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Now that their nemesis, George W. Bush, has left office, the mainstream media can be unbridled in their optimism about the future of Iraq. After 9/11, they chose to allow themselves to be duped by the Bush administration’s fairly lame reasons for the clearly unrelated U.S. invasion of Iraq and have been bitter about the quagmire ever since.
Given that Barack Obama, whom most media covered favorably during the election campaign, has taken office, their coverage of the recent Iraqi provincial elections indicates that they have flipped and now see a glass half full in Iraq rather than a glass half empty. They have touted the Iraqi elections as a wild success, with purple-thumbed Iraqi citizens depicted as supporting a centralized Iraqi state over autonomy for Iraq’s regions.
Not so fast.
Obama's Natl. Sec. Advisor Says He Takes Orders from Kissinger; So Who Does Petraeus Take Orders From?
Gen. Jones's Remarks to the Munich Security Conference
By James Jones
National Security Adviser
Hotel Bayerischer Hof
February 9, 2009
Thank you for that wonderful tribute to Henry Kissinger yesterday. Congratulations. As the most recent National Security Advisor of the United States, I take my daily orders from Dr. Kissinger, filtered down through General Brent Scowcroft and Sandy Berger, who is also here. We have a chain of command in the National Security Council that exists today.
I think my role today is a little bit different than you might expect.
Does Obama base his economic plans on liberal and conservative economists' advice because that's the best way to write a good plan?
Does he claim Iran is building nuclear weapons because nobody in that room will challenge him?
Does Obama believe that logic and information have some impact on senators? Or does he think he can get members of the public to influence senators? Or is he just afraid to put one more Democrat in the senate, eliminate the filibuster excuse, and ignore Republicans? Or is it not fear but an ideology that actually places bipartisanship above all else? Or is that a cover for a politician with an agenda that pretends to be something it isn't who actually appreciates the filibuster excuse?
A CNN reporter asked Obama when he would get out of Afghanistan and whether he would allow the media to cover the arrival of caskets with dead soldiers at Dover Airforce base, and Obama refused (at some distracting length) to answer either one.
The Washington Post's reporter chose to ask about steroid use in baseball.
Helen Thomas asked if Pakistan was harboring terrorists, and he said yes. She also asked -- perhaps in response to the nonsense about Iran -- whether the President knew of any nations in the Middle East that posessed nuclear weapons. Obama pretended he did not, naming neither Iran, which everyone knows does not possess nuclear weapons, nor Israel which everyone knows does.
Sam Stein of Huffington Post asked about Leahy's "truth and reconciliation" proposal and prosecutions of Bush officials, and Obama avoided answering either with anything he hadn't said before.
Mara Liasson of National Petroleum Radio pushed Obama for even MORE bipartisanship, and he seemed to agree.
Was there complete agreement in the room that the war on Iraq is over despite being, you know, not over? Are reporters actually forbidden to ask about it?
The President is right that we need to focus on fixing the problems that exist and improving the future for hardworking Americans. I wholeheartedly agree and expect the Judiciary Committee and the Senate to act accordingly. But that does not mean that we should abandon seeking ways to provide accountability for what has been a dangerous and disastrous diversion from American law and values. Many Americans feel we need to get to the bottom of what went wrong. We need to be able to read the page before we turn it.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy insisted on Monday in firm and passionate terms that a comprehensive investigation be launched into the conduct of the Bush administration, saying anything less would prevent the country from moving forward.
By Dave Lindorff
I can’t count how many people have bombarded me with criticisms, usually laced with insults and often obscenities, when I have written articles calling for pressure on Democratic politicians to do the right thing, whether that is impeaching the last president and vice president for war crimes or in the case of our new president, standing and fighting for a people’s bailout, instead of a Wall Street bailout.
The common refrain I hear is that the Democrats and Republicans are the same, and that we need a third party. Another common refrain is that “all you suckers” who voted for Obama are to blame. We should have voted for Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader, they say.
Now I have nothing against McKinney and Nader. That ticket would make for a wonderful administration, I agree. But I also have to point out that there is zero chance of these two people being elected in my lifetime (I’m 59 and pretty healthy) or theirs.
By Dave Lindorff
If the disaster of the so-called "stimulus" bill just passed by the Senate doesn't convince President Obama and his advisers that the strategy of "bipartisanship" that he has been espousing is a political suicide, nothing will.
The Republican Party, with the willing help of conservative Democrats like Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Democratic turncoats like Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), has forced Obama to agree to a joke of a stimulus package that is nearly half composed of tax breaks which will do nothing to bolster the economy (since most of the money will end up either paying down credit card debt or buying Chinese and Sri Lankan imports) and that is stripped of $40 billion to help struggling state and local governments.
Fresh from its rout in November, the GOP is, in fact, openly trying to sabotage Obama's economic stimulus plan, because the last thing Republicans want to see is an economy on the upturn in 2010 or 2012.
Lieutenant-Colonel Yvonne Bradley, an American military lawyer, will step through the grand entrance of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London tomorrow and demand the release of her client - a British resident who claims he was repeatedly tortured at the behest of US intelligence officials - from Guantánamo Bay. Bradley will also request the disclosure of 42 secret documents that allegedly chronicle not only how Binyam Mohamed was tortured, but may also corroborate claims that Britain was complicit in his treatment.
By Dave Lindorff
Amid the news that retail sales have fallen for the fourth straight month, that housing prices continue to slump, and that another 600,000 workers were laid off in the month of January—the largest number in one month since 1974—comes word from some experts in the business community that things are not going to be getting better soon, and that when they do, they will not get back to the way things were in 2006 or early 2007, before the recession began.
In an interview I did for the trade publication Investment Management Weekly on Thursday, Putnam Investments’ global asset allocation head Jeffrey Knight said that while the stimulus could “help to prevent a Great Depression sequel,” at the same time “Those who measure prosperity against the Faustian opulence of the last 10 years may find that stability, equilibrium and even recovery will still feel like a deep depression.”
Whistling Past the Afghan Graveyard: Where Empires Go to Die
By Tom Engelhardt | TomDispatch.com
It is now a commonplace -- as a lead article in the New York Times's Week in Review pointed out recently -- that Afghanistan is "the graveyard of empires." Given Barack Obama's call for a greater focus on the Afghan War ("we took our eye off the ball when we invaded Iraq..."), and given indications that a "surge" of U.S. troops is about to get underway there, Afghanistan's dangers have been much in the news lately. Some of the writing on this subject, including recent essays by Juan Cole at Salon.com, Robert Dreyfuss at the Nation, and John Robertson at the War in Context website, has been incisive on just how the new administration's policy initiatives might transform Afghanistan and the increasingly unhinged Pakistani tribal borderlands into "Obama's War."
A New Administration, Tired Old Policies
by Stephen Lendman
In Part I of his year-end analysis, money manager and market strategist Jeremy Grantham assessed the global economic crisis:
"Greed + Incompetence + A Belief in Market Efficiency = Disaster. Greed and reckless overconfidence on the part of almost everyone caused (risk avoidance) to a degree that is probably unparalleled in breath and depth in American history." The aftershocks hit everywhere. Tremors continue. No safe harbors exist. Buckle up. Turbulence and convulsions are ahead. Grantham is worried and angry.
The current disaster could have been avoided by moving early against asset bubbles. We didn't, so it will "be devilishly hard" to fix things. "We are deep in the pickle jar, and it seems likely that, in terms of economic pain, 2009 will be the worst year (ever) in the lives" of most everyone.
Obama Supports Bush Secrecy About U.S.-Sponsored Torture
By Daphne Eviatar | Washington Independent
The Obama administration may have just failed the first big test of its promises to end unwarranted government secrecy.
According to a decision issued Wednesday by the High Court in Great Britain, the court will not publish its summary of the alleged torture of Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed because the U.S. government threatened to end intelligence cooperation with the British if it did.
Mohamed, a lawful U.K. resident, claims he was seized by U.S. agents in Pakistan and tortured before being “extraordinarily rendered” to Morocco to be tortured some more.
By Dave Lindorff
Just two weeks after his historic inauguration ceremony, Obama’s presidency is lurching towards failure, and not because three of his administration picks have been found to be tax cheats, but because nearly all of his administration picks are corporate whores and shills.
The problem with the new Obama administration is that it is turning out to be not about change at all, as he claimed during the campaign, but rather about more of the same—and these are not times that call for more of the same. Nor is more of the same the reason Obama won the election.
The economic team President Obama has put in place is composed of the same Wall Street hacks and conservative economic theologians who helped produce the current crisis, many of them as part of the Clinton administration, and some, like Timothy Geithner, actually as appointees of the thoroughly discredited Bush administration.
When President Obama told al-Arabiya, "if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us," the most widely reported Iranian response was President Ahmedinijad's suggestion that if the U.S. truly wants good relations with Iran, it should begin by apologizing for U.S. "crimes" against Iran, including U.S. support for the coup that overthrew Iranian democracy in 1953.
Not surprisingly, there hasn't exactly been a groundswell of popular support in the United States for President Ahmadinejad's suggestion. Just 11% of U.S. voters think America should apologize for "crimes" against Iran, according to a poll from Rasmussen.
Obama's "New" Economic Strategy
By Dave Lindorff
If an article by Gareth Porter in run by InterPress is correct that CentCom Commander Gen. David Petraeus and Iraq Commander Gen. Ray Odierno, backed by a group of lower-ranking generals, are planning to mount a public campaign to try and undermine President Obama’s plan for a withdrawal from Iraq in 16 months, Obama needs to act fast and nip this dangerous act of insubordination in the bud.
NBC's Andrea Mitchell is reporting that Dennis Ross "will be coming back to the State Department as a "strategic advisor" on the near east and gulf region":
He will not be described as an envoy negotiating agreements and will not be involved in Middle East talks. That job will be up to former Sen. George Mitchell, who returns tonight from his first "listening tour" of the region.
But before the papers are signed for Ross' new employment with the US government, he should be asked a few questions about his relationship with the "Jewish People Policy Planning Institute," that group's relationship to the Government of Israel, and whether he has had any relationships which he should have disclosed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
WASHINGTON(AP) - New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg says he would only agree to become President Barack Obama’s commerce secretary if his home state governor appoints a Republican to serve out the rest of his term.
In a statement Monday, Gregg says Senate leaders of both parties understand his condition. New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch confirmed that understanding in his own statement Monday.
An emerging deal would allow Republicans to keep the seat for two years and deny Democrats a filibuster-proof majority of 60 senators. Democrats, meanwhile, appear to stand a better chance of flipping the seat into their ranks in 2010 than if Gregg stayed and ran for a fourth term.
Gregg is Obama’s second choice for the Cabinet position. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew from consideration because of a grand jury probe into state contracts.
By Benjamin G. Davis, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law
(commentary adapted from a presentation on January 19, 2009 at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration at DePaul University Law School)
As I believe all Americans of whatever political persuasion, I exulted in our remarkable moment as a country when Barack Obama took the oath of office as the 44th President of the United States of America. This remarkable American moment has also had resonances on the international plane as I have understood from commentators that a comparison has been made to the election of Nelson Mandela in South Africa a few years ago, that Obama is both a President and immediately an iconic transformative figure. I have also heard and read the commentators who speak to us of the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. having been achieved in this moment.
We now have a president who uses arguably unconstitutional powers that have been universally accepted to do GOOD things. Is this good or bad?
Those of us who prefer justice to arbitrary and unaccountable detention without charge or trial were delighted when, last week, Barack Obama fulfilled a long-stated promise and issued a presidential order stating that Guantánamo will be closed “as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order,” and establishing an immediate review of the cases of the remaining 242 prisoners to work out whether they can be released.
Senator Feingold (WI): Congress Has An Independent Responsibility to Investigate Wrongdoing
7:51 mins. - Sen. Feingold's statement starts at 3:51 mins.
ACLU Calls On Justice Department To Release Bush Administration Torture And Surveillance Memos | Press Release
Releasing Secret Legal Opinions Will Help Turn Page On Lawless Era, Group Says
In a letter sent to the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) today, the American Civil Liberties Union requested the release of secret memos that provided the legal basis for many of the Bush administration's controversial national security policies. The Justice Department continues to withhold many legal opinions, including memos purporting to allow torture and warrantless surveillance. The ACLU has previously sought the memos through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
I was shocked. For six years, I had been meeting secretly with the GOP mole I
called "Shallow Throat"** -- a high-ranking official in the Bush
Administration -- and each time, ST made sure to wear different wigs and scarves and dark
glasses. Now, here was Shallow Throat in front of me, at a Smithsonian cafe,
with no disguise. Except this time wearing a smile a mile wide.
"You've outed yourself," I said. "And you're grinning like a banshee. Has
Obama's election liberated you?"
By Dave Lindorff
President Barack Obama and his economic team are being careful to couch all their talk about economic stimulus programs and bank bailout programs in warnings that the economic downturn is serious and that it will take considerable time to bounce back.
I’m reminded of an experience I had with Chinese medicine when I was living in Shanghai back in 1992. I had come down with a nasty case of the flu while teaching journalism at Fudan University on a Fulbright Scholar program.
Special Comment: Why Obama Must Prosecute Bush's Torture
10:09 mins. - Note the "Arrest Bush" sign sporadically behind Olbermann.
BY Marisa Taylor, McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON — Dozens of secret documents justifying the Bush administration's spying and interrogation programs could see the light of day because of a new presidential directive.
The American Civil Liberties Union asked the Obama administration on Wednesday to release Justice Department memos that provided the legal underpinning for harsh interrogations, eavesdropping and secret prisons.
For years, the Bush administration refused to release them, citing national security, attorney-client privilege and the need to protect the government's deliberative process.
U.S. lawmakers considering the closure of the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention center will likely be looking at a rehabilitation program in Saudi Arabia that focuses on religious re-education for captured jihadists.
President Barack Obama last week issued executive orders relating to Guantanamo, including one requiring that the facility at a U.S. Naval base in Cuba be closed within a year.
Now some analysts are asking not only if intelligence agencies will be able to get the information they need to keep America safe -- but also where the prisoners will eventually end up.
The answer to the second part of this question may lie partly in the Saudi rehab program that analysts in that country say has helped deal a big blow to al Qaeda.
As promised, President Obama has halted the Guantánamo Bay military commissions. He is on track to shutter the prison camp and will likely transfer many of the detainees to military prisons at home.
Guantánamo marks a dismal episode in American history, signifying seven years of tension with American tradition, the Constitution, international standards of humane treatment, habeas corpus, and the rule of law. It brings to mind the entirety of Bush’s detention policy—citizens imprisoned without trial, immigrants jailed for months without due process, hundreds indiscriminately rounded up in Iraq and Afghanistan, and “black sites” and foreign dictatorships where captives endure brutal interrogation under the auspices of “extraordinary rendition.”