Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

(VIDEO) Continuing Bush Policies in Israel and Afghanistan

Posted in Afghanistan, Barack Obama, foreign policy, politics by allisonkilkenny on January 26, 2009

Glenn Greenwald

us-israelBy all accounts, the U.S. is suffering extreme economic woes.  We continue to borrow trillions of dollars simply to prevent financial collapse.  Our military resources are spread so thin that the establishment consensus view blames the failure of our seven-year (and counting) occupation of Afghanistan, at least in part, on the lack of necessary resources devoted to that occupation.  And a significant (though not the only) reason why we are unable to extricate ourselves from the endless resource-draining and liberty-degrading involvement in Middle East conflicts is because our one-sided support for Israel ensures that we remain involved and makes ourselves the target of hatred around the world and, especially, in the Muslim world.

Despite all of that, the Bush administration, just days before it left office,entered into yet another new agreement with Israel pursuant to which the U.S. committed to use its resources to prevent guns and other weapons from entering Gaza.  That agreement cites “the steadfast commitment of the United States to Israel’s security” and “and to preserve and strengthen Israel’s capability to deter and defend itself,” and vows that the U.S. will “address the problem of the supply of arms and related materiel and weapons transfers and shipments to Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza.”

Speaking about that new U.S./Israeli agreement on her show late last week, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow (in the course of aggressively questioning an absurdly evasive Sen. Claire McCaskill on the wisdom of Obama’s plans to escalate the war in Afghanistan and noting the cadre of Bush defense officials on whom Obama is relying — video below) observed that the Obama administration has enthusiastically expressed its full support for the new Israeli agreement entered into in the last days of Bush’s presidency.  Maddow said (h/t Antiwar.com):

Also, not particularly change-like, then-President Bush made a deal in his final day in office with Israel about the terms of Israel’s relationship with Gaza. I’m sorry – it wasn’t his last day in office. It was within his last few days in office — my mistake.

The U.S. under President Obama is bound by that last-minute agreement between the U.S. and Israel. And a statement from Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today says that President Obama supports the agreement fully.

That new agreement has already led the U.S. Navy last week to take risky and potential illegal actions in intercepting Iranian ships that were transporting arms.  As The Jerusalem Post reported:

The interception of an Iranian arms ship by the US Navy in the Red Sea last week likely was conducted as a covert operation and is being played down by the US military due to the lack of a clear legal framework for such operations, an American expert on Iran told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday evening.

International media reported that an Iranian-owned merchant vessel flying a Cypriot flag was boarded early last week by US Navy personnel who discovered artillery shells on board.

The ship was initially suspected of being en route to delivering its cargo to smugglers in Sinai who would transfer the ammunition to Hamas in Gaza, but the US Navy became uncertain over the identity of the intended recipient since “Hamas is not known to use artillery,” The Associated Press cited a defense official as saying. . . .

Prof. Raymond Tanter, president of the Washington-based Iran Policy Committee, said, “It is not surprising that the US Navy is reluctant to acknowledge the operation, which may have been covert,” adding that maritime law posed challenges when it came to intercepting ships that fly the flag of a sovereign country. . . .

For the time being, the interceptions and searches are being carried out on the basis of the memorandum of understanding signed between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and then-US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on January 16, which is “aimed at halting arms smuggling into Gaza as part of efforts to clinch the cease-fire,” Tanter said.

The article quoted Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute of National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, as arguing that the risk of provoking a confrontation with Iran from such interceptions is low — but not non-existent — because “Iran is not looking for an armed confrontation [with the US Navy] at this point.”

And Haaretz reports that preventing Palestinians in Gaza from re-arming itself is now — for some reason — an ongoing military operation of the United States:

A United States naval taskforce has been ordered to hunt down weapons ships sent by Iran to rearm its Islamist ally Hamas in Gaza, The Sunday Times reported.

Quoting U.S. diplomatic sources, the British daily said that Combined Task Force 151, which is countering pirates in the Gulf of Aden, has been instructed to track Iranian arms shipments.

There were several aspects of the Israeli attack on Gaza that made it even more horrifying than the standard atrocities of war:  (1) the civilian population was trapped — imprisoned — in a tiny densely-populated strip and were unable to escape the brutal attacks; and (2) it was a completely one-sided war, because one side (Israel) is armed to teeth with the world’s most sophisticated and deadly weapons, while the other side (the Palestinians) is virtually defenseless, possessing only the most primitive and (against a force like the IDF) impotent weapons.

What possible justification is there for the U.S. (as opposed to Israel) to use its military and the money of its taxpayers to ensure that the Palestinians remain defenseless?  In exactly the way that the U.S. felt free to invade Iraq (with its decayed, sanctions-destroyed “military”) but not North Korea or Iran (with its much more formidable forces), it’s precisely because the conflict is so one-sided that Israel feels no real pressure to cease the activities that, in part, feed this conflict (beginning with still-expanding West Bank settlements and the truly inhumane blockade of Gaza).  

Obviously, where one side has its foot on the throat of the other, the side with the far more dominant position has less incentive to resolve the dispute than the side being choked.  And it’s perfectly natural — not just for Israel but in general — for a party to want to maintain dominance over its adversaries and to want to prevent its enemies from obtaining weapons that can be used against it.  It’s entirely rational for Israel to desire a continuation of that particular state of affairs — i.e., for only Israel, but not the enemies with whom it has intractable territorial and religious conflicts, to have a real military force.

But what does any of that have to do with the U.S. Navy and the American taxpayer?  What possible justification is there for using American resources — the American military — to patrol the Red Sea in order to ensure that Gazans remain defenseless?  That question is particularly pronounced given that the U.S. is already shoveling, and will continue to shovel, billions and billions of dollars to Israel in military and other aid.  Why, on top of all of that, are increasingly scarce American resources, rather than Israeli resources, being used to bar Palestinians from obtaining weapons?   And why — as it is more vital than ever that we extricate ourselves from Middle Eastern conflicts — are we making ourselves still more of a partisan and combatant in this most entrenched and religiously-driven territorial dispute over the West Bank and Gaza Strip?

Israel is hardly the only country which the U.S. expends vast resources — including military resources — to defend and protect, and all of those commitments ought to be seriously re-examined.  But none of those other commitments entail anywhere near the costs — on every level — of our seemingly limitless willingness, eagerness, to involve ourselves so directly and self-destructively in every last conflict that Israel has.  Given what we are constantly being told is the grave economic peril the U.S. faces, shouldn’t we be moving in exactly the opposite direction than the imperial expansion which we continue to pursue?

* * * * *

The day after George H.W. Bush invaded Panama in one of the most absurd (though quite lethal) military operations of the last several decades (“Operation Just Cause”), The New York Times published an article by R.W. Apple on its front page celebrating Bush for having “shown his steel,” proving he was “a man capable of bold action” who “carried a big stick.”  The article proclaimed:

For George Bush, the United States invasion of Panama early this morning constituted a Presidential initiation rite as well as an attempt to achieve specific goals. . . . For better or for worse, most American leaders since World War II have felt a need to demonstrate their willingness to shed blood to protect or advance what they construe as the national interest. . . . – all of them acted in the belief that the American political culture required them to show the world promptly that they carried big sticks.

With only a week in office, Barack Obama has already fulfilled this Presidential initiation rite, as his body count — of civilians — already easily exceeds the number of days he’s been President.  Last week, two Drone missile attacks struck Pakistani villages, killing numerous civilians (including children) and maybe — though maybe not — a couple of “Al Qaeda operatives.”  And as Obama prepares to escalate the war in Afghanistan, a U.S. attack on Saturday killed 16 Afghan civilians (according to the Afghan government), and it was reported that more than 4,000 Afghan civilians were killed in the last year alone.  And read this harrowing account of what happened in an Afghan village several weeks ago during a U.S. raid and the effect this is all having on the attitudes of Afghan civilians towards the U.S. occupation (as is typically the case, the U.S. military denies the claims of the villagers). 

Despite all of that, Joe Biden yesterday told us all to expect a rise in casualties.  Questions of justifiability to the side for the moment, there is almost no discussion of what possible good will be achieved by escalating the seven-year war in Afghanistan (though the New York Times did run a thorough story on some of these questions over the weekend).  As part of the above-referenced MSNBC segment, Rachel Maddow highlighted all of the right questions, pointed to a number of vital parallels between our occupation of that country and the Soviet Union’s self-destructive attempt to control it, and tried — with total futility — to induce key Obama ally Sen. Claire McCaskill to address any of these questions in a meaningful way:

WATCH VIDEO HERE
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This is Change? 20 Hawks, Clintonites and Neocons to Watch for in Obama’s White House

Posted in Barack Obama, politics by allisonkilkenny on November 20, 2008

Jeremy Scahill

 

barack-obama-capitolU.S. policy is not about one individual, and no matter how much faith people place in President-elect Barack Obama, the policies he enacts will be fruit of a tree with many roots. Among them: his personal politics and views, the disastrous realities his administration will inherit, and, of course, unpredictable future crises. But the best immediate indicator of what an Obama administration might look like can be found in the people he surrounds himself with and who he appoints to his Cabinet. And, frankly, when it comes to foreign policy, it is not looking good.

Obama has a momentous opportunity to do what he repeatedly promised over the course of his campaign: bring actual change. But the more we learn about who Obama is considering for top positions in his administration, the more his inner circle resembles a staff reunion of President Bill Clinton’s White House. Although Obama brought some progressives on board early in his campaign, his foreign policy team is now dominated by the hawkish, old-guard Democrats of the 1990s. This has been particularly true since Hillary Clinton conceded defeat in the Democratic primary, freeing many of her top advisors to join Obama’s team.

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Many Holes in Disclosure of Nominees’ Health

Posted in Barack Obama, politics by allisonkilkenny on October 20, 2008

They should have called this article “Many Holes in McCain’s Face”

New York Times

Fifteen days before the election, serious gaps remain in the public’s knowledge about the health of the presidential and vice-presidential nominees. The limited information provided by the candidates is a striking departure from recent campaigns, in which many candidates and their doctors were more forthcoming.

In past elections, the decisions of some candidates for the nation’s top elected offices to withhold health information turned out to have a significant impact after the information came to light. This year, the health issue carries extraordinary significance because two of the four nominees have survived potentially fatal medical problems that could recur.

If elected, Senator John McCain of Arizona, 72, the Republican nominee, would be the oldest man to be sworn in to a first term as president and the firstcancer survivor to win the office. The scars on his puffy left cheek are cosmetic reminders of the extensive surgery he underwent in 2000 to remove a malignant melanoma.

Last May, his campaign and his doctors released nearly 1,200 pages of medical information, far more than the three other nominees. But the documents were released in a restricted way that leaves questions, even confusion, about his cancer.

A critical question concerns inconsistencies in medical opinions about the severity of his melanoma; if the classification of his melanoma is more severe, it would increase the statistical likelihood of death from a recurrence of the cancer.

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, 65, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, had emergency surgery in 1988 for an aneurysm in an artery in his brain and elective surgery for a second one. His campaign released 49 pages of medical records to The New York Times late last week showing that he was healthy, but the documents did not indicate whether he had had a test in recent years to detect any new aneurysm.

The two other nominees are younger and apparently in good health, but less is known about their medical history. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, 47, the Democratic presidential nominee, released a one-page, undated letter from his personal physician in May stating that he was in “excellent” health. Late last week, his campaign released the results of standard laboratory tests and electrocardiograms from his checkups in June 2001, November 2004 and January 2007. The findings were normal.

Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, 44, Mr. McCain’s running mate, has released no medical information.

There may be no serious problems with the health of any of the nominees. But absent fuller disclosure, there is no way for the electorate to know.

The health of the four nominees is a matter of concern because in the past a number of candidates, and in some cases their doctors and aides, have distorted, kept secret or spoken about the facts only at the last minute when medical events forced the issue. Examples include Senator Thomas F. Eagleton (depression), Senator Paul E. Tsongas (cancer), Senator Bill Bradley (heart rhythm abnormality) and, as a vice-presidential nominee, Dick Cheney (heart disease).

I am a physician who has covered the health of presidential candidates for 36 years. Since 1980, The Times has made it a practice to question nominees for president and other high political offices and, with their permission, their doctors about their health.

The Times has requested such interviews with Mr. Obama since last spring and with Mr. McCain and his doctors since March 2007. None were granted. More recently, The Times sent letters to all four nominees requesting interviews about their health with them and their doctors. None agreed.

The candidates’ health has drawn little attention for most of this long campaign season despite the importance of the issue. But since Mr. McCain selected Ms. Palin as his running mate in August, questions about his health have intensified. In recent weeks, more than 2,700 physicians have signed a petition that ran as an advertisement demanding that Mr. McCain fully release his health records; the petition is sponsored by Brave New Films, the company led by Robert Greenwald, a Hollywood filmmaker who has contributed $2,250 to Democratic candidates and has made a number of anti-McCain videos. Beyond the advertisement, Mr. McCain’s health has become the subject of both speculation and distortion on the Internet and other media.

The following is a summary of the publicly known medical information about all four nominees and the outstanding questions about each.

John McCain

Mr. McCain’s difficulty raising his arms and his sometimes awkward gait are remnants of severe, untreated injuries he suffered in Vietnam. Mr. McCain, aNavy pilot, broke both arms and his right knee when his jet was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967. He experienced additional wounds while being tortured during his five and a half years as a prisoner of war. Mr. McCain may eventually need joint replacements, according to his doctor at the Mayo Clinicin Scottsdale, Ariz.

Mr. McCain has released more details about his health than the other three nominees, though he has done so in a phased way and has apparently not agreed to any extensive interviews about his health. A handful of reporters were allowed to view his records during his bid for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination. Another group of reporters were permitted to see newer records last May. By not allowing reporters to interview him or his doctors extensively about his entire medical history, he has made it impossible to get a complete picture of his diagnoses and treatment.

 

In 1999, early in his first run for the presidency, Mr. McCain allowed a small number of reporters, including me, to review an estimated 1,500 pages of his medical records without photocopying or recording the information.

In doing so, Mr. McCain gave the public its broadest look at the psychological profile of a presidential candidate. He released psychological records about him that were amassed as part of a Navy project to gauge the health of former prisoners of war. Assessments were based on standard psychological tests and what Mr. McCain told his doctors after his release. The records mentioned that in 1968, about eight months after his capture and after some particularly brutal beatings from his North Vietnamese captors, Mr. McCain attemptedsuicide, trying to hang himself with his shirt.

The records and his doctors, whom I interviewed with the senator’s permission in 1999, said he had never been given a diagnosis of a mental healthdisorder or treated at the project’s center for a mental health disorder.

The records also showed that a surgeon removed a melanoma from Mr. McCain’s left shoulder in 1993. Melanomas can be a far more deadly form of skin cancer than the more common basal cell and other types.

In early August 2000, just as Mr. McCain’s rivalGeorge W. Bush was about to receive the Republican presidential nomination, Dr. John F. Eisold, the attending physician at the United States Capitol, detected two more melanomas, Mr. McCain’s second and third.

One on Mr. McCain’s left arm was determined to be the least risky type, in situ. But the one on his left temple was dangerous.

A few days after detection of the melanomas, Mr. McCain sought care for them at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale. Mr. McCain’s campaign said this year that the left-temple melanoma was 2.2 millimeters at its thickest part and graded as Stage IIA on a scale in which Stage IV is the worst. Stage II meant that the melanoma had not spread into the lymph nodes. The number of melanomas is less significant than the thickness measured in the pathology assessment of any one of them.

Mr. McCain underwent extensive surgery on his face and neck for the melanoma on Aug. 19, 2000. Surgeons removed more than 30 lymph nodes, and pathologists then determined that all of them were cancer free.

In March 2007, as Mr. McCain was making his second bid for the Republican nomination, The Times began asking his campaign for permission to speak with the senator and his doctors, citing the history of such interviews.

On May 6, 2008, Jill Hazelbaker, a McCain spokeswoman, denied the requests, writing in an e-mail message that The Times was “not at the top of the list” and including a link to a Times editorial that had criticized Mr. McCain for not disclosing health information and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York for not disclosing financial records.

On May 23, Mr. McCain allowed a small pool of journalists, including three doctor-reporters, though none from The Times, to spend three hours reviewing a newer set of his Mayo Clinic records. That set, 1,173 pages, included records from 2000 to 2008 but none of the records made available in 1999. Again, the campaign did not allow the journalists to photocopy any documents.

Mr. McCain’s Mayo Clinic doctors answered selected reporters’ questions by telephone, but only for 45 minutes instead of the scheduled two hours. The McCain campaign did not allow New York Times reporters to ask questions in the teleconference.

The clinic doctors said that Mr. McCain was in good health and that no medical reason precluded him from fulfilling all the duties of president.

The doctors said that a fourth melanoma they detected on the left side of his nose in 2002 was also in situ, the least dangerous type. All four melanomas that Mr. McCain experienced were primary, or new, and there was no evidence that any of them had spread, the doctors said.

However, the reporters’ summary cited a report dated Aug. 9, 2000, from two pathologists at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington who examined a biopsy of the melanoma taken from Mr. McCain’s left temple a few days earlier.

The Armed Forces pathologists suggested that the left-temple melanoma had spread from another melanoma, known as a metastasis or satellite lesion. “The vertical orientation of this lesion,” the report said, “with only focal epidermal involvement above it is highly suggestive of a metastasis of malignant melanoma and may represent a satellite metastasis of S00-9572-A,” which is the “skin, left temple, lateral” biopsy.

The pool report was by nature unable to provide a complete portrait of Mr. McCain’s recent medical history. It left several questions, including about the number of biopsies and when they were done. On Aug. 18, 2000, Dr. John D. Eckstein, Mr. McCain’s personal physician at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, noted in Mr. McCain’s records that there were two biopsies of the left temple. Dr. Eckstein’s note did not say where and when the biopsies were performed. The Armed Forces report cited one biopsy, so presumably a second was performed in Scottsdale. The Armed Forces pathologists said a melanoma had developed over a skin scar whose origin was unclear.

skin lesion, not one of the four melanomas, had been removed from Mr. McCain’s left temple in 1996 and interpreted as being benign; some experts have speculated that it might have been misdiagnosed, and thus the origin of the 2000 melanoma.

The Armed Forces pathologists did not speak in the teleconference in May 2008, and questions raised by their report have remained unanswered. The selected reporters did not ask about that report, and the Mayo Clinic doctors did not discuss it. A complete Mayo pathology report was apparently not included in the pool summary.

In interviews, several melanoma experts questioned why the Mayo Clinic doctors had performed such extensive surgery, because the operation was usually reserved for treatment of Stage III melanoma, not Stage IIA.

 

On Aug. 18, 2000, the day before Mr. McCain’s operation, his surgeon, Dr. Michael L. Hinni, wrote in the records that he planned to do the extensive operation because of the size and location of Mr. McCain’s melanoma. In the teleconference in May 2008, Dr. Hinni explained that because the melanoma was two centimeters across he had to make “a 6-by-6-centimeter island of skin, a fairly sizable wound” to remove it.

It is not known whether the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale asked pathologists outside the Mayo system for an independent review.

If Mr. McCain’s 2000 left-temple melanoma was a metastasis, as the Armed Forces pathologists’ report suggested, it would be classified as Stage III. The reclassification would change his statistical odds for survival at 10 years from about 60 percent to 36 percent, according to a published study.

The greatest risk of recurrence of melanoma is in the first few years after detection. His age, his sex and the presence of the melanoma on his face increase the risk.

The fact that Mr. McCain has had no recurrence for eight years is in his favor. But cancer experts see the 10th anniversary as an important statistical benchmark, and that would not occur until 2010.

In May, his dermatologist at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Suzanne M. Connolly, said in the teleconference that though there was no way to predict with certainty Mr. McCain’s chance of a recurrence, she judged it to be less than 10 percent. But melanoma is known to be quirkier than most cancers; doctors cite occasional cases in which melanomas come back after 15 or 20 years.

Melanomas can spread to various areas in the body, including the skin and any internal organ. In general, such spreading means the melanoma would not be curable. Treatment would depend in part on what organ or tissues are involved and could include additional surgery, chemotherapy, biologics, vaccines and radiation.

Many such treatments can be debilitating and impair an individual’s physical and mental stamina. If the patient was the president, the location of a recurrence and its treatment could raise the need to invoke the 25th Amendment, elevating the vice president to president, at least temporarily.

On the trail, Mr. McCain has played down concerns about his age by pointing to the vigor of his mother and her twin sister at age 96. Mr. McCain’s father died in 1981 at age 70 after a heart attack.

In the May teleconference, Dr. Eckstein said that he had not detected any memory deficits in Mr. McCain and that the senator had not reported any. Dr. Eckstein did not report whether Mr. McCain had taken any baseline cognitive tests.

Mr. McCain has kidney stones and takes a statin for high cholesterol but has no evidence of significant heart disease, his doctors said.

In making his medical information public, Mr. McCain released his confidentiality in the traditional patient-doctor relationship.

For its part, the Mayo Clinic says it agreed to yield control over all of Mr. McCain’s medical information to his campaign and to refer all questions to the campaign. Pool reporters inspected the records at a hotel near the clinic, which sent the records there under security. In the teleconference, the doctors answered questions by telephone at the clinic with no reporters present.

Dr. Eckstein, Mr. McCain’s doctor, said he understood that the campaign had released all the McCain records to the pool reporters. But a spokeswoman at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, asked if the institution could verify that the campaign had released all the records to the reporters, said she did not know whether the doctors had checked to be sure.

Last week, The Times contacted the McCain campaign to fill in gaps in the medical records. Ms. Hazelbaker, the McCain spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail message: “As you know, we disclosed over 1,200 pages of Senator McCain’s medical history to Dr. Altman’s colleagues in the press earlier this year. We also arranged a Mayo Clinic briefing with three of Senator McCain’s physicians that Dr. Altman listened to by phone. Additionally, we released a detailed document outlining his most recent physical and lab test results. It was an unprecedented level of disclosure, and Dr. Altman can look at the public document on our Web site if he wishes to do so. It was certainly more significant than the one-page doctor’s note Obama released, though I have little hope The Times will report it that way.”

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