Daily Archives: November 7, 2008

startling? high wire act by lieberman

Reid Spokesperson : Democratic Senators May
Vote On Lieberman’s Fate In Full Caucus Meeting

Greg Sargent, TPM, Nov 7 2008

Senator Harry Reid’s office has just confirmed to me, on the record, that Reid is considering a new step: Asking all the Democratic Senators to vote on Lieberman’s fate at their upcoming full caucus meeting, if Reid and Lieberman are unable to agree on a way for Lieberman to relinquish his plum chairmanship of the Homeland Security committee. “If Senator Reid and Lieberman don’t reach an agreement, his future chairmanship may be put to a vote by the caucus as a whole on Nov 18,” Reid spokesperson Jim Manley told me, in response to my questions about the next step being mulled by Reid. Manley’s assertion represents the first public acknowledgment that this possibility is being seriously considered, and is a significant ratcheting up of pressure on Lieberman by Reid’s office. Manley said it was unclear as yet how precisely the mechanics of such a move would work, but left no doubt that it was likely to happen if Lieberman and Reid didn’t resolve their impasse before the next caucus meeting. The move would in effect put Lieberman’s fate in the hands of his Dem colleagues.

Reid: Lieberman did something ‘improper’
CNN, Nov 7 2008

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made clear Friday he’s not happy with Joe Lieberman over the onetime Democrat’s avid support of John McCain’s White House bid, but told CNN the Connecticut independent has a strong record of voting with the Democrats. Reid told CNN’s John King:

Joe Lieberman has done something that I think was improper, wrong, and I’d like, if we weren’t on television, I’d use a stronger word of describing what he did. But Joe Lieberman votes with me a lot more than a lot of my senators. He didn’t support us on military stuff and he didn’t support us on Iraq stuff. You look at his record, it’s pretty good.

Sources tell CNN Reid wants to strip Lieberman of his Homeland Security Committee chairmanship and offer him the chairmanship of a less high-profile committee. Lieberman reportedly called the proposal “not acceptable.”

Lieberman not happy with Reid’s offer, flirting with Republicans
Dana Bash, CNN, Nov 7 2008

An aide to Sen. Joe Lieberman tells CNN that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told Lieberman he wanted him to give up his position as Chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, and instead take the helm of a lower profile full committee. A Senate Democratic source familiar with the meeting confirms that account, and tells CNN that one of options Reid gave Lieberman in a private meeting Thursday is Chairman of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee. But the aide to Lieberman says the Connecticut senator made clear that was “not acceptable” to him, and reminded Reid that he was one of the Senators who wrote the legislation creating the Homeland Security Department, and that’s where he wants to stay. Nothing was resolved in the meeting, and the Lieberman aide tells CNN that, although he still wants to caucus with the Democrats, Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell has contacted Lieberman about formally aligning with Republicans, and that Lieberman is “keeping all of his options open.” (An aide to McConnell confirms to CNN that the two men “have been talking.”) This Lieberman aide, who insisted the meeting was very cordial, also says that he reminded Reid that he may have been elected an Independent, but that he has voted overwhelmingly with the Democrats. The Senate Democratic source says this issue will now likely be dealt with by the full Senate Democratic caucus, when it meets on Nov 18. A spokesman for Reid had no immediate comment on the specifics of the meeting, except to say that it was “frank,” and that the two agreed to talk more about Lieberman’s future role in the Senate. The two met on Thursday.

McConnell reaches out to Lieberman
Ryan Grim, Politico, Nov 7 2008

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has reached out to Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) about the prospect of joining the Republican Conference, but Lieberman is still bargaining with Democratic leaders to keep his chairmanship, according to Senate aides in both parties. “They’ve been talking,” McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said. A Lieberman aide cautioned that “Sen. Lieberman’s preference is to stay in the caucus, but he’s going to keep all his options open. McConnell has reached out to him, and at this stage, his position is he wants to remain in the caucus but losing the chairmanship is unacceptable.” A Republican Senate aide said Friday morning that there was little McConnell could offer in terms of high-ranking committee slots, which is why Lieberman is resisting overtures from the Republican side.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Lieberman met Thursday, yet Reid is waffling over whether to revoke Lieberman’s chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee and may instead hold a secret vote among Democratic members on whether to kick Lieberman out of the caucus. Senate aides from both parties caution that Lieberman’s state is still truly up in the air and Reid could still craft a scenario where Lieberman keeps his chairmanship. Lieberman’s aide told Politico on Friday morning that “essentially what transpired is that Sen. Reid talked about taking away his position perhaps for another position, and Sen. Lieberman indicated that was unacceptable.” A person with direct knowledge of the Reid-Lieberman meeting yesterday on Capitol Hill said Reid turned to Lieberman at one point and said, “I prefer to work this out” after Lieberman hinted he would “explore his options” with Republicans if he was stripped of the committee.

“Senate leadership has begun discussing scenarios in which he keeps it,” said one senior Democratic aide of Lieberman’s committee post. Lieberman argued that “he had been a loyal vote on everything except Iraq, gave them the majority [by caucusing with Democrats], had contributed generously to the Democratic Senate campaign committee and voted with the Democrats in greater margins than several of his colleagues over the past two years.” The New York Daily News has reported that Lieberman had “begged” to keep his chairmanship. “The Daily News story was completely and utterly false,” said the Lieberman aide. Lieberman argued that because he was reelected as an independent, “it’s a different situation than a normal Democrat, because … he said that he would view the 2008 election through the prism of neither Democrat nor a Republican — that he’d support the person he preferred rather than party designation. Essentially there was a very amiable conversation,” said the aide. “They left it that they would continue their conversations. They would talk to people within the caucus and they’d get back to each other in the next few days. Obviously, the caucus is meeting the week after next.”

Lieberman has since been having phone conversations with colleagues, but he has yet to meet with any in person, the aide said, adding that most senators have been receptive to Lieberman’s argument that allowing him to stay represents the type of unity that President-elect Barack Obama espouses. The aide also said that Lieberman was not offered a subcommittee, as has been reported, but rather was offered chairmanship of a lesser committee. He didn’t specify which one he was referring to. However, if Lieberman left Homeland Security, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) would be next in line and would have to give up Veterans Affairs, which would then be open for Lieberman. If Lieberman were to join the Republican conference, however, there’s not much McConnell could offer him. Virtually every ranking position is already spoken for, and Republican senators who have spent years moving up the ranks might not look kindly upon Lieberman leapfrogging them if he switches parties.

the al CIA-duh of the northern tier

Syrians stare terror in the face
Sami Moubayed, Asia Times, Nov 8 2008

Syrian television aired much-awaited interviews on Thursday evening with the terrorist cell responsible for an attack in Damascus in September that left 14 people dead and 65 injured. State television showed what it said were 12 members of the Islamist militant group Fatah al-Islam, confessing that they had helped plan the suicide car bombing. The interview sent shivers down the spine of most Syrians, who were horrified to hear that there was something called a “Syria branch” for al-Qaeda. These people looked like ordinary Syrians. They came from places like Aleppo, Homs and Damascus. One was a 24-year-old smuggler of gasoline between Syria and Lebanon. Another was a dental expert, while a third was an information technology expert. A fourth was a student at one of the private schools that recently started operating in Syria. Some of them said that they had baby children. Originally it was believed that the terrorist who drove an automobile into the premises of a security building on the road to Damascus International Airport had come from Iraq. The license plate was Iraqi, and most of the militants who had carried out attacks in Syria since 2003 came from the wilderness of Iraq. It was too abstract for Syrians to believe that their countrymen could plot such a bloody crime against innocent fellow Syrians. The Thursday broadcast proved them wrong. The new information confirms that the terrorists were a mixture of Syrians, Lebanese and Palestinians, operating not directly with al-Qaeda, but a sister organization called Fatah al-Islam, which is based in neighboring Tripoli, Lebanon.

The suicide bomber himself was a Saudi named “Abu Aysha”, whose picture was also shown on Syrian TV. This group wanted to “harm the Syrian regime” and had several targets on their hit list, including the central bank of Syria. They also had a hit list that included an Italian and a British diplomat, both based in Damascus. Among those who appeared on TV was Abdul-Baqi Hussein, head of security in the Syria branch of Fatah al-Islam, and Wafa Abbsi, the daughter of Fatah al-Islam founder Shaker al-Abbsi. They said the car was in fact stolen from Iraqis and loaded with 200kg of explosives at a farm on the outskirts of Damascus. Very troubling was the confession of Wafa, the only woman among the group, who spoke with her husband Yasser Unad. They seemed the most disturbed among the group of terrorists. Wafa said her father received money transfers to conduct his military activities from the Future Movement of Lebanese parliamentary majority leader Saad al-Hariri. Her father never trusted Hariri, Abbsi implied, saying that he feared that the latter would “trade him” for a cheap price. Wafa, whose first husband was a Syrian killed on the Syrian-Iraqi border, came to Syria with her second husband — also a Syrian — and was arrested with the terrorist team after Sep 27.

Wafa’s tale takes us back to an earlier argument made by veteran US journalist Seymour Hersh, who wrote in the New Yorker that Hariri, the US and certain figures in Saudi Arabia were responsible for creating Fatah al-Islam. Speaking to CNN International’s Your World Today in May 2007, Hersh said that all three parties wanted a Sunni military group in Lebanon to combat Hezbollah — which was backed by Iran — in the event of an outbreak of Sunni-Shi’ite violence. While Hersh was speaking, violence was ranging in the infamous Naher al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon, between Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese army. Those battles, which lasted for weeks, led to the killing of about 400 people. Abbsi himself, the founder of Fatah al-Islam, was at first reported dead. These reports were later challenged by his supporters, who claimed that he escaped the violence of Naher al-Bared. Hersh drew parallels between US-Hariri-Saudi backing of Fatah al-Islam, and American support for Osama Bin Laden, when he was fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. With time, he turned against his creators and became America’s number one enemy. The architects of this policy — which calls for the creation of parties like Fatah al-Islam — are Dick Cheney, Elliott Abrams and Bandar bin Sultan. In his CNN interview, Hersh added,

The enemy of our enemy is our friend, just as the jihadi groups in Lebanon were also there to go after Nasrallah. We’re in the business of creating in some places, Lebanon in particular, sectarian violence. The idea is that the Saudis promised they could control the jihadis, so we spent a lot of money and time using and supporting the jihadis to help us beat the Russians in Afghanistan, and they turned on us. And we have the same pattern, not as if there’s any lessons learned. The same pattern, using the Saudis again to support jihadis.

Fatah al-Islam was reportedly founded in Nov 2006, emerging from a radical Palestinian group called Fatah al-Intifada, which in turn was inspired by the Fatah movement of Yasser Arafat. Abbsi himself, born in Jericho in 1955, was a member of Arafat’s Fatah. He joined military units of Fatah, served as a MiG fighter pilot for Libya in its war with Chad, and fought Israel’s occupation of Lebanon as a warrior with Arafat in 1982. He grew too Islamic and became frustrated with Arafat’s diplomacy and secular nationalism, breaking with Fatah by the mid-1980s. Abbsi moved to Syria to work against Arafat and rebrand himself. Contrary to what anti-Syrian media outlets are saying in Beirut, the Syrians did not tolerate him. On the contrary, they grew suspicious of his activities and placed him behind bars for three years. On his release, he became close to Abu Musaab al-Zarkawi, who at the time was based in his native Jordan. Together they planned the assassination of Laurence Foley, a US diplomat based in Jordan, in 2004. Both were sentenced to death in absentia by Jordanian courts in July of that year. Abbsi then went to Lebanon, fleeing arrest warrants in both Syria and Jordan. His name resurfaced in Jordan this January, when two militants engaged in a gun battle with Jordanian police in the northern city of Irbid. On arrest, they confessed that they had been sent to Jordan by Abbsi to carry out terrorist operations. Abbsi chose the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon, near the city of Tripoli, to set up base and found his Fatah al-Islam. The new group, he claimed, would be modeled after al-Qaeda and inspired by bin Laden. Its stated goal was to establish Islamic law in Lebanon, and then destroy the US and Israel. Speaking to the NYT shortly before his battle with the Lebanese army began, Abbsi said:

The only way to achieve our rights is by force. This is the way America deals with us. So when the Americans feel that their lives and their economy are threatened, they will know that they will leave.

Naturally, the anti-Syrian team in Lebanon writes off the entire story as a hoax. They claimed from day one that Fatah al-Islam was created by the Syrians. That is difficult to believe, since his prison record in Damascus — along with Syria’s history of combating Islamic fundamentalism — would certainly prevent it from engaging in such a risky scheme with such a notorious terrorist. Additionally, the terrorist bombing of Sep 27 adds proof that, whatever it is, Fatah al-Islam is certainly not allied to Damascus. On the contrary, it is bent on destroying Syria. Those doubting the entire story will continue doing so, claiming that the program aired on Syrian TV was doctored by the Syrians. That too is hard to believe. These terrorists were watched by millions of people around the world and in Syria. They gave out real names and appeared clearly on screen. If the Syrians asked them to stage the entire operation, how can they continue with their ordinary lives and not be spotted as frauds? And if these were indeed the terrorists saying things to please the Syrians, why should they? They are in Syrian jails, after all, and face the death penalty for committing terror against Syrian citizens and government. The last thing they would want to do, as they face the hangman’s noose, is please Syrian authorities. The truth is that these people — Fatah al-Islam in Syria — were for real, and they are testimony to just how vulnerable Syria has become to terrorists and fundamentalists. They are the real wolves at the doors of Damascus, and when they stand at the gates of the Syrian capital — and can pull off a terrorist attack as the one on Sep 27 — this means that they have already infiltrated more vulnerable places, like Beirut, Baghdad and Amman.

pilots for 911 truth pentagon video (50mins)

some slight glitches around 40-41 mins, nothing to worry about

gareth porter, always fun (and informative)

Scott Horton Interviews Gareth Porter, Nov 5 2008

Gareth Porter, independent historian and journalist for IPS News, discusses how the Maliki government surprised everyone by aggressively pressing for a US withdrawal, the possible political landscape in a post-US controlled Iraq, the delay of a Status of Forces Agreement, the difficulty of maintaining a bankrupt empire, the possibility that Obama’s bellicose statements about Iran’s nuclear program are due to ignorance rather than hawkishness, updates on the infamous stolen laptop and four Iranian peace offerings rejected by the USgovernment.

american ‘freedom’ in egypt

Egyptian protesters torch opposition headquarters
Maggie Michael, AP, Nov 6 2008

Dozens of protesters stormed the headquarters of Egypt’s most prominent opposition politician and set it on fire early Thursday, injuring seven people, eyewitnesses and police said. The violence was the latest infighting in the opposition al-Ghad party, bitterly divided between supporters of jailed dissident Ayman Nour and those who back a pro-government leader. About 200 protesters first pelted the al-Ghad headquarters in downtown Cairo with stones and bottles, said Hussein Amin, a witness who said he watched from a balcony across the street. Then some used aerosol cans to spray flames at the offices, located in an old building that also houses two 19th century restaurants and shops. “The thugs smashed the fronts of shops and restaurants, then torched a part of the building’s wrought-iron gates before climbing the stairs,” said Amin. “Then I saw the whole floor catching fire. I saw the thugs attack firefighters, trying to take the hose from them.” Police said the seven injured suffered from burns and smoke inhalation. A security official said 20 people were arrested in the melee. A prominent former lawmaker, Nour founded the al-Ghad party in 2004. A year later, he was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison after allegedly forging signatures on petitions to register the party. However, the opposition contends he was imprisoned for running against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the 2005 elections. At the time, Mubarak had ruled the country unchallenged for two and a half decades.

Nour’s imprisonment was followed by deep party divisions. Deputy leader Moussa Moustafa Moussa, a pro-government figure, claimed the right to succeed Nour at the party helm, and the right to take over the party headquarters and newspaper. He recently won a court order to take over the al-Ghad headquarters. But Nour’s wife, Gamila Ismail, and others in the party have opposed Moussa’s takeover. Ismail, who was inside the headquarters during the rioting Thursday, accused the police of siding with the rioters. “The police disappeared when we needed protection. They were collaborating with the thugs to destroy the party offices,” she told AP by phone. “They destroyed everything: our documents, pictures, computers and files.” Moussa could not be immediately reached for comment. During the melee, Ismail came out onto a balcony one floor below the torched party offices and shouted: “Down, down Hosni Mubarak.” From the street downstairs, Moussa’ supporters chanted back at her: “Here is the traitor.” Later, the official Middle East News Agency reported that Cairo prosecutors questioned Ismail and 37 other people. The MENA report said they all face charges of arson and damage of personal property. It did not say whether Ismail and the others were held in custody.