Thursday, July 31, 2008

Barack Hits Back: Ad Says McCain Taking Low Road

Responding to a harsh personal attack from John McCain, Barack Obama released a television ad late Wednesday evening accusing the the Arizona Republican's campaign of dirty, superficial politics.

The spot, titled "The Low Road," witnesses the Illinois Democrat playing his trump card: tying McCain to George W. Bush, both in politics and in policy.

"He's practicing the politics of the past: John McCain," reads the ad. "His attacks on Barack Obama: not true, false, baloney, the low road, baseless. John McCain same old politics same failed policies."

A picture of the presumptive Republican nominee shaking hands with the soon-to-be-departed president fills the screen.

"Barack Obama supports a $1,000 middle class tax cut, an energy plan that takes on oil companies, develops alternative fuels and breaks the grip of foreign oil."

The advertisement comes hours after the McCain camp caused a stir of its own when it put out a spot comparing Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, both in terms of international celebrity and (more subtly) lack of substance. The Obama campaign and the Senator himself denounced the ad, but their rebuttal advertisement is a stronger repudiation. This spot, at once, positions the Senator as above the fray while tying McCain to the widely-unpopular tactics of the Bush years.

Aides to the Illinois Democrat said they did not know, at this time, how big the ad buy would be.

Original here

Low-Road Express

Well, that certainly didn’t take long. On July 3, news reports said Senator John McCain, worried that he might lose the election before it truly started, opened his doors to disciples of Karl Rove from the 2004 campaign and the Bush White House. Less than a month later, the results are on full display. The candidate who started out talking about high-minded, civil debate has wholeheartedly adopted Mr. Rove’s low-minded and uncivil playbook.

In recent weeks, Mr. McCain has been waving the flag of fear (Senator Barack Obama wants to “lose” in Iraq), and issuing attacks that are sophomoric (suggesting that Mr. Obama is a socialist) and false (the presumptive Democratic nominee turned his back on wounded soldiers).

Mr. McCain used to pride himself on being above this ugly brand of politics, which killed his own 2000 presidential bid. But he clearly tossed his inhibitions aside earlier this month when he put day-to-day management of his campaign in the hands of one acolyte of Mr. Rove and gave top positions to two others. The résumés of the new team’s members included stints in Mr. Bush’s White House and in his 2004 re-election campaign, one of the most negative and divisive in memory.

Almost immediately, the McCain campaign was using Mr. Rove’s well-honed tactics, starting with an attempt to widen this nation’s damaging ideological divide by painting Mr. Obama as a far-left kook. On July 18, Mr. McCain even suggested that Mr. Obama is a socialist to the left of the Senate’s only avowed socialist: Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Mr. Obama’s politics are hardly far-left, and anyone who has spent time in a socialist country knows how ridiculous that label is for any member of Congress. It would be bad enough if Mr. McCain honestly believed what he said, but we find that hard to imagine.

Mr. Obama has distorted Mr. McCain’s record at times, but Mr. McCain’s false charges have been more frequent: that Mr. Obama opposes “innovation” on energy policy; that he voted 94 times for “higher taxes”; and that Mr. Obama is personally responsible for rising gasoline prices.

And Mr. McCain has not stopped there. Taking a page straight from Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove, Mr. McCain has been trying to distract voters from his support for an unending war in Iraq by portraying Mr. Obama as unpatriotic and weak. This line of attack reached a crescendo last week when Mr. McCain fumed and fussed and went to places with European-sounding names while Mr. Obama traveled abroad.

Mr. McCain repeatedly said Mr. Obama “would rather lose a war to win a political campaign” and that he “does not understand” what is at stake in Iraq. He also accused Mr. Obama of canceling a visit to wounded American troops in a German military hospital because news cameras were not allowed. That’s a false account of what occurred — and Mr. McCain ignored Mr. Obama’s unheralded visit to a combat hospital in Baghdad.

Like Mr. Bush, Mr. McCain confuses opposition to an unnecessary war with a lack of spine and an unwillingness to use force when the nation is truly in danger. Obviously, Mr. Obama is untested as a commander in chief and his trip was intended to reassure voters. But Mr. McCain is as untested in this area as Mr. Obama, and it is hard to imagine a worse role model than the one Mr. McCain seems to be adopting: President Bush.

Many voters are wondering whether a McCain presidency would be an extension of Mr. Bush’s two disastrous terms. If the way Mr. McCain is running his campaign these days is an indication, Americans don’t have to wait until next January for the answer to that one.

Original here

Barack Obama: We Can't Afford The Bush-McCain Economy

This was awesome -- Barack Obama tying John McCain and George Bush together on economic issues and framing the election as a choice between a new direction and the Bush-McCain status quo. The best part of this is that he hit a populist note, but it didn't feel forced. This was authentic Barack Obama, hitting on the issues the Americans care about most.

This is exactly what I've been looking forward to seeing. Here's the video, from a town hall event on the economy in Springfield, Missouri:

YouTube link

Here's my transcript of the key passage:

So we've got a choice in this election. We can either choose a new direction, or we can keep on doing the same things we’ve been doing. Now my opponent, John McCain, thinks that we’re basically on the right track. [Boos from audience.] He does. He’s said our economy has made great progress in the last eight years. [Laughter.] He’s embraced the Bush economic policies and promises to continue them. Same policies as George Bush -- he wants to continue the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, and he wants to put another $300 billion in tax cuts on the table for corporations. [Audience member yells: "why not small businesses?"] Well, why not small busineses? Because he thinks it's okay the way things are going right now. Let me tell you, we can't afford to keep on doing more of the same and that's why I'm running for President of the United States of America. [Standing ovation.]

Update (4:40PM): The Obama campaign has posted the full video here. I am in the process of a posting a larger segment, including Barack Obama's hilarious Wild Bill Hickok story.

Update 2 (6:20PM): I have now posted a new version of the video in this post. (It's a bit longer and includes the Wild Bill Hickok story.) If for some reason you want to watch the original video, you can find it here.

Original here

13 Things To Know About The 3rd Straight Mac Attack Ad

John McCain's third straight attack ad.

Okay, another day, another John McCain attack ad on Barack Obama. This one came in over the weekend. It's the third straight, as the McCain campaign is increasingly abandoning positive advertising in favor of negative ads on the frontrunner. Though the positive ad I wrote about on July 10th is still in rotation, at least for now.

The latest Mac attack ad plays above. And here is the text:

Announcer: Barack Obama never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan.
He hadn't been to Iraq in years.
He voted against funding our troops.
And now, he made time to go to the gym, but cancelled a visit with wounded troops.
Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras.
John McCain is always there for our troops.
McCain. Country first.
John McCain: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.

Here are 13 things to know about this ad.

1. Campaigns go very negative like this when they are very worried. John McCain's campaign has now put out out three straight negative TV ads in a row, attacking Barack Obama. And the McCain message in the free media is virtually all negative.

2. The reason the McCain campaign is so worried is that the Olympics start in less than two weeks. At the height of summer, most experts think that whomever has a steady lead going in will have a steady lead coming out. The next big event after the Olympics? The Democratic National Convention. At which Obama will accept the presidential nomination in a speech at Denver's football stadium before 80,000 screaming supporters.

3. This TV ad is media bait. There is no serious buy behind it. I've gone through this before with McCain's new campaign director, Steve Schmidt, when he was Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign manager in 2006. The Schwarzenegger campaign rolled out a couple of TV ads early on, which I pointed out then were running in San Diego at midnight. In this case, think Denver, Harrisburg, and, naturally, Washington. The purpose of this ad is to further press commentary to continue a storyline. A major caveat. This does not mean that there is not a serious ad, and a serious new ad buy, coming.

4. In keeping with what I just wrote, this ad is the highest-rated YouTube video for McCain of the general election campaign. What that means is that the ad is being pushed out to create a frenzy amongst the conservative Republican base, whipped up by the right-wing talk show circuit and blogosphere. I think more people have seen it on YouTube than have seen it on their TV sets.

5. Obama is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Europe. Afghanistan, as it happens, is not in Europe. Afghanistan is covered by an entirely separate subcommittee. Thus the attack on Obama for failing to hold a hearing on Afghanistan is non-serious. This does not mean that he should not have done so, as an eager beaver presidential candidate. Surely, McCain would have been opportunistic enough to do so.

6. ... But it turns out that McCain has missed every hearing for the past two years of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Afghanistan. McCain is the ranking Republican member of this very powerful committee. It's only in the last week that McCain has endorsed Joe Biden's -- and Obama's -- plan to send more US brigades to Afghanistan.

7. It's true that Obama hadn't been to Iraq for two years. McCain has been there a lot. There was the time last year when he toured a Baghdad market, declaring everything to be copacetic. As it should have been, with him wearing a bullet-proof vest, accompanied by a company of paratroopers and a flight of helicopter gunships. As most shoppers undoubtedly were.

8. Obama voted for troop funding on all but one occasion. When he decided to try to force the Bush administration to set a timeline for US troop withdrawal.

9. Obama's visit to the US military hospital in Germany was never, despite the statement in this ad, on his media schedule. He actually visited the US military hospital in Baghdad a few days earlier, sans media. The former head of the military hospital in Germany has denounced the ad, noting that Obama visited the military hospital in Baghdad with no fanfare whasoever.

10. Obama pulled out of the German military hospital visit when the Pentagon informed his military advisor on the trip, retired Air Force General Scott Gration, that only Senate staff could accompany him. This happened after all the Senate staffers along for the Congressional delegation visit to the Middle East had been sent home. Which meant that General Gration, a highly decorated Air Force veteran who is not a member of Obama's Senate staff, was effectively disinvited from visiting the military hospital at the well-known Air Force base at Ramstein.

11. While the TV ad says that McCain is always there for the troops, he actually opposed the new GI Bill authored by Obama ally Jim Webb, the former Navy Secretary-turned-Virginia Senator. Webb, as it happens, is an old friend of McCain, who has called him "a legendary fighting man," as befits the most highly decorated Marine combat officer of the Vietnam War. McCain lost badly in the Senate on Webb's new GI bill, but he and President Bush later tried to take some credit for its passage.

12. And with regard to always being there for the troops, it is interesting to note that McCain actually voted against $360 million for armored tactical wheeled vehicles for units deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that McCain just held a big ticket fundraiser at the home of one of the country's largest defense contractors, Ronald Perelman, whose MacAndrews & Forbes holding company owns AM General, manufacturer of the HumVee. The HumVee became known in the Iraq War as a "Purple Heart box."

Here is the actual scene from which Obama's purported German workout in lieu of visiting wounded troops is taken. Note that it is Obama visiting enthusiastic American soldiers in the Middle East.

13. The footage in the McCain attack ad which accompanies the text about Obama spending time at the gym rather than visiting wounded troops is not actually of Obama working out in Berlin.

Actually, it is, as you see above, footage of Obama visiting with the troops in Kuwait. Hitting a 3-point jump shot on the first try, to the screams of the enthusiastic American soldiers.

Oh, what a tangled web ... And all that stuff.

Original here

McCain Charge Against Obama Lacks Evidence

Sen. John McCain, shown at a campaign stop at Reed High School in Sparks, Nev., alleges that his rival canceled a trip to a military hospital because he was not allowed to take a media entourage with him.
Sen. John McCain, shown at a campaign stop at Reed High School in Sparks, Nev., alleges that his rival canceled a trip to a military hospital because he was not allowed to take a media entourage with him. (By Max Whittaker -- Getty Images)

Washington Post Staff Writers

For four days, Sen. John McCain and his allies have accused Sen. Barack Obama of snubbing wounded soldiers by canceling a visit to a military hospital because he could not take reporters with him, despite no evidence that the charge is true.

The attacks are part of a newly aggressive McCain operation whose aim is to portray the Democratic presidential candidate as a craven politician more interested in his image than in ailing soldiers, a senior McCain adviser said. They come despite repeated pledges by the Republican that he will never question his rival's patriotism.

The essence of McCain's allegation is that Obama planned to take a media entourage, including television cameras, to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany during his week-long foreign trip, and that he canceled the visit when he learned he could not do so. "I know that, according to reports, that he wanted to bring media people and cameras and his campaign staffers," McCain said Monday night on CNN's "Larry King Live."

The Obama campaign has denied that was the reason he called off the visit. In fact, there is no evidence that he planned to take anyone to the American hospital other than a military adviser, whose status as a campaign staff member sparked last-minute concern among Pentagon officials that the visit would be an improper political event.

"Absolutely, unequivocally wrong," Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said in an e-mail after McCain's comments to Larry King.

Despite serious and repeated queries about the charge over several days, McCain and his allies continued yesterday to question Obama's patriotism by focusing attention on the canceled hospital visit.

McCain's campaign released a statement from retired Sgt. Maj. Craig Layton, who worked as a commander at the hospital, who said: "If Senator Obama isn't comfortable meeting wounded American troops without his entourage, perhaps he does not have the experience necessary to serve as commander in chief."

McCain's advisers said they do not intend to back down from the charge, believing it an effective way to create a "narrative" about what they say is Obama's indifference toward the military.

McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said again yesterday that the Republican's version of events is correct, and that Obama canceled the visit because he was not allowed to take reporters and cameras into the hospital.

"It is safe to say that, according to press reports, Barack Obama avoided, skipped, canceled the visit because of those reasons," he said. "We're not making a leap here."

Asked repeatedly for the "reports," Bounds provided three examples, none of which alleged that Obama had wanted to take members of the media to the hospital.

The McCain campaign has produced a television commercial that says that while in Germany, Obama "made time to go to the gym but canceled a visit with wounded troops. Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras." The commercial shows Obama shooting a basketball -- an event that happened earlier in the trip on a stopover in Kuwait, where the Democrat spoke to troops in a gym before grabbing a ball and taking a single shot. The military released the video footage.

A reconstruction of the circumstances surrounding Obama's decision not to visit Landstuhl, based on firsthand reporting from the trip, shows that his campaign never contemplated taking the media with him.

The first indication reporters got that Obama was planning, or had planned, to visit the hospital came last Thursday morning, shortly after the entourage arrived in Berlin. On the seats of the media bus were schedules for his stop in Germany and the final entry -- a Friday-morning departure -- indicated that the senator's plane would fly from Berlin to Ramstein Air Base.

When a reporter asked spokeswoman Linda Douglass that morning about the trip to Ramstein, she said that the trip had been considered but that Obama was not going to go. At that point, the campaign provided no other information.

Later that night, after Obama gave a speech in Berlin, a campaign source spoke about the canceled stop on the condition of anonymity. The official said that the trip was canceled after the Pentagon informed a campaign official that the visit would be considered a campaign event.

Overnight, the Obama team issued two statements, one from senior campaign official Robert Gibbs and the other from retired Air Force Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, an Obama foreign policy adviser who was on the trip.

Gibbs's statement said the hospital visit, which had been on the internal schedule for several weeks, was canceled because Obama decided it would be inappropriate to go there as part of a trip paid for by his campaign. Gration said the Pentagon had told the campaign that the visit would be seen as a political trip.

Those two statements, while not inconsistent, did not clarify whether the visit was canceled in reaction to Pentagon concerns or because of worries about appearances. They also opened Obama's camp to charges that it was offering slightly different reasons at different times.

Gibbs said yesterday that the campaign had planned to inform the traveling media members sometime on the morning of the flight to Ramstein that Obama was intending to visit the hospital but had made no plans to take reporters, including even the small, protective press pool that now accompanies him most places.

Reporters, he said, probably would have been able to get off the plane but not leave an air base facility close by. "We had made absolutely no arrangements to transport the press to the hospital," he said.

On Friday afternoon, en route from Berlin to Paris, Gibbs briefed reporters traveling with Obama. He noted that the candidate had visited wounded soldiers several weeks earlier at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the District and at a combat support hospital while in Iraq earlier in the week -- both times without reporters.

At one point, a reporter asked, "Why not just say it is never inappropriate to visit men and women in service?" -- a key McCain charge -- "What is your response to that?"

Gibbs replied: "It is entirely likely that someone would have attacked us for having gone. And it is entirely likely -- and it has come about -- that people have attacked us for not going."

On Saturday in London, Obama addressed the controversy during a news conference. He said Pentagon concerns about Gration's status triggered the decision not to visit Landstuhl.

"We got notice that [Gration] would be treated as a campaign person, and it would therefore be perceived as political because he had endorsed my candidacy but he wasn't on the Senate staff," Obama said. "That triggered then a concern that maybe our visit was going to be perceived as political, and the last thing that I want to do is have injured soldiers and the staff at these wonderful institutions having to sort through whether this is political or not, or get caught in the crossfire between campaigns."

Obama's explanation, which came after more than a day of controversy, was the clearest in noting that it was Pentagon concerns about Gration accompanying him to the hospital that forced Obama to reconsider and, ultimately, cancel the visit.

Gibbs was asked yesterday about the continuing allegations from McCain that the real reason was a desire to bring a media entourage to the hospital.

"That's completely untrue, and I think, honestly, they know it's untrue," Gibbs said.

Staff writer Juliet Eilperin contributed to this report.

Original here

In Contempt Vote on Karl Rove, the Ayes Have It

By Kate Klonick

The House Judiciary Committee has just voted to hold Karl Rove in contempt for failing to respond to a subpoena to face questioning from the Committee on the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.

The final vote was 20 ayes and 14 nays. With Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) voting "absolutely, 100% aye."

In a memo on the Full Committee meeting, Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) summarized the facts surrounding Rove's refusal to even appear before the committee and assert executive privilege:

Mr. Rove has refused even to appear before the Committee and assert whatever privileges that he believes may apply to his testimony, relying on excessively broad and legally insufficient claims of "absolute immunity" - never recognized by any court - in declining to appear.

Original here

Barackbook: McCain Continues To Struggle With Internet Traditions

UPDATE: Well, it didn't take long before the lames behind this attempt at parody took down the discussion boards on the BarackBook's functioning Facebook application. It's still posting a scintillating rating of 1.5 stars, though, based on reviews that you can still read here!

Meanwhile, at the BarackBook itself, the feed hasn't been updated since this morning's "Marilyn Katz has updated her profile." COME ON MCCAIN CAMPAIGN! We demand to be entertained!


In an attempt to appear internet savvy, the Republican National Committee has launched "BarackBook," a terrible parody of Facebook that some dweeb in the McCain campaign probably thinks is just the bee's knees in political humor, but actually only helps to point out how out-of-sorts the candidate is with the web.

I really can only encourage people to go and gawk at this scintillatingly dumb idea. The first item in the feed? "Barack Obama is now friends with Antoin 'Tony' Rezko." OMGZ, TOTAL LOLLERSKATING RINK! "Tony Rezko has updated his profile!" It even simulates Facebook messages that don't actually happen in Facebook, like, "Barack Obama is now friends with William Ayers" followed by "Barack Obama and William Ayers are now friends with Marilyn Katz."

So, hey, it's funny because this is not how Facebook actually works! But it reaches a new level of hilarity once you see the ways in which BarackBook actually does function correctly. TNR's Christopher Orr points out that "BarackBook" is actually tied to a functioning Facebook application, and, as you might expect, it's currently being overrun by Democrats. Topics of discussion include: "Leaders lead, this just sucks," and "Steve Schmidt = the love child of a three-way trist between Lee Atwater, Mark Penn, and Karl Rove."

Another thing I find to be amazingly hilarious is that BarackBook's "satiric" FriendFeed actually comes with an RSS feed! That means you can import all of the McCain campaign's stupid jokes into your RSS reader. Should they manage to come up with any further humor, like the gut-busting "Marilyn Katz has updated her profile," you will be among the first to know.

But beyond the utter, unholy LAMENESS of the effort, one has to wonder why on earth McCain would stir the hornet's nest like this. The Obama campaign has actually been well out in front in using Facebook for their campaign, and counts among its key advisors one Chris Hughes, one of Facebook's founders. There's little doubt that if the Obama campaign wanted to create the category killer of Facebook satire, they could beat McCain's attempt handily. Chances are, however, that they'll just bemusedly wonder why the McCain camp seems to think it has all this time on their hands for hobbies when their poll numbers are hovering just above forty percent.

Anyway, I'm going to go see if John McCain wants to add the Vampires application!

Original here

Obama: McCain thinks nation on the 'right track'

By MIKE GLOVER, Associated Press Writer

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Democatic presidential contender Barack Obama said Wednesday his Republican rival John McCain "thinks we're on the right track," drawing a chorus of boos from a swing state audience vocal about the status quo.

"These anxieties seem to be growing with each passing day," Obama said on a campaign trip in this economically ailing battleground state. "We can either choose a new direction for our economy or we can keep doing what we've been doing. My opponent, John McCain, thinks we're on the right track."

That elicited boos from some of the 1,500 people who filled a Springfield high school gymnasium. When an AP-Ipsos poll asked the "right track, wrong track" question this month, 77 percent said they thought the country was on the wrong track. The same poll set President Bush's approval rating at 28 percent. Both were records for the AP-Ipsos survey.

"It's true that change is hard, change isn't easy," Obama said. "Nobody here thinks that Bush or McCain has a real answer for the challenges we face so what they're going to try to do is make you scared about me."

Change with difficulty was a core theme Democrat Bill Clinton used when he opposed President George H.W. Bush in 1992, a campaign also fought during tough economic times.

"We don't need the same old tired answers," Obama said. "We need something new."

Obama said McCain will resort to tired Republican charges that he's a big-spending liberal, arguing his tax-cut plans are aimed at the middle class.

"I want to cut taxes for middle-class families, ordinary folks who are working hard and playing by the rules," he said.

He compared himself to western legend Wild Bill Hickok, who he said fought a duel in Springfield.

"I'm ready to duel John McCain on taxes right here, quick draw," Obama said. That drew a quick retort from a McCain aide.

"If Barack Obama wants this so-called duel then why did he and his entourage run for the hills when John McCain challenged him to 10 town halls," said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.

Obama responded after shaking hands at a restaurant in Lebanon.

"I don't hear very much positive from Sen. McCain," he said. "He seems to be only talking about me. You need to ask John McCain what he's for, not just what he's against."

Obama sharpened his message as the day progressed.

He told a crowd of 1,200 in Rolla, Mo., that the country can't keep doing the same things and expect a different results. "That's a definition of madness, but that's what John McCain is offering. He's offering Bush economic policies and Karl Rove politics," Obama said.

Linking Bush and McCain was a key part of his message.

"Nobody thinks that Bush or McCain have a real answer for the challenges we face. So what they are going to try to do is make you scared of me," Obama said. "You know, he's not patriotic enough, he's got a funny name, you know, he doesn't look like all of those other presidents on the dollar bills."

And from under a tent at a rain-soaked barbecue in Union, Mo., he said: "They're going to say I'm a risky guy. What they're going to argue is I'm too risky. The real risk is that we miss the moment, that we don't do what's needed becasue we're afraid."

Obama spent the day riding a bus across southwest Missouri, where Republicans have triumphed in recent elections, and arguing that he can bring new regions into play because a sour economy is dominating the political landscape. He faces the challenge of convincing voters in largely rural sections of the country to back his campaign.

"It's a leap, electing a 46-year-old black guy named Barack Obama," he said at one point.

Obama traveled with Sen. Claire McCaskill, herself a product of rural Missouri.

Speaking to The Associated Press, McCaskill said there were gains to be made in rural Missouri.

"The idea here is it makes a difference if you demonstrate to people in Republican strongholds that you want their vote and that you care about them," she said. "I don't think any of us on the campaign are anticipating that Sen. Obama is going to win southwest Missouri. The question is how many votes can we get in southwest Missouri."

Original here

Afghan Ambassador Trumpets Obama Agenda

Afghanistan's Ambassador to the United States trumpeted major portions of Barack Obama's approach towards his country on Tuesday, marking the second time in as many weeks that an official at the center of U.S.-Mideast policy has echoed the Illinois Senator's agenda.

Said Jawad, who has been at the ambassador's post since 2003, avoided specific references to Obama and his rival Sen. John McCain. But on a broad range of issues that divide the two candidates -- defining the main battleground in the war on terror, U.S. military commitments to Afghanistan, and combating terrorist activity in Pakistan -- he agreed with the prescriptions of the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Sipping occasionally from a glass of mint-flavored iced tea, the ambassador argued that the war in Iraq had diverted military and material resources from Afghanistan. He described the border his country shared with Pakistan as "the central front of the war on terror, certainly," stressing the need for additional American forces. And he offered what amounted to a heartfelt endorsement of Obama's proposal to target high-level al Qaeda figures in northwest Pakistan, even without that country's acquiescence.

"We would appreciate it if Pakistan could take full responsibility in dealing with them," he said. "But if they can't, if they don't have the resources, they should allow the international community to take these elements out, for the sake of Pakistan, for the sake of Afghanistan, and for the sake of the world. These are criminals. We should allow the humanity to go out and eliminate these enemies of humanity. We should not fool ourselves with the legal questions such as sovereignty."

Obama and McCain have differed on this policy, with the Arizona Republican accusing his opponent of naivete and inexperience for proposing to "bomb" an ally. The two candidates have also parted paths on the best way to address the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which this month has seen more deaths of U.S. service members than Iraq. Obama has called for the reallocation of two-to-three brigades of troops from the latter war to the former - a "short-term surge" that Jawad, likewise, advocated.

"From the very beginning the U.S. and international community around Afghanistan was following a policy known as a light footprint, which I see as the wrong policy. We needed the right footprint for Afghanistan," said the ambassador. Now, he added, Afghanistan "will require the surge of both military resources and competence."

McCain, in contrast, has said he would encourage NATO countries to commit more forces to Afghanistan -- a proposal that Jawad said would be important but ultimately insufficient.

"The presence of NATO in Afghanistan is a political asset both for Afghanistan, the United States and other countries," said the ambassador. "The real security and military stakeholders in the fight against international terrorism in Afghanistan are, however, Afghans and Americans. And therefore, we appreciate the fact that NATO countries are there but we need troops that are ready to fight. We need troops that are properly equipped and ready to be deployed to all parts of the country."

Jawad was diplomatic in fielding questions on the 2008 presidential campaign, stressing that Afghanis looked favorably on both candidates. "They admire the courage and the military background of Sen. McCain," he said. "And they really admire the youth and the energy of Sen. Obama. So they are in both camps in this regard."

The bipartisan tone reflected what Jawad said was a critical need for international support for his country, irrespective of who Americans elect. But for Obama, the ambassador's statement will likely only enhance his perception as a serious foreign policy thinker. Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki specifically cited the Illinois Democrat's plans for troop withdrawal as the proper template for a status of forces agreement.

The remarks also play nicely into the Obama campaign's efforts to cast the Senator as the lone candidate attentive to the burgeoning Afghanistan crisis; a contrast to McCain and President Bush who remain focused on Iraq. At times, Obama's commitment to the issue - specifically, his pledge to send more troops into that theater - has provoked skepticism from even his own informal advisers. In an interview with the Huffington Post last week, Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter's national security adviser and an Obama endorser, warned that by sending more troops to Afghanistan, the United States was "running the risk of unintentionally doing what the Russians did."

But even in this regard Obama found an ally in Jawad. "We very much appreciate Brzezinski's friendship and commitment for Afghanistan, which he supported in 1980, but on this point he is still stuck in 1980," said the ambassador. "The real threat to Afghanistan's peace and prosperity in the region is coming from terrorism. We have been asking for the involvement of the United States even during the time the Soviets were there. And even after they left we wanted the U.S. to play an important role. So it is a totally different situation... The task of defending Afghanistan is ultimately our job. And we will do it. There is no shortage of commitment or courage. There is a shortage of skills and equipment."

Original here

The Newest YouTube Stars: Campaign Managers

By Jose Antonio Vargas
As of yesterday afternoon, Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama had uploaded 1,410 videos on their YouTube channels -- 224 from McCain and 1,186 from Obama.

Surprisingly, some of the more interesting, revealing of these videos were posted by their campaign managers. While they may not have been watched as heavily as others, these four videos tell us about the respective campaigns' differing online strategies.

For all the talk about McCain lagging behind Obama in using the Web, credit Rick Davis of the McCain campaign for going first. In December, less than a month before the Iowa caucuses, McCain's campaign manager posted a six-minute video. In a methodical, matter of fact tone, Davis predicted Mike Huckabee's upset over Mitt Romney in the Hawkeye State, which he called "the David and Goliath" story of Iowa.

"McCain is the most electable Republican -- there is no other conservative Republican who can beat Hillary Clinton," Davis said, chiding, among others, Romney, who is now reportedly on the short list of McCain's vice-presidential picks but whom Davis last year said had "never made a clear case for his ideology and because of his flip-flops on core Republican ideas has seen his base erode."

The video has been watched more than 6,000 times.

About six months later, after Obama clinched the Democratic nomination, Davis posted another video, twice as long (14 minutes) and so far viewed 13,025 times. In it, he is blunt about the political environment, "probably the worst in our party's history," he says.

He tells viewers about the electoral map, which is divided into seven regions -- northwest, mid-Atlantic, Florida (yes, Florida is its own region) -- and describes the two most pressing issues in each region: the economy and Iraq. He lists battleground states (Ohio, Pennsylvania), explains the need to expand the Republican base by attracting independent and disaffected Democrats and highlights the importance of California and the southwest, especially considering the size of the Hispanic electorate there. And he cites the Republican National Committee's big edge over the Democratic National Committee in helping close the financial gap between McCain and Obama.

"Starting the general election period, we are competitive financially, we have a strong organization and our candidate is poised in the polls to win in November," Davis says. Given the recent changes within the McCain camp -- Steve Schmidt, a veteran of the Bush circle, has effectively taken the reins of the operation -- Davis now sounds dated.

David Plouffe, in his own two videos, sounds anything but. Plouffe posted his first video on June 26, 2008, and followed it up less than three weeks later. Unlike Davis, Plouffe's videos are less about informing viewers about the details of the campaign's general election plan and more about asking supporters to donate more money. And unlike Davis, whose videos essentially come off as narrated power-point presentations -- we only hear Davis's voice and never see his face -- Plouffe recorded his videos in front of a camera-equipped laptop, giving the footage a raw, immediate, intimate feel.

In his first video, less than 7 minutes long and seen more than 41,000 times, Plouffe starts with a map of Election Day 2004, with President Bush winning 286 electoral votes to Sen. John Kerry's 252. "The magic number for all of you who are out there working so hard, continuing to contribute money, knocking on doors for us, is 270," Plouffe says, referring to the number of electoral votes needed to win.

The goal, Plouffe explains, is to hold on to Kerry's 252 electoral votes and compete for more in states that haven't historically gone blue. Eyes darting to the camera, he says: "We're even contesting some unusual states, like Montana, Alaska, North Dakota, where right now the race is about a dead heat, and because of the organization that you helped us build, we think we have a good opportunity."

He goes on to describe "the enthusiasm gap" between Republicans and Democrats, between McCain and Obama supporters. Citing a Los Angeles Times poll, he says that "only 45 percent" of McCain's voters say they're enthusiastic, compared to 81 percent of Obama's voters. "This is what you should feel very proud about and responsible for," Plouffe said, before adding, "So not only will they [Obama's voters] turn out to vote on Nov. 4th, but they will also be more willing to volunteer and give small dollar contributions -- and we think this is a key to the election."

Then, as if rallying a crowd, Plouffe talks about what he called the campaign's "unprecedented grassroots support," listing the "more than 1.7 million donors" who've given to the campaign and "more than 1 million" who have volunteered. Before asking supporters to donate more money, so that Obama can compete with McCain and the RNC (also the subject of his second video, only two minutes long and viewed about 42,000 times) he says: "We'd like to see those numbers grow so that in every precinct in America, we've got people working hard everyday to talk to their neighbors and convince them to support Barack Obama."

Because of the Internet, voters can now sift through more information than ever before about the presidential candidates. And because videos now go viral and take on lives of their own, voters can also feel as if they're not only supporting a campaign. They're a part of it.

"These videos make you feel intelligent, like you can do something other than sit back and watch," said Steve Grove, YouTube's news and politics editor. "And while it was McCain's campaign that first posted these videos, the Obama's campaign ran away with them. David [Plouffe] is looking at the camera, asking people to join in, making it seem as if you're right there with him."

Original here

McCain: 'I Said We Would Have An Easy Victory' In Iraq And 'We Did'

In late 2002 and early 2003, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was a fixture on cable television, assuring Americans that an invasion of Iraq would be "easy." "I believe that the success will be fairly easy," McCain told CNN in September 2002. "We will win this conflict. We will win it easily," he told MSNBC the following January.

Over the years, McCain has often claimed that he made never made rosy predictions, saying in 2006 that he "fully understood from the beginning" that Iraq "would be a very, very difficult undertaking." In January 2007, however, he wasn't sure what he believed. First, he said that he knew it was "going to be long and hard and tough," but six days later he claimed, "I said the military operation would be easy. It was easy."

Original here

Legislators aim to snuff out penalties for pot use

(CNN) -- The U.S. should stop arresting responsible marijuana users, Rep. Barney Frank said Wednesday, announcing a proposal to end federal penalties for Americans carrying fewer than 100 grams, almost a quarter-pound, of the substance.

Rep. Barney Frank's bill would radically curb federal penalties for personal marijuana use.

Rep. Barney Frank's bill would radically curb federal penalties for personal marijuana use.

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Current laws targeting marijuana users place undue burdens on law enforcement resources, punish ill Americans whose doctors have prescribed the substance and unfairly affect African-Americans, said Frank, flanked by legislators and representatives from advocacy groups.

"The vast amount of human activity ought to be none of the government's business," Frank said on Capitol Hill. "I don't think it is the government's business to tell you how to spend your leisure time."

The Massachusetts Democrat and his supporters emphasized that only the use -- and not the abuse -- of marijuana would be decriminalized if the resolution resulted in legislation. Video Watch Frank lay out the proposal »

The Drug Enforcement Administration says people charged with simple possession are rarely incarcerated. The agency and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy have long opposed marijuana legalization, for medical purposes or otherwise.

Marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, according to the drug control office.

"Smoked marijuana has not withstood the rigors of science -- it is not medicine and it is not safe," the DEA states on its Web site. "Legalization of marijuana, no matter how it begins, will come at the expense of our children and public safety. It will create dependency and treatment issues, and open the door to use of other drugs, impaired health, delinquent behavior, and drugged drivers."

Allen St. Pierre, spokesman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, likened Frank's proposal -- co-sponsored by Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas -- to current laws dealing with alcohol consumption. Alcohol use is permitted, and the government focuses its law enforcement efforts on those who abuse alcohol or drive under its influence, he said.

"We do not arrest and jail responsible alcohol drinkers," he said.

St. Pierre said there are tens of millions of marijuana smokers in the United States, including himself, and hundreds of thousands are arrested each year for medical or personal use. Is it time to legalize pot?

There have been 20 million marijuana-related arrests since 1965, he said, and 11 million since 1990, and "every 38 seconds, a marijuana smoker is arrested."

Rob Kampia, director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said marijuana arrests outnumber arrests for "all violent crimes combined," meaning police are spending inordinate amounts of time chasing nonviolent criminals.

"Ending arrests is the key to marijuana policy reform," he said.

Reps. William Lacy Clay, D-Missouri, and Barbara Lee, D-California, said that in addition to targeting nonviolent offenders, U.S. marijuana laws unfairly target African-Americans.

Clay said he did not condone drug use but opposes using tax dollars to pursue what he feels is an arcane holdover from "a phony war on drugs that is filling up our prisons, especially with people of color."

Too many drug enforcement resources are being dedicated to incarcerating nonviolent drugs users, and not enough is being done to stop the trafficking of narcotics into the United States, he said.

Being arrested is not the American marijuana smoker's only concern, said Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance Network. Those found guilty of marijuana use can lose their jobs, financial aid for college, their food stamp and welfare benefits, or their low-cost housing.

The U.S. stance on marijuana, Piper said, "is one of the most destructive criminal justice policies in America today."

Calling the U.S. policy "inhumane" and "immoral," Lee said she has many constituents who are harassed or arrested for using or cultivating marijuana for medical purposes. California allows medical marijuana use, but the federal government does not, she explained.

House Resolution 5843, titled the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2008, would express support for "a very small number of individuals" suffering from chronic pain or illness to smoke marijuana with impunity.

According to NORML, marijuana can be used to treat a range of illnesses, including glaucoma, asthma, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS and seizures.

Frank, who is chairman of the Financial Services Committee, said that about a dozen states have approved some degree of medical marijuana use and that the federal government should stop devoting resources to arresting people who are complying with their states' laws.

In a shot at Republicans, Frank said it was strange that those who support limited government want to criminalize marijuana.

Asked whether the resolution's passage would change his personal behavior, Frank quipped, "I do obey every law I vote for" but quickly said he did not use marijuana, nor does he encourage it.

"I smoke cigars. I don't think other people should do that. If young people ask me, I would advise them not to do it," he said.

If HR 5843 were passed, the House would support marijuana smokers possessing up to 100 grams -- about 3½ ounces -- of cannabis without being arrested. It would also give its blessing to the "nonprofit transfer" of up to an ounce of marijuana.

The resolution would not address laws forbidding growing, importing or exporting marijuana, or selling it for profit. The resolution also would not speak to state laws regarding marijuana use.

Original here

The Bush Administration's Secret Biowarfare Agenda

by Stephen Lendman

When it comes to observing US and international laws, treaties and norms, the Bush administration is a serial offender. Since 2001, it's:

-- spurned efforts for nuclear disarmament to advance its weapons program and retain current stockpiles;

-- renounced the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and asserted the right to develop and test new weapons;

-- abandoned the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) because it expressly forbids the development, testing and deployment of missile defenses like its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and other programs;

-- refuses to adopt a proposed Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) that would prohibit further weapons-grade uranium and plutonium production and prevent new nuclear weapons to be added to present stockpiles - already dangerously too high;

-- spends more on the military than the rest of the world combined plus multi-billions off-the-books, for secret programs, and for agencies like the CIA;

-- advocates preventive, preemptive and "proactive" wars globally with first-strike nuclear and other weapons under the nihilistic doctrines of "anticipatory self-defense" and remaking the world to be like America;

-- rescinded and subverted the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) to illegally develop new biowarfare weapons; in November 1969 and February 1970, Richard Nixon issued National Security Decision Memoranda (NSDM) 35 and 44; they renounced the use of lethal and other types of biological warfare and ordered existing weapons stockpiles destroyed, save for small amounts for research - a huge exploitable loophole; the Reagan and Clinton administrations took advantage; GHW Bush to a lesser degree;

-- GW Bush went further by renouncing the US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989 that prohibits "the Development, Production, and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons....;" on May 22, 1990, GHW Bush signed it into law to complete the 1972 Convention's implementation; what the father and Nixon established, GW Bush rendered null and void; "Rebuilding America's Defenses" is his central policy document for unchallengeable US hegemony; among other provisions, it illegally advocates advanced forms of biowarfare that can target specific genotypes - the genetic constitution of individual organisms.

A Brief Modern History of Biowarfare

-- the Hague Convention of 1907 bans chemical weapons;

-- WW I use of poison gas causes 100,000 deaths and 900,000 injuries;

-- Britain uses poison gas against Iraqis in the 1920s; as Secretary of State for War in 1919, Winston Churchill advocates it in a secret memo stating: "I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes;"

-- the 1928 Geneva Protocol prohibits gas and bacteriological warfare;

-- in 1931, Dr. Cornelius Rhoads infects human subjects with cancer cells - under the auspices of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Investigations; Rhoads later conducts radiation exposure experiments on American soldiers and civilian hospital patients;

-- in 1932, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study begins on 200 black men; they're not told of their illness, are denied treatment, and are used as human guinea pigs to follow their disease symptoms and progression; they all subsequently die;

-- in 1935, the Pellagra Incident occurs; after millions die over two decades, the US Public Health Service finally acts to stem the disease;

-- In 1935 - 1936, Italy uses mustard gas in conquering Ethiopia;

-- In its 1936 invasion, Japan uses chemical weapons against China; in the same year, a German chemical lab produces the first nerve agent, Tabun;

-- in 1940, 400 Chicago prisoners are infected with malaria to study the effects of new and experimental drugs;

-- the US has had an active biological warfare program since at least the 1940s; in 1941, it implements a secret program to develop offensive and allegedly defensive bioweapons using controversial testing methods; most research and development is at Fort Detrick, MD; beginning in 2008, Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore labs will also conduct it; production and testing are at Pine Bluff, AR and Dugway Proving Ground, UT;

-- from 1942 - 1945, (US) Chemical Warfare Services begins mustard gas experiments on about 4000 servicemen;

-- in 1943, the US begins biological weapons research at Fort Detrick, MD;

-- in 1944, the US Navy uses human subjects (locked in chambers) to test gas masks and clothing;

-- during WW II, Germany uses lethal Zyklon-B gas in concentration camp exterminations; the Japanese (in Unit 731) conduct biowarfare experiments on civilians;

-- in 1945, German offenders get immunity under Project Paperclip; Japanese ones as well - in exchange for their data and (for Germans at least) to work on top secret government projects in the US;

-- in 1945, the US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) implements "Program F;" it's the most extensive US study of the health effects of fluoride - a key chemical component in atomic bomb production; it's one of the most toxic chemicals known and causes marked adverse central nervous system effects; in the interest of national security and not undermining full-scale nuclear weapons production, the information is suppressed; fluoride is found naturally in low concentration in drinking water and foods; compounds of the substance are also commonly used for cavity-prevention, but few people understand its toxicity;

-- in 1946, VA hospital patients become guinea pigs for medical experiments;

-- in 1947, the US has germ warfare weapons; Truman withdraws the 1928 Geneva Protocol from Senate consideration; it's not ratified until 1974 and is now null and void under George Bush;

-- in 1947, the AEC's Colonel EE Kirkpatrick issues secret document #07075001; it states that the agency will begin administering intravenous doses of radioactive substances to human subjects;

-- in July 1947, the CIA is established; it begins LSD experiments on civilian and military subjects with and without their knowledge - to learn its use as an intelligence weapon;

-- in 1949, the US Army releases biological agents in US cities to learn the effects of a real germ warfare attack; tests continue secretly through at least the 1960s in San Francisco, New York, Washington, DC, Panama City and Key West, Florida, Minnesota, other midwest locations, along the Pennsylvania turnpike and elsewhere; more on outdoor testing below;

-- after the (official) 1950 Korean War outbreak, North Korea and China accuse the US of waging germ warfare; an outbreak of disease the same year in San Francisco apparently is from Army bacteria released in the city; residents become ill with pneumonia-like symptoms;

-- in 1950, the DOD begins open-air nuclear weapons detonations in desert areas, then monitors downwind residents for medical problems and mortality rates;

-- in 1951, African-Americans are exposed to potentially fatal stimulants as part of a race-specific fungal weapons test in Virginia;

-- in 1953, the US military releases clouds of zinc cadium sulfide gas over Winnipeg, Canada, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Fort Wayne, the Monocacy River Valley in Maryland, and Leesburg, VA - to determine how efficiently chemical agents can be dispersed;

-- in 1953, joint Army-Navy-CIA experiments are conducted in New York and San Francisco - exposing tens of thousands of people to the airborne germs Serratia marcescens and Bacillus glogigii;

-- in 1953, the CIA initiates Project MKULTRA - an 11 year research program to produce and test drugs and biological agents that can be used for mind control and behavior modification; unwitting human subjects are used;

-- in 1955, the CIA releases bacteria from the Army's Tampa, FL biological warfare arsenal - to test its ability to infect human populations;

-- from 1955 - 1958, the Army Chemical Corps continues LSD research (on over 1000 subjects) - to study its effect as an incapacitating agent;

-- in 1956, the US military releases mosquitoes infected with Yellow Fever over Savannah, GA and Avon Park, FL - to test the health effects on victims;

-- in 1956, Army Field Manual 27-10, The Law of Land Warfare, specifically states bio-chemical warfare isn't banned;

-- in 1960, the Army Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence authorizes LSD field tested in Europe and the Far East;

-- in 1961, the Kennedy administration increases chemical spending from $75 - $330 million; it authorizes Project 112 - a secret program (from 1962 - 1973) to test the effects of biological and chemical weapons on thousands of unwitting US servicemen; Project SHAD was a related project; subjects were exposed to VX, tabun, sarin and soman nerve gases plus other toxic agents;

-- in 1962, chemical weapons are loaded on planes for possible use during the Cuban missile crisis;

-- in 1966, the New York subway system is used for a germ warfare experiment;

-- in 1968, the Pentagon considers using some of its chemical weapons (including nerve gas) against civil rights and anti-war protesters;

-- in 1969, an apparent nerve agent kills thousands of sheep in Utah; Nixon issues two National Security Memoranda in 1969 and 1970; the first (in November 1969) ends production and offensive use of lethal and other type biological and chemical weapons; it confines "bacteriological/biological research for defensive purposes" and has other loopholes as well; the second (in February 1970) orders existing stockpiles destroyed, confines "toxins....research and development (to) defensive purposes only," and declares only small quantities will be maintained to develop vaccines, drugs and diagnostics - a huge exploitable loophole;

-- in 1969, the General Assembly bans herbicide plant killers and tear gases in warfare; the US is one of three opposing votes; despite being banned, open-air testing intermittently continues to the present, and the Pentagon apparently authorized it in its most recent annual report; it calls for developmental and operational "field testing of (CBW) full systems," not just simulations, and followed it up in a recent March 2008 test; in Crystal City, VA, it released perflourocarbon tracers and sulfur hexaflouride assuring residents it's safe; it's not and may harm persons with asthma, emphysema and other respiratory ailments;

-- in 1969, DOD's Dr. Robert MacMahan requests $10 million to develop a synthetic biological agent for which no natural immunity exists;

-- from the 1960s through at least the 1980s, the US assaults Cuba with biological agent attacks;

-- in 1970, US Southeast Asian forces conduct Operation Tailwind using sarin nerve gas in Laos; many die, including civilians; Admiral Thomas Moorer, former Joint Chiefs Chairman, confirmes the raid on CNN in 1998; under Pentagon pressure, CNN retracts the report and fires award-winning journalist Peter Arnett and co-producers April Oliver and Jack Smith because they refuse to disavow their report;

-- in 1971, US forces end direct use of Agent Orange in Southeast Asia; also in 1971 with CIA help, an anti-Castro paramilitary group introduces African swine fever into Cuba; it infects a half a million pigs and results in their destruction; a few months later a similar attack fails against Cuban poultry; in 1981, a covert US operation unleashes a type 2 dengue fever outbreak - the first in the Caribbean since the turn of the century involving hemorrhagic shock on a massive scale; over 300,000 cases are reported, including 158 fatalities;

-- in 1975, the Senate Church Committee confirms from a CIA memorandum that US "defensive" bioweapons are stockpiled at Fort Detrick, MD - including anthrax, encephalitis, tuberculosis, shellfish toxin, and food poisons;

-- in 1980, Congress approves a nerve gas facility in Pine Bluff, Arkansas;

-- during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, the US supplies Iraq with toxic biological and chemical agents; Ronald Reagan signs a secret order to do "whatever (is) necessary and 'legal' " to prevent Iraq from losing the war;" a 1994 congressional inquiry later finds that dozens of biological agents were shipped, including various strains of anthrax and precursors of nerve gas (like sarin), gangrene, and West Nile virus;

-- in 1984, Reagan orders M55 rockets retooled to contain high-yield explosives and VX gas; his administration begins researching and developing biological agents allegedly for "defensive purposes;"

-- in 1985 and 1986, the US resumes open-air biological agents testing; it likely never stopped;

-- in 1987, Congress votes to resume chemical weapons production;

-- in 1989, 149 nations at the Paris Chemical Weapons Conference condemn these weapons; after signing the treaty, it's revealed that the US plans to produce poison gas; at the UN, GHW Bush reaffirms the US commitment to eliminate chemical weapons in 10 years; the US implements the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989 - "to implement....the Prohibition of the Development, Production, and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and Their Destruction....;"

-- in 1990, GHW Bush signs the 1989 act making it illegal for the US to develop, possess or use biological weapons; Bush also signs Executive Order 12735 stating: the spread of chemical and biological weapons constitutes an "unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States;"

-- following the Gulf War, reports surface about US forces' health problems - later called Gulf War Syndrome; the likely cause - widespread use of depleted uranium, other toxic substances, and the illegal use (on nearly 700,000 theater forces) of experimental vaccines in violation of the Nuremberg Code on medical experimentation; over 12,000 have since died and over 30% are now ill from non-combat-related factors; they've since filed claims with the VA for medical care, compensation, and pension benefits;

-- in 1997, Cuba accuses the US of spraying crops with biological agents;

-- in 1997, the US ratifies the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) banning the production, stockpile and use of these substances;

-- in 2001, the Bush administration rejects the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) citing 38 problems with it, some called serious; claiming a need to counter chemical and biological weapons threats, it's spending multi-billions illegally to develop, test and stockpile "first-strike" chemical and biological weapons that endanger homeland security and threaten good relations with other countries;

-- all along, a BWC loophole allows appropriate types and amounts of biological agents to be used for "prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes" - construed to be defensive; it also permits "research," not "development;" the CIA took full advantage to conduct programs for offense, not defense or to further peace; further, the BWC includes nothing about genetic engineering because it didn't exist at the time.

The US Secret Bioweapons Program

In November 2001, Michel Chossudovsky used this title for his Global article. It was when "an impressive military arsenal of aircraft carriers and gun-boats" was building up in the Persian Gulf in preparation for "a major bombing operation....against Iraq" at a future designated time.

Back home, the administration used the 2001 anthrax attacks as "justification for extending the 'campaign against international terrorism' to Iraq....Washington singled out Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Syria and Libya of violating the international treaty banning weapons of germ warfare."

At the same time, ample evidence "confirms that the US has built an extensive arsenal of biological weapons (in blatant violation) of international laws and covenants." It was enlarged in the 1980s and 1990s but significantly expanded under George Bush on the pretext of being strictly "defensive" and to "curb the use of germ warfare by 'rogue states.' "

On October 29, 2002, the London Guardian reported that "Respected scientists on both sides of the Atlantic warned that the US is (illegally) developing a new generation of weapons that undermine and possibly violate international treaties on biological and chemical warfare" - ironically at the same time it accused Iraq of these same type violations.

University of Bradford international security professor Malcolm Dando and University of California microbiology lecturer Mark Wheelis accused the Bush administration of "encouraging a breakdown in arms control" treaties by secretly conducting these programs. Dando said they include:

-- developing a cluster bomb to disperse bioweapons;

-- building a bioweapons plant from commercially available materials to prove "terrorists" can do it;

-- genetically engineering a more potent anthrax strain;

-- producing dried and weaponized anthrax spores in quantities far larger than for research;

-- researching and producing hallucinogenic weapons such as BZ gas; and

-- developing "non-lethal" weapons similar to the gas Russia used to end the 2002 Moscow theater siege that killed around 170 people and injured hundreds.

In February 2008, the Sunshine Project suspended operations, but its website is still accessible. It was an NGO dedicated to banning and "avert(ing) the dangers of" bioweapons. In 2001, it accused the Bush administration of advancing "a plan to undermine international controls on biological weapons."

On May 8, 2002, it issued a press release titled "US Armed Forces Push for Offensive Biological Weapons Development - genetically engineered microbes that attack items such as fuel, plastics and asphalt" in violation of international law. The proposals date from 1997 and involve the (Washington, DC) Naval Research Laboratory and the (Brooks Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas) Armstrong Laboratory. They come at a time when the US rejected "legally-binding" UN inspections of "suspected" facilities producing weapons "explicitly for offense."

Additional documents have been suppressed and those known "are probably only the tip of the iceberg....The National Academies are also concealing related documents. After the Sunshine Project requested copies....on March 12, 2002, (they) placed a 'security hold' on the public file" without explanation. "The research proposed by the Air Force and Navy raises serious legal questions. Under the (1989) US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act, development of biological weapons, including those that attack materials, is subject to federal criminal and civil penalties." It also prohibits development, acquisition and stockpiling of agents intended as bioweapons.

On May 21, 2004, AP reported that arms control advocates warned the Bush administration that "proposed research for a new (Fort Detrick) Homeland Security center may violate an international ban on biological weapons and encourage other countries to follow." Experts said proposals for the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) flout bioweapons prohibitions by crossing the line between "defensive" research and banned weapons development.

On July 31, 2007 the London Guardian reported that the US is "Building (a) Treaty-Breaching Germ War Defence Centre" near Washington, DC" - NBACC. It's to be completed in 2008 and will be a "vast germ warfare laboratory intended to help protect the US against an attack with biological weapons, but critics say the laboratory's work will violate international law and its extreme secrecy will exacerbate a biological arms race (by) accelerat(ing) work on similar facilities around the world."

It will house "heavily guarded and hermetically sealed produce and stockpile the world's most lethal bacteria and viruses" - forbidden by the 1972 BWC and 1989 US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act. The Fort Detrick facility will be used for the new 160,000 square foot lab, and it's authorization coincided with the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people, and along with 9/11, unleashed everything that followed.

DHS calls Fort Detrick the home of "The National Interagency Biodefense Campus." Besides NBACC, other agencies there include:

-- the Health and Human Services' (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID);

-- the Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service and Foreign Disease-Weed Science Research Unit (FDWSRU); and

-- the Department of Defense's US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).

DHS says USAMRIID "conduct(s) basic and applied research on biological threats (to provide) cutting-edge medical research for the warfighter against biological threats." International law and bioweapons expert, Francis Boyle, disagrees. He says the "program constitutes clear violations of the international (1972 BWC) arms control treaty....ratified by the United States in 1975." He also cites BWC's preamble that states in part:

"....Parties to this Convention (are) Determined to act with a view to achieving effective progress towards general and complete disarmament, including the prohibition and elimination of all types of weapons of mass destruction, and convinced that the prohibition of the development, production and stockpiling of chemical and bacteriological (biological) weapons and their elimination, through effective measures, will facilitate the achievement of general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control...." The BWC goes on to say that use of these weapons are so "repugnant to the conscience of mankind....that no effort should be spared to minimize this risk."

In Boyle's view, Fort Detrick's NBACC and USAMRIID heighten risks because their work involves: "acquiring, growing, modifying, storing, packaging and dispersing classical, emerging and genetically engineered pathogens." This work is an "unmistakable hallmark of an offensive weapons program" in violation of the 1989 Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act that he authored. Even worse according to Edward Hammond, former director of the Sunshine Project: Recreating the deadly 1918 "Spanish flu" germ that killed an estimated 40 million worldwide (or other dangerous pathogens) increases "the possibility of (a) man-made disaster, either accidental or deliberate....for the entire world." If a single viral particle or cell escapes or is unleashed, an enormous outbreak may result with potentially catastrophic consequences.

The Fort Detrick plan derives from a Bush Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD-10) written April 28, 2004. It states: "Among our many initiatives we are continuing to develop more forward-looking analyses, to include Red Teaming efforts, to understand new scientific trends that may be exploited by our adversaries to develop biological weapons and to help position intelligence collectors ahead of the problem." Boyle calls it "a smoking gun" aimed at the BWC.

"Red Teaming means that we actually have people out there on a Red Team plotting, planning, scheming and conspiring how to use biowarfare" and sooner or later will unleash it using living organisms for military purposes. They may be viral, bacterial, fungal, or other forms that can spread over a vast terrain by wind, water, insect, animal, or humans, according to Jeremy Rifkin, author of "The Biotech Century." Rifkin also asserts it's "impossible to distinguish between defensive and offensive research in the field," and given this administration's penchant for lying and secrecy, other nations will be justifiably suspicious.

The Bush administration proceeded anyway. Since 9/11, it spent or allocated around $50 billion on bioweapons development through 11 federal departments and agencies, including DOD and DHS. For FY 2009, it wants an additional $8.1 billion or $2.5 billion more than in FY2008. It calls its program preventive and defensive and cites Project BioShield as an example. It became law in July 2004 as a 10 year program to develop countermeasures to biological, chemical, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents. It was, in fact, a gift to companies like Gilead Sciences, the company Donald Rumsfeld led as chairman from 1997 to 2001 (and remains a major shareholder) until he left to become George Bush's Defense Secretary.

It would have also required every American to be vaccinated under the Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act of 2005. It passed the Senate but not the House and would have, under a public emergency, allowed experimental or approved drugs to be used with insufficient knowledge of their safety - in violation of the Nuremburg Code on medical experimentation. It also would have immunized companies from liability and denied those harmed the right to sue.

Private Bioweapons Labs Cashing In

According to the Sunshine Project, "scores of US universities and biotechnology companies (since 2001) have benefitted handsomely from billions of dollars in 'biodefense' cash. Across the country, 'biodefense' labs are sprouting up like weeds. The unrelenting spigot of federal money (has) thousands of scientists and technicians" doing bioweapons research on some of the deadliest pathogens. But the problem is much greater than that:

-- projects underway are illegal;

-- immense secrecy enshrouds them; and

-- federal oversight is so lax that NIH safety guidelines aren't enforced and CDC poorly identifies problems it should address; as a result, "accidents are popping up everywhere" amidst a "pervasive cover-up culture" that hides them - in direct violation of federal rules and responsible practice that:

(1) require government agencies to protect the public from dangerous pathogens, and

(2) obligate research labs to disclose the nature of their work; failure to do so suggests alleged biodefense research is, in fact, cover for offensive biowarfare programs to complement Fort Detrick and other government site efforts.

The Sunshine Project believes about 400 private bioweapons labs now operate around the country with no public disclosure of their activities - and plenty of reasons to worry Francis Boyle that the Bush administration is up to mischief. It "sabotaged the Verification Protocol for the BWC (and) fully intend(s) to (engage in) research, development and testing of illegal and criminal offensive biowarfare programs." That prospect should frighten everyone.

Reporter Sherwood Ross for sure. He calls the administration's project "the costliest, most grandiose research scheme ever attempted (with) germ warfare capability....going forward under President Bush and in defiance of" US and international laws. Far worse, where once "germ warfare was an isolated happenstance, (today's efforts elevate it) to an instrument of (deadly and loathsome) policy.

Other Recent Developments

On February 21, 2008, the Sidney Morning Herald reported that the Bush administration rejected claims made by Indonesian Health Minister, Siti Fadilah Supari, in her book titled: "It Is Time for the World to Change! God's Hand Behind Bird Flu Virus." She questions whether the US is using bird flu samples collected from developing nations to develop biological weapons, not new vaccines as claimed.

On July 20, 2008, the Jakarta Post reported: "If there were a "National Darling Award" contest....Supari would probably win it. (Her) supporters praise her as a great third world heroine who dares challenge the global structure of injustice and inequality perpetrated by powerful states (like the US) and networks of international institutions. Most of the praise is based on opinions" from her new book mentioned above.

She claims the US is transferring virus samples to the Los Alamos National Laboratory. It's one of two US nuclear weapons labs that will operate new biological research facilities capable of researching and developing dangerous pathogens in violation of the BWC and US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989. California-based Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is the other one. On January 25, it began operating a new Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) lab. In August, Los Alamos is scheduled to complete a federally mandated environmental study for a similar lab to begin operations shortly thereafter. Given the Bush administration's penchant for secrecy, Supari's accusations may be justified.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) establishes biosafety classifications. BLS-4 ones, like for Ebola, are the most dangerous, in part, because no known cures exist. Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore currently operate BLS-2 labs. They'll now have BLS-3 ones to study infectious agents able to cause serious or fatal illnesses if inhaled. But there's no way to know if both labs, Fort Detrick, others like the former Edgewood Arsenal (now the Edgewood Area at the Aberdeen Proving Ground), Oak Ridge Ridge National Laboratory, and still more we don't know about will secretly research any type pathogens, including the most dangerous ones, for any purpose - offense or defense.

What is known is that government labs will study pathogens posing serious public health and safety threats. Ones like anthrax, botulism, brucellosis, plague, Rickettsia, tularemia, Avian influenza, H5N1 (the recent strain reported and called the most dangerous), and valley fever plus whatever others are planned but kept secret.

Most important is this. These labs conduct weapons research, so they'll likely focus on bioweapons and not follow BWC "prophylactic, protective, or other peaceful purposes" guidelines. For example, vaccines and potential biological weapons defenses may, in fact, be for offense. Distinguishing between the two is impossible so other nations and figures like Supari are suspicious.

They're not comforted by Lawrence Livermore's Lynda Seaver. On February 12, she told Arms Control Today that the US is "a signatory to the Biowarfare Convention and does not conduct bioweapons research." She also said most work there will be unclassified. On February 15, however, a CDC spokesperson suggested otherwise and informed Arms Control Today that Lawrence Livermore security restrictions are tight as they are at Los Alamos, Fort Detrick and other US weapons research facilities. They bar transparency and place strict limits on sharing select agents research to prevent other nations from knowing it exists or its purpose.

Further, later this year DHS will complete construction of the new Fort Detrick lab (NBACC), and a new $500 million animal research facility is planned. Both will have BLS-3 and 4 capabilities. They'll work on the most dangerous known pathogens and conduct controversial type threat assessment research - to develop and produce new biological weapons and develop defenses against them. Once again, differentiating between offense and defense is impossible, and given their penchant for deception and secrecy, no one takes Bush administration officials at their word nor should they.

Francis Boyle's "Biowarfare and Terrorism"

Boyle drafted the 1989 Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act and covers it in his 2006 book. It's now codified in Title 18 of the US Code, sections 175 - 178 and was the implementing legislation for the landmark 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).

MIT molecular biology professor Jonathan King wrote this about the book in its forward:

It "outlines how and why the United States government initiated, sustained and then dramatically expanded an illegal biological arms buildup....Boyle reveals how the new (multi-) billion-dollar US Chemical and Biological Defense Program has been reoriented (endorsing "first strike" CBW use in war) to accord with the Neo-Conservative pre-emptive strike agenda - this time by (illegal) biological and chemical warfare." This "represent(s) a significant emerging danger to our population (and) threaten(s) international relations among nations." These programs "are always called defensive (but) with biological weapons, defensive and offensive programs overlap almost completely."

"Boyle (also) sheds new light on the motives for the (2001) anthrax attacks, the media black hole of silence (about them), and why the FBI may never apprehended the perpetrators of this seminal crime of the 21st century." They killed five people, injured 17 others, and temporarily shut down Congress, the Supreme Court, and other federal operations. Army scientist Dr. Steven Hatfill was unfairly implicated as a "person of interest" but was never charged. He sued the Justice Department and in June was awarded $2.8 million and a $150,000 annuity for violating his privacy, leaking false and inflammatory information, costing him his job and reputation, and blasting his name all over the media for days. It was the beginning of the frightening events that followed.

Boyle is currently a leading proponent of an effort to impeach George Bush, Dick Cheney and other high-level administration figures for their crimes of war, against humanity and other grievous violations of domestic and international law. In his "Biowarfare and Terrorism," he sounds an alarm about the administration's bioweapons program and what it means for humanity. He fears "a catastrophic biowarfare or bioterrorist incident or accident (is) a statistical certainty." It highlights enormous new risks plus other frightening ones like the possibility of nuclear war and catastrophic fallout from it. That, permanent wars, a potential Andromeda Strain, police state justice, and destroying the republic are but five among other threats since the advent of George Bush and his roguish team.

In "Biowarfare and Terrorism," Boyle addresses the bioweapons threat as an expert on the subject and gives readers an historical perspective. He asserts that the US government dramatically expanded an illegal biological arms development, production, and buildup that endangers all humanity with its potential. It's part of an extremist agenda for unchallengeable power and right to unleash "proactive" wars with the most aggressive weapons in its arsensal - nuclear, chemical, biological, others, space-based ones, and new ones in development.

Since WW II, America has actively developed, tested, and used terror weapons, including biological ones. Even after Nixon ended the nation's biowarfare programs, they never stopped. The CIA remained active through a loophole in the law, then the Reagan administration reactivated what Nixon slowed down. It acted much like the current regime with many of the same officials espousing similar extremist views - that America must exploit its technological superiority and not let laws, norms, or the greater good deter them.

The Bush administration raised the stakes and threatens all humanity. Boyle believes it used 9/11 and the anthrax attacks to stampede Congress and the public into aggressive wars and a menu of repressive laws. He also thinks the FBI knows who's behind the anthrax attacks: criminal US government elements planning a police state and another frightening enterprise - to fight and win a future biowar. A possible nuclear one as well. Boyle sounds the alarm about what may lie ahead and its potential consequences.

In October 2003, the National Academy of Sciences did as well. It warned about the "misuse of tools, technology, or knowledge base of (bioweapons) research for offensive military or terrorist purposes." That's the present risk. It makes everyone unwitting subjects of a recklessly endangering experiment.

Original here