Saturday, September 30, 2006

Bombshell: What Condi Knew Before 9/11

In a Washington Post piece that Editor & Publisher rightly describes as a 'bombshell', more information has arisen about Condoleezza Rice's inaction on the very real al Qaeda threats in the months prior to 9/11:

On July 10, 2001, two months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, then-CIA Director George J. Tenet met with his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, at CIA headquarters to review the latest on Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist organization. Black laid out the case, consisting of communications intercepts and other top-secret intelligence showing the increasing likelihood that al-Qaeda would soon attack the United States. It was a mass of fragments and dots that nonetheless made a compelling case, so compelling to Tenet that he decided he and Black should go to the White House immediately.

Tenet called Condoleezza Rice, then national security adviser, from the car and said he needed to see her right away. There was no practical way she could refuse such a request from the CIA director.
Tenet had the NSA review all the intercepts, and the agency concluded they were of genuine al-Qaeda communications. On June 30, a top-secret senior executive intelligence brief contained an article headlined "Bin Laden Threats Are Real."

But, as we all know now, Rice was obsessed with armed predator drones and her own agenda.

A meeting was held, but:

The July 10 meeting between Tenet, Black and Rice went unmentioned in the various reports of investigations into the Sept. 11 attacks, but it stood out in the minds of Tenet and Black as the starkest warning they had given the White House on bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Though the investigators had access to all the paperwork on the meeting, Black felt there were things the commissions wanted to know about and things they didn't want to know about.

Philip D. Zelikow, the aggressive executive director of the Sept. 11 commission and a University of Virginia professor who had co-authored a book with Rice on Germany, knew something about the July 10 meeting, but it was not clear to him what immediate action really would have meant. In 2005 Rice hired Zelikow as a top aide at the State Department.

Afterward, Tenet looked back on the meeting with Rice as a tremendous lost opportunity to prevent or disrupt the Sept. 11 attacks. Rice could have gotten through to Bush on the threat, but she just didn't get it in time, Tenet thought. He felt that he had done his job and had been very direct about the threat, but that Rice had not moved quickly. He felt she was not organized and did not push people, as he tried to do at the CIA.

Black later said, "The only thing we didn't do was pull the trigger to the gun we were holding to her head."

That is one damning indictment. I'm sure we'll be hearing much, much more about this revelation.

The Iraq War: Fruitbowls & Fart Jokes

With many details from Bob Woodward's new book, State of Denial, quickly coming out in the mainstream media prior to Woodward's 60 Minutes interview this Sunday evening, it appears that the title of his book not only refers to the Bush administration's attitude to the war but also to Woodward's frame of mind to this point about the realities in DC.

Perhaps this book is his way to repent for his previous glowing descriptions of Bush. And he could not have chosen a better release date for it - just over one month before the crucial house and senate elections - since Rove had wanted the focus of this campaign to be all about the Republican's so-called successes (which are minimal) in the war on terrorism. Consider this book a gift to the Democrats from Woodward, who has ensured that the topic of those campaigns will be the massive failures in Iraq for which this administration has no workable policy.

Woodward details some of the behind the scenes White House conversations in his newspaper and to the New York Times:

Mr. Woodward reports that when he told Mr. Rumsfeld that the number of insurgent attacks was going up, the defense secretary replied that they’re now “categorizing more things as attacks.” Mr. Woodward quotes Mr. Rumsfeld as saying, “A random round can be an attack and all the way up to killing 50 people someplace. So you’ve got a whole fruit bowl of different things — a banana and an apple and an orange.”

Mr. Woodward adds: “I was speechless. Even with the loosest and most careless use of language and analogy, I did not understand how the secretary of defense would compare insurgent attacks to a ‘fruit bowl,’ a metaphor that stripped them of all urgency and emotion.
There’s the president, who once said, “I don’t have the foggiest idea about what I think about international, foreign policy,” deciding that he’s going to remake the Middle East and alter the course of American foreign policy. There’s his father, former President George Herbert Walker Bush (who went to war against the same country a decade ago), worrying about the wisdom of another war but reluctant to offer his opinions to his son because he believes in the principle of “let him be himself.” There’s the president’s national security adviser whining to him that the defense secretary won’t return her phone calls. And there’s the president and Karl Rove, his chief political adviser, trading fart jokes.

The WH has rebutted Woodward's claims in the book by distributing a document listing '5 Key Myths' which basically contains the same old tired talking points. If that's all they could come up with, they've admitted defeat but you just know they'll keep whining about the book anyway, which is a Good Thing™.

In a related story, the Washington Post has published details about Colin Powell's final days, 'Falling on His Sword'. Finally, everything is unravelling for this corrupt administration. If only it had begun much earlier than this.

George W Bush and his speechalist Andy Dick

What About Omar Khadr?

The release of the Arar Commission inquiry report last week, revealing the serious mistakes made by the RCMP in handling the situation for which no one has yet been held accountable in Canada or the US, brings to mind the fate of another Canadian lost in the grips of the so-called US military/justice system: Omar Khadr.

The findings of the Arar inquiry ought to spur on immediate action from this federal government to ensure the well-being and safety of this young 'detainee' who now, as a result of the recently passed US detainee bill, will have absolutely no possibility of appealing any decision made through this revised military commission process. It's long past time for Canada's Foreign Affairs department to act forcefully before Mr Khadr's fate is completely doomed.

Omar Khadr was seriously wounded and captured in a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002. He was 15 years old at the time and was accused of killing a US soldier. Since that time, allegations of torture and serious mistreatment have been recorded by Amnesty International along with Mr Khadr's lawyer, who has also appealed to the UN for help. The Canadian government (neither the former Liberal, nor the present Conservative one which now runs the country) has not done enough to pressure the US military to respect his human rights.

Unlike the Arar situation, in which the RCMP and not the government itself was to blame, Omar Khadr's situation rests solely on the shoulders of those who hold office in Ottawa. It is also quite possible that the RCMP and/or CSIS has handed over so-called intel on Khadr which may have had an influence on his case since the Khadr family does have a history of being in league with al Qaeda and a senior CSIS official interrogated Khadr at Gitmo digging for any intel he could come up with. The family's history, however, did not stop the US authorities from releasing Omar's older brother Abdurahman to Afghanistan after his detention in Gitmo in 2003.

The sins of family members cannot be held against the entire family and we have absolutely no way of knowing what kind of evidence the US military may have to implicate Omar Khadr in the crime which he is accused of perpetrating and, most likely, if he is ultimately tried any facts will be shielded from public scrutiny due to the old standby that the Bush administration uses with great abandon these days: 'national security reasons'.

The overriding issue in Omar's incarceration though ought to be the allegations of torture. Just as in Arar's case, who was sent to Syria to be tortured out of the reach of the Canadian government, those who are holding Omar Khadr are accountable to no one. It is not inconceivable that Omar has and is being tortured as well since everyone is quite familiar with the Bush administration's approval of so-called 'alternative' interrogation techniques that have been publicly admitted by the president and which had now been legally sanctioned by the US congress.

According to legal experts, the new detainee bill will ultimately be met with court challenges - some of which may find themselves in the hands of the Supreme Court in the future - but in the meantime, the detainees are being held without access to humanitarian groups while the US government does everything it can to hide the actual conditions at Gitmo. Bush has stated several times that he would like to close the facility and repatriate the detainees but the fact that a new $30 million wing built by Halliburton opened in August implies that the detention facility is far from being shut down any time soon.

Rolling Stone magazine recently did a lengthy expose of Omar Khadr's story, yet he seems to have fallen off the radar screen in Canada. No doubt there are likely many Canadians who believe he is guilty because the US has said so and there are those who have assigned guilt by association due to his family's past. We cannot allowed our country to be swayed by these assertions, especially since we are all very painfully aware now that our government agencies have been much too quick to pass judgment on Canadians in US custody while helping the Americans to eventually torture them.

It is doubtful that Canada's Foreign Affairs minister Peter MacKay will take any action on Omar Khadr's file any time soon since he's still battling with members of the Khadr family in Canada but it's imperative that he be consistently reminded of his duty to Mr Khadr as a Canadian citizen in foreign custody.

You can contact MacKay in Ottawa here, or via his constituency offices. His e-mail address is:

Demand real justice for Omar Khadr - not quasi justice cloaked in secrecy and abuse.

Super Weekend

It's super weekend for the Liberal party and you can find continually updated results on this site. At the time of this post, Ignatieff is in the lead nationally with 27.6% while Albertans seem to prefer Kennedy who is at 47.6%. That's interesting.

Keep checking the site throughout the weekend and remember that we'll have to wait for the official results.

Here's what those numbers mean:

About 200,000 party members are voting to elect some 4,300 delegates nationwide during the Liberals' "super weekend," which started Friday and ends Sunday. Delegates will be bound on the first ballot at the Dec. 2 convention to support the leadership candidate for whom they were elected; they are free to vote for whomever they choose on subsequent ballots.

Consequently, the results from this weekend's delegate elections will give a good indication of first-ballot support for each of the eight leadership hopefuls.

With almost 900 delegates chosen, preliminary results posted by the party early Saturday showed Ignatieff in the lead with 239 delegates or 27.6 per cent. Party insiders have estimated that Ignatieff will need at least 35 per cent on the first ballot to avoid being overtaken.

For the record, as I've noted several times before, I am opposed to Ignatieff as leader and if he is chosen I will not vote Liberal in the next election. For those who don't know, I am an independent liberal, not a Liberal party member. My preferences in this race are Dion, Rae and Dryden - although each one holds concerns for me but there's no such thing as the perfect candidate.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Republican Child Predators

Another Republican - this one a congressman - turns out to be a child predator and resigns. ABC News also has some of the sexually explicit exchanges between Foley and one of his teenaged victims. Disgusting. The Dems are now calling for an investigation of this including the fact that Republican leadership knew about this a long time ago and did nothing. Not only that, Foley was allowed to keep his political commitments after they were aware of the allegations, which were comprised of:

Foley chaired the House caucus on missing and exploited children and was credited with writing the sexual-predator provisions of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, which Bush signed in July.

The Washington Post has more but you'll note they bring up the "was he gay?" question which is just inappropriate. This guy is a pedophile. Period. His sexual orientation beyond that is irrelevant. Shame on WaPo.

Earlier this month, former deputy press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, Brian Doyle was in court over charges that came to light this year to which he has now pleaded no contest. He was having online sexual chats with a cop who posed as a 14 year old whom he also sent pornographic clips to. Doyle was such an incredible dolt that he actually told his victim that he worked for Homeland Security. Do you feel safer now than you did 6 years ago? Do your children?

Update: You can watch ABC's news report about the Foley scandal here. They broadcast some details from the exchanges so make sure your children are out of the room when you view it.

The Illegal War and an Officer's Right to Disobey Orders: Lt. Watada

This one's for Janet.

Read a Banned Book Today

It's Banned Books Week in the US so grab all of your Harry Potter books and burn them in a bonfire lest they corrupt your innocent minds and turn you into witches. Everybody knows that witches should be stoned and/or burned at the stake. On second thought, scratch that. I think the new detainee bill just passed in the US congress would allow Bush to pick you up and torture you for practicing the witchcraft that those Harry Potter books promote if you go out and start a fire. You might just want to bury them. No. Wait. Considering the prevalence of surveilllance some FBI agent would probably catch you. I guess if you own Harry Potter books you should probably just turn yourself in. Yes, that would be best for you and all of the fragile minds that might be influenced by the evil that is Harry Potter. If you don't do it, your kids will because they know that's what a real patriot does.

Alrighty then - Captain Underpants?? Well call me Granny Subversive. I bought two of those books for my female grandherb last year. I have now contributed to her possible future incarceration and rebellion against the government by handing her such viciously dissident children's books that are sure to fry her brain. Please forgive me, grandherb. I just didn't know.

If you're a Canadian, you'd better print out this list of challenged books in Canada. Oh look - there's The Bible. Well, that's toast now too.

Okay. Got it now? Books are evil and you should stop reading them unless they are approved by conservatives because everybody knows that they will protect us all. And who needs to learn new stuff anyway? Everything you need to know, you learned in kindergarten. (I hope that book isn't on the list too or we're all screwed).

Let's Talk About Liblogs

I'm posting this with two aims:

1. To discuss the coming changes at the Liblogs aggregator service.

2. To provide a heads up to readers of mine who find me through that service that you might not be able to in the future.

On Thursday, Liblogs members received an e-mail from the owner of the list, Jason Cherniak, informing us that the site will soon be changing addresses and stating that he wanted to ensure that we displayed the entire list of sites using the service on our blogs.

I've been having an e-mail discussion with Jason because, as you can see, I don't list all of the Liblog bloggers on my site and, frankly, I don't plan to do so either mainly for this reason:

I only list blogs on my site that I personally approve of. Those on my blogroll have been vetted by me to ensure that they are consistently quality blogs that my readers might be interested in. In order to list all of the blogs available through Liblogs, I would have to take the time to check out each one to ensure the same standards. This is not a slight to any Liblogs members. I'm just not prepared to recommend blogs to my readers that I may not approve of.

As an example of how strongly I feel about this point, I recently dropped my display of headlines from this service after informing the list owner of a very sexist post by one of the other members of that list. I did not receive a response from the list owner but, as you can see, I am still on their list. That's fine with me, but I won't provide advertising for a service that backs a sexist by displaying their feed on my site.

As I said, Jason and have been discussing this matter and I want to make it clear that he has not yet made a decision about whether I can be exempted from placing the entire list on my blog while still maintaining my membership.

I understand, as Cherniak pointed out, that listing all blogs from an aggregator provides those blogs with greater exposure to readers and search engines. However, I don't list all blogs from any aggregator I belong to and don't want to start doing that now.

A slightly more nitpicky argument is that I also believe I should be able to maintain design control over what appears on my blog. I've visited numerous blogs that have so many blogs on their blogroll that they just become a blur. I don't know how that's helpful to the blogs that are listed. I much prefer to visit blogs linked from other sites that I know the blogger specifically endorses and finds very worthwhile.

I realize that I risk losing a lot of site traffic if I'm dropped from Liblogs - the vast majority of people who visit my site via Liblogs do so from the main site, not affiliates' links. So, this post serves as a warning that my posts may longer be available through that service depending on what Cherniak decides. I'd suggest, therefore, that anyone interested in reading my blog simply bookmark my site now just in case I disappear from that list.

I want to add that Cherniak has every right to place expectations on the bloggers who use his service since he owns Liblogs. That's not my beef. I hope he will not impose this rule on all of us, but if he does so I also have the right to stick with my principles so I'll respect his decision and bow out.

What do you think about all of this? Please let me know. Thanks.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

On Apologies...

It was a frustrating day on Thursday for liberals who follow American and Canadian politics. While the US congress was busy passing its president's torture bill that now endangers every American, torture was very much the issue of the day in Canada as well.

It was extremely disturbing to hear so-called Public Safety minister Stockwell Day repeat over and over, when asked when this government will apologize to Maher Arar, the following statement from Justice O'Connor's report:

“A compensation agreement could involve anything from an apology to an offer of employment, or assistance in obtaining employment. That's the recommendation of Justice O'Connor,” Mr. Day said.

The crucial word in that response is 'from'.

You don't need to be a lawyer to see how this government is hiding behind that word by insisting that an apology would play a part in negotiating a compensation deal with Mr Arar. But what Mr Day (and the tory government lawyers who are advising him) seem incapable of understanding is that the Government of Canada can give an apology without it affecting negotiations. Here's the rub though. The Tories could actually use that wording by Justice O'Connor to in fact stop at giving Mr Arar an apology while then claiming it had fulfilled O'Connor's recommendation. Of course they'd be damn fools to do that, without also offering Mr Arar financial compensation, but governments are often run by fools and this government is in no hurry to clean up the mistakes made by the previous Liberal government in this affair, preferring instead to come up with so-called 'creative' solutions of their own. And, in this situation, anything's possible.

Both Stockwell Day and Jason Kenney during question period on Thursday expressed the opinion that they didn't really feel obligated to apologize to Mr Arar since what happened to him occured during the Liberals' reign. Therefore, they think it's up to the Liberals to apologize. The only problem with that stance is that it is hypocritical coming from a Conservative government which apologized in June for the Chinese Head Tax.

This is what Harper said at that time:

And even though the head tax – a product of a profoundly different time -- lies far in our past, we feel compelled to right this historic wrong for the simple reason that it is the decent thing to do, a characteristic to be found at the core of the Canadian soul.

There is no decency to be found in the soul of this Conservative government that refuses to apologize also to Mr Arar and his family. They were wronged. That has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.

On parliament hill as well today, RCMP Commissioner Zaccardelli finally broke his silence and did apologize. Andrew Coyne of the National Post, appearing on CBC's National News on Thursday evening, had this to say about that apology:

Mansbridge (host): Well, we get a full apology from Giuliano Zaccardelli - no resignation. In fact, as far as I can tell, no resignation or firing of any person at any level in any agency, department, elected office, as a result of the Maher Arar story. Is that right? Andrew.

Andrew Coyne: It is not right. Let's begin with Mr Zaccardelli. If there was any doubt, it seems to me that he should go and that was absolved by this performance today which was cunning, theatrical, disingenuis, utterly political. You give the headline-making apology but you don't actually answer any of the questions that surround this affair, particularly those surrounding what went on after Mr Arar's arrest. I mean, we know there were mistakes made in the handing over to the US authorities but what particularly bears scrutiny is what happened afterwards - why they didn't support the government when they were trying to get the Syrians to release him, why they sent questions to the Syrians that implied that they still thought he was guilty even when they knew - they pretty much had to know - that they had an innocent man on their hands, a Canadian citizen was rotting in a Syrian jail all they did was stonewall and cover up. Now we need much more answers than this and we need accountability, not apologies.

So, we have a Conservative government that refuses to apologize for various reasons and we have the head of the RCMP who should not only apologize but should either resign or be fired.

All in all, it was not a good day for Mr Arar or Canadian justice.

Postcript: For all of the blustering that US members of congress who supported the torture bill did on Thursday about the so-called protections of rights of detainees and kidnap victims like Maher Arar, no one in the United States has been, or likely ever will be, held responsible for his rendition. A lawsuit Mr Arar filed against Rumsfeld et al was dismissed in early 2006 with the judge citing 'national security' reasons. That decision is being appealed by Mr Arar's lawyers.

This is What the US Congress Did Today

So much for 'American' or 'family' values.

Possible Big Trouble for the Bush White House

Via Roll Call: House Report Details 485 Contacts Between Abramoff Team and White House Officials

Hundreds of contacts between top White House officials and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates “raise serious questions about the legality and actions” of those officials, according to a draft bipartisan report prepared by the House Government Reform Committee.

The 95-page report, which White House officials reviewed Wednesday evening but has yet to be formally approved by the panel, singled out two of President Bush’s top lieutenants, Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman, as having been offered expensive meals and exclusive tickets to premier sporting events and concerts by Abramoff and his associates.

In total, the committee was able to document 485 contacts between White House officials and Abramoff and his lobbying team at the firm Greenberg Traurig from January 2001 to March 2004, with 82 of those contacts occurring in Rove¹s [sic] office, including 10 with Rove personally. The panel also said that Abramoff billed his clients nearly $25,000 for meals and drinks with White House officials during that period.

Rove, Mehlman, and other White House officials have denied having any close relationship with Abramoff, despite the fact that Abramoff was a “Pioneer” who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Bush’s White House campaigns.

Oh please, please, please let this be the end of Karl Rove. Please??

Woodward Set to Reveal WH's Secrets

Love him or hate him (and many lefties do hate him for his twisted role in the Plame affair), Bob Woodward has the inside track on the Bush White House and he's going to spill some serious beans on what's going on there when he appears on 60 Minutes this Sunday to promote his new book. The headline reads 'Bush Misleads on Iraq', but the facts are a bit more brutal than that:

In Wallace’s interview with Woodward, to be broadcast on 60 Minutes this Sunday, Oct. 1, at 7 p.m. ET/PT, the reporter also claims that Henry Kissinger is among those advising Mr. Bush.

According to Woodward, insurgent attacks against coalition troops occur, on average, every 15 minutes, a shocking fact the administration has kept secret. "It’s getting to the point now where there are eight-, nine-hundred attacks a week. That's more than 100 a day. That is four an hour attacking our forces," says Woodward.

The situation is getting much worse, says Woodward, despite what the White House and the Pentagon are saying in public. "The truth is that the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse and, in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon [saying], 'Oh, no, things are going to get better,'" he tells Wallace. "Now there’s public, and then there’s private. But what did they do with the private? They stamp it secret. No one is supposed to know," says Woodward.

"The insurgents know what they are doing. They know the level of violence and how effective they are. Who doesn't know? The American public," Woodward tells Wallace.
President Bush is absolutely certain that he has the U.S. and Iraq on the right course, says Woodward. So certain is the president on this matter, Woodward says, that when Mr. Bush had key Republicans to the White House to discuss Iraq, he told them, "I will not withdraw, even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me."

With war criminal Kissinger in there like a dirty shirt, suddenly the idea of carpet bombing Iran soon has become that much more realistic.

A Dark Day In American History

When historians write their passages about this period in American history, it will be remembered as the time in which the Republican party along with some Democrats stripped away the legal rights of detainees captured during the so-called war on terror, allowed their president - not the Geneva Conventions - to define torture, protected CIA torturers from prosecution and expanded the definition of unlawful combatant in such a way that more people, including Americans, are now at risk of being detained indefinitely at the whim of George W Bush. It will be remembered also as a time when congress decided that the safety of its troops and intelligence officers was dismissed by the approval of a bill that signaled to the rest of the world that torture of anyone was now seen as acceptable to Americans.

SusanG at Daily Kos wrote today:

Stalwart, bloodthirsty Republican operatives would expand the ranks of the traitorous by rhetorically damning those who lack courage or will to see this endless War on Terror through. They'd claim the American public doesn't have the stomach for what's needed to be a winner in the game of empire.

And they would be right: The American public does not have the stomach for the reality of what's being authorized here. There is at least a small satisfaction in that, because I do believe the facts will drip their way into the American consciousness eventually, and what's being legalized today will result in a great virulent revulsion against the party that debased this country's underlying principles.

I'm not so sure about that.

If Americans are not experiencing that 'great virulent revulsion' right now, at the time this is all happening in their midst by their government, I see no hope that they will somehow have a sudden awakening sometime in the future when it will have been to late to redress the damage done to their reputations and their lives. But, of course, this is about more than their reputations.

This is a moment in time when Americans, for whatever reason, overwhelmingly stand silent against a tyrannical government that has decided to accept that the most vile treatment of their fellow human beings actually bolsters their security and is a brave expression of civility and human rights.

It is a moment in time in which Americans are failing on a massive scale to protect themselves and their rights - not just those of suspected terrorists. It is a moment in time when Americans are collectively displaying exactly what their enemies have accused them of: a lack of morality and conscience that is indefensible. And, it is a moment in time in which people all over the world watch in shock and horror as the United States violates its own laws and the spirit of its Constitution all in the name of fear.

There are many parallel times in history in which governance by fear led whole countries and peoples astray. Times in which 'the other', so identified by race, religion, nationality, sex and other characteristics, were also persecuted, tortured and killed in the most horrendous ways while the public cheered on such actions out of ignorance. This modern society often prides itself in having risen above such cruelty when it truly has not. Can it? That's the question that future generations will have to answer since it's so painfully obvious that the generations of today have shown that they are unable or unwilling to advance the cause of human rights to the point where madness and revenge become traits of the past.

Gandhi said:

“You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.”

It's time for all Americans to say:

You can't chain me or others, you can't torture me or others, you can't destroy this body or others, and you will never imprison our minds.

This is truly a dark, dark day and from now on this is what America stands for. (caution: disturbing images/not safe for work)

(You can watch the US senate debate on this bill live online today at C-SPAN's site.)


For an quick explanation of the issues covered by this bill, see Rushing Off a Cliff.

Senate Nears Final Vote on Detainee Bill

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 — The Senate today rejected an amendment to a bill creating a new system for interrogating and trying terror suspects that would have guaranteed such suspects access to the courts to challenge their imprisonment.

The vote was 51 to 48 against the amendment, which was offered by the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Judiciary Committee...
The bill’s ultimate passage was assured on Wednesday when Democrats agreed to forgo a filibuster in return for consideration of the amendment. Any changes in the Senate bill, however, would have made it impossible for Republican leaders to meet their goal of sending the bill to the White House before adjourning on Friday to hit the campaign trail.

Underscoring the political stakes involved, White House spokesman Tony Snow said today that President Bush will emphasize Democratic opposition to the bill in campaign appearances.

“He’ll be citing some of the comments that members of the Democratic leadership have made in recent days about what they think is necessary for winning the war on terror,” Mr. Snow told reporters en route to a fundraiser in Alabama, according to a transcript provided by the White House.

Update: 4:40 pm ET The senate is now voting on 3 amendments (doomed to fail) presented by the Democrats. You can find the roll call results of these votes here . Following those votes, the final vote on the bill is due and I'll post those results when they're available.

Final Vote: Yeas - 65; Nays - 34

The Democrats who voted with the Republicans to pass this bill were Lautenberg, Salazar, Lieberman, Menendez, Pryor, Nelson (NE) and Rockefeller. In addition (I thought just these few jumped ship, but there were more): Carper, Johnson, Landrieu, Stabenow and the other Nelson (FL)

Iraq War Ratings are as Low as Cheney's

Via Angus Reid:

Fewer adults in the United States believe their government’s handling of the coalition effort has been adequate, according to a poll by Harris Interactive. Only 20 per cent of respondents are confident that U.S. policies in Iraq will be successful, down nine points in two years.

So, are you ready to boot those Republicans out of office now, Americans? If not, why not?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

NY Post Mocks White Powder Threat Against Olbermann

Who would make jokes about a journalist receiving an envelope of white powder? One of Rupert Murdoch's minions in the New York Post's gossipy Page 6:

September 27, 2006 -- MSNBC loudmouth Keith Olbermann flipped out when he opened his home mail yesterday. The acerbic host of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" was terrified when he opened a suspicious-looking letter with a California postmark and a batch of white powder poured out. A note inside warned Olbermann, who's a frequent critic of President Bush's policies, that it was payback for some of his on-air shtick. The caustic commentator panicked and frantically called 911 at about 12:30 a.m., sources told The Post's Philip Messing. An NYPD HazMat unit rushed to Olbermann's pad on Central Park South, but preliminary tests indicated the substance was harmless soap powder. However, that wasn't enough to satisfy Olbermann, who insisted on a checkup. He asked to be taken to St. Luke's Hospital, where doctors looked him over and sent him home. Whether they gave him a lollipop on the way out isn't known. Olbermann had no comment.

Write Paula Froelich at and tell her where to stick her column while reminding her of this:

Several leading news organizations in recent years have summonded "HazMat" teams and sent employees to the hospital after receiving letters with white powder at their offices. The Post itself received a so-called "anthrax letter" in the fall of 2001, affecting three staffers, who all recovered.

They took that seriously, didn't they? But they could not extend the same courtesy to Olbermann simply because they don't agree with his politics.


Harper Attacks Martin

Poor Steve. Things are not going his way in Afghanistan so he's decided to pull a page out of the Bushco playbook and blame it on this country's former leader, Paul Martin, just like Clinton is now being blamed for not getting Osama.

BUCHAREST, Romania - Paul Martin’s second-guessing on Afghanistan is a perfect example of why the ex-Liberal prime minister is no longer leading the country, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said today.

The problem with that attack is that it's false. But Steve must do the only thing he can because we all know that these conservative parties that hail personal responsibilty actually loathe practicing what they preach, so he continues:

Harper said it was Martin and his Liberals who committed Canadian troops to fighting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

“When you make those kinds of decisions as a prime minister, you have to be able to take responsibility for them and stick with them,” Harper said in Bucharest, where he is attending a meeting of francophone countries.

“The fact that Mr. Martin is unable to do that, in this and so many other cases, illustrates why he is no longer prime minister of our country.”

Martin told the Toronto Star in an interview this week that he doesn’t like the way the mission in Afghanistan is unfolding, saying the original aim of rebuilding the country has been obscured by increasingly intense fighting.
“I’m the person who sent them there and I don’t back away from that one iota,” the former prime minister said.

But he said the coalition must win the hearts and minds of Afghans.

Perhaps Steve would like to explain to Canadians how what Martin said isn't true or resembles anything like waffling.

Musharraf: Canadians 'cry and shout' Over Coffins

Pakistan's president Musharraf is making the rounds in North America this week not only to meet with world leaders but to sell his new book In the Line of Fire. He won't be selling many books in Canada after his insulting remarks about our soldiers that he made in a CBC interview on Tuesday, however.

Musharraf brushed off the suggestion that his government was endangering Canadians and other troops in Afghanistan by not doing enough to root out the Taliban and al-Qaeda and their sympathizers.

"We have suffered 500 casualties," he said. "Canadians may have suffered four or five."
Musharraf said any nation, such as Canada, that enters a war-torn area must be prepared to suffer casualties or get out of the operation.

"You suffer two dead and you cry and shout all around the place that there are coffins," he said. "Well, we have had 500 coffins."

Since deploying in Afghanistan in 2001, 36 Canadian troops and one diplomat have been killed.

This is the same president who admittedly weighed his options after 9/11, including resisting the United State's calls to either fight the Taliban or be bombed 'back to the stone age'. Musharraf knew his country would most likely be obliterated if he didn't cooperate so he acquiesced. So, for this president to now claim bravery in that war while mocking Canadians smacks of pure hypocrisy.

He continued with his attack on Canada's military:

He dismissed the suggestion that Canadian soldiers could help alongside the Pakistani military in his country, made by Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor recently.

"Nobody comes on our side," he said. "I would not like to challenge the Canadian troops, but I can assure you, our troops are more effective and we have more experience at war, and this shows a lack of trust in Pakistan."

Considering that Pakistan was only created in 1947 and that Canada's military fought in WWI and WWII before that time, it seems that Musharraf could stand to have a history lesson about our country. And, if he wonders why we in the west don't trust him, perhaps he should review his own country's history as it relates to the Taliban and terrorism.

Further, if Canadians choose to 'cry and shout' over our dead soldiers, it's none of Musharraf's damn business. We lost millions tens of thousands of troops during the two world wars and many others in several conflicts since then, including the Korean war, and we earned the right long ago to mourn each and every soldier who dies during wartime. That fact makes us even more sensitive to our losses. When his country has lost as many soldiers as we have, maybe then he can come back and lecture us about what he thinks is a proper reaction to our fellow countrymen who have died.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Random News & Views Roundup

- It looks like John Bolton's confirmation is toast. Can I get an a-men?

- Sometimes, this is what happens when you screw with Mother Nature. (h/t Cat)

- It's payback time for seven British soldiers who tortured several Iraqi men. Hopefully, they will receive proper justice, unlike those who were victims of US soldiers and contractors at Abu Ghraib.

- Bushco is so scared to admit global warming exists that it's blocked a report stating its effect on hurricanes. Everybody knows that God, not global warming, causes hurricanes and anything that concludes otherwise must be censored lest the sheeple raise questions.

- This is sad: Two miners whose jobs included watching for safety hazards inside the Sago Mine before the deadly explosion last January committed suicide in the past month.

- President Musharraf will be on the Daily Show tonite.

- More proof that Condi is a liar (in case you needed more...).

- 71 people, including two ministers, were arrested at peaceful protests against the Iraq war in DC on Tuesday. Good for them for standing up to this immoral administration.

- YouTube scares me. I've tried to upload about 4 videos to my blog in the last 24 hours but none have shown up. The last time that happened, they all suddenly appeared at once out of the internets tubes, so be prepared for a possible onslaught.

The Declassified NIE Key Judgments

During a press conference with Hamid Karzai on Tuesday, a testy, defensive Bush responded to news reports that the war in Iraq has made the US less safe by fueling the growth of terrorism. Bush whined:

The White House contends that the document's widely reported conclusion -- that the Iraq war has increased the threat from terrorism -- represents only "a fraction" of the judgments made in the document. The report, completed in April, reflects the consensus view of 16 government intelligence services.

Bush charged at the news conference that political opponents leaked select parts of the National Intelligence Estimate to media organizations last weekend "to create confusion in the minds of the American people" in the weeks before the Nov. 7 mid-term elections.

"Somebody has taken it upon themselves to leak classified information for political purposes," Bush said. "I think it's a bad habit for our government to declassify every time there is a leak."

So, what did he do? He then rushed to declassify the key judgments (.pdf file) because Bush doesn't like confused Americans - he wants them on all the same page - his page. The problem is that this declassified document supports what the press reported: that Iraq has become terrorism central.

Here are some highlights:

• Although we cannot measure the extent of the spread with precision, a large body of all-source reporting indicates that activists identifying themselves as jihadists, although a small percentage of Muslims, are increasing in both number and geographic dispersion.
• If this trend continues, threats to US interests at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide.
We assess that the global jihadist movement is decentralized, lacks a coherent global strategy, and is becoming more diffuse. New jihadist networks and cells, with anti-American agendas, are increasingly likely to emerge. The confluence of shared purpose and dispersed actors will make it harder to find and undermine jihadist groups.
• We assess that the operational threat from self-radicalized cells will grow in importance to US counterterrorism efforts, particularly abroad but also in the Homeland.
We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.
• The Iraq conflict has become the 'cause celebre' for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.

We assess that the underlying factors fueling the spread of the movement outweigh its vulnerabilities and are likely to do so for the duration of the timeframe of this Estimate.

• Four underlying factors are fueling the spread of the jihadist movement: (1)
Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western
domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness; (2) the Iraq 'jihad;' (3) the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and
political reforms in many Muslim majority nations; and (4) pervasive anti-US sentiment among most Muslims - all of which jihadists exploit.
• The increased role of Iraqis in managing the operations of al-Qaida in Iraq might lead veteran foreign jihadists to focus their efforts on external operations.
Other affiliated Sunni extremist organizations, such as Jemaah Islamiya, Ansar al- Sunnah, and several North African groups, unless countered, are likely to expand their reach and become more capable of multiple and/or mass-casualty attacks outside their traditional areas of operation.
• We assess that such groups pose less of a danger to the Homeland than does al- Qaida but will pose varying degrees of threat to our allies and to US interests abroad. The focus of their attacks is likely to ebb and flow between local regime targets and regional or global ones.

I wonder how right-wing bloggers, who have a continual meltdown over leaks of classified intel, will feel about their president making public the US intelligence community's judgments about the current terrorism situation. Will they call Bush a terrorist appeaser? A traitor? Will they ask Bush why he hates America? Of course not. They'll spin this for all they're worth and will twist it to go after the press again, just like they always do, while completely ignoring the fact that Bush just proved his critics right by releasing this information.

Oh - and CNN is now reporting that 'intelligence officials' have told them that they've noticed increased activity lately in the mountains of Pakistan which 'may' indicate that medical supplies were being sent in to help bin Laden. Coincidence? You decide. And, if they had actionable intel, why didn't they go after him? This tidbit comes on the same day that the New York Post reported on an interview with Condi who tried to convince the Rupert Murdoch owned paper's readers that Bill Clinton was just wrong when he said the Bush administration did nothing about bin Laden pre-9/11.

Just how much lying are we expected to put up with in one day?

The Mean-spirited Tory Spending Cuts

'Mean-spirited'. That's what Liberal finance critic John McCallum called the Tory spending cuts and Finance minister Jim Flaherty today in parliament. Conservative MP Ken Epp then whined in a point of order after Question Period that the use of that phrase was 'unparliamentary'. Get real. What's unparliamentary is the fact that the Conservatives prefer to yell and scream in response to opposition questions on a daily basis. Sanctimonious, self-righteous bullies.

Overall, the question and answer exchange today was a bit more toned down than the previous day's affair until the president of the treasury board finally (and predictably) lost it when he shouted at the the opposition, 'That's not your money. It's the taxpayer's money'. Yes, Baird, that's right. And it's not your money either which you can use to further the aims of stiff-necked uber-conservatives like the so-called REAL Women of Canada who believe a woman's place in society is to stay barefoot and pregnant while making lovely meals in the kitchen for her hard-working man who deserves the subservience of an obedient wife - especially after a tough day of defending their marriage from the threats of teh gay.

This crop of conservatives should simply change their party's name again to CRAP - the acronym they had when the chose the name the Canadian Reform Alliance Party - because that's exactly what their attitudes and policies are: CRAP. Their social conservative spending cuts would make Jerry Falwell proud. They've crapped all over women's rights by cutting money for the Status of Women Agency. They've crapped on aboriginal health by slashing money from the initiative to reduce their tobacco use. They've crapped on Canadian culture by lowering the funding of Canada's museums. They've crapped directly on the youth of this country by cutting funds for youth employment strategies. They've crapped on the poor by not only denying them financial help to fight constitutional challenges in court but by also ending millions of dollars of support to much-needed spending in Canada's volunteer sector.

And they had the audacity to stand up and cheer when they announced the $13 billion surplus at the end of Question Period when that surplus was the result of the former Liberal government's fiscal policies - not theirs. Still, they somehow seem to believe that they are actually the cause of this extra money in the government's coffers.

Well, they'd better take every chance they have to delusionally enjoy this little high they're on because their social policies will definitely tank them when they're up for re-election, which can't come quickly enough. Minority governments last, on average, only 18 months. And that, thankfully, tells us that next summer we'll be able to kick these repressive, controlling whiners right out of Ottawa or at least back to the opposition benches - where they belong.

Bush to Declassify NIE's Key Findings

From a logical standpoint, doesn't it make sense that the more terrorists there are, the greater the possibility there is of increased terrorist acts? Not according to Robert Kagan who slams WaPo (the paper in which his column appears) and the NYT - both of which drew that conclusion from leaked portions of the April NIE which apparently says that the Iraq war is a breeding ground for more terrorists.

On Tuesday, Bush announced that he'll declassify the key judgments of that NIE:

“Some people have guessed what’s in the report and concluded that going into Iraq was a mistake. I strongly disagree,” Bush said, referring to a New York Times report over the weekend that described what it said were conclusions from the classified analysis made last April.

If those key judgments actually say that going into Iraq was not a mistake, then it's time to fire the analysts who wrote it.

Bush said the full report shows “that, because of our successes against the leadership of al-Qaida, the enemy is becoming more diffuse and independent.”

That conclusion doesn't prove that there isn't a greater risk of terrorism due to the Iraq war, obviously. It just shows that Bush still doesn't get it when it comes to the increased risk his illegal war has created since the existence of these 'diffuse and independent'groups makes it more difficult to successfully track their planning and methods.

Update: Rep Jane Harman (D-CA) says there's a second intelligence report on Iraq and is calling for its release.

Monday, September 25, 2006

On the war fronts...

As each week passes while Iraqis continue being tortured and slaughtered and with more coalition soldiers giving their lives for a war based on so many inconceivable lies, the Iraqi political situation is moving at a snail's pace. And, in the face of mounting public dissent from more retired generals who blasted the Pentagon and the Bush administration on Monday (video) over the mismanagement of its war policies, the army is extending the deployment of 4,000 overworked troops while there is it's being reported that the National Guard has been asked to send more of its members to Iraq following the November election despite a lack of training time and the fact that many have already fulfilled their commitments to the force while brave war resisters like Lt. Ehren Watada are being hit as hard as possible by the US government.

Meanwhile, Bushco is busy blaming the internets again for the rise of extremism while denying the results of a leaked NIE that concluded the Iraq war is an extremely fertile breeding ground for terrorism. Dick Cheney popped out of his foxhole long enough to call the Democrats defeatists (yawn) and Bush's mouthpiece homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend, was busily complaining to CNN's Wolf Blitzer that leaking classified documents like the NIE is dangerous (especially when that NIE doesn't jibe with the lies Bush has been telling about Iraq since that NIE was produced in April). And, all of this is happening while a new Taliban Republic is being created in Iraq. And did I mention that the Pentagon is being held hostage by the army's chief of staff who wants more money spent in Iraq?

To add insult to injury, Americans are apparently too timid to handle a Newsweek magazine cover about Losing Afghanistan. (That cover is obviously offensive to people waiting in grocery store lineups who'd rather look at Brangelina or anorexic models).

President Musharraf of Pakistan will apparently reveal in his upcoming book that the CIA paid his country several millions of dollars to turn over hundreds of al Qaeda suspects. He must have called Crimestoppers to collect the rewards since the US government is now denying that claim.

The Green Berets reputation has been tarnished by revelations that suspects in their custody in Afghanistan were tortured and killed and the head of Afghanistan's Womens Affairs was gunned down on Monday while that country has become 'Iraq on a slow burn'. Hamid Karzai, who got a pat on the head from Harper last week, told the Woodrow Wilson Centre for Scholars on Monday that American governments forgot about his country after the long war with the Soviet Union and failed to take action that may have stopped the 9/11 attacks. Karzai, Bush and Musharraf are scheduled to meet this week. I'd like to be a fly on that wall.

Just another day at war...

With friends like Gagliano...

Disgraced ex-Liberal Alfonso Gagliano, who was expelled from the party for life, probably thought he was doing his friend Joe Volpe a favour on Monday when he came to Volpe's defence by claiming that those opposed to Volpe's Liberal leadership candidacy were simply anti-Italian. Forget about the fact that Volpe got donations for his campaign from children and is now in the news because someone signed up a couple of dead people to vote for him, whose ghosts showed up to hound him in Ottawa today. Facing some tough contenders who Volpe has not yet managed to equal in the polls, one would think Volpe would drop out. But that's not going to happen any time soon.

So, in rode Gagliano to supposedly help embattled Joe:

In a wide-ranging interview to mark the launch of his book, The Corridors of Power, Mr. Gagliano said he believes Mr. Volpe will come out fighting at his scheduled press conference today to answer the latest allegations of misdeeds by his leadership campaign team.

"History repeats itself. Whenever an Italian-Canadian tries to go up and succeed in politics, somebody tries to do something to bring him down," said Mr. Gagliano, who is fighting his lifetime ban from the Liberal party.

"When I got to the top, that's when my troubles began."
Mr. Gagliano, who maintains that he did no wrong as minister of public works and was a victim of a smear campaign by former prime minister Paul Martin's camp, writes in his book that ethnic prejudice played a prominent role in his fall from grace.

And after defending Joe from all of those supposed anti-Italian people, Gagliano had this to say when he was asked if he'd support Volpe:

Mr. Gagliano said he has not decided which candidate to support, his comments suggest he is leaning towards his fellow Italian-Canadian.

"Naturally, I know Joe Volpe but again, is the party and the country ready for an Italian to take the lead?" he said.

But if Gagliano actually believes that his troubles all began when he became Public Works minister as an Italian who had reached the top, maybe he just wants to spare Volpe the heartache. Then again, maybe he's still just trying to deny personal responsibilty and just wants to sell more books.

Media Distortions of Tory Spending Cuts

On Monday, the Tories announced a budget surplus of $13.2 billion dollars, all of which will go to paying down the national debt as mandated by law. At the same time, Finance minister Jim Flaherty and Treasury Board president (and obnoxious blowhard) John Baird also notifed Canadians that spending cuts are on the way.

That seems like a simple enough story for the press to report, right?


Take a look at how these cuts have been reported so far in the press: Press is carrying this headline: Tories announce $2 billion in cuts, streamlining and only mentions cuts to the medical marijuana program and administrative costs at the Status of Women.

The Toronto Star's headline: Tories slash spending by $1B is followed by a story outlining cuts 'Everything from medical marijuana to pine beetles' and also mentions the Status of Women.

The Globe and Mail ran with this headline: Canada posts $13.2-billion surplus and includes these cuts:

--$42.2-million dollars from Industry Canada programs including Technology Partnerships Canada, the country's most controversial business subsidy program.
--$5-million in administrative cuts to the Status of Women department.
--$5.6-million from medical marijuana research

The CBC reports: Tories find small cuts to reduce spending by $1B mentions the medical marijuana program and this:

The single largest saving, at nearly $380 million, will be made by reclaiming unspent money. Eliminating the visitor rebate program, under which Revenue Canada refunds GST to foreign visitors, is the single largest program cut, saving $78.8 million.

And, CTV ran with this headline: Tories announce $13.2B surplus, spending cuts only includes cuts to the medical marijuana program and Status of Women.

None of these news agencies reported on what CBC TV mentioned about this story - that money has also been completely cut from a fund that had been set up to allow citizens and groups to mount constitutional challenges against the government which will affect advocacy agencies such as Egale which John Baird confirmed to CBC's Don Newman.

Is it too much to expect that at least one of our major news agencies covers all of the cuts involved? Apparently so.

Update: Here are the government's details on the spending cuts.
(h/t to My Blahg for the link.)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Write Your Own Caption

Sunday Food for Thought

As a result of the current debate about torture and the view by several Democratic supporters that their party's leaders have basically remained silent on what should be an absolute moral outrage to anyone with a voice in Washington, some Democrats have decided not to vote in the upcoming elections. I've seen that decision expressed in the past few days at My Left Wing and The Huffington Post. And this post by Oliver Willis echoes the voices of many Democratic supporters who are fed up with their party as it currently stands while others are handing out pep talks to ensure that Democratic voters go to the polls in November.

So, what's a Democratic supporter to do?

Quite often in matters of politics when we are backed into such a corner, we must choose between the lesser of two evils. Our first instinct may be to punish a political party's leaders when they have not met our expectations (none of them ever do) and people may feel that they cannot compromise on their deeply held principles by voting for a party that doesn't seem to represent them. But, there are times when we must use our votes strategically and now, as far as I'm concerned, is one of those times for Democrats in America.

There is a very slim chance that the Dems will actually regain power in the house or senate but think about this: if you truly want to put an end to extraordinary renditions and torture, isn't it worth holding your nose this time to support the only real challengers to the corrupt, do-nothing Republicans?

There are times when we must consider the fate of others who are suffering not only from the pain and outrage being felt by Democrats in America but who are also being physically, emotionally and psychologically tortured - experiencing the worst kind of pain imaginable. Don't they deserve your support? Can you put aside your issues with the Democratic leadership long enough to stand up for these victims or will your need to punish people who might actually help them drive your decision?

There is no doubt that the DC Democrats have let you down and that they will continue to do so. Will you react to that disappointment by exacting revenge in a way that just sends the Democrats a warning shot that they might not even receive or will you truly join the fight to end torture by giving them the opportunity to fix the mistakes they've made when they weren't speaking up loudly enough about this gross violation of human rights?

If you stay home on election day, your vote against torture will not be counted.

Bush on Iraq: 'Just a comma'

If all of the bloodshed going on in Iraq and the fact that it is now Terrorism Central is 'just a comma' (video) in history according to Bush, then which other punctuation marks does he have in mind for future historians who will write about the events of his presidency?

Smirking, heartless bastard.

Bill O'Reilly Doesn't Do Personal Attacks...Except For These

Is Our RCMP Commissioner Being Muzzled?

If you watched CTV's Question Period (videos) on Sunday, the highlight of which was Craig Oliver's interview with Maher Arar who choked up over the fact that the Arar commission revealed that his wife and children were also on the terrorism watch list when he was, you had to wonder why our prime minister has not yet formally apologized and why RCMP commissioner Zaccardelli has remained silent about the findings of the Arar inquiry.

One guest after another stated that they believe Zaccardelli has been muzzled by this Conservative government since he typically is one who doesn't shy away from controversy or the public spotlight. What would it have taken for Zaccardelli to simply have publicly acknowledged the results while saying that he needed to have a closer look at those findings to implement the suggested changes?

It seems quite odd that the Conservatives would silence a Liberal appointed RCMP commissioner, but one commenter expressed what may be behind this muted reaction: the possibility that the Harper government does not want to risk its new, cozy relationship with the Bush administration by saying any more than it absolutely has to about the rendition and torture of Mr Arar, thus embarassing US officials.

Sunday's Globe and Mail has a long, rambling piece about Zaccardelli's rise to his current position that almost reads like an obituary and it may end up being just that - his political obituary at least. But it also highlights the culture of secrecy within the RCMP.

In his five years at the top, Commissioner Zaccardelli has acquired many admirers in the international law-enforcement community. The FBI liaison officers in Canada speak highly of his professionalism and that of the force.

But he has also made a few enemies, including Shirley Heafey, the former chair of the RCMP Public Complaints Commission. She says Mr. Zaccardelli made her job impossible, withholding information that she said was vital to her investigations of police conduct.

That secrecy has been the other side of Mr. Zaccardelli and the police force he leads. While he says police have to live up to high standards, he has also stated he has never very much liked "the cult of accountability" that has led the public to lose faith in police.

"This change has been fed by a scandal-mongering media, the immediate availability of facts without interpretation or analysis as a result of Internet," he said. The results, according to Mr. Zaccardelli, is a lot of time and money is spent scrutinizing police, officer morale takes a hit, and detectives become averse to risk for fear of generating a bad headline.

That 'cult' happens to be reality, or at least that's what this Conservative government wants you to believe, and its now time for Zaccardelli to come clean. Where does the buck stop in the RCMP apparatus? Although several pundits and MPs now claim that the RCMP were not prepared to deal with the type of intelligence work they were forced into as a result of 9/11, nothing can excuse shoddy investigations and the reports eventually shared with US security services that sealed Mr Arar's fate as a result. A one year old baby on a terrorist watch list? What were they thinking?

Zaccardelli was in charge at the time and he, along with his force's members who misled the Americans are responsible for what ultimately happened in Syria and they all need to be held accountable. It's just that simple.

More trouble for Zaccardelli: RCMP Probe Sparks Furor

A new threat to embattled RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli's future as Canada's top officer is emerging from inside the ranks of his own police force.

An internal probe into alleged nepotism, misappropriation of pension funds, contracting irregularities, dereliction of duty, harassment and improper hiring practices concluded last week with Zaccardelli admitting time has run out to impose disciplinary action on four senior members of the force.
All Zaccardelli has offered is a "lessons-learned exercise" to explore ways to avoid a repeat of the dragged-on probe.

"That's a joke," says the officer who first demanded Zaccardelli launch the investigation in 2001, and who endured a five-year gauntlet of inaction, red tape, cancelled investigations and staff changes before the probe crawled to its incomplete conclusion.

Will the Cons keep on covering his ass or will they force him to resign?

The Voices of the Tortured

Sunday's Washington Post contains two powerful editorials on the subject of torture that strip away the political and legal arguments of the current reality in the United States while forcing their readers to think about exactly what happens to people who are its victims.

Ariel Dorfman shares the pain of the torture victims he met in Chile in his piece Are we really so fearful? and Haitian refugee Edwidge Danticat tells the story of two women horribly disfigured and scarred (emotionally and physically) for life in her editorial Does it Work?.

Dorfman then sums up this nightmarish place that Americans now find themselves in as their government takes on an issue that is so absolutely horrifying that any actual debate about the subject just leaves one in shock.

I will leave others to claim that torture, in fact, does not work, that confessions obtained under duress -- such as that extracted from the heaving body of that poor Argentine braggart in some Santiago cesspool in 1973 -- are useless. Or to contend that the United States had better not do that to anyone in our custody lest someday another nation or entity or group decides to treat our prisoners the same way.

I find these arguments -- and there are many more -- to be irrefutable. But I cannot bring myself to use them, for fear of honoring the debate by participating in it.

Can't the United States see that when we allow someone to be tortured by our agents, it is not only the victim and the perpetrator who are corrupted, not only the "intelligence" that is contaminated, but also everyone who looked away and said they did not know, everyone who consented tacitly to that outrage so they could sleep a little safer at night, all the citizens who did not march in the streets by the millions to demand the resignation of whoever suggested, even whispered, that torture is inevitable in our day and age, that we must embrace its darkness?

Are we so morally sick, so deaf and dumb and blind, that we do not understand this? Are we so fearful, so in love with our own security and steeped in our own pain, that we are really willing to let people be tortured in the name of America? Have we so lost our bearings that we do not realize that each of us could be that hapless Argentine who sat under the Santiago sun, so possessed by the evil done to him that he could not stop shivering?

These two authors place right in front of us the stories of innocent people who were so inhumanely treated that one can't even begin to imagine how they managed to live through their ordeals at the hands of torturers without consciences. And that's exactly what it takes to be a torturer - a complete lack of identification with their victims as human beings and the ability to wake up the next day and do it all over again.

I've written at length, since I took up blogging, about this issue of torture and if there ever comes a day when it becomes just another topic on my daily list of posts to shed some light on - that doesn't evoke these extremely painful feelings I experience with each new entry - then I'll know that I too have become desensitized to the horror that occurs on a daily basis around the world in the name of countries and governments that have so lost their moral compasses that one just can't help but believe this nightmare will never end.

It's sad. It's painful. It enrages me. But we, in western society, are still so uncomfortable even discussing it that we would rather allow it to happen than to speak out forcefully against it. And, when we try to, we're told not to worry - that the US doesn't torture people, that the RCMP weren't really that complicit in sending Maher Arar to Syria where he was tortured for months on end (it can't have been that important since the cowardly RCMP commissioner can't even bring himself to make a public statement about the final report of the Arar commission that damned his agency) - that our governments are on top of things and will ensure that no one will ever be tortured again. Or, in Bush's case, that they'll only be tortured by methods he approves.

So, where are we then? Are we afraid? Are we in shock? Are we stunned? Do we actually care? Are we willing to allow torture to keep occurring until it happens to one of us? One of our family members? Our friends? Will that be enough to demand that, once and for all, this insanity and inhumanity comes to an end? Left-wingers and right-wingers alike?

As for any Americans reading this post, isn't the fact that your government has admitted hiding and torturing detainees (kidnap victims) overseas enough to cause an complete overhaul of your government? Now? If not, what will it take? Because I and millions of others out here would really like to know.

Someone is being waterboarded right now.
Someone is being severely beaten.
Someone is suffering from hypothermia.
Someone is being sexually assaulted.
Someone is being bitten by a dog.
Someone is being starved.
Someone is so psychologically confused from all of the blaring lights and pounding music that he doesn't want to live anymore.
And someone is probably dying as we speak.

What will it take?

Please. Just make this pain go away for all of us.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Torture Issue: We've Been Had

When it comes to political theater, one of the most popular stages in the world is Washington, D.C. where everyone is a willing actor with a designated part to play. And what can match a well-timed production starring some seasoned actors in a smartly-scripted drama played out before a captive global audience, especially when the script involves secret prisons, tortures and so-called justice?

In the past few weeks, we've watched as president Bush suddenly admitted the existence of CIA run prisons in other countries where at least 14 'high-level' alleged terrorism suspects have been held and treated to so-called 'alternative methods' of interrogation which the president simply refers to as 'the program' while bragging about all of the supposed evidence they've been coerced into revealing. And, since that time, he has made several public appearances in which he has aggressively called for his Republican congress to push through controversial legislation dealing with their rights and their treatment at the hands of his surrogate torturers.

Why did all of this happen now?

Beginning back in January, Karl Rove announced that the theme for Republicans to run on this November was national security - the platform that has worked successfully for them since 9/11. So how, in the face of growing public dissent to the Iraq war which Bush had deemed to be the 'central front' on the so-called war on terrorism, could the Republicans regain the high ground? They needed a quick and dirty strategy that would grab nation-wide headlines long enough to place them back on top after the Supreme Court issued what was seen as a major public admonishment to the Bush administration with its Hamdan decision.

The detainees in Gitmo have been waiting for justice for years and the ghost prisoners had been hidden away from any public curiousity as to their fate as well. There was no rush in this administration, no timetable set by the Supreme Court, to try these prisoners. But, no doubt, Rove and his political machine saw an opportunity to fulfill three goals:

1. to get congress to pass detainee legislation that suited the executives purposes.
2. to deal publicly and quickly with the issue of torture while providing cover for the actual torturers.
3. to end up looking tough on terrorism, thereby boosting their election results while taking the focus off of the mounting daily death tolls in Iraq.

With Rumsfeld and Cheney coming out from the shadows to staunchly accuse the Democrats of appeasing terrorists and Bush staging a mea culpa on the secret CIA prisons issue, the scene was set for a little political wrangling. Bush, taking the 'hang 'em high' tough cowboy stance announced that his office intended to rewrite Article 3 of the Geneva conventions - a brash and bold move sure to catch the world's attention and that of the American voters. Right on cue, three Republicans with former military experience - Warner, McCain and Graham - all appeared on stage to calm down the unreasonable sheriff and to get him to listen to reason.

What resulted, in the midst of this showy climax, was a meeting between the apparently hot-headed parties that was meant to bring about what all audiences want: a happy ending. And, if you only gauge the various excited reactions in Republican circles, you'd think that's exactly what happened. And, perhaps, if you're a typical American citizen who only pays attention to headlines and soundbites, the picture you're left with is one of a divided Republican effort that has now been resolved as they'll now hurry to pass the detainee legislation before they set out on the campaign trail while feeling secure that your government and president have your national security at heart.

But, it's just not that simple.

The legislation weakens international rape laws, does not repeal the use of torture by the CIA (providing the torturers with immunity from prosecution), gives Bush the sole power to define extreme torture and withholds classified evidence from detainees. And all of this is set to be approved by a Republican rubber-stamp congress in which 'fewer than 10 percent of the members of Congress have been told which interrogation techniques have been used in the past, and none of them know which ones would be permissible under proposed changes to the War Crimes Act.'

And where have all of the congressional Democrats been during this stage play? Sitting back and watching just like the rest of us. I hope they enjoyed the popcorn.

Did anyone really think that McCain and Warner would seriously challenge their president? John Warner has always been a staunch Bush defender and the so-called 'maverick' John McCain, despite his public spats with Bush over torture issues, has always acquiesced to what his president and his party wants. Lindsey Graham may be seen as a dupe in all of this but we musn't forget that all of these Republicans are keenly aware of one thing: the seriousness of the threat posed by Democrats who are fighting hard to take back congress in November. And, in that context, they all played their parts well.

If there were Oscars handed out for political theater, all three would be nominated. And, since the the play is done, the rest of us are just expected to leave our seats now that the end of that perfected Rovian performance is at hand while we walk away feeling a bit dirtier for having sat through such a dastardly display of deception and deceit while we wonder if, at this very moment, the torturers are still at work somewhere in a distant secret prison 'protecting' America's so-called national security with the endorsement of these fiends.

How did you enjoy the show?

Movies, popcorn and CIA recruiting

Are you a person who likes to send people to other countries to be tortured or do you like to torture people for fun yourself?

Are you a person who's willing to put your life on the line by being outed by Dick Cheney when he doesn't like your politics?

Are you a budding terrorist who wants to infiltrate US security services once you're done watching the upcoming movie?

Well, just watch the show, eat your popcorn and sign up today.

Is bin Laden Dead?

According to CNN, rumours are swirling around that say bin Laden is dead (1. because it's a slow news day and 2. because there's a US election coming up).

I think the more likely scenario is this:

Bring out your dead!
Bring out your dead!
Bring out your dead!
Bring out your dead!
Bring out your dead!
[cough cough...]
[...cough cough]
Bring out your dead!
Bring out your dead!
Bring out your dead! Ninepence.
Bring out your dead!
Bring out your dead!
Bring out...
...your dead!
Bring out your dead!
Here's one.
I'm not dead!
Nothing. Here's your ninepence.
I'm not dead!
'Ere. He says he's not dead!
Yes, he is.
I'm not!
He isn't?
Well, he will be soon. He's very ill.
I'm getting better!
No, you're not. You'll be stone dead in a moment.
Oh, I can't take him like that. It's against regulations.
I don't want to go on the cart!
Oh, don't be such a baby.
I feel fine!
Well, do us a favour.
I can't.
Well, can you hang around a couple of minutes? He won't be long.
No, I've got to go to the Robinsons'. They've lost nine today.
Well, when's your next round?
I think I'll go for a walk.
You're not fooling anyone, you know. Look. Isn't there something you can do?
BIN LADEN: [singing]
I feel happy. I feel happy.
Ah, thanks very much.
Not at all. See you on Thursday.
Right. All right.
[clop clop clop]
Who's that, then?
I dunno. Must be a king.
He hasn't got shit all over him.

(with apologies to Monty Python)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Conrad Black: 'Freedom Fighter!'

No, I'm not kidding.

I wonder if we're supposed to call him Lord Freedom Fighter now.

Afghan Civilian Death Tolls Disputed

Is NATO traveling down the path followed by the US and Israeli militaries when it comes to acknowledging dead civilians? Via CTV:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- As they trickled back to Panjwaii district on Friday, some Afghan civilians said they will bury innocent family members who died in NATO's recent bombardment of the former Taliban stronghold.

Interviews with returning families indicate the civilian death toll in the district west of Kandahar city could be higher than the 13 acknowledged by provincial officials.

NATO says there is no way to know for sure how many innocent people caught in the fierce battles might have been killed, but the alliance has done everything possible to avoid civilian casualties.

Retired farmer Toor Jaan claimed 26 family members, including men, women and children, died in Sperwan on the western edge of the battle zone during bombing and helicopter gunship attacks.
"Everybody thought the operation would remove the Taliban and security would improve," Jaan said through an interpreter.

"Instead, innocent civilians were attacked and several of my family members are still buried in rubble. This is not what we expected."

And, in a flashback to the recent Israel/Lebanon war:

Faced with questions about civilian deaths, NATO has taken pains to point out the ample warnings area residents received to get out of the combat zone. For days, the area was scattered with leaflets and NATO forces openly warned days in advance that an attack was imminent.

We, the Afghans and the rest of the world deserve to know how many innocent civilians have been killed in this war.