Saturday, December 24, 2005

Atta files destroyed by Pentagon; Able Danger

By Bill Gertz
September 22, 2005

Pentagon lawyers during the Clinton administration ordered the destruction of intelligence reports that identified September 11 leader Mohamed Atta months before the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, according to congressional testimony yesterday.

A lawyer for two Pentagon whistleblowers also told the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday that the Defense Intelligence Agency last year destroyed files on the Army's computer data-mining program known as Able Danger to avoid disclosing the information. 

Retired Army Maj. Erik Kleinsmith, former director of the Army Land Information Warfare Center, told the panel he was directed by Pentagon lawyers to delete 2? terabytes of computer data -- the equivalent of one-quarter of the information in the Library of Congress -- on Able Danger in May or June 2000 because of legal concerns about information on U.S. citizens.

Maj. Kleinsmith said keeping the data beyond 90 days would have violated an Army directive limiting the collection of information on U.S. citizens.

"Yes, I could have conveniently forgot to delete the data, and we could have kept it," Maj. Kleinsmith said. "But I knowingly would have been in violation of the regulation."

The attorney for two Pentagon officials involved in Able Danger testified that the program did not identify Atta as being in the United States, only that he was linked by analysts to an al Qaeda cell in Brooklyn, N.Y.

"At no time did Able Danger identify Mohamed Atta as being physically present in the United States," said Mark Zaid, who represents Army Reserve Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, an intelligence analyst, and J.D. Smith, a defense official, who both claim Able Danger data was mishandled. 

"And no information at the time that they obtained would have led anyone to believe that criminal activity had taken place or that any specific terrorist activities were being planned. All they developed were associational links."

Mr. Zaid said Able Danger-related data, including possibly a chart containing a photo of Atta, that was compiled by Orion Scientific, was destroyed by DIA some time in the spring of 2004 after the official who held the material had his security clearance revoked.

The Senate hearing included testimony from Rep. Curt Weldon, Pennsylvania Republican, who first went public with information that the Army intelligence unit had uncovered information on Atta in Brooklyn, and three other of the September 11 suicide hijackers in 2000 through the computer-based program that sifted both secret intelligence and unclassified databases for information.

"Over the past three months, I have witnessed denial, deception, threats to [Defense Department] employees, character assassination, and now silence," said Mr. Weldon.

He said that if the information had been handled properly "it might have had an impact on the most significant attack ever against our country and our citizens." He charged that the government commission that investigated September 11 had overlooked the Able Danger material on Atta.

A recent Pentagon inquiry into the matter found no reports linking Atta to a Brooklyn al Qaeda cell. However, investigators uncovered one report linking al Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef, to Islamists in Brooklyn. Atef was killed in Afghanistan in 2001.

Mr. Weldon said he thinks Able Danger was shut down after a "profile" of Chinese weapons proliferation linked two Americans to Chinese students at Stanford University engaged in technology acquisition for China.

During the profile, the names of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, at the time the Stanford University provost, and former Defense Secretary William Perry were mentioned in the data and created "a wave of controversy," he said.

After Congress sought the data, "tremendous pressure was placed on the Army, because this was a prototype operation, and they shut down the Able Danger operation," Mr. Weldon said. 

9/11: Planted evidence

OK, let's turn to September 11, 2001. The flight manuals and other evidence supposedly "accidentally" left behind by the terrorists were in fact planted. For example, the Pulitzer prize-winning reporter who uncovered the Iraq prison torture scandal and the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam wrote:

"Many of the investigators believe that some of the initial clues that were uncovered about the terrorists' identities and preparations, such as flight manuals, were meant to be found. A former high-level intelligence official told me, 'Whatever trail was left was left deliberately -- for the F.B.I. to chase'"

Additionally, at least 7 of the alleged 9/11 hijackers are still alive (see also this BBC article). However, the FBI apparently continues to this day to stick to its list of 19 hijackers. If identifying the names and identities of the hijackers were of real concern to the government (instead of framing a bunch of patsies), why wouldn't the government have modified the list after discovering that they had mistaken identities for at least 7 of the hijackers?

And imagine if a piece of evidence could not be authenticated according to basic science. For example, let's say an apparent confession note was found at an arson crime scene where the entire building had been turned to fine ash particles and nothing else survived. That would raise suspicions, right?

Well, a passport from one of the alleged hijackers was "found" a couple of blocks from the Twin Towers. And yet the government claims that the areas inside the Twin Towers where planes crashed were infernos so hot that they caused the collapse of the massive steel cores in the center of the towers. Indeed, the passport-owner's hijacked plane was allegedly almost completely lodged in the building's core. How could the passport have survived and ended up a couple of blocks away?

It is thus clear that evidence was planted to frame the hijackers on 9/11. Even a simple tv detective would ask who had the opportunity and motive to frame these patsies. He would also ask whether the persons who planted the evidence were the real culprits.

Postscript: I am NOT saying that planes did not crash into the Twin Towers: they did. Instead, I am saying that the people who planted the phony evidence did not want any questions about who the hijackers really were, who let them in the country, who masterminded the attacks, who stood down our military so that fighter jets did not intercept the planes, who planned the attacks on the same day that 5 war games were being conducted by the U.S. military (including at least 1 "live-fly" exercise using real planes), and whether someone else brought down the world trade centers with controlled demolitions. See regarding all of these claims. I'm saying the planted evidence casts doubt on the entire official story.

Read This! Do you still believe the official party line?

When you hear people claim that the government "did" 9/11, or at least let it happen on purpose, is your response "But the 9/11 Commission investigated all that and concluded that it was only Osama Bin Laden and his terrorists"?

If so, a quick look at the government's investigations reveals that -- not only has there never been a real investigation -- but the behavior of government representatives in willfully obstructing all attempts at investigation comprises evidence of guilt. Specifically, in all criminal trials, evasiveness, obstruction, and destruction of evidence all constitute strong circumstantial evidence that the accused is guilty or, at the very least, not to be believed. 9/11 is no different. (Indeed, there are even indications that false evidence was planted to deflect attention from the real perpetrators).

Preliminarily, Bush and Cheney took the rare step of personally requesting that congress limit all 9/11 investigation solely to "intelligence failures", so there has never been a congressional probe into any of the real issues involved.

The administration also opposed the creation of a 9/11 commission. Once it was forced, by pressure from widows of 9-11 victims, to allow a commission to be formed, the administration appointed as executive director an administration insider (and see this article), starved the commission of funds, providing a fraction of the funds used to investigate Monica Lewinsky, failed to provide crucial documents (and see this article also), and refused to require high-level officials to testify under oath, and allowed Bush and Cheney to be questioned jointly.

More importantly, the 9-11 Commission refused to examine virtually any evidence which contradicted the administration's official version of events. As just two of numerous examples, the 9-11 Commission report does even mention the collapse of World Trade Center building 7 or any explosions in the buildings (the word "explosion" does not appear in the report), and refused to allow any firefighters to testify publicly.

Indeed, former 9/11 Commissioner Max Cleland reputedly resigned in disgust from the Commission. See for example this article.

A very well-documented book by a distinguished professor shows that the 9-11 Commission was a whitewash. According to law professor Richard Falk of Princeton, the author of this book "establishes himself, alongside Seymour Hersh, as America's number one bearer of unpleasant, yet necessary, public truths" (Seymour Hersh, as you might know, is the Pullitzer prize-winning reporter who uncovered the Iraq prison torture scandal). See brief article here.

Indeed, the very 9-11 widows who had pressured the administration to create the 9/11 Commission declared it a failure which ignored 70% of their detailed questions and "suppressed important evidence and whistleblower testimony that challenged the official story on many fronts".

Moreover, a leading firefighters' trade publication called the investigation concerning the world trade center a "half-baked farce". In addition, the official investigators themselves were largely denied funding, access to the site and the evidence contained there, or even access to such basic information as the blueprints for the world trade center. Similarly, a professor of fire protection engineering, and the former chief of the fire science and engineering division of the agency now investigating the world trade center disaster, wrote that the world trade center buildings could not have collapsed due to jet fuel fires, that evidence was being destroyed, and that there was no real investigation into the collapses.

Indeed, the blueprints for the world trade center are apparently STILL being withheld from reporters and the public, and the government agency in charge of the investigation has grossly mischaracterized the structure of the buildings.

And the government agency tasked with examining the collapse of the World Trade Centers did NOT investigate any anomalies in the collapse of the buildings, failing to even examine any evidence regarding the buildings’ impossible near free-fall speeds and symmetrical collapses, apparent demolition squibs, the fact that the buildings turned to dust in mid-air, the presence of molten metal in the basement areas in large pools in all of the buildings, or the unexplained straightening out of the upper 34 floors of the South Tower after they had precipitously leaned over and started toppling like a tree. See also this question and answer exchange at a recent government press conference (skip to 1 minute and 23 seconds into the video). And
this short video on building 7 and the subsequent investigation (you may wish to disregard brief partisan portion).

And did you know that investigators for the Congressional Joint Inquiry discovered that an FBI informant had hosted and even rented a room to two hijackers in 2000 and that, when the Inquiry sought to interview the informant, the FBI refused outright, and then hid him in an unknown location, and that a high-level FBI official stated these blocking maneuvers were undertaken under orders from the White House?

Or did you know that the tape of interviews of air traffic controllers on-duty on 9/11 was intentionally destroyed by crushing the cassette by hand, cutting the tape into little pieces, and then dropping the pieces in different trash cans around the building as shown by this NY Times article (summary version is free; full version is pay-per-view) and by this article from the Chicago Sun-Times?

Indeed, while he focuses on a very superficial issue, even the former director of the FBI says there was a cover up by the 9/11 Commission

Still think the government really investigated and disclosed what happened on 9/11?


The Secret World of Jack Abramoff

Betting Red All the Way

“There is a weird report just a day or two after 9/11 that someone reported to the FBI that three or four of the hijackers were seen gambling on a SunCruz boat,” wrote  a source in Miami. “The FBI interviewed everyone who might have seen them, that very day by all reports.”

Sure enough. We found an Associated Press story on Sept 26, 2001 headlined “SunCruz Casinos turns over documents in terrorist probe.” 

“SunCruz Casinos has turned over photographs and other documents to FBI investigators after employees said they recognized some of the men suspected in the terrorist attacks as customers.… Names on the passenger list from a Sept. 5 cruise matched those of some of the hijackers... Two or three men linked to the Sept. 11 hijackings may have been customers on a ship that sailed from Madeira Beach on Florida's gulf coast.”

Less than a week before the 9.11 attack, Atta and several other hijackers were aboard one of Abramoff’s casino boats. What no one seems able to answer is this:

What possible thrill could gambling offer men getting ready to die in less than a week? To this date, their Sept 5 visit to a gambling vessel overrun with retirees remains unexplained.

The gambling motif in the terrorist’s timeline doesn’t end there. The hijackers had no apparent reason to visit Las Vegas... so why did they?

On June 28 at Boston’s Logan Airport, Mohamed Atta boarded a United Airlines flight and flew first class nonstop to San Francisco. He bypassed the bohemian North Beach district, and didn’t take the cruise to Alcatraz…

Atta headed for Vegas.

On Aug. 10, Hani Hanjour and Nawaf Alhazmi used first-class tickets for a United flight from Dulles Airport near Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles International Airport, then on to Las Vegas. The story of the terrorists Las Vegas connection may never be known, admitted the Las Vegas FBI.

Murder will out

‘Islamic fundamentalist’ Atta may have felt right at home in the world of fast cash  and unlicensed gambling boat ‘cruises to nowhere’ of Republican lobbyist (and observant Jew) Jack Abramoff. He would almost certainly have been comfortable with the “gangland-style hit straight out of ‘Goodfellas” that cemented Abramoff’s prominent position in that industry.

At the time of the Sept 11 attack one of Abramoff’s chief claims to fame was as the proud owner of the SunCruz line: a dozen unlicensed gambling boats plying the waters off the Florida coast in a fashion which in any other state would have been considered criminal. 

How did Jack Abramoff get lucky enough to be the guy passing out all that long green? Where did Jack Abramoff get his ‘juice?’

Short answer: Not everyone is savvy to opportunities presented by riders in obscure legislation. Not so the connected, the covert, the—dare we say “blessed?”

“Elite deviance” is a sociological term for a condition in a society in which the elite in the society come to believe that the rules no longer apply to them.

Casino boats turned out to be a elite deviant’s dream.

One time-honored way to get rich is to marry money. Another is to kill someone that has it…  In Abramoff’s case, it appears that Gus Boulis, the owner of the lion’s share of the casino boats in Florida, had to die first.

Three men formed an ownership group that apparently made Boulis the proverbial  offer he couldn’t refuse. They bought SunCruz from him, even though it wasn't for sale.

When Greek tycoon Gus Boulis was gunned down in his BMW on February 6, 2001 Fort Lauderdale police investigators immediately began scrutinizing SunCruz Casinos. Suspicion focused on the recent sale of the fleet. Boulis and one of the three men had been carrying on a very public feud.

“We certainly aren't lacking in suspects,” said a homicide detective drolly.

Less than two months later, Sun Cruz announced plans to move a 150-foot, $10-million floating casino to the Northern Marianas.

Almost every article we'd read cites Abramoff & Delay's interest in the Marianas being sweat-shop related. Meaning they're in favor of them. Their primary focus wasn't sweatshops. It was gambling.

Full article

Heads roll at the V.A. (Why?).

'Preventive Psychiatry E-Newsletter charged Monday that the reason Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi stepped down earlier this month was the growing scandal surrounding the use of uranium munitions in the Iraq War.

'Writing in Preventive Psychiatry E-Newsletter No. 169, Arthur N. Bernklau, executive director of Veterans for Constitutional Law in New York, stated, "The real reason for Mr. Principi's departure was really never given, however a special report published by eminent scientist Leuren Moret naming depleted uranium as the definitive cause of the 'Gulf War Syndrome' has fed a growing scandal about the continued use of uranium munitions by the US Military."

'"The VA Secretary (Principi) was aware of this fact as far back as 2000," wrote Bernklau. "He, and the Bush administration have been hiding these facts, but now, thanks to Moret's report, (it) . . . is far too big to hide or to cover up!"' (San Francisco Bay View article).

Maybe OT, but wasn't Principi connected to the Swift Boat of Fools, of 2004 election campaign against Kerry, as well?

RP: Conyers releases potentially "Lethal Document'

'Rep. John Conyers (D-Mi) released a potentially lethal document Friday, focusing on the numerous federal violations of the Bush administration, including evidence of WMD intelligence cover-ups, deception, manipulation, retribution and torture concerning the Iraqi War.

'The document, entitled "The Constitution in Crisis," finds more than probable cause and substantial evidence for many federal law violations by top administration officials, including the President and Vice President, based on their blatant and arrogant abuse of power.

'While the document raises charges meriting Bush's impeachment, it notes that special investigative powers be established by Congressional Resolution since the Republican controlled Legislative and Executive branches has systematically and illegally blocked off a fair and honest search for the truth, using its power to protect a corrupt and out-of-control President and Vice President.' (Arctic Beacon article).


Iran's suicide bombers to stage "readiness" manoeuvres

Iran Focus

Tehran, Iran, Sep. 05 – A brigadier general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps announced that dozens of “trained volunteers for martyrdom-seeking operations” will soon stage a manoeuvre in a mountainous area west of the Iranian capital to display their “readiness”.

“At a time when the American government insists on the existence of a ‘military option’ against Iran, one cannot be opposed to martyrdom-seeking operations”, Hossein Allahkaram told Baztab, a Persian-language website run by former top Revolutionary Guards commanders.

“Of the 400 well-trained members of martyrdom-seeking groups, dozens will be taking in the exercise on the heights near Karaj reservoir (west of Tehran)”, Allahkaram said.

Allahkaram is the leader and one of the founders of Ansar-e Hezbollah, a paramilitary force that acts as the clerical regime’s storm troopers to put down anti-government demonstrations and instil terror in members of the public. Iranian officials have conceded in the past that the group has been organised and led by close confidants of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, such as Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati.

In a revealing account of his years as a member of the leadership council of Ansar-e Hezbollah, defector Amir Farshad Ebrahimi wrote that Allahkaram had been given the go-ahead by the Supreme Leader himself in a meeting in autumn 1992 to form an Iranian version of Hezbollah.

In the interview with Baztab, Allahkaram said the would-be suicide bombers belonged to a non-governmental organisation in Iran. He said further information on the suicide bombers would soon be given out in a press release.

Women protest against Iran-linked torture centres in Iraq

Iran Focus

Baghdad, Dec. 05 – Iraqi women gathered outside a political party headquarters in Baghdad protesting secret prisons and torture chambers run by Iraq’s Interior Ministry, an Iraqi television reported on Saturday.

The women gathered outside the headquarters of the Iraqi Islamic Party, al-Sharqia TV reported. They protested the detention and torture of Iraqis, in particular women, in secret prisons similar to Jaderiya Prison discovered in Baghdad.

The report said that torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners by the officials inside the Interior Ministry with ties to Iran had caused anger and protests among the Iraqi public.

The women called for the “immediate and unconditional release of all female prisoners”. There have been reports of rape of female prisoners inside prisons under the control of the Iraqi Interior Ministry.

They also demanded an inquiry into the torture and abuse cases and demanded that those involved in torture be brought to justice.

Iraqi officials have blamed Iran’s notorious Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) for running the secret Iraqi Interior Ministry prison in Baghdad where more than 170 Iraqi prisoners were being illegally held.

U.S. Airstrikes Take Toll on Civilians in Iraq

Just as we predicted, the air war is heating up as concern for troops mounts and there is noise about drawing down troops.
Some might call this liberation. I am not one of them.
Bush has no plan of leaving Iraq completely.
Eyewitnesses Cite Scores Killed in Marine Offensive in Western Iraq

By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service

12/24/05 "Washington Post" -- -- RAMADI, Iraq -- U.S. Marine airstrikes targeting insurgents sheltering in Iraqi residential neighborhoods are killing civilians as well as guerrillas along the Euphrates River in far western Iraq, according to Iraqi townspeople and officials and the U.S. military.

Just how many civilians have been killed is strongly disputed by the Marines and, some critics say, too little investigated. But townspeople, tribal leaders, medical workers and accounts from witnesses at the sites of clashes, at hospitals and at graveyards indicated that scores of noncombatants were killed last month in fighting, including airstrikes, in the opening stages of a 17-day U.S.-Iraqi offensive in Anbar province.

"These people died silently, complaining to God of a guilt they did not commit," Zahid Mohammed Rawi, a physician, said in the town of Husaybah. Rawi said that roughly one week into Operation Steel Curtain, which began on Nov. 5, medical workers had recorded 97 civilians killed. At least 38 insurgents were also killed in the offensive's early days, Rawi said.

In a Husaybah school converted to a makeshift hospital, Rawi, four other doctors and a nurse treated wounded Iraqis in the opening days of the offensive, examining bloodied children as anxious fathers soothed them and held them down.

"I dare any organization, committee or the American Army to deny these numbers," Rawi said.

U.S. Marines in Anbar say they take pains to spare innocent lives and almost invariably question civilian accounts from the battleground communities. They say that townspeople who either support the insurgents or are intimidated by them are manipulating the number of noncombatant deaths for propaganda -- a charge that some Iraqis acknowledge is true of some residents and medical workers in Anbar province.

"I wholeheartedly believe the vast majority of civilians are killed by the insurgency," particularly by improvised bombs, said Col. Michael Denning, the top air officer for the 2nd Marine Division, which is leading the fight against insurgents in Anbar province.

In an interview at a Marine base at Ramadi, Anbar's provincial capital, Denning acknowledged that a city was "a very, very difficult place to fight." He said, however, that "insurgents will kill civilians and try to blame it on us."

But some military analysts say the U.S. military must do more to track the civilian toll from its airstrikes. Sarah Sewall, deputy assistant secretary of defense from 1993 to 1996 and now program director for the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard, said the military's resistance to acknowledging and analyzing so-called collateral damage remained one of the most serious failures of the U.S. air and ground war in Iraq.

"It's almost impossible to fight a war in which engagements occur in urban areas [and] to avoid civilian casualties," Sewall, whose center is a branch of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government that focuses on issues such as genocide, failed states and military intervention, said in a telephone interview.

"In a conflict like Iraq, where civilian perceptions are as important as the number of weapons caches destroyed, assessing the civilian harm must become a part of the battle damage assessment process if you're going to fight a smart war," she said.

The number of airstrikes carried out each month by U.S. aircraft rose almost fivefold this year, from roughly 25 in January to 120 in November, according to a tally provided by the military. Accounts by residents, officials and witnesses in Anbar and the Marines themselves make clear that Iraqi civilians are frequently caught in the attacks.

On Nov. 7, the third day of the offensive, witnesses watched from the roof of a public building in Husaybah as U.S. warplanes struck homes in the town's Kamaliyat neighborhood. After fires ignited by the fighting had died down, witnesses observed residents removing the bodies of what neighbors said was a family -- mother, father, 14-year-old girl, 11-year-old boy and 5-year-old boy -- from the rubble of one house.

Survivors said insurgents had been firing mortars from yards in the neighborhood just before the airstrikes. Residents pleaded with the guerrillas to leave for fear of drawing attacks on the families, they said, but were told by the fighters that they had no other space from which to attack.

Near the town of Qaim one day last month, a man who identified himself only as Abdul Aziz said a separate U.S. airstrike killed his grown daughter, Aesha. Four armed men were also found in the rubble of her house, he said.

"I don't blame the Americans. I blame Zarqawi and his group, who were using my daughter's house as a shelter," said Abdul Aziz, referring to Abu Musab Zarqawi, leader of the foreign-dominated group al Qaeda in Iraq.

Abdul Aziz spoke beside his daughter's newly dug grave, in a cemetery established for the 80 to 90 civilians who Anbar officials said were killed in the first weeks of the offensive. Several dozen new graves were evident, and residents said more than 40 victims of the fighting were to be buried that day alone. Witnesses saw only 11, all wrapped in blankets for burial. Residents said two of the 11 were women.

Abdul Aziz's grandsons ascribed blame for their mother's death more pointedly. "She was killed in the bombing by the Americans," said Ali, 9, the oldest of three brothers.

Operation Steel Curtain is representative of a series of offensives in western Anbar that began in late April. Brig. Gen. James L. Williams of the 2nd Marine Division described them as a town-by-town campaign to drive out insurgents and establish a permanent Iraqi army presence in the heavily Sunni Arab region. Iraqi and foreign insurgents use the Euphrates River communities for bases and for logistics support to funnel money, recruits and ordnance from Anbar and neighboring Syria to fighters planning attacks elsewhere in Iraq.

Steel Curtain involved 2,500 U.S. Marines, soldiers and sailors and about 1,000 soldiers of the U.S.-trained Iraqi army, including newly established units of locally recruited scouts commissioned mainly for their knowledge of the area, the Marines said. As the Iraqi and U.S. forces moved through Husaybah, Karabilah and other towns, Marines said, they encountered scores of mines and insurgent-rigged bombs made from artillery shells or other ordnance. Ten Marines and 139 insurgents died in the offensive, the Marines said. They gave no totals for known civilian deaths.

Statements issued by the U.S. military during the offensive reported at least two incidents that were described as airstrikes unwittingly conducted on buildings where civilians were later found to have been present.

On Nov. 8, a man in Husaybah led U.S. and Iraqi forces to a house destroyed by U.S. airstrikes the previous day, Marines said. Searching the rubble, Iraqi troops and U.S. Marines found two wounded civilians -- a young girl and a man -- and recovered five bodies.

The Marines were told that fighters loyal to Zarqawi had forced their way into the house, killed two of the people inside and locked the rest of the family on a lower floor before using the building to attack Iraqi and U.S. forces clearing the neighborhood.

"The soldiers and Marines had no knowledge of the civilians being held hostage in the home at the time of the attack," Marines said in a statement. It could not be determined if that airstrike was the same as the one described by witnesses who watched removal of the dead family.

On Nov. 15, U.S.-led forces called in an airstrike after coming under small-arms fire from a building in the hamlet of New Ubaydi. Two men ran from the building waving white flags after the airstrike, followed by 15 male and female civilians, a U.S. Marine statement said.

Marines described other instances of insurgents hiding among civilians in Anbar, including occasions when they dressed as women and tried to pass unnoticed among townspeople fleeing the battles. Residents, local officials and emergency workers said insurgents often sheltered among civilians in urban neighborhoods.

Arkan Isawi, an elder in Husaybah, said he and four other tribal leaders gathered to assess the damage while the operation was still underway and identified at least 80 dead, including women and children. "I personally pulled out a family of three children and parents," he said.

An exact count, however, was impossible, he said. "Anyone who gives you a number is lying, because the city was a mess, and people buried bodies in backyards and parking lots," with other bodies still under rubble, Isawi said.

Townspeople, medical workers and officials often exaggerate death tolls, either for effect or under orders from insurgents. However, accounts from other officials and residents are borne out at least partially by direct observation of bodies and other evidence.

The accounts of U.S. Marines and Iraqi civilians of airstrikes often diverge sharply.

On Oct. 16, for instance, a U.S. F-15 pilot caught a group of Ramadi-area insurgents planting explosives in a blast crater on a road used by U.S. forces, Denning said. The F-15 dropped a bomb on the group, and analysis of video footage shot by the plane showed only what appeared to be grown men where the bomb struck, Denning said. After the airstrike, he said, roadside bombs in the area "shut down to almost nothing.

"That was a good strike, and we got some people who were killing a lot of people," Denning said.

Capt. Jeffrey S. Pool, a spokesman for the 2nd Marines, said it was not possible that children were killed in that strike unless they were outside the range of the F-15's camera.

Residents, however, said the strike killed civilians as well as insurgents, including 18 children. Afterward, at a traditional communal funeral, black banners bore the names of the dead, and grieving parents gave names, ages and detailed descriptions of the children they said had been killed, witnesses said. The bodies of three children and a woman lay unclaimed outside a hospital after the day's fighting.

American commanders insist they do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties, but overall, Denning said, "I think it would be very difficult to prosecute this insurgency" without airstrikes.

The precision-guided munitions used in all airstrikes in Anbar "have miss rates smaller than the size of this table," Denning said in the bare-bones cafeteria of one of several Marine bases around Ramadi. He said that officers at Ramadi and at the Marines' "lessons learned" center in Quantico coordinate each attack using the best intelligence available. "I have to sell it to about two or three different chains of command: 'What are you doing to make sure there are no civilian casualties?' " Denning said.

Sewall, the former Pentagon official, also said air power often is the best means for taking out a target more cleanly than ground forces could. But, she said, U.S. forces don't do enough after the airstrikes to figure out whether each one succeeded in hitting the intended targets while sparing civilians.

Marine officers said their lessons-learned center at Quantico did not try to assess civilian casualties from attacks. At the Pentagon, routine bomb-damage assessments rely heavily on the examination of aerial photos and satellite images, which Sewall said were "good for seeing if a building was hit, but not as good for determining who was inside."

"I have enormous respect for the extent to which U.S. air power has become discriminate," Sewall said. "But when you're using force in an urban area or using force in an area with limited intelligence," and facing an enemy actively "exploiting distinctions between combatants and noncombatants, air power becomes challenging no matter how discriminate it is.

"When it comes to the extent to which they are minimizing civilian harm, the question becomes: How do you know?" Sewall said.

Staff writer Thomas E. Ricks in Washington contributed to this report.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Ex-Powell Aide Moves From Insider to Apostates


IT was in early 2004, the beginning of President Bush's re-election campaign, that Lawrence B. Wilkerson first printed out a letter saying he wanted to quit as chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

"In essence it said, 'Dear Mr. President, I find myself at variance with a majority of your foreign policies and even your domestic policies and therefore I respectfully submit my resignation,' " Mr. Wilkerson recalled recently. But the letter remained in a desk drawer for the rest of Mr. Bush's first term.

Nearly two years later, Mr. Wilkerson, a 60-year-old retired United States Army colonel, has finally completed his journey from insider to apostate. Alone among those who surrounded Mr. Powell in the first term, he is speaking out critically, assailing the president as amateurish, especially compared to the first President Bush, and describing the administration as secretive, inept and courting disaster at home and abroad. Nor has he spared his former boss, whom he says was overly preoccupied with "damage control" for policies set by others.

"What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made," Mr. Wilkerson said in a well-publicized speech at the New America Foundation in October. "And you've got a president who is not versed in international relations and not too much interested in them either," he added in the speech.

Mr. Wilkerson has also attacked the Bush administration for allegedly condoning torture and setting lax policies on treatment of detainees that led, he charges, to the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the black eye they gave to the United States Army.

SINCE starting to speak out a few months ago, Mr. Wilkerson has become something of a Washington celebrity. He has given interviews and speeches, appeared on television, written op-ed articles and taken telephone calls from journalists and senators.

He has juggled book offers but says he has no plans to write anything that would seem to exploit his newfound fame. Soon he will begin teaching jobs at George Washington University and the College of William and Mary, where he may write a book on presidential decision-making since World War II.

Though Mr. Powell has kept his silence about his former aide, he has let it be known through friends that he objects to the charges, especially the suggestion that he was overly loyal to President Bush. "It's very painful for me," Mr. Wilkerson says. "I've lost a friend of 16 years. I won't say I've lost him, but the estrangement is palpable." One e-mail message he says he got from Mr. Powell complained tersely, "Don't characterize my loyalty."

On the other hand, Mr. Wilkerson says that Mr. Powell won crucial policy battles in making sure that the issue of Iraq was taken to the United Nations and in battling Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Cheney for the cause of improving relations with Europe, encouraging negotiations with North Korea and Iraq, and avoiding confrontations with Russia and China.

He says his decision to speak in the open about the policy wars of the first Bush term was slow in coming, but a major factor was the revelations about Abu Ghraib, which he said he realized, after studying the matter, had resulted from decisions on prisoner treatment and intelligence set shortly after Sept. 11, 2001.

Army discipline is something Mr. Wilkerson says he has understood since Vietnam, where he flew helicopters starting in 1969. "I've been there," he said. "I've stood on the hot parade ground as a pilot. I've cursed generals." He added, "I understood the bestiality that comes over men when they're asked to use force for the state."

He recalled that a battalion commander once declared an area a free-fire zone, "which means that anything that moves, you shoot it." One of his gunners killed a 13-year-old girl, Mr. Wilkerson says, adding, "I will always live with that for the rest of my life."

After the Wilkerson attacks, administration spokesmen avoided any official response. But many administration officials have acknowledged their displeasure. A half-dozen former colleagues of Mr. Wilkerson's at the State Department, none of whom wanted to be quoted by name out of deference to Mr. Powell's silence, said they were not especially surprised that he had begun to speak out, but that they found his criticisms unseemly. A former colleague said it seemed Mr. Wilkerson was motivated by his concern about what had happened to the Army as a result of allegations of prisoner mistreatment and poor decisions on the Iraq war. "Larry loves the Army, and he loves the people in the Army," said a former State Department official. "As somebody who thinks of himself as a leader of people, my sense is that he couldn't be silent anymore."

BORN in South Carolina, the son of a bombardier in the Army Air Corps in World War II, Mr. Wilkerson bounced around the country growing up while his father worked after the war as an insurance executive. Months before he was to graduate from Bucknell in 1966, he decided to enlist. But without a college degree, he found that only the Army would let him fly. After Vietnam, Mr. Wilkerson received advanced degrees in international relations and national security, and served on the faculty of the United States Naval War College at Newport, R.I., and as director of the Marine Corps War College in Quantico, Va. In 1989 he was hired as a speechwriter and top aide by Mr. Powell, who had left the post of national security adviser under President Reagan and later became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"Larry has two qualities that Powell appreciated," recalls another top aide to the former secretary. "First, he could always find the big picture in whatever was going on. Second, he always tore things apart. He never takes things at face value, and what he's doing now is a kind of exaggeration of what he used to do internally." Mr. Powell turned to Mr. Wilkerson to go with him to the C.I.A. to sort through the mounds of material prepared to buttress the case against Saddam Hussein on the eve of the Iraq war, for the lengthy presentation the secretary gave on Feb. 5, 2003, at the United Nations Security Council.

"He found that the draft didn't have the sourcing and backing that we wanted and he tore the whole thing apart and put it back together," the former State Department official recalled. "He was Powell's internal iconoclast." Mr. Wilkerson recalls the preparation of the Feb. 5 presentation, which Mr. Powell has acknowledged will be remembered as a blot on his career because of its mistakes on intelligence, as an exercise in frustration.

It was an embittering experience for everyone at the State Department, Mr. Wilkerson says, to be saddled with presenting what turned out to be false information at the United Nations, and also to have been sidelined in the running of postwar Iraq by the Pentagon. "When I rationalize for myself not resigning, I did it by saying, 'This is the only sane member of this administration,' " Mr. Wilkerson said of Mr. Powell.


Bush's false choices -

SO IT COMES DOWN to September 11, 2001. Again. The president has drawn a great dividing line through the country, separating his supporters from his critics. Again.

This time, those who see a presidency run amok are not just labeled ''defeatists." They are considered amnesiacs.

This time, those who oppose torture are diagnosed with short-term memory loss. Those who are outraged at domestic snooping are people who have forgotten to be afraid.

The president's ''humble" speech from the Oval Office contained the inevitable line: ''September the 11th, 2001, required us to take every emerging threat to our country seriously." His decidedly un-humble wrestling with the media on the subject of domestic spying had no less than 10 references to ''this new threat [that] required us to think and act differently."

Meanwhile, what was Vice President Cheney's response when asked if he was concerned that 100 people had died in US custody? What actually worried him was that ''as we get farther and farther away from 9/11 . . . there seems to be less concern about doing what's necessary in order to defend the country."

It's as if the administration were waving a sampler embroidered with that old saying: If you are keeping your head while all about you are losing theirs, perhaps you don't know the seriousness of the situation.

We have been handed yet another in an endless series of false choices. Those who don't blindly trust the president are dismissed as amnesia victims. Americans who don't connect the dots from 9/11 to Iraq or spying or torture are cast as actors living in a foolish, fearless, fantasy world. Indeed, 9/11 was the day the president became the commander in chief. The words he often repeats were spoken to him by a rescue worker at the World Trade Center: ''Whatever it takes."

If there are Americans who have actually forgotten the attacks in all their searing horror, I don't know any. I remember the weeks when I would wake up and reach for the remote to see if we'd caught Osama. When did that expectation fade? I remember the just pursuit of Al Qaeda into its safety zone, Afghanistan. And the satisfaction in overthrowing the Taliban.

But gradually, 9/11 became the all-purpose excuse for . . . whatever it takes. The war in Iraq was conflated with the war on terror, and preemptive strikes were launched against weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist. In ''The Assassin's Gate," George Packer, a liberal hawk, tries to assess why the United States really did invade Iraq. ''It still isn't possible to be sure -- and this remains the most remarkable thing about the Iraq War," he writes. ''Iraq is the Rashomon of wars" and all he can conclude is that it ''has something to do with September 11."

As recently as last February, 47 percent of Americans still believed that Saddam had something to do with 9/11. Does the White House accuse its supporters of false memory?

And what of the president himself? In his news conference, he angrily attacked those who leaked the spy story. He asked reporters to guess what happened the last time there was a similar security leak. Then he stumbled over the answer, ''Saddam . . . Osama bin Laden changed his behavior." Memory loss?

Those who criticize the commander in chief wonder if he is the one who's forgotten 9/11. Has he forgotten when the country was united? Has he forgotten when the world was on our side? Has he forgotten that we were the good guys?

As for fear? My generation grew up under the threat of a mushroom cloud. There is an old theatrical adage that when there's a gun on stage in the first act, it will go off by the third act. We have no false sense of security in this dangerous world. Nor do we embrace the equally false belief that curtailing liberty automatically makes us safer. We have seen how the promise of protection becomes a protection racket.

''Whatever it takes" does not mean ''whatever the president says it takes." It does not mean becoming our own worst enemies. It does not mean approving torture or domestic spying. And it most certainly does not mean watching silently as a commander in chief takes on the uniform of a generalissimo.

Who owns September 11? The White House has built its own memorial and raised a stiff price of admission. It only allows in those who agree with the president. But the memory and meaning of 9/11 do not belong to any partisan. It's common ground waiting to be recaptured. Whatever it takes.

Ellen Goodman's e-mail address is  

When Power Corrupts

Published on Friday, December 23, 2005
by the Denver Post (Colorado)
by Reggie Rivers

If you owned a bank, common sense would tell you that you can't let your tellers enter the vault without supervision. If you ran a pharmacy, you wouldn't give your employees unfettered access to the drugs.

Although the overwhelming majority of people are honest, fair and trustworthy, the average person simply can't be put into a position in which he has great authority and the power to act in complete secrecy.

Imagine that you're managing a grocery store, but you don't require your clerks to reconcile the count in their drawers at the end of each shift. You trust them. They're good people who have been with you a long time, and you don't think you need to watch them closely.

In this type of structure, it's just a matter of time before one of them takes some money out of the till. There will come a day when one of them ends up in a desperate situation (e.g., his car is about to be repossessed or a family member falls ill) and he'll reluctantly decide to give himself a short-term loan. The first time, he might even repay the money.

But a few weeks or months later, he'll give himself another loan, and then another. Yes, he's wrong for stealing, but part of it is your fault for setting him up for failure. You simply can't give people access to the money and then turn your back.

Most of us understand that strict procedures and regular supervision are among the basic building blocks of a successful business, but for some reason, we fail to see that the same infrastructure is required to run a successful political system.

We've given President Bush the authority to wage war on terrorism domestically and abroad, and he's come to believe he can proceed without the close supervision of the courts, Congress, the media, international organizations or the American people.

The result is completely predictable. It's little surprise that prisoners were secretly mistreated at Abu Ghraib, allegedly abused at Guantanamo Bay, improperly held in secret prisons in Eastern Europe without charges or trials - all out of sight of U.S. or international monitors.

If you give someone great power and allow him to shroud himself in secrecy as he uses it, then these results are inevitable.

The latest revelation is that the National Security Agency has been conducting warrant-less eavesdropping on American citizens. Instead of apologizing, the president has argued that we need to trust him with authority to secretly monitor all of us.

When will we learn? How much abuse has to occur before we finally understand that we can't trust President Bush or any other president with this much authority to operate in secret? We're the bosses, and our elected officials are our employees. Yet they keep taking money out of the vault, and we refuse to institute procedures that would prevent future abuses.

Former president Richard Nixon is the poster-child for the problems that can develop when the executive branch is allowed to run amok, and shortly after he resigned, Congress passed laws to require closer monitoring of the Oval Office.

This week, Vice President Dick Cheney said, "Watergate and a lot of the things around Watergate and Vietnam, both during the 1970s, served, I think, to erode the authority I think the president needs to be effective especially in the national security area."

Is he joking? In the wake of all these scandals that reveal that President Bush has circumvented a myriad of laws, is the vice president really arguing that Nixon had it right all along?

At some point, we all have to wake up and understand that secrecy for people in positions of power is never a good idea.

Former Bronco Reggie Rivers is the host of "Global Agenda" Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. on KBDI-Channel 12. His column appears every Friday.

2005 The Denver Post

Will Republican Senators Save the Republic?

Published on Friday, December 23, 2005
by Ray McGovern

I’ll say this for Vice President Dick Cheney: he puts it right out there, whether it is trying to ensure legal protection for those torturing prisoners, or insisting—as he did on Tuesday—that a wartime president “needs to have his powers unimpaired.”

Supporters of this view are dredging up quotes from former officials like George H.W. Bush’s attorney general William Barr who, according to the Washington Post, contends:

“The Constitution’s intent when we’re under attack from outside is to place maximum power in the president, and the other branches—and especially the courts—don’t act as a check on the president’s authority against the enemy.”

So there we have it: the Bush administration contention that the president’s power as commander in chief during wartime puts him above the law. Bush may bristle, as he did Monday, at a question from the press about “unchecked power,” but that is plan English for it. Whether authorizing torture or wiretaps, he reserves the right to act irrespective of domestic or international law.

The question is whether Congress and the courts will acquiese in this usurpation of their own powers, or whether there are still enough men and women in those branches of government determined to honor their oath to defend the Constitution of the United States “from all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Some hope can be seen in a recent remark by Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, who told reporters:

“I took an oath of office to the Constitution. I didn’t take an oath of office to my party or to my president.”

Two and a half years ago, when former ambassador Joseph Wilson exposed the president’s mis-statement about Iraq seeking uranium in Africa, all the president’s men and the woman were in high dudgeon over Wilson’s op-ed expose in the New York Times. What infuriated them the most, I am convinced, was Wilson’s pointed remark to Washingon Post reporters that the Iraq-Africa-uranium canard “begs the question regarding what else they are lying about.” Quite a lot, we are finding out.

Other Abuses?

We need to ask a similar question. What undermining of our Constitution may be going on below the surface elsewhere in the intelligence community besides un-warranted eavesdropping on U.S. citizens? Under last year’s intelligence reform legislation, Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte has under his aegis not only the entire CIA but also a major part of the FBI. Under existing law, the CIA has no police powers and its operatives are generally enjoined against collecting intelligence information on American citizens.

Since citizens’ constitutional protections do not sit atop the list of CIA priorities and its focus is abroad, it pays those protections little heed. In contrast, FBI personnel, for judicial and other reasons, are trained to observe those protections scrupulously and to avoid going beyond what the law permits. That accounts, in part, for why FBI agents at the Guantanamo detention facility judged it necessary to report the abuses they witnessed. Would they have acted so responsibly had they been part of a wider, more disparate environment in which the strict guidelines reflecting the FBI’s ethos were not universally observed?

It is an important question. In my view, the need to protect the civil liberties of American citizens must trump other exigencies when rights embedded in the Constitution are at risk. The reorganization dictated by the intelligence reform legislation cannot be permitted to blur or erode constitutional protections. That would be too high a price to pay for hoped-for efficiencies of integration and scale.

Rather, there is a continuing need for checks and balances and – especially in law enforcement – clear lines of demarcation within the executive branch as well as outside it. Unfortunately, the structure and functions of the “oversight board” created by the intelligence legislation make a mockery of the 9/11 commission’s insistence that an independent body be established to prevent infringement on civil liberties. Sadly, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board created by the new law has been gutted to such a degree that it has become little more than a powerless creature of the president.

This concern over endangering civil liberties is fact-based. In discussing it we are not in the subjunctive mood. No one seemed to notice, but on June 16, 2004, when CIA director Porter Goss was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, he actually introduced legislation that would have given the president new authority to direct the CIA to conduct law-enforcement operations inside the United States – including arresting American citizens. This legislation would have reversed the strict prohibition in the National Security Act of 1947 against such CIA activities. Thankfully, Goss’s initiative got swamped by other legislation in the wake of the 9/11 commission report.


I suspect that recent revelations about arguably illegal eavesdropping hardly scratch the surface. The point is that unless Congress receives a quick injection of courage and steps up to its oversight responsibility under the Constitution, many abuses are likely to continue undetected.

Will enough Republican senators honor their oath to defend the constitution? Our system of checks and balances hangs in the balance, so to speak. The president has thrown down the gauntlet by declaring he will continue to authorize unilaterally eavesdropping that, by law, requires a court order. Will senators pick up the gauntlet, or are they more likely to let it lie until early next year when this constitutional crisis, important as it is, may be eclipsed by fresh revelations of other abuses of power.

Is it fair to pin so much responsibility on Republican senators? No, it’s not fair. But that is the way it is. One looks in vain to the other side of the aisle for the courage that the times require. But what about Democrat senators—the gutsy Russ Feingold and the eloquent Robert Byrd? However courageous, they are not well positioned to affect the outcome of this constitutional crisis.

Rather, the Democratic Party has slender reeds to lean on-—t--ake Sen. Jay Rockefeller, for example. Briefed on the illegal eavesdropping program, Rockefeller let Cheney intimidate him into silence. Sure, the congressman wrote a letter to Cheney (and kept a CYA copy, which he has now given the press). But when he got no answer, did it not occur to the ranking minority member of the Senate Intelligence Committee to ask to speak to Cheney’s supervisor?

On Tuesday, Senate intelligence committee chair Pat Roberts ridiculed Rockefeller for “feigning helplessness.” Roberts is certainly in position to know, since Rockefeller has made helplessness a career, and thus made Roberts’ task easy. Sen. Rockefeller’s obeisance to the chair is matched only by U.S. Marine Robert’s “Semper Fi” to the party and the president. This is important, since the White House has already succeeded in ensuring that Roberts and Rockefeller will play leadership roles in any Senate investigation of the eavesdropping.

Initially, it appeared that since constitutional and legal considerations prevail on this issue, the hearings would be orchestrated and led by Senate judiciary committee chair Arlen Specter, who immediately expressed deep concern at the revelations about eavesdropping. That was as hopeful sign, even though the ranking Democrat on Judiciary, Patrick Leahy, fits the Rockefeller mold—as evidenced by Leahy’s vote for arch-defender of unbridled presidential power Roberto Gonzales to be Attorney General.

From Republic to Empire

Let’s hope history does not repeat itself. The constitution of ancient Rome was put in place in 510 BC, when the republicans overthrew the last of the Roman kings, Tarquin the Proud. As was the case 2300 years later in the newborn U.S.A., the introduction of constitutional order meant the rule of law and not of kings, providing liberty under law for every Roman citizen. That experiment lasted almost five centuries, until the Roman senators fell down on the job.

Although Cicero warned, with pointed eloquence, of the dangers to the Republic, in the end his warnings proved no match for strongmen like Julius Caesar and Gnaeus Pompey. They wrapped themselves in republican virtue when it suited them, but they lacked any serious belief in the fundamental principles that had formed republican Rome. They and their followers believed in themselves, and in their own vision of what Rome should be, and in little else. Plutarch tells us that the increasingly glaring unequal distribution of wealth served to make the situation exceedingly volatile. Sound familiar?

And so the Republic died, and Cicero died with it, his severed head and hands nailed to the “rostra,” the platform in the forum from which he had warned the Roman people. The vision of the strongmen led first to civil war and then to empire.

Republican senators, don’t let it happen here.

Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. He is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). A shorter version of thios article appears on


It is entirely possible!

It was a Republican who asked the, now infamous, question; what did the president know and when did he know it?" He was talking about Nixon.

Richard Nixon, a victim of his own paranoia more than anything else, flew out of D.C, right ahead of conviction, in the senate, for high crimes and/or misdemeanors.

Being mostly independents, ourselves,; as we came of age when both major political parties left much to be desired...hey, not unlink today, come to think of it, we really don't give a damn who saves it. But will be watching, to see who are the courageous leaders, willing to put our country and the people first, above party and ideology and corporate greed.

Hey we are making our list and checking it twice.


Shoot the Moon and Forget About the Bell Curve

Published on Friday, December 23, 2005 by
by Elizabeth de la Vega

I have to admit that some of the responses to my recent article The White House Criminal Conspiracy (published in the Nation and posted at, in which I argued that the Bush administration should be brought to account in Congress or a court of law for defrauding the American people into war, kept me up at night. No, not the ones that questioned my sanity or sobriety. The letters that have given pause are from people who wholeheartedly agree that the Bush administration lied about the war. Yet there's "zero chance," these writers contend, that a completely Republican-controlled government will ever do anything about it, so it's pointless to pursue the matter. While lying awake beside my sleeping husband with my dog staring up at me in the dark, I've wondered, is that true? Is it futile, or foolish, to act when there is little apparent chance of success?

It was five years ago this month that George W. Bush received his best Christmas gift ever -- the presidency -- from the United States Supreme Court. And around this time every year, I've thought about the night of December 13, 2000, when he made his formal acceptance speech. I remember it well: Bush speaking from the Texas House of Representatives about a bipartisan foreign policy and his plan to reunite the country. It's not that I was particularly interested in the President or even the election at that point. I wasn't. I had taken a leave of absence from my job as a federal prosecutor in San Jose and flown 3,000 miles across the country to be with my sister. So I watched the speech while sitting on a portable cot, looking at a hospital TV suspended from the ceiling -- and my sister was lying in a bed next to me amidst a tangle of tubes. She was dying.

Kathy was thirty-eight, a small-town doctor with a three-year-old son, when she was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. Her prognosis was grim. Statistically, the majority of patients with her diagnosis live for only about six months. But some patients, those represented by a tiny fraction at the far edge of the bell curve, outlived the odds, and Kathy was determined to join that group. So what did she do? Everything. She had a mastectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy; she vomited, lost her hair, and her eyebrows. She took drugs that threw her into menopause, steroids that made her face swell up like a balloon, and herbs that tasted like dirt. She went to acupuncture, mind-body seminars, and Reiki treatments. She endured a cell replacement procedure that kept her isolated for 30 days. In other words, she shot the moon.

By the day of Bush's speech, Kathy's organs were failing. Her liver was, by then, so damaged that her doctors were astounded she could even talk coherently. Not only could she talk, but she had a lot to say about Bush's speech (mainly expressing her irritation that it preempted The West Wing.) She died three days later, six years after her initial diagnosis.

Throughout her ordeal, one of my sister's persistent concerns was what other people would think. Would her medical colleagues consider her irrational, if not crazy, to pursue treatments that were so uncomfortable and painful, not to say unproven or improbable in terms of success? And what would her patients think? Kathy would call me regularly and ask just these questions.

In the end, though, she answered them herself. As long as there was uncertainty, the slightest possibility that she could land at the odds-defying edge of that bell curve and have a longer life, it made sense to her to do anything she could bear to do, regardless of what others thought.

I don't know Lynn Woolsey, the Democratic congresswoman from Petaluma, California, but I think she would agree with my sister.

Representative Woolsey opposed the invasion of Iraq from the outset. She first called for a U.S. withdrawal from that country in April 2004. Since then, she has stepped onto the floor of the House of Representatives 128 times to talk about the deceit that led us to war, the lies and incompetence that keep us there, and her plan for an exit. Certainly the odds have been steeply against her; she has often been speaking to an empty chamber. In January 2005, when she proposed legislation calling for a withdrawal from Iraq, she was joined by only 14 House Democrats. But by the spring of 2005, what had seemed like a thoroughly futile exercise began to look somewhat different. By June, she had garnered support from 127 other representatives in the House, including five Republicans, for a proposed amendment to the annual defense spending bill that required Bush to set a timetable for withdrawal. And now, of course, the momentum for withdrawal continues to build.

Woolsey has been able to bring people around not merely because of her courage and commitment. Equally compelling has been the evidence she cites. In April 2004, she talked about 700 American soldiers dead; by March 2005, 1,500 American troops had died and 11,000 were injured; and on October 22, 2005, she said:

"Earlier this month, I traveled to Iraq where I received extensive briefings from military commanders and toured our state-of-the-art facilities. But nothing was more informative than sitting down to meals with enlisted soldiers from California. Many of these soldiers are on their second or third tour of duty. I talked to fathers who have babies back home they have never seen. There were mothers who deployed mere months after giving birth…

"With the casualty count of U.S. military personnel in Iraq nearing 2,000 and $1 billion in tax monies spent in Iraq every week, the American people are justifiably demanding -- and our troops deserve -- a plan, a strategy, something more than an open-ended military commitment.

"If victory is the goal, what, exactly, defines victory?"

In short, Representative Woolsey has, against all odds and the measured opinions of her doubting or dismissive colleagues, persistently focused on reality -- just the facts; and it is reality that most powerfully counteracts the mass anesthetic that the Bush administration has used to keep people from questioning the war. While masquerading as hard-headed realists, the President and war hawks from both parties have been, at best, determined illusionists. They have shrouded the war in abstractions -- victory, freedom, the spread of democracy -- all of which are, ultimately (to paraphrase Ernest Hemingway in his World War I novel A Farewell to Arms), obscene, especially when juxtaposed against the concrete names of soldiers killed, Iraqis bombed, towns destroyed, and children maimed.

That is why the Bush administration has tried so mightily to keep us from thinking about the funerals of the American dead and the amputees at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Administration officials went out of their way to hide the evidence of the return home of dead soldiers by prohibiting photographs of the coffins as they arrived back in the United States; while the President, Vice President, and others carefully avoided attending any of the more than 2,000 funerals. But it's been those funerals and the amputees at Walter Reed that have convinced die-hard war supporters Walter Jones (R-N.C.), and John Murtha (D.-Pa.) to denounce the war. Murtha's plain-spoken critique of the war was so threatening to the administration that it resorted initially to accusing him of joining forces with Michael Moore, rather than responding to his actual arguments.

The truth is that the closer you get to the reality of the war against Iraq and the lies that brought us there -- and these are quite literally matters of life and death -- the easier it is to know what to do: Shoot the moon and forget about the bell curve.

As Congresswoman Woolsey has known all along, the most potent antidote to the obscenity of abstraction is fact. Focus on the facts. Make sure you get them right and don't overstate your case. Talk about the lies that sent us to Iraq. Talk about the tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis slaughtered, the soldiers killed and wounded, the families they've left behind. Don't play the administration's word games about torture: talk about water-boarding, humiliation, and beatings. Write letters, demonstrate, make calls, send e-mails, wear t-shirts, campaign for candidates who oppose the war, join groups, organize groups, talk to anyone who will listen and even people who won't. Advocate impeachment, push the Senate to analyze the administration's use of pre-war intelligence, call for a special prosecutor -- and tell Congress it's time to bring the troops home. Don't worry about the odds.

What good does any of this do? The answer is we don't know -- which is exactly why we have to do it.

Elizabeth de la Vega is a former federal prosecutor with more than 20 years of experience. During her tenure, she was a member of the Organized Crime Strike Force and Chief of the San Jose Branch of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California. Her pieces have appeared in the Nation Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and Salon. She writes regularly for Tomdispatch. She may be contacted at

© 2005 Tom Engelhardt

Subpoena Power to the People

by Larry Beinhart

Yes, George Bush has committed impeachable offenses.

If there were an impeachment, even if the president were found not guilty, there would be subpoenas and people would be forced to testify under oath and a great deal of truth would be revealed. It would be covered, constantly, by the media. They love trials because they offer predictability – they’re scheduled so the crews know when to show up and where to place the cameras – and guaranteed daily surprises.

But no, there will not be an impeachment.

Impeachment has to be voted on in the House of Representatives. The House has a Republican majority. There will be no impeachment.

Yes, John Conyers has introduced a resolution to create a select committee to investigate charges that may rise to the level of impeachable offenses. Not sexual misconduct, but genuine political offenses: lying to the legislative branch, misrepresenting intelligence, and ordering illegal wiretaps.

No, there will not be any such committee.

What Conyers has done has been mentioned on left wing blogs and liberal websites and Democracy Now and right wing websites will sneer at him. But if it’s in the New York Times, it will be buried inside. It won’t top they cycle at CNN or be the lead on NBC. It won’t make much news because they know he can’t issue subpoenas.

Yes, as Congressman Maurice Hinchey says, this is the most corrupt administration in history.

An innovative feature of this majority has been to demand that lobbyists and anyone else who wants to put the fix in with the federal government give only to the majority and not at all to the minority. So as long as the Republicans retain control, there will be no House or Senate committees looking into how our legislators were bought.

Corruption. Abuse of power. Impeachable offenses. Indictable crimes. Technical violations. Lies. Deception. All those things are merely subject matter. They are not actionable. Only power creates action. Power, in this context, comes from the ability to issue that simple piece of paper that compels testimony.

There are, mind you, small pockets of independent power. Somehow, the administration slipped and allowed a federal prosecutor, with subpoena power, to investigate the Plame leak. A local DA in Texas took a look at how Tom DeLay accepted campaign contributions from corporations – which could not be spent on political campaigns in Texas - then sent them to another organization in Washington, then got the same amount back and spent it on campaign contributions. And indicted him. A Federal prosecutor in California picked up on a newspaper story about Congressman Cunningham selling his house for a $700,000 instant profit to a defense contractor and got a guilty plea to bribery. Jack Abramoff, lobbyist and fixer to the Republican stars, has been indicted for a $60 million fraud in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in a deal to buy a fleet of gambling ships. His associate, Michael Scanlon, has been indicted by a Federal prosecutor on conspiracy to commit bribery and has agreed to testify.

Subpoena power.

At a press conference a person can dodge and evade and simply refuse to take any question he doesn’t like. At a press conference he can answer differently than he did the last time and by the time anyone catches up with him, if they ever bother, it doesn’t seem to matter. At a press conference he can lie and there is no penalty. But under oath, they can keep asking, they can call him back, they can produce his prior answers and demand that he reconcile them. Or be charged with perjury.

When there is subpoena power and possible felony charges, people begin to speak. And when they face indictments or are indicted, they begin to speak about others.

It would be wonderful if “the people” had subpoena power. It would be wonderful if there was such a thing as a person with no interest but the public interest, who had subpoena power who would could put people under oath, with the power to charge non-cooperating witnesses with contempt, and liars with perjury.

But there is not.

The closest thing we have is an adversary system in which one party goes after the other with whatever means it can lay its hands on. Right now, one party has all the power to call the committees and set the agendas and issue the subpoenas.

The only way the investigations will happen, the only way we will know if an impeachment is warranted, is if the Democrats regain control of at least one house of congress.

Now is the time to begin. To organize. To find people to support. To fight over the platform and the issues and then unite to achieve the best we can get. To raise money. To make plans. To work at the state level, to fight for favorable districts and to fight for reliable voting machines and to make sure voters get registered. To figure out how to make sure the vote is legitimate. So we can win and make sure it’s not stolen.

The next federal election cycle is less than a year away. Every house seat, every senate seat, is critical.

Now is the time to begin.

Larry Beinhart is the author of Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin, Robert McChesney called it the book on the subject "against which all others will be measured." His novels include Wag the Dog, on which the film was based, and The Librarian which Rolling Stone described as "John Grishom meets Jon Stewart." He was a Fulbright Fellow, he's won an Edgar, been nominated for two more, a Gold Dagger, an Emmy. He's been a political consultant, made commercials, lectured at Oxford and he's a part time ski instructor. His email is  

Do we not have the power of citizens arrest?

I am serious!!

We have to at least try!