Archive for July 2nd, 2008

McCain’s War Record Targeted

By- Suzie-Q @ 7:00 PM MST

By | 6/30/08 4:54 AM EST

The highest-voltage third rail of this presidential campaign may not be race, sex or age, but John McCain‘s military service.

On Sunday, McCain’s campaign issued a pair of outraged statements after retired general and Barack Obama supporter Wesley Clark said he didn’t think that McCain’s service as a fighter pilot and prisoner of war was relevant to running the country. Obama has consistently praised McCain’s service, and called him “a genuine American hero.”

But farther to the left — and among some of McCain’s conservative enemies as well — harsher attacks are circulating. Critics have accused McCain of war crimes for bombing targets in Hanoi in the 1960s. A widely read liberal blog on Sunday accused McCain of “disloyalty” during his captivity in Vietnam for his coerced participation in propaganda films and interviews after he had been tortured.

“A lot of people don’t know … that McCain made a propaganda video for the enemy while he was in captivity,” wrote Americablog.com’s John Aravosis. “Putting that bit of disloyalty aside, what exactly is McCain’s military experience that prepares him for being commander in chief?”

“Getting shot down, tortured and then doing propaganda for the enemy is not command experience,” Aravosis wrote in the blog post, titled “Honestly, besides being tortured, what did McCain do to excel in the military?”

McCain’s camp responded sharply to the Americablog posting Sunday night.

“The American people know that John McCain’s record of service and sacrifice is not a matter of debate. He has written about and discussed his service as a POW extensively — often in excruciating and painful detail,” said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers. “The American people will judge harshly anyone who demeans or attacks that service.”

McCain has written repeatedly of his service, including in a long 1973 magazine article and in his memoir, “Faith of My Fathers.” A Navy aviator from a military family, he was shot down on his 23rd sortie over Vietnam on Oct. 26, 1967. His mission was to bomb a power plant in the North Vietnamese capital. Already suffering from broken limbs, he was beaten by a crowd before being taken to a POW camp. After being tortured there, he participated in some Vietnamese propaganda efforts.

“I had learned what we all learned over there: Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine,” he later wrote.

But he later defied his captors by refusing to meet with anti-war delegations from abroad, he wrote, and he also refused the most valuable special treatment he was offered: early release.

“I did not want to go out of order,” he later wrote. He was finally released on March 14, 1973.

Obama and the Democratic establishment haven’t challenged McCain’s record. Indeed, even Clark’s words came in response to a direct question from CBS’s Bob Schieffer on the specific relevance of McCain’s service to the presidency.

In April, Democratic West Virginia Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV cut a bit closer, suggesting that McCain’s days as a fighter pilot were themselves a critique of his character.

“What happened when they [the missiles] get to the ground?” he asked. “He doesn’t know. You have to care about the lives of people. McCain never gets into those issues.”

Rockefeller promptly abjectly apologized, praising McCain’s “honorable and noble service to our country” and deploring his own “inaccurate and wrong analogy.” His apology reflected a conventional political wisdom that McCain’s heroism is too well-established, and a climate of respect for soldiers too strong, for attacks on his service to do anything but backfire.

But Aravosis, who reiterated his criticism in an interview with Politico on Sunday night, isn’t the only one to test this line of attack.

The newsletter CounterPunch published in April an article by Doug Valentine headed “Meet the Real John McCain: North Vietnam’s Go-To Collaborator.”

Valentine suggested McCain contemplated suicide — something the candidate has written about, and attributed in part to his guilt at not withstanding torture — because he was a “war criminal” whose bombs fell on civilians.

McCain, who sought — along with Sen. John F. Kerry — to debunk claims that Vietnam still held American prisoners into the 1990s, has been attacked in similar terms by leaders of the POW/MIA movement, whom he and Kerry cast as charlatans.

That movement has produced the most outlandish attacks on McCain, including widely dismissed and unsubstantiated claims that McCain was not tortured as well as a smear casting him as a “Manchurian candidate.”


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Report fans Iran attack fears

Sudhan @22:45 CET

WASHINGTON, July 1 (UPI) — U.S. officials have denied claims that U.S. Special Forces are already operating across the Iraqi border in Iran, but Seymour Hersh’s claim that senior U.S. generals are opposing American airstrikes against Iran reflects very real divisions in the Pentagon and the Bush administration.

Hersh, the veteran investigative reporter who uncovered the My Lai massacre in Vietnam more than 40 years ago, wrote in the latest issue of The New Yorker magazine that President George W. Bush was running a secret $400 million project to topple the Islamic Republic in Iran. He also claimed that U.S. Special Operations Forces based in southern Iraq had been carrying out secret commando raids into neighboring Iraq since 2007 with Bush’s official approval.

The White House refused to issue any comment on the article, and so did the CIA. But Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, while not denying Hersh’s claim of the $400 million secret program, focused on shooing down the claim that U.S. forces had been operating within the territory of the Islamic Republic.

“I can tell you flatly that U.S. forces are not operating across the Iraqi border into Iran, in the south or anywhere else,” Crocker told CNN in an interview. “U.S. forces are not operating across the Iran-Iraq border, no.”

Also on CNN, Hersh countered by saying that while he believed Crocker could be telling the truth, it was routine in such situations for U.S. envoys not to be informed when such operations were being undertaken to maintain security and deniability.

“Sometimes it’s better not to have the ambassador know,” Hersh said. He claimed that U.S. forces based in Afghanistan where they are fighting the resurgent Islamist Taliban had also carried out incursions into Iran.

According to Hersh’s New Yorker article, his claims will not spark any angry investigation by the Democrat-controlled 110th Congress because Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill were informed of the operations in advance and approved them.

If Hersh’s report is confirmed, it could increase tensions between the United States and Iran and the dangers of an outbreak of hostilities between them: Fears that the U.S. Air Force or the Israelis will launch a pre-emptive air attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities before President Bush leaves office in January 2009 are regarded as one of the most powerful forces propelling global oil prices and domestic U.S. gasoline prices to record levels. The global oil price hit a new high of more than $142 a barrel last week.

Hersh’s article was also significant because it claimed that senior U.S. Army generals had opposed the policy of seeking to destabilize Iran.

The U.S. Army and Marine Corps currently have around 160,000 troops operating mostly in central Iraq, where they have enjoyed considerable success in the past year and a half in suppressing extreme Islamist guerrillas operating in the center of the country. However, the land supply lines for the U.S. ground forces in Iraq go through the south of the country, where 60 percent of Iraq’s Shiite majority lives. A full-scale war between the United States and Iran runs the risk of inciting the Shiite militias that control southern Iraq to try and cut off those roads for U.S. Army supply columns.

The three most recently retired four-star heads of U.S. Central Command, which directs military operations in the Iraq theater, have all publicly opposed any pre-emptive air attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. They are Adm. William “Fox” Fallon, Gen. John Abizaid and Gen. Anthony Zinni.

Most Middle East experts are highly skeptical that Iranians would support exiled dissident groups and leaders that the Bush administration has been favoring. They note that similarly unrealistic hopes surrounded the Iraqi National Congress of Ahmed Chalabi. Senior Bush policymakers were convinced before the 2003 invasion to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein that millions of Iraqis would flock to Chalabi’s support. They didn’t.

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By- Suzie-Q @ 12:05 PM MST

McCain Backer’s Firm Pleaded Guilty To Funding Terrorist Group In Colombia

Huffington Post- Nico Pitney

July 2, 2008 03:07 AM

The co-host of a recent top-dollar fundraiser for Sen. John McCain oversaw the payment of roughly $1.7 million to a Colombian paramilitary group that is today designated a terrorist organization by the United States.

Carl H. Lindner Jr., the billionaire Cincinnati businessman, was CEO of Chiquita Brands International from 1984 to 2001, and remained on the company’s board of directors until May 2002. Beginning under his tenure, Chiquita executives paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (known by the Spanish acronym AUC), which is described by George Washington University’s National Security Archive as an “illegal right-wing anti-guerrilla group tied to many of the country’s most notorious civilian massacres.”

Following a Justice Department indictment last year, Chiquita admitted to illegally funding the paramilitaries and agreed to pay a $25 million fine. Chiquita’s payments to the AUC began in 1997 and lasted seven years; roughly half of the funds came after the group was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. State Department in 2001.

According to the Justice Department, the payments “were reviewed and approved by senior executives” of Chiquita, who knew by no later than September 2000 “that the AUC was a violent, paramilitary organization.”

Late last week, Lindner co-hosted a $25,000-per-person fundraiser for McCain and the Republican Party in the wealthy Indian Hills neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio. The event raised about $2 million; Lindner also serves on McCain’s Ohio Victory Team.

While Lindner was CEO of Chiquita, the company began sending money to the AUC through its shipping subsidiary Banadex. A report by the Organization of American States states that Banadex also engaged in arms trafficking, helping to deliver 3,000 Nicaraguan AK-47 rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition to the AUC in 2001. According to federal prosecutors, when company officials realized the arrangement was illegal, they switched to making the payments in cash.

“We believe they saved people’s lives,” a Chiquita spokesman told Time magazine last year, alleging that the company was simply trying to avoid violence against their employees.

Chiquita’s funding of violent paramilitaries does not end with the right-wing AUC. The fruit giant “had been making similar payments to the leftist FARC and ELN guerrillas” since 1989, also on Lindner’s watch. Those payments ended in 1997 as “control of the company’s banana-growing area shifted” to the AUC, according to the Associated Press.

McCain, who is currently visiting Colombia to promote free trade, has described FARC as “one of the worst” terrorist groups and accused his opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, of being unwilling to support Colombian President Uribe’s anti-terrorist efforts.

That the Arizona Republican is raising funds from a man whose company once paid that very same terrorist group seems likely to sully his charge.

Aides to the Senator did not return request for comment, though they have repeatedly argued that the campaign does not have direct connections to companies represented by such fundraisers or advisers and, as such, should not be held accountable for their actions or presumed to be persuaded by their interests.

However, in the past, McCain has done favors on Lindner’s behalf. Last May, the Washington Post reported that in the late 1990s, McCain “promoted a deal in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest involving property part-owned by Great American Life Insurance, a company run by billionaire Carl H. Lindner Jr., a prolific contributor to national political parties and presidential candidates.”

Moreover, McCain’s chief political adviser, Charlie Black, lobbied for Chiquita on two separate occasions in 2001. According to records, Black was paid $80,000 to work on foreign trade issues.

Black, as the Huffington Post reported on Tuesday, has represented other controversial clients with operations in Colombia. From 2001 through 2007, his work brought his firm more than $1.6 million in lobbying fees from Occidental Petroleum, a company whose security arm was accused of bombing a Colombian village and killing 17 civilians in 1998.

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Afternoon Jukebox… Shake You Down

By- Suzie-Q @ 12:00 PM MST

Gregory Abbott- Shake You Down

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By- Suzie-Q @ 10:30 AM MST

Vanity Fair‘s Christopher Hitchens Undergoes Waterboarding

Huffington Post- Jason Linkins

July 2, 2008 11:30 AM

Just in case the news that American torturers have been revealed to have taken their cues from that model of moral clarity that was the Chinese Communist regime hasn’t fully convinced you that the practice is unquestionably, incontrovertibly evil, Christopher Hitchens’ column in the August 2008 Vanity Fair, “Believe Me, It’s Torture,” ought to drive it home. That is, if the accompanying video, available online at Vanity Fair‘s website, doesn’t do it first.

In the video, Christopher Hitchens is brought, hooded and bound, into an austere looking storage room, and placed on a board, slightly elevated at it’s foot. He is instructed by the similarly masked interrogators on how to call a halt to the procedure, either through a safe word – “red” – or by releasing the “dead man’s handle” – a metal object placed in each hand. A towel is placed over his face and one of the interrogators begins pouring water on Hitchens’ face from an ordinary-looking milk carton. The interrogators demonstrate no more aggression that one might when watering a houseplant. In fact, the process looks so unremarkable that you begin to wonder if they aren’t simply “warming Hitchens up” for something worse.

Seventeen seconds pass, and then Hitchens drops the dead man’s handle. When the hood is removed, it is jarring to see how panic-stricken Hitchens looks.

In the video, Hitchens describes the experience:

They told me that when I activated the ‘dead man’s handle’ – which is a simple process, you simply release something, let it go – I didn’t do that. I practically, even though my hands were bound, I…as near as I could…I threw the thing out of my hand. I mean, I really wanted it to stop.
I could swear I shouted the code word, but I hadn’t.

Everything completely goes on you when you’re breathing water. You can’t think about anything else.

It would be bad enough if you did have something. Suppose if they wanted to know where a relative of yours was…or a lover. You feel, “Well, I’m going to betray them now. Because this has to come to an end. I can’t take this anymore.” But what if you didn’t have anything? What if you’d got the wrong guy? Then you would be in danger of losing your mind very quickly.

That last paragraph, I believe, is critical, especially considering the torture practices of the Chinese Communists – who we are now emulating – were designed to elicit false confessions from those who were tortured.

Attention should be paid to the aftermath of the experience as well, which Hitchens relates thusly:

As a result of this very brief experience, if I do anything that gets my heart rate up, and I’m breathing hard, panting, I have a slight panic sensation that I’m not going to be able to catch my breath again…lately I’ve been having this feeling of waking up feeling smothered, trying to push everything off my face.

It takes only seventeen seconds to ruin the life of an innocent man.

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By- Suzie-Q @ 9:30 AM MST

McCain gets ‘visibly angry’ when challenged on whether military experience prepares him to be president

Think Progress

By Faiz at 10:39 am

ABC News’ David Wright reports that when he asked John McCain to “explain how his Vietnam experience prepared him for the presidency,” McCain “became visibly angry”:

McCain became visibly angry when I asked him to explain how his Vietnam experience prepared him for the Presidency.

“Please,” he said, recoiling back in his seat in distaste at the very question.

McCain allies Sen. Lindsey Graham stepped in to rescue him. Graham expressed admiration for McCain’s stance on the treatment of detainees in US custody.

It’s a legitimate question. In 2003, McCain said, “I absolutely don’t believe that it’s necessary” to have military service in order to be president. He also said military service alone is not a sufficient qualification to be president.

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Happy Oil Dependence Day

anthony @ 17:03 BST

Robert Scheer | Truthdig | 2nd July, 2008

As we head into the Fourth of July weekend of patriotic bluster and beer swilling—but before we are too besotted with ourselves—might we also for once consider our imperfections? Why not take a moment to heed the cautions of our founding father, George Washington, whose true legacy will most likely be ignored during the flag-waving weekend?

Washington’s “Farewell Address” to the new nation was a warning about the threat of American imperial ambitions and a declaration of his high expectations for a republic of free men: “In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself, that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism. …” (more…)

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