United States News Digest
House Votes To Continue Iraq War Quagmire
Following an 11-hour debate June 16, the House of Representatives passed HR 861, commending Bush's "War on Terror," an implicit endorsement of the disastrous Bush-Cheney Iraq War quagmire. The vote was 256 to 153, with 42 Democrats voting in favor and three RepublicansJohn Duncan of Tennessee, Jim Leach of Iowa, and Ron Paul of Texasvoting against.
Democrats, who were not permitted by the Majority to introduce any amendments, largely responded to the Republican ploy by noting that it might have been written by Karl Rove himself.
Most Democrats endorsed Rep. John Murtha's (D-Pa), resolution calling for the redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq, as an alternative to the GOP measure. "There's only one battle plan," said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash), "the Murtha resolution, and that's what we should be debating." Democrats also repeatedly quoted a number of the retired generals who have called for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation.
The Republicans cast the issue as if there were only two choices: "stay the course" or "cut and run." The only Republican who disagreed with this line was Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa), who warned that the "neo-con desire for a permanent presence in a divided Muslim country is foolhardy." He further warned that continued fighting in Iraq could actually increase the likelihood of further attacks outside the region. Instead of "staying the course," he said that we should "avoid overstaying."
Pentagon Backing Off New Interrogation Rules
Under pressure from Congress, the State Department, and senior military officers, the Pentagon has decided to give up the idea of including a classified set of interrogation techniques in the new Army Field Manual on Interrogations. according to press accounts June 14. The Pentagon is also reportedly dropping the idea of having different techniques for "unlawful combatants" and those classified as POWs. Both of these exceptions were insisted on by top aides to Vice President Dick Cheney (primarily, David Addington, now Cheney's chief of staff). Last month, three senior Republican Senators, John Warner, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham, met with Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England and expressed their strong opposition to the draft Field Manual. It's been previously reported that Undersecretary of Defense Stephen Cambone was in charge of the rewrite.
Last week, Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, warning of the negative effects on the U.S., if the manual should not reflect the Geneva Conventions requirement for humane treatment of detainees. "By perpetrating human rights abuses in the name of the Global War on Terror we are in fact fueling a worldwide wave of hatred and violence against the United States," said Meehan. "To regain credibility in the world we need to act in the same manner that we speak."
After Intense Plea Bargaining, Rove Will Not Be Indicted
The man President Bush calls his "brain," and others called his Svengali, Karl Rove, learned on June 12 that he would not be indicted by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. According to a statement read by Rove's attorney Robert Luskin, Fitzgerald advised Rove that "he does not anticipate seeking charges against" the White House advisor.
"In deference to the pending case, we will not make any further public statements about the subject matter of the investigation," said Luskin. "We believe that the Special Counsel's decision should put an end to the baseless speculation about Mr. Rove's conduct."
Rove has been involved in intense plea bargaining, and cooperation discussions with Fitzgerald's office, for months, especially after the report came out in mid-May that the indictment was certain.
Guantanamo Commander Calls Detainee Suicides Acts of War
"I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us," taken by men who "have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own," said Guantanamo Commander Navy Rear Admiral Harry Harris. His Nazi-like dismissal of human life was echoed across the Administration. Pentagon spokesman Navy Cmdr. J.D. Gordon said, "These are dangerous enemy combatants at war with the U.S. and its coalition partners. While we regret the loss of life, clearly these individuals don't value life, including their own." Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Colleen Graffy told BBC that the suicides were "a good PR move."
The New York Times responded, in its lead editorial June 12, that Admiral Harris's remarks "reveal a profound disassociation from humanity. They say more about why Guantanamo Bay should be closed than any United Nations report ever could."
Lyndon LaRouche, commenting that the Nazi kameraden would understand Harris et al., questioned whether the three prisoners had committed suicide, a point raised also by a lawyer for other Yemeni prisoners held in the camp.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack deemed it politic to put distance between the Bush Administration and what numerous of its officials had clearly stated. McCormack told the press briefing that the Bush Administration's view is that the deaths were not a public relations stunt, and a senior official who spoke to reporters said Graffy's choice of words was rather unfortunate. That unnamed official, however, said he did not think Graffy would face disciplinary action for her remarks.
On June 14, three UN human rights experts called for the closure of the Guantanamo prison.
FEMA Is Not Ready for This Hurricane Season
Despite the claims to the contrary by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, as Tropical Storm Alberto (subject of a "hurricane warning" as its winds jumped from 50 mph to 70 mph within three hours on June 12) approached Florida, his late-May PR campaign to say the DHS and FEMA are better prepared this year is being tested by nature and questioned by state and Federal officials.
On June 8, a GAO report showed that the Cheney-led reorganization of Homeland Security which gutted FEMA and created DHS, set up a bureaucracy which obstructed aid and relief efforts during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The GAO found that DHS's National Response Planthe new master plan for dealing with disastersso bureaucratized relationships, that the Red Cross and FEMA were feuding during Katrina rather than "coordinating mass care services." And that "as of May 24, 2006 [they] had not reached an agreement" on how to proceed for this year's season.
On May 24, the same day Chertoff launched his campaign, Mississippi's Director of Emergency Management Robert Latham testified in Congress, "We are still working on debris removal in our four most devastated counties," which at least 1 million cubic yards of debris yet to be moved. He also noted "over 100,000 citizens are living in 38,000 travel trailers and temporary housing"hardly a picture of readiness.
Chertoff, who had bragged he'd fill FEMA's vacant positionsone-fifth of the agency's positions are unfilledby June 1, on June 7, had to admit he'd fallen short of doing so.
Draconian New Medicaid Practices Go into Effect
Starting on July 1, West Virginia will require that Medicaid patients sign a "member agreement" promising, among other things, not to overuse hospital emergency rooms, facing the threat of a cut in benefits if they refuse to sign or follow the rules, the Washington Post reported June 12. Kentucky is dividing its Medicaid patients into four categories, depending on their health and age, with different benefits for each group. Florida will privatize parts of its Medicaid system in two counties in a pilot project expected to be enforced eventually for the entire state. The health of Medicaid recipients in Jacksonville and Broward Counties will be rated by Florida health officials and the two communities will pay for only as much care as officials predict they should need.