Monday, November 21, 2005

Democracy Now: James Bamford, George McGovern; Katrina vanden Heuvel, Danny Schechter, Rory O'Connor and Tom Hayden

19,000 Protest At School of the Americas
In Georgia, an estimated 19,000 people demonstrated outside Fort Benning calling for the closing of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School of the Americas. It was the largest protest to date for the annual event. 40 arrests were made. Protest organizers said the U.S. military has used the school to train Latin American military officials to torture. The protests are timed to coincide with the anniversary of the November 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador. The weekend demonstration came just weeks after it was revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney was seeking Congressional approval for CIA interrogators to engage in torture.

CIA Leak Prosecutor to Go to New Grand Jury
And this update on the CIA leak case... Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said Friday that he plans to present new evidence to another federal grand jury. The announcement came three weeks after an earlier grand jury indicted Vice President Cheney's chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Last week investigators questioned Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward for two hours after learning that a senior administration official revealed Valerie Plame's identity to him in mid-June 2003. There has been great speculation over who within the Bush administration might have been Woodward's source. The Times of London claims it is Stephen Hadley who is now Bush's National Security Advisor. At the time Hadley was deputy National Security Advisor under Condoleeza Rice. Newsweek magazine has suggested it might be former deputy secretary of State Richard Armitage.

U.S. Ignored Warnings About Iraqi Informant Curveball
In other Iraq news -- five senior officials from Germany's Federal Intelligence Service have told the Los Angeles Times that they warned U.S. intelligence authorities that information provided by a top Iraqi informant codenamed Curveball could not be trusted or confirmed. Despite the questions about Curveball's veracity, the Bush administration issued dire warnings about Iraq's biological weapons program based on his claims. President Bush repeatedly said Iraq had mobile factories brewing biological poisons. Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell told the United Nations in February 2003 that these labs could brew enough weapons-grade microbes "in a single month to kill thousands upon thousands of people." The Germans were shocked to hear Powell's speech. One official said "We had always told them it was not proven.... It was not hard intelligence." A month after Powell's speech, chief UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix, announced inspectors in Iraq had found "no evidence" of mobile biological production facilities in Iraq. But Blix's announcement drew little notice at the time and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began two weeks later. Curveball was an Iraqi exile who moved to Germany in 1999. The LA Times reports the CIA corroborated Curveball's story with three sources: Two had ties to Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress. All three turned out to be frauds. Curveball claimed his brother was Chalabi's bodyguard.

The above three items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Joan, Micah and West. Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):

Headlines for November 21, 2005

- 120 Die in Series of Bombings in Iraq
- U.S. Forces Kill Five Members of Iraqi Family
- Rep. Murtha Repeats Call For Troop Withdrawal
- U.S. Ignored Warnings About Iraqi Informant Curveball
- Israeli PM Ariel Sharon Quits Likud Party
- 19,000 Protest At School of the Americas
- 1,000 Call for Halt to Tookie Williams Execution

Los Titulares de Hoy: Democracy Now!'s daily news summary translated into Spanish

The Man Who Sold the Iraq War: John Rendon, Bush's General in the Propaganda War

Investigative journalist James Bamford examines how the Bush administration and Iraqi National Congress used the PR firm Rendon Group to feed journalists - including Judith Miller -- fabricated stories in an effort to sell the war. The firm has received millions in government contracts since 1991 when it was by the CIA to help "create the conditions for the removal of Hussein from power." Iraq wasn't the first regime change case for Rendon. In 1989 the CIA turned to Rendon to use a variety of campaign and psychological techniques in Panama to put the CIA's choice, Guillermo Endara, into the presidential palace to replace Gen. Manuel Noriega. [includes rush transcript - partial]

James Bamford, investigative reporter and author of the new article "The Man Who Sold The War" published in the December 1st issue of Rolling Stone Magazine. Bamford is also the author of several books including "A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies."

From Vietnam to Iraq: Sen. George McGovern Discusses the Lies of War from the Gulf of Tonkin to Iraq's WMDs

The 1972 presidential candidate looks back at how the U.S. entered the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. We also play an excerpt from the new documentary "One Bright Shining Moment: The Forgotten Summer of George McGovern."

Tracey e-mails to note Katrina vanden Heuvel's "Cities to End The War" (Editor's Cut, The Nation):

As the Iraq war debate rages in the capital, and polls show growing public frustration with the war, keep an eye on the growing groundswell of opposition in cities across the country. The DC-based Institute for Policy Studies is a key player in organizing city councils, towns and municipalities to pass resolutions calling for US withdrawal, in hopes of forcing the hand of the Bush Administration and fence-sitting Democrats in Congress.
To date, 67 cities--including Chicago, Sacramento, Chapel Hill, Gary (Indiana) and dozens of towns in Vermont--have done so. The resolutions usually call on the US government "to commence an orderly and rapid withdrawal of United States military personnel from Iraq," while also shipping non-military aid "necessary for the security of Iraq's citizens and for the rebuilding of Iraq." (Disclosure: I am a longtime IPS board member.)
As IPS Director John Cavanagh concedes, cities alone cannot make foreign policy. But, he adds, "we're at a fascinating tipping point." He "can imagine a majority within a year to 18 months that would vote to cut off the money for the war. That is a goal.There are different ways to end the war, but that's the one that feels clearest."

Saturday I mentioned books. Two things on that.

First, Danny Schechter's books are available via News Dissector (I wasn't aware of that and used Powel and Amazon). From today's News Dissector (sent in by Martha):

Susie Taft writes:

Looking for a way to order The Death Of Media And The Fight For Democracy. Very cool to mention that we can put it in our pockets (has a "solidarity" feel). Some links lead to your "Oops..." statement. If the big bookstores are carrying it you might mention that. Otherwise, keep trying. I want to read this book!
It should be in online book stores or order it from us at

Second, Shirley & Martha have volunteered to take the book responses and tabulate to creat a list for this weekend. (Books that make good holiday gifts, that's the list -- books you would give as gifts.) So thank you to them for that.

From Danny Schechter to one of his colleagues at, we'll note Rory O'Connor's "Able Danger II" (Media Is Plural, The Rory O'Connoer Blog):

How much longer will Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld be able to ignore the
growing clamor in Congress over the Able Danger 'information warfare'
controversy? Rumsfeld never responded to letters regarding the matter sent
weeks ago by House Armed Services Committee heads Duncan Hunter and Curt
Weldon. Now Weldon has secured the signatures of hundreds of colleagues from
both sides of the aisle to yet another letter demanding that Rumsfeld allow
Able Danger whistleblowers like Lieutenant Colonel Tony Shaffer to tell the
story of how they identified Mohamed Atta and other 9/11 hijackers a year
before the worst terror attacks ever on US soil.

As the latest letter to Rumsfeld notes, "Until this point, congressional
efforts to investigate ABLE DANGER have been obstructed by Department of
Defense insistence that certain individuals with knowledge of ABLE DANGER be
prevented from freely and frankly testifying in an open hearing." Weldon
contends Shaffer and others have been silenced -- and Shaffer smeared -- by
the Defense Department in an effort to cover up key aspects of the massive
data-mining intelligence project that DOD's objection to open testimony by Shaffer, Navy Captain Scott Phillpott and other Able Danger principals is said to stem from security concerns. But as the letter to Rumsfeld notes, "Testimony from the appropriate individuals in an open hearing on ABLE DANGER would not only fail to jeopardize national security, but would in fact enhance it over the long term," since "America can only better prepare itself against future attacks if it understands the
full scope of its past failures to do so."

The controversy came to a head two months ago, when the Senate Judiciary
Committee conducted a hearing at which Shaffer, Phillpott and the others
were not permitted to testify as scheduled. Representative Weldon spoke on
their behalf, however, basing his testimony on information obtained directly
from them. Since Acting Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for
Intelligence Oversight William Dugan certified that the hearings did not
reveal any classified information, it remains unclear what testimony from
the Able Danger whistleblowers - who tried without success to bring their
findings to the attention of both the FBI and the 9/11 Commissioners charged
with investigating the attacks -- would jeopardize.

And let's just see-saw for a moment back to Danny and his "Debating Iraq: A Murtha Moment and the Slide to An Exit" (

The much-maligned Mr. Marx said history often begins as tragedy and repeats itself as farce. That was never more true than last Friday night as we watched the great Iraq war “debate.” Those of us with the stomach to do so saw the consequences of years of increasingly polarized partisanship in our Congress. It was as manipulated and managed an episode of theater that I have ever seen. It was more like a fraternity food fight than an honest discourse on all sides.
Even the Washington Post, the local organ of media power, was disgusted, noting: "Aggressive challenges to the Bush administration's military and political strategy -- even calls for an immediate withdrawal of troops, such as that made by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) on Thursday -- must be part of that democratic discussion. Yet what we've mainly seen during the past two weeks is a shameful exercise in demagoguery and name-calling."
That’s because no one is really saying what they believe. The Democrats want out but are afraid to say so and the self-styled patriots see the end coming but need someone to blame beside themselves. The drama on the hill represented a triumph of message point politics with thoroughly robotic and irrelevant cliché-ridden speeches on the Republican side with Congress member after Congress member playing at patriotism by finger pointing.
It was matched I am afraid, by equally vitriolic opportunism by leading Democrats who had blindly supported the war and now avoided talking about the truth of what their hawkish colleague Mr. Murtha was talking about. Instead they defended his character and military record, but rarely backed his courageous call for withdrawal.
The "debate" was a transparent maneuver by the Bush lovers to set up a straw man with a phony resolution to prove how stupid the usually hawkish Murtha was to suggest that redeployment and withdrawal was now called for to save what face we can in a losing war in Iraq.
The response bizarrely echoed the days when Senator Joe McCarthy took on the US Army with suggestions that they were infiltrated by reds. The Army won that encounter. And make no mistake about it, Murtha is today a political stand-in for a silenced military, which is warning us that the fight is lost. He was on Meet the Press revealing that his information comes from leaders of the Pentagon.

That was noted by Zach and we'll note Cindy's two highlights now.

First Tom Hayden's "Surprise Offensive for Peace" (The Huffington Post):

Congress finally got the message and began its own withdrawal from the Bush war policies this week, after many months of silent paralysis. On Wednesday I met with a staffer involved for three months in "slow, painful" internal Senate negotiations which had resulted in the murky bipartisan resolution passed with 79 votes the day before.
The Washington Post headline summarized it well: "Senate Presses for Concrete Steps Toward Drawdown of Troops in Iraq." Would there be follow up?, I asked the longtime insider. "I doubt it, because it took so much to get even to this point", was the reply. It would be "premature" to expect much more in the short term, I was advised.
The aide was wrong. The Senate may have been exhausted for the moment, but in the next 24 hours:
Nineteen House members attended a press conference to endorse various resolutions to cut off funding (McGovern) or set withdrawal timetables (Abercrombie-Jones).
The once-hardline Rep. Jane Harman advocated an exit strategy proposal in a Capitol Hill publication.
Rep. John Murtha stunned the pundit class by advocating a six-month withdrawal, too much for Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.
In the previous few days, Sen. John Kerry and former senators John Edwards and Tom Daschle stepped up their calls for a withdrawal plan.

Cindy also notes Tom Hayden's "Celmency for Tookie Williams" (The Huffington Post) and notes that Tookie Williams is one of the topics in the headlines today on Democracy Now!:

Dear Governor,
I want to share my thoughts and experiences with you in the matter of Stanley "Tookie" Williams. Since you will receive many legal arguments about the case or the merits of the death penalty, this letter will focus on the "Tookie" Williams I actually know.
In the course of researching a book on street gangs, I interviewed him for two hours on San Quentin's Death Row in late 2001. In addition, I have read thousands of pages of briefs about the case, and interviewed numerous people in Watts and South Central about his role in the Crips.
I can say without question that "Tookie" Williams has changed his life direction, beginning about 1992.
I can say without question that his advocacy of peace among gang members during the past decade has saved lives.
If you choose to execute him, you will be executing a living resource of great value in the long struggle to prevent gang violence.
His execution will not deter the growth of street gangs.
It may provide an Old Testament sense of justice for some victims, and satisfy prosecutors who want to see the "godfather" of the Crips put to death. It is not the interest of the people of California to satisfy those needs. Nor is it in your interest as a national and global representative of our country.
I am not known for being an active death penalty abolitionist, though I pursued funding to study a moratorium as a legislator. But I believe that in this case, the interest of the people of California is in clemency. In granting clemency, you are not required to release him, but you have the power to make him continue his counseling against gangs and violence as a community benefit and an example of restorative justice.

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