Thursday, January 15, 2009
By HELEN THOMAS
WASHINGTON -- Outgoing President Bush admits to some "disappointments" during his eight White House years but he hesitates to call them "mistakes."
At his last news conference as president, Bush cited Abu Ghraib --the notorious Iraq prison where U.S. soldiers abused and tortured prisoners -- as a "huge disappointment," even though he had approved of harsh interrogation techniques.
"I don't know if you want to call those mistakes or not," Bush told reporters "but there were things that didn't go according to plan."
Here's a bizarre Bushism. In one of his strangest statements as president, Bush said that Iraq's "not having weapons of mass destruction was a significant disappointment."
Wait a minute. The absence of those weapons should have been good news.
Posted by Xeni Jardin, permalink
Over at the Creative Commons blog, Fred Benenson writes:
Al Jazeera is releasing 12 broadcast quality videos today shot in Gaza under Creative Commons' least restrictive Attribution license. Each professionally recorded video has a detailed information page and is hosted on blip.tv allowing for easy downloads of the original files and integration into Miro. The value of this footage is best described by an International Herald Tribune/New York Times article describing the release:Al Jazeera Launches Creative Commons Repository (Via Sean Bonner) and here is the Al Jazeera Creative Commons Repository.
In a conflict where the Western news media have been largely prevented from reporting from Gaza because of restrictions imposed by the Israeli military, Al Jazeera has had a distinct advantage. It was already there.
More importantly, the permissive CC-BY license means that the footage can be used by anyone including, rival broadcasters, documentary makers, and bloggers, so long as Al Jazeera is credited.
In an interview airing tonight on PBS's Newshour, host Jim Lehrer asks Vice President Cheney about the U.S. soldiers who have lost their lives in the war in Iraq. Cheney shows little remorse:
Q: But Mr. Vice President, getting from there to here, 4,500 Americans have died, at least 100,000 Iraqis have died. Has it been worth that?
CHENEY: I think so.
CHENEY: Because I believed at the time what Saddam Hussein represented was, especially in the aftermath of 9/11, was a terror-sponsoring state so designated by the State Department. He had produced and used weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological agents. He'd had a nuclear program in the past. And he did have a relationship with al Qaeda. [�]
And so I think given the track record of Saddam Hussein, I think we did exactly the right thing. I think the country is better off for it today.
Cheney's comments mirror those of other conservatives, such as House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), who said that the lives lost in Iraq have been a "small price" to pay, and right-wing commentator Frank Gaffney, who declared that all these troops "did have to die" in Iraq.
The United States did not invade in Iraq because Saddam "had a nuclear program in the past," nor did he have a relationship with al Qaeda. We went to war because Bush administration officials made everyone believes that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction at that time and an active relationship with al Qaeda. The Iraq war has decimated the readiness of the U.S. military, radicalized insurgents in the Middle East, and strengthened many of America's enemies. As David Sanger of the New York Times notes, the war also "occupied so much of the attention and the resources of the top levels of the U.S. government that we ignored much bigger threats, short-term and long-term." Matt Yglesias has also written:
The harsh reality is that this was not a noble undertaking done for good reasons. It was a criminal enterprise launched by madmen cheered on by a chorus of fools and cowards. And it's seen as such by virtually everyone all around the world - including but by no means limited to the Arab world.
Evidently, all this was worth losing more than 4,500 Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqis.
Former acting Justice Department civil rights chief Bradley J. Schlozman lied to Congress, according to a report by the Justice Department's inspector general. (Photo: Getty Images)
Washington - A former acting Justice Department civil rights chief illegally favored conservative job applicants as "real Americans," kept liberal lawyers off key cases and lied in Senate testimony to conceal his misconduct, internal investigators say in a report made public Tuesday.
Bradley Schlozman privately dubbed liberal department lawyers "commies" and "pinkos" and told a subordinate that the Civil Rights Division shouldn't be limited to hiring "politburo members" who belong to some "psychopathic left-wing organization designed to overthrow the government," the department's inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility found.
Last March, officials from the two offices asked the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to investigate whether Schlozman had committed perjury in June 2007 Senate testimony and written follow-up responses. Federal prosecutors decided last week not to bring charges.
The 70-page report, the last to be publicly released on four joint internal investigations stemming from the 2007 scandal over politicization of the Justice Department, was completed in July but had been kept secret pending the outcome of the criminal inquiry.
It concludes that Schlozman kept tight control over hiring in five key sections of the Civil Rights Division and "improperly used political or ideological affiliations" in assessing applicants for experienced and entry-level career jobs, violating the federal Civil Service Reform Act and department policy.
Of 65 lawyers whom Schlozman hired from 2003 to 2006 and whose political affiliations were evident, 63, or 97 percent, were Republicans or conservatives and only two were Democrats or liberal, it said.
President-elect Obama this week said his team was in the middle of "evaluating" Bush administration policies to see whether a criminal investigation would be worthwhile. NPR reports that Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) says that he understands Obama's reluctance to pursue investigations but that he may take matters into his own hands:
"I think that there's a lot that remains to look at, and I appreciate that President Obama doesn't want to make it his purpose as a new president, with America in real distress in many directions, to go back and look at all this, but I think we in Congress have an independent responsibility, and I fully intend to discharge that responsibility," Whitehouse said.
In a 487-page report out today recapping Bush's "imperial presidency," House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) recommends that "the incoming Administration finally begin an independent criminal review of activities of the outgoing Administration."
By Ali Frick
In an interview with Brit Hume that aired today on Fox News Sunday, President Bush admitted that he personally authorized the torture of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He said he personally asked "what tools" were available to use on him, and sought legal approval for waterboarding him:
BUSH: One such person who gave us information was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. And I'm in the Oval Office and I am told that we have captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the professionals believe he has information necessary to secure the country. So I ask what tools are available for us to find information from him and they gave me a list of tools, and I said are these tools deemed to be legal? And so we got legal opinions before any decision was made.
Bush staunchly defended the program, saying it saved American lives - despite interrogators' claims to the contrary. He waved away the debate over torture by saying dismissively, "Look, I understand why people can get carried away on this issue."
Last year, Bush admitted that he was "aware" that his national security team met to discuss KSM's interrogation, and that he approved of the meeting. His admission today suggests Bush had a far more direct role in developing the specific torture program, which included waterboarding, a freezing cell, and long periods of standing and stress positions (all of which have long been considered torture).
What's more, a former Pentagon intelligence analyst told Vanity Fair that "K.S.M. produced no actionable intelligence"; another former CIA official, who read all the reports from KSM's interrogation, said, "90 percent of it was total f*cking bullsh*t."
(Mediterranean Sea, 15 January 2009) - The Israeli navy today threatened to kill unarmed civilians aboard a mercy ship on its way to deliver medical supplies and doctors to besieged Gaza.
The Free Gaza Movement ship, SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, left Cyprus Wednesday morning carrying doctors, journalists, human rights workers, and parliamentarians. The ship also carried over a ton of desperately needed medicines donated by the European Campaign to Break the Siege, and intended for overwhelmed hospitals in the Gaza Strip. At the request of the ship's organizers the passenger list and manifest were publicly released, and Cypriot authorities searched the boat prior to its departure in order to certify that it only carried humanitarian items. The organizers also sent an official notification to the Israeli government of their intent to break through the blockade of Gaza.
At roughly 3am UST (1am GMT), in international waters 100 miles off the coast of Gaza, at least five Israeli gunboats surrounded the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY and began recklessly cutting in front of the slow-moving civilian craft. The Israeli warships radioed the SPIRIT, demanding that the ship turn around or they would open fire and "shoot." When asked if the Israeli navy was acknowledging that they intended to commit a war crime by deliberately firing on unarmed civilians, the warships replied that they were prepared to use "any means" to stop the ship.
An earlier attempt by Free Gaza to deliver doctors and medical supplies ended on 30 December when Israeli gunboats deliberately and repeatedly rammed the DIGNITY, almost sinking that ship. Rather than endanger the lives of its passengers, the SPIRIT is now returning to Cyprus.
Israel's reckless and shocking threats against an unarmed ship on a mission of mercy are a violation of both international maritime law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states that "the high seas should be reserved for peaceful purposes."