United States News Digest
Retired Flag Officers Demand Bush Enforce McCain Amendment
Twenty-three retired admirals and generals have sent a letter to President Bush, demanding full and forceful implementation of the McCain Anti-Torture Amendment. General Joseph Hoar, USMC (ret.), former Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Central Command, and Adm. John Hutson, USN (ret.), former Judge Advocate General of the Navy, gave a press conference Jan. 19 releasing the letter, which says in part:
"Past abuses have damaged military discipline, put American military personnel at greater risk, undermined U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts, and greatly harmed America's image around the world. It is incumbent on you as President and Commander-in-Chief to ensure that all senior members of your administration speak with a consistent voice to make clear that the United States now has a single standard of conduct specified in law that governs all interrogations...."
At the press conference, Admiral Hutson stressed the uniqueness in U.S. history of a group of retired general and flag officers getting together and then speaking out the way this group is now doing, but, he said, this was triggered by the fact that this Administration is breaking with 225 years of American military tradition regarding the treatment of prisoners, beginning with Gen. George Washington's orders that British and Hessian prisoners be treated humanely, no matter what they had done to Americans. Both Hutson and Hoar attacked Bush's "signing statement" in which Bush said that he could disregard the McCain Amendment; they said once Congress passed the amendment, it became law, and no other policy is permitted.
Wilkerson Calls Cheney-Bush a 'Jacobin' Administration
Colonel Larry Wilkerson, long-time aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, was the subject of a long profile piece in the Washington Post Style section on Jan 19. Wilkerson, who has spoken out forcefully against the Bush Administration's Iraq policy, is quoted as saying: "This is not a Republican administration, not in my view. This is a radical administration."
On the treatment of detainees, including 100 reported deaths, Wilkerson said, "Murder is torture. It's not torture light."
Other observations of the Colonel: "As a teacher who's studied every administration since 1945, I think this is probably the worst ineptitude in governance, decision-making and leadership I've seen in 50-plus years.... That includes the Bay of Pigs, that includesoh my God, Vietnam. That includes Iran-Contra, Watergate."
According to Wilkerson, the neo-cons' fellow-travellers were Lenin and the Bolsheviks, and the Jacobins of the French Revolutionutopians who had no qualms about using the guillotine in service of their ideals.
After the Bush Administration's intelligence failure, and impending military failure, in Iraq, "How do you suddenly transform that?" Wilkerson asked. "Well, you suddenly become a Jacobin yourself, you're suddenly for this messianic spread of freedom and democracy around the world.... You've discarded John Quincy Adams, who said we're the friends of liberty everywhere, the custodians only of our own. And you've suddenly said, 'I'm the custodian of the whole world's liberty, and by God if you don't realize it I'm going to bring it to youand if I have to bring it to you at the point of a gun, that's the way I'm going to bring it to you.'"
Ledeen Role in 'Nigergate' Again Under Scrutiny
Antiwar.com carried an article posted on Jan. 18 entitled "American who advised Pentagon says he wrote for magazine that found forged Niger documents," in which it is said that neo-con Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute is again being questioned about his role in the Nigergate story. This refers to the Bush Administration's claims that Saddam Hussein had purchased uranium yellowcake from Niger, the fabrication later exposed as a fraud by Ambassador Joseph Wilson. It is not yet clear if this investigation is part of the new FBI inquiry on the forgery of related documents, or if it is the work of some investigative journalists.
New in the article is the mention of Ledeen's collaboration with the Italian weekly magazine Panorama, owned by President Bush's friend, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Ledeen does not deny this collaboration, saying only that this took place "a couple of years" before Carlo Rossela, the editor of the magazine, became director of Berlusconi's TV network, i.e., exactly in the period when the Niger story was concocted and shipped to the USA in time for the famous "16 words" in Bush's 2003 State of the Union message, attempting to make the case for war with Iraq.
Back in the fall of 2002, Panorama journalist Elisabetta Burba received the faked Niger dossier from former SISMI agent Rocco Martino and immediately asked Rossella to be sent to Niger to check out the story. Instead of this, Rossella ordered Burba to drop off the forgeries to the U.S. Embassy in Rome on Oct. 9, 2002.
Iraq Reconstruction Funds Remain Untraced
In a full-page article on Politics and Policy in the Wall Street Journal Jan. 17, Scott Paltrow points out that almost 18 months have passed since the Pentagon disbanded the Coalition Provisional Authority that ran Iraq, and yet neither the Justice Department nor the special inspector general has done much to recover billions of dollars suspected of disappearing through fraud and price-gouging under the pretext of Iraq reconstruction.
It is unfortunate, the author says, that still the special inspector general has no clue as to how many contracts were issued nor to whom. But among those awarded the large ones, one knows Fluor Corp., Parsons Corp., and the Washington International Group. The inspector general has not yet made up his mind whether to recover huge sums of money from Vice President Dick Cheney's former employer, Halliburton's KBR unit, which was awarded multibillion-dollar no-bid contracts to rebuild oil fields and provide logistics to the U.S. Army beginning shortly before the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. The 2004 audit showed that KBR has no supporting document for a $1.48-billion contract.
Carlyle Firm Accused of Complicity in Army Death in Iraq
USIS, a Carlyle Group-owned security company contracted to train Iraqi special forces, was accused by a Carlyle insider of complicity in the murder of a U.S. Army officer, according to investigator Wayne Madsen. Colonel Ted S. Westhusing, a full professor at West Point and an expert on military ethics and history, was in Iraq overseeing the training of Iraqi special forces by USIS in June 2005. After receiving an anonymous letter accusing USIS of falsifying accounts and human rights violations, including killing Iraqis, Westhusing informed his superiors and an investigation was begun. Two weeks later, he was found dead with a single shot to the head in the USIS headquarters, discovered by a USIS official who "moved" the gun found next to the body. It was declared a suicide, despite disbelief by his family and his associates.
The Los Angeles Times, Col. (ret) Karen Kwiakowski, and others have questioned the case, but this is the first reference to Carlyle's ownership of the company, or to a whistle-blower.
Conservatives' Unity Crumbling in Race To succeed DeLay
A nervous Washington Times, on Jan. 16, shows concern over the fact that conservatives somehow seem to be fighting amongst each other over who will become the next House Majority Leader. Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation and Morton Blackwell of the Leadership Institute are backing Roy Blunt (Mo). But Patrick Toomey of the Club for Growth is backing Arizona's John Shadegg. Phyllis Schlafly (Eagle Forum), Bruce Chapman (Discovery Institute), and Andrew Schauder (Legislative Exchange Council) are not taking sides, but may be leaning toward Blunt, they say. Another leading contender is John Boehner of Ohio.
Adding to the picture is a frustrated Robert Novak, who wrote in his Jan. 16 column, that "discontent" with the two front-runners has reached the point that there is even talk of drafting two-term rookie Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) for the spot.
CIA Briefed Cheney But Not Bush on Secret Prisons, Torture
Appearing on CNN's Late Edition Jan. 15, New York Times reporter James Risen, who broke the NSA illegal spying story, offered the intelligence from his new book that Vice President Dick Cheney was fully briefed on CIA "black prison" operations in Eastern Europe, but kept knowledge of it from Oval Office occupant George W. Bush. CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked Risen, "Jim, in your book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, you write this: 'It appears that there was a secret agreement among very senior administration officials to insulate Bush and to give him deniability, even as his vice president and senior lieutenants were meeting to discuss the harsh new interrogation methods.' "
Risen replied, "Yes, sources at the CIA have told me, that the CIA Inspector General staff has been told, that the CIA management did not brief President Bush personally or formally on the 'enhanced interrogation techniques' that were being used by the CIA in their prisons around the world with Al Qaida; and that they briefed Vice President Cheney, NSC Adviser Rice and other senior members of the administration, including, I think, Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Ashcroft at the time. But that it appears that there was a decision that they did not want to go into the Oval Office, sit in the Oval Office and discuss in great detail the very harshand, in graphic detailthe very harsh techniques that they've been using."