Congressional Shame and Duplicity

Congressional Shame and Duplicity

by Stephen Lendman

The latest October Reuters/Zogby Index shows record
low approval ratings for George Bush and Congress -
24% for the president that looks almost giddy compared
to the bottom-scraping 11% level for the nation’s
lawmakers. It’s more evidence that the criminal class
in Washington is bipartisan and hoping November, 2008
will change things is pure fantasy.

A voter groundswell sent a message last November to
end the Iraq war and occupation. Instead, the
Democrat-led 110th Congress continues to fund it
generously. In May, the House overwhelmingly passed HR
1585, the FY 2008 National Defense Authorization Act.
It calls for $506.8 billion for DOD plus $141.8
billion (of the $150.5 billion White House request)
for ongoing Iraq and Afghanistan operations. The
Senate followed with a similar bill on October 1 with
only three opposing votes against it. Neither bill
proposed an Iraq withdrawal timeline, and final
legislation has yet to be sent to the president.

Add on further amounts like George Bush’s latest $46
billion request putting FY 2008 supplemental
war-funding above $196 billion and rising. Congress
will approve it and more in spite of Democrats
signaling a protracted budget showdown ahead. The only
showdown will be over how much pork will be added to
the final appropriation and for what purpose.

Democrats also back the administration’s push to
attack Iran by echoing what the Israeli Lobby calls
“The Iranian Threat.” War with Iran is AIPAC’s top
priority, and key Democrats in Congress are on board
hyping a non-existent threat to prepare the public for
what may be coming. Earlier in March, Speaker Pelosi
removed a provision from an appropriations bill that
would have required George Bush to get congressional
approval before attacking Iran. Then in July, the
Senate unanimously (97 - 0) passed the Lieberman
amendment that practically endorses war if it’s
declared. It affirmed George Bush’s baseless charges
that Tehran funds, trains and arms Iraqi resistance
fighters “who are contributing to the destabilization
of Iraq and are responsible for the murder of members
of the United States Armed Forces.”

The House added its voice on September 25 by voting
397 - 16 for the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act of
2007 that imposes sanctions on non-US companies
investing in Iran’s oil sector. The next day the
Senate acted again by overwhelmingly (79 - 22) passing
the Kyl-Lieberman amendment that calls for US policy
to “combat, contain and (stop Iran by use of)
diplomatic, economic, intelligence and military
instruments.” Other bellicose language in the
resolution stated:

—“the United States should designate Iran’s Islamic
Revolutionary Guards Corp as a foreign terrorist
organization….and place (it) on the list of
Specially Designated Global Terrorists….it should be
the policy of the United States to stop inside Iraq
the violent activities and destabilizing influence of
the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its
foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and
its indigenous Iraqi proxies.”

This measure helped smooth the way for George Bush’s
October 25 unilateral imposition of sanctions
discussed below. It was an unprecendented move against
another nation’s military Senator Jim Webb (voting no)
said provides “a backdoor method of gaining
congressional validation for military action, without
one hearing (or) serious debate (and that the action)
is Dick Cheney’s fondest pipe dream.”

George Bush acted provocatively twice. At his October
17 news conference, he menacingly said he believes
Iran “want(s) to have the capacity, the knowledge in
order to make a nuclear weapon….it’s in the world’s
interests to prevent them from doing so….If Iran had
a nuclear weapon, it would be a dangerous threat to
world peace….So….if you’re interested in avoiding
World War III” this possibility must be prevented
implying war (potentially using first-strike nuclear
weapons) is the way to do it.

On October 25 Bush acted again to counter China and
Russia’s opposition to sweeping UN Security Council
measures. He unilaterally imposed harsh new sanctions
against Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC), its Quds
Force, three state-owned banks and over 20 Iranian
companies. The IRGC was named as “proliferators of
weapons of mass destruction,” and the Quds Force was
called a “supporter of terrorism.”

Democrats buy this stuff and ignore IAEA chief Mohamed
ElBaradei’s latest October 28 statement that repeated
his earlier ones. He said he had no evidence Iran is
building or seeks to build nuclear weapons and accused
the Bush administration of adding “fuel to the fire”
with its bellicose rhetoric. The “loyal opposition”
prefers instead to accept White House press secretary
Dana Perino’s October 29 charge that Iran “is a
country that is enriching and reprocessing uranium and
the reason one does that is to lead towards a nuclear
weapon.”

This accusation and new administration sanctions
ratchet up tension further and amount to what one
analyst called “a warning shot across the bow (that
stops short of) a signal we’re going to war,” but it’s
got other observers thinking the likelihood is greater
than ever with Congress on board. The move also caught
Vladimir Putin’s attention in Lisbon where he was
attending an EU leader summit. “Why worsen the
situation and bring it to a dead end” with sanctions
or military action,” he said. He then added a pointed
reference to George Bush stating: “Running around like
a madman with a razor blade, waving it around, is not
the best way to resolve the situation.”

Newly imposed sanctions won’t affect US companies.
They’re already barred from doing business directly in
Iran, but they do target their foreign subsidiaries
and other foreign-based ones with threats of penalties
and exclusion from the US market. It remains to be
seen how effective they’ll be as key EU countries as
well as China, Russia, India and others have growing
economic ties to Iran. They won’t be eager to sever
them or join the US campaign for a wider Middle East
war. In addition, Iran is a major oil supplier. With
the price of crude touching $96 a barrel on November 1
(and December futures up to $125), any cutoff or
severe reduction of supply guarantees it’ll top $100
and make a global economic slowdown or recession much
more likely.

Nonetheless, the Bush war machine presses on with
congressional Democrats aboard. Presidential
candidates from both parties support Bush’s move, and
Democrat front runner Hillary Clinton is as hawkish as
Joe Lieberman and John McCain. They both endorse
attacking Iran, and McCain believes striking Iran’s
nuclear sites “is a possibility that is maybe closer
to reality than we are discussing tonight.”

Clinton is just as bellicose, is close to AIPAC, and
in an earlier speech said: “The security and freedom
of Israel must be decisive and remain at the core of
any American approach to the Middle East. (We dare
not) waver from this (firm) commitment.” She was also
quoted in the current issue of Foreign Affairs saying:
“Iran poses a long-term strategic challenge to the
United States, our NATO allies and Israel. It is the
country that most practices state-sponsored terrorism,
and it uses its surrogates to supply explosives that
kill US troops in Iraq….(Iran) must not not be
permitted to build or acquire nuclear weapons. If Iran
(won’t comply with) the will of the international
community, all options must remain on the table.”

The only give in her position (that’s hardly any at
all) is wanting congressional approval for any future
military action. Up to now, that’s been pro forma
rubber stamp. It’ll be no different if George Bush
orders an attack as congressional Democrat leaders,
including Hillary Clinton, have already signaled their
approval.

John Richardson wrote on October 18 in Esquire.com
that two former high-ranking Bush administration
National Security Council officials fear the worst.
They’re Middle East experts Flynt Leverett and Hillary
Mann, and they’re reacting publicly. They believe war
with Iran has been in the cards for years, and we’re
“getting closer and closer to the tripline.” Key for
them was the unprecedented move to name Iran’s
Revolutionary Guard Quds Force a terrorist
organization.

Richardson lays out what they think will happen: UN
diplomacy will fail because Russia and China won’t
agree to harsh sanctions. Iran’s policies won’t change
without “any meaningful incentive from the US. That
will trigger a….White House (response with) a
serious risk (George Bush) would decide to order an
attack on the Iranian nuclear installations and
probably a wider target zone.” This, in turn, “would
result in a dramatic increase in attacks on US (Iraq)
forces, attacks by proxy forces like Hezbollah, and an
unknown reaction from….Afghanistan and Pakistan,
where millions admire Iran’s resistance.” Attacking
Iran “could engulf America in a war with the entire
Muslim world.” The article also quotes former CIA
officer and author Robert Baer (from Time magazine)
saying an unnamed highly placed White House official
believes “IEDs are a casus belli for this
administration. There will be an attack on Iran.”

The London Times raised the betting odds further for
one in its October 21 report. Columnist Michael Smith
wrote: UK defense sources disclosed that “British
(Special Air Service - SAS) forces have crossed into
Iran several times (along with other special forces,
the Australian SAS and American special-operation
troops) as part of a secret border war against the
Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Al-Quds special forces.”
They engaged in “at least half a dozen intense
firefights” along the Iran-Iraq border in what looks
like deliberate US-UK efforts to provoke Iran into
providing justification for a major American attack.

Speculation one looms has been around for some time,
and if it comes, it won’t surprise observers like Iran
expert Gary Sick. He was a military advisor to three
US presidents and was recently quoted in Germany’s Der
Spiegel magazine saying: The recent shift in US
emphasis to “Iran’s support for terrorism in
Iraq….is a complete change and is potentially
dangerous.” That’s because it’s much easier proving
(true or not) Iran supports Iraqi resistance fighters
than it poses an imminent nuclear threat to the world.

Der Spiegel also reports on a leak “by an official
close to” Dick Cheney that he’s “already asked for a
backroom analysis of how a war with Iran might begin
(and in) the scenario concocted by (his) strategists,
Washington’s first step would be to convince Israel to
fire missiles at Iran’s (Natanz) uranium enrichment
plant.” That would provoke Iran to retaliate and give
the Bush administration the excuse it needs “to attack
military targets and nuclear facilities in Iran.”
That’s OK with Democrats if it comes including House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi Black Agenda Report writer
Margaret Kimberly calls a “Quisling” and an “absolute
disaster for the Democrat Party and….the entire
nation (because of her) eagerness to cooperate with
the Bush regime (and) her incompetence in leading
Congress.”

Other key Democrats share those qualities and that
assures extremist Attorney General nominee Michael
Mukasey’s confirmation won’t be challenged. That’s in
spite of reports top Senate Judiciary Committee
Democrats Chairman Leahy and Majority Whip Durbin say
their votes depend on his admitting waterboarding is
torture. During his confirmation hearing, Mukasey was
evasive and noncommittal.

When asked during questioning, he incredulously
claimed not to know what waterboarding is even though
it’s been around for centuries and what it entails is
common knowledge. Mukasey would only say “IF
(waterboarding) is torture, it is unconstitutional.”
He then repeated the White House line “We don’t
torture” even though he knows DOJ legal opinions
confirm the Bush administration condones the practice
by endorsing “the harshest interrogation techniques
ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.”

He should also know about the ACLU’s new
“Administration of Torture” book based on FOIA
requested evidence. It documents that “marching
orders” for torture came from Donald Rumsfeld so the
White House had to be involved as well. That includes
George Bush and Alberto Gonzales, who in 2002 as White
House Counsel, called the Geneva Conventions “quaint”
and “obsolete” and as Attorney General authorized
physical and psychological brutality as official
administration policy.

Mukasey promises business as usual as AG and confirmed
it by claiming “I don’t think (Guantanamo prisoners)
are mistreated.” He also supports the president’s
right to imprison US citizens without charge and deny
“unlawful enemy combatants” their habeas rights, but
that’s OK with Democrats on the Judiciary Committee
with a large party majority sure to agree.

In a follow-up letter Senator Leahy requested, Mukasey
was just as evasive and noncommittal as during his
confirmation hearing. He sidestepped commenting on
presidential surveillance powers limits beyond what
FISA allows and continued to avoid admitting
waterboarding is torture. Instead he said: ....“there
is a real issue (whether) the techniques presented and
discussed at the hearing and in your letter are even
part of any program of questioning detainees.”

He then added if confirmed he’ll concentrate on
“solving problems cooperatively with Congress,” advise
George Bush appropriately on any “technique” he
determines to be unlawful, and the president is bound
by constitutional and treaty obligations that prohibit
torture. This man and the president defile the law and
practically boast about it, but Democrats will confirm
him anyway as the next Attorney General.

House Democrats Pass New Terrorism Prevention Law

Almost without notice, the House overwhelmingly (404 -
6) passed the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown
Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 (HR 1955) on October
23 some are calling “the thought crime prevention
bill.” It now moves to the Senate where if passed and
signed by George Bush will establish a commission and
Center of Excellence to study and act against thought
criminals.

The bill’s language hides its true intent as “violent
radicalization” and “homegrown terrorism” are whatever
the administration says they are. Violent
radicalization is defined as “adopting or promoting an
extremist belief system (to facilitate) ideologically
based violence to advance political, religious or
social change.” Homegrown terrorism is used to mean
“the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or
violence by a group or individual born, raised, or
based and operating primarily with the United States
or any (US) possession to intimidate or coerce the
(US) government, the civilian population….or any
segment thereof (to further) political or social
objectives.”

Along with other repressive laws enacted post-9/11, HR
1955 may be used against any individual or group with
unpopular views - those that differ from established
state policies even when they’re illegal as are many
under George Bush. Prosecutors henceforth will be able
to target anti-war protesters, believers in Islam, web
editors, internet bloggers and radio and TV show hosts
and commentators with views the bill calls
“terrorist-related propaganda.”

If this legislation becomes law, which is virtually
certain, any dissenting anti-government action or
opinion may henceforth be called “violent
radicalization and homegrown terrorism” with stiff
penalties for anyone convicted. This bill now joins
the ranks of other repressive post-9/11 laws like
Patriot I and II, Military Commissions and Protect
America Acts that combined with this one are grievous
steps toward a full-blown national security police
state everyone should fear and denounce.

Blame it on Congress and the 110th Democrat-led one
that was elected to end these practices but just made
them worse….and there’s still 14 months to go to the
term’s end with plenty of time left to vaporize Iran
and end the republic if that’s the plan.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour
on TheMicroEffect.com Mondays at noon US central time.

 


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