Thursday, March 31, 2005

Schiavo Died Nearly Fourteen Years Ago


Her Body Died Nearly Two Weeks After Removal of The Feeding Tube

“Terri Schiavo, the severely brain damaged Florida woman who became the subject of an intense legal and political battle that drew responses from the White House to the Halls of Congress to the Vatican, died today, 13 days after her feeding tube was removed on the order of a state court judge.

Ms. Schiavo, 41, died just before 10 a.m. today in the Pinellas Park hospice where she had lived, off and on, for several years, her husband's attorney said. But even as she slipped away, the searing emotions that surrounded her final days remained, following a national debate over whether she should have been reconnected to a tube that provided her with nourishment and hydration.

‘Her husband was present by her bed, cradling her,’ said George Felos, Michael Schiavo's lawyer. ‘Mrs. Schiavo died a calm death, a peaceful death and a gentle death.’ ”

And it's almost certain that no lessons have been learned.

The fight between Ms. Schiavo's husband to have his wife's feeding tube removed, and her parents, who said she could still recover if she was given proper treatment, lasted seven years and made its way from the state courts to the Supreme Court, and back again, several times. On Wednesday night, the Supreme Court refused, for the sixth time, to intervene in the matter.

The family's dispute also resulted in a new state law in Florida and an emergency session of the House of Representatives that produced a new federal law signed by President Bush in the early hours of the morning of March 21.

A range of judges consistently sided with Mr. Schiavo, but her parents would not give up, going from court to court and appealing to politicians and to people who believed that removing the tube was tantamount to taking a life.

"Not only has Mrs. Schiavo's case been given due process, but few, if any similar cases have ever been afforded this heightened level of process," Chief Judge Chris Altenbernd, of the Second Court of Appeal in Florida, wrote earlier this month.

The legal fight provoked a great national discussion, with polls showing most people did not believe politicians should be involved in personal issues of one family trying to decide whether a family member should be kept alive. But it also provoked a great outcry among an ad hoc coalition of Catholic and evangelical lobbyists, street organizers and legal advisers, some of whom demonstrated outside the hospice in recent days, and picketed outside the homes of Mr. Schiavo and Judge George W. Greer of Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, who originally ordered the tube removed.

Snippets of a video tape the Schindlers made of their daughter three years ago in which she appears to be smiling, grunting and moaning in response to her mother's voice, and to follow a balloon with her eyes, has become ingrained in the national consciousness after being replayed on news channels over and over again.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Accessory Before the Fact Part 2
Is No One Accountable?


“The Bush administration is desperately trying to keep the full story from emerging. But there is no longer any doubt that prisoners seized by the U.S. in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere have been killed, tortured, sexually humiliated and otherwise grotesquely abused.

These atrocities have been carried out in an atmosphere in which administration officials have routinely behaved as though they were above the law, and thus accountable to no one. People have been rounded up, stripped, shackled, beaten, incarcerated and in some cases killed, without being offered even the semblance of due process. No charges. No lawyers. No appeals.

Arkan Mohammed Ali is a 26-year-old Iraqi who was detained by the U.S. military for nearly a year at various locations, including the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. According to a lawsuit filed against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Mr. Ali was at times beaten into unconsciousness during interrogations. He was stabbed, shocked with an electrical device, urinated on and kept locked - hooded and naked - in a wooden, coffinlike box. He said he was told by his captors that soldiers could kill detainees with impunity.

(This was not a boast from the blue. On Saturday, for example, The Times reported that the Army would not prosecute 17 American soldiers implicated in the deaths of three prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

Mr. Ali's story is depressingly similar to other accounts pouring in from detainees, human rights groups, intelligence sources and U.S. government investigators. If you pay close attention to what is already known about the sadistic and barbaric treatment of prisoners by the U.S., you can begin to wonder how far we've come from the Middle Ages. The alleged heretics hauled before the Inquisition were not permitted to face their accusers or mount a defense. Innocence was irrelevant. Torture was the preferred method of obtaining confessions.

No charges were ever filed against Mr. Ali, and he was eventually released. But what should be of paramount concern to Americans is this country's precipitous and frightening descent into the hellish zone of lawlessness that the Bush administration, on the one hand, is trying to conceal and, on the other, is defending as absolutely essential to its fight against terror.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First, a New York-based group, filed a lawsuit against Mr. Rumsfeld on behalf of Mr. Ali and seven other former detainees from Iraq and Afghanistan who claim to have been tortured by U.S. personnel.

They charge that Rumsfeld authorized unlawful interrogation techniques, abdicated his responsibility to stop the torture and abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody, contend that the abuse of was widespread and that Mr. Rumsfeld and other top administration officials were fully aware of it.

They also contend, it is unreasonable to believe that Mr. Rumsfeld could have remained in the dark about the rampant mistreatment of prisoners in U.S. custody. They cite a wealth of evidence readily available to the secretary, including the scandalous eruptions at Abu Ghraib prison, reports of detainee abuse at Guantánamo Bay, myriad newspaper and magazine articles, internal U.S. government reports, and concerns expressed by such reputable groups as the International Committee of the Red Cross.

(The committee has noted, among other things, that military intelligence estimates suggest that 70 percent to 90 percent of the people detained in Iraq had been seized by mistake.)

Illegal Demands on Active-Duty Soldiers


“Though statistics are scarce, court records and interviews with military and civilian lawyers suggest that Americans heading off to war are sometimes facing distracting and demoralizing demands from financial companies trying to collect on obligations that, by law, they cannot enforce.

Some cases involve nationally prominent companies like Wells Fargo and Citigroup, though both say they are committed to strict compliance with the law.

The problem, most military law specialists say, is that too many lenders, debt collectors, landlords, lawyers and judges are unaware of the federal statute or do not fully understand it.

The law, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, protects all active-duty military families from foreclosures, evictions and other financial consequences of military service. The Supreme Court has ruled that its provisions must "be liberally construed to protect those who have been obliged to drop their own affairs to take up the burdens of the nation."

Yet the relief act has not seemed to work in recent cases like these:

¶At Fort Hood, Tex., a soldier's wife was sued by a creditor trying to collect a debt owed by her and her husband, who was serving in Baghdad at the time. A local judge ruled against her, saying she had defaulted, even though specialists say the relief act forbids default judgments against soldiers serving overseas and protects their spouses as well.

¶At Camp Pendleton, Calif., more than a dozen marines returned from Iraq to find that their cars and other possessions had been improperly sold to cover unpaid storage and towing fees. The law forbids such seizures without a court order.

¶In northern Ohio, Wells Fargo served a young Army couple with foreclosure papers despite the wife's repeated efforts to negotiate new repayment terms with the bank. Wells Fargo said later that it had been unaware of the couple's military status. The foreclosure was dropped after a military lawyer intervened.

The relief act provides a broad spectrum of protections to service members, their spouses and their dependents. The interest rate on debts incurred before enlistment, for example, must be capped at 6 percent if military duty has reduced a service member's family income.

The law also protects service members from repossession or foreclosure without a court order. It allows them to terminate any real estate lease when their military orders require them to do so. And it forbids judges from holding service members in default on any legal matter unless the court has first appointed a lawyer to protect their interests.

The law is an updated version of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act, which was adopted on the eve of World War II and remained largely unchanged through the Persian Gulf war of 1991. But in July 2001, a federal court ruled that service members could sue violators of the relief act for damages. And the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 prompted Congress to take up a long-deferred Pentagon proposal to update the old act. The revised statute, clearer and more protective than the old one, was signed into law in December 2003.

But the news was apparently slow in reaching those who would have to interpret and enforce the law.

"There are 50,000 judges in this country and God knows how many lawyers," said Alexander P. White, a county court judge in Chicago and the chairman of one of the American Bar Association's military law committees. "Are people falling down on the job - the judges, the bar, the military? Probably." And broad understanding of the law "is not going to happen overnight."

Military lawyers, credit industry organizations and some state courts and bar associations have also tried to spread the word about the new law. But these efforts are not enough, said Col. John S. Odom Jr., retired, of Shreveport, La., who is a specialist on the act. "What we need is a way to reach Joe Bagadoughnuts in Wherever, Louisiana," he said. "Because that's where these cases are turning up."

One reason they are surfacing in unlikely places is the Pentagon's increased reliance on Reserve and National Guard units that do not hail from traditional military towns, said Lt. Col. Barry Bernstein, the judge advocate general for the South Carolina National Guard. When these units are called up, he said, their members find themselves facing creditors and courts that may never have dealt with the relief act.

As a result, some service members heading off to war have confronted exactly the kinds of problems the law was supposed to prevent.…

Friday, March 25, 2005

These Theatrics Were Foretold.
Faith-based news is not far behind.

The God Racket, From DeMille to DeLay

“The same Mr. Bush who couldn't be bothered to interrupt his vacation during the darkening summer of 2001, not even when he received a briefing titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.," flew from his Crawford ranch to Washington to sign Congress's Schiavo bill into law. The bill could have been flown to him in Texas, but his ceremonial arrival and departure by helicopter on the White House lawn allowed him to showboat as if he had just landed on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Within hours he turned Ms. Schiavo into a slick applause line at a Social Security rally. "It is wise to always err on the side of life," he said, wisdom that apparently had not occurred to him in 1999, when he mocked the failed pleas for clemency of Karla Faye Tucker, the born-again Texas death-row inmate, in a magazine interview with Tucker Carlson.

These theatrics were foretold. Culture is often a more reliable prophecy than religion of where the country is going, and our culture has been screaming its theocratic inclinations for months now. The anti-indecency campaign, already a roaring success, has just yielded a new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Kevin J. Martin, who had been endorsed by the Parents Television Council and other avatars of the religious right. The push for the sanctity of marriage (or all marriages except Terri and Michael Schiavo's) has led to the banishment of lesbian moms on public television. The Armageddon-fueled worldview of the ‘Left Behind’ books extends its spell by the day, soon to surface in a new NBC prime-time mini-series, ‘Revelations,’ being sold with the slogan ‘The End is Near.’ ”

All this is happening while polls consistently show that at most a fifth of the country subscribes to the religious views of those in the Republican base whom even George Will, speaking last Sunday on ABC's "This Week," acknowledged may be considered "extremists." In that famous Election Day exit poll, "moral values" voters amounted to only 22 percent. Similarly, an ABC News survey last weekend found that only 27 percent of Americans thought it was "appropriate" for Congress to "get involved" in the Schiavo case and only 16 percent said it would want to be kept alive in her condition. But a majority of American colonists didn't believe in witches during the Salem trials either - any more than the Taliban reflected the views of a majority of Afghans. At a certain point - and we seem to be at that point - fear takes over, allowing a mob to bully the majority over the short term. (Of course, if you believe the end is near, there is no long term.)

That bullying, stoked by politicians in power, has become omnipresent, leading television stations to practice self-censorship and high school teachers to avoid mentioning "the E word," evolution, in their classrooms, lest they arouse fundamentalist rancor. The president is on record as saying that the jury is still out on evolution, so perhaps it's no surprise that The Los Angeles Times has uncovered a three-year-old "religious rights" unit in the Justice Department that investigated a biology professor at Texas Tech because he refused to write letters of recommendation for students who do not accept evolution as "the central, unifying principle of biology." Cornelia Dean of The New York Times broke the story last weekend that some Imax theaters, even those in science centers, are now refusing to show documentaries like "Galápagos" or "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea" because their references to Darwin and the Big Bang theory might antagonize some audiences. Soon such films will disappear along with biology textbooks that don't give equal time to creationism.

James Cameron, producer of "Volcanoes" (and, more famously, the director of "Titanic"), called this development "obviously symptomatic of our shift away from empiricism in science to faith-based science." Faith-based science has in turn begat faith-based medicine that impedes stem-cell research, not to mention faith-based abstinence-only health policy that impedes the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and diseases like AIDS.

Faith-based news is not far behind.

In an “Ownership” Society
Except for the Wealthy,
You're On Your Own.

The Era of Exploitation

“President Bush believes in an "ownership" society, which means that except for the wealthy, you're on your own. The president's budget would cut funding for Medicaid, food stamps, education, transportation, health care for veterans, law enforcement, medical research and safety inspections for food and drugs. And, of course, it contains big new tax cuts for the wealthy.

These are the new American priorities. Republicans will tell you they were ratified in the last presidential election. We may be locked in a long and costly war, and federal deficits may be spiraling toward the moon, but the era of shared sacrifices is over. This is the era of entrenched exploitation. All sacrifices will be made by working people and the poor, and the vast bulk of the benefits will accrue to the rich.

F.D.R. would have stared slack-jawed at this madness. Even his grand Social Security edifice is under assault by the vandals of the G.O.P.”

While the press and the public are distracted by one sensational news story after another - Terri Schiavo, Michael Jackson, steroids in baseball, etc. - the president and his party have continued their extraordinary campaign to undermine the programs that were designed to fend off destitution and provide a reasonable foundation of economic security for those not blessed with great wealth.

President Bush has proposed more than $200 billion worth of cuts in domestic discretionary programs over the next five years, and cuts of $26 billion in entitlement programs. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which analyzed the president's proposal, said:

"Figures in the budget show that child-care assistance would be ended for 300,000 low-income children by 2009. The food stamp cut would terminate food stamp aid for approximately 300,000 low-income people, most of whom are low-income working families with children. Reduced Medicaid funding most certainly would cause many states to cut their Medicaid programs, increasing the ranks of the uninsured."

Education funding would be cut beginning next year, and the cuts would grow larger in succeeding years. Food assistance for pregnant women, infants and children would be cut. Funding for H.I.V. and AIDS treatment would be cut by more than half a billion dollars over five years. Support for environmental protection programs would be sharply curtailed. And so on.

Conservatives insist the cuts are necessary to get the roaring federal budget deficit under control. But they have trouble keeping a straight face when they tell that story. Laden with tax cuts, the president's proposal will result in an increase, not a decrease, in the deficit. Shared sacrifice is anathema to the big-money crowd.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Terri Schiavo Case: Legal Issues Involving
Healthcare Directives, Death, and Dying

  • U.S. Supreme Court Order denying the application of Schiavo’s parents for a stay of enforcement of the Florida judgment (March 24, 2005)
  • Michael Schiavo’s Opposition to application by Terri Schiavo’s parents (March 24, 2005)
  • 11th Circuit Opinion In 2-1 vote, a federal appeals court denies a legal request to reinsert a feeding tube into Terri Schiavo (March 23, 2005)
  • Court Order denying the request of Terri Schiavo’s parents to reinsert a feeding tube into their daughter (March 22, 2005)
  • Michael Schiavo’s Opposition (March 21, 2005)

  • Legal Documents The Lawyers News About Living Wills Power of Attorney & Healthcare Directives Commentary Web Sites Message Boards

    Legislators With Medical Degrees Offer Opinions on Schiavo Case

    As a congressman and a doctor, Representative Dave Weldon, Republican of Florida, sought to put the imprimatur of medicine on Congress's decision to intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo. Like the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee, who is a heart-lung transplant surgeon, Dr. Weldon has been unafraid to question Ms. Schiavo's diagnosis from afar.

    Now he wants to review the case more closely.

    "Please consider affording me the opportunity to personally evaluate Terri's medical condition," Dr. Weldon, an internist who is licensed to practice in Florida, wrote in a letter sent Monday to the lawyer for Ms. Schiavo's husband, Michael.

    He added, "As a medical doctor, who on many occasions was involved in end-of-life decisions with my patients and their family members, I understand many of the issues involved."

    Dr. Weldon's request to examine Ms. Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman at the center of a national debate, is perhaps the most extreme example of how some doctors in Congress have exercised their medical judgment in the case. At least three remarked on her condition without examining her, basing their opinions on court affidavits, videotape or both. In addition to the comments by Dr. Frist and Dr. Weldon, Representative Phil Gingrey, a Georgia Republican and an obstetrician, contended in a House debate that Ms. Schiavo could improve "with proper treatment, now denied."

    The result has been fierce criticism of these Republican doctor-lawmakers by some medical ethicists who say they have blurred the line between medicine and politics, and by Democratic doctor-politicians who say their colleagues have gone too far. Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and an internist, told reporters that Dr. Frist's remarks were not "medically sound." Another Democrat, Representative Jim McDermott, a psychiatrist from Washington, accused his colleagues on Tuesday of committing "legislative malpractice."

    "This poor woman and this poor family are being used as a political football, and these guys will do anything to push the point that they think is so important, that they will invade this family's privacy," he said in an interview. He singled out Dr. Weldon, saying, "This is a guy who's lost track of who he is."

    A Wall of Faith and History


    “President Bush, for his part, says one reason to forge democracies in the Middle East is that terrorists are produced by nondemocratic societies. Young people, goes this line of thinking, grow up frustrated in such societies, having no legitimate outlets for their demands; so by overturning the despotisms we can eliminate "the conditions that feed radicalism and ideologies of murder." It is a plausible theory, and even a persuasive one.

    On the other hand, it is refuted by Western history. In the 1960's and 1970's, terrorism became rampant - one thinks of the Red Brigades, the Baader-Meinhof gang and the Weathermen - in Italy, Germany and the United States, all of them free countries. Democracy, if it is a cure for terrorism, is at least not an infallible one.

    For the moment we cannot judge for sure whether the president's theory is valid: it has not been put to the test. The older order in the Middle East has not been overthrown; until it is a new one cannot be constructed.

    One lesson of recent history is clear, however: the prospects in the Muslim world would be brighter if both the tearing down and the building up were done by Muslims rather than by us. Berliners brought down the wall; yet it was we who overthrew Iraq's dictator, not the Iraqis. And in large part it was we who arranged the election for Iraq's national assembly - although only the magnificent courage of the Iraqi people in voting at the risk of their lives made it possible.

    Now that assembly has begun its deliberations, against long odds. Secessions of ethnic and religious minorities may take place; at some point an authoritarian leader may emerge; a theocracy might take power. All we can do is help and hope. But as for claiming victory and heralding an unstoppable tide of democracy, it is far too soon.

    …without depreciating the value of these halting first movements toward democracy, we should be aware of how limited - for a variety of reasons - they are. They may go in the right direction but are just at the beginning of the road, and most can be expected to encounter strong opposition before they move much further.

    A distinctive feature of the events of 1989 in Germany that is not found in the Middle East in 2005 is that those who manned the Berlin Wall were no longer willing to defend it. The Communist regimes had lost faith in communism and in themselves; they offered no resistance when the crowds pulled down the barricades.

    That is not true of our adversaries, or even many of our friends, today in the Middle East. The jihadists believe in their cause with a fanatic ardor. Taliban raiders continue to harass the democratically elected regime in Afghanistan. It is not clear whether armed groups will respect the Palestinian truce. And even if Syria should withdraw from Lebanon, the dictatorial regime in Damascus is not dissolving itself, as Moscow's did after 1989; on the contrary, any withdrawal would be part of a larger plan to consolidate its hold on domestic power.

    Nor are the forces on our side necessarily fighting for democracy, as they were in Berlin. The demonstrators in the streets in Beirut were not demanding democracy, but asking for independence - which is rather a different thing.

    In turn, what the men in the presidential palaces offer is closer to a hesitant gesture than to a radical break with the past. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who has held power essentially unopposed since 1981, now proposes to amend his country's Constitution to allow opposition candidates in presidential elections. But the best guess is that anyone who runs will be a mere token candidate. And in Saudi Arabia, where voting was decreed and did occur in February - for the first time in its history - the election in question was merely for municipal councils, and the voter turnout was low. Both Egypt and Saudi Arabia are close allies of the United States, and it is difficult to resist the conclusion that their reforms are merely cosmetic, instituted to satisfy Americans and to appease foreign critics.

    The contrast could hardly be greater with what happened in the Iron Curtain countries in 1989 and the 1990's, or even in Ukraine a few months ago, when the people refused to accept half-measures and demanded instead full and honest elections and real democracy.

    But of course the lands of the Arab Middle East - as is often pointed out - have had no significant experience of genuine democracy. Even the promise of democracy that has been held out to them has not been of the real thing

    Wednesday, March 23, 2005

    Coalition Forms to Oppose Parts of Antiterrorism Law

    “An unlikely coalition of liberal civil-rights advocates, conservative libertarians, gun-rights supporters and medical privacy advocates voiced their objections to crucial parts of the law that expanded those powers after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

    Keeping the law intact "will do great and irreparable harm" to the Constitution by allowing the government to investigate people's reading habits, search their homes without notice and pry into their personal lives, said Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman who is leading the coalition.

    Mr. Barr voted for the law, known as the USA Patriot Act, in the House just weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks but has become one of its leading critics, a shift that reflects the growing unease among some conservative libertarians over the expansion of the government's powers in fighting terrorism.

    He joined with other conservatives as well as the American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday in announcing the creation of the coalition, which hopes to curtail some of the law's more sweeping law-enforcement provisions.

    The coalition of liberals and conservatives said it had no quarrel with the majority of the expanded counterterrorism tools that the law provided, some of which amounted to modest upgrades in the government's ability to use modern technology in wiretapping phone calls and the like.

    But the group said it would focus its efforts on urging Congress to scale back three provisions of the law that let federal agents conduct "sneak and peek" searches of a home or business without immediately notifying the subject of such searches; demand records from institutions like libraries and medical offices; and use a broad definition of terrorism in pursuing suspects.

    The group, calling itself Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances, asked Mr. Bush in a letter Tuesday to reconsider his "unqualified endorsement" of the law.

    Although Congressional action is still probably months away, both sides are already girding for an intense debate. Previous efforts to curtail parts of the law have won significant support in Congress, but the administration and Republican leaders have ultimately beaten back the challenges. Mr. Barr said he considered the debate "the single most important issue" facing Congress.

    The Bush administration has offered a sharp rebuttal to growing attacks on the law in the last two years, saying that federal agents have used their new powers sparingly and judiciously.

    Administration officials note that the Justice Department's inspector general and other groups that have examined the law have not documented any abuses of power.

    Critics, however, counter that because most aspects of the law's use in terrorism cases remain classified, it has been very difficult to assess how it is being utilized.…

    Tuesday, March 22, 2005


    Eric Zorn's Notebook
    “Here's a handy Webliography on the Terri Schiavo case the subject of his column 3/23/2005:

  • The Terri Schiavo information page,” by Florida attorney Matt Conigliaro is the most pointed-to spot on the Internet by those interested in this story; praised for its breadth and relative objectivity.

  • Key events in the case of Theresa Marie Schiavo,” by Steven Haidar, Dartmouth College/University of Miami; Kathy Cerminara, Nova Southeastern University, Shepard Broad Law Center.

  • “Whether Terri Schiavo will live or die in the coming days has come down to this: Can federal district judge James Whittemore set aside virtually every bedrock constitutional principle on which this nation was founded, just so members of the United States Congress may constitutionalize the nowhere-to-be-found legal principle that a "culture of life" is a good thing?” An analysis by Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick.
  • There are an estimated 4,000 deaths each day where there's a conscious decision to limit treatment in some way…” (ABC News)

  • "Money Evaporating in Terri Schiavo battle,"(Associated Press).

  • Life-Support Stopped for 5-Month-Old in Houston: Two extended analyses on this somewhat related story, one on "HealthLawProf Blog" by Thomas W. Mayo, Associate Professor of Law SMU School of Law, and the other on “Lean Left” by Kevin T. Keith.
  • "The Schiavo Case and the Islamization of the Republican Party," by Juan Cole, professor of history at the University of Michigan.

  • "Terri's Law is unconstitutional," by Chicago attorney Frederick S. Rhine.

  • "Oh my, yes. If there's anything that defines George Bush's career, it is his tendency to err on the side of life." A withering look at the president's career highlights by "Tom Tomorrow."


    We Haven't Won, But Zarkawi Just Lost the War

    Ordinary Iraqis Wage a Successful Battle Against Insurgents

    “Ordinary Iraqis rarely strike back at the insurgents who terrorize their country. But just before noon today, a carpenter named Dhia saw a troop of masked gunmen with grenades coming towards his shop and decided he had had enough.

    As the gunmen emerged from their cars, Dhia and his young relatives shouldered their own AK-47's and opened fire, police and witnesses said. In the fierce gun battle that followed, three of the insurgents were killed, and the rest fled just after the police arrived. Two of Dhia's young nephews and a bystander were injured, the police said.

    "We attacked them before they attacked us," Dhia, 35, his face still contorted with rage and excitement, said in a brief exchange at his shop a few hours after the battle. He did not give his last name. "We killed three of those who call themselves the mujahedeen. I am waiting for the rest of them to come and we will show them."

    It was the first time that private citizens are known to have retaliated successfully against insurgents. There have been anecdotal reports of residents shooting at attackers after a bombing or assassination. But the gun battle today erupted in full view of half a dozen witnesses, including a Justice Ministry official who lives nearby.”

    The battle was the latest sign that Iraqis may be willing to start standing up against the attacks that leave dozens of people dead here nearly every week. After a suicide bombing in Hilla last month that killed 136 people, including a number of women and children, hundreds of residents demonstrated in front of the city hall every day for almost a week, chanting slogans against terrorism. Last week, a smaller but similar rally took place in Baghdad. Another demonstration is scheduled for Wednesday in the capital.

    Like many of the attacks here, today's gun battle had sectarian overtones. Dhia and his family are Shiites, and they cook for religious festivals at the Shiite Husseiniya mosque, across from Dhia's shop. The insurgents are largely Sunnis, and they have aimed dozens of attacks at Shiite figures, celebrations, even funerals. The conflict has grown sharper in the past year, with Shiites now dominating Iraq's new police force and army and holding a narrow majority of seats in the newly elected national assembly.

    The attack unfolded in Doura, a working-class neighborhood in southern Baghdad where much of the capital's violence is concentrated. A number of assassinations and bombings have taken place here in recent weeks, and the police openly acknowledge they have little control.

    Just hours before the gun battle this morning, an Interior Ministry official was gunned down in Doura as he drove to work, officials said.

    Elsewhere in Iraq, insurgents continued their campaign of violence.

    Monday, March 21, 2005

    Nixon's Dead, But the Enemies List Lives

    Nonprofit Groups Question Motive for Federal Actions

    “The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is locked in a standoff with the Internal Revenue Service, preferring to risk its tax exemption rather than hand over documents for an I.R.S. review that the civil rights group contends is politically motivated.

    While it is rare for an organization to defy the I.R.S. openly, the N.A.A.C.P. is not the only group that believes it is being made a government target for its positions on issues.

    Roughly a dozen nonprofit organizations have publicly contended that government agencies and Congressional offices have used reviews, audits, investigations, law enforcement actions and the threat of a loss of federal money to discourage them from activities and advocacy that in any way challenge government policies, and nonprofit leaders say more are complaining quietly.

    "In previous administrations, there's been the occasional instance of what might appear to be retaliation, but when it started happening in a serial way, it began to look like a pattern to us," said Kay Guinane, counsel for the nonprofit advocacy project of OMB Watch, a government watchdog group that has published two reports on the issue.…”

    Gauging whether liberal groups are being singled out for review more than conservative ones is almost impossible to determine because audits, investigations and threats are rarely made public.

    Liz Towne, director of advocacy programs for the Alliance for Justice, a group that educates charities about how to avoid running afoul of tax laws that restrict their ability to lobby, said, "When we talked to the brain trust of lawyers who represent nonprofits around the country, they were saying, 'Well, I don't know if we see a pattern that goes beyond the usual kinds of complaints and investigations.' "

    But, she added, the group sensed a "higher level of attention to nonprofits and their activities and that people are getting more sophisticated in how to get nonprofits to back off their message."

    The review of the N.A.A.C.P. comes after the organization's chairman, Julian Bond, gave a speech at its 2004 convention sharply criticizing the Republicans, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. The tax agency reminded the N.A.A.C.P. that tax-exempt organizations were barred from supporting or opposing any candidate.

    After the organization complained that it was a political target, the I.R.S. commissioner, Mark W. Everson, asked the inspector general of the Treasury Department to review the I.R.S. process of choosing which groups to investigate for politicking.

    Last month, the inspector general concluded that political considerations had no role in the I.R.S.'s selection of an organization for review. Of 40 cases studied by the inspector general, 18 were characterized as involving "pro-Republican" organizations, 12 "pro-Democratic" and one "pro-Green." The inspector general was unable to determine the affiliation of the other nine. The inspector general also looked at 20 cases the I.R.S. declined to review and found 8 were "pro-Republican" and 4 "pro-Democratic."

    Another agency that says it has been singled out for government scrutiny is Advocates for Youth, which operates programs that educate young people around the world about reproductive health and has received federal money for various programs for more than two decades.

    It opposes the Bush administration's push for the adoption of programs that advocate abstinence as the only way to prevent childhood pregnancy and sexual transmission of diseases.

    In September 2002, 24 Republicans in Congress sent a letter to Tommy G. Thompson, then the secretary of health and human services, demanding an audit and accusing Advocates for Youth of violating the law by using federal money to support lobbying. Its activities included visiting Congressional offices to distribute a report by the Institute of Medicine that questioned the efficacy of abstinence-only sex education.

    James Wagoner, the president of Advocates for Youth, said the group has strict internal procedures to ensure that federal support backs only programs for children. "It was bare-knuckled intimidation," Mr. Wagoner said of the Congressional request.

    A month later, the C.D.C., which is part of the Health and Human Services Department, asked Advocates for Youth to demonstrate with documentation that none of its money had been used for lobbying activities.

    In January 2003, the General Accounting Office, now known as the Government Accountability Office, informed the group that at the request of Representatives Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey and Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, both Republicans, it was investigating how much federal money Advocates for Youth and organizations like it spent on international and domestic activities. The G.A.O. review documented how the groups spent their federal financing, but did not touch on the issue of lobbying.

    Two months after the report was released, the centers subjected the organization to a "business and financial evaluation," also at the behest of the two congressmen.

    Advocates said it spent $100,000, or more than 2 percent of its annual budget, responding to the agencies' requests. To date, it says it has not been told the results of the C.D.C. reviews.

    Bystanders to Genocide Again

    This is from September of 2001, It's just as applicable to Darfur as it was to Rwanda

    “One U.S. official kept a journal during the crisis. In late May, exasperated by the obstructionism pervading the bureaucracy, the official dashed off this lament:
    A military that wants to go nowhere to do anything—or let go of their toys so someone else can do it. A White House cowed by the brass (and we are to give lessons on how the armed forces take orders from civilians?). An NSC that does peacekeeping by the book—the accounting book, that is. And an assistance program that prefers whites (Europe) to blacks. When it comes to human rights we have no problem drawing the line in the sand of the dark continent (just don't ask us to do anything—agonizing is our specialty), but not China or anyplace else business looks good.

    We have a foreign policy based on our amoral economic interests run by amateurs who want to stand for something—hence the agony—but ultimately don't want to exercise any leadership that has a cost.

    They say there may be as many as a million massacred in Rwanda. The militias continue to slay the innocent and the educated ... Has it really cost the United States nothing?”

    …this is a story of nondecisions and bureaucratic business as usual, few Americans are haunted by the memory of what they did in response to genocide in Rwanda. Most senior officials remember only fleeting encounters with the topic while the killings were taking place. The more reflective among them puzzle occasionally over how developments that cast the darkest shadow over the Clinton Administration's foreign-policy record could have barely registered at the time. But most say they have not talked in any detail among themselves about the events or about the system's weaknesses (and perverse strengths). Requests for a congressional investigation have gone ignored.

    According to several advisers, toward the end of his term of office Clinton himself snapped at members of his foreign-policy team, angry with them for not steering him toward a moral course. He is said to have convinced himself that if he had known more, he would have done more. In his 1998 remarks in Kigali he pledged to "strengthen our ability to prevent, and if necessary to stop, genocide." "Never again," he declared, "must we be shy in the face of evidence." But the incentive structures within the U.S. government have not changed. Officials will still suffer no sanction if they do nothing to curb atrocities. The national interest remains narrowly constructed to exclude stopping genocide. Indeed, George W. Bush has been open about his intention to keep U.S. troops away from any future Rwandas. "I don't like genocide," Bush said in January of 2000. "But I would not commit our troops." Officials in the Bush Administration say the United States is as unprepared and unwilling to stop genocide today as it was seven years ago. "Genocide could happen again tomorrow," one said, "and we wouldn't respond any differently."

    Sunday, March 20, 2005

    Now You See It: An Audit of KBR


    By law, commercially sensitive information provided by a company may be concealed when government documents are released. On that basis, it was proper to show KBR the audits before sending them along.

    But in reply, KBR officials asked for, and then received, far more expansive deletions than is customary, said Thomas M. Susman, an attorney and regulatory expert with Ropes & Gray in Washington, including calculations and conclusions reached by the government that Mr. Susman said cannot be called proprietary.

    “As it prepared to attack Iraq in early 2003, the Pentagon gave a multibillion-dollar contract, without competitive bidding, to the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root to repair oil fields and import consumer fuels. Almost from the first, the Bush administration and the company were hounded by allegations of favoritism and reckless spending under that contract, for which KBR eventually billed $2.5 billion.

    In the American debate, colored by election politics last fall, one part of the story was often overlooked: most of the money used to pay KBR was not taxpayer dollars but Iraqi money, mainly oil revenues. The United Nations had authorized the American occupiers to spend Iraqi funds - for the good of the Iraqi people and "in a transparent manner" - and created a special international board of auditors to insure that those conditions were met.

    As American critics leveled their accusations at Halliburton and the Pentagon, those international overseers began expressing concerns, too. The board of monitors repeatedly asked for data on the no-bid fuels contract and was repeatedly rebuffed by the Pentagon. Last October, the board was handed copies of the Pentagon's own audits of the nine components of that KBR contract, with numbers and many conclusions blacked out.

    Last week, when Representative Henry Waxman, minority leader of the House Committee on Government Reform, released a largely unexpurgated version of one of those October audits, covering $875 million worth of fuel imports, news reports focused on the numbers. The Pentagon's own monitors, it turned out, found excess billing of more than $100 million and criticized KBR for poor record-keeping.

    But a comparison of the original with the blacked-out, or "redacted," version that was sent to the international board last fall also raised new questions about the basis on which the Pentagon, at Halliburton's suggestion, had chosen the items it had edited out of the document.…”

    …KBR officials asked for, and then received, far more expansive deletions than is customary, said Thomas M. Susman, an attorney and regulatory expert with Ropes & Gray in Washington, including calculations and conclusions reached by the government that Mr. Susman said cannot be called proprietary.

    Michael A. Morrow, KBR's contracts manager, said in a Sept. 28, 2004, letter to the contracting agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, that the company insisted on blacking out proprietary information and also any statements “that we believe are factually incorrect or misleading and could be used by a competitor to damage KBR's ability to win and negotiate new work.”

    Nearly every number and comment critical of KBR in the report was blacked out in the redacted copy. Last week, in an e-mail message, The New York Times asked Halliburton's chief information officer for further clarification of which aspects of the audit the company considered to be inaccurate or unfair, but received no reply.

    Mr. Susman, who has examined Mr. Morrow's letter and both versions of the audit report, said: “KBR proposed redacting anything that could be embarrassing to the company plus anything it disagreed with.”

    “They apparently felt they could get away with this,” he added.

    Thursday, March 17, 2005

    Porter Goss Defends Interrogation Policy and Disavows Torture

    ‘Torture is not, it's not productive,’ he went on. ‘That's not professional interrogation. We don't torture.’

    “The head of the Central Intelligence Agency today defended interrogation techniques used to combat terrorism while asserting that the United States does not practice or approve of torture.

    ‘Professional interrogation has become a very useful and necessary way to obtain information to save innocent lives, to disrupt terrorist schemes and to protect our combat forces,’ the C.I.A. director, Porter J. Goss, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

    ‘Torture is not, it's not productive,’ he went on. ‘That's not professional interrogation. We don't torture.’”

    He said the information gleaned from the questioning of prisoners captured in Iraq and Afghanistan had saved innocent lives and led to the capture of terrorists. But he emphasized, ‘The United States government does not engage in or condone torture.’

    Mr. Goss's appearance before the panel came amid persistent controversy over the C.I.A.'s handling of terrorism suspects, especially the practice of turning over prisoners to other countries where torture is winked at or is even standard practice. Critics of the practice, sometimes called ‘rendition,’ say it makes the United States complicit in these activities.

    Between 100 and 150 terror suspects are believed to have been flown by American authorities to Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and other countries for questioning, supposedly after those countries had given assurances that the people being questioned would not be tortured.

    When Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the panel, asked Mr. Goss about his agency's policy toward ‘rendition,’ Mr. Goss demurred, saying he preferred to discuss it in closed session.

    When Mr. Levin pressed him on how vigorously the C.I.A. checked complaints from people who have been subjected to ‘rendition,’ the director replied, ‘Again, this is the kind of question that is complicated and would need to be answered in closed session.’

    ‘But I can assure you,’ he went on, ‘that I know of no instances where the intelligence community is outside the law on this.’

    Wednesday, March 16, 2005

    U.S. Military Says 26 Inmate Deaths May Be Homicide

    ‘The Army defines a homicide as "a death that results from the intentional (explicit or implied) or grossly reckless behavior of another person or persons.’

    “At least 26 prisoners have died in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002 in what Army and Navy investigators have concluded or suspect were acts of criminal homicide, according to military officials.

    The number of confirmed or suspected cases is much higher than any accounting the military has previously reported. A Pentagon report sent to Congress last week cited only six prisoner deaths caused by abuse, but that partial tally was limited to what the author, Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III of the Navy, called "closed, substantiated abuse cases" as of last September.

    The new figure of 26 was provided by the Army and Navy this week after repeated inquiries. In 18 cases reviewed by the Army and Navy, investigators have now closed their inquiries and have recommended them for prosecution or referred them to other agencies for action, Army and Navy officials said. Eight cases are still under investigation but are listed by the Army as confirmed or suspected criminal homicides, the officials said.

    Only one of the deaths occurred at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, officials said, showing how broadly the most violent abuses extended beyond those prison walls and contradicting early impressions that the wrongdoing was confined to a handful of members of the military police on the prison's night shift.

    Among the cases are at least four involving Central Intelligence Agency employees that are being reviewed by the Justice Department for possible prosecution. They include a killing in Afghanistan in June 2003 for which David Passaro, a contract worker for the C.I.A., is now facing trial in federal court in North Carolina.

    Human rights groups expressed dismay at the number of criminal homicides and renewed their call for a Sept. 11-style inquiry into detention operations and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. "This number to me is quite astounding," said James D. Ross, senior legal adviser for Human Rights Watch in New York. "This just reflects an overall failure to take seriously the abuses that have occurred."

    Pentagon and Army officials rebutted that accusation. Lawrence Di Rita, the chief Pentagon spokesman, said that he was not aware that the Defense Department had previously accounted publicly for criminal homicides among the detainee deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq, but insisted that military authorities were vigorously pursuing each case.

    "I have not seen the numbers collected in the way you described them, but obviously one criminal homicide is one too many," said Mr. Di Rita, who noted that American forces had held more than 50,000 detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past three years.

    Army officials said the killings took place both inside and outside detention areas, including at the point of capture in often violent battlefield conditions. "The Army will investigate every detainee death both inside and outside detention facilities," said Col. Joseph Curtin, a senior Army spokesman. "Simply put, detainee abuse is not tolerated, and the Army will hold soldiers accountable. We are taking action to prosecute those suspected of abuse while taking steps now to train soldiers how to avoid such situations in the future."

    In his report last week, Admiral Church concluded that the abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan had been the result primarily of a breakdown of discipline, not flawed policies or misguided direction from commanders or Pentagon officials. But he cautioned that his conclusions were "based primarily on the information available to us as of Sept. 30, 2004," and added, "Should additional information become available, our conclusions would have to be considered in light of that information."

    In addition to the criminal homicides, 11 cases involving prisoner deaths at the hands of American troops are now listed as justifiable homicides that should not be prosecuted, Army officials said. Those cases included killings caused by soldiers in suppressing prisoner riots in Iraq, they said. Other prisoners have died in captivity of natural causes, the military has found.

    The new total of 26 cases involving prisoner deaths confirmed or suspected of being criminal homicides includes 24 cases investigated by the Army and two by the Navy, spokesmen for those services said. Two of the Army cases have since been referred to the Navy, and one to the Justice Department. The Navy said each case included a single prisoner death, but the Army said it was possible that at least some of the cases investigated by the service involved the death of more than one prisoner.

    The Marine Corps said that nine Iraqi detainees had died in Marine custody, but that none of the deaths were homicides. It is unclear if this number includes the death of an Iraqi captive shot by a marine in a mosque in Falluja last November, an incident filmed by a television crew.

    Neither the Army nor the Navy would provide a precise accounting of all of the cases now regarded as confirmed or suspected homicide.

    At least eight Army soldiers have now been convicted of crimes in the deaths of prisoners in American custody, including a lieutenant who pleaded guilty at Fort Hood, Tex., this month to charges that included aggravated assault and battery, obstruction of justice and dereliction of duty. A charge of involuntary manslaughter in that case was dropped.

    An additional 13 Army soldiers are now being tried, according to Army officials. They include Pfc. Willie V. Brand, who is facing a hearing at Fort Bliss, Tex., next week on charges of manslaughter and maiming in the deaths of two prisoners at Bagram Control Point in Afghanistan in December 2002.

    But in some of the cases, including the death of an Iraqi, Manadel al-Jamadi, in Abu Ghraib in November 2003, most of those initially charged with crimes by the military have ended up receiving only nonjudicial punishments, and neither their names nor the details of those punishments have been disclosed.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2005

    They Can Destroy Palestinian Homes
    in Less Than 24 Hours


    “It all continues; nothing has stopped. Let no one be fooled that just because a report has been published, and is being discussed nicely on television, that it means this has been brought to an end.”

    “The Israeli cabinet pledged Sunday to dismantle two dozen illegal settlement outposts established in the West Bank since Ariel Sharon became prime minister in 2001. But ministers did not set a timetable or announce the fate of 80 other outposts.

    The cabinet decision was the strongest public commitment to remove at least some of the more recent settlement outposts, as demanded by the Middle East peace plan, known as the road map.

    "The first stage of the road map requires that Israel dismantle unauthorized outposts which were established since March 2001, and the government of Israel will honor this commitment," said the measure approved by the cabinet.

    The cabinet acted just five days after Talia Sasson, a former state prosecutor, presented Mr. Sharon with a sharply critical report identifying 105 outposts that were established in past decade and received government assistance in "blatant violation of the law."

    However, any government action against the outposts appeared to be months away at the earliest.

    The Gaza pullout plan has provoked huge protests from settlers and their right-wing supporters, and taking down the West Bank outposts would further inflame passions.

    The settlers in the outposts include some of the most radical and hard-core elements in the settler movement. In the past, they have fiercely resisted the dismantling of outposts.

    Matan Vilnai, a cabinet minister from the center-left Labor Party, said the government should not delay in dealing with the outposts. "We need to take immediate action, and see what we can do in parallel to the disengagement from Gaza," he said.

    Meanwhile, Ms. Sasson said she was still skeptical about the government's intention to act against the outposts.

    "It all continues; nothing has stopped," she told Israeli television. "Let no one be fooled that just because a report has been published, and is being discussed nicely on television, that it means this has been brought to an end."

    Since Israel captured the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 war, the government has approved the building of some 150 settlements, which now house some 240,000 Jews. In addition, more than 200,000 Israelis now live in East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after the war.

    Facing international pressure, Israel in the mid-1990's pledged not to build new settlements. But settlers quickly began establishing unauthorized outposts in the West Bank.

    An estimated 2,000 Israelis now live in the outposts. They account for less than 1 percent of the settlers in the West Bank. However, many of today's large, formal settlements began as small outposts.

    The Palestinians seek a state that includes all of the West Bank and Gaza, and are adamantly opposed to the outposts as well as the formal settlements. The United Nations considers all Israeli settlements illegal, and the United States calls them an obstacle to peace.

    Monday, March 14, 2005

    Under Bush, a New Age of Prepackaged TV News


    “It is the kind of TV news coverage every president covets.

    ‘Thank you, Bush. Thank you, U.S.A.,’ a jubilant Iraqi-American told a camera crew in Kansas City for a segment about reaction to the fall of Baghdad. A second report told of ‘another success’ in the Bush administration's ‘drive to strengthen aviation security’; the reporter called it ‘one of the most remarkable campaigns in aviation history.’ A third segment, broadcast in January, described the administration's determination to open markets for American farmers.

    To a viewer, each report looked like any other 90-second segment on the local news. In fact, the federal government produced all three. The report from Kansas City was made by the State Department. The ‘reporter’ covering airport safety was actually a public relations professional working under a false name for the Transportation Security Administration. The farming segment was done by the Agriculture Department's office of communications.

    Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production.

    This winter, Washington has been roiled by revelations that a handful of columnists wrote in support of administration policies without disclosing they had accepted payments from the government. But the administration's efforts to generate positive news coverage have been considerably more pervasive than previously known. At the same time, records and interviews suggest widespread complicity or negligence by television stations, given industry ethics standards that discourage the broadcast of prepackaged news segments from any outside group without revealing the source.”

    Federal agencies are forthright with broadcasters about the origin of the news segments they distribute. The reports themselves, though, are designed to fit seamlessly into the typical local news broadcast. In most cases, the “reporters” are careful not to state in the segment that they work for the government. Their reports generally avoid overt ideological appeals. Instead, the government's news-making apparatus has produced a quiet drumbeat of broadcasts describing a vigilant and compassionate administration.

    Some reports were produced to support the administration's most cherished policy objectives, like regime change in Iraq or Medicare reform. Others focused on less prominent matters, like the administration's efforts to offer free after-school tutoring, its campaign to curb childhood obesity, its initiatives to preserve forests and wetlands, its plans to fight computer viruses, even its attempts to fight holiday drunken driving. They often feature "interviews" with senior administration officials in which questions are scripted and answers rehearsed. Critics, though, are excluded, as are any hints of mismanagement, waste or controversy.

    Some of the segments were broadcast in some of nation's largest television markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta.

    An examination of government-produced news reports offers a look inside a world where the traditional lines between public relations and journalism have become tangled, where local anchors introduce prepackaged segments with "suggested" lead-ins written by public relations experts. It is a world where government-produced reports disappear into a maze of satellite transmissions, Web portals, syndicated news programs and network feeds, only to emerge cleansed on the other side as "independent" journalism.

    It is also a world where all participants benefit.

    Local affiliates are spared the expense of digging up original material. Public relations firms secure government contracts worth millions of dollars. The major networks, which help distribute the releases, collect fees from the government agencies that produce segments and the affiliates that show them. The administration, meanwhile, gets out an unfiltered message, delivered in the guise of traditional reporting.

    Sunday, March 13, 2005

    Looting at Weapons Plants Was Systematic, Iraqi Says


    “The peak of the organized looting, Dr. Araji estimates, occurred in four weeks from mid-April to mid-May of 2003 as teams with flatbed trucks and other heavy equipment moved systematically from site to site. That operation was followed by rounds of less discriminating thievery.

    ‘The first wave came for the machines,’ Dr. Araji said. ‘The second wave, cables and cranes. The third wave came for the bricks.’ ”

    “Sami al-Araji, the deputy minister of industry, said it appeared that a highly organized operation had pinpointed specific plants in search of valuable equipment, some of which could be used for both military and civilian applications, and carted the machinery away.

    Dr. Araji said his account was based largely on observations by government employees and officials who either worked at the sites or lived near them.

    "They came in with the cranes and the lorries, and they depleted the whole sites," Dr. Araji said. "They knew what they were doing; they knew what they want. This was sophisticated looting."

    The threat posed by these types of facilities was cited by the Bush administration as a reason for invading Iraq, but the installations were left largely unguarded by allied forces in the chaotic months after the invasion.

    Dr. Araji's statements came just a week after a United Nations agency disclosed that approximately 90 important sites in Iraq had been looted or razed in that period.

    Satellite imagery analyzed by two United Nations groups - the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, or Unmovic - confirms that some of the sites identified by Dr. Araji appear to be totally or partly stripped, senior officials at those agencies said. Those officials said they could not comment on all of Dr. Araji's assertions, because the groups had been barred from Iraq since the invasion.

    For nearly a year, the two agencies have sent regular reports to the United Nations Security Council detailing evidence of the dismantlement of Iraqi military installations and, in a few cases, the movement of Iraqi gear to other countries. In addition, a report issued last October by the chief American arms inspector in Iraq, Charles A. Duelfer, told of evidence of looting at crucial sites.

    The disclosures by the Iraqi ministry, however, added new information about the thefts, detailing the timing, the material taken and the apparent skill shown by the thieves.

    Dr. Araji said equipment capable of making parts for missiles as well as chemical, biological and nuclear arms was missing from 8 or 10 sites that were the heart of Iraq's dormant program on unconventional weapons. After the invasion, occupation forces found no unconventional arms, and C.I.A. inspectors concluded that the effort had been largely abandoned after the Persian Gulf war in 1991.

    Dr. Araji said he had no evidence regarding where the equipment had gone. But his account raises the possibility that the specialized machinery from the arms establishment that the war was aimed at neutralizing had made its way to the black market or was in the hands of foreign governments.

    Dr. Araji said he believed that the looters themselves were more interested in making money than making weapons.

    The United Nations, worried that the material could be used in clandestine bomb production, has been hunting for it, largely unsuccessfully, across the Middle East. In one case, investigators searching through scrap yards in Jordan last June found specialized vats for highly corrosive chemicals that had been tagged and monitored as part of the international effort to keep watch on the Iraqi arms program. The vessels could be used for harmless industrial processes or for making chemical weapons.

    American military officials in Baghdad did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the findings. But American officials have said in the past that while they were aware of the importance of some of the installations, there was not enough military personnel to guard all of them during and after the invasion.

    White House officials, apprised of the Iraqi account by The New York Times, said it was already well known that many weapons sites had been looted. They had no other comment.

    Manning the Barricades


    “ON March 4, a car carrying several Italians - including the journalist Giuliana Sgrena and a military intelligence officer, Nicola Calipari - raced along the notoriously dangerous highway leading to Baghdad International Airport. A plane was waiting to carry Ms. Sgrena home to Italy following her release after a month as a hostage. They never made it. American soldiers opened fire on the Italians' Toyota Corolla, killing Mr. Calipari and wounding Ms. Sgrena.

    This tragedy resonates with me because I led Marine platoons in Afghanistan and Iraq. Standing in the dark at highway checkpoints, I've often had to make split-second, life-or-death decisions. A couple stand out.

    One ended well. On the night of March 30, 2003, my platoon was one of the northernmost American units spearheading the blitz to Baghdad. As darkness fell, we set up a checkpoint on a highway north of Al Hayy, in central Iraq. Other marines were attacking from the south, and our mission was to play the anvil to their hammer, to block the escape of Baathist guerrillas. The problem, we knew, was that innocent people would also flee the American onslaught.

    We strung a piece of concertina wire across the highway 100 yards ahead of our position to warn drivers to stop. Three times, I exhaled in relief as approaching headlights slowed and turned around. The fourth set of headlights was higher off the ground: a tractor-trailer. I heard mashing gears as it accelerated. At 60 miles per hour, the truck sped nearly 100 feet closer to our position every second. It crashed through the wire, still picking up speed. Even if the truck wasn't a bomb, I knew it would kill my marines and destroy our vital equipment. I ordered the platoon to fire.

    Streams of red tracers poured into the cab, but still the truck hurtled toward us. I was bracing for the impact when the truck jackknifed to a halt 20 feet from our position. All night it sat, smoking, in the road. The next morning, men, women and children from Al Hayy came and danced and cheered around the bodies in the yellow truck. Only then did we know for sure that we hadn't killed innocent people. There was no satisfaction in making the "right" decision. It was the only decision.

    The real issue is this: How can our troops address such threats without killing noncombatants?

    Two days later, we had a similar experience, but a very different result. It began when my platoon was ambushed by Syrian jihadists wearing civilian clothes. Their bullets shattered our Humvee windshields, shredded tires and hit two marines. After evacuating our wounded, we received reports that other foreign fighters were trying to get a car bomb close to us.

    Soon after, I noticed four men in a blue sedan circling our position near a small-town crossroads. Minutes later, the car turned toward us. My marines waved at the driver to pull over. The car continued forward. A short, warning burst rattled from a machine gun. The car never slowed. When it was only a second or two from our position, we aimed for the car's engine block, trying to disable the car without shooting the men. The sedan stopped, and I was momentarily grateful that we'd protected ourselves without hurting anyone. Then I trained my binoculars on the car.

    A bullet had entered the driver's skull through his eye. He was pitched back in his seat, moaning and bleeding from his fatal wound. We found no weapons and no explosives in the car. The other men had no explanation for why they'd charged toward us, except that they'd been frightened and confused.

    It is in the murky distinction between those two events that the significance of the Sgrena incident lies. Americans know that their troops have a right to defend themselves. But they may not know that military leaders at every level, from general to corporal, have an even stronger responsibility for the defense of those under their command. It is more than a right, it is an obligation.

    The Army is conducting an investigation into this latest shooting, but I suspect that the young officer or soldier commanding that checkpoint fired at what he thought, in good faith, was an imminent threat to himself and his soldiers. The real issue is this: How can our troops address such threats without killing noncombatants?

    Unfortunately, instead of helping to answer that question, the uproar after the shooting has focused on two distractions. From her hospital bed, Ms. Sgrena hinted that the Americans had tried to kill her to protest Italy's policy of negotiating with hostage-takers. Her assertion begs the questions of what the United States could possibly gain from such an act and, why, after approaching her car, the soldiers apologized and called for medical help rather than finishing the job.

    More dangerous, because it sounds more plausible, is the claim that proper coordination between Italian and American authorities could have prevented the shooting. Gen. George W. Casey Jr. , the top American commander in Iraq, said Italian officials gave no advance notice of the car's intended route. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi disagrees. This dispute is a red herring. No high-level government coordination, short of an American military escort for Ms. Sgrena's car, would have changed the outcome on that highway. The pivotal players were the men on the ground.

    A hallmark of modern warfare is what the Marine Corps calls the "strategic corporal." The immense firepower of our troops, the haphazard nature of the Iraqi insurgency and the ever-watching eyes of the global news media combine to place decisions of strategic consequence on the shoulders of the junior-most troops. Consider the videotaped shooting of a wounded insurgent by a marine during the fight over Falluja in November, or the atrocities committed by soldiers at Abu Ghraib referred to by some in the military as "the seven idiots that lost the war." The training provided to young marines and soldiers must be commensurate with the extraordinary demands we now make of them.

    The fact is, checkpoint techniques can be taught. My platoon had to learn them on the fly, but that was two years ago. The lessons we and other troops learned should have been institutionalized long ago.

    Friday, March 11, 2005

    DeLay Is Treated by Cardiologist


    “Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, was treated for a heart ailment on Thursday at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., his office said.

    Mr. DeLay, Republican of Texas, was released after a series of tests. He intends to keep plans to go to Florida, Georgia and Texas this weekend.…”

    Tom Delay Actually has a Heart!!

    Capt. Michael Curran, the head of cardiology at the hospital, said in a statement that Mr. Delay, 57, who met with doctors at the Capitol and then at Bethesda after experiencing minor fatigue, has an irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia. Captain Curran said Mr. DeLay's doctor in Texas has monitored the arrhythmia for years.

    Thursday, March 10, 2005

    Mood in Congress to Relax Corporate Scrutiny

    “In what has seemed a daily ritual, the Senate in the last two weeks has defeated the most modest attempts by Democrats to curb bankruptcy abuses by corrupt or troubled corporations and their senior executives.

    The votes illustrate a new reality and a sharp swing of the pendulum in the Senate, which has nearly completed its work on the legislation that everyone expects will soon become law.

    Just two and a half years ago, in the midst of plunging stock markets and widening business scandals that left many thousands of workers unemployed and without their retirement savings, fearful lawmakers rushed by a vote of 97 to 0 to adopt the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. It was the most aggressive federal anticorruption law Congress had adopted in decades. On the day of the Senate vote, the Dow Jones industrial average was down as much as 440 points. Days earlier, WorldCom executives disclosed the first details of the largest accounting fraud in history.

    The lawmakers rejected a proposal to prohibit corrupt companies from issuing huge payouts to senior executives shortly before entering bankruptcy, blocked a measure that would have limited companies like Enron and WorldCom from shopping for the most favorable bankruptcy courts; such actions have had the effect of disenfranchising employees and retired workers from the process.

    They defeated a proposal to protect those employees and retired workers when their companies go bankrupt, refused to close the "millionaire's loophole" that permits wealthy individuals to shelter their assets from lenders by creating special asset-protection trusts.

    And on Wednesday, they rejected a nationwide limit on the homestead exemption, a provision that has enabled corporate executives to buy expensive homes in states like Florida and Texas to shelter their assets from creditors.

    Now, as business scandals occupy a less prominent place in newspapers and the stock market is well above 2002 lows, the politics of financial regulation have sharply shifted.

    "How quickly things change," said Ann Yerger, executive director of the Council of Institutional Investors, a group of major shareholders that sought tough corporate governance and accounting rules. "It's been stunning. In the past few months alone, there has been a clear push back from the corporate community, and it has resonated. Folks have short memories, and there is a perception that the Enrons are behind us.

    "We now spend much of our time trying to hold onto the reforms we had won," she added.

    During the recent debate on tightening the bankruptcy code, the lawmakers rejected a proposal to prohibit corrupt companies from issuing huge payouts to senior executives shortly before entering bankruptcy. They blocked consideration of a measure that would have curtailed the ability of companies like Enron and WorldCom to shop for the most favorable bankruptcy courts; such actions have had the effect of disenfranchising employees and retired workers from the process.

    They defeated a proposal to protect those employees and retired workers when their companies go bankrupt. They refused to close the "millionaire's loophole" that permits wealthy individuals to shelter their assets from lenders by creating special asset-protection trusts.

    And on Wednesday, they rejected a proposal to put a nationwide limit on the homestead exemption, a provision that has enabled corporate executives to buy expensive homes in states like Florida and Texas to shelter their assets from creditors.

    Wednesday, March 09, 2005

    Syria Comment

    Thoughts on Syrian politics, history and religion.
    by Joshua Landis
    “Lebanon is divided. All the same, Nasrallah’s followers sought to appropriate the same symbols as the opposition, which is very healthy. The placards held up by the demonstrators bore the same cross and crescent seen at previous demonstrations. The great symbol of the event was the Lebanese flag; red and white were everywhere. Nasrallah spoke about Lebanon for the Lebanese, united against all foreign influence.

    Of course, the thrust of his speech was diametrically opposed to that of the opposition. He painted the opposition as unpatriotic and as agents of the West and Israel who do not have the best interests of the region at heart. They do not stand on the side of Arabism and the struggle against Lebanon’s enemy, Israel.

    The relationship with Syria was handled with great skill and care. When he finished his speech with the words, “Long live Syria.” Everyone here went wild with joy. After weeks of feeling like crap and as if the whole world – even the Arabs – hated them, Syrians saw and heard the gratitude they believe they deserve for ending the civil war and protecting Lebanon. They know they are not alone. The Arabist rhetoric of the Baath Party and Bashar al-Asad still resonates in the hearts of millions. Nasrallah was careful not to suggest that Lebanon needed Syrian forces on its soil or that it could not stand alone. Quite the contrary, “Lebanon has proven that it is the strongest Arab country,” Nasrallah said.

    The Lebanese resistance is the only resistance that has won against Israel and driven it from Arab soil. The clear implication is that Lebanon does not need Syria. It can defend Lebanese soil on its own as it had proven in the struggle against Israel. “The Arabs will not concede to Israel and the West through diplomacy what it has not conceded on the battle-field,” he said. “Israel will not win through diplomatic pressure what it could not win on the battle field,” he promised. Lebanon will be the last Arab country to sign a peace agreement with Israel. Hizbullah fought for Arabism, the honor of the Arab world, and against Israeli and Zionist domination. Syria helped in the struggle and has been a corner stone of assistance and succor, he explained; Lebanon will not turn its back on Syria today or in the future. No amount of international pressure or diplomatic maneuvering will defeat the noble stand of the resistance, which liberated Lebanon form Israeli occupation. History, blood, and inclination tie the Syrian and Lebanese people together.. “They are one people.” This last slogan is redolent with meaning. It is the slogan used by Syria and rejected by the Lebanese opposition.

    Q&A: A Blogger's Report From Damascus

    Joshua M. Landis, a Fulbright scholar who is spending a year in Damascus, Syria, says international and foreign pressure will eventually force President Bashar al-Assad to pull all Syrian troops out of Lebanon. But he said Assad is trying to make a deal that would allow Syria to station devices in Lebanon to warn of an impending attack from Israel.

    Landis, an assistant professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Oklahoma, writes a weblog called about Syrian politics. He was interviewed by Bernard Gwertzman, consulting editor for, on March 7, 2005.

    Syria is very concerned about trying to get some kind of early-warning [system installed] in the Bekaa Valley [that would signal an attack from Israel]. I think that world pressure and the pressure from the Lebanese opposition will eventually force them to withdraw completely from Lebanon. On the other hand, it is very important strategically for them to make this attempt [to install the early-warning system].

    Look at it in terms of the Golan Heights [occupied by Israel since the 1967 war]. Syria and Israel negotiated over the Golan Heights for many years during the 1990s. One of Israel's demands was to maintain early-warning sites on the Golan [after it returns the land to Syria]. Syria, of course, didn't like that. If the United States refuses [to permit Syria to build] early-warning stations in Bekaa, Syria could then say, "Why should Israel get early-warning stations in the Golan?"

    Syria has been talking about radar stations and some troop emplacements around them; in the speech president' s two nights ago, he talked about 1982 [when Israeli troops invaded Lebanon] and how the Israelis came right up to Bekaa and threatened Damascus. [Background on Syria's role in Lebanon]

    Could there be some kind of international radar system, such as the one worked out when Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula in 1982? Would that satisfy the Syrians?

    It's possible. Bashar al-Assad is very interested in maintaining a good relationship with Lebanon. How he's going to do that is not quite clear. He is insisting on the defense of Syria through the Bekaa. There is no real Lebanese government right now; there is an interim government, which is the government that just resigned. That government is very pro-Syrian. It's going to be hard for the Lebanese government to ask Syria not to play a role in resisting Israel. [The Shiite militants] Hezbollah yesterday asserted its support for Syria and for maintaining a good relationship with Damascus. Even though Hezbollah agrees that Syria should withdraw from Lebanon, it wants to make sure that Syria maintains its support for resisting Israel and, in particular, Hezbollah does not want to disarm.

    There is no indication that Israel has any intention of going back into Lebanon, is there?

    No, of course there isn't. But the Syrians fear this. And what the Syrians fear above all is that Lebanon is going to sign a peace agreement with Israel. Shaul Mofaz, the Israeli defense minister, said yesterday he hopes that events in Lebanon would lead to a peace agreement with Israel.

    Tuesday, March 08, 2005

    Report Shows Israeli Support for Illegal West Bank Settlements

    “A long-awaited report into Israeli government support for illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank, formally delivered to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon today, describes widespread state complicity, fraud and cynicism, illegal diversion of government money and illegal seizure of private Palestinian land.

    The report, which was written under American pressure, finished in early January and withheld until now, accuses the government of Mr. Sharon and previous Israeli governments of "blatant violations of the law" and complicity in helping settlers construct illegal outposts in violation of stated Israeli government policy. The report describes almost a state within a state, devoted to promoting illegal settlement activity in the occupied West Bank.

    "No one seriously intends to enforce the law," says the report, written by Talia Sasson, a former chief state prosecutor. "It seems as if the violation of the law has become institutional and institutionalized. There is blatant violation of the law by certain state authorities, public authorities, regional councils" in the West Bank "and the settlers," Ms. Sasson writes, according to excerpts published today by the Israeli daily Maariv. "Everything is done for appearances' sake, as if a regulated institutional establishment were acting within the confines of the law."

    The conclusions of the report, which will be released in full on Wednesday, are no surprise, and confirm accusations made for years by Peace Now, the dovish Israeli citizen's lobby, and less publicly by the United States Embassy here. Mr. Sharon commissioned the report in June 2004 after accusations that his government was not keeping its promises to Washington to freeze settlement activity and dismantle illegal settler outposts in the West Bank set up after March 2001.”

    At the time, the report was considered a delaying tactic, but its conclusions, however harsh, will also give Mr. Sharon a solid pretext within Israel for dismantling at least some of the illegal outposts. Mr. Sharon has argued to the Bush administration that his plan to dismantle all Jewish settlements in Gaza is so painful that he cannot get into a fight with settlers on the West Bank at the same time. He has also insisted that the Palestinians complete their obligations to dismantle terrorist organizations under the first stage of the peace plan called the road map before Israel could even begin to complete its parallel obligations to freeze settlement activity and dismantle the illegal outposts, of which there are around 100, with at least 2,000 inhabitants.

    At least 50 outposts date since March 2001, when Mr. Sharon came to power, and should be dismantled under the road map, according to Peace Now. The government has said there are only 28 such outposts; the Sasson report gave a figure of 96 illegal outposts in total. The international community considers all Israeli settlements built beyond the 1949 armistice lines as illegal.

    Aides to Mr. Sharon said he would not comment on the report until he had read it. Raanan Gissin, a Sharon aide, said: "It will be studied carefully with the intention of implementing it, and it will be translated and given to the U.S. Embassy." The report was done "in coordination with the U.S. government to see how we could get to the bottom of this issue," Mr. Gissin said. "Corrections and adjustments have to be made."

    Asked if there would be indictments, Mr. Gissin said: "If laws were broken, subject to the decision of the attorney general, indictments may be made. Israel is a country of the rule of law and laws will be upheld."

    According to Ms. Sasson's report, the laws have not been upheld for some time, including during the entire period of Mr. Sharon's government.

    The Housing and Construction Ministry, the settlement division of the semi-governmental World Zionist Organization, the Education Ministry and the Civil Administration, which is how the Defense Ministry governs the West Bank, worked together to "systematically establish illegal settlement points," handing over millions of dollars to create the infrastructure for scores of settlements, according to the report.

    Permission to construct communications antennas on Palestinian lands were followed by connections to the electrical grid, then a booth for a guard, followed by the paving of a road, then infrastructure for housing trailers that were financed from the state budget - $8 million in 2003 alone. The trailers were often manufactured and put in place before official tenders for them had even been placed, creating a settlement quickly.

    Ms. Sasson wrote of the trailers: "They are transported, positioned on the ground and hooked up to the infrastructure. It's a house on wheels. This allows for a settlement to be established overnight, by simply moving the trailers."

    Construction permits and permits to move trailers in the West Bank were approved by the Defense Ministry, according to the report, while officials ignored where trailers ended up and overlooked missing paperwork, permissions and required monetary deposits to ensure that "the trailer will be positioned legally."

    Ms. Sasson is scheduled to hold a news conference to discuss the report on Wednesday.
    con·cept: March 2005