Vice President Dick Cheney is reportedly urging President Bush to confront Iran directly by launching airstrikes at suspected Iranian training camps inside Iraq run by the Quds Force, a special unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. According to the McClatchy newspapers, Cheney made the proposal several weeks ago, but the idea was opposed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. On Thursday President Bush warned Iran that it would face consequences if they continue to arm and train insurgents in Iraq.
President Bush: “One of the main reasons that I asked Ambassador Crocker to meet with Iranians inside Iraq was to send the message that there will be consequences for people transporting, delivering EFPs, highly sophisticated IEDs that kill Americans in Iraq. Prime Minister Maliki is visiting in Tehran today. His message, I’m confident, will be stabilize, don’t destabilize. And the sending of weapons into Iraq is a destabilizing factor.”
President Bush also directly warned Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki about his close ties to Iran. Al-Maliki is currently on a three-day trip to Tehran where he has met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other top Iranian officials. According to Iran’s state-run news agency, al-Maliki has thanked Iran for its “positive and constructive” work in “providing security and fighting terrorism in Iraq.” At Thursday’s news conference President Bush was asked about al-Maliki’s ties to Iran.
President Bush: “Now, is he trying to get Iran to play a more constructive role? I presume he is. But that doesn’t — what my question is — well, what my message to him is, is that when we catch you playing a non-constructive role, there will be a price to pay.”
After the news conference, the White House attempted to backtrack from Bush’s statement that al-Maliki would have to pay a price for his ties to Iran. A spokesperson from the National Security Council claimed that Bush’s remark was directed at Iran. Also on Thursday President Bush appeared to call on the Iranian people to change their government.
President Bush: “My message to the Iranian people is, you can do better than this current government, you don’t have to be isolated, you don’t have to be in a position where you can’t realize your full economic potential. And the United States of America will continue to work with our friends and allies in the Security Council and elsewhere to put you in a position to deny you your rightful place in the world, not because of our intention, because of your government’s intention.”
The McClatchy newspapers also report that concern is growing in Baghdad over the Bush administration’s stance on Iran. One Iraqi official said, “We don’t want Iraq to become a zone of conflict between Iran and the U.S.”
In other news on Iraq, the U.S. military has dropped all charges against two marines connected to the shooting deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha. Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt had been charged with three counts of premeditated murder, and Capt. Randy Stone with dereliction of duty for failing to properly report the civilian deaths. Five marines still face charges for shooting dead two dozen unarmed men, women and children in Haditha on November 19, 2005.
The New York Times is reporting Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf was on the brink of declaring a state of emergency this week but backed away after a gathering storm of media, political and diplomatic pressure. Part of the pressure came from the Bush administration. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called General Musharraf at about 2 a.m. on Thursday and exhorted him not to declare emergency rule. Under emergency rule, Musharraf would have been able to restrict freedom of movement and assembly, suspend Parliament and curtail the activities of the courts. Pakistani opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto said emergency rule would have been a major setback.
Benazir Bhutto: “We are all moving towards democracy, and General Musharraf has said he wants to take the country towards democracy, so I thought the imposition of emergency would be a very retrograde step and take us further away from the goal of the democratization of Pakistan. I thought it would also lead to internal instability, because the political parties and the legal community were bound to protest the imposition of emergency. But I am very relieved to find today that those reports were speculative, untrue, and that emergency is not being imposed.”
New information released by the Canadian government has confirmed the CIA played a role in the detention and rendition of Maher Arar. Arar is the Canadian citizen who was seized by U.S. officials during a stopover flight in New York in 2002. He was secretly sent to Syria as part of the Bush administration’s extraordinary rendition program. In Syria, Arar was held for almost a year in a grave-like cell. He was repeatedly tortured. He was released without ever being charged with a crime. The newly released information was originally redacted from a major report issued by the Canadian government last year. It also reveals Canadian intelligence officials suspected that the Bush administration would deport Arar to a country where he could be tortured. In October 2002, one Canadian official stated in a memo, “I think the U.S. would like to get Arar to Jordan where they can have their way with him.” New information has also revealed that Arar was wrongly implicated based on information obtained through torture.
Meanwhile, President Bush was questioned Thursday about the CIA and its secret overseas prisons known as black sites.
Reporter: “The New Yorker reports that the Red Cross has found the interrogation program in the CIA detention facilities use interrogation techniques that were tantamount to torture. I’m wondering if you have read that report and what your reaction to it is?”
President Bush: “I haven’t seen it. We don’t torture.”
According to Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, only a handful of officials in the Bush administration have seen the report. Sources told Mayer that the Red Cross also concluded that the U.S. officials responsible for the abusive treatment may have committed “grave breaches” of the Geneva Conventions and may have violated the U.S. Torture Act.
Impeachment has been making headlines recently in the city of Kent, Ohio. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Joe Biden has suggested criminal charges could someday be filed against members of the Bush administration. In a recent interview with Newsweek, Biden said there are alternatives to the impeachment of President Bush. Biden said: “I think we should be acquiring and accumulating all the data that is appropriate for possibly bringing criminal charges against members of this administration at a later date.”
Last month, local police ticketed a teacher named Kevin Egler for posting a sign in a public garden that read “Impeach Bush.” Police ticketed him for unlawfully advertising in a public place. Egler said that when he was stopped, he asked the police officer how his sign differed from realtors posting signs on public property saying, “This way to the house for sale.” He said the officer asked, “You don’t know the difference?” but then the police never explained what the difference might be.
The Transportation Security Administration and JetBlue Airways have been sued in federal court for illegally discriminating against an American resident based solely on the Arabic message on his T-shirt and his ethnicity. Last year, the Iraqi-born architect and blogger Raed Jarrar was prohibited from boarding a flight until he agreed to cover his T-shirt. Jarrar first spoke about the incident on Democracy Now! last year.
Raed Jarrar: “Then I was supposed to take my airplane, my JetBlue airplane from JFK to Oakland in California last Saturday. So I went to the airport in the morning, and I was prevented to go to my airplane by four officers, because I was wearing this T-shirt that says, 'We Will Not Be Silent,' in both Arabic and English. And I was told by one of the officials that wearing a T-shirt with Arabic script in an airport now is like going to a bank with a T-shirt that reads, 'I am a robber.'”
The American Civil Liberties Union and New York Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit against the TSA and jet Blue.
China had deported six members of the group Students for a Free Tibet after they hung a banner on the Great Wall that read “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008.” The group included three Americans: Leslie Kaup of St. Paul, Minnesota; Nupur Modi of Oakland, California; and Duane Martinez of Sausalito, California. Earlier this week, Amnesty International criticized China for failing to improve its human rights record ahead of next year’s Olympics in Beijing.
In Massachusetts, the state’s high court has ruled that a pair of teenagers who allegedly plotted a Columbine-style attack on their high school could be charged under a state anti-terrorism law passed in the wake of Sept. 11. The former students are on trial for conspiracy to commit murder and threatening to use deadly weapons at school. The students were also originally charged with promotion of anarchy. But a judge tossed that charge after concluding the alleged conspirators were not trying to rally others in an attempt to overthrow the government.
The rock band Pearl Jam has accused AT&T of censorship after the company removed comments the band made about President Bush during a recent concert that AT&T aired in an online webcast. During the concert, the band’s singer, Eddie Vedder, said, “George Bush, leave this world alone,” and “George Bush, find yourself another home.” For viewers watching the concert via AT&T, the remarks were edited out. The group wrote on its website, “AT&T’s actions strike at the heart of the public’s concerns over the power that corporations have when it comes to determining what the public sees and hears through communications media.” Media activists say AT&T’s actions are a sign of why net neutrality is vital to keep the Internet open. Tim Karr of the SavetheInternet campaign said “[AT&T] acts in bad faith toward the public interest and will do whatever it can to pad its bottom line — including sacrificing its users’ freedom to choose where they go, what they watch and whom they listen to online.” AT&T said the editing was not intentional and was a mistake by an outside vendor.
And peace activists are planning a last-minute rally in Kennebunkport, Maine, on Saturday where President Bush will be meeting with newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy has been vacationing in nearby New Hampshire. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow announced the meeting on Wednesday.
Tony Snow: “I’m sure they’ll talk about some international matters. But this is not a summit. This is not something with an agenda. The agenda is come by and let’s visit. The main reason he’s at Walker’s Point is because the first lady extended the invitation and the French president is in the neighborhood.”
Peace activists in Maine have accused the Bush administration of waiting until this week to announce the meeting in an effort to prevent large protests outside.