.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

 

NYT: Younger Clerics Showing Power in Iraq's Unrest

By ROBERT F. WORTH and EDWARD WONG

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 25 — American officials have been repeatedly stunned and frequently thwarted in the past three years by the extraordinary power of Muslim clerics over Iraqi society. But in the sectarian violence of the past few days, that power has taken a new and ominous turn, as rival hard-line Shiite clerical factions have pushed each other toward ever more militant and anti-American stances, Iraqi and Western officials say.

Even Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the paramount Shiite cleric to whom the Americans have often looked for moderation, appears to have been outflanked by younger and more aggressive figures. After a bomb exploded in Samarra at one of Iraq's most sacred Shiite shrines on Wednesday, many young Shiites ignored Ayatollah Sistani's pleas for calm, instead heeding more extreme calls and attacking Sunni mosques and killing Sunni civilians, even imams, in a crisis that has threatened to provoke open civil war.

On Saturday, the sectarian bloodletting continued in Karbala and the Baghdad area, bringing the death toll since the bombing to more than 200.

Full N.Y. Times story.

 

AJ: New attacks target Saudi sites

2/25/2006 2:36:00 PM GMT
Bombers allegedly belonging to Al Qaeda network threatened to attack more Saudi oil facilities, according to the group statement posted Saturday on a website where they also admitted responsibility for the foiled attacks on the Abiqaiq plant in eastern Saudi Arabia, The Associated Press reported.

Driving cars packed with explosives, two attackers tried yesterday to blow up Saudi Abiqaiq, the world's largest oil-processing plant. But Saudi authorities managed to foil the attack. However, oil rose yesterday by more than $2 a barrel, which, according to analysts, indicates the massive effect a successful strike would have on the kingdom's oil supplies.

Saudi security guards opened fire at the attackers and the bombs exploded outside the gates, killing one of them and fatally wounding two guards.

But Saudi government official, who demanded anonymity, stressed that the kingdom would "ensure the flow of oil despite the terrorist threats,"

“Energy structures are always a target and always vulnerable,'' he said.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi, who met U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez in Riyadh on Saturday, stated that the assault on the Abqaiq compound near the Persian Gulf "did not affect operations", asserting that exports continued to flow.

Source: AP & Al Jazeera.

Friday, February 24, 2006

 

AP: Baghdad sealed off to stem violence

By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press Writer -- Friday, 23 minutes ago

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's most influential Shiite political leader called Friday for Sunni-Shiite unity as religious figures sought to calm passions and pull the nation from the brink of civil war after the bombing of a Shiite shrine two days ago and a wave of deadly reprisal attacks.

An Iraqi poliman stands guard as Sunni Muslims offer friday prayers in Baghdad, Friday, Feb.24, 2006. Police and soldiers blocked major roads and surrounded Baghdad's two main Sunni mosques as streets throughout this city of nearly 7 million emptied of people and traffic. The nation stood on the brink of civil war and the American strategy in Iraq faced it's gravest test since the 2003 invasion. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hato)An Iraqi policeman stands guard as Sunni Muslims, left, offer Friday prayers in Baghdad, Friday, Feb.24, 2006. Police and soldiers blocked major roads and surrounded Baghdad's two main Sunni mosques as streets throughout this city of nearly 7 million emptied of people and traffic. The nation stood on the brink of civil war and the American strategy in Iraq faced it's gravest test since the 2003 invasion. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hato)

The government, meanwhile, announced stepped-up security measures, including a ban on entering or leaving Baghdad and deployment of armed forces in tense areas.

An extraordinary daytime curfew in Baghdad and three nearby provinces appeared to have blunted the wave of attacks on Sunni mosques that followed Wednesday's bombing, which destroyed the golden dome of the Shiite Askariya shrine in Samarra.

Still, Iraqis feared the violence that killed about 130 people after the Samarra attack had pushed the country closer to sectarian civil war than at any time since the U.S.-led invasion nearly three years ago.

Several joint Sunni-Shiite prayer services were announced for Friday, including one at the Askariya shrine. But security forces turned away about 700 people, virtually all of them Sunnis, who showed up for the service.

In a statement read over national television, top Shiite leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, said those who carried out the bombing in Samarra "do not represent the Sunnis in Iraq."

Al-Hakim instead blamed Saddam Hussein loyalists and followers of al-Qaida in Iraq boss Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

"We all have to unite in order to eliminate them," al-Hakim said in a statement. "This is what al-Zarqawi is working for, that is, to ignite sectarian strife in the country," he added. "We call for self-restraint and not to be dragged down by the plots of the enemy of Iraq."

Dhafer al-Ani, spokesman for the biggest Sunni Arab bloc in parliament, praised al-Hakim's statement, calling it "a step on the road of healing the wounds."

But he said his Iraqi Accordance Front was still waiting for an apology from the government for failing to protect Sunni mosques from reprisal attacks, as well as a commitment to repair the damage and bring those responsible to justice.

Full AP-Yahoo News story.


Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texas
lawfirm webpage:
www.haigler.info
political blog: http://demlog.blogspot.com

 

AP: FBI warned Gitmo about torture - Feb. 24

By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer -- Fri Feb 24, 12:13 AM ET

WASHINGTON - FBI agents repeatedly warned military interrogators at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that their aggressive methods were legally risky and also likely to be ineffective, according to FBI memos made public Thursday.

'AA US Army soldier, right, looks through binoculars while standing on a guard tower at maximum security prison Camp Delta at Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba. (AFP/Pool/File/Mark Wilson)

A senior officer at the prison for terror suspects also "blatantly misled" his superiors at the Pentagon into thinking the FBI had endorsed the "aggressive and controversial interrogation plan" for one detainee, according to one of the 54 memos released by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The memos had been previously released, but in more heavily censored form, as part of an ACLU lawsuit under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

FBI officials, whose names were blacked out, indicated that senior military officials, including former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, were aware of and in some cases had approved of putting hoods on prisoners, threatening them with violence and subjecting them to humiliating treatment.

Wolfowitz is now president of the World Bank. Kevin Kellems, a spokesman for the World Bank, said Thursday, "This old story is fictional and is authored by anonymous people who have no real knowledge of what his role was."

Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita said: "These allegations are secondhand allegations made by people not directly involved. Nonetheless, the Department of Defense investigated them thoroughly and much of what was asserted in the e-mails was not substantiated. And nothing involving the deputy secretary of defense was substantiated."

Agents on temporary assignment at the U.S. Navy facility in Cuba brought their concerns to the prison's commander, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, and laid them out in detailed messages to top bureau officials at FBI headquarters in Washington.

One memo from May 2003 describes tension between the FBI agents and their military counterparts over "aggressive interrogation tactics in GTMO which are of questionable effectiveness and subject to uncertain interpretation based on law and regulation."

In other e-mails, some FBI officials said that while the techniques they observed were too aggressive by the FBI's standards, the interrogations were not abusive.

A military investigation into FBI reports of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo recommended that Miller be reprimanded for failing to oversee the interrogation of a high-value detainee, which was found to have been abusive. But a top general rejected the recommendation. Miller, who took over detainee operations in Iraq in March 2004, recently requested early retirement.

The documents provided to the ACLU also contain acknowledgment that the FBI was aware of allegations of abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq before they came to public attention.

Ed Lueckenhoff, an FBI official in Iraq, said in a January 2004 e-mail "that the FBI will not enter into an investigation of the alleged abuse" because it was not part of the bureau's mission in Iraq.

"Second, we need to maintain good will and relations with those operating the prison. Our involvement in the investigation of the alleged abuse might harm our liaison," Lueckenhoff wrote in that e-mail to senior officials in Washington.

The ACLU's Jameel Jaffer said the memo "suggests the FBI turned a blind eye to preserve its relationship with administrators of the prison."

FBI special agent Richard Kolko, a spokesman in Washington, said FBI agents properly reported abuse allegations through the bureau's chain of command, but noted, "It is not within the scope of the FBI's jurisdiction overseas to investigate reports of alleged abuse of military detainees."

Full AP-Yahoo News story.

Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texas
lawfirm webpage:
www.haigler.info



If those links don't work, try our political blog: http://demlog.blogspot.com.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

 

CNN: Libby says Fitzgerald not appointed properly

Thursday, February 23, 2006; Posted: 5:47 p.m. EST (22:47 GMT)
 
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lawyers for Vice President Dick Cheney's former top aide asked a federal judge Thursday to dismiss his indictment on grounds that the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case lacked authority.

Scooter LibbyIn a court filing, lawyers for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, left, said his indictment violated the Constitution because Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald was not appointed by the president with the consent of the Senate.

The defense attorneys also said Fitzgerald's appointment violated federal law because his investigation was not supervised by the attorney general. They said only Congress can approve such an arrangement.

The lawyers said illegal assignment of "unsupervised and undirected power" to Fitzgerald requires that he be relieved of his duties in the investigation and that all actions he has taken be voided.

Fitzgerald was appointed in December 2003 after former Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself from the investigation because of his close relationships with White House officials. Then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey, acting in Ashcroft's place in the matter, selected Fitzgerald.

Comey gave Fitzgerald sweeping power to conduct the investigation into the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity, exempting the special counsel from following rules that apply to all U.S. attorneys throughout the nation.

Unlike every other federal prosecutor, Fitzgerald did not have to seek approval from senior Justice Department officials to grant immunity or subpoena reporters and news organizations. Nor did he have to advise senior Justice officials before he sought Libby's indictment.

"The attorney general may delegate powers but he may not abdicate responsibility," Libby's lawyers wrote.

Full CNN story.

Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texas
lawfirm webpage:
www.haigler.info
political blog: http://demlog.blogspot.com

 

UKG: British MPs question foreign secretary Straw as air traffic controllers confirm 200 U.S. CIA flights

· Revelations 'fly in face' of government answers
· Ministers criticised over attitude to human rights

by Richard Norton-Taylor and Ian Cobain -- Thursday February 23, 2006, The Guardian

U.K. Foreign Secretary Jack StrawHouse of Commons Members of Parliament (MPs) will today chastise ministers, including foreign secretary, Jack Straw, right, over their stance on the US practice of "extraordinary rendition" amid the first official admission that 200 suspect CIA flights had used British airspace.

In a report highly critical of the government's attitude towards human rights abuses, the Commons foreign affairs committee accuses ministers of failing in their duty to find out whether Britain has been complicit in the US policy of secretly transferring detainees to places where they risked being tortured.

Members of the committee say they have not been told the full story despite months of trying. They are to summon the foreign secretary to give evidence again on an issue which has serious political and legal implications. The move was agreed after Mr Straw suggested he would be questioned in private only by the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, Paul Keetch, a Liberal Democrat member of the Commons foreign affairs group, said yesterday.

National Air Traffic Services (Nats) confirmed yesterday that two aircraft believed to have been chartered by the CIA made "around 200 journeys" through British airspace within the past five years.

The flights of the two planes, one a Gulfstream, the other a Boeing 737, were identified by the Guardian last September. Britain and the US have not denied reports that the planes were chartered by the CIA. Flight plans do not record the purpose of the flights, a Nats spokesman said yesterday. "They might have been CIA flights taking officials rather than people in orange boiler suits," he added.

The disclosure came as the Council of Europe in effect named and shamed five countries which failed to explain what steps they were taking to protect people from being detained and mistreated through rendition.

The council, which oversees the implementation of the European convention on human rights, said that Belgium, Bosnia, Georgia, Italy and San Marino had missed the deadline of midnight on Tuesday for submissions which were expected to explain how they were meeting their obligations under international law.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD), Department for Transport, the Home Office and the Foreign Office have all said in answers to parliamentary questions - notably from the Lib Dems and the Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie - that they are unaware of any rendition flights since 1998, that they do not keep records, or that records they did have had been destroyed.

Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, yesterday wrote to the armed forces minister, Adam Ingram, saying he would complain to the parliamentary ombudsman unless the MoD gave details of flights which landed at RAF airfields. Mr Ingram has said they could be provided only at "disproportionate cost".

The Guardian has seen evidence that the MoD has details of the flights, including their origin and destination.

Mr Clegg also said that the disclosure by Britain's air traffic control service "flies in the face of the answer we received from the government that only two or three cases of rendition ever took place".

Mr Straw said yesterday: "We know of no occasion where there has been a rendition through UK territory, or indeed over UK territory, nor do we have any reason to believe that such flights have taken place without our knowledge."

Terry Davis, the Council of Europe's secretary general, said that all five countries he named had "failed to comply with their legal obligation" under the human rights convention. These, he added, "include positive obligations, meaning that governments are required to take action to prevent violations from taking place".

Source: UK Guardian.

Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texas
lawfirm webpage:
www.haigler.info
political blog: http://demlog.blogspot.com

 

AP: Sunni mosque attacks spread

By ALEXANDRA ZAVIS, Associated Press Writer -- Thursday, 54 minutes ago

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A major Sunni Arab bloc Thursday suspended talks with Shiite and Kurdish parties on a new government after scores of Sunni mosques were attacked and dozens of bodies found in a wave of reprisal violence following the bombing of a revered Shiite shrine.

Violence continued Thursday with an attack on a Sunni mosque in Baqouba, where eight Iraqi soldiers were killed in a bombing and nearly a dozen people were wounded.

Iraqi soldiers inspect the scene following an explosion in Baqouba, Iraq, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2006. A bomb exploded Thursday in this city northeast of Baghdad, killing eight Iraqi soldiers, the Iraqi military said. (AP Photo/Mohammed Adnan)Iraqi soldiers inspect the scene, left, following an explosion in Baqouba, Iraq, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2006. (AP Photo/Mohammed Adnan)

Faced with the grim prospect of sectarian war, the government extended the curfew in Baghdad and Salaheddin province for two days in the wake of Wednesday's attack on the Askariya shrine in Samarra. All leaves for Iraqi soldiers and police were canceled and personnel were ordered to report to their units.

Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr slammed the Iraqi government and U.S. forces for not protecting the Samarra shrine, also known as the Golden Mosque, and ordered his militia to defend Shiite holy sites across Iraq.

"If the government had real sovereignty, then nothing like this would have happened," al-Sadr said a statement. "Brothers in the Mahdi Army must protect all Shiite shrines and mosques, especially in Samarra."

At least 46 bodies were found scattered across Iraq late Wednesday and early Thursday, many of them shot execution-style and dumped in Shiite-dominated parts of the capital, Baghdad.

They included a prominent Al-Arabiya TV female correspondent and two other Iraqi journalists, who had been covering Wednesday's explosion in Samarra. Their bullet-riddled bodies were found on the outskirts of the mostly Sunni Arab city 60 miles north of Baghdad.

Full AP-Yahoo News story.

Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texas
lawfirm webpage: www.haigler.info
political blog: http://demlog.blogspot.com

 

DVO: Call to filibuster for liberty - Feb. 23

Van Os, right, with Smith & Hightower, leftby David Van Os (seen with Jim Hightower, left, & Sheril Smith), Democratic Candidate for Texas Attorney General

"In 1836 our beloved Texas joined the community of nations as one of the earliest Constitutional democracies in the world. Now our democracy is being ripped off by corporate and political power-grabbers. In the spirit of our courageous forebears, we the people now must rise up in peaceful political revolution, to rid our state of government by professional power brokers and influence peddlers.

"From 6:00 p.m. March 3 to 6:00 p.m. March 4, I will conduct a 24-hour Filibuster for Independence on the State Capitol Grounds in Austin. Please join me to make sure the voices of the people are heard. We the people of Texas WILL WIN our independence from corruption, cronyism, corporate government, and Bushite tyranny."


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

 

CHB: SS leak says Cheney was drunk when he shot Whittington

by Doug Thompson, of Capitol Hill Blue

Secret Service agents guarding Vice President Dick Cheney when he shot Texas lawyer Harry Whittington on a hunting outing two weeks ago say Cheney was "clearly inebriated" at the time of the shooting.

Agents observed several members of the hunting party, including the Vice President, consuming alcohol before and during the hunting expedition, the report notes, and Cheney exhibited "visible signs" of impairment, including slurred speech and erratic actions.

According to those who have talked with the agents and others present at the outing, Cheney was drunk when he gunned down his friend and the day-and-a-half delay in allowing Texas law enforcement officials on the ranch where the shooting occurred gave all members of the hunting party time to sober up.

We talked with a number of administration officials who are privy to inside information on the Vice President's shooting "accident" and all admit Secret Service agents and others say they saw Cheney consume far more than the "one beer' he claimed he drank at lunch earlier that day.

"This was a South Texas hunt," says one White House aide. "Of course there was drinking. There's always drinking. Lots of it."

One agent at the scene has been placed on administrative leave and another requested reassignment this week. A memo reportedly written by one agent has been destroyed, sources said Wednesday afternoon.

Cheney has a long history of alcohol abuse, including two convictions of driving under the influence when he was younger. Doctors tell me that someone like Cheney, who is taking blood thinners because of his history of heart attacks, could get legally drunk now after consuming just one drink.

If Cheney was legally drunk at the time of the shooting, he could be guilty of a felony under Texas law and the shooting, ruled an accident by a compliant Kenedy County Sheriff, would be a prosecutable offense.

But we will never know for sure because the owners of the Armstrong Ranch, where the shooting occurred, barred the sheriff's department from the property on the day of the shooting and Kenedy County Sheriff Ramon Salinas III agreed to wait until the next day to send deputies in to talk to those involved.

Sheriff's Captain Charles Kirk says he went to the Armstrong Ranch immediately after the shooting was reported on Saturday, February 11 but both he and a game warden were not allowed on the 50,000-acre property. He called Salinas who told him to forget about it and return to the station.

"I told him don't worry about it. I'll make a call," Salinas said. The sheriff claims he called another deputy who moonlights at the Armstrong ranch, said he was told it was "just an accident" and made the decision to wait until Sunday to investigate. "We've known these people for years. They are honest and wouldn't call us, telling us a lie," Salinas said.

Like all elected officials in Kenedy County, Salinas owes his job to the backing and financial support of Katherine Armstrong, owner of the ranch and the county's largest employer.

"The Armstrongs rule Kenedy County like a fiefdom," says a former employee.

Secret Service officials also took possession of all tests on Whittington's blood at the hospitals where he was treated for his wounds. When asked if a blood alcohol test had been performed on Whittington, the doctors who treated him at Christus Spohn Hospital Memorial in Corpus Christi or the hospital in Kingsville refused to answer. One admits privately he was ordered by the Secret Service to "never discuss the case with the press."

It's a sure bet that if a private doctor who treated the victim of Cheney's reckless and drunken actions can't talk to the public then any evidence that shows the Vice President drunk as a skunk will never see the light of day.

(Updated at 7:21 p.m. EST to reflect new information)

Source: Capitol Hill Blue.


Other links:

Media Matters for America.

Common Dreams * Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community.

Buzzflash News.

Latest post to DemLog.


 

AFP: Rice fails to dissuade Arab support of Hamas

AFP News -- Wednesday, 45 minutes ago

RIYADH (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Arab refusal to isolate Hamas as she arrived in Saudi Arabia on the second leg of a Middle East tour aimed at putting pressure on the Palestinian movement to renounce violence.

PhotoUS Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (2nd right) with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz in Riyadh, right. Rice met with Arab refusal to isolate Hamas as she arrived in Saudi Arabia on the second leg of a Middle East tour aimed at putting pressure on the Palestinian movement to renounce violence.  (AFP/SPA)

Her Saudi counterpart, Prince Saud al-Faisal, warned that Riyadh would continue to back the Palestinian Authority financially, even after the radical movement won elections in the territories.

"We do not want to link international aid to the Palestinian people with considerations other than their terrible humanitarian needs," Saud told a press conference held jointly with Rice, who repeated the American position that the US was conscious of the Palestinians' needs.

Washington has asked the Palestinian Authority to return 50 million dollars in aid for infrastructure projects, fearing that it would fall into the hands of Hamas, regarded as a terrorist group by the US and Europe.

A senior State Department official, asking not to be named, said: "We have not made all the decisions. It is conceivable that we would redirect the money to humanitarian needs instead of infrastructure."

But Saud rejected this, saying that both humanitarian and infrastructure aid were needed.

Before arriving in Saudi Arabia, Rice held talks in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak which focused on the aftermath of Hamas' victory last month in Palestinian elections.

During a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit on Tuesday, she reiterated the tough stance of her administration, which lists Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

"You cannot have one foot in the camp of terror and another foot in the camp of politics," she said, adding that the international community expected the Islamist movement to recognise the Jewish state's right to exist.

Hamas, which is responsible for some of the deadliest attacks against Israel, has used softer language since its resounding electoral victory over the mainstream Fatah but has stopped short of considering normalisation with the Jewish state.

"We should give Hamas time," Abul Gheit said. "I'm sure that Hamas will develop, will evolve. We should not prejudge the issue," Abul Gheit said.

Full AFP News story.

Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texas
lawfirm webpage:
www.haigler.info
 
If those links don't work, try our political blog: http://demlog.blogspot.com.

 

AP: Shiite shrine destruction threatens Iraqi civil war

SAMARRA, Iraq - Insurgents posing as police destroyed the golden dome of one of Iraq's holiest Shiite shrines Wednesday, setting off an unprecendented spasm of sectarian violence. Angry crowds thronged the streets, militiamen attacked Sunni mosques, and at least 19 people were killed.

Iraqis gather at the ruins of a Shrine in Samarra, 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2006. A large explosion Wednesday heavily damaged the golden dome of one of Iraq's most famous Shiite religious shrines, sending protesters pouring into the streets. It was the third major attack against Shiite targets in as many days. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)Iraqis gather at the ruins of a Shrine in Samarra, 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2006. A large explosion Wednesday heavily damaged the golden dome of one of Iraq's most famous Shiite religious shrines, sending protesters pouring into the streets. It was the third major attack against Shiite targets in as many days. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

With the gleaming dome of the 1,200-year-old Askariya shrine reduced to rubble, some Shiites lashed out at the United States as partly to blame.

The violence - many of the 90 attacks on Sunni mosques were carried out by Shiite militias - seemed to push Iraq closer to all-out civil war than at any point in the three years since the U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Many leaders called for calm. "We are facing a major conspiracy that is targeting Iraq's unity," said President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd. "We should all stand hand in hand to prevent the danger of a civil war."

President Bush pledged American help to restore the mosque after the bombing north of Baghdad, which dealt a severe blow to U.S. efforts to keep Iraq from falling deeper into sectarian violence.

Full AP-Yahoo News story.

Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texas
lawfirm webpage: www.haigler.info
political blog: http://demlog.blogspot.com

 

WFC: Dirty Little Secret on UAE Port Security

By David Sirota, at Working for Change Blog -- Wednesday 22 February 2006

Politicians and the media are loudly decrying the Bush administration's proposal to turn over port security to a firm owned by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - a country with ties to terrorists. They are talking tough about national security - but almost no one is talking about what may have fueled the administration's decision to push forward with this deal: the desire to move forward Big Money's "free" trade agenda.

How much does "free" trade have to do with this? How about a lot. The Bush administration is in the middle of a two-year push to ink a corporate-backed "free" trade accord with the UAE. At the end of 2004, in fact, it was Bush Trade Representative Robert Zoellick who proudly boasted of his trip to the UAE to begin negotiating the trade accord. Rejecting this port security deal might have set back that trade pact. Accepting the port security deal - regardless of the security consequences - likely greases the wheels for the pact. That's probably why instead of backing off the deal, President Bush - supposedly Mr. Tough on National Secuirty - took the extraordinary step of threatening to use the first veto of his entire presidency to protect the UAE's interests. Because he knows protecting those interetsts - regardless of the security implications for America - is integral to the "free" trade agenda all of his corporate supporters are demanding.

The Inter Press Service highlights exactly what's at stake, quoting a conservative activists who admits that this is all about trade:

"The United States' trade relationship with the UAE is the third largest in the Middle East, after Israel and Saudi Arabia. The two nations are engaged in bilateral free talks that would liberalise trade between the two countries and would, in theory at least, allow companies to own and operate businesses in both nations. 'There are legitimate security questions to be asked but it would be a mistake and really an insult to one of our leading trading partners in that region to reject this commercial transaction out of hand,' said Daniel T. Griswold, who directs the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, a Washington-based libertarian think tank."

Look, we've seen this before. Just last year, Congress approved a US taxpayer-funded loan by the Bush administration to a British company to help build nuclear technology in Communist China. Despite major security concerns raised - and a legislative effort to block the loan - Congress's "free traders" (many of whom talk so tough on security) made sure the loan went through so as to preserve the US-China free trade relationship that is allowing lawmakers' corporate campaign contributors to export so many US jobs.

There is no better proof that our government takes its orders from corporate interests than these kinds of moves. That's what this UAE deal is all about - the mixture of the right-wing's goal of privatizing all government services (even post 9/11 port security!) with the political Establishment's desire to make sure Tom-Friedman-style "free" trade orthodoxy supersedes everything. This is where the culture of corruption meets national security policy - and, more specifically, where the unbridled corruption of on-the-take politicians are weakening America's security.

The fact that no politicians and almost no media wants to even explore this simple fact is telling. Here we have a major US security scandal with the same country we are simultaneously negotiating a free trade pact with, and no one in Washington is saying a thing. The silence tells you all you need to know about a political/media establishment that is so totally owned by Big Money interests they won't even talk about what's potentially at the heart of a burgeoning national security scandal.

Source: Working for Change Blog.

Bill Spier: David is correct with this information. You see, big U.S. assets have co-mingled with or moved into foreign hands for as long as I can remember. In the seventies, the Japanese were on a buying spree in the U.S. They bought some silly things like Rockefeller Center—an American icon. I am not sure who owns it now, but it might be some Saudi -- maybe the same one who owns a big chunk of Citibank. But the idiot occupying the White House must have known that this deal was going down as part of the “free trade” agreement with UAE. Perhaps his old man's Carlisle Group (the outfit that the bin Laden family are heavily invested in as well) nudged this one.

And, oh brother, are Republicans crazed over the disclosure of the port deal. They have been taking payoffs from "multi-nationals" for eons. The border state folks, obsessed with poor Mexicans crossing over to make a living, better watch out. If 50,000 or so of these poor folks pooled their wages for a decade or so, they could buy Boeing.

As for Bush, in the words of Digby: “At least it will be satisfying to see Bush toasted irrationally, since he lit the match."

Other links:

Media Matters for America.

Common Dreams * Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community.

Buzzflash News.

Latest post to DemLog.


 

KR: Dubai company on port deal has 2 Bush crony connections

by Michael McAuliff -- Knight Ridder News -- Feb. 22
 
WASHINGTONThe Dubai firm that won Bush administration backing to run six U.S. ports has at least two ties to the White House.

Treasury Secretary John SnowOne is Treasury Secretary John Snow, right, whose department heads the federal panel that signed off on the $6.8 billion sale of an English company to government-owned Dubai Ports World - giving it control of Manhattan's cruise ship terminal and Newark's container port.

Snow was chairman of the CSX rail firm that sold its own international port operations to DP World for $1.15 billion in 2004, the year after Snow left for President Bush's cabinet.

The other connection is David Sanborn, who runs DP World's European and Latin American operations and who was tapped by Bush last month to head the U.S. Maritime Administration.

The ties raised more concerns about the decision to give port control to a company owned by a nation linked to the Sept. 11 hijackers.

"The more you look at this deal, the more the deal is called into question," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who said the deal was rubber-stamped in advance - even before DP World formally agreed to buy London's P&O port company.

Besides operations in New York and Jersey, Dubai would also run port facilities in Philadelphia, New Orleans, Baltimore and Miami.

The political fallout over the deal only grows.

"It's particularly troubling that the United States would turn over its port security not only to a foreign company, but a state-owned one," said western New York's Rep. Tom Reynolds, chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee. Reynolds is responsible for helping Republicans keep their majority in the House.

Snow's Treasury Department runs the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which includes 11 other agencies.

"It always raises flags" when administration officials have ties to a firm, Rep. Vito Fossella, R-N.Y., said, but insisted that stopping the deal was more important.

The New York Daily News has learned that lawmakers also want to know if a detailed 45-day investigation should have been conducted instead of one that lasted no more than 25 days.

According to a 1993 congressional measure, the longer review is mandated when the company is owned by a foreign government and the purchase "could result in control of a person engaged in interstate commerce in the U.S. that could affect the national security of the U.S."

Congressional sources said the president has until March 2 to trigger that closer look.

"The most important thing is for someone to explain how this is consistent with our national security," Fossella said.

Source:  Knight Ridder & Common Dreams.

 
Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texas
lawfirm webpage:
www.haigler.info
political blog: http://demlog.blogspot.com

 

Spier: U.S. Port Control - The Hullabaloo

by Bill Spier

I had not given much thought to the hullabaloo over United Arab Emirates management of critical U.S. ports. Having just now read mainstream media reactions and listened to johnny-come-lately posturing by Speaker Hastert and the dim Frist, I think the attention this deal is getting is a good thing; but not because an Arab controlled corporation will manage the ports. After all, China and multi-national corporations have similar contracts with port authorities in the United States. The UAE is not part of the radical Islamic world. It is a modern financial and tourist center. I do have a few comments on the matter though.

There a couple of recurrent issues now surfacing and which need a public airing. The first is the obvious one that the U.S. should take responsibility to secure its most vulnerable national entry points. It has not been doing that since 9/11. The second is that this administraton has appointed people (like Treasury's Snow) and commanded them to jettison federal control and ownership of public resources and national patrimony. How much traction these issues get is anyone's guess.

The third issue is that the whole outcry is phony and riddled with Arab-hating rhetoric. The UAE and Dubai are major international financial players and not primitive desert dwellers. They may very well be a real ally of the United States and whose major industry is tourism. Placing the UAE in the middle of 9/11 is pure bull. Democrats and Republicans are equally hypocritical here. Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, my senators, are two of the worst perpetrators of the vitriol. (They really thick Barbara Boxer is clueless.) The Christian right is jumping on it too. It gives these bigots a public forum to advance their racism and ignorance. If there is any hope that the United States can keep moderate modern middle east governments in power, the Arab-hating political opportunism has to end.

The problem with Bush's speech yesterday is how it broadcasted administation dictatorial intentions and grating highhandedness. You cannot have it all ways, Mr. Bush: one, attack an Arab state and be responsible for the death of over 100,000 Arabs, and, two, then tell your nation to trust you, the Dubai Arabs are good guys. The result will be this sort of hypocritical backlash. Now Republican careerists in congress are running for cover and pretending outrage. Who knows? Maybe some of them will benefit from the drama.

Next to the lies used to make war on a country that did nothing to us, the squandering of the national treasury, Katrina, traitors in the White House, and preparation for an invasion of Iran, this isssue of Dubai is not so big. But by trying to slip this one (port security sale) by unnoticed, this incompetent government just tanked their "safe from terrorists" reputation. That is good. Everything else leaves me nauseated.

Two weeks ago, Cheney tried to blow off someone's head. This week, it is not Bush who is trying to make enemies of every Arab in the world, but the nation's ignorance of economics and knowing who the real enemy is. I am sure millions of Americans feel a sense of looming national doom that Iraqis felt when we invaded their country in 2003.

Bill Spier: It is one week later, and I am beginning to feel that my attack on Hillary and Chuck was wrong. Both have been talking a long time (especially Hillary) about Bush's lack of interest in securing the ports of New York and New Jersey. I still think they hit the boards with the wrong message first. The issue is still port security, not Arab owners. If there was true port security, no middle east company would have even tried for this deal.


Other links:

Media Matters for America.

Common Dreams * Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community.

Buzzflash News.

Latest post to DemLog.


 

Haigler defends local LULAC officers

Abilene, Feb. 22 -- Abilene mediator Dave Haigler came to the defense of elected local LULAC leaders this morning in response to the front-page Abilene Reporter News article claiming there was chaos in LULAC at its meeting last night.
 

Haigler said he had no beef with Blanca Cantu, ARN's capable writer of the story "Chaos in LULAC" appearing in the Feb. 22 edition.  However, he provided a little additional perspective, because the media can only provide "both sides" of issues they have sources for.

 

There was no chaos at the Abilene Council of LULAC meeting Tuesday, Haigler said.  The elected leaders were able to get through a meeting with an agenda established by elected leaders, cordially allowing questions and points of order, and even rude interruptions, by expelled and suspended former members, but without allowing a takeover by such ousted persons, Haigler claimed.

 

Any chaos in LULAC emanates from District 5, where a couple of leaders from Ballinger and Odessa have aligned with three former members of the Abilene Council to entertain five attacks on officers of the Abilene Council dating back to Dec. 3, Haigler said. 

 

First they suspended Erasmo Martinez for threatening to fight three colleagues, and ordered him to attend anger management courses, but they failed to consider the lies that provoked the threat, Haigler said.

 

After the local Council met in December and unanimously affirmed vice president Ben Gonzalez as the acting president, three local complainers who had been outvoted locally went to the District in January and misled the District into thinking Ben was not a member, Haigler said.  The clerical error in Ben's membership was cleared up as soon as local officers learned about it.

 

At the next local meeting in January, the three complainers tried to take over again, but failed again after they disrupted the meeting.  This January disruption explains the February security, Haigler said.  These three were directed by elected local leaders twice to come to mediation over their issues, but they failed to appear, and were ultimately ousted on Feb. 11.

 

Local elected leaders met with the State LULAC Board on Jan. 21 and were told to sit tight, that the state would deal with the district's interference, that the district could not require an officer to attend anger management, but not to disclose to the media that the state had reversed the district, Haigler said.  Erasmo finished his anger-management training anyway. 

 

LULAC president Ben Gonzalez, left, with Mayor Archibald

LULAC Council President Ben Gonzalez is shown at left with Abilene Mayor Norm Archibald at the City Council's proclamation of LULAC Week at the Feb. 9 City Council meeting.

 

Meanwhile, the three outvoted and ousted local complainers retaliated for their ouster by running to the district again on Feb. 18 with trumped-up charges that Anna Vedro and Haigler had "denied a qualified candidate" for membership and should be "impeached."  No one has told Haigler & Vedro what candidate they allegedly denied.  The district does not have the authority to make up facts as they go, Haigler claimed.  And the hostility there to elected leaders locally has been palpable -- there is no rational reason why, he said.  "We have not denied any qualified candidate.  I personally have had no vote on any such matter.  I have had an advisory role only with the local Board," Haigler said.

 

"How three ousted people could claim they would come to the latest local meeting and have an agenda to preside over, is beyond me," Haigler said.  "These three have not currently been elected to anything locally, and have been overruled at three local meetings in a row now.  To give this 'side' of things media coverage is the outer limits of 'fair and balanced'," Haigler continued.

 

The State Board has indicated they will hear our local complaints about the district's interference at a meeting sometime in March, Haigler said.


 

AP: Congress unfazed over Bush veto threat over port security - Feb. 22

By TED BRIDIS, Associated Press Writer -- Wednesday, 16 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - Lawmakers determined to capsize the pending sale of shipping operations at six major U.S. seaports to a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates said President Bush's surprise veto threat won't deter them.

An aerial view of the Port of Miami is shown in this May 26, 2005 file photo. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2006, that his brother, President Bush, would adequately protect national security as part of the federal government's approval of the sale of a ports operator to a state-owned company in the United Arab Emirates. Under a proposed deal, a British company that has been running some operations at six U.S. ports would be acquired by Dubai Ports World. The British company owns a 50 percent share in the Port of Miami Terminal Operating Co.  (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)An aerial view of the Port of Miami is shown in this file photo. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2006, that his brother, President Bush, would adequately protect national security as part of the federal government's approval of the sale of a ports operator to a state-owned company in the United Arab Emirates. Under a proposed deal, a British company that has been running some operations at six U.S. ports would be acquired by Dubai Ports World. The British company owns a 50 percent share in the Port of Miami Terminal Operating Co.  (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

Bush on Tuesday brushed aside objections by leaders in the Senate and House that the $6.8 billion sale could raise risks of terrorism at American ports. In a forceful defense of his administration's earlier approval of the deal, he pledged to veto any bill Congress might approve to block the agreement.

The sale's harshest critics were not appeased.  "I will fight harder than ever for this legislation, and if it is vetoed I will fight as hard as I can to override it," said Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. King and Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record) of New York said they will introduce emergency legislation to suspend the ports deal.

Another Democrat, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, urged his colleagues to force Bush to wield his veto, which Bush -- in his sixth year in office -- has never done. "We should really test the resolve of the president on this one because what we're really doing is securing the safety of our people."

White House counselor Dan Bartlett said Wednesday the UAE company, Dubai Ports, "is a reputable firm that went through a congressionally approved vetting process." He said the U.S. has "the necessary safeguards to make sure that the security of our country is in place" and that rejecting the deal would send "a dangerous signal to people overseas that America plays favorites."

"The president wants this deal to go forward because it was followed by the book and he wants Congress to understand that," Bartlett said on CBS' "The Early Show." He told Fox News Channel that Bush felt strongly that "we need to be adding strategic partners" in the Mideast.

But Sen. Joseph Biden (news, bio, voting record), D-Del., said the bipartisan opposition to the deal indicated "a lack of confidence in the administration" on both sides. "Sure, we have to link up with our Arab friends but ... we want to see and those in Congress want to know what ... safeguards are built in," Biden said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

The first-ever sale involving U.S. port operations to a foreign, state-owned company is set to be completed in early March. It would put Dubai Ports in charge of major shipping operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia. "If there was any chance that this transaction would jeopardize the security of the United States, it would not go forward," Bush said.

Defending his decision, Bush responded to a chorus of objections this week in Congress over potential security concerns in the sale of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co.

Bush's veto threat sought to quiet a political storm that has united Republican governors and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and House Speaker Dennis Hastert with liberal Democrats, including New York Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Schumer.

To assuage concerns, the administration disclosed some assurances it negotiated with Dubai Ports. It required mandatory participation in U.S. security programs to stop smuggling and detect illegal shipments of nuclear materials; roughly 33 other port companies participate in these voluntarily. The Coast Guard also said it was nearly finished inspecting Dubai Ports' facilities in the United States.

Full AP-Yahoo News story.

Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texas
lawfirm webpage:
www.haigler.info
political blog: http://demlog.blogspot.com

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

 

DH: Suspended Abilene LULAC president Martinez graduates from Anger-Management

Erasmo posts meeting noticeAbilene, Feb. 21 -- Erasmo Martinez (seen at left posting some legal papers at the courthouse), the local LULAC president who was suspended from office Dec. 3 for threatening to fight three associates during a September confrontation, graduates today from the Anger-Management & Conflict-Resolution Clinic, Dave Haigler said. Haigler is the director of the clinic, which is an offshoot of his mediation practice.

Martinez was set to graduate at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Abilene Civic Plaza Hotel, prior to the monthly LULAC meeting, Haigler said. Pastor Zeke Pecina of New Life Temple A/G Church at Old Anson Rd and Ambler, is the graduation speaker, whose topic is "Building Peace Among Brothers."

The Abilene Reporter News reported Sunday, Feb. 19, that two LULAC members, Anna Vedro & Dave Haigler, had been "impeached" by the District Board of Directors the day before, for allegedly refusing a valid candidate for membership.

The newspaper also reported on Saturday, Feb. 18, a successful event by LULAC, its Community Banquet, the night before, attended by 60 people and organized and hosted by Council Secretary, Anna Vedro.

Vedro refused comment on her alleged impeachment. Haigler said he and Vedro had been instructed by State LULAC Director Roger Rocha to keep negative information about LULAC out of the media, so he felt constrained not to explain what was really happening with the alleged impeachments.

"The local Board retained me to try to mediate their disputes," Haigler said, "And to teach anger-management to those who are willing. Erasmo was an eager student and made an A in the course. Pastor Pecina knows most of the parties involved and has insights that he is set to share at the graduation."

"There is a faction of two or three local people who appear to have some fairly narrow complaints, which we should be able to resolve, if we can ever sit down with them," Haigler said. "Beyond that, I am not at liberty to disclose things the Board has chosen to keep private within LULAC."

Haigler declined comment on his own alleged impeachment, other than to say, "We'll see whether any response is warranted if we ever get anything in writing."

 

AP: Russia-Iran nuke talks stall

By HENRY MEYER, Associated Press Writer -- Tuesday, 1 hour, 47 minutes ago

MOSCOW - Officials from Russia and Iran on Tuesday ended two days of talks on a Russian offer to enrich uranium for Tehran without any signs of progress, though Russia's foreign minister declined to call the negotiations a failure.

President Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Monday, Feb. 20, 2006.  Russia expressed limited hope Monday as Russian and Iranian officials started talks in Moscow on an offer to enrich uranium for Iran, seen as a final opportunity for the Islamic regime to avoid the threat of international sanctions over Western concerns it is developing nuclear weapons. (AP Photo/ITAR-TASS, Vladimir Rodionov, Presidential Press Service)President Vladimir Putin, right, chairs a government meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Monday, Feb. 20, 2006.  Russia expressed limited hope Monday as Russian and Iranian officials started talks in Moscow on an offer to enrich uranium for Iran. (AP Photo/ITAR-TASS, Vladimir Rodionov, Presidential Press Service)

The head of Russia's atomic energy agency, Sergei Kiriyenko, visits Iran on Thursday for further talks, which are widely seen as Iran's last chance to stave off international sanctions over suspicions it has a covert nuclear weapons program.

An initial round of consultations between top national security officials from both countries on Monday made no visible progress, and on Tuesday experts from the Russian Foreign Ministry and atomic energy agency held discussions with the Iranian side.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov underscored that the negotiations were continuing.

"I would be cautious about using the term 'failure' or 'setback' while the negotiations continue," he was quoted as saying by the ITAR-Tass news agency.

The Russian offer, which is backed by the United States and the European Union, is widely seen as the last chance for Iran to address the West's concerns before a March 6 International Atomic Energy Agency meeting that could start a process leading to punishment by the U.N Security Council.

Full AP-Yahoo News story.

Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texas
lawfirm webpage:
www.haigler.info
 
If those links don't work, try our political blog: http://demlog.blogspot.com.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Donate to DemLog, a project of Marcus Comton (click on box below to go to PayPal and donate). Thank you very much: