel Stadium, home of Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • St. Louis; 2005 funds: $7 million. 2006 funds: $9.2 million. Increase: 23.6%. Major landmark: Gateway Arch.
  • Louisville, Ky.; 2005 funds: $5 million. 2006 funds: $8.5 million. Increase: 41.2%. Major landmark: Churchill Downs race track.
  • Omaha 2005 funds: $5.1 million. 2006 funds: $8.3 million. Increase: 38.2%. Major landmark: Offutt Air Force Base.

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