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  Cheney is NutsFebruary 28, 2007 11:38 Tuesday in Oman, aboard Air Force Two at 3:07 p.m. local time, an unidentified "senior administration official" spoke to reporters about Vice President Cheney's trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan (photo by Fraudoon Pooyaa of the Associated Press).

The White House has helpfully posted the transcript here, and as readers can see, this unidentifed fellow seems to have been the veep himself. A few excerpts:

• "The reason the president wanted me to come, obviously," the mystery official says, "is because of the continuing threat that exists in this part of the world on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border."

• "Let me just make one editorial comment here. I've seen some press reporting says, 'Cheney went in to beat up on them, threaten them.' That's not the way I work. I don't know who writes that, or maybe somebody gets it from some source who doesn't know what I'm doing, or isn't involved in it. But the idea that I'd go in and threaten someone is an invalid misreading of the way I do business."

• "I would describe my sessions both in Pakistan and Afghanistan as very productive."

• "I've often spoken and would reiterate again today, when you think about the debate at home, some of my friends on the other side of the aisle arguing that we need to get out of Iraq, then you go spend some time with our allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, you can't help but be convinced that that would have a devastating impact, devastating consequences for what they're trying to do, what they've agreed to do in terms of their ongoing efforts with us as allies in these struggles in this part of the world."

Then there was this exchange with a reporter:

Question: "You've spoken also, though, about some of the things that Speaker Pelosi and Representative Murtha have said how that does play to the hands of --

Senior administration official: "I was asked by one of your colleagues."

Q: "But your answer was very articulate."

Official: "I responded very carefully."

Q: "And you suggested that they make -- they lend comfort to terrorists, essentially."

Official: "No, what I said was that that the al-Qaeda strategy is based on the notion that they can break the will of the American people. They know they can't beat us in a stand-up fight. But they do believe -- and I think there's evidence to support this -- that they can, in fact, force us to change our policy if they just kill enough Americans, create enough havoc out there. And they cite Beirut in 1983; Mogadishu, 1993, kill Americans, America changes its policy and withdraws. And Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri believe this. They talk about it. It's not a mystery.
  NK Nuke Envoy On Rare U.S. TripFebruary 27, 2007 12:22 North Korea's chief nuclear envoy embarked on a rare trip to the United States on Tuesday while South Korea sent a top official to Pyongyang to persuade the North to quickly start scrapping its nuclear arms program.

North Korean nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-gwan arrived in Beijing on Tuesday en route for talks with U.S. officials, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

Reclusive North Korea agreed earlier this month at six-way talks to shut down its main nuclear reactor, the source of its weapons-grade plutonium, in return for energy aid. It separately said it would halt its seven-month boycott of talks with Seoul.

North Korea has few air links with the outside world and its officials often travel via China.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said on Tuesday that North Korea needed repeated reassurance it would not be threatened by force before it would give up its nuclear arms.

 
  Pakistan's Musharraf On Thin IceFebruary 27, 2007 11:44 US Vice President Dick Cheney's recent visit to Pakistan was far from a gesture of friendship. The United States are putting massive pressure on Pakistan to finally take action against the Taliban active on the country's border. But can Musharraf afford it?
If you believe Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, there was nothing unusual to report this Monday. US Vice President Dick Cheney had just arrived in Islamabad for an unannounced visit on his way to Afghanistan and was having lunch with Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf. Perfectly normal security precautions, a press spokeswoman said in reply to questions as to why the visit has been kept secret. A "normal visit between partners."
But even the few photographs made available from the visit suggest that the speedy stopover by President George W. Bush's right-hand man was not the friendly bonding session the spokeswoman would have one believe. Cheney barely managed an awkward smile when he shook the hand of his host for the camera.
He left Pakistan after just a few hours -- without giving a public statement or even holding a press conference with Musharraf. "Visits between friends look a bit different," one Western diplomat commented. It is likely, he added, that Cheney's had stopped in Pakistan to admonish US-ally Musharraf.

 
  "Is Bush Iraq-Ing Iran?"February 27, 2007 09:35 U.N. sanctions. Talk of military action. Two aircraft carriers moved into the Persian Gulf. F-16s deployed to bases in Turkey. A public relations offensive to terrorize Americans into thinking a nuclear 9/11 is around the corner.

It's déjà vu all over again.

Is the Bush administration Iraq-ing Iran? Are they so stupid, arrogant, and insane that they would start another unwinnable war in the Middle East midway through the first one? Are they dusting off the pre-war script for Iraq, crossing out the Q's, and inserting N's instead?

To answer these questions, we have to understand that "war is a continuation of politics by other means."1 The politics of the Iraq war was "regime change," meaning the goal of the war was, and is, to establish a pro-U.S. government in Iraq, thereby securing U.S. control over the world's second largest oil reserves and establishing large, permanent military bases in the heart of the Middle East. From this position, the U.S. would threaten regional enemies Iran and Syria militarily and economically. By getting the new Iraqi puppet government to increase oil production, the U.S. could depress the price of oil, causing a major crisis for the Iranian government since half of its revenue comes from oil sales.

 
  Democrats Move To Strip Bush Of Iraq War AuthorityFebruary 24, 2007 23:13 In the United States, the Democrats are trying to revoke the President's authority to go to war in Iraq.

Senate Democratic leaders are pushing a plan to strip President George W Bush of his war authority and leave US troops with a limited mission, like fighting Al Qaeda and training Iraqi army and police forces but the precise wording of the measure has not been settled.

The White House says the 2002 authorisation is still active and in place and that the Administration plans to wait until the legislation is drafted before taking a stand.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto says Democrats are in a state of confusion.

"It's really a shifting landscape of ideas all with the intention of keeping our troops from, what we feel, getting what they need to carry out their mission," he said.

The Bush Administration argues that changes to the war resolution are unnecessary even though it was drafted in the days when Saddam Hussein was in power and there was an assumption that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

 
  Us Intelligence On Iran Proves 'Unfounded'February 23, 2007 09:04 MUCH of the intelligence on Iran's nuclear facilities provided to UN inspectors by American spy agencies has turned out to be unfounded, according to diplomatic sources in Vienna.

The claims come as the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany, prepare to draft a second sanctions resolution on Iran.

They are reminiscent of the intelligence fiasco surrounding the Iraq war and coincide with a sharp increase in international tension as the International Atomic Energy Agency reported yesterday that Iran was defying a Security Council ultimatum to freeze its nuclear program.

The report sets the stage for debate on the imposition of stricter sanctions on Iran and raises the possibility that the US might resort to military action.

US Under-Secretary of State Nicholas Burns said he expected to see Iran "repudiated again by the Security Council" for its decision to defy UN demands that it suspend enrichment of uranium.

 
  Soldier Gets 100 Years For Rape, KillingFebruary 23, 2007 08:54 A U.S. soldier was sentenced to 100 years in prison yesterday for the gang rape and murder of an Iraqi girl and the killing of her family last year.

Sergeant Paul Cortez, 24, also was given a dishonorable discharge. He will be eligible for parole in 10 years under the terms of his plea agreement.

Cortez, of Barstow, Calif., pleaded guilty this week to four counts of felony murder, rape, and conspiracy to rape in a case considered among the worst atrocities by American military personnel in Iraq.

In his plea agreement, he said he conspired with three other soldiers from the Fort Campbell-based 101st Airborne Division to rape 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi. The girl, her parents, and a younger sister were all killed.
  Woman Injured During Cheney ProtestFebruary 22, 2007 18:11 POLICE made arrests and a woman was injured amid violent scenes at a protest this morning against the Sydney visit of US Vice-President Dick Cheney.
Police surged into a crowd of 150 protesters, who had gathered outside a Sydney hotel on Essex Street in the CBD to march on the Shangri-La Hotel where it was believed Mr Cheney was present.
Their march was blocked by a line of police officers who included uniformed officers and mounted police.

After about a half an hour of noisy demonstration police moved into the group to apprehend two young women wearing outfits similar to police uniforms.

In the scuffle an elderly woman was thrown to the ground and had to be treated by ambulance officers. The protesters then marched towards Surry Hills police station where they believed the arrested girls had been taken.

Guantanamo Bay inmate Mamdu Habib attended the protests as did Greens Upper House MP Ian Cohen.
  Britain, Denmark Say They'll Reduce Presence in IraqFebruary 21, 2007 09:06 Britain and Denmark said they would bring home some troops from Iraq as local forces take over more responsibility for security around the southern city of Basra.

Britain will cut its presence to about 5,500 soldiers working out of the Basra Air Base this summer from about 7,100 currently, Prime Minister Tony Blair said. While troops will remain through 2008, they increasingly will support Iraqi forces. Denmark will withdraw most of its 460 troops by August.

Blair, who steps down as prime minister this year, has lost popularity in Britain because of his support for the war in Iraq and the mission to oust Saddam Hussein four years ago. Today's reductions come as President George W. Bush is reinforcing the American presence in Baghdad and al-Anbar province in the west, attempting to counter mounting violence in those regions.

``The situation in Basra is very different from Baghdad,'' Blair said in Parliament in London today. ``It is still a difficult and sometimes dangerous place, but many extremists have been arrested or left the city. The reported levels of murder and kidnapping are significantly down.''
  U.S. Anti-Terror Crackdown Slams Door On Some HmongFebruary 20, 2007 10:07 Anti-terror laws aimed at keeping terrorists out of the United States have disqualified many Hmong refugees, the very people who only a few years ago received special recognition from Congress for their work as allies of U.S. troops during the Vietnam War.

Under provisions of the USA Patriot Act and the Real ID Act, the Hmong who remained to fight against Laos' communist regime in the decades after the Vietnam War are considered terrorists because of their guerrilla activities and therefore are ineligible for future asylum or green cards.

Ironically, in 2000 Congress passed a law easing the citizenship requirements for the Hmong in recognition of their efforts fighting alongside Americans during the Vietnam-era conflict in Laos, known as the "secret war."

DFL state Sen. Mee Moua, of St. Paul — where more Hmong reside than in any other U.S. city — said the restrictions for now focus on Hmong soldiers who remained in Laos after 1975 to continue fighting but recently have begun to give up their resistance because of a government crackdown on the ethnic minority.

"That group is part of the collateral damage of the Bush administration's war on terror," Mee Moua said.
  U.S. Agrees To Resettle Refugees From IraqFebruary 14, 2007 23:33 The United States will accelerate the resettlement of about 7,000 Iraqis referred by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and will contribute $18 million to the agency's appeal for Iraq, about one-third of the total, Undersecretary of State Paula J. Dobriansky said Wednesday.

Plans call for the paperwork allowing the Iraqis to enter the United States to be completed by the end of September, said Dobriansky, appearing at a news conference in Washington with U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Ant?nio Guterres, and Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey.

The 7,000 have left Iraq and are waiting in third countries, such as Jordan and Syria. A U.S. team is scheduled to go to Amman, Jordan, on Feb. 26 to begin processing them. Department of Homeland Security officials will conduct interviews, followed by health screenings.

 
  Analysis: Venezuela, U.S. Spar On OilFebruary 14, 2007 16:34 Venezuela's Foreign Ministry adopted a take 'em or leave em attitude toward the United States, suggesting its petroleum industry could survive without the billions of dollars in annual revenue from its largest customer. We are going to keep selling oil to North America because we are a serious country and we sell it to North American society, said Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro earlier this week in response to remarks by U.S. officials. [But] If they say they do not need it, well, let them stop buying it.Venezuela supplies about 12 percent of the oil imported by the United States, making it Venezuela's largest customer. It is the No. 4 U.S. supplier.


Maduro was reacting to remarks by Nicholas Burns, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, who said the United States was stepping up its efforts to use biofuels to reduce its dependence on Venezuelan oil. Indeed, U.S. officials from President Bush down have pledged to reduce the use of foreign oil and instead look to biofuels such as ethanol.

With that in mind, the Bush administration is looking to Brazil in hopes of creating a hemispheric biofuel initiative. U.S. lawmakers have said they hope to lay the foundation for such an agreement with Brazil, a global leader in the ethanol industry, in the coming months.
  Bush And The Houses War DebateFebruary 14, 2007 14:40 At his news conference today, President Bush walked a very measured line on the Iraq war debate that is taking place in the House this week, allowing for Congress’s right to express its opinions.

But he did point out what he sees as a dividing line, between the House’s nonbinding resolution and other actions that would be binding, like turning down emergency spending for the war.

The Times’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg asked him about the implications of the House vote on Friday at today’s news conference...
  Bush: Iran Involved In Sending Weapons To IraqFebruary 14, 2007 14:10 President Bush insisted Wednesday that the Iranian government is providing deadly weapons to insurgents in Iraq, though he couldn't confirm whether the order to do so came from Iran's highest offices.

Referring to a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard known as Al Qud, Bush said, "whether Ahmadinejad ordered the Qud's Force to do this, I don't think we know. But know that they're there. And I intend to do something about it. And I've asked our commanders to do something about it. And we're going to protect our troops."

In his first news conference of the year, Bush called the idea that the United States is manipulating information to suggest that Iran is supplying the weapons as "preposterous."

The president said the reason the nation isn't engaging in direct talks with Iran is because he doesn't think it would achieve success.

 
  House Democrats To Vote On Anti-War BillFebruary 13, 2007 13:59 House Democratic leaders circulated a nonbinding resolution Monday saying that Congress "disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush ... to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq."


The measure, expected to come to a vote by Friday, also says that "Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States armed forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq."

Debate on the resolution is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, with each of the 435 House members allotted five minutes to speak. It will mark the first debate in Congress on the war since Democrats won control of the House and Senate in last November's elections. Opposition to the war figured heavily in the outcome of the election.

Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have vowed to force an end to U.S. participation in the war, and made debate over a nonbinding resolution a symbolic first step.

 
  America’s War On Terror In Deep TroubleFebruary 12, 2007 13:37 Faulty analysis of 'jehadi terror' by the Western world has created a sorry mess today: America’s war on terror is in deep trouble in Iraq and Afghanistan, while Europeans have begun to feel the heat of 'home grown terrorism.'

Such are the views of internationally renowned defence analyst and commentator Professor Michael Clarke - currently in India on a lecture series on terrorism.

The fixation of the Western world - Professor Clarke said at a seminar in New Delhi - has been on “what terrorists do” rather than on “what they stand for”. A more robust perspective ought to have been to develop long-term strategies to challenge the narratives that terrorists create and feed off - such as the elaborate conspiracy theories of the 'systematic oppression and humiliation of the Muslims.'

Terrorism is a lifestyle choice today and - while there is a global rhetoric to ideologies - the initiatives of fundamentalist groups are driven by localised factors, Clarke said while addressing a seminar titled, 'Common perspectives on terrorism - Europe and Asia.'
  House Democrats Propose Iraq ResolutionFebruary 12, 2007 13:33 Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives circulated a proposed nonbinding resolution Monday that in simple language opposes the administration’s plan to increase the number of troops in Iraq.

Crafted carefully to draw the broadest support possible, it states that Congress "disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush” to send more than 21,500 additional combat troops to Iraq.

But it also states that “Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States armed forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq."

The resolution avoids divisive issues — such as a call for interim troop redeployments, or a threat to cut off financing for the war — that helped scuttle efforts by Senate Democrats last week to bring forward a more muscularly worded resolution.
  Michigan Man Shot By U.S. Forces In IraqFebruary 11, 2007 22:01 U.S. forces shot and killed a civilian contract truck driver from Michigan near an air base north of Baghdad, a lawyer for the man's family confirmed Sunday.

Donald Tolfree, 52, of St. Charles, Michigan was a driver for KBR, a contracting subsidiary of Halliburton Co. He deployed to Iraq on January 5, 2007 and was killed February 5 at a checkpoint near Camp Anaconda.

Tolfree drove through a U.S. military checkpoint before realizing he was in the wrong convoy, attorney Patrick Greenfelder, who represents Tolfree's daughter, told the Associated Press during a telephone interview. Tolfree turned around and was reapproaching the checkpoint when he was shot and killed, Greenfelder said.

On Saturday, the military and Halliburton announced a civilian contractor had been killed by U.S. forces at Camp Anaconda, but did not identify the man.

Greenfelder said a KBR representative visited Tolfree's daughter, Kristen Martin, 22, of Owosso, Michigan, about 2 a.m. February 6 to deliver the news. The representative initially said Tolfree and another convoy driver were killed by a roadside bomb.

 
  Putin Accuses U.S. Of Inciting Arms RaceFebruary 10, 2007 18:31 Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday blamed U.S. policy for inciting other countries to seek nuclear weapons to defend themselves from an "almost uncontained use of military force" a stinging attack that underscored growing tensions between Washington and Moscow.

"Unilateral, illegitimate actions have not solved a single problem, they have become a hotbed of further conflicts," Putin said at a security forum attracting senior officials from around the world.

"One state, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way."

The Bush administration said it was "surprised and disappointed" by Putin's remarks. "His accusations are wrong," said Gordon Johndroe, Bush's national security spokesman.

In what the Russian leader's spokesman acknowledged was his harshest criticism of the United States, Putin attacked Bush's administration for stoking a new arms race by planning to deploy a missile defense system in eastern Europe and for backing a U.N. plan that would grant virtual independence to Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was also attending the conference, described Putin's remarks as "the most aggressive speech from a Russian leader since the end of the Cold War."
  Report Says Pentagon Manipulated IntelFebruary 09, 2007 09:01 A "very damning" report by the Defense Department's inspector general depicts a Pentagon that purposely manipulated intelligence in an effort to link Saddam Hussein to al-Qaida in the runup to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, says the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"That was the argument that was used to make the sale to the American people about the need to go to war," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. He said the Pentagon's work, "which was wrong, which was distorted, which was inappropriate … is something which is highly disturbing."

The investigation by acting inspector general Thomas F. Gimble found that prewar intelligence work at the Pentagon, including a contention that the CIA had underplayed the likelihood of an al-Qaida connection, was inappropriate but not illegal. The report was to be presented to Levin's panel at a hearing Friday.

The report found that former Pentagon policy chief Douglas J. Feith had not engaged in illegal activities through the creation of special offices to review intelligence. Some Democrats also have contended that Feith misled Congress about the basis of the administration's assertions on the threat posed by Iraq, but the Pentagon investigation did not support that. Two people familiar with the findings discussed the main points and some details Thursday on condition they not be identified.

 
  Democrats Set House Debate To Rebuke Bush Over Iraq Policy - New York TimesFebruary 08, 2007 20:57 House Democratic leaders persuaded members of their party on Thursday to limit the scope of an Iraq war resolution next week to a simple repudiation of President Bush’s troop buildup plan, hoping to temporarily set aside divisive decisions over war financing and troop redeployments.

Go to Complete Coverage » Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, and other party leaders met privately for more than an hour with other Democratic lawmakers. They sought to reassure Democrats that the symbolic, nonbinding resolution devised to rebuke Mr. Bush was a first step — but not a final one — toward asserting Congressional powers on Iraq.

After winning control of Congress, in part because of discontent over the Iraq war, Democrats are eager to send a strong signal of disapproval to the White House. To make the proposal palatable to at least some Republicans, the Democratic leaders said their resolution would express support for the troops, but reject the plan to send 21,500 more of them to Iraq.
  Israel-US Tighten Security RelationsFebruary 08, 2007 13:59 Israel and the US signed a new pact allowing better teamwork, fighting terror and improving mutual assistance in a number of other security related areas, The Jerusalem Post reported on Thursday, 08 February 2007.

Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter called the arrangement “a breakthrough signing of an understandings agreement [with the US] for the war on terror and establishing cooperation between [Israel’s] Internal Security Ministry and the US Department of Homeland Security.”

A memorandum signed by Dichter and US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in Washington this week, stated, “there exists a vital need to promote operational, scientific and technological cooperation between the parties in the field of homeland security.”

Talks on better cooperation between the US and Israel began under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996.

In recent years, the US and Israel have maintained close coordination on matters pertaining to terrorism.
  7 GOP Senators Seek Vote On Iraq ResolutionFebruary 08, 2007 11:30 In an apparent flip of roles, seven Republican senators are considering disrupting debate Thursday on a must-pass spending bill for fiscal year 2007 by trying to attach an anti-troop surge resolution to the legislation.

Sens. John Warner of Virginia, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and five others wrote Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday saying they want a vote on the non-binding resolution by Warner and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., that expresses disapproval of President Bush's plan to send an additional 21,500 U.S. troops to help secure Baghdad.

Click here for more news from the U.S. Senate.

Meanwhile, House Democratic leaders took note of the request for debate by Senate lawmakers and repeated they have not had enough debate on Iraq policy. They are planning three days next week to debate a new resolution that expresses disagreement with the troop increase in Iraq.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Democrats are not going to abdicate their responsibility in determining the best course of action in the overall War on Terror.
  Gates: U.S. Should Know Soon If New Iraq Strategy WorksFebruary 07, 2007 13:18 Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a House panel Wednesday that the U.S. should know in a few months if the Iraqi government is making progress toward peace and whether the United States "is going to have to look at other alternatives and consequences."
In stark contrast to predecessor Donald Rumsfeld, Gates also said there was no doubt the Army and Marine Corps needed to be larger if they are to deal with future wars and give troops enough rest between combat tours.

"We need the full range of military capabilities," including ground combat forces to battle large armies and nimble special operations troops to scout out terrorist threats, Gates told the House Armed Services Committee.

"We don't know what's going to develop in places like Russia and China, in North Korea, in Iran and elsewhere," he said.

 
  Italy Homicide Charge For U.S. SoldierFebruary 07, 2007 09:27 An Italian judge Wednesday indicted a U.S. soldier on homicide charges for the fatal shooting of an Italian intelligence agent participating in a hostage rescue operation in Iraq nearly two years ago.

The trial date has been set for April 17, Rome prosecutor Franco Ionta told CNN. The soldier will be tried in absentia and there has been no request to have him extradited, Ionta said.

Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari was killed in the March 4, 2005 incident shortly after he secured the release of journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who had been held by insurgents in Iraq.

U.S. soldiers opened fire on their vehicle as it approached a checkpoint en route to Baghdad International Airport.

Sgrena and the driver were injured in the shooting.
  Contractor Deaths In Iraq Nearing 800February 06, 2007 11:54 Laboring in a war with no discernible front line, more than 770 civilian contractors have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion began in March 2003.

Statistics kept by the Labor Department indicate fatalities among civilian contractors working for American firms escalated rapidly late last year, with at least 301 dying in Iraq in 2006 — including 124 in the final three months.

U.S. military deaths totaled 818 during the year, the Defense Department has reported.

Despite the danger, job seekers continue to flood contractors' offices with résumés.

Some 165,000 prospective employees contacted Houston-based Halliburton Co.'s KBR last year about job opportunities in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, company officials said. KBR now has half a million résumés on file.

And the recent troop "surge" announced by President Bush has prompted KBR to increase its hiring, company Chief Executive Officer Bill Utt said Friday.
  Republicans Blocks Debate On IraqFebruary 05, 2007 21:26 Nearly united Senate Republicans voted yesterday to block a full debate for now on a resolution by Sen. John W. Warner to oppose President Bush's troop buildup.

Warner, R-Va. and former Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, sided with GOP leaders on the test vote -- although its outcome stalled full Senate consideration of his own measure.

Warner, a former secretary of the Navy, said afterward he voted with party leaders because he didn't want to cut off debate and potentially keep other senators from putting forward their own views through new resolutions.
  Guantanamo A Lawless Prison: LawyerFebruary 05, 2007 11:07 GUANTANAMO Bay is a lawless prison run by the CIA and US interrogators using CIA techniques of subjugation and degradation, David Hicks' Adelaide lawyer said yesterday on his return from Cuba.

David McLeod, a conservative military lawyer and decorated army legal reservist, said he was "shirt-fronted" by the US military last week because he talked to the media about the conditions in which Hicks was held.

"I was subjected to a rather aggressive interrogation by one of the officials there for talking to the media in the way that I have," he said. "This is the standard approach, this is what happens when a lawless place like Guantanamo Bay is subject to scrutiny."

Mr McLeod would not reveal details of the interrogation but said Guantanamo Bay was a lawless place that sought to avoid public scrutiny.

US prosecutor Colonel Morris Davis said Hicks' defence lawyers would be better employed preparing their case rather than chasing publicity.
  In Europe, Pushback Against US 'War On Terror'February 04, 2007 21:46 Reaction in Germany was hardly neutral when a prosecutor in Munich indicted 13 CIA officials last week for kidnapping a German of Lebanese descent and interrogating him in Afghanistan before apparently realizing they had the wrong man. Germans solidly backed the prosecutor.

Since Christian Schmidt-Sommerfeld took the unprecedented step, both the right and left in Germany have supported the "rule of law" principles he articulated.

The media have been unified as well. Typical is the centrist Süddeutsche Zeitung: "The justice system has stood up for the rule of law. Whether the government will do so is a different matter. Berlin must push for the kidnappers to be extradited, or ... tried in the USA. But it is unlikely to have that much courage."

The solidarity underscores a shifting tone in Europe. As changes of leadership loom in Britain and France, and capitals contemplate relations with a post-Bush US, Uncle Sam may expect stronger "pushbacks" from Europe, experts here say. Public disapproval of the US-led "war on terror" is also growing, spurring the change.

 
  Ex U.S. Military Commanders Warn Against Iran AttackFebruary 03, 2007 18:28 Three former senior U.S. military officials warn that any military action against Iran would have "disastrous consequences" and urged Washington to hold immediate and unconditional talks with Tehran.

The Bush administration has increased the regularity and vehemence of its accusations against Iran, prompting speculation it could be laying the ground for military attack against the Islamic state.

Washington has also sent a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf, a move seen as a warning to Iran which the United States accuses of seeking atomic arms and fuelling instability in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. Iran denies the charges.

In a letter to London's Sunday Times newspaper, the three former U.S. military leaders said attacking Iran "would have disastrous consequences for security in the region, coalition forces in Iraq and would further exacerbate regional and global tensions," they wrote.
  Gates Says U.S. Not Planning Iran WarFebruary 02, 2007 12:26 The extra troops that Iraq promised to send into Baghdad in a new U.S.-Iraqi military buildup are arriving on schedule but in inadequate numbers, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday.

Gates was asked at a news conference about Senate testimony on Thursday by the outgoing U.S. commander in Baghdad, Gen. George Casey, who said the arriving Iraqi units have only 55 to 65 percent of their intended troops.

"Fifty-five percent probably isn't good enough," Gates said, but he left open the possibility that by the time the Baghdad crackdown begins in earnest the Iraqi combat units will be at full strength.

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who sat beside Gates in fielding questions at the Pentagon, estimated that the arriving Iraqi units are at about 60 percent of their assigned strength.

"It needs to be stronger than that," Pace said.
  Report Says Iraqi-On-Iraqi Violence Major ThreatFebruary 02, 2007 09:55 Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence has become the primary source of conflict in the war-ravaged nation and Iraqi leaders will be "hard-pressed to achieve sustained political reconciliation" in the next 18 months, according to a summary of the National Intelligence Estimate released Friday.

The report, which was distributed to Congress on Friday and on which President Bush received a briefing Thursday, calls on Iraqi sects -- Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds -- to make significant concessions to stabilize the country.

However, the summary, a nine-page declassified version of the 90-page report, makes no determination as to whether Iraq is in a civil war.

The summary said that "civil war" is too simple a moniker to describe the situation there because the violence includes "extensive Shia-on-Shia violence, al Qaeda [in Iraq] and Sunni insurgent attacks on coalition forces and widespread criminally motivated violence."

However, the term does accurately describe certain elements of the conflict, among them: "the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, a sea change in the character of the violence, ethno-sectarian mobilization and population displacements," according to the summary.

 
  General Draws Fire For 'Failed Iraq Policy'February 02, 2007 09:24 General George Casey, the outgoing US commander in Iraq, took congressional flak for presiding over a "failed policy" in Iraq on Thursday as lawmakers geared up for a highly contentious debate on the war.

Gen Casey, who is being replaced by Gen David Pet­raeus, was accused of painting a "very optimistic and rosy scenario", even as he distanced himself from the administration's proposal to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq.

"I question seriously the judgment that was employed in your execution of your responsibilities in Iraq," said John McCain, the Arizona senator, at an armed services committee hearing on Gen Casey's nomination as army chief of staff.
  German Court Challenges C.I.A. Over AbductionFebruary 01, 2007 11:29 A German court on Wednesday issued an arrest warrant for 13 people in the mistaken kidnapping and jailing of a German citizen of Lebanese descent, in the most serious legal challenge yet to the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret transfers of terrorism suspects.

Prosecutors in Munich said the suspects, whom they did not identify, were part of a C.I.A. “abduction team” that seized the man, Khaled el-Masri, in Macedonia in late 2003 and flew him to Afghanistan. He was imprisoned there for five months, during which, he said, he was shackled, beaten and interrogated about alleged ties to Al Qaeda, before being released without charges.

His ordeal is the most extensively documented case of the C.I.A.’s practice of “extraordinary rendition,” in which terrorism suspects are seized and sent for interrogation to other countries, including some in which torture is practiced.

“This is a very consequential step,” August Stern, the prosecutor in Munich, said in a telephone interview. “It is a necessary step before bringing a criminal case against these people.”