Hamilton Spectator : Enshrining good relations

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Enshrining good relations

China is overlooking a lot to stay on a peacefulcourse toward great power status ...but Japan's new PM could scuttle all that.

by Gwynne Dyer | September 30, 2006

'We just ignore them!" said the man at the think tank in Beijing, a senior adviser to the Chinese foreign ministry, and burst out laughing. He laughed because it is a long and daunting list of people to ignore.

He has to ignore the American journalists and academics who predict an eventual war with China, the U.S. armed forces, who are transferring more and more hardware to the western Pacific and the Bush administration officials whose search for allies in Asia to "contain China" culminated in not-quite-an-alliance with India last year.

He also has to ignore their counterparts in the Chinese military-industrial complex, who try to use all that as evidence that China must pour more resources into defence. He is a busy man.

The reason he (and most of the Chinese foreign policy establishment) deliberately ignore them all is because taking the "American threat" seriously and trying to match it would just play into the hands of the hawks on both sides.

There is no objective reason that makes a U.S.-Chinese clash inevitable, but preparing for it -- or even talking too much about it -- actually makes it more possible.

I heard the same argument from half a dozen other influential foreign policy analysts in Beijing two weeks ago, which should have been reassuring.

It would have been, if not for the fact that every one of those experts, having patiently explained that there were no threats on the horizon that could deflect China's "peaceful rise" to great power status, then added: "except Japan."

That is quite an exception, since Japan has the world's second-biggest economy and is right on China's doorstep.

Which brings us to Shinzo Abe, the new prime minister of Japan. Elected leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Sept. 20 and formally installed as prime minister Tuesday, he is the youngest man (52) to occupy the office since the Second World War. He only entered parliament 13 years ago and got his first cabinet-level job just last year.

The people around Abe are uncompromising nationalists who insist Japan must become a "normal" country, which means it should stop apologizing for the Second World War, rewrite school textbooks omitting all the material about war guilt and Japanese atrocities, and rewrite the "peace" constitution so that Japan's euphemistically titled "Self-Defence Forces" can legally become ordinary armed forces, able to be deployed overseas.

This group, long a minority faction within the LDP, first gained power with the choice of outgoing prime minister Junichiro Koizumi as leader five years ago, but Abe takes a harder line. He has even said it is, "not necessarily unconstitutional," for Japan to develop a nuclear deterrent.

He advocates even closer military ties with the United States and worries aloud about the intentions of a stronger China.

He not only irritates the Chinese, whose relations with Japan are at the lowest point in decades after five years of Koizumi, he actually frightens them.

No sane Japanese wants to turn the country's giant neighbour and biggest trading partner into an active enemy and Abe isn't mad. But it wouldn't be the first time a government has talked itself into a needless military confrontation.

Symbolism matters.

If Abe continues Koizumi's habit of making annual visits to the Yasukuni shrine -- which is devoted to the souls of Japan's millions of war dead, including 14 leaders who were hanged as war criminals after the country's defeat in 1945 -- then many Chinese will conclude he is a real threat.

Koizumi's official visits as prime minister outraged people all over Asia whose countries were occupied by Japan during the war, but the Chinese in particular went ballistic.

Abe has refused to say whether he will copy Koizumi, but he visited the shrine privately as recently as last spring.

If he visits again as prime minister, Sino-Japanese relations will get even worse and it will get still harder for the sensible people in Beijing to ignore the rhetoric of the American hawks and the warnings and pleas of their own hawks.

With a little bad luck, we could be as little as a couple of years away from the start of a new Cold War in Asia.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

NYT : Robert Harris: Pirates of the Mediterranean

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Pirates of the Mediterranean

by Robert Harris | Kintbury, England | September 30, 2006

IN the autumn of 68 B.C. the world’s only military superpower was dealt a profound psychological blow by a daring terrorist attack on its very heart. Rome’s port at Ostia was set on fire, the consular war fleet destroyed, and two prominent senators, together with their bodyguards and staff, kidnapped.

The incident, dramatic though it was, has not attracted much attention from modern historians. But history is mutable. An event that was merely a footnote five years ago has now, in our post-9/11 world, assumed a fresh and ominous significance. For in the panicky aftermath of the attack, the Roman people made decisions that set them on the path to the destruction of their Constitution, their democracy and their liberty. One cannot help wondering if history is repeating itself.

Consider the parallels. The perpetrators of this spectacular assault were not in the pay of any foreign power: no nation would have dared to attack Rome so provocatively. They were, rather, the disaffected of the earth: “The ruined men of all nations,” in the words of the great 19th-century German historian Theodor Mommsen, “a piratical state with a peculiar esprit de corps.”

Like Al Qaeda, these pirates were loosely organized, but able to spread a disproportionate amount of fear among citizens who had believed themselves immune from attack. To quote Mommsen again: “The Latin husbandman, the traveler on the Appian highway, the genteel bathing visitor at the terrestrial paradise of Baiae were no longer secure of their property or their life for a single moment.”

What was to be done? Over the preceding centuries, the Constitution of ancient Rome had developed an intricate series of checks and balances intended to prevent the concentration of power in the hands of a single individual. The consulship, elected annually, was jointly held by two men. Military commands were of limited duration and subject to regular renewal. Ordinary citizens were accustomed to a remarkable degree of liberty: the cry of “Civis Romanus sum” — “I am a Roman citizen” — was a guarantee of safety throughout the world.

But such was the panic that ensued after Ostia that the people were willing to compromise these rights. The greatest soldier in Rome, the 38-year-old Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (better known to posterity as Pompey the Great) arranged for a lieutenant of his, the tribune Aulus Gabinius, to rise in the Roman Forum and propose an astonishing new law.

“Pompey was to be given not only the supreme naval command but what amounted in fact to an absolute authority and uncontrolled power over everyone,” the Greek historian Plutarch wrote. “There were not many places in the Roman world that were not included within these limits.”

Pompey eventually received almost the entire contents of the Roman Treasury — 144 million sesterces — to pay for his “war on terror,” which included building a fleet of 500 ships and raising an army of 120,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry. Such an accumulation of power was unprecedented, and there was literally a riot in the Senate when the bill was debated.

Nevertheless, at a tumultuous mass meeting in the center of Rome, Pompey’s opponents were cowed into submission, the Lex Gabinia passed (illegally), and he was given his power. In the end, once he put to sea, it took less than three months to sweep the pirates from the entire Mediterranean. Even allowing for Pompey’s genius as a military strategist, the suspicion arises that if the pirates could be defeated so swiftly, they could hardly have been such a grievous threat in the first place.

But it was too late to raise such questions. By the oldest trick in the political book — the whipping up of a panic, in which any dissenting voice could be dismissed as “soft” or even “traitorous” — powers had been ceded by the people that would never be returned. Pompey stayed in the Middle East for six years, establishing puppet regimes throughout the region, and turning himself into the richest man in the empire.

Those of us who are not Americans can only look on in wonder at the similar ease with which the ancient rights and liberties of the individual are being surrendered in the United States in the wake of 9/11. The vote by the Senate on Thursday to suspend the right of habeas corpus for terrorism detainees, denying them their right to challenge their detention in court; the careful wording about torture, which forbids only the inducement of “serious” physical and mental suffering to obtain information; the admissibility of evidence obtained in the United States without a search warrant; the licensing of the president to declare a legal resident of the United States an enemy combatant — all this represents an historic shift in the balance of power between the citizen and the executive.

An intelligent, skeptical American would no doubt scoff at the thought that what has happened since 9/11 could presage the destruction of a centuries-old constitution; but then, I suppose, an intelligent, skeptical Roman in 68 B.C. might well have done the same.

In truth, however, the Lex Gabinia was the beginning of the end of the Roman republic. It set a precedent. Less than a decade later, Julius Caesar — the only man, according to Plutarch, who spoke out in favor of Pompey’s special command during the Senate debate — was awarded similar, extended military sovereignty in Gaul. Previously, the state, through the Senate, largely had direction of its armed forces; now the armed forces began to assume direction of the state.

It also brought a flood of money into an electoral system that had been designed for a simpler, non-imperial era. Caesar, like Pompey, with all the resources of Gaul at his disposal, became immensely wealthy, and used his treasure to fund his own political faction. Henceforth, the result of elections was determined largely by which candidate had the most money to bribe the electorate. In 49 B.C., the system collapsed completely, Caesar crossed the Rubicon — and the rest, as they say, is ancient history.

It may be that the Roman republic was doomed in any case. But the disproportionate reaction to the raid on Ostia unquestionably hastened the process, weakening the restraints on military adventurism and corrupting the political process. It was to be more than 1,800 years before anything remotely comparable to Rome’s democracy — imperfect though it was — rose again.

The Lex Gabinia was a classic illustration of the law of unintended consequences: it fatally subverted the institution it was supposed to protect. Let us hope that vote in the United States Senate does not have the same result.

Robert Harris is the author, most recently, of “Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome.”

Times Online : Playing a cunning game of survival in the war zone

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Playing a cunning game of survival in the war zone

PROFILE Pervez Musharraf

October 01, 2006

Pervez Musharraf was, by his own admission, a naughty child. His discovery that an unfiltered cigarette made an efficient time fuse led him and some friends to construct firecracker bombs that exploded deafeningly in rubbish bins and mail boxes outside the houses of school staff. “There was utter confusion,” he recalled with satisfaction.

Old habits die hard, it seems. Last week the president of Pakistan fired up a string of incendiary revelations that embarrassed the White House, upset Downing Street and goaded President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan into a hissy fit. For good measure, he appeared on an American chat show and traded jokes about President George W Bush.

Musharraf was promoting his memoirs, a task usually left to retirement, but like most dictators, the 63-year-old army chief of staff shows little enthusiasm for leaving the stage. And just as his schoolboy prank went unpunished, he can count himself fireproof as one of the main beneficiaries of 9/11. Once a pariah whose links with terrorists accounted for President Bill Clinton’s refusal to be photographed shaking his hand, he is now feted by western leaders as a key figure in the global war against terror.

His first thunderflash last week was a stunner. Musharraf claimed the US had threatened to bomb Pakistan “back to the Stone Age” if it did not co-operate with America after the September 11 attacks.

A shaken Bush said he was “taken aback” by the claim and Richard Armitage, the former US deputy secretary of state accused of making the threat, insisted he had merely said “you are either with us or against us”.

Musharraf’s next firecracker was the disclosure that the US had secretly paid millions of dollars in bounties to Pakistan for the capture of wanted Al-Qaeda figures. In the gratifying furore over the illegality of such payments, Musharraf quietly mentioned that the money went to individuals, not to his government.

Then there was the entertaining spectacle of Musharraf and Karzai going into deep sulks when they joined Bush in the White House Rose Garden. Each blames the other for the Taliban’s revival. Karzai has accused Musharraf of giving the Taliban a haven. Musharraf called Karzai “an ostrich” with his head in the sand.

Musharraf was just getting started. His book seemed to exonerate Omar Sheikh, a Briton facing execution for the murder of the American journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan. The general also put British intelligence on the spot by claiming that details of terror suspects had been kept back from Pakistan as it was “a backward country”.

Angered by a leaked British document calling for the dismantling of Pakistan’s intelligence service because of its links with terrorists, Musharraf retorted that the Ministry of Defence was a better candidate for abolition. That may not have gone down well with Tony Blair, whom he met in Downing Street last week.

In an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday, he accused Britain of amnesia over Al-Qaeda, who were in effect the mujaheddin assembled by the West to overthrow the Russians in Afghanistan. Pakistan, he claimed, was abandoned to face the consequences.

“We fought for you for 10 years,” he said. “Then we were left high and dry.”

So what accounts for this outpouring of bile? Musharraf is that rare creature, a comparatively liberal dictator who has gone some way to reversing the injustices and corruption that existed under his predecessors. Committed to the “irreversible process of the empowerment of women”, he created 60 reserved seats for women in the national assembly in 2002. However, his efforts to reform Islamic laws that discriminate against women have been dismissed by many as sops to the West.

He has calmed relations with India since the two countries’ nuclear stand-off over Kashmir, although he pardoned Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, the “father of Pakistan’s bomb” who gave nuclear weapons technology to rogue states, including Iran and Libya. On the debit side, Amnesty International has accused Pakistan of widespread human rights violations in support of America’s war on terror.

He presents a genial, moustachioed figure to visitors at Army House in Rawalpindi, the cosy old British stucco residence that he and his wife, Sehba, alternate with the soulless, monolithic presidential palace in Islamabad.

“He comes from the liberal, whisky-drinking faction of the Pakistan army, rather than the fundamentalist side,” said one. “I was a bit surprised to see his wife watching a video and eating popcorn.”

The general’s talk is of squash, tennis and how he launched his bloodless coup from mid-air in 1999. He was returning on a flight from Sri Lanka when the pilot told him he had been sacked as head of the armed forces by Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister, and was forbidden to land at Karachi even though the plane had only seven minutes of fuel remaining.

Believing it was a plot to kill him, Musharraf called out the army and Sharif was deposed. “I don’t know how he thought of such a beautiful way of giving me power,” he mused later.

His recent revelations are evidently designed to rebut critics in Pakistan who accuse him of being in the pocket of the US and those in the West who think he is too close to the militants.

The ploy appears to have backfired in Pakistan, where the intelligence community is worried that his candour has damaged relations with allies. Separately, former top military figures and politicians have called for him to stand down. “They are asking whether dictatorship has really benefited Pakistan,” said a local commentator. “They look at India and see a global economic powerhouse with a foreign policy. Pakistan only has an India policy.”

Fuelling the claim that Musharraf is America’s poodle are his family’s ties to the US: his brother, a doctor, lives near Chicago and his son runs a high-tech company in Boston. The mullahs look askance at his fondness for alcohol and dogs, which Muslims regard as unclean. He is a secular leader who preaches “enlightened moderation”, yet relies on hardline Islamic parties for support.

He is even criticised for speaking too warmly of India and for visiting the bungalow in Delhi where he was born in 1943. He was the second of three sons born to his father Syed, a Foreign Office accountant who rose to become a director, and Zarin, a teacher who had graduated from Delhi and Lucknow universities at a time when few Muslim women received even a basic education.

Four years later the family joined other Muslims on a terrifying train ride to the newly created Pakistan. At every stop they saw bodies lying along the tracks, the victims of communal violence.

After two years in Karachi the family decamped to Turkey, where the young Musharraf developed a significant admiration for Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who had moulded the country into a secular state. He was 13 when he returned to Karachi and enrolled at St Patrick’s, a Catholic missionary school where he learnt to use his fists.

“Without thinking, I punched the bully hard,” he recounts in his memoirs. “A fight ensued, and I really thrashed him. I became known as a tough guy whom you don’t mess with.”

In this immodest vein, he writes that he became a top gymnast, athlete and body-builder when he went to another Christian school, the Forman College in Lahore, run by American missionaries.

At the age of 18, he entered the Pakistan military academy. “Winning a spot was a cinch for an athletic, intelligent boy.” And naturally he began a swift rise to the top of the armed forces, bypassing rivals from the traditional Punjabi officer elite.

The world spotlight first fell on Musharraf in 1999 as the general who conceived and directed a huge intrusion into Kargil in Kashmir, sparking the first major Indo-Pakistan conflict for 28 years. He was depicted in BBC footage as a leathery, hard-bitten commando, a cigarette drooping from his lips.

According to a Clinton aide, Pakistan’s new nuclear weapons were deployed in forward positions, with Musharraf’s finger on the button. The incursion became a humiliating fiasco when Pakistan was forced to withdraw. Three months later, Musharraf pulled off his coup.

His pledge to democratise the country did not extend to submitting himself to the electorate. After making several attempts to legitimise his position, he won support from the electoral college of Pakistan in 2004 and was “deemed to be elected” to the office of president until October 2007.

He has promised to abandon his uniform by the end of this year but nobody is holding their breath. “Destiny and fate have always smiled on me,” he declares. It’s a belief shared by most dictators, until the music stops.

BBC : EU-US airline data talks collapse

Saturday, September 30, 2006

EU-US airline data talks collapse

BBC News | September 30, 2006

Talks between the United States and the European Union on sharing confidential airline passenger information have broken down, according to EU officials.

But officials say there will be no disruption to transatlantic flights.

After 9/11, US authorities demanded that airlines should provide personal passenger data for all inbound flights.

But the subsequent US-EU agreement was ruled illegal by the highest European court. Saturday was the deadline for a new deal.

A European Commission spokesman said that a legal black hole could be created by the lack of agreement.

"There is no agreement. There is a legal vacuum as of midnight tonight," said EU Transport Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd.


As a result, airlines refusing to provide passenger lists to the US may lose landing rights in the country, but those that do risk facing legal action under EU member states' data protection legislation.

But Mr Todd told BBC News 24 that attempts to resolve the deadlock would continue.

"We will be discussing this at the highest political levels to see how we can take if forward. There is an imperative to sort it out sooner rather than later," he said.

However, the US Homeland Security Secretary told Reuters news agency that there was "absolutely no basis" to say that discussions had broken down.

"We are confident we can move forward to a mutually acceptable agreement," Mr Chertoff said.

Since 2003, US authorities have requested that airlines provide passengers' personal data to American security officials, including credit card information and telephone numbers.

A total of 34 pieces of data [on each passenger] must be transferred to authorities within 15 minutes of a flight's departure for the US.

This practice was deemed illegal by the European Court of Justice, leading to talks for a new agreement.

Pak Tribune : Modern Stone Age

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Modern Stone Age

by Shah Dost | Karachi October 01, 2006

In a move to promote his memoir, President Musharraf has said in a TV interview that the Bush administration after 9/11 warned him of “bombing Pakistan back to Stone Age” if it did not take up the role of a front-line state in the so-called war on terror. Gen Musharraf acquiesced in and Pakistan was saved, so he believes.

A few years later the general made a similar warning and acted upon it. He reminded Baloch nationalists that it was not the 1970s, an insulting reference to the last military operation in Balochistan, and warned: “This time you won’t know what hit you.” Nobody knows what hit the octogenarian Nawab Akbar Bugti, and where else but in a cave. Despite being rich in natural resources, Balochistan still lives in the Stone Age.

President Bush is indirectly responsible for the plight of the Baloch. His disregard for human rights has given his ally a licence to kill and he has a gun in each hand: one aimed at Islamic militants and the other at the Baloch.

In his recent US visit, Gen Musharraf did not urge President Bush to address root-causes of Islamic insurgency. Maybe because someone could have asked him why he does not apply this strategy to the Baloch problem.

The world is still governed by the law of jungle and we are witness to third round of the Great Game, with the Baloch question again coming into limelight. In its first round, the Baloch lost sovereignty to the British colonial forces, an act which led to what the nationalists see as forced annexation of Baloch states into Pakistan.

In its second episode, when US-led coalition waged a war against a progressive Afghanistan with the help of Islamic fundamentalists, Balochistan underwent a demographic change caused by settlement of Afghan refugees in the sparsely-populated province.

In the latest round, the Baloch people fear that the so-called Gwadar development project would do to them what Karachi has done to the Sindhis: red-Indianised them on their own soil. For the Baloch, it is a now-or-never situation.

The killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti has turned their sense of deprivation into alienation, again. Does it augur well for the future of a country faced with several other serious problems, including the erosion of writ of state in Pukhtoon tribal hinterland, and the prospect of the United States again ditching Pakistan (as it did after the Afghan war), to pursue the second part of its Great Game agenda: to change the map of the Middle East.

Every war ends at the negotiation table, an opportunity Gen Musharraf is willing to offer to the Taliban, whom he perceives as a threat to global peace, but not to the Baloch. This is the logic of might: power inspires awe and weakness invites wrath.

All Headline News : Al-Qaida's No. 2 Commander Criticizes Bush, Pope

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Al-Qaida's No. 2 Commander Criticizes Bush, Pope

by Som Patidar | All Headline News Staff Writer | September 30, 2006

Cairo, Egypt (AHN) - In an 18-minute web video released on Friday, al-Qaida's no. 2 commander Ayman al-Zawahiri criticized US president George W. Bush as calling him a "liar" who is losing his war against Al-Qaeda.

"Bush, oh failure and liar, why don't you be courageous for once and confront your people and tell them the truth about your losses in Iraq and Afghanistan?" he said in video.

He called President George W. Bush a "murderer and spiller of Muslim blood." He also called both Bush and Pope Benedict XVI a "charlatan."

He attacked Benedict XVI over his remarks on Islam and called upon him to convert to Islam.

In a previous web-video posted to mark the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US, Zawahiri warned that the Gulf and Israel would be the next targets of Al-Qaida.

NYT : Of Party Dues and Deadbeats on Capitol Hill

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Of Party Dues and Deadbeats on Capitol Hill

By JEFF ZELENY | October 1, 2006

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 — To move up the ladder in Congress, you must do more than win votes. You are, quite literally, expected to pay your dues.

If you are a rank-and-file member of the House, the amount is up to $100,000. If your ambitions are to preside over a powerful committee, the duty is $300,000. For a top party leader, the tally can climb beyond $600,000.

Make those checks payable to the Republican or Democratic Congressional campaign committees.

Whether or not they are in competitive races, lawmakers are asked to mount vigorous fund-raising drives to fill their own campaign chests. Then they dole to the party, which spreads the money to the most competitive campaigns in the country.

Four years after Congress tried to reduce the influence of money in politics by rewriting the rules of how campaigns are financed, Republicans and Democrats alike have found myriad replacements for the river of financial contributions known as soft money.

The practice of paying what the parties refer to as dues is not illegal, and it is not an entirely fresh notion by either party. This year, Democrats are hoping to glean about $33 million in dues from their House members, an amount that would be about one-third of their fund-raising goal. That makes the dues an important piece in the Democrats’ strategy to overtake the Republican majority.

As members of Congress scurried to finish their business in Washington before heading home for the final stretch of the midterm election campaigns, leaders of both political parties were placing an unusually tight squeeze on colleagues who have not settled their bills.

With five weeks remaining in the race, nearly half of the House Democrats are in arrears. Even a month-by-month installment plan — let alone the prospect that they could regain control of the chamber if they can out-hustle the Republicans — has not provided an incentive for Democrats to pay what they owe.

“Some people make a lot of money for the party, others make a lot of issues,” said Representative Dennis J. Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio, who contributed for the first time this week, but still owes $115,000. “I work on the issues side. That’s where I excel.”

The delinquency statements that Democrats sent via overnight delivery to representatives’ homes throughout the year have been supplanted by telephone calls or personal visits from party leaders.

Representative Luis V. Gutierrez, Democrat of Illinois, said he had no intention of paying his dues of $250,000, assessed because of his seniority on the Financial Services Committee. But after a two-minute telephone conversation with the minority leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, he changed course and sent in a check for $15,000.

“It’s kind of hard to ignore,” Mr. Gutierrez said in an interview, conceding that before Ms. Pelosi rang his cellphone, he had not given a nickel. “I still owe $225,000. Thank God it doesn’t affect my credit score when I go get a mortgage.”

It could, however, affect what committee assignments are passed out when Congress convenes in January. Several members said they had been told by party leaders that their positions could be on the line if they fail to contribute.

Last weekend, Ms. Pelosi made more than 50 telephone calls to members of her caucus, chiding them to pay their dues. Representative Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois and chairman of the Congressional Campaign Committee, has barred Democrats from using the telephones at party headquarters if they had not paid at least some of what they owed.

“This is not my job,” said Mr. Emanuel, recalling the message he repeats again and again to fellow Democrats. “This is our job.”

Strong-arm techniques, though, can backfire. So last week, in the final Democratic caucus before the recess, both Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Emanuel softened their language. Still, they distributed a spreadsheet, laying out for everyone to see how much — or how little — members had given to the party.

The grid showed that Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, had contributed $47,500. As a chief deputy whip of the party, she owes a total of $250,000.

Ms. Waters said she did not take kindly to humiliation or intimidation.

“Nobody puts the screws on me. I don’t allow that,” Ms. Waters said in a brief interview during a long evening of debate on the House floor. “I’m not trying to prove anything to anybody. Some years I’ve raised a lot, some years I’ve not raised so much, so I’ll do whatever I do.”

At the same time, contributions from more than a dozen Democrats have far exceeded their dues. Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York contributed twice as much as his $300,000 assessment and Representative John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania has nearly doubled his $250,000 requirement. Both men have their eye on leadership positions.

“When I see what some of these guys have to do to scratch for money, it’s really too bad,” Mr. Murtha said. “They can’t raise the money, so we help them out.”

At least once a quarter, Democrats receive a fund-raising report card. To increase the motivation — or, perhaps, to embarrass them in front of their peers — the statement also points out how much money is available in individual campaign bank accounts.

The most recent document, for example, pointed out that Representative Robert E. Andrews, Democrat of New Jersey, had a balance of $2,054,562 but had paid only $40,000 of a $125,000 bill.

“I’ve held on to my money because New Jersey politics can be volatile,” said Mr. Andrews, who has told some Democrats that he had been keeping a close watch on his state’s Senate race if Senator Robert Menendez stumbles. “But there’s no doubt I’ll be contributing the full amount.”

For Republicans, each member of the House is expected to make a contribution to the Battleground Program. The amounts range from $70,000 to $600,000, depending on the member’s position. Since July, when the program began, party leaders said, about 90 percent of the members have contributed to the program, which they hope will raise $22.5 million.

There is no public disapproval for those who do not participate. Arm-twisting is conducted privately, which is why Republican officials said at least five members were summoned this week for a meeting with Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois; the majority leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio; and the majority whip, Roy Blunt of Missouri.

“Oftentimes Wall Street gauges a business’s future success by the number of employees investing in their company,” said Representative Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, who heads the House program. “I view Battleground the same way.”

In the Senate, neither the Republicans nor the Democrats employ a rigorous system of dues and contributions.

Many senators raise more money for their respective party committees than their colleagues in the House, but committee assignments in the Senate depend on a tradition of seniority.

Still, in the House, where financial contributions and other demonstrations of party loyalty can trump seniority, not all longtime Democratic members believe this year’s strong push to collect dues will ultimately raise, or lower, a member’s prospects of winning an influential committee seat.

“No Democrat really believes that if you’re going to be the chairman and you don’t give the money that you’re going to lose your seat,” said Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts. “If you’re a Republican, you do.”

Showing some admiration for Republicans’ efficiency, Mr. Frank said: “They threaten. We shame.”

Mr. Frank has surpassed his dues of $300,000. His current tally? $310,700. And if Democrats win in November, he is poised to become chairman of the Financial Services Committee.

Yubanet : Nationwide Protests Oct. 5 to Drive Out the Bush Regime; in More Than 130 Cities and Towns, and Growing

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Nationwide Protests Oct. 5 to Drive Out the Bush Regime; in More Than 130 Cities and Towns, and Growing

Takoma Village Cohousing | September 30, 2006

On Thursday, Oct. 5, people will walk out of school, take off work, gather in town squares, and march in cities across the country, declaring their intention to bring the Bush program to a halt.

In the past 10 days, the number of cities planning protests jumped from 50 to more than 130. Meanwhile, the Bush administration is bolting into place an unprecedented new law which legalizes torture and severely restricts habeas corpus, the basic right to legal redress first established in England with the Magna Carta in 1215.

"Face it. The Bush regime is remaking the world, very quickly, in a fascist way and for generations to come. Denial won't help. And the Democrats aren't stopping them. But WE must. And we can. There are millions of us. ... " This message calling people out on Oct. 5 is being heard nationally on Air America radio spots. Thousands also contributed to publish a full-page ad in USA Today on Sept. 20, reading in part: "Endless wars. Torture. Katrina. Theocracy. ... This regime does not represent us and we will drive it out."

Thursday's protests will occur as Bush threatens a new war on Iran and the "Military Commissions Act of 2006" is approved in the Senate with bipartisan support. Presented as a compromise, this "torture bill" legally enshrines the President's category of "enemy combatant," allows evidence obtained by torture to be admitted to trial by military tribunals, gives the President the right to interpret the Geneva Conventions, and eliminates the right of habeas corpus for those held by military commissions.

Debra Sweet, national coordinator of World Can't Wait, said Tuesday, "We are at a defining moment for this country and its people. There are millions who don't want to live in a theocratic new Rome - but we don't have unlimited time to stop this regime. Whether we act - or fail to act - right now will impact the lives of millions all over the world for generations. We are putting this to everyone: When all other avenues of change are blocked, what do people do? Hit the streets. This is the chance we have on October 5."

"The World Can't Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime Call" has been signed by tens of thousands of people, including Sean Penn, Gore Vidal, Harry Belafonte, Daniel Ellsberg, Edward Asner, Michelle Phillips, Jonathan Kozol, Former Sen. James Abourezk, Erica Jong, U.S. Rep. John Conyers, Craig Murray, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Mark Crispin Miller, Thom Hartmann, Olympia Dukakis, Jessica Lange, Kevin Powell, Margaret Cho, Michael Eric Dyson, Cornel West, Howard Zinn, Mark Ruffalo, Jane Fonda, Cindy Sheehan, Paul Haggis, and Alice Walker.

Check http://www.worldcantwait.org for continually expanding list of locations for Oct. 5 protests.

© Copyright 2006 YubaNet.com

Raw Story : State of Denial: Two months before 9/11, Rice gave the 'brush-off' to 'impending terrorist attack' warning

Saturday, September 30, 2006

State of Denial: Two months before 9/11, Rice gave the 'brush-off' to 'impending terrorist attack' warning

Ron Brynaert | September 30, 2006

According to a new book written by Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward, two months before the September 11 attacks, then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice gave the "brush-off" to an "impending terrorist attack" warning by former C.I.A. director George J. Tenet and his counterterrorism coordinator.

An article in Friday's New York Times first mentioned the warning, and a front page book review of Woodward's State of Denial in Saturday's edition provides more details.

"On July 10, 2001, the book says, Mr. Tenet and his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, met with Ms. Rice at the White House to impress upon her the seriousness of the intelligence the agency was collecting about an impending attack," David E. Sanger reported on Friday. "But both men came away from the meeting feeling that Ms. Rice had not taken the warnings seriously."

Sanger also reported that Tenet told Woodward that before 9/11 Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was "impeding" efforts to catch Osama bin Laden.

"Mr. Woodward writes that in the weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Tenet believed that Mr. Rumsfeld was impeding the effort to develop a coherent strategy to capture or kill Osama bin Laden," wrote Sanger. "Mr. Rumsfeld questioned the electronic signals from terrorism suspects that the National Security Agency had been intercepting, wondering whether they might be part of an elaborate deception plan by Al Qaeda."

Saturday's New York Times review claims that in Woodward's book, Rice "is depicted as a presidential enabler, ineffectual at her job of coordinating interagency strategy and planning."

"For instance, Mr. Woodward writes that on July 10, 2001, Mr. Tenet and his counterterrorism coordinator, J. Cofer Black, met with Ms. Rice to warn her of mounting intelligence about an impending terrorist attack, but came away feeling they’d been given 'the brush-off' — a revealing encounter, given Ms. Rice’s recent comments, rebutting former President Bill Clinton’s allegations that the Bush administration had failed to pursue counterterrorism measures aggressively before 9/11," writes Michiko Kakutani.

Saturday's Washington Post has more details regarding the meeting.

"The book also reports that then-CIA Director George J. Tenet and his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, grew so concerned in the summer of 2001 about a possible al-Qaeda attack that they drove straight to the White House to get high-level attention," Peter Baker reports for the Post.

"Tenet called Rice, then the national security adviser, from his car to ask to see her, in hopes that the surprise appearance would make an impression. But the meeting on July 10, 2001, left Tenet and Black frustrated and feeling brushed off, Woodward reported," the article continues. "Rice, they thought, did not seem to feel the same sense of urgency about the threat and was content to wait for an ongoing policy review."

Excerpts from Post article:

The report of such a meeting takes on heightened importance after former president Bill Clinton said this week that the Bush team did not do enough to try to kill Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) said her husband would have paid more attention to warnings of a possible attack than Bush did. Rice fired back on behalf of the current president, saying the Bush administration "was at least as aggressive" in eight months as President Clinton had been in eight years.

The July 10 meeting of Rice, Tenet and Black went unmentioned in various investigations into the Sept. 11 attacks, and Woodward wrote that Black "felt there were things the commissions wanted to know about and things they didn't want to know about."

Jamie S. Gorelick, a member of the Sept. 11 commission, said she checked with commission staff members who told her investigators were never told about a July 10 meeting. "We didn't know about the meeting itself," she said. "I can assure you it would have been in our report if we had known to ask about it."

White House and State Department officials yesterday confirmed that the July 10 meeting took place, although they took issue with Woodward's portrayal of its results. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, responding on behalf of Rice, said Tenet and Black had never publicly expressed any frustration with her response.

"This is the first time these thoughts and feelings associated with that meeting have been expressed," McCormack said. "People are free to revise and extend their remarks, but that is certainly not the story that was told to the 9/11 commission."

WP : Bush Confronts Critics of Iraq Policies

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Bush Confronts Critics of Iraq Policies

By JENNIFER LOVEN | The Associated Press | September 30, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Gloves-off election-year rhetoric hit the radio Saturday, as President Bush argued that critics are wrongheaded to argue for a different policy in Iraq while Democrats suggested Bush is more interested in politically helpful slogans than success in the war.

With just over five weeks to go before midterm elections in which GOP control of Congress could be at risk, Democrats have been citing a government intelligence assessment to bolster their criticism of Bush's approach to Iraq. The classified National Intelligence Estimate, parts of which Bush declassified earlier this week, says the Iraq war has contributed to a global growth in the terrorist movement, but it also says success there could drain jihadists of momentum.

The president has been fighting back against the Democratic attacks with a series of appearances, and he recycled many lines from earlier in the week in his Saturday radio address.

"Some in Washington have selectively quoted from this document to make the case that by fighting the terrorists in Iraq, we are making our people less secure here at home," Bush said. "Five years after the 9/11 attacks, some people in Washington still do not understand the nature of the enemy. The only way to protect our citizens at home is to go on the offense against the enemy across the world."

Democrats chose Tammy Duckworth, an Army helicopter pilot who lost both legs in Iraq and now is running for Congress in Illinois, to respond.

"Anyone who challenges our failed policies, or suggests the need for a new strategy, is accused of 'cutting and running,'" Duckworth said. "Well, I didn't cut and run, Mr. President. Like so many others, I proudly fought and sacrificed. ... And I believe the brave men and women who are serving in Iraq today, their families and the American people deserve more than the same empty slogans and political name-calling."

Duckworth, who faces Republican Peter Roskam for an open seat, was referring to a Bush speech Thursday at a GOP fundraiser in Alabama. "The party of FDR and the party of Harry Truman has become the party of cut and run," Bush said then.

He also charged in Alabama that "some in Washington, some decent people, patriotic people, feel like we should not be on the offensive in this war on terror," without offering any evidence of such remarks.

White House press secretary Tony Snow acknowledged Friday that no Democrats have said directly that they do not want to take the offensive against terrorists, but he defended Bush's no-holds-barred politicking.

"I think there's been a lot of ratcheting up of rhetoric on the other side where the president has been accused of everything from dereliction of duty to not caring about what happens to people who have been claimed on the battlefields," Snow said. "The point the president is trying to make is, there are going to be some clear choices."

Bush argued Saturday that maintaining the U.S. presence in Iraq is crucial to winning the broader war on terror.

"Our safety depends on the outcome of the battle in Iraq," he said. "Withdrawing from Iraq before the enemy is defeated would embolden the terrorists."

NYT : Officials Plan to Move Quickly for Terrorism Trials in Spring

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Officials Plan to Move Quickly for Terrorism Trials in Spring

By NEIL A. LEWIS | September 30, 2006

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 — Officials at the Justice Department and the Pentagon said Friday that they would move quickly to adopt the regulations on treating terrorism suspects as soon as President Bush signed them law.

The military said it planned to go to trial with up to 14 senior members of Al Qaeda, as government lawyers prepared to defend a provision that would strip hundreds of other suspects of their right to challenge in court their detention.

The Justice Department officials said they would argue in court that the new law would wipe out all the suits by the 450 or so detainees who have been held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The bill would retroactively strip the detainees of the ability to file habeas corpus challenges that oblige the government to defend its reasons for detention before a federal judge.

Civil liberties groups are preparing to challenge that aspect of the law, most likely in an appeals court here that is already wrestling with a related suit on habeas corpus that was started before the new measure. The 14 senior Qaeda members at Guantánamo were recently sent there after as long as four years in secret Central Intelligence Agency custody.

The military is planning to put in motion the new procedures to try those suspects for war crimes before military commissions, though government and private lawyers estimate that the trials could begin no earlier than next spring.

The law provides for explicit Congressional approval of the commissions to try figures like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, thought to be the chief planner of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and other senior Qaeda prisoners who were in secret C.I.A. custody.

It is widely accepted that the new trials before a panel of military officers will take some time to organize.

“It’s clear that the trials are not going to occur anywhere in the near future,” said Eugene R. Fidell, a lawyer here who has closely followed the debate on the military commissions.

Kristine Huskey, a professor of clinical law at American University who represents a Guantánamo detainee, said it appeared that any trials would not start until spring at the earliest. Professor Huskey said that at a recent panel at her university, Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Hemingway, the Air Force officer who is legal adviser for the commissions, said the Pentagon was planning to spend the next month or so preparing a manual of procedures for the commissions before proceeding.

In a conference call with civilian lawyers on Thursday, General Hemingway said that his office hoped to move as quickly as possible to begin the trials and that the Pentagon was setting up a new appeals panel for the military commissions that would be composed entirely of military appeals judges.

Under the commission system that the Supreme Court overturned, the appeals panel was to be made up of senior civilian lawyers like Judge Griffin Bell, attorney general under President Jimmy Carter, and William T. Coleman, a former transportation secretary.

Military officials and lawyers have estimated that charges against the Qaeda prisoners are not likely to be brought before the end of January. The hiring of defense lawyers and challenges would make it unlikely that any trial could begin before the spring, they said.

After the new regulations are published and possibly challenged, it is almost certain that commission prosecutors will begin preparing cases against some or all the 14 new prisoners. Mr. Bush has said they will face war crimes trials. Other officials have suggested that some of the 14 will not be charged.

Any of the 14 who are charged will be assigned military lawyers. At that point, they are likely to acquire civilian defense lawyers, too. Bill Goodman, the legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has coordinated the assignment of volunteer lawyers for the hundreds of habeas suits, said several lawyers had expressed interest in representing the senior Qaeda officials.

Government lawyers and civil liberties groups say they expect the constitutionality of blocking habeas suits to be contested in the federal appeals court here.

After Mr. Bush signs the bill, government lawyers said, they expect to file briefs in the pending case in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The government is expected to argue that the suits filed by dozens of lawyers on behalf of all the Guantánamo detainees who were there before the 14 arrived this month are no longer valid.

IHT : Pakistan essential in West's fight against terrorism, Musharraf says

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Pakistan essential in West's fight against terrorism, Musharraf says

The Associated Press | September 30, 2006

LONDON Pakistan's president warned Saturday that without his country's help, the West would lose the war on terrorism, and said Pakistan's contribution in the battle against the Taliban in Afghanistan was essential.

"You'll be brought down to your knees if Pakistan doesn't cooperate with you," President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. radio aired Saturday. "Pakistan is the main ally. If we were not to be with you, you won't manage anything. Let that be clear. And if ISI is not with you, you will fail. Let that be clear also. Remember my words."

The ISI — Pakistan's Directorate of Inter Services Intelligence, the country's top spy agency — has been accused of masterminding the July 11 train bombings that killed more than 200 people in the Indian city of Mumbai.

The Mumbai police commissioner, A.N. Roy, made the allegation on Saturday — and Pakistan denied the charge.

Musharraf's interview was conducted before Roy made the allegations in a news conference in India.

The ISI has also been accused in recent days of indirectly supporting terror groups.

The BBC quoted a leaked British Ministry of Defense document as saying that "indirectly, Pakistan (through the ISI) has been supporting terrorism and extremism — whether in London on (July 7, 2005) or in Afghanistan or Iraq."

Musharraf denied the allegation. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said during a two-hour meeting with the Pakistani president on Thursday that the assertions in the document were not the government's view.

In the BBC interview, Musharraf denied claims made by human rights organization Amnesty International which alleged that terrorism suspects arrested in Pakistan had disappeared.

"I don't want even to reply to that. It's nonsense, I don't believe it," he said, adding that everyone who had been arrested during terrorism investigations could be accounted for.

Bloomberg : Bush Says Fighting in Iraq Isn't Making Americans Less Secure

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Bush Says Fighting in Iraq Isn't Making Americans Less Secure

By Judy Mathewson | september 30, 2006

Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush said today that fighting in Iraq isn't making Americans less secure at home.

``This argument buys into the enemy's propaganda that the terrorists attack us because we are provoking them,'' Bush said in his weekly radio broadcast. ``We do not create terrorism by fighting terrorism.''

This is the seventh week in the past eight that Bush has made the war on terrorism the topic of his radio address. His comments capped a week in which Democrats used the findings of a National Intelligence Estimate to argue that the Iraq invasion has made the U.S. less safe from terrorist attacks.

Bush's address also follows publicity about a new book by Washington journalist Bob Woodward that says the president and his advisers have mishandled the war. ``State of Denial,'' set for publication Oct. 2, says Bush and his advisers responded too slowly to Iraq's growing insurgency.

With congressional elections less than six weeks away Democrats are making criticisms of Republican Bush's conduct of the war a central part of their midterm election campaigns. Republicans respond that defeating extremists in Iraq would be a major blow to terrorists globally. At the same time, they argue that the invasion of Iraq didn't provoke jihadists' anti-American campaign.

Hating America

``Iraq is not the reason the terrorists are at war against us,'' Bush said. ``The terrorists are at war against us because they hate everything American stands for, and because they know we stand in the way of their ambitions to take over the Middle East.''

U.S. troops were not in Iraq when terrorists first attacked the World Trade Center in 1993, Bush noted. Nor were they in Iraq when terrorists bombed U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the USS Cole in 2000, or when they launched the Sept. 11 attacks of 2001, he said.

``The only way to protect our citizens at home is to go on the offense against the enemy across the world,'' Bush said.

Bush also brought up the National Intelligence Estimate, whose key judgments he ordered declassified this week after elements of the report were leaked to the New York Times and the Washington Post.

U.S. Politics

Both major U.S. political parties can point to parts of the April estimate to bolster their cases. The estimate was a consensus of analysts from 16 federal agencies including the Central Intelligence Agency.

Democrats point to excerpts that say anger over the war in Iraq is fueling Muslim radicalism and that the dispersal of terrorist cells around the world poses a greater risk of attacks on the U.S.

``As we've seen day after day, the president and the Congress stubbornly refuse to change course, even when it's clear their failed course is making America less safe,'' Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said yesterday.

Republicans point to a finding in the estimate that U.S. counterterrorism efforts have ``seriously damaged'' al-Qaeda's leadership. Bush noted a finding that ``should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.''

``Withdrawing from Iraq before the enemy is defeated would embolden the terrorists,'' Bush said today. ``It would help them find new recruits to carry out even more destructive attacks on our nation, and it would give the terrorists a new sanctuary in the heart of the Middle East with huge oil riches to fund their ambitions.''

To contact the reporter on this story: Judy Mathewson in Washington at jmathewson@bloomberg.net
Last Updated: September 30, 2006 10:06 EDT

The Hindu : Musharraf blames West for terrorism

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Musharraf blames West for terrorism

September 30, 2006

London, Sept. 30 (PTI): In yet another controversial statement, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has virtually blamed the US and other western countries for terrorism emanating from his country, saying Taliban and Al-Qaida constituted elements which were initially promoted by the West.

"Terrorism is not a Pakistani phenomenon but an import to the country... The whole world is to be blamed, it (terrorism) is an import to the country," Musharraf remarked while speaking at the Oxford University yesterday.

Mujahideen, who were brought, trained and financed by the West to fight Soviet troops coalesced into Al-Qaida after the withdrawal of the invading (Soviet) troops, he said. Referring to Taliban, the General said the members of the religious seminaries were also recruited, financed and armed by the US and the West. He, however, acknowledged that Pakistan had supported Taliban against Soviet troops.

After the Soviet defeat, Pakistan was left high and dry by the world to fend off 30,000 Mujahideen and to deal with over four million Afghan refugees, said Musharraf against whom the realisation is growing worldover that he is not a sincere ally in war against terror.

The comments came days after Musharraf said that after the 9/11 attacks, the US had threatened to bomb Pakistan to stone age if it did not cooperate in the war against terror, generating much heat. He had also said that CIA had paid money for transfer of Al-Qaida cadres.

NYT : A Portrait of Bush as a Victim of His Own Certitude

Saturday, September 30, 2006

A Portrait of Bush as a Victim of His Own Certitude

By MICHIKO KAKUTANI | September 30, 2006

In Bob Woodward’s highly anticipated new book, “State of Denial,” President Bush emerges as a passive, impatient, sophomoric and intellectually incurious leader, presiding over a grossly dysfunctional war cabinet and given to an almost religious certainty that makes him disinclined to rethink or re-evaluate decisions he has made about the war. It’s a portrait that stands in stark contrast to the laudatory one Mr. Woodward drew in “Bush at War,” his 2002 book, which depicted the president — in terms that the White House press office itself has purveyed — as a judicious, resolute leader, blessed with the “vision thing” his father was accused of lacking and firmly in control of the ship of state.

As this new book’s title indicates, Mr. Woodward now sees Mr. Bush as a president who lives in a state of willful denial about the worsening situation in Iraq, a president who insists he won’t withdraw troops, even “if Laura and Barney are the only ones who support me.” (Barney is Mr. Bush’s Scottish terrier.) Mr. Woodward draws an equally scathing portrait of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, who comes off as a bully and control freak who is reluctant to assume responsibility for his department’s failures, and who has surrounded himself with yes men and created a system that bleached out “strong, forceful military advice.” Mr. Rumsfeld remains wedded to his plan to conduct the war in Iraq with a lighter, faster force (reflecting his idée fixe of “transforming” the military), even as the situation there continues to deteriorate.

Mr. Woodward reports that after the 2004 election Andrew H. Card Jr., then White House chief of staff, pressed for Mr. Rumsfeld’s ouster (he recommended former Secretary of State James A. Baker III as a replacement), and that Laura Bush shared his concern, worrying that Mr. Rumsfeld was hurting her husband’s reputation. Vice President Dick Cheney, however, persuaded Mr. Bush to stay the course with Mr. Cheney’s old friend Mr. Rumsfeld, arguing that any change might be perceived as an expression of doubt and hesitation on the war. Other members of the administration also come off poorly. Gen. Richard B. Myers is depicted as a weak chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who routinely capitulated to the will of Mr. Rumsfeld and who rarely offered an independent opinion. Former C.I.A. director George J. Tenet is described as believing that the war against Iraq was a terrible mistake, but never expressing his feelings to the president. And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (who appears in this volume primarily in her former role as national security adviser) is depicted as a presidential enabler, ineffectual at her job of coordinating interagency strategy and planning.

For instance, Mr. Woodward writes that on July 10, 2001, Mr. Tenet and his counterterrorism coordinator, J. Cofer Black, met with Ms. Rice to warn her of mounting intelligence about an impending terrorist attack, but came away feeling they’d been given “the brush-off” — a revealing encounter, given Ms. Rice’s recent comments, rebutting former President Bill Clinton’s allegations that the Bush administration had failed to pursue counterterrorism measures aggressively before 9/11.

As depicted by Mr. Woodward, this is an administration in which virtually no one will speak truth to power, an administration in which the traditional policy-making process involving methodical analysis and debate is routinely subverted. He notes that experts — who recommended higher troop levels in Iraq, warned about the consequences of disbanding the Iraqi Army or worried about the lack of postwar planning— were continually ignored by the White House and Pentagon leadership, or themselves failed, out of cowardice or blind loyalty, to press insistently their case for an altered course in the war.

Mr. Woodward describes the administration’s management of the war as being improvisatory and ad hoc, like a pickup basketball game, and argues that it continually tried to give the public a rosy picture of the war in Iraq (while accusing the press of accentuating the negative), even as its own intelligence was pointing to a rising number of attacks against American forces and an upward spiral of violence. A secret February 2005 report by Philip D. Zelikow, a State Department counselor, found that “Iraq remains a failed state shadowed by constant violence and undergoing revolutionary political change” and concluded that the American effort there suffered because it lacked a comprehensive, unified policy.

Startlingly little of this overall picture is new, of course. Mr. Woodward’s portrait of Mr. Bush as a prisoner of his own certitude owes a serious debt to a 2004 article in The New York Times Magazine by the veteran reporter Ron Suskind, just as his portrait of the Pentagon’s incompetent management of the war and occupation owes a serious debt to “Fiasco,” the Washington Post reporter Thomas E. Ricks’s devastating account of the war, published this summer. Other disclosures recapitulate information contained in books and articles by other journalists and former administration insiders.

But if much of “State of Denial” simply ratifies the larger outline of the Bush administration’s bungled handling of the war as laid out by other reporters, Mr. Woodward does flesh out that narrative with new illustrations and some telling details that enrich the reader’s understanding of the inner workings of this administration at this critical moment.

He reports, for instance, that the Vietnam-era Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger “had a powerful, largely invisible influence on the foreign policy of the Bush administration,” urging President Bush and Vice President Cheney to stick it out. According to Mr. Woodward, Mr. Kissinger gave the former Bush adviser and speechwriter Michael Gerson his so-called 1969 salted peanut memo, which warned President Richard M. Nixon that “withdrawal of U.S. troops will become like salted peanuts to the American public; the more U.S. troops come home, the more will be demanded.”

As with Mr. Woodward’s earlier books, many of his interviews were conducted on background, though, from the point of view of particular passages, it’s often easy for the reader to figure out just who his sources were. In some cases he recreates conversations seemingly based on interviews with only one of the participants. The former Saudi Arabian ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Mr. Card, Mr. Tenet, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage and Brent Scowcroft, the former national security adviser (to Bush senior), appear to be among the author’s primary sources.

Whereas Mr. Woodward has tended in the past to stand apart from his narrative, rarely pausing to analyze or assess the copious material he has gathered, he is more of an active agent in this volume — perhaps in a kind of belated mea culpa for his earlier positive portrayals of the administration. In particular, he inserts himself into interviews with Mr. Rumsfeld — clearly annoyed, even appalled, by the Pentagon chief’s cavalier language and reluctance to assume responsibility for his department’s failures.

Mr. Woodward reports that when he told Mr. Rumsfeld that the number of insurgent attacks was going up, the defense secretary replied that they’re now “categorizing more things as attacks.” Mr. Woodward quotes Mr. Rumsfeld as saying, “A random round can be an attack and all the way up to killing 50 people someplace. So you’ve got a whole fruit bowl of different things — a banana and an apple and an orange.”

Mr. Woodward adds: “I was speechless. Even with the loosest and most careless use of language and analogy, I did not understand how the secretary of defense would compare insurgent attacks to a ‘fruit bowl,’ a metaphor that stripped them of all urgency and emotion. The official categories in the classified reports that Rumsfeld regularly received were the lethal I.E.D.’s, standoff attacks with mortars and close engagements such as ambushes.”

Earlier in the volume, in a section describing the former Iraq administrator Jay Garner’s reluctance to tell the president about the mistakes he saw the Pentagon making in Iraq, Mr. Woodward writes: “It was only one example of a visitor to the Oval Office not telling the president the whole story or the truth. Likewise, in these moments where Bush had someone from the field there in the chair beside him, he did not press, did not try to open the door himself and ask what the visitor had seen and thought. The whole atmosphere too often resembled a royal court, with Cheney and Rice in attendance, some upbeat stories, exaggerated good news and a good time had by all.” Were the war in Iraq not a real war that has resulted in more than 2,700 American military casualties and more than 56,000 Iraqi civilian deaths, the picture of the Bush administration that emerges from this book might resemble a farce. It’s like something out of “The Daily Show” or a “Saturday Night Live” sketch, with Freudian Bush family dramas and high-school-like rivalries between cabinet members who refuse to look at one another at meetings being played out on the world stage.

There’s the president, who once said, “I don’t have the foggiest idea about what I think about international, foreign policy,” deciding that he’s going to remake the Middle East and alter the course of American foreign policy. There’s his father, former President George Herbert Walker Bush (who went to war against the same country a decade ago), worrying about the wisdom of another war but reluctant to offer his opinions to his son because he believes in the principle of “let him be himself.” There’s the president’s national security adviser whining to him that the defense secretary won’t return her phone calls. And there’s the president and Karl Rove, his chief political adviser, trading fart jokes.

Mr. Woodward suggests that Mr. Rumsfeld decided to make the Iraq war plan “his personal project” after seeing a rival agency, the C.I.A., step up to run operations in Afghanistan (when it became clear that the Pentagon was unprepared for a quick invasion of that country, right after 9/11). And he suggests that President Bush chose Mr. Rumsfeld as his defense secretary, in part, because he knew his father mistrusted Mr. Rumsfeld, and the younger Bush wanted to prove his father wrong.

Many of the people in this book seem not only dismayed but also flummoxed by some of President Bush’s decisions. Mr. Woodward quotes Laura Bush as telling Andrew Card that she doesn’t understand why her husband isn’t upset about Mr. Rumsfeld and the uproar over his handling of the war . And he quotes Mr. Armitage as telling former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell that he’s baffled by President Bush’s reluctance to make adjustments in his conduct of the war.

“Has he thought this through?” Mr. Armitage asks. “What the president says in effect is, We’ve got to press on in honor of the memory of those who have fallen. Another way to say that is we’ve got to have more men fall to honor the memories of those who have already fallen.”

Bloomberg : Pakistan ISI Involved in Train Blasts, Mumbai Investigators Say

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Pakistan ISI Involved in Train Blasts, Mumbai Investigators Say

By Gautam Chakravorthy | September 30, 2006

Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Indian police accused Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence Agency, or ISI, and militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba of involvement in the July 11, Mumbai serial train bomb blasts. Pakistan immediately denied the charges.

Militant group Laskhar was primarily responsible for carrying out the bombing, for which their operatives had been trained in Pakistan, Mumbai Police Commissioner A.N. Roy said, after announcing the completion of an investigation into the serial blasts. Local operatives of Students Islamic Movement of India were also involved he said.

The status of the Himalayan Kashmir region, a territory both countries claim in full and control only in parts, is at the center of dispute between the two South Asian nuclear-armed neighbors. More than two dozen rebel groups are fighting against Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir, the only Muslim-majority state.

The bombers used a combination of ammonium nitrate and RDX, or Royal Demolition Explosive, in the attacks, Roy said in a televised press conference today in Mumbai. As much as 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of RDX was used in the seven blasts on Mumbai's suburban trains.

Planning for the attacks, which claimed more than 180 lives and injured about 900 people, began as early as March. Police have arrested 15 suspects, and the roles of 12 people have been directly established, Roy said.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier this month said Pakistan hadn't done enough to control the use of its territory for mounting terrorist attacks against India.

Pakistan Denies Charges

``These groups, whether it's Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e- Mohammad, they can act autonomously also,'' Singh said. ``Our worry has been that Pakistan's government has not done enough to control these elements.''

Pakistani government spokesman Ashfaque Gondal, speaking today in a telephone interview from the capital Islamabad, said the allegation was ``absurd.''

The country's president, Pervez Musharraf, ``has already offered India any assistance in investigating the case. We deny any involvement or the involvement of any of the government's agencies in the attacks,'' he said.

``Lashkar-e-Taiba is already a banned outfit in Pakistan. It has no existence or links with any of the Pakistani agencies. The sensitivity of the case demands more responsibility, rather than shifting blame,'' he said.

India postponed a meeting of the foreign secretaries of both countries after the train blasts, which killed at least 182 people.

Teams of Two

Teams of two, comprising one Indian and one Pakistani, fanned out in Mumbai's suburban trains to carry out the attacks, Roy said. A total of 11 Pakistanis were involved in the serial blasts, including one who died, he said.

Mumbai's commuter trains carry more than a third of the city's 16 million people every day between the suburbs and the downtown business district. Mumbai is home to some of the largest companies, the country's two main stock exchanges, the biggest diamond, gold and commodities trading centers and the mainstream Hindi film industry.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gautam Chakravorthy in Mumbai at chakravorthy@bloomberg.net .
Last Updated: September 30, 2006 07:08 EDT

Reuters : Bush: Leak of Iraq report created "misimpressions"

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Bush: Leak of Iraq report created "misimpressions"

by Caren Bohan | September 30, 2006

WASHINGTON, Sept 30 (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush on Saturday hit back at critics who have cited an intelligence report as evidence that the Iraq war has worsened the terrorism threat.

Bush said the leaks of the report that appeared in media a week ago created "misimpressions" of its findings. Bush later declassified 3-1/2 pages of the National Intelligence Estimate prepared by the 16 U.S. spy agencies.

The report's judgment that the Iraq war has become a "cause celebre" for Islamic extremists was seen by Democrats as bolstering their election-year argument that Bush's policies had made America less safe.

Bush used his weekly radio address to challenge that interpretation.

"Some in Washington have selectively quoted from this document to make the case that by fighting the terrorists in Iraq, we are making our people less secure here at home," Bush said.

"This argument buys into the enemy's propaganda that the terrorists attack us because we are provoking them," he said.

Bush said the leaks of the report "created a heated debate in our nation's capital, and a lot of misimpressions about the document's conclusions."

The NIE report put the White House on the defensive as Bush and his Republican Party try to convince Americans that they are the toughest on security ahead of November elections in which they are fighting to keep control of Congress.

Democrats hope the Nov. 7 election will be a referendum on the Iraq war, which is increasingly unpopular with Americans.

The White House also grappled this week with questions raised by a new book, "State of Denial," by journalist Bob Woodward, who claims Bush resisted demands to boost U.S. troops in Iraq and was misleading Americans about the level of violence there.

The NIE report said the Iraq war was giving rise to a new generation of jihadist leaders and operatives and was "breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement."

But Bush, in his radio address, pointed to parts of the report that he said back up his case that pulling out of Iraq would only serve to embolden terrorists.

"Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight," the report said.

Bush encouraged Americans to read the NIE report for themselves. But Stephen Walt, a professor of international relations at Harvard University, said the document was highly damaging to the administration because it exposed mistakes.

"They have done things that they ought not to have done -- such as invading Iraq -- and they have left undone things that they ought to have done -- such as a serious effort at Israeli-Palestinian peace," Walt said. "As a result, they have made jihadis and other extremists look like heroes."

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland)

NYT : Better Mood at the Gas Pump. What About the Voting Booth?

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Better Mood at the Gas Pump. What About the Voting Booth?

By JAD MOUAWAD | September 30, 2006

Gasoline prices have plummeted in the last month, dropping by nearly 25 percent since mid-July, and despite a recent uptick in crude oil prices, most energy experts still expect the price of gasoline to fall a bit further by November.

Six weeks from the midterm elections, the falloff is comforting the Republican majority up for re-election in Congress, limiting the impact of a potentially damaging issue. But Democrats hope to gain power on Capitol Hill, in part, by hitting on the toll that high energy costs have taken on American consumers and trying to draw connections to what they see as the Bush administration’s kowtowing to big oil interests.

A gallon of regular gas now averages $2.33, after rising above $3 in August. But given that even the current lower prices are higher than was common just a couple of years ago, the question of who will benefit politically from the drop is still hotly disputed.

“Nobody thinks $2.50 a gallon is cheap; it’s still expensive,” said Representative Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois, who is leading the effort to win a majority in the House. “Guess what? Republicans may be relieved from a political standpoint but their voters aren’t.”

So, are Republicans worried?

“Absolutely not,” said Carl Forti, the spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “Right now people are excited they are not paying $3 a gallon anymore, and frankly, so am I. Today, in every place in America, gas is cheaper than a month ago.”

The sudden decline has also ignited suspicions that the Republican administration and giant oil companies conspired to cut gasoline prices for electoral gains.

“I think prices are going down now because it’s election time but I feel they will go back up again right after,” said Roberta Mays, a school bus driver in Knox, Pa.

Her opinion was reflected in a Sept. 15-17 Gallup poll, which found that 42 percent of respondents said that they believed the Bush administration was manipulating the price of gasoline in advance of the fall elections.

And the accusation has provoked a vigorous debate on the Web. On huffingtonpost.com, a left-wing blog, someone commented: “Anybody with any brains KNOWS this government manipulates almost everything here in the States.”

The White House press secretary, Tony Snow, even brought up that conspiracy theory at a recent briefing by joking that some people thought “the President has been rigging gas prices, which would give him the kind of magisterial clout unknown to any other human being.”

Prices are down largely because of a sharp drop in global oil prices, which peaked in July at $77 a barrel, and, while up slightly this week from recent lows around $60, are still under $63 a barrel.

Much of the drop can be attributed to a big sell-off by hedge funds and other speculative traders, who help determine the price of crude oil and other petroleum-based products on international commodity markets — and not to American oil companies, which control only a fraction of global oil supplies.

While the drop this fall is larger than under ordinary circumstances, it also fits a pattern that sometimes occurs at this time of year. Tom Kloza, publisher of the Oil Price Information Service, said a decline in prices after Labor Day was not uncommon because of lower demand in the months following the summer driving season. Demand then picks up in the winter, often leading to a rebound in prices.

“One of the reasons you don’t hear much about gasoline during elections is because gasoline is almost always in retreat at this time of the year,” Mr. Kloza said. “If we really want to see a meaningful energy policy in this country we need to change the elections to May.” In recent weeks, oil traders have also been comforted by the fact that no strong hurricane has slammed into the Gulf of Mexico, home to a quarter of America’s domestic energy supply, and that tensions in the Middle East seem to have eased a little.

Not surprisingly, the sharp decline in gasoline prices has lifted the morale of Americans. Consumer confidence indicators released on Tuesday rebounded from a nine-month low, thanks mainly to the drop in gasoline, which has left many Americans feeling a little wealthier.

The retreat of gasoline prices provides some relief to the Bush administration and Republicans that could help blunt public dissatisfaction with Washington.

“It removes a significant arrow from the quivers of Democrats,” said Frank Luntz, a Republican political consultant and pollster. “When prices crossed $3, voters wanted their elected officials to feel as much pain as they felt. Now, all that anger is gone. I don’t think it’s going to help Republicans but it is no longer going to help Democrats either.”

Still, despite the drop-off, many Americans remain deeply disturbed by the price of gasoline. Indeed, today’s prices have merely erased the most recent highs and have barely returned to last year’s levels.

Ms. Mays, 41, said she recently gave up a job that required a 60-mile commute each day, partly because of the high cost of gasoline. A single mother who is struggling to raise a 10-year-old son, she said the fuel price increase absorbed a large chunk of her $9,000 salary.

“It was almost not worth going to work anymore,” she said. “I keep thinking when is gasoline going back to $1 again? It would be nice but I don’t think so.”

Democrats are hoping that such feelings will translate into a high turnout among discontented voters, enough perhaps for them to win the House and even the Senate.

“Voters see the link” between gasoline prices and chaos in the Middle East and in Iraq, said Paul Begala, a Democrat political strategist. “You don’t have to tell them.”

“If they pull up at the pump and pay $2.50 instead of $3 a gallon, it’s an enormous difference,” he added. “Do they say ‘Thank you George Bush,’ and vote Republican? Perhaps. But I wouldn’t want to be the Republican staking my career on that decision.”

Political analysts said that while the war in Iraq and the handling of relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina are much bigger factors in shaping public attitudes, many Americans also see gasoline as a sore issue.

While the approval ratings for the Bush administration have risen somewhat from their lows of the early summer, the president’s declining popularity has generally mirrored the rise in gasoline prices, said Andrew Kohut, the president of the Pew Research Center.

“Rising gasoline prices have taken quite a toll on President Bush’s approval ratings,” Mr. Kohut said. “Of course there have been other issues — like Katrina and Iraq — but if you track the rise in gasoline prices it correlates very nicely with Bush’s falling ratings.”

The question now, he added, “is how much will declining prices obviate that clear negative?”

Gasoline prices, visible to consumers every day, are not necessarily crucial in their own right. But they have acted as a proxy for attitudes toward the general economy, which, Democrats argue, has worsened for the average American under President Bush.

“It’s a constant reminder that things are tough,” said Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat of Rhode Island. “Everything keeps going up and wages for middle-class Americans have been stuck for five years.”

In contrast to the previous energy shocks of the 1970’s and early 1980’s, however, the recent surge in oil prices did not seriously trip up the economy, sending it over the edge into a recession. The increase was driven by rising global demand, not by a supply shortage precipitated by events in the Middle East, and growth has continued right through the surge in prices.

Indeed, Americans are consuming more gasoline than ever, thanks to a growing population and an expanding economy. But the price increases have imposed a toll.

Gasoline demand in the United States is expected to rise just 1 percent this year, to 9.22 million barrels a day, according to the forecasts by the Energy Information Administration, compared with an annual growth of 1.9 percent from 1992 to 1999. Next year, the agency sees a rise of 1.2 percent in gasoline consumption.

“While gasoline demand has not declined, the growth has certainly declined from its longer-term trend,” said Tancred Lidderdale, a senior economist at the Energy Information Administration. “One thing I would suggest is that the impact of high prices isn’t immediate. Habits are slow to change.”

They are changing, though. Wal-Mart has said that its customers are making fewer trips to its stores. Automakers in Detroit have suffered big drops in the sale of their S.U.V.’s and pickup trucks as buyers turn to smaller, more efficient models. More drivers are carpooling or delaying some trips because of the impact of high prices.

In a New York Times/CBS poll taken in May, 63 percent of respondents said they had reduced their driving because of higher prices; 49 percent said they planned to change their holiday plans because of higher gas costs; 56 percent said that high energy costs had led to cutbacks in household spending.

“It’s hard on the middle class, on people like us,” Jean Smith, 59, a schoolteacher in Kennett Square, Pa., said this week. She said high energy costs were a burden on her family, which has $15,000 in debt, one son in college and another in the military. She and her husband, also a high-school teacher, earn a combined income of about $75,000 a year.

“Our gasoline and heating oil bills have doubled in the past 10 years,” she said, “but our salaries certainly haven’t.”

Business Standard : Mumbai police findings baseless: Pak

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Mumbai police findings baseless: Pak

Press Trust of India | September 30, 2006

Pakistan today termed as "baseless and fabricated" the Mumbai police finding that ISI masterminded the July 11 train blasts, and said it was aimed at maligning the country.

"It is totally baseless and fabricated allegations," Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao told the media here while reacting to the claims of the Mumbai police.

"We totally reject it as it is aimed at maligning Pakistan at a time when the leadership of the two countries met in Havana. Such baseless allegations are not going to help," he said.

While Pakistan Foreign Office was yet to react, Minister of State for Information Tariq Azam rejected the claim and said that India could provide any evidence it has to Pakistan to investigate.

The Mumbai police disclosures came as President Pervez Musharraf returned home today from an 18-day tour during which he visited Brussels, Havana, the US and UK.

BBC : Pakistan 'role in Mumbai attacks'

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Pakistan 'role in Mumbai attacks'

BBC News | September 30, 2006

Pakistan's intelligence agency was behind the train blasts in Mumbai in July that killed 186 people, Indian police say.

The attacks were planned by the ISI and carried out by the Islamist militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba, based in Pakistan, Mumbai's police chief said.

AN Roy said the Students' Islamic Movement of India had also assisted.

Pakistan rejected the allegations and said India had given no evidence of Pakistani involvement in the attacks.

"We have solved the 11 July bombings case. The whole attack was planned by Pakistan's ISI and carried out by Lashkar-e-Toiba and their operatives in India," Mumbai (Bombay) police commissioner AN Roy told a news conference.


Mr Roy said 15 people had been arrested, and that some of the bombers had received training in Pakistan.

Tariq Azim Khan, Pakistan's minister of state for information, rejected the allegations.

"We are still studying the Indian statement. Needless to say, this is once again baseless allegations - yet another attempt by India to malign Pakistan," he told the BBC.

"Both the president and the prime minister condemned this terrorist attack on the train when it happened. But India also must look at home for reasons for this growing insurgency at home," he said.

On 11 July 2006, seven co-ordinated blasts within 15 minutes ripped through trains on Mumbai's busy commuter network.

Indian security officials suggested early on in their investigations that the bombings bore the hallmarks of Lashkar-e-Toiba, a leading militant group fighting in Kashmir and based in Pakistan.

Pakistan denied any involvement in the blasts and Lashkar-e-Toiba condemned the attacks.

India postponed talks with Pakistan after the bombs, but Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf met recently in Cuba and said they had agreed to resume talks.

The two nations, both nuclear armed, have fought three wars since independence, two over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Chris Floyd : War in Heaven: Woodward's Book and the Establishment Insurgency

Saturday, September 30, 2006

War in Heaven: Woodward's Book and the Establishment Insurgency

by Chris Floyd | September 30, 2006

Bob Woodward has long been the voice of the American Establishment – or of certain quadrants of it, at any rate. When Richard Nixon's criminal depredations and mental instability had gone too far and it was decided to rein him in, former military intelligence officer Woodward was there as a safe pair of hands to receive the damning revelations of "Deep Throat" and help bring down the Nixon presidency. When the Establishment decided it was best to throw in with the Bush Faction's aggressive militarism after 9/11 – lots of big money to be made out of war and fear, and those tax cuts were just too sweet to pass up -- Woodward was there again, with a series of stories and books which, as Michiko Kakutani notes in the New York Times, "depicted the president — in terms that the White House press office itself has purveyed — as a judicious, resolute leader, blessed with the 'vision thing' his father was accused of lacking and firmly in control of the ship of state."

And now, when it is clear that George W. Bush is – to put it plainly – a self-deluding addlepate in the late Nixon mode (without any of Nixon's considerable intelligence, of course), and that the orgy of war profiteering and corporate welfare he has thrown for the elite has reached a level of such murderous frenzy that it threatens to kill the whole golden goose of American power – or at least seriously damage the bottom line for years to come – the Establishment has turned to Woodward once again. And the old trouper has delivered.

His new book, State of Denial, is a stinging attack on the Bush-Cheney Faction, although, as Kakutani astutely notes, there's nothing really new in its depiction of the moral nullity, rank stupidity and sheer incompetence of the Faction -- beyond the usual telling anecdotes and killer quotes that Woodward garners, often second or third-hand, from his sources. But it is those sources which clue us in to what's going on. Again, Kakutani: "The former Saudi Arabian ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Mr. Card, Mr. Tenet, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage, Brent Scowcroft, the former national security adviser (to Bush senior), appear to be among the author’s primary sources." This is heavy Establishment artillery, and the presence of "Bandar Bush," the Saudi royal, and Scowcroft, the Bush Senior courtier, among Woodward's main sources tells us that Daddy Bush has reverted back to the old-line, white-bread, "Eastern Establishment" in a move against the Sunbelt oil men, crank pseudo-Christians and Nixonian diehards like Cheney and Rumsfeld that Junior Bush has thrown in with.

(Speaking of Nixonian diehards, one of Woodward's few original revelations is the extent to which Henry Kissinger has been advising Bush and Cheney, even resurrecting old memos he wrote to Nixon about "staying the course" in Vietnam and not letting the American people get a taste of peace and sanity by allowing even a partial withdrawal of troops. Such a move would “will become like salted peanuts to the American public; the more U.S. troops come home, the more will be demanded," Kissinger told Nixon – and pressed the same memo on the poltroons now polluting the Oval Office. )

So parts of the American Establishment are at last making a move against the Bush Faction. Unlike the Nixon takedown, this could be too little, too late. For one thing, Nixon didn't have 9/11 to play with; nor did he have use of the Mighty Wurlitzer of the hard-right media juggernaut that serves Bush with Goebbelsian intensity and fidelity; nor did he have control of the Congress, with a party full of lockstep lickspittles and genuine moral and intellectual cretins willing to follow him over a cliff. In addition, Bush doesn't face constant riots in the streets against his foolishly and murderously prolonged pointless war; the American people are infinitely more docile, distracted and servile than they were in Nixon's day, as anyone who was alive then can vividly remember.

Nor did the Republicans in Nixon's time possess the extensive, high-tech vote-manipulation and vote-suppression systems that they have today, which have so far ensured that the Faction retains its overwhelming power – despite the overwhelming unpopularity of almost all of its core policies. In Nixon's day, Republican Establishment members had to worry about a backlash at the polls; this is still a danger for them, of course, but not nearly to the same extent. Today, it is possible – just – that an actual, massive landslide for the Democrats might result in a very narrow victory at the polls; it remains to be seen if the Bush Faction's vote-fixing machinery can plausibly handle anything beyond a fairly close losing vote for their side. But certainly nothing less than an historic landslide against the Republicans has a chance of bringing even a miniscule Democratic majority back into power.

So although Woodward's book clearly signals that the game's afoot, and another civil war among the American Establishment is gathering strength, the outcome is by no means assured. We've seen signs of this before, particularly before the Iraq invasion, when again it was Scowcroft leading the way – and every time, the Bush Faction has managed to fight off – or buy off – its Establishment opponents. (Think of Sumner Redstone's craven announcement, after "Rathergate," that he, an old-time liberal Democrat, would be voting for Bush in 2004 because that would be "better for the corporation.")

Nixon was a loner, a bagman who used his own sinister savvy to scale the greasy pole, yet remained forever outside the golden circle of the Establishment (as he never stopped complaining about); but Bush Junior is to the manner born, a true scion of the predatory elite that has served as America's aristocracy for generations. That fact alone will make it harder for the Establishment to bring Bush to heel than it was to flush the lowborn Nixon away. And that's why it will never come to impeachment or resignation; such things would reflect too badly on the elite itself, not least on Daddy Bush, one of its leading lights.

But some strong shots across the bow, some public humiliation, something to get Bush and Cheney to alter the disastrous course in Iraq – that's fair game, and that's what we're seeing today from some of the old-line Establishment factions. And as ever, Woodward is a key player, toting heavy lumber for the cause.

(Note: is not the destruction of constitutional liberties that concerns these factions and brings them out against Bush, of course. They could care less about that – in fact, it's yet another good argument to them for keeping the Bush Faction in power, albeit chastened somewhat on the military aggression front. Not that these elite players don't hold the same ideal of American domination of global affairs that drives the Bush Faction; they do, in spades. But they recognize that after a certain point you get more buck for less bang. As the Emperor Tiberius used to tell his satraps when he sent them out to govern the conquered lands: "I want my sheep shorn, not shaved.")

In the corrupted currents of our day, Woodward's book – and the factional struggle within the Establishment it represents – is to be welcomed. Anything that can mitigate some of the evil being done by the Bush Faction must been seen as a positive intervention. But only in the sense that having an ink pen jammed through your trachea when you are choking to death is a positive intervention. For make no mistake: what we are seeing is a "war in heaven," an intramural struggle between elites, a falling out among thieves, and, literally, a family quarrel in the imperial house. It has nothing to do with the welfare of the American people, or the restoration of democracy. The "consent of the governed" will play no part in how the affairs of the state are finally ordered by the exalted ones.