Saturday, July 2

George H.W. Bush's Physician speaks out on torture

From the Washington Post:

The Stain of Torture

By Burton J. Lee III

Friday, July 1, 2005; Page A25

Having served as a doctor in the Army Medical Corps early in my career and as presidential physician to George H.W. Bush for four years, I might be expected to bring a skeptical and partisan perspective to allegations of torture and abuse by U.S. forces. I might even be expected to join those who, on the one hand, deny that U.S. personnel have engaged in systematic use of torture while, on the other, claiming that such abuse is justified. But I cannot do so.

It's precisely because of my devotion to country, respect for our military and commitment to the ethics of the medical profession that I speak out against systematic, government-sanctioned torture and excessive abuse of prisoners during our war on terrorism. I am also deeply disturbed by the reported complicity in these abuses of military medical personnel. This extraordinary shift in policy and values is alien to my concept of modern-day America and of my government and profession.



The military prides itself, as do physicians, on being professional in every sense of the word. It fosters leadership and discipline. When I served as White House physician, my entire professional staff was drawn from the military, and they were among the best and most competent people I have met, without qualification.

The military ethics that I know absolutely prohibit anything resembling torture. There are several good reasons for this. Prisoners should be treated as we would expect our prisoners to be treated. Discipline and order in the military ranks depend to a large extent on compliance with the prohibition of torture -- indeed, weak or damaged psyches inclined toward torture or abuse have generally been weeded out of the military, or at the very least given less responsibility. In addition, military leaders have long been aware that torture inflicts lasting damage on both the victim and the torturer. The systematic infliction of torture engenders deep hatred and hostility that transcends generations. And it perverts the role of medical personnel from healers to instruments of abuse.

Today, however, it seems as though our government and the military have slipped into Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness." The widespread reports of torture and ill-treatment -- frequently based on military and government documents -- defy the claim that this abusive behavior is limited to a few noncommissioned officers at Abu Ghraib or isolated incidents at Guantanamo Bay. When it comes to torture, the military's traditional leadership and discipline have been severely compromised up and down the chain of command. Why? I fear it is because the military has bowed to errant civilian leadership.


Vyan

Friday, July 1

Sandra Day O'Connor Retires from SCOTUS

AP Report: WASHINGTON
Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court and a swing vote on abortion as well as other contentious issues, announced her retirement Friday. A bruising Senate confirmation struggle loomed as
President Bush
pledged to name a successor quickly.

"It has been a great privilege indeed to have served as a member of the court for 24 terms," the 75-year-old justice wrote Bush in a one-paragraph resignation letter. "I will leave it with enormous respect for the integrity of the court and its role under our constitutional structure."

Little more than an hour later, Bush praised O'Connor as "a discerning and conscientious judge and a public servant of complete integrity." He said he would recommend a replacement who will "faithfully interpret" the laws.

<>O'Connor's announcement marked the first retirement in 11 years on an aging court. It came as a modest surprise, particularly since Chief Justice William Rehnquist has been the subject of retirement rumors for months. Rehnquist, 80 and ailing with thyroid cancer, has offered no hint as to his future plans.

O'Connor's decision capped a pioneer's career. President Reagan broke nearly 200 years of tradition when he tapped her — a top-ranked graduate of Stanford law school — for the high court.

Over time, she evolved into a moderate conservative, but more importantly, a majority maker.

She voted with a 5-4 majority, for example, on the case that effectively awarded the disputed 2000 presidential election to Bush. She was on the winning side again when the court upheld the right of women to have an abortion if their health were in danger.

She expressed her views pungently at times. Last week, in a dissent in a 5-4 ruling that let local governments take personal property to build malls and other businesses, she wrote that the majority had unwisely handed more power to the powerful.

"The specter of condemnation hangs over all property," O'Connor wrote. "Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing ... any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."

Bush pledged to send a nomination to the Senate in time for a vote by the time the court begins its new term in October. He said he and his administration would consult with lawmakers, and said "the nation deserves a dignified" confirmation debate.

<>One official said Bush's "short list" did not include any women, for example. O'Connor's retirement leaves Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the only woman among eight remaining justices.

Vyan

Inquiry of Delay finally moving forward

Posted by Kos:

DeLay inquiry will be moving forward in a couple of months.

Leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives ethics committee on Thursday cleared the way for a long-anticipated investigation of Majority Leader Tom DeLay by resolving a partisan staffing dispute [...]

The new accord will clear the way for the hiring of a nonpartisan staff, including investigators and a chief counsel, which could take a couple of months [...]

Under the deal, the committee's "nonpartisan staff" will be headed by a chief counsel-staff director accountable to the chairman and ranking Democrat.

Two "shared staff members" will have no managerial authority over the "nonpartisan staff," it added.

Hastings and Mollohan each appoint their own shared staff members, so named because they serve on the committee as well as in the lawmakers' congressional offices.

It may soon be time for DeLay to cash in his special card.

The best possible result we can expect from this investigation is that it exposes the total stink of curruption that has not only infected Delay, but also the entire Republican Caucus. If DeLay has knowingly accepted illegal campaign contributions from Foreign Governments and Lobbyists, how much of that money has been funnelled through ARMPAC? Currently all but five house Republicans have either accepted contributions from ARMPAC or given money to DeLay's criminal defense fund, or both.

If DeLay goes down, they ALL should go down with him. At which point we should give a great big "HELLO" to Speaker Pelosi.

Vyan

Conyers and Dems submit FOIA on DSM

RAWSTORY: BREAKING JUNE 30, DSM FOIA

"Representative John Conyers, Jr., (D-MI) House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member, along with 51 other Members today submitted a broad and comprehensive FOIA request to the White House, the Department of Defense, and the Department of State seeking any and all documents and materials concerning the Downing Street Minutes and the lead up to the Iraq war, RAW STORY has learned."

"In addition, the Members also formally requested that the House Committees on Judiciary, Armed Services, International Relations, and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence commence hearings on the Downing Street Minutes."


Mr. Brett Gerry
Office of Counsel to the President
Ms. Margaret Grafield
Information & Privacy Co-Ordinator
Mr C.Y. Talbott
Chief, Office of Freedom of Information & Security

June 30, 2005

Re: Request Submitted Under the Freedom of Information Act.

Dear Sirs and Madam:

This letter constitutes a request pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Recently leaked memoranda from Great Britain indicate that the US and the UK may have engaged in communications over the use of Iraqi intelligence, the existence of weapons of mass destruction, and potential military action in Iraq throughout the summer of 2002. This is allege to have occurred long before the Administration sought Congressional authority to engage in such military action. Because these memoranda raise serious questions over when these important decisions were made, we seek the release of all agency records, including but not limited o handwritten notes, formal correspondence, electronic mail messages, intelligence reports and other memoranda, as described in the numbered paragraphs below:

1. All original statements, documents, press releases, and the like,. and copies of the same, publicly issued, or available related to the lead-up to military action in Iraq, beginning with President Bush's transition into office in 2000 through the present.

2. All original documents, and copies of the same, as well as statements related to the subject matter of the Downing Street Minutes of July 23, 2002 and all similar and related memoranda.

3. All records regarding the collection and analysis of intelligence related to Iraq and to whether it possessed weapons of mass destruction, the type of weapons of mass destruction Iraq possessed, and any ties between Iraq and al Qaeda for the last ten years, i.e. January 1, 1995 to the date of issuance of the records in response to this request.

4. All records relating to the planning and preparation for military action in Iraq available in any and all entities of the Executive Branch of United States Government for the period from January 1, 1995 to October 16, 2002.

5. all records relating to sorties flown over Iraq in which bombs were dropped and to the selection of targets for the dropping of such bombs for the period from January 1, 1995 to October 16, 2002.

Please include all applicable records which are:
* held by constituent entities of the agency,
* incorporated into the agency's files and read by the agency,
* held by entities within the Executive Office of the President and not otherwise protected from disclosure by the Presidential Records Act.

We request a waiver of fees on the grounds that disclosure of the requested records is in the public interest and because disclosure "is likely to contribute significantly to the public understanding of the activities or operations of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.

Numerous news articles reflect the significant public interest in the records we seek. Disclosure of the requested records will contribute significantly to the public's understanding of government conduct.

We recognize that several of FOIA's exemptions relating to the protection of national security interests and the government's deliberative processes may pertain to this request. Insofar as you feel these exemptions or criterion do apply, we respectfully request that you only redact sensitive information and still provide responsive memoranda, correspondence and other documentation in redacted form. This should include any e-mail correspondence as well, including the disclosure of the identities of correspondents, the mailing date for said correspondence, and the message's subject line, wherever possible. similarly, becaue the national security exemption only protects information whose disclosure would impair national security, we expect any documentation containing intelligence now publicly known to be released in its original form or redacted only as necessary to protect the disclosure of information still falling within the appropriate FOIA exemption.

If our request is denied in whole or in part, we ask that you justify all deletions, omissions, or denials by reference to specific exemptions of the FOIA. We expect you to release all sefrefable portions of otherwise exempt material. We reserve the right to appeal a decision to withhold any information of to deny a waiver of fees. As you know, FOIA provides that even if some requested material is properly except from mandatory disclosure, all segregable portions of the same must be released.

In addition, we ask that you exercise your discretion to release information that my be techinically expempt but where withholding would serve no important public interest.

If the requested records are not in the possession of your agency (agencies), we ask that you forward this request to any agency you believe may have the records that are responsive to this request. In the alternative, we ask that you inforrm us of other agencies that may have such records, to the extent of your agency's knowledge>

If you have any questions regarding this request, please telephone Stacey Dansky of the House Judiciary staff. We will be happy to discuss ways in which this request may be clarified or slightly adjusted to reflect the agnecy's filing system and to expedite the search, if necessary.

We look forward to your reply to this request within twenty (20) business days, as required under 5 U.S.C> 522(a)(6)(A)(i).

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention and response to this matter.

Sincerely,

signatories

John Conyers Jr.

51 other members of Congress


Factcheck on Bush Speach

Bush's Iraq Speech: Long On Assertion, Short On Facts

Bush says "progress is uneven" in Iraq, but accentuates positive evidence and mostly ignores the negative. June 30, 2005

Summary

Standing before a crowd of uniformed soldiers, President Bush addressed the nation on June 27 to reaffirm America's commitment to the global war on terrorism. But throughout the speech Bush continually stated his opinions and conclusions as though they were facts, and he offered little specific evidence to support his assertions.

Here we provide some additional context, both facts that support Bush's case that "we have made significant progress" in Iraq, as well as some of the negative evidence he omitted.

Analysis

Bush's prime-time speech at Fort Bragg, NC coincided with the one-year anniversary of the handover of soverignty to Iraqi authorities. It was designed to lay out America's role in Iraq amid sinking public support for the war and calls by some lawmakers to withdraw troops.

The Bloodshed

Bush acknowledged the high level of violence in Iraq as he sought to reassure the public.

Bush: The work in Iraq is difficult and dangerous. Like most Americans, I see the images of violence and bloodshed. Every picture is horrifying and the suffering is real. Amid all this violence, I know Americans ask the question: Is the sacrifice worth it?

What Bush did not mention is that by most measures the violence is getting worse. Both April and May were record months in Iraq for car bombings, for example, with more than 135 of them being set off each month. And the bombings are getting more deadly. May was a record month for deaths from bombings, with 381 persons killed in "multiple casualty" bombings that took two or more lives, according to figures collected by the Brookings Institution in its "Iraq Index." The Brookings index is compiled from a variety of sources including official government statistics, where those are available, and other public sources such as news accounts and statements of Iraqi government officials.

The number of Iraqi police and military who have been killed is also rising, reaching 296 so far in June, nearly triple the 109 recorded in January and 103 in Febrary, according to a tally of public information by the website Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, a private group that documents each fatality from public statements and news reports. Estimates of the total number of Iraqi civilians killed each month as a result of "acts of war" have been rising as well, according to the Brookings index.

The trend is also evident in year-to-year figures.

In the past twelve months, there have been 25% more U.S. troop fatalities and nearly double the average number of insurgent attacks per day as there were in the preceeding 12 months.

Reconstruction Progress

In talking about Iraqi reconstruction, Bush highlighted the positive and omitted the negative:

Bush: We continued our efforts to help them rebuild their country. . . . Our progress has been uneven but progress is being made. We are improving roads and schools and health clinics and working to improve basic services like sanitation, electricity and water. And together with our allies, we will help the new Iraqi government deliver a better life for its citizens.

Indeed, the State Department's most recent "Iraq Weekly Status Report" shows progress is uneven. Education is a positive; official figures show 3,056 schools have been rehabilitated and millions of "student kits" have been distributed to primary and secondary schools. School enrollments are increasing. And there are also 145 new primary healthcare centers currently under construction. The official figures show 78 water treatment projects underway, nearly half of them completed, and water utility operators are regularly trained in two-week courses.

On the negative side, however, State Department figures show overall electricity production is barely above pre-war levels. Iraqis still have power only 12 hours daily on average.

Iraqis are almost universally unhappy about that. Fully 96 percent of urban Iraqis said they were dissatisfied when asked about "the availability of electricity in your neighborhood." That poll was conducted in February for the U.S. military, and results are reported in Brookings' "Iraq Index." The same poll also showed that 20 percent of Iraqi city-dwellers still report being without water to their homes.

Read More at FactCheck.org

Vyan

Thursday, June 30

Media Matters on Bush Speech

How well did the media cover and analyze President Bush's recent Iraq War Address?

According to Media Matters for America, the view is considerably dim.

Matthews' panel problem: Conservatives saturated MSNBC's coverage of presidential address
In post-speech coverage of President Bush's June 28 address, MSNBC presented a panel and guest roster dominated by Republican officials, commentators and activists. Between 8:30 and 10 p.m. ET, six of the 10 guests who appeared on the special edition of MSNBC's Hardball With Chris Matthews expressed support for Bush's speech. Only two guests criticized the president's address. Of the remaining two -- both journalists -- Newsweek managing editor Jon Meacham lauded Bush's speech with florid language, while noting that skeptics might not have been persuaded.

CNN cited meaningless poll, failed to note heavy Republican slant
CNN anchor Kyra Phillips touted a meaningless Gallup "flash poll" in coverage of reactions to President Bush's June 28 speech on Iraq, failing to inform viewers that the poll questioned far more Republicans than Democrats. Phillips only hinted at this sampling problem by noting that "presidential speech viewers are a much more partisan group than the general public."

Read more...

NBC noted Bush speech's references to 9-11, didn't mention that Bush previously admitted Saddam wasn't involved

In its prime-time coverage of President Bush's June 28 speech at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, NBC News anchors Brian Williams and Tim Russert noted that Bush referenced the September 11 terrorist attacks several times in his speech, but they failed to mention Bush's own previous admission that there was "no evidence" of a link between Saddam Hussein and the attacks.
CNN, MSNBC failed to note that applause at Bush speech was prompted by Bush staffers

After President Bush's June 28 speech at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, reporters on ABC, NBC and Fox News noted that the only round of applause during the speech was initiated by Bush staffers. But CNN and MSNBC made no mention of the staffers' role, instead attributing the outbreak of applause to the troops. CBS' brief post-speech coverage made no mention of the applause.

Read more...

CNN poll played into White House spin on Iraq, war on terror

A recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll asked respondents to respond "yes" or "no" to the question: "Is the War in Iraq part of the War on Terrorism?" But by asking respondents simply whether the statement is true, the poll, conducted June 24-26, ignored the circumstances that make it true. The Bush administration promoted Iraq's purported connection to terrorism as a rationale for the March 2003 invasion, and as a reason for the continued U.S. military presence in the region. But Iraq became a center of global terrorism only after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq sparked a terrorist insurgency, according to the CIA.

Vyan

Wednesday, June 29

The Iraq Speech

With a speach dominated by references to 9/11, last night the President attempted valiantly to generate a rebound in his horribly flagging approval ratings (43% Approve, 53% Disapprove) , and at best achieved a mixed bag of results. He showed his resolve and commitment to continue the battle with the "terrorists" in Iraq. He was determined, but did he give the American people what they truly needed to hear?

Full Text of Speach
: The troops here and across the world are fighting a global war on terror. The war reached our shores on September the 11th, 2001. The terrorists who attacked us -- and the terrorists we face -- murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent. Their aim is to remake the Middle East in their own grim image of tyranny and oppression -- by toppling governments, by driving us out of the region, and by exporting terror.

...

To achieve these aims, they have continued to kill -- in Madrid, Istanbul, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh, Bali, and elsewhere. The terrorists believe that free societies are essentially corrupt and decadent, and with a few hard blows they can force us to retreat. They are mistaken. After September the 11th, I made a commitment to the American people: This nation will not wait to be attacked again. We will defend our freedom. We will take the fight to the enemy.

...

The lesson of this experience is clear: The terrorists can kill the innocent, but they cannot stop the advance of freedom. The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September the 11th, if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi, and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden. For the sake of our nation's security, this will not happen on my watch.

...

We have more work to do, and there will be tough moments that test America's resolve. We're fighting against men with blind hatred -- and armed with lethal weapons -- who are capable of any atrocity. They wear no uniform; they respect no laws of warfare or morality. They take innocent lives to create chaos for the cameras. They are trying to shake our will in Iraq, just as they tried to shake our will on September the 11th, 2001. They will fail. The terrorists do not understand America. The American people do not falter under threat, and we will not allow our future to be determined by car bombers and assassins.

After September the 11th, 2001, I told the American people that the road ahead would be difficult, and that we would prevail. Well, it has been difficult -- and we are prevailing. Our enemies are brutal, but they are no match for the United States of America, and they are no match for the men and women of the United States military.
It's clear that his plummeting polls were the match that lit the fuse on this new public relations campaign by the President, while I'm sure he fervertly hope his most recent campaigns on Social Security aren't an indication of his eventual success.

Salon.com was quite skeptical on this point.

Bush needs those supporters back. Without them, his poll numbers make him look like some sort of disgraced lame duck, and Republicans like John McCain and Chuck Hagel and Lindsey Graham and Walter Jones feel not only free but maybe compelled to put some distance between themselves and the president. Bush doesn't need to get his approval ratings back to the stratospheric levels he enjoyed just after 9/11, but he's got to get them back to the 50-50 range that got him re-elected. The Bush team knows how to maneuver there: Claim a mandate, ram whatever you need through Congress, and marginalize anyone who dares to disagree. With a 53 percent disapproval rating, that dog won't hunt, at least not without a lot of gnats nipping at its knees
It appears though that the press responses to the speach were less than overjoyed - as ABCNews displayed.

President Bush was more frank about the problems we face in Iraq than he has been in the past.

...

Key parts of his speech, however, were driven by spin, rather than a frank effort to warn the American people of the sacrifices necessary to win and the risks involved. The end result was to mislead in ways that could come back to haunt the administration and reduce longer-term public support.

...

In short, this was not the honest speech that Americans needed to hear; it was dominated by efforts at spin control. It did not explain the sacrifices needed, or the risks to be faced. It provided a partial and largely misleading explanation for the U.S. role in Iraq, without mention of our moral and ethical obligation to the Iraqi people and the vital strategic interests involved. Instead of "blood, sweat, and tears," we got spin, risk avoidance, and promises without cost. Normal perhaps by today's political standards, but scarcely the kind of realism and leadership that will inspire the continuing American support that U.S. forces, Iraq, and our allies will need during the difficult and uncertain years to come.

For the most part, I agree that retreating from Iraq would be a disaster both for the future standing of America on international affairs, as well as a tragedy for the Iraqi people. They have indeed shown great courage and faith, and do deserve our support and protection until they can stand on their own. Success in Iraq would be an incredible blow to the jihadist cause, but accomplishing that goal will in all likelyhood take what some have said would be a "generational commitment" of a dozen years or more.

As I expected, President Bush once again repeated his stealth strategy - at least it was a stealth strategy when we began the war - that our goal is to turn Iraq into a deliberate "front line" of the war on terror. Terrorists have not yet attacked the U.S. mainland, they instead target our efforts and soldiers elsewhere. This essentially means that we are using our armed forces and the Iraqi people - as bait. Luring international jihadist into a giant mouse trap made of sand, powered by oil, sweat, muslcle and blood. I have agreed ever since I first noticed the President putting forth this view during the debates that there is at least some merit to this plan, however it's effectiveness has to be balanced against the fact that American began this war under false pretenses. False claims and a failure of integrity which is directly, in my view and echoed by others such as Michael Scheurer former head of the CIA's Bin Laden Desk, that have given the jihadist near inexhaustable recruitment fuel. Will we manage to kill or capture all of this key portions of the perpetual jihad engine that Iraq has become before we exhaust our treasury and destroy our economy? I often wonder.

At the same time the President claims that we are attempting to create a new Iraqi democracy, which will be a beacon of hope to the region. Freedom will spread like a wave from nation to nation. That would indeed be a glorious thing, but is it possible to accomplish this while simultaneously using the exact same nation as a jihad magnet? I think not. I think that peace and stability are not enhanced by endless chaotic guerilla warfare. It might be possible to accomplish one goal: crush the terrorists - or - bring peace and stabiilty to Iraq, but not both at the same time. Such a premise is simply not supported by a healthy review of the reality on the ground.

The true question which should have been asked and answered is: Can this American Administration - noting the repeated string of mistakes and blunders they have made so far, from mis-assessing Iraq's WMD (perhaps deliberately), to misjudging the intensity of the insurgency, failing to maintain basic services of electricity and water in the region, failing to properly plan for the occupancy and eventual withdrawal, mistreating Iraqi prisoners, and causing the unneccesary deaths of an inordinate amount of Iraqi civilians and international reporters - can President Bush effectively clean up the mess that he himself created?

Since the first step in fixing a mistake is recognizing that you've made a mistake, and facing up to the truth of that mistake, the answer to that question seems quite doubtful.

Vyan

Tuesday, June 28

Bush picks another winner!

Concerns arise over Bush's pick for EPA job
Lawyer works for firm that represents W.R. Grace, others

By CHARLES POPE
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

WASHINGTON -- President Bush has nominated Granta Nakayama, a partner in a law firm whose clients include W.R. Grace, BP, Dow Chemical and DuPont, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency's far-flung enforcement division.

Selecting a lawyer and an engineer with one of the nation's largest corporate law firms, whose clients have deep and occasionally controversial relations with the EPA, triggered concerns that Nakayama would not be able to aggressively enforce environmental laws.

Foremost among those concerns is W.R. Grace, which is under federal criminal indictment on charges related to the operation of its vermiculite mine in Libby, Mont. Hundreds of workers and Libby residents contracted lethal asbestos-related disease -- a situation that gained national attention after a Seattle Post-Intelligencer series in 1999.

A follow-up health screening in Libby showed that nearly 2,000 residents of the tiny Montana town have lung abnormalities that could herald asbestos-related disease.

Vermiculite ore from the Libby mine was sent around the country for processing, and asbestos-related disease followed its path. Between 15 million and 35 million homes nationwide have asbestos-tainted vermiculite insulation from Libby in attics and walls.

The trial, which is expected to begin in September, could result in prison sentences against seven current and former Grace executives. The Justice Department alleges that Grace executives knew about asbestos-related dangers in Libby but concealed those dangers from its workers, government regulators and the public.

More...