Citizen McCain:Hugging the Hard Right Shore

Written by Chris Floyd 29 November 2005 6138 Hits

This Nation article ("The Real McCain") is a good antidote for all those naïfs out there who believe that John McCain is some kind of "maverick," a genuine alternative to the hard-right Bushist machine. If anything, McCain's rock-ribbed conservative credentials have long been more solid than Bush's. Read McCain's gushy, cringing praises of his Glorious Leader below and you will know exactly what we have here: another Colin Powell, riding a media-concocted image of bipartisan statesmanship to national prominence, but when the chips are down, falling dutifully into line behind the ruthless agenda of the predatory Right. God save us from any more such poseurs.

[Excerpt] But the senator...projected a far more conciliatory image than the trash-talking maverick portrayed in the national media. Before the event he had endorsed teaching "intelligent design" alongside evolution in public schools, and he had expressed support for a rigid state ban on gay marriage that denies government benefits to any unmarried couple. After brief opening remarks, McCain took questions for more than two hours, referring to Reagan as "my hero," invoking the support of other conservatives on issues such as stem-cell research and immigration, and strenuously defending President Bush's Iraq policy....

 He has met with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, whom he denounced as one of the religious right's "peddlers of intolerance" after the 2000 South Carolina primary... he reversed positions and supported a procedural repeal of the estate tax. He has endorsed conservative Republican Ken Blackwell for Ohio governor. At the suggestion of conservative activist and longtime nemesis Grover Norquist, he campaigned for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's failed referendum initiatives in California, particularly the "paycheck protection" provision targeting unions' political activities.

In late September, as Bush's presidency tailspinned, McCain headlined a dinner of conservative intellectuals sponsored by The American Spectator magazine. "Campaigning with George W. Bush was one of the proudest moments of my life," McCain declared. "McCain spoke fervently and with obvious sincerity about how much he admires Bush and the job he has been doing," wrote Michael Barone of US News & World Report...

McCain has urged deep cuts to nondefense and non-homeland-security-related spending--cuts that Democratic Senate minority leader Harry Reid dubs "immoral." At a recent appearance before the ultraconservative Heritage Foundation, McCain described himself as a "Barry Goldwater Republican" who "revere[s] Ronald Reagan and his stand of limited government."

In fact, McCain has always been far more conservative than either his supporters or detractors acknowledge. In 2004 he earned a perfect 100 percent rating from Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum and a 0 percent from NARAL..He has opposed extension of the assault-weapons ban, federal hate crimes legislation and the International Criminal Court. He has supported school vouchers, a missile defense shield and private accounts for Social Security. Well before 9/11 McCain advocated a new Reagan Doctrine of "rogue-state rollback."

The turning point came when McCain not only endorsed Bush for re-election but made more than twenty campaign appearances with the President and defended his Iraq policy at the Republican National Convention....McCain campaigned with Bush on his push for Social Security privatization last spring...McCain strongly supported all three of Bush's Supreme Court picks.

"I admire the religious right for the dedication and zeal they put into the political process," McCain told Larry King recently. [End excerpt]

Oh yes, he was also hip deep in one of the most sordid bribery scandals in modern Senate history -- the Keating Five -- and barely escaped the hoosegow by the skin of his teeth. If this is your big bipartisan hero, the visionary statesman who will "bring us together" (as long as we all agree to live in locked-down, hard-right bliss) -- you "muscular liberals" can have him.

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Truth:A Weapon of Mass Instruction

Written by Chris Floyd 28 November 2005 5991 Hits
A soldier speaks the truth - now watch the Beltway cowards and their blogger brigades tremble. From a letter to Stars and Stripes, via Buzzflash:

From:
Capt. Jeff Pirozzi
Camp Taqaddum, Iraq

Weapons of mass destruction? I'm still looking for them, and if you find any give me a call so we can justify our presence in Iraq. We started the war based on a lie, and we'll finish it based on a lie. I say this because I am currently serving with a logistics headquarters in the Anbar province, between the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. I am not fooled by the constant fabrication of "democracy" and "freedom" touted by our leadership at home and overseas.

This deception is furthered by our armed forces' belief that we can just enter ancient Mesopotamia and tell the locals about the benefits of a legislative assembly. While our European ancestors were hanging from trees, these ancient people were writing algebra and solving quadratic equations. Now we feel compelled to strong-arm them into accepting the spoils of capitalism and "laissez-faire" society. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy watching Britney Spears on MTV and driving to McDonald's, but do you honestly believe that Sunnis, Shias and Kurds want our Western ideas of entertainment and freedom imposed on them? Think again.

I'm not being negative, I'm being realistic. The reality in Iraq is that the United States created a nightmare situation where one didn't exist. Yes, Saddam Hussein was an evil man who lied, cheated and pillaged his own nation. But how was he different from dictators in Africa who commit massive crimes again humanity with little repercussion and sometimes support from the West? The bottom line up front (BLUF to use a military acronym) is that Saddam was different because we used him as an excuse to go to war to make Americans "feel good" about the "War on Terrorism." The BLUF is that our ultimate goal in 2003 was the security of Israel and the lucrative oil fields in northern and southern Iraq.

Weapons of mass destruction? Call me when you find them. In the meantime, "bring 'em on" so we can get our "mission accomplished" and get out of this mess.
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We Give Thanks for our Freedom

Written by Chris Floyd 24 November 2005 7014 Hits

This AP picture shows Hiram Myers, 74, of Edmond, Oklahoma, being hauled off by armed officials for the heinous crime of sitting in a county-owned ditch in Crawford, Texas, to protest the war in Iraq. It is of course simply intolerable to think that President Bush's holiday repose might be disturbed in the slightest by the presence of such miscreants in the proximity of his own sacred person.

This is freedom in America today. This is what our forefathers fought and died for. This is why generations of American families have given the blood of their children on behalf of the nation: so some cowardly, ignorant, bloodthirsty little creep can cram his bowels with turkey and dressing without being reminded of the tens of thousands of people he has murdered, maimed and tortured in a war of agression based on deliberate lies and murderous deceit. This is America today: truth-tellers in chains, murderers enthroned.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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The Betrayed Mothers of America

Written by Chris Floyd 24 November 2005 4532 Hits

We were remiss in not putting up this testimony, gathered by Robert Fisk in New York City during the recent Veteran's Day remembrances. Remember these good people whenever you see the hideous smirking rictus of Cheney or Bush defending the monstrous crime they have wrought.

From the Independent (via Information Clearing House). Excerpts:

...Sue's voice rises in indignation above the noise of the New York diner, angry and brave and drowning out the joshing of two vets at the other end of the table. "I remember very clearly my son's last words before he went back after his two weeks' vacation. 'I don't know who my enemy is,' he said. 'It's a worthless, senseless war, a war of religion. We'll never win it.' He wasn't killed. He was murdered. He was murdered by the US administration. He was out looking for IEDs. He found one, stopped his convoy and was blown up. I regard it as a suicide mission."

...Celeste's son Sherwood was killed on 26 April last year, his end as tragic as it was unnecessary. He was protecting a group of military inspectors hunting for President Bush's mythical weapons of mass destruction when a perfume factory they were searching in Baghdad suddenly exploded.

"He was getting out of the cab of his truck to help the wounded when some debris came crashing out of the sky and hit him," Celeste says..."I will always remember that my son died just a month after George W Bush made that videotape in front of the press - the one where he made a joke about looking for weapons of mass destruction and pretended to search under his desk for the weapons. He was making fun of the fact he hadn't found them - but my son died looking for them and they didn't exist."

...At the other end of our table, Alex Ryabov, who served in R Battery, 5th Battalion, 10th Marines, in the original 2003 invasion force, says he was against the war from the start, refusing to believe there were any weapons of mass destruction.

"When I got into Iraq, I saw what our artillery rounds did to people. I had to go up front to see where the rounds were falling and I saw whole Iraqi cities engulfed in flames. There were Iraqi dead on the sides of the roads - I couldn't tell if they were men or women."

...I say goodbye to this little group of brave American men and women - the ex-soldiers have no jobs, no future save their enthusiasm for their own campaign against the Iraq war - and leave their table with its sad, gold-fringed American flag and head off into the fumes and noise of Times Square. Up on a giant television screen, Vice-President Cheney - he who went on lying about the non-existent links between Saddam and 9/11 long after the invasion - is solemnly bowing his head in the Arlington cemetery. Ah yes, he is honouring the fallen. And I wonder if he will ever understand his betrayal of the men and women back on 44th Street.

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The Madness of King George

Written by Chris Floyd 23 November 2005 7329 Hits

This week, the UK's Daily Mirror ran a story about a leaked UK government document that apparently detailed an astounding episode from 2004: George W. Bush planning to bomb the Al-Jazeera headquaters in Qatar – a U.S. ally – and Tony Blair managing to talk him out of it. Downing Street refused to comment on the memo, and British officialdom tried to laugh it off, literally – an anonymous Blair spokesman said Bush had just been joking.

But there is obviously some fire beneath all that smoke. Several MPs took it seriously indeed, including Blair's former defence minister, Peter Kilfoyle, who called for the document to be made public. Then late yesterday, the Blair government unleashed Britain's draconian Official Secrets Act – which is far in excess of anything in the US – threatening to prosecute any paper that published the actual contents of the memo. (The Mirror story was a paraphrase.)

This is highly unusual, given the fact that the Blair camp did not invoke the Secrets Act to stop the extremely embarrassing "Downing Street Memos" which revealed the cynical pre-invasion machinations by Bush and Blair to "fix the intelligence around the policy" of aggressive war.  In fact, as the Guardian points out today, "the [Blair] government has never prosecuted editors for publishing the contents of leaked documents." The invocation of the Secrets Act in this case essentially confirms the substance of the Mirror's allegations; if it was all fluff, just a "joke," why try to quash it in such a heavy-handed fashion?

It seems likely then that the story is true: Bush seriously contemplated launching an attack on Al-Jazeera's headquarters – in the business district of Doha, Qatar's capital – and had to be dissuaded from this madness by Blair. [UPDATE: As you might expect, Juan Cole has more on the story, including its historical context, including two other deadly attacks on Al Jazeera offices launched by Bush in Afghanistan and Iraq.]

Below are some details from the various stories on the matter in the UK press: [Excerpts]: The five-page transcript of a conversation between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair reveals that Blair talked Bush out of launching a military strike on the station, unnamed sources told the daily which is against the war in Iraq. The transcript of the pair's talks during Blair's April 16, 2004 visit to Washington allegedly shows Bush wanted to attack the satellite channel's headquarters. Blair allegedly feared such a strike, in the business district of Doha, the capital of Qatar, a key western ally in the Persian Gulf, would spark revenge attacks…

Al-Jazeera had sparked the anger of the US administration by broadcasting video messages from al Qaida head Osama bin Laden and leaders of the insurgency in Iraq, as well as showing footage of the bodies of US servicemen and Iraqi civilians killed in fighting.

According to the Mirror's source, the transcript records a conversation during Mr Blair's visit to the White House on April 16 last year, in the wake of a failed attempt to root out insurgents in the city of Fallujah, in which 30 US Marines died…
A source told the Mirror: "The memo is explosive and hugely damaging to Bush. He made clear he wanted to bomb al-Jazeera in Qatar and elsewhere. Blair replied that would cause a big problem. There's no doubt what Bush wanted to do -- and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it."

Another source said: "Bush was deadly serious, as was Blair. That much is absolutely clear from the language used by both men."

…Former defence minister Peter Kilfoyle - a leading Labour opponent of the Iraq War - called for the document to be made public. "I think they ought to clarify what exactly happened on this occasion," he said. "If it was the case that President Bush wanted to bomb al-Jazeera in what is after all a friendly country, it speaks volumes and it raises questions about subsequent attacks that took place on the press that wasn't embedded with coalition forces."

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell told PA: "If true, then this underlines the desperation of the Bush administration as events in Iraq began to spiral out of control. On this occasion, the Prime Minister may have been successful in averting political disaster, but it shows how dangerous his relationship with President Bush has been." [END excerpts]

Or as Shakespeare said: "Madness in great ones must not unwatched go."

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Why We Fight

Written by Chris Floyd 23 November 2005 5496 Hits

Why do we fight in Iraq? To defend an Iranian-allied government that wants us to leave and says it's perfectly legitimate to kill American soldiers. That's why. And if that doesn't make any sense to you, we're sure Dick Cheney can explain it.

From Bloomberg: [Excerpt] Iraqi leaders, meeting at a reconciliation conference in Cairo, urged an end to violence in the country and demanded a timetable for the withdrawal of coalition troops from Iraq.

``The Iraqi people look forward to the day when the foreign forces leave Iraq, when it's armed and security forces will be rebuilt and when they can enjoy peace and stability and get rid of terrorism,'' the leaders said in the statement…The final statement also stated that ``resistance is a legitimate right for all people.'' The conference almost collapsed earlier today when Sunni leaders objected to the definition of ``resistance,'' al-Jazeera said. [End excerpt]

Actually, there is a very logical reason why American soldiers are dying – and dealing out wholesale death – in Iraq: $200 billion in oil wealth that these same Iraqi "leaders" are about to sign over to Dick Cheney's oil-bidness cronies, as the Independent reports.

[Excerpt] Iraqis face the dire prospect of losing up to $200bn (£116bn) of the wealth of their country if an American-inspired plan to hand over development of its oil reserves to US and British multinationals comes into force next year.

The Iraqi government has announced plans to seek foreign investment to exploit its oil reserves after the general election, which will be held next month. Iraq has 115 billion barrels of proved oil reserves, the third largest in the world.

According to the report, from groups including War on Want and the New Economics Foundation (NEF), the new Iraqi constitution opened the way for greater foreign investment. Negotiations with oil companies are already under way ahead of next month's election and before legislation is passed, it said.

The groups said they had amassed details of high-level pressure from the US and UK governments on Iraq to look to foreign companies to rebuild its oil industry.... Yesterday's report said the use of production sharing agreements (PSAs) was proposed by the US State Department before the invasion and adopted by the Coalition Provisional Authority. "The current government is fast-tracking the process. It is already negotiating contracts with oil companies in parallel with the constitutional process, elections and passage of a Petroleum Law," the report, Crude Designs, said. [END excerpt]

So why did your son have to die from an IED on the side of the road in Mosul? Why was he turned into a war criminal raining chemical fire on non-combatants in Fallujah? They died, they killed to make Dick Cheney and his little band of corporate lords richer than they already are. That's it. That's all of it. They don't care if American soldiers die, they don't care how many Iraqis are killed. They don't care if their war increases terrorism, empowers crooks and extremists, bankrupts the nation and destroys the American army. They just want to hang on long enough to get those oil rights locked in. That's all they care about now.  And they don't care how much cannon fodder -- American soldiers, Iraqi civilians -- they have to churn through to get them.

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The Gates of Hell

Written by Chris Floyd 22 November 2005 26240 Hits

Behind the Phosphorus Clouds are War Crimes Within War Crimes (Guardian)

Although George Monbiot gives perhaps undeserved short shrift here to the Italian documentary that reignited the controversy over the American use of incendiary weapons in Fallujah, he has unearthed – along with blogger Gabriele Zamparini – smoking gun evidence of even more barbarity in the Bush-ordered destruction of the city: the use of thermobaric weapons, whose effects are even more horrendous and uncontrollable than white phosphorus.

Of course, the Pentagon has now admitted the use of WP as an attack weapon in Fallujah – after lying about this for more than year – although they say that no civilians were deliberately targeted. But surely the main point of the entire scandal is that American forces knowingly used these chemical weapons in populated areas – a practice that was bound to kill civilians, whatever the tactical intention might have been. And since Monbiot notes that there were some 30,000 to 50,000 civilians in the city – which the Americans openly treated as a "free-fire zone," pretending that it was empty of non-combatants – it is difficult to see what his problem is exactly with the WP angle of story, beyond some disagreement with some of the Italian documentary's more subjective claims. For in the end, the basic facts seem clear, and Monbiot is in agreement with them: The Americans used white phosophorus and thermobaric weapons in areas teeming with civilians during the attack on Fallujah.

In any case, here are some of the hot goods unloaded by Monbiot and Zamparini.

Excerpts: The Pentagon argues that white phosphorus burns people, rather than poisoning them, and is covered only by the protocol on incendiary weapons, which the US has not signed. But white phosphorus is both incendiary and toxic. The gas it produces attacks the mucous membranes, the eyes and the lungs. As Peter Kaiser of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told the BBC last week: "If ... the toxic properties of white phosphorus, the caustic properties, are specifically intended to be used as a weapon, that of course is prohibited, because ... any chemicals used against humans or animals that cause harm or death through the toxic properties of the chemical are considered chemical weapons."

The US army knows that its use as a weapon is illegal. In the Battle Book, published by the US Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, my correspondent David Traynier found the following sentence: "It is against the law of land warfare to employ WP against personnel targets."

…. But we shouldn't forget that the use of chemical weapons was a war crime within a war crime within a war crime. Both the invasion of Iraq and the assault on Falluja were illegal acts of aggression. Before attacking the city, the marines stopped men "of fighting age" from leaving. Many women and children stayed: the Guardian's correspondent estimated that between 30,000 and 50,000 civilians were left. The marines treated Falluja as if its only inhabitants were fighters. They levelled thousands of buildings, illegally denied access to the Iraqi Red Crescent and, according to the UN's special rapporteur, used "hunger and deprivation of water as a weapon of war against the civilian population".

I have been reading accounts of the assault published in the Marine Corps Gazette. The soldiers appear to have believed everything the US government told them. One article claims that "the absence of civilians meant the marines could employ blast weapons prior to entering houses that had become pillboxes, not homes". Another said that "there were less than 500 civilians remaining in the city". It continued: "The heroics [of the marines] will be the subject of many articles and books."

But buried in this hogwash is a grave revelation. An assault weapon the marines were using had been armed with warheads containing "about 35% thermobaric novel explosive (NE) and 65% standard high explosive". They deployed it "to cause the roof to collapse and crush the insurgents fortified inside interior rooms". It was used repeatedly: "The expenditure of explosives clearing houses was enormous." 

The marines can scarcely deny that they know what these weapons do. An article published in the Gazette in 2000 details the effects of their use by the Russians in Grozny. Thermobaric, or "fuel-air" weapons, it says, form a cloud of volatile gases or finely powdered explosives. "This cloud is then ignited and the subsequent fireball sears the surrounding area while consuming the oxygen in this area. The lack of oxygen creates an enormous overpressure ... Personnel under the cloud are literally crushed to death. Outside the cloud area, the blast wave travels at some 3,000 metres per second ... As a result, a fuel-air explosive can have the effect of a tactical nuclear weapon without residual radiation ... Those personnel caught directly under the aerosol cloud will die from the flame or overpressure. For those on the periphery of the strike, the injuries can be severe. Burns, broken bones, contusions from flying debris and blindness may result. Further, the crushing injuries from the overpressure can create air embolism within blood vessels, concussions, multiple internal haemorrhages in the liver and spleen, collapsed lungs, rupture of the eardrums and displacement of the eyes from their sockets." It is hard to see how you could use these weapons in Falluja without killing civilians. 

This looks to me like a convincing explanation of the damage done to Falluja, a city in which between 30,000 and 50,000 civilians might have been taking refuge. It could also explain the civilian casualties shown in the film. So the question has now widened: is there any crime the coalition forces have not committed in Iraq?

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Annals of Liberation

Written by Chris Floyd 21 November 2005 6766 Hits

From the NYT, via AP: "U.S. forces mistakenly fired on a civilian vehicle outside an American base in a city north of Baghdad on Monday, killing three people, including a child, the military said...'It was one of these regrettable, tragic incidents,' Army spokesman Maj. Steven Warren said."

Yeah, just one of those things; you know: same old, same old.

And how about that nice softening headline from the NYT: "U.S. Mistakenly Fire on Vehicle." Uh, they didn't just fire on it: they hit that sucker and killed three civilians. Granted, this is not exactly news in Bush's Iraq satrapy, but if you are going to report such things, why not tell what actually happened in the headline? What next? "Burglar Discharges Firearm at Local Residence" instead of "Thief Kills Family of Three During Robbery"?

By such little comforting omissions is our reality deranged.

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Irritable Powell Syndrome

Written by Chris Floyd 21 November 2005 5082 Hits

Jonathan Schwarz outdoes himself -- no mean feat -- with this immortal line in yet another blistering expose of the endless fount of falsehood that is Colin Powell:

"I think the real question with Colin Powell is not why he has a blot on his reputation, but why he has any reputation left on his blot."

For more background, from Schwarz and your correspondent, see I, Bagman: The Story of Colin Powell.

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The War Against Civilization

Written by Chris Floyd 21 November 2005 9717 Hits

Dispatches from the front (NYT):
GM to Cut 30,000 Jobs and Close 12 Plants
For a GM Family, the American Dream Vanishes

It's obvious now that we made a mistake here in coming up with our "War on the Poor" tag to describe the rapacious and ruinous policies of the Bush Regime, and the brutal corporate ethos it represents. For it's not just a war on the poor, of course. That war was won long ago; Bush and the boys grind the poor beneath their heels just for the hell of it these days, just for kicks, a sadistic thrill. No, it's also a war against working people, against the middle class, against the very idea that there is a common good beyond the raw bottom line, that individual human lives and human communities have any intrinsic value or meaning whatsoever, except as raw material to be squeezed for blood money and chump change.

It is a war that is destroying, very deliberately, a way of life that brought an unprecedented measure of security and stability and prosperity to millions of Americans across generations. It's being systematically destroyed because the business elite can reap even higher, more obscene profits than they already command by gutting America and "outsourcing" its jobs (and not just in the auto industry, of course) to places that pay slave wages to unprotected, unorganized workers and kick back secret sweeteners to keep the corporate lords fat and happy. And it's being systematically destroyed because the political elite prefer an atomized, terrorized, polarized rabble -- scrambling for survival, worn out with worry, broken down with untreated illness or bankrupted by medical costs, fighting each other for a dwindling number of ill-paid, going-nowhere jobs -- to a secure and confident citizenry that stands up for its rights.

So it's not just a war against the poor, although the poor are its greatest victims. It's a war against civilization itself, if we define civilization as the struggle to overcome the worst instincts of our human nature, as free people coming together in search of betterment and enlightenment -- "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," in other words. The War on Civilization being waged by Bush and the elite has been far more destructive of the "American way of life" than the not-dissimilar war on civilization being pursued by the pockets of violent religious extremists could ever hope to be.

Both forces seek to destroy the idea of compassion, tolerance and inclusion that is the hallmark of true civilization, and instead impose a harsh, narrow vision of life, a society dominated by the arbitrary will of a privileged few. The "War on Terror" is not a "clash of civilizations;" it is in many respects a civil war between the enemies of civilization, fighting it out to see which of their barbaric, degenerate views of human society will prevail.

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Body Politics:The Senate's Sham Rebellion Against Tyranny and Torture

Written by Chris Floyd 17 November 2005 10606 Hits

Below is an expanded version of my column in the Nov. 18 edition of The Moscow Times.

Four years ago, George W. Bush quietly assumed dictatorial powers with a secret executive order granting himself the right to imprison anyone on earth indefinitely, without charges or trial or indictment or evidence, simply by declaring them an "enemy combatant," on his say-so alone. This week, the assemblage of bootlickers and bagmen that now befoul the U.S. Senate voted to codify the core of this global autocracy under the pretense of curtailing it.

With great self-fluffing fanfare, the Senate passed two measures ostensibly designed to stem the flood of torture and tyranny issuing from the White House. But the twinned amendments to a military spending bill have the curious effect of cancelling each other out: the anti-torture measure leaves Bush's tyranny intact, while the anti-tyranny measure will allow torture to continue unabated. This switcheroo, we are told by one of the scam's sponsors, "will reestablish moral high ground for the United States," the Washington Post reports.

But what can we actually see from this lofty moral promontory? We see that all foreign captives in Bush's worldwide gulag have now been stripped of the ancient human right of habeas corpus. They will not be allowed to challenge "any aspect of their detention" in court – until they have already been tried and convicted by a "military tribunal" constituted under rules concocted arbitrarily by Bush and his minions. Only then, after years of incarceration without rights or legal protection, will they be given access to a single federal appeals court which can review their conviction – subject to the usual "national security" restrictions on challenging evidence gathered by secret means from secret sources in secret places. Remarkably, the Supreme Court is expressly prohibited from any jurisdiction whatsoever over any aspect of gulag captivity, the Washington Post reports. And of course, Bush can simply skip the tribunal and keep anyone he pleases chained in legal limbo until they rot. Neither of the ballyhooed amendments affects this raw despotism.

Meanwhile, American citizens can also be arbitrarily imprisoned indefinitely without charge or trial. But for now, any Homelanders caught in Bush's Terror War net can at least appear briefly in court prior to their conviction, where they will enjoy a "judicial process" that Stalin or Saddam would have loved: Bush officials present the judge with a piece of paper declaring that the prisoner is one bad hombre, but all the evidence against him is classified and nobody can see it – especially the prisoner, the Washington Post reports. And that's it. The captive is then plunged back into the gulag, to be disposed of according to Bush's whim. Again, this medieval mechanism of tyranny was left untouched by the Senate actions.

The Senate originally voted to cast Bush's captives into outer darkness forever, without a single legal recourse. But then a few prissy hens and bleeding hearts made the usual squawk about rights and law and all that pinko jazz. So the compromise of allowing a post-conviction appeal – for people who have been arbitrarily seized and held in isolation for years without charges, often tortured, humiliated and driven to madness or attempted suicide before facing a kangaroo court – was hastily cobbled together and presented to the world as a triumph of the human spirit and the American way.

Ah, but what about the anti-torture amendment, sponsored by the Republican "maverick," Senator John McCain, and hailed by editorialists across the land as a great leap forward in the evolution of political morality? The effusions that have greeted this measure are puzzling. It does nothing more than re-state what is already the law of the land. American forces were already forbidden to subject any captive "to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment" as prohibited by the U.S. Constitution and the UN Convention Against Torture. This regurgitation of existing law is the extent of the McCain amendment, along with an adjuration to interrogators to follow written guidelines for rough stuff set down by the Pentagon.

But the partisans of atrocity in the Bush White House knew these laws when they set up the gulag's torture regimen in 2001. They simply re-defined "torture" to accommodate any brutal technique they cared to implement, then declared that the Commander-in-Chief is beyond the reach of law in wartime – and that any underlings who commit crimes at his order are likewise absolved of legal liability. This sinister sophistry is still very much in operation – and remains unchallenged by the toothless amendment of the "maverick."

This is borne out by a little-noticed announcement released by Bushist warlord Donald Rumsfeld earlier this month. The directive gives Rumsfeld – or anyone he deputizes to act for him – the power to "authorize exemptions" to those still-unformulated Pentagon guidelines restricting "inhumane" treatment, AFP reports. This mile-wide loophole makes a sick joke of the much-trumpeted crackdown on "abuse" in the Bush gulag.

The dual amendments are little more than a cynical PR ploy: torture will be condemned in public, but quietly continued in the former KGB camps and other secret hellholes that Bush has strung across the world like a barbed-wire necklace. The Pentagon's own lawyers certainly understand the true nature of the game. As one told the Observer: "If detainees can't talk to lawyers or file cases, how will anyone ever find out if they have been abused?" No one ever will, of course; that's the point. With habeas corpus denied up front, the worst cases of torture and false imprisonment can now be buried forever in "indefinite detention;" the tribunals, with their access to appeals, will be reserved for open-and-shut showpieces.

These draconian measures reach far beyond a handful of hard-core terrorists. According to the Pentagon's own figures, more than 21,000 innocent people have been caged without due process in Iraq alone, the Guardian reports. Hundreds more have been unjustly imprisoned around the world. A regime that thrives on fear requires a steady stream of "enemy combatants" to justify its unlimited "war powers." The belly of this beast will never be full.

See annotations below:

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