Rove’s IT Guru Warned of Sabotage Before Fatal Plane Crash; Was Set to Testify
Monday 22 December 2008
by: Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!
Mike Connell, Karl Rove’s chief IT consultant who, was set to testify in a case alleging election tampering in 2004 in Ohio, died in a plane crash last Friday. (Photo: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Mike Connell, the chief IT consultant to Karl Rove, reportedly asked for protective custody from the government before he died.
Amy Goodman: A top Republican internet strategist who was set to testify in a case alleging election tampering in 2004 in Ohio has died in a plane crash. Mike Connell was the chief IT consultant to Karl Rove and created websites for the Bush and McCain electoral campaigns. He also set up the official Ohio state election website reporting the 2004 presidential election returns.
Connell was reportedly an experienced pilot. He died instantly Friday night when his private plane crashed in a residential neighborhood near Akron, Ohio.
Michael Connell was deposed one day before the election this year by attorneys Cliff Arnebeck and Bob Fitrakis about his actions during the 2004 vote count and his access to Karl Rove’s e-mail files and how they went missing.
Velvet Revolution, a non-profit investigating Connell’s activities, revealed this weekend that Connell had recently said he was afraid George Bush and Dick Cheney would “throw [him] under the bus.” Cliff Arnebeck had also previously alerted Attorney General Michael Mukasey to alleged threats from Karl Rove to Connell if he refused to “take the fall.”
Well, Mark Crispin Miller joins us now, a professor of media culture and communication at New York University, the author of several books, including Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008 and Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They’ll Steal the Next One Too. Mark Crispin Miller us now in our firehouse studio.
Welcome to Democracy Now!
Mark Crispin Miller: It’s good to be here, Amy. Thank you.
AG: Alright, well, we had you on right before the election, because that’s when Mike Connell was being deposed. This news that came out of his death in a plane crash on Friday night, talk about what you understand has happened.
MCM: Well, I cannot assert with perfect confidence that this was no accident, but I will say that the circumstances are so suspicious and so convenient for Rove and the White House that I think we’re obliged to investigate this thing very, very thoroughly. And that means, first of all, taking a close look at some of the stories that were immediately circulated to account for what happened, that it was bad weather. That was the line they used when Wellstone’s plane went down. There had been bad weather, but it had passed two hours before. And this comes from a woman at the airport information desk in Akron. We’re told that his plane was running out of gas, which is a little bit odd for a highly experienced pilot like Connell, but apparently, when the plane went down, there was an explosion, a fireball that actually charred and pocked some of the house fronts in the neighborhood. People can go online and see the footage that news crews took. But beyond the, you know, dubiousness of the official story, we have to take a close look at – and a serious look at all the charges that Connell was set to make.
AG: Now, he had asked the Attorney General Mukasey for protective custody, because of threats to him and his wife?
MCM: He reported threats to his lawyer, Cliff Arnebeck, and Arnebeck – also, Velvet Revolution heard from tipsters, as well, tipsters who also claimed that Connell’s life was at risk. Stephen Spoonamore, the whistleblower who was the first – who was the one to name Connell in the first place, also had an ear to the inside. He’s also very connected. And all these people were saying Rove is making threats, the White House is very worried about this case.
Having heard all this, Arnebeck contacted Mukasey, he contacted Nancy Rogers, who is the Ohio Attorney General, and he wrote a letter to the court, telling all of them that “This man should be in protective custody. He is an important witness in a RICO case. Please do something to look after him.” And they didn’t respond to this.
AG: So, explain what this case is all about and exactly what Mike Connell has been doing over these last years. What does it mean to be Karl Rove’s IT guru?
MCM: Well, the lawyers in the case refer to him as a high-IQ Forrest Gump, by which they mean that he seems to have been present at the scene of every dubious election of the last eight years. We’re talking about Florida in 2000. We’re talking about Ohio in 2004. We’re talking about Alabama in 2002. He seems to have been involved in the theft of Don Siegelman’s re-election for governor. There’s some evidence that links him with the Saxby Chambliss-Max Cleland Senate race in Georgia in 2002. To be Karl Rove’s IT guru seems to have meant basically setting it up so that votes could be electronically shaved to the disadvantage of the Democrats and the advantage of Republicans.
AG: What do you mean, “electronically shaved”? I mean, you’ve got all these precincts all over Ohio. They’re counting up their votes. What does he have to do with this?
MCM: Well, specifically, there’s a computer architecture setup called “Man in the Middle,” which involves shunting the election returns from, you know, the state in question – in this case, Ohio – shunting them to a separate computer elsewhere. All of the election returns in Ohio in 2004 went from the Secretary of State’s website – this is Ken Blackwell – to a separate computer in a basement in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which was under the control of another private company called SMARTech.
So we have now two private companies: GovTech Solutions, which is Connell’s company, SMARTech, which is run by a guy named [Jeff] Averbeck. And the company – the third private company that managed the voting tabulators in Ohio was called Triad. All three of these companies worked closely together on election night in Ohio in 2004. It turns out that the state’s own IT person was sent home at 9:00 p.m. They said, “Go ahead. Go home. We’ll take care of this.” So that this trio of highly partisan and, let me add, Christianist companies basically took over the whole -
AG: What do you mean, “Christianist”?
MCM: Well, they’re radical theocratic activists, particularly – particularly Triad and SMARTech. You know, they are fervently anti-choice.
AG: Well, Mike Connell was, in fact – many said that’s what motivated him through all of this, his fierce anti-abortion stance.
MCM: He told – Connell told Spoonamore that one of the primary reasons why he helped Bush-Cheney steal elections was to save the babies. I do think, though, that we have to draw a distinction between Connell, on the one hand, and the Averbeck and the Rapp family, on the other hand, because Connell was far less ferocious in his political views. He was an ardent anti-abortionist, it’s true, but he wasn’t quite as hardcore as the others. And in fact, you know, he was a little bit alienated from the others, and that’s one of the reasons why he was inclined to talk, and so on.
But the fact is, to answer your question, that on election night in 2004, it had been Connell, with these other two companies working with him, who had managed the computer setup, enabling Ken Blackwell to study the maps of precincts and voter turnout very carefully and figure out how many votes they need. By shunting the data to Chattanooga, they kind of slowed down the data stream.
AG: Wasn’t Karl Rove’s email also there in Chattanooga on some of these servers?
MCM: Yes, yes. The same servers were used to host a whole bunch of highly partisan websites. And also, indeed, Karl Rove’s emails were on that server, too.
AG: That have gone missing.
MCM: That have gone missing. Incidentally, Stephen Spoonamore, again, the whistleblower who’s the one who named Connell, has told us – and I’ve seen his own contemporary notes -
AG: And explain again who he was. Why was he in a position to whistleblow?
MCM: Stephen Spoonamore is a conservative Republican, a former McCain supporter and a very prominent expert at the detection of computer fraud. He’s the star witness in the Ohio lawsuit, right, in which Connell was involved. He has done extensive work of this kind, involving computer security, and had therefore worked with Connell, knew Connell personally and knew a lot of the people who were involved in the sort of cyber-security end of the Bush operation.
Despite his conservatism – or I suppose some would say because of it – he’s a man of principle – I mean, believes in the Constitution. He believes elections should be honest. He’s the one who came forward and named Connell.
And I have seen his notes of a conversation in which Connell asked Spoonamore how one would go about destroying White House emails. To this, Spoonamore said, “This conversation is over. You’re asking me to do something illegal.” But clearly, clearly – this is the important point – Mike Connell was up past his eyeballs in the most sensitive and explosive aspects of this crime family that, you know, has been masquerading as a political party.
AG: And what did Fitrakis, the attorney who has brought the suit with Harvey Wasserman, the Ohio lawsuit, learn in the deposition of Mike Connell in the day before the election, which hardly got attention, considering it was the day before this historic election?
MCM: Yeah. Harvey wasn’t part of it. Harvey writes articles with Bob. It’s Bob Fitrakis and Cliff Arnebeck are the attorneys. They learned very little. What they learned was that Bush-Cheney lawyer who accompanied Connell to the deposition was watching the whole thing like a hawk, repeatedly objected to questions. Connell was stonewalling like crazy at this deposition.
They only learned one thing. And that was, they got confirmation that it was Connell who brought these other private companies into the arrangement, in addition to his own GovTech Solutions. Again, there was Triad and SMARTech. It was Connell who brought those three companies into one unit, so that the three of them were, in effect, handling Ohio’s election returns on election night under Connell’s supervision. That’s what we learned.
We also know, Amy, that since the deposition – I want to make this clear; we said it before, I want to repeat it – that Connell has indicated very clearly a desire to talk further, to tell more, whether it’s his conscience bothering him or whether it’s fear of some kind of a perjury charge because of how vigorously he stonewalled at the deposition. He made it known to the lawyers, he made it known to reporter Larisa Alexandrovna of Raw Story, that he wanted to talk. He was scared. He wanted to talk. And I say that he had pretty good reason to be scared.
AG: So why did he fly in – why did he pilot his own plane when he was so afraid?
MCM: Well, that’s a good question. We can’t ask him, unfortunately. I mean, this is kind of a grisly thought, but, I mean, I think we should be asking where the body is. We’re told that a trooper on the scene immediately identified Connell. But then we read elsewhere that there was nothing left but debris and that the fireball was enormous. So maybe he wasn’t on the plane. I mean, who knows, when you’re dealing with people as deep as these?
But the point is – I can’t stress this strongly enough – we’re dealing not just with a shocking accident, if that’s what it was, and a convenient one. We’re dealing not even just with a particular lawsuit that, you know, really requires vigorous promotion. The important point here is that this is all about our elections. That’s what this is about. This is about democratic self-government.
The fact that Obama won so handily has caused a lot of us to sit back and relax. There’s been a lot of popping of champagne corks and people drawing the conclusion that the system must work, because our guy won. Well, this is not a sports event. This is self-government.
In fact, the evidence strongly suggests – and we haven’t had a chance to talk about this since Election Day – that Obama probably won by twice as many votes as we think. Probably a good seven million votes for Obama were undone through vote suppression and fraud, because the stuff was extensive and pervasive, in places where you wouldn’t expect it.
The Illinois Ballot Integrity Project was monitoring the vote in DuPage County, right next door to Obama’s, you know, backyard, Cook County. And two of them, in only two precincts on Election Day, saw with their own eyes 350 voters show up, only to be turned away, told, “You’re not registered,” people who were registered, who voted in the primary. All but one of these people was black. That’s in Illinois.
People at the Election Defense Alliance have discovered, from sifting through the numbers, an eleven-point red shift in New Hampshire. That means that there’s a discrepancy in Obama’s disfavor, primarily through use of the optical scan machines, an eleven-point discrepancy in the Republicans’ favor, OK?
You start to combine this with all the vote suppression, all the disenfranchisement, all the vote machine flipping that went on in this election, you realize, OK, Obama won, but millions of Americans, most of them African American and students, you know, were not able to participate in any civic sense, ironically, a lot of the same people, you know, who would have been disenfranchised and were disenfranchised before the civil rights movement. So the fact that a black president was elected, while cause for jubilation, see, ought not to take place at the expense of a whole lot of our fellow citizens who seem to have been disenfranchised on racial grounds. My point is very simply this: We’ve got to get past the victory of Obama and look seriously at what our election system is like, or else, I promise you, see, the setup that was put in place in this last election, in 2004 and in 2000, OK, will still be there in 2010, still be there in 2012. So we’ve got to take steps to do something about it now.
AG: Mark Crispin Miller, I want to thank you very much for being with us, professor of media culture and communication at New York University, most recent book Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008.
Amy Goodman is the host of the nationally syndicated radio news program, Democracy Now!Politics | Comment (0)
My dear brother, Jim, who passed over last year, was particularly outraged by US use of torture. He turned me on to the biggest source of truthful news possible: Truth Out
Thursday 11 December 2008
Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials are directly responsible for abuses of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, says a bipartisan Senate report released Thursday. (Photo: AFP / Getty Images)
Senate Committee finds officials made decisions that led to offenses against prisoners.
A bipartisan Senate report released today says that former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials are directly responsible for abuses of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and charges that decisions by those officials led to serious offenses against prisoners in Iraq and elsewhere.
The Senate Armed Services Committee report accuses Rumsfeld and his deputies of being the principal architects of the plan to use harsh interrogation techniques on captured fighters and terrorism suspects, rejecting the Bush administration’s contention that the policies originated lower down the command chain.
“The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of ‘a few bad apples’ acting on their own,” the panel concludes. “The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.”
The report, released by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and John McCain (R-Arizona) and based on a nearly two-year investigation, said that both the policies and resulting controversies tarnished the reputation of the United States and undermined national security. “Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority,” it said.
The panel’s investigation focused on the Defense Department’s use of controversial interrogation practices, including forced nudity, painful stress positions, sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures and use of dogs. The practices, some of which had already been adopted by the CIA at its secret prisons, were adapted for interrogations at Guantanamo Bay and later migrated to U.S. detention camps in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.
“The Committee’s report details the inexcusable link between abusive interrogation techniques used by our enemies who ignored the Geneva Conventions and interrogation policy for detainees in U.S. custody,” McCain, himself a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, said in a statement. “These policies are wrong and must never be repeated.”
White House officials have maintained the measures were approved in response to demands from field officers who complained that traditional interrogation methods weren’t working on some of the more hardened captives. But Senate investigators, relying on documents and hours of hearing testimony, arrived at a different conclusion.
The true genesis of the decision to use coercive techniques, the report said, was a memo signed by President Bush on Feb. 7, 2002, declaring that the Geneva Convention’s standards for humane treatment did not apply to captured al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. As early as that spring, the panel said, top administration officials, including National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, participated in meetings in which the use of coercive measures was discussed. The panel drew on a written statement by Rice, released earlier this year, to support that conclusion.
In July 2002, Rumseld’s senior staff began compiling information about techniques used in military survival schools to simulate conditions that U.S. airmen might face if captured by an enemy that did not follow the Geneva conditions. Those techniques – borrowed from a training program known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE – included waterboarding, or simulated drowning, and were loosely based on methods adopted by Chinese communists to coerce propaganda confessions from captured U.S. soldiers during the Korean war.
The SERE program became the template for interrogation methods that were ultimately approved by Rumsfeld himself, the report says. In the field, U.S. military interrogators used the techniques with little oversight and frequently abusive results, the panel found.
“It is particularly troubling that senior officials approved the use of interrogation techniques that were originally designed to simulate abusive tactics used by our enemies against our own soldiers and that were modeled, in part, on tactics used by the Communist Chinese to elicit false confessions from U.S. military personnel,” the report said.
Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that “SERE training techniques were designed to give our troops a taste of what they might be subjected to if captured by a ruthless, lawless enemy so that they would be better prepared to resist. The techniques were never intended to be used against detainees in U.S. custody.”
Defenders of the techniques have argued that such measures were justified because of al-Qaeda’s demonstrated disregard for human life. But the panel members cited the views of Gen. David H. Petraeus, now the head of U.S. Central Command, who in a May 2007 letter to his troops said humane treatment of prisoners allows Americans to occupy the moral high ground.
“Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right,” wrote Petraeus, who at the time was the top U.S. commander in Iraq. “Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy.”
Robert Gates Wants to Keep His Pentagon Gig, so He’s Pandering to Obama’s Bad Ideas for Afghanistan
By Ray McGovern, Consortium News
Posted on November 24, 2008
It may become a biennial ritual. Every two years, if the commander-in-chief (or the commander-in-chief-elect) says he wants to throw more troops into an unwinnable war for no clear reason other than his political advantage, panderer-in-chief Robert Gates will shout “Outstanding!”
Never mind what the commanders in the field are saying — much less the troops who do the dying.
After meeting in Canada on Friday with counterparts from countries with troops in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Gates emphasized to reporters there is a shared interest in “surging as many forces as we can” <http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-afghan24-2008nov24,0,5733953.story> into Afghanistan before the elections there in late September 2009.
At the concluding news conference, Gates again drove home the point: “It’s important that we have a surge of forces.”
Basking in the alleged success of the Iraq “surge,” Gates knows a winning word when he hears one — whether the facts are with him or not. Although the conventional wisdom in Washington credits the “surge” with reducing violence in Iraq, military analysts point to other reasons — including Sunni tribes repudiating al-Qaeda extremists before the “surge” and the de facto ethnic cleansing of Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods.
In Washington political circles, there’s also little concern about the 1,000 additional U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq since President George W. Bush started the “surge” early in 2007. The Americans killed during the “surge” represent roughly one-quarter of the total war dead whose numbers passed the 4,200 mark last week.
Nor is there much Washington commentary about what Bush’s grotesque expenditure in blood and treasure will mean in the long term, even as the Iraqis put the finishing touches on a security pact that sets a firm deadline for a complete U.S. military withdrawal by the end of 2011, wording that may be Arabic for “thanks, but no thanks.”
And most Americans do not know from reading the reports from their Fawning Corporate Media that the “surge” was such a “success” that the United States now has about 8,000 more troops in Iraq than were there before the “surge” rose and fell.
The real “success” of the Iraq “surge” is proving to be that it will let President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney leave office on Jan. 20, 2009, without having to admit that they were responsible for a strategic disaster. They can lay the blame for failure on their successors.
Gates a Winner?
Gates stands to be another beneficiary of the Iraq “surge.”
Already, he has the defense secretary job. In November 2006, he was plucked from the relative obscurity of his Texas A&M presidency and put back into the international spotlight that he has always craved, because he was willing to front for the “surge” when even Donald Rumsfeld was urging Bush to start a troop drawdown.
Now, the perceived “success” of the “surge” is giving hawkish Washington Democrats an excuse to rally around Gates and urge President-elect Barack Obama to keep him on.
Ever an accomplished bureaucrat, Gates is doing what he can to strengthen his case.
On Friday, Gates seemed at pains to demonstrate that his approach to Afghanistan is identical to the one publicly espoused by his prospective new employer who is currently reviewing Gates’ job renewal application. And, as he did with the Iraq “surge” over the past two years, Gates now is talking up the prospects for an Afghan “surge.”
“The notion that things are out of control in Afghanistan or that we’re sliding toward a disaster, I think, is far too pessimistic,” Gates said. Yet the argument that Gates used to support his relative optimism makes us veteran intelligence officers gag — at least those who remember the U.S. in Vietnam in the 1960s, the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and other failed counterinsurgencies.
“The Taliban holds no land in Afghanistan and loses every time it comes into contact with coalition forces,” Gates explained.
Our secretary of defense is insisting that U.S. troops have not lost one pitched battle with the Taliban or al-Qaeda. Engagements like the one on July 13, 2008, in which “insurgents” attacked an outpost in Konar province, killing nine U.S. soldiers and wounding 15 others, apparently do not qualify as “contact,” but are merely “incidents.”
Gates ought to read up on Vietnam, for his words evoke a similarly benighted comment by U.S. Army Col. Harry Summers after that war had been lost. In 1974, Summers was sent to Hanoi to try to resolve the status of Americans still listed as missing. To his North Vietnamese counterpart, Col. Tu, Summers made the mistake of bragging, “You know, you never beat us on the battlefield.” Colonel Tu responded, “That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.”
As Vietnamese Communist forces converged on Saigon in April 1975, the U.S. withdrew all remaining personnel. Summers was on the last Marine helicopter to fly off the roof of the American Embassy at 5:30 a.m. on April 30. As he later recalled, “I was the second-to-the-last Army guy out of Vietnam — quite a searing experience.”
Why is this relevant? Because if Obama repeats the mistakes of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford, U.S. Marine choppers may be plucking folks not only off the U.S. embassy roof in Baghdad, but also from the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan. No ignoramus, Gates knows that his comments about the Taliban losing “every time” that there is contact with coalition forces is as irrelevant as those of Col. Summers 34 years ago.
Yet, it would be folly to expect Gates to give advice to a superior that challenges the policies that Gates thinks his superior favors. Gates has been the consummate career careerist, going back to his days as head of analysis at CIA in the 1980s when he fashioned intelligence reports that gave the policymakers what they wanted to hear. Instead of the old-fashioned “bark-on” intelligence, the Gates variety was “apple-polished” intelligence.
Time running out for Gates
He wants to stay on as Defense Secretary and apparently thinks that his lifelong strategy of telling his superiors what they want to hear will now work with Barack Obama. Gates is nearing the end of a highly sophisticated campaign to convince Obama and his advisers that the current defense secretary is just who they need at the Pentagon to execute Obama’s policies — and look really bipartisan to boot.
The president-elect’s position has long been that we need to send “at least two additional brigades” (about 7,000 troops) to Afghanistan. So the defense secretary would have us believe, as he said Friday, that “surging as many forces as we can” is an outstanding idea. And with troops having to leave Iraqi cities by next June, in the first stage of the U.S. withdrawal demanded by the draft status-of-forces agreement, there will be more soldiers available to send into the mountains of Afghanistan. Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?
Ironically, this resembles closely the proposed policy of Sen. John McCain, who argued during the debate with Obama on Sept. 26 that “the same [surge] strategy” that Gen. David Petraeus implemented in Iraq is “going to have to be employed in Afghanistan.” For good measure, Gov. Sarah Palin told Katie Couric “a surge in Afghanistan also will lead us to victory there, as it has proven to have done in Iraq.”
Oops! Within a week, Gen. David McKiernan, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, undercut McCain and Palin, insisting emphatically that no Iraq-style “surge” of forces will end the conflict in Afghanistan. Speaking in Washington on Oct. 1, McKiernan employed unusual candor in describing Afghanistan as “a far more complex environment than I ever found in Iraq.” The country’s mountainous terrain, rural population, poverty, illiteracy, 400 major tribal networks, and history of civil war make it a unique challenge, he said.
“The word I don’t use for Afghanistan is ‘surge,’” McKiernan continued, adding that what is required is a “sustained commitment” to a counterinsurgency effort that could last many years and would ultimately require a political, not military, solution. McKiernan added that he doubts that “another facet of the Iraq strategy” — the U.S. military’s programs to recruit tribes to oppose insurgents — can be duplicated in Afghanistan. “I don’t want the military to be engaging the tribes,” said McKiernan.
Recently, President-elect Obama has been relatively quiet on Afghanistan, and one lives in hope that, before he actually commits to sending more brigades to Afghanistan, he will assemble a group of people who know something about that country, the forces at play in the region, and insurgency. If he gathers the right people, and if he listens, it seems a good bet that his campaign rhetoric about Afghanistan being the good war will remain just that, rhetoric.
In any event, press reports suggest that Gates has only another week or so left to pretend to the president-elect that he thinks the ideas reflected in Obama’s rhetoric are outstanding. And, as Gates’ predecessor Rumsfeld might have put it, you have to go with the rhetoric you’ve got. Right now, the word “surge” brings nods of approval at influential dinner parties in Washington.
What does Gen. McKiernan know, anyway? Gates’ Pentagon says that McKiernan now has requested three additional brigade combat teams and additional aviation assets. And yet, he says he’s allergic to a “surge”?
If past is precedent, Gen. McKiernan already realizes he has little choice but to salute smartly, do what he is told, and not diverge from what inexperienced civilians like Gates are promoting. After all, didn’t McNamara know best in the early days of Vietnam and didn’t Rumsfeld know best at the start of the Iraq war?
As the saying goes, if you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If you are a general assigned a mission — though it appear to be Mission Impossible — you salute smartly and use those troops entrusted to you to do what armies do. At least that has been the tradition since Vietnam. Such behavior is a disgrace when generals know better.
Ambitious but empty suits
I’m all for civilian control of the military. But I see much more harm than good in political generals — like the anointed David Petraeus — who give ample evidence of being interested, first and foremost, in their own advancement. Why do I say that? Because Petraeus, like McKiernan, knows Afghanistan is another quagmire. But he won’t say it.
Rather than do the right thing and brief his superiors on the realities of Afghanistan, Petraeus and the generals he has promoted seem likely to follow the time-honored practice of going along to get along. After all, none of them get killed or wounded. Rather the vast majority get promoted, so long as they keep any dissenting thoughts to themselves.
It is the same pattern we witnessed regarding Vietnam. Although the most senior military brass knew, as the French learned before them, that the war/occupation could not be successful, no senior officer had the integrity and courage to speak out and try to halt the lunacy.
Are there Army generals with guts?
It will be interesting to see what McKiernan actually does if and when more troops are surged down his throat. If he has the courage of his convictions, maybe he’ll quit and perhaps even say something.
As a former Army officer, I would love to see an Army general display the courage that one saw in Admiral William Fallon, former commander of CENTCOM, who openly refused to “do Iran” on his watch, and got cashiered for it. Two years ago, Army Generals John Abizaid and George Casey, speaking on behalf of their senior commanders in the field, pushed back strongly against the idea of adding more U.S. troops to those already in Iraq. They finally succeeded in persuading former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld of the merits of their argument.
It was when Rumsfeld himself started to challenge the advice Bush was getting (to “surge” and thus not “lose” Iraq on his watch) that Robert Gates was brought in to replace Rumsfeld, relieve Abizaid and Casey from command, and help anoint Gen. Petraeus as surge-savior. (For details on Rumsfeld’s break with Bush, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Robert Gates: As Bad as Rumsfeld?”)
But rather than speak out, Abizaid folded his tent like an Arab and silently stole away. Casey accepted the sinecure of Army chief of staff as hush money. And a thousand more U.S. troops died. The temporary respite provided by the 29,000 troops who survived the surge helped achieve the administration’s main purpose — deferring the inevitable U.S. troop withdrawal (not in “victory” as Bush liked to say, but by demand of the Iraqi government) until Bush and Cheney were safely out of office.
As for Gates, what he does not know about Afghanistan and insurgency could fill a medium-sized library. So could what Gates does know about how to ingratiate himself with the next level up.
If it is true that serious consideration is being given to keeping Gates on past January, it will be interesting to see if the pandering padding of his resume eventually wins the day with the president-elect.
Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.Politics | Tags: Afghanistan, Barack Obama, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Iraq, Richard Nixon, Robert Gates, United States | Comment (0)
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The Iraqi people’s human and civil rights were – and remain -swept aside by the occupation.
By Burhan Al-Chalabi.
In Britain, the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, found his position unsustainable and resigned, leaving the invasion of Iraq and its awful consequences as his political legacy. The new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has talked about the need to be open and transparent in order to win the trust of the British public, but has so far shown no sign of addressing or redressing his predecessor’s failed policies in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. The military occupation of Iraq and the exploitation of its vast mineral wealth continue unabated.
To justify the invasion of and war against Iraq, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair cited two violations by the Iraqi regime: of human rights and of UN Security Council resolutions passed just before and after the first Gulf War of 1991. The purpose of the war, it was claimed, was to hold the Iraqi regime accountable under international law.
But by invading Iraq, the U.S. Administration and the British Government were themselves violating UN resolutions and international law, as stated in the Report by Lord Bingham, the Law Lord, and published in the Guardian on 18th November 2008. The Iraqi people’s human and civil rights were —and remain—swept aside by the acts of war and the continuing fact of occupation.
Today, Iraq’s sovereignty has been destroyed. Its wealth of cultural heritage has been looted or vandalised. Iraq’s natural resources have been squandered, and its once-elaborate and sophisticated infrastructure has been laid to waste. Safety, security, and the processes of the rule of law are virtually non-existent. The legal and moral authority of the UN has been undermined. Terrorism is on the increase.
The whole Middle East region has either been destabilised or is as a result of the chaos in Iraq at high risk of instability or even meltdown. To all intents and purposes Southern Iraq is under the control of the Tehran Government, an outcome that many familiar with the region foresaw as talk of an invasion mounted in 2002 but the Bush White House and its associated agencies somehow failed to anticipate.
To get rid of one man, the two Anglo-American powers have brought an entire nation to the brink of devastation. This man, Saddam Hussein, was not at war with the U.S. or the UK, and could not realistically have posed a threat, at any level. He was not even considered any longer, in 2002, to be a serious threat to his Arab and Persian neighbours. Neither did Iraq pose any threat to American or British national interests or security, as it has since been proved to the satisfaction of all but a few of the most die-hard and tunnel-visioned supporters of the failed Bush regime and the departed Mr. Blair.
More than 3million Iraqis have left their homes, most of these having to flee to neighbouring Arab countries or the West. Iraqis now form one of the largest refugee communities in Europe. More than 600,000 civilians have been killed. Tens of thousands more are maimed or injured, traumatised or homeless, often all of these. Wild dogs feast on Iraqi remains. Holy places have been desecrated. Hundreds of people are assassinated or kidnapped every day. Puppet Iraqi Governments under the occupation are prevented from publishing the details and numbers of dead Iraqis.
During the 13 years of the U.S.-led economic and other sanctions imposed by the Security Council, Iraqi children suffered from malnutrition and genetic disorder caused by depleted uranium (DU). Some eminent Western medical authorities estimated in the early 1990s that Iraqi children – babies, toddlers and infants – were dying at the rate of one every six minutes. All the most telling evidence from UN agencies and NGOs and visiting experts in the medical and scientific fields was ruthlessly ignored by the U.S.- and British-dominated sanctions authorities. Between 1991 and 2003 the lifeblood of the nation was drained.
Since the American military occupation, Iraqi children are growing up in what is an even worse situation. The sanctions have been replaced by anarchy, institutionalised sectarian division, mayhem and murder. These children remain in fear of their lives, with no hopes, no dreams, no education, and no health care. They are helpless. For the lucky ones, play time is spent on rubbish dumps, even seeking food amongst this filth. Many others are kept at home for fear of being kidnapped or blown up.
This is a demeaning sight in one of the richest countries in the world, one which had developed fast and successfully in areas such as health, welfare, medicine, education, roads, housing and literacy, a model for other Middle East nations in how to use and spread oil wealth, and for the developing world—until just 19 years ago. Modern Iraq, if such a term can be used, is now a permanent and shameful scar on the conscience of those who conspired to invade and occupy Iraq to further their national and personal ambitions.
Iraq is a failed state. For Iraqis, life is hell. Things worsen by the day. Secular Iraq had made great strides in improving the lot of all of its people in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, in all social and economic areas. Sectarian Iraq is the most corrupt nation in the world, a perfect export model of U.S. political hypocrisy in action.
The occupiers use every conceivable excuse to justify the failure of the war in Iraq. They dismiss resistance to the occupation as mere terrorism, and other labels insulting to the Iraqi people but considered palatable to U.S. domestic consumption. All that is bad and violent is attributed to the Iraqis and their traditions or nature; the Americans and the British, of course, bear no responsibility for the breakdown in order and the monumental increase in sectarian violence since 2003. Abuse, torture, humiliation and rape are treated as a side show, left to committees to get it out of the glare of negative publicity and to dampen public anger and frustration of the conduct of the war.
The war was never intended to be one of liberation. There was never an exit strategy. Instead, initiatives are taken to divert attention from the true extent of human and financial losses by the war, and to justify continuing the occupation.
The real quagmire of the U.S. Administration is not just to be found in the catastrophic failure of the war, which was doomed to fail from the start; it is not even in the extent of human and financial losses and suffering, both Iraqi and American. Death and destruction is the business of war.
No, at the heart of this swamp is dishonesty with the American (and British and Iraqi) public. The American and British public, legislators and voters were inveigled into this disaster. The true aims of the war were never shared by its architect with the American people for fear of being rejected for what they really were— American Imperialism, a modern day spin for politically, commercially and religiously motivated colonial imperialism. The American and British Governments conspired with much of the western media and pulled the wool over the eyes of most of the others—who largely seemed all too ready to listen to their masters—to hide the facts, continue the deceptions, and prolong the suffering and pain of the Iraqi people.
President-elect Obama’s message to the American public is that of change. The most fundamental change needed is honesty, transparency and accountability with respect to the war against Iraq. The American public deserve to know what their loved ones died for. Iraqis also want to know the Bush administration’s hidden agenda for the invasion, destruction and continuing occupation of Iraq.
In Britain, bereaved parents also deserve to be told for whom their sons and daughters died. This was no war for the greater good, Queen and Country. It was for oil.
In March, 2005, it was revealed by The Sunday Times that in 2002 the then head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, told Tony Blair and his leading advisers after a visit to Washington that “the facts and intelligence” were being “fixed round the policy” by George W Bush’s Administration.
In his resignation speech, Tony Blair said: “I did what I thought was right for our country”, all this in the face of irrefutable evidence that he and his closest aides deliberately misled the British public and the Labour Party into believing there was palpable national risk to Britain at the hands of a WMD-bearing Saddam Hussein. To date, the British Government has ignored all attempts to set up a proper public, judicial or parliamentary inquiry into what led to the Anglo-American invasion—the biggest western blunder in the Middle East since Suez, and one of far greater consequences.
In a democracy, the executive must be held accountable to the people. Only this can and will restore faith in the most fundamental principles of democracy, namely accountability.
Officials of the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein were quickly held accountable for their crimes, and punished, some—including Saddam Hussein himself—executed for their felonies and atrocities. But to date; there has been no independent judicial or political process in the US or UK to hold anybody accountable for the violations and crimes of invading Iraq and what has happened since—what is still happening without an end in sight.
Hiding behind “dodgy dossier” or expressions of faith, hope and belief in the so-called Western system or “spread of democracy” are not legal justifications for avoiding responsibility. Advocating the politics of fear to pursue personal or national agendas cannot be accepted in the civilised world.
Real not politicised justice must be seen to be done, to right the wrongs committed by the Bush Administration against the Iraqi people. The first step is to announce a date for the withdrawal of American forces and their imports of Iranian and Iraqi cronies.
– Dr. Burhan Al-Chalabi (FRSA) is Chairman of the British Iraqi Foundation.
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Barbara Moore,Politics | Comment (0)
Subject: No on prop 8….PETITION Let’s release the Mormon church of their tax exempt status for mixing church and state by sending millions to the Yes on 8 political campaign. As a religious organization, one would think that they’d be using that money for charitable contributions (hunger, education, making the world a little better) not stripping gay people of their rights. Directly violates laws regarding political contributions. We must stop this and set a precedent! http://www.mormonsstoleourrights.com If you’re a resident of California, please sign the petition to the Governor. http://www.petitiononline.com/seg5130/petition.html Thanks…Politics | Tags: California, Christianity, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Marriage, Mormon, Religion and Spirituality, Same-sex marriage, Tax exemption | Comment (0)