Saturday, February 7, 2009

Code Pink Confronts Karl Rove, Accuses Him of War Crimes
OPINION: Code Pink Confronts Karl Rove, Accuses Him of War Crimes

By Code Pink , Women For Peace - February 04, 2009

Guest-blogger Patricia Foulkrod, an acclaimed director and producer based in Los Angeles, describes her experience last night attempting a citzens' arrest of former Bush chief of staff Karl Rove at Loyola Marymount University. Her most recent documentary, "The Ground Truth: After the Killing Ends," follows Iraq soldiers from recruitment to basic training, from battlefield orders to postwar support for wounds, both physical and emotional.

Friends of mine in CODEPINK LA emailed me that Karl Rove would be speaking at Los Angeles' Loyola Marymount University as part of the school's annual First Amendment Week.  I then learned Rove would reportedly receive $30,000 by LMU for this 6 p.m  Happy Hour.  How many community college students could study the U.S. Constitution and the workings of Rove with his fee?  A question perhaps for future SAT tests.

I got another CODEPINK email, casually asking if I would be willing to attend, and at some point, handcuff him.  I knew they were not joking;  CODEPINK in San Francisco had tried last fall to handcuff Rove when he spoke at a conference there, surprising him and the press for a much more interesting day. Still,  I looked at their video clip and decided I'd fake the flu — I am a claustrophobic filmmaker. I like filming that does not involve jail, and going home after to feed my dog Bella before she eats the rest of the couch.  Jodie Evans, CODEPINK co-founder, tried to seduce me with one word  — elegant – she could count on me to dress up and handcuff Rove with style and elegance. Still, I emailed back and wrote that I was not a Republican-handcuffing kind of girl.

Then one of the Iraq veterans featured in my documentary, "The Ground Truth," gave me a call. His Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is recklessly ROVING across his brain, he said, his heart, his marriage. He can't work, hardly leaves the house, and has an appointment with Veteran's Affairs sometime in the vague future.  He voted for Obama but the hope and change jingle did not get past his intrusive thoughts.

I hung up and remembered beneath my irrational fear of very tight spaces is an even greater fear of Karl Rove being in the same room with the First Amendment.  I put on my long black velvet coat, my red high heels, and picked up a ten dollar pair of silver handcuffs CODEPINK left for me – just in case.

The first thing I heard outside Loyola's lecture hall were wonderful very loud protesting voices – the Obama victory has not seduced these students into forgiveness.  " Bush's Brain …Down the Drain."  Dozens of them were chanting and marching alongside a handful of adults, perhaps faculty members playing hookey.  I convinced a very nice LMU public relations person I was with a progressive online news show. Oh well.  She had seats left in the section next to a local reporter who agreed to take a photo of whatever I did.

As part of Loyola's First Amendment Week tradition, Rove was given five questions. First question: did he think the First Amendment was too far reaching and too broad?  "No," he replied, and went on for ten minutes to explain to us surfer heads why it had been so important for the White House to give no access, no leaks and no transparency for eight long years on anything except George W. Bush's swallowing the pretzel.  Rove explained how "grave" were possible breaches of trust by explaining how many Congress members came into Rove's office complaining about Bush and his policies, and then walked into Bush's office and sucked up to him.  He said we would not want some wayward comment or criticism by a member of Congress to end up on the front page of The New York Times.  "It would prevent people from telling the truth."  I was surrounded by nodding Republicans quietly discussing their hope that Michael Lewis could do for them what Emanuel did for Obama — "he cast Republican looking Democrats to run for office."   A fun-house feeling tingled underneath my velvet. The students in the back were not buying it.

The crowd asked question after question about Rove's subpoenas from Congress.  Two political science students quoted his testimony before Congress, chapter and verse.  I wanted to write their parents a thank you note.

I finally got my turn and stood up several feet away from the podium. "You have talked about the fact that the people behind the scenes, the invisible ones, are actually more powerful and more dangerous in the liberal press – you specifically said producers and editors.  Are you not describing yourself.  You have been the man behind the curtain for eight years and everything Bush did is tied to you.  But I am here to bring you a present…" (I raised my arms, and all the security people around him moved a few steps towards me.)

"I have interviewed over a 100 soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars – including many Republicans - and out of that 100 only maybe two have said that they felt the Iraq War has been a just and noble cause and a war worth fighting for…many are sick and wounded and they would like you to have these…" (I held up my handcuffs high), "AND THEY WOULD LIKE TO SEE YOU LOCKED UP IN THEM!"

The capacity filled room of 700 people exploded with mostly loud cheers and applause. Rove stopped and stared at me and came back with, "That has not been my experience," but because of the cheering, he had to wait before speaking.

He said he knew he was suppose to take another question but instead wanted to tell two stories, realizing the questions could get worse.  He spoke of a family who has lost a son another one in Iraq, and the father who is a doctor has now also enlisted in honor of his son. (I know this PR story as it has been reported more than once).  Rove went on to tell the story of a very disfigured soldier who keeps a plaque on his door – which Rove insisted reads, "Do not feel sorry for me, I did what I did for the people I love and my country."

By the end of the night, Rove was $30,000 richer, and both wars live on, with the Afghanistan occupation about to grow more deadly. We need to ensure First Amendment gets a new agent — and flashy handcuffs.

U.S. commanders favor slower Iraq pullout

U.S. commanders favor slower Iraq pullout

U.S. soldiers stand at attention during a handover ceremony of Al-Awad Joint security station from the U.S. military forces to Iraqi security forces north of Baghdad February 4, 2009. REUTERS/Saad Shalash

By Andrew Gray

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. military planners have drawn up three options to allow President Barack Obama to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq, with senior commanders favoring the slowest of the three, officials said on Saturday.

The timelines under discussion are 16 months, proposed by Obama as a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, 19 months and 23 months, the officials said.

"The focus of the effort is on those three options," said a U.S. official familiar with the process.

A U.S. defense official said U.S. Army generals Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, favored the 23-month option.

"Odierno and Petraeus have said that we really need 23 months to do this without jeopardizing the security gains that we've secured," the official said.

Both officials, who spokes on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said they did not believe the options had been presented to Obama yet.

Obama made opposition to the Iraq war a central plank of his campaign platform.

He suggested all U.S. combat troops would be out of the country in the first 16 months of his administration. But he has also pledged to listen to the advice of commanders.

Obama has said the war in Afghanistan should be the U.S. military's priority and promised to add to the 36,000-strong U.S. force there battling a growing insurgency.

The United States has around 144,000 troops in Iraq, where violence has declined dramatically in the past year and a half, following several years of heavy bloodshed that brought the country to the brink of all-out civil war.

U.S. commanders have repeatedly cautioned against withdrawing troops from Iraq too quickly, arguing that the country remains fragile.

A senior White House official played down any differences between the president and military commanders.

"There's been a very good back and forth in a very logical process that has allowed the president to hear from commanders and forces at all levels," the official said.

"Fact is that they are coming to a meeting of the minds on troops and on the need for a diplomatic and political strategy to end the war in Iraq and ease the strain on the troops and their families," the official added.

Even once all U.S. forces designated as combat troops leave Iraq, Obama has said a residual force would remain to train Iraqi security personnel, protect U.S. diplomats and conduct counterterrorism missions.

That force is likely to consist of tens of thousands of troops, military officials and analysts say.

Under a pact between Washington and Baghdad sealed late last year as the Bush administration prepared to leave office, all U.S. forces are to leave the country by the end of 2011.

U.S. officials have raised the prospect, however, that U.S. troops could remain longer with the agreement of Iraqi authorities to support the country's own security forces.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason; editing by Eric Beech)

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Retreat in Spending
A Retreat in Spending
As Obama's White House Shifts U.S. Priorities, The Defense Industry Prepares to Retrench

By Dana A. Hedgpeth and Steven Mufson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, February 6, 2009; D01

After the massive buildup in defense spending during the Bush administration, the defense industry is in the line of fire.

President Obama has vowed to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq and has hailed the role of America's "soft power." And a bulging federal deficit will force a tough look at pricey weapons systems such as the F-22 fighter jet and a new Navy destroyer.

"The spigot of defense spending that opened on 9/11 is closing," Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "With two major campaigns ongoing, the economic crisis and resulting budget pressures will force hard choices on this department."

Defense contractors are lobbying Congress and taking out advertisements arguing against cutbacks when the economy is already suffering. Some are also angling to secure pieces of the stimulus bill for nondefense portions of their businesses.

Nevertheless, the most vulnerable areas for defense firms are big, costly new weapons systems. Gates is due to make several decisions on weapons programs.

A March 1 deadline looms on whether to order more of Lockheed Martin's F-22 fighter jets or shut down the line. Gates also has to figure out whether to buy the more expensive DDG-1000 Zumwalt class destroyer for the Navy or the less costly DDG-51. An effort to build a fleet of 23 presidential helicopters, at a cost of $500 million each, totaling $11 billion, could be vulnerable because of rising costs, analysts say.

In the Bush administration, Gates delayed awarding a contract to either Northrop Grumman and its partner EADS or Boeing in a $40 billion deal to build an aerial refueling tanker for the Air Force. He also is expected to award a multibillion dollar contract for a search-and-rescue helicopter and to decide whether to order more of Boeing's C-17 transport planes.

"The budget is primarily on ships, planes and tanks," said Jacques Gansler, a Pentagon weapons buyer under former president Bill Clinton who served as an adviser to Obama's campaign. "We'll see reductions because these are so expensive."

For the firms, the stakes are huge. Of the Pentagon's $312 billion in procurement spending in fiscal year 2007, $28 billion went to Lockheed Martin, according to, an oversight project run by OMB Watch. Boeing ranked second with $23.2 billion; Northrop Grumman took in $17.9 billion; General Dynamics raked in $13.6 billion and Raytheon received $11.1 billion.

For the moment, most defense contractors expect no shortage of work. Even if Obama fulfills his pledge to bring U.S. troops home, the huge task of moving them -- and their equipment -- out of Iraq will require new kinds of logistical support. Equipment worn out in Iraq's harsh climate will need replacing, too. Moreover, the president is planning to add U.S. troops in Afghanistan, which will require equipment, supply caravans and more.

"There will be some shifting of where funds are allocated," said Stan Soloway, head of the Professional Services Council, which represents contractors. "I don't think the total spending is going to decrease dramatically in the next couple of years."

The first hints of where the Obama administration intends to go will come when he presents a budget to Congress in mid-February. But staff members on the Armed Services committees say a more realistic defense budget likely won't be ironed out before late March or early April.

Some analysts doubt that Obama would shoot down weapons programs and close their production lines in a recession. The downturn is already taking its toll. Earlier this week, Northrop Grumman posted its first quarterly loss in seven years. The company said it lost $2.5 billion in the fourth quarter in part because it had to write down the value of two acquisitions. Last week, Boeing said it planned to lay off 10,000 workers, or about 6 percent of its workforce, in its military and commercial aircraft businesses.

"This White House does not believe in stimulating the economy by buying more weapons. But it understands that if you cut weapons programs it could eliminate tens of thousands of jobs, causing further damage to the economy," said Loren Thompson, a consultant to companies in the defense industry and the Air Force.

The defense contractors are trying to drive home that point.

Marion C. Blakey, president of the Aerospace Industries Association -- one of the nation's biggest trade groups -- said the industry is meeting with Obama officials and Congress to emphasize that the industry is "fundamental to national security."

"The defense industry has a genuine stimulus on the economy," she said. "Anything that undercuts that position involves very serious economic trade-offs. . . . If you start shutting down production lines and taking people off lines, that means a loss of jobs when those people are really contributing to the economy. Those are good, middle-class jobs."

In recent weeks, Lockheed Martin has run newspaper ads promoting its F-22 fighter jet, saying that the company employs about 25,000 people at 1,000 suppliers in 44 states across the country to produce it. The Aerospace Industries Association -- has raised $2 million from 17 of its members for an ad and lobbying campaign to promote what it says are 2 million jobs that its members' weapons programs create.

"We're now talking about trying to cut billions of dollars out of the defense budget at a time when there's a push to keep and stimulate the economy with jobs," said Lawrence J. Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington who advised Obama on defense issues during his campaign. "When you've got a $1 trillion debt and you have an $840 billion stimulus package to pay for and you're trying to boost your economy, people will say, 'Do you really want to have this big fight to cut something like the F-22 now?' You would find it difficult to make those cuts."

But the F-22 program's fate remains uncertain. The top defense budget expert at the Office of Management and Budget, Steven M. Kosiak, last year wrote a paper suggesting that it might make sense to order the manufacture of fewer F-22 fighter jets than the less advanced planes they are replacing.

The Pentagon might also delay or pare back orders for Lockheed's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, analysts say.

Gates told congressional leaders that new weapons systems should be able to address a "hybrid" threat from enemies that combine high technology with insurgent tactics. Some analysts point out that he has noted that the F-22 has not been flown in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I want us to look for systems that have the maximum possible flexibility across the broadest possible range of conflict," he said in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee. Strategic decisions combined with technical difficulties could also reduce spending on missile defense.

During the campaign, Obama said he didn't want to spend money on unproven missile defense programs, according to Travis Sharp, a military policy analyst at the Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation. Defense contractors have some prospects. Most of the biggest companies have built up nondefense areas of business such as health care services and retrofitting federal buildings for greater energy efficiency, many of which stand to gain from the big stimulus bill moving through Congress.

Lockheed Martin is preparing to expand its fast-growing information technology division as the government moves to computerize health care records. It also expects to bid on work related with cyber security and renewable energy projects, both priorities for the new administration.

Northrop Grumman plans to use its Newport News, Va., shipyard to manufacture heavy components for nuclear plants in a joint venture with the French firm Areva, which is banking on new federal support for nuclear power construction.

Although sharp cuts in defense spending might not be imminent, defense industry executives say the boom times that began under Bush are over. Boeing's chief executive Jim McNerney said in a recent earnings call with Wall Street analysts that he's "expecting pressure on defense budgets in light of the economic recovery and financial rescue packages."

Lockheed Martin's chief executive Bob Stevens said he expects spending to be curtailed. He said the Bush administration had been looking to increase defense spending by as much as 13 percent to $581 billion.

"I think it's just fair game to ask and permit the incoming administration to take a look at that and see what they want to do in sculpting that top line," Stevens said. "It may not be $581 billion. It may well be something less than that."

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Reports: Gap In Future Defense Budget. AV WK.

HAWK: Feb 5, 2009

The Pentagon’s expected funding needs from now through 2013 are far greater than the Defense Department forecast in its 2009 Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) projection, congressional researchers told the House Budget committee Feb. 4.

“By all accounts, there appears to be a gap between projected budgets and the cost of the programs,” said Stephen Daggett, a specialist in defense policy and budgets at the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

He noted Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has urged that the defense budget should have a floor of about 4 percent of Gross Domestic Product. DOD outlays in fiscal 2008 — including the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — totaled 4.2 percent. Applying the 4 percent floor to the DOD base budget (not including war costs) “would entail an increase of about $100 billion in fiscal 2010 compared to last year’s projection, and even larger amounts in future years,” Daggett said in his written testimony.

The hearing was a follow-up to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) finding last month that carrying out the plans proposed in the 2009 FYDP would require long-term, inflation-adjusted defense spending at levels higher than at the peak of the Reagan administration buildup in the mid-1980s.

“We project that in order to buy the current program without cutting back on the number of aircraft or ships or other major weapons systems … would cost another $43 billion a year on average,” said J. Michael Gilmore, assistant director of the CBO.

Gilmore and Daggett said several factors were driving the projected rise in defense budgets: the growing costs of pay and benefits for military personnel; plans to increase the size of U.S. ground forces; and buying new systems with advanced capabilities that are turning out to be much more expensive than the systems they are going to replace.

Over the past eight years, Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-S.C.) said, “defense spending has enjoyed a rather permissive environment.” He added that it will be difficult to maintain that spending level amid a receding economy and surging deficit.

“We’ll spend whatever we need to see that our national security needs are met,” Spratt said, cautioning “only now more than ever, given the budget we’ve got, we must ensure we do so in a fiscally sound manner.”

Inhofe and Cornyn Offer Defense Stimulus Amendments. WEEKLY STANDARD.

HAWK: Today, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) offered amendments to the "stimulus" bill that would increase defense spending. The Inhofe amendment would allocate $5.3 billion for equipment, infrastructure, and personnel, while the Cornyn amendment would provide $2 billion primarily for National Guard and Reserve forces. Both senators proposed cutting other programs in the "stimulus" bill to offset the cost of their amendments. (See Thomas Donnelly on the case for a defense stimulus here.)

Inhofe's prepared floor remarks are after the jump.

Investing in our nation's defense provides thousands of sustainable American jobs and provides for our nation's security. Major defense procurement programs are all manufactured in the US with our aerospace industry alone employing more than 655,000 workers spread across over most of the US.

At the end of last month, conservative economist Martin Feldstein wrote in the Post about the "$800 Billion Mistake" referring to this stimulus bill. In that article, he pointed out the value of infrastructure spending on domestic military bases.

In fact, it is clear that infrastructure investment, along with defense spending and tax cuts, has a greater stimulative impact on the economy than anything else the government can do.

That is what I am trying to do with this amendment. My amendment increases defense procurement spending by $5,300,000,000 to manufacture or acquire vehicles, equipment, ammunition, and materials required to reconstitute military units.

It appropriates, with a full offset within the bill, $5,232,000,000 for procurement for the Department of Defense to reconstitute military units to an acceptable level of readiness.

This funding will go to procurement of aircraft, tracked and non-tracked combat vehicles, missiles, weapons, ammunition, communications equipment, maintenance equipment, naval coastal warfare boats, salvage equipment, riverine equipment, expeditionary material handling equipment, and other expeditionary items.

It doesn't increase the cost of the bill by identifying proposals in this bill which highlight a part of the frivolous spending. These offsets include:

-$20 million for fish passage barrier removal,

-$20 million for trail improvements,

-$25 million for habitat restoration,

-$34 million to renovate the Department of Commerce,

-$600 million for the federal government to buy cars - specifically hybrid and battery cars,

-$13 million to research volunteer activities,

-$650 million in coupons for digital TV (DTV) transition,

-$70 million for a support computer for climate change research,

-$1 billion for Census,

-$850 million for Amtrak, and

-$2 billion reduction from $6 billion to use "green technology" to revamp federal office buildings.

This is a common sense amendment with real stimulative impact.

Posted by John McCormack on February 4, 2009 06:00