United States News Digest
Biden: Cheney Is Dead Wrong
Asked about Vice President Dick Cheney's comments that the Democratic strategy plays into the hands of Osama bin Laden, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) replied to host Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday on Jan. 21:
"Absolutely not, and not only does [Michigan Senator] Carl Levin and Joe Biden and Senator Hagel and Senator Snowe, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Iraqi Study Groupevery single person out there that is of any consequence thinks nothe Vice President doesn't know what he's talking about. I can't be more blunt than that. He has yet to be right one single time on Iraq. Name me one single time he's been correct. It's time we stopped listening to that ideological rhetoric.... Bin Laden isn't the issue here."
Biden went on to say that the issue is that there's a civil war, and that this is what the President has to deal with: "He's doing it exactly the wrong way. He's not listening to his military, he's not listening to his own Secretary of State, he's not listening to his friends; he's not listening to anyone but Cheney, and Cheney is dead wrong."
Webb: New Orleans Is of 'Strategic Importance'
In a conference call with reporters Jan. 22, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), who delivered the Democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union address the following night, denied reports that he wants to take the funds for Iraq construction and use them instead to rebuild New Orleans. But Webb did say that he wants a full accounting of the money that went to Iraq for reconstruction programs, and then went on to charge that the Bush Administration mishandled New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Webb described how he had worked with the National Guard and Reserve for three years in the Pentagon, and how they worked with FEMA all the time on crisis-management scenarios.
Over the past year, Webb said, New Orleans has fallen off the national radar screen. New Orleans is not only important culturally, Webb declared; it is important strategically, with its port system, and it's a repository for the trade that goes up and down the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio River systems. It should be a national priority to get New Orleans back on its feetbut it hasn't happened.
Murtha: 'Foreign Occupations Do Not Work'
"Foreign occupations do not work, and in fact, incite civil unrest," Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Jan. 23, citing the cases of India, Algeria, and Afghanistan. "Our military remains the greatest military in the world, but there are limits to its ability to control a population that considers them occupiers.
Testifying in his capacity as the chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Murtha presented a devastating picture of deterioration of the U.S. military. Almost all units are now at the lowest state of readiness, he said, because of equipment shortages resulting from repeated and extended deployments to Iraq, and he warned of the consequences for the health and well-being of service members from these extended deployments.
Murtha also charged that, by almost any measuresecurity, water, electricity, etc., conditions of life in Iraq are much worse now than before the war. He said that the U.S. troop presence in Iraq only makes conditions worse, including with respect to terrorist threats to the U.S. itself. He urged a four-phase redeployment: first, get out of the palaces in Baghdad, then get out of the Green Zone, then get out of Baghdad itself, and then withdraw from Iraq as a whole.
Bush Speech Ignored Plight of Veterans
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) released a scathing attack on President Bush's State of the Union address for ignoring the plight of veterans. The IAVA is the nation's first and largest organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, representing more than 60,000 vets in all 50 states. The Jan. 24 release by Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff said:
"Tonight, President Bush once again failed to demonstrate a real commitment to the 1.6 million new American veterans who have been created under his watch. For the second year in a row, the President in his State of the Union address chose to mention the troops only as a prop for his failing policies, and ignored the nation's new veterans entirely.
"Over the past four years, this country has watched its men and women in uniform answer the call to duty over and over again, yet somehow, today, these new veterans are still faced with a drastically under-funded Veterans' Administration and an outdated GI Bill. It's time to reward our troops' sacrifices with more than just bureaucratic hassles and token gestures.
"Mr. President, this nation's new veterans and this new Congress will together rewrite the book on our approach to veterans' services, and we'll do it with or without your help. Tonight, you demonstrated your willingness to send more troops into harm's way. A demonstration of your commitment to preserving this nation's promise to its veterans is long overdue.
"In the coming weeks, the nation's first and largest Iraq and Afghanistan veterans group, IAVA, will release a legislative agenda that, if adopted, will go a long way towards addressing the many unacceptable problems facing our troops as they return from Iraq and Afghanistan," said Rieckhoff.
"...[I]t is time that this nation, and our elected officials, renew the commitment to our troops and veterans."
Gates Orders Reduced Use of Stop Loss
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has ordered military chiefs to reduce use of the controversial stop-loss policy to maintain troop levels, ordering them to submit by the end of February, plans for the minimization of the policy. Several House Republicans sent a strongly worded letter to Gates in mid-January, asking that members of the National Guard and Reserves not be kept on active duty beyond their original commitment, characterizing the policy as "a hidden draft," betraying soldiers and their families. The Hill newspaper Jan. 26 said that Gates' directive is part of a wider initiative to change deployment policies for reserve forces and the use of the combined active and reserve forces called "the total force."
Both Parties Cheer Bush's Embrace of Bio-Fuels
President Bush's State of the Union began with a laundry list of social issues, leaving the more inflamed foreign-policy questions to the end of his speech. His comments on the economy were well-nigh ludicrous: the 41st month of uninterrupted job growth, low inflation, low unemployment, and rising wages. As Sen. James Webb pointed out in his Democratic message following the President's speech, "It's like we're living in two different countries."
Most unsettling was the way the Bush proposals for "bio-fuels" and ethanol got near-ecstatic applause from both sides of the aisle, indicating the irrational euphoria engulfing Congress around this idiotic notion. Bush also made his first comments on "confronting the serious challenge of climate change." Bush called for reducing gasoline usage by 20% in 10 years, producing 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels by 2017, and doubling the size of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
His much-touted initiative on health care, which the White House tried to play up as the main thrust of his speech, dealt primarily with creating funding for private health savings accounts, and tax breaks for purchasing health insurance by private individualsa pure rip-off for the benefit of the insurance companies.
Venetian Casino Money Backs Gingrich PAC
Former House Speaker and potential Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich recently set up a political action committee called American Solutions for Winning the Future, the Washington Post reported Jan. 23. The Gingrich committee has reportedly received $60,000 in ordinary contributions, and a $1 million check from Sheldon G. Adelson, owner of the Venetian hotel/casino (Sands company) in Las Vegas, and casinos in other countries. Sheldon Adelson is one of the four top contributors to Israeli Likudnik Benjamin Netanyahu's party. He is a heavy sponsor of the Lubavitch movement, a leading agency in pressuring Israeli society and politics into far right politics and suicidal war adventures.