Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Other Items

The military is placing small teams of Special Operations troops in a growing number of American embassies to gather intelligence on terrorists in unstable parts of the world and to prepare for potential missions to disrupt, capture or kill them.
[. . .]
The creation of the Military Liaison Elements, and the broader tug-of-war over the Special Operations Command's new role, appear to have exacerbated the disorganization, even distrust, that critics in Congress and the academic world have said permeates the government's counterterrorism efforts.
Officials involved in the debate say the situation may require President Bush and his senior national security and defense advisers to step in as referees, setting boundaries and clarifying the orders of the military and other intelligence agencies.
Many current and former C.I.A. officials view the plans by the Special Operations Command, or Socom, as overreaching.

The above is from Thom Shanker and Scott Shane's "Elite Troops Get Expanded Role on Intelligence" in this morning's New York Times or, as I like to think of it, "Only In A Bully Boy World." Diplomacy is a little too much for the Bully Boy, better to get behind "capture and kill" programs. That will no doubt help the embassies and their staff as they try maintain relations with foreign governments, right?

On the topic of diplomacy (flying out the window), Kara notes Katrina vanden Heuvel's "Needed: A New Direction for US-Russian Relations" (Editor's Cut, The Nation):

This past Sunday, on Meet the Press, would-be-Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards and one-time-Republican presidential candidate Jack Kemp, used the fiftieth anniversary of Winston Churchill's Fulton speech to promote their new Council on Foreign Relations' Task Force Report, Russia's Wrong Direction: What the US Can and Should Do.
Edwards and Kemp didn't use Churchill's rhetoric of 1946. Neither spoke of "an iron curtain" descending across Europe. Yet in 2006, there are whiffs of a new-fangled Cold War. This new chapter in US-Russian relations already has its own codewords, checkpoints and nuances. (Underlying the rhetoric is an American triumphalism, as represented by John Lewis Gaddis's new history of the Cold War.) There is a hectoring tone and a familiar double standard, for example, when it comes to condemning Moscow for seeking allies and military bases abroad just as the Bush Administration is doing. As Russia expert and New York University Professor Stephen Cohen ( as well as longtime Nation contributing editor and, full disclosure, my husband) lamented at a conference on the Cold War held at the Gorbachev Foundation in Moscow last week, US-Russian relations are being remilitarized.
Talking before a group of nearly 200 Russian and Western scholars, journalists, and diplomats, Cohen observed that "most alarming, negotiations for reducing nuclear weapons have, in effect, been terminated by the Bush Administrations' unilateral withdrawal from the ABM treaty, and by the essentially meaningless nuclear reductions agreement it imposed on Moscow in 2002. And all this, including new buildups on both sides, while Russia's means of fully controlling its existing nuclear devices are less reliable than they were under the Soviet system."

Back to the Times, Nina Bernstein's "U.S. Told to Allay Detainees' Spy Fears" covers Judge Steven M. Gold telling the government attornies: "They can't be expected to prepare their case if they think someone is listening to them. I don't want them looking over their shoulders and worrying that you're getting phone calls from some N.S.A."

Whose case? Remember the post 9-11 round ups in this country of Muslims? They were detained and then, when no links to terrorism were found, they were deported. They're suing (John Ashcroft and others). From the article:

Their lawyers have asked if the rooms where they and their clients conferred were bugged or videotaped and if their e-mail messages and telephone calls were intercepted. If so, they ask, on whose authority? But the government has refused to answer, saying the questions were outside the realm of the lawsuit.
Rachel Meeropol, a lawyer for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents many of the detainees, wrote the magistrate that the questions were prompted by disclosures that the National Security Agency has intercepted electronic communications inside and outside the United States, without a warrant, under an executive order being challenged in a separate lawsuit.

Zach notes Sam Parry's "Democrats Need Strong Message" (Consortium News):

Have Democratic Party leaders learned to fight with sincere passion and to articulate a clear national message that connects with voters? Have they moved beyond a sum-of-the-parts, laundry-list message that clangs over the airwaves as nothing more than bullet points aimed at disparate Democratic constituencies?
For many observers, the answer is: Not even close.
But Bush may have given the Democrats a valuable gift: His actions over five-plus years in office suggest the outlines of a powerful counter-message.
In essence, the message would be that Bush has made himself a kind of modern-day monarch who has exaggerated dangers to scare the American people into surrendering their liberties, that he is a self-aggrandizing leader who has abrogated the Constitution and the Bill of Rights through claims of "plenary" -- or unlimited -- powers as Commander in Chief.
Fancying himself the "
unitary executive," Bush even has gone beyond what Sen. Russ Feingold has described as "pre-1776 thinking" to what could be called "pre-Magna Carta thinking," in which torture is winked at and citizens are spied on without warrants and aren’t even assured trials by jury. [For details, see's "End of 'Unalienable Rights'."
One-Party Government
Meanwhile, with only a few exceptions, the Republican-controlled Congress has failed to conduct serious oversight of Bush’s actions. Instead, Republican strategists, such as Karl Rove, have talked openly about their desire for indefinite GOP control of the federal government, from the White House to Congress to the courts.
In developing a response to this Republican arrogance, Democrats could rally the American people around some of the nation's most beloved principles, from the concept of "unalienable rights," to "the rule of law," to "the checks and balances" devised by the Founders as a way of stopping the encroachment of oppressive government.

Mia notes Vanessa Redgrave's "Censorship of the Worst Kind" (CounterPunch):

I am urging the Royal Court Theatre to sue the New York Theatre Workshop for the cancellation of the production of "My Name Is Rachel Corrie". Not because I donated money for this production, which the Royal Court have been fundraising for--a target of 50,000 pounds, underwritten by Alan Rickman.
This is censorship of the worst kind. More awful even than that.It is black-listing a dead girl and her diaries.A very brave and exceptional girl who all citizens, whatever their faith or nationality, should be proud and grateful for her existence. They couldn't silence her voice while she lived, so she was killed. Her voice began to speak again as Alan Rickman read her diaries, and Megan Dodds became Rachel Corrie.Now the New York Theatre Workshop have silenced that dear voice.
I shall never forget the glimpse, at the close of Alan Rickman's production, of Rachel when 10 years old, shot on a little family movie camera, making her speech about world poverty and the urgent need to end the misery. The New York Theatre Workshop have silenced that little girl, as well as the girl who confronted the Israeli army Caterpillar bulldozer.

Remember to listen, watch or read Democracy Now! today. The e-mail address for this site is