Saturday, April 21, 2007

U.S. military building five-kilometre wall in Baghdad; time to impeach President Bush & Vice-President Cheney as illegal occupation grinds on

“[M]ay God guide the actions of the President of the United States and the American people; may God save the Queen, her Prime Minister and all her subjects; and may God continue to bless Canada.”

“We firmly believe that this intervention is legal under international law.”

“It is unfortunate, but it is now up to our allies, our historical allies, namely the Americans and the British, to act. We support their action.”
– Stephen Harper, Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance, House of Commons, March 20, 2003

Sunnis, Shiites unite to oppose divisive wall

The Sydney Morning Herald
Edmund Sanders in Baghdad
April 21, 2007

A US military brigade is building a five-kilometre concrete wall to cut off one of Baghdad's most restive Sunni districts from the Shiite neighbourhoods that surround it, raising concern about the further Balkanisation of Iraq's most violent city.

The Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, said an "open battle" was being waged for control of the country, and a senior US politician said the war for Iraq was "lost".

A suicide bomber slipped past security barriers on Thursday to kill 12 people in the capital, a day after more than 230 people died in the worst wave of mass killings since January, when the US President, George Bush, announced his plan to increase US troop levels by 30,000.

Mr Maliki said militants had "proven their spite by targeting humanity. It is an open battle and it will not be the last in the war we are fighting for the sake of the nation, dignity, honour and the people." He was speaking at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of his Islamic Dawa Party.

The US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, was in Baghdad and was expected to increase pressure on Mr Maliki to bridge the sectarian divide.

In Washington, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, said on Thursday that he had told Mr Bush at a meeting the previous day that "this war is lost" and Mr Bush's troop build-up plan was "not accomplishing anything".

Mr Reid said his message for Mr Bush was to recall the Vietnam War, when President Lyndon Johnson dispatched thousands more troops even though he knew the conflict was unwinnable.

"The war can only be won diplomatically, politically and economically, and the President needs to come to that realisation," Mr Reid said.

US commanders in northern Baghdad said the 3.6-metre-high barrier would make it more difficult for suicide bombers, death squads and militia fighters from sectarian factions to attack one another and slip back to their home turf.

Construction began last week and is expected to be completed by the end of the month. However, officials said the barrier was not a central tactic of the continuing security crackdown.

"We defer to commanders on the ground, but dividing up the entire city with barriers is not part of the plan," a US military spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Garver, said.

Although Baghdad is replete with blast walls, checkpoints and other temporary barriers, including a massive wall around the green zone, the wall being constructed in Adhamiya would be the first to essentially divide a neighbourhood by sect.

A largely Sunni district, Adhamiya is one of Baghdad's main flashpoints, avoided not only by Shiites but also by Sunni outsiders. The area is almost completely surrounded by Shiite-dominated districts.

Sunnis and Shiites living in the shadow of the barrier are united in their contempt for it.

"Are they trying to divide us into different sectarian cantons?" said Abu Ahmed, a Sunni shop owner in Adhamiya. "This will deepen the sectarian strife and only serve to abort efforts aimed at reconciliation."

Some of his customers come from Shiite or mixed neighbourhoods that are now cut off by the barrier.

Several residents likened the wall to the barriers built by Israel around some Palestinians areas. "Are we in the West Bank?" asked Abu Qusay, a pharmacist, who said access to his favourite kebab restaurant in Adhamiya had been cut off.

Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, Reuters

The Nation

Impeachment Fever Rises

[from the May 7, 2007 issue]

When Nancy Pelosi announced last fall that impeachment was "off the table," official Washington accepted that the primary avenue for holding lawless Presidents to account had been closed off by the new Speaker of the House. But the Republic's citizenry has not been so inclined. And now, with the Administration's troubles mounting, they're preparing to tell Pelosi that America and the world cannot wait until January 20, 2009, to put an end to Bush's reign of error. When Pelosi arrives at the California Democratic Convention in San Diego on April 28--the same day that activists nationwide will rally for presidential accountability--she'll find on the agenda a resolution that declares that the actions of President Bush and Vice President Cheney "warrant impeachment and trial, and removal from office." Delegates are expected to endorse the measure.

Pelosi fears that impeachment would distract from the Democratic legislative agenda and provoke an electoral backlash. History suggests she is wrong: The Watergate Congress was highly efficient, and Democrats had one of their best years ever at the polls after pressuring Richard Nixon out of office. But aside from Dennis Kucinich, who is particularly fired up about Cheney's misdeeds, few in Congress have even hinted at bucking Pelosi's ban.

Outside Washington, however, an "impeachment from below" movement is gathering steam. The President's troop surge into Iraq and his refusal to consider exit strategies has caused many to react like GOP Senator Chuck Hagel, who has observed, "The President says...he's not accountable anymore, which isn't totally true. You can impeach him." Hagel's remarks go to the heart of the surge in interest in impeachment: It stems from Bush's ongoing disregard for the demands of the electorate, the Congress and the Constitution. Legitimate impeachment initiatives are organic responses to the realities of a moment rather than purely legal procedures. Talk of impeachment gains traction when it becomes clear that an Administration is unwilling to respect the system of checks and balances or the rule of law. This explains why the allegation that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, apparently with White House approval, pressured US Attorneys to politicize prosecutions has added so much fuel to the fire, with activists like Vermont's Dan DeWalt now saying, "I don't have any trouble getting people to agree that impeachment is necessary."

DeWalt engineered a campaign in March to get town meetings in his state to pass resolutions calling on Congress to impeach and remove Bush and Cheney. Three dozen towns did so, including Middlebury, where GOP Governor Jim Douglas found himself presiding over a meeting that voted overwhelmingly in favor of going after the two for misleading the nation about the threat posed by Iraq, condoning torture and approving illegal electronic surveillance. The goal of the town meeting movement was to get the state legislature to forward articles of impeachment to the US House. Citing Thomas Jefferson's Manual of Parliamentary Practice, which makes reference to the authority of state legislatures to propose impeachment, legislators in at least ten states, including Vermont, have now done so. But the real success of the initiative was to illustrate the popular appeal of impeachment--an effort helped along by Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, who devoted a week of strips to the town meeting votes--and to tell members of Congress like Vermont's Peter Welch that they might want to take their cues from constituents rather than Pelosi. Welch has responded by meeting with activists and asking them for more details of Bush's high crimes and misdemeanors.

DC Democrats still put forth anti-impeachment arguments--particularly the old saw that going after Bush would just give the presidency to Cheney. Activists have countered with an "Impeach Cheney First!" campaign and a reminder that the Constitution in no way prohibits holding more than one official to account at the same time. They've also picked up an argument made by Daniel Ellsberg, of Pentagon Papers fame, who says it was the threat of impeachment that got Richard Nixon to bend to pressure from Congress to wind down the Vietnam War. "If you want to move Bush on Iraq," says Ellsberg, "get serious about impeachment." Millions of Americans are doing just that.


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