Archive for January 24th, 2007

Prosecutors in the trial for former White House aide I. Lewis Libby revealed some details on the Bush Administration’s “pre-war battle” over Iraq’s WMDs, according to MSNBC.

Former Under-Secretary of State Mark Grossman testified that he received a request from Libby at the end of May in 2003 asking for information about Ambassador Joe Wilson’s trip to Africa in which he found there was no evidence that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger, MSNBC’s David Shuster reported.

Grossman testified it was just two weeks later when he had a face-to-face meeting with Libby, Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff and Assistant to the Vice President for National Security at the time, and told him, in so many words, “look, here’s a report on Joe Wilson’s trip and, by the way, we’ve learned that the ambassador’s wife , Valerie Wilson, she is undercover at the CIA,” Shuster continued.

In the pre-war arguments, many State Department workers had huge problems with the nuclear case that the Bush Administration had made against Iraq. That came up and was significant because at the time the Administration and former Secretary of State Colin Powell were putting up a united front, Shuster added.

At firedoglake, blogger emptywheel is “live-blogging” the trial, and relates that the judge mentioned a potential juror problem.

“We have a problem with one juror who for the first time has indicated that she has a problem being here for the length of the trial,” Judge Walton said, according to emptywheel’s rough transcription. “Her employer will only pay her for 10 days of the trial. I don’t know why she didn’t tell us this previously, but we’ll just have to see.”



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Senators eye rejection of Bush war plan

WASHINGTON – Democrats took the first step toward a wartime repudiation of President Bush on Wednesday, convening a Senate committee to endorse legislation declaring that the deployment of additional troops to Iraq is “not in the national interest.”

“We better be damn sure we know what we’re doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder,” said Sen. Chuck Hagel (news, bio, voting record) of Nebraska, the only Republican on the committee to announce support for the measure.

Sen. Joseph Biden (news, bio, voting record), D-Del., the panel’s chairman, said the legislation is “not an attempt to embarrass the president. … It’s an attempt to save the president from making a significant mistake with regard to our policy in Iraq.”

Less than one month after taking control of Congress, there was little doubt Democrats had the votes to prevail. They hold 11 seats on the committee, to 10 for Republicans.

The full Senate is scheduled to begin debate on the measure next week, although Biden has said he is willing to negotiate changes in hopes of attracting support from more Republicans.

Even Republicans opposed to the measure expressed unease with the revised policy involving a war that has lasted nearly four years, claimed the lives of more than 3,000 U.S. troops and helped Democrats win control of Congress in last fall’s elections.

“I am not confident that President Bush’s plan will succeed,” said Sen. Richard Lugar (news, bio, voting record) of Indiana, senior Republican on the committee.

But he also said he would vote against the measure. “It is unclear to me how passing a nonbinding resolution that the president has already said he will ignore will contribute to any improvement or modification of our Iraq policy.”
“The president is deeply invested in this plan, and the deployments … have already begun,” Lugar added.

He suggested a more forceful role for Congress, and said lawmakers must ensure the administration is “planning for contingencies, including the failure of the Iraqi government to reach compromises and the persistence of violence despite U.S. and Iraqi government efforts.”

Hagel’s remarks were among the most impassioned of the day.

“There is no strategy,” he said of the Bush administration’s war management.
“This is a pingpong game with American lives. These young men and women that we put in Anbar province, in Iraq, in Baghdad are not beans; they’re real lives. And we better be damn sure we know what we’re doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder.”

A Vietnam veteran, he fairly lectured fellow senators not to duck a painful debate about a war that has grown increasingly unpopular as it has gone on. “No president of the United States can sustain a foreign policy or a war policy without the sustained support of the American people,” Hagel said.

At least eight other Republican senators say they now back legislative proposals registering objections to Bush’s decision to boost U.S. military strength in Iraq by 21,500 troops.

The growing list — which includes Sens. Gordon Smith (news, bio, voting record), George Voinovich (news, bio, voting record) and Sam Brownback (news, bio, voting record) — has emboldened Democrats, who are pushing for a vote in the full Senate by next week to rebuke the president’s Iraq policy.
In his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, Bush urged skeptical members of Congress to give the plan a chance to work.

Many lawmakers remained reluctant.

“I wonder whether the clock has already run out,” said Sen. Susan Collins (news, bio, voting record), R-Maine. She said she was worried that U.S. troops in Iraq are already perceived “not as liberators but as occupiers.”

Bush did get a word of support from former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, one of the 2008 Republican presidential hopefuls.

“I believe we should give the president the support to do this. I want us to be successful in Iraq,” he said Wednesday on NBC’s “Today” show. “I know how important it is to the overall war on terror. Success in Iraq means a more peaceful world for America, it means a victory against terrorists. Failure in Iraq means a big defeat against terrorists and the war on terror is going to be tougher for us.”

But Sen. Barack Obama (news, bio, voting record), D-Ill., appearing on the same show, said, “I think all of us are talking about a phased redeployment which would leave American troops in the region to send a strong message, not only to the Iraqi government that we want to help them, but also to neighbors, like Iran, that we’re not abandoning the field.”

The nonbinding resolution being voted on Wednesday by the Foreign Relations Committee was drafted by Biden and Hagel, along with Sens. Olympia Snowe (news, bio, voting record), R-Maine, and Carl Levin (news, bio, voting record), D-Mich.

Some Republicans worried that it would undermine Bush’s diplomatic efforts on Iraq. “The worst thing we can do as a Congress is to undercut the president internationally,” Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (news, bio, voting record), R-Texas, said Wednesday on CNN.

GOP defections for Bush’s Iraq policy spell trouble for an administration that has come to rely on congressional Republicans to champion its agenda. While many Bush loyalists remain, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (news, bio, voting record), R-Ky., other lawmakers say the president cannot continue down a path the public does not support.

White House officials “realize you can’t conduct a war with one party for it and one against it, and we’re getting in that type of position,” said Brownback, R-Kan. “And that is not a durable position.”


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Freshman Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) delivered the Democratic Party response to President Bush’s State of the Union this evening.

The Washington Post reports that Webb’s response is “an aggressive challenge” to the President.

“We in the Democratic Party hope that this administration is serious about improving education and healthcare for all Americans, and addressing such domestic priorities as restoring the vitality of New Orleans,” Webb stated early in his speech.

The full text of Webb’s response to President Bush follows…

Good evening.

I’m Senator Jim Webb, from Virginia, where this year we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown – an event that marked the first step in the long journey that has made us the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth.

It would not be possible in this short amount of time to actually rebut the President’s message, nor would it be useful. Let me simply say that we in the Democratic Party hope that this administration is serious about improving education and healthcare for all Americans, and addressing such domestic priorities as restoring the vitality of New Orleans.

Further, this is the seventh time the President has mentioned energy independence in his state of the union message, but for the first time this exchange is taking place in a Congress led by the Democratic Party. We are looking for affirmative solutions that will strengthen our nation by freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil, and spurring a wave of entrepreneurial growth in the form of alternate energy programs. We look forward to working with the President and his party to bring about these changes.

There are two areas where our respective parties have largely stood in contradiction, and I want to take a few minutes to address them tonight. The first relates to how we see the health of our economy – how we measure it, and how we ensure that its benefits are properly shared among all Americans. The second regards our foreign policy – how we might bring the war in Iraq to a proper conclusion that will also allow us to continue to fight the war against international terrorism, and to address other strategic concerns that our country faces around the world.

When one looks at the health of our economy, it’s almost as if we are living in two different countries. Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits. But these benefits are not being fairly shared. When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it’s nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.

Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world. Medical costs have skyrocketed. College tuition rates are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is being dismantled and sent overseas. Good American jobs are being sent along with them.

In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table. Our workers know this, through painful experience. Our white-collar professionals are beginning to understand it, as their jobs start disappearing also. And they expect, rightly, that in this age of globalization, their government has a duty to insist that their concerns be dealt with fairly in the international marketplace.
In the early days of our republic, President Andrew Jackson established an important principle of American-style democracy – that we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street. We must recapture that spirit today.

And under the leadership of the new Democratic Congress, we are on our way to doing so. The House just passed a minimum wage increase, the first in ten years, and the Senate will soon follow. We’ve introduced a broad legislative package designed to regain the trust of the American people. We’ve established a tone of cooperation and consensus that extends beyond party lines. We’re working to get the right things done, for the right people and for the right reasons.

With respect to foreign policy, this country has patiently endured a mismanaged war for nearly four years. Many, including myself, warned even before the war began that it was unnecessary, that it would take our energy and attention away from the larger war against terrorism, and that invading and occupying Iraq would leave us strategically vulnerable in the most violent and turbulent corner of the world.

I want to share with all of you a picture that I have carried with me for more than 50 years. This is my father, when he was a young Air Force captain, flying cargo planes during the Berlin Airlift. He sent us the picture from Germany, as we waited for him, back here at home. When I was a small boy, I used to take the picture to bed with me every night, because for more than three years my father was deployed, unable to live with us full-time, serving overseas or in bases where there was no family housing. I still keep it, to remind me of the sacrifices that my mother and others had to make, over and over again, as my father gladly served our country. I was proud to follow in his footsteps, serving as a Marine in Vietnam. My brother did as well, serving as a Marine helicopter pilot. My son has joined the tradition, now serving as an infantry Marine in Iraq.

Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we serve and have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country. On the political issues – those matters of war and peace, and in some cases of life and death – we trusted the judgment of our national leaders. We hoped that they would be right, that they would measure with accuracy the value of our lives against the enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into harm’s way.

We owed them our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it. But they owed us – sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.

The President took us into this war recklessly. He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq, the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs. We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable – and predicted – disarray that has followed.

The war’s costs to our nation have been staggering. Financially. The damage to our reputation around the world. The lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism. And especially the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve.

The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military. We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos. But an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq’s cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.

On both of these vital issues, our economy and our national security, it falls upon those of us in elected office to take action.

Regarding the economic imbalance in our country, I am reminded of the situation President Theodore Roosevelt faced in the early days of the 20th century. America was then, as now, drifting apart along class lines. The so-called robber barons were unapologetically raking in a huge percentage of the national wealth. The dispossessed workers at the bottom were threatening revolt.

Roosevelt spoke strongly against these divisions. He told his fellow Republicans that they must set themselves “as resolutely against improper corporate influence on the one hand as against demagogy and mob rule on the other.” And he did something about it.

As I look at Iraq, I recall the words of former general and soon-to-be President Dwight Eisenhower during the dark days of the Korean War, which had fallen into a bloody stalemate. “When comes the end?” asked the General who had commanded our forces in Europe during World War Two. And as soon as he became President, he brought the Korean War to an end.

These Presidents took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight we are calling on this President to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.

Thank you for listening. And God bless America.


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Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) will hold hearings next week to examine “Exercising Congress’s Constitutional Power to End a War”, RAW STORY has learned.

The Judiciary Committee hearings are scheduled for Tuesday, January 30. However, because that committee has to announce hearings several days in advance, details are often not forthcoming or have not yet been disclosed.

Since coming back into session earlier this month, observers have wondered whether Congress will use its funding power to try and force the redeployment of troops from Iraq. After President Bush announced plans to escalate the war—plans marked by a “surge” of 21,500 troops—a handful of non-binding bills of varying severity were introduced by both Democratic and Republican senators expressing disapproval.

Well before those bills were announced, though, Feingold offered legislation of his own to the Foreign Relations Committee designed to end the war completely. If passed, that bill—cosponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)—would give the Department of Defense 60 days to submit and implement a strategy to remove troops from Iraq almost altogether. That plan, once approved by Congress, would have to be implemented within 180 days of the bill’s enactment. Under its terms it would “[maintain] in Iraq the minimal level of United States forces sufficient to engage directly in targeted counterterrorism activities, train Iraq security forces, and protect United States infrastructure and personnel.”

However, that bill will not be at play during Feingold’s Judiciary Committee hearings next week. No word yet on whether he plans to introduce any new legislation then, although an aide on that committee expects that, “once the committee organizes on Thursday this will be a subcommittee hearing.” Feingold is chairman of the Judiciary’s Constitution Subcommittee, and also serves on the Budget, Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees.

Now in his fourteenth year as a senator, Feingold recently ruled out a bid for the presidency in 2008, saying he’d be more effective on Capitol Hill than as Commander in Chief.


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USS Stennis deployed to Persian Gulf

WASHINGTON, Jan. 22 (UPI) — Elements of the USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group began deployment to the Persian Gulf to assist the USS Eisenhower Strike Group already positioned there.

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier left its homeport in Bremerton, Wash., on Jan. 16 and made a stop in San Diego to join with the guided missile cruiser USS Antietam and the guided missile destroyer USS Preble. The fleet departed San Diego on Jan. 20 and will be joined by guided missile destroyers USS O’Kane and USS Paul Hamilton in transit, according to a report from Navy Newsstand.

“We will support Operation Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, the Horn of Africa and maritime security operations with the purpose to provide regional and global stability,” said Rear Adm. Kevin Quinn, Commander, Carrier Strike Group 3, according to Navy Newsstand.

Deployment of the Stennis group has been much anticipated. Many analysts believe that the presence of a second carrier group in the U.S. 5th fleet area of operations signifies a move by the Bush administration to prepare for a showdown with Iran.

“We are ready, we are sustainable, we are flexible and we provide awesome combat capability,” said Quinn. “Just the fact there are going to be two carrier strike groups operating in that region could deter any state or non-state sponsored organizations from doing something we wouldn’t want them to do.”


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