IraqTortureGate: Powell Denies Knowing He Used Tortured Evidence for UN Case

The most damning credible allegation to emerge regarding the Bush Administration is arguably that Dick Cheney and other Bush Administration officials ordered the use of torture to produce false evidence of a connection between Iraq and al-Qaida to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff at the State Department under Colin Powell, recently wrote,

as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002 - well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion - its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa'ida.

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Will Speaker Pelosi Stand Up to the IMF?

It would be an exaggeration to say that Congress has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity this week to reform the policies of the International Monetary Fund. If the future is like the past, if Congress misses this opportunity, another one will come along - in about 10 years or so.

This week, House and Senate leaders are meeting in a conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the supplemental appropriations bill.  The Senate version of the bill is likely to include $100 billion and new authorities for the IMF, but the House version of the supplemental bill did not include funds for the IMF. The Senate is debating amendments now as I write. The conference committee will almost surely meet soon after Senate passage; the stated goal is to pass the supplemental before the Memorial Day recess.

Concrete, observable reforms of the IMF's policies in poor countries should be part of any agreement: there should be no "blank check" for the IMF.

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Obama: Israeli Settlements "Have To Be Stopped"

Two cheers for President Obama.

President Obama, at the press conference yesterday with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu:

Now, Israel is going to have to take some difficult steps as well, and I shared with the Prime Minister the fact that under the roadmap and under Annapolis that there's a clear understanding that we have to make progress on settlements.  Settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward.

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Stopping Pakistan Drone Strikes Suddenly Plausible

Until this week, it seemed like the conventional wisdom in Washington was that stopping U.S drone strikes in Pakistan was outside the bounds of respectable discussion.

That just changed. Or it should have.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Doyle McManus notes that counterinsurgency guru David Kilcullen has told Congress that U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan are backfiring and should be stopped. Until now Congress has been reluctant to challenge the drone strikes, as they are reluctant in general to challenge "military strategy," even when it appears to be causing terrible harm. But as McManus notes, Kilcullen has unimpeachable Pentagon credentials. He served as a top advisor in Iraq to General Petraeus on counterinsurgency, and is credited as having helped design the Iraq "surge." Now, anyone in Washington who wants to challenge the drone strikes has all the political cover they could reasonably expect.

And what Kilcullen said leaves very little room for creative misinterpretation:

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Reform U.S. Foreign Policy. Pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

Sometimes an opportunity for reform comes along that is "strategic" in that it changes the playing field for efforts to win other reforms in the future. The passage of the National Labor Relations Act - establishing the right of American workers to organize unions and bargain collectively - was a strategic reform. It increased the power of people previously excluded from power, and thereby reduced the power of corporate interests.

But the right of workers in America to organize has been steadily eroded by unpunished abuses by anti-union employers. Passage of the Employee Free Choice Act is easy to justify on the basis of guaranteeing the basic human rights of working Americans.  When the Employee Free Choice Act is signed into law, millions of private sector workers will have greater protection from having their rights violated.

What difference would that make? Ask Steve Arney. He used to be a reporter at the Bloomington Pantagraph, a newspaper in Illinois owned by Lee Enterprises.

A majority of employees at the Pantagraph signed cards to support forming a union with the St. Louis Newspaper Guild. Lee Enterprises responded with a campaign to defeat the effort by Pantagraph employees to form a union.

As part of Lee's anti-union campaign, Steve Arney lost his job.

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