United States News Digest
U.S. Conference of Mayors Demands: Out of Iraq!
June 27 (EIRNS)The U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a resolution calling on the Bush Administration to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq at its June 25 meeting in Los Angeles.
With the hard-fought 51-47 passage, the U.S. Conference of Mayors joined a growing, bipartisan movement of elected officials, most recently, Republican Sens. Richard Lugar (Ind.) and George Voinovich (Ohio), in demanding an end to the Cheney-Bush failed Iraq War policy (see InDepth National for more on this story).
The Iraq War resolution was introduced by Stamford, Conn. Mayor Daniel Malloy. Malloy turned back Fresno Mayor Alan Autry's attack on the resolution, as outside domestic concerns, by pointing out that the war was draining money from classrooms and municipal services.
The resolution proclaims "110% support" of the Mayors Conference for the troops, but says, "[P]eace and stability in Iraq can only be achieved through the resolution of political differences within that country."
The mayors call for "the Administration to begin planning immediately for the swift and prudent redeployment of the U.S. Armed Forces; ... for future U.S. military aid; reconstruction funding, and other support...."
Finally, the resolution calls on the Administration to "convene an international conference," as part of a comprehensive plan for stability in the region, and for full funding of medical, psychological, housing, and other services for the returning troops.
Military Privatization Under Attack at Walter Reed
June 26 (EIRNS)Last April, the Independent Review Group (IRG), a panel assembled by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to look into the horrendous condition of outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, identified the decision to privatize facilities maintenance at the hospital, and the BRAC decision to close it altogether, as two of the factors in the deteriorating situation. This afternoon, members of the IRG took those issues to the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. Retired Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper told the subcommittee that, in his view, "we have over outsourced," and that, "the direction to over outsource was done with criteria that probably didn't always work to the best interest of the people in uniform." At Walter Reed, Jumper said, privatization took certain critical functions "out of the hands of very experienced people that were used to working with a very old infrastructure at Walter Reed, and put them into the hands of lowest bidders that cut the services, cut the number of people attending the facilities...."
Former Army Secretary Togo D. West, Jr., one of the two co-chairs of the IRG, said the privatization process "proceeds from the assumption that there is a good chance that someone other than the people we have recruited for the government in civilian positions could do the job just as effectively and cheaper.... That is not good for morale." The IRG has recommended that military medical facilities be exempt from privatization, but their arguments suggest that it has no place in any part of the government.
As for BRAC (the committee on Base Realignment and Closure), the IRG stopped short of recommending reversal of the decision to close Walter Reed, but said that the hospital should be funded and staffed to operate at full tempo until the day a new hospital to be built on the campus of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. is ready.
Generals Weigh In on BMD Deployment in Europe
June 25 (EIRNS)In a June 22 commentary for UPI, Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, Jr., former president of the National Defense University, and now senior military fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, attacked the Bush-Cheney Administration's program to place elements of the U.S. ballistic missile defense system in Eastern Europe. "This decision is premature, misguided, wasteful of billions of dollars, and damaging to U.S. relationships with our European allies and Russia," he wrote.
General Gard, who is also among the retired military brass who have attacked the Administration's failed Iraq policy, reports that the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) recently concluded that without deploying elements of a ground-based system in Europe, other components will protect the entire U.S. from any hypothetical Iranian missiles by 2011, "well before that country will be able to field an intercontinental missile capability." Yet, now, he reports, MDA cites the "indivisibility of U.S. and European security interests as a justification for deploying missile defense in Europe." Yet "Europe," represented by NATO, does not want U.S. bilateral agreements, and the plan has caused "considerable consternation" within the alliance.
MDA also claims, Gard reports, that deploying ground-based defenses "will promote regional stability." The announcement of the deployment has caused "considerable instability," especially in U.S. relations with Russia. Gard supplies technical reasons why there are serious problems with the proposed deployment, which continue to be pointed out by Russian military officials. His conclusion: "The bottom line is a no-brainer. The [ground-launched anti-missile system] site in Europe should be put on ice."
Senate Hearing Blasts Media Violence
June 26 (EIRNS)Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) chaired a highly contentious hearing today on violence in the media. Rockefeller opened the hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, attended by an overflow audience of mainly college-age youth, by blasting the TV networks, saying they were "debasing our culture. For years, efforts have been made to do something, and nothing has been done. The entertainment industry blames the parentsthat's cowardly." Addressing the millions of dollars spent on "V-chips' to cancel out televised violence, Rockefeller said, "Parents don't want more tools, they want the violence off the air."
Rockefeller then presented what he said was a five-minute video taken from major network programs. The clip showed graphic rape and disembowelment, but after two minutes the ranking Committee member, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Ak.), intervened, asking that it be turned off. Rockefeller complied. Stevens then tried to calm things down saying, "We have to go softer ... we have to be careful not to go too far."
However, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) then spoke out: "We have to include video games as part of the violence. The biggest growth in entertainment is video games."
Of the five guest panelists, all but one covered up for the media. When Laurence Tribe of the Harvard Law School was introduced, Rockefeller said, "He's also a paid consultant to cable TV." Tribe then went on to say, "We can't turn the key over to "Big Brother," referring to government interference with "free speech."
Rockefeller ended the hearing by addressing Peter Liguori, CEO of Fox Broadcasting, who had addressed the committee: "What you are saying, that the problem is the parents, is repulsive. The saddest thing about this hearing, is that effects on children were not discussed, and that the people who know about this were not asked any questions." Rockefeller pledged that legislation will be forthcoming.
AMA Punts on Video-Game Addiction
June 28 (EIRNS)Last night the American Medical Association (AMA) voted against immediately including "video-game addiction" in its "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual" (DSM) and instead will ask the American Psychiatric Association (APA), which publishes the DSM, to make the final decision. The DSM is used as the international standard of listing of mental diseases and phobias. The AMA asked the APA to make the final decision after it carefully reviews an AMA report entitled "Emotional and Behavioral Effects, Including Addictive Potential, of Video Games." The report is an in-depth review of video gaming, and an overall condemnation of the effects of video games on youth.
Ron Paul Hits U.S. Corporatism as 'Leaning to Fascism'
June 25 (EIRNS)Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), a candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination, shocked his NPR interviewer on June 21, by identifying the rapid slide into fascism in the U.S., and describing the "corporatist" nature of fascist economics by reference to the American health-care system.
Speaking on National Public Radio's "On Point" with Tom Ashbrook, Paul identified Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) as his leading ally in exposing the crimes of the Iraq War and the rush to war on Iran (only he and Kucinich had voted last week against an anti-Iran bill in the House, which Paul called a "rallying to war"), and downplayed his libertarian economic policies as secondary to ending the foreign policy of empire and correcting the disastrous conditions of the poor and elderly in the U.S.
He said, empires always end badly, as did the Soviet empire. "We don't have socialism here," Paul continued, "but a mild form of fascism, corporatism, with corporations on the dole, making money off the military-industrial complex, while the banks and financial houses are making money off the monetary system."
Ashbrook jumped in: "Did you say fascism? Did you say we are living in a fascist state?"
Paul responded: "One that is leaning toward that. Take our medical care....
Ashbrook: "We have fascist medical care?"
Paul: "This is where the corporations run thingsthe HMOs, the PPOs, the drug companies, pharmaceutical companiesthey're not worried about poor people, they're worried about making big bucks."
Asked about his low rating in the polls, Paul said that, on the one hand, the polls are fraudulent, and secondly, much of his support comes from youth, who use the Internet and cell phones, who are left out of the polling process.