Plague of bioweapons accidents afflicts the US by Debora MacKenzie

Dandelion Salad

12:07 05 July 2007 news service
by Debora MacKenzie

Deadly germs may be more likely to be spread due to a biodefence lab accident than a biological attack by terrorists.

Plague, anthrax, Rocky Mountain spotted fever – these are among the bioweapons some experts fear could be used in a germ warfare attack against the US. But the public has had near-misses with those diseases and others over the past five years, ironically because of accidents in labs that were working to defend against bioterrorists. Even worse, they may be only the tip of an iceberg.

The revelations come from Ed Hammond of the Sunshine Project, a biosafety pressure group based in Austin, Texas, US, who after persistent requests got the minutes of university biosafety committees using the US Freedom of Information Act. The minutes are accessible to the public by law.

There are now 20,000 people at 400 sites around the US working with putative bioweapons germs, says Hammond, 10 times more than before the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Some scientists have warned for years that more people handling dangerous germs are a recipe for accidents.

Unreported incidents?

The fears have been borne out by publicised infections of lab workers with tularemia, brucellosis and Q fever.

The Q fever incident took place at Texas A&M University, which has now been ordered to stop research into potential bioweapons while an investigation takes place.

However, Hammond’s minutes contain further, previously unreported, slip-ups:

• At the University of New Mexico, one worker was jabbed with an anthrax-laden needle, and another with a syringe containing an undisclosed, genetically engineered microbe.

• At the Medical University of Ohio, workers were exposed to and infected with Valley Fever.

• At the University of Chicago, there was another puncture with an undisclosed agent normally requiring heavy containment, probably anthrax or plague.

• At the University of California at Berkeley, workers handled deadly Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which spreads in the air, without containment when it was mislabelled as harmless.

• At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, workers were exposed to TB when containment equipment failed.

As yet, none of the accidents have been serious in outcome. But, Hammond fears, more such accidents may go unreported. “Instead of a ‘culture of responsibility’, the federal government has instilled a culture of denial” he says. “Labs hide problems, and think that accident reporting is for masochists”

Reporting essential

Without stringently enforced reporting rules, he says, labs have every reason to cover up accidents. They want to avoid losing research funds, and fear the massive official reaction to any accident – such as the imprisonment of plague researcher Thomas Butler in 2003. And he claims Texas A&M officials have said they now regret reporting the Q fever incident.

“I think the answer is to create a level playing field by having clear and absolutely mandatory reporting requirements,” says Hammond. “Eliminate even the possibility of an institution claiming that it does not have to report infections.”

“The labs will say, you can’t do that because then people won’t report accidents,” says Hammond. “Well, I think it’s pretty clear that people don’t report accidents as it stands.”
h/t: ICH

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A Sudden Change of State By George Monbiot

Dandelion Salad

By George Monbiot
Published in the Guardian 3 July 2007

Reading a scientific paper on the train this weekend, I found, to my amazement, that my hands were shaking. This has never happened to me before, but nor have I ever read anything like it. Published by a team led by James Hansen at Nasa, it suggests that the grim reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change could be absurdly optimistic(1).

Continue reading

Founder of Iraq Oil Workers Union Rejects U.S.-Backed Oil Law as “Robbery” (video)

Friday, July 6th, 2007

Founder of Iraq Oil Workers Union Rejects U.S.-Backed Oil Law as “Robbery”

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As the Iraqi cabinet approves part of a controversial oil law, we speak with Faleh Abood Umara, the general secretary of the Federation of Oil Unions and a founding member of the oil workers union in Iraq. He calls on Iraqi lawmakers to reject the legislation. We also speak with Hashmeya Muhsin Hussein, president of the Electrical Utility Workers Union and the first woman to head a national union in Iraq. [includes rush transcript]

In Iraq, opposition is growing among some Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions to a controversial oil law backed by Washington. Draft legislation on the distribution of oil wealth in Iraq was approved by the Iraqi cabinet on Tuesday and could go to parliament for review as early as next week. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called the bill “the “most important law in Iraq,” and U.S. lawmakers have demanded Iraq advance the measure before Congress approves additional war funding. But critics say the law would leave Iraq’s oil open to foreign takeover. A parliamentary boycott by Sunni and Shia factions is expected to slow the bill’s passage. In addition, six Nobel Peace Prize Laureates have released a statement in opposition to the legislation. The laureates include Betty Williams, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Rigoberta Menchu, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi and Wangari Maathai. The statement read, in part, “The Iraq Oil Law could benefit foreign oil companies at the expense of the Iraqi people, deny the Iraqi people economic security, create greater instability, and move the country further away from peace.”

Last month, the Iraqi oil workers union went on a strike to protest the law. Two leading union members recently traveled to the United States to meet with members of Congress and attend last week’s U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta.

Hashmeya Muhsin Hussein is the president of the Electrical Utility Workers Union, she is the first woman to head a national union in Iraq. Faleh Abood Umara is the general secretary of the Federation of Oil Unions and a founding member of the oil workers union in Iraq. In 1998, he was detained by the Saddam Hussein regime for his activities on behalf of his coworkers. They recently joined us in our firehouse studio. I began by asking Faleh Abood Umara to describe the current situation for oil workers in Iraq and why he is protesting the proposed oil law.

  • Faleh Abood Umara, general secretary of the Federation of Oil Unions.
  • Hashmeya Muhsin Hussein, president of the Electrical Utility Workers Union in Iraq.




Strike The Root By Sheila Samples

Strike The Root

By Sheila Samples

“We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men”

~~ George Orwell

07/06/07 “ICH

Recently, Nova M Radio’s Mike Malloy suggested the lethargy that appears to have descended on the American people is more “rage fatigue” than a lack of knowledge or comprehension of the damage wrought by this administration. I agree, although for many of us, rather than fatigue, it’s more an inability to “focus” on any single atrocity about which to be enraged. There are just too many incoming horrors at any one time. We are in the throes of a national paralysis.

It’s not that we don’t know enough to be enraged. We know too much. About too many things. Our rage is splintered, spread too thin to be effective. For the past five years, people in this country and around the world have protested against Bush and Cheney’s genocidal assault on two helpless nations. As they prepare openly for yet another bloody attack on yet another nation, we continue to sign petitions, hold meetings, march against the corporate machine — all to no avail.

The issues catapaulting citizens into the streets are outrageous — each one deserving of a “million man march” on its own merits. However, because we are frustrated by a relentless media blackout and by the deepening corruption, loss of freedoms and the tightening noose of tyranny, our cries are little more than a cacophony of discord — an impotent racket.

Both Democrats and Republicans are branches of the same tree of corruption. When hacked off, a branch is instantly replaced by another, and another, each one stronger than the last. George Bush is but a snarled twig, waving at us with a frog in one hand and a firecracker in the other. As bodies of American citizens pile up in funeral homes and cemetaries across the nation; as more and more bodies of innocent men, women and children are strewn across the Middle East, it is becoming increasingly obvious the madness will not stop until we fell this tree — dig into the darkness and strike the root. We must expose — and impeach — Dick Cheney.

There have been Cheneys throughout the annals of time who wreak their destruction from the shadows. In 743 BC, Marcus Tullius Cicero warned, “For the traitor appears no traitor — he speaks in the accents familiar to his victims and he wears their face and their garments and he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of a city. He infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist.”

Dick Cheney must be impeached — now — before he lashes out from the dark side, and Iran is aflame; its terrified citizens displaced, dying — dead. Whether to impeach is not up to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, no matter how many “arrows” she claims to have in her quiver. We’ve moved way beyond playing Cowboys and Indians with this gang.

Pelosi’s statement on July 2 that Bush’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s prison sentence “does not serve justice, condones criminal conduct, and is a betrayal of trust of the American people” is rather ironic, considering her steadfast refusal to hold Bush and Cheney accountable for their acts of treason after being elected to do just that.

Nor is impeachment up to the presidential wannabes flip-flopping in disgraceful political one-upmanship as they vie for money to pour into the ravenous media machine. Any American who would hesitate to impeach a destructive, treasonous, power-mad dictator does not deserve to be president of this United States — now or ever.

Other than Ohio’s courageous congressman Dennis Kucinich, whose co-sponsor list to impeach Cheney has grown to 14, no other candidate dares to take a stand. No other candidate deserves a single vote.

Whether to impeach Cheney is not even up to us. We have no choice. The U.S. Constitution is very explicit about this matter. In just 31 words, Article II, Section 4, tells us, “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

I can cite 3,588 reasons to impeach this man who lied — is still lying — so relentlessly to rush this nation into genocidal war. Kucinich’s Articles of Impeachment barely scratch the surface of Cheney’s treason and crimes against the state, but are more than enough to not only impeach, but to indict and convict him. A more detailed account can be found here.

The U.S. Constitution is the greatest perception of Liberty ever conceived. It was hammered out by men determined to prevent imperial presidencies, shadow governments and seizures of power by any one branch. It was conceived precisely to thwart efforts to destroy the republic by those whose only allegiance is to power and money. We must rid ourselves of the traitors in our midst, starting with Dick Cheney, the one man responsible for the corruption threatening our downfall.

If we are to survive, we must strike the root.


Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. Contact her at

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

The Secret History of the American Empire By John Perkins


By John Perkins
07/06/07 “ICH

The elevator door opened. Three men stood inside. Unlike Pepe and me, they were not wearing business suits. They were dressed casually in slacks and sweaters. One wore a leather jacket. What got my attention, though, were the guns. All three carried AK- 47s.

“An unfortunate necessity in Guatemala these days,” Pepe explained. He ushered me toward the waiting elevator. “At least for those of us who are friends of the United States, friends of democracy. We need our Maya killers.” Continue reading

The London bombs also belong to the new Prime Minister By John Pilger

The London bombs also belong to the new Prime Minister

By John Pilger

07/06/07 “ICH

Just as the London bombs in the summer of 2005 were Blair’s bombs, the inevitable consequence of his government’s lawless attack on Iraq, so the potential bombs in the summer of 2007 are Brown’s bombs. Gordon Brown, Blair’s successor as prime minister, has been an unerring supporter of the unprovoked bloodbath whose victims now equal those of the Rwandan genocide, according to the American scientist who led the 2006 Johns Hopkins School of Public Health survey of civilian dead in Iraq. While Tony Blair sought to discredit this study, British government scientists secretly praised it as “tried and tested” and an “underestimation of mortality”. The “underestimation” was 655,000 men, women and children. That is now approaching a million. It is the crime of the century.

In his first day’s address outside 10 Downing Street and subsequently to Parliament, Brown paid not even lip service to those who would be alive today had his government – and it was his government as much as Blair’s – not joined Bush in a slaughter justified with demonstrable lies. He said nothing, not a word.

He said nothing about the added thousands of Iraqi children whose deaths from preventable disease have doubled since the invasion, caused by the wilful destruction of sanitation and water purification plants. He said nothing about hospital patients who die every day for want of equipment as basic as a syringe. He said nothing about the greatest refugee flight since the Palestinians’ Naqba. He said nothing about his government’s defeat in Afghanistan, and how the British army and its Nato allies are killing civilians, including whole families. Typically, on 29 June, British forces called in air strikes on a village, reportedly bombing to death 45 innocent people – almost as many as the number bombed to death in London in July 2005. Compare the reaction, or rather the silence. They were only Muslims. And Muslims are the world’s most numerous victims of a terrorism whose main sources are Washington, Tel Aviv and London.

And he said nothing about his government’s role in Afghanistan’s restoration as the world’s biggest source of opium, a direct result of the invasion of 2001. Any dealer on the streets of Glasgow will have the stuff, straight from warlords paid off by the CIA and in whose name British soldiers are killing and dying pointlessly.

He said nothing about stopping any of this. Not a word. Not a hint.

Do the dead laugh? In the new Prime Minister’s little list of priorities was “extend[ing] the British way of life”.

The paymaster of the greatest British foreign policy disaster of the modern era, Brown could not even speak its name, let alone meet the military families that waited to speak to him. Three British soldiers were killed on his first day.

Has there been anything like the tsunami of unction that has engulfed the departure of Blair and the elevation of Brown? Yes, there has. Think back a decade. Blair, wrote Hugo Young of the Guardian, “wants to create a world none of us has known, where the laws of political gravity are overturned”, one where “ideology has surrendered entirely to ‘values'”. The new chancellor, effused the Observer, would “announce the most radical welfare Budget since the Second World war”.

The “values” were fake and so was the new deal. One media-managed stunt followed another as Brown delighted the stock market and comforted the very rich and celebrated the empire, and ignored the longing of the British electorate for a restoration of public services so badly damaged by Margaret Thatcher. One of the first decisions by Harriet Harman, Blair’s first social security secretary and a declared feminist, was to abolish the single parents’ welfare premium and benefit, in spite of her pledge to the House of Commons that Labour opposed these impoverishing Tory-inspired cuts. Today, Harman is Brown’s deputy party leader and, like all of the “new faces” around the cabinet table with “plans to heal old wounds” (the Guardian), she voted for an invasion that has destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of women.

Some feminism.

And when Blair finally left, those MPs who stood and gave him a standing ovation finally certified parliament as a place of minimal consequence to British democracy. The courtiers who reported this disgrace with Richard Dimbleby royal-occasion reverence are flecked with the blood spilled by the second-rate actor and first-rate criminal. They now scramble for the latest police press release. That the profane absurdity of the going of Blair and the silence and compliance of Brown – political twins regardless of their schoolboy spats – may well have provoked the attacks on London and Glasgow is of no interest. While the crime of the century endures, there almost certainly will be others.


This article was first published at the New Statesman

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Lewis “Scooter” Libby Sentence Commuted by Stephen Lendman

Lewis “Scooter” Libby Sentence Commuted

by Stephen Lendman

On July 2, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (Washington) ruled on US v. Libby (07-3068) saying I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby must be imprisoned while appealing his conviction March 6 of lying to federal investigators and a grand jury and obstructing their probe of the 2003 leaking of CIA official Valerie Plame’s identity. The court said Libby “has not shown that the appeal raises a substantial question” for him to remain free under federal law. Earlier, US District Judge Reggie Walton refused to let Libby remain free during appeal saying evidence of his guilt was “overwhelming.”

Libby faced 30 months in prison and a $250,000 fine for his conviction handed down June 5 and as of early July 2 appeared heading for incarceration within weeks.

Enter George Bush in his latest brazen and contemptuous defiance of the law. Within hours of yesterday’s court decision, he ignored overwhelming public opposition to a pardon and commuted the sentence of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff. Case closed with little more than the president’s cynical statement that he “respect(s) the jury’s verdict….But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby’s sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.” Libby needn’t worry about the fine either. His rich friends will take care of that, too, as part of the deal.

The president’s statement and commutation contradicted Deputy White House Press Secretary Dana Perino’s earlier in the (July 2) day response to the court verdict saying “Scooter Libby still has the right to appeal, and therefore the president will continue not to intervene in the judicial process. The president feels terribly for Scooter, his wife and their young children, and all that they’re going through.” So do Libby’s hard right supporters who quickly hailed the commutation as a courageous act while others respecting the law condemned its brazen disrespect for it.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid called Bush’s granting clemency “disgraceful (and) Now, even that small bit of justice has been undone.” Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy said the “White House….sees itself as being above the law.” Valerie Plame’s husband Joseph Wilson sharply criticized the president’s action stating it “should demonstrate to the American people how corrupt this administration is. By his action, the president has guaranteed that Mr. Libby (and everyone else in the administration) has no incentive to begin telling the truth.”

The public’s verdict on this matter has yet to be heard. When new polls are published they’ll surely agree with Mr. Wilson, outraged Democrats and all people of conscience. There’s no doubt Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney cut a deal with Libby for his silence. It’s likely to heighten demands for impeaching the president and vice-president based on further “grounds” for doing it. It now remains for a groundswell to build and stiffen congressional leaders’ spines enough to get on with what no further delay can be tolerated. Expeditiously removing a lawless president and vice-president from office is the only remaining hope of restoring the rule of law and showing those in contempt of it won’t go unpunished as Mr. Libby has.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Why has world opinion of the U.S. changed dramatically since 2000? by Glenn Greenwald

Friday July 6, 2007 07:57 EST

Why has world opinion of the U.S. changed dramatically since 2000?

by Glenn Greenwald

Following up on the post from yesterday regarding the collapse of America’s standing in the world, there are responses from several other bloggers which illuminate the key points further still.

To the extent that I used the Pew Global polling data to demonstrate the core falsity of the neoconservative worldview on international public opinion — namely, that the world is inherently anti-American no matter what we do, because they hate our political values and/or are driven by jealousy — the point was clearly understood. But there seemed to be less clarity with regard to my attempt to use this data to refute the view among some on the Left that America’s behavior in the world under Bush is fundamentally the same as it was for the last several decades. The viewpoint I was critiquing was well articulated by Moon of Alabama’s Bernhard in responding to my post last night:

I agree that the behavior of the U.S. in the world has deteriorated under Bush. But that change is not fundamental. There is an even simpler answer for the crash of world public opinion about the U.S.: The revolution in information distribution through worldwide TV news and the Internet. . . .

The behaviour of the U.S. has not changed that much. What has changed is the perception of this behavior. This because of new unfiltered and cheap access to information. . . .

The atrocities of the war on Vietnam are not different from those in the war on Iraq. But while the facts of the massacre of My Lai took years to leak into some world knowledge, the pictures of torture at Abu Graibh were seen by hundreds of millions within a few hours. . . .

For the U.S. to go back to political behaviour “before Bush” would therefore not help to change the world wide public opinion. . . . Bombing of pharmaceutical factories in Sudan like Clinton did will not regain the U.S. any good reputation. To publicly reject its inherent urge to imperialism would be a good start.

This is precisely the viewpoint I was describing, critiquing and refuting. Benhard’s attempt to explain how it can be that worldwide perceptions of the U.S. have changed drastically since 2000 if our behavior is fundamentally the same is, in my view, completely unconvincing. This explanation (which was echoed by several commenters and e-mailers yesterday) ascribes an ignorance to people around the world that is more fictitious than anything else. The pre-Internet era was not the Dark Ages. Because the U.S. has been a superpower for decades, people around the world have been well aware of our mistakes, excesses, the instances where we violated our own values, the wars we fought (both overt and covert), and most of the other bad acts in which the country engaged.

Much of the world’s geopolitics for the last half of the 20th Century was driven by the conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and people around the world were affected by that conflict in countless ways. They were well aware of what the U.S. was doing in the world. The news about the America’s conduct may not have been transmitted as immediately as it is now, but it was well known.

Yet despite all of that, much of the world — majorities in nations around the world — respected and admired this country and the values it symbolized. That isn’t because they were duped into thinking that America was inerrantly Pure Good or because our bad conduct was concealed. Outside of right-wing followers who stupidly equate criticism of the U.S. with hatred for it (even though the opposite is usually true), nobody thought that the U.S. was angelic. No nation or any other group of human beings is.

They maintained favorable views of the U.S. not because they were unaware of its failings, but rather, because the good that the U.S. did in the world outweighed its bad. It is misleadingly one-sided to point to Vietnam or Central American covert wars without simultaneously acknowledging America’s role in the defeat of the Nazis, or its opposition to the truly oppressive Communist empire (which suffocated the lives of hundreds of millions of people), and — I think most importantly — the political principles and individual liberties embodied by our Constitution and the stable democracy it has secured. World opinion prior to the Bush presidency was so favorable not because people were unaware of America’s flaws, but because they were so well-aware of its virtues.

The view that the U.S. has been a net force for evil in the world since the end of World War II and that what George Bush has done is but an extension of the country’s values, rather than a perversion of them, is a view that is held by some unknown number of people — I think a small minority — but it is a view that one hears with some frequency. Avedon Carol last night wrote:

Glenn Greenwald has a good piece on a subject I have brought up here from time to time — the collapse of the world’s opinion of America and American democracy. I’ve had the kind of conversations he’s talking about with people from both sides of the spectrum who don’t get this, but we were truly loved and admired, even by people who knew we were not always flawless, and now it’s a very different story — and it’s under the Bush regime that the story had changed. And I know that some people on the left, including some of my readers, think it’s all to the good that our standing has been so reduced, but I honestly believe that we were an inspiration to other countries that really did try to follow the lead of our ideals and our attempts to live up to them. I’ve seen the way we were held up as an example — and I’ve seen the way the decline of our good example has been held up as “proof” that living up to those ideals is unnecessary. “After all, the Americans are doing it.” But it’s now gone beyond that; America has become another bad example, an object lesson on the infections of power and corruption.

We no longer have standing to criticize other governments that abuse their people; they laugh at the idea that a nation led by barbarians who launch unprovoked attacks on other countries and kidnap (and torture, and kill) people has any authority to lecture others on morality. No one even knows anymore what we mean by “democracy”, or what we are criticizing when we call other governments “corrupt” or “despotic”. We once had the power to influence other governments positively to expand freedoms; those days are gone. And I don’t think that’s a particularly good thing.

Canadian Ian Welsh of the Agonist, in responding to my post from yesterday, pointed to this superb post he wrote on July 4:

I’m not American. I’m Canadian. . . So it’s odd then that I write so much about America and I care so much about what happens in America. . . [P]art of it is just that I care about America and the American experiment. Those of us who didn’t grow up in America, but under the sway of America’s media, imbibed a very pure form of the American mythos and civic religion. The American Civil Religion, with its secular saints such as Jefferson, Hamilton and Washington and its written Constitutional scripture is also a source of wonderment. Canada has no equivalent, no deep sense of history, no touchstone that is written back to to justify the present. Those words of your founders, those words that resound through history are words that inspire men and women who have never seen America and never will.

The Declaration of Independence spoke to all humans, with its assertion that all men are created equal and have unalienable rights. The US system of government, with its checks and balances, seemed unique and able to take shocks that might topple other democratic forms of government.

The Statue of Liberty, holding its torch aloft in New York’s harbor, proclaimed that in America the wretched masses of the world might find a home, hope, liberty and opportunity.

And, of course, there was the US’s role in both World War II and the Cold War. When Europe was in chains, America freed it. It may be true that the German army died in the plains of Russia, but without the US, all of Europe would have fallen into the gray pit of Russian rule and despair.

Truly, in the Cold War, America stood astride the word facing off against an evil empire. Reagan was right when he called the USSR evil – it was a totalitarian nightmare, and opposing it; keeping it in check, was the moral thing to do.

None of this is to say that America was always “the good” — there was Vietnam, there was complicity in various dictatorships; there was a distressing tendency to meddle, especially in Latin America – there were, in short, many places where America fell short of its own ideals.

Yet, in all, America was still the shining city on the hill. Even those who disliked it, when asked “well, what hegemonic nation, past or present, would be preferable to America”, were stilled. In truth, as superpowers go, America was about the best one could hope for – power corrupted, but it had not corrupted absolutely. . . .

And then the Bush years happened. George Bush, with the acquiescence of Congress and the consent of the majority of voters, who elected him in 2004, made the US a unilateral actor on the world stage, a country that engaged in pre-emptive war and threatens to use nuclear weapons in a first strike. A nation, moreover, which has repudiated the freedoms that the rest of the world admired it for, has engaged in torture, struck down habeas corpus and openly mocked the Geneva Conventions.

America had become, in the eyes of the world, un-American.

The America we loved – the America which, if it did not always match words to ideals, still seemed to move more in jerks and starts towards those ideals, died, choking, gasping, in front of our very eyes.

And over at FDL, TRex wrote:

The America that the world sees now is not the America that my parents raised me to believe in, not the America that my father and both my grandfathers fought for in Vietnam, Korea, and World War Two. But until we have ousted this criminal administration, that is the America that we are.

The dearly departed Billmon last year observed that the Bush administration has “forfeit(ed) forever its ability to chastise the human rights abuses of others without triggering a global laughing fit.” It is true that the fact that the world greatly respected the United States prior to the Bush administration may not, standing alone, constitute dispositive proof that America’s behavior was fundamentally different. But, for reasons I outlined in the Update to yesterday’s post, it certainly is strong evidence for that proposition. And I think this all highlights an extremely important though often overlooked point.

So much of the intensity and anger driving the criticisms of the Bush presidency — certainly my own, and much of what I read (as exemplified above) — is grounded in a fervent belief in American political values, its political principles and its constitutional framework. The anger comes not from a belief that the U.S. is an evil and corrupt entity, but from the opposite view. It comes from witnessing the all-out assault on these vaunted political principles and values and the complete corruption, close to the destruction, of our country’s national character that has made the U.S. such an important and admired presence in the world for so long.

To believe in America’s political values and to observe the importance of its role in the world is not “American exceptionalism.” Like all countries, America has erred many times and has been capable of evil. Other countries have critically important virtues that America lacks. As I detail in my book, America has been far too quick to use war as a foreign policy option and has become increasingly imperialistic in precisely the way the Founders so stridently warned against.

But those who focus on America’s flaws to the exclusion of its virtues are but the opposite side of the same Manichean coin from the American exceptionalists who believe that we can do no wrong, that America is inherently Good independent of our conduct in the world. What the Pew poll demonstrates is that the face America has shown to the world during the Bush presidency — at least insofar as the world perceives it, a vitally important metric — is a fundamentally different one than they saw previously.

In the last six years, America’s brutality, unrestrained aggression, and violation of our own professed values have been transformed from destructive aberration into our defining attributes. And the world’s population sees that transformation quite clearly and, as a result, their view of America has transformed along with it.

* * * *

[In the post yesterday, I pointed to a post by Chris Floyd to exemplify what I said was “a portion of [the argument on the Left I was critiquing], though not its entirety.” But — as Chris rightly pointed out in an e-mail last night — he does not really subscribe to the view I summarized and by citing only his post as representative of that view, I unintentionally created the impression that he did. My apologies to Chris for my sloppy use of his post to represent a viewpoint it did not actually express and which Chris does not hold.]

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.


The tragic collapse of America’s standing in the world by Glenn Greenwald

The tragic collapse of America’s standing in the world by Glenn Greenwald

Thursday July 5, 2007 12:57 EST

The tragic collapse of America’s standing in the world

by Glenn Greenwald

(updated below)
One of the very few arguments one can make which will prompt virtually identical objections from both standard right-wing neoconservative fanatics as well as a small, unrepresentative cluster on the Left concerns the question of America’s moral credibility in the world and the esteem in which our country is held.

If one argues — as I frequently do, including as a central argument in A Tragic Legacy — that America’s hard-earned moral credibility in the world has collapsed as a result of the Bush presidency, one can hear similar objections from each side — namely, that while America is despised in much of the world, that has little or nothing to do with events over the last six years.

Instead, this line of reasoning goes, America was disliked well prior to the advent of Bush radicalism, either because (in the view of neoconservatives as illustrated by Hugh Hewitt here), those who dislike America are intrinsically hateful of America and our values no matter what we do. Or (in the view of a small group on the Left), America is hated not because of what we have done in the last six years, but because America has been a bullying force of Evil in the world for the last several decades (at least) and our behavior under Bush is nothing new for America; it is but a natural extension of the country’s foundational or long-embraced values (a portion of that argument, though not its entirety, was made by Chris Floyd here).*

The new comprehensive worldwide Pew poll of public opinion conclusively disproves both of those views. The polling data demonstrates that while America’s standing in the world is dangerously low on every continent in the world (the sole exception being Christian nations in Africa), pervasive anti-American sentiment has emerged only in the last six years. Prior to the Bush administration, America was respected and admired in most of the world, its values a source of inspiration, the ideals it espoused a source of widespread respect. Those are just facts.

The collapse of America’s moral standing in the world — the intense and widespread contempt in which we are held — is, without question, a direct by-product of our behavior over the last six years. While America, like every country, has made mistakes and engaged in wrongful behavior prior to that, it was viewed by an overwhelming majority of people in the world as a net force for good. Far from the claim by neoconservatives and their allies that the “international community” is intrinsically anti-American no matter what we do — and we should therefore ignore it and express our contempt for it — the widespread respect America commanded and the admiration for our values was, prior to George W. Bush, a vital ingredient of our national security and ability to protect our interests.

Initially, simply compare the percentages of people around the world, on every continent, who held favorable views of the United States in 1999-2000, versus the staggeringly small percentages who hold such views a mere seven years later:

The picture that emerges here is conclusively clear. In virtually every area of the world — Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia — overwhelming majorities of people viewed the U.S. favorably prior to the Bush presidency. But in virtually every single country in each of those regions, the percentage which now views the U.S. favorably has collapsed, and is now confined only to minorities, often tiny minorities.

The precipitous drop in U.S. credibility — from levels of great respect to levels of widespread contempt — is as stark among America’s traditional allies as it is in less friendly regions. Contrary to claims found among both America’s right and some on Europe’s left, the U.S. enjoyed great moral credibility among its Western European allies prior to the Bush presidency:

Even with regard to the Muslim world, where data is sketchy, the esteem in which America is held is staggeringly low — but that, too, is a recent development. America’s favorability rating in Turkey, for instance, was a robust 52% in 2000, and has now collapsed completely to a startling 9%. The trend is the same in Indonesia (75% to 29%) and similar even in natural U.S. allies such as Kuwait (63% to 46%).

It is only in Africa where U.S. popularity remains high, but even there, perceptions of America depend upon one’s religious affiliation, with African Chrisitans (on whose side we are perceived to be) viewing the U.S. favorably while Africa’s Muslims (who perceive us as hostile to them) have the opposite view:

(A similar trend is apparent in Lebanon, where almost all favorability perceptions are found among Lebanese Christians, while Lebanese Shiites are almost uniformly hostile, with Sunnis split).

More significantly still, huge majorities in Europe and Latin America were prepared to support the U.S. in its war on terrorism — not merely in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 but also for a year or two thereafter — but inexorably changed their minds as they saw the extremism, brutality, unlimited aggression, and complete abandonment of American ideas which drove that “war”:

And in what is perhaps the most tragic aspect of the Bush legacy, large numbers of people around the world, over the last six years, have abandoned their belief in U.S. democratic values — the exact opposite result, literally, of our ostensible objective in everything we have done in the last six years:

Finally, it is worth noting one fact that is indisputable yet frequently denied in American political discourse, except when it is ignored altogether — namely, that America’s blind support for Israel in its disputes with its neighbors plays a key role — not the only role, but a key role — in why America’s moral standing has collapsed:

Note that even a plurality of Israelis believe that our Middle East policies have excessively favored Israel.

If it were true that the U.S. has been a force for Evil in the world for decades, as some believe; or if it were true that people around the world inherently hate the U.S. due to some combination of anti-freedom hostility or jealousy or some other similar ignoble motives, then it really would not matter what we have done over the last six years in terms of our moral standing. But all of those premises are plainly false.

The role that the U.S. has played in the world for decades is critically important. The ideals and political principles which this country for decades has symbolized have been — even when we have deviated from those principles — a critical anchor for our security and standing in the world as well as a vital source of inspiration for people on every continent. As the world’s sole superpower, the face that we choose to show to the world, the principles which guide our actions, are incomparably important.

When we adhere to those values and exemplify those principles, people around the world see that and judge our country accordingly. When we repudiate those values and violate those principles, our moral standing and credibility collapse. There is a direct causal link between how we conduct ourselves and how we are perceived in the world.

Our standing in the world has changed profoundly over the last six years — it has collapsed almost completely — for only one reason: because we have fundamentally changed how we conduct ourselves, the principles that guide us, the values we embody. The world was not “anti-American” before the Bush presidency, but — at least in terms of how the world perceives our country — it is now. That is one of the key aspects of the Bush legacy that is “tragic.”

Plainly, America’s standing in the world can be changed again, the collapse reversed, our credibility restored. But that can happen only if we repudiate the radicalism and brutality and complete disregard for civilized norms that have defined us at our core since the 9/11 attacks. This comprehensive Pew poll provides the definitive refutation for those who claim that the U.S. has been hated for decades, as well as for those who claim that the U.S. will be hated no matter what it does.

UPDATE: In comments, Che Pasa, echoing the objections of several other commenters, argues that this post conflates two logically distinct issues — how America is perceived in the world versus what America, in fact, is. Thus, he argues, simply because America was liked and respected around the world prior to the Bush administration does not negate the claim that America has been a net force for Evil, since public opinion may simply have been wrong (by having a higher opinion of America than was actually warranted).

Strictly speaking, he’s right. It is theoretically possible that America was popular in the world prior to 2001 not because it was a force for Good, but because world opinion was simply wrong. Of course, the converse — as Bush supporters would be quick to point out, justifiably — is equally true: the fact that America is unpopular now does not prove that what America is doing is wrong, since world opinion may simply be misguided.

Either way, what is indisputably true is that world opinion regarding America has profoundly shifted — for the worse — since 2000. The question, then, is why has that happened? My answer is the simplest and most obvious one (which does not mean it is right): namely, public opinion of America has fundamentally changed over the last six years because our behavior in the world, our national character and our defining values have fundamentally changed.

But for those who want to argue that America under Bush is pretty much the same as it has always been — just a slightly modified version of its decades-long bullying, imperialistic, pillaging self — it is incumbent to explain what accounts for this grave collapse in world opinion over the last six years. If it is true that America under Bush is doing roughly the same as it has done over the last 30-40 years, then one would expect public opinion regarding America to be constant as well. But it isn’t. Public opinion has changed profoundly. If America’s behavior hasn’t changed profoundly, then what explains that shift?

On a different note, a reader, DE, e-mailed to point out that the polling data I cited regarding Israel supports the notion that large majorities believe that American policy is excessively pro-Israel, but does not support (because it has nothing to do with) my claim that this belief is a “key reason” for anti-Americanism around the world. The reader’s point is correct. I do believe that, certainly in the Middle East, America’s virtually blind support for Israel under Bush is a key factor in anti-American hostility, but the polling data I cited does not support that claim.

UPDATE II: Further discussion of these issues, including responses from other bloggers and a clarification on the post by Chris Floyd, is here.*

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

* Note: Chris Floyd’s site has been hacked…again. ~ Lo


Why has world opinion of the U.S. changed dramatically since 2000? by Glenn Greenwald



Bush’s Real Fourth of July Message to Nation: Unprintable By Elizabeth de la Vega

Bush’s Real Fourth of July Message to Nation: Unprintable

By Elizabeth de la Vega
t r u t h o u t | Guest Contributor Friday 06 July 2007

Knowing I could not listen to President Bush’s actual voice on what is supposed to be a fun holiday, I turned to the White House web site to find his Fourth of July greeting. We continue to be, the president assures us, steadfastly committed to “America’s founding truths” – including, of course, liberty and equality. I think it was the word “equality” that caused me to start choking on my corn on the cob.

Maybe there was some mistake. This web site posting did not even come close to reflecting the president’s real Fourth of July message to the nation. That had been quite effectively delivered earlier in the week when Bush announced he was commuting I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s sentence from thirty months to zero months. Apparently confusing his duties as president of the United States with those of a behind-the-plate umpire, President Bush called Libby’s sentence “excessive” and threw the prison time out, as casually as if he were calling balls and strikes in a game of sandlot baseball. In so doing, President Bush sent a message to the American people that is as unambiguous as it is unprintable. Expressed verbally, the real message Bush was sending to the people of the United States could have been sent with just two words (the second of which is “you”); expressed physically, Bush’s underlying message could have been conveyed with just one finger.

Either way, President Bush has again made it as clear as a Wisconsin lake that he has nothing but contempt for equality and the “rule ‘a law” he is so fond of championing. Yes, a president has the constitutional power of clemency. He may pardon a criminal defendant, thereby wiping out the entire conviction and its consequences, or commute the sentence, thereby lessening it to some degree or entirely. But even this power, broad as it is, can be abused and, in the case of United States v. Libby, President Bush has done just that.

Just how egregious was the president’s unapologetic and cavalier act of favoritism for a wealthy and powerful friend? To ask the question is to answer it, but to fully appreciate the extent of corruption inherent in the president’s recent shameless exercise of noblesse sans oblige, one needs to know a bit about Bush and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

In the spirit of full disclosure, let me say that I, along with many others who have worked in the federal criminal justice system, have never been a fan of the sentencing guidelines. Formulated by a commission that was, in turn, created by the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, the guidelines were specifically intended to promote fairness and remove unwarranted sentencing disparities. In practice, however, particularly in drug cases, application of the guidelines has led to draconian sentences – an inequity that federal judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys have attempted to address by applying various factors that could justify a downward departure from the prescribed range.

But, up until July 2, 2007, when he decided to take the law into his own hands, President Bush loved the sentencing guidelines. Bush and the Republicans have, for years, been insisting that the guidelines be applied rigidly – the president was simply not going to have any of this unseemly leniency that was beginning to infect the federal system under his watch. Indeed, in 2003, during the very same period that Bush, Cheney, Libby and the gang were scrambling to squelch the ever-increasing revelations about the president’s fraudulent case for war, Bush’s Justice Department, then under the leadership of John Ashcroft – and a posse of conservative Republican members of Congress – decided to take on these wimpy judges and make sure that neither they, nor any equally wimpy prosecutors, could exercise any discretion whatsoever with regard to sentencing. Tom DeLay told judges, “We are watching you” and the Bush administration tacked onto a child pornography law an amendment that required every downward departure from the guidelines to be reported to Congress.

Not surprisingly, this amendment, called the Feeney Amendment in honor of its titular sponsor, Representative Tom Feeney (R-Florida), caused a huge uproar, but its spirit lives on in the Department of Justice today. Right now, in July of 2007, prosecutors are required to oppose virtually all downward departures from the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, except those based on substantial assistance to the government. If a judge does grant a downward departure that was not sought by the government, the prosecutor has to report that to DoJ’s appellate division for consideration of an appeal.

What does this mean in the context of the Libby case? With due consideration to the high likelihood that some of the people reading this may have had an extra beer or two the day before, I am going to make it very simple:

Scooter Libby was sentenced in accordance with the sentencing guidelines, to which President Bush has been insisting that prosecutors and judges slavishly adhere ever since he arrived in the White House. The sentencing range required by case law that Bush’s own DoJ attorneys have routinely argued for, in cases throughout the country, was 30 to 37 months. Judge Reggie Walton gave Libby the lowest sentence within that range. Legally, the only way the judge could impose a sentence less than 30 months would have been if he had granted Libby’s motion for downward departure. Libby had not provided substantial assistance to the government. Therefore, under the rules currently in effect within Bush’s Justice Department, Libby had no legitimate ground for downward departure, and Patrick Fitzgerald was required to oppose his motion. If Judge Walton had actually departed downward based on any of these unapproved grounds, Fitzgerald would have been required, per the United States Attorneys’ Manual, to report the downward departure so that issue could be evaluated for appeal.

So, forgive me if I started choking on my blueberry cobbler when I read Tony Snow’s July 3 statement to reporters: “The President spent weeks and weeks consulting with senior members of this White House about the proper way to proceed, and they looked at a whole lot of options, and they spent a lot of time talking through the options and doing some very detailed legal analysis.” Bush, we know, never spoke to any of the legal experts on the case, including, most notably, the prosecutor – even though Department of Justice clemency procedures call for such a consultation. He may well have spent “weeks and weeks” consulting with Dick Cheney and Karl Rove and their ilk in order to decide how to handle “the Libby issue,” but they were only talking about how to sell an act of clemency … what their talking points would be. Bush’s statement betrays not a shred of legal analysis, which is not surprising, since there is none available to justify his decision.

The bottom line is that Bush’s commitment to equality, the rule of law and uniform sentencing under the federal guidelines fizzled like a Fourth of July sparkler when it came to his friend.

Even more important, Bush, of course, never intended to allow Libby to go to prison at all. Indeed, his original plan was to avoid any investigation whatsoever into the unauthorized disclosure of Valerie Wilson’s identity as a CIA agent. The president could have, and should have, begun an internal investigation when Robert Novak’s column exposed the existence of the leak on July 14, 2003. He didn’t; he waited. Once the investigation was announced in late September 2003, Bush was still constitutionally required to ferret out the miscreants in his shop, but he did not do so. Instead, he professed cooperation with the investigation in one breath, but undermined it in the next, commenting famously that he didn’t think the leakers would ever be found. And then, most cynically, Bush used the criminal proceedings as a shield to avoid questions about the White House’s conduct, a technique that served him well through two national election cycles.

The president of the United States watched and waited as an entire team of federal prosecutors, investigators and support personnel spent years and millions in taxpayers’ dollars on an entirely justified and legitimate grand-jury investigation into whether members of that president’s own White House had violated the laws of the United States. He watched and waited, hoping there would be no charges, as two grand juries (a total of about 40 US citizens) spent months of their valuable time listening to the evidence.

President Bush watched and waited, hoping the case would be dismissed, as millions of additional federal dollars and limited US District Court resources were expended on extensive pretrial litigation.

Hoping next – probably by this time praying – that Libby would be acquitted, the president watched and waited during a six-week trial that consumed additional court time and took twelve additional US citizens away from their daily lives. He watched and waited for the lengthy sentencing process to play out, and then, once the sentence had been imposed, he allowed additional federal resources – including the valuable time of three Court of Appeals judges – to be expended on Libby’s motion for release on bond pending appeal.

In other words, well-knowing, despite his repeated assurances to the contrary, that he would never respect any adverse outcome of the criminal case against his and Vice President Cheney’s top adviser and friend, the president simply and cravenly waited to reveal his true intentions to the American people until he could wait no longer, all the while hiding behind that very same criminal case.

This extended course of deception does not end the story: The statement Bush made when he emerged briefly from his Kennebunkport estate to issue a reprieve for the wealthy and powerful criminal defendant who happened to be his friend, was, of itself, a multilayered fraud. In his July 2 message, Bush, suddenly Solomon-like, attempted to convince the public that the matter he had been avoiding for four years on the ground that it was a pending legal case is, in fact, nothing more than a political dispute to be resolved through compromise. Clemency, Bush would now have us believe, is a decision to be made by weighing the arguments of “critics” and “supporters” of the investigation as if a pending criminal case could be decided by referendum, or maybe a call-in vote, the way we choose the American Idol. Working from this deliberately false premise, the president then purports to “weigh,” as if they were equivalent, the arguments of Libby’s defense team, which had already been rejected by Judge Walton and found insubstantial by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, against the actual facts and law of the case.

Bush’s decision to commute Libby’s sentence was not a compromise between the positions of critics and supporters of the case. The president was not settling a dispute between those who wanted the sentence to stand and those who wanted a pardon. He was simply doing what he intended to do all along – keeping Libby out of jail. The only reason Bush did not pardon Libby was because he wanted Libby to be able to continue to plead his fifth amendment privilege not to testify against himself – most particularly before Congress – based on the fact that the case was still before the Court of Appeals.

From the beginning, with regard to the CIA leak investigation, the president has deceived the American people and abused his power in a manner and to a degree that would be awe-inspiring if it were not so disgraceful. His conduct has been a study in perfidy and disregard for the law – the willful betrayal of the confidence and trust of the American people. These are the very definition of impeachable offenses. It is not enough for Congress to ask the public to send petitions and call the White House to “send a message” that the president’s conduct will not be tolerated. It is up to Congress to deliver that message, and they know exactly what they have to do.

Elizabeth de la Vega is a former federal prosecutor with more than 20 years of experience. During her tenure, she was a member of the Organized Crime Strike Force and chief of the San Jose Branch of the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California. Her pieces have appeared in The Nation, the Los Angeles Times and Salon. She writes regularly for She is the author of “United States v. George W. Bush et al.” which has been optioned for a movie now in preproduction. ( She may be contacted at USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.