Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Howard Zinn, Social Security

Elaine (Like Maria Said Paz) and C.I. (The Common Ills) have both recommended Original Zinn which is a series of conversations with Howard Zinn conducted by David Barsamian. It is $13.95 and put out by Harper Perennial. I know how to grab links via copy & paste, not via insert (C.I.'s giving me a tutorial over the phone Monday) so that will be it for links.

On page 155, this appears:

[DB]: Talk about Social Security. Why are efforts being made to privatize it coming now?

[Zinn]: The Social Security system is only in danger if polices are put into effect that will endanger it -- like privatization. The Social Security fund can be made adequate by applying the tax in a progressive way to the wealthiest part of the population, who now have a cap on what they contribute to the fund. Clearly, the economic interests behind Bush see in privatization great opportunity for profit. I think it also should be seen as part of a general push to do away with government support of social programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

Among the many frightening things about Barack Obama for me -- in addition to his use of homophobia -- is the fact that he repeats GOP talking points about Social Security. You might also want to pay attention to his talk about education which sounds like an attack on teachers and teachers' unions.

Bambi sounds too much like the current White House occupant and I don't see any "change" in having one Bully Boy replace another.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, February 13, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, one CBS News employee is released by kidnappers, it sounds like a treaty when Iraqi government spokespeople describe it, and more.

Starting with war resistance.
Courage to Resist notes a new campaign for Andrew Hegerty, Jeffrey Gauntt and James Blanks, all US service members, all in Mannheim, Germany in a US military prison for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan. They note Agustin Aguayo's confinement there earlier and how much letters meant to him. Aguayo went to Iraq as a medic. He found that training and ethics were disregarded (that's putting it mildly and Aguayo's comments are echoed by many others who were sent to Iraq as medics). While serving, Aguayo had a religious awakening or deepening. Seeing death and destruction strengthened previous beliefs and led him to contemplate additional issues. Not surprising and not uncommon. But the military command attempted to play dumb, attempted to act as though such a thing never happened, could never happen. Aguayo applied for CO status.
He was then informed that his CO status would be determined AFTER his second tour of Iraq. On his first tour, he'd refused to load his gun due to his religious deepening. While this was going on, his fight for CO status was also going through the federal courts. Despite that, the US military told him he was going back to Iraq. Aguayo self-checked out briefly trying to demonstrate how serious he was about not returning to Iraq. When that message was not received, he self-checked out again and was gone for less than the 30-day rule of thumb (30 days or more usually is seen by the US military as desertion, less is generally seen as AWOL). Aguayo turned himself in. He was court-martialed and charged with desertion which was only one of the many violations in the military 'justice' system. He is appealing the verdict from his court-martial (he has already served the time the judge sentenced him to).

Courage to Resist provides contact info for James Blanks (due out this month), Jeffrey Gauntt (due out April 2008) and Andrew Hegerty (due out in August 2008) are reachable at: Unit 29723, Box LL, APO, AE 09028-9723, USA -- Just put the name of whichever of the three you are writing to.

And while you're writing, Canada's Supreme Court has refused to hear appeals on the issue of safe harbor status for war resisters in Canada. The country's Parliament remains the best hope for safe harbor war resisters may have. You can make your voice heard by the Canadian parliament which has the ability to pass legislation to grant war resisters the right to remain in Canada. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use.

Monday's snapshot notes the 44th Munich Conference on Security Policy and the protests taking place which included war resister Chris Capps who was an awarded a peace medal from the Munich American Peace Committee. Tim Slater (Media with Conscience) provides some of Capps speech:

To all of you here, at this protest: I would like to thank you, not just for awarding me this prize, but also for exposing and standing up to the arrogance of those leaders who commonly make decisions that destroy the lives of those who certainly are not a threat to their nations' security. To be certain, it is the legitimate right of a just government to protect the lives of its citizens. However, this is not accomplished by bombing and invading countries on the other side of the world where the majority of their citizens live in poverty. The kind of 'security' policies my country, the United States, has pursued over the last few years has enraged much of the world's Muslim population, and brought more desperation to Iraq and Afghanistan; it has led to loss of privacy and liberty for American citizens, and it has reverted my country to the dark ages when torture was an acceptable form of interrogation. Today, as it stands, America has invaded Iraq supposedly to defend its "national security". The allegations that Iraq was a threat to America have since been proven false. As a result, four thousand American soldiers have died in Iraq, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are dead over thirty thousand Americans are wounded, and millions of Iraqis have become refugees. It is time to show the people in there [indicating the location where the Munich Security Conference was being held] that military force should only be a very last resort, that it should not be used until all other options are exhuasted, and until it is completely transparent and evident that we truly must take these actions to defend ourselves. Thousands of soldiers have made the same decision I have: the decision not to do the bidding of those who consider them Federal property. Many more people have refused to pay their taxes until these wars come to an end; and then there are people like you who have taken to the streets to show their outrage about these destructive policies. It is going to take all of us and all of our efforts to put these policies to an end and hold our leaders accountable for them.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb,
Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

IVAW is organizing a March 2008 DC action:
In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan
March 13th through 16th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation. Dee Knight (Workers World) notes, "IVAW wants as many people as possible to attend the event. It is planning to provide live broadcasting of the sessions for those who cannot hear the testimony firsthand. 'We have been inspired by the tremendous support the movement has shown us,' IVAW says. 'We believe the success of Winter Soldier will ultimately depend on the support of our allies and the hard work of our members'." As part of their fundraising efforts for the event, they are holding houseparties and a recent one in Boston featured both IVAW's Liam Madden and the incomprable Howard Zinn as speakers.

Earlier this month
David Ovalle (Miami Herald) reported on 21-year-old Alex Lotero, an Iraq War veteran who has been disagnosed with PTSD but still could not get treatment forcing him to self-check out (they did, however, offer him a discharge that would strip him of all of his benefits -- an offer that should result in a Congressional investigation). Lotero was in jail at the time. Today Ovalle reports that Lotero remains in jail after "nearly two weeks without seeing a judge after his arrest on charges of going AWOL" and quotes Anady Lotero (his mother) explaining that during this two weeks, he hasn't been receiving "his usual medications for anxiety, sleep disorder and back pain." Ovalle explains, "On Monday, Maj. Nathan Banks, an Army spokesman in Washington, said the rules actually allow for 30 days to pick up a soldier who is absent without leave. Often, the military will ask a jail to release a soldier and send him a bus ticket to his home base. Lotero, however, will be picked up by an 'extradition team' sent from Fort Benning, Ga., Banks said." AP quotes Adrieen Willis of Veterans for America who says the transfer should have taken place already ("within 72 hours"), "He hasn't seen a lawyer, he hasn't had any of his medication, he hasn't had any of the rights of an American citizen, so it's a little concerning. It's very odd that he can be sitting there without representation, without seeing a judge for 30 days." Very odd and that also describes a soldier Erin Emery (Denver Post) reported on Sunday: "A Fort Carson Soldier who says he was in treatment at Cedar Springs Hospital for bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse was released early and ordered to deploy to the Middle East with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team. The 28-year-old specialist spent 31 days in Kuwait and was returned to Fort Carson on Dec. 31 after health care professionals in Kuwait concurred that his symptoms met criteria for bipolar disorder and 'some paranoia and possible homicidal tendencies,' according to e-mails obtained by The Denver Post. The soldier, who asked not to be identified because of the stigma surrounding mental illness and because he will seek employment when he leaves the Army, said he checked himself into Cedar Springs on Nov. 9 or Nov. 10 after he attempted suicide while under the influence of alcohol. He said his treatment was supposed to end Dec. 10 but his commanding officers showed up at the hospital Nov. 29 and ordered him to leave."

Turning to other abuses, from the front page no less,
James Risen (New York Times) reports on women working for US corporations reporting sexaul assaults in "by co-workers while working as contractors in Iraq but now find themselves in legal limbo, unable to seek justice or even significant compensation. Many of the same legal and logistical obstacles that have impeded other types of investigations involving contractors in Iraq, like shootings involving security guards for Blackwater Worldwide, have made it difficult for the United States government to pursue charges related to sexual offenses. The military justice system does not apply to them, and the reach of other American laws on contractors working in foreign war zones remains unclear five years after the United States invasion of Iraq." UPI notes Jamie Leigh Jones was among those offering testimony to the US House Judiciary Committee. Maddy Sauer (ABC News) reports Jones and other victims of sexual assault explained how the arbitration clause in employment contracts for KBR and others requires victims "to argue their cases of sexual harassment, assault and rape before secretive arbitration panels rather than in an open court before a judge and jury." Feminist Wire Daily recaps, "Jamie Leigh Jones, a former KBR employee testified again on Tuesday at a congressional hearing that she was drugged and gang-raped by a group of her co-worker in the Green Zone KBR camp in Iraq in 2005" and reports on the second woman offering testiomny: "Mary Beth Kineston, an American truck driver for KRB, says she was sexually assaulted by a fellow driver, who continued to work for KRB even after she made a complaint. Subsequently, she was groped by another KRB worker and was fired when she attempted to place a second complaint." Maddy Sauer quotes US House Rep Ted Poe who opposes the arbitration route (at least in sexual assault cases) and states, "Air things out in a public forum of a courtroom. That's why we have courts in the United States." Risen notes, "Ms. Jones and her lawyers said 38 women who worked as contractors in Iraq, Kuwait and other countries had contacted her since she testified" in December "to discuss their own experiences. Now Congressional leaders are seeking answers from the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies to try to determine the scope of the threats facing women who are contractors." Risen also quotes Pamela Jones who worked for KBR in Kuwait and reported her sexual assault even though she knew that doing so meant "that you could lose your job."

Not a lot of respect for health care in Iraq either. Which is how
Sunday reports included of a US raid on a hospital. Reuters reported that the al-Rashad mental hospital in Baghdad was raided (citing an official at the hospital and an official with the Iraq Health Ministry) and the hospital's "acting director [was arrested], accusing him of workining with al Qaeda and recruiting mentally ill women and using them in suicide bombing operations" which revolves around the unproven claim that the February 1st Baghdad pet markets bombings were the result of women who were mentally challenged/disabled. Today Steve Lannen (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on the arrest that US Rear Adm. Greg Smith briefed on today, "A senior American official who asked not to be named because he wasn't authorized to discuss the case publicly said American investigators now thought the bombers were adults -- one in her 20s, the other in her 30s -- with long histories of psychiatric conditions including depression and schizophrenia. . . . The administrator who's being questioned is suspected of using his access to mental-patient records and possibly providing them to Islamic extremists, the official said." Smith's remarks on this today were:

On Sunday, Iraqi and coalition forces detained a hospital administrator in connection with the possible exploitation of mentally impaired women by al-Qaeda. On February 1st, two women were used to deliver a backpack filled with explosives and a suicide vest into the crowded pet markets in Baghdad. As part of the investigation into these tragic events, last Sunday, Iraqi and coalition forces detained the acting administrator of the al-Rashad Physciatric Hospital of Baghdad at his office and conducted a thorough search of the facility. The administrator remains in coalition force detention and is being questioned to determine what role, if any, he may have played in supplying al-Qaeada with information regarding patients at the al-Rashad Psychiatric Hospital or from other medical facilities in Baghdad. Because this is an ongoing investigation, I'm not at liberty to discuss any more details on this particular incident but will provide more information as it becomes available.

99 was the number of people who died in the two Baghdad bombings at the start of the month,
according to CBS and AP who also note, "Iraq's parliament on Wednesday passed three key pieces of legislation that set a date for provincial elections, allot the US $48 billion for 2008 spending, and provide limited amnesty to detainees in Iraqi custody. The three measures were bundled together for one vote to satisfy the demands of minority Kurds who feared they might be double-crossed on their demand that the budget allot 17 percent to their semiautonomous regional government in the north." Reuters apparently received a new pair of pom-poms thereby explaining their use of the term "breakthrough" to describe the passage of the 2008 budget . . . The budget for 2008 that should have passed last year but instead was passed February 13th of 2008 and only after threats to disband the Iraqi Parliament.

Staying with legislatures, in the US, the House Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on Defense, chaired by US House Rep John Murtha, met this morning and heard begging from government officials for more money. Apparently explaining why the US does not have health care or an adequately funded educational system, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates declared that "we must make the choices and investments necessary to protect the security, prosperity and freedom of Americans for today and future generations." Gates declared? Via Gordon England, the deputy of the department. When begging for a $35,9 billon increase, you'd think the head of the department could show up. But he does have an excuse, he has "
a fracture to his right shoulder sustained when he slipped on some ice. . . Secretary Gates has been examined by a physician and is receiving treatment for this injury. He continues to perform all other duties and responsibilities of his position."

In Diyala Province and Anbar Province, the 'Awakening' Councils have been on strike. The US collaborators, paid approximately $300 a month, are
the focus of a posting by a McClatchy Newspapers correspondent at Inside Iraq:

I believe the Americans tried to follow the steps of the awakening council in Anbar which was created by the sheikhs of Anbar province tribes. The mistake of the Americans was not studying the psychological side of Anbar experience. People of Anbar are almost from one main tribe and they all suffered from Qaida. When they decided to fight Qaida, they gathered their efforts to work as one real team because they wanted to end their suffering. They formed their awakening council and they succeeded because they had an exact goal. There is no way to compare between the awakening council of Anbar and any other awakening council whether its formed by Iraqis or American. Anbar awakening council is the real copy while the others are imitations.
Since almost one weak, the awakening council in one of Baghdad 's neighborhood and in Diyala province suspended their cooperation with the government. They both accuse the official security forces (police and army) of attacking these councils. The awakening council in Amiriyah neighborhood west Baghdad says that a joint force of the Iraqi and the US armies arrested some of its members. The supporters of the awakening council in Diyala demonstrate for the last four days demanding to depose the police chief of Diyala accusing him with the sectarian violence.

The 'Awakening' Council was addressed in the press conference (held by M-NF with Smith leading) today by Iraqi government spokesperson Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh who declared, "The Iraqi government supports all the Awakening Groups whether they were in Tikrit, Salah ad Din, Diyala, Anbara or even in Mosul. According to the potentials that the Government of Iraq views so that the security issue could be under the responsibility of the Iraqi forces. This is the policy of the Iraqi government with the Awakenings. We think that the Iraqi forces cannot perform the security services in the hot zones without the support from those people including the Awakenings and the members in the Awakenings." Rear Adm. Smith then went on to assure that the US military has always been in a "strong partnership" with that striking 'Awakening' members in Diyala Province and that talks "are ongoing". al-Dabbagh noted the treaty the White House hopes to structure and enter into with the puppet government (without any consent from the US Congress), "The negotiations with the United States; we still haven't set a date for that. Of course there are some points that the Iraqi government will take into consideration because Iraq seeks to build some really good relationships with the Americans. And the current relationship between the United States and the Multi-National Forces and Iraq is actually a relationship imposed on Iraq because Iraq lost the war. And that's why Iraq has been imposed by resolutions by the Security Council. And Iraq now is gaining back its sovereignty. Iraq wanted to be removed from the 7th Chapter from the United Nations so that it will enter some negotiations as a country that has full sovereignty so that it can maintain the best interests of the . . . of his people. We don't want Iraq to be a source or a starting point to any attack to any other countries. And we don't want any kind of military bases, long-term military bases in Iraq in addition to many other detailed things that needs much more sessions of negotiations so that we can reach to the best interests . . . to something that serves the best interests of both the United States and America . . . and Iraq." Good he remembered to work in Iraq there. What he's describing is involved and does require the US Congress. Meanwhile, the wounded Robert Gates got another blow today when another Iraqi official spoke publicly.
Peter Graff (Reuters) reports that Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, the country's National Security Advisor, states that US forces should continue the drawdown as planned, without the 'pause' that Robert Gates and US Gen. David Peteraeus favor. He wants the figure below 100,000 (100,000 US service members stationed in the country). And, possibly most interesting, he declared that regardless of whether the Democratic Party's presidential nomination went to Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama and that the chosen then went on to win, he didn't see US forces leaving: "When they are in the oval office, they will think twice and they will consult with commanders on the ground." Wow, more truth than 'anti-war' 'leaders' like Tom Hayden can offer as they rush to cheerlead Obama. But then the 'anti-war' 'leader' Hayden is writing about such end-the-war issues as . . . super-delegates.

In some of today's reported violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad mortar attack wounded one person and that two US service members were injured in a Baghdad bombing. Reuters notes a Falluja roadside bombing left two people injured.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 people were shot dead ("building workers" en route to work) by unknown assailants in Diyala Province and -- included in this section because the unknown assailants are described as "gunmen" -- an invasion of al Somood primary school outside Baghdad resulted in a school guard's wife being beaten and her son hung. In addition to the five construction workers shot dead, Reuters notes two more were injured.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses discovered in Baghdad while a head was discovered in Khalis and, falling back to yesterday, a corpse was discovered in Kirkuk.

Damien McElroy (Telegraph of London) reported this morning that talks "with members of a faction of" the Mahdi Army, were supposed to lead to the release of the two employees of CBS News kidnapped on Sunday. Michael Holden and Mohammed Abas (Reuters) report that the translator has been released but the CBS correspondent has not and, as Heather Langan (Bloomberg News) notes, "The U.S. television network hasn't identified them."

January 24th snapshot noted Martha Burk's "Gender Budgets, Anyone" in the new issue of Ms. magazine, Winter 2008. It is now out and the magazine's issued a press release on the issue now on the stands:

MEDIA ADVISORYFor immediate releaseCONTACT: duVergne GainesSusie Gilligan310-556-2500dgaines@feminist.orgsgilligan@feminist.orgNew Ms. Features Exposé on Ward Connerly and His Deceptively Named"Civil Rights Initiatives"The winter issue of Ms. magazine-on newsstands 1/29/08- features an in-depth investigation of Ward Connerly, the mastermind behind the deceptively named "civil rights initiatives" designed to eliminate state affirmative action programs for women and minorities in public contracting, employment, and education. As Connerly gears up to target five states with ballot measures this November (AZ, CO, MO, NE, OK), Ms.'s investigation uncovers Connerly's:-Extensive ties to big government contractors. Connerly has long served as a lobbyist and consultant for the good ole boys network of big contractors that want to shut out women- and minority-owned businesses from competing for government contracts. With more and more government services and functions being privatized, hundreds of billions of dollars are at stake.-Eye-popping compensation package. Connerly and his firm have taken in $8.3 million in compensation from his nonprofits since 1998 or nearly half of the organizations' total revenue. Last year, his compensation topped $1.6 million, amounting to a whopping 66% of his non profits' total revenue-possibly in violation of federal tax laws that prohibit individuals from using charitable organizations to enrich themselves.-Deceptive campaign tactics. Renowned legal scholar Kimberle Crenshaw exposes Connerly and his supporters' deliberate attempts to mislead voters into believing their initiatives are pro-civil rights and pro-women. She examines the current dispute in Missouri over proposed ballot language, revealing how vitally important it is that supporters of affirmative action sound the alarm on Connerly's tactics of deception."Voters need to know what's really going on," says Ms. Executive Editor Katherine Spillar. "Connerly is a well-paid front man for the good ole boys network of large public-works contractors who don't want to compete with women- and minority-owned firms."Note to editors: Executive Editor Katherine Spillar and Kimberle Crenshaw are available for interviews. If you want to request a copy of the article or inquire about reprint opportunities please contact Jessica Stites
(; 310-556-2515).

The articles noted above run from page 34 to page 41. Currently, only Michele Kort's "
Are U.S. Policies Killing Women?" is available online from the Winter issue but the issue itself is now available at book stores, newstands and magazine racks everywhere.

Quickly, US politics.
Ted Rall explains what the 'anti-war' leaders won't regarding their beloved. Delilah Boyd (A Scrivener's Lament) notes the data on the Viriginia primary -- exit polls for those voting in the Democratic primary which finds that 72% of Republicans who voting in the DEMOCRATIC primary voted for Obama, those self-identifying as conservative brought the number to 73%. Larry Johnson (No Quarter) puzzles about who showed up to vote and the exit polling Boyd's referring to backs up what he was observing. SusanUnPC (No Quarter) highlights a disturbing article on the Bambi 'followers'. Today in the New York Times, Maureen Dowd wants to speak sisterhood and expects someone to take her seriously. Bob Somerby (The Daily Howler) critiques Dowd's pose (which is nothing but a tactic to allow her more slams at Hillary Clinton) and -- near the end -- continues to address the media silence on MSNBC. Delilah Boyd addresses the sliming of Chelsea Clinton by MSNBC here. Also on politics NOW on PBS (which airs on Friday in most markets) interviewed Donna Edwards last month -- she just beat out incumbent Al Wynn in Maryland's Democratic primary.

Ian Bell (UK's The Herald) writes about what's at stake in the case Rose Gentle and Beverly Clarke are arguing for their late sons:

Mr Blair will never face any sort of trial over Iraq: that would be the silly part. Such things do not happen to British prime ministers. These days, even impeachment is unthinkable, for better or worse. The western democracies insulate their leaders from such possibilities. There is no accident in that. Equally, if Mr Blair conducted himself according to the dictates of his conscience throughout the Iraq affair, as he continues to insist, insults and impertinence might sound callow. Errors are not equivalent to bad faith. If the then prime minister also acted from the sincere assumption that edited intelligence reports could always be trusted, the case for his defence could begin to seem credible, morally at least.The trouble is that none of this has anything to do with war crimes. There is a ton of legal argument on that subject, obviously, but the basic criteria can be put crudely. When is war justified? The first justification is banal: if you are under attack. Secondly, you can fight legally if there is clear, demonstrable evidence that an attack upon you is in preparation. Thirdly, you can wage war if you have received the explicit support of the United Nations. Anything else is unlawful. Hence, perhaps, the unusual spectacle of fully nine Law Lords gathering to hear the appeal lodged by Rose Gentle and Beverley Clarke. It will take some smart legal thinking to extricate the government, and Mr Blair's reputation, one suspects, from this one. The bereaved pair's lawyers argue that soldiers, given their unique relationship with the state, have a right to know that the cause in which they are ordered to fight is lawful. Mr Blair, they say, did not perform that duty of care.

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