Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Words None Dare Say: Nuclear War

by George Lakoff

"The elimination of Natanz would be a major setback for Iran's nuclear ambitions, but the conventional weapons in the American arsenal could not insure the destruction of facilities under seventy-five feet of earth and rock, especially if they are reinforced with concrete."
—Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker, April 17, 2006

"The second concern is that if an underground laboratory is deeply buried, that can also confound conventional weapons. But the depth of the Natanz facility - reports place the ceiling roughly 30 feet underground - is not prohibitive. The American GBU-28 weapon - the so-called bunker buster - can pierce about 23 feet of concrete and 100 feet of soil. Unless the cover over the Natanz lab is almost entirely rock, bunker busters should be able to reach it. That said, some chance remains that a single strike would fail."
—Michael Levi, New York Times, April 18, 2006

A familiar means of denying a reality is to refuse to use the words that describe that reality. A common form of propaganda is to keep reality from being described.

In such circumstances, silence and euphemism are forms of complicity both in propaganda and in the denial of reality. And the media, as well as the major presidential candidates, are now complicit.

The stories in the major media suggest that an attack against Iran is a real possibility and that the Natanz nuclear development site is the number one target. As the above quotes from two of our best sources note, military experts say that conventional "bunker-busters" like the GBU-28 might be able to destroy the Natanz facility, especially with repeated bombings. But on the other hand, they also say such iterated use of conventional weapons might not work, e.g., if the rock and earth above the facility becomes liquefied. On that supposition, a "low yield" "tactical" nuclear weapon, say, the B61-11, might be needed.

If the Bush administration, for example, were to insist on a sure "success," then the "attack" would constitute nuclear war. The words in boldface are nuclear war, that's right, nuclear war — a first strike nuclear war.

We don't know what exactly is being planned — conventional GBU-28's or nuclear B61-11's. And that is the point. Discussion needs to be open. Nuclear war is not a minor matter.

The Euphemism

As early as August 13, 2005, Bush, in Jerusalem, was asked what would happen if diplomacy failed to persuade Iran to halt its nuclear program. Bush replied, "All options are on the table." On April 18, the day after the appearance of Seymour Hersh's New Yorker report on the administration's preparations for a nuclear war against Iran, President Bush held a news conference. He was asked,

"Sir, when you talk about Iran, and you talk about how you have diplomatic efforts, you also say all options are on the table. Does that include the possibility of a nuclear strike? Is that something that your administration will plan for?"

He replied,

"All options are on the table."

The President never actually said the forbidden words "nuclear war," but he appeared to tacitly acknowledge the preparations — without further discussion.

Vice-President Dick Cheney, speaking in Australia last week, backed up the President.

"We worked with the European community and the United Nations to put together a set of policies to persuade the Iranians to give up their aspirations and resolve the matter peacefully, and that is still our preference. But I've also made the point, and the president has made the point, that all options are on the table."

Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain, on FOX News August 14, 2005, said the same.

"For us to say that the Iranians can do whatever they want to do and we won't under any circumstances exercise a military option would be for them to have a license to do whatever they want to do ... So I think the president's comment that we won't take anything off the table was entirely appropriate."

But it's not just Republicans. Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards, in a speech in Herzliyah, Israel, echoed Bush.

"To ensure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons, we need to keep ALL options on the table. Let me reiterate – ALL options must remain on the table."

Although, Edwards has said, when asked about this statement, that he prefers peaceful solutions and direct negotiations with Iran, he has nonetheless repeated the "all options on the table" position — making clear that he would consider starting a preventive nuclear war, but without using the fateful words.

Hillary Clinton, at an AIPAC dinner in NY, said,

"We cannot, we should not, we must not, permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons, and in dealing with this threat, as I have said for a very long time, no option can be taken off the table."

Translation: Nuclear weapons can be used to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

Barack Obama, asked on 60 Minutes about using military force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, began a discussion of his preference for diplomacy by responding, "I think we should keep all options on the table."

Bush, Cheney, McCain, Edwards, Clinton, and Obama all say indirectly that they seriously consider starting a preventive nuclear war, but will not engage in a public discussion of what that would mean. That contributes to a general denial, and the press is going along with it by a corresponding refusal to use the words.

If the consequences of nuclear war are not discussed openly, the war may happen without an appreciation of the consequences and without the public having a chance to stop it. Our job is to open that discussion.

Of course, there is a rationale for the euphemism: To scare our adversaries by making them think that we are crazy enough to do what we hint at, while not raising a public outcry. That is what happened in the lead up to the Iraq War, and the disaster of that war tells us why we must have such a discussion about Iran. Presidential candidates go along, not wanting to be thought of as interfering in on-going indirect diplomacy. That may be the conventional wisdom for candidates, but an informed, concerned public must say what candidates are advised not to say.

More Euphemisms

The euphemisms used include "tactical," "small," "mini-," and "low yield" nuclear weapons. "Tactical" contrasts with "strategic"; it refers to tactics, relatively low-level choices made in carrying out an overall strategy, but which don't affect the grand strategy. But the use of any nuclear weapons at all would be anything but "tactical." It would be a major world event – in Vladimir Putin's words, "lowering the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons," making the use of more powerful nuclear weapons more likely and setting off a new arms race. The use of the word "tactical" operates to lessen their importance, to distract from the fact that their very use would constitute a nuclear war.

What is "low yield"? Perhaps the "smallest" tactical nuclear weapon we have is the B61-11, which has a dial-a-yield feature: it can yield "only" 0.3 kilotons, but can be set to yield up to 170 kilotons. The power of the Hiroshima bomb was 15 kilotons. That is, a "small" bomb can yield more than 10 times the explosive power of the Hiroshima bomb. The B61-11 dropped from 40,000 feet would dig a hole 20 feet deep and then explode, send shock waves downward, leave a huge crater, and spread radiation widely. The idea that it would explode underground and be harmless to those above ground is false — and, anyway, an underground release of radiation would threaten ground water and aquifers for a long time and over wide distance.

To use words like "low yield" or "small" or "mini-" nuclear weapon is like speaking of being a little bit pregnant. Nuclear war is nuclear war! It crosses the moral line.

Any discussion of roadside canister bombs made in Iran justifying an attack on Iran should be put in perspective: Little canister bombs (EFP's — explosively formed projectiles) that shoot a small hot metal ball at a humvee or tank versus nuclear war.

Incidentally, the administration may be focusing on the canister bombs because it seeks to claim that the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 permits the use of military force against Iran based on its interference in Iraq. In that case, no further authorization by Congress would be needed for an attack on Iran.

The journalistic point is clear. Journalists and political leaders should not talk about an "attack." They should use the words that describe what is really at stake: nuclear war — in boldface.

Then, there is the scale of the proposed attack. Military reports leaking out suggest a huge (mostly or entirely non-nuclear) airstrike on as many as 10,000 targets — a "shock and awe" attack that would destroy Iran's infrastructure the way the US bombing destroyed Iraq's. The targets would not just be "military targets." As Dan Plesch reports in the New Statesman, February 19, 2007, such an attack would wipe out Iran's military, business, and political infrastructure. Not just nuclear installations, missile launching sites, tanks, and ammunition dumps, but also airports, rail lines, highways, bridges, ports, communications centers, power grids, industrial centers, hospitals, public buildings, and even the homes of political leaders. That is what was attacked in Iraq: the "critical infrastructure." It is not just military in the traditional sense. It leaves a nation in rubble, and leads to death, maiming, disease, joblessness, impoverishment, starvation, mass refugees, lawlessness, rape, and incalculable pain and suffering. That is what the options appear to be "on the table." Is nation destruction what the American people have in mind when they acquiesce without discussion to an "attack"? Is nuclear war what the American people have in mind? An informed public must ask and the media must ask. The words must be used.

Even if the attack were limited to nuclear installations, starting a nuclear war with Iran would have terrible consequences — and not just for Iranians. First, it would strengthen the hand of the Islamic fundamentalists — exactly the opposite of the effect US planners would want. It would be viewed as yet another major attack on Islam. Fundamentalist Islam is a revenge culture. If you want to recruit fundamentalist Islamists all over the world to become violent jihadists, this is the best way to do it. America would become a world pariah. Any idea of the US as a peaceful nation would be destroyed. Moreover, you don't work against the spread of nuclear weapons by using those weapons. That will just make countries all over the world want nuclear weaponry all the more. Trying to stop nuclear proliferation through nuclear war is self-defeating.

As Einstein said, "You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war."

Why would the Bush administration do it? Here is what conservative strategist William Kristol wrote last summer during Israel's war with Hezbollah.

"For while Syria and Iran are enemies of Israel, they are also enemies of the United States. We have done a poor job of standing up to them and weakening them. They are now testing us more boldly than one would have thought possible a few years ago. Weakness is provocative. We have been too weak, and have allowed ourselves to be perceived as weak.

The right response is renewed strength--in supporting the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, in standing with Israel, and in pursuing regime change in Syria and Iran. For that matter, we might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait? Does anyone think a nuclear Iran can be contained? That the current regime will negotiate in good faith? It would be easier to act sooner rather than later. Yes, there would be repercussions--and they would be healthy ones, showing a strong America that has rejected further appeasement."

—Willam Kristol, Weekly Standard 7/24/06

"Renewed strength" is just the Bush strategy in Iraq. At a time when the Iraqi people want us to leave, when our national elections show that most Americans want our troops out, when 60% of Iraqis think it all right to kill Americans, Bush wants to escalate. Why? Because he is weak in America. Because he needs to show more "strength." Because, if he knocks out the Iranian nuclear facilities, he can claim at least one "victory." Starting a nuclear war with Iran would really put us in a world-wide war with fundamentalist Islam. It would make real the terrorist threat he has been claiming since 9/11. It would create more fear — real fear — in America. And he believes, with much reason, that fear tends to make Americans vote for saber-rattling conservatives.

Kristol's neoconservative view that "weakness is provocative" is echoed in Iran, but by the other side. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted in the New York Times of February 24, 2007 as having "vowed anew to continue enriching uranium, saying, 'If we show weakness in front of the enemies, they will increase their expectations.'" If both sides refuse to back off for fear of showing weakness, then prospects for conflict are real, despite the repeated analyses, like that of The Economist that the use of nuclear weapons against Iran would be politically and morally impossible. As one unnamed administration official has said (New York Times, February 24, 2007), "No one has defined where the red line is that we cannot let the Iranians step over."

What we are seeing now is the conservative message machine preparing the country to accept the ideas of a nuclear war and nation destruction against Iran. The technique used is the "slippery slope." It is done by degrees. Like the proverbial frog in the pot of water – if the heat is turned up slowly the frog gets used to the heat and eventually boils to death – the American public is getting gradually acclimated to the idea of war with Iran.

  • First, describe Iran as evil – part of the axis of evil. An inherently evil person will inevitably do evil things and can't be negotiated with. An entire evil nation is a threat to other nations.
  • Second, describe Iran's leader as a "Hitler" who is inherently "evil" and cannot be reasoned with. Refuse to negotiate with him.
  • Then repeat the lie that Iran is on the verge of having nuclear weapons —weapons of mass destruction. IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei says they are at best many years away.
  • Call nuclear development "an existential threat" – a threat to our very existence.
  • Then suggest a single "surgical" "attack" on Natanz and make it seem acceptable.
  • Then find a reason to call the attack "self-defense" — or better protection for our troops from the EFP's, or single-shot canister bombs.
  • Claim, without proof and without anyone even taking responsibility for the claim, that the Iranian government at its highest level is supplying deadly weapons to Shiite militias attacking our troops, while not mentioning the fact that Saudi Arabia is helping Sunni insurgents attacking our troops.
  • Give "protecting our troops" as a reason for attacking Iran without getting new authorization from Congress. Claim that the old authorization for attacking Iraq implied doing "whatever is necessary to protect our troops" from Iranian intervention in Iraq.
  • Argue that de-escalation in Iraq would "bleed" our troops, "weaken" America, and lead to defeat. This sets up escalation as a winning policy, if not in Iraq then in Iran.
  • Get the press to go along with each step.
  • Never mention the words "preventive nuclear war" or "national destruction." When asked, say "All options are on the table." Keep the issue of nuclear war and its consequences from being seriously discussed by the national media.
  • Intimidate Democratic presidential candidates into agreeing, without using the words, that nuclear war should be "on the table." This makes nuclear war and nation destruction bipartisan and even more acceptable.

Progressives managed to blunt the "surge" idea by telling the truth about "escalation." Nuclear war against Iran and nation destruction constitute the ultimate escalation.

The time has come to stop the attempt to make a nuclear war against Iran palatable to the American public. We do not believe that most Americans want to start a nuclear war or to impose nation destruction on the people of Iran. They might, though, be willing to support a tit-for-tat "surgical" "attack" on Natanz in retaliation for small canister bombs and to end Iran's early nuclear capacity.

It is time for America's journalists and political leaders to put two and two together, and ask the fateful question: Is the Bush administration seriously preparing for nuclear war and nation destruction? If the conventional GBU-28's will do the job, then why not take nuclear war off the table in the name of controlling the spread of nuclear weapons? If GBU-28's won't do the job, then it is all the more important to have that discussion.

This should not be a distraction from Iraq. The general issue is escalation as a policy, both in Iraq and in Iran. They are linked issues, not separate issues. We have learned from Iraq what lack of public scrutiny does.

George Lakoff is the author of Thinking Points (with the Rockridge Institute staff) and Whose Freedom? He is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, and a founding senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute.


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New Iraqi Oil Law Seen as Cover for Privatization

by Emad Mekay

WASHINGTON - The U.S.-backed Iraqi cabinet approved a new oil law Monday that is set to give foreign companies the long-term contracts and safe legal framework they have been waiting for, but which has rattled labor unions and international campaigners who say oil production should remain in the hands of Iraqis.

According to local labor leaders, transferring ownership to the foreign companies would give a further pretext to continue the U.S. occupation on the grounds that those companies will need protection.

Iraqi workers walking at Iraq's largest refinery complex in Baiji, some 200 kilometres (140 miles) north of Baghdad. Iraq's cabinet approved Monday a draft law on oil revenues that is seen as cover for privatization. (AFP/File/Karim Sahib)
Independent analysts and labor groups have also criticized the process of drafting the law and warned that that the bill is so skewed in favor of foreign firms that it could end up heightening political tensions in the Arab nation and spreading instability.

For example, it specifies that up to two-thirds of Iraq's known reserves would be developed by multinationals, under contracts lasting for 15 to 20 years.

This policy would represent a u-turn for Iraq's oil industry, which has been in the public sector for more than three decades, and would break from normal practice in the Middle East.

According to local labor leaders, transferring ownership to the foreign companies would give a further pretext to continue the U.S. occupation on the grounds that those companies will need protection.

Union leaders have complained that they, along with other civil society groups, were left out of the drafting process despite U.S. claims it has created a functioning democracy in Iraq.

Under the production-sharing agreements provided for in the draft law, companies will not come under the jurisdiction of Iraqi courts in the event of a dispute, nor to the general auditor.

The ownership of the oil reserves under this draft law will remain with the state in form, but not in substance, critics say.

On Feb. 8, the labor unions sent a letter in Arabic to Iraqi President Jalal Talbani urging him to reconsider this kind of agreement.

"Production-sharing agreements are a relic of the 1960s," said the letter, seen by IPS. "They will re-imprison the Iraqi economy and impinge on Iraq's sovereignty since they only preserve the interests of foreign companies. We warn against falling into this trap."

Ewa Jasiewicz, a researcher at PLATFORM, a British human rights and environmental group that monitors the oil industry, told IPS in a phone interview from London that, "First of all, it hasn't been put together in any kind of democratic process... It's been put through a war and an occupation which in itself is a grotesquely undemocratic process."

The law was prepared by a three-member Iraqi cabinet committee, dominated by the Kurds and the Shiites. It is now expected to be ratified by parliament because the powerful faction leaders in the government have cleared it.

The first draft was seen only by the committee of the Iraqi technocrat who penned it, nine international oil companies, the British and the U.S. governments and the International Monetary Fund. The Iraqi parliament will get its first glimpse next week.

Concerns about the process are compounded because of the ongoing disputes in Iraq over the legitimacy of the Iraqi cabinet and the Iraqi parliament, which have been constructed by the occupation-created governing council, which itself was created in 2004 along sectarian lines.

In a speech earlier this month by Hassan Juma, head of the Iraqi Oil labor Union, posted on the union's website, he called on the Iraqi government to consult with Iraqi oil experts and "ask their opinion before sinking Iraq into an ocean of dark injustice."

The content of the law has also worried both international campaigners and local Iraqi groups who say that it puts Iraqi oil wealth firmly on the path to full privatization.

"The hydrocarbon law reflects the process of readying Iraq's oil for privatization," said Jasiewicz. "Drafted in secret, shaped by foreign powers, untransparent, undemocratic and forced through under military occupation."

Jasiewicz said the law can be regarded as the economic goal of the war and occupation and that "it will be viewed by most Iraqis as not just illegitimate, but a war crime."

But officials from the Iraqi government, who have already sent the draft oil law to parliament for consideration, say it represents a step forward for the war-torn country. Under the law, oil revenues would be distributed to all 18 provinces based on population size, and regional administrations have the authority to negotiate contracts with international oil companies.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a close ally of Washington, called the law "another founding stone in state-building."

"This law will guarantee for Iraqis, not just now but for future generations too, complete national control over this natural wealth," Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani has reportedly said.

Initial drafts of the law starting eight months ago saw squabbles between the Kurdish factions who control the northern part of Iraq and the Shiite-led regime, as they both vied for bigger shares of the country's oil wealth, estimated at 115 billion barrels. That they have finally come to a final agreement may be a sign of long-sought stability.

Yet critics, including Iraqi oil professionals, engineers and technicians in the unions, are instead advocating for technical service contracts, meaning a company would come in and offer services such as building a refinery, laying a pipeline, or offering consultancy services, get their fees and then leave.

"It is a much more equitable relationship because the control of production, development of oil will stay with the Iraqi state," said Jasiewicz.

"That is the model that Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait generally operate. There's no other country in the Middle East with the kind of oil reserves that Iraq has that would consider signing a production-sharing agreement," she said. "It's a form of privatization and that's why those countries haven't signed these because it's not in their interests."

© Copyright 2007 IPS - Inter Press Service

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Secret War Against Iran?

Secret War Against Iran? It's already been done.

Secret War Against Iran? It's already been done.

Barry Lando: Almost twenty years ago, the
U.S. was already engaged in clandestine

attacks against Iran.

Think Fast

“Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media,” the Army Times reports. Soldiers said an official told them “they must follow their chain of command when asking for help with their medical evaluation paperwork, or when they spot mold, mice or other problems in their quarters.”

“In the most definitive statement in years,” Mike McConnell, the new director of national intelligence, said yesterday that “Osama bin laden is in Pakistan actively re-establishing al Qaeda training camps.” He also admitted to the Senate that the “term ‘civil war’ accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict.”

The United States yesterday agreed to “join high-level talks” at a pair of regional conferences on the future of the Iraq, at which Syria and Iran will also be present. Analyst Steve Clemons noted, “Time will tell whether this is meaningless flirtation” or “a carefully crafted ‘confidence building measure’ that could lead to more meaningful engagement.”

The Politico editor John Harris acknowledged “with pride and remorse” that he is the author of the “slow-bleed” phrase that the right wing is using to attack Rep. John Murtha’s (D-PA) Iraq plan. “As happens all the time in journalism, this was a decision — made on the fly and under deadline — that I would have taken back in the morning.”

“House Democrats and federal prosecutors have struck what seems like a historic deal to turn over congressional documents related to the Duke Cunningham investigation.”

With the House expected to vote Thursday on the pro-worker Employee Free Choice Act, “a business coalition launched a six-figure radio ad campaign late Tuesday in an attempt to convince three Democratic freshmen who represent conservative districts to defy organized labor and vote against the bill.”

Fox News doesn’t report. “While other media outlets, in their coverage of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, have addressed the longtime evangelical hostility to Romney’s Mormon faith, Fox News has largely avoided the subject and has responded to other media coverage of the issue by alleging media bias or, in the case of one guest, accusing liberals of anti-Mormon bigotry.”

A new UN Foundation study warns that there is “no more time for delay” on climate change. Without quick action, the Earth could reach a “tipping point that could lead to intolerable impacts on human well-being,” including “the spread of disease, less fresh water, more and worse droughts, more extreme storms and widespread economic damage to farming, fishing and forests.”

“The federal agency that’s been front and center in warning the public about tainted spinach and contaminated peanut butter is conducting just half the food safety inspections it did three years ago. The cuts by the Food and Drug Administration come despite a barrage of high-profile food recalls.”

And finally: Frank Against Cute or Inane Acronyms for Legislation (FACIAL)? Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) has put the House Financial Services Committee “on notice that he will no longer tolerate cute bill titles.” “The title of this bill is unfortunately an acronym,” Frank said of the National Security FIRST Act. (Short for the National Security Foreign Investment Reform and Strengthened Transparency Act of 2007). “The chair does not intend to bring forward further legislation in which the title is a word.” “I regret that you won’t allow any more acronyms,” replied the bill’s author, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). “We worked hard on this acronym.” Frank did eventually allow the acronym to stay, “mainly because he supports the bill.”

Help Solve the BioDaVersity Code Mystery

There has been a murder at the Natural History Museum!

Who did it?

Find out now.

Tomgram: De la Vega, The Whole Truth about Libby and the Leak

a project of the Nation Institute

To send this to a friend, or to read more dispatches, go to

Tomgram: De la Vega, The Whole Truth about Libby and the Leak

The U.S. government and military has undergone a series of jolting expansions in the Bush years. We got, for instance, a second Defense Department called the Department of Homeland Security. We got a military command for North America called United States Northern Command. More than anything else, however, while we already had an "imperial presidency," we also got an add-on -- an imperial vice-presidency, a new form of shadow government in the United States, a startlingly unbound, constitutionally unmandated new institutional power.

On taking office, Dick Cheney promptly began to set up a vice-presidential office that essentially mimicked, and then to some extent replaced, the National Security Council (NSC). Just as promptly, his office plunged itself into utter, blinding secrecy -- as journalist Robert Dreyfuss discovered when he simply tried to chart out who was working in this new center of power. No information, it turned out, could be revealed to a curious reporter, not even the names and positions of those who worked for the Vice President, those who, theoretically, were working for us. Cheney's office would not even publicly acknowledge its own employees, no less let them be interviewed.

From that office (and allied posts elsewhere in the executive branch and the federal bureaucracy), the Vice President and his various right-hand men like I Lewis "Scooter" Libby and present Chief of Staff David Addington, both fierce believers in the so-called unitary executive theory of government (in which a "wartime" commander-in-chief president is said to have unfettered power to command just about anything), elbowed the State Department, the NSC, and the Intelligence Community. With the President's ear, and in league with Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon (among others), they spearheaded a series of mis- and disinformation operations that led to Iraq and beyond. (Reporter Jim Lobe wrote about this at To! mdispatch in August 2005, "Dating Cheney's Nuclear Drumbeat.")

Now shorn of Rumsfeld, Cheney and his men, increasingly beleaguered, are nonetheless pushing on as the Vice President secretively travels the world, warning and scheming. Only this week, in "The Redirection," a New Yorker piece as chilling as any you might ever want to read, our premier journalist of this era (as well as the Vietnam one), Seymour Hersh reports that, two years ago, old hands from the Iran-Contra fiasco of the Reagan era, well-seeded into the Bush administration, had an informal meeting led by Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams. Their conclusions: "As to what the experience taught them, in terms of future covert operations, the participants found: ‘One, you can't trust our f! riends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can't trust the uniformed military, and four, it's got to be run out of the Vice-President's office."

That's what passes for learning from experience in the Bush/Cheney White House. Indeed, the same folks are now evidently running an updated version of Iran-Contra (without the CIA) out of the Vice President's office. At the same time, according to Hersh, Cheney, in his urge to roll back Iranian regional power as well as undermine Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia in Iraq, and the Syrians, has set the Saudis loose to fund Sunni jihadis -- just as they did in Afghanistan at American behest in the 1980s. The result then was, among other things, al-Qaeda and the Taliban. So imagine: Cheney's office is now working hard to combine the worst of the Reagan-era Iran-Contra scandal with the worst of the Afghan disaster. I wonder what the results could possibly be?

The history of this sudden explosion of ultra-secretive vice-presidential power remains to be written, based on documents that have not yet seen the light of day. The Libby trial has recently offered us a glimpse into the most secretive and powerful office in the land and its interplay with the White House, State Department, and CIA. As former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega points out below, that glimpse should be enough to trigger a Congressional investigation into the Plame case. It's time, she tells us, for Congress to investigate all the President's and Vice President's men and women.

De la Vega has written a remarkable, must-read book about how we were defrauded into war in Iraq, United States v. George W. Bush et al. Every day since it first appeared, our country has come to look ever more like a United States v. Bush/Cheney world. De la Vega is a woman who should be heeded. Tom

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Young Hunters

Firearm Industry Sets Sights on Young Hunters

Firearm Industry Sets Sights on Young Hunters
By Jessica Pupovac, AlterNet
Motivated by a nationwide decline in hunters, industry-sponsored hunter's education classes are enticing record numbers of kids to take up the sport. Read more »

Council for National Policy

Taxpayers continue to fund right-wing meetings to assess presidential candidates

Taxpayers continue to fund right-wing
meetings to assess presidential candidates

How does the Council for National Policy
continue to operate in secret?

Dennis Kucinich

Kucinich Comes Back for '08

Kucinich Comes Back for '08

Dennis Kucinich explains why he decided
to run for president again and how he
proposes to bring American troops home from Iraq.

Another Questionable Presidential Election.

False Choices in the Debate on Voting Technology

False Choices in the Debate on Voting Technology

American democracy cannot afford another
questionable presidential election. So why are the Democrats getting the solution so wrong?
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The Jesus Hoax (115 comments )

READ MORE: Jerusalem, James Cameron

The headline on CNN captured the question: Major Revelation or Titanic Fraud? And the first thing to say about the claims by "King of the World" James Cameron and "investigative journalist" Simcha Jacobovichi to have single-handedly debunked Christianity is that they're hardly the first to try. For 200 years, frauds and charlatans have popped up every few months claiming to "prove" that the Bible is true or that it's false.

As it happens, Cameron and Jacobovichi claimed only last summer to have "proved" the Exodus. Well, which is it? Either their first documentary is false, or this one is false. Of course, they don't care. They profit either way. (In fact, both are false.)

But for those who do care, here are the problems with their argument. First, at the risk of further promoting their hucksterism, the background. The filmmakers claim that burial boxes found 27 years ago outside Jerusalem contain the remains of Jesus, his mother Mary, and Mary Magdalene. DNA evidence "proves" that Mary was his wife and that they sired a son also found in the cave. If true, this would indicate that Jesus was never resurrected from the grave, thereby debunking a central claim of Christianity.

I'm not even a Christian, but I did live in the neighborhood where this cave was found, and I've spent most of the last ten years spelunking in far more important caves, from Jerusalem to Baghdad, looking at the relationship between the Bible and archaeology. Here's why they're wrong.

1. Caves like the ones where the ossuaries were discovered are commonplace in the area and were very familiar features of this neighborhood in the 1st century B.C.E. and C.E. The archaeologist who traveled with me for WALKING THE BIBLE and WHERE GOD WAS BORN, Avner Goren, made the fascinating point to me today that bodies used to be buried in groups but with the introduction of individualism from Greece, they started burying people in single boxes and labeling them. Basically, the bodies would be buried for a year, the family would come back and collect the bones and put them in an ossuary (a stone box). Then they would take the box out once a year and have a memorial service, as Jews still do today with candle lighting.

2. A family from Nazareth would not be buried in Jerusalem. Jewish custom holds that a body should be buried within 24 hours. I recently heard of a family that hired a private plane to get a body from Cleveland to Jerusalem in time. It would have been impossible to get a body from Nazareth, in the Galilee, to Jerusalem in this time period. Also, there's no way for a family to tend a grave this far away. So the idea of a multi-generational family tomb for Jesus in Jerusalem makes no sense. Even the archaeologist who discovered the cave originally, Amos Kloner, has dismissed the show as "nonsense."

3. The names on the ossuaries are very common. As Avner pointed out, 21 percent of names of women are Mary; Joseph and Jesus (Joshua) are among the top four male names. The presence of these names in a tomb would not have been rare. The name Jesus has been found in dozens of tombs over the years. Further, we have no evidence that this is a family tomb; it could have been a communal tomb, or a neighborhood tomb."There is no likelihood that Jesus and his relatives had a family tomb," Kloner said. "They were a Galilee family with no ties in Jerusalem. The tomb belonged to a middle-class family from the 1st century CE."

4. The DNA evidence that Jesus was not connected to the Mary buried in the tomb does not prove anything, other than they are not related matrilnearly. For all we know, they could have been related patrilinearly. Or, they could never have met. There is no evidence the female body belonged to someone who was "married" to anyone else in the tomb. There is no evidence she was the mother of anyone else in the tomb. And we can be sure they checked that! So the claim that Jesus fathered a son with the "Mary" in the tomb is bogus.

Avner is a contemporary of Amos Kloner and has known him for decades. "It takes courage to say that the names on these ossuaries were very common," Avner said, "especially when it might benefit him to say otherwise." As for the filmmakers: "There is something cheap about playing on the emotions of people."

And therein is the truth of this tale: This exploitation of quasi-science is hardly new, but it's still tawdry. The bottom line: There is more truth in Dan Brown's fiction than in James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovichi's fact.

Update: To watch a clip of me debating Jacobovichi, click here.

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Wednesday's Daily Brief

Rep. Jim Moran: Only Murtha Plan Supports The Troops

Excerpted from Rep. Jim Moran's Blog:

...To think that Mr. Murtha would take an action that is not in the best interests of our troops is lunacy. No one in the Congress has spent more years in combat nor more time listening to the young men and women and their families who serve our country than Jack Murtha...

The Democratic caucus is a very diverse body. This is a strength for our party, not a weakness. It does, however, make legislating difficult at times, especially given the narrow majority we hold in both the House and Senate. I expect there will be great debate within our caucus over Jack's proposal. But in the end, what he has crafted gives voice to the strong concerns the American people expressed at the polls last November. It is a new direction, a direction that will lead to our troops coming home and an end to this Administration's ill-fated, misguided military adventure.

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Free Speech Victory! Pentagon March Route is Now Set!

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1) Free Speech Victory! Pentagon March Route is Now Set
2) Pro-impeachment organizations uniting for Pentagon March
3) Speakers list for the March on Pentagon

*Please forward widely to friends, family, fellow students and e-mail lists*

Make a donation today

We need to raise $100,000 in the coming days. The contracts for stage, sound and other logistical needs for a mass protest must be paid.

If you’ve never donated, please consider doing so now. If you’ve made a donation already and you can give again, please act today. You can make an online donation today by clicking on this link.

Pentagon March Route is Now Set

The Free Speech battle with the State of Virginia has been won! The attempt to obstruct the demonstration has collapsed. More than 2,000 people sent letters to the Virginia Attorney General and people everywhere expressed their outrage that Virginia would attempt to create barriers preventing demonstrators from marching to the Pentagon. This could not have happened without everyone's participation. This combined political and legal challenge, waged with the assistance of the Partnership for Civil Justice, made all the difference. Legal and security issues have been dealt with to ensure a safe and secure march for the participation of the whole family. Click to see more logistical information for the March on the Pentagon.

Pro-Impeachment Organizations Uniting for the March on the Pentagon

At a meeting of a new coalition of a large number of organizations that are supporting impeachment, held in New York City on February 17, it was decided to mobilize for the March on the Pentagon on March 17 to demand, "End the War and Impeach Bush Now!" The coalition of organizations that have united in this effort is called Impeach07.

The members of Impeach07 are:

- After Downing Street
- Backbone Campaign
- Center for Constitutional Rights
- Citizens Impeachment Commission
- CODE PINK Women for Peace
- Constitution Summer
- Consumers for Peace
- Democracy Rising
- Gold Star Families for Peace

- Green Party of the United States
- Hip Hop Caucus
- Impeach the President
- Military Free Zone
- National Lawyers Guild
- Patriotic Response to Renegade Govt
- Progressive Democrats of America
- Independent Progressive Politics Network
- Velvet Revolution
- World Can't Wait-Drive Out the Bush Regime

The breadth of support for the March on the Pentagon is reflected in the 1500 endorsers, including national and local organizations, that are supporting and mobilizing to come to Washington, DC. The lead contingent of the demonstration will include thousands of Iraq war veterans, soldiers' families, and other veterans.

The March on the Pentagon speakers list includes:

- Malik Rahim, Founder of Common Ground Collective
- Cindy Sheehan, Gold Star Families for Peace
- Howard Zinn, Author, A People's History of the United States
- Ramsey Clark, Former U.S. Attorney General
- Melida and Carlos Arrendando, whose son and stepson was killed in Iraq
- Congressman John Lewis (Georgia)
- Mahdi Bray, Executive Director of Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation
- Mounzer Sleiman, TV commentator & Vice Chair, National Council of Arab American
- Leonard Weinglass, Civil Rights Attorney
- Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, National Lawyers Guild
- Jonathan W. Hutto Sr., Navy Petty Office Third Class, Co-Founder Appeal for Redress
- Liam Madden, Former Sgt. USMC, Appeal for Redress, Bellows Falls, VT
- Anita Dennis, Organizer with Courage to Resist, Military Families Speak Out member
- Helga P. Aguayo, Wife of Conscientious Objector Agustín Aguayo
- Debra Sweet, National Coordinator, World Can't Wait
- Brian Becker, National Coordinator, ANSWER Coalition

Student groups, religious organizations, many impeachment organizations, and others are actively building for this demonstration. Click to see the list of transportation centers.

If you are organizing transportation from your area for the demonstration and haven't contacted the national office to be listed as a transportation center, please do so right away. We receive hundreds of calls every day from people seeking information on transportation from their area to Washington - be sure that you are listed so that they can travel with you! We also have organizing packets available with colorful flyers, stickers and posters that you can get by calling the National Office at 202-544-3389.

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Pushback on Presidential Power-grab



With your help, PFAW has pushed election reform to the forefront of the congressional agenda – now we need to push the Constitution and the Bill of Rights there, too.

We can do it. Thanks to all our hard work, a well-crafted bill by Senator Barack Obama to end deceptive practices at the polls is moving forward – and so is a good start by Representative Rush Holt to address voting machine problems before the 2008 elections. And we are anticipating the introduction of other important legislation from Sens. Clinton and Feinstein, House members Conyers and Millender-McDonald, and others.

We all have more work ahead to make sure the best election reforms pass – but I am writing today to enlist your support in another important struggle. We need to leverage our democratic power to restore constitutional protections that have been methodically undermined over the past six years.

The Bush administration – sometimes unilaterally, sometimes with the complicity of the Congress – has weakened the constitutional and legal principles that protect Americans’ privacy and freedom from abuses of power. Voters said no to unaccountable government in November – and you told us to make our constitutional liberties a top priority this year.

We’re with you. Last September, when the Senate joined the House and voted to allow the President to strip prisoners in the “war on terror” of their habeas corpus rights, I said:

“Some senators probably supported this measure because they were worried about being perceived as soft on terrorism. But capitulation doesn’t make them look strong. If they want to win the votes of people who are worried about security, they had better show that they know how to stand up and fight. Unfortunately for our democracy, too many of them have failed to do so today.”

Well, their chance to take a stand is coming, and PFAW is going to need you to help us convince Congress that energetically protecting Americans – and the Constitution – is patriotism in action.

We plan to fight to:

Restore Due Process: The loss of the centuries-old human right of habeas corpus – the right not to be locked up without cause, indefinitely – is a stain on American history. The current state of law, giving President Bush power traditionally wielded by absolute monarchs, must be reversed. Sen. Dodd has introduced legislation to restore habeas corpus and other due process rights – we’ll work with him and others to pass a strong bill.

Protect Privacy: A government that spies on its own citizens is on a dangerous path. There are promising signs that House and Senate leaders are reinvigorating congressional oversight of administration excesses like warrantless spying on citizens. We will push for full use of congressional investigative powers – and to make sure that oversight hearings lead to legislation. It’s time to put some teeth back in checks and balances.

Stop Silencing Whistleblowers and Scientists: This administration and its allies have tried to intimidate and silence everyone from war critics expressing their political views to government scientists trying to avoid politics. We will push to protect free speech and government transparency, two essential tools of democracy that have been under attack. Legislation to protect whistleblowers and stop censorship of government scientists is expected to move in this Congress, and we’ll mobilize support when it’s needed.

These battles will not be easy or quick. Fear is a powerful motivator. And because much of the public doesn’t understand the cost of giving into that fear, too many elected officials see no political consequence to acquiescing.

Please keep an eye out for the kind of actions I have outlined in this letter. We will be counting on you to help us make the right choice easier for our leaders to make. That is what democracy is about.


Ralph G. Neas
President, People For the American Way

She Died for Your Sins

by Joyce Marcel

On February 8, 2007, at the age of 39, Anna Nicole Smith died for your sins, America.

Maybe you think that's a little strong?

But she did. She died for all of you who watch "American Idol" week after week - that's 33.5 million of you, by the way - making that cruel show the most popular program in America. For six years running.

And for you who cast more votes for the last Idol winner than for the last president of the United States.

And for you deluded men and women who think surgery is the way to a happier life, who never understand that beauty is only skin deep, who go on television shows to get nose jobs and who risk your lives to get your stomachs stapled.

And for you nitwit comedians who make jokes about women's "racks" and the rest of you men who place so much emphasis on bust measurements that women without large breasts feel inferior. And that goes for you, too, Hugh Heffner. You have a lot to answer for. And Howard Stern, you too.

And for you gold-diggers out there looking to marry money, and for all of you who already have - and that includes all of you who married Donald Trump.

And for you women desperate to be "famous," for whatever reason, who do anything to get attention, to be photographed, to be on television even if it means showing your breasts to a passing camera, or sleeping with casting directors, or making porn.

She certainly died for all of you.

One commentator said that while Diana was "The People's Princess," Anna Nicole Smith was "The People's Whore."

There's your mascot, America.

And there you are, Anna Nicole or Vickie Lynn, lying in a refrigerated drawer while people fight over your body. I guess reality just crept up on you.

We watched while you were stunningly beautiful. And we watched when you were overweight and juiced to the gills. We watched you crawling all over men and women, looking for a fleeting sexual rush. We watched you crawl all over your son, too. Your son, who was dead at 20 from an overdose, your son who loved his mother and was used to watching her have sex.

Now we watch as seven - or is it eight? - men climb out of the woodwork, claiming to be the father of your poor baby girl. That's seven or eight men who say they slept with you in one short period. And it doesn't count the women.

How many surgeries were there, Anna Nicole? Including the one where you reportedly used liposuction, even though you credited TrimSpa and became their spokeswoman, baby.

I'm not faulting you for being a slut. I actually enjoyed that part of your life. Women have always used sex for survival in a man's world. You were honest about it. You flaunted it in America's face. Your marriage to an 89 year-old millionaire was reality-show "reality" come true. Every now and then, I read, you would come into the room, dance naked for him, relieve him, and then go spend some more of his money and sleep with his staff. It may have been the only honest thing you've ever done.

And who's going to fault you - besides his furious family? He found you in a strip club. I think we can assume he knew what he was getting himself into.

We still know the names of the mistresses of the French kings, for God's sake. How is what you did any different?

Your life was almost a symbol of what America's become. Rapacious, willful, undisciplined, ignorant, venal, anything for pleasure, anything for conquest. Tell me that's not America incarnate.

You were a growth industry, Anna Nicole, and what's more American than that? Your own reality series. Endless photos in the magazines. Within a week of your son's death, you had sold the last pictures of him alive for $650,000.

People Magazine has a circulation of 3.7 million. U.S. Weekly has a circulation of 1.7 million. Star has a circulation of 1.4 million. While the circulation of most magazines is dropping like an elevator with its cables cut, entertainment magazines have seen "staggering growth" in recent years. They should thank you, Anna Nicole.

According to USA Today, "a new Pew poll finds that most Americans say the media overdo celebrity news - but they watch it anyway: 61% said the media have overplayed Smith's death, but 11% followed it as closely as the 2008 presidential campaign (13%) or Super Bowl (11%)... Cable news networks, entertainment programs and mainstream media Web sites all spiked after Smith's death... CNN, for example, devoted 90 minutes of uninterrupted coverage to Smith's death when her body was discovered, longer than it gave President Bush's State of the Union address."

You can't shoulder all the blame, Anna Nicole. There were strumpets before you, strumpets alongside you (Paris Hilton, anyone?) and there will be strumpets coming after you. When Britney Spears shaved her head last week, it made all the papers And now, I understand, quite a few Web sites are selling (fake) strands of her hair.

How low can you go, America?

Anna Nicole's mother, Virgie Arthur, said she once asked her daughter why she said and did all those outrageous things. And Anna Nicole replied, "I'll do whatever it takes. If my name's out there, I make money."

That's the American dream, baby.

Now tell me, America, she didn't die for your sins.

Joyce Marcel is a journalist who lives and works in southern Vermont. A collection of her columns, "A Thousand Words or Less," is available through And write her at

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Just Do What You Think You Should Do

by Christopher Cooper

Where have we been, these slow, cold, better-forgotten weeks of January and February? What have I asked you to think about, while spring has been still too far future to more than dream of? I see I have been able twice now to explore some avenue of our common condition without recourse to flogging our poor president, his keepers, or his Congressional and corporate enablers who have so ably and consistently (with the acquiescence of a sleeping populace) made possible our enduring Mideast misadventures.

Molly Ivins wrote a few weeks ago that she would devote every subsequent column to the subject of the Iraq war. Then she died. You can say “God needed another angel” (she wouldn't have said so). You can wonder why the Reaper would cut down a clever, decent person and let Dick Cheney's blackened, pulpy heart continue to pump his acidic, corrupt blood, but Death makes such choices daily.

But here it is, four in the morning Tuesday. At five the overnight drone of classical music will give way to the morning news, and a BBC announcer will tell us how many American soldiers have been sent to Paradise by what assortment of rockets and hand-made bombs, and how many score or hundreds of Iraqi citizens in which marketplaces were dismembered by exploding automobiles yesterday. If another ten-million-dollar helicopter rotored into the dust, we'll learn that “American officials” or “a Pentagon spokesperson” blames “mechanical difficulties.” In a day or a week the “insurgent video” will surface and the latest crash and casualties will be added to the toll of those shot down by “enemy missiles.”

And so it goes, and so we don't have much choice. I must write and you may read or turn away. And Molly Ivins is dead forever, and Dick Cheney is imbued with eternal life, in exchange for giving over his soul to Satan, and George Bush stumbles on, oblivious. At least no young man or woman in America today need draw unemployment; the recruitment offices are open; The Surge is on!

Ah, but Congress has stirred, you say. The whole of last week was given over to debate in the House of Representatives. Each man or woman who wished to speak was allotted a full five minutes to make whatever argument could be concluded in that space. Some were eloquent; some could barely manage a coherent sentence. At least the issue was, finally, fully four years into the folly, on the table. But to what end?

Friday the resolution passed: Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), that: (1)Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; and (2) Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.

Well, the Democrats are mostly right about the war—conceived in a fog of national self-pity and a spirit of retribution; engendered in layers of lies; promoted through a combination of false patriotism, house-pet journalism, wishful-thinking and Congressional abdication of responsibility; it has finally settled like a cold, greasy, inedible meal that our waiter refuses to remove from the table. Dick Cheney sneers that we “don't have the stomach” for it.

But the Republicans are right about the resolution: too little, too late, no teeth. Do I want my congressman standing forthrightly and proudly for a non-binding resolution? I do not. Not on this or on any subject. It's a waste of his time and my money. I can send the president a non-binding resolution. Or I can write a letter to my editor. Or I can, as my father used to advise me in my teenage time, “go pound sand.” A month before this resolution passed, Dick Cheney pronounced its value: “It won't stop us.”

The Veep further characterized the notion that President Bush may have lost credibility before the public because of the war, “hogwash.” And he reiterated that “we need to get the job done.” Just what “the job” might be is anybody's guess. We don't have old Saddam to kick around any more; we tore down his statue and all but tore off his head, and we've set up our military brass in his old palaces. We've plastered Iraq with dollar bills air-freighted in by the pallet. A government of our choosing is in place.

We've engendered an “insurgency” that overlaps a civil war that bleeds into “sectarian violence” that mostly kills and cripples civilians and the odd American soldier or marine or mercenary. And don't forget, says President Bush, we're fighting “The Long War.”

Some job. Some mess. And Congress let it happen. Made it happen. Voted for it. Now the House has sort of voted against it. Against the idea of it or its enlargement; possibly against its continuation for too much longer, although the resolution proposes no end. And the money pump is still thumping away in the cellar while our voices in Washington wrestle with a meaningless suggestion.

And even that weak recommendation (they “disapprove” only of sending 21,500 more troops) is supported on a soggy mattress of “support” for the troops “who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq.” That is, part one, patriotic boilerplate with which likely no American disagrees, allows cover for the timid souls who otherwise would not dare cast a yes vote on part two. Helluva spine, ladies and gents.

So the vote goes down and the surge goes on. But, by God, a majority of the House of Representatives disapproves! That's showin' 'em.

And Hillary Clinton can't even bring herself to say her vote to authorize the war was a mistake, or that she's sorry for having cast it. In fact, she says, if you care so much about the origins of this war, about her part in its promulgation, go vote for somebody else. Vote for a liberal, why don't you?

This war is wrong. It was wrong from the start. But now the war fever has burned itself out among the populace. Where eighty per cent of us once favored attacking Iraq, this week fifty-three per cent think we should bring the troops home. Sixty-seven per cent feel the war “is not going well.” One wonders, if the other thirty-three percent do think it's going well, just what they'd think a turn for the worse might look like.

Eighty per cent of Iraqis want us to go home. Now.

Three thousand and more of our soldiers are dead. When we finally do leave (and we all know we will), when the Sunnis and Shiites have killed enough of each other that they lose their taste for it or there are not enough left to bother killing, when the current bloodbath we're enjoying and the post-withdrawal bloodbath the war hawks are predicting have run their course, when this meaningless resolution shall have passed into the archives of wasted effort and the faded files of missed opportunities to do the right thing, something close to a million Iraqis will have been killed, mostly non-combatants. But we got rid of Saddam. We gave them Democracy.

The most offensive argument, voiced by several Republican representatives last week, for “staying the course” or “getting the job done” is that to not do so will mean our 3,144 dead will have died in vain. Since no one has yet put forth a reasonable picture of what “job” we hope to finish or what “victory” would look like, the logical result of a policy of continuing the war must be that somehow more dead will make the already dead more content to have been killed, their spouses and parents and children's anguish eased in the sure and certain knowledge that the toll will continue to climb.

A non binding resolution does nothing, but with adequate qualifiers about its support for the troops it will not in any way help, it can pass. Probably a real vote, on a bill that could stop this stupid, immoral, illegal war in short order, would fail. The effect on the course of the war is the same—none. So, if you truly do think the war is wrong, as most Democrats and a majority of Americans do, which vote would mean more to your conscience, your dignity, and to those troops, those pawns, those victims of Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld you profess (in part one of your lame resolution) to “support?”

Shut off the money. Pull the plug. Bring our men and women home. Let no other mother's son or daughter be blown to bits, reduced to a box of guts shipped home in secret and buried without witness by your president who says, “I'm sleeping a lot better than most people would assume.” Stand up and be an adult. Stop hiding; stop playing games; stop playing politics with death and misery; forget your Presidential campaigns current, pending or dreamed-of; dispel fears that your value as a future lobbyist may be diminished by a vote of conscience.

If you think this war is worth fighting, go fight it. Or send your boy or girl. You're already contributing your money. If you think it's a waste and a crime and a folly, say that too. And put something on the line, like our soldiers do—something more than a yellow ribbon or a meaningless aphorism or a hollow vote.

Don't let your senator or representative buy your tolerance with a five minute rendition of his or her opinion on a vote that does nothing more than waste the electrons that light the lamp of yes or no on the tally board of non-binding resolutions.

It's ten after seven, and I'm done. I'll feed the dogs and go to work. My customers won't pay me for my “disapproval” of their decrepit house; they'll pay me only if I fix it.

Mr. Cooper, a small-time contractor in a small town in a cold and distant state, is good at his job and tries to give his customers good work at a fair price. If he could get like service from his representatives, he would feel compelled to write fewer unpleasant complaints such as this. His hard drive failed and he has probably lost your address, but you may contact him at

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