Thursday, May 31, 2007

Connect those dots.

According to the author's update (follows the article), the possible missing link between Saddam and al Qaeda is more definite than possible and certainly isn't missing.

PJM’s Richard Miniter interviews former “made man” Adullah Rahman al-Shamary - a possible “missing link” between Saddam and al Qaeda. This is the first of a series of special reports for PJM from Miniter who has recently returned from Iraq.

SULAIMANIYA, Iraq—With a purple scrunchie in his pony tail, a black cap, and a platoon of blazing white teeth, Abdullah Rahman al-Shamary looks like a failed rock star. And in a way, he is.

Under Saddam Hussein, al-Shamary could go anywhere and do anything. He was a “made man,” and was an officer in its feared Mukhabarat General, an intelligence service run by Saddam’s son, Qusay. And, Qusay oversaw the Mukhabarat’s relationship with Jund al-Islam, an al Qaeda wing operating in Northern Iraq before the 2003 American invasion.

For the past five years, al-Shamary has languished in a prison outside this provincial Kurdish city. Still he is relaxed and in high spirits today. It makes him feel good to talk about the old days; he smiles as he talks.

So far, he told me, he hasn’t talked to any Americans. No CIA officers, no military intelligence officials, no congressional investigators, no journalists. This is a strange omission because if al-Shamary’s information checks out, he was one of several human links between Saddam’s regime and al Qaeda. He could be the missing link.

Abdullah Rahman al-Shamary grew up Mosul, a fading industrial melting pot—like Detroit. He was recruited into the intelligence service based on his grades and his size—he still moves with a athlete’s grace. He rose to the rank of lieutenant in the Mukhabarat General and worked as a security officer for Hussein Kamel, the director of the Special Security Apparatus. Not coincidentally, Kamel was also the son-in-law of Saddam Hussein. He first met Qusay, through Kamel, in 1987.

Kamel later defected, revealed that Saddam had violated the Gulf War I cease-fire agreements by restarting his WMD programs, and was subsequently lured back to Iraq with a offer of immunity. Saddam had him executed in 1996, forcing his sister (Kamel’s wife) to watch.

But, in the late 1980s, Kamel, Qusay and Al-Shamary were thick as thieves.

“Mullah Krekar’s relationship started with the Iraqi government in 2001,” al-Shamary said.

Mullah Krekar was the leader of an al Qaeda affiliate that has operated in many names: Jund al Islam, Ansar al Islam, Ansar al Sunnah, and today, Al Qaeda in Kurdistan.

Al-Shamary was emphatic that Saddam’s son ran the local al Qaeda operation. “He directed it, he ran it.” Qusay controlled Jund al Islam, he said, by supplying money, weapons,and providing diplomatic passports and by sending documents via “diplomatic pouches” to Iraq embassies world-wide. From there, the messages would be passed to local cells.

Al-Shamary told me what he saw. I insisted that I only wanted to know what he was an eyewitness to—no hearsay, office gossip or news accounts recirculated as inside information. He understood. That is how you are supposed to operate in intelligence, he told the translator.

“In 2001 I was an information officer, between the leadership of Jund al Islam (whichbecame Ansar al Islam) and our office. I was the liaison. Just an information officer. Abu Wail was the brigadier general in charge of funding” the group.

Abu Wail is the son-in-law of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Saddam’s handpicked vice president and the highest-ranking Saddam-era official still at large. On very important missions, al-Shamary said, “Abu Wail would go alone.”

Abu Wail himself is still at large. Capturing him might reveal a good deal about Iraq’s pre-war relationship with al Qaeda.

In addition to Abu Wail, three other trusted Mukhabarat officers worked inside the al Qaeda camp, al-Shamary said. They were selected by Qusay, he said. And perhaps by Saddam himself.

Al-Shamary’s role was relatively minor. “I carried orders from Baghdad to Kurdistan” and back. “These were written orders, usually on a computer disc.”

He did not know the contents of the computer disks. It would have been against orders for him to read the disks and might have invited retribution. The disks were described to him as containing orders and reports and he has no reason to doubt that.

No matter what the contents of the disks, the fact that they moved back and forth between Saddam’s intelligence service and Krekar’s terrorist outfit speaks for itself. Intelligence analysts may debate whether it was truly an “operational relationship” (although it certainly looks like one), the fact al-Shamary regularly visited the camp to pick up and drop off computer disks indicates a relationship.

When al-Shamary was supposed to deliver money, he received cash from Qusay. “I gave it to Abu Wail, who was higher in rank,” he said. If any money went missing, he did not want to be faulted. Embezzling officers were often executed. Al-Shamary said that the money passed through Abu Wail to the Kurdish Democratic Party, which then gave it to Mullah Krekar’s al Qaeda offshoot.

“I was captured here in June 2002 in Biara, in Abu Wail’s base,” in Sulaimaniya province, by Kurdish forces.

As U.S. forces moved in 2003, the al Qaeda forces scattered. The able-bodied followed Abu Musab al Zarqawi south into central Iraq.

What about the wounded?

“Iran helped them. When they had injuries, they treated the injuries inside Haraman,” a border city in Iran.

Al-Shamary said that Iranian intelligence had long had officers inside the same terror camp. Sometimes Iraqi officers would see the Iranians at a distance. Iran was working al Qaeda for its own purposes. At the time, they were mostly interested in monitoring Iranian Kurds holed up in Iraqi Kurdistan. “They [Iran] facilitated their travel, they gave them weapons, helped wounded people. Iranian intelligence met with them. They had separate or different interests in the relationship. Yes they would be at the same camp.”

Iran had also facilitated Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s flight from Afghanistan, across Iran, and guiding him to the al Qaeda camp in northern Iraq.

Why would avowedly secular Iraq help an affiliate of al Qaeda?

“These relations with al Qaeda started after the Kuwait invasion in 1991 because of special interests between Iraqi and al Qaeda organization.”

By “Kuwaiti invasion,” he does not mean Saddam’s illegal annexation in August 1990, but the American liberation of that oil kingdom in 1991.

His other phrase—“special interests”—lingers in the air. I wonder if it is simply an artifact of translation.

Special interests? I ask.

He smiles, then exhales smoke. “Fighting against Americans.”

How did Iraq help? “We helped them by building military camps in Salman Pak, in Khos, Khalis,Yusafiya. Iraq is expert in chemical weapons. We trained them in chemical weapons. We trained them about ground fighting, too.”

Apparently, they learned well.

Miniter's update: It turns out that the “missing link” has been spotted before, by Jonathan Schanzer of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, writing for the Weekly Standard in March 2004. Here’s a link to a copy of the Standard piece: Saddam’s Ambassador to al-Qaeda

I relied on the word of Kurdish prison officials and the prisoner himself that he had not been previously interviewed by an American. And I also googled al-Shamary’s name. I should have tried variant spellings, as Arabic names can be rendered into English in various ways. Spell it “al-Shamari” and you can get plenty of hits.

Thanks to the awesome power of the Internet, the record could be checked and updated correctly. I stand by the rest of the article and, if anything, Schanzer’s piece supports mine. The bigger question: Why wasn’t al-Shamary’s story on the front pages of every major paper?

Legislature Watch

May 30, 2007

Watch:

Shirley Bowler’s HB 381 passed the House Floor and will be sent to the Senate for review. Her bill provides that an insurance policy may not limit the insured’s right of action against the insurer to a period of less than two years.

SB 14 which dilutes the power of the state treasurer passed the Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee Wednesday. Senate President Don Hines, House Speaker Joe Salter and State Treasurer John Kennedy would rotate chairmanship each year on the Bond Commission. The chairmanship has been the sole responsibility of the Treasurer.

HB 730 by Michael Jackson is pending Senate introduction that will require statewide elected officials, legislators, other officials, appointed officials and member so the Board of Ethics to disclose certain income, compensation, and financial transactions of the official or his spouse, and additionally requires candidates for statewide elected office and the state legislature to file financial disclosure statements with the Board of Ethics at the time of qualifying. Sen. Rob Marionneaux's SB 157 was passed in the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee and is headed for Senate review. The bill would require all Louisiana's elected officials and candidates to disclose their income sources by making their income tax returns public.

SB 320 would allow Orleans Parish residents to vote at “satellite” voting centers around Louisiana, and would allow New Orleans voters registered by mail to cast absentee ballots even if they have never voted in person. This provision was set to expire but the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee passed it on Wednesday. Senator Charles Jones will hold this bill in the Senate until learning the cost to the state.

REGION 6 Legislative Jam:

By now, you’ve probably heard of Legislation 1 – 2 – 3 but an introduction is attached for your review. The LFRW Legislative Committee is putting together a Legislative Package that will be presented to legislators at the 2008 session.

Clubs in Region 6 met with two industries on Wednesday to learn more about issues these industries face and ways these industries perceive problems may be remedied.

The Department of Transportation and Development was represented by:
Dr. Kalivoda, Director of Planning and Programs at DOTD; Mike Schiro, Chief Deputy Assistant Secretary of Planning and Programming; and Sherri H. LeBas, Assistant to the Secretary of DOTD for Policy. They also met with David W. Hood, Former Secretary of DHH during Governor Foster’s Administration 1998-2004.


David Hood served as Undersecretary of Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals from 1996 to 1998. Hood now serves as Sr. Healthcare Policy Analyst with PAR (Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, Inc). His present focus is on coverage or the uninsured, the charity hospital system, Medicaid financing, the long-term care system and other topic areas.

These industries were present to describe operations, funding, projects, forecasts and of course, legislation affecting their professional fields. After hearing these major industries speak of their department needs, Republican Women were better able to determine their support/opposition of related bills in the legislature.

The LFRW Legislative Committee wants to encourage your club(s) to do the same; learn more about your issue from the related industry. Find out what their goals and needs are so that you can better determine which bills you support/oppose. Invite industry representatives to share information and be available to answer your questions about their field; speak with your legislators or legislators who sit on the committees that regulate their industry. Contact the Legislative Coordinator in your region and the legislative chairman in your club to arrange legislative jams in your area.

Some information presented is attached to the email. The two industry contact info follows. They, or other representatives, will be happy to speak with you, your clubs and groups.

Visit PAR website for a comprehensive 28 pg executive study by David W. Hood on restructuring the Charity Hospital System
225 926-8414

www.La-PAR.org
dwhood@cox.net

www.DOTD.la.gov
mikeSchiro@dotd.la.gov - 225 379-1956
SherriLebas@dotd.la.gov

Good Ol’ Boy Network run amok.

Treasurer John Kennedy, someone of whom we should all be proud, is being “sliced and diced” by the Good Ol’ Boys lead by Hines, Salter and, yep, you guessed it, Odom.

Corrupt power on parade, folks, via SB 14.

Bill to weaken power of state treasurer passes Senate committee
By MELINDA DESLATTE The Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A bill to dilute the power of the state treasurer easily passed a Senate committee Wednesday, the continued fallout in a political dispute over the rejection of a state-financed sugar syrup mill.

Treasurer John Kennedy said Senate President Don Hines, who sponsored the bill, is retaliating against him for helping scuttle the syrup mill project in Hines' district. In response, Hines said Kennedy abuses his power as chairman of the State Bond Commission and manipulates the process to grandstand and get attention.

"Thank God for the syrup mill, or he'd be an obscure politician," said Hines, D-Bunkie.

The Bond Commission oversees state borrowing and financing of construction projects, totaling billions of dollars. The panel includes statewide elected officials, representatives of the governor's office, the Senate president, House speaker and other legislators.

As treasurer, Kennedy is chairman of the Bond Commission and was chairman of the commission when it derailed attempts to get state backing for construction of the sugar syrup mill Hines and Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom sought for central Louisiana.

Hines' bill — also sponsored by House Speaker Joe Salter — would rotate the Bond Commission chairmanship each year between the treasurer, Senate president and House speaker. The three would form a committee that sets the agenda for each commission meeting, rather than just the treasurer.

The bill was approved without objection by the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee and heads next to the full Senate for debate. It would take effect with the new terms of office that begin next year. Kennedy is running for re-election.

Hines, D-Bunkie, said he brought the bill because there have been problems getting items on the Bond Commission agenda — problems he blamed on Kennedy.

"If you don't kiss his ring, you don't get on the agenda," Hines said.

Kennedy said he believes he's been reasonable about setting agendas, waiving rules to help people get their projects heard and working with legislators to get the financial information needed on proposals before the commission.

"My feeling is if it's not broke, you don't try to fix it," said Kennedy, a Democrat.

Hines and Kennedy have publicly disagreed since the sugar mill was proposed in January 2005, and the fissure was evident at Wednesday's committee meeting.

Hines said the treasurer "played politics" and used the mill to get attention for his political ambitions, which Hines said included an expected run by Kennedy for the U.S. Senate in 2008. Kennedy said he was only running for re-election as treasurer.

Kennedy said he was threatened by Odom for his opposition to the mill and was told there would be political retaliation. Odom, who didn't attend the hearing, denied that allegation.

"I've never threatened him as such. I may have been mad at him at some point, but I've never even read this bill," Odom said in a phone interview.

Supporters of the mill sought to use an annual stream of state gambling money to guarantee some of the borrowing for the project, which they said would help central Louisiana farmers lower their transportation costs. Hines said a group of farmers would pay off the debt with the earnings from the mill. Hines's son-in-law was one of the sugar farmers who committed to provide cane to the Bunkie mill and would have jointly owned and operated the facility.

Kennedy repeatedly said the mill, estimated to cost anywhere from $135 million to $150 million, was financially risky and could leave the state saddled with debt if the mill proved unsuccessful. He cited two studies that said the mill likely would go bankrupt.

"It was like taking $150 million in taxpayers' money and throwing it in the dirt," Kennedy said.

Blanco and her allies on the Bond Commission helped kill the sugar mill proposal, but only after multiple commission meetings and months of Kennedy talking against the project.

Kennedy refused to put the syrup mill discussion on one Bond Commission agenda, saying the backers of the project didn't provide the requested financial documents. But the commission voted to overrule Kennedy, getting a two-thirds vote to add the item to the agenda. Kennedy said that showed the process in place works.

But senators on the committee said the process puts too much authority in the hands of one person, the state treasurer.

"One person having almighty control, it can't be that way," said Sen. Chris Ullo, D-Harvey.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Well, yeah.

Interestingly, I had a telephone conversation this morning, with a political neophyte, on this very subject. I endeavored to explain to my phoning pal that as fab as Bobby Jindal is, if he doesn't have an intelligent, courageous, honorable legislature, with, at least, *some* of his vision, the state will remain "stuck on stupid," despite Bobby's best efforts to turn us around.

From The Ouachita Citizen:

Jindal may regret running for governor
by Sam Hanna, Jr. - posted Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

If the current polling on the governor's race holds true to form and Republican Congressman Bobby Jindal is elected governor by a more than impressive margin this fall, what will Jindal face when he takes office in January?

That's an open-ended question, which could be answered a number of ways.

The answer to that question depends greatly on the outcome of the regular session, which hit its halfway mark last week. The answer to that question also depends on the outcome of the legislative races throughout the state, which will be decided in the fall elections as well.

Thus far in the regular session the Legislature would appear to be hell bent on spending as much money as possible, relying on the so-called $3.5 billion in budget surplus funds that either exist today or are projected to bear fruit at some point in the future. Of course, we're alluding to the $830 million in surplus funds that can be counted as money in the bank, while the remaining $2.7 billion or so are surplus monies the state expects to possess at the end of the current fiscal year and at the end of the 2007-08 fiscal year. That $2.7 billion, give or take, is a projected budget surplus. It hasn't been deposited yet. Remember that.

With the Legislature in general in a giving spirit, or a running for public office spirit, some lawmakers have concocted a number of shortsighted propositions about what to do with all of those budget surplus funds. Of course, those propositions are geared toward making them look good in the eyes of the voters, or buying votes.

With that backdrop in mind, solons are peddling a number of bills to grant pay raises for state employees, school teachers and school support personnel, while advocating increased funding for the state's colleges and universities. Let's not forget about pay raises for college faculty, too.

Also, there's talk of pumping millions of dollars more into the LA-4 Pre-K program and hundreds of millions of dollars more in a band-aid approach to tackle the backlog of road construction projects across Louisiana.

Lump it all together, and Huey Long would be proud. It's populism at its best.

In the meantime, lawmakers in general have paid lip service to cutting taxes in a meaningful manner, indicating they're scared to death of facing the proposition that state revenues won't be sufficient in the future to meet the out-of-control demands of a bloated, inefficient state government they helped create.

There's still hope, though, that the Legislature will come to its senses and pass some tax cuts before the session comes to a close in late June. Maybe.

So where will that leave Jindal come January, assuming he's elected this fall?

Jindal will discover a bare cupboard, or a state treasury void of the money any new governor would need to enact the bulk of his or her campaign platform.

He'll have an option, though. He can call a special session and attempt to undo the mess the Legislature is in the process of creating in the current session.

Thus Jindal will need a Legislature chock full of new members who are in tune with his views on governing. That's a must if the voters want Jindal to succeed.

That points to the importance of the legislative races that will play out across the state between now and Election Day in October.

Candidates for the House or the Senate can be labeled one or two ways. They're either with Jindal or against him. There's no fence sitting in that regard.

And voters should take a long, hard look at any and every candidate for the Legislature, especially someone who's attempting to jump from the House to the Senate and vice versa. Voters should review the voting records of the candidates in those races.

If a candidate is running for re-election or running for a legislative body opposite of the one he or she is serving in today, voters would do well to determine whether the candidate in question towed the line for Gov. Kathleen Blanco over the past three-plus years.

With that knowledge in hand, voters should ask themselves the following question: can the candidate in question be trusted if he or she claims to be a reformer like Jindal when, in fact, the candidate was a rubber stamp for Blanco?

Think about it.

If the unthinkable transpires this fall, meaning a Legislature is ushered into office that's anti-Jindal, the young congressman from Kenner via Baton Rouge will regret he ever ran for governor in the first place.

No, it's not being suggested the voters elect a Legislature that would do nothing but vote in favor of every idea Jindal proposed.

It is being suggested that the voters elect lawmakers who don't waffle in the wind like Old Glory.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Bush warned us of a tough summer.

Perhaps this should be required reading for members of Congress.

Iran's secret plan for summer offensive to force US out of Iraq

Simon Tisdall
Tuesday May 22, 2007
The Guardian

Iran is secretly forging ties with al-Qaida elements and Sunni Arab militias in Iraq in preparation for a summer showdown with coalition forces intended to tip a wavering US Congress into voting for full military withdrawal, US officials say.

"Iran is fighting a proxy war in Iraq and it's a very dangerous course for them to be following. They are already committing daily acts of war against US and British forces," a senior US official in Baghdad warned. "They [Iran] are behind a lot of high-profile attacks meant to undermine US will and British will, such as the rocket attacks on Basra palace and the Green Zone [in Baghdad]. The attacks are directed by the Revolutionary Guard who are connected right to the top [of the Iranian government]."

The official said US commanders were bracing for a nationwide, Iranian-orchestrated summer offensive, linking al-Qaida and Sunni insurgents to Tehran's Shia militia allies, that Iran hoped would trigger a political mutiny in Washington and a US retreat. "We expect that al-Qaida and Iran will both attempt to increase the propaganda and increase the violence prior to Petraeus's report in September [when the US commander General David Petraeus will report to Congress on President George Bush's controversial, six-month security "surge" of 30,000 troop reinforcements]," the official said.

"Certainly it [the violence] is going to pick up from their side. There is significant latent capability in Iraq, especially Iranian-sponsored capability. They can turn it up whenever they want. You can see that from the pre-positioning that's been going on and the huge stockpiles of Iranian weapons that we've turned up in the last couple of months. The relationships between Iran and groups like al-Qaida are very fluid," the official said.

"It often comes down to individuals, and people constantly move around. For instance, the Sunni Arab so-called resistance groups use Salafi jihadist ideology for their own purposes. But the whole Iran- al-Qaida linkup is very sinister."

Iran has maintained close links to Iraq's Shia political parties and militias but has previously eschewed collaboration with al-Qaida and Sunni insurgents.

US officials now say they have firm evidence that Tehran has switched tack as it senses a chance of victory in Iraq. In a parallel development, they say they also have proof that Iran has reversed its previous policy in Afghanistan and is now supporting and supplying the Taliban's campaign against US, British and other Nato forces.

Tehran's strategy to discredit the US surge and foment a decisive congressional revolt against Mr Bush is national in scope and not confined to the Shia south, its traditional sphere of influence, the senior official in Baghdad said. It included stepped-up coordination with Shia militias such as Moqtada al-Sadr's Jaish al-Mahdi as well as Syrian-backed Sunni Arab groups and al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, he added. Iran was also expanding contacts across the board with paramilitary forces and political groups, including Kurdish parties such as the PUK, a US ally.

"Their strategy takes into account all these various parties. Iran is playing all these different factions to maximise its future control and maximise US and British difficulties. Their co-conspirator is Syria which is allowing the takfirists [fundamentalist Salafi jihadis] to come across the border," the official said.

Any US decision to retaliate against Iran on its own territory could be taken only at the highest political level in Washington, the official said. But he indicated that American patience was wearing thin.

Warning that the US was "absolutely determined" to hit back hard wherever it was challenged by Iranian proxies or agents inside Iraq, he cited the case of five alleged members of the Revolutionary Guard's al-Quds force detained in Irbil in January. Despite strenuous protests from Tehran, which claims the men are diplomats, they have still not been released.

"Tehran is behaving like a racecourse gambler. They're betting on all the horses in the race, even on people they fundamentally don't trust," a senior administration official in Washington said. "They don't know what the outcome will be in Iraq. So they're hedging their bets."

The administration official also claimed that notwithstanding recent US and British overtures, Syria was still collaborating closely with Iran's strategy in Iraq.

"80% to 90%" of the foreign jihadis entering Iraq were doing so from Syrian territory, he said.

Despite recent diplomatic contacts, and an agreement to hold bilateral talks at ambassadorial level in Baghdad next week, US officials say there has been no let-up in hostile Iranian activities, including continuing support for violence, weapons smuggling and training.

"Iran is perpetuating the cycle of sectarian violence through support for extra-judicial killing and murder cells. They bring Iraqi militia members and insurgent groups into Iran for training and then help infiltrate them back into the country. We have plenty of evidence from a variety of sources. There's no argument about that. That's just a fact," the senior official in Baghdad said.

In trying to force an American retreat, Iran's hardline leadership also hoped to bring about a humiliating political and diplomatic defeat for the US that would reduce Washington's regional influence while increasing Tehran's own.

But if Iran succeeded in "prematurely" driving US and British forces out of Iraq, the likely result would be a "colossal humanitarian disaster" and possible regional war drawing in the Sunni Arab Gulf states, Syria and Turkey, he said.

Despite such concerns, or because of them, the US welcomed the chance to talk to Iran, the senior administration official said. "Our agenda starts with force protection in Iraq," he said. But there were many other Iraq-related issues to be discussed. Recent pressure had shown that Iran's behaviour could be modified, the official claimed: "Last winter they were literally getting away with murder."

But tougher action by security forces in Iraq against Iranian agents and networks, the dispatch of an additional aircraft carrier group to the Gulf and UN security council resolutions imposing sanctions had given Tehran pause, he said.

Washington analysts and commentators predict that Gen Petraeus's report to the White House and Congress in early September will be a pivotal moment in the history of the four-and-a-half-year war - and a decision to begin a troop drawdown or continue with the surge policy will hinge on the outcome. Most Democrats and many Republicans in Congress believe Iraq is in the grip of a civil war and that there is little that a continuing military presence can achieve. "Political will has already failed. It's over," a former Bush administration official said.

A senior adviser to Gen Petraeus reported this month that the surge had reduced violence, especially sectarian killings, in the Baghdad area and Sunni-dominated Anbar province. But the adviser admitted that much of the trouble had merely moved elsewhere, "resulting in spikes of activity in Diyala [to the north] and some areas to the south of the capital". "Overall violence is at about the same level [as when the surge began in February]."

Iranian officials flatly deny US and British allegations of involvement in internal violence in Iraq or in attacks on coalition forces. Interviewed in Tehran recently, Mohammad Reza Bagheri, deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs with primary responsibility for Iran's policy in Iraq, said: "We believe it would be to the benefit of both the occupiers and the Iraqi people that they [the coalition forces] withdraw immediately."

The Right Fight

Good read from FrontPage Magazine:

By Jacob Laksin
May 28, 2007

Few today are receptive to the idea of a “war on terror.” From a war-weary public, to a political commentariat impatient with such supposedly simple-minded slogans, the country seems determined to move beyond the notion that the fighting underway in Iraq is in any significant way connected to the global terrorist threat to national security. So it is to President Bush’s credit that he used his commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy this week to reacquaint a disaffected nation with a stubborn fact: Iraq remains the central theater in the fight against al-Qaeda and its jihadist brethren.

To illustrate the point, Bush adduced newly declassified intelligence that confirms what many are disinclined to hear: that al-Qaeda views Iraq as the ultimate showdown between its brand of fanatical Islam and the Western world, and that it seeks to turn the country into a staging ground for further attacks against the United States.

By way of example, Bush pointed to a 2005 plot, apparently hatched by Osama bin Laden himself, to coordinate attacks against the U.S. with al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq. According to details presented by the president, bin Laden instructed an intermediary, Hamza Rabi, to relay plans for such attacks to al-Qaeda’s then-senior leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi. “Our intelligence community reports that a senior al-Qaeda leader, Abu Faraj al-Libi, went further and suggested that bin Laden actually send Rabia, himself, to Iraq to help plan external operations,” Bush explained. "Abu Faraj later speculated that if this effort proved successful, al-Qaeda might one day prepare the majority of its external operations from Iraq.” Reflecting on the import of these findings, Bush sensibly concluded that “war on terror” remained a useful concept: “This notion about how this isn't a war on terror, in my view, is na├»ve,” he said. “It doesn't reflect the true nature of the world in which we live.”

Where the president erred is in assuming that his critics -- especially among the Democratic Party’s leadership -- actually live in the same world. In reality, at the level of foreign policy, Democrats and their allies on the anti-war Left have long inhabited an alternate universe.

Capitol Hill this week embodied that political disconnect. Going into full bullying mode, Congressional Democrats repeatedly threatened to block war funding unless the appropriations bill for the war also included timelines for withdrawal -- a clear encroachment on the executive’s war-making powers. Finally they agreed, grudgingly, to fund the troops. Detracting from the solemnity of the Democratic opposition, however, is the fact that legislators nonetheless managed to muscle billions of dollars in earmarks into the $120-billion legislation.

For the anti-war base, even reluctant support for the war effort is apostasy punishable by political death. Far-left activist network MoveOn.org has already demanded that “every single Democrat must oppose this bill.” The marching orders are clear: Vote for defeat in Iraq, or face it at home. Accordingly, MoveOn has vowed to mount primary challenges to any Democrat who dares to show independence on Iraq.

It will please these ideological enforcers to know that no such independence is to be found within the current field of Democratic presidential hopefuls. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the latter reportedly the most hawkish of the contenders, supported a symbolic measure to cut all funding for the war by next spring. (It was unclear, as of this writing, whether the Senators would vote for this week’s funding bill.)

Among candidates in serious contention, John Edwards has staked out the hardest anti-war line. In laying out his foreign policy vision before the Council on Foreign Relations this week, the onetime vice presidential aspirant assailed the notion of a war on terror as one of President Bush‘s “discredited ideological pursuits.” Unveiling his own plan for combating terrorism, Edwards called for a new humility, and proposed “to educate every child in the world.” How that mission could be reconciled with his call for humility in foreign affairs, and why an education campaign would stop the next generation of al-Qaeda recruits -- who, as it happens, are uniformly well-educated -- were among the many questions Edwards left unanswered.

Far from the demagoguery of the presidential campaign, the hard work of actually fighting terrorism falls to the U.S. troops and their Iraqi allies. Although violence -- in the form of suicide attacks, car bombings, and gangland-style murders -- remains a constant, the “surge” of American troop strength begun in February is showing modest signs of success. For one thing, sectarian violence appears to be in decline, especially in Baghdad. For another, Iraqis, including in Sunni Arab strongholds like Anbar province, are joining the fight against al-Qaeda terrorists.

Moreover, and contrary to the popular refrain that Iraq is a “distraction” from the true fight against terrorism, al-Qaeda has in recent years suffered serious defeats. Consider that of the operatives that bin Laden hoped to involve in his plot to attack the United States, al-Libi was captured and is now out of commission in much-maligned Guantanamo Bay; al-Rabia was killed in 2005 in Pakistan; and al-Zarqawi met his unlamented end in a June 2006 strike by the U.S. military in Diyala province. For a distraction from al-Qaeda, Iraq is proving to be remarkably on-target.

Not that you will hear this from the war’s critics. To acknowledge success would require them to concede that Iraq is in fact the frontline in the global war on terror -- and, furthermore, that the war is not a White House scheme to scare American voters. In short, it would require an admission that, on the question of Iraq’s centrality to the war against al-Qaeda, President Bush is right.

Iraqis are more forthright. Lt. Gen. Aboud Qanbar, the Iraqi commander overseeing the security plan, told the Washington Post this week that while sectarian violence is the leading problem in the country, it cannot be understood apart from al-Qaeda‘s involvement. Observing that al-Qaeda often incites the violence that draws reprisals from sectarian Shiite militias, he said: “Terrorists of al-Qaeda and the enemies of Iraq, they want to start a crisis. The objective behind this is to incite sectarian strife.” Coming just ahead of Memorial Day, it was a fitting reminder that the sacrifices of American forces in Iraq have not been in vain. Just don’t tell Congress.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ed Meese on Immigration Reform Bill.


Read it and weep. Oh, the insanity...

In all sincerity, I have to ask, is our country, as we know it, over?

From The Heritage Foundation:

May 23, 2007
Rewarding Illegal Aliens: Senate Bill Undermines The Rule of Law


by Kris W. Kobach, D.Phil., J.D. and Matthew Spalding, Ph.D.

The most controversial component of the Senate's Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007 is Title VI, euphemistically entitled "Nonimmigrants in the United States Previously in Unlawful Status." It would create a new "Z" visa exclusively for illegal aliens. This title would change the status of those who are here illegally to legal, essentially granting amnesty to those "previously in unlawful status." This seriously flawed proposal would undermine the rule of law by granting massive benefits to those who have willfully violated U.S. laws, while denying those benefits to those who have played by the rules and sometimes even to U.S. citizens.

Flawed Provisions
The following are ten of the worst provisions—by no means an exhaustive list—of Title VI of the bill:

1. A Massive Amnesty: Title VI of the bill grants amnesty to virtually all of the 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens in the country today. This amnesty would dwarf the amnesty that the United States granted—with disastrous consequences—in 1986 to 2.7 million illegal aliens. It is also a larger amnesty than that proposed in last year's ill-fated Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act. Indeed, the Senate's bill imposes no cap on the total number of individuals who could receive Z-visa status.

To initially qualify for a Z visa, an illegal alien need only have a job (or be the parent, spouse, or child of someone with a job) and provide two documents suggesting that he or she was in the country before January 1, 2007, and has remained in the country since then. A bank statement, pay stub, or similarly forgeable record will do. Also acceptable under the legislation is a sworn affidavit from a non-relative (see Section 601(i)(2)).

The price of a Z visa is $3,000 for individuals—only slightly more than the going rate to hire a coyote to smuggle a person across the border. A family of five could purchase visas for the bargain price of $5,000—some $20,000 short of the net cost that household is likely to impose on local, state, and federal government each year, according to Heritage Foundation calculations.

Expect a mass influx unlike anything this country has ever seen once the 12-month period for accepting Z visa applications begins. These provisions are an open invitation for those intent on U.S. residence to sneak in and present two fraudulent pieces of paper indicating that they were here before the beginning of the year.

That is precisely what happened in the 1986 amnesty, during which Immigration and Naturalization Services discovered 398,000 cases of fraud. Expect the number of fraudulent applications to be at least four times larger this time, given the much larger applicant pool.

2. The Permanent "Temporary" Visa: Supporters of the bill call the Z visa a "temporary" visa. However, they neglect to mention that it can be renewed every four years until the visa holder dies, according to Section 601(k)(2) of the legislation. This would be the country's first permanent temporary visa. On top of that, it is a "super-visa," allowing the holder to work, attend college, or travel abroad and reenter. These permissible uses are found in Section 602(m).

A law-abiding alien with a normal nonimmigrant visa would surely desire this privileged status. Unfortunately for him, only illegal aliens can qualify, according Section 601(c)(1).

And contrary to popular misconception, illegal aliens need not return to their home countries to apply for the Z visa. That's only necessary if and when an alien decides to adjust from Z visa status to lawful permanent resident ("green card") status under Section 602(a)(1). And even then, it's not really the country of origin; any consulate outside the United States can take applications at its discretion or the direction of the Secretary of State.

3. Hobbled Background Checks: The bill would make it extremely difficult for the federal government to prevent criminals and terrorists from obtaining legal status. Under Section 601(h)(1), the bill would allow the government only one business day to conduct a background check to determine whether an applicant is a criminal or terrorist. Unless the government can find a reason not to grant it by the end of the next business day after the alien applies, the alien receives a probationary Z visa (good from the time of approval until six months after the date Z visas begin to be approved, however long that may be) that lets him roam throughout the country and seek employment legally.

The problem is that there is no single, readily searchable database of all of the dangerous people in the world. While the federal government does have computer databases of known criminals and terrorists, these databases are far from comprehensive. Much of this kind of information exists in paper records that cannot be searched within 24 hours. Other information is maintained by foreign governments.

The need for effective background checks is real. During the 1986 amnesty, the United States granted legal status to Mahmoud "The Red" Abouhalima, who fraudulently sought and obtained the amnesty intended for seasonal agricultural workers (even though he was actually employed as a cab driver in New York City). But his real work was in the field of terrorism. He went on to become a ringleader in the 1993 terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center. Using his new legal status after the amnesty, he was able to travel abroad for terrorist training.

4. Amnesty for "Absconders": Title VI's amnesty extends even to fugitives who have been ordered deported by an immigration judge but chose to ignore their removal orders. More than 636,000 absconders are now present in the country, having defied the law twice: once when they broke U.S. immigration laws and again when they ignored the orders of the immigration courts.

The Senate's bill allows the government to grant Z visas to absconders. Though the bill appears to deny the visa to absconders in Section 601(d)(1)(B), Section 601(d)(1)(I) allows U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials to give an absconder the Z visa anyway if the absconder can demonstrate that departure from the United States "would result in extreme hardship to the alien or the alien's spouse, parent or child."

This is a massive loophole because so many things can be construed to constitute "extreme hardship." This might include removing a child from an American school and placing him in a school in an impoverished country, or deporting a person with any chronic illness. Attorneys representing aliens would also argue that if any member of an absconder's family is a U.S. citizen, then the other members must remain in the United States, because the separation of family members would constitute extreme hardship.

This would also be a reward to those who have defied U.S. immigration courts. Those who have successfully fled justice could receive the most generous visa ever created, but those who complied with the law and have waited years to enter legally would have to wait longer still. (Indeed, the massive bureaucratic load caused by processing Z visas would undoubtedly mean longer waits for those who have played by the rules.) Further, those who have obeyed the law and complied with deportation orders would not be eligible for Z visas.

The effect of this provision may already be felt today. Why would an illegal alien obey a deportation order while this bill is even pending in Congress? If the alien ignores the deportation order, he may be able to qualify for the amnesty; but if he obeys the order, he has no possibility of gaining the amnesty.

5. Reverse Justice: The bill would effectively shut down the immigration court system. Under Section 601(h)(6), if an alien in the removal process is "prima facie eligible" for the Z visa, an immigration judge must close any proceedings against the alien and offer the alien an opportunity to apply for amnesty.

6. Enforcement of Amnesty, Not Laws: The bill would transform Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from a law enforcement agency into an amnesty distribution center. Under Sections 601(h)(1, 5) if an ICE agent apprehends aliens who appear to be eligible for the Z visa (in other words, just about any illegal alien), the agent cannot detain them. Instead, ICE must provide them a reasonable opportunity to apply for the Z visa. Instead of initiating removal proceedings, ICE will be initiating amnesty applications. This is the equivalent of turning the Drug Enforcement Agency into a needle-distribution network.

7. Amnesty for Gang Members: Under Section 601(g)(2) of the bill, gang members would be eligible to receive amnesty. This comes at a time when violent international gangs, such as Mara Salvatrucha 13 (or "MS-13"), have brought mayhem to U.S. cities. More than 30,000 illegal-alien gang members operate in 33 states, trafficking in drugs, arms, and people. Deporting illegal-alien gang members has been a top ICE priority. The Senate bill would end that. To qualify for amnesty, all a gang member would need to do is note his gang membership and sign a "renunciation of gang affiliation."

8. Tuition Subsidies for Illegal Aliens: The Senate bill incorporates the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act). The DREAM Act effectively repeals a 1996 federal law (8 U.S.C. § 1623) that prohibits any state from offering in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens unless the state also offers in-state tuition rates to all U.S. citizens. Ten states are currently defying this federal law. Section 616 would allow these and all other states to offer in-state tuition rates to any illegal alien who obtains the Z visa and attends college.

The injustice of this provision is obvious. Illegal aliens would receive a taxpayer subsidy worth tens of thousands of dollars and would be treated better than U.S. citizens from out of state, who must pay three to four times as much to attend college. In an era of limited educational resources and rising tuitions, U.S. citizens, not aliens openly violating federal law, should be first in line to receive education subsidies.

Further, legal aliens who possess an appropriate F, J, or M student visa would not receive this valuable benefit. Nor would they be eligible for the federal student loans that illegal aliens could obtain by this provision.

9. Taxpayer-Funded Lawyers for Illegal Aliens: The Senate's bill would force taxpayers to foot the bill for many illegal aliens' lawyers. Under current law, illegal aliens are not eligible for federally funded legal services. Section 622(m) of the bill would allow millions of illegal aliens who work in agriculture to receive free legal services. Every illegal alien working in the agricultural sector would have access to an immigration attorney to argue his case through the immigration courts and federal courts of appeals—all at taxpayer expense. This provision alone could cost hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

10. Amnesty Before Enforcement Triggers: Proponents of the Senate approach have consistently claimed that it would allow delayed amnesty only after certain law enforcement goals are met. The text of the bill, however, tells a different story. Section 1(a) allows probationary Z visas to be issued immediately after enactment, and Section 601(f)(2) prohibits the federal government from waiting more than 180 days after enactment to begin issuing probationary Z visas.

These probationary Z visas could be valid for years, depending on when the government begins issuing non-probationary Z visas, according to Section 601(h)(4). Moreover, the "probationary" designation means little. These visas are nearly as good as non-probationary Z visas, giving the alien immediate lawful status, protection from deportation, authorization to work, and the ability to exit and reenter the country (with advance permission). These privileges are listed in Section 601(h)(1).

Conclusion
What becomes unmistakably clear from the details of the Senate's bill is that it is not a "compromise" in any meaningful sense. Indeed, the sweeping amnesty provisions of Title VI cripple law enforcement and undermine the rule of law.

Kris W. Kobach, D.Phil, J.D., professor of law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, served as counsel to the U.S. Attorney General in 2001-2003 and was the attorney general's chief adviser on immigration law. Matthew Spalding, Ph.D., is the director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

U. S. Senate Information on Illegal Alien Legislation

The Issue:
SB 1348 is 790 pages long (attached to this email) which will grant amnesty to 12-20 million illegal aliens. Monday, there will be a vote taken on cloture for SB1348 but the public and many US Senators haven’t had sufficient time to read the bill and make comment on it. Without holding a Committee Hearing, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is trying to ram through the Senate this mostly unread bill. Cloture is when a bill is fast forwarded through the Senate without first holding committee hearings. Committee hearings allow public open debate of a bill before it is sent to the Senate floor for votes.

Comments made about cloture:
"We hope that the voices of hatred and bigotry will silence themselves for this debate..." -Senator Ted Kennedy to the 70 percent of Americans who oppose amnesty for illegal aliens.

"I hope we don't take a thousand page bill written in secret and try to ram it through the Senate in a few days. This is a very important issue for America and we need time to debate it." Senator Jim DeMint

…Administration and pro-Amnesty forces in the Senate will be twisting arms... (to) secure enough votes to make Amnesty the law of the land!
J. William Lauderback, Ex. VP, American Conservative Union

Brian Darling is director of U.S. Senate Relations at the Heritage Foundation.…believes this
warrants open debate:
Title VI of a draft copy of the bill breaks down amnesty visas into3 categories:
Z-1 — Illegal aliens present and working in the United States up to Jan. 1, 2007.
Z-2 — Parents and spouses of illegal aliens qualifying under the Z-1 category.
Z-3 — Children of illegal aliens qualifying under the Z-1 category.
These "Z Visa" holders can stay in the "Z" status indefinitely, which means they never have to pursue "a pathway to citizenship." They also would be able to get Social Security numbers and benefit from some welfare programs. Shockingly, there is no cap on the numbers of amnesty recipients in the draft language. The only thing the Z Visa holder can’t do is vote — until, that is, a liberal judge declares this limitation unconstitutional or until a liberal president can railroad through a "technical corrections" bill.

----------------------------
Our US Senator's numbers are below. You can let them know you don't want cloture on Senate Bill 1348.
Main line to Senate Room in Washington D. C.Lines will be busy
(202) 224-3121

Or, call Senators Landrieu and Vitter at one of their local offices

Landrieu
724 Hart Senate Office Bldg
Washington DC 20510
DC: 202 224-5824

Vitter
516 Hart Senate Office Bldg
Washington DC 20510
DC: 202 224-4623

Vitter
800 Lafayette St.
Suite 1200
Lafayette LA 70501
Acadiana: 337 262-6898

Vitter
858 Convention Street
Baton Rouge LA 70802
BR-River Parishes: 225 383-0331

Vitter
2230 S. MacArthur Dr. Suite 4
Alexandria LA 71301
Central: 318 448-0169

Vitter
1217 N. 19th Street
Monroe LA 71201
NE La: 318 325-8120

Vitter
920 Pierremont Rd, Suite 113
Shreveport LA 71106
NW La: 318 861-0437

Vitter
2800 Veterans Blvd Suite 201
Metairie LA 70002
SE La: 504 589-2753

Vitter
3221 Ryan St., Suite E
Lake Charles LA 70601
SW La: 337 436-0453

NFRW 34th Biennial Convention



Go here for all the information you'll need.

Bob Kerrey - not John Kerry - gets it.

Will former US Senator Bob Kerrey (D-NE) and member of the 9/11 Commission be "excommunicated?"

From The Wall Street Journal:

The Left's Iraq Muddle
Yes, it is central to the fight against Islamic radicalism.

BY BOB KERREY
Tuesday, May 22, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

At this year's graduation celebration at The New School in New York, Iranian lawyer, human-rights activist and Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi delivered our commencement address. This brave woman, who has been imprisoned for her criticism of the Iranian government, had many good and wise things to say to our graduates, which earned their applause.

But one applause line troubled me. Ms. Ebadi said: "Democracy cannot be imposed with military force."

What troubled me about this statement--a commonly heard criticism of U.S. involvement in Iraq--is that those who say such things seem to forget the good U.S. arms have done in imposing democracy on countries like Japan and Germany, or Bosnia more recently.

Let me restate the case for this Iraq war from the U.S. point of view. The U.S. led an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein because Iraq was rightly seen as a threat following Sept. 11, 2001. For two decades we had suffered attacks by radical Islamic groups but were lulled into a false sense of complacency because all previous attacks were "over there." It was our nation and our people who had been identified by Osama bin Laden as the "head of the snake." But suddenly Middle Eastern radicals had demonstrated extraordinary capacity to reach our shores.

As for Saddam, he had refused to comply with numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions outlining specific requirements related to disclosure of his weapons programs. He could have complied with the Security Council resolutions with the greatest of ease. He chose not to because he was stealing and extorting billions of dollars from the U.N. Oil for Food program.

No matter how incompetent the Bush administration and no matter how poorly they chose their words to describe themselves and their political opponents, Iraq was a larger national security risk after Sept. 11 than it was before. And no matter how much we might want to turn the clock back and either avoid the invasion itself or the blunders that followed, we cannot. The war to overthrow Saddam Hussein is over. What remains is a war to overthrow the government of Iraq.

Some who have been critical of this effort from the beginning have consistently based their opposition on their preference for a dictator we can control or contain at a much lower cost. From the start they said the price tag for creating an environment where democracy could take root in Iraq would be high. Those critics can go to sleep at night knowing they were right.

The critics who bother me the most are those who ordinarily would not be on the side of supporting dictatorships, who are arguing today that only military intervention can prevent the genocide of Darfur, or who argued yesterday for military intervention in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda to ease the sectarian violence that was tearing those places apart.

Suppose we had not invaded Iraq and Hussein had been overthrown by Shiite and Kurdish insurgents. Suppose al Qaeda then undermined their new democracy and inflamed sectarian tensions to the same level of violence we are seeing today. Wouldn't you expect the same people who are urging a unilateral and immediate withdrawal to be urging military intervention to end this carnage? I would.

American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq's middle class has fled the country in fear.

With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do? If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power. American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible should remember this: Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy.

The key question for Congress is whether or not Iraq has become the primary battleground against the same radical Islamists who declared war on the U.S. in the 1990s and who have carried out a series of terrorist operations including 9/11. The answer is emphatically "yes."

This does not mean that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11; he was not. Nor does it mean that the war to overthrow him was justified--though I believe it was. It only means that a unilateral withdrawal from Iraq would hand Osama bin Laden a substantial psychological victory.

Those who argue that radical Islamic terrorism has arrived in Iraq because of the U.S.-led invasion are right. But they are right because radical Islam opposes democracy in Iraq. If our purpose had been to substitute a dictator who was more cooperative and supportive of the West, these groups wouldn't have lasted a week.

Finally, Jim Webb said something during his campaign for the Senate that should be emblazoned on the desks of all 535 members of Congress: You do not have to occupy a country in order to fight the terrorists who are inside it. Upon that truth I believe it is possible to build what doesn't exist today in Washington: a bipartisan strategy to deal with the long-term threat of terrorism.

The American people will need that consensus regardless of when, and under what circumstances, we withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq. We must not allow terrorist sanctuaries to develop any place on earth. Whether these fighters are finding refuge in Syria, Iran, Pakistan or elsewhere, we cannot afford diplomatic or political excuses to prevent us from using military force to eliminate them.

David’s on a roll. ;->

Take that, Hill!

From The Advocate:

Vitter criticizes Clinton for attack

By GERARD SHIELDS
Advocate Washington bureau
Published: May 22, 2007 - Page: 8A

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is engaged in a war of words with the top Democratic presidential contender.

Vitter took exception to remarks made Friday by U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y, during her visit to New Orleans. Clinton questioned Vitter’s support for Louisiana on hurricane recovery issues.

Clinton alleged that Vitter hasn’t been working hard enough with his Louisiana colleague in the Senate, Democrat Mary Landrieu.

“She has been waging a lonely battle,” Clinton said during a tour of the city. “She hasn’t had much support from her counterpart; let me just lay it on the table here.”

Vitter accused Clinton of playing politics.

“Throughout this difficult recovery work, I’ve always strived to focus on helping people and solving problems, not playing politics,” Vitter says in a statement. “I, for one, sure hope we keep doing that and leave the divisive partisanship and political games to Hillary and others.”

Vitter sits on the Environment and Public Works Committee, which recently crafted the Water Resources Development Act. Among other things, the legislation authorizes $3.6 billion to $6 billion for Louisiana coastal restoration, navigation, flood control and hurricane protection projects.

U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., ranking member of the committee, criticized Clinton for her remarks. Inhofe noted that the bill contained seven Vitter amendments on key aspects of Louisiana water resources.

“Sen. Clinton’s comments about Sen. Vitter are particularly off base, coming the very week we passed the WRDA bill,” Inhofe says in a statement.

Vitter was in a position to do more for Louisiana than any other senator, Inhofe said.

“Sen. Clinton would have known all this if she had been involved in that important work for Louisiana,” Inhofe says.

Landrieu filed four amendments identical to ones previously filed by Vitter. Landrieu said she wanted to put as many amendments on the Senate floor as possible to ensure passage.

“We were working together to try to get as many adopted as we could,” Landrieu said.

G. Pearson Cross, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette political scientist, viewed the Clinton comment as the starter pistol for Landrieu’s 2008 re-election bid.

“I don’t think there is any doubt that it’s politically motivated,” Cross said. “Everyone is looking beyond this year to 2008.”

One measure both Landrieu and Vitter have agreed to push is the call to create an 8/29 Commission to investigate levee failures.

The commission, named for the date that Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, is being called for by the New Orleans citizens group, Levees.Org.

Vitter helps lead the charge!

I guess, to some idiots, what happened to Rome is too dim a memory to merit a revisit. Thankfully, David Vitter isn’t among them.

That said, I wish the opposition to this amnesty bill would include in the debate the disallowing of “anchor babies.” Establishing English as the official language of the United States is crucial, as well.

Anyhoo, here it is, from
The New York Times:

Senate Critics Vow to Alter Immigration Measure

WASHINGTON, May 21 — As the Senate began work on a comprehensive immigration bill, lawmakers from both parties demanded substantial changes in the legislation on Monday and forced Senate leaders to extend debate beyond the Memorial Day recess.

From the moment debate started, the crosscurrents buffeting the bill were evident. The intense lobbying since the bill emerged last week from three months of bipartisan negotiations is likely to be just a sample of what lawmakers will hear as they return home to their districts for the Memorial Day recess.

The bill overcame its first hurdle on Monday, a simple vote to begin debate on the hugely contentious measure.

The decision to extend debate followed four hours of speeches in which supporters and opponents of the bill agreed that the nation had lost control of its borders but disagreed on almost everything else.

“There just simply is not enough time on this massive, massively important piece of legislation to do it all” in one week, said the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada.

The outlook for the bill is uncertain. President Bush strongly supports the measure, which incorporates many of his ideas. In the House, Democratic leaders say the president will have to deliver dozens of Republican votes that would be needed for passage.

Some senators who voted to take up the legislation said they did not support the bill in its current form but hoped to improve it with amendments.

The measure, as it now stands, would offer legal status to most of the 12 million illegal immigrants, strengthen security at the border and increase penalties for employers of illegal immigrants.

Democrats plan to offer amendments to eliminate or scale back provisions under which hundreds of thousands of temporary foreign workers would be admitted to the United States each year.

Critics contend that this program would create an underclass of immigrant workers who could adversely affect the wages and working conditions of Americans in some industries.

Republicans have drafted amendments to scale back the legalization program and to designate English as the national language.

Leading the opposition to the bill were three Republicans, Jim Bunning of Kentucky, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and David Vitter of Louisiana.

Mr. Sessions said the measure had been written behind closed doors, with no hearings or review by the Senate Judiciary Committee and no cost estimate by the Congressional Budget Office.

“The American people were not in those meetings,” Mr. Sessions said. “There are 85 senators who have no idea what’s in the bill.”

If Senate leaders had pushed the bill to final passage in one week, Mr. Sessions said, that would have been “a railroad job, for sure.”

Mr. Vitter said the bill offered “pure unadulterated amnesty.”

“If the American people knew what was in this bill,” he said, “there would be a massive outcry against it.”

Mr. Bunning said the bill would “reward lawbreakers” with “a large-scale get-out-of-jail-free pass.”

The chief Democratic architect of the bill, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, defended it as a prudent, urgently needed compromise.

“Our security is threatened in the post-9/11 world by borders out of control,” Mr. Kennedy said. “Our values are tarnished when we allow 12 million human beings to live in the dark shadows of abuse as undocumented immigrants. Our competitiveness in a global economy is at risk when our employers cannot find the able workers they need.”

Mr. Reid criticized the measure on several grounds.

“The bill impacts families in a number of ways that I believe are unwise,” he said. “The bill also allows 400,000 low-skilled workers to come to America for three two-year terms, but requires them to go home for a year in between.

This is impractical both for the workers and for the American employers who need a stable, reliable work force.”

Moreover, Mr. Reid said he feared that the bill would create “a permanent underclass of people who are here to work in low-wage low-skill jobs, but do not have a chance to put down roots or benefit from the opportunities of American citizenship.”

The majority leader also criticized a provision under which illegal immigrants who gained legal status would have to return to their home countries to apply for green cards, or permanent resident visas.

This requirement “will cause needless hardship for immigrants and needless bureaucracy for the government,” Mr. Reid said.

Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, said he was not trying to block the bill, but wanted time to understand it.

“I don’t know any piece of legislation that touches as many people in as many ways as this bill,” Mr. Corker said.

With its vote on Monday, the Senate agreed to limit debate, by invoking cloture, on a motion to take up the bill. The vote was 69 to 23, nine more votes than needed.

Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, said: “I will vote for cloture, but not because I support the underlying bill. I will support cloture only because I hope we can significantly improve this bill.”

Thirty-eight Democrats, 30 Republicans and one independent voted to begin consideration of the bill. Four Democrats, 18 Republicans and one independent voted no.

The Texas senators, John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, both Republicans, voted no, as did the Montana senators, Max Baucus and Jon Tester, who are Democrats.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who helped forge the “grand bargain” on immigration, said he would make every effort to “keep the deal in place.”

He had harsh words for lawmakers who might try to block the bill without offering a solid alternative.

“Doing nothing is a national security nightmare for this country,” Mr. Graham said. “If your goal is to stop this bill and you don’t have an alternative that will secure our borders and deal with illegal immigration, you are not helping the country.”

The bill would provide visas for 400,000 temporary workers a year. The number could be increased to 600,000 in response to demand from employers.

Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, said he would offer an amendment to limit the number to 200,000 a year.

The bill, as written, “puts us on a par with Kuwait or other countries who just depend on foreign workers and have a second-class group of workers doing inferior jobs but not having any real rights or privileges,” Mr. Bingaman said.

Republicans insisted that temporary workers should truly be temporary.

But Mr. Bingaman said, “This idea of bringing people for two years, sending them back for a year, bringing them back for two years and then sending them back for a year is nonsensical.”

In writing the measure, senators bypassed the Judiciary Committee, where immigration bills normally originate.

The chairman of the committee, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, said, “The bill we have before us is a product of closed-door meetings between the administration and Republican senators, which was then put to Democratic senators as a framework for further negotiations.”