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The Nation

September 30, 2007
Katrina vanden Heuvel

Last week, the Senate -- via the Kyl-Lieberman Senate resolution -- handed the Bush Administration a close-to-blank check for military strikes against Iran. The resolution accuses Iran of fighting "a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq." (Hillary Clinton, along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, voted for it.) Sy Hersh's chilling article in this week's New Yorker ("The Administration's Plan for Iran") shows how the Administration may attempt to use that resolution as it redefines its military and political justifications for attacking Iran.

Hersh reports that the White House has requested that the Joint Chiefs redraw its plans for a possible attack on Iran. Confronted with a lack of public support for a major bombing campaign, with the intelligence community's assessment that Iran is at least five years away from obtaining a nuclear bomb, and the growing realization in Washington that Iran is "the geopolitical winner of the war in Iraq," the Administration has been marketing a new and dangerous line. The view that has taken hold in the White House, Hersh writes, is "that if many of America's problems [in Iraq] are the responsibility of Tehran, then the solution to them is to confront the Iranians." As a result, "What had been presented primarily as a counterproliferation mission has been reconceived as counterterrorism." The focus is no longer broad bombing attacks--with targets including Iran's known and suspected nuclear facilities and other military and infrastructure cites. Instead, " the emphasis is on 'surgical' strikes on Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities in Tehran and elsewhere, which the Administration claims, have been a source of attacks on Americans in Iraq."

The revised bombing plan, "with its tightened focus on counterterrorism, is gathering support among generals and admirals in the Pentagon," Hersh writes. One former senior intelligence official tells Hersh, " Cheney's option is now for a fast in and out--for surgical strikes." Hersh is careful to state that he was "repeatedly cautioned in interviews" that Bush has yet to issue the "execute order" that is required for military operations inside Iran--"and such an order may never be issued." But, he continues, " there has been a significant increase in the tempo of attack planning."

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September 29, 2007
Peter Rothberg
Peter Rothberg

The latest reports from Myanmar say that soldiers are blockading Buddhist shrines and authorities are restricting phone and Internet access, as the military leadership appears at least temporarily to have quelled the democracy movement that has shaken the country.

The relative calm comes after sustained demonstrations led by Buddhist monks and aimed at ending nearly half a century of military control were violently repressed by the ruling junta. The violence has killed nine people and injured 31, according to an account read on official Burmese television. Exile groups say they have information suggesting that the death toll is considerably higher.

The crackdown has come despite virtual worldwide condemnation. On the diplomatic front, a special UN envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, was expected to confer with Burma's military leaders on Sunday to urge restraint and national reconciliation.

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September 28, 2007
Jon Wiener
Jon Wiener

John Dean knows something about White House abuse of power. He wrote a bestseller in 2004 on the Bush White House called "Worse Than Watergate." In a recent interview I asked him what he thinks of that title now. Now, he replied, a book comparing Bush and Nixon would have to be called "Much, Much Worse."

"Look at the so-called Watergate abuses of power," he said. "Nobody died. Nobody was tortured. Millions of Americans were not subject to electronic surveillance of their communications. We're playing now in a whole different league."

And how does Bush compare with the Republicans seeking to succeed him? "If a Rudy Giuliani were to be elected," Dean said, "he would go even farther than Cheney and Bush in their worst moments."

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The Notion
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September 27, 2007
John Nichols
John Nichols

The Senate agreed on Thursday to increase the federal debt limit by $850 billion -- from $8.965 trillion to $9.815 trillion -- and then proceeded to approve a stop-gap spending bill that gives the Bush White House at least $9 billion in new funding for its war in Iraq.

Additionally, the administration has been given emergency authority to tap further into a $70 billion "bridge fund" to provide new infusions of money for the occupation while the Congress works on appropriations bills for the Department of Defense and other agencies.

Translation: Under the guise of a stop-gap spending bill that is simply supposed to keep the government running until a long-delayed appropriations process is completed -- probably in November -- the Congress has just approved a massive increase in war funding.

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John Nichols
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September 27, 2007
Katrina vanden Heuvel

Based on the work of Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard public finance lecturer Linda J. Bilmes, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) recently determined that the Iraq war costs $720 million per day, $500,000 per minute – enough to provide homes for nearly 6,500 families, or health care for 423,529 children in just one day.

AFSC is using ten, seven-foot banners displayed at legislative and congressional offices around the country to illustrate the costs of the war and the human needs that could be addressed with those same resources. The National Priorities Project (NPP) also has a new report on the Bush Administration's latest $50 billion spending request, which would bring the total cost of the Iraq War to $617 billion.

In addition to these staggering costs, we're also learning more about how this war has served as a boondoggle for defense contractors, with war profit-making gone out of control. The Nation's Jeremy Scahill was way ahead of the curve in reporting on Blackwater's role in the most radically privatized, outsourced war in history. (Last week, Jeremy was asked to testify before the Democratic Policy Committee about his work and reporting--which may well lead to some good reforms. )

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September 27, 2007
Laura Flanders
Laura Flanders

In response to those who've written to ask whether I read Louisiana District Attorney, Reed Walters' op-ed in the New York Times. Yes I did! And I asked Alan Bean about it today on the RadioNation program that will air Sunday on Air America and across the country this week.

Bean, of the Friends of Justice, says that contrary to Walters' assertions, there is sufficient stand alone legislation on the books in Louisiana to have covered the noose-hanging incident. I'm no lawyer, but it seems to me that the there were plenty of ways the local authorities could have responded to the noose-hanging, short of bringing criminal charges, that would nonetheless have sent a clear message about where the campus stood on racial equality.

Jena High needed to suspend the noose-hangers for a long enough period to make an impact (not just a couple of days. ) In addition, the principal could have convened a community meeting, held a public event, hosted a teach-in on lynching. You name it. Anything that sent a strong message to the parents, the school body and the public: this community will not tolerate hate-speech or hateful acts. Says Bean: "The principal needed to say clearly: there's no such thing as a color line on campus, no such thing as a black or a white tree." Handled firmly back in September '06, the whole incident need never have left the auspices of the school. No one needed to have gone to court; no one should ever have been beaten up.

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The Notion
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September 27, 2007
Ari Melber
Ari Melber

Presidents, prime ministers, CEOs and religious leaders packed the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) on Thursday, Bill Clinton's third annual gathering to solve the "world's most pressing challenges." Organizers touted a wide range of "commitments" made by attendees, from over $4 billion in underwriting for renewable energy from Standard Chartered Bank, to a $5 million donation for New Orleans housing by Brad Pitt. CGI announced it has elicited over 600 such commitments in its first two years. President Clinton likes to remind attendees that they will not be invited back if they don't achieve their pledges.

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The Notion
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September 26, 2007
John Nichols
John Nichols

One of the thornier issues in American politics is rarely, if ever, discussed at the level of presidential contention.

In many states across the country -- including the "Live Free or Die" state of New Hampshire -- there is genuine disdain for the federal government policy that requires states to set the minimum age for purchasing and consuming alcohol at 21.

By threatening to withhold highway funds, the feds have forced states that historically have set the drinking age at 18 -- respecting the fact that if a young man or woman can be trusted to defend the nation as a member of the military, can be held responsible for his or her debts and can marry and have children, that individual should be trusted to buy a beer and drink it responsibly.

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John Nichols
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September 26, 2007
Peter Rothberg
Peter Rothberg

Updated on September 27

The situation in Myanmar (formerly Burma) continues to worsen with reports of escalating efforts by the government to violently repress ongoing nonviolent demonstrations. The protests, sparked by steep increases in fuel costs, are being led by Buddhist monks who have called for a reduction in commodity prices, the release of political prisoners, and national reconciliation. (Now that the government has decimated Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, the monks are the only organized force strong enough to challenge the junta.)

Accurate information is difficult to come by since there are few journalists currently operating inside the country. But there have been media reports of at least eight people killed, widespread use of tear gas against demonstrators, hundreds of arrests and beatings and the detention of at least 300 monks who have been active in the growing anti-government protests over the last month.

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