United States News Digest
House Votes To Back Israel Against Lebanon
On July 20, the House voted 410-8 on a resolution put forward by House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) that expresses "steadfast support" for Israel, and condemns Hezbollah and Hamas as terrorist groups. The eight Representatives who voted against the resolution were Neil Abercombie (D-Hi), John Conyers (D-Mich), John Dingell (D-Mich), Caroline Kilpatrick (D-Mich), Jim McDermott (D-Wash), Ron Paul (R-Texas), Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), Pete Stark (D-Calif). Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), the author of a resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Lebanon conflict, voted present.
Kucinich's resolution has garnered 23 co-sponsors. They are Neil Abercrombie (D-Hi), Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo), Danny Davis (D-Ill), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz), Mike Honda (D-Calif), Caroline Kilpatrick (D-Mich), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Pete Stark (D-Calif), Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc), John Conyers (D-Mich), Bob Filner (D-Calif), Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Barbara Lee (D-Calif), Jim McDermott (D-Wash), James Moran (D-Va), Bobby Rush (D-Ill), Hilda Solis (D-Calif), Maxine Waters (D-Calif).
Hagel Stands Out on Middle East
In an op-ed in the July 20 Washington Post, columnist Robert Novak points out that at a time when the United States and Israel are closer than ever, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb), who is a potential 2008 Presidential candidate, has stood out from the crowd. "I'm a supporter and friend of Israel," he told Novak, "but I'm also for a sane situation in the Middle East." Describing the present situation in the Middle East as a "combustible environment," he said, "This is the most dangerous situation we've been in," since the formation of Israel. He also reminded Novak that "we have to worry about the Muslim states.... We are increasingly alone in the world."
Novak pointed out that Hagel was one of the first public figures to propose sending a powerful former Republican Secretary of Stateeither James Baker III or Colin Powellto the Middle East as a Presidential envoy as opposed to George Bush's present choice of a much lighter-weight representativeSecretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Gonzales: Bush Killed Probe into NSA Wiretaps
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 18 that President Bush made the decision that blocked an investigation by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) into the role that the DOJ played in approving the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program. The OPR investigation had been launched at the request of 40 members of Congress.
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa) said at the beginning of a committee hearing on DOJ oversight, that he wanted to find out why the OPR was not permitted to carry out its investigation, which was "stymied" when repeated requests for OPR for security clearances were denied, even though DOJ lawyers are routinely given security clearances. When Specter asked Gonzales why OPR didn't get clearance, Gonzales answered that, "the President" makes such decisions. "Did the President make the decision not to clear OPR?" Specter asked.
"As with all decisions that are non-operational in terms of who has access to the program, the President of the United States makes the decision," Gonzales answered.
Dems Want Hearing on Specter's Deal with the White House
The eight Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee delivered a letter to committee chairman Arlen Specter on July 18, asking him to hold a hearing on the new version of his bill to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) statute. Specter has said that he has an agreement with President Bush that the Administration will submit the NSA domestic spying program to the FISA Court for review.
The letter notes that, although there have been hearings on the NSA program, there have been no hearings on Specter's bill. The Democrats say that "we have grave concerns about attempting to evaluate these proposals" without having adequate information about the program. The only members of the committee who know anything are the four members who also sit on the Select Committee on Intelligence (the two Democrats are Dianne Feinstein [Calif], and Russ Feingold [Wisc]), and they are prohibited from sharing any information with the rest of the committee.
Senate Votes To Curtail Army Corps of Engineers
The Senate voted 54-46 for a law that would curtail the independence of the Army Corps of Engineers, requiring an outside commission to review all flood control projects costing more than $40 million, AP reported July 19. The National Academy of Sciences, a quasi-governmental agency led by fanatical enemies of agro-industrial development, would be empowered to designate "experts" for such reviews. The House of Representatives has already passed a similar measure, and the two versions now must be reconciled in a conference process between the two houses of Congress.
This Senate "peer review" amendment to the Water Resources Development Act was sponsored by self-styled reformers John McCain (R-Ariz) and Russ Feingold (D-Wisc).
Feingold pointed to a list of environmentalist groups which support the legislation. Perhaps more instructive is the demand for its passage by outlets of the Synarchist bankers.
During negotiations over the bill this spring, savage attacks on the Army Corps were run in the Washington Post (since 1963, the finances of the Post's owners have been directly managed by Lazard Frères, the firm which created the career of former Post doyenne Katharine Graham's father).
On July 19, while the Senate was debating the legislation, the right-wing Heritage Foundation issued a memo supporting two McCain-Feingold amendments to bust the Army Corps. The same day, the liberal New York Times ran an editorial on the identical line: curtail the wasteful Army Corps.
Gutknecht Does About-Face on Iraq
As of June 15, Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn) was a strong supporter of the Iraq war, as he had been for the previous three years. "Now is not the time to go wobbly," he said during the House debate on the war. "Let's give victory a chance."
Then, over July 15-16, Gutknecht went to Iraq, where he was not allowed outside the Green Zone by security forces for fear that he could be abducted, the Mankato, Minn. Free Press reported July 19. Upon his return to Washington, Gutknecht said that U.S. forces have lost control over Baghdad. "The condition there is worse than I expected," he said. "Baghdad is worse today than it was three years ago." He also said that removing some American troops may be necessary, in order to send the Iraqi government a message that it can't rely so heavily on the U.S. military much longer.
Gutknecht is being challenged in November by Democrat Tim Walz, who retired as command sergeant major of the Army National Guard after 24 years, and who has been critical of the Administration's conduct of the war.
Schumer, Delahunt Demand Probe of Leaks Favorable to Bush
Amidst calls for criminal prosecution of the New York Times for publishing leaked information about secret NSA spying and the Bush Administration's financial surveillance program, two prominent DemocratsSen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass)have written to Attorney General Gonzales and to Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, asking for information about leaks to right-wing publications which have portrayed the administration in a favorable light.
The letter cites about a dozen cases in which apparently classified information appeared in articles in the Washington Times, the Weekly Standard, and other neo-con publications. "The apparent lack of investigation into them gives the impression that the Administration is unconcerned about leaks of classified information to some media sources when the revelation may have been favorable to the Administration. This impression is strengthened by the fact that Vice President Dick Cheney promoted one of these reports as a 'good source of information' "a reference to information published in the Weekly Standard, based on a classified memorandum from former Doug Feith's office to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which cooked up a bogus case for proving links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. At the time, Feith was the Under Secretary of State for Policy.
Gingrich Demands Declaration of World War III
In an interview with columnist David Postman, published in the Seattle Times July 15, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga) insisted that the Republicans would recover ground, and the U.S. reestablish its position in the world, if people would just acknowledge that we are in World War III and start thinking and planning from that perspective. Bush, said Gingrich, "should call a joint session of Congress the first week of September and talk about global military conflicts in much starker terms." Gingrich said that once you acknowledge we are in a world war, "all the restraints fall away."
He lists wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; the bomb attacks in India; North Korean nuclear threats; terrorism and investigations in Florida, Canada, and Britain; and the latest violence between Israel and the Hezbollah in Lebanon as evidence of world war, and says those in Washington who are urging a restrained response from Israel, are wrong "because they haven't crossed the bridge of realizing this is a war. This is World War III." The message will be, "Okay, if we're in the Third World War, which side you think should win?"