United States News Digest
Bush Still Wants To 'Stay the Course' in Iraq
President Bush said the U.S. must "stay the course" in Iraq as long as needed, at his press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki after their breakfast meeting in Aman, Jordan on Nov. 30. Bush was defensive over the Hadley memo leaked to the New York Times the day before, which memo cast aspersions on Maliki's willingness or ability to govern, and, while making the point several times that Maliki was the man for the job, sounded a little hollow. Bush said that the U.S. would stay in Iraq as long as needed, and said that the idea of a graceful exit was unrealistic. Both Bush and Maliki said they supported the move to speed up the transfer of control to the Iraqi people, but gave no details.
During the questions, when Bush was asked three times about a timetable for the transfer of control, he claimed that setting timetables creates unrealistic expectations.
In an interview with ABC News after the meetings, the Iraqi Prime Minister said, "Iraqi forces will be ready by June 2007 to take control of security operations. It will be up to the U.S. whether to begin drawing down its forces at that time."
Parts of Post-9/11 Executive Order Ruled Unconstitutional
U.S. District Court Judge Audrey Collins in Los Angeles made the ruled Nov. 29 in Humanitarian Law Project et al. v. U.S. Department of Treasury et al., that sections of a post-9/11 executive order were unconstitutional. The ruling grants summary judgment to the plaintiffs on several aspects of their complaint, and to the defendants on the rest. The plaintiffs are five organizations and two U.S. citizens who want to provide support for certain lawful and non-violent activities of the PKK and Tamil Tigers, which are both designated as foreign terrorist organizations.
The case challenges Executive Order 13224, which was signed on Sept. 23, 2001. In it, Bush declared a national emergency because of the 9/11 attacks, and blocked all property and interests in property, of 27 groups and individuals named in the Order, who were designated as "specially designated global terrorists" (SDGT). The EO authorized the Secretary of Treasury to, in turn, designate as SDGTs, anyone acting "for or on behalf of," or controlled by an SDGT, and also to designate anyone who assists, sponsors, or provides services to, or is otherwise associated with a designated terrorist group.
One of Judge Collins's rulings was that the EO's providing Presidential authority to designate SDGTs is unconstitutional, as it offers no justification for the President doing so, nor does it provide a procedure for those designated to challenge their designation. "The President's designation authority is subject only to his unfettered discretion," the ruling says. Collins also ruled against the EO's "otherwise associated with" language defining who the Treasury Secretary may designate as a SDGT, as unconstitutionally vague and overbroad, violating First Amendment rights of association. The ruling, however, only enjoins the government from designating the SDGTs and blocking their assets, and explicitly does not grant a national injunction.
Former President Carter Speaks Out for Palestinians
Former President Jimmy Carter was interviewed Nov. 30 by CNN's Larry King on the recent release of his book on Palestine, Peace, Not Apartheid. Carter told King that, "You never hear anything about what is happening to the Palestinians by the Israelis. As a matter of fact, it's one of the worst cases of oppression that I know of now in the world. The Palestinians' land has been taken away from them. They now have an encapsulating, or an imprisonment wall being built around what's left of the little, tiny part of the Holy Land that is in the West Bank."
Lyndon LaRouche has commended Carter for bringing up Israel's treatment of Palestine as apartheid.
Democrats Get Tough with Bush on Iraq
Pointed statements by Democratic House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif), Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), and Sen.-elect Jim Webb (D-Va) make clear that Democrats intend to get U.S. troops out of Iraq, and silence Bush's talk of the U.S. being there for a decade.
Rangel told MSNBC Nov. 29 that, with respect to George Bush's comments that al-Qaeda is fomenting violence in Iraq, "I can neverand neither can heidentify whether al-Qaeda is in Iraq.... The fact is, whatever's going on there, we have to get out."
MSNBC then quoted Nancy Pelosi, who reacted to Bush's comments at the Riga NATO summit that "there's one thing I'm not going to do: I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete," by saying that if Bush continues to make these kinds of statements and think that way, it will make it more difficult for Democrats to work with the President. Rangel responded, "I think history will [bear] me out, that no President can succeed in war without the support of the people of the United States. And it's clear that the voters have spoken and rejected the whole idea of the war. My only concern is how the President does it, in saving face, in securing the protection of our men and women over there, and in leaving the country, our country, with some kind of honor in the international community.
"No matter what rhetoric he has; no matter who he visits; whether he begs Iran and Syria to help out, or whether he goes through the bipartisan commission that he's appointed, it's all over for us. We're not staying there for the ten years that some of the pundits have said we have to."
Webb also had a confrontation with Bush, at a reception held at the White House with the newly elected Congressmen shortly after Nov. 7. Bush asked Webb how his son, a Marine Lance Corporal serving in Iraq, was doing. Webb responded that he "would like to get them out of Iraq." "I didn't ask you that," Bush retorted; "I asked you how your boy was doing." Webb replied, "That's between me and my boy." A source told EIR that Webb later confessed to being so angered by Bush (who avoided combat during the Vietnam War), that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief, but refrained out of respect for the office of the President.
Cabinet Members Criticize Bush
In his first major statement since nomination as Defense Secretary, Robert M. Gates made guarded criticisms of the Pentagon failure to prepare for securing Iraq after the invasion. "War planning should be done with the understanding that the post-major-combat phase of operations can be crucial," Gates wrote in reply to a questionnaire from the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he will face confirmation hearings next week.
In his 60 pages of answers, he "kept mainly to generalities," the New York Times reported Nov. 29. In one place, Gates seemed to question the sense of the whole 2003 invasion. In response to a question noting that non-conventional weapons were not found, he said: "I believe the use of preemptive force should be based on very strong evidence. It is a decision that must not be taken lightly."
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff also publicly disagreed with Bush's declaration that his Administration intends to add more countries to the 27 nations already in the "visa-waiver" program," because, "It's in our nation's interest that people be able to come and visit." Under this program, citizens from visa-waiver countries can travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa, because the countries show that few of their citizens are dangers, and thus avoid the security interviews and checks required for visas. Chertoff countered Bush, saying that any expansion of the visa-waivers must include measures to make the U.S. safer. "I want a net increase in security," Chertoff said.
In September 2006, the Government Accountability Office found that "stolen passports from visa-waiver countries are prized travel documents among terrorists, criminals, and immigration-law violators." Famous terrorists Zacarias Moussaoui and "shoe bomber" Richard Reid both boarded planes to the U.S. with passports from visa-waiver countries.
White House Finally Allows DOJ Probe of NSA Wiretaps
The Justice Department's Inspector General informed House Democrats on Nov. 27 that he is reviewing the DOJ's use of information gathered from the warrantless NSA spying program, and the DOJ's compliance with legal requirements concerning the spying program. He will not examine the legality or constitutionality of the wiretap program itself.
At the beginning of this year, Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif) and Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) had asked for the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate the Department's role in the NSA spy program, but President Bush personally (according to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales) denied security clearances to OPR personnel, preventing them from conducting the investigation.
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich) declared that the DOJ's action is "long overdue." Rep. Lofgren said, "After nearly a year of stonewalling, security clearances have finally been approved by the White House so that the Department of Justice can investigate its own involvement in the NSA's warrantless surveillance program." Hinchey welcomed the development, but expressed skepticism about its timing, saying, "I wonder whether this reversal is now coming only after the election as an attempt to appease Democrats in Congress ... who will soon be in control and armed with subpoena power."