Saturday, November 10, 2007

Democratic Response to the Fear-mongering GOP

Peter Michaelson: Democratic Candidates Can Play a Fear Card, Too

One or more of the Democratic candidates for president have to challenge the American people, and perhaps even chastise us, about our fear. We have allowed the George Bush Bandwagon to pound on our fears like punk rockers at a brass and percussion concert. Shame on us! The music is horrible, but still they are allowed to play on!

Frankly, I find it almost impossible to believe that American are actually as afraid as they are told they are. I'm American and have never been known for my outstanding courage, yet I can say that I have not had one fearful day since 9/11; not one. I had unsettling moments, but none of them had much at all to do with Osama bin Laden. The thought of anthrax flying around through the mail was unsettling for me. Every time John Ashcroft opened his mouth was an occasion for a shudder to two. I admit that it is quite unsettling to have a president and vice president who seem as psychotic as Betsy bugs and a congress that doesn't seem to realize that at all. It is never encouraging to have a government that seems totally out of touch with reality. Maybe I'm just a backwards kind of person, but when I find that someone is trying to terrorize me, it only makes me mad as hell.

Dennis Kucinich said recently that "Fear is not a basis to run a government in a democracy." Yes, indeed. And it's also true that too much fear among the people will ruin the beats and rhythms of democracy.

Adrenalin is stupid juice, that's for sure.

Of course, fear is often rational and justified. But it can be irrational as well. It's a large component of a child's experience, and it lingers to various degrees in our psyche when we become adults. We project this unresolved fear into our surroundings and we believe that what we see in the world justifies it.

This is true, but it doesn't have to be. Once we realize that projection of the past into the future is what we are doing, we can consciously change that mental behavior.

What could leading Democrats tell us about the politics of fear? It thwarts the growth of democracy. Democracy is not a static condition. It either grows or it falls back into more primitive forms of governance. For our democracy to grow, we have to rise to the required level of citizenship. We'll probably have to take risks and move through our fears. If we cower in a corner looking to our military to feel safe, we'll create a power vacuum at the heart of democracy. Malevolent individuals will rush in to fill positions of authority. The military is devouring our wealth and our emotional independence. The more we spend on the military, the more we rely on it. This dependence on it to solve our problems in the world only makes us more fearful.

"I'm not going to ask you to become fearless," a Democratic leader might say. "After all, we do live in a nuclear age, an age of global warming, an age of terrorism, and economic uncertainty. But I'm asking you to be as brave as you know how. That's not asking too much. That's what your country needs from you. That's what you need from yourself. It's simply unbecoming of us to be afraid of terrorists. We're much better than that. Yes, we have to protect ourselves from them. We have to find them and destroy them. But we can't afford to live in fear of them."

I wish someone would conduct a major poll in order to find out if Americans are really afraid or if they just assume they are afraid because the news media keeps telling us that we are or ought to be.

What other points could Democratic leaders touch on? They could acknowledge that change does produce fear. It's like moving across the country. You find a job in a different state, sell your home where you grew up, and move everything you own down the ribbon of the highway. A new adventure like this can be exciting but also scary, and there are no guarantees of safety or security. Changing our country's course is also a new adventure. We do it because we believe in ourselves. We believe in our destiny. We believe in America.

Tell us the truth. We need change. We need a leader who will make peace in the world, and we need leaders who will maintain it. Making war is easy and any fool can start one. Unnecessary war is a consequence of fearfulness and stupidity, while making peace requires humility, courage, and brainpower. We have to talk to people who are our enemies or potential enemies. Let's be willing to hear and consider how they see the world, how they view their neighbors, and how they regard us.

How very true. Peace takes strength, courage, authenticity and a unity consciousness. Any damn fool can start a war.

Diplomacy is the art of establishing trusting relationships. Aggressive personal diplomacy is very effective when practiced by honorable people. Here in our country, friends, family members, and married couples have to talk, negotiate, and hear each other out if they are going to grow into deeper affection, trust, and love. We don't make friends in our communities by making threats to each other or delivering ultimatums. Nations have to negotiate, too. That's how we will create peace. Otherwise, we won't have the resources and the spirit to tackle the enormous environmental and economic problems we are facing.

We, the people of earth, don't stand a chance without each other. Until we understand that clearly, we have no hope of surviving very much longer.

There is nothing more important for us now than to reestablish the faith of the world in our excellence, our steadfastness, our good sense. We also have to reaffirm our own courage. The music mustn't die. Let this be a time for our greatness to reach its crescendo.

Rather, it is time for us to realize that America's standing in the world has been sliding on the downside for years. It did not begin with Junior and Dick. This administration has, however, has made it clear to just about everybody, with the exception of some of our countrymen and women who have been brainwashed to the point of no return...a place of unreality and delusional belief systems..

My generation will probably not live to see the restoration of integrity and honor to our beloved country. It will take generations to undo what the Bush administration has done.

Firstly, the American empire must collapse, hopefully brought down by Americans. Empire, no matter how wonderful and wise it sees itself is inherently evil. Empire and Democratic Republic cannot co-exist. We must choose between the two. Empires are horrible to those they rob, pillage, rape and burn. Empires are far too expensive for those who live in the belly of the beast; not only in terms of treasure and blood, but in terms of our very souls.

Secondly , we must bring the guilty to justice. If we do not, we will never be trusted again, not even by ourselves.


Peter Michaelson is author of Democracy's Little Self-Help Book and The Phantom of the Psyche: Freeing Ourselves from Inner Passivity. He is a practicing psychotherapist and offers telephone sessions and specializes in marriage and partnership conflict resolution. PDF files of his books are available at

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Few Profiles In Courage...NOT

Noises Off: Democratic Candidates are No-Shows for Mukasey Vote Print
Written by Chris Floyd
Friday, 09 November 2007

On the nomination of Michael Mukasey to be Attorney General of the United States:

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY: did not vote.
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill: did not vote.
Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn: did not vote.
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del: did not vote.

There you have it. The only four Democratic senators who did not vote on the nomination of Mukasey – and the legitimization of torture and presidential tyranny it represents – were the four Democratic senators seeking the presidency.

Draw your own conclusions on the implications of these absences, and what they portend for the possibilities of genuine reform should any of these worthy paladins win the White House.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Down The Tubes

This is How a Republic Falls

Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 06:29:39 PM PST

This Is How A Republic Falls
James Delinis
November 6, 2007

I sat on the steps of the Supreme Court on a hot, humid day in Washington D.C. this past summer, staring in disbelief at the protest developing around me. The most putrid character participating had to be the tax-exempt televangelist who had arrived in a new-model Mercedes blasting the godless liberals who "have brought ruin to our great country, murdering our babies, inviting God’s terrible judgement." I took a look at the hate-filled faces of the people gathering in anger and volume, and I thought: This is how a Republic falls.

Americans like to think of Washington D.C. as a city that does not represent the "heartland" of America, but in reality it exemplifies exactly what America is, and what it has become. Washington is a city whose geography invites corruption: the eastern boroughs are filled with office buildings that are hard to see from the main roads making it the ideal place for business of a sordid nature to be conducted. Congressmen gather with the lobbyists of defence firms, oil companies, investment banking operations, and media organizations to discuss exactly in what orifice these Congressmen will be willing to take the shaft in exchange for campaign dollars. In return, these cartels have extorted billions more dollars of taxpayer funds from the public coffers, or have killed the progress of legislation meant to reform a system that has long ago surpassed the corrupt and has now entered the obscene. This is how a Republic falls.

As Matt Taibbi recently wrote, "the United States is a massive militarized oligarchy patrolling half the world on borrowed money. Most of the country is dead broke but voting for candidates who campaign on keeping those uppity women in the kitchen, gays in the closet, and Arabs in Guantanamo. Once elected, these people serve their real masters by voting to massively subsidize an American war machine that long ago bought and paid for the federal political system, promising to continue massive tax loopholes that let millions of financial industry types avoid paying any taxes at all, and working to spread disinformation to kill the development of any alternatives to the multi-trillion dollar oil industry. For any candidate to get elected into any federal office, he has to swear by these machines or risk himself be targeted by these forces. Mounting any campaign for a Congressional or Senatorial district requires millions of dollars that can only be raised by cozying up to the aforementioned industries, or risk being destroyed by million dollar ad campaigns."

This is how a Republic falls.

The numbers are staggering: $800 billion a year for the defence budget, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. $9 trillion dollars in debt, mostly to foreign investors. Personal consumers, normal individuals, corporations and families, borrowing almost $1 trillion a year to buy consumer goods that they desperately need to keep up an appearance of affluence. A population that tells pollsters that illegal immigration is their most important concern, yet an open border with Mexico remains, for an open border is needed by the Captains of Industry to recruit cheap labour and keep wages down. This is how a Republic falls
All of these problems can be fixed, for they are problems of legislation and habit, and these can be surmounted by a population that is determined for reform. That will not happen, because the corruption is in the bone marrow now, spreading to the vital organs even if it remains undetected on the surface by a country that remembers brighter days that they once experienced. Days when they were strong, and proud, and honourable, and free. The days before an entire generation of sociopaths rose to seize control over the levers of power in the most important country that the world has ever known.

This tragedy has to come to a climax, eventually. It may begin with international investors demanding higher interest on the massive loans currently keeping the United States afloat triggering a run on the banks and a collapse of the dollar. Two things will then happen: either the people will turn to genuine reformers who pledge the hard but necessary work to rebuild the country into what it was always meant to be, or a clever political leader will manipulate the fears of the people, manipulate their anger at what has transpired, and turn what was a beautiful Republic into a despotic Empire, with terrible consequences for the entire world. These are the days that we are living in, this is the fate of the Rome of our time. This is how a Republic falls.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Kucnich Stands Tall

Dave Lindorff:

Dennis Kucinich Standing Tall in the House as Cheney Impeachment Bill Advances

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination that the mainstream media like to ignore or belittle, stands head and shoulders above the moral midgets and shriveled sophists in that contest, especially after he successfully forced the full House to vote to send his bill to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney to a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.

Kucinich, whose Cheney impeachment bill, despite having 22 co-sponsors, has been stalled for over six months thanks to the unconscionable machinations of the Democratic Congressional leadership and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, should now get at least a genuine debate in the House Judiciary Committee. With enough pressure from constituents, his bill might even go into hearings.

At first, it appeared that the Democratic leadership in the House was going to simply slap down Kucinich's attempt to move the bill -- technically a member's privilege motion for a full vote of the House. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House majority leader and thus the number two member of the House leadership (and an insufferable hack), offered a motion to table H Res. 799, the impeachment bill. But Republicans, sensing an opportunity to embarrass the Democrats, began voting as a block against the tabling motion. In the end, caught completely off guard, even Democrats who had dutifully backed the shameless leadership in voting for the tabling motion, began switching their votes and opposing it. The final vote was 242 (164 Republicans and 78 Democrats) against tabling, and 170 (28 Republicans and 142 Democrats) for tabling.

A subsequent vote to send the Kucinich Cheney impeachment bill to the Judiciary Committee passed 218-194, with three Republicans voting with 215 Democrats in favor of the measure.

Republicans clearly don't want impeachment hearings, but have recognized something that the Democratic leadership, lame and tactically deficient as it is, does not, namely that particularly among Democratic voters and Democratic-leaning voters, impeachment is enormously popular. According to polls, some three in four Democrats, and a majority of all Americans, favor impeaching the vice president (a majority of Americans also favor impeaching President Bush). As long as the Democratic Party leaders keep blocking impeachment, they lose support and anger voters among this group. Clearly Republicans saw a chance today to further alienate those voters by forcing the Congressional Democratic leadership, which has stalled Kucinich's bill for over six months since it was filed last April 24, to more actively and visibly block it.

But Democratic leaders have an alternative. They can recognize the growing disaster of Pelosi's "impeachment is off the table" position -- which has contributed significantly to Congress' record-low poll ratings (now well below Bush's) -- and can turn around and get those impeachment hearings going.

If they were to do this, with just a year to go until the presidential election, they would electrify progressive voters and independent-minded voters, who are frightened and disgusted by what this administration has been doing to the country and to the Constitution.

I was just at a polling station in my Republican-leaning area (Montgomery County, PA), and when a Republican activist standing outside the polling center saw my "Impeach Bush and Cheney" T-shirt, he said, "It would be great for Republicans too, if they could dump both those guys."

Clearly, the public, even including many Republicans, wants Congress to act.

Rep. Kucinich, who has been a consistent and bold opponent of the Iraq War from the start, and who was quick to expose and condemn administration moves towards a new war with Iran, deserves enormous credit for his lonely drive in the House to impeach the vice president. Maybe this bold move in Congress to push past the obstacles that the Democratic leadership has thrown up in his path will wake up primary voters to the fact that you cannot judge a candidate by his height.

If voters in the Democratic primaries make their decisions based upon actions, principles, and courage, instead of on what the corporate media tells them, and if the impeachment movement will rally to back him, Kucinich should win by a landslide.

DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book, co-authored by Barbara Olshansky, is "The Case for Impeachment" (St. Martin's Press, 2006 and now available in paperback edition). His work is available at

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Domestic Spying: Why?

In Case You Missed It:

Bush's Witchhunt Against Truth-Tellers

A Gestapo Administration


Caught in gratuitous and illegal spying on American citizens, the Bush administration has defended its illegal activity and set the Justice (sic) Department on the trail of the person or persons who informed the New York Times of Bush's violation of law. Note the astounding paradox: The Bush administration is caught red-handed in blatant illegality and responds by trying to arrest the patriots who exposed the administration's illegal behavior.

Bush has actually declared it treasonous to reveal his illegal behavior! His propagandists, who masquerade as news organizations, have taken up the line: To reveal wrong-doing by the Bush administration is to give aid and comfort to the enemy.

Compared to Spygate, Watergate was a kindergarden picnic. The Bush administration's lies, felonies, and illegalities have revealed it to be a criminal administration with a police state mentality and police state methods. Now Bush and his attorney general have gone the final step and declared Bush to be above the law. Bush aggressively mimics Hitler's claim that defense of the realm entitles him to ignore the rule of law.

Bush's acts of illegal domestic spying are gratuitous because there are no valid reasons for Bush to illegally spy. The Foreign Intelligence Services Act gives Bush all the power he needs to spy on terrorist suspects. All the administration is required to do is to apply to a secret FISA court for warrants. The Act permits the administration to spy first and then apply for a warrant, should time be of the essence. The problem is that Bush has totally ignored the law and the court.

Why would President Bush ignore the law and the FISA court? It is certainly not because the court in its three decades of existence was uncooperative. According to attorney Martin Garbus (New York Observer, 12-28-05), the secret court has issued more warrants than all federal district judges combined, only once denying a warrant.

Why, then, has the administration created another scandal for itself on top of the WMD, torture, hurricane, and illegal detention scandals?

There are two possible reasons.

One reason is that the Bush administration is being used to concentrate power in the executive. The old conservative movement, which honors the separation of powers, has been swept away. Its place has been taken by a neoconservative movement that worships executive power.

The other reason is that the Bush administration could not go to the FISA secret court for warrants because it was not spying for legitimate reasons and, therefore, had to keep the court in the dark about its activities.

What might these illegitimate reasons be? Could it be that the Bush administration used the spy apparatus of the US government in order to influence the outcome of the presidential election?

Could we attribute the feebleness of the Democrats as an opposition party to information obtained through illegal spying that would subject them to blackmail?

These possible reasons for bypassing the law and the court need to be fully investigated and debated. No administration in my lifetime has given so many strong reasons to oppose and condemn it as has the Bush administration. Nixon was driven from office because of a minor burglary of no consequence in itself. Clinton was impeached because he did not want the embarrassment of publicly acknowledging that he engaged in adulterous sex acts in the Oval Office. In contrast, Bush has deceived the public and Congress in order to invade Iraq, illegally detained Americans, illegally tortured detainees, and illegally spied on Americans. Bush has upheld neither the Constitution nor the law of the land. A majority of Americans disapprove of what Bush has done; yet, the Democratic Party remains a muted spectator.

Why is the Justice (sic) Department investigating the leak of Bush's illegal activity instead of the illegal activity committed by Bush? Is the purpose to stonewall Congress' investigation of Bush's illegal spying? By announcing a Justice (sic) Department investigation, the Bush administration positions itself to decline to respond to Congress on the grounds that it would compromise its own investigation into national security matters.

What will the federal courts do? When Hitler challenged the German judicial system, it collapsed and accepted that Hitler was the law. Hitler's claims were based on nothing but his claims, just as the claim for extra-legal power for Bush is based on nothing but memos written by his political appointees.

The Bush administration, backed by the neoconservative Federalist Society, has brought the separation of powers, the foundation of our political system, to crisis. The Federalist Society, an organization of Republican lawyers, favors more "energy in the executive." Distrustful of Congress and the American people, the Federalist Society never fails to support rulings that concentrate power in the executive branch of government. It is a paradox that conservative foundations and individuals have poured money for 23 years into an organization that is inimical to the separation of powers, the foundation of our constitutional system.

September 11, 2001, played into neoconservative hands exactly as the 1933 Reichstag fire played into Hitler's hands. Fear, hysteria, and national emergency are proven tools of political power grabs. Now that the federal courts are beginning to show some resistance to Bush's claims of power, will another terrorist attack allow the Bush administration to complete its coup?

Paul Craig Roberts has held a number of academic appointments and has contributed to numerous scholarly publications. He served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. His graduate economics education was at the University of Virginia, the University of California at Berkeley, and Oxford University. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He can be reached at:

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

ATandT Whistleblower: Just As We Suspected

Here’s my transcript:

My name’s Mark Klein; I used to be an AT&T technician for 22 years.

What I figured out when I got there [AT&’s secret room at 611 Folsom Street, San Francisco] is that they were copying everything flowing across the Internet cables, and the major Internet links between AT&T’s network and other company’s networks, and it struck me at the time that this is a massively unconstitutional, illegal operation.

It affects not only AT&T’s customers, but everybody, ‘cause these links went to places like Sprint, Qwest, a whole bunch of other companies, and so they’re basically tapping into the entire Internet.

But isn’t the government only monitoring suspected terrorsits and not ordinary Americans?

To perform what they say they want to do, which is look at international traffic, none of this makes any sense. These installations only make sense if they’re doing a huge, massive domestic dragnet on everybody, in the United States.

Shouldn’t the telecoms trust that the Bush Administration’s requests are legal?

These companies know very well what’s legal and what’s illegal; they’ve been dealing with this for decades. And it’s a fact that Qwest refused the NSA’s approach, because they weren’t showing any legal justification for it, and they did the right thing and said No.

What I’m here for is, it looked like a few weeks ago that the Senate bill which passed the Intelligence Committee would give immunity to the telecom companies and that would probably put an end to the lawsuits. So I came here to lobby against giving retroactive immunity to the telecom companies, and let the court cases process, and Congress should not interfere in that.

As we’ve been saying. Nice to see the Beltway Dems stepping up on this, to preserve our Constitutional rights. Oh, wait… Just to refresh your memories—Harry, Nance; Hillary—here’s the Fourth Amendment of the United States:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Back in the 1700s, “papers and effects” were letters and records, on physical media, like dead trees and parchment. This—Harry, Nance; Hillary—is three hundred years later. My email is digital paper. My web site an electronic effect. The government has no right to read them without a warrant.

With most of this, we agree. However, websites and blogs are quite different from email. Websites are meant to be read, as are most blogs. That includes reading by anyone, including BushCo's spys. Email should be treated like the mail in our mailboxes, according to the 4th amendment which, by the way, has been being shredded since Reagan declared War On Drugs.

Every time our government declares war on anything, our constitutional rights become fewer and fewer and less protected.

NOTE Sign Chris Dodd’s petition against retroactive im[pum]munity for the telcos here.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Will, They, Won't They? 12 Months of Hell Lies Ahead

Yes, they are crazy enough, but will the Navy Mutiny?

Noun + Verb + 9/11 + Iran = Democrats' Defeat?
By Frank Rich
The New York Times

Sunday 04 November 2007

When President Bush started making noises about World War III, he only confirmed what has been a Democratic article of faith all year: Between now and Election Day he and Dick Cheney, cheered on by the mob of neocon dead-enders, are going to bomb Iran.

But what happens if President Bush does not bomb Iran? That is good news for the world, but potentially terrible news for the Democrats. If we do go to war in Iran, the election will indeed be a referendum on the results, which the Republican Party will own no matter whom it nominates for president. But if we don't, the Democratic standard-bearer will have to take a clear stand on the defining issue of the race. As we saw once again at Tuesday night's debate, the front-runner, Hillary Clinton, does not have one.

The reason so many Democrats believe war with Iran is inevitable, of course, is that the administration is so flagrantly rerunning the sales campaign that gave us Iraq. The same old scare tactic - a Middle East Hitler plotting a nuclear holocaust - has been recycled with a fresh arsenal of hyped, loosey-goosey intelligence and outright falsehoods that are sometimes regurgitated without corroboration by the press.

Mr. Bush has gone so far as to accuse Iran of shipping arms to its Sunni antagonists in the Taliban, a stretch Newsweek finally slapped down last week. Back in the reality-based community, it is Mr. Bush who has most conspicuously enabled the Taliban's resurgence by dropping the ball as it regrouped in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Administration policy also opened the door to Iran's lethal involvement in Iraq. The Iraqi "unity government" that our troops are dying to prop up has more allies in its Shiite counterpart in Tehran than it does in Washington.

Yet 2002 history may not literally repeat itself. Mr. Cheney doesn't necessarily rule in the post-Rumsfeld second Bush term. There are saner military minds afoot now: the defense secretary Robert Gates, the Joint Chiefs chairman Mike Mullen, the Central Command chief William Fallon. They know that a clean, surgical military strike at Iran could precipitate even more blowback than our "cakewalk" in Iraq. The Economist tallied up the risks of a potential Shock and Awe II this summer: "Iran could fire hundreds of missiles at Israel, attack American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, organize terrorist attacks in the West or choke off tanker traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, the world's oil windpipe."

Then there's the really bad news. Much as Iraq distracted America from the war against Al Qaeda, so a strike on Iran could ignite Pakistan, Al Qaeda's thriving base and the actual central front of the war on terror. As Joe Biden said Tuesday night, if we attack Iran to stop it from obtaining a few kilograms of highly enriched uranium, we risk facilitating the fall of the teetering Musharraf government and the unleashing of Pakistan's already good-to-go nuclear arsenal on Israel and India.

A full-scale regional war, chaos in the oil market, an overstretched American military pushed past the brink - all to take down a little thug like Ahmadinejad (who isn't even Iran's primary leader) and a state, however truculent, whose defense budget is less than 1 percent of America's? Call me a Pollyanna, but I don't think even the Bush administration can be this crazy.

Yet there is nonetheless a method to all the mad threats of war coming out of the White House. While the saber- rattling is reckless as foreign policy, it's a proven winner as election-year Republican campaign strategy. The real point may be less to intimidate Iranians than to frighten Americans. Fear, the only remaining card this administration still knows how to play, may once more give a seemingly spent G.O.P. a crack at the White House in 2008.

Whatever happens in or to Iran, the American public will be carpet-bombed by apocalyptic propaganda for the 12 months to come. Mr. Bush has nothing to lose by once again using the specter of war to pillory the Democrats as soft on national security. The question for the Democrats is whether they'll walk once more into this trap.

You'd think the same tired tactics wouldn't work again after Iraq, a debacle now soundly rejected by a lopsided majority of voters. But even a lame-duck president can effectively wield the power of the bully pulpit. From Mr. Bush's surge speech in January to Gen. David Petraeus's Congressional testimony in September, the pivot toward Iran has been relentless.

Reinforcements are arriving daily. Dan Senor, the former flack for L. Paul Bremer in Baghdad, fronted a recent Fox News special, "Iran: The Ticking Bomb," a perfect accompaniment to the Rudy Giuliani campaign that is ubiquitous on that Murdoch channel. The former Bush flack Ari Fleischer is a founder of Freedom's Watch, a neocon fat-cat fund that has been spending $15 million for ads supporting the surge and is poised to up the ante for Iran war fever.

There are signs that the steady invocation of new mushroom clouds is already having an impact as it did in 2002 and 2003. A Zogby poll last month found that a majority of Americans (52 percent) now supports a pre-emptive strike on Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons.

In 2002 Senators Clinton, Biden, John Kerry, John Edwards and Chris Dodd all looked over their shoulders at such polls. They and the party's Congressional leaders, Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt, voted for the Iraq war resolution out of the cynical calculation that it would inoculate them against charges of wussiness. Sure, they had their caveats at the time. They talked about wanting "to give diplomacy the best possible opportunity" (as Mr. Gephardt put it then). In her Oct. 10, 2002, speech of support for the Iraq resolution on the Senate floor, Mrs. Clinton hedged by saying, "A vote for it is not a vote to rush to war."

We know how smart this strategic positioning turned out to be. Weeks later the Democrats lost the Senate.

This time around, with the exception of Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic candidates seem to be saying what they really believe rather than trying to play both sides against the middle. Only Mrs. Clinton voted for this fall's nonbinding Kyl-Lieberman Senate resolution, designed by its hawk authors to validate Mr. Bush's Iran policy. The House isn't even going to bring up this malevolent bill because, as Nancy Pelosi has said, there has "never been a declaration by a Congress before in our history" that "declared a piece of a country's army to be a terrorist organization."

In 2002, the Iraq war resolution passed by 77 to 23. In 2007, Kyl-Lieberman passed by 76 to 22. No sooner did Mrs. Clinton cast her vote than she started taking heat in Iowa. Her response was to blur her stand. She abruptly signed on as the sole co- sponsor of a six-month-old (and languishing) bill introduced by the Virginia Democrat Jim Webb forbidding money for military operations in Iran without Congressional approval.

In Tuesday's debate Mrs. Clinton tried to play down her vote for Kyl-Lieberman again by incessantly repeating her belief in "vigorous diplomacy" as well as the same sound bite she used after her Iraq vote five years ago. "I am not in favor of this rush for war," she said, "but I'm also not in favor of doing nothing."

Much like her now notorious effort to fudge her stand on Eliot Spitzer's driver's license program for illegal immigrants, this is a profile in vacillation. And this time Mrs. Clinton's straddling stood out as it didn't in 2002. That's not because she was the only woman on stage but because she is the only Democratic candidate who has not said a firm no to Bush policy.

That leaves her in a no man's - or woman's - land. If Mr. Bush actually does make a strike against Iran, Mrs. Clinton will be the only leading Democrat to have played a cameo role in enabling it. If he doesn't, she can no longer be arguing in the campaign crunch of fall 2008 that she is against rushing to war, because it would no longer be a rush. Her hand would be forced.

Mr. Biden got a well-deserved laugh Tuesday night when he said there are only three things in a Giuliani sentence: "a noun and a verb and 9/11." But a year from now, after the public has been worn down by so many months more of effective White House propaganda, "America's mayor" (or any of his similarly bellicose Republican rivals) will be offering voters the clearest possible choice, however perilous, about America's future in the world.

Potentially facing that Republican may be a Democrat who is not in favor of rushing to war in Iran but, now as in 2002, may well be in favor of walking to war. In any event, she will not have been a leader in making the strenuous case for an alternative policy that defuses rather than escalates tensions with Tehran.

Noun + verb + 9/11 - also Mr. Bush's strategy in 2004, lest we forget - would once again square off against a Democratic opponent who was for a pre-emptive war before being against it.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

American Corporations and Foreign Policy

When American Corporations Deliver US Foreign Policy ...
By Michael Likosk and Michael Shtender-Auerbach
The San Francisco Chronicle

Friday 02 November 2007

The headlines that Yahoo had handed over Chinese journalist and democratic activist Shi Tao's e-mails and IP address to China's secret police dominated the news last year. This sent a panic through an industry usually praised for its social responsibility and unaccustomed to external scrutiny. Congress called in the general counsels of four of our leading high tech firms - Cisco, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo - to account for their collaboration with the Chinese government. In the course of events, it became clear that the problem in the high-tech sector was not isolated but endemic.

Since this hearing, human rights activists have uncovered three additional cases whereby Yahoo's policy of sharing personal records of its users with Chinese authorities has led to arrest, alleged torture and lengthy prison terms. When our high-tech firms engage in such behavior abroad, they undermine a basic tenet of our foreign policy. What then is the appropriate response?

The U.S. foreign policy of "peaceful evolution" encourages the democratization of authoritarian regimes not through isolationist policies, but instead through constructive commercial engagement; that is, the promotion of free market capitalism abroad. However, some American companies promote and reinforce authoritarian capitalism and suppress democratic movements. The question is: How endemic is corporate-facilitated authoritarianism?

In places such as China, one worries that legitimate reform and resistance will be squelched with the help of U.S. corporations. Commercial engagement may at times produce the very authoritarianism that our high-tech firms make a claim to eradicating by virtue of their technologies. Sophisticated commercial actors and governments realize this.

On Nov. 6, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs will question Yahoo's senior executives on the veracity of testimony given by the company's general counsel during the 2006 hearing in relation to the Tao case. This offers Congress a unique opportunity to change the status quo for American high-tech companies cooperating with authoritarian regimes.

This hearing comes just two weeks after the same committee passed the Global Online Freedom Act, legislation aimed at promoting Internet freedoms and protecting U.S. firms from governments attempting to coerce them into participating in authoritarianism. It, in part, places constraints on U.S. firms, and then backs those constraints with possible civil and criminal sanctions.

Yahoo's director of global public affairs, Tracy Schmaler, maintains that Yahoo's legal counsel provided "truthful" testimony in 2006 and that Yahoo is working "to develop a global code of conduct for operating in countries around the world, including China." Corporate codes are important for advancing peaceful evolution and are part of the mandate of the Global Online Freedom Act. However, we must be wary of private solutions in which the regulator and the regulated are one and the same.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has tied wider corporate accountability in his industry to the need for new legislation, modeled perhaps on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Congress must assess the nature and extent of the social risks engendered by high tech corporate collaborations abroad. Are we genuinely concerned with the wider social harm of some transnational commerce? If so, what public or private institutions - domestic, foreign or international, or combination thereof, are the appropriate ones to assess and mitigate transnational high technology social risk?

Whether de facto or de jure, our companies are our foreign policy organs. American hi-tech companies - Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Cisco - may not fly an American flag, but Chinese citizens, and others, may see it otherwise. The decision by Congress to summon the legal counsel of our blue chip high-tech firms into a congressional committee room last year was an important step in addressing this issue.

The continued congressional inquiry into Yahoo's testimony is further indication that our government values accountability and takes peaceful evolution seriously. While Lantos attempts to get at the truth of Yahoo's actions, Congress should consider legislative action, such as the one proposed by Gates, as an appropriate means for mitigating our collective social risks.

Michael Likosky is a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School and author of "Law, Infrastructure and Human Rights," (Cambridge University Press). Michael Shtender-Auerbach is managing director and founder of Social Risks, LLC, of which Likosky is also a principal.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

No Evidence of Iranian Nuke Program

WASHINGTON — Despite President Bush's claims that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons that could trigger "World War III," experts in and out of government say there's no conclusive evidence that Tehran has an active nuclear-weapons program.

Even his own administration appears divided about the immediacy of the threat. While Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney speak of an Iranian weapons program as a fact, Bush's point man on Iran, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, has attempted to ratchet down the rhetoric.

"Iran is seeking a nuclear capability ... that some people fear might lead to a nuclear-weapons capability," Burns said in an interview Oct. 25 on PBS.

"I don't think that anyone right today thinks they're working on a bomb," said another U.S. official, who requested anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity. Outside experts say the operative words are "right today." They say Iran may have been actively seeking to create a nuclear-weapons capacity in the past and still could break out of its current uranium-enrichment program and start a weapons program. They too lack definitive proof, but cite a great deal of circumstantial evidence. Bush's rhetoric seems hyperbolic compared with the measured statements by his senior aides and outside experts.

"I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them (Iran) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," he said Oct. 17 at a news conference.

"Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions," Cheney warned on Oct 23. "We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."

Bush and Cheney's allegations are under especially close scrutiny because their similar allegations about an Iraqi nuclear program proved to be wrong. Nevertheless, there are many reasons to be skeptical of Iran's claims that its nuclear program is intended exclusively for peaceful purposes, including the country's vast petroleum reserves, its dealings with a Pakistani dealer in black-market nuclear technology and the fact that it concealed its uranium-enrichment program from a U.N. watchdog agency for 18 years.

"Many aspects of Iran's past nuclear program and behavior make more sense if this program was set up for military rather than civilian purposes," Pierre Goldschmidt, a former U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency deputy director general, said in a speech Oct. 30 at Harvard University.

If conclusive proof exists, however, Bush hasn't revealed it. Nor have four years of IAEA inspections.

"I have not received any information that there is a concrete active nuclear-weapons program going on right now," IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei asserted in an interview Oct. 31 with CNN.

"There is no smoking-gun proof of work on a nuclear weapon, but there is enough evidence that points in that direction," said Mark Fitzpatrick of the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation controls.

New light may be shed when the IAEA reports this month on whether Iran is fulfilling an August accord to answer all outstanding questions about the nuclear-enrichment program it long concealed from the U.N. watchdog agency.

Its report is expected to focus on Iran's work with devices that spin uranium hexafluoride gas to produce low-enriched uranium for power plants or highly enriched uranium for weapons, depending on the duration of the process.

Iran asserts that it's working only with the P1, an older centrifuge that it admitted buying in 1987 from an international black-market network headed by A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

But IAEA inspectors determined that Iran failed to reveal that it had obtained blueprints for the P2, a centrifuge twice as efficient as the P1, from the Khan network in 1995.

Iranian officials say they did nothing with the blueprints until 2002, when they were given to a private firm that produced and tested seven modified P2 parts, then abandoned the effort.

IAEA inspectors, however, discovered that Iran sought to buy thousands of specialized magnets for P2s from European suppliers, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last year that research on the centrifuges continued.

The IAEA has been stymied in trying to discover the project's scope, fueling suspicions that the Iranian military may be secretly running a P2 development program parallel to the civilian-run P1 program at Natanz.

Other issues driving concerns that Iran may be developing nuclear weapons:


The CIA turned over to the IAEA last year thousands of pages of computer simulations and documents — purportedly from a defector's laptop — that indicated that Iranian experts studied mounting a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile.

The laptop also contained drawings and notes on sophisticated detonators and conventional high explosives arrayed in a ring — the shape used to trigger nuclear weapons — and implicated a firm linked to Iran's military in uranium-enrichment studies.

The documents included drawings of a 1,200-foot-deep underground shaft apparently designed to confine a nuclear test explosion. Iran denounced the materials as "politically motivated and baseless," but promised to cooperate with an IAEA investigation into so-called Project 111 once other questions are settled. U.S., French, German and British intelligence officials think the materials are genuine. "I wouldn't go to war over this, but it's reason for suspicion," Fitzpatrick said. "It hasn't been explained." Muhammad Sahimi, a professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Southern California who emigrated from Iran in 1978 and has analyzed Iran's nuclear program closely, dismissed the materials as "totally not believable." Noting how carefully Iranian intelligence agencies monitor the program and the borders, he said, "If the laptop did exist, I find it hard to believe that its absence wasn't noticed for so long that somebody could take it out of Iran."


ElBaradei revealed in November 2005 that Iran had a document supplied by the Khan network on casting and milling uranium metal into hemispheres. Uranium hemispheres have no application in power plants, but form the explosive cores of nuclear weapons. Iran denied asking for the document or doing anything with it. It barred the IAEA from making copies but agreed to have it placed under seal. IAEA investigators have been interviewing Khan network members to verify Iran's version of how it got the document. They also have been looking into whether Iran received a Chinese warhead design from the Khan network. Libya, which bought the same materials Iran did, had the design.


Iran has failed since 2003 to satisfy IAEA inquiries about experiments it conducted from 1989 to 1993 that produced Polonium-210.

Polonium-210 is a highly radioactive substance that has limited civilian applications but is used in warheads to initiate the fission chain reaction that results in a nuclear blast.


IAEA inspectors want to know why and how the same military-linked company that's been implicated in the laptop materials was able to develop a uranium mine and a milling facility in a year when Iran has said the firm has limited experience in such work.


Many U.S. and European officials dispute Iran's claim that it needs to enrich uranium for nuclear power plants. They point out that the only Iranian nuclear power plant under construction is being built by Russia, which has an agreement to supply it with low-enriched uranium fuel for 10 years.

Moreover, they contend that Iran doesn't have enough uranium to provide fuel for the lifetimes of the seven to 10 civilian reactors it says it needs to meet the demands of its growing population. It would be far cheaper for Iran to expand domestic consumption of natural gas, of which it has the world's second-largest reserves, and oil, of which it has the world's third-largest reserves, according to a study by the Los Alamos National Laboratory. But Sahimi argued that given the skyrocketing price of oil and natural gas, it makes more sense for Iran to export as much petroleum and natural gas as possible and fill its power needs with nuclear-generated electricity. "The price of uranium since 2001 has increased by 800 percent. Iran's presently known resources can supply enriched uranium for seven reactors for 15 years," he said. "It would be foolish not to go after a domestic uranium facility ... given that, the price of enriched uranium, and the political obstacles and hindrance (Iran faces) if it decides to rely on outside suppliers."


A list of common questions and answers about the confrontation with Iran.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Wonder What BushCo Has On Feinstien?

...or has she just gone bonkers?

Why bother to have an AG a all when we live in a lawless land?

The Tortured Vote of Feinstein on Mukasey: Disingenuous or Just Plain Dishonest?


So why is Dianne Feinstein going to vote for Mukasey as Attorney General after he gave responses on waterboarding, torture and unitary authority that were right out of the White House Q and A response book?

For Feinstein, perhaps it is that she is a disingenuous RepubliCrat. She has defected the Democrats on more key votes in the senate and the Judiciary Committee than you can shake a stick at. Most recently, she was the sole Democratic defection on Judiciary that allowed the nomination of the Neo-Confederate Leslie Southwick to get to the floor for a positive vote. In short, another Bush Administration bigoted partisan judge will take a seat on the federal bench because of Feinstein.

Some argue that Feinstein (who at one time was the Mayor of San Francisco, and who – along with Pelosi – makes us think sometimes that the worst thing for progressive politics is a rich SF "liberal") is essentially trading her votes for contracts that her husband receives from the government. Some argue that she is just so wealthy, Washington establishment-like, and out of touch with her obligation to the Constitution, that she votes for people whom she feels are of the same "class" of D.C. insiders as she has become.

But what most disturbs us about the Feinstein pledge of support for Mukasey is a commentary she had published in the LA Times on November 3 providing the "rationale" for her vote. There’s only one big problem with Feinstein’s message to the voters; it’s specious at best.

Feinstein quotes Makasey to show how he is allegedly opposed to the Bush Administration using waterboarding:

"I do know ... that waterboarding cannot be used by the United States military because its use by the military would be a clear violation of the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA). That is because waterboarding and certain other coercive interrogation techniques are expressly prohibited by the Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation, and Congress specifically legislated in the DTA that no person in the custody or control of the Department of Defense (DOD) or held in a DOD facility may be subject to any interrogation techniques not authorized and listed in the manual."

Then Feinstein comments, "As Judge Mukasey wrote, waterboarding is clearly against the law for the American military. Waterboarding is clearly prohibited by the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Convention. It was again prohibited by the Detainee Treatment Act, which only covers military interrogations."

There’s the rub, Dianne, since "waterboarding" as apparently conducted by the Bush Administration is carried out by the CIA or "subcontractors," not technically by the Pentagon. As long as Mukasey doesn’t declare that it is illegal across the board, his response is condoning the use of waterboarding – and likely tipping his hat that other coercive techniques amounting to torture would be sanctioned by the DOJ.

Feinstein knows this full well. In fact, way back to when Ashcroft was still AG -- and the torture revelations were first breaking -- a Washington Post article reported on June 9, 2004: "Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said the memo on interrogation techniques permissible for the CIA to use on suspected al Qaeda operatives ‘appears to be an effort to redefine torture and narrow prohibitions against it.’ The document was prepared by the Justice Department's office of legal counsel for the CIA and addressed to White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales."

The reporters noted in the next paragraph: "The 50-page Justice Department memo said inflicting physical or psychological pain might be justified in the war on terrorism ‘to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network.’ It added that ‘necessity and self defense could provide justifications that would eliminate any criminal liability.’"

Now we are getting to the heart of Feinstein’s betrayal of justice. Mukasey’s White House scripted evasion on waterboarding and torture was designed to set him up for eventually exonerating Bush Administration officials of illegal criminal actions, once he "sees" the classified files concerning Bush Administration sanctioned torture.

Feinstein claims that it is up to Congress to close any loopholes on torture, an unlikely scenario in the foreseeable future (and she knows it), which in any case would almost certainly not be retroactive.

So Feinstein is essentially arguing that the role of the Attorney General is not to act like an Attorney General. She is helping Bush, Cheney and others receive a "get out of jail free card."

We came across two articles this weekend, at the same time Feinstein had her prepared justification for the Mukasey confirmation published, which in essence exposed her disingenuous "reasoning." An Associated Press November 4th analysis has as its very first paragraph: "Senate confirmation of Michael Mukasey as attorney general has snagged on a complex legal question of whether some Bush administration officials would face lawsuits or war crimes charges if, as Democrats insist, he defines waterboarding as torture."

In the Washington Post on Sunday, a law professor penned an op-ed entitled "Waterboarding Used to Be a Crime." Besides noting the excruciating details of waterboarding (which he says is not near-drowning, but drowning that is controlled not to end in death, even though it sometimes, of course, does), he points out that we prosecuted enemy soldiers for conducting waterboarding on captured American soldiers in WW II.

It would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic to the nation that Feinstein concludes her LA Times op-ed with this less than believable "I’m-just-a-Pollyanna-style-of-gal" statement: "The bottom line is this: I hope that Judge Mukasey will fairly and evenhandedly represent the American people and direct the Justice Department wherever the facts and the law lead, not where the White House dictates."

Of course, the clear and transparent reality is that the White House did dictate Mukasey’s answers on waterboarding and torture. They were straight from the Ashcroft, Gonzales, Addington script.

The senior senator from California should know that, shouldn’t she?

Dianne Feinstein is much too smart to play that dumb.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Thank You, Whistleblowers

Whistleblowers claim contractor fraud ignored

Web Posted: 11/04/2007 12:56 AM CDT
Guillermo Contreras

: Barrington "Barry" Godfrey of Houston tried to get mega-contractor KBR to quit overcharging the government for thousands of troops he said the company never fed.

He alleges he was forced out for raising the issue, and that the Justice Department tried unsuccessfully to keep his allegations secret and then refused to join him in a whistleblower suit.

Iowa businesswoman Beth A. Hanken says she sounded the alarm more than a year ago about the military's principal food distributor in Kuwait, Public Warehousing Co., over allegations it was taking kickbacks from a subcontractor that helped it inflate prices of food for U.S. troops.

A Defense Department official, she claims, responded by forwarding her allegations to Public Warehousing, touching off legal threats that she believes were meant to silence her. The Justice Department this year declined to join a whistleblower lawsuit she filed.

The companies deny any wrongdoing, but Godfrey and Hanken are among a growing list of people who contend they were abandoned by the government when they stuck their necks out to protect taxpayers footing the bill for the war in Iraq.

Alan M. Grayson, who represents Hanken, Godfrey and a handful of other whistleblowers in lawsuits about contracting fraud in Iraq, says the department is thwarting whistleblowers of helping them.

He argues that the Bush administration sweeps many cases under the rug, obtains court orders to keep details from the public and that Justice Department lawyers threaten whistleblowers with dismissal of their cases or contempt of court simply for telling people what they know.

Grayson knows of a dozen whistleblower lawsuits that recently were unsealed after the Justice Department refused to join them; he represents the whistleblowers in five of them.

"In every one of those cases, the Bush administration has taken no action to punish the war profiteers, or recover the money stolen from the taxpayers," Grayson said.

Others argue the Justice Department lacks the resources to go up against contractors with scores of corporate lawyers who can thwart any meaningful government intervention or probe. A former U.S. attorney in San Antonio, John Clark, said whistleblowers with deep pockets to take on the contractors are essential to the government.

Beyond these complexities is another problem: a loophole in the False Claims Act, the country's best weapon against corporate fraud. The law requires that false claims be "presented" to a government employee in order to be a violation. The technicality sidelined one of the most notable whistleblower cases recently.

Issues such as these permit an environment that allows graft and corruption to breed, according to critics, whistleblower advocacy groups and other observers. The corruption, fraud, waste and abuse in Iraq have been so bad that Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota described it as an "orgy of greed."

The case of Fort Sam Houston-based Army Maj. John L. Cockerham — the largest U.S. bribe investigation to come out of the war — emerged from this environment. The Army contracting officer is jailed in San Antonio awaiting trial on charges that, while stationed in a Kuwait contracting office, he steered several lucrative military service and supply contracts to companies that agreed to kick $15 million back to him.

Although Cockerham, his wife and his sister were indicted, none of the companies alleged to have bribed him has been charged or even publicly identified by the U.S. government. Critics complain this secrecy will eventually enable the government to dodge any real pursuit of the contractors, and the Justice Department will focus instead on easier targets — individuals.

The Justice Department says the investigation is ongoing, and defends its track record in all fraud-related cases. In addition, it says it has helped recover millions already in war-related fraud cases.

Watchdogs aren't so sure.

"In the case of these fraud cases, it's taxpayers' interests that are on the line," said Charlie Cray, director of the Center for Corporate Policy in Washington, D.C. "Given how much they're willing to spend on the war and priorities of the administration in general, I see no evidence that they are willing to protect the interests of taxpayers when it comes to corporate fraud."

Triple damages

The False Claims Act is a law forged by President Lincoln during the Civil War to punish war profiteers. Examples of fraud abounded, such as the Army ordering gunpowder and getting crates of sawdust instead.

The law stood for more than 100 years before Congress modernized it in 1986.

In the 20 years since, thousands of cases have been brought to the government's attention, largely under a litigation weapon called a "qui tam" lawsuit. The term comes from a Latin phrase that means "He who sues on behalf of the king as well as for himself."

The whistleblower, also known as the "relator," can file a qui tam lawsuit against the offending company. The suit generally remains sealed — outside of public view — for 60 days, giving the Justice Department time to investigate the allegations and decide whether to join the suit. When the department joins, it generally takes the lead from the whistleblower.

Successful qui tam cases can result in contractors having to pay back three times what they stole, overcharged or defrauded from the government. The companies could also be banned from doing business with the government, a death knell for some. The whistleblowers get a bounty — about 15 to 30 percent — of any settlement or verdict against the contractor.

Even when the Justice Department doesn't join and the whistleblower forces a settlement or a verdict, the government gets the bulk of what is recovered.

The most prominent example of that in contracting cases was a whistleblower lawsuit Grayson filed against Custer Battles, a private security contractor. After a trial, jurors hit the company with a $10 million verdict after determining it had committed more than 40 examples of fraud and abuse in Iraq.

The presiding judge overturned the verdict after determining the False Claims Act didn't apply because no fraudulent claims were ever presented to a government agency. Custer Battles was paid by the Coalition Provisional Authority, a hybrid entity that received billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to rebuild Iraq.

"It's still the (U.S.) taxpayer being ripped off, and there should be a way to close that loophole," said David Colapinto, general counsel for the National Whistleblower Center, an advocacy group in Washington.

In September, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and other lawmakers introduced a bill that aims to tighten the False Claims Act and address the technicality. Lawmakers also have been asked to include provisions that would speed up the qui tam process.

A report in 2005 by the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm, shows that cases in which the Justice Department intervened took a median of 38 months to resolve. Some took as little as four months, or as long as 187, the report said.

The vast majority of the cases end before trial.

Since 1986, the Justice Department has recovered more than $15 billion from all cases filed under the False Claims Act. Of that, $10.7 billion were from qui tam cases where the government intervened, according to Justice Department records.

Whistleblowers who took on the contractors on their own — after the U.S. government refused to join in the qui tam lawsuits — helped recover another $412 million during the same period.

Recovered money

Patrick Burns, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Taxpayers Against Fraud, said the Justice Department does few qui tam cases, but said that is because it has few resources.

"It's a small collection of lawyers working very hard in opposition to a rising and unlimited army of corporate lawyers paid for by companies," Burns said.

He said Congress needs to appropriate more money so the Justice Department can match the muscle of corporations and more vigorously pursue corruption.

Others also observe that sometimes the Justice Department doesn't have willing clients.

"Federal agencies (which) have responsibility for administering a particular program don't always see their roles the same way that another federal agency, for example, the Department of Justice, might see them," said former U.S. attorney Clark, who now represents whistleblowers. "If an agency doesn't view a case the same way the Department of Justice does, that would make it difficult, if not impossible, for the department to prosecute it."

Burns takes it further, saying the Defense Department, for instance, may try to work out its own deal with a contractor so as not to lose funding for a contract, even a fraud-plagued one. The department might not want a contractor penalized because the money gained in a qui tam goes into the general U.S. treasury, and the agency might have to fight to get that money the following year, Burns said.

The Justice Department, in a lengthy statement, defended its enforcement and gave four examples of whistleblower cases alleging fraud in Iraq that it joined. The suits were settled, resulting in $14 million being recovered.

The department also said it has an undisclosed number of cases under investigation and denies that it has turned down cases for political or reasons other than their merit. It acknowledged it has joined fewer than 25 percent of the qui tam cases in those 20 years, but views that as a good thing.

"This means that 75 percent of the cases have not warranted our intervention, and the dollar recoveries are evidence that our decisions have been sound ones," Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said in an e-mail. "Simply because some cases alleging fraud in Iraq have been declined does not mean that there is fraud that has been ignored, nor does it mean that there are not other matters that contain meritorious allegations that are being investigated and pursued."

Public Warehousing

Two whistleblowers didn't find a receptive government when they tried to use the False Claims Act.

Beth Hanken, president of Iowa-based Midwest Ventures, which sells meat products, filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia in January 2006. The suit names Public Warehousing Co. and Richmond Wholesale Meat Co. of Richmond, Calif., which served as consolidator for Public Warehousing.

Public Warehousing had won two consecutive contracts, including a $67 million contract in 2004 to supply food to 150,000 to 160,000 U.S. troops in the gulf region, according to court documents.

Hanken alleges in her suit that Public Warehousing "received kickbacks from Richmond in exchange for retaining Richmond and allowing Richmond to charge higher prices than other potential subcontractors."

The suit said Midwest and other subcontractors were pushed aside even though they offered Public Warehousing lower prices than Richmond. A procurement manager for Public Warehousing, the suit said, told Hanken that Richmond was being overpaid.

Hanken said she reported the alleged wrongdoing to the Defense Supply Center-Philadelphia, or DSCP.

Instead of investigating the complaint, the suit said, an official with the center sent the allegation to Public Warehousing.

Hanken then received a letter from the company's lawyers telling her to stop making allegations the company argued were wrong and defamatory.

"In sum, PWC, in a coordinated effort with Richmond Wholesale, eliminated Midwest as a supplier to DSCP," the suit said.

Public Warehousing denies any wrongdoing, and plans to issue its response in court.

Richmond claimed the matter stems from events in 2005, when Richmond determined meat products Hanken sent to Richmond for delivery to Public Warehousing did not meet military specifications.

Richmond said it shared the concerns with Public Warehousing, which rejected Midwest's product.

"We have always operated within the rules and regulations required by government contractors," Richmond President Werner Doellstadt said. "We have done nothing illegal, and, to the contrary, continue to maintain the highest legal and ethical standards in dealing with our customers."

The Justice Department's Miller said Hanken's case was rejected in March after the agency and investigators from the Defense Department found her evidence fell short.

That the government pulled away after a year left Hanken feeling abandoned and frustrated.

She said she may not be able to carry on without the government's help.

"I'm all alone now," Hanken said. "It costs an enormous amount of money to pursue these cases."

Two months before deciding not to join Hanken's suit, the Defense Department issued subpoenas in a separate criminal investigation of Public Warehousing, now based on allegations that the firm got improper payments from U.S. food companies, the Wall Street Journal first reported in October.

It may have begun after a former Army contracting officer in Kuwait — who later was found dead under mysterious circumstances — had blown the whistle, according to the paper.

In response to the investigation, Public Warehousing, now known as Agility Logistics, says it is reliable and cost-effective in providing its services.

"The company has always cooperated with the reviews, inspections, audits and inquiries necessary to ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent appropriately," it said.

The KBR Case

Barry Godfrey feels Hanken's frustration.

The former KBR employee filed a suit in Virginia alleging KBR inflated the number of military personnel it claimed to have served and ignored massive labor markups of its subcontractors.

The suit gives several examples of unauthorized and excessive markups, which Godfrey claims he tried to stop. The suit said he was met with resistance within KBR.

Godfrey, a senior contract administrator, said that during 2004, a subcontracted dining facility near Mosul, Iraq, was serving about 2,500 people a day but billing as if there were 5,000.

"At three meals a day, this was billing for almost 10,000 meals a day that were not served," the suit said.

In other examples, Godfrey found double-billing that KBR employees authorized for subcontract work that was not done or kitchen equipment that was never obtained.

Godfrey said he made repeated attempts to force the subcontractors to reduce the bills, but that others within KBR blocked his attempts.

In December 2004, he went on vacation.

When he came back, his cell phone and computer, which contained documentation in connection with the allegations of fraud, had been stolen, the suit said.

Also, one of the subcontractors complained to a KBR contract chief that Godfrey was treating the subcontractor unfairly.

Godfrey was suspended for 10 days and told by another KBR executive, "We can't have subcontractor CEO's complaining about subcontract administrators," the suit said.

"They told me I was out of my lane," Godfrey said.

Godfrey said KBR remained complacent and did nothing because it holds so-called "cost-plus" contracts.

"The more they spend the more they make," Godfrey said.

Eventually, his suit said, his workplace was so hostile that he decided to leave KBR.

In a statement, KBR said it could not comment on pending litigation, but denied it has defrauded the government.

"Our work serving the troops in Iraq is unmatched," KBR said in a statement. "Despite the challenges of war, KBR has met the demands of our customer, the U.S. Army, often within very short deadlines, and has provided excellent service."

Godfrey, who said he went to Iraq because he felt a sense of patriotism to help U.S. forces, feels disillusioned with the way the government responded after he filed his whistleblower suit.

He waited for the Justice Department to join his suit for two years. In January, the department asked a judge to continue to keep it sealed. The judge refused and unsealed it; the Justice Department bailed out.

"They did nothing," Godfrey said. "People just tend to ignore this and continue to reward the same contractor ... with more contracts and more business."

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The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.