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Don't Let Them Manufacture Another War

Representative Dennis Kucinich knows the neocon playbook used to lead our nation into war. That's why the courageous Congressman is doing everything he possibly can to ensure that the Bush administration fails in its effort to pull the same old tricks in manufacturing a war with Iran.

On October 10 Kucinich convened a panel of experts on Capitol Hill to answer two questions: is the Administration preparing for war? And is Iran an imminent threat?

Panelists included former chief weapons inspector, Dr. David Kay; retired Colonel Sam Gardiner of the National War College; Joseph Cirincione, senior vice president for national security and international policy at the Center for American Progress; Alfred Cummings, specialist in intelligence and national security foreign affairs at the Congressional Research Service; and Dr. Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council. There was unanimity around a few key points:

1) Iran is at least 5 years – but more likely 10 or more years – away from producing weapons-grade nuclear materials

2) Iran poses no imminent threat to the US, Israel, or its neighbors

3) The Bush administration has already selected the military option and is moving to make it operational

4) The consequences of a military confrontation with Iran are global and nightmarish

5) We should be pursuing multilateral negotiations and have missed key opportunities to do so – including not even responding to an Iranian offer to put recognition of Israel and suspension of its nuclear program on the table. Perhaps more than anything else, our refusal to engage Iran frustrates this panel.

There was also a consensus that the threat assessment conducted by the intelligence agencies should be declassified. Let dissenters voice their opinions before Congress. We should have learned this lesson from the intelligence failure in Iraq.

The panel suggested that the cheerleaders for this war are – you guessed it – Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. The Joint Chiefs are believed to be opposed to yet another catastrophic misadventure.

Some consequences of this insane déjà vu-like war would include: skyrocketing oil prices; Hezbollah attacks on Israel; Iranian attacks on US forces in Iraq; Iranian sabotage of pipelines in Iraq; Iran blocking Gulf oil flow; and threats to regional governments.

Cirincione summarized, "If you like the war in Iraq, wait until you see the war in Iran. It will be a massive, global war."

Wal-Mart Endorses "Homosexual Agenda"

Happy National Coming Out Day! The right-wing nuts are going, well, nuts. Wal-Mart is sponsoring LGBT Diversity Week at Boise State University in Idaho--October 9 to 13--and once again, the American Family Association is apoplectic. The group's action alert on the issue makes entertaining reading: "Wal-Mart has given its full endorsement to the homosexual agenda and homosexual marriage," the AFA fumes, noting, with trademark far-right salaciousness, that one of the event's other sponsors is a purveyor of sex toys (the "Pleasure Boutique"). But the conservative loons realize that when Wal-Mart supports a cause, it has become truly mainstream; that's why they're particularly upset that one of the (Wal-Mart-sponsored) events in Boise offers information on the campaign to defeat a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Idaho.

It's joyous to see elements of the conservative coalition falling apart. Why not join the fun by countering the AFA campaign? Write to Wal-Mart (use the AFA website, but "edit" the letter provided) and tell CEO Lee Scott you think it's wonderful that the company is funding decency and human rights in Idaho. (I just did this. I also checked a box on the same page agreeing that "I will pray for Lee Scott.") Now, if Wal-Mart would advance decency and human rights in the Philippines, or behind its own cash registers throughout the United States, that would be better still. But we'll enjoy one victory at a time.

Pink Is In

"I will not vote for or support any candidate for Congress or President who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq, and preventing any future war of aggression, a public position in his or her campaign."

This is the pledge signed by over 18,000 people in the Give Peace a Vote drive organized by CodePink. It is the same pledge signed by approximately 80,000 other voters as part of the Voters for Peace campaign which includes Gold Star Families for Peace, Peace Action, Global Exchange, United for Peace and Justice (a coalition of 1,400 local groups in itself), CodePink and others.

Before the Iraq War, CodePink (whose name plays on the Bush administration's threat level system) was known as an international, women-initiated social justice movement creatively calling attention to many of our most pressing issues – "making the color pink synonymous with political rabble rousing," said co-founder, Jodie Evans.

Direct actions included hanging 40-foot pink banners with slogans like Stop Selling War out hotel windows; handing out pink educational flyers at pink lemonade stands; and awarding pink slips to political and corporate leaders who were leading our nation towards war. Members yelled out questions during Donald Rumsfeld's testimony in Congress regarding torture at Abu Ghraib; chained themselves to the entrance of the Halliburton's shareholders meeting; and brought US military families to Iraq where they met Iraqi victims of the war and occupation.

Now CodePink is focused on sending a message to politicians at the voting booth.

"With these pledge forms, I am finding an enthusiasm to end the war that I haven't seen in the past," Evans said. "Give Peace a Vote is going to give visibility to the emerging peace voting bloc so that the politicians can't keep ignoring the will of the voters to end the war in Iraq."

Well known peacemakers--including Samuel Jackson, musicians Jackson Browne, and Steve Earle, Angelica Huston, Susan Sarandon, Sandra Oh, Mike Farrell, Ed Asner, Paul Haggis, Julia-Louise Dreyfuss, Cornel West, writers Alice Walker, Maxine Hong Kingston and Gore Vidal, among others--are doing their part to draw attention to the effort. Yoko Ono also signed onto the pledge that is named after John Lennon's peace anthem, Give Peace a Chance.

As we approach Election Day, let the candidates know you are serious about putting an end to the Iraq War by signing the pledge. Give Peace a Vote – we'll all be tickled pink when the warmongers are thrown out and the peace candidates prevail.

Republicans for Hypocrisy

You gotta love the contradictions in Washington. The head of a new conservative group named Americans for Honesty on Issues is a former advisor to Rep. Tom DeLay and Enron CEO Ken Lay.

Perfect material for Katrina's "Dictionary of Republicanisms."

According to the New York Times, the group is spending more than $1 million on negative TV ads against nine Democratic House candidates, accusing them of "carpetbagging, coddling illegal immigrants, being soft on crime and advocating cutting off money for troops in Iraq."

Its leader, Houston-based political consultant Sue Walden, lobbied for Enron and told Lay which political candidates to donate to. She'd call people up for money on behalf of DeLay, who was later indicted for money laundering.

Sounds like she's the last person who should be lecturing anyone on honesty.

The Leno Bias

For some time now, Tonight Show host Jay Leno and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have enjoyed an unusually cozy relationship. Back in August, 2003, Schwarzenegger used Leno's couch as the launching pad for his ultimately successful gubernatorial run. Leno served mostly as jolly skeptic during their sit-down. But eyebrows were raised during their next appearance together.

On October 8, 2003, at the governor-elect's victory party, there was Leno introducing Schwarzenegger again, but this time as more of a cheerleader than skeptic. The backlash was almost immediate. There is an unspoken pact between late-night comedians and their audience. We expect them to be nonpartisan in their jokes and we certainly don't want them endorsing candidates. While his spokesman at the time claimed Leno's appearance that night was "an endorsement of [Arnold and his] friendship", it made people uncomfortable.

Now the issue of Leno's possible political bias has reared its head again. Schwarzenegger is scheduled to appear on tonight's broadcast in what is not destined to be a hard-hitting interview. Meanwhile, his opponent, Democrat Phil Angelides, has made a request to also appear and reportedly received no response as of today. US Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) has lodged a complaint with the FCC against Leno and the Tonight Show, claiming the show has violated equal time provisions in the Federal Communications Act.

"I'm not a conservative. I've never voted that way in my life," Leno claims. He has said there are no Republicans on his writing staff and has received positive marks from organized labor for his refusal to perform at a convention in Vegas conducted by a law firm that opposes unions. However, he is naïve if he thinks appearing supportive of Schwarzenegger will not affect the 2006 gubernatorial election.

A January 2004 study released by the Pew Research Center has found that 21 percent of voters between the ages of 18-29 turn to entertainment like the Tonight Show for their news. Leno's show is a TV institution and the appearance that he is endorsing the governor--or even being good friends with him--really could taint the electoral process. If Leno is seriously committed to being an impartial comedian, than he ought to give Angelides his shot at the limelight.

Bush to Kim: Thank You!

Just when it couldn't get worse…

The one thing the Bush administration and the Republicans have excelled in these past years is conquering the media heights -- air, print, and face time -- when it was crucial. In the last two weeks, with Iraq in near meltdown, American casualties soaring (32 dead in the first 9 days of October and figures on the wounded going sky-high), Iraqi police poisoned by the hundreds, assassinations the norm, and Shiites as well as Sunnis fighting with the U.S. military, the Foley scandal suddenly succeeded in sucking all the air out of the media environment. The President and Vice President continued to travel the country doing their normal dirt, but it was as if they had been silenced.

In the meantime, the Bush Bump in the polls, which barely lasted out September, looks to be turning back into a Bush freefall. (The newest Newsweek poll has presidential approval back at a dismal 33%.) In fact, as the mid-term elections approach, all poll figures are trending Democratic. For the first time in what seems decades, Americans find the Democrats more "trustworthy" than Republicans on everything, even "moral values" and "defense against terrorism" (so both the latest Washington Post poll and the Newsweek one tell us).

So just when the President and his Party seem sunk, who rides to the rescue? Kim Jong Il. Okay, okay, the Democrats are going to argue that a North Korean nuclear test is but more evidence that Bush's policies were a hopeless caricature of a catastrophe. But that may not matter. It's just the sort of argument that generally goes on the inside pages for the news (and political) junkies. What may matter most is that, for the first time in ten days, the Foley scandal is, however briefly, off the front pages and the President is front page and center being "presidential." The New York Times lead headline is: "Bush Rebukes North Korea." The Washington Post: "U.S. Urges Sanctions on North Korea."

Jim VandeHei and Chris Cillizza put it this way in the Post: "GOP officials are urging [Republican] lawmakers to focus exclusively on local issues and leave it to party leaders to mitigate the Foley controversy by accusing Democrats of trying to politicize it. At the same time, the White House plans to amplify national security issues, especially the threat of terrorism, after North Korea's reported nuclear test, in hopes of shifting the debate away from casualties and controversy during the final month of the campaign."

Strange isn't it how the Evil Ones have a way of riding to the rescue of the Bush administration. It's worth remembering that George W. Bush's presidency was languishing and he was under attack by worried members of his own party on September 10, 2001. And have we all forgotten the way Osama bin Laden providentially video just on the eve of the 2004 presidential election, providing Bush with a poster-boy-of-terror moment. Now, the unlovely Kim has exploded his mini-nuke. Maybe it won't prove "just in time," but you can't blame the Axis of Evil One for giving it the old Pyongyang U. try.

The Next Foley

If you want to see how Foleygate is playing out in the field, look no further than the 10th Congressional district of Pennsylvania, home to GOP Rep. Don Sherwood. President Bush won the rural district, which stretches all the way from Pennsylvania's New Jersey border down to Delaware, by 60 percent in 2004. By any metric, it should be a safe Republican seat.

Yet Sherwood is in hot water for allegedly trying to strangle his 29-year-old mistress and settling out of court for an undisclosed (rumored to be multimillion dollar) sum. Sherwood, elected in 1994, barely won his primary against an opponent who spent only $5,000 on the race.

Now he trails Democrat Chris Carney, a retired Navy lieutenant who worked on counterterrorism at the Pentagon after 9/11, by nine points in recent polling.

Carney originally ran a TV ad referencing Sherwood's affair without mentioning it directly. A few days after the Foley scandal broke, Sherwood--in an attempt to insulate himself-- ran an ad apologizing. And he subsequently canceled campaign events with two leading figures in Foleygate, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds.

A few days ago, the Carney campaign responded with a devastating ad featuring local residents talking about Sherwood's transgressions. "I'm a life-long Republican," says Arthur Bender of Meshoppen, PA, "and I really don't go along with his moral behavior."

With 86 percent of Republicans citing "cultural values" as an important issue, it's safe to assume this won't be the only ad of its kind.

Big Brother Is Watching

Amid the swirls of gun smoke from the Republican's circular firing squad in the Foleygate scandal, this little chestnut slipped through the media cracks. The Department of Homeland Security is paying three universities $2.4 million to develop software able to monitor negative opinions of the United States and its leaders in foreign publications.

Here we have yet another example of the Bush administration's uncanny ability to combine Orwellian tactics with utter incompetence. To track anti-American sentiment all you need is a $10 bucket of paint and a map of the globe. A quick look at the polling data shows that we don't have many supporters left. Take this dramatic example: six out of ten Iraqis favor attacks on US forces, and we liberated them.

If polling data proves the general trends, then the only real reason for the software is to identify specific publications, editors, and writers, who are quote-unquote anti-American and anti-Bush. And why would Homeland Security want that very long list? Are they planning on seizing their pencils and paper during airport security checks? It sounds to me like the basis for the prosecution of thought crimes.

Of course it's illegal for the government to build that kind of database on American citizens. Then again, it was also illegal to wiretap without a court order and to detain without charge. So all you bloggers be warned. Big Brother is watching.

Bush, Kerry -- Yes, Kerry -- and Korea

Flashback to September of 2004: In the midst of the presidential race between George Bush and John Kerry, North Korea threatened to initiate nuclear weapons tests. There was no certainty that North Korea's weapons programs were advanced enough to perform signficant testing. But, as concerned international arms control officials attempted to pin down details of what was happening at a potential test site in the country, Kerry put the latest development in perspective by suggesting that the mere fact of North Korea's threaten was evidence of failed diplomacy.

The Democrat condemned the Bush administration for rejecting direct diplomacy in favor of the cowboy president's bluster and blunder. Noting that the White House had failed to effectively engage North Korea's concerned neighbors and other nuclear powers in the process, Kerry said: "The Chinese are frustrated, the South Koreans, the Japanese are frustrated" by what he described as the president's neglectful and "ideologically driven" approach.

"I think that this is one of the most serious failures and challenges to the security of the United States, and it really underscores the way in which George Bush talks the game but doesn't deliver," explained the senator from Massachusetts, who spoke as one of the most experienced observers of arms control issues in Congress.

Describing what was happening two years ago in North Korea as "a nuclear nightmare," Kerry suggested that Bush's obsession with Iraq -- a country that did not have weapons of mass destruction -- had distracted the president and his administration from doing what was necessary to avert the greater threat posed by North Korea.

"They have taken their eye off the real ball... ," Kerry said of the Bush administration. "They took it off in North Korea and shifted it to Iraq." And, Kerry suggested that, if Bush was reelected, the attention of the United States would continued to be misdirected -- with an emphasis on military adventures in the Persian Gulf rather than diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula.

Kerry's comments barely earned a day of attention from the drive-by media, and they were ridiculed and attacked by conservative commentators and political operatives. White House spokesman Scott McClellan accused the Democratic presidential candidate of promoting policies that would allow North Korea "to dupe the United States," while claiming that Bush was "pursuing a plan that will lead to the dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear weapons program..."

When voters went to the polls in November of 2004, surveys showed that Americans still thought the Republican president -- with his record of avoiding military service and blank-stare approach to foreign affairs -- was more committed to protecting national security than the decorated Democratic veteran who had spent two decades developing his expertise on arms control and international relations.

Two years later, the headlines read:

"North Korea stokes worldwide fears with nuclear explosion"

"Nuclear test sends shudders through region"

"The world ponders a nuclear North Korea"

And, of course:

Bush rejects direct talks with North Korea

The first truth of the current situation is that the U.S. does not know how advanced North Korea's nuclear program may be.

The second truth is that, so long as George Bush continues to reject diplomacy, the U.S. and the rest of the world is unlikely to learn the exact state of North Korea's nuclear ambitions -- let alone to reverse them.

The third and arguably most consequential truth is that, if the U.S. had elected a different president in 2OO4, the prospects for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and throughout the region would be far greater than they are today.

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John Nichols' new book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure for Royalism is being published this month by The New Press. "With The Genius of Impeachment," writes David Swanson, co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition, "John Nichols has produced a masterpiece that should be required reading in every high school and college in the United States." Studs Terkel says: "Never within my nonagenarian memory has the case for impeachment of Bush and his equally crooked confederates been so clearly and fervently offered as John Nichols has done in this book. They are after all our public SERVANTS who have rifled our savings, bled our young, and challenged our sanity. As Tom Paine said 200 years ago to another George, a royal tramp: 'Bugger off!' So should we say today. John Nichols has given us the history, the language and the arguments we will need to do so." The Genius of Impeachment can be found at independent bookstores and at www.amazon.com