Category Archives: War and Peace

Washington Think-Tank Cultivating ‘Last Resort’ Against Iran and Priming Next President

Originally posted at OpEdNews.com

Preventive – a seemingly innocuous word has been getting a lot of play in recent publications and conferences sponsored by Washington think tanks – perhaps nowhere more than at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). Generally we don’t expect death, destruction and illegality to rest on the preventive side of the equation. Then again, after March 19, 2003, perhaps we should. When WINEP uses the word preventive they mean “preventive military action.” More precisely – a military attack on another country, in this case Iran that is neither in self-defense nor in response to an immediate threat of attack.

The likelihood of a military strike against Iran either by the United States or Israel has been debated for years waxing and waning with the geopolitical climate. What is not in question is the steady effort by some to lay the ground work for such an action.

The Washington Institute founded by Martin Indyk, a former research director for AIPAC, seeks to “bring scholarship to bear on the making of U.S. policy” in the Middle East. Among its programs is the Presidential Study Group “charged with drafting a blueprint for the next administration’s Middle East policy.” WINEP’s board of advisors includes noted figures such as Richard Perle, R. James Woolsey and until 2001 Paul Wolfowitz.

Michael Eisenstadt, a senior fellow and director of WINEP’s Military and Security Studies Program wrote a three-page article in September 2006 entitled “Iran: The Complex Calculus of Preventive Military Action.” Eisenstadt discussed the factors that would be in play if the U.S. took preventive military action to “thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

He tackled first the matter of congressional authorization for a planned attack on Iran. He referred to it as “consulting Congress.” Quickly bypassing Congress’ constitutional power to declare war citing precedence, Eisenstadt laid out two options. 1. Inform a select group of members of Congress prior to launching a strike, but risk public disapproval. 2. Allow Congress to openly debate the “merits of military action” and seek a joint resolution, but risk defeat of a resolution.

Bearing in mind WINEP’s mission to use scholarship to assist in policy making, it is worth noting a glaring omission. Mr. Eisenstadt made no room for discussion of the UN Charter ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1945 thereby making it the law of our land. It requires that member nations refrain from the threat or use of force and that if a dispute is not settled it shall be referred to the Security Council which will make recommendations.

While the Charter allows for military action in self-defense and the issue of a preemptive attack in the face of “imminent danger” has been a point of contention in recent years, no strong case for an “imminent” attack was even put forth in the article. What Eisenstadt was considering was a preventive strike to “thwart ambitions.”

To minimize national backlash – a rally around the flag in Iran – Eisenstadt recommended that the U.S. engage in a “high-profile information campaign” to convince the Iranian people that an attack on their country is in their best interest. The article concluded that while seeking diplomacy, military prevention should be on the table.

In summer 2007, Eisenstadt published another article on preventive action “The Complex Calculus of Preventive Military Action.” Along with the title the article was, with a few exceptions, the same as the one he authored in 2006.

In 2006, his reason was “faltering diplomacy” over Iran’s nuclear program. In 2007, he pointed to Bush administration claims that Iran was supplying IED’s that were being used against U.S. forces in Iraq. This was a big news item at the time. What was not big news was that proof of those claims never fully materialized.

Both articles shared an important statement, “[One] should not dismiss the possibility that the intelligence picture concerning Iran’s nuclear program could change rapidly.” And change it did. In December 2007, the key judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran were made public. Among the findings: “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”

Thus began the campaign to discredit the 2007 NIE on Iran.

Bending, conspiring, duping and ruining our day

The first to let his fingers fly was Norman Podhoretz. Writing for the Commentary, he penned an article in June 2007 entitled “The Case for Bombing Iran.” On September 11, his book World War IV: The Long Struggle against Islamofascism was released.

Hours after the key judgments of the NIE were made public, he accused the intelligence community of “bending over backward” to dispute what he claimed is universally believed – that Iran is “hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons.” He continued, “But, I entertain an even darker suspicion. It is that the intelligence community, which has for some years now been leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush, is doing it again.” Patrick Clawson, WINEP’s deputy director for research offered his own spin. He asked “how much does weaponization matter?” and claimed that the findings only suggest a change in sequence by Tehran. For good measure, Clawson lamented about the U.S. intelligence community’s “poor track record.”

Next up: Kenneth Timmerman. Writing for Newsmax, Timmerman cited the publication’s alleged sources in Tehran and claimed that “Washington has fallen for ‘a deliberate disinformation campaign’ cooked up by the Revolutionary Guards.”

Timmerman viciously attacked Thomas Fingar, chair of the National Intelligence Council, and others involved in preparing the NIE all the while quoting himself from the book he authored that was released a few weeks earlier entitled Shadow Warriors: The Untold Story of Traitors, Saboteurs, and the Party of Surrender. It’s unclear whether he was suggesting Dr. Fingar was a traitor, a saboteur or just a wimp.

James Phillips of the Heritage Foundation urged readers not to be misled by the NIE. Despite the NIE’s high confidence that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program, Phillips warned of the danger of “disinformation or misinformation.” His answer was that it was “Time for Team B.” He said the president should establish an independent panel of experts to examine the evidence assembled in the NIE. Either the U.S. intelligence agencies’ experts were not expert enough for Mr. Phillips’ liking or their findings were not to his liking.

Podhoretz, Timmerman and Phillips are all members of The Committee on the Present Danger co-chaired by WINEP’s advisory board member, R. James Woolsey.

When committed to your hand – double down.

With the November 2007 NIE in mind would Michael Eisenstadt, for the third year, reintroduce the Complex Calculus? In June 2008, it resurfaced. This time primarily as an annex to a 45-page publication called Agenda: Iran. The Last Resort: Consequences of Preventive Action against Iran coauthored with colleague Patrick Clawson.

The authors assert that the study does not advocate military action – the time is not right and they don’t know the level of target intelligence available to the U.S. The Last Resort does lay out the “prerequisites for a successful policy of preventive action should the United States decide to go this route.” A precursory look finds they favor prevention over deterrence while only feigning interest in diplomacy. Undoubtedly what it does is provide that all important blueprint for a preventive strike not only militarily, but politically.

There is no hiding the resentment the authors have for the release of the NIE findings. They blame lack of support for preventive action by allies and even Iranians on the intelligence community “seemingly soft-pedaling Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

The article speaks to the proper conditions both in the U.S. and Iran for a preventive strike to be accepted and successful. One scenario they describe is if Iran were to withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In January 2007 John Bolton, former US ambassador to the UN and perennial cheerleader for bombing Iran, in a conference call reportedly with members of AIPAC, expressed disappointment that Iran had not withdrawn from the NPT in response to the UN Security Council Resolution passed the month before. “I actually hoped they would. That kind of reaction,” he told them “would produce a counter-reaction that actually would be more beneficial to us.”

Smoking-gun evidence presents a dilemma for the authors. Striking in the absence of it would create a challenge militarily in terms of target intelligence and could evoke sympathy for Iran. Attacking Iran in the presence of smoking-gun proof, they report, could be “tantamount to going to war with a nuclear Iran.” And, waiting for it “may amount to de facto acquiescence in a nuclear-armed Iran.” The language is familiar.

“The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” Condoleezza Rice, September 8, 2002.

“Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof – the smoking gun – that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.” Pres. George W. Bush, October 7, 2002.

Nuclear facilities are not the only targets Eisenstadt and Clawson consider worthy of bombing. They also eye Iran’s oil infrastructure. They admit it may result in soaring oil prices and poor economic growth, but quickly add those problems are “not clearly the greater evil.”

They also suggest coupling strikes on nuclear facilities with strikes on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard and the Ministry of Intelligence. This combined with the prospect that repeated strikes may be required, preventive military action begins to emerge as a widespread military campaign.

Also discussed is an Israeli strike versus U.S. strike. While Israel may be more disposed to taking preventive action, they say, it will likely engender more international criticism. They question the effectiveness of an Israeli-led strike versus one led by the U.S. military. Given that many will conclude that the U.S. at the very least gave the green light, they offer a few suggestions including the U.S. preempting a strike by Israel or proposing a joint U.S.-Israel action.

Prevention, they say, would involve a significant risk of retaliation by the Iranians and may only delay the nuclear program most likely requiring future military action. Not mentioned are casualties or financial burdens. When discussing deterrence they employ phrases like “catastrophic failure” and the “deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not millions.” What is clearly not acceptable in connection to a policy of deterrence is a resultant “ambiguous nuclear weapons capability.”

Taking the Show on the Road

Eisenstadt’s call for a high-profile information campaign was not limited to targeting Iranians. On July 3, 2008, he participated in a conference call with reporters held simultaneously in Washington, D.C., London, Brussels and Jerusalem.

Sponsoring the call was The Israel Project (TIP). According to its website, TIP “provides journalists, leaders and opinion-makers accurate information about Israel” influencing “hundreds of millions of people around the world.” Its board of advisors includes 22 members of the U.S. Congress (12 Senators and 10 Representatives).

He said that he was somewhat pessimistic about the prospects of successful diplomacy. He then repeated to the 100-plus reporters the fear-eliciting conclusion from the Last Resort that not acting militarily could result in catastrophe and the deaths of millions of people.

Mark Summers, a reporter based in Bahrain, asked whether talk of preventive measures was premature given the findings of the U.S. intelligence community. Eisenstadt responded, “To be honest, to be fair, I think that the NIE was carefully couched.”

A Former CIA Analyst Weighs in on the Last Resort

Ray McGovern, who during his 27-years in the CIA had the opportunity to chair NIE’s, had strong words about Eisenstadt’s approach.

“One way to look at the Eisenstadt paper [the Last Resort] and briefing is as a surrogate NIE. They fulfill the function of an Estimate nicely for administration’s purposes not unlike the Office of Special Plans setup by Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Feith in the Pentagon to come up with the “correct” answers before and during Iraq. It’s an old stratagem; one of the best examples was Team B which played up the Soviet threat starting in the ‘70s.”

McGovern who has advocated for a “Memorandum to Holders” of the previous estimate – an update to the 2007 NIE – added sharply “If you can’t get the answers you want from the $50 billion intelligence bureaucracy, make sure they do nothing and create something off on the side to provide what you want.”

On preventive military action, McGovern doesn’t hold back. “Preventive military action is a war crime. It’s a war of aggression defined by Nuremberg as the supreme international crime.” Referring to the Last Resort he said “I’m sure it’s being shown to whomever will digest it into words for the president as ‘this is probably the considered view of the experts’ on Iran.”

Next Stop on the Preventive Action Tour: Christians United for Israel (CUFI)

In late July 2008, WINEP’s Patrick Clawson joined controversial pastor John Hagee’s CUFI for their Washington-Israel Summit. Ali Gharib, a Washington-based journalist, discussed Clawson’s role in an article he wrote. Clawson sat on the panel “Iran: Eye of the Storm.” This panel was closed to the press so Gharib attended instead with a participant’s pass.

He reported “Clawson elicited laughter from the crowd with his statement that Some Iranian leaders are quite happy to be suicidal. Many of them are not rational.” He also claimed “Iran is spending at least $200 million a year financing, training, and arming every terror group that is killing Israelis in the pursuit of eliminating the state of Israel.”

However, during the Q&A session when questioned about possible Iranian retaliation to a U.S. strike, Gharib writes that Clawson responded by saying, “The history, so far, is of blood-curdling threats, and [then] nothing happens.”

It seems in a brassy attempt to sell the preventive action product, Clawson points to heinous actions by an irrational regime and then when asked about Iranian retaliation, he claims that same group might not respond at all to an attack on its homeland.

Shifting Focus to Arabs and Americans

For years, the focus on preventing a “nuclear Iran” was based on the perceived threat to the state of Israel as demonstrated in Patrick Clawson’s presentation at the Christians United for Israel conference. But in September, a noticeable shift began to emerge from the thinkers at the Washington Institute.

On September 11, 2008, Clawson wrote “Don’t Make Iran an Israeli Issue” published in The Jewish Daily Forward. After reminding readers of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, he wrote “Lately, however, the public discussion has been focused too much on the specific threat that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to Israel.” He reasserted that claim, but then added how it would also be a “menace” to its “Arab neighbors and to American and Western interests.”

Seeking no cover, he explains “[If] we want to figure out how to move Russia and China to do more, we are more likely to persuade these governments by emphasizing the risk of proliferation rather than the threat to Israel.”

To Bomb or Not to Bomb

Two weeks later, Clawson and Eisenstadt hosted a panel at The Washington Institute called “Bombing Iran or Living with Iran’s Bomb.” It was based on a publication of the same title written by Kassem Ja’afar for the Transatlantic Institute in Brussels, an organization established in 2004 by the American Jewish Committee.

Isaac Ben-Israel, a member of the Knesset and retired major general in the Israeli Defense Forces spoke directly to the question of prevention versus deterrence and concluded that the “chosen strategy” would be prevention. “The reason” he said “is not only because I am speaking as an Israeli and we all know the policy of Iran towards Israel calling to destroy Israel or to wipe it out of the map every two days or so, it’s not that reason by itself. It is much deeper than this.”

Ben-Israel then shifted to Clawson’s new call to action. He stated that because Iran is neither Arab nor Sunni a nuclear weapon in the hands of Iran is “frightening not only Israel but those Arab leaders, what we call the moderate Arab states in the Middle East.” He spoke of proliferation and Iran exporting the Shi’a revolution.

He predicted in the face of a military conflict, despite heavy losses, “Israel will survive and Iran will go back to the Stone Ages.” He warned that Iranian nuclear capability is the main concern because once they have that it’s just “a few months away” from having a bomb and that “I think will depend only on their good will, if you believe they have a good will.”

Kassem Ja’afar, former diplomatic advisor to the government of Qatar, turned the attention to a regional issue. What Ja’afar said is perhaps more reflective of the concerns of the U.S. and Israel governments than a fear of attack. According to Ja’afar “[Very] simply Iran wants to be recognized as a regional super power…because it wants to have a dominant effect on the policies of the region, on the wealth of the region, and the strategic position of the region vis-à-vis the world.”

This is unacceptable, he said, because of the ideological and strategic dimensions. Strategic dimensions like “oil and the Gulf and the maritime routes throughout the Middle East.” In his publication he describes in great detail the military assets that Israel and the U.S. would bring to the table if there were a preventive attack – writing U.S. involvement into the picture as a given.

Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst brought some cold reality to the discussion. Because of the absence of unclassified intelligence, he has seen “people coming out with strike plans” in Op-Ed’s that “range from rubbish to irresponsible,” casting a disapproving look at one or more of the panelists which included in addition to Kassem Ja’afar and Isaac Ben-Israel, Michael Eisenstadt and Patrick Clawson.

He continued “The fact is that these are extraordinarily complex and they involve far more than simply counting targets…This is much more of a chainsaw than a scalpel.” He did offer “What we have and what Israel does not have is the ability to persist. We have the ability to do the damage assessment. We have the ability to do re-strikes.”

During the Q&A, Clawson and Eisenstadt focused on the issue of a preventive attack on Iran. Clawson asked Isaac Ben-Israel “What do you think the international community and Israel would do in the aftermath of this strike to prevent Iran from rebuilding?”

Ben-Israel responded nonchalantly “If we fail we have to come back five years later and do the same again…The alternative is, do we want for Iran to have a bomb?” Answering his own question, he closed with “the alternative is worse.”

Michael Eisenstadt asked Kassem Ja’afar, “What might the Arabs be willing to do to help either the United States or Israel with preventive military action?” Ja’afar’s answer in a nutshell, “I frankly don’t think the Arabs can do much at all.”

Deputy Director of National Intel Gives WINEP a Presidents Daily Brief – Say What?!

Ray McGovern was on to something when he spoke about WINEP and the Last Resort serving as a surrogate NIE. Seems the Washington Institute for Near East Policy may have the best seat in town when it comes to access to U.S. intelligence.

McGovern said it was “bizarre that McConnell’s [Mike McConnell, Director of National Intelligence] principal deputy Donald Kerr briefed WINEP some 5 or 6 months ago….and a CIA nuclear weapons expert also briefed WINEP.”

That CIA analyst may have been Michael Leiter, Acting Director of the National Counterterrorism Center who paid WINEP a visit in February 2008 to discuss the “looming challenges in the war on terror.” Ray believes that this level of interaction by the agency with WINEP is “Very irregular.”

On May 29, 2008, Donald Kerr, the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence delivered a remarkable presentation to WINEP.

Speaking at a program entitled Emerging Threats, Challenges, and Opportunities in the Middle East, Kerr explained that the Presidents Daily Brief (PDB) was one of their most privileged documents read by only a handful of people and delivered to the president by either the Director of National Intelligence or himself. He added “They are based on some of our best collection capabilities, coupled with our most exacting analysis.”

Then Donald Kerr announced “This evening, I’m going to give you a notional view of some of the issues that will be raised in the Oval Office PDB on January 21, 2009.”

“We’ll give you a snapshot of where things stand now and some of the overarching thoughts as to potential future developments…Iran, for example, continues to provide weapons, funding, and training support to certain Iraqi Shi’a militants designed to increase Tehran’s influence over Iraq and ensure the United States suffers setbacks.”

He offered a taste of intelligence analysis on the state of Iran when the next president takes office. The level of authenticity or sincerity is not clear. Was what he provided his own personal conclusion or based on combined intelligence and analysis?  Certainly, it would be improper for someone in his capacity to fabricate information about such a sensitive matter.  No heavily guarded secrets were shared it seems, but the presentation did appear to be tailored to his audience. With Congress fighting for more access to intelligence information it does seem “very irregular” that a think tank with a clearly pro-Israel viewpoint that regularly discusses a military attack on Iran would be hand-fed information of any level directly from the ODNI.

What follows are highlights, including a jab at the NIE, from Kerr’s prepared speech on his mock PDB on Iran:

“The regime has become more authoritarian …Despite rising oil income, Iran’s economy is plagued by high inflation and unemployment…Iran’s foreign activities constitute a direct and immediate threat to American interests.

Iran is pursuing a range of efforts to undermine U.S. influence…The U.S. military continues to find caches of Iranian-made weapons in Iraq, including rockets, small arms, and explosively formed penetrator devices, including some manufactured in the past year.

We must also talk about the nuclear issue. Over the past year, we have gained important new insights into Iran’s activities related to nuclear weapons, and in November 2007, the Intelligence Community published a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iranian intentions and capabilities in this area. In our NIE…we also judged that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons design and weaponization activities…But given that the halted activities were part of an unannounced secret program that Iran attempted to hide, we do not know whether it has been restarted since our last assessment…A number of countries in the region have recently expressed renewed interest in nuclear power.”

These remarks fit like a glove to WINEP’s Last Resort hand.

A Q&A followed with at least one member of WINEP pretending he was the president, pushing the envelope in his questions to Donald Kerr to the great amusement of the audience. But, there was no joke about the information he was trying to elicit – target intelligence on Iran.

Michael Stein asked “Do you know exactly where those production facilities are and how we can target them or what kind of weaponry will produce the result we want? I would hope also that you have some boots on the ground and you’ve done some mapping for us and can give us precise directions of where to go and what to do. And, finally, at what point would you suggest to me that the Iranians have gone too far in this development and that I better do something about it before we pass the point of no return? [Laughter, applause.]

You can read Donald Kerr’s response to those questions here as well as questions posed by R. James Woolsey, Martin Gross and others.

Priming the Incoming President

Mentioned earlier was WINEP’s Presidential Study Group that “drafts a blueprint for the next administration’s Middle East policy.” One of the task forces is the “Future of the U.S.-Israeli Relations.” This group convened several times throughout 2007 and 2008 including a retreat with ten Israeli counterparts.

Their final product is a Statement on “How to Deepen U.S.-Israel Cooperation on the Iranian Nuclear Challenge.” It states that Iran’s nuclear weapons capability “hovers above all other items on the U.S.-Israel agenda.”

Among the declarations of this Statement:

“We have an abiding commitment to the survival and security of Israel, so the potential threat to Israel of an Iranian nuclear bomb is a major concern of ours as well.”

“Americans should recognize that deterrence is, in Israeli eyes, an unattractive alternative to prevention, because, if deterrence fails, Israel would suffer terribly.”

“[The] U.S.-Israel relationship has come under unprecedented attack. Some of these critics argue that Israel has manipulated the U.S. government to act counter to the American national interest, which – if properly understood – would see Israel as a liability… We reject that critique.”

The Task Force recommends that the new president’s policy options should include coercive options and preventive military action against Iran. They ask the president to use his position to convey directly to the American people that Iran’s “nuclear ambitions are likely to trigger a surge of nuclear proliferation…The central argument is that preventing Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability is not special pleading for America’s ally Israel – it is vital to America’s own security.”

Included among the signatories to this Statement are advisors to Senators Barack Obama and John McCain. They include Dennis Ross, Obama’s senior advisor on Middle East affairs. Ross served as co-convenor of this task force and is a consultant to WINEP. Other foreign policy advisors to Sen. Obama who signed in support of this Statement are Richard Clarke, Susan Rice and Anthony Lake. R. James Woolse, advisor to Sen. McCain and advisor to WINEP signed as well. Worth noting is the cover of the publication that displays a photograph with U.S. and Israeli flags waving behind a line of uniformed men and women armed with what I am told are AR-15’s, M-16’s and AK-47’s.

Considering the working relationship with advisors to both presidential candidates, the exchange of information with members of the intelligence community and even a special visit in October 2007 by Vice President Dick Cheney, there is little doubt that the Washington Institute for Near East Policy will continue to live up to its mission to draft and shape U.S. policy in the Middle East – a policy that assigns a high priority to a preventive military attack on Iran.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Protester who ‘May Have Received a Minor Injury’ at the Hofstra Debate

Originally posted at OpEdNews.com
Wednesday night Americans waited for presidential candidates, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain, to take the stage at Hofstra University for the final debate before the elections. Outside the debate “15 protesters” were arrested. Oh, and “one person may have received a minor injury.” That according to the Associated Press.

Iraq War Vet Nick Morgan (photo by Bill Perry)

This is Nick’s fractured face after being trampled by mounted police at Wednesday’s peaceful protest.

After receiving this picture from friend, Bill Perry, a Vietnam vet and service officer who gives his time helping veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, I did a quick news search to find out more.

Democracy Now! was on it as were several Indy and alternative news sites including OpEdNews. Associated Press put out a brief release with the “one person may have received a minor injury” line, but then again their job is to make other news orgs aware of a story and in turn they can do the follow-up. Apparently, it was of little interest to most mainstream media that 10 of the 15 arrested were veterans most of whom served at least one tour in Iraq. Everyone of them repeated the “may have received a minor injury” statement making no effort to report the facts.

There were some media outlets that reported the arrests of protesters  at the debate, but few were inclined to mention that they were veterans. At most, they said the protesters “identified themselves as Iraq war veterans.” A rather dismissive remark and certainly not a hard thing for a veteran journalist to confirm.

How might the public have responded if the headlines read “10 Iraq Veterans Arrested Outside Obama – McCain Debate.” With great interest, I am sure. What if those “journalists” explained why these veterans were protesting? If they asked they might have received a response like this:

“Neither of the candidates has shown real support for service members and veterans. We came here to try and have serious questions answered, questions that we as veterans of the Iraq war have a right to ask, but instead we were arrested. We will continue to ask these questions no matter who is elected. We believe that the time has come to end this war and bring our troops home, and we will be pushing for that no matter what happens in this election.” said Jason Lemieux, a former Sergeant in the US Marine Corps who served three tours in Iraq, and member of IVAW.

What if the American people learned from the mainstream media that there is a growing movement of Iraq veterans who are angry about the poor services they are receiving after risking life and limb in an illegal war?

What if this morning Americans pulled up to that kitchen table that the candidates love to talk about and unfolded their paper to find this image on the front page?


Hempstead or Baghdad? (photo by Bill Perry)

This is Nick being comforted by a buddy after literally having his face broken because he wants the world and the candidates to know the Iraq war needs to end now. Because he wants them to know that veterans are not receiving the necessary care that they deserve and were promised. Because he wants to know what the candidates are going to do about it.

I have faith in the American people. I believe that a lot of those people sitting at their kitchen table would have reached for the phone to ask their members of Congress why they were looking at an image of a wounded soldier bleeding on a sidewalk in Hempstead, New York in a picture that looks like it came from the streets of Baghdad, Iraq.

The politicians and pundits love to praise our veterans for protecting our way of life and ensuring our liberties. This week Nick and his fellow Iraq veterans sought to exercise those rights. They paid the price. As usual, the mainstream media looked the other way.

Ten veterans were arrested during the action, including Matthis Chiroux (Army Sergeant), Kristofer Goldsmith (Army Sergeant), Adam Kokesh (Marine Sergeant), Mike Spinato, Geoff Millard (Army Sergeant), Marlisa Grogan (Marine Captain), Nathan Peld (Navy, 1998-2004), Nick Morgan (Army Sergeant), James Gilligan (Marine Corps, 6 years) and Jose Vasquez (Army & Army Reserves, 1992-2007).

Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) was founded in July of 2004 to allow servicemen and women from all branches of the military a chance to come together and speak out against an illegal, unjust and unwinnable occupation. IVAW currently has over 1,300 members in 49 states, Canada and on military bases in the United States and overseas. To learn more about IVAW you can visit their website at http://ivaw.org/.

 

 

NJ Congressman: Bush Admin Will ‘Gulf of Tonkinize’ Iran

originally published at OpEdNews.com

Before an audience of constituents, activists and veterans, U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) issued a strong warning at a South Jersey Iraq War Forum in June:

 

There is a real and consistent concern that the government of Iran is attempting to acquire nuclear weapons. Now there has been saber rattling about this. There’s going to be an attempt, I believe, to Gulf of Tonkinize this issue before the November election and I think you can anticipate all kinds of Naval adventures in the Persian Gulf that will try to be used as a pretext for an attack on Iran. I think that that will be the strategy in the November election. [video at 6 min]

Congressman Andrews made a similar charge two weeks prior while engaged in a bitter primary campaign against incumbent and fellow Democrat, Senator Frank Lautenberg.

In May, Max Pizarro of the Politickr quoted Rep. Andrews, “Every couple of weeks the administration tries to blow out of proportion a naval incident. If you look at their history – the way they beat up Max Cleland in 2002, and their use of the Bin Laden tape against Kerry in 2004 – I expect them to do something like that again, and I wouldn’t doubt their attempts to Gulf of Tonkinize Iran in an election year.”

Pizarro either unconcerned or unfamiliar with what it would mean to “Gulf of Tonkinize” Iran zeroed in on Andrews claim that the 84-year-old Lautenberg could not “fight back against this Republican attack machine.” Other media outlets ignored the statement altogether.

What makes the June 13 remarks any different? Ten days earlier, Rep. Andrews lost decidedly to the senior statesman from North Jersey. The race for the U.S. Senate was no longer a factor. In addition, Rep. Andrews who held the House seat since 1990 announced in April that he would not seek reelection in November if he lost to Sen. Lautenberg.

Empty Rhetoric or Fair Warning?

The idea that the Bush administration would deliberately provoke a military conflict with Iran was not a new concept particularly among the mostly antiwar audience. Strong words, however, from a congressman tapped by President Bush to coauthor the House version of the Iraq Resolution in 2002.

Additionally, Rep. Andrews who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, co-founded the Iran Working Group and is on the board of advisors of the Israel Project is known to take a hard line when it comes to Iran. Regarding a nuclear Iran, he is clear: “A nuclear Iran would present the world with a danger never before realized.” In a 2006 address on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Rep. Andrews foreshadowed a “nuclear 9/11 in Lower Manhattan” if Iran were allowed to continue enriching uranium.

By February 2007, as Andrews’ faith in the administration’s handling of the Iraq War was waning, he began to express concern over President Bush’s approach to Iran. Andrews took to the House floor and argued that the House needed to affirm its constitutional prerogative and sole authority to declare war.

I am troubled by recent signs that I have seen from our administration with respect to the issue of Iran. Placement of naval assets in that area of the world is justified as a defensive measure, but I worry that it may be a provocative measure. The words of our President are words which can be taken, and I hope they are meant in the spirit of warning and cooperation, but they could also be taken in the spirit of provocation, and I hope and pray that they are not meant in that regard.

On May 16, 2007, Rep. Andrews’ amendment to the Defense Authorization Act for 2008 that would prevent authorized funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from being used to plan a contingency operation in Iran was narrowly defeated. Among supporters was Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR).

Minutes later, the House voted on Rep. DeFazio’s amendment. It would clarify that no previously enacted law authorized military action against Iran. It prohibited funding authorized by the bill from being used to take military action against Iran without authorization from Congress unless there was a national emergency created by an attack by Iran. Andrews inexplicably voted against it.

The following month Rep. Andrews joined Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) in introducing the Iran Sanctions Enhancement Act of 2007. This bipartisan legislation would extend sanctions to entities that provide refined petroleum to Iran.

Now Congressman Andrews, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and Iran Working Group, predicts that in order to win an election for the Republicans, the administration will create a false flag, a casus belli, in order to attack Iran. Regardless of the reason, would the Bush administration take such sinister action? Journalist, Seymour Hersh, laid out such a case in his July article in the New Yorker, Preparing the Battlefield.

Were Rep. Andrews’ remarks partisan rhetoric or sincere warning? If it is the former, we may have stumbled upon a new low in partisan politics. If the latter, the question should be what is he going to do about it.

Caution and Reminders

Upon his return from Israel this summer, Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen warned of opening up a “third front” in Iran. He added, “Just about every move in that part of the world is a high risk move.”

Furthermore, Dr. Thomas Fingar, Deputy Director of the NIA and Chair of the NIC reaffirmed in a keynote address two weeks ago what was stated in the November NIE on Iran that “work on the weaponization portion of the program was suspended.”

Congressional Inaction and Reaction

If Rep. Andrews stands by his ‘Gulf of Tonkinize’ claim then he should be taking the proper steps to prevent what could be a catastrophic event. Unfortunately, the staffers in Andrews’ DC office are adept at reciting “we can’t speak for the congressman.” Numerous attempts at clarification have been ignored.

Meanwhile, a controversial resolution on Iran, H. Con. Res. 362, continues to gain support. Despite sponsorship withdrawal by five House members (Reps. Danny Davis, Steve Cohen, Thomas Allen, Wm. Lacy Clay and John Lewis), there are presently 271 cosponsors. Three other cosponsors (Reps. Robert Wexler, Barney Frank, and Jackie Speier), have called for a change in specific language.

 

This non binding resolution, demands that the President prohibit the export of refined petroleum products to Iran and impose stringent inspections on persons and transport entering and departing Iran. In addition, it prohibits all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating a suspension of Iran’s nuclear program from international movement.

related bill introduced by Senator Evan Bayh (R-IN) now with 50 cosponsors has been referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Contained in both resolutions are whereas clauses that are of questionable validity.

 

Should President Bush choose to rise to the occasion and act on the recommendations, a perfect storm for Mr. Andrews’ gloomy prediction may soon roll into the Persian Gulf.

Dissing the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran

Among the Key Judgments of the Nov. 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran is the statement “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”

Before the NIE release President Bush, ratcheting up the rhetoric against Iran, invoked references such as “World War III.” Never one to let 16 U.S. intelligence agencies get in his way, the president used the findings to boost his claim that Iran is a “threat to peace” adding “My opinion hasn’t changed.”

Soon, the media and many members of Congress fell in line creating an opening for those hell-bent on opening up that third front.

Two weeks ago, John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN spoke to Pepe Escobar of the Real News. Regarding the November NIE, Bolton said, “Look, the NIE has been effectively repudiated by the intelligence community. It’s as dramatic a reversal as I’ve ever seen. I don’t think there’s any doubt in most people’s minds that Iran continues to pursue a nuclear-weapons capability, and I fear that they have achieved all of the scientific and technical knowledge that they need to have a deliverable nuclear weapon. So we’re at a very critical point in dealing with Iran, and our options are quite limited.”

Tell that to Dr. Fingar, Mr. Bolton.

 

Perverse Legislation

Perversion of the NIE has also made its way into congressional legislation. One “whereas” clause within H. Con. Res. 362 states, “Whereas the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate reported that Iran was secretly working on the design and manufacture of a nuclear warhead until at least 2003, but that Iran could have enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon as soon as late 2009.”

The first part of the clause is a far cry from the original that states “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”

Part two states “Iran could have enough HEU for a nuclear weapon as soon as late 2009.” While the NIE judged with moderate confidence that the earliest possible date Iran would be technically capable of this is late 2009, it continued “but that this is very unlikely.”

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern who, during his 27-year tenure with the CIA, chaired National Intelligence Estimates commented “The resolution conveniently drops off the clause, but that this is very unlikely.” He added, “That is so transparent and disingenuous that it is not worthy of legislators.”

Recent news suggests the administration may not need to risk a “Gulf of Tonkin” incident. Israel Today reported over the weekend, “In an apparent about-face, the Bush Administration announced on Friday that it has decided to approve the sale of 1,000 advanced bunker-buster bombs to Israel.”

If Israel uses these weapons against Iran it will come as no surprise if in the aftermath, the U.S. rushes to the aid of Israel. After all, Bush declared in an address to the Knesset in May that “America is proud to be Israel’s closest ally and best friend in the world.”

What should be done now?

Ray McGovern offered that “Mullen should formally and publicly request a Memorandum to Holders of the November 2007 NIE on Iran inquiring into what the evidence collected since mid-07 might tell us of any changes. He could do that and he should.”

The function of an MTH explained McGovern “would be to update the most serious issues covered in the original NIE dated Nov. 07.  A Memo to Holders could be done and coordinated among the 16 intelligence agencies in a month or two.”

At least one member of Congress agrees with the need for an MTH. Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) offered an amendment to the 2009 National Intelligence Act that calls for a Memorandum to Holders of the NIE on Iran. The Bush administration has already threatened a veto.

McGovern responded, “It was a laudable effort on his part to try to make it law that there be an MTH so McConnell would be forced (theoretically, at least) to do one. But, it speaks volumes that a member of Reyes’ committee thinks it necessary to do, via eminently veto-able legislation, what Reyes could do by just picking up the phone. HPSCI does, after all, control the CIA budget and other agencies’ money as well.”

Yes. Congress has the power to request an update – a Memorandum to Holders – of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.

With a surge in rhetoric, a U.S. sale of bunker-busting bombs to Israel, a media that hasn’t learned its lesson, charges that the administration will “Gulf of Tonkinize” Iran, and more members of Congress including Presidential candidates conveniently forgetting or dismissing the findings of the NIE on Iran, ordering a Memorandum to Holders is the responsible thing to do. Anything less would be gross misfeasance.

For five months, Mr. Andrews emphatically stated he would not seek reelection to the House if he lost the Senate primary. Last week, he threw his hat back in the ring replacing wife, Camille, on the ballot.

Mr. Andrews, now that you’re back in the game, action is what is needed. Call for a Memorandum to Holders of the 2007 NIE on Iran and invite your colleagues on both sides to join you. Set the record straight before President Bush taps you on the shoulder once again.

 

Congressman Rob Andrews: Phone 202-225-6501 Fax 202-225-6583

 

 

 

The Democratic Majority: Enabling a Rogue Presidency and Stonewalling the American People

Tomorrow, Rep. Conyers will hold a hearing entitled, “Executive Power and its Constitutional Limitations.” This article is a reprint from March 2008. It illustrates Conyers’ impeachment rhetoric since ’06 and details the failed attempts at accountability by the Democratic majority of the Bush/Cheney crimes. Let them know our country deserves better.

 

Lawless. Imperial. Rogue.

These labels have been attached to the Bush administration for the last three Take Back America (TBA) conferences. The annual conference hosted by the Campaign for America’s Future, does a bang up job each year highlighting the dark deeds of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. And, what better man for the job than House Judiciary Chair John Conyers. Turns out, the better man for the job may be the pre-House Judiciary Chair John Conyers.

TBA 2006: Challenging Lawlessness

In June 2006, Congressman Conyers was on fire at the TBA session “Challenging a Lawless President.” Still in the House minority, the great congressman from Michigan was hot on the trail of a lawless President Bush and his unbridled sidekick, Vice President Cheney.

Six months earlier, the congressman issued a report declaring, “We have found that there is substantial evidence the president, the vice-president and other high ranking members of the Bush administration misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq; misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for such war; countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in Iraq; and permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of their administration.”

Just before the conference, Representative Nancy Pelosi fearful of emboldening the Republicans during a critical election season, declared impeachment to be “off the table.” But when Representative Conyers approached the podium, he brought the TBA participants to their feet as he announced his next course of action. In brief, he introduced a resolution (H. Res. 635) that would create a select committee with subpoena authority to investigate the misconduct of the Bush administration with regard to the Iraq war and report on possible impeachable offenses.

Inspired and hopeful, progressives hit the streets to help the Democrats take back the House and restore order in the government.

By August, Mr. Conyers had released the final version of the “Constitution in Crisis.” He described the report as “some 350 pages in length and is supported by more than 1,400 footnotes, compiles the accumulated evidence that the Bush administration has thumbed its nose at our nation’s laws, and the Constitution itself. Approximately 26 laws and regulations may have been violated by this administration’s conduct.” Certainly enough to begin impeachment hearings when one considers President Nixon’s were prompted by a simple burglary.

Mr. Conyers went on to say that “The administration also appears to have used the war on terror as an excuse to eviscerate the basic protections afforded to us in the Constitution. There have been warrantless wiretaps of law-abiding Americans, in clear contravention of federal law, not to mention the creation of a huge unchecked database on the phone records of innocent Americans.”

He lamented that “All the while, the Republican Congress sits idly by. Rather than performing its constitutional duty as a coequal branch. It has chosen to stymie any and all efforts at oversight. After six long years of deception, attacks and yes, outright lies, I am convinced the American people have had enough.”

Indeed the American people had had enough and three months later they handed the Democrats both the House and the Senate.

TBA 2007: Curbing Imperialism

Fast forward to June 2007, when the Take Back America crowd descended once again on the Washington Hilton. This time Congressman Conyers was to discuss Curbing an Imperial Presidency.” Senior staff member to John Conyers, Burt Wides, delivered a prepared speech while the congressman tended to business on the Hill.

“Since the last election we have begun to shrink Bush’s imperial presidency,” Wides read. In what manner the “imperial presidency” was shrinking remained unclear. “President Bush has subverted the checks and balances that are the cornerstone of our freedoms. In most instances, the Republican Congress just went along with those abuses. The founding fathers must be spinning in their graves, not merely at Bush’s blatant erosion of their system, but also and perhaps more at Congress’ supine failure to protect the Constitution. Now that Democrats control Congress, we have a very clear and heavy responsibility to take back the Constitution.”

It wasn’t enough that the American people elected a Democratic majority that promised to rein in Bush and Cheney and hold them accountable. They were now charged with a new task. These efforts, according to Conyers, would only succeed with support of citizen groups committed to the Constitution. These groups had already been popping up across the country for years. Many were part of a broad coalition that makes up the organization AfterDowningStreet.org.  

 

AfterDowningStreet, led by activist David Swanson, sprang to life in May 2005 to pressure both Congress and the media to investigate whether President Bush had committed impeachable offenses. The coalition borrowed its name from the incriminating Downing Street Memos that emerged in May and June of 2005.

Despite the subject matter, impeachment was never offered as a viable solution to “curbing the imperial presidency” by the TBA panelists. It was, however, on the minds of the audience and questions on impeachment dominated the Q&A session.

After all questions on impeachment were shot down by the panelists, Bob Fertik of Democrats.com addressed the panel. To a cheering audience, Fertik asserted “I think you’re completely misreading the politics in the country. All of the polls report that the majority of Americans support impeachment hearings, a solid majority of Americans and it’s not even being discussed. The American people were way ahead of Congress on Iraq and the American people are way ahead of Congress on impeachment. It’s just time to stop with the ridiculous excuses. The American people know the only way to hold Bush accountable is through impeachment.”

Grassroots Action

Determined to restore the Constitution and rule of law, groups made up of ordinary citizens, veterans, and constitutional experts forged ahead on their own. John Conyers had called for this and the people responded. Five weeks later, on July 23, an impeachment petition containing more than one million signatures was delivered directly to the congressman. When he told the participants that there were “not enough votes for” impeachment, a peaceful sit-in was held in his office. The group was promptly arrested and hauled off to be processed.

The following month, Congressman Conyers traveled to Newark, New Jersey to promote his national health care bill, H.R. 676 at the People’s March for Peace, Equality, Jobs and Justice. He found himself facing a diverse crowd of a few thousand calling for impeachment. The article, Dancing With Conyers, describes what happened next.

“In what has become routine now, Conyers fed into the momentum asking ‘What should we do?’ ‘Impeach!’ cried the crowd. ‘What should we do?’ ‘Impeach’ and so it was repeated. The congressman went on to declare that we needed to bring back Rumsfeld and put him on trial and the big question was to decide who ought to go first.‘Cheney!’ shouted the crowd enthusiastically.”

To settle the crowd, Conyers offered to meet with activists afterwards. Leaders from the New Jersey Impeach Groups asked the congressman to initiate impeachment hearings. They were told to “work hard” and get one representative from New Jersey to sign onto Representative Kucinich’s resolution (H. Res. 333) to impeach Vice President Cheney. They explained that Congressman Donald Payne, who was on his way to the rally, had signed on a few weeks earlier.

The chair of the House Judiciary Committee grew solemn telling the group the risk of failing was too great. It was too risky to use powers granted by the Constitution to remove a few rogue leaders regardless of the consequences of not removing them. This type of exchange was becoming familiar to activists. A few weeks earlier at a meeting with progressive democrats in San Diego, Conyers told the group to get just three more members of Congress to back impeachment. At the time, there were 14 sponsors. Since the offer, 13 more members of Congress cosponsored H. Res. 333 with no movement within the House Judiciary Committee.

During the summer of 2007, Congressman Conyers crisscrossed the country. At every turn he was met with citizens who implored him to move on impeachment. In response, he coined a new phrase. At an August 28 town hall meeting in his home district in Michigan, constituents clamored for impeachment. Conyers announced, “Nancy Pelosi has impeachment ‘off the table,’ but that’s off her table, it is not off John Conyers’ table.” The crowd erupted in applause.The same day in a telephone interview, the congressman discussed impeachment with journalist Amy Goodman. From the Democracy Now website:

‘”I’ve got the constitution in one hand and a calculator in the other,” House Judiciary Chair John Conyers (D–MI) said today on Democracy Now! when asked about the possibility of impeachment. Conyers said hearings could “make the record clear that there has been a great deal of violation of the sworn oath of office, abuses of power…but there isn’t the time for it.’ He also said he doesn’t think there are enough votes in the House and Senate to support impeachment.’

Clearly, rogue administrations aren’t the only ones adept at stonewalling.

Failed Strategies

Members of Congress have inexplicably chosen not to harness their duly granted powers to take on a criminal administration. Instead, they cling to previously failed efforts.

The Letters

A very small sampling finds letters about “fixed” intelligence, letters spanning two years from John Conyers to Fred Fielding requesting information and documents concerning warrantless wiretapping, and a letter from John Conyers to President Bush requesting the release of the Hadley memo related to claims of uranium from Africa and the “16 words.”

There were several letters regarding the president’s signing statements including one from Senator Dick Durbin requesting confirmation from President Bush that he would indeed enforce legislation that was just enacted. Two years ago, Senator Leahy sent a letter to the president urging him to “cease and desist” from his unconstitutional use of presidential signing statements. GOP Senator Susan Collins sent President Bush a letter about opening letters.

 

The chair of the House Oversight Committee, Henry Waxman, sent letters to Fred Fielding on the mystery of the missing White House e-mails. Recently, there was a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey from 46 House Democrats asking how he will ensure the President follows Congress’ ban on permanent bases in Iraq. Congress is now relegated to asking an uncooperative Attorney General to make sure the President takes care that the laws be faithfully executed.

The Subpoenas

When a few years of polite inquiries fail to produce results, Congress moves onto subpoenas. When used within the context of a healthy government, subpoenas prove to be quite effective. Why Democrats think that an overreaching, unaccountable administration would readily respond or cooperate fully is mind boggling.

Last April, House Democrats issued five subpoenas in a single morning related to the U.S. attorney firings, the use of RNC email accounts, and the claim that Iraq sought uranium from Niger for a nuclear weapons program. According to the Washington Post, “The White House signaled that it will continue to resist efforts to secure testimony from Rice, Rove and other aides.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated that she was “not inclined” to appear. To date, none of these issues have been resolved to the satisfaction of the House Democrats.

Contempt

In February, eight months after issuing subpoenas to Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten, the House moved to initiate civil contempt proceedings. John Bresnahan of Politico.com reported, “Pelosi noted that Conyers had sent nine different letters to current White House Counsel Fred Fielding seeking a compromise that would allow Bolten and Miers to appear, but Fielding refused to allow either aide, or former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, to testify in public or under oath.”

 

Two weeks later, the Attorney General wrote a letter to Pelosi stating he would not refer congressional contempt citations to a grand jury or take any other action on the matter.

The Lawsuits

When all else fails, take ‘em to court. In 2006, John Conyers announced he was “Taking the President to Court. After a battle over a Republican budget bill, the president despite being warned by Democrats, signed a Senate version that Democrats claimed had not been passed by the House. The purpose of the lawsuit? To seek confirmation from the court that a bill not passed by the House and Senate is not a law. The lawsuit never made it to court. Perhaps he never sung along with School House Rock.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced last May that she would sue the President if he attached a signing statement to Congress’s Iraq funding bill. Of course, a simple and effective solution would be for the House Speaker to turn to Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution then quickly drop down to Section 4. [Note: There is no clause about the 2008 elections, time left or predetermining votes.]

 

This month after Mukasey refused to enforce Congressional subpoenas, House Democrats filed a lawsuit against White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers. And thus, the cycle continues.

New Legislation

In response to the Bush administration’s assertion that it did not require congressional approval for establishing any long-term security agreement with Iraq, the Congressional Progressive Caucus announced they were introducing new legislation to combat the situation. The legislation seeks to “reassert the constitutional powers of Congress in the shaping and conduct of U.S. foreign policy.”

A move like this is not without inherent risk. If the legislation fails to pass, it can serve to bolster the administration’s arguments. If it does pass, we’re right back to the signing statement which is what brought this whole issue out in the open in the first place. If Congress starts making a habit of creating new legislation to reinforce already established laws the country is headed down another dangerous path.

With a Heavy Heart

Whether a principled response to the administration’s lack of cooperation with Congress or a growing concern that a Democratic President might be equally uncooperative, Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), railed against the Bush administration last month. Rohrabacher whose aggressive support of rendition and lack of compassion for Iraqi refugees has upset many, has spoken out strongly against the administration for its “contemptuous disregard for Congress.”

 

In a lengthy speech the Republican member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said, I have come to the sad conclusion that this administration has intentionally obstructed Congress’ rightful and constitutional duties.” Rohrabacher offers “When I hear my friends on the other side of the aisle accusing this administration of stonewalling, of coverups, or thwarting investigations, I sadly must concur with them.” He concludes, “We should not be setting precedents that the President of the United States has the lion’s share of the power in this great democracy of ours.” Are you listening, Nancy?

The Pelosi Factor

“I have said it before and I will say it again: Impeachment is off the table.”

When all efforts to effect checks and balances are thwarted and there is no other recourse to restore order in an administration gone wild, taking impeachment “off the table” really boils down to a matter of obstruction of justice. This begs the question why would the House Speaker obstruct justice?

Rarely discussed in the corporate media since initial reports is the fact that two of the most abhorrent impeachable offenses in the eyes of the American people were disclosed to Nancy Pelosi several years before they went public.

As the Washington Post reported late last year, in September 2002, along with three other members of Congress, Nancy Pelosi was briefed on “overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk. Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was water boarding.” The Washington Post reported that Pelosi did not raise any objections at the time.

In a 2006 oped, Nancy Pelosi remarked that the president’s admission that he authorized the electronic surveillance on Americans is a “wake-up call for intensive congressional oversight of intelligence activities.” With no expression of constitutional responsibility, she acknowledges that she, herself, had been informed of the president’s authorization. She went on to excuse herself by stating “But when the administration notifies Congress in this manner, it is not seeking approval.”

 

Former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern, raises another unsettling question. According to the former head of Qwest Communications, the NSA sought assistance with surveillance in February 2001, challenging the repeated claim that 9/11 “changed everything.” The question then, isWhat Did Pelosi Know about NSA, and When Did She Know It?

An Impeachment Groundswell

Despite the lack of cooperation from the Congress, the movement to impeach continues to gain traction in communities throughout the country.

According to AfterDowningStreet.org, impeachment resolutions have passed in Vermont’s state legislature (introduced in 11 other states), 26 statewide and national political committees, 19 state legislative districts, 91 cities, towns and counties, 54 local political groups/parties/jurisdictions, and several unions, seven ACLU chapters, with dozens more pending or in the works. Organizations well versed in constitutional law like the National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights have also called for impeachment.

In addition, indictment resolutions against the president and vice president have been introduced in three jurisdictions including Kennebunkport, Maine, summer home of the Bush family. In Brattleboro, Vermont, the votes were cast and the president and vice President may be wise not to tread on that town any time soon.

These actions stand in stark contrast with John Conyers’ assertion in his prepared speech at last year’s Take Back America conference that “Too many Americans, however, feel that Bush’s assault on civil liberties are not really their concern.”

Congressional Rebuffs

Refusal by many members of Congress to support impeachment has little to do with whether or not they believe serious offenses have been committed as evidenced by letters to constituents.

 

Steve Rothman (D-NJ) is “outraged” over the president’s “overreaching intelligence gathering measures” and for “misleading the American people about the basis for going to war in Iraq.” He’s just not sure there is enough evidence. Perhaps John Conyers can lend him a copy of the “Constitution in Crisis.”

Representative Joe Sestak (D-PA) wrote “we have witnessed our government ignore the freedoms established in the Constitution on countless occasions and flaunted national security as justification.” While Sestak lays out numerous “egregious” abuses that “strike at the heart of our democracy,” he contends that congressional oversight will do the trick. One after another, members of Congress outline assaults on the Constitution by the president and vice president, but choose to ride out the next 10 months with little regard to the consequences.

Jerrold Nadler, chair of the Subcommittee on the Constitution has, in essence, altered the Constitution by ruling out impeachment as a viable tool for this and future administrations. By doing so, he opens the door to certain abuse of power. Impeachment, he says, “Doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because essentially the framers of the Constitution did not foresee political parties.” It’s a wonder George Mason, himself, hasn’t risen up to demand that Nadler step down from his chairmanship.

“No point,” said Mason, “is of more importance than that the right of impeachment should be continued.”Upholding the Oath

Conservative Bruce Fein, a constitutional lawyer who served as associate deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan had a message for the Democratic leadership in a radio interview with Rob Kall of OpEdNews.com.

“It is quite clear,” Fein remarked, “that they will not move because they think collectively that it will not be advantageous politically for the Democratic Party. I have retorted, you have taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States which includes the impeachment clause.”

His voice rising, he stressed “That’s the only oath that you have taken. You have taken not an oath to support the Democratic Party. You’ve not taken an oath to support your political ambitions. The only unflagging obligation that you have is to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States. You are violating your oath when the reason for not going forward is not because they are not impeachable offenses, but you make a political calculation that it wouldn’t be healthy for your party – even if it would be healthy for the government of the United States and for the American people.”

When Kall commented that some worried that impeachment proceedings would hurt the candidates, Fein was even more blunt than before. “I think that is nauseating. When you think about all the risks that the founding fathers took, death, their fortunes, [ . . . ] and these people say ‘yea there are impeachable offenses, but if we have to choose between the Constitution which so many have died to preserve and our party’s gains at the next election so let’s throw the Constitution out the window’ – that is nauseating. That kind of attitude would have left us a colony of Great Britain and it’s not American.”

Congressional Courage

There are members of Congress who are undeterred by the Democratic leadership stance. In April 2007, Representative Dennis Kucinich introduced House Resolution 333 that, if passed, would impeach Vice President Dick Cheney. Each time an old offense was exposed or a new one committed, representatives would add their support.

 

In November 2007, when public pressure failed to move the resolution out of the House Judiciary where it languished, Kucinich introduced a privileged resolution to force a vote. After an afternoon of partisan politicking, the resolution landed back in the House Judiciary Committee with a new title, H. Res. 799. To date, there are 27 sponsors of H. Res. 799. Six of the 27 also serve on the House Judiciary Committee.

Moved by pressure from his constituents and a strong allegiance to the Constitution, Representative Robert Wexler (D-FL) rose up to lead the charge for impeachment hearings. In December, he authored an oped “A Case for Hearings” along with Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) also members of the House Judiciary Committee.

 

In addition, he setup the website WexlerWantsHearings.com where he asked the public to lend their support. His long-term goal was 50,000 online signatures. Within the first 24 hours, 30,000 Americans had added their names. Currently, there are more than 233,000 supporters.Wexler, along with 19 House members – five on the House Judiciary Committee – have written to chairman John Conyers urging support for impeachment hearings. In a New Year’s Eve post, The Nation named Robert Wexler, “The Most Valuable Congressman” stating, “If he keeps this up in 2008, Wexler could yet force the House to be what the founders intended: a check and balance on executive lawlessness.”

TBA 2008: The Republic Against the Rogue Presidency

Based on the reports from last week’s Take Back America conference, it appears that John Conyers has turned back the clock two years. It’s all about winning the elections.

One blogger writes that the reason Conyers gave for not pursuing impeachment now is that “it would jeopardize the chance of a young, excellent man running for the White House,” referring to Senator Barack Obama. Sam Stein reports that “Conyers offered a strong suggestion that he intends to consider legal action against Bush and Company once they leave office.” Stein quotes Conyers as saying “We can win this thing and go get these guys after [they leave office].”

Conyers, like Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), offered that if Bush attacks Iran he should be impeached. It is disturbing to watch seasoned leaders, who have already witnessed this president wage a war on a country preemptively and on false pretenses, decide to “wait and see” rather than preventing more carngage by removing the rogue president for crimes already committed.

Activist David Swanson pulls no punches, “The congress that we elected in 2006 to end the occupation and hold Bush and Cheney accountable immediately decided to pretend to attempt to do its job for two years in hopes of winning more seats in 2008 by opposing the occupation and Bush and Cheney.”

“That this would mean hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths, two years off the clock on global warming, our nation and others in ever greater danger of attack, and the continued erosion of our rights – these things didn’t faze Reid or Pelosi,” charged the activist. “The pretenses they’ve put up have included hearings, letters, subpoenas, contempt citations, and bills recriminalizing already illegal and unconstitutional actions. They’ve also pretended to try to pass all sorts of other legislation, such as a children’s health care bill, knowing full well that they would be vetoed or signing statemented. It’s a two-year election campaign at taxpayer expense.”

Regarding impeachment and the elections, Swanson contends “Forcing John McCain to choose between the Constitution and the least popular president and vice president ever would be a gold mine immediately apparent to any entity capable of playing offense. The Democratic Party only plays defense.”

Conyers and Nixon

Congressman Conyers might well be served, and the nation in turn, by recalling his 1974 article published in The Black Scholar entitled “Why Nixon Should Have Been Impeached.”

The 45-year-old Conyers wrote, “In calling him to account, we also reestablish the proper parameters of presidential conduct. It is essential, therefore, that the record of our inquiry be complete so that no future president may infer that we have implicitly sanctioned what we have not explicitly condemned.”

He closed by remarking, “Impeachment is difficult and it is painful, but the courage to do what must be done is the price of remaining free.”

 

 

 

If Increased Sanction Resolution, 362, Could Give Bush License for a Naval Blockade Why Support It?

Last month’s introduction by Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) and Mike Pence (R-IN) of H. Con. Res 362 has raised the ire of many who believe the actions that are called for within the resolution could very well lead the U.S. down the path to a military conflict with Iran.Yet, there is strong bipartisan support for this resolution with 220 cosponsors as of June 29. The Senate version, S. Res. 580, currently boasts 32 cosponsors. In fact, in a truthout report by Maya Schenwar and Matt Renner, a Pelosi staffer is quoted as saying this resolution will “pass like a hot knife through butter.”

During the Rob Kall Radio Show on June 25, Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL) graciously took time from discussing his new book, “Fire Breathing Liberal” and his push for impeachment inquiries to address concerns that were being raised regarding this resolution that he, himself, cosponsored.

The issue at hand was the language in the resolution that “demands that the President initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities, by inter alia, prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran’s nuclear program.”

Confession: I had to look up inter alia to find that it means “among other things.”

As an invited caller, I shared with Congressman Wexler my experience the prior evening. I read the passage above to a group attending a lecture by Dr. Bob Bowman, Lt. Colonel, USAF, ret, a fighter pilot in Vietnam, who also directed the DoD “Star Wars” programs under Ford and Carter. Bowman is on a speaking tour to restore the Constitution and hold the Bush administration accountable through impeachment.

As I read from Res. 362, a collective groan rose from the audience as people scrambled for pen and paper to take down the information. Dr. Bowman declared it was something we had to fight. He paused and reflected before stating, “It cuts very close to being a declaration of war.”

In response to this, Rep. Wexler offered, “Let me start by just creating a foundation from my view which is that I intensely distrust President Bush particularly as it relates to the use of military force.”

He went on to state that, “We have a responsibility to prevent President Bush from unilaterally attacking Iran similar to what he did, of course, with Iraq.” This is the reason, he added, that he is also a cosponsor of H.R. 3119. This resolution prohibits the use of funds for military operations in Iran without prior authorization by Congress.

Congressman Wexler explained that “Resolution 3119 could not be clearer in indicating that Congress will not give Mr. Bush a blank check and that we support a policy of engagement rather than military force.”

Researching H.R. 3119 immediately following Wednesday’s interview found that it was introduced one year ago and has gained little traction with only 29 cosponsors – all Democrats. Three more names, including Rep. Wexler’s, were added on June 26 bringing the total count to 32. At this point, H.R. 3119, legislation that has not passed, really serves as no deterrent.

In detailing his reason for supporting 362, Mr. Wexler remarked “I signed on to the resolution you spoke about initially because I believe and I still do, although I understand your concern and I respect it, that 362 called for enhanced economic – as you read – economic, political, and diplomatic sanctions.”

In respect to the language that follows that calls for President Bush to “prohibit the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products,” and begin “stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles,” etc. entering or departing Iran, Congressman Wexler contended that the resolution “makes no reference whatsoever to the use of military force, it makes no reference, of course, to any language that would support an embargo. Although, again, I want to point out that I understand your concern and I understand your reluctance because it is strong language.”

Indeed, the word “embargo” cannot be found within the four-page document, but prohibiting trade or commerce with another country in order to isolate it, e.g. preventing refined petroleum products from entering Iran, is by definition an embargo.

When pressed by Rob that comments coming in to him were pointing to a Naval blockade, Rep. Wexler dismissed it by saying there is no language in the resolution that calls for a Naval blockade. Again, the word “blockade” is not used. But, any effort to prevent supplies from reaching a country – which this resolution calls for – is after all a blockade.

Ultimately, the congressman conceded that he understood the “concern that the mechanism of enforcement in theory might be a Naval blockade.” “But,” he explained, “that’s the use of a military confrontation act and that is not something that I would support unless there was prior congressional approval. I understand the concern particularly in that it’s President Bush that we are talking about, but I don’t think reasonably that there is any language in 362 that authorizes a Naval blockade. If there is, I would not have signed it.”

I asked, “What then would imposing stringent inspection requirements on persons, vehicles, ships – what would that look like then?” Rep. Wexler replied, “It’s a good question.” So pleased was I that I asked a “good question,” I failed to recognize that the conversation drifted into a discussion over the concern of a “nuclearization” of the Middle East and the question was never addressed. Lesson learned.

Often times what is not written into legislation or little things that are inserted such as “inter alia” can be far more damaging than what is actually written.

What lessons have we learned from the Bush administration? 1. If the President and Vice President are given a blank check, for example the 2001 “Authorization for Use of Military Force,” they will surely take full advantage of it. 2. If the President and Vice President are not given permission by Congress to wreak havoc – they will anyway.

Follow-Through

One attribute, among others, that separates Rep. Wexler from many of his colleagues on the Hill is his willingness to engage in dialogue beyond the perfunctory sound bite. One thing about Rob Kall, editor and publisher of OpEdNews.com is his drive to go the extra mile. Not a common practice these days in the corporate-owned mainstream media. Rob, looking to clarify some issues regarding 362, reached out the following day to Congressman Wexler who readily agreed to continue the conversation. Look for Rob’s upcoming article about the media aspect of this.

The dominant theme presented to Rep. Wexler in follow-up was the question of what really is going to keep President Bush, who already unilaterally and preemptively attacked a sovereign nation with no repercussions from a Democratic majority, from repeating the scenario with Iran.

Rep. Wexler, in his reply, held fast to his belief that H. Con. Res. 362 would not open the door to any military action by the U.S. against Iran. He explained, “First and foremost H. Con. Res. 362 is a non-binding resolution which is only a statement/expression of Congress without any force of law.”

While it is true that the resolution is non-binding. It is ironic that a non-binding resolution would “demand” the President take a specific action. Even more ironic is the fact that what is being asked seems to be right up the Bush administration’s alley.

Mr. Wexler again reiterated that “nothing in this resolution shall be construed as an authorization of the use of force against Iran.”

But, if the President takes the direction to, for example, prohibit export of refined petroleum products to Iran or restrict movement of Iranian officials who are not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran’s “pursuit of nuclear weapons,” and it triggers a military conflict which in all likelihood Bush will not back away from, Congress can wash their hands and say, “Hey, we said there was nothing in our resolution that authorized that.”

Congressman Wexler, in his follow-up with Rob Kall, emphasized again the call for all this to happen with the support of the international community.

The issue of an international context was reinforced in a dismissive reply on June 25 by Ackerman and Pence who claim criticism of the resolution is “utter nonsense.”

The resolution does demand that the President “initiate an international effort.” Is it enough for the President to place a few calls to “initiate” an international effort and then call it a day? I don’t know. The resolution doesn’t say. What it also doesn’t say is that the actions demanded within the resolution require UN approval.

Many believe the fact that the U.S. unilaterally attacked Iraq was not the overriding problem in 2003. Would support of the international community have made our venture into Iraq acceptable and legitimate? I think not.

A Democrat and a Republican Speak Out

Congressman Rob Andrews (D-NJ) who is not seeking reelection in November after losing to incumbent Frank Lautenberg in the Senate primary, made a rather bold and unexpected statement regarding the Bush administration and Iran at a public forum on Iraq on June 13. Andrews was an early and staunch supporter of the Iraq war and has routinely taken a tough stance on Iran. During his Senate primary campaign, he received the endorsement of the Political Action Committee of Cherry Hill for his commitment to the security of the State of Israel.

Andrews stated [see video] “There is a real and consistent concern that the government of Iran is attempting to acquire nuclear weapons. Now there has been saber rattling about this. There’s going to be an attempt, I believe, to “Gulf of Tonkinize” this issue before the November election and I think you can anticipate all kinds of Naval adventures in the Persian Gulf that will try to be used as a pretext for an attack upon Iran. I think that that will be the strategy in the November election.” A call earlier today to Rep. Andrew’s office for further comment has yet to be returned.

There was no mention of specific legislation. Still, his remarks add credence to what many fear – that the President could use this demand, non-binding as it is, to create an embargo against Iran to provoke the Iranian government. To date, Rep. Andrews has not cosponsored H. Con. Res. 362.

GOP Congressman Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), like Andrews, served 18 years in Congress. Gilchrest, who stated that he regrets his early support of the Iraq war, also lost his state’s primary this year.

On June 26, Rep. Gilchrest took to the House floor. He questioned what the impact of Resolution 362 and its tightening of sanctions on Iran in a broader way would have on U.S. policy in the Middle East and the impact of the conflict between the two nations.

He responded to his own questions by stating, “I will say, in my judgment, Mr. Speaker, that Resolution 362 will exacerbate, make much more difficult, the problems in the Middle East, and the relationship of Iran with the United States, and the relationship of Iran. Knowledge and an informed policy in the Middle East, a surge of diplomacy, can make a key difference. When Nikita Khrushchev said he was going to bury the United States, what was Eisenhower’s response? He invited Nikita Khrushchev to the United States to tour the Nation, and it began to lessen the conflict between the two countries.”

He concluded by stating that in the fall of 2007, 58 House members on both sides of the aisle signed a letter to the parliament in Iran asking for a parliamentary exchange. That letter, he said, “was hand-delivered by some of us in Lisbon to Iranian parliamentarians. They took it to Iran. And what is their response to us? They want a dialogue. There are members of the Iranian parliament that want a dialogue. Consensus and dialogue. We need more carpenters. Vote against Resolution 362.”

A Unique Perspective

There is an unspoken understanding that online discussions concerning Israel, AIPAC, Iran and the U.S. Congress often descend rapidly into accusations of politicians being “beholden” – or worse – to AIPAC and Israel and alternatively, charges of anti-semitism are often volleyed back without effort made to find common ground. This does little to promote the shared goal of a peaceful Middle East.

I reached out to Rabbi Michael Lerner, an activist and editor of Tikkun, a progressive Jewish and interfaith magazine, for his thoughts.

Rabbi Lerner stressed that he was not an “insider in this struggle,” but openly shared his perspective. He observed that “AIPAC and many other parts of the American Jewish establishment have bought into the paradigm of ‘domination over the other’ as the only way to achieve safety and security in this world.”

He added “There are the majority of American Jews who do not support the war in Iraq and would not support a war in Iran unless it was perceived as being Israel’s only path to self-defense.”

When asked specifically about H. Con. Res. 362, the Rabbi explained, “From our standpoint, the blockade of Iranian oil is a provocative step meant to push Iran into taking counter-steps that would then allow Israel or the U.S. to provide their own people with alleged justification for a larger assault.”

Rabbi Lerner emphasized that “The major forces pushing this are NOT the State of Israel and the American Jewish establishment, but Vice President Cheney and the oil companies whose interests he serves. It is they who worry most about Iran emerging as the dominant force in the Middle East, particularly as the US moves out of Iraq in the years following an Obama election to the presidency.”

“After having fought a war in Iraq so that we could hand over the oil fields to the US oil companies, something that was vigorously denied in the past but in the past few weeks has become the explicit goal of the US puppet regime in Iraq, US oil interests are not willing to see their promised mega profits be threatened by Iran. They imagine that this may be their last moment (that is, from now till Jan. 20, 2009 when the new president takes office) at least for another four or eight years, and so they want to do something that could provoke a larger war that the new president would have to support.”

As it relates to members of Congress, Rabbi Lerner concludes, “The American Jewish Establishment, operating through AIPAC and many other sources, has aligned itself with this crusade of folly, first in Iraq and now in Iran. And, they have been able to call upon many of their supporters in Congress to do likewise.”

Alternatives

Rabbi Lerner does see another option. “We in the Network of Spiritual Progressives call it the “Strategy of Generosity” and we’ve developed a specific manifestation of that when we call for a Global Marshall Plan as the best way for the U.S. and Israel to achieve homeland security.”

They have found that this is the “only plausible alternative to the ‘Strategy of Domination’ and this has been introduced to Congress as House Resolution 1078 two months ago by Congressman Keith Ellison and others.”

Please read more of Rabbi Michael Lerner’s remarks in his OpEdNews post here.

 

A final thought: Those of us who disagree with the course our government has established can blog and comment relentlessly, but without consistent direct action, we won’t veer far from it. As Ray McGovern, CIA analyst turned activist, often says – sometimes you gotta put your body into it.

A ‘Sea of Tombstones’ in Philadelphia Brings Memorial Day Remembrances to a New Level

In the early hours on the Friday before Memorial Day, members of the Delaware Valley Veterans for America, other veterans groups and volunteers, began the painstaking process of marking out the grid that hours later would hold markers representing the 4081 U.S. service members who lost their lives in the Iraq war (as of May 24).  

Adding to this stunning visual were the buildings that flanked the memorial that was first displayed on Veteran’s Day 2005. But, it wasn’t historic Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell or the National Constitution Center that pulled at the heartstrings of those who walked along the somber exhibit. It was the tone that was set by the organizers, mostly veterans, who moved quietly among the perfect rows listening, sharing stories, and answering sometimes difficult questions.  

 

For many Americans, Memorial Day weekend is synonymous with the start of summer festivities; the first trip to the “shore,” breaking out the grill and the convertible and spending time outdoors with family and friends. Thoughts of Memorial Day often elicit sounds of marching bands and images of motorcades making their way down Main Street, America with crowds waving flags from the sidelines.  

These activities were not part of the spirit of Memorial Day on Independence Mall last weekend – except, perhaps, for the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest qualifier that was held on Saturday just steps away from the “Sea of Tombstones,” also known as Arlington-North.  

The spectacle of the crowd cheering on participants who forced the famed hot dogs to their stomach’s capacity and beyond made for a bizarre, if not morose, contrast against the backdrop of what resembled a scaled down version of the revered Arlington National Cemetery. 

A visit to lay wreaths at Arlington Cemetery in October 2005 by Vietnam veteran, Bill Perry, and his subsequent arrest later that night outside the White House in a “die-in” prompted Perry’s vision of creating this growing memorial.  Perry, who joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1969 and testified at the original Winter Soldier two years later was a combat paratrooper who was wounded in action. Some 40 years later, he still struggles with combat PTSD.  

On his decision to create this memorial, Bill recalls, “In October 2005, Col. Ann Wright, Cindy Sheehan, Gold Star Dad Juan Torres and others went to Arlington to place some funeral wreaths because it was the day after 2,000 deaths. That evening, we all got locked up in front of the White House and they caged us in a holding area where we were separated by a chain link fence, and that’s when I decided to do Arlington-North on Veterans Day weekend. We made the first 2,000 markers. We began putting photos and bios on the faux tombstones on Memorial weekend, 2006.” [video news coverage] 

In a time when the caskets of fallen servicemen and women are hidden from the public eye and so few U.S. families have members serving in the military, the “Sea of Tombstones” offers a visual that ”brings it home” for the public. “I want people to have a grasp on the enormity of 4083,” explained Bill.  

Accomplishing this is no easy task and can only be explained as a labor of love. “The setup alone, depending on the turnout of volunteers, takes 6 to 8 hours. There are four heavy duty weekends,” he describes, “of cutting, drilling, sawing, painting and printing out 4,000 photos and bios and laminating them which have to be replaced at least once per year because they fade.  

Despite the long stretch of lawn, only around 2000 markers were able to fit this year as the Department of Interior no longer allowed the veterans group to utilize a section of lawn at the Market Street quadrant. “What burns me up,” protested Bill, “Is that’s the one that catches all the foot traffic from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.”  

That prime piece of real estate this year was relegated by the Park Service for Saturday’s hot dog eating contest.  

To the casual observer, though, the perfect rows of white-painted markers appeared to go on endlessly – not unlike the war that is now in its sixth year.  

 

Above, visitors read a statement by the Delaware Valley Veterans for America:  “This Display represents those Americans, who had their lives taken from them and us. It is not intended to argue the politics of the Iraq War, only to symbolically show the real cost to the public and especially to those Unaffected Americans with no direct or indirect personal involvement. Please reflect and pray for these Americans and Our Military Personnel Presently Operational in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Thank you, Delaware Valley Veterans for America.” 

Asked about the reception the project receives from passersby, Bill who spent around 50 hours on-site over the four days the exhibit ran recounts “Almost everybody’s receptive to it. Criticism is very rare – I’d say over the whole weekend, there were only two people who came through who were just looking for an argument. Two out of maybe a thousand I spoke to. About 15,000 people come through and I speak to about a thousand. I play taps about every half hour to an hour depending on how I feel you know and after that there are always 5 or 10 people who tell me how wonderful it was. They like it.”  

“People just come to us and ask us questions. You get to reach out to the international tourists, people from Missoula, Montana, Peoria and Minnesota Falls.” 

“Even the active duty people come out. We had about 7 guys who were in training over at Fort Dix. They came in and they all saluted the inverted rifle and helmet and boots and there were a lot of other active duty people and they all liked it. Six guys from Pennsylvania National Guard from right around this area were all killed around the same time and they draw a lot of people. They want to see Nate Detample and “Gerry” Pellegrini and all these guys [story].  

 

A young veteran kneels on the ground, his right hand touching the marker of a friend. He shakes his head, “Always joking man, he was funny as hell. We’d sit around the firehouse just laughing and we ended up in the same unit together and we would sit around together cracking jokes all the time and having a good time.” He pauses and shakes his head again, “The last one I would have expected – you know?” A loved one leans in to embrace him. 

For some, last weekend’s visit was not their first to this unique memorial. The Moon family of Levittown, PA returned again this weekend to visit. Their son, Army staff Sgt. Jae Sik Moon was 21 when he was injured in an IED blast while riding on patrol. He died two weeks later in Baghdad on Christmas Day 2006. 

 

Many families, like the Moons, leave flowers and personal messages for their loved ones. Arlington-North offers them an opportunity to reflect and to share their stories with others. There is a sense of peacefulness and an abundance of support from organizers, veterans, other families and even tourists passing by. 

2nd LT. Emily J Perez was a graduate of West Point who deployed to Iraq as a Medical Service Corps officer. At 23, she was the first female African-American officer to die in Iraq. She was killed when a makeshift bomb exploded nearby during combat operations near Najaf.   

Emily’s uncle, M/Sgt Ellis Dean USA (Ret), a Korean and Vietnam Paratrooper also came to pay his respects and remember his niece. A small group gathered around as he proudly shared her many accomplishments.

He then recalled the day he heard the news. “Her grandmother called me and she said, ‘Dean, I got some sad news. My granddaughter, your niece, was killed yesterday in Iraq.’ I just couldn’t believe it.”  

He was then handed the marker with her name and picture. On it, he wrote “We all will never forget you. Rest in Peace. Your Uncle Ellis. As the mock tombstone was held in front of him, he saluted while Bill Perry played taps. For a full minute all foot traffic on the mall came to a standstill in solemn respect.  

 

Many visitors, particularly the children, are surprised by the number of women represented in the memorial. Of the almost 100 U.S. female deaths in Iraq, 60 are confirmed “hostile” fatalities.  

Also recognized by the organizers are PTSD related suicides. The Army reported Thursday that 115 soldiers committed suicide last year, the highest level on record.  But, this was already being discussed at the 2006 Arlington-North Veterans Day. Below, a young girl asks Bill why PTSD suicide happened in Iraq. As Bill comments, “Kid gloves are required for these poignant moments.”  

 

Asked about his own battle with post-traumatic stress and how he manages it, Bill offers, “What’s therapeutic for me is being a Service Officer for Disabled American veterans and helping the Iraq veterans get what they deserve in terms of a good evaluation and good treatment and good compensation from the VA. That’s what I thrive on.” 

What motivates him to continue to sponsor this event in which he and others give so much of themselves? “The tearful thank you’s and heartfelt embraces.”  

  

Long after the Moon family left for the day, a young boy happened upon their son’s marker. He stood motionless contemplating the image before him. His eyes eventually reading the words left behind by the soldier’s mother,  

 

“I love you so much. I miss you so much. Mom.”  

If, indeed, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, the members of Delaware Valley Veterans for America and all the volunteers involved, have gone above and beyond the call of duty.    

To learn more about this exhibit that is displayed on both Memorial and Veterans Day along with a few smaller displays throughout the year and to donate much needed and appreciated funds, please visit: http://www.arlington-libertybell.net/   

photo credits: Jack Kline, Peter Brunner, Cheryl Biren-Wright

additional video by Monique Frugier

Did TrueMajority Drop a Bomb or the Ball on the Philly Debate?

Last week the media descended on the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia in anticipation of the Democratic Debate between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Citizens groups gathered as well to promote dialogue on the occupation of Iraq, the war economy, healthcare, education, the housing crisis, climate change and U.S. policy towards China – you know, the issues that took a back seat in ABCs debacle of a debate. One of the most visually compelling demonstrations illustrated the threat of war against Iran.

Heading down 6th Street towards Independence Hall, the voice of President George W. Bush cut through the dueling chants for Clinton and Obama, “This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. And having said that, all options are on the table.”

For a fleeting moment, the opposing camps set aside their differences and united against a common enemy. Ahh. . . the City of Brotherly Love. Pedestrians laughed and jeered, drivers slowed down and honked their horns as a 15-foot replica of a red and white bomb made its way through the historic streets of Philadelphia. Riding high on this Stanley Kubrick/Dr. Strangelove-inspired bomb was a life-size effigy of George Walker Bush – cowboy boots and all.


IranMobile passes by Obama and Clinton supporters (photo: C. Biren-Wright)

The Mission

Driver Aaron Rubin, representing True Majority’sNotAnotherWar” project has been towing this somewhat comical, yet deadly serious warning up and down the East Coast for the last month. The mission? According to NotANOTHERWar.org is “to stop the march to war with Iran by the right-wing spin machine.” The website continues, “Iran is not an immediate threat, nuclear or otherwise, and should be dealt with diplomatically. Talking about war with Iran is only making the world a more dangerous place.” The rather complex structure of the president straddling a bomb (when trailing John McCain, the head is exchanged for that of the presidential contender accompanied by a “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran” soundtrack) employs a hydraulic lift that raises the missile with the push of a button. This visual, according to Rubin, draws attention to a critical issue that has become even more concerning since the resignation of Admiral William Fallon. Iran Legislation

Along the way, Rubin has been collecting signatures to a petition that reads “Don’t let this administration lead America into another conflict in the Middle East. I urge you to support S. Res. 356 which would require that any military action against Iran be explicitly approved by Congress.” S. Res 356, introduced by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) presently has 13 cosponsors, but has seen no movement for the better part of the last six months. In addition to amassing thousands of signatures, petitions have been delivered to several Senators including Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), John Warner (R-VA), and Mel Martinez (R-FL). While in Philadelphia, TrueMajority.org planned to focus on Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen Specter.

It should be noted that several pieces of legislation designed to thwart an attack on Iran have been introduced in the 110th Congress including H. J. Res. 14, a joint resolution authored by GOP Congressman Walter “Freedom Fries” Jones of North Carolina. H. J. Res. 14 introduced in January 2007, “Provides that: (1) no provision of law enacted before the date of the enactment of this joint resolution shall be construed to authorize the use of U.S. military force against Iran; and (2) absent a national emergency created by an attack or imminent attack by Iran upon the United States, its territories or possessions or its Armed Forces, the President shall consult with Congress, and receive specific authorization pursuant to law from Congress, prior to initiating military force against Iran.” The resolution currently has 66 sponsors and sits in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Interestingly, Senator Clinton was an early cosponsor of Durbin’s S. Res. 356, the one piece of Iran legislation that is being promoted by True Majority. Senator Obama, on the other hand, is not a cosponsor. The irony here is that while True Majority does not endorse candidates, founder Ben Cohen (of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream fame), has personally endorsed Senator Barack Obama.

The argument could easily be made that members of Congress are reluctant to exercise their constitutionally granted power to declare war – it would follow, you see, that accountability would then be attached to that vote.

With the NotAnotherWar action aimed squarely at the Republicans, one wonders with the grave consequences of a war with Iran why not lean on the Democrats too? Is True Majority that confident in them as to not place them on their roster? It seems reasonable that even sympathetic Democrats ought to be approached if only to garner support for the legislation.

Indeed, the Republican Party as a whole continues to echo the tough talk of the president and the Democratic Party has been highly critical of the Bush administration’s war policies. But, criticism espoused by Democrats rarely translates into any significant action.

The Iraq Resolution passed in the Senate because 29 Democrats voted in favor of it. Since then, the Democratic Party has done nothing to hold the Bush administration accountable for the disastrous and illegal invasion that followed. Instead, they continue to fund the occupation. Congressman John Conyers and Senator Joe Biden want us to be comforted by their threat to impeach President Bush – after he attacks Iran.

Like last summer’s Americans Against Escalation in Iraq campaign and MoveOn’s new 20 million dollar Iraq Campaign 2008, the NotAnotherWar tour appears to be playing out more like a Democratic marketing tool with its focus on the “right wing spin machine” and Republican Senators.

The remarks made by Stephanopoulos, Clinton and Obama during the Democratic Debate on Wednesday night did little to reassure those concerned about an impending strike against Iran.

The Debate

First, if you missed ABCs inane, reality-show style assault, directed primarily at Sen. Barack Obama, it went a little like this:

William Ayers, Reverend Wright, San Francisco Fundraiser

Barack’s Attire, verbal gaffes, Hillary under Sniper Fire

Charlie’s obsessed with capital gains, free ride for John McCain.

Is Jeremiah patriotic? – Stephanopoulos.. . are you psychotic?

 

History was on tap at the Philly debate, but in a strange and twisted fashion. Charlie Gibson in an attempt to goad the candidates to declare – or not declare – that each would choose the other as vice president asked this potentially divisive question by hiding behind the U.S. Constitution, “Just to quote from the Constitution again,” Gibson said, “In every case,” Article Two, Section One, “after the choice of the president, the person having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be vice president.”

Remarkably, Charlie couldn’t muster up the wherewithal to bring up the issue that he, himself, reported on just the week before on ABC news – the Bush administration’s meetings on and authorization of torture. This despite the far more recognized 8th amendment to the Constitution that prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

“Debate” moderator, George Stephanopoulos and candidates Obama and Clinton failed to recall as well that founding father Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington before him, warned us about “entangling alliances.”


Independence Hall (photo: C. Biren-Wright)

Ignoring that and the latest National Intelligence Estimate that concluded Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program back in 2003, the former Bill Clinton staffer moved smoothly from the statement “Iran continues to pursue a nuclear option” to “Those weapons, if they got them, would probably pose the greatest threat to Israel.”

He continued stating, “During the Cold War, it was the United States policy to extend deterrence to our NATO allies. An attack on Great Britain would be treated as if it were an attack on the United States.” He then asked Senator Obama, “Should it be U.S. policy now to treat an Iranian attack on Israel as if it were an attack on the United States?”

This is where True Majority and others concerned about a U.S. attack on Iran should sit up and take note. Obama who continues to take heat for once saying in a debate that he would be willing to meet with Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, set diplomacy aside Wednesday night at the mention of Israel. Clinton took it a step farther.

Senator Obama, after explaining that one of our top priorities “should be to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of Iranians,” went on to state “Now, my belief is that they should also know that I will take no options off the table when it comes to preventing them from using nuclear weapons or obtaining nuclear weapons, and that would include any threats directed at Israel or any of our allies in the region.”

Well, hit the brakes and back up the IranMobile.

Not only is Senator Obama restating the troublesome “all options are on the table” comment, he speaks of it as a preventative measure.

From the NotAnotherWar.org FAQ sheet, “The president just said “all options are on the table.” What’s wrong with keeping all our options open? Response: If the government of Iran feels that Washington is bent on attacking their country, then what incentive do they have to open up diplomatic channels. Especially, when they do not believe this country will deal in good faith.”

Don’t expect to hear Senator Obama’s “take no options off the table” remark booming from the IranMobile speakers any time soon.

Stephanopoulos persisted and attempted to close the deal, “So, you would extend our deterrent to Israel?” Obama replied, “As I’ve said before, I think it is very important that Iran understands that an attack on Israel is an attack on our strongest ally in the region, one that we – on whose security we consider paramount, and that – that would be an act of aggression that we – that I would – that I would consider an attack that is unacceptable, and the United States would take appropriate action.”

Stephanopoulos then turned his attention to Clinton, “Senator Clinton, would you?” A subtle, yet uneasy feeling settled in for some as if George Stephanopoulos was negotiating an agreement between the candidates, the Bush administration and the government of Israel.

“Well, in fact, George,” Clinton replied confidently, “I think that we should be looking to create an umbrella of deterrence that goes much further than just Israel. Of course, I would make it clear to the Iranians that an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the United States, but I would do the same with other countries in this region.”

Continuing, the junior senator from New York explained, “You know we are at a very dangerous point with Iran. The Bush policy has failed. Iran has not been deterred.”

No mention was made of the discovery last year that Tehran back in 2003 had, according to the Washington Post, “Issued a proposal calling for a broad dialogue with the United States, on matters including cooperation on nuclear safeguards, action against terrorists and possible recognition of Israel.” This proposal, according to former administration officials, was rejected by top U.S. officials. Feeding into the rhetoric and failing to acknowledge the intimidation in the Middle East by the seven-year reign of George W. Bush, Clinton stated “They [Iran] continue to try to not only obtain the fissile material for nuclear weapons but they are intent upon using their efforts to intimidate the region and to have their way when it comes to the support of terrorism in Lebanon and elsewhere.”

To her credit, Senator Clinton acknowledged first the need for diplomatic engagement, but in a jab at her opponent remarked, “I would begin those discussions at a low level. I certainly would not meet with Ahmadinejad.”

Clinton goes on to explain, “We’ve got to deter other countries from feeling that they have to acquire nuclear weapons. You can’t go to the Saudis or the Kuwaitis or UAE and others who have a legitimate concern about Iran and say: Well, don’t acquire these weapons to defend yourself unless you’re also willing to say we will provide a deterrent backup and we will let the Iranians know that, yes, an attack on Israel would trigger massive retaliation, but so would an attack on those countries that are willing to go under this security umbrella and forswear their own nuclear ambitions.”

For those counting, in a span of less than three minutes, Senator Clinton threatened “massive retaliation” twice.

For the record, an email to NotAnotherWar.org shortly after the Philadelphia debate as well as an earlier email to True Majority regarding the perceived lack of attention towards Democrats have gone unanswered. A brief discussion with Aaron Rubin on Wednesday in Philadelphia did not elicit much information on the same issue. In fact, Rubin was “not sure” if either Democratic presidential candidate had signed on to the legislation that True Majority was promoting.

True Majority, as a progressive organization, certainly understands the gravity of the relations between the United States and Iran. That they may be engaging in a partisan approach to this makes one wonder if rather than “dropping a bomb” on the political discourse regarding an impending attack on Iran, they may very well be “dropping the ball.”