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WAR WATCH
After the Invasion
Retread Hawks
Target: Academic Dissenters
Distrust Across the Pond
# DAILY BRIEFING
Gun Distributors in the Dock
Probing Perchlorate Use
Cry for Argentina
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Friday, November 15
Thursday, November 14
Wednesday, November 13
Tuesday, November 12
Monday, November 11

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War Watch
After the Invasion

While much of the world continues to debate when and why the US might invade Iraq, a growing number of hawks inside and outside the Bush administration are already plotting what to do with a post-war Iraq.

As Andrew Buncombe of the Independent reports, the evidence clearly suggests that Washington is preparing for “regime change in Iraq, even as weapons inspectors get ready to return to the country.” What is now clear, Buncombe writes, is that Washington plans to “administer Iraq in the days, weeks and months after a US-led military operation.”

“The Bush administration has been quietly training scores of civil servants to oversee the transformation of the Iraqi economy in the aftermath of military strikes. The effort is said to have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.A private consultancy firm, contracted by the State Department, has been training Iraqi exiles in economics, accountancy and finance in preparation for restructuring the country’s state-controlled system into a Western, market-driven economy.”

Retructuring the economy will be tricky enough. Restructing Iraq’s fragile and fractious society Russ Baker argues on TomPaine.com, will be a far more delicate operation, requiring a lasting commitment from Washington.

“Will the United States do what is necessary to replace regional and local officials who ally themselves with criminal elements for personal gain, much less prevent remnants of Saddam’s elite military unit leadership and secret police from establishing fiefdoms and blocking change? Iraq, a country with a Shiite Muslim majority, is controlled by its Sunni minority; the long suppressed Kurds want their own homeland. What will it take to suppress the religious and ethnic rivalries that are likely to emerge in the vacuum created by Saddam’s fall?”

Given recent history, Baker suggests that there is little reason to believe that the Bush administration will commit the resources needed to succed in helping Iraq remake itself.

“The evidence from the Balkans and Afghanistan suggests that Washington will not carry the ball. Can we depend on the Arab League? At least in Serbia, a vigorous opposition existed. But nothing of the sort is to be found in Iraq, and the émigré community leadership inspires grave doubts among knowledgeable observers.”

The US will probably choose a member of that émigré community to lead Iraq, writes the London Guardian‘s Martin Woollacott. That debate is heating up as the likelihood of war increases, Woollacott reports, exposing deep differences among Iraq’s many opposition groups and their backers in Washington.

“Those parties or movements that have survived in exile, or been created in exile, are either shadows of organisations that have disappeared in Iraq itself, save perhaps some underground remnants, or new bodies, claiming to represent elements in Iraqi society with which their connections may be less than solid. The fact that most have foreign patrons also raises a question about the degree of their legitimacy and autonomy. The Islamists, the monarchists, the ex-military and Ba’athist opposition are all open to such criticism. Even the big Kurdish parties, which do have a full-blooded existence, have been affected by the end of politics in Arab Iraq. The constant emergency situation in northern Iraq has made them less parties than organisations that offer security, patronage and employment, and that over-emphasise the power and prestige of their leaders.

Part of the problem is that different parts of the Bush administration favour different tendencies within the opposition, with the civilian hawks at the Pentagon favouring the more radical approach … and the doves at the state department ironically taking the conservative line. Sooner rather than later the Americans will have to make a choice, and it is an important one.”

Retread Hawks

The debate over who should be allowed to take Saddam Hussein’s place is most feverish in Washington, where foreign policy powerbrokers inside and outside the Bush administration are maneuvering to push their chosen candidates. Now, a new player has emerged, the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. But, as Alternet reports, this “new” group features familiar players and a familiar agenda:

“[A] closer look at the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq reveals it to be just the latest addition to an incestuous web of rightwing front-organizations staffed and funded by a small but well-organized segment of the foreign-policy elite.

Because of this long and close association with the [Iraqi National Congress], the Committee appears to have a very specific agenda tied to the success of [INC leader Ahmed] Chalabi, although no such purpose is cited in its “mission statement.” It describes the Committee’s purpose as “promot[ing] regional peace, political freedom and international security by replacing the Saddam Hussein regime with a democratic government …”

The primary Washington sponsors of Chalabi and the INC, of course, are the administration’s civilian hawks, led by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Hugo Young of the London Guardian suggests that these administration insiders, who have also been the most ardent supporters of war against Iraq, share one more policy trait — a devout commitment to Israel.

Only in Washington does one get a true sense of the obsession of these Pentagon civilians. Conversationally, it is common talk that some of them, not including Rumsfeld, are as much Israeli as American nationalists. Behind nervous confiding hands come sardonic whispers of an American outpost of Likud. Most striking of all, however, is how unmentionable this is in the American liberal press. The aura of a dirty little secret surrounds the possibility – the perfectly intelligible and even reasonable possibility – that the emotional thrust of the anti-Saddam campaign, from the most hawkish hawks, contemplates the security of one country, Israel, which he really threatens, more than that of another, the US itself, which his weapons of mass destruction have no chance of reaching….”

Target: Academic Dissenters

When it comes to Israeli nationalism, however, the Pentagon’s hawks can’t compete with Daniel Pipes. The founder of the Middle East Forum’s controversial “Campus Watch” web site, Pipes is now taking his attacks on academics who question Israeli policy out of the virtual world. In a Jerusalem Post opinion column, Pipes suggests that America’s academic freedoms need some wartime pruning:

“Of course, professors have every right to express their opinions, however cranky and mistaken. Yet the relentless opposition to their own government raises some questions.

The time has come for adult supervision of the faculty and administrators on many American campuses. Especially as we are at war, the goal must be for universities to resume their civic responsibilities.

This can be achieved if outsiders (alumni, state legislators, non-university specialists, parents of students and others) take steps to create a politically balanced atmosphere, critique failed scholarship, establish standards for media statements by faculty, and broaden the range of campus discourse.

While Pipes’ ‘wartime’ logic may be new, his arguments are familiar. And while the medium may be modern, Kristine McNeil argues in The Nation that the “Campus Watch” blacklisting site serves only as “a showcase for the signature distortions on which Pipes has built his twenty-five-year career.”

“He twists words, quotes people out of context and stretches the truth to suit his purpose. John Esposito, director of Georgetown’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and an expert on militant Islam, is depicted as a Hamas apologist and blamed, without evidence, for the State Department’s decision to refuse crucial Sudanese intelligence on Osama bin Laden before September 11. Joseph Massad, an assistant professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia, is maligned for signing a letter to the editor of the Columbia Spectator in defense of Edward Said in 2000. The letter, co-signed by Columbia colleagues Hamid Dabashi (a fellow blacklistee) and the late Magda Al-Nowaihi, is presented as self-evident in its taint. Stanford history professor and Middle East Studies Association (MESA) president Joel Beinin (not on the list but singled out elsewhere on the site) is quoted completely out of context and said to blame ‘US foreign policy for the attacks of September 11, 2001, rather than militant Islam.'”

Distrust Across the Pond

Last week, Pentagon advisor Richard Perle questioned Europe’s ethical fiber, suggesting that the entire continent had lost its moral bearings.

It seems the skepticism is mutual.

The London Guardian reports that a third of Britons see President Bush as “a bigger threat to world safety than Saddam Hussein.”

Daily Briefing
LAW & JUSTICE
Gun Districbutors in the Dock

In a landmark verdict, a Florida court ruled Thursday that the gun distributor Valor Corporation, by marketing “junk guns” that lack even basic safety features such as locks and cases, is partly liable for the murder two years ago of middle school teacher Barry Grunow, according to a press release by the gun control advocacy group, the Brady Center. The case is a beacon of hope to those afraid of safety concerns being swept under the rug by the Washington gun lobby, the press release continues, particularly at a time when gun makers are seeking to avoid any kind of “product liability,” which could lead to long lines of negligence lawsuits:

“Responding to liability concerns, seven major gun manufacturers are now selling guns with internal locks, a trend toward safer gun designs that may be accelerated by today’s verdict.

The verdict comes at a time when the National Rifle Association and the gun industry are pushing for federal legislation to grant the industry broad immunity from liability to gun violence victims.”

Though the gun in question was not proven to be of the illegal “Saturday Night Special” variety, the Palm Beach Post reports that the verdict may have succeeded in “cracking the door open” for future legal battles, according to the legal director of the Brady Center, Dennis Henigan:

“What’s significant is [that] here is a case involving such a heinous crime, and we were able to convince the jury that this was a matter of shared responsibility.”

ENVIRONMENT
Probing Perchlorate Use

The State of Maryland is now at the forefront of a national debate on the allowance of perchlorate — an incendiary chemical suspected of contributing to substantial genetic defects — in drinking water. Lane Harvey Brown reports in the Baltimore Sun that the State, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Defense have recently been bogged down in a debate over the military’s responsibility in cleaning up the city of Aberdeen’s water supply, which has been greatly tainted by military excercises in the area. Discovered in the ground water of many other states, there is as yet no uniform national allowance for the chemical. With the EPA, DoD, and individual states arguing over one standard, Maryland now finds itself fighting to enforce the nation’s strictest rules and pull the DoD into a massive clean-up.

“But without an EPA-determined national limit for perchlorate in drinking water, the military’s response has been blunt: No standard, no cleanup,” notes Brown, adding that the DoD is still arguing that perchlorate has not been proven to be toxic. Local community groups, meanwhile, have protested the slow pace of the debate and the postponing of an inevitable clean-up.

Perchlorate is primarily used by the US military as a propellant in jet and rocket fuels and other explosive devises. According to Brown, the military has already been forced into a $300 million clean-up project in Massachusetts, with cases pending in California and elsewhere. The EPA offers its own summary of current findings on perchlorate, and Earth Crash Earth Spirit documents past cases of perchlorate contamination.

FOREIGN NEWS
Cry for Argentina

By defaulting on its debt to the World Bank last week, Argentina joined an unsavory crew of debtor states — Iraq, Somalia and Zimbabwe among them — in the financial world’s dungeon. Crippled by inflation, debt and unemployment, Argentina has been negotiating with the Bank and its sister organization, the International Monetary Fund, for the past year over the terms of a rescue package, and this latest default might force the IMF’s hand. As Mark Tran notes in The Guardian, however, the gamble could just as easily backfire, plunging Argentina into chaos once again:

“In the short term, yesterday’s decision should have little impact as the World Bank will continue to disburse money to Argentina under existing loans for at least 30 days. But after that period, unless Argentina has cleared its arrears, there will be no more loans to help ease the plight of the poor, who are naturally hit hardest by economic turmoil … It is a high risk manoeuvre. Mr Duhalde needs an IMF agreement soon because Argentina has to make an additional $2.2bn in other payments due to the World Bank before January. If it misses those payments, Argentina’s financial reputation, despite recent encouraging signs of stability, could take a further beating and the country could well resume its downward slide.”

Meanwhile, Kiplin and Robert Pastor, writing in The Christian Science Monitor, worry that Washington is too obsessed with Iraq to notice the gathering dangers down South.

“If Argentina were unique in South America, other countries could relax. But the continent is on edge with the war in Colombia, escalating polarization in Venezuela, sharp decline in support for Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, polar populists running for president in Ecuador, and political stalemate in Bolivia … If the economic crisis worsens, it could fracture democracy and spawn new security crises.”
 

 
Mother Jones Daily
 

WAR WATCH
Back in Baghdad
The Other Invasion
Fire Powell?
Apologizing for Peace
Trouble at the Border
# DAILY BRIEFING
An Iberian Disaster
Democracy Takes a Backseat
Europe’s ‘Not Welcome’ Mat
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Tools
Monday, November 18
Friday, November 15
Thursday, November 14
Wednesday, November 13
Tuesday, November 12

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War Watch
Back in Baghdad

Even as UN weapons inspectors arrived in Baghdad Monday, Washington claimed that Iraq was already in breach of the resolution which allowed their return.

While the arms inspectors were touching down at Saddam Hussein International Airport on Monday, US and British jets were bombing air defense emplacements in northern Iraq. What’s more, the BBC reports that senior US officials are suggesting that Iraq violated the UN resolution by firing on the jets.

“A BBC correspondent at the UN, David Bamford, says the US interpretation of resolution 1441 to include protection for aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones could prompt new debate about what exactly was agreed in the Security Council.

Our correspondent says many people believe Iraq’s compliance with the resolution would be judged solely on how the inspectors are handled.”

Those inspectors, preparing for a long and painstaking mission, predict that the process could take months. But, as Kim Sengupta of The Independent reports, many in Iraq dismiss the inspections as a meaningless prelude to an inevitable war.

“Ewen Buchanan, an Unmovic official, said: ‘It will take us a while to get set up … We do know from past experience that one has got to be absolutely thorough. It will be up to the Security Council to decide whether or not Iraq has fulfilled its obligations and war can be avoided.’

But most people in Baghdad believe that the point of no return has already been passed. Watching the UN convoy whiz by, Salim Nasrullah, 29, an engineer, said: ‘All this means nothing. The Americans have made up their mind to attack us whatever we do. We are used to seeing our own people drive around in big cars, and this today may prepare us for seeing Westerners doing the same if the war goes badly.'”

Charles Krauthammer is just as dismissive of the inspections — but for a different reason. The Washington Post pundit argues that the White House should be wary of the inspection team and its leader, Hans Blix, suggesting that Blix, the Security Council and Saddam Hussein are only stalling.

“It is not even clear how eager he is to find anything. Blix is an international civil servant. Does he want to go home to Sweden as the man who blew the whistle that triggered the invasion of Iraq? (Perhaps the United States should promise him asylum.)”

Blix does not have to report to the Security Council until Feb. 21. The Gulf War ended on Feb. 27. Beginning hostilities that late, with hot weather approaching, would be extremely hazardous for the United States.

Saddam Hussein knows this. So does the Security Council. That’s the game they’re playing. President Bush remains apparently sincere in his determination to rid the world of Hussein and his weapons. The question of the day, the question on which everything hinges, is whether, when the window of legitimacy begins to close, Bush can find his way out of the trap set for him by the Security Council.”

While it may please Krauthammer, Washington’s novel interpretation of the UN resolution will pose a direct challenge to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, whom The Economist — in a feat of understated analysis — describes as already concerned that “America seems to have a lower threshold for going to war than other members of the Security Council.”

“The council is supposed to have a role in deciding what should be done about any serious Iraqi violations, although America continues to reserve the right to use force without the UN’s approval. A number of countries believe that only the Security Council can decide what punishment should to be meted out to Iraq if it fails to comply.”

The Other Invasion

If the US does invade Iraq, Mark Mazzetti plans to have a ringside seat. The defense correspondent for U.S. News & World Report, Mazzetti is one of 58 journalists being prepped by the Pentagon at seven-day media “boot camps” ostensibly designed to provide the reporters with the skills they need to keep up with military units.

“The idea behind the boot camps is simple: The more reporters experience military life, the less chance there is they will slow down, screw up, or report inaccurately about the military unit they are embedded with. It’s also a way to make the military brass comfortable with once again letting reporters bum rides on the way to war — a policy that, for the most part, was abandoned after Vietnam.”

Fire Powell?

On Sunday, The Washington Post published the first excerpt from Bob Woodward’s upcoming book “Bush at War.” In it, Woodward tells of how Secretary of State Colin Powell managed to convince President Bush to seek a new UN resolution on Iraq — outmaneuvering administration hawks such as Vice President Dick Cheney in the process.

That isn’t sitting too well with David Frum.

In fact, the National Review‘s neoconservative nabob claims that Powell should be fired. His reason? Woodward’s book, Frum claims, is “essentially an edited transcript of Powell leaks, all of them calculated to injure this administration and undermine its policies on the very eve of military action against Iraq.”

“For more than a year, we’ve been reading nasty little stories in the papers about Karl Rove, Paul Wolfowitz, and Donald Rumsfeld and condescending stories about President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice. Careful readers have understood that these stories emanated from the State Department — but until now, Powell has taken care to protect his personal deniability. Now he has abandoned that polite pretense.

There is no sin in a cabinet officer dissenting from the policies of his president. Nor is it necessarily wrong for him to take his dissent to the country. But before he makes his dissent public, he should resign — and if he won’t resign, he should be sacked. Instead of representing the United States to the world, Powell sees his job as representing the world to the United States. It’s time for him to go.”

War Watch has to wonder at the vehemence of Frum’s attack. Could it be that Powell’s great sin was actually the political victory chronicled in Woodward’s book? Frum and other supporters of the administration’s hawks have been spitting nails since it became clear that Powell would win the Security Council’s support for a new resolution — an achievement that The Boston Globe‘s H.D.S. Greenway suggests rescued the president and the administration from a disastrous misstep:

“What a long road the administration has traveled since the days when Vice President Cheney and the Pentagon hawks were calling for a unilateral attack on Iraq, saying that sending arms inspectors back to Iraq would be counterproductive and would only confuse the issue. Among the neo-imperialists of the Bush administration, the United Nations is a thing to be ignored, even despised, by a great hegemon such as the United States.

The ‘regime change’ and preemptive strike rhetoric that so alarmed our friends has been downplayed, and President Bush even said that if Saddam Hussein gives up his weapons of mass destruction there need not be war. For Powell, having been so humiliated on the Palestinian-Israel issue when his good advice and counsel were ignored by the White House and his policies reversed, this is a personal triumph. The president, too, deserves credit for siding with Powell this time around.”

Apologizing for Peace

Charlie Sykes isn’t aiming nearly as high as Frum. In fact, the Milwaukee talk radio host is aiming rather low.

Last week, Sykes used his show on Milwaukee’s WTMJ to pillory local businessman Richard Abdoo, the chief executive officer of Wisconsin Energy Corp. Abdoo’s crime? He contributed money to the antiwar group Not In Our Name, and was listed as a supporter of NION’s statement against invading Iraq.

As The Progressive‘s Matthew Rothschild writes, Abdoo was in good company:

“The statement–signed by such celebrities as Susan Sarandon, Gloria Steinem, Ed Asner, Noam Chomsky, Danny Glover, Martin Luther King III, Alice Walker, and Kurt Vonnegut–calls on ‘the people of the United States to resist the policies and overall political direction that have emerged since September 11, and which pose grave dangers to the people of the world.’ It urges people to resist ‘the war and repression that has been loosed on the world by the Bush Administration. It is unjust, immoral, and illegitimate.’ The statement condemned the loss of civil liberties in the United States, the secret detention of immigrants, and the preparation for all-out war against Iraq.

Charlie Sykes of WTMJ said the statement was an ‘anti-American screed’ and drummed up a campaign against Abdoo.”

Abdoo initially defended his position, claiming that he had the right as an American and a private citizen to speak his mind and choose his causes. That logic failed to quell the criticism, however, and Abdoo has since backed down, issuing a memo to Wisconsin Energy Corp. employees apologizing for the controversy.

“The chief executive officer’s statement followed a hail of criticism on talk radio, an article and editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and a flurry of calls – most of them negative – to the company.

At the same time, other area residents voiced support for Abdoo. One even backed his philosophical support with the purchase of $4,400 worth of Wisconsin Energy stock. And several experts on corporate leadership said Abdoo had every right to express his views as a private citizen.”

Trouble at the Border

Pumping gas can be a dangerous thing in these United States.

Michel Jalbert, a resident of the Canadian side of the tiny border town of Pohenegamook, found out just how dangerous five weeks ago, when he stopped at a local filling station which straddles the border — the entrance is in Canada but the tanks are in the US.

As the London Guardian reports, the residents of Pohenegamook have been buying gas at the station for years, “and have a letter from the US government authorising the practice.” But that letter didn’t stop US border patrol agents from arresting Jalbert. He was charged with immigration and weapons offences for “failing to report into the US customs office a kilometre down the road and for keeping a hunting rifle in his truck.” Jalbert was going hunting.

“His harsh treatment angered many people in Canada, where a growing number of citizens believe the US border is a perilous place.

Mr Jalbert is a francophone, speaks no English, and became depressed in jail, where he could not understand anyone. He has a young daughter and his wife is pregnant, but US prosecutors served notice they would challenge his bail application, which meant he probably wouldn’t make it home for Christmas.

He would still be in jail if the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, had not intervened during a visit to Ottawa late last week.”

Note to Tom Ridge: the arrest and incarceration of a Quebecois deer hunter doesn’t really make War Watch feel any safer.

Daily Briefing
ENVIRONMENT
An Iberian Disaster

An oil tanker has already spilled 3,000 metric tons of oil into the sea off Spain’s Atlantic coast, and while salvage crews are working to minimize the further damage, the Spanish government seems oddly preoccupied with assigning political blame for the disaster.

As the BBC reports, the stricken tanker Prestige ran into difficulties after its hull cracked during a storm last week, allowing oil to seem through a massive gash in the metal. Much of that oil has already washed up on Spain’s beaches and fishing ports, “causing huge environmental damage.”

“Experts are trying to minimise leakage from the vessel, with environmentalists warning that if the ship spilt all her 77,000-ton load, the resulting damage could be twice that of the Exxon Valdez disaster off the coast of Alaska in 1989, one of the worst ever.”

With Spain facing one of the worst ecological disasters in history, authorities in Madrid are angrily suggesting that British-owned Gibralter is to blame. The Times of London questions that assertion, suggesting that the Spanish allegations are “as clear as the sporadic oil slicks decorating some of Galicia’s beaches.”

“The Spanish case seems to boil down to this: that the Prestige has visited Gibraltar in the past and no inspection of an allegedly dangerous and unsafe ship had been carried out.

But the British response is that the Prestige has only been anchored off Gibraltar — not in its port — once in the past four years and that on this occasion she was carrying Russian oil from Latvia to Singapore.”

Still, not all of London’s editors are ready to dismiss the Spanish suggestion. The Independent argues that Madrid is only doing what it must:

“All this may seem a pathetic diplomatic wrangle in the face of a such a disaster, but the politics of this situation are important. As an emergency measure, the European Commission should agree to give the Spanish government financial help with compensation. Apportioning blame is important because someone must be held responsible for the cost of putting things as right as they can be put in the circumstances. The principle of ‘the polluter pays’ is as applicable internationally as it is at home.”

POLITICS
Democracy Takes a Backseat

At least in theory, fostering democracy abroad is a cornerstone of the Bush administration’s foreign policy. Political liberty, the rhetoric goes, strengthens stability and reduces the misery that breeds terrorism.

Last week, however, that rhetoric collided with reality, as an Iraq-obsessed White House largely ignored a major international conference on democracy. Held in Seoul, South Korea, the meeting offered more than empty words, pushing ahead in forming the types of regional alliances that helped thwart a coup in Venezuela last year, while excluding phony democracies like Egypt, Pakistan and Malaysia from the proceedings. Secretary of State Colin Powell pulled out at the last minute, though, and, as The Washington Post‘s Jackson Diehl notes, the White House remains typically, deeply suspicious of such foreign entanglements:

“The shutout was symptomatic of what is happening to the administration’s much-advertised intention to make the spread of freedom central to its foreign policy. It’s not fair to say that nothing is being done: The Bushies argue that there has been more effort, in more places, than in any recent administration. And yet the engagement pales beside the military campaign in Afghanistan, the preparations for war with Iraq or even the Predator strike in Yemen … For many in the Bush administration, the enterprise is a nonstarter, either because it bears the imprint of Madeleine Albright or because it smacks of fuzzy-headed multilateralism.”

FOREIGN NEWS
Europe’s ‘Not Welcome’ Mat

Eight years into his reign, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, “the last dictator of Europe,” has succeeded in becoming the continent’s leading pariah. Rory Watson reports in the London Times that the European Union has announced a travel ban on the President and 50 members of his government, preventing them from entering EU countries and nations in the process of applying for EU status. The ban was adopted in a unanimous vote by all those countries, in protest of “[s]erious violations of human rights and recurrent restrictions on fundamental freedoms.” The most recent such violation: Belarus’ interference with international monitors sent to observe the country’s recent election — called illegal by observers — which saw Lukashenko easily reelected.

So poorly regarded is Lukashenko, notes Watson, that Russian Prime Minister Putin is pushing for Belarussians to hold a referendum on whether Belarus should once again be placed under Russian sovereignty.

The ban’s timing is significant, as it will prevent Lukashenko from sending a representative to the upcoming NATO summit in Prague, a hot ticket for aspiring democracies. Among the states that have been invited to the ball are the fledgling Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — a sign that all three are a step closer to entering both NATO and the EU, writes Marko Mihkelson in the Moscow Times.

” NATO and European Union enlargement to the east coast of the Baltic Sea promotes development and stability in this region.

Baltic states, due to their geopolitical location, have always been a buffer between the West and Russia. This long chapter of their history finally can be closed.”

 
Mother Jones Daily
 

WAR WATCH
Blix Fires Back
That Other War
Democrats a Factor?
US Claim Won’t Fly
# DAILY BRIEFING
Security Pork
Europe’s Sick Man
Vigilantes at the Gate
#


Tools
Tuesday, November 19
Monday, November 18
Friday, November 15
Thursday, November 14
Wednesday, November 13

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War Watch
Blix Fires Back

The leader of the UN weapons inspection team in Iraq has recently been a favorite target for Washington hawks. Now, Hans Blix is firing back.

As inspectors set up shop in Baghdad, the Swedish diplomat slammed unnamed Bush administration officials for waging a smear campaign against him. Still, while Blix didn’t identify his critics, Suzanne Goldenberg of the London Guardian reports that the prime suspects are easy to recognize.

“Earlier this year the deputy secretary for defence, Paul Wolfowitz, ordered a CIA report on why Mr Blix, as chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency during the 1980s and 1990s, failed to detect Iraqi nuclear activity. Mr Blix has much more sweeping powers now, but that fact has failed to banish the suspicions of a cluster of hardliners in the administration that includes Mr Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, the under-secretary for defence, and John Bolton, the deputy secretary of state.

‘There are a whole group of people in this administration who are against multilateral institutions, and also the people that staff them,’ said Joseph Cirincione, the director of the non-proliferation project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. ‘Hans Blix to some of these people is the embodiment of everything that is wrong with the multilateral approach.'”

What’s more, the simple fact that Blix is in Iraq is seen as a defeat by administration hawks eager, Goldenberg reports, “both for relatively straightforward nationalists such as the vice-president, Dick Cheney, and the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, as well as for the faction led by Mr Wolfowitz, who have been described by scholars as ‘democratic imperialists’.”

“Mr Wolfowitz, influenced by Richard Perle, chairman of the defence policy board, is believed to view US military action in Iraq as the first step in a larger project of realignment and democratisation of the Middle East.”

Last week, Perle questioned whether Blix was the right choice for the Iraq mission — a question that Amir Taheri, taking a break from his National Review duties, reprises in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece, suggesting that “it’s beginning to look like Blix believes that his mission is not to discover Saddam Hussein’s hidden arsenal but to produce a diplomatic fig leaf that could render war impossible.”

“A Blix report that says Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction would make it diplomatically difficult for the Americans to take military action against Hussein. On the other hand, no amount of French and Russian chicanery could save Hussein if Blix reported that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was hiding them.

There already are indications that we may witness the shaping of the mother of all diplomatic fudges.”

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, the inspectors presented Iraqi officials with an outline of the investigation’s scope. According to The Independent, Blix is certainly being thorough:

“Such is the scale of information the UN is demanding, Iraqi officials told Mr Blix’s team they may have difficulties meeting the 8 December deadline by which they must submit a detailed report.

Mr Blix said yesterday the Iraqis had assured him they would do ‘everything humanly possible’ to comply with the new UN resolution on its supposed arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. The Iraqis were reminded that a failure to meet the deadline would, almost certainly, be seen by the United States as a ‘material breach’ of the resolution and clear the way for an attack. ‘That seemed to concentrate their minds,’ said a diplomatic source.”

That Other War

What ever happened to ‘dead or alive,’ Molly Ivins wants to know.

Osama bin Laden is still at large. That much is sure. And Ivins joins a growing cadre of pundits in wondering why the White House, fixated by thoughts of a war in Iraq, is so unperturbed by the sudden reappearance of the top quarry in its war on terror.

“That hate-crazed religious fanatic, so intoxicated by his own mad rhetoric that he thinks he has a right to kill people, is a clear and present danger. His organization has been striking all over the world, even blowing up Aussies in the paradisiacal Bali. But we’re all supposed to focus on Saddam Hussein.”

Like others, Ivins also suggests that a US-led attack to topple the Iraqi leader will only make bin Laden more dangerous — and more difficult to catch.

“The risks of an invasion setting off reactions from a hideous civil war in Iraq to toppling regimes all over the Middle East is very real. Also at risk is the very international cooperation necessary to track Al Qaeda.

There is a batty degree of triumphalism loose in this country right now. We are brushing off world opinion as though it mattered not a whit what other people think of us. People say dismissively, ‘Oh, the French have always hated us.’ That is simply not true. Or, ‘The Italians are always demonstrating about something.’ Half a million of them? The National Review even saw fit to run a piece by some juvenile jerk attacking Canadians as a bunch of whiny wimps. Great, just what we need — let’s see if we can possibly alienate the best neighbor any country ever had.

So it seems to me we should be engaged not in some simplistic debate about hawks and doves, or even chickenhawks and doves, but a sober, thorough and very realistic weighing of the relative risks involved. While we focus on Al Qaeda.”

Thomas W. Murphy, on the other hand, isn’t too concerned by bin Laden’s reappearing trick. In fact, Murphy, writing in USA in Review, seems more disturbed by the reemergence of Washington’s Democratic leaders.

“Osama bin Laden could not have scripted the Democratic Party’s response any better than if he wrote it himself. Democratic lawmakers went on the offensive questioning Bush’s Iraq policy and accusing the administration of losing its focus on Al-Qaeda

The administation hasn’t lost focus, Murphy argues — although he seems a little fact-challenged in trying to explain how he arrives at such a pronouncement:

“While operations in Afghanistan are far from over, we deposed a repressive regime and effectively denied Al-Qaeda the use of Afghanistan as a base of operations. As a result, little girls can now attend school, millions of refugees have returned home, and the people of Kabul can go to the Olympic Stadium to watch soccer matches instead of public executions.

In Europe, Asia, and North America, dozens of planned terrorist attacks have been thwarted, along with the arrest of hundreds of Al-Qaeda. I call this progress.”

Democrats a Factor?

As far as DeWayne Wickham is concerned, Washington’s Democrats have been too quiet. Writing in USA Today, Wickham calls on Congressional Democrats to be more forceful in questioning the Bush administration’s plans for attacking Iraq, protecting the nation’s security, and combatting global terrorism:

“Democrats must not only question the Bush administration’s rationale for war. Those who disagree with it must offer Americans an alternative course of action — one that gives them reasonable assurance that if Saddam survives Bush’s wrath, he won’t eventually threaten his neighbors or this country with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

The 9/11 attacks have made Americans less likely to second-guess the president’s reasons for war with Iraq, if it should come to that, and more willing to give Bush unconditional support if American troops are sent into harm’s way.”

US Claim Won’t Fly

Clearly, the UN Security Council isn’t about to give the US unconditional support.

Washington’s claim that Iraq had violated the UN resolution by firing on US jets patrolling the ‘no fly’ zone in northern Iraq was roundly rejected by foreign diplomats. As the Financial Times reports, even Britain — America’s partner in the no-fly zone sorties — rejected Washington’s logic.

“Kofi Annan, UN secretary general, said the Security Council was unlikely to back Washington’s interpretation of resolution 1441, passed unanimously two weeks ago. The UK also diverged, saying threats to British aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones were not a material breach of Iraq’s obligations under the latest resolution.

Western diplomats noted that despite the White House statement on Monday the US was not strongly pushing its case, at least not yet.

However, they said the issue of the no-fly zones could become more controversial. ‘If there is a shooting down of a US aircraft, it becomes a different matter.'”

Daily Briefing
POLITICS
Security Pork

The Homeland Security bill is set to ease through Congress this week — with a few late additions. Thanks to Republican amendments, big pharmaceutical companies will be protected from lawsuits, US corporations that move offshore to avoid taxes will still be given government contracts, and a new security research institute will be built — coincidentally, of course — near the home districts of Republican leaders Tom Delay and Dick Armey.

What does all of this have to do with Homeland Security? Very little, say the editors of The Los Angeles Times:

“The homeland security bill was supposed to protect the United States from terrorism, but Republican Santas have turned it into a magic sleigh brimming with early Christmas gifts for favored special interests.”

The editorial board of The Boston Globe, meanwhile, sees this latest exercise in pork politics as part of a larger post-9/11 pattern.

“What has happened here is similar to other moves by the Bush administration since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. The response to terror, much of it legitimate like the professionalization of airport security, is being weighted down with elements of the conservative agenda, such as oil drilling in Alaska refuges, that have nothing to do with fighting international terrorism.”

Finally, The Washington Post‘s David Broder notes that the same sort of partisan excess followed the Republicans’ last big midterm win, which swept Newt Gingrich into power:

“They have a popular president, control of both House and Senate and a demoralized Democratic opposition. The most imminent threat to their success is their own excess … So what do they do? At the first opportunity, they demonstrate exactly the penchant for pandering to special interests that got them in such trouble during the Newt Gingrich days, following their first takeover of Congress in 1994.”

GLOBAL ECONOMY
Europe’s Sick Man

If there was ever hope that Chancellor Gerhard Schröder would deliver Germany from its economic woes, that hope now appears to have been turned on its head. John Hooper reports in the London Observer that Germany’s troubles have only worsened since the September elections, becoming so severe that support for Schröder’s Social Democrats has “fallen off more steeply than any in Germany’s postwar history.” And, as Schröder’s own popularity nose-dives, writes Hooper, “he has brought himself and his cabinet colleagues in for a degree of angry ridicule that is rare in normally sedate Germany.” With an already high rate of unemployment, more jobs are disappearing and Germany may even be forced to pay a “humiliating” fine to the EU for failing to keep its budget balanced.

Adding to the chancellor’s woes, The Economist notes that Schröder has failed to deliver on other campaign promises, including his vow not to raise taxes.

“Many Germans feel cheated and betrayed…Tens of thousands of workers took to the Berlin streets this week to vent their anger, frustration and fears.”

LAW & JUSTICE
Vigilantes at the Gate

The on-again, off-again proposal to station soldiers along America’s southern border is on in dramatic fashion in Arizona, where a vigilante, paramilitary force now patrols for illegal immigrants.

In a front page editorial running under the headline “Enough is Enough!”, Chris Simcox, the owner, publisher and editor of the weekly Tombstone Tumbleweed, called Cochise County citizens to arms, and has since organized more than 40 people into a militia that stakes out private property with guns, scouting for illegal immigrants, Ignacio Ibarra reports in the Arizona Daily Star. A local human rights advocate, Isabel Garcia, expresses frustration that the county’s sheriff and attorney have only exacerbated recent tensions by refusing to prosecute local citizens for the forceful detention of immigrants:

“‘To have the official newspaper of the county call on people to take up arms is very dangerous, very frightening. Law enforcement and public officials should be concerned’.”

The US Commission on Civil Rights apparently is concerned. Alerted by San Diego civil and human rights activists, the commission is pressing the Justice Department for an investigation into the “vigilante” activities in Arizona, Leonel Sanchez reports in the San Diego Union Tribune. But root causes, even if articulated locally, are national and international problems, according to Arizona’s recently-elected Democratic Representative, Raul Grijalva. A former Hispanic activist, Grijalva opined to a local television station:

“‘Both countries bear responsibility for this, not just the United States. The border policy is… ineffective. It’s not working. As long as that policy is in play, it becomes a breeding ground for hatred. And it becomes a breeding ground for the types of activities you see for the vigilante groups right now. And that’s got to stop.'”

 
Mother Jones Daily
 

WAR WATCH
Sacrificed for Security
Spy Time
A Wartime Media Muzzle
Crying Treason
# DAILY BRIEFING
Justice for Malvo?
Damning Dams
An Emerging Center?
#


Tools
Wednesday, November 20
Tuesday, November 19
Monday, November 18
Friday, November 15
Thursday, November 14

#

War Watch
Sacrificed for Security

George Orwell’s name has been invoked frequently in the past year as the Bush administration lobbied to strengthen the government’s powers to investigate, interrogate and incarcerate. Now, with the passage of the Homeland Security Act, the all-invading government of ‘1984’ seems even less fictional.

Matthew Engel of the London Guardian is baffled by America’s unblinking acceptance of the bill — particularly the deeply troubling provision to create a new Pentagon office with the power to snoop into the public and private acts of every American. Moreover, Engel expresses amazement at the administration’s choice to head the operation — convicted Iran-Contra conspirator John Poindexter.

“Another relevant fact about Washington is that no one disappears. Ambitious functionaries who have once glimpsed the frilly underwear of power can never bring themselves to go back to the winceyette nighties of Peoria. They linger around town: in attorney’s offices … or thinktanks, as lobbyists or academics. Then, when the time is ripe, they creep back into government.

And with the Pentagon currently able to command as many billions of dollars as Donald Rumsfeld demands, this is the moment of opportunity for anyone with rightwing credentials and a half-baked idea. Poindexter has re-emerged as head of a new Pentagon operation – with a $200m annual budget – called the Information Awareness Office.”

And it isn’t only foreign lefties that are denouncing Poindexter and his domestic spying plan. William Safire, the grand old man of conservative columnists, blasts Poindester as a “ring-knocking master of deceit” and the Pentagon’s operation as “even more scandalous than Iran-Contra.”

“Even the hastily passed U.S.A. Patriot Act, which widened the scope of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and weakened 15 privacy laws, raised requirements for the government to report secret eavesdropping to Congress and the courts. But Poindexter’s assault on individual privacy rides roughshod over such oversight.

He is determined to break down the wall between commercial snooping and secret government intrusion. The disgraced admiral dismisses such necessary differentiation as bureaucratic “stovepiping.” And he has been given a $200 million budget to create computer dossiers on 300 million Americans.”

While Safire may be outraged by the administration’s latest assault on rights and liberties, other pundits are suggesting that the Pentagon’s snooping database and the pick of Poindexter fit into an established pattern. As the editorial writers of the San Francisco Chronicle note, administration officials have been trying to “shield the government from public scrutiny and to initiate new ways of spying on its own citizens” ever since Sept. 11.

“The new computer database, if implemented, will constitute the greatest invasion of individual privacy and the most extensive violation of the Fourth Amendment that has ever occurred in American history. Congress should act immediately to shut down this program. Huge dossiers on Americans will not make us safer. It will only make our government less democratic.”

Or, as the editors of the Detroit Free Press succinctly and somberly sum up their worries: “The more a government chooses to provide information to its citizens on a ‘need to know’ basis, the more citizens probably need to know what their government is up to.”

Of course, the Pentagon database, like everything else in the homeland security bill, has been sold to Americans as a necessary step to meet an extraordinary challenge to our nation’s safety. And Ian Buruma of the London Guardian acknowledges that terrorism does present a unique threat to societies that value freedoms. But Buruma also warns that extraordinary measures “have a nasty habit of sticking around.”

“Once granted, police powers never reduce. When extra powers become law, you have a serious problem.

Open societies, such as Britain or the US, are, of course, vulnerable to terrorism, and it may be so that we have to grant our governments more powers to cope with potential disasters. But once those powers are there, they will be very hard to dislodge, even in calmer times. Poindexter may be a more malign snoop than Jack Straw or an American Democrat, but the fact is that no democratic government should be given powers that are too easy to abuse.”

Finally, Gail Russell Chaddock of The Christian Science Monitor offers this reassuring insight: the lawmakers who voted on the homeland security act had very little idea what the bill included. Meaning there could be more treasures like the Pentagon office buried deep in the act’s 484 pages.

“‘The statute is elephantine,’ says Allen Weinstein, president of the Center for Democracy in Washington. ‘It means we’re probably going to have to deal with a law of unintended consequences.'”

Unintended? War Watch certainly hopes that Americans won’t let the administration that shaped the law — or the politicians that supported it — skate by simply pleading ignorance.

Spy Time

The Pentagon isn’t the only Washington bureaucracy gearing up to take domestic spying to a new level. As Eric Boehlert reports on Salon, Monday’s decision by a secretive espionage appeals court wipes away five decades of legal precedent on wiretapping, searches and other governmental invasions of privacy.

“Ashcroft immediately praised the decision, saying it ‘revolutionizes our ability to investigate terrorists and prosecute terrorist acts.’ He also quickly designated a new FBI unit that will pursue intelligence warrants allowed under the new law. But civil libertarians and defense attorneys warned the ruling will allow the government to freely spy on its citizens, with little or no oversight. ‘The problem is it applies an across-the-board, presumptive secrecy,’ says David Cole, a professor of constitutional law at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington.”

At least Ashcroft isn’t suggesting that the decision’s attack on the Fourth Amendment is ‘unintentional’.

A Wartime Media Muzzle

Journalists covering the US-led assault in Afghanistan found themselves pitted against a Pentagon leadership determined to release as little information as possible. Now, as that same Pentagon prepares for a war in Iraq, Mark Jurkowitz of The Boston Globe reports that journalists charged with covering the military are expecting even tighter controls and tenser confrontations in the briefing room.

“Given Afghanistan as an object lesson, the consensus was that Rumsfeld’s Pentagon has taken the art of information control to new heights. And that isn’t likely to change in any battle for Baghdad.

‘This Pentagon practices, regularly, lack-of-information warfare against the press,’ said Mark Thompson, Time magazine’s national-security correspondent. ‘Longtime sources in the building that you could call up and visit, they don’t want to be called. … This is a much different place.’ History Channel host Arthur Kent – best known as NBC’s ‘Scud Stud’ during the 1991 Gulf War – predicted that in the event of another war with Iraq, ‘attempts to muzzle us … are going to be unprecedented.'”

All of which seems to be fine with Ted Koppel. As Cynthia Cotts of The Village Voice writes, Koppel told the audience at a recent panel that heve believes the military should be allowed to prohibit the media from broadcasting the war live.

“‘What I’m saying,’ Koppel announced in a Patton-esque baritone, ‘is if I’m running a war and I’ve got representatives of ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, and the BBC, and they’re out there with my troops and they’ve got the technical capacity to feed back what is happening live, so that the folks who are sitting in Baghdad have only to turn on their set to CNN and they can see what’s happening on the front lines from the American vantage pointÑI’m saying it would be criminal to permit that.’

Koppel’s argument did not attract any converts on the panel, which included The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh, The New York Times’ John Kifner, and 60 Minutes’ Bob SimonÑveteran war correspondents with 160 years of experience between them. Kifner covered the Gulf War; the other three started in Vietnam. In the 1960s, TV war footage was shipped back to the U.S. for editing, and reports appeared two and a half days after they were shot.

‘You have to be absolutely pure about it,’ snapped Hersh, whose coverage of the 1969 My Lai massacre won a Pulitzer. ‘I say, if you learn about it, publish it.'”

Crying Treason

Do right wing attack-pundits employ a double standard when it comes to accusing other opinion-makers of being un-American? Joe Conason certainly thinks so.

Taking particular aim at conservative blowhards David Horowitz and Christopher Ruddy, Conasaon suggests that neocon commentators seem uniquely interested in attacking the antiwar arguments made by their political opposites, while overlooking similar concerns expressed by fellow conservatives.

“Horowitz’s FrontPage Magazine features “The Fifth Column,” where political adversaries are smeared with treason. (Even Andrew Sullivan has more or less renounced that ugly trope.) Like many right-wingers, he insists that anyone who doesn’t enthusiastically support an invasion of Iraq must despise America and love Saddam. Anyone, that is, except for the antiwar skeptics on the right — who somehow escape being branded as traitors.”

Among the war opponents Horowitz seems unwilling to take on, Conason suggests, are such conservative stalwarts as Robert Novak and the Cato Institute. (Novak recently repeated his now-familiar doubts in a speech at Northwestern University, while the Cato crowd’s war worries have been best expressed by Institute fellow Doug Bandow, who declares: “The administration must decide whether to protect Americans by focusing on the fight against terrorism or risk Americans’ lives by setting the globe further aflame with an unnecessary war against Iraq.”)

But Novak, the Catos, and other war-wary conservatives are usually political allies for Horowitz and the Bush admininstration he reveres, Conason writes. So, they get off, while any pundit supportive of the Democrats is pilloried.

“‘War’ is a political weapon that Republicans have been using against Democrats since Karl Rove openly declared this strategy last winter. Ideological enforcers like Horowitz are instruments of Rove’s strategy, which succeeded brilliantly in the midterm election. Rove’s aim is to destroy Democrats, not libertarians, whose support he will be seeking on domestic issues next year.”

Daily Briefing
LAW & JUSTICE
Justice for Malvo?

As the trials of John Lee Malvo and John Allen Muhammad begin, state and federal prosecutors have taken every conceivable step to ensure that the sniper suspects receive death sentences — a legal process that Find Law‘s Elaine Cassel calls “a blatant case of the cart driving the horse.” Prosecutors have chosen Virginia as the jurisdiction for the trial, Cassel notes, simply because it is a state that would allow for the execution of the 17-year-old Malvo — an option that would be unavailable in either Maryland or federal courts.

“While this is unseemly enough, it is even more troubling for the system to be treating seventeen-year-old Malvo the same — indeed, even worse than — forty-two-year-old Muhammad.”

Cassel argues that justice has been effectively preempted in Malvo’s case, as he is already sitting in an adult jail, despite the lack of any proceedings which would make that legal. Moreover, Cassel writes, the youth was “pressured to confess without access to his guardian or lawyer” and, because his confessions have been leaked to the press, potential jurors are likely to be prejudiced.

“In short, Malvo has not been afforded the protections even the law of Virginia gives to juvenile defendants. For all the prosecution’s invocation of ‘the law,’ they sure don’t seem to be following it.”

The editors of the New York Post disagree, proclaiming that justice is being served very efficiently, adding that Virginia, “known for its speedy application of the death penalty for those who deserve it,” is the perfect location for the trials.

“While both it and Maryland had officially accused the pair of murder, the feds had their own charges, and the ensuing legal mess threatened the process.

Until Justice punted to Virginia.

Good. The bottom line for Justice must be: justice.

And in this case, upon conviction, that means the ultimate penalty.”

ENVIRONMENT
Damning Dams

The era of big dams seems well and truly over.

While scores of decrepit and environmentally disastrous dams have in recent years been torn down across the country, Oregon’s decision to deconstruct two functioning hydroelectric dams marks a turning point, William Booth writes in The Washington Post. Moreover, Booth notes, the decision points to an emerging consensus between environmentalists and their longtime foes, the utility companies and federal agencies, that many dams “have served their purpose and should be decommissioned”:

“‘There is this shift in thinking, that there are these outmoded dams that have run their cause, and the environmental benefits of removing them vastly outweigh the cost of preserving them, and those are the dams that people are taking the hardest look at,’ said Alan Moore, a spokesman for Trout Unlimited’s western conservation programs.”

POLITICS
An Emerging Center?

While the GOP has consolidated power in Washington, political moderates seem positioned to determined whether the rampant Republicans can deliver on their promises.

Even though the Republican leadership will set the agenda for the 108th Congress, Susan Milligan writes in the Boston Globe, centrists will cast the deciding votes on everything from tax cuts and welfare reform to prescription drug laws and abortion rights. One leading Republican moderate, Senator Olympia Snowe put it bluntly: the Republican majority will need to court centrists, and to temper legislation to more moderate tastes.

“‘The mandate from the electorate is to get things done… And if you want to be a successful, governing party, you need 60 votes. Centrists and moderates are going to play a pivotal role, without question.'”

That role evinced itself most recently in the passage of the Homeland Security Bill, the Associated Press reports. To secure the the votes of Congressional moderates, Republican House leaders agreed to revisit several of the bill’s provisions in January — including those limiting the liability of companies that manufacture ‘antiterrorism technologies,’ such as gas masks, vaccines and baggage screening equipment.

While there is no reason to believe that moderates will sway the ideological direction of the Republican Party, several GOP moderates in the Senate can expect to become more prominent players in the reshaped Congress, Noelle Straub writes in The Hill:

“Senate Republican moderates will enter the 108th Congress in a strong position. They are hoping that their chairmanships, their seat at leadership meetings, and the fact that the Senate Chamber remains closely divided will enable them to keep the GOP agenda from shifting too far to the right.”

All of which does little to reassure Michael Kieschnick. If moderate Republicans were really seriuous about creating a conscientious majority in Congress, he opines on TomPaine.com, they could pull a Jeffords and declare themselves Independents.

“[I]f the moderates want to make a real vote of conscience, if they want to stand above partisanship and represent the great American political middle, there is another choice they can make: Chafee, Snowe and Specter can pull a Jeffords — leave the GOP, become Independents, and caucus with the Democrats, which will give the Democrats control of the Senate.

They should switch — not for any love of Democrats, but for the majority of Americans who favor environmental protection, reproductive choice, and other moderate policies. In a Lott-run Senate, moderate voices will be marginal at best. Switching, even if that only means becoming Independents, will not only give them a voice, it will give them leadership positions, since they should demand and receive committee chairmanships in return for giving Democrats control.”

 
Mother Jones Daily
 

WAR WATCH
Bush’s Czech Rhetoric
Oil, Terror, and Rights
Smearing Annan
The ‘Moron’ Issue
# DAILY BRIEFING
Tanker Troubles
Israel’s Shot
in the Dark

A Green Bill’s
Murky Death
#


Tools
Thursday, November 21
Wednesday, November 20
Tuesday, November 19
Monday, November 18
Friday, November 15

#

War Watch
Bush’s Czech Rhetoric

President Bush arrived in Prague seeking international support for military action against Iraq. He didn’t get it, but he may have secured international cover for a US attack. Which, as some pundits are pointing out, is probably just as good in the eyes of the go-it-alone White House.

The NATO leaders gathering in the Czech capital had a clear agenda: charting a new course for the definitive military alliance of the Cold War. As John Dickerson of Time reports, Bush was interested only in one thing: Iraq.

“Despite differences in the alliance, NATO on Thursday issued a statement answering Bush. NATO leaders called on Saddam to comply immediately with the UN resolution and vowed to stand ‘united in their commitment to take effective action to assist and support the efforts of the UN to ensure full and immediate compliance by Iraq, without conditions or restrictions.’

Although the statement didn’t give the president a green light to launch bombers at will, the wording does give him sufficient international cover to move forward and raises the pressure on Iraq.”

In Prague, Bush took full advantage of the city’s hyperbolic value, Dickerson reports, comparing Saddam Hussein to Hitler, whose Nazi army marched into the city in 1938.

“The seven new NATO members, he argued, should remind the current 19 nations of the ‘soul’ of their alliance. What those new nations share is a recent history of overcoming oppression. ‘Those who have lived through a struggle of good against evil are never neutral between them,’ said Bush. It was an extraordinary statement suggesting that countries that have been less bullish about combating Iraq — such as France and particularly Germany — had forgotten the lessons of the Nazi war.”

While Bush never uttered the word, his speeches in Prague consistently hinted that failing to confront Hussein would be nothing less than “appeasement.” It is a word that, for many Europeans, has only one association — the diplomatic failure to stop Hitler. As Anne Kornblut and Charles Sennott of the Sydney Morning Herald report, Bush went so far as to tell a group of Czech teens:

“We face perils we’ve never thought about, perils we’ve never seen before. They’re just as dangerous as those perils that your fathers and mothers and grandfathers and grandmothers faced.”

Zbignew Brzezinski, a man who actually remembers the historical threats the Czech people lived through, suggested that Bush temper his remarks, Kornblut and Sennott write.

“‘Terrorism is a very serious menace; nonetheless, as of now it is still not as grave a threat as a US-Soviet war would have been. We were talking about 180 million fatalities in a nuclear exchange.'”

The editors of the Los Angeles Times are steering clear both of the historic hyperbole and Bush’s obsession with Iraq, but they still argue that European NATO states should recognize that global terrorism is a threat the alliance must address if it is to remain relevant.

“Leaders of NATO nations have broken up Al Qaeda cells at home and scoured terrorists’ bank accounts; they recognize that terrorism threatens them. The leap from that understanding to a rapid-strike force that would operate far outside Europe is a big one. Picking the best military elements from each nation and integrating them into a cohesive force will require diplomacy as well as tactical training. But creating a new mobile brigade may be necessary to keep NATO a partner with Washington — and to keep the alliance relevant in Europe and beyond.”

But can a military alliance really do away with terrorism? The The Boston Globe‘s William Pfaff thinks not.

“If a government’s largest and bureaucratically most influential policy instrument is its armed forces, it turns to them in an emergency. But armed forces can’t solve the terrorist problem.

What they were able to do was overturn the Taliban government that harbored the terrorists. They today offer to overturn Saddam Hussein.

Doing these things provides a distraction from the failure to solve the terrorist problem. It provides a virtual solution, so to speak. When the followers of Osama bin Laden strike again, the Bush administration will answer that it won a war against Afghanistan and expects soon to win one against Iraq. The widows and orphans of the 9/11 victims will have to be satisfied with that.”

Seamus Milne doesn’t presume to speak for the families of those lost in the terror attacks, but he certainly isn’t satisfied. The London Guardian columnist declares bitingly: “the global US onslaught had been a complete failure – at least as far as dealing with non-state terrorism was concerned.”

“As the US president demanded Osama bin Laden ‘dead or alive’, government officials on both sides of the Atlantic whispered that they were less than 48 hours from laying hands on the al-Qaida leader. By destroying the terrorist network’s Afghan bases and its Taliban sponsors, supporters of the war argued, the Americans and their friends had ripped the heart out of the beast. Washington would now begin to address Muslim and Arab grievances by fast-tracking the establishment of a Palestinian state.

One year on, the crowing has long since faded away; reality has sunk in. After six months of multiplying Islamist attacks on US, Australian and European targets, civilian and military — in Tunisia, Pakistan, Kuwait, Russia, Jordan, Yemen, the US and Indonesia — western politicians are having to face the fact that they are losing their war on terror.”

Oil, Terror, and Rights

Half a world away from Prague, Washington’s war on terror has found new meaning in Colombia. Even as US military advisers are helping to organize anti-Hussein Iraqis into an opposition army, Newsweek reports that others have arrived in Bogota to train two brigades of the Colombian Army for a special mission: protecting a 772-kilometer-long pipeline owned by Occidental Petroleum.

“Colombia is the eighth largest source of U.S. oil imports, and guaranteeing a steady flow of crude shipments from the South American country now ranks alongside the twin wars against drugs and terrorism as a top U.S. objective there. But critics question whether the Bush administration should put taxpayer dollars at the service of a private company whose Colombian contractors still pay millions in ‘protection money’ to the rebels. ‘It is a clear example of how American energy corporations have hijacked U.S. foreign policy and now threaten to get us deeper into a military quagmire,’ says Kevin Koenig of the Washington-based Indian-rights group Amazon Watch.”

One reason that Koenig and other human rights advocates are concerned: the Bush White House is diverting more and more money to Bogota even as the government of Alvaro Uribe threatens to further erode the country’s already shaky rights record. As The Economist reports, Uribe’s administration has already shown its intentions:

“For example, Mr Uribe plans to scrap the local ombudsmen known as personeros. An innovation of Colombia’s 1991 constitution, many were trained with UN money. But Mr Uribe says Colombia cannot afford to pay them; he proposes to include their abolition in a referendum on political reform planned for next year. The UN counters that doing away with them would leave ‘wide sectors of Colombian society absolutely defenceless’.”

Still, with Republican majorities in Congress, there is little chance that Washington will threaten to suspend or even diminish its aid to Colombia based on the country’s human rights shortcomings. As Brian Awehali opines in LiP Magazine, the Bush administration’s tunnel-vision focus on terror has rendered human rights records all but irrelevant.

“Indeed, in the wake of Sept. 11, the race is on to arm governments formerly considered unstable or otherwise ‘off-limits’ due to gross human rights violations, on grounds that these nations are assisting in the sweeping ‘war against terrorism.'”

Smearing Annan

“Saddam’s Pal Kofi”

So reads the headline of Thursday’s vitriolic New York Post editorial, in which the paper declares that “United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s efforts to preserve the Saddam Hussein regime are making him look ridiculous.”

The editors’ logic? Annan has disputed Washington’s claim that Iraq violated the recent UN resolution on arms inspections by firing on US jets patrolling the ‘no fly’ zone over northern Iraq.

“Yet that resolution explicitly forbids ‘hostile acts” against “any representative or personnel of the United Nations or of any member state taking action to uphold any Council resolution’ – like the resolutions setting up the no-fly zones.”

Now, will anyone be surprised that the Post editors are taking a little license with the facts? As the BBC reports, the zones over southern and northern Iraq were not authorized by the UN or specified by any resolution. Instead, they were “imposed by the US, Britain and France after the Gulf War, in what was described as a humanitarian effort to protect Shi’a Muslims in the south and Kurds in the north.”

The Post editors also conveniently ignore the fact that neither of Washington’s partners in establishing the zones has supported its claim. In fact, as the London Guardian reports, “Washington found itself isolated: no support for its position could be found among the other 14 members of the security council, not even Britain.”

So why the clumsy smear? Perhaps because, as Reuters reports, the Bush administration itself is divided on the question of what Iraqi actions should trigger a war.

“‘There is no consensus (within the administration) whatsoever. There are deep factional differences over this,’ said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a military expert on the region.

U.S. officials who believe war with Iraq is inevitable and necessary ‘are tending to set a much lower threshold’ for action than those who believe that whether war is inevitable or not, Washington must cooperate to the extent possible with the international community.”

Clearly, the Post would like to see the White House thumb its nose at the international community. And they aren’t alone in that desire. As the British daily The Mirror reports, top Pentagon aide Richard Perle is now claiming that even a “clean bill of health” from the UN inspection teams might not dissuade the US from launching an attack.

“Evidence from ONE witness on Saddam Hussein’s weapons programme will be enough to trigger a fresh military onslaught, he told an all- party meeting on global security.

Former defence minister and Labour backbencher Peter Kilfoyle said: ‘America is duping the world into believing it supports these inspections. President Bush intends to go to war even if inspectors find nothing.’

‘This make a mockery of the whole process and exposes America’s real determination to bomb Iraq.'”

So, the Post fudged on the facts in the interest of making its mud stick. War Watch isn’t expecting to read a correction any time soon.

The “Moron” Issue

Officials in Washington and Ottawa are downplaying a published report that an unnamed advisor to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien called Bush “a moron” for attempting to use the NATO summit in Prague to drum up support for his Iraq agenda.

Still, while the White House may be able to dismiss the comment, Bruce Anderson of The Independent suggests that the underlying public belief remains a problem for both Washington and its allies.

“About three-quarters of the British public are convinced that George Bush is a cowboy dunce surrounded by warmongers. Though this is a childish caricature, it will not be easy to persuade the British to support a President whom they chronically underrate.”

Daily Briefing
ENVIRONMENT
Tanker Troubles

On the coast of Spain, emergency crews are doing all they can to limit the damage being caused by the sinking of the decrepit, but perfectly legal, oil tanker Prestige, scooping sludge from more than 90 beaches and coves. Meanwhile, in Europe’s capitals, government officials are rushing to assign blame for the disaster.

As The Christian Science Monitor‘s Peter Ford notes, however, the ship’s pedigree reads like a mini-United Nations, making the hunt for those responsible particularly difficult.

“The 26-year-old Japanese-built ship was owned by a company registered in Liberia, managed by a Greek firm, registered in the Bahamas, certified by an American organization, chartered by a Swiss-based Russian trading company, and carrying oil from Latvia to Singapore.”

Despite the multinational mess, The Guardian‘s editors argue that, pedigrees aside, oil companies bear ultimate responsibility for the disaster.

“Big Oil has refused to take responsibility for the crude it ships around the globe. It is time this changed. Companies offer a paltry £180m under a no-liability fund, but this is usually a fraction of the clean-up costs. There is a European directive that would mean impose responsibility and a bill of £1bn on oil companies for oil spills. This needs to be implemented. It is only fair that the polluter ends up paying.”

Unhappily, the Prestige is far from an anomaly: it is just one of thousands of ancient, single-hull tankers still roaming the seas. As the editorial board of The Los Angeles Times observes, such outdated ships are responsible for the vast majority of oil spills.

“The frequency of these disasters should produce international outrage and pressure for stricter rules intended to phase out single-hull tankers … Nobody says double-hull tankers are perfectly safe, but at least they make oil spills less common and less disastrous. So could regulations to speed up the mothballing of old ships, which begin to wear out and become dangerous after about 20 years. Yet, the Prestige, which was loaded in Latvia and bound for Singapore, was cleared to sail until 2005, when it would have been almost 30 years old.”

The Independent‘s John Steel, though, smells something fishy in all of this. Why are oil tankers the only ships that bust apart and dump their contents in our oceans? he asks.

“What seems odd is that no other type of ship seems to snap in two — just oil tankers. There must be ships carrying road diggers and scrap metal and containers full of bacon, but they all arrive safely. There’s never word of a Canadian fishing village bracing itself for a five-mile banana slick. The people who inspect these ships must be stringently thorough, and then say: ‘Oh, let this one go without checking it properly, it’s only carrying 70 billion gallons of oil.'”

Meanwhile, Spanish officials are suggesting that the threat is essentially over, the Prestige having taken 77,000 tons of crude with it when it sank. The BBC reports that at least one expert isn’t convinced. Dr Simon Boxall of Southampton University’s Oceanography Centre says the Prestige is now “a time bomb waiting to go off.”

“The oil will be ‘solidified’ as a result of the pressures and temperatures down in the deep ocean (in fact it will be more of a gel).

However, even in the deep ocean metal rots and there are deep ‘gravity’ currents which are sporadic and violent and capable of disturbing the ship. AT some time – in a week, next year, in a hundred years – the oil will resurface. In the deep ocean with no light and limited bacterial action it will not decay and disperse so it is just sitting there. Even in its gel form it is lighter than the surrounding water and is being held by the ship’s hull – when that fails it will float.”

Coincidentally, as European diplomats grappled with the Prestige tragedy, a Turkish court began hearing arguments in the trial of 12 Greenpeace activists charged with obstructing an oil tanker headed for the narrow Bosporus strait in July. As the Associated Press reports, Turkish prosecutors are demanding up to five years in prison for the activists.

FOREIGN NEWS
Israel’s Shot in the Dark

Earlier this week, Amram Mitzna, the progressive mayor of Haifa, won the battle to lead Israel’s struggling Labor Party. Now, pundits around the world are suggesting that Mitzna represent’s Israel’s best hope for peace with the Palestinians — slim though it is.

Noting that Mitzna is “prepared unilaterally to evacuate settlements and withdraw troops from the territories, the Financial Times‘ Harvey Morris writes:

“Amram Mitzna stands firmly on one side of the left-right division in Zionism, believing that Israel’s survival as a Jewish state will be best assured by immediately reviving moves towards a genuine territorial compromise with its Palestinians neighbours.”

Mitzna, meanwhile, is declaring that the majority of Israelis share his vision of reconciliation. But the Labor party’s recent political fortunes haven’t reflected this supposed support, Morris writes. The editorial board of the Baltimore Sun explains that most Israelis seem locked into a reactionary support for the Likud party — and predict that’s unlikely to change in the upcoming January election.

“Most public opinion polls cite security as Israelis’ primary concern. And the ongoing attacks by Palestinian militants, whether against kibbutzniks or soldiers, only perpetuate the feeling that Palestinians can’t be trusted to lay down their arms for peace. “

The Labor Party might not only lose the contest to control Israel, it might even lose seats in the Israeli parliament, Michael Jansen predicts in the Jordan Times. Jansen argues that Mitzna’s best hope for success lies in a campaign focusing on Israel’s staggering economy, not security. And, Jansen speculates, in order to issue a legitimate challenge to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Mitzna must win the unequivocal backing of his own party and forge a clear identity for Labor.

“The policy nearly wrecked Labour which, by becoming a partner in Sharon’s right-dominated coalition, failed to oppose his activities or offer an alternative to the Likud and the extremists to its right. By going into coalition with the Likud, Labour undermined Israel’s democracy, which needs both a ruling party and an opposition to function properly.”

POLITICS
A Green Law’s Murky Death

Conservative lobbyists are hailing the defeat of a sweeping environmental bill that would have extended protections for endangered species and provided $1.3 billion for new conservation purchases.

The bill was killed through the anonymous opposition of three senators — an unusual legislative tactic made possible because the measure had originally been approved by the House and Senate through unanimous consent, not recorded votes.

Opposition to the bill was organized by the American Land Rights Association, which has routinely fought against both species protection and park designation. After the bill was trashed, ALRA lobbyist Mike Hardiman crowed to World Net Daily:

“Terrible things get done, but good things get done, too. And in this effort there were heroes and heroines who can never be publicly acknowledged or thanked.”

Among the arch-conservative “heroes” behind the bill’s demise is Alan Caruba, whose frenzied column warned readers of Cybercast News Service that the bill would “permit the seizure of private property; provide funding to extremist environmentalists and animal rights advocates; and provide $25 million to foreign nations for land acquisition.”

“No one’s home, ranch or farm is safe! If the future of this nation, its Constitutional protection of private property, and its economy mean anything to you, contact your Senator today. There’s only a week left to defeat this ultimate threat to America.”