United States News Digest
Senate Democrats Announce Hearings on Iraq War
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev), accompanied by Senators Richard Durbin (D-Ill), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), and Charles Schumer (D-NY), announced that starting Sept. 25, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee would be holding hearings every week through January, and into the next Congress, if the Democrats don't gain control of the Senate after the next election, on the conduct of the war in Iraq. Reid, after listing the Bush Administration's failures in Iraq: the lack of pre-war planning, the conduct of the occupation, the failure to rebuild the infrastructure, and so on, noted that there's not been one hearing by a Republican committee chairman in the Senate since the war started.
Reid said that he has extended invitations to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn) and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz), the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, and any other Republican, to participate in the Democrats' hearings. In their letter to Frist and Kyl, Reid and Dorgan cite Federalist #51, which states, "In order to lay a due foundation for that separate and distinct exercise of the different powers of government, which to a certain extent is admitted on all hands to be essential to the preservation of liberty, it is evident that each department should have a will of its own."
When asked if he expected any Republicans to show up, he said, "You may be surprised." All four Democrats expressed the wish, repeatedly, that the Republican-controlled committees hold oversight hearings, but so far they have chosen not to do so.
Iraq Study Group Says Little at D.C. Press Conference
The Iraq Study Group must have "just been in the neighborhood" when they called a press conference in Washington on Sept. 19, since they had nothing really to say to the press. Most of the dozen or so members of the group, chaired by Bush I Secretary of State James Baker and former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind), were present at the press conference, and were in town to talk with members of Congress about the results of their recent visit to Iraq.
The bipartisan group had already announced that it would not make public the results of its investigations until after the elections, so as not to feed into the campaign debate. They were confronted on that point by EIR's Bill Jones, who asked why the pace of their results should be determined by the Washington political calendar rather than by the rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq, which was demanding immediate attention. Jones noted that the situation in Iraq may well have become "unsalvageable" by the time they deem it fit to publish their findings. Jones's question was duly noted by Dana Millbank in the Washington Post coverage.
The only new information the group was willing to distribute was a list of all the people with whom they had talkedin Iraq and in the U.S.during their investigation. While they did visit Iraq, only one of the members ventured out of the super-fortified "Green Zone" in Baghdad. Under questioning by reporters, Baker said that they had also talked in their travels with a representative of Moqtada Al-Sadr and that they intended to speak with representatives from Iran.
Clinton Says Anti-Americanism Due to Current Policies
President Bill Clinton said, in a Sept. 20 interview with the Financial Times, that anti-Americanism is due to current policies of the Bush-Cheney Administration, and can be changed with a serious move to help lift populations out of poverty, and change the direction of the Iraq war, by creating allies and friends.
In the interview, conducted on the opening day of his Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) conference in New York, Clinton said that the global anti-Americanism "is real," but contradicted the usual line of George W. Bush, that it is caused by those who hate "our way of life." Instead, the opposition is "because people disagree with what we are doing now...."
He blasted Bush and Cheney for their conduct in the 2004 election, specifically mentioning the "Swift Boat thing" which, he said, "was disgusting." Now, in this mid-term election, the Democrats have an advantage because the American people know that the Iraq policy is a disaster; and that it is not necessary for the Democrats to have one single position, because there is no easy answer. But, he warned, it is not enough for the Dems to think they can win the mid-term elections on the Iraq war alone. Policies to "lift people" economically are vitally important.
Clinton believes that "within the next 60 days" there will be important developments in the direction of peace in the Middle East, but he stressed that he doesn't have any insider information from the administration or from Israel about it. Just a commitment that it must happen, because the U.S. "needs allies and friends," and Iraq shows that you cannot go to war or "occupy" all your adversaries.
Boyden Gray Promotes Venetian Model
In an op-ed in the Washington Post entitled "From Venice, a Lesson on Empire," David Ignatius reported, on Sept. 20, that a week earlier, the Committee for the Republic sponsored a conference to discuss the lessons for today of La Serenissima, the "serene republic" of Venice. The conference was presided over by William Nitze, the son of Paul Nitze. Although he was not able to attend the conference, C. Boyden Gray, a leading member of the committee, and former White House Counsel to Bush I, explained his interest in the Venetian model to other members of the group. Gray said: "Whenever Venice won a naval battle, it asked not for territory, taxes or tribute but free-trade zones. As part of its commercial empire, Venice had to rely on extensive intelligence in order to avoid foreign troop basing. As a result, its intelligence service was unmatched and its diplomacy unrivaled."
Cheney Declares Himself a 'Great Admirer' of Harry Truman
Speaking Sept. 19 to the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA), Cheney spent a great deal of time proclaiming the benefits of tax cuts on economic growth, before spending a great deal more time describing how all this was "keeping America safe during wartime." At the end of all the drivel came the comparison to the Cold War. Cheney said he had the "honor" of being the Secretary of Defense at the time the Cold War ended. "I worked for or with a number of Cold War Presidents," he said, "and I am a great admirer of the man who lived in the White House when that struggle beganHarry Truman." Waxing on the subject, he continued, "I was interested to learn from Truman's biography that the Cold War was an expression he never much cared for and seldom used. He called it the 'war of nerves.' When you think about it, that's an apt description for the kind of challenge America is now facing. The war on terror is a test of our strength, and, above all, a test of our character...."
Canadian Report: U.S. Sent Innocent Man To Be Tortured
According to a report released Sept. 19 by the Canadian government, the U.S. "very likely" sent a Canadian software engineer to Syria, where he was tortured, based on the suspicion by Canadian authorities, which turned out to be false, that he was linked to al-Qaeda. Syrian born Mahar Arar, now 36, was detained by U.S. authorities as he changed planes in New York in September 2002. He was held in the U.S. for 12 days, then flown to Jordan and driven to Syria. The Canadian inquiry commission found that he had been beaten, forced to confess to having trained in Afghanistanwhere he has never beenand then kept in a coffin-size dungeon for ten months before he was released.
Arar had been seen in the presence of a subject under investigation, but the RCMP had improperly identified him as a "target," and sent this information to the United States. Canada's report, then, putting the blame on the U.S. in this egregious case of extraordinary rendition, has a bit of the "pot and the kettle" to it.
Halliburton Proves Military Privatization Kills
A new dimension was added to the Halliburton-Iraq contracting scandal, on Sept. 18. This dimension was best summed up by filmmaker Robert Greenwald, when he told reporters, that morning, that "war profiteering is killing people." Greenwald has produced a documentary titled, "Iraq for Sale," which documents the profiteering by military contractors in Iraq and the real human costs as well as the monetary costs which have already been amply demonstrated.
The human cost of Halliburton's malfeasance in Iraq was further documented in another hearing by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, the same day, which heard from two former KBR truck drivers who testified on how Halliburton ran a convoy into an ambush that killed seven drivers on April 9, 2004, even though they knew the convoy was headed into a combat zone. Two other convoys had been attacked in the same area west of Baghdad just hours before, and the fighting had been going on for two days, and yet the company sent the third convoy through without warning the drivers of the danger. The surviving drivers have filed a damage lawsuit against Halliburton. But, their attorney T. Scott Allen testified, Halliburton is making the prosecution of this suit as difficult as possible by claiming "sovereign immunity," that is, that they're part of the government and can't be sued.
Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill) later suggested that what this really means is, that "they have friends in high places." The "sovereign immunity" claim is making it difficult, Allen said, to even investigate a letter that Halliburton is sending to truck drivers who were wounded in Iraq, which is masquerading as a letter to ask release of medical records to the Pentagon, so they can get a medal for their service. In fact, if a driver signs it, he ends up waiving his rights to sue for damages.