Saturday, January 20, 2007

Look Up! Is It a Threat? Or a Plea for a Ban?

Published: January 21, 2007
The New York Times

THE nation’s star warriors, frustrated that their plans to arm the heavens went nowhere for two decades despite more than $100 billion in blue-sky research, felt a shiver of hope last week with news that China had conducted its first successful test of an antisatellite weapon.

Having long warned of the Chinese threat, they now said their fears were vindicated and expressed optimism for their own projects, which range from new kinds of defensive satellites to flotillas of space weapons and orbital battle stations able to shatter all kinds of enemy arms.

China, a group of 26 “Star Wars” supporters warned in a recent report, has “begun to erode American space dominance” and will accelerate that slide with “both lasers and missiles capable of destroying satellites.”

H. Baker Spring of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group in Washington, said in an interview that the cost to the United States of new arms and defensive measures would most likely run to “billions or tens of billions of dollars a year, pretty much year in and year out,” and added, “I don’t think that’s excessive.”

But the prospect of a new arms race in space is also energizing an opposition, including arms control supporters and fiscal conservatives alarmed at the rising costs of the Iraq war. Treaties could short-circuit the costly game of measure-countermeasure on the high frontier before it expands any further, they say. Currently, no international treaty or domestic law forbids such developments.

An unfettered arms race could hurt the United States more than any other nation, arms control advocates argue. The United States owns or operates 443 of the 845 active satellites that now orbit the planet, or 53 percent. By contrast, China owns just 4 percent.

“We not only have the most satellites but they are more integrated into our economy and our way of making war than any other country,” said Laura Grego, a staff scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a private group in Cambridge, Mass., that takes liberal positions on arms issues and environmental issues. “We have the most to lose in an unrestrained arms race.”

But that logic has not persuaded the Star Wars advocates, who say the United States needs to protect its huge investment in space satellites by being ahead of anyone else in shooting such devices out of the sky.

Diplomats from around the globe have gathered in Geneva for many years to hammer out a treaty on the “Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space,” which would ban space weapons. Arms control supporters say China and Russia have backed the process, while the United States has dragged its feet.

Last year, John Mohanco, a State Department official, told the diplomats in Geneva that as long as attacks on satellites remained a threat, “our government will continue to consider the possible role that space-related weapons may play in protecting our assets.”

A Heritage Foundation analysis of such diplomacy says China is charging ahead to build space arms while “seeking to block the United States from developing its own anti-satellite weapons and space-based ballistic missile defense systems.”

China’s strategy, the analysis says, is clear: “Work on public opinion in the United States to make moral arguments against weapons in space, develop international coalitions to limit the way that the United States can use space, and develop China’s own weapons systems and tactics to destroy American satellites and space-based weapons.”

But Theresa Hitchens, a critic of the administration’s space arms research who is director of the Center for Defense Information, a private group in Washington that tracks military programs, said that China’s antisatellite test might be “a shot across the bow” meant to prod the Bush administration into serious negotiations. In the test, a Chinese missile pulverized an aging Chinese weather satellite more than 500 miles above Earth on Jan. 11.

Ms. Hitchens warned that an arms race in space could easily spin out of control, noting that India has been “rattling its sword” and some experts in that country are openly calling for antisatellite arms. A global competition that produced armadas of space weapons, she added, could raise the risk of accidental nuclear war if, for instance, a whirling piece of space junk knocked out a spy satellite.

“How do you know it’s not a precursor to a nuclear attack?” she asked. “Do you have an itchy trigger finger? If you’ve got a lot of satellites out there, you probably do.”

The Bush administration has conducted secret research that critics say could produce a powerful ground-based laser meant to shatter enemy satellites. The project, parts of which were made public through Air Force budget documents submitted to Congress last year, appears to be part of a wide-ranging administration effort to develop space weapons, both defensive and offensive.

John E. Pike, who is the director of, a group in Washington that conducts research on military and space topics, said that treaties and defensive measures were the smart, cheap way to counter antisatellite threats, and that the star warriors in the wake of the Chinese tests were playing a false card.

“They’re trying to piggyback on a totally unrelated topic,” he said. “This says nothing about space-based weapons, star wars or any of that.”

But a report, “Missile Defense, the Space Relationship and the 21st Century,” researched by a group of organizations that focus on national security issues and published late last year by the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, called the military development of the high frontier vital to the nation’s protection from a wide variety of threats — including Chinese arms.

“Without the means to dissuade, deter and defeat the growing number of strategic adversaries now arrayed against it,” the group warned, “the United States will be unable to maintain its status of global leadership.”

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Hang Up! Tehran Is Calling


Published: January 21, 2007
The New York Times

One of the most worrying parts of President Bush’s Iraq strategy doesn’t have anything to do with Iraq. It’s the way he’s ramping up a confrontation with Iran.

Across a broad spectrum of policy levers, Mr. Bush is raising the pressure on Iran, increasing the risk that he will drag the U.S. into a third war in an Islamic country in six years. Instead of disengaging from war, he could end up starting another.

We could have taken another route. In 2003, Iran sent the U.S. a detailed message offering to work together to capture terrorists, to stabilize Iraq, to resolve nuclear disputes, to withdraw military support for Hezbollah and Hamas, and to moderate its position on Israel, in exchange for the U.S. lifting sanctions and warming up to Iran.

Some diplomats liked the idea, but administration hawks rejected it at once. Lawrence Wilkerson, a former chief of staff to Colin Powell, says that the State Department sent a cable to the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, who looks after U.S. interests in Iran, scolding him for even forwarding the package to Washington.

Obviously, Iran’s offer might have led nowhere. But it’s plain where rejection of the offer has taken us: more Americans are dying in Iraq, and some experts worry about clashes with Iran itself.

The Iraq Study Group proposed engagement with Iran, but instead Mr. Bush has been escalating the rhetoric and military pressure.

“When you have such a buildup and have zero communications, and you have an arena like Iraq where you may step on each other’s toes, you could have rapid escalation,” warns Vali Nasr, an expert on the region at the Naval Postgraduate School.

It doesn’t appear that Mr. Bush wants a war with Iran. His aim seems to be a show of force to deter Iran and reassure our allies in the region. But he is on a path that may easily lead to escalation.

It’s unfortunate that we are ratcheting up the military pressure, because the administration has quietly taken one very useful step against Iran: squeezing its access to international banking transactions. That has caused real economic pain and has added to the unpopularity of Iran’s hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Those banking sanctions, not military moves, are a reason Mr. Ahmadinejad has been rebuked by the country’s supreme leader.

Unfortunately, both Mr. Bush and Mr. Ahmadinejad benefit from confrontation. Both are unpopular domestically but can use a crisis to distract from their policy failures.

“The current strategy benefits Ahmadinejad,” says Professor Nasr. “It’s going to divert attention at the popular level from democracy.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad is facing growing criticism: he has been heckled by university students and scolded in the press, and his candidates did poorly in recent elections. Ordinary Iranians love the U.S. — it’s the most pro-American country in the Middle East I’ve visited — and a civil society is struggling to be born.

“If there is any military strike on Iran, all this movement will end,” said Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Even some Republicans opposed to a “grand bargain” favor some kind of engagement. Mitchell Reiss, a former senior State Department official under Mr. Bush, proposes technical talks with Iran about drug trafficking and maritime security. “Even if they are a nonstarter for Tehran, I think we score points in the region for trying,” Ambassador Reiss said.

Granted, Mr. Bush is right to be frustrated by Iran and the way it’s defying the international community with its nuclear program.

Unfortunately, Mr. Bush’s military pressure may end up making Iraq bloodier than ever. Instead of being cowed, Iran may use its proxies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and elsewhere to kill more American officials and troops.

Or even ordinary Americans here at home. “It’s a pretty good assumption that they have, if not operatives, at least sympathetic actors and affiliated groups” in the U.S., said Henry Crumpton, the State Department coordinator for counterterrorism.

Mr. Bush is absolutely right to denounce Iran’s leaders for stealing elections, suppressing their people and dabbling in terrorism. But we ourselves are partly to blame for the awful government in Tehran.

By instigating a coup in 1953 and seeking special legal privileges for American troops in 1964, we empowered extremists like Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and allowed them to tap nationalist outrage. So it would be in keeping with tradition if Mr. Bush, by shortsightedly stoking a confrontation with Tehran, now inadvertently helped Iranian hard-liners crush Iran’s democracy movement.

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Lying Like It’s 2003


Published: January 21, 2007
The New York Times

THOSE who forget history may be doomed to repeat it, but who could imagine we’d already be in danger of replaying that rotten year 2003?

Scooter Libby, the mastermind behind the White House’s bogus scenarios for ginning up the war in Iraq, is back at Washington’s center stage, proudly defending the indefensible in a perjury trial. Ahmad Chalabi, the peddler of flawed prewar intelligence hyped by Mr. Libby, is back in clover in Baghdad, where he purports to lead the government’s Shiite-Baathist reconciliation efforts in between visits to his pal Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran.

Last but never least is Mr. Libby’s former boss and Mr. Chalabi’s former patron, Dick Cheney, who is back on Sunday-morning television floating fictions about Iraq and accusing administration critics of aiding Al Qaeda. When the vice president went on a tear like this in 2003, hawking Iraq’s nonexistent W.M.D. and nonexistent connections to Mohamed Atta, he set the stage for a war that now kills Iraqi civilians in rising numbers (34,000-plus last year) that are heading into the genocidal realms of Saddam. Mr. Cheney’s latest sales pitch is for a new plan for “victory” promising an even bigger bloodbath.

Mr. Cheney was honest, at least, when he said that the White House’s Iraq policy would remain “full speed ahead!” no matter what happened on Nov. 7. Now it is our patriotic duty — politicians, the press and the public alike — to apply the brakes. Our failure to check the administration when it rushed into Iraq in 2003 will look even more shameful to history if we roll over again for a reboot in 2007. For all the belated Washington scrutiny of the war since the election, and for all the heralded (if so far symbolic) Congressional efforts to challenge it, too much lip service is still being paid to the deceptive P.R. strategies used by the administration to sell its reckless policies. This time we must do what too few did the first time: call the White House on its lies. Lies should not be confused with euphemisms like “incompetence” and “denial.”

Mr. Cheney’s performance last week on “Fox News Sunday” illustrates the problem; his lying is nowhere near its last throes. Asked by Chris Wallace about the White House’s decision to overrule commanders who recommended against a troop escalation, the vice president said, “I don’t think we’ve overruled the commanders.” He claimed we’ve made “enormous progress” in Iraq. He said the administration is not “embattled.” (Well, maybe that one is denial.)

This White House gang is so practiced in lying with a straight face that it never thinks twice about recycling its greatest hits. Hours after Mr. Cheney’s Fox interview, President Bush was on “60 Minutes,” claiming that before the war “everybody was wrong on weapons of mass destruction” and that “the minute we found out” the W.M.D. didn’t exist he “was the first to say so.” Everybody, of course, was not wrong on W.M.D., starting with the United Nations weapons inspection team in Iraq. Nor was Mr. Bush the first to come clean once the truth became apparent after the invasion. On May 29, 2003 — two days after a secret Defense Intelligence Agency-sponsored mission found no biological weapons in trailers captured by American forces — Mr. Bush declared: “We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories.”

But that’s all W.M.D under the bridge. The most important lies to watch for now are the new ones being reiterated daily by the administration’s top brass, from Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney on down. You know fiasco awaits America when everyone in the White House is reading in unison from the same fictional script, as they did back in the day when “mushroom clouds” and “uranium from Africa” were the daily drumbeat.

The latest lies are custom-made to prop up the new “way forward” that is anything but. Among the emerging examples is a rewriting of the history of Iraq’s sectarian violence. The fictional version was initially laid out by Mr. Bush in his Jan. 10 prime-time speech and has since been repeated on television by both Mr. Cheney and the national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, last Sunday and by Mr. Bush again on PBS’s “NewsHour” on Tuesday. It goes like this: sectarian violence didn’t start spiraling out of control until the summer of 2006, after Sunni terrorists bombed the Golden Mosque in Samarra and forced the Shiites to take revenge.

But as Mark Seibel of McClatchy Newspapers noted last week, “the president’s account understates by at least 15 months when Shiite death squads began targeting Sunni politicians and clerics.” They were visible in embryo long before that; The Times, among others, reported as far back as September 2003 that Shiite militias were becoming more radical, dangerous and anti-American. The reasons Mr. Bush pretends that Shiite killing started only last year are obvious enough. He wants to duck culpability for failing to recognize the sectarian violence from the outset — much as he failed to recognize the Sunni insurgency before it — and to underplay the intractability of the civil war to which he will now sacrifice fresh American flesh.

An equally big lie is the administration’s constant claim that it is on the same page as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as we go full speed ahead. Only last month Mr. Maliki told The Wall Street Journal that he wished he “could be done with” his role as Iraq’s leader “before the end of this term.” Now we are asked to believe not merely that he is a strongman capable of vanquishing the death squads of the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr, his political ally, but also that he can be trusted to produce the troops he failed to supply in last year’s failed Baghdad crackdown. Yet as recently as November, there still wasn’t a single Iraqi battalion capable of fighting on its own.

Hardly a day passes without Mr. Maliki mocking the White House’s professed faith in him. In the past week or so alone, he has presided over a second botched hanging (despite delaying it for more than two weeks to put in place new guidelines), charged Condi Rice with giving a “morale boost to the terrorists” because she criticized him, and overruled American objections to appoint an obscure commander from deep in Shiite territory to run the Baghdad “surge.” His government doesn’t even try to hide its greater allegiance to Iran. Mr. Maliki’s foreign minister has asked for the release of the five Iranians detained in an American raid on an Iranian office in northern Iraq this month and, on Monday, called for setting up more Iranian “consulates” in Iraq.

The president’s pretense that Mr. Maliki and his inept, ill-equipped, militia-infiltrated security forces can advance American interests in this war is Neville Chamberlain-like in its naiveté and disingenuousness. An American military official in Baghdad read the writing on the wall to The Times last week: “We are implementing a strategy to embolden a government that is actually part of the problem. We are being played like a pawn.” That’s why the most destructive lie of all may be the White House’s constant refrain that its doomed strategy is the only one anyone has proposed. Administration critics, Mr. Cheney said last Sunday, “have absolutely nothing to offer in its place,” as if the Iraq Study Group, John Murtha and Joseph Biden-Leslie Gelb plans, among others, didn’t predate the White House’s own.

In reality we’re learning piece by piece that it is the White House that has no plan. Ms. Rice has now downsized the surge/escalation into an “augmentation,” inadvertently divulging how the Pentagon is improvising, juggling small deployments in fits and starts. No one can plausibly explain how a parallel chain of command sending American and Iraqi troops into urban street combat side by side will work with Iraqis in the lead (it will report to a “committee” led by Mr. Maliki!). Or how $1 billion in new American reconstruction spending will accomplish what the $30 billion thrown down the drain in previous reconstruction spending did not.

All of this replays 2003, when the White House refused to consider any plan, including existing ones in the Pentagon and State Department bureaucracies, for coping with a broken post-Saddam Iraq. Then, as at every stage of the war since, the only administration plan was for a propaganda campaign to bamboozle American voters into believing “victory” was just around the corner.

The next push on the “way forward” propaganda campaign arrives Tuesday night, with the State of the Union address. The good news is that the Democrats have chosen Jim Webb, the new Virginia senator, to give their official response. Mr. Webb, a Reagan administration Navy secretary and the father of a son serving in Iraq, has already provoked a testy exchange about the war with the president at a White House reception for freshmen in Congress. He’s the kind of guy likely to keep a scorecard of the lies on Tuesday night. But whether he does or not, it’s incumbent on all those talking heads who fell for “shock and awe” and “Mission Accomplished” in 2003 to not let history repeat itself in 2007. Facing the truth is the only way forward in Iraq.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Rebuke in Iran to Its President on Nuclear Role

Published: January 19, 2007
The New York Times

TEHRAN, Jan. 18 — Iran’s outspoken president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, appears to be under pressure from the highest authorities in Iran to end his involvement in its nuclear program, a sign that his political capital is declining as his country comes under increasing international pressure.

Just one month after the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on Iran to curb its nuclear program, two hard-line newspapers, including one owned by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called on the president to stay out of all matters nuclear.

In the hazy world of Iranian politics, such a public rebuke was seen as a sign that the supreme leader — who has final say on all matters of state — might no longer support the president as the public face of defiance to the West.

It is the first sign that Mr. Ahmadinejad has lost any degree of Ayatollah Khamenei’s confidence, a potentially damaging development for a president who has rallied his nation and defined his administration by declaring nuclear power Iran’s “inalienable right.”

It was unclear, however, whether this was merely an effort to improve Iran’s public image by lowering Mr. Ahmadinejad’s profile or was signaling a change in policy.

The presidency is a relatively weak position with no official authority over foreign policy, the domain of the supreme leader. But Mr. Ahmadinejad has used his post as a bully pulpit to insert himself into the nuclear debate, and as long as he appeared to enjoy Ayatollah Khamenei’s support, he could continue.

While Iran remains publicly defiant, insisting that it will move ahead with its nuclear ambitions, it is under increasing strain as political and economic pressures grow. And the message that Iran’s most senior officials seem to be sending is that Mr. Ahmadinejad, with his harsh approach and caustic comments, is undermining Iran’s cause and its standing.

The Security Council passed a resolution on Dec. 23 with sanctions intended to curb Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which Iran says is for peaceful purposes but the United States and some European nations contend is for the purpose of creating nuclear weapons. The measure bars the trade of goods or technology related to Iran’s nuclear program. Enriched uranium can be used for making nuclear fuel but also for making nuclear weapons.

The president dismissed the Security Council resolution as “a piece of torn paper.”

But the daily Jomhouri-Eslami, which reflects the views of Ayatollah Khamenei, said, “The resolution is certainly harmful for the country,” adding that it was “too much to call it ‘a piece of torn paper.’ ”

The newspaper added that the nuclear program required its own diplomacy, “sometimes toughness and sometimes flexibility.”

In another sign of pressure on the president to distance himself from the nuclear issue, a second newspaper, run by an aide to the country’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, also pressed Mr. Ahmadinejad to end his involvement in the nuclear program. Mr. Larijani also ran for president and was selected for his post by the supreme leader.

“They want to minimize the consequences of sanctions now that they have been imposed,” said Mohammad Atrianfar, an executive at the daily Shargh, which was closed last fall, and a reformist politician. “But they don’t have clear strategy, and they are taking one step at a time.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad took office more than a year ago as an outsider, the mayor of Tehran who promised to challenge the status quo, to equally distribute Iran’s oil wealth and to restore what he saw as the lost values of the Islamic revolution. His was a populist message, centered on a socialist economic model and Islamic values. He found opposition from the right and the left, in Parliament and among so-called pragmatists.

That pressure has continued, and the criticism now seems to have gained more credibility in the face of the sanctions and Iran’s troubled economic standing. The United States increased pressure on Iran over its role in Iraq has also raised concerns in Tehran and may be behind efforts to restrain the president, political analysts in Tehran said.

“The resolution has decreased Iran’s political credibility in the international community, and so other countries cannot defend Iran,” said Ahmad Shirzad, a reformist politician and a former legislator.

Although the Security Council sanctions were limited to Iran’s nuclear program, they have started to cause economic disruptions.

About 50 legislators signed a letter this week calling on the president to appear before Parliament to answer questions about the nuclear program. They need at least 22 more signatures.

In another letter, 150 lawmakers criticized the president for his economic policies, which have led to a surge in inflation, and for his failure to submit his annual budget on time.

The Iranian stock market, which was already in a slump, continued to decline — falling more rapidly in the past month — as buyers stayed away from the market. The daily Kargozaran reported last week that the number of traders had decreased by 46 percent since the Security Council resolution was passed.

“The resolution has had a psychological effect on people,” said Ali Hagh, an economist in Tehran. “It does not make sense for investors not to consider political events when they want to invest their money.”

Kargozaran reported that a group of powerful businessmen, the Islamic Coalition Party, met with Mohammad Nahavandian, a senior official at the Supreme National Security Council, and called for moderation in the country’s nuclear policies to prevent further damage to the economy.

In the past year, several major European banks have severed their business ties with Iran. Economists say the banks’ actions will also lead to an increase in inflation because importers must turn to complicated ways to finance purchases.

“The nuclear issue has paved the way for other forms of pressures on Iran,” Mr. Shirzad said.

Despite Mr. Ahmadinejad’s harsh language since the resolution was passed, Ayatollah Khamenei has not referred to it directly and only once said that Iran would not give up its right to pursue its nuclear program.

Mr. Larijani has said that Iran will not quit the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty or bar international inspectors despite earlier threats to do so.

Nazila Fathi reported from Tehran, and Michael Slackman from Cairo.

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Retired generals bash Bush on surge plan

Generals have little positive to say about ‘surge’

By Gordon Lubold - staff writer
Posted : Friday Jan 19, 2007 11:27:20 EST
The Air Force Times

President Bush says his plan to stabilize Iraq is the best plan out there. But even one of the men who helped think it up says it has a fundamental flaw.

The first wave of “surge” troops soon will arrive in Iraq as part of Bush’s plan to send in about 21,500 more troops. When they get there, they’ll be working alongside Iraqi forces, but the Iraqis will have the lead in stabilizing Baghdad.

That’s a big mistake, according to retired Gen. Jack Keane, former Army vice chief, who advised both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney on an Iraq strategy that was strikingly similar to the one Bush announced. Keane, whose plan called for more than the 21,500 U.S. troops Bush is sending to Iraq, worried aloud recently that the chain-of-command issue is a critical one.

Putting the Iraqis in the lead for the Baghdad surge “makes no sense to me. I don’t understand that,” Keane told senators Jan. 18.

Keane, who gave his name and support to a plan penned by Frederick Kagan, a senior expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, published earlier this year, said Bush’s plan means Iraqis and Americans will be working alongside each other on the same streets — but with separate commands. Until now, many Iraqi forces, even when they’re in the lead, are effectively under U.S. command. Under the new strategy, they’ll be going it alone.

“We don’t have unity of command, therefore you don’t have unity of effort,” Keane told a Senate panel. “Every time we do something like that … we have military problems.”

Keane appeared at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing designed to showcase alternative approaches to the Bush plan. Scrambling to come up with a specific plan of their own, Democrats have polled senior experts and academics at think tanks in Washington, as well as former military commanders.

Democrats believe the open-ended commitment Bush is making in Iraq, which includes only ill-defined “benchmarks” and no timeline to withdraw troops, is not a new strategy at all. Indeed, Bush’s plan does not say when the Iraqi government must meet its goals or what happens if they fall short, other than to say that they’ll be “reminded” of their obligations, in the words of Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

This comes at a time when U.S. confidence in Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is on the wane. Many U.S. officials say they are not sure the Shiite leader even wants to create a central government that will share power, let alone oil revenues, with the Sunni minority that now forms the backbone of the insurgency.

Bush’s plan aims to create stability in Baghdad in order to allow the necessary political reconciliation and economic healing to take hold and spread outward.

Democrats and many military experts believe Bush should do just the opposite — begin withdrawing U.S. forces as a way to ensure that the Iraqis stand up on their own, said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del.

The Iraqis must see the U.S. withdrawing forces before they get serious, he said, adding that this alternative “seems to be a lot more attractive” than Bush’s plan.

Keane appeared with Barry McCaffrey, a retired Army four-star; Joseph Hoar, a retired Marine four-star and former chief of U.S. Central Command; and William Odom, a retired Army three-star whose last tour of duty was as director of the National Security Agency.

Other than Keane, who despite his concerns still believes the Bush plan will work, the panel of retired generals had little positive to say.

McCaffrey thinks success will come to Iraq only with a robust effort to equip Iraqis forces with Humvees, helicopters and other tools they need to fight their own insurgency — along with better economic and political efforts.

“I personally think the surge of five U.S. Army brigades and a few Marine battalions dribbled out over five months … is a fool’s errand,” McCaffrey said of Bush’s surge plan.

Hoar said he believes a serious attempt to engage diplomatically with Iraq’s neighbors is key and said it is time to get U.S. forces out.

“In the Marines, we say, ‘When you’re in a hole, stop digging.’”

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Surging and Purging

Published: January 19, 2007
The New York Times

There’s something happening here, and what it is seems completely clear: the Bush administration is trying to protect itself by purging independent-minded prosecutors.

Last month, Bud Cummins, the U.S. attorney (federal prosecutor) for the Eastern District of Arkansas, received a call on his cellphone while hiking in the woods with his son. He was informed that he had just been replaced by J. Timothy Griffin, a Republican political operative who has spent the last few years working as an opposition researcher for Karl Rove.

Mr. Cummins’s case isn’t unique. Since the middle of last month, the Bush administration has pushed out at least four U.S. attorneys, and possibly as many as seven, without explanation. The list includes Carol Lam, the U.S. attorney for San Diego, who successfully prosecuted Duke Cunningham, a Republican congressman, on major corruption charges. The top F.B.I. official in San Diego told The San Diego Union-Tribune that Ms. Lam’s dismissal would undermine multiple continuing investigations.

In Senate testimony yesterday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales refused to say how many other attorneys have been asked to resign, calling it a “personnel matter.”

In case you’re wondering, such a wholesale firing of prosecutors midway through an administration isn’t normal. U.S. attorneys, The Wall Street Journal recently pointed out, “typically are appointed at the beginning of a new president’s term, and serve throughout that term.” Why, then, are prosecutors that the Bush administration itself appointed suddenly being pushed out?

The likely answer is that for the first time the administration is really worried about where corruption investigations might lead.

Since the day it took power this administration has shown nothing but contempt for the normal principles of good government. For six years ethical problems and conflicts of interest have been the rule, not the exception.

For a long time the administration nonetheless seemed untouchable, protected both by Republican control of Congress and by its ability to justify anything and everything as necessary for the war on terror. Now, however, the investigations are closing in on the Oval Office. The latest news is that J. Steven Griles, the former deputy secretary of the Interior Department and the poster child for the administration’s systematic policy of putting foxes in charge of henhouses, is finally facing possible indictment.

And the purge of U.S. attorneys looks like a pre-emptive strike against the gathering forces of justice.

Won’t the administration have trouble getting its new appointees confirmed by the Senate? Well, it turns out that it won’t have to.

Arlen Specter, the Republican senator who headed the Judiciary Committee until Congress changed hands, made sure of that last year. Previously, new U.S. attorneys needed Senate confirmation within 120 days or federal district courts would name replacements. But as part of a conference committee reconciling House and Senate versions of the revised Patriot Act, Mr. Specter slipped in a clause eliminating that rule.

As Paul Kiel of — which has done yeoman investigative reporting on this story — put it, this clause in effect allows the administration “to handpick replacements and keep them there in perpetuity without the ordeal of Senate confirmation.” How convenient.

Mr. Gonzales says that there’s nothing political about the firings. And according to The Associated Press, he said that district court judges shouldn’t appoint U.S. attorneys because they “tend to appoint friends and others not properly qualified to be prosecutors.” Words fail me.

Mr. Gonzales also says that the administration intends to get Senate confirmation for every replacement. Sorry, but that’s not at all credible, even if we ignore the administration’s track record. Mr. Griffin, the political-operative-turned-prosecutor, would be savaged in a confirmation hearing. By appointing him, the administration showed that it has no intention of following the usual rules.

The broader context is this: defeat in the midterm elections hasn’t led the Bush administration to scale back its imperial view of presidential power.

On the contrary, now that President Bush can no longer count on Congress to do his bidding, he’s more determined than ever to claim essentially unlimited authority — whether it’s the authority to send more troops into Iraq or the authority to stonewall investigations into his own administration’s conduct.

The next two years, in other words, are going to be a rolling constitutional crisis.

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A Middle Ground for Stem Cells

Published: January 19, 2007
The New York Times


WITH each new round of argument, the ethical questions at the heart of the embryonic stem cell debate get buried under more layers of hype and confusion.

Backers of a House bill, approved last week, that would loosen the limits on federal support for the research argue that there is now a “ban” on financing, that embryonic stem cells will cure tens of millions and that current federal policy sets American scientists behind their foreign counterparts. But the Bush administration has spent more than $100 million on embryonic stem cell research in the past six years; the research, while promising, remains purely speculative; and American scientists hold a huge and steady lead that no other country comes close to challenging.

Defenders of the president’s policy, meanwhile, too often get caught up in comparing adult and embryonic stem cell research. This leads them to deny the utility of embryonic cells, which scientists clearly do find useful, rather than articulating the moral justification for a policy that avoids the destruction of developing life.

All of this leaves us confused over just what the debate is about. It is, to begin with, not about stem cell research, any more than an argument about the lethal extraction of livers from Chinese political prisoners would be a debate about organ transplantation. There are ethical and unethical ways to transplant organs, and there are ethical and unethical ways to conduct stem cell research. The question is to which category a particular technique — the destruction of living embryos for their cells — belongs.

The debate is also not about whether there ought to be ethical limits on science. Everyone agrees there should be strict limits when research involves human subjects. The question is whether embryos destroyed for their cells are such human subjects.

But that does not mean the stem cell debate is about when human life begins. It is a simple and uncontroversial biological fact that a human life begins when an embryo is created. That embryo is human, and it is alive; its human life will last until its death, whether that comes days after conception or many decades later surrounded by children and grandchildren.

But the biological fact that a human life begins at conception does not by itself settle the ethical debate. The human embryo is a human organism, but is this being — microscopically small, with no self-awareness and little resemblance to us — a person, with a right to life?

Many advocates of federal financing for embryo-destructive research begin from a negative answer to that question. They argue that the human embryo is just too small, too unlike us in appearance, or too lacking in consciousness or sensitivity to pain or other critical mental capacity to be granted a place in the human family. But surely America has learned the hard way not to assign human worth by appearances. And surely we would not deny those who have lost some mental faculties the right to be regarded with respect and protected from harm. Why should we deny it to those whose faculties are still developing?

At its heart, then, when the biology and politics have been stipulated away, the stem cell debate is not about when human life begins but about whether every human life is equal. The circumstances of the embryo outside the body of a mother put that question in perhaps the most exaggerated form imaginable, but they do not change the question.

America’s birth charter, the Declaration of Independence, asserts a positive answer to the question, and in lieu of an argument offers another assertion: that our equality is self-evident. But it is not. Indeed, the evidence of nature sometimes makes it very hard to believe that all human beings are equal. It takes a profound moral case to defend the proposition that the youngest and the oldest, the weakest and the strongest, all of us, simply by virtue of our common humanity, are in some basic and inalienable way equals.

Our faith in that essential liberal proposition is under attack by our own humanitarian impulses in the stem cell debate, and it will be under further attack as biotechnology progresses. But the stem cell debate, our first real test, should also be the easiest. We do not, at least in this instance, face a choice between science and the liberal society. We face the challenge of championing both.

President Bush’s stem cell policy seeks to meet that challenge. It encourages scientists to pursue the cells they seek without destroying life. Scientific advances in the past two years have suggested that this can be done: that “pluripotent” cells could be developed without harming human embryos; that stem cell science and ethics can be reconciled. But some members of Congress nonetheless insist on a policy that sets the two at odds.

If we cannot pass this first and simplest test of our devotion to human equality and dignity in the age of biotechnology, we will have little chance of meeting the far more difficult challenges to come. Biomedical science can offer us tremendous benefits, but only if we make sure they do not come at the cost of our highest ideals.

Yuval Levin, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a former executive director of the President’s Council on Bioethics.

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Vet group protests surge on Capitol Hill

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Jan 18, 2007 18:26:04 EST
The Air Force Times

Just days after a group of active-duty service members pressed Congress to end the war in Iraq, another group of veterans of that conflict is calling on lawmakers to oppose President Bush’s plan to send additional troops into the fray.

The group’s leader implored lawmakers to listen to people who have been in the fight and “not those draft-dodgers down the road,” an apparent reference to President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Nine veterans, all affiliated with the increasingly partisan, made the rounds of the Senate to drum up support for some legislative action that would prevent an increase in U.S. troops in Iraq. It was Jon Stolz, an Army Reserve captain who served in Iraq in 2003, who made the jab at Bush and Cheney. Bush served in the National Guard during the Vietnam War but did not deploy, while Cheney received multiple draft deferments and never served.

Stolz, national chairman of, has been involved in forming a new umbrella group, Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, that involves veterans, anti-war groups, Political Action and other groups. Two of the veterans making the visit ran for Congress in 2006 but lost their election bids.

The new group is not affiliated with the group of active-duty service members who delivered a letter to the House of Representatives on Tuesday that they said was signed by about 1,000 active-duty troops who want Congress to end the war in Iraq.

Stolz said the veterans include Democrats, Republicans and independents who all agree that sending more troops to Iraq is a mistake.

“We are here to meet with senators on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “We are here to tell them why this is, frankly, ridiculous.”

Indiana Army National Guard veteran Sam Schultz, another of the veterans, called the Bush plan “delusional,” while Army Spec. Robert Loria, who lost his hand in Iraq in 2004, said he also disagreed with the plan.

“How many more men and women have to lose a limb or a life?” Loria asked.

“This is a policy that has nothing supporting a solution,” said Army veteran Jeremy Broussard, a field artillery officer who deployed in 2003 to Iraq.

Shelly Burgoyne, who served two tours in Iraq commanding supply convoys, said that of the 21,500 additional troops, 300 to 400 are likely to die, because every deployed company typically loses two people.

“That doesn’t include casualties or wounded,” she said.

The nine veterans appeared at a press conference along with Democrat Sens. Patty Murray of Washington, Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Sherrod Brown of Ohio and independent Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont. They had visits with Democrats Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Barack Obama of Illinois and Jon Tester of Montana and Republicans Sam Brownback of Kansas and John Sununu of New Hampshire.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Service members rally against the war in Iraq

Troops read a statement against operations in Iraq during an
Appeal for Redress press event January 15, 2007, in Norfolk, Va.
The petition will be delivered to Congress on Tuesday.

By William H. McMichael - Staff Writer
The Air Force Times
Posted : Tuesday Jan 16, 2007 11:14:15 EST

A small group of out-of-uniform active-duty service members, supported by veterans and academics, gathered inside a Norfolk, Va., church on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to hold a rally calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Speakers invoked King’s message of nonviolent resistance, along with his eventual opposition to the Vietnam War, as an example worth following during a war many at the rally said echoes that controversial conflict of an earlier generation – and is a war that should end now.

“It is time for U.S. troops to come home,” said Marine Corps Sgt. Liam Madden, speaking to a crowd of about 80 – not including reporters – gathered in the sanctuary of the Unitarian-Universalist Church in downtown Norfolk. He said active-duty troops have the right to speak out, and he said his opposition to the war is not driven by politics.

“It’s not political when people heed the call of their conscience,” said Madden, 22, who is stationed at Quantico Marine Corps Base and who served in Iraq with Okinawa’s 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit as a communications specialist. “Not one more of my brothers should die for a lie. This is my generation’s call to conscience.” The remarks drew cheers and a standing ovation.

“We’re not anti-war,” said Navy Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Hutto, 29, who enlisted in 2004 and is assigned to the Norfolk-based carrier Theodore Roosevelt, which deployed to the Persian Gulf in 2005-06. “We’re not pacifists. We’re anti-Iraq war.”

The group’s message, he said: “There is an organized, constructive level of dissent with the ranks on this war.”

Department of Defense directives allow active-duty service members to speak their minds – short of disrespect for their commanders or the president – or make a “protected communication” with members of Congress as long as, generally, they’re in the United States, out of uniform and off duty.

Madden, Hutto and the other active-duty members who came to Monday’s rally are signatories to an online petition to Congress sponsored by Appeal for Redress, a group for active-duty, Reserve and Guard personnel started last fall by Hutto and Madden that calls for an end to the war and the “prompt” withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq.

Hutto said they’ve gathered about 1,000 signatures, mostly from enlisted service members and nearly half from the Army, in ranks ranging from E-1 to O-6.

Members of the group will present the petition to Congress on Tuesday morning on the steps of the U.S. Capitol’s Cannon House Office Building. On hand to accept the petition, group members say, will be Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, who opposes the Bush administration’s planned troop surge and favors cutting off funding for the war in an effort to halt that surge.

“Dr. King would be proud,” said Tom Palumbo of the local chapter of Veterans for Peace.

Group members say they hope other members of Congress also get the message.

“I want Congress tomorrow to realize that they are accountable to their citizens,” Madden said. “And their service members are on the front line.”

Matt Peters is one of those. A Navy electronics technician assigned to the Norfolk-based carrier Enterprise, Peters, feeling the call to arms following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, enlisted in November 2001. Then, said the now-23-year-old, “There really was no talk of invading Iraq,” he said. “We really went in a different direction than we’re in today.”

A 2003 Naval Academy graduate now in the Individual Ready Reserve used tougher words. “This administration has betrayed our armed forces,” said Lt. j.g. Fabian Bouthillette, 26. “I actually believe that the conduct of this administration is more detrimental to the Constitution than anything else. … This was begun on an immoral, illegal basis. And we were lied to.”

Peters said he continues to willingly serve despite his misgivings over the war. “I signed up and said I’m going to do this,” said Peters, who along with his shipmates returned from duty off Iraq and elsewhere in November and remains on tap to quickly redeploy if the carrier is called upon. “But I don’t believe in what we’re doing over there. I still do my job. Is it something that kind of hurts to do? Yes.”

“Like any job, you make some compromises,” said Navy Operations Specialist 2nd Class Dave Rogers, 34, of the frigate Hawes, also based in Norfolk.

While polls show that many favor pulling out of Iraq – and a Jan. 11 USA Today/Gallup Poll showed that 66 percent of respondents “moderately” or “strongly” oppose sending more troops – many also believe an immediate rather than gradual withdrawal would cause Iraq to collapse in sectarian violence. Upheaval would certainly follow a withdrawal, Madden and others said, but they said Iraq would right itself more quickly without an American occupation.

During the Vietnam War, anti-war troops had no legal protection against expressing their views and were forced to do so through underground newspapers, said David Cortwright, one of the day’s speakers. Cortwright is a former soldier who served in Vietnam and wrote a book about that era’s military resistance, “Soldiers in Revolt.”

But while the Internet has replaced those underground papers and service members enjoy the limited protections of DoD directives, Cortwright said, those “in uniform” who speak out must still endure critics who would call them unpatriotic. Or, worse, cowards.

“It’s not cowardice,” Cortwright said. “It’s an extraordinary expression of conviction and courage.”

None of the service members questioned said they’d received any reprisals or negative feedback from their chains of command. “I’ve had no one chastise me,” Madden said. “Some feel awkward around me.”

Added Hutto, “They understand that we’re serious, and the threat of reprisal isn’t going to stop us.”

Hutto said the reactions he gets from shipmates are twofold: “One, how do I sign up? And two, I’m not so sure I can support Appeal for Redress (, but I support whatever you’re doing.”

Hutto said he is careful to separate his anti-war work with his assigned Navy duties. “If someone comes up to me, I say, ‘Give me your number, I’ll call you in the afternoon’,” he said. “I tell people, ‘When you’re on duty, be on duty’.”

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Air Force Times Daily News Roundup for 16 January

Today's top military news: January 16, 2007

Early Bird Brief

The Early Bird Brief features exclusive summaries of the Current News Early Bird. Published every morning by the Department of Defense.


Defense Secretary, In Afghan Capital, Scolds Iran
(New York Times, January 16, 2007)
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said that Iran was "acting in a very negative way" in the Middle East and that the United States was building up its forces to demonstrate its resolve to remain in the Persian Gulf. Speaking to reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels before flying to Afghanistan, Gates said, "We are simply trying to communicate to the region that we are going to be there for a long time." Delivering that message to Iran—and to allies in the region worried that Washington is consumed with stabilizing Iraq — is one of Gates' priorities on a trip to the region this week that will take him later to the Persian Gulf.

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Iraq Edges Closer To Iran, With Or Without The U.S.
(Los Angeles Times, January 16, 2007, Pg. 1)
The Iraqi government is moving to solidify relations with Iran, even as the United States turns up the rhetorical heat and bolsters its military forces to confront Tehran's influence in Iraq. Iraq's foreign minister, responding to a U.S. raid on an Iranian office in northern Iraq last week, said that the government intended to transform similar Iranian agencies into consulates and negotiate more border entry points with Tehran. The U.S. military is still holding five Iranians detained in the raid on grounds that at least some of them worked for Iran's intelligence service.

More Troops In Iraq, But Success Will 'Take Time'
First Of Extra 21,500 Vowed By Bush Arrive

(USA Today, January 16, 2007, Pg. 9)
The new security plan for Iraq will need time to take hold and may not yield significant results for several months, the outgoing U.S. commander there cautioned. Gen. George Casey told reporters that some of the 21,500 additional U.S. troops President Bush promised for Iraq last week have already begun arriving.

Second Hanging Also Went Awry, Iraq Tape Shows
(New York Times, January 16, 2007, Pg. 1)
Iraq's turbulent effort to reckon with the violence of its past took another macabre turn when the execution of Saddam Hussein's half brother ended with the hangman's noose decapitating him after he dropped through the gallows trapdoor. The calculations of weight, gravity and the momentum — a grim science that has produced detailed "drop charts" used for decades in hangings around the world—appeared to have gone seriously awry in the case of Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, former head of Hussein’s secret police.

Some At Guantanamo Mark 5 Years In Limbo
Big Questions About Low-Profile Inmates

(Washington Post, January 16, 2007, Pg. 1)
Shackled at the wrists and blinded by special goggles, the first captives from the U.S. war in Afghanistan were ushered to makeshift prison cells thousands of miles from the battle, at the U.S. naval station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, five years ago last week. In the administration's effort to obtain raw intelligence in early 2002, officials said, it was easier to ship hundreds of men with unclear allegiances to a naval base in Cuba and ask the hard questions later. But with a government focused on interrogations, a bureaucracy lacking tolerance for risk and a detention policy under legal attack, the United States has found it difficult to free many of the detainees, regardless of the information it has on the threat they pose.

Pakistan Will Close Four Camps To Foil Afghan Terror
(Washington Times, January 16, 2007, Pg. 1)
Pakistan's government will close four refugee camps near its border with Afghanistan to help prevent Afghan insurgents from gunrunning and seeking safe haven in the country, Islamabad's ambassador to the United States said. Mahmud Ali Durrani said the residents of two of the camps will soon be sent back to Afghanistan as part of a new program to better control the 1,550-mile shared border.

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U.S. Courts Allies' Support On Iran
(Wall Street Journal, January 16, 2007, Pg. 3)
In hitting the road to sell the new U.S. strategy for Iraq and other aims, two of President Bush's top aides are hammering the same message: that the cost of U.S. failure would be a stronger and increasingly aggressive Iran. The threat of Iran's rise has become for the U.S. a sort of diplomatic glue, which the globetrotting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are now using to patch together an alliance aimed at helping heal not only Iraq, but also Lebanon and the Palestinian conflict.

Gates Sees Iran As 'Negative'
Urges Iran To Change Its Ways In Iraq, Region

(Washington Times, January 16, 2007, Pg. 11)
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said that Iran is "doing nothing to be constructive" in Iraq, insisting it was up to Tehran to change its policies in Iraq and across the region before it can hope for better ties with the United States. But the defense secretary also said recent moves by President Bush to bulk up U.S. forces and military assets in the Persian Gulf should not be considered a prelude to possible action against Iran.

Gates: Iran Sees Leverage Over U.S.
(Miami Herald, January 16, 2007)
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said that new U.S. military moves in the Persian Gulf were prompted, in part, by signals from Iran that it sees the United States as vulnerable in Iraq. Gates indicated that Iran's perception of U.S. vulnerability was part of the reason the Pentagon decided last week to send a second aircraft carrier battle group and a Patriot antimissile battalion to the Gulf area.

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U.S. Officials Call Baghdad Plan Workable
(Los Angeles Times, January 16, 2007)
U.S. officials in Baghdad said that the latest plan to calm the violent capital, where dozens more were killed or found dead in political violence during the day, will succeed because Iraqi politicians will come through this time. Despite widespread doubts about the efficacy and loyalties of Iraq's Shiite-dominated government and armed forces, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. said at a news briefing that American officials had put Iraqis at the helm of security operations. "We will support them, but the Iraqis will be in the lead," Khalilzad said.

Top U.S. General In Iraq Says New Plan To Pacify Baghdad May Take Months To Show Results
(New York Times, January 16, 2007)
With the first wave of additional soldiers already arriving to bolster a new campaign to secure beleaguered Baghdad, the top American military commander in Iraq warned that it could take months before there were any real signs of progress. "As with any plan, there are no guarantees of success, and it's not going to happen overnight," said the commander, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. "But with sustained political support and the concentrated efforts on all sides, I believe that this plan can work."

Poll: Bush's New Iraq Strategy Fails To Rally Public Support
(USA Today, January 16, 2007, Pg. 5)
President Bush's address to the nation last week failed to move public opinion in support of his plan to increase U.S. troop levels in Iraq and left Americans more pessimistic about the likely outcome of the war. In a USA Today/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, more than six of 10 persons backed the idea of a non-binding congressional resolution expressing opposition to Bush's plan to commit an additional 21,500 U.S. troops to Iraq. However, those surveyed were split, 47 to 50 percent, over whether Congress should deny funding for the additional troops.

Use Of Kurdish Troops In Baghdad Debated
Plan Is Part of Bush's New Strategy

(Washington Post, January 16, 2007, Pg. 15)
The Kurdish makeup of two of the three Iraqi army brigades due to be sent to Baghdad under President Bush's new strategic plan is drawing concern from Iraqi and U.S. experts. Questions have been raised about whether the Kurds would fight Sunni insurgents in Baghdad at a time when some Sunni clerics and organizations have spoken out against aiding U.S. troops and the Iraqi government. But there is also concern that the soldiers would be heavy-handed if sent into heavily Shiite areas. Recognized as being among the better-trained fighters in Iraq, the two brigades were formed out of Kurdistan's Pesh Merga militia.

U.S. Military May Join Iraq Against Militia Leaders
Bush Authorization Could Spark Deadly Confrontations

(Boston Globe, January 14, 2007, Pg. 1)
U.S. military officials say the Bush administration has given them new authority to target leaders of political and religious militias in Iraq who are implicated in sectarian violence, including the powerful Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Such a showdown, key to Bush's plan to increase the number of U.S. troops in Baghdad, could spark a deadly confrontation with Shiite militias, which enjoy widespread popularity in Shiite neighborhoods. It could also erode support for the fragile government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has agreed to the plan.

Iraqi Translator Praises Special Visa
(Philadelphia Inquirer, January 16, 2007)
A former Iraqi translator for the U.S. military says his life was saved when he was granted a special visa to live in the United States, a status made available to only 50 Afghan and Iraqi nationals annually who served in the same capacity. The 27-year-old Sunni Arab, set to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, says he was threatened by enraged fellow students at his college, survived a car bombing, and learned that his name was listed on the doors of mosques calling for his death. The former translator, who will not use his real name, and a second witness who held a similar job are to testify behind screens to protect their identities.

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How U.S. Is Deferring War Costs
(Christian Science Monitor, January 16, 2007, Pg. 1)
To pay for World War II, Americans bought savings bonds and put extra notches in their belts. President Harry Truman raised taxes and cut nonmilitary spending to pay for the Korean conflict. During Vietnam, Washington raised taxes but still watched deficits soar. But to pay for the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush administration has used its credit card, counting on the Chinese and other foreign buyers of its debt to pay the bills. Now, as President Bush is promising to boost the number of troops in Iraq, there is increased scrutiny over how the country is going to pay for it all.

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Mettle Merits Medals
Services Weigh Standards In Awarding Decorations

(Washington Times, January 14, 2007, Pg. 1)
A Pentagon task force is assessing the standards for awarding military medals to ensure there is as much uniformity as possible between the four service branches in awarding commendations. Bill Carr, deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy, says one thing is already clear. Except in one case, he has not seen any evidence of "medal inflation"—commanders handing out Bronze Stars or campaign medals under questionable circumstances. "The objective is to reduce the differences, such that the presence of a medal on a chest means the same thing, or as close as we can get to it," he said. "I think the troops probably care less about the qualifying circumstances as they do about the consistency."

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British Soldier Dies In NATO Strike
(Los Angeles Times, January 16, 2007)
A British soldier was killed and several were wounded when NATO troops attacked a militant base in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province, officials said. NATO said its troops were "engaged from several insurgent positions."

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Pakistan Kills Rebels Near Afghan Border
(Los Angeles Times, January 16, 2007)
The Pakistani army launched an airstrike on a militant camp in a tribal area bordering Afghanistan, killing most of the 25 to 30 militants present, a military spokesman said. The region, South Waziristan, has long been a hotbed of support for the Taliban and the al-Qaida terrorist network, despite an army campaign begun in late 2003 to clear them out.

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‘Black Hawk' General In Covert Ops With Warlord's Son
(New York Post, January 15, 2007)
A controversial U.S. general and a Somalian warlord whose father was responsible for the infamous "Black Hawk Down" violence in 1993 are now allies in the war against al-Qaida-connected fanatics in East Africa. In an extraordinary set of circumstances, Lt. Gen. William Boykin, deputy undersecretary of defense, and warlord Hussein Farah Aidid, were intimately involved in covert operations on the Horn of Africa that resulted in the rout of Islamic fanatics from Somalia earlier this month.

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U.S. Beefs Up Force To Calm Gulf Fears
Iran's Threats Alarm Arab States

(Washington Times, January 16, 2007, Pg. 6)
The Pentagon has began building up its military presence in the Persian Gulf, including bringing in defensive Patriot missiles, after friendly Arab states privately expressed alarm over Iran's increasingly bellicose pronouncements. Some in the Bush administration began to fear that unless Washington reassured the Gulf states, it would lose their support at a critical juncture in the Iraq war. Without the support of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other predominately Sunni Muslim countries, achieving reconciliation in Iraq would be much more difficult, defense sources say.

Iranian Nuclear Program Said To Have Ground To Halt
(Philadelphia Inquirer, January 16, 2007)
Iran said it was installing 3,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium at one of its nuclear facilities, effectively confirming that its nuclear program was running behind schedule, as the devices were to have been in place two weeks ago. Diplomats in Vienna, where the International Atomic Energy Agency is based, said that the enrichment program had ground to a halt.

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Interrogation Research Is Lacking, Report Says
Few Studies Have Examined U.S. Methods

(Washington Post, January 16, 2007, Pg. 15)
There is almost no scientific evidence to back up the U.S. intelligence community's use of controversial interrogation techniques in the fight against terrorism, and experts believe some painful and coercive approaches could hinder the ability to get good information, according to a new report from an intelligence advisory group. The Intelligence Science Board examined several aspects of broad interrogation methods and approaches and found that no significant scientific research has been conducted in more than four decades about the effectiveness of many techniques the U.S. military and intelligence groups use regularly. Intelligence experts wrote that a lack of research could explain why abuse has been alleged at U.S. facilities in Afghanistan, Cuba and Iraq.

The Legal Tangles Of Data Collection
(Washington Post, January 16, 2007, Pg. 9)
When it comes to data collection, federal laws often have been outpaced by technology, critics say. And sometimes, the executive branch carves out its own exception. U.S. law requires that law enforcement officials obtain a warrant to tap someone's phone or intercept e-mail, for example. But President Bush, drawing on decades-old precedent, asserts that he has "inherent authority" to authorize agents to intercept electronic communications without a warrant in the interest of national security. That is the rationale underpinning the National Security Agency's warrantless-wiretapping program. But the new Democratic-run Congress has vowed to renew scrutiny of this program and others that involve collection and analysis of Americans' personal data.

CIA Emphasizes Flexibility In New Strategy
Director Wants More Openness Between Spies, Data Analysts

(USA Today, January 16, 2007, Pg. 5)
The CIA plans to increase its use of "open sources" such as newspapers and blogs and to outsource more software development to commercial contractors under a 22-point strategy being put in place. The CIA's "Strategic Intent," distributed to agency employees in December and posted on its public website this month, stresses improved flexibility and fewer barriers between departments. It contains several corporate-style flourishes, including ongoing employee input, an advisory board drawn from business and academia and "action teams" assigned to implement the plan.

Judge Allows Lawsuit By Fired CIA Agent
(Washington Post, January 16, 2007, Pg. 5)
A fired CIA employee, who collected prewar intelligence that Iraq was not developing weapons of mass destruction, may continue with a lawsuit challenging his dismissal, a federal judge in Washington ruled. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler decided on technical grounds that the lawsuit could not be dismissed. She did not rule on the contention by the plaintiff, identified only as "Doe," that he was fired because he refused to alter intelligence that contradicted Bush administration policies.

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Assembly Line Tactic For New Jet
(Los Angeles Times, January 16, 2007)
Not since the days of Rosie the Riveter have the nation's military aircraft been built on an assembly line. For almost as long as anyone can remember, fighters and bombers have been built like houses: one by one, each taking weeks, if not months, to come together. But if all goes well, the newest jet in the nation's arsenal will be assembled more like a car: on a moving line in a process that the Pentagon hopes will dramatically cut costs and speed production. "We're going to build one a day, which the industry hasn't seen in a while," said Randy Secor, deputy program manager for the F-35 Lightning II at Northrop Grumman, which will assemble the center fuselage in Palmdale, Calif. The assembly will be shipped to Lockheed-Martin's Fort Worth plant to be mated with other sections of the aircraft. The Texas plant also will have a moving assembly line.

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Why They Fight — From Within
Two Navy Men Create An Outlet For Military Protests On the Web

(Washington Post, January 16, 2007, Pg. C1)
For Jonathan Hutto and David Rogers, life has become something of a surreality show. The two Navy men, comrades in arms, are waging a war against a war. Working from within, Hutto, Rogers and others have established, a Web site that enables active-duty, reserve and National Guard troops to appeal directly to Congress to withdraw military personnel from Iraq.

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What Congress Can (And Can't) Do On Iraq
David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey

(Washington Post, January 16, 2007, Pg. 19)
Two former Justice Department lawyers who served in Republican administrations, commending on congressional moves to cut off funding for the Iraq war, write that the Supreme Court has long ruled that Congress cannot attach unconstitutional conditions to otherwise proper legislation, including spending bills. Congress could—if the leadership mustered veto-proof majorities—immediately cut off funding for U.S. operations in Iraq or refuse to pass new appropriations once the current ones expire. But under our constitutional system, the power to cut off funding does not imply the authority to effect lesser restrictions, such as establishing benchmarks or other conditions on the president's direction of the war. Congress cannot, in other words, act as the president's puppet master, and so long as currently authorized and appropriated funding lasts, the president can dispatch additional troops to Iraq with or without Congress's blessing.

Our Tunnel Vision
Richard Cohen

(Washington Post, January 16, 2007, Pg. 19)
When politicians and commentators detail all that the Bush administration did wrong, I wonder whether any of it really matters. Would things have turned out differently if we had done everything right? Was Iraq so "broken" we never could have fixed it? Was Hussein's despotism an avoidable tragedy, or was it, instead, a tragic necessity? I tend to think now we never could have made it work. As there was in Vietnam, there is a piece of Iraq — its culture, it religions, its history — that we do not understand. This war has lasted longer than we expected not just because we were inept or understaffed or fired the Baathists or discharged the army — but because we don't understand the country.

Surge Of Indicators
Lawrence Kudlow

(Washington Times, January 16, 2007, Pg. 14)
While pundits and politicians say the new Bush plan won't work, market investors are voting with their money for a much more positive verdict. And after surveying the details of the new Iraq strategy, I'm casting my lot with the investors. The U.S. military buildup not only will provide better security for Iraq's democratically elected government, but also enhanced security for the entire region. Political opposition by Democrats and Republicans to Bush's new strategy may be hardening, but financial markets point to a much more positive scenario.

Ending An Opium War
Poppies And Afghan Recovery Can Both Bloom
Anne Applebaum

(Washington Post, January 16, 2007, Pg. 19)
NATO is fighting a war to eradicate opium from Afghanistan, but policymakers might look to Turkey's approach to the problem as a model. In the 1970s—the era of "Midnight Express"—the drug trade threatened Turkey's political and economic stability. Just like in Afghanistan, a ban was tried, and it failed. As a result, in 1974 the Turks, with American and U.N. support, tried a different tactic. They began licensing poppy cultivation for the purpose of producing morphine, codeine and other legal opiates. Legal factories were built to replace the illegal ones. Farmers registered to grow poppies, and they paid taxes. The U.S. government still supports the Turkish program, even requiring U.S. drug companies to purchase 80 percent of what the legal documents euphemistically refer to as "narcotic raw materials" from the two traditional producers, Turkey and India. Why not add Afghanistan to this list?

Gitmo's Good Work
Gordon Cucullu

(New York Post, January 16, 2007)
A retired Army officer and author of "Separated at Birth: How North Korea Became the Evil Twin" writes that the Guantanamo Bay prison keeps behind bars bad guys who would inflict terrible pain on America and our friends. "From these same men, it gets vital information that has had and continues to have a major positive effect on prosecution of the war—information that has broken up operative cells in America and Europe, stifled recruiting, intercepted money trails and set the terrorists back on their heels. If that is the sum of five years' work, then well done, Guantanamo, well done indeed."

Halt The Pentagon's Intelligence Takeover
Melvin A. Goodman

(Baltimore Sun, January 16, 2007)
A former CIA analyst writes that the expected confirmation of retired Navy Adm. Mike McConnell as director of national intelligence will complete the Pentagon's takeover of U.S. intelligence and end any pretense of civilian influence, let alone control, of that community. The absence of an independent civilian counter to the power of military intelligence threatens civilian control of the decision to use military power and makes it more likely that intelligence will be tailored to suit the purposes of the Pentagon.

The Future Of Iraq
Bill O'Reilly

(Washington Times, January 16, 2007, Pg. 15)
It is my contention that no matter what happens in Iraq in the future, the world press will spin it negative as long as President Bush is in the White House. Quite simply, most of the media believe the Iraq conflict is a disaster, and even if things were to improve there, the media now have a vested interest in America's failure.

Mr. Stimson And The American Way
Charles Fried

(Wall Street Journal, January 16, 2007, Pg. 21)
A Harvard Law School teacher writes that Defense Department official Charles Stimson showed ignorance and malice in deploring the pro bono representation of Guantanamo detainees by lawyers in some of the nation's leading law firms, and in calling on their corporate clients to punish them for this work. On the contrary, they are acting in the best traditions of the profession. It is the pride of a nation built on the rule of law that it affords to every man a zealous advocate to defend his rights in court

'Spherical Situation Awareness' Will Be Key To Global Security
Michael W. Wynne

(Aviation Week & Space Technology, January 16, 2007, Pg. 444)
The Air Force secretary writes that the traditional battle domains of ground, air and cyberspace are becoming interconnected. "We used to talk about 360-deg. awareness. Today, we have evolved to 'spherical situation awareness.' This calls for a new habit of thought and joint and coalition operational capabilities—a comprehensive view, at once vertical and horizontal, real-time and predictive, penetrating and defended in the cyber-realm."

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Connecting the Global Warming Dots

Published: January 14, 2007
The New York Times

If thought of as a painting, the scientific picture of a growing and potentially calamitous human influence on the climate has moved from being abstract a century ago to impressionistic 30 years ago to pointillist today.

The impact of a buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is now largely undisputed. Almost everyone in the field says the consequences can essentially be reduced to a formula: More CO2 = warmer world = less ice = higher seas. (Throw in a lot of climate shifts and acidifying oceans for good measure.)

But the prognosis — and the proof that people are driving much of the warming — still lacks the sharpness and detail of a modern-day photograph, which makes it hard to get people to change their behavior.

Indeed, the closer one gets to a particular pixel, be it hurricane strength, or the rate at which seas could rise, the harder it is to be precise. So what is the basis for the ever-stronger scientific agreement on the planet’s warming even in the face of blurry details?

As in a pointillist painting, the meaning emerges from the broadest view, from the “balance of evidence,” as the scientific case is described in the periodic reports issued by an enormous international network of experts: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, The main findings of the panel’s fourth assessment since 1990 will be released in Paris on Feb. 2.

In the panel’s last report, issued in 2001, and in more recent studies reviewed for the coming report, various trends provide clues that human activity, rather than natural phenomena, probably caused most of the recent warming. A number of trends have been identified:

¶The global average minimum nighttime temperature has risen. (This is unlikely to be caused by some variability in the sun, for example, and appears linked to the greenhouse gases that hold in heat radiating from the earth’s surface, even after the sun has gone down.)

¶The stratosphere, high above the earth’s surface, has cooled, which is an expected outcome of having more heat trapped by the gases closer to the surface, in the troposphere. (Scientists say that variations in the sun’s output, for example, would instead cause similar trends in the two atmospheric layers instead of opposite ones.)

¶There has been a parallel warming trend over land and oceans. (In other words, the increase in the amount of heat-trapping asphalt cannot be the only culprit.)

“There’s no urbanization going on on the ocean,” said Jay Lawrimore, chief of the climate monitoring branch of the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

Another important finding comes from computer simulations of the climate system. While the several dozen top models remain rough approximations, they have become progressively better at replicating climate patterns, past and present.

In the models, the only way to replicate the remarkable warming, and extraordinary Arctic warming, of recent decades is to add greenhouse gases as people have been doing, Dr. Lawrimore said.

“Without the greenhouse gases,” he said, “you just don’t get what we’ve observed.”

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