The New Terrorist Targets
Just as troop morale is at all-time low, Bush tries to the revive good vs. evil hunt for a terrorist nation. Are Iran and Syria next?
Keeping Justice at (Guantanamo) Bay
British terror suspects may benefit from Blair’s diplomacy on their behalf. The other detainees are still screwed.
Cheney in the Hot Seat?
New documents from the VP’s office prove that Cheney had a marked interest in Iraqi oil — all the way back in 2001. Will he be forced to explain himself?
The New Terrorist Targets
While American soldiers are recovering from war-time injuries and the rest of the country is starting to realize the full cost of our war on Iraq, President Bush has decided to try to breathe new life into his war of good against evil. From his ranch in Texas he warned the world that, in fact, Syria and Iran are harboring terrorists! Bush launched a vague threat at these rogue states: “This behavior is completely unacceptable, and states that support terror will be held accountable.”
The cowboy president failed to mention exactly how he would hold these nations accountable. Given what happened when Afghanistan and Iraq failed to produce what Bush wanted, we can only hope that we will have better luck with America’s most wanted list in Iran and Syria. At this point, it seems the US army would be hard pressed to handle another war. The army is stretched to the max, so much so that President Bush has been dragging his feet in sending American peacekeepers to besieged Liberia. We seem to be so tight with our military manpower that we could only manage to send armed personnel to protect the US embassy in Monrovia — leaving Liberian civilians unprotected.
While Bush was threatening to teach rogue Syria and Iran a lesson, presidential hopeful Dick Gephardt was thumping down the campaign trail. At a Tuesday meeting with the San Francisco Bar Association, Gephardt chastised Bush’s diplomacy. Gephardt’s comments drew media attention when he reminded the President that foreign policy is not a John Wayne movie:
“Diplomacy matters. Burden-sharing matters. Follow-through matters. And yes, sustaining the peace is harder, more complex, and often costlier than winning the war itself […] No matter the surge of momentary machismo — as gratifying as it may be for some — it’s short-sighted and wrong to simply go it alone.”
And as we’re all aware, Gephardt is not unique in his criticism of Bush’s macho foreign policy. Even some self-proclaimed neo-liberals are getting on Bush’s case. Ronald Asmus and Kenneth Pollack write in Tuesday’s Washington Post that more and more folks in Washington are waking up to the fact that a serious re-thinking of America’s attitude towards the Middle East is way overdue.
“A consensus is emerging in Washington that the greater Middle East constitutes the primary strategic challenge of our time and that the West must fundamentally rethink the way it approaches this region. In the past, Washington assumed it didn’t have to care about the internal order of these countries so long as they accommodated our interests in their foreign policies. If things got really bad, Washington would step in and intervene, in a modern-day version of the popular game whack-a-mole.
But whack-a-mole isn’t a very good game, and it’s an even worse foreign policy. Sept. 11, 2001, taught us the price we pay for ignoring the underlying problems of the region. The question now is how best to transform the Middle East so that it no longer produces people who want to kill us in great numbers and increasingly have the ability to do so. To be sure, traditionalists across the government and in foreign policy still argue that such goals are beyond the pale and that the West cannot possibly ‘solve’ the problems of the region and must instead manage the status quo better to limit our risk.
Neoliberals, among whom we number ourselves, believe in political preemption first and military preemption only as a last resort. We supported the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq because we concluded that force was the only way to lance these boils. But force will not work as a normal tool of policy or social engineering in the Middle East. Our goal must be to have the Arabs embrace democracy and modernization, not to force it down their throats. At present there really are only two political voices in the Arab world: One is the regimes and their cronies, the other the Islamic fundamentalists. We need to help foster alternatives. A growing number of Arabs are calling for these changes, and we must find ways to help them transform their societies even if it takes decades and not months.”
Pro-democracy forces in the Middle East would probably agree with Asmus and Pollack’s basic argument — minus their arrogance and support for the US attack on Iraq. Lebanon’s Daily Star editors voiced their support for a healthy relationship between Washington, Tehran and Damascus. They advocate increased cooperation on issues the states can agree upon — which they admit won’t be easy with Israel as America’s special-status nation.
But with Bush’s support waning and Americans getting sick of being at war, maybe Bush’s terrorist hunt for terrorist nations will have to stop in Iraq.
Keeping Justice at (Guantanamo) Bay
A few lucky terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay may receive access to legal counsel or be repatriated — but only as a personal favor to British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Following in Blair’s wake, Australian Justice Minister Chris Ellison is also hoping that two of his countrymen held at Guantanamo will receive similar treatment, according to Marian Wilkinson of The Age. International lawmakers and critics, who have long chastised the US government for detaining 600 terror suspects without access to legal advice for 18 months, are encouraged by what looks like more fair treatment for the handful of Brits and Australians. But critics are also quick to point out the arbitrary nature of President Bush’s decisions when it comes to the fate of Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Talks took place this weekend between President Bush and Tony Blair regarding the British detainees’ trials. Blair hoped to return the British detainees to the UK for a trial, but stated that he would be willing to allow US military trials if certain terms were agreed upon by the White House and British government. British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith followed up Blair’s diplomacy with stern requests to US Secretary of State Colin Powell that the prisoners be allowed to speak with lawyers as soon as possible. Lord Goldsmith also demanded improvement in the treatment of prisoners. Both the Australian and British governments strongly condemn the death penalty and voiced objections to its probable use against Guantanamo prisoners. The Australian government, however, is not requesting its citizens’ repatriation because anti-terrorism legislation had not yet been passed there when the prisoners committed their offenses.
Even Blair’s concession to approve military tribunals has outraged some lawmakers. Louise Christian, the lawyer for British detainee Feroz Abbasi’s family, determined that allowing 23 year-old Abbasi to talk with a lawyer might look good for Blair, but would ultimately serve little legal purpose. According to Robert Verkaik of London’s Independent:
“Ms Christian said that even if the British suspects were granted access to a lawyer they would still not receive a fair trial because, under the rules of the military commission, counsel are not allowed to communicate with the outside world once they have seen their client.
She said further restrictions on defence counsel meant that only American citizens approved by the US can act on behalf of the detainees.”
The military tribunals are shrouded in secrecy and, according to Helen Thomas of the Miami Herald, President Bush would have the final say on a suspect’s verdict and whether the death penalty would be used. Human rights and fair trial activists, who have been enfuriated by the proceedings at Guantanamo Bay, are now angered at the potential repatriation of some but not all of the prisoners. Many critics hold that the detainment is an affront to American principles in its treatment of prisoners as guilty until proven innocent. Stephen Jakobi of International rights group Fair Trials Abroad was incensed by Bush’s public referral to the detainees as “bad people” who supported the Taliban:
“I hesitate to call the President of the United States a moron, but that is what he is. Anyone with the slightest idea of law could not have made comments like that – he even said, ‘I am not trying to try them by TV’, having just done so.”
Jakobi later stated in a press release that giving the British detainees special dispensation from the military tribunals does nothing to make the tribunals more just:
“To send the nine Britons home and forget about the rest would fracture the Blair doctrine of European/USA alliance since it would leave the three Frenchmen, the Dane, the Swede and the Spaniard imprisoned in Guantanamo remaining as lesser breeds without the law.”
Johnathon Turley of the Los Angeles Times comments that, essentially, the tribunals are another expression of Bush’s tendency to yee-haw his way blindly through foreign relations :
“Like ‘wars’ against illiteracy or drugs, the war against terrorism is merely an announced policy of the administration. Thus, if the tribunals are allowed, any president can simply declare a new threat as a justification to hold people indefinitely as enemy combatants or use their own court system for executions.
The message is clear and simple: Bush alone will decide the meaning and the means of justice. Ironically, in his actions since 9/11, Bush may have handed these defendants a victory that they could not have achieved alone. The terrorists sought to destroy the American system and to show that we are hypocrites who refuse to comply with rules that we apply to others.
It takes little to destroy buildings and to sacrifice innocent people. It takes a president to destroy a legal system and its underlying values. Like those he seeks to execute, Bush wants justice by his own definition and by his own hand.”
Cheney in the Hot Seat?
Vice President Dick Cheney may have to do a little explaining. Democrats have called on Cheney — one of the main proponents of the war in Iraq — to explain his role in the forged Niger documents’ appearance in Bush’s State of the Union address. Cheney may also have to face yet another ominous claim that he and his controversial energy task force had big plans for Iraq’s oil assets well before the war.
Dennis Kucinich, Carolyn Maloney, and Bernie Sanders, in a letter written on Monday, have asked Cheney to explain how much he knew and when about the bogus uranium claim that later ended up in Bush’s speech. The letter, posted on Tom Paine, calls on Cheney to explain three things: 1) why he made numerous visits to the CIA headquarters, 2) who, exactly, was briefed on Joseph Wilson’s report which revealed that the Niger documents were fake (Wilson is the former ambassador to Africa) , and 3) why the bogus claim was still used in the speech.
The letter states:
“According to The Washington Post, June 5, 2003, you made ‘multiple’ ‘unusual’ visits to CIA to meet directly with Iraq analysts. The Post reported: ‘Vice President Cheney and his most senior aide made multiple trips to the CIA over the past year to question analysts studying Iraq’s weapons programs.’
These visits were unprecedented. Normally, Vice Presidents, yourself included, receive regular briefings from CIA in your office and have a CIA officer on permanent detail. In other words, there is no reason for the Vice President to make personal visits to CIA analysts.
The ambassador ‘reported to the CIA and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged,’ according to the Times. Indeed, that former U.S. Ambassador, Joseph Wilson, wrote in The New York Times, July 6, 2003, “The vice president’s office asked a serious question. We were asked to help formulate the answer. We did so, and we have every confidence that the answer we provided was circulated to the appropriate officials within our government.’
Who in the office of Vice President was informed of the contents of Ambassador Wilson’s report?
Since your address to the [Veterans of Foreign Wars] occurred nearly 7 months after Ambassador Wilson reported his findings to the CIA and State Department, what evidence did you have for the assertion that Iraq was continuing ‘to pursue the nuclear program’ and that Saddam had “resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons”?’
But the plot thickens. Documents recently released by the vice president’s office have revealed that Cheney’s controversial energy task force has been scoping out Iraq’s oil assets since well before the latest war in Iraq — since at least 2001, in fact. The court, using the Freedom of Information Act, ordered Cheney to cough up the documents last year. Despite court orders, Cheney had been refusing to release the information and battling with Judicial Watch (the organization suing to make Cheney’s dealings with his energy task force public) to keep the documents under lock and key. Why Cheney suddenly changed his mind remains an enigma, even to Judicial Watch. The repercussions for Cheney and his task force could be a skeptical American public that believes that the documenst show the war had less to do with protecting the homeland and more to do with securing oil assets, notes the Telegraph’s Bill Simon:
“The emergence of the documents could fuel claims that America’s war in Iraq had as much to do with oil as national security. It also indicates that the Bush administration is beginning to lose the battle to keep its internal workings secret.
Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said: ‘People will draw their own conclusions about the documents, but that is what an open society is about. Given the delay in their release, the Bush administration clearly did not want them to come out.'”
Mano Singham writing for Counter Punch asks: “Can the real reason for going to war be this crass?” Singham notes that pre-war demonstrators holding signs reading “no blood for oil” may have had an eery premonition:ÊÊÊ
“While I found the administration’s case for war to be unbelievable, the ‘war for oil’ thesis seemed to me to be a far too simplistic approach to global politics.
The thought that the war was actually about making money for individuals and corporations in the short term did not seem to me to be credible. That was too petty and crass.
That was why I was stunned to read the press release put out by the public interest group Judicial Watch on July 17, 2003.
Perhaps we have reached such a nadir that foreign policy (and even wars) can be made, and people sent to certain death, for such crass reasons. Perhaps it is time to put the Vice-President under much closer scrutiny.”