March 25, 2007

Sudan Urged to Accept Darfur Resolution

Sudan Urged to Accept Darfur Resolution
Sun Mar 25, 2007 7:07 AM




(ABOVE) German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, speaks before signing the Berlin Declaration during a ceremony at the Historical Museum in Berlin, Sunday March 25, 2007. European Union leaders signed the declaration Sunday aimed at breaking the deadlock and re-launching debate over how to renew the EU's political rule book. The ceremony was part of the EU's 50th birthday party marking the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957. Seated left is Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa and right is Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

BERLIN — The suffering of people in Darfur is "unbearable" and the United Nations should consider stronger sanctions against the Sudanese government for not stopping violence in the region, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday.

Merkel — whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union — made the comments at a celebration of the EU's 50th birthday in Berlin.

The remarks came a day after Sudanese troops barred the U.N. humanitarian chief from visiting a refugee camp in the Darfur region.

"Even today, our thoughts are with the people in ... Darfur. The suffering there is unbearable," Merkel said. "We call on the Sudanese President (Omar) al-Bashir to finally accept the terms of the U.N. resolution. And I say openly: we must consider stronger sanctions."

Some 4 million people in Sudan's Darfur region are caught in the midst of fighting between rebels, the government and the pro-government janjaweed militia. More than 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million displaced in four years of fighting, and the Arab janjaweed are accused of widespread atrocities against ethnic African civilians.

Darfur's cause has been taken up by celebrities and intellectuals around the globe.

In an open letter to Merkel on Sunday, actor George Clooney called on EU president Germany to take "decisive action" in the region in the face of al-Bashir's failure to respond to the U.N. resolutions.

"The coming together of Europe's leaders this weekend is an ideal opportunity for the most stringent of sanctions to be put in place," Clooney wrote. "This genocide is happening on our watch. And what we do to stop it will be our legacy."

Also Saturday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, during a trip to the Mideast, failed to persuade Egypt to push Sudan's leader to accept a U.N. peacekeeping mission in the region.

The Topple of a Tyrant: Voices of the Fallen

The following journal entries from NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE chronicle the lives of some of America's brave soldiers who are in Iraq. Although we support the removal of our troops from Iraq, we do support our soldiers who are caught up in this absurd policy.

Mihalakis
July 7, Baghdad


How can I possibly put the last 7 days into words? We got into Baghdad on the 2nd of July. It was about an 8-hour drive from the Kuwait border to Baghdad. When we crossed the border it was like entering a new world. The sides of the roads were covered with starving Iraqis begging for food. Kids as young as what looked to be 4 or 5 would run up to the vehicles. We were given a direct order by the company commander not to throw food or water to the starving people because there are too many Iraqis getting run over by our convoys when they run after the food. It is so hard to tell a starving 5-year-old who is begging for food to go away. Every time our convoy would stop, we would be ambushed by kids trying to get food; it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to watch.

Finally I gave in. Sitting up in the gunner's hatch, I can see everything. A sickly barefooted 6-year-old approached the vehicle; he looked so sick. He was touching his lips saying "please, please." I told him to go away and he just looked up at me. It looked like he wasn't going to make it much longer in the 133-degree weather we had that day. Again, I shouted "kief!" which is "go" in Arabic, and I pointed. As we drove away, I threw an ice-cold bottle of water out the window to him. Luckily no one saw me.

I love you guys. And please try not to think too much about it, it sounds a lot worse than it is.

Mihalakis died of injuries sustained when his Humvee overturned on Dec. 26. He was 18.

Army First Lt. Kenneth M. Ballard
July 27, Baghdad


Things have really started to calm down [ ... ] One of the areas we patrol is largely Christian. They made/make up the middle class. We have little to no anti-American activity, [although] there is a lot more Iraqi on Iraqi violence. With more and more public services coming back on line, people are slowly getting back to normal. [But] no matter how hard we help to get the services back up, it is not fast enough. They don't understand that after 12 years of decay it will take some time, plus they don't want to work. Life is slowly getting better for us as well. Our new base camp (Kamp Krusty) will be finished in October. It is at their old War College. It will have a full-size pool. Our barracks building, which 3rd Infantry Division is still in, will have a private gym for us, [illegible], an Internet café, and last but not least, AC in every room [ ... ]

Marine Capt. Alan Rowe
Summer 2003, Najaf (audio recording)


Right now I'm getting ready for bed. It's been a long day. Got to go out in town, I saw some interesting things [ ... ] I had a meeting at a restaurant and ate Iraqi food, which was very good. We had rice, and we had shish kabobs and we had an interesting meat, kind of a sausage thing, called tikit. [ ... ] There were some beans and some sauce, and we had some yogurt and some cucumbers and tomatoes. And it was really very good.

[Then] we went over and visited some families who didn't have a place to live and we talked to them about finding a new place to live and they had a lot of kids and I had some candy and I gave it to the kids and they really liked that. There was a little girl about your age, Caitlin, and a boy, about your age, Blake, and they were cute and they smiled and I took my pictures of you and Caitlin out and I showed the pictures of both of you to the kids and they thought that was very nice and they actually kissed the pictures and that's one of their ways of showing respect and kinda like saying hello to you.

Rowe, 35, and two other Marines were killed by an improvised explosive device on Sept. 3, 2004, in Anbar province. He was promoted to major posthumously.

Ballard
August 2003, Baghdad


There are some times here that you are able to stop and look around you and find a moment of peace. We were crossing the Tigris River at night under a full moon. The light was dancing on the water, a light breeze floated through the trees. You think to yourself how nice this would be with someone special, then flares light up the sky and you see tracer fire off in the distance and the cold slap of reality sets in that you are in the middle of a war zone.

Ballard
Aug. 12, Baghdad


Ok, so things keep changing.

My company just got traded away to the 82nd Airborne's 2nd Brigade. What that means is we will live at Kamp Krusty but work in the 82nd's area. They have been getting the snot knocked out of them and they asked for tanks, so they sent us. The unit we are going to draws 400-500 gallons of fuel a day. My tanks use 2,500 gallons a day. [ ... ] On one of my tanks I carry as much small-arms ammo as one of their 700-man units. These guys are in for a big shock.


Ballard
Aug. 16, Baghdad


The locals are different in every sector. In our old sectors we were able to build "good" relationships. In our new area it is a very different place: openly hostile is closer to the mark. We view most of the locals as someone to be dealt with and nothing more. Our CO wants us to embrace them with open arms and love our fellow man. Too many of us have a bad taste in our mouths about it all. They have no respect for weapons, each other and life; and if that is the case then how are we supposed to look at them any differently?

Ballard, 26, died in Najaf on May 30, 2004, when a passing tree branch triggered the unmanned machine gun on his tank.

On Aug. 19 a suicide truck bomb demolished the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, killing 24 people and wounding more than 100. The attack signaled to aid workers that any foreigner, not just U.S. troops, was a target.

Tainsh
Aug. 29, Baghdad

It's been a lot of dismounted stuff recently. After 9 hours in the heat with 80 pounds on your back, you don't want to do much except sleep when you get back. [ ... ] I saw the U.N. building today. It's pretty devastating when you see it up close. These people out here are something else. They just don't care that other people are trying to help them. But I guess that's the face of war, and yes, it's still a war. Don't believe everything you see on TV.


Army Capt. Christopher P. Petty
Oct. 30, Al Miqdadiyah, 60 miles northeast of Baghdad


Happy Halloween, sorry it has been awhile since I wrote. Things have been busy. Ramadan began the other day and so far the attacks have increased each day. [ ... ] You will most likely hear about it in the news soon, but an M1 Abrams tank was destroyed last night. Reports are unclear as to what caused it. However, it was clear that 2 U.S. soldiers lost their lives and an acclaimed indestructible tank had its turret blown off. That makes six soldiers killed in our brigade alone in the past four weeks.

Petty, 33, and four others were killed when their Humvee hit an IED in Najaf on Jan. 5, 2006. He was three weeks into his second tour.

Tainsh
Dec. 2, Baghdad

I tried calling yesterday but got the machine ... We're doing ok just busy hitting the enemy hard lately ... Long days and nights ahead ... Division is saying we'll be home in March ... I know how many days but I can't tell you on an unsecure line ... Gotta go. I'll try to call again.

Love, Patrick

On the night of Feb. 11, 2004, Tainsh's patrol was hit by an improvised explosive device; an ambush ensued. His commanding officer wrote afterward: "Although Sgt. Tainsh was immediately mortally wounded, he started laying down suppressive fire in order to secure the area for the medic to move forward. Sgt. Tainsh stopped laying down fire only after he felt the area was secured. He then dropped down and tapped me on the shoulder to let me know he was wounded." He was 33.

Unless otherwise stated, all images are courtesy of the troops' families and friends.

Voices of the Fallen

THE WAR IN THE WORDS OF THE DEAD
By Jon Meacham
A Sneak Peak from Newsweek




April 2, 2007 Issue - He was exhausted, but he wanted to talk to his daughter, and the only way to do that in Fallujah was to write a letter. "This war is not like the big war—there are no big sweeping maneuvers with hundreds of tanks pouring over the border and so forth," Army Maj. Michael Mundell told his 17-year-old, Erica (nicknamed "Eddie"), on Friday, Oct. 27, 2006. "It's a fight of 10 man squads in the dark, of ambushes and snipers and IEDs. When I go out to fight, it's usually with less than 20 men ... And I go out to fight almost every day."

The pace, he admitted, was punishing.

"We are weary, Eddie, so very weary. I can't tell you how bone tired I am. There are times when we get back in and ... it is all I can do to drag myself from the truck and stagger up here to take off all the junk I gotta wear ... " His tone briefly brightened as he thought of Erica's life back home, where she was a senior at Meade County High School in Brandenburg, Ky.: "Tell all of your friends and your teachers that I said hello from Fallujah. I am doing well and our battalion is considered the best in the brigade. We are fighting the enemy and hopefully winning, though that is difficult to measure." He signed off with a pledge: "Never forget that your daddy loves you more than anything and that I will be home soon." Mundell could not keep that last promise. At a quarter to 2 on the afternoon of Friday, Jan. 5, 2007, he was killed by an IED while on patrol in Fallujah; the casket was closed at his funeral in Kentucky.

Never forget that your daddy loves you: As a soldier, husband, father and casualty of war, Michael Mundell is one of at least 3,230 Americans who have died in the struggle for Iraq. He was 47 years old and left behind his wife, Audrey, and four children, all under 18. By itself, Mundell's story is sad but familiar, even predictable. Wars have always made women widows and children orphans. When Mundell was laid to rest in a hillside cemetery in Irvington, Ky., he joined the solemn company of America's fallen warriors—men and women who become objects of veneration, commemorated, in Lincoln's words, as the "honored dead" who "gave the last full measure of devotion." They are garlanded and buried beneath white marble, revered but silenced.

Yet they still have stories to tell, stories that bear hearing, and remembering. In letters and journals and e-mails, the war dead live on, their words—urgent, honest, unself-conscious—testament to the realities of combat. What do they have to say to us? This special issue of NEWSWEEK is an attempt to answer that question. We have collected the correspondence of American soldiers at war in Iraq, accounts written not for the public but for those they loved—wives, husbands, children, parents, siblings. Each of the warriors whose words are excerpted here died in the line of duty. Each of their families chose to share their stories with us, and with you. "It's become very important to me that these soldiers and Marines are viewed as individuals with lives, dreams, experiences and families," says Terri Clifton, whose son, Marine Lance Cpl. Chad Clifton, was killed by a mortar in Anbar province. "They aren't cardboard cutouts in shades of red, white and blue."

No matter where one stands on the decision to invade or on the conduct of the conflict over the last four years, the Iraq War is indisputably a curious thing. For the first time in the experience of any living American, we have sent an all-volunteer force overseas to advance our interests for a prolonged period, and virtually nothing has been asked of the vast majority of those who do not have loved ones in the line of fire. The bargain is hardly fair. If we take the president at his word, the men and women of the armed forces are fighting and dying over there so that you and I will not have to face mortal danger over here.

The administration may be right about this; it is impossible to know now. As wrong as the White House has been about the premise of the war (the presence of weapons of mass destruction) and about the way we would be received (as "liberators," in Vice President Dick Cheney's formulation) and about the conduct of the conflict once Saddam fell (we were unprepared for the sectarian bloodbath), history moves according to its own rhythms, not according to news cycles or presidential terms. Despite the depressing state of play on the ground, things may yet turn out better than most Americans suspect—or fear.

The families who co-operated with NEWSWEEK did not do so to make unified political statements; their views are as divergent as the broad public's. "It's not an issue of being antiwar or pro-war, anti-Bush or pro-Bush," says Larry Page, whose son Rex died in action. "The real issue is that our young people are there, and they need and deserve our support. My son said to me in one of his phone calls from Iraq: 'Dad, we've taken the fight to them. If we don't fight them here, we will fight them on the streets of America. They proved that at 9/11. We don't want IEDs and suicide bombers on the streets of America.' My son and 3,000 others bravely gave their lives so that you and I could live in liberty and freedom." That is one view; there are, to say the least, others. "The words of our fallen soldiers bear silent witness to their valiant effort to do their best on our behalf," says Paul R. Petty, who lost his son Christopher. "They have not been defeated in battle, but neither were they given the wherewithal to achieve the desired result. Ill-conceived notions of a foreign culture led us to believe we could accomplish our goals easily and on the cheap." The point that unites them is grief—and the centrality of the human story of war.

History, like memory, is selective. Reporters observe; historians imagine; aging soldiers spin threads of experience into tapestries of story. Veterans who come home and talk about what happened can never really re-create what it was like, or even what it really felt like, for, as Shakespeare noted, old men forget, and what they do not forget they tend to "remember with advantage." This is not to say that the survivors embellish on purpose. It is to say, though, that memory is not always a reliable witness. Painful details are suppressed; context is lost; events are elided, often unconsciously, in order to make the inchoate choate.

The kind of history in this issue is the most bracing kind of recollection, for it is barely recollection at all. It is more like collection, as the warriors record what is happening to them virtually as it happens. The result is a window on Iraq we have not had before: the bravery, the fear and the chaos of war, and the loves and hates and dreams and nightmares of the warriors. Things are incredibly busy, then they are not. The Iraqis are welcoming, then they are not. The war is going well, then it is not. The mission makes sense, then it does not. Here is Mundell, in late August 2006: "This will be short, as time is very short, as usual.

"The happenings of late: we continue to get mortared, with an occasional RPG shot at us thrown in for fun ... A little girl was killed yesterday in a cross fire between our Iraqis, the Marines and the bad guys. Sad.

"Folks, I am very tired. We seem to be doing little, the city is mostly trash, rubble and AIF [Anti-Iraq Forces], and frankly I am tired of being a walking bull's-eye for anyone with an AK and nothing better to do, which includes most of the populace, apparently. We have found three IEDs before they could explode under our trucks.

"Sorry this isn't funny or upbeat—there is nothing funny or upbeat to talk about right now. People are dying like flies here and I am sick of it."

The warriors whose voices you will hear are, like Mundell's, more often interested in survival than in grand strategy. "A lot of people are ready to go home," said Army Sgt. Patrick Tainsh shortly after the invasion in 2003. "They can't wait to eat pizza or have a Dr Pepper. It doesn't matter to me. Nothing matters except to do my job and bring my guys and myself home. Not for pizza and for D.P. but for sanctuary." They are unsentimental, and have little patience for frivolity. In the fall of 2006 Mundell's radio operator, Joseph R. Pugsley, read about an animals' rights protest over how Ben & Jerry's treated the chickens that lay the eggs for the company's ice cream. He could hardly believe it. "Joe feels that these people have entirely too much time on their hands," Mundell reported home. " 'God, are they stupid! Get a life'," Pugsley said. ("There was more," Mundell added, "but most of it was rather obscene.")

The violence is pervasive, inescapable. "My tank took another RPG this a.m. for a grand total of 8," Army First Lt. Kenneth Ballard wrote his mother from Najaf in May 2004. "It has turned into almost a game of sorts. They shoot, we get hit, we shoot back, killing them most of the time, only to repeat it all over again somewhere else in the city."

And so it goes on, and on, in places like Najaf, Baghdad, Fallujah and Anbar province, places that are only names on the news. It is difficult for many Americans to explain how all the pieces of the war fit together, or what separates a Sunni from a Shia, or what a stable Iraq would look like. This has been a strangely contextless conflict. There is no consistent narrative, no battles to follow or specific victories to pray for. We do not have a president to tell us these things, for George W. Bush has chosen to forgo the example of the greatest American war leader of the 20th century, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who spoke often of the war, of its progress and its perils. "The news is going to get worse and worse before it begins to get better," Roosevelt told the country in February 1942. "The American people must be prepared for it and they must get it straight from the shoulder." Sacrifice was shared, and no one was exempt. All four of FDR's sons were in uniform, as were those of his chief political adviser, Harry Hopkins, who lost a son, Peter, in the Marshall Islands.

A year after Fort Sumter, the philosopher John Stuart Mill contributed a piece to Harper's Magazine entitled "The Contest in America." Army Maj. David Taylor, who was killed in action on Oct. 22, 2006, always carried a quotation from the essay with him; it was found in his effects after he died. Mill's argument: some things are worth dying for. "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things," Mill wrote. "A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for ... is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

What emerges from the following pages is the sense that the fallen are better men, and women. "We are really fine so long as we have each other over here," Ballard wrote home, and he meant it. Nations go to war over ideas and politics, but minds can change and politics may shift. By their very nature, matters of state are fluid and inconstant. What is constant in war is the humanity of the warrior, and the pain of those left behind, who reach for hands they can no longer touch and listen for voices they can no longer hear, except in the words you are about to read.

Unless otherwise stated, all images are courtesy of the troops' families.

March 15, 2007

Was I a Good American in the Time of George Bush?

Was I a Good American in the Time of George Bush?

"...Too many of us have done too little to stop the crimes of this White House. We are waking up but what took us so long?"

Rebecca Solnit
Wednesday March 14, 2007
The Guardian

Was I a good American? How good an American was I? Did I do what I could to resist the takeover of my country and the brutalisation of my fellow human beings? How much further could I have gone? Were the crimes of the Bush administration those that demand you give up your life and everyday commitments to throw yourself into maximum resistance? If not, then what were we waiting for? The questions have troubled me regularly these last five years, because I was one of the millions of American citizens who did not shut down Guantánamo Bay and stop the other atrocities of the administration.

I wrote. I gave money, sometimes in large chunks. I went to anti-war marches. I demonstrated. I also planted a garden, cooked dinners, played with children, wandered around aimlessly, and did lots of other things you do when the world is not crashing down around you. And maybe when it is. Was it? It was for the men in our gulag. And the boys there. And the rule of law in my native land.

Before the current administration, it had always been easy to condemn the "good Germans" who did nothing while Jews, Gypsies and others were rounded up for extermination. One likes to believe that one will be different, will harbour Anne Frank in one's secret annex, smuggle people across the border, defy the authorities who do evil. Those we scornfully call good Germans merely did little while the mouth of hell opened up.

I now know the way that everyday life can be so absorbing, survival so demanding, that it seems impossible to do more on top of it or to drop the routine altogether and begin a totally different life. There is the garden to be watered, the aged parent in crisis, the deadline looming; but there are also the crimes against humanity waiting to be stopped. Ordinary obligations tug one way even when extraordinary ones tug the other way. The Bush administration is by no means the Third Reich, but it produced an extraordinary time that made extraordinary demands on US citizens, demands that some of us rose to - and too many did not.

Periodically, I would speculate on what was the most extreme and radical thing I could do to stop the illegal prison camp at Guantánamo; picture chaining myself to the gates of the Senate, becoming one of those activists who takes up residence outside the White House or takes over a TV station to get a message out. I wanted to do something so epic that it would turn the tide, stop the crime. Then I would consider that the best approaches were probably already being taken, by the heroic lawyers at the Centre for Constitutional Rights and other human rights organisations, and I would write another cheque and some more letters and feel a little futile and a little corrupt.

These days Americans seem to be waking up one at a time, groggy and embittered, from the hypnotic nightmare that was the Bush administration's one great success - spreading a miasma of fear and patriotic submissiveness that made it possible to mount an illegal and immoral war, piss on the bill of rights, burn the constitution and violate international charters on human rights and prisoners of war with widespread torture. None of the sleepers seems to remember that they were part of the legions who obeyed the orders to fear and hate - but we welcome the latecomers into our ranks anyway.

What took them so long? How could people believe that a fairly defanged country, one we had been bombing since the first Gulf war, was an apocalyptic menace in a world where most nations were well-equipped for mass civilian murder? A year ago, the turning point was marked by the comedian Stephen Colbert's volley of (accurate) insults delivered to Bush's face, in the guise of giving the keynote address at the Washington press corps' annual dinner. He was just aggressively ignored by the mainstream media. Perhaps Katrina turned the tide: the indifference, incompetence, and obliviousness of the federal government was so gross that its pedestal melted.

And there were others who were in resistance all along. I remember with admiration the Japanese-Americans who came out in the months after 9/11 to testify that they had been incarcerated en masse during the second world war, not for what they did but for who they were, and they were not going to remain silent as the same treatment was meted out to Arabs and Muslims. I remember the way that 20,000 of us in San Francisco came out to shut down the business district the day the war broke out, and the huge marches before and after. I remember the few congresspeople - mostly African-American - who dared to stand in opposition early on. I went to Camp Casey outside Bush's vacation home in Texas and spent a day with Cindy Sheehan, who gave her life over to stopping the war after it took her soldier son. Others did as she did. Some of them are my friends.

There is resistance. But if it were enough, the crimes would have stopped, the war would have ended. When it does and they do, some will have been heroes. Some will have been honourable but moderate, in times that did not call for moderation. And some will have consented, through inaction, to crimes against humanity.

· Rebecca Solnit is the author of Hope in the Dark: The Untold History of People Power, and Wanderlust: A history of walking

March 13, 2007

Reg Weaver Testifies on Behalf of NEA in Unprecedented ESEA/NCLB Hearing

Reg Weaver Testifies on Behalf of NEA in
Unprecedented ESEA/NCLB Hearing

President Weaver testified today on the ESEA reauthorization before an unprecedented joint hearing of the House Education and Labor Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

Please see the story on the front page of nea.org: www.nea.org/index.html.

Our press release is posted at: www.nea.org/newsreleases/2007/nr070313.html.

The complete written testimony can be found at: www.nea.org/lac/esea/031307testi.html.

We would ask that, if possible, your affiliate create a link on your state Web site to both the testimony and press statement.

The House Education and Labor Committee’s Web site has posted the written statements of all seven witnesses at: http://edworkforce.house.gov/hearings/joint031307.shtml

Give Me Liberty: Do You Miss Our Constitution

Give Me Liberty
Do You Miss Our Constitution?

No previous American law has been as subversive as
the Military Commissions Act of 2006
by Nat Hentoff
March 9th, 2007 3:13 PM


" If Americans win a war [against terrorism] and lose the Constitution, they will have lost everything. "
-– Lance Morrow, Time, March 30, 2003


"We cannot allow this [Military Commissions] Act to stand. It violates some of the most basic principles upon which human rights are founded. And we must not rest until it is no longer the law of the land in our country. "
– Amnesty International, February 2007


Ours is the oldest constitution in the world, and for more than 200 years it has survived many grave assaults from one or more of our three branches of government. For example, in 1798, only seven years after the First Amendment was included in the Constitution, Americans, under the Alien and Sedition Acts, were put in prison for holding the president up to ridicule.

The Bush administration has cumulatively done more profound damage to our founding document than any previous administration. And because the president has placed John Roberts and Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court, it may be years before we regain some of our privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment—and other of our suspended liberties.

But Bush's most wide-ranging assault on who we are as Americans is the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which he signed on October 17, 2006. As I have detailed in previous columns, this law—rushed through by the then-Republican-controlled Congress—annuls two previous Supreme Court decisions on our treatment of prisoners suspected of terrorism. It so expands the definition of "unlawful enemy combatants" (a Bush term unknown in international law) that it can also imprison longtime legal immigrants here—and American citizens—as "enemy combatants" without charge.

Only the president decides who can be held as an "unlawful enemy combatant"—and he is also in charge of the "alternative" interrogation techniques that can be used to extract evidence from them.

Moreover, the MCA prevents the use of the Geneva Conventions against any American interrogators or other personne. However, there are in our laws specific references to the Geneva Conventions—which the MCA now violate.

In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (June 2006), the Supreme Court ordered the president to adhere to these very Geneva Conventions (of which we are a signatory) with regard to all our prisoners—including "unlawful enemy combatants." All sentences against them, ordered the Court, must be handed down by a "regularly constituted" U.S. court that "provides all the judicial guarantees recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples."

Congress overturned that Supreme Court ruling in the Military Commissions Act. And on February 20, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals upheld the section of the Act that strips all prisoners at Guantanamo of any habeas corpus access to our courts. They will be tried only by military tribunal, which will not permit them to see any classified evidence against them or contest evidence obtained just by hearsay. Nor can they confront the primary witnesses against them.

In her dissent to that D.C. Circuit Court decision (Lakhdar Boumediene, et. al. v. George W. Bush, et. al.), Judge Judith Rogers also pointed to the new law's permitting of "coercive interrogation" of detainees (which often turns out to be a euphemism for torture). But the common law, wrote Judge Rogers, "has regarded torture and its fruits with abhorrence for over 500 years."

However, we Americans have descended even farther from being "a civilized nation" in sections of the MCA described on findlaw.com by Joanne Mariner, Human Rights Watch's invaluable director of their Terrorism and Counterterrorism Program. Reading this, you may get a horrifying sense, as I have, of how deeply this administration has desecrated the core of our justice system: due process (fundamental fairness).

Keep in mind, as Mariner adds, that the MCA also allows the CIA to continue its "renditions" (kidnapping suspects to be tortured in other countries) and permits the agency to resume operating its own secret prisons ("black sites") around the world.

"The MCA," Mariner writes about prison treatment, "contains several provisions that are meant to bar the public [We the People] from ever hearing direct testimony about the CIA's abusive methods. These provisions allow the government to protect the 'sources, methods or activities by which the United States acquired evidence' if these practices are classified." Characteristically, the Bush administration insists "that all 'alternative' interrogation procedures are classified"—including "coercive" methods. (Emphasis added.)

Prisoners who have been tortured—and pressured not to reveal these classified "alternative" practices used on them—will, however, want to tell their lawyers. However, Mariner continues, the attorneys won't be able to report to the outside world any of these "classified" abuses, including the torture that their clients have told them about. Prisoners' lawyers "must turn over all their notes and documents," Mariner reports, "before they leave Guantanamo, and they can only speak about the information they have obtained from their clients after it undergoes classification review."

Therefore, none of us will know how the "evidence" used against these prisoners was extracted.

The president often declaims about the "American values" that we are defending—and which will hopefully inspire other nations. On his watch, as the MCA shows, this is what these values have become!

Rather than wait to find out whether a majority of the John Roberts Supreme Court will agree that these are indeed the values to which we must resort to prevail over the terrorists, some members of Congress are working on bills to truly Americanize the Military Commissions Act. Next week: What their changes involve. One of the proposed bills, introduced by Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, couldn't be more aptly titled: "Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007."

Meanwhile, Amnesty International is so justifiably alarmed by the Military Commissions Act that "Amnesty International groups in Great Britain, Germany, Australia, and Japan are mobilizing their members and governments to help create global pressure to reverse the MCA and end other human rights abuses, including shutting down Guantanamo Bay."

Amnesty International is also, of course, mobilizing its members in this country. You don't have to be a member to write—or otherwise urgently contact your representatives and senators. New Yorkers might start with Senators Clinton and Schumer, neither of whom are in the forefront of this legislation to bring back what we used to stand for around the world.

March 11, 2007

The Must Do List

The Must-Do List
A New York Times Editorial

March 11, 2007

The Bush administration’s assault on some of the founding principles of American democracy marches onward despite the Democratic victory in the 2006 elections. The new Democratic majorities in Congress can block the sort of noxious measures that the Republican majority rubber-stamped. But preventing new assaults on civil liberties is not nearly enough.

Five years of presidential overreaching and Congressional collaboration continue to exact a high toll in human lives, America’s global reputation and the architecture of democracy. Brutality toward prisoners, and the denial of their human rights, have been institutionalized; unlawful spying on Americans continues; and the courts are being closed to legal challenges of these practices.

It will require forceful steps by this Congress to undo the damage. A few lawmakers are offering bills intended to do just that, but they are only a start. Taking on this task is a moral imperative that will show the world the United States can be tough on terrorism without sacrificing its humanity and the rule of law.

Today we’re offering a list — which, sadly, is hardly exhaustive — of things that need to be done to reverse the unwise and lawless policies of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Many will require a rewrite of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, an atrocious measure pushed through Congress with the help of three Republican senators, Arlen Specter, Lindsey Graham and John McCain; Senator McCain lent his moral authority to improving one part of the bill and thus obscured its many other problems.

Our list starts with three fundamental tasks:

Restore Habeas Corpus

One of the new act’s most indecent provisions denies anyone Mr. Bush labels an “illegal enemy combatant” the ancient right to challenge his imprisonment in court. The arguments for doing this were specious. Habeas corpus is nothing remotely like a get-out-of-jail-free card for terrorists, as supporters would have you believe. It is a way to sort out those justly detained from those unjustly detained. It will not “clog the courts,” as Senator Graham claims. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has a worthy bill that would restore habeas corpus. It is essential to bringing integrity to the detention system and reviving the United States’ credibility.

Stop Illegal Spying

Mr. Bush’s program of intercepting Americans’ international calls and e-mail messages without a warrant has not ceased. The agreement announced recently — under which a secret court supposedly gave its blessing to the program — did nothing to restore judicial process or ensure that Americans’ rights are preserved. Congress needs to pass a measure, like one proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein, to force Mr. Bush to obey the law that requires warrants for electronic surveillance.

Ban Torture, Really

The provisions in the Military Commissions Act that Senator McCain trumpeted as a ban on torture are hardly that. It is still largely up to the president to decide what constitutes torture and abuse for the purpose of prosecuting anyone who breaks the rules. This amounts to rewriting the Geneva Conventions and puts every American soldier at far greater risk if captured. It allows the president to decide in secret what kinds of treatment he will permit at the Central Intelligence Agency’s prisons. The law absolves American intelligence agents and their bosses of any acts of torture and abuse they have already committed.

Many of the tasks facing Congress involve the way the United States takes prisoners, and how it treats them. There are two sets of prisons in the war on terror. The military runs one set in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay. The other is even more shadowy, run by the C.I.A. at secret places.

Close the C.I.A. Prisons

When the Military Commissions Act passed, Mr. Bush triumphantly announced that he now had the power to keep the secret prisons open. He cast this as a great victory for national security. It was a defeat for America’s image around the world. The prisons should be closed.
Account for ‘Ghost Prisoners’

The United States has to come clean on all of the “ghost prisoners” it has in the secret camps. Holding prisoners without any accounting violates human rights norms. Human Rights Watch says it has identified nearly 40 men and women who have disappeared into secret American-run prisons.

Ban Extraordinary Rendition

This is the odious practice of abducting foreign citizens and secretly flying them to countries where everyone knows they will be tortured. It is already illegal to send a prisoner to a country if there is reason to believe he will be tortured. The administration’s claim that it got “diplomatic assurances” that prisoners would not be abused is laughable.

A bill by Representative Edward Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, would require the executive branch to list countries known to abuse and torture prisoners. No prisoner could be sent to any of them unless the secretary of state certified that the country’s government no longer abused its prisoners or offered a way to verify that a prisoner will not be mistreated. It says “diplomatic assurances” are not sufficient.

Congress needs to completely overhaul the military prisons for terrorist suspects, starting with the way prisoners are classified. Shortly after 9/11, Mr. Bush declared all members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban to be “illegal enemy combatants” not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions or American justice. Over time, the designation was applied to anyone the administration chose, including some United States citizens and the entire detainee population of Gitmo.

To address this mess, the government must:

Tighten the Definition of Combatant

“Illegal enemy combatant” is assigned a dangerously broad definition in the Military Commissions Act. It allows Mr. Bush — or for that matter anyone he chooses to designate to do the job — to apply this label to virtually any foreigner anywhere, including those living legally in the United States.

Screen Prisoners Fairly and Effectively

When the administration began taking prisoners in Afghanistan, it did not much bother to screen them. Hundreds of innocent men were sent to Gitmo, where far too many remain to this day. The vast majority will never even be brought before tribunals and still face indefinite detention without charges.

Under legal pressure, Mr. Bush created “combatant status review tribunals,” but they are a mockery of any civilized legal proceeding. They take place thousands of miles from the point of capture, and often years later. Evidence obtained by coercion and torture is permitted. The inmates do not get to challenge this evidence. They usually do not see it.

The Bush administration uses the hoary “fog of war” dodge to justify the failure to screen prisoners, saying it is not practical to do that on the battlefield. That’s nonsense. It did not happen in Afghanistan, and often in Iraq, because Mr. Bush decided just to ship the prisoners off to Gitmo.

Prisoners designated as illegal combatants are subject to trial rules out of the Red Queen’s playbook. The administration refuses to allow lawyers access to 14 terrorism suspects transferred in September from C.I.A. prisons to Guantánamo. It says that if they had a lawyer, they might say that they were tortured or abused at the C.I.A. prisons, and anything that happened at those prisons is secret.

At first, Mr. Bush provided no system of trial at the Guantánamo camp. Then he invented his own military tribunals, which were rightly overturned by the Supreme Court. Congress then passed the Military Commissions Act, which did not fix the problem. Some tasks now for

Congress:

Ban Tainted Evidence

The Military Commissions Act and the regulations drawn up by the Pentagon to put it into action, are far too permissive on evidence obtained through physical abuse or coercion. This evidence is unreliable. The method of obtaining it is an affront.

Ban Secret Evidence

Under the Pentagon’s new rules for military tribunals, judges are allowed to keep evidence secret from a prisoner’s lawyer if the government persuades the judge it is classified. The information that may be withheld can include interrogation methods, which would make it hard, if not impossible, to prove torture or abuse.

Better Define ‘Classified’ Evidence

The military commission rules define this sort of secret evidence as “any information or material that has been determined by the United States government pursuant to statute, executive order or regulation to require protection against unauthorized disclosure for reasons of national security.” This is too broad, even if a president can be trusted to exercise the power fairly and carefully. Mr. Bush has shown he cannot be trusted to do that.

Respect the Right to Counsel

Soon after 9/11, the Bush administration allowed the government to listen to conversations and intercept mail between some prisoners and their lawyers. This had the effect of suspending their right to effective legal representation. Since then, the administration has been unceasingly hostile to any lawyers who defend detainees. The right to legal counsel does not exist to coddle serial terrorists or snarl legal proceedings. It exists to protect innocent people from illegal imprisonment.

Beyond all these huge tasks, Congress should halt the federal government’s race to classify documents to avoid public scrutiny — 15.6 million in 2005, nearly double the 2001 number. It should also reverse the grievous harm this administration has done to the Freedom of Information Act by encouraging agencies to reject requests for documents whenever possible.

Congress should curtail F.B.I. spying on nonviolent antiwar groups and revisit parts of the Patriot Act that allow this practice.

The United States should apologize to a Canadian citizen and a German citizen, both innocent, who were kidnapped and tortured by American agents.

Oh yes, and it is time to close the Guantánamo camp. It is a despicable symbol of the abuses committed by this administration (with Congress’s complicity) in the name of fighting terrorism.

Tell Congress on March 12: Fund Safe, Speedy Withdrawal, Not More War!

March 12 is the NEA P&J Call Congress Day: Tell Congress: Fund Safe, Speedy Withdrawal, Not More War!

Are the Democrats buying Bush's War?

The Democrats charge Bush with incompetence in running the war, and say the course must change, that the mission is lost, and that we don't want our troops in the middle of a civil war ...

Yet they appear ready to give him another $93 billion to continue his disastrous campaign in Iraq. We must stop Congress!

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is currently considering the $93 billion Iraq supplemental bill. A vote is expected on Wednesday, March 14, just a few days before the 4th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

It's Time for a BIG Push

Several national member groups of United for Peace and Justice have joined together to organize a massive, rolling call-in campaign for the ten days before the vote. The phones on Capitol Hill will be flooded until the final vote on the funding bill.

The UFPJ call-in day is Monday, March 12 -- but there's an important phone call we urge you to make TODAY:

There is a chance that our allies in Congress will be able to attach an amendment to the appropriation request that would effectively require an immediate withdrawal of troops -- so that a vote for the appropriation would in fact be a vote to end the war!

It's a long-shot that this amendment will pass, but we think it is worth fighting for! The first step is to make sure that the Democratic leadership allows the amendment to come to the floor for a vote. That's where we come in:

TODAY! Call the Democratic leadership to demand that they allow an amendment that would direct funding toward troop withdrawal on a short timeline to be offered and brought to a vote on the House floor during consideration of the FY07 Supplemental Bill.

Call one or two (or all) of the following:
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) -- Chair, Rules Committee (the Rules Committee decides what bills and amendments can be brought to the floor for a vote)
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) -- Speaker of the House
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) -- House Majority Leader
Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL)
Rep. James Clybourn (D-SC)

Use this toll-free number, 888-851-1879, or the regular Capitol Switchboard number, 202-224-3121, to make your call(s).

Ask the Capitol Switchboard to connect you to the House Rules Committee Office (to reach the proper staff person for Rep. Slaughter), or to the office of Pelosi, Hoyer, Emanuel or Clybourn.

Then, on Monday, March 12, call YOUR Representative. Call 888-851-1879 toll-free, or the regular Capitol Switchboard number, 202-224-3121.

We'll send you a reminder on Monday morning, along with an update on what to say when you call your Representative's office.

Your calls are part of a massive initiative undertaken by several UFPJ member groups and allies:

Monday, March 5 -- Voters for Peace
Tuesday, March 6 -- Progressive Democrats of America, U.S. Labor Against the War, AfterDowningStreet.org
Wednesday, March 7 -- CodePink, Global Exchange
Thursday, March 8 -- Gold Star Families for Peace, Veterans For Peace, Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Democracy Rising
Friday, March 9 -- Peace Action, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Declaration of Peace, Organic Consumers Association
Monday, March 12 -- NEA P&J Caucus, United for Peace and Justice, Hip Hop Caucus
Tuesday, March 13 -- Everyone, call once more!

This call-in effort is part of the huge campaign UFPJ and its member groups have organized to stop the funding of the war:

More than 1,000 activists lobbied members of Congress on January 29;

The Occupation Project has organized scores of sit-ins, vigils and teach-ins in Congressional offices across the country with the participation of many UFPJ member groups;

Members of the UFPJ legislative action network have organized dozens of visits to Congress over their winter recess in February and will do more in March and April.

To be honest, it is a long shot that we will stop the approval of the supplemental request. We are hopeful that more members of Congress will vote against this new round of funding, but our work is far from over and must not stop after the supplemental battle.

Later this month, Congress will take up the Defense Authorization Bill -- over $647.2 billion. That's a huge increase for the Pentagon ... and the Democrats are considering adding more to it! In the meantime, budgets for domestic needs are being slashed or held static. Check how these skewed budget priorities affect your community. Reach out now to activists in your community working on saving funding for essential human needs programs like Head Start, day care and health care. Plan joint "Cost of War" protests in your district. We'll be sending out more information and ideas soon.

After Congress passes its Budget Authorization Bills, the money has to be appropriated. This process often lasts into the fall. And Bush has already requested another $145 billion supplemental appropriation to continue the Iraq war beyond October 2007.

This means that we will have several opportunities to pressure Congress to either stop funding the war, or tie funding to an immediate troop withdrawal, over the next several months. Stay tuned ...

ACLU Refutes FBI’s Claims of “Unintentional” Patriot Act Abuses, Citing Lies About Authority to Demand Phone Company Records

ACLU Refutes FBI’s Claims of “Unintentional” Patriot Act Abuses, Citing Lies About Authority to Demand Phone Company Records (3/9/2007)

FBI Should Notify Customers and Name the Phone Companies Involved, ACLU Says

CLICK HERE to read the ACLU Analysis of DOJ Report Online

WASHINGTON – Claims that the FBI’s reported Patriot Act abuses were the “unintentional” result of outmoded computer systems and human error are not credible, the American Civil Liberties Union said today, citing evidence that agents contracted with phone companies to obtain customer records and later sought to cover up the illegal requests.

The report also shows that the FBI is issuing hundreds of thousands more National Security Letters than ever imagined, and that tracking of the NSLs is sloppy, resulting in thousands of innocent Americans being entered into databases that are shared with numerous U.S. agencies and foreign governments.

“It seems that every time the American people entrust the Bush administration with some new power, it not only abuses that power but also seizes additional powers without our knowledge,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “It is long past time for Congress to take back the civil liberties of the American people and right these wrongs. The Attorney General and the FBI are part of the problem and cannot be trusted to be the only solution.”

The ACLU’s criticisms came in response to a report issued today by the Justice Department’s own Inspector General about abuses of Patriot Act powers used to obtain sensitive personal information such as telephone records and e-mail. The report revealed that FBI agents have issued “at least 739” so-called “exigent letters” that illegally circumvent even the scant requirements of the Patriot Act’s controversial National Security Letter (NSL) provision. In some cases, NSLs were issued “after the fact” to “cover” the illegitimate record demands, the report said.

According to the Inspector General’s report, FBI agents contracted with phone companies to improperly obtain customer records, saying that subpoenas would later be issued in connection with an underlying investigation. But in a random examination of such “exigent letters,” not one subpoena was sent, and in many cases the requests were not tied to any pending FBI investigations, in clear violation of the law.

“It simply is not credible for the FBI to claim that these unauthorized and illegal fishing expeditions were the result of human error or outmoded computer systems,” Romero said.

Romero also expressed doubt about FBI Director Mueller’s claim that no one was harmed by these massive privacy breaches, saying that customers should be alerted that their telephone and e-mail records may now be in U.S. and even foreign government databases. “We call on the FBI to immediately disclose the identity of the telecommunications companies that were involved and to notify the customers whose records were obtained about this unauthorized invasion of their privacy rights.”

Today’s report contained numerous other revelations of abuses of the National Security Letter power and other Patriot Act powers, including:

The FBI issued NSLs even where no underlying investigation had been approved; obtained more information from recipients than was requested; and obtained information about telephone numbers that did not belong to the target of the NSLs.
The violations of privacy that resulted from the FBI’s abuse of its NSL power go way beyond phone and email records and in some instances included medical records and educational records.

In one case, the FBI issued an NSL to a North Carolina university that sought several categories of records, including applications for admission, housing information, emergency contacts, and campus health records.

The FBI has no uniform system for tracking responses to National Security Letters, either manually or electronically, and is sharing information derived from NSL with numerous U.S. intelligence agencies and even foreign governments

The number of NSL requests reported to Congress in 2003, 2004, and 2005, were “significantly understated.” After the Patriot Act, the number of NSL requests increased from 8,500 in 2000 to approximately 39,000 in 2003, approximately 56,000 in 2004, and approximately 47,000 in 2005 – but even these numbers are incomplete because the FBI “did not consistently enter” its data.

Some NSL recipients erroneously provided prohibited content to the FBI, including voice messages, e-mails, and images.

The ACLU also noted that the Inspector General’s report looked at only a tiny sample of the hundreds of thousands of NSLs. That so many violations and abuses were uncovered in such a small sample points to major systemic problems with the FBI’s use of NSLs, the ACLU said.

As a result of today’s revelations, the ACLU has renewed its call to Congress to repeal the NSL provision of the Patriot Act and to exercise its oversight powers.

"Congress must fix the fundamental flaws with the Patriot Act," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "The FBI abused the powers it was given in the Patriot Act to pry in to the private lives of more Americans than ever before in our history.”

The ACLU has successfully challenged the procedures for issuing NSLs in two separate lawsuits. The lawsuits challenge the National Security Letter provision of the Patriot Act, which authorizes the FBI to demand a range of personal records without court approval, such as the identity of a person who has visited a particular Web site on a library computer, or who has engaged in anonymous speech on the Internet. Under the expanded Patriot Act power, anyone who receives an NSL is forbidden, or "gagged" from telling anyone about the record demand.

In response to the court rulings, Congress made some minor changes to the law when it reauthorized the Patriot Act in 2006. As today’s report demonstrates, the ACLU said, those changes are not enough.

In a September 2004 ruling striking down the draconian gag provision of the NSL power, Federal District Court Judge Victor Marrero said: “As our sunshine laws and judicial doctrine attest, democracy abhors undue secrecy. An unlimited government warrant to conceal, effectively a form of secrecy per se, has no place in our open society. Such a claim is especially inimical to democratic values for reasons borne out by painful experience."

Next month Judge Marrero will hear arguments in the ACLU’s challenge to the gag and secrecy provisions of the NSL law as amended by Congress in 2006.

CLICK HERE for more information about the ACLU’s challenges to the NSL power online.

CLICK HERE for the ACLU analysis of the OIG report online.

CLICK HERE to hear an audio file of an ACLU news conference about the report.

CLICK HERE to read: ACLU Calls for Repeal of Expanded Patriot Act Powers in Response to Government Report on Abuses, Says Attorney General and FBI Are Part of the Problem and Can’t Be Trusted to Curb Abuses of Power

CLICK HERE to read: The ACLU Analysis and Recommendations: Justice Department OIG Report on Misuse of National Security Letters

International Women’s Day: Girls Face Widespread Violence

International Women’s Day: Girls Face Widespread Violence
Governments Slow to Enforce Basic Protections for Girls

(New York, March 7, 2007) – Girls the world over confront an alarming array of threats to their safety, including physical and sexual violence in their schools, places of work, and in detention facilities, said Human Rights Watch today, in advance of International Women’s Day on March 8. Governments have largely failed to implement key measures preventing and responding to these abuses.

Girls are at risk of violence on the streets, in schools, at home, where they work, and in government institutions.

"Girls are at risk of violence on the streets, in schools, at home, where they work, and in government institutions."
Jo Becker, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch’s children’s rights division


Human Rights Watch recently released three background papers summarizing research on violence against girls: “Violence against Schoolgirls;” “Violence against Child Domestic Workers;” and “Violence against Girls in Conflict with the Law.” These reports are based on Human Rights Watch investigations in 15 countries, including: Afghanistan; Brazil; the Democratic Republic of Congo; Egypt; El Salvador; Guatemala; Indonesia; Iraq; Malaysia; Morocco; Papua New Guinea; South Africa,; Togo; the United States; and Zambia.

“Girls are at risk of violence on the streets, in schools, at home, where they work, and in government institutions,” said Jo Becker, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch’s children’s rights division. “In far too many cases, girls are betrayed by the very individuals who are supposed to protect them – guardians, teachers, employers and the police.”

Schoolgirls may be raped, sexually assaulted, and sexually harassed by their classmates and even by their teachers. A medical research study found that among those South African rape victims who specified their relationship to the perpetrator, 37.7 percent said that a schoolteacher or principal had raped them. Students may also be targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In situations of armed conflict, attacks against schools and teachers may keep girls out of school altogether. In Afghanistan, from January 2005 to June 2006, Human Rights Watch documented more than 200 incidents of teachers and students being killed or threatened, and schools being blown up or burned down. Such violence disproportionately affects girls, who are more likely than boys to be withdrawn from school.

Employers may subject child domestic workers to verbal and physical abuse, including severe beatings, burning with irons, and death threats. These children are often confined to their employer’s household, with little access to outside help. Child domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and sexual violence from men and boys living in or associated with the household. More girls are employed in domestic work than any other form of child labor.

Girls in contact with justice systems are at risk of violence, particularly sexual abuse and rape, by police as well as staff in detention facilities. Police may target girls who live or work on the street for violence. Girls in detention may confront physical and sexual violence and humiliating treatment, particularly by male staff, and face violent or harmful disciplinary measures. Because of their smaller numbers, girls subject to detention are more likely than boys to be held in unsuitable and often dangerous conditions.

“In some areas, girls are making enormous strides, but violence stops many from enjoying their basic rights,” said Becker. “Governments need to back up words with action, and show that violence against girls won’t go unpunished.” Human Rights Watch urged governments to take immediate steps to:

Create confidential, fully staffed and toll-free hotlines to receive reports of abuses against girls, including mechanisms accessible to students, domestic workers, and children in detention;
Ensure the prompt and effective investigation of such complaints, and prompt and appropriate action against perpetrators, including counseling, termination and criminal prosecution when warranted;

Ensure that medical examinations, trauma counseling, emergency contraception, and post-exposure HIV prophylaxis are available to sexual assault survivors;

In situations of insecurity, devise and implement a strategy to monitor, prevent, and respond to attacks on education, with special attention to the effects of attacks on girls’ education; and

Ensure that children in conflict with the law are only detained as a last resort and for the shortest possible time. Prohibit the excessive use of force, and any disciplinary measures that may compromise the health of the child. To read Human Rights Watch’s background papers on violence against girls, please visit: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/02/20/global15357.htm

CLICK HERE for Background Papers on Violence against Girls

Bush Seeks $3.2B for Extra Iraq Forces

Bush Seeks $3.2B for Extra Iraq Forces
Mar 10 7:38 PM US/Eastern

By DEB RIECHMANN
Associated Press Writer

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) -- President Bush asked Congress on Saturday for $3.2 billion to pay for at least 4,000 extra combat support troops and military police forces that commanders told the president they need in Iraq.
The extra troops are in addition to the 21,500-troop buildup Bush announced in January. The budget revisions come as many lawmakers opposed to the buildup are debating funding for the war.

Bush is proposing to cancel $3.2 billion in low-priority defense items within his fiscal 2007 supplemental budget request to offset the need for these extra forces.

Cutting the programs, he said, would not require increasing the overall $93.4 billion in additional defense money he's already requested to finance this year's war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"This revised request would better align resources based on the assessment of military commanders to achieve the goal of establishing Iraq and Afghanistan as democratic and secure nations that are free of terrorism," Bush wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Bush signed the letter on his flight Friday from Brazil to Uruguay, part of his five-nation tour of Latin America, that continues on Sunday in Colombia. The White House released the letter Saturday in Montevideo, Uruguay.

At a news conference Thursday, Gen. David Petraeus, who arrived in Baghdad in February as the top U.S. commander, hinted of the need to bolster the U.S. troop force.

Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said the money would cover funding for 2,000 more combat support troops and 2,000 to 2,400 military police forces.

"Gen. Petraeus expects under the Baghdad security plan as well as other parts of Iraq, that the number of people going into detention will increase and so these military police forces will be for that," Johndroe said.

Rove was Asked to Fire U.S. Attorney

Rove was asked to fire U.S. attorney
By Margaret Talev and Marisa Taylor
McClatchy Newspapers


WASHINGTON - Presidential advisor Karl Rove and at least one other member of the White House political team were urged by the New Mexico Republican party chairman to fire the state's U.S. attorney because of dissatisfaction in part with his failure to indict Democrats in a voter fraud investigation in the battleground election state.

In an interview Saturday with McClatchy Newspapers, Allen Weh, the party chairman, said he complained in 2005 about then-U.S. Attorney David Iglesias to a White House liaison who worked for Rove and asked that he be removed. Weh said he followed up with Rove personally in late 2006 during a visit to the White House.

"Is anything ever going to happen to that guy?" Weh said he asked Rove at a White House holiday event that month.

"He's gone," Rove said, according to Weh.

"I probably said something close to 'Hallelujah,'" said Weh.

Weh's account calls into question the Justice Department's stance that the recent decision to fire Iglesias and seven U.S. attorneys in other states was a personnel matter - made without White House intervention. Justice Department officials have said the White House's involvement was limited to approving a list of the U.S. attorneys after the Justice Department made the decision to fire them.

Rove could not be reached Saturday, and the White House and the Justice Department had no immediate response.

"The facts speak for themselves," Iglesias said, when he was told of Weh's account of his conversation with Rove.

Weh's disclosure comes as Congress investigates the circumstances behind the firings of the U.S. attorneys, most of whom had positive job evaluations, including Iglesias. Democrats have charged the Bush administration tried to inject partisan politics into federal prosecutions in order to influence election outcomes.

Weh said he doesn't know whether Rove was directly involved in the firing or was merely advised of the decision.

Weh insisted this wasn't about partisan politics.

"There's nothing we've done that's wrong," he said. "It wasn't that Iglesias wasn't looking out for Republicans. He just wasn't doing his job, period."

But Iglesias, who was fired Dec. 7, said he believes politics was the driving force. He accused Republicans Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson of trying to pressure him to bring indictments against several Democrats in time for the 2006 congressional election.

Domenici and Wilson acknowledge calling Iglesias, but deny pressuring him.

Justice Department officials have revealed that Domenici repeatedly contacted officials within the department requesting Iglesias' removal. But when asked Friday whether he contacted Rove about the issue, Domenici said he could not remember.

Iglesias said Friday he believes the impatience of state Republicans raises the possibility that the Bush administration might have been more involved than officials have acknowledged.

"Part of the controversy behind this is prosecutorial discretion," Iglesias said. "What that means is it's up to the sole discretion of the prosecutor in the case of how to handle the indictment and when to issue it."

Former federal prosecutors and defense lawyers who've represented public officials in corruption cases say the allegations of political inference could undermine the reputation of U.S. attorneys as impartial enforcers of the law.

Defense lawyers trying to convince juries to acquit their clients in corruption cases often accuse the government of mounting political vendettas against their clients. But it's virtually unheard of to have the former U.S. attorney in the case to be offering possible evidence of such interference.

"Anyone with any experience within the Justice Department is completely shocked and appalled by what has been described," said Stanley Hunterton, a former federal prosecutor of 12 years who investigated organized crime in Detroit and Las Vegas. "One of the things the Department has stood for was being apolitical. Sure, politics does gets involved in the appointment process, but this is just nuts."

Several Republican activists interviewed for this story said their frustration with Iglesias dated back to before the 2004 election, and his decision to create a task force on voter fraud rather than try to prosecute Democrats who submitted allegedly fraudulent voter registrations.

They also felt that he had largely botched a corruption case against the state treasurer, a Democrat. After a mistrial, federal prosecutors eventually secured a conviction.

By last fall, Wilson's re-election campaign was in serious trouble. But Republicans, including Weh, said they remained convinced that federal indictments were about to come down against several high-profile Democrats in a long-brewing corruption investigation related to courthouse construction projects.

On Sept. 30, nine donors were summoned to Weh's house for a $5,000-a-plate luncheon with Rove.

Among them was Paul Kennedy, a former state Supreme Court justice who had advised state lawmakers on whether to impeach the state treasurer.

Kennedy also represented the accountant who went to the FBI and U.S. attorney's office with the initial evidence implicating Democrats in the courthouse corruption case.

He acknowledges that he thought indictments of Democrats would help Wilson's re-election, and possibly hurt Democrats all the way up to Gov. Bill Richardson. But he also insists that's not what was driving his impatience - that it was a matter of the serving the public interest.

"What was I supposed to do?" he asked. "Look the other way when I saw corruption? It had to go the FBI. We gave them a lot of solid evidence."

Kennedy sat next to Rove at the luncheon that day. But in an interview he insists he never discussed the matter with him. Pat Rogers, former general counsel to the state Republican Party says he can't remember whether he attended the luncheon but that he also never discussed the matter with Rove or with Bush.

Weh says neither Iglesias nor the courthouse probe came up. Instead, donors voiced concern that Republicans would lose control of the House of Representatives. Rove assured them they would not.

But between then and the election, at least three backers of the courthouse corruption case - Wilson, Domenici, and Rogers - acknowledged they were on the phone to Iglesias to inquire about the status of the investigations. Rogers represented Wilson after she won re-election by less than 900 votes.

Rogers said he asked Iglesias before the election to talk about the case. When they finally met for lunch, Rogers said he told Iglesias, "David, in my mind, the failure to bring appropriate changes and proceed on a corruption case because of the pending election is as bad as ignoring it entirely."

"I don't know whether anyone talked to Rove or President Bush about David at any time, but complaints about David would track way back to before the election of 2004," Rogers said. "It was not a secret, the unhappiness with David."

The courthouse controversy has yet to yield indictments. And for the time being, Iglesias' firing has overshadowed talk of that probe.

March 9, 2007

Mueller admits fault in FBI intrusions

Mueller admits fault in FBI intrusions
By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The nation's top two law enforcement officials acknowledged Friday the FBI broke the law to secretly pry out personal information about Americans. They apologized and vowed to prevent further illegal intrusions.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales left open the possibility of pursuing criminal charges against FBI agents or lawyers who improperly used the USA Patriot Act in pursuit of suspected terrorists and spies.

The FBI's transgressions were spelled out in a damning 126-page audit by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine. He found that agents sometimes demanded personal data on people without official authorization, and in other cases improperly obtained telephone records in non-emergency circumstances.

The audit also concluded that the FBI for three years underreported to Congress how often it used national security letters to force businesses to turn over customer data. The letters are administrative subpoenas that do not require a judge's approval.

"People have to believe in what we say," Gonzales said. "And so I think this was very upsetting to me. And it's frustrating."

"We have some work to do to reassure members of Congress and the American people that we are serious about being responsible in the exercise of these authorities," he said.

Under the Patriot Act, the national security letters give the FBI authority to demand that telephone companies, Internet service providers, banks, credit bureaus and other businesses produce personal records about their customers or subscribers. About three-fourths of the letters issued between 2003 and 2005 involved counterterror cases, with the rest for espionage investigations, the audit reported.

Shoddy record-keeping and human error were to blame for the bulk of the problems, said Justice auditors who were careful to note they found no indication of criminal misconduct.

Still, "we believe the improper or illegal uses we found involve serious misuses of national security letter authorities," the audit concluded.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller said many of the problems were being fixed, including by building a better internal data collection system and training employees on the limits of their authority. The FBI has also scrapped the use of "exigent letters," which were used to gather information without the signed permission of an authorized official.

"But the question should and must be asked: How could this happen? Who is accountable?" Mueller said. "And the answer to that is, I am to be held accountable."

Mueller said he had not been asked to resign, nor had he discussed doing so with other officials. He said employees would probably face disciplinary actions, not criminal charges, following an internal investigation of how the violations occurred.

The audit incensed lawmakers in Congress already seething over the recent dismissals of eight U.S. attorneys. Democrats who lead House and Senate judiciary and intelligence oversight panels promised hearings on the findings. Several lawmakers — Republicans and Democrats alike — raised the possibility of scaling back the FBI's authority.

"It's up to Congress to end these abuses as soon as possible," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "The Patriot Act was never intended to allow the Bush administration to violate fundamental constitutional rights."

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said the audit shows "a major failure by Justice to uphold the law."

"If the Justice Department is going to enforce the law, it must follow it as well," said Hoekstra, of Michigan.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the audit proves Congress must amend the Patriot Act to require judicial approval anytime the FBI wants access to sensitive personal information.

"The attorney general and the FBI are part of the problem, and they cannot be trusted to be part of the solution," said ACLU's executive director, Anthony D. Romero.

Both Gonzales and Mueller called the national security letters vital tools in pursuing terrorists and spies in the United States. "They are the bread and butter of our investigations," Mueller said.

Gonzales asked the inspector general to issue a follow-up audit in July on whether the FBI had followed recommendations to fix the problems.

Fine's annual review is required by Congress, over the objections of the Bush administration. It concluded that the number of national security letters requested by the FBI skyrocketed in the years after the Patriot Act became law. Each letter issued may contain several requests.

In 2000, for example, the FBI issued an estimated 8,500 requests. That number peaked in 2004 with 56,000. Overall, the FBI reported issuing 143,074 requests for national security letters between 2003 and 2005.

But that did not include an additional 8,850 requests that were never recorded in the FBI's database, the audit found. A sample review of 77 case files at four FBI field offices showed that agents had underreported the number of national security letter requests by about 22 percent.

Additionally, the audit found, the FBI identified 26 possible violations in its use of the letters, including failing to get proper authorization, making improper requests under the law and unauthorized collection of telephone or Internet e-mail records.

The FBI also used exigent letters to quickly get information — sometimes in non-emergency situations — without going through proper channels. In at least 700 cases, these letters were sent to three telephone companies to get billing records and subscriber information, the audit found.

___

On the Net:

The report is at: http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/reports/FBI/index.htm

Justice Department: http://www.usdoj.gov

FBI: http://www.fbi.gov

Susan Sarandon's Speech with Images from Iraq 1-27-07 DC Peace March

March 8, 2007

End the Femicides in Ciudad Jarez

On International Women's Day, Amnesty International USA and Artists Jennifer Lopez and Antonio Banderas Call for Justice and an End to Femicides in Ciudad Juarez
March 8, 2007
Amnesty Interntational Press Release

(Los Angeles) -- Artists Jennifer Lopez and Antonio Banderas joined Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) on March 8th, International Women's Day, in expressing outrage over violence against women globally and calling for justice in the murders of 400 women and girls in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, since 1993.

In order to raise awareness with the international community about the continued violence in Ciudad Juárez, Lopez and Banderas, stars of the film "Bordertown," a drama exposing the murders in Juárez, are issuing videotaped statements on the Amnesty International USA website (www.amnestyusa.org/bordertown) today.

Every year, violence in the home and community devastates the lives of millions of women and girls around the world. Whether it is rape, domestic violence, acid burning, dowry deaths, female genital mutilation, or femicide, women are at serious risk of violence and abuse, no matter who they are or where they live. Worldwide, at least one out of every three women will be beaten, coerced into sex or abused in some way in her lifetime.

Lopez and Banderas expressed outrage about the ongoing femicide in Mexico. "My consciousness has been stirred by one of the world?s most shocking, and disturbingly under-reported, crimes against humanity," said Lopez. "It is my greatest hope that our efforts with Amnesty International will help to inspire, as well as encourage, other people throughout the world to act in ensuring that justice is served."

"Because it is an obligation, I think it is a duty," said Banderas, "to support the victims and all these people who are suffering."

In Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, despite more than a decade of murders of women, perpetrators overwhelmingly escaped accountability. According to press reports, the latest cases occurred on March 1st when four women were killed in Ciudad Juárez. The reports said the victims included a 10-year-old girl, her mother, who was four months pregnant, her aunt, and another young woman.

"These most recent killings are a devastating sign that despite some efforts by the Mexican government to combat violence, perpetrators still think that they are justified in brutalizing women. The international community is awaiting a firm political commitment from President Calderon to eliminate impunity in all its pervasive forms and a visible and vocal position of zero tolerance for violence against women throughout Mexico. The Mexican government must ensure the protection of the most vulnerable sectors of the population such as the women and girls of Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua," said Renata Rendón, AIUSA's Advocacy Director for the Americas.

Both artists attended AIUSA's Artists for Amnesty Award Ceremony February 14 in Berlin with Norma Andrade, Marisela Ortiz and Manuela Simental, founders and members of Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa (Bring Our Daughters Home), an organization of mothers and families of the murdered women of Juarez. At this event, the mothers spoke about the deaths of their daughters and demanded justice. "The Mexican government has not listened to us and has tried to diminish the magnitude of this tragedy," stated Marisela Ortiz, co-founder of the organization. "We urge the Mexican government to guarantee the right to life and physical integrity of all its citizens including women."

"On this day, when the world expresses its solidarity and commitment to ending violence against women, it is our hope that these messages from artists, mothers, and human rights activists will remind the world that justice must prevail in Mexico," said Bonnie Abaunza, director of Artists for Amnesty.

March 7, 2007

U.S. Won't Seek Seat on U.N. Rights Council

U.S. Won't Seek Seat on U.N. Rights Council
By Sue Pleming
Reuters


Mar 6, 2007 — WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Tuesday it would not seek a seat on the new U.N. Human Rights Council, saying it was not a "credible body," a decision that immediately drew harsh criticism from a veteran Congressman.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States would retain its observer status on the 47-member council, created last year over objections from the United States that rules were not strong enough to prevent rights violators from getting a seat.

"We believe that the Human Rights Council has thus far not proved itself to be a credible body in the mission that it has been charged with," McCormack told reporters. "Our decision is that we do not plan to run (for a seat)."

The announcement came on the day that the State Department issued its 2006 report on human rights worldwide.

McCormack said Washington supported the promotion of human rights globally and would "remain a forceful advocate in the promotion of human rights."

He complained there had been a "nearly singular focus" by the council on issues related to Israel to the exclusion of other areas, such as rights abuses in Myanmar or North Korea.

"We hope over time this body will expand its focus and become a more credible institution," said McCormack.

Last November, outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan also criticized the council for focusing too much on Israel and neglecting other parts of the world such as Sudan's war-torn Darfur region, which had what he termed "graver" crises.

But he as well as human rights groups have lobbied to have the United States join the council.

On Tuesday, Congressman Tom Lantos, a California Democrat, called the decision "an act of unparalleled defeatism" by letting "a cabal of military juntas, single-party states and tin-pot dictators retain their death grip on the world's human rights machinery."

"This is the worst possible time for a U.S. retreat from its rightful role as the world's champion of human rights," Lantos said in a statement.

"At a time when we are attempting to marshal the civilized world to stand up to extremism and terror, a retreat from Geneva sends exactly the wrong signal to those who are trying to defeat us," Lantos said. "It is particularly appalling that the administration would select the day it is releasing the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices to announce this decision."

"Eleanor Roosevelt surely must be turning over in her grave today," he said. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was the body's first chair and the main author of the 1948 U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

March 5, 2007

An Impartial Interrogation of George W. Bush

An Impartial Interrogation of George W. Bush
From THE NATION
George McGovern at the National Press Club


I'm glad to be back at the National Press Club. Indeed, at the age of eighty-four, I'm glad to be anywhere. In my younger years when the subject of aging came up, trying to sound worldly wise, I would say, "It doesn't matter so much the number of years you have, but what you do with those years." I don't say that anymore. I now want to reach a hundred. Why? Because I thoroughly enjoy life and there are so many things I must still do before entering the mystery beyond. The most urgent of these is to get American soldiers out of the Iraqi hellhole Bush-Cheney and their neoconservative theorists have created in what was once called the cradle of civilization. It is believed to be the location of the Garden of Eden. I mention the neoconservative theorists to recall Walter Lippman's observance, "There is nothing so dangerous as a belligerent professor."

One of the things I miss about my eighteen years in the US Senate are the stories of the old Southern Democrats. I didn't always vote with them, but I loved their technique of responding to an opponent's questions with a humorous story. Once when Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina had to handle a tough question from Mike Mansfield, he said, "You know, Mr. Leader, that question reminds me of the old Baptist preacher who was telling a class of Sunday school boys the creation story. 'God created Adam and Eve and from this union came two sons, Cain and Abel and thus the human race developed.' A boy in the class then asked, 'Reverend, where did Cain and Abel get their wives?' After frowning for a moment, the preacher replied, 'Young man--it's impertinent questions like that that's hurtin' religion.'"

Well, Mr. Bush, Jr. I have some impertinent questions for you.

Mr. President, Sir, when reporter Bob Woodward asked you if you had consulted with your father before ordering our army into Iraq you said, "No, he's not the father you call on a decision like this. I talked to my heavenly Father above." My question, Mr. President: If God asked you to bombard, invade and occupy Iraq for four years, why did he send an opposite message to the Pope? Did you not know that your father, George Bush, Sr., his Secretary of State James Baker and his National Security Advisor General Scowcroft were all opposed to your invasion? Wouldn't you, our troops, the American people and the Iraqis all be much better off if you had listened to your more experienced elders including your earthly father? Instead of blaming God for the awful catastrophe you have unleashed in Iraq, wouldn't it have been less self-righteous if you had fallen back on the oft-quoted explanation of wrongdoing, "The devil made me do it?"

And Mr. President, after the 9/11 hit against the Twin Towers in New York, which gained us the sympathy and support of the entire world, why did you then order the invasion of Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11? Are you aware that your actions destroyed the international reservoir of good will towards the United States? What is the cost to America of shattering the standing and influence of our country in the eyes of the world?

Why, Mr. President did you pressure the CIA to report falsely that Iraq was building weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons? And when you ordered your Secretary of State, Colin Powell, to go to New York and present to the UN the Administration's "evidence" that Iraq was an imminent nuclear threat to the United States, were you aware that after reading this deceitful statement to the UN, Mr. Powell told an aid that the so-called evidence was "bullshit"?
Is it reasonable to you, President Bush, that Colin Powell told you near the end of your first term that he would not be in your Administration if you were to receive a second term? What decent person could survive two full terms of forced lying and deceit?

And Mr. President, how do you enjoy your leisure time, and how can you sleep at night knowing that 3,014 young Americans have died in a war you mistakenly ordered? What do you say to the 48,000 young Americans who have been crippled for life in mind or body? What is your reaction to the conclusion of the leading British medical journal (Lancet) that since you ordered the bombardment and occupation of Iraq four years ago, 600,000 Iraqi men, women and children have been killed? What do you think of the destruction of the Iraqi's homes, their electrical and water systems, their public buildings?

And Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, while neither of you has ever been in combat (Mr. Cheney asking and receiving five deferments from the Vietnam War), have you not at least read or been briefed on the terrible costs of that ill-advised and seemingly endless American war in tiny Vietnam? Do you realize that another Texas President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, declined to seek a second term in part because he had lost his credibility over the disastrous war in Vietnam?

Are you aware that one of the chief architects of that war, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, resigned his office and years later published a book declaring that the war was all a tragic mistake? Do you know this recent history in which 58,000 young Americans died in the process of killing 2 million Vietnamese men, women and children? If you do not know about this terrible blunder in Vietnam, are you not ignoring the conclusion of one of our great philosophers: "Those who are ignorant of history are condemned to repeat it." And, Mr. President, in your ignorance of the lessons of Vietnam, are you not condemning our troops and our people to repeat the same tragedy in Iraq?

During the long years between 1963 and 1975 when I fought to end the American war in Vietnam, first as a US Senator from South Dakota and then as my party's nominee for President, my four daughters ganged up on my one night. "Dad, why don't you give up this battle? You've been speaking out against this crazy war since we were little kids. When you won the Democratic presidential nomination, you got snowed under by President Nixon." In reply I said, "Just remember that sometimes in history even a tragic mistake produces something good. The good about Vietnam is that it is such a terrible blunder, we'll never go down that road again." Mr. President, we're going down that road again. So, what do I tell my daughters? And what do you tell your daughters?

Mr. President, I do not speak either as a pacifist or a draft dodger. I speak as one who after the attack on Pearl Harbor, volunteered at the age of nineteen for the Army Air Corps and flew thirty-five missions as a B-24 bomber. I believed in that war then and I still do sixty-five years later. And so did the rest of America. Mr. President, are you missing the intellectual and moral capacity to know the difference between a justified war and a war of folly in Vietnam or Iraq?
Public opinion polls indicate that two-thirds of the American people think that the war in Iraq has been a mistake on your part. It is widely believed that this war was the central reason Democrats captured control of both houses of Congress. Polls among the people of Iraq indicate that nearly all Iraqis want our military presence in their country for the last four years to end now. Why do you persist in defying public opinion in both the United States and Iraq and throughout the other countries around the globe? Do you see yourself as omniscient? What is your view of the doctrine of self-determination, which we Americans hold dear?

And wonder of wonders, Mr. President, after such needless death and destruction, first in the Vietnamese jungle and now in the Arabian desert, how can you order 21,500 more American troops to Iraq? Are you aware that as the war in Vietnam went from bad to worse, our leaders sent in more troops and wasted more billions of dollars until we had 550,000 US troops in that little country? It makes me shudder as an aging bomber pilot to remember that we dropped more bombs on the Vietnamese and their country than the total of all the bombs dropped by all the air forces around the world in World War II. Do you, Mr. President, honestly believe that we need tens of thousands of additional troops plus a supplemental military appropriation of $200 billion before we can bring our troops home from this nightmare in ancient Baghdad?


In your initial campaign for the Presidency, Mr. Bush, you described yourself as a "compassionate conservative". What is compassionate about consigning America's youth to a needless and seemingly endless war that has now lasted longer than World War II? And what is conservative about reducing the taxes needed to finance this war and instead running our national debt to nine trillion dollars with money borrowed from China, Japan, Germany and Britain? Is this wild deficit financing your idea of conservatism?

Mr. President, how can a true conservative be indifferent to the steadily rising cost of a war that claims over $7 billion a month, $237 million every day? Are you troubled to know as a conservative that just the interest on our skyrocketing national debt is $760,000 every day. Mr. President, our Nobel Prize-winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, estimates that if the war were to continue until 2010 as you have indicated it might, the cost would be over a trillion dollars.
Perhaps, Mr. President, you should ponder the words of a genuine conservative - England's nineteenth-century member of Parliament, Edmund Burke: "A conscientious man would be cautious how he dealt in blood".

And, Mr. President at a time when your most respected generals have concluded that the chaos and conflict in Iraq cannot be resolved by more American dollars and more American young bodies, do you ever consider the needs here at home of our own anxious and troubled society? What about the words of another true conservative, General and President Dwight Eisenhower who said that, "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed."

And, Mr. President, would not you and all the rest of us do well to ponder the farewell words of President Eisenhower: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of the unwarranted influence of the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

Finally, Mr. President, I ask have you kept your oath of office to uphold the Constitution when you use what you call the war on terrorism to undermine the Bill of Rights? On what constitutional theory do you seize and imprison suspects without charge, sometimes torturing them in foreign jails? On what constitutional or legal basis have you tapped the phones of Americans without approval of the courts as required by law? Are you above the Constitution, above the law, and above the Geneva accords? If we are fighting for freedom in Iraq as you say, why are you so indifferent to protecting liberty here in America?

Many Americans are now saying in effect, "The American war in Iraq has created a horrible mess but how can we now walk away from it?" William Polk, a former Harvard and University of Chicago professor of Middle East Studies and a former State Department expert on the Middle East, has teamed up with me on a recent book requested by Simon and Schuster. It is entitled, Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now. I feel awkward praising it, so I give you the respected journalist of the New York Times, and now of Newsweek, Anna Quindlen who told Charlie Rose on his excellent TV program: "There is a wonderful book I am recommending to everyone. It's a very small, readable book by George McGovern and William Polk called Out of Iraq. And it just very quickly runs you through the history of the country, the makeup of the country, how we got in, the arguments for getting in--many of which don't withstand scrutiny--and how we can get out. It's like a little primer. I think the entire nation should read it and then we will be united."

If you need a second for the judgment of Anna Quindlen, I give you the esteemed Library Journal: "In this crisp and cogently argued book, former Senator McGovern and scholar Polk offer a trenchant and straightforward critique of the war in Iraq. What makes their highly readable book unique is that it not only argues why the United States needs to disengage militarily from Iraq now...but also clearly delineates practical steps for troop withdrawal...Essential reading for anybody who wants to cut through the maze of confusion that surrounds current US policy in Iraq, this book is highly recommended for public and academic libraries."

Professor Polk is a descendant of President Polk and the brother of the noted George Polk, is here today from his home in southern France and he will join me at the podium as I conclude this impartial interrogation of President Bush. And now, members of the National Press Club and your guests, it's your turn to cross-examine Bill Polk and me in, of course, an equally impartial manner.