Wednesday, November 30, 2005
"This is unprecedented," one official says after a Norwegian firm begins drilling in the north.
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A controversial oil exploration deal between Iraq's autonomy-minded Kurds and a Norwegian company got underway this week without the approval of the central government here, raising a potentially explosive issue at a time of heightened ethnic and sectarian tensions.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party, which controls a portion of the autonomous Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq, last year quietly signed a deal with Norway's DNO to drill for oil near the border city of Zakho. Iraqi and company officials describe the agreement as the first involving new exploration in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
Drilling began after a ceremony Tuesday, during which Nechirvan Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdish northern region, vowed "there is no way Kurdistan would accept that the central government will control our resources," according to news agency reports.
In Baghdad, political leaders on Wednesday reacted to the deal with astonishment....
Looks like the Full Blown Civil War will start anytime now. Plus, Turkey isn't going to go for this. Wonder if Bush knew this was going on?
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Today, President Bush delivered what was billed as a major address on Iraq. Instead, unfortunately, it was just more of the same "stay the course" rhetoric, moving us no closer to a resolution of the conflict.
We've all been waiting for many months for President Bush to come clean with the American people about the war in Iraq. But clearly, the President still fails to see and confront the truth:
- President Bush refuses to acknowledge that the Iraq war has nothing to do with the 9/11 attack on our country by al Qaeda, and it has diverted us from our appropriate response to that attack which was to go into Afghanistan and hunt Osama bin Laden.
- He refuses to acknowledge the fact that our long term presence in Iraq is fueling the very insurgency that he vows to end.
- President Bush refuses to acknowledge that any mistakes were made and that this war was based on false pretenses.
- He ignores the tremendous financial burden on our citizens, and he completely ignores the thousands of wounded that need to hear that they will not be forgotten and that they will receive the care they need.
- President Bush even refuses to acknowledge that Iraqi government officials believe that we can withdraw within a two-year time frame, while continuing to demean those members of Congress who disagree with him.
Today President Bush squandered yet another opportunity to level with the American people and bring the country together around a unified effort to end the war in Iraq. Instead, the President used this speech to lash out in a very personal way against those who believe the best strategy for success is an accelerated training of Iraqi security forces and a drawdown of American troops, starting with the National Guard. Once we clearly state that we do not intend to stay in Iraq forever, the insurgency will be diminished and our brave men and women can begin to come home.
The President's failure to address the concerns of the American people and the Congress is a devastating blow to everyone who hoped to hear the President articulate a clear mission and a projection of when our troops can return home.
With American confidence in his handling of the war in Iraq at an all-time low, when will President Bush get the message? It's up to us to keep standing up and speaking out until he does.
Reaction Of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) To The President's Address On U.S. Strategy In Iraq Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2005
This vague plan has as much credibility as when the President stood on the aircraft carrier and declared "mission accomplished," and more than 1900 more brave American soldiers have died in Iraq in the meantime.
After nearly 1000 days of warfare and more than 2100 American deaths in Iraq, it speaks volumes that only now, as public support for the war continues to plummet, does the White House feel the need to address concerns about the Administration's strategy in Iraq. Unfortunately it is nothing more than a spruced up version of more of the same, riddled with feel-good rhetoric that bears little relationship to the facts facing our troops. This debate is not about whether we need an effective, global strategy, with our allies, against anti-Western religious extremism and terrorism. We do. Rather, the debate is about how best to deal with those threats. Iraq has become a rallying cry and a recruiting ground for terrorists, and the longer we pursue this failed policy, the more dangerous the world will become.
A large bipartisan Senate majority has gone on record to signal a lack of confidence in the vague course the Administration has been following in Iraq. I once again urge the President to sit down with Congress to come up with a real plan, with real benchmarks, to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis and for the orderly withdrawal of our troops.
Email President Bush and urge him to sit down with Congress to hammer out a plan for Iraq.
Here is what Rumsfeld thinks about stopping Torture:
Q: And General Pace, what guidance do you have for your military commanders over there as to what to do if -- like when General Horst found this Interior Ministry jail?
GEN. PACE: It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene to stop it. As an example of how to do it if you don't see it happening but you're told about it is exactly what happened a couple weeks ago. There's a report from an Iraqi to a U.S. commander that there was possibility of inhumane treatment in a particular facility. That U.S. commander got together with his Iraqi counterparts. They went together to the facility, found what they found, reported it to the Iraqi government, and the Iraqi government has taken ownership of that problem and is investigating it. So they did exactly what they should have done.
SEC. RUMSFELD: But I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it's to report it.
GEN. PACE: If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it.
SEC. RUMSFELD: But I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it's to report it.
He's saying if a Soldier can stop an act of Torture, don't bother, just fill out a report and move on.
That's like saying to the Police if you see a crime in progress take a break and fill out the crime report. Rumsfeld should have been thrown out of the Pentagon the day he spouted his stupid "Stuff Happens" about the looting in Baghdad.
“Just two weeks ago, a bipartisan majority of the United States Senate registered a vote of no confidence in the president’s current policy in Iraq. Democrats and Republicans called on the president to change course and release a strategy for success in Iraq with specific benchmarks by which the progress could be measured. Today, President Bush failed to meet this call. Instead, he recycled his tired rhetoric of ‘stay the course’ and once again missed an opportunity to lay out a real strategy for success in Iraq that will bring our troops safely home.
“After nearly 1,000 days of war in Iraq, our troops, their families, and the American people deserve more than just a Bush-Cheney public relations campaign. They deserve a clear strategy with military, economic and political measures to be met in order to successfully complete our mission. The president's continued refusal to provide that plan does nothing to support our troops or their families. Simply staying the course is no longer an option, we must change the course. We can do better.”
In the vice president's new, more fortified bunker, inside his old undisclosed secure location within the larger bunker that used to be called the West Wing of the White House, Dick Cheney was muttering and sputtering.
He wasn't talking to the pictures on the wall, as Nixon did when he finally cracked. Vice doesn't trust those portraits anyway. The walls have ears. He was talking to the only reliable man in a city of dimwits, cowards, traitors and fools: himself.
He hurled a sheaf of news reports with such force it knocked over the picture of Ahmad Chalabi that he keeps next to the picture of Churchill. Winston Chalabi, he likes to call him.
Vice is fed up with all the whining and carping - and that's just inside the White House. The only negativity in Washington is supposed to be his own. He's the only one allowed to scowl and grumble and conspire.
The impertinent Tom DeFrank reported in New York's Daily News that embattled White House aides felt "President Bush must take the reins personally" to save his presidency.
Let him try, Cheney said with a sneer. Things are nowhere near dire enough for that. Even if Junior somehow managed to grab the reins to his presidency, Vice holds Junior's reins. So he just needs to get all these sniveling, poll-driven wimps and losers back on board with the master plan.
Things had been going so smoothly. The global torture franchise was up and running. Halliburton contracts were flowing. Tax cuts were sailing through. Oil companies were raking it in. Alaska drilling was thrillingly close. The courts were defending his executive privilege on energy policy, and people were still buying all that smoke about Saddam's being responsible for 9/11, and that drivel about how we're fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here. Everything was groovy.
But not anymore. Cheney could not believe that Karl had made him go out and call that loudmouth Jack Murtha a patriot. He was sure the Pentagon generals had put the congressman up to calling for a withdrawal from Iraq. Is the military brass getting in touch with its pacifist side? In Wyoming, Vice shoots doves.
How dare Murtha suggest that Cheney dodged and dodged and dodged and dodged and dodged the draft? Murtha thinks he knows about war just because he served in one and was a marine for 37 years? Vice started his own war. Now that's a credential!
It always goes this way with the cut-and-run crowd. First they start nitpicking the war, complaining about little things like the lack of armor for the troops. Then they complain that there aren't enough troops. Well, that would just require more armor that we don't have. Then they kvetch about using incendiary weapons in a city like Falluja. Vice likes the smell of white phosphorus in the morning.
What really enrages him is all the Republicans in the Senate making noises about timetables. Before you know it, it's going to be helicopters on the rooftop at the Baghdad embassy.
Just because Junior's approval ratings are in the 30's, people around here are going all wobbly. Vice was 10 points lower and he wasn't worried. Numbers are for sissies.
Why do Harry Reid and his Democratic turncoats think they can call the White House on the carpet? Do they think Vice would fear to lie about lying about the rationale for going to war? A real liar never stops lying.
He didn't want to have to tell the rest of the senators to go do to themselves what he had told Patrick Leahy to go do to himself.
Now all these idiots are getting caught, even Scooter. DeLay's on the ropes and the Dukester is a total embarrassment, spending bribes on antique commodes and a Rolls-Royce. Vice should never have let an amateur get involved with defense contracts.
Republican moderates are running scared in the House, worried about re-election. Even senators seem to have forgotten which side their bread is oiled on. Ted Stevens let oil company executives get caught lying about the energy task force meeting, while Vice can't even get a little thing like torture chambers through the Senate. What's so wrong with a little torture?
And now John Warner wants Junior to use fireside chats to explain his plan for Iraq. When did everybody get the un-American idea that the president is answerable to America?
Vice is fed up with the whining of squirrelly surrogates like Brent Scowcroft and Lawrence Wilkerson on behalf of peaceniks like George Senior and Colin Powell. If Poppy's upset about his kid's mentor, he should be man enough to come slug it out.
Poppy isn't getting Junior back, Vice vowed, muttering: "He's my son. It's my war. It's my country."
Agitated over their declining credibility, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are answering accusations that they misled the nation into war with characteristic aggressiveness. They're understandably alarmed by the increasing consensus among Americans that they exaggerated and distorted intelligence to justify invading Iraq.
What alarms everyone else - including many members of the President's own party - is that that they still can articulate no plausible plan to get our troops out. Rather than distracting themselves with partisan bickering, the president and vice president ought to seize any opportunity to extricate us honorably from the terrible mess they have made.
Now such a chance has appeared, if only the White House has the wit to recognize it.
The quandary for Americans in Iraq, now that the old rosy scenarios have been discarded, is that both leaving and staying are likely to result in disaster.
If we withdraw, the entire country will be engulfed by civil war, creating a haven for Islamist terror and a threat to regional stability, not to mention a victory for our enemies. If we remain as occupiers, the civil war will continue to expand anyway, attracting support for Islamist terror, draining our resources, and further damaging our army and international prestige. We continue the occupation because of the insurgency, even though the occupation only strengthens the insurgency.
Too often omitted from American discussions of this dismal situation is the widely shared and forcefully expressed desire of the Iraqis themselves - namely that our troops should go home as soon as possible, and that a schedule must be established for their departure.
Last August, the British defense ministry conducted a secret opinion survey in Iraq, whose results have since leaked out. The pollsters found that over three-quarters of the Iraqi public want a timetable for the end of the occupation. Even the Iraqi political parties least hostile to the United States, including those that won the elections last January, want to know precisely when our troops will go.
That broad judgment was ratified again in Cairo last weekend, when Iraqi political leaders met at a "reconciliation conference" under the auspices of the Arab League. Only those who know nothing about public opinion in Iraq were surprised when the Cairo conferees, representing a very broad spectrum of ethnic and religious factions, issued a joint statement that demanded "the withdrawal of foreign forces in accordance with a timetable." (The communiqué went so far as to acknowledge the legitimacy of "resistance" to foreign occupation, while condemning acts of terror against civilians.)
According to the Egyptian newspaper Al Hayat , sources at the conference suggested that the Iraqi leaders want U.S. and British troops to vacate the country's major cities by next May. The premise of that hope is "an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces." ....
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
WASHINGTON -- As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.
The articles, written by U.S. military "information operations" troops, are translated into Arabic and placed in Baghdad newspapers with the help of a defense contractor, according to U.S. military officials and documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
Many of the articles are presented in the Iraqi press as unbiased news accounts written and reported by independent journalists. . The stories trumpet the work of U.S. and Iraqi troops, denounce insurgents, and tout U.S.-led efforts to rebuild the country.
While the articles are basically truthful, they present only one side of events and omit information that might reflect poorly on the U.S. or Iraqi governments, officials said. Records and interviews indicate that the U.S. has paid Iraqi newspapers to run dozens of such articles with headlines such as "Iraqis Insist on Living Despite Terrorism" since the effort began this year.
The Treasury and State departments are fighting over which agency is in charge of coordinating training and technical assistance for two dozen countries, according to a Government Accountability Office report. It also said the Bush administration doesn't have any reliable method for measuring the success of its efforts.
The GAO report said an unnamed Treasury official has said the effort ``is broken and State creates obstacles rather than coordinates efforts.''
In the report, State Department officials blamed the Treasury Department for not accepting its authority.
U.S. manufacturers are speaking out against China's monetary policy --
and what they say is the president's unwillingness to confront the issue.
In the wake of President Bush's recent trip to Asia, a coalition of U.S. business groups is assailing the administration for failing to press China to revalue its currency, which many say unfairly favors Chinese manufacturers and constitutes a violation of China's free-trade obligations.
More than 40 manufacturing trade groups, including the Steel Manufacturers Association, have formed the China Currency Coalition with the U.S. Business and Industry Council to oppose what they consider China's illegal manipulation of its currency. The Coalition favors passage of a Congressional bill that would allow U.S. businesses to file suit against China with the World Trade Organization on the grounds of currency manipulation.
Since the beginning of 2003, the dollar has fallen almost 12% against the euro, while it has risen 2.5% in value against China's currency, the yuan. Economists say China has suppressed the rise in its currency by purchasing, on average, $200 billion per year in Treasury bonds and other U.S. securities.
"China's currency is as much as 40% under-valued compared to the dollar, and I believe it moves further out of alignment each month," said Morici. "A few percentage points won't change that."
Doug Bartlett serves as chairman of family-owned Bartlett Manufacturing in Cary, Ill., which makes high-end electronic circuitry. Since 2000, Bartlett's annual revenue has fallen from $22 million to $8 million, and his workforce has shrunk from 250 to 67.
"We're not competing with Chinese businesses," Bartlett said. "We're competing with the Chinese treasury, and it would take a superhuman effort to win that battle."
Monday 28 November 2005
Many eulogies were published following the recent death of Peter Drucker, the great management theorist. I was surprised, however, that few of these eulogies mentioned his book "The Age of Discontinuity," a prophetic work that speaks directly to today's business headlines and economic anxieties.
Mr. Drucker wrote "The Age of Discontinuity" in the late 1960's, a time when most people assumed that the big corporations of the day, companies like General Motors and U.S. Steel, would dominate the economy for the foreseeable future. He argued that this assumption was all wrong.
It was true, he acknowledged, that the dominant industries and corporations of 1968 were pretty much the same as the dominant industries and corporations of 1945, and for that matter of decades earlier. "The economic growth of the last twenty years," he wrote, "has been very fast. But it has been carried largely by industries that were already 'big business' before World War I. ... Every one of the great nineteenth-century innovations gave birth, almost overnight, to a major new industry and to new big businesses. These are still the major industries and big businesses of today."
But all of that, said Mr. Drucker, was about to change. New technologies would usher in an era of "turbulence" like that of the half-century before World War I, and the dominance of the major industries and big businesses of 1968 would soon come to an end.
He was right. Consider, for example, what happened to America's steel industry. In the 1960's, steel production was virtually synonymous with economic might, as it had been for almost a century. But although the U.S. economy as a whole created lots of wealth and tens of millions of jobs between 1968 and 2000, employment in the U.S. steel industry fell 60 percent.
And as industries went, so did corporations. Many of the corporate giants of the 1960's, companies whose pre-eminence seemed permanent, have fallen on hard times, their places in the business hierarchy taken by new players. General Motors is only the most famous example.
So what? Meet the new boss, same as the old boss: why does it matter if the list of leading corporations turns over every couple of decades, as long as the total number of jobs continues to grow?
The answer is the reason Mr. Drucker's old book is so relevant to today's headlines: corporations can't provide their workers with economic security if the companies' own future is highly insecure.
American workers at big companies used to think they had made a deal. They would be loyal to their employers, and the companies in turn would be loyal to them, guaranteeing job security, health care and a dignified retirement.
Such deals were, in a real sense, the basis of America's postwar social order. We like to think of ourselves as rugged individualists, not like those coddled Europeans with their oversized welfare states. But as Jacob Hacker of Yale points out in his book "The Divided Welfare State," if you add in corporate spending on health care and pensions - spending that is both regulated by the government and subsidized by tax breaks - we actually have a welfare state that's about as large relative to our economy as those of other advanced countries.
The resulting system is imperfect: those who don't work for companies with good benefits are, in effect, second-class citizens. Still, the system more or less worked for several decades after World War II.
Now, however, deals are being broken and the system is failing. Remember, Delphi was once part of General Motors, and its workers thought they were totally secure.
What went wrong? An important part of the answer is that America's semi-privatized welfare state worked in the first place only because we had a stable corporate order. And that stability - along with any semblance of economic security for many workers - is now gone.
Regular readers of this column know what I think we should do: instead of trying to provide economic security through the back door, via tax breaks designed to encourage corporations to provide health care and pensions, we should provide it through the front door, starting with national health insurance. You may disagree. But one thing is clear: Mr. Drucker's age of discontinuity is also an age of anxiety, in which workers can no longer count on loyalty from their employers.
Monday, November 28, 2005
In recent weeks, there has been widespread speculation that President George W. Bush, confronted by diminishing approval ratings and dissent within his own party, will begin pulling American troops out of Iraq next year. The Administration's best-case scenario is that the parliamentary election scheduled for December 15th will produce a coalition government that will join the Administration in calling for a withdrawal to begin in the spring. By then, the White House hopes, the new government will be capable of handling the insurgency. In a speech on November 19th, Bush repeated the latest Administration catchphrase: "As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." He added, "When our commanders on the ground tell me that Iraqi forces can defend their freedom, our troops will come home with the honor they have earned." One sign of the political pressure on the Administration to prepare for a withdrawal came last week, when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Fox News that the current level of American troops would not have to be maintained "for very much longer," because the Iraqis were getting better at fighting the insurgency.
A high-level Pentagon war planner told me, however, that he has seen scant indication that the President would authorize a significant pullout of American troops if he believed that it would impede the war against the insurgency. There are several proposals currently under review by the White House and the Pentagon; the most ambitious calls for American combat forces to be reduced from a hundred and fifty-five thousand troops to fewer than eighty thousand by next fall, with all American forces officially designated "combat" to be pulled out of the area by the summer of 2008. In terms of implementation, the planner said, "the drawdown plans that I'm familiar with are condition-based, event-driven, and not in a specific time frame"-that is, they depend on the ability of a new Iraqi government to defeat the insurgency. (A Pentagon spokesman said that the Administration had not made any decisions and had "no plan to leave, only a plan to complete the mission.")
A key element of the drawdown plans, not mentioned in the President's public statements, is that the departing American troops will be replaced by American airpower. Quick, deadly strikes by U.S. warplanes are seen as a way to improve dramatically the combat capability of even the weakest Iraqi combat units. The danger, military experts have told me, is that, while the number of American casualties would decrease as ground troops are withdrawn, the over-all level of violence and the number of Iraqi fatalities would increase unless there are stringent controls over who bombs what.
"We're not planning to diminish the war," Patrick Clawson, the deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told me. Clawson's views often mirror the thinking of the men and women around Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "We just want to change the mix of the forces doing the fighting-Iraqi infantry with American support and greater use of airpower. The rule now is to commit Iraqi forces into combat only in places where they are sure to win. The pace of commitment, and withdrawal, depends on their success in the battlefield."
He continued, "We want to draw down our forces, but the President is prepared to tough this one out. There is a very deep feeling on his part that the issue of Iraq was settled by the American people at the polling places in 2004." The war against the insurgency "may end up being a nasty and murderous civil war in Iraq, but we and our allies would still win," he said. "As long as the Kurds and the Shiites stay on our side, we're set to go. There's no sense that the world is caving in. We're in the middle of a seven-year slog in Iraq, and eighty per cent of the Iraqis are receptive to our message.".......
Out of the Money (68)
Plainridge Race Course
Race # 9
Horse: CAMS BEST MAN (Won)
Post Position: # 4
Race # 5
Horse: SECLUDED ISLAND (Won)
Post Position: # 6
November 28, 2005
Pelosi Statement on Resignation of Congressman Cunningham
Washington, D.C. – House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement today in response to announcement this afternoon by Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA) that he would resign from the House of Representatives after pleading guilty to conspiracy and tax charges:
“Mr. Cunningham accepted a bribe to perform an official act – an egregious action that strikes at the very heart of our democracy and dishonors the people he has been elected to represent; it is only proper that he resign.
“This offense is just the latest example of the culture of corruption that pervades the Republican-controlled Congress, which ignores the needs of the American people to serve wealthy special interests and their cronies. The Republican Congress has the wrong priorities; it is time to restore a high ethical standard to the Congress.”
Cunningham, 63, entered pleas in U.S. District Court to charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud, and tax evasion for underreporting his income in 2004.
Cunningham answered "yes, Your Honor" when asked by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns if he had accepted bribes from someone in exchange for his performance of official duties.
Cunningham, an eight-term Republican congressman, announced in July that he wouldn't seek re-election next year. But it was not immediately clear whether he hoped to keep his seat for the remainder of the current term. He planned to address reporters at a news conference later in the morning.
Cunningham has been under investigation since his sale of his home to a defense contractor at an apparently inflated price in 2003 attracted the attention of federal investigators.
A hearing in the case was scheduled in federal court in San Diego on Monday, and two people close to the investigation said Cunningham would enter a guilty plea. One of those people said he would plead to tax violations related to the home sale.
Cunningham, 63, is an eight-term congressman and Vietnam War flying ace.
In November 2003, he sold his Del Mar, Calif., home to defense contractor Mitchell Wade for $1,675,000. Wade put the house back on the market and sold it after nearly a year for $975,000 -- a loss of $700,000 in one of the nation's hottest housing markets.
Cunningham and his wife, Nancy, used the proceeds from the sale to buy a $2.55 million mansion in ritzy Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.
Wade also let Cunningham live rent-free on his yacht, the Duke Stir, at the Capital Yacht Club. His firm, MZM Inc., donated generously to Cunningham's campaigns.
Out of the Money (68)
Plainridge Race Course
Race # 9
Horse: CAMS BEST MAN
Post Position: # 4
Race # 5
Horse: SECLUDED ISLAND
Post Position: # 6
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Sunday 27 November 2005
George W. Bush is so desperate for allies that his hapless Asian tour took him to Ulan Bator, a first for an American president, so he could mingle with the yaks and give personal thanks for Mongolia's contribution of some 160 soldiers to "the coalition of the willing." Dick Cheney, whose honest-and-ethical poll number hit 29 percent in Newsweek's latest survey, is so radioactive that he vanished into his bunker for weeks at a time during the storms Katrina and Scootergate.
The whole world can see that both men are on the run. Just how much so became clear in the brace of nasty broadsides each delivered this month about Iraq. Neither man engaged the national debate ignited by John Murtha about how our troops might be best redeployed in a recalibrated battle against Islamic radicalism. Neither offered a plan for "victory." Instead, both impugned their critics' patriotism and retreated into the past to defend the origins of the war. In a seasonally appropriate impersonation of the misanthropic Mr. Potter from "It's a Wonderful Life," the vice president went so far as to label critics of the administration's prewar smoke screen both "dishonest and reprehensible" and "corrupt and shameless." He sounded but one epithet away from a defibrillator.
The Washington line has it that the motivation for the Bush-Cheney rage is the need to push back against opponents who have bloodied the White House in the polls. But, Mr. Murtha notwithstanding, the Democrats are too feeble to merit that strong a response. There is more going on here than politics.
Much more: each day brings slam-dunk evidence that the doomsday threats marshaled by the administration to sell the war weren't, in Cheney-speak, just dishonest and reprehensible but also corrupt and shameless. The more the president and vice president tell us that their mistakes were merely innocent byproducts of the same bad intelligence seen by everyone else in the world, the more we learn that this was not so. The web of half-truths and falsehoods used to sell the war did not happen by accident; it was woven by design and then foisted on the public by a P.R. operation built expressly for that purpose in the White House. The real point of the Bush-Cheney verbal fisticuffs this month, like the earlier campaign to take down Joseph Wilson, is less to smite Democrats than to cover up wrongdoing in the executive branch between 9/11 and shock and awe.
The cover-up is failing, however. No matter how much the president and vice president raise their decibel levels, the truth keeps roaring out. A nearly 7,000-word investigation in last Sunday's Los Angeles Times found that Mr. Bush and his aides had "issued increasingly dire warnings" about Iraq's mobile biological weapons labs long after U.S. intelligence authorities were told by Germany's Federal Intelligence Service that the principal source for these warnings, an Iraqi defector in German custody code-named Curveball, "never claimed to produce germ weapons and never saw anyone else do so." The five senior German intelligence officials who spoke to The Times said they were aghast that such long-discredited misinformation from a suspected fabricator turned up in Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations and in the president's 2003 State of the Union address (where it shared billing with the equally bogus 16 words about Saddam's fictitious African uranium).
Right after the L.A. Times scoop, Murray Waas filled in another piece of the prewar propaganda puzzle. He reported in the nonpartisan National Journal that 10 days after 9/11, "President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda."
The information was delivered in the President's Daily Brief, a C.I.A. assessment also given to the vice president and other top administration officials. Nonetheless Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney repeatedly pounded in an implicit (and at times specific) link between Saddam and Al Qaeda until Americans even started to believe that the 9/11 attacks had been carried out by Iraqis. More damning still, Mr. Waas finds that the "few credible reports" of Iraq-Al Qaeda contacts actually involved efforts by Saddam to monitor or infiltrate Islamic terrorist groups, which he regarded as adversaries of his secular regime. Thus Saddam's antipathy to Islamic radicals was the same in 2001 as it had been in 1983, when Donald Rumsfeld, then a Reagan administration emissary, embraced the dictator as a secular fascist ally in the American struggle against the theocratic fascist rulers in Iran.
What these revelations also tell us is that Mr. Bush was wrong when he said in his Veterans Day speech that more than 100 Congressional Democrats who voted for the Iraqi war resolution "had access to the same intelligence" he did. They didn't have access to the President's Daily Brief that Mr. Waas uncovered. They didn't have access to the information that German intelligence officials spoke about to The Los Angeles Times. Nor did they have access to material from a Defense Intelligence Agency report, released by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan this month, which as early as February 2002 demolished the reliability of another major source that the administration had persistently used for its false claims about Iraqi-Al Qaeda collaboration.
The more we learn about the road to Iraq, the more we realize that it's a losing game to ask what lies the White House told along the way. A simpler question might be: What was not a lie? The situation recalls Mary McCarthy's explanation to Dick Cavett about why she thought Lillian Hellman was a dishonest writer: "Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.' "
If Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney believe they were truthful in the run-up to the war, it's easy for them to make their case. Instead of falsely claiming that they've been exonerated by two commissions that looked into prewar intelligence - neither of which addressed possible White House misuse and mischaracterization of that intelligence - they should just release the rest of the President's Daily Briefs and other prewar documents that are now trickling out. Instead, incriminatingly enough, they are fighting the release of any such information, including unclassified documents found in post-invasion Iraq requested from the Pentagon by the pro-war, neocon Weekly Standard. As Scott Shane reported in The New York Times last month, Vietnam documents are now off limits, too: the National Security Agency won't make public a 2001 historical report on how American officials distorted intelligence in 1964 about the Gulf of Tonkin incident for fear it might "prompt uncomfortable comparisons" between the games White Houses played then and now to gin up wars.
Sooner or later - probably sooner, given the accelerating pace of recent revelations - this embarrassing information will leak out anyway. But the administration's deliberate efforts to suppress or ignore intelligence that contradicted its Iraq crusade are only part of the prewar story. There were other shadowy stations on the disinformation assembly line. Among them were the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, a two-man Pentagon operation specifically created to cherry-pick intelligence for Mr. Cheney's apocalyptic Iraqi scenarios, and the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), in which Karl Rove, Karen Hughes and the Cheney hands Lewis Libby and Mary Matalin, among others, plotted to mainline this propaganda into the veins of the press and public. These murky aspects of the narrative - like the role played by a private P.R. contractor, the Rendon Group, examined by James Bamford in the current Rolling Stone - have yet to be recounted in full.
No debate about the past, of course, can undo the mess that the administration made in Iraq. But the past remains important because it is a road map to both the present and the future. Leaders who dissembled then are still doing so. Indeed, they do so even in the same speeches in which they vehemently deny having misled us then - witness Mr. Bush's false claims about what prewar intelligence was seen by Congress and Mr. Cheney's effort last Monday to again conflate the terrorists of 9/11 with those "making a stand in Iraq." (Maj. Gen. Douglas Lute, director of operations for Centcom, says the Iraqi insurgency is 90 percent homegrown.) These days Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney routinely exaggerate the readiness of Iraqi troops, much as they once inflated Saddam's W.M.D.'s.
"We're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history," the vice president said of his critics. "We're going to continue throwing their own words back at them." But according to a Harris poll released by The Wall Street Journal last Wednesday, 64 percent of Americans now believe that the Bush administration "generally misleads the American public on current issues to achieve its own ends." That's why it's Mr. Cheney's and the president's own words that are being thrown back now - not to rewrite history but to reveal it for the first time to an angry country that has learned the hard way that it can no longer afford to be without the truth.
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Saturday 26 November 2005
Helena - The scope of a US Justice Department investigation of indicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff is wider than previously believed and now includes his dealings with US Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
The front-page story quotes anonymous sources, including lawyers and others involved in the case.
It said prosecutors in the Justice Department's public integrity and fraud divisions are looking at “possible influence-peddling" by Abramoff with congressional Republicans - former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio, Rep. John Doolittle of California and Burns.
The story quoted Burns' spokesman, J.P. Pendleton, as saying the senator's office has not yet been contacted by the Justice Department and that Burns has not retained a criminal defense attorney.
“We are more than happy to help out in any investigation should we be asked," Pendleton told the Journal.
Burns, up for re-election next year, helped one of Abramoff's tribal clients, the Saginaw Chippewa tribe in Michigan, obtain a $3 million congressional grant to build a school. Because of its Indian gambling, the tribe is one of the richest in the nation and makes annual $70,000 payments to each member.......
The Defense Department has expanded its programs aimed at gathering and analyzing intelligence within the United States, creating new agencies, adding personnel and seeking additional legal authority for domestic security activities in the post-9/11 world.
The moves have taken place on several fronts. The White House is considering expanding the power of a little-known Pentagon agency called the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, which was created three years ago. The proposal, made by a presidential commission, would transform CIFA from an office that coordinates Pentagon security efforts -- including protecting military facilities from attack -- to one that also has authority to investigate crimes within the United States such as treason, foreign or terrorist sabotage or even economic espionage.
The Pentagon has pushed legislation on Capitol Hill that would create an intelligence exception to the Privacy Act, allowing the FBI and others to share information gathered about U.S. citizens with the Pentagon, CIA and other intelligence agencies, as long as the data is deemed to be related to foreign intelligence. Backers say the measure is needed to strengthen investigations into terrorism or weapons of mass destruction.
The proposals, and other Pentagon steps aimed at improving its ability to analyze counterterrorism intelligence collected inside the United States, have drawn complaints from civil liberties advocates and a few members of Congress, who say the Defense Department's push into domestic collection is proceeding with little scrutiny by the Congress or the public.
Prosecutors have already told one lawmaker, Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio), and his former chief of staff that they are preparing a possible bribery case against them, according to two sources knowledgeable about the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The 35 to 40 investigators and prosecutors on the Abramoff case are focused on at least half a dozen members of Congress, lawyers and others close to the probe said. The investigators are looking at payments made by Abramoff and his colleagues to the wives of some lawmakers and at actions taken by senior Capitol Hill aides, some of whom went to work for Abramoff at the law firm Greenberg Traurig LLP, lawyers and others familiar with the probe said.
Former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R), now facing separate campaign finance charges in his home state of Texas, is one of the members under scrutiny, the sources said. Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.) and other members of Congress involved with Indian affairs, one of Abramoff's key areas of interest, are also said to be among them.
Prosecutions and plea deals have become more likely, the lawyers said, now that Abramoff's former partner — public relations executive Michael Scanlon — has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and to testify about gifts that he and his K Street colleagues showered on lawmakers, allegedly in exchange for official favors.
An attorney for DeLay, whose wife worked for a lobbying firm that received client referrals from Abramoff, said there was no connection between her work and congressional business. A spokesman for Doolittle, whose wife received payments from Abramoff's lobbying firm, also said there was no connection with her husband's position. Burns' office has said his actions were consistent with his support for improving conditions for Indian tribes.
Investigators also are gathering information about Abramoff's hiring of several congressional wives, sources said, as well as his referral of clients to Alexander Strategy Group, a lobbying and consulting firm run by former senior aides to DeLay. Financial disclosure forms show that the firm employed DeLay's wife, Christine, from 1998 to 2002.
The head of al-Jazeera is delivering a letter to Tony Blair demanding the facts on reports that President Bush suggested bombing the Arab TV station.
He wants a memo published which is alleged to show Tony Blair dissuaded President Bush from bombing its HQ.
Last week the Daily Mirror reported what it said was the contents of a memo showing Mr Blair had talked the US President out of the attack last year.....
Susan Schmidt and James V. Grimaldi
November 26, 2005
Prosecutors have already told one lawmaker, Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio), and his former chief of staff that they are preparing a possible bribery case against them, according to two sources knowledgeable about the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The 35 to 40 investigators and prosecutors on the Abramoff case are focused on at least half a dozen members of Congress, lawyers and others close to the probe said....
Former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R), now facing separate campaign finance charges in his home state of Texas, is one of the members under scrutiny, the sources said...
Prosecutions and plea deals have become more likely, the lawyers said, now that Abramoff's former partner -- public relations executive Michael Scanlon -- has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and to testify about gifts that he and his K Street colleagues showered on lawmakers, allegedly in exchange for official favors...
· CIA worried case would expose prison network
The Bush administration decided not to charge Jose Padilla with planning to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in a US city because the evidence against him was extracted using torture on members of al-Qaida, it was claimed yesterday.
Mr Padilla, a US citizen who had been held for more than three years as an "enemy combatant" in a military prison in North Carolina, was indicted on Tuesday on the lesser charges of supporting terrorism abroad. After his arrest in 2002 the Brooklyn-born Muslim convert was also accused by the administration of planning to blow up apartment blocks in New York using natural gas.
The administration had used his case as evidence of the continued threat posed by al-Qaida inside America.
Yesterday's New York Times, quoting unnamed current and former government officials, said the main evidence of Mr Padilla's involvement in the plots against US cities had come from two captured al-Qaida leaders, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, believed to be the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, and Abu Zubaydah, a leading al-Qaida recruiter. But the officials told the newspaper Mr Padilla could not be charged with the bomb plots because neither of the al-Qaida leaders could be used as witnesses as they had been subjected to harsh questioning and could open up charges from defence lawyers that their earlier statements resulted from torture. Officials also feared that their testimony could expose classified information about the CIA prison system in which the men were thought to be held. ........
Friday, November 25, 2005
Earlier this week, Attorney General Lord Goldsmith warned editors they could face prosecution under the Official Secrets Act for disclosing the contents of a document that has been described as a transcript of discussions between Bush and Blair.
Labour Party backbencher Peter Kilfoyle filed a motion calling for publication of the document, which was leaked to the Daily Mirror newspaper. Civil servant David Keogh and Leo O'Connor, who formerly worked for a British lawmaker, have been charged with violating the Official Secrets Act.
"I would hope we can have a fair and full discussion of the very important issues that were discussed at that meeting," Kilfoyle, a former defense minister, told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Leesa Martin never considered President Bush a great leader, but she voted for him a year ago because she admired how he handled the terrorist attacks of 2001. Then came the past summer, when the death toll from the war in Iraq hit this state particularly hard: 16 marines from the same battalion killed in one week. She thought the federal government should have acted faster to help after Hurricane Katrina. She was baffled by the president's nomination of Harriet E. Miers, a woman she considered unqualified for the Supreme Court, and disappointed when he did not nominate another woman after Ms. Miers withdrew.
And she remains unsettled by questions about whether the White House leaked the name of a C.I.A. agent whose husband had accused the president of misleading the country about the intelligence that led to the war.
"I don't know if it's any one thing as much as it is everything," said Ms. Martin, 49, eating lunch at the North Market, on the edge of downtown Columbus. "It's kind of snowballed." Her concerns were echoed in more than 75 interviews here and across the country this week, helping to explain the slide in the president's approval and trustworthiness ratings in recent polls.
Many people who voted for Mr. Bush a year ago had trouble pinning their current discontent on any one thing. Many mentioned the hurricane and the indictment of a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, which some said raised doubts about the president's candor and his judgment. But there was a sense that something had veered off course in the last few months, and the war was the one constant. Over and over, even some of Mr. Bush's supporters raised comparisons with Vietnam.
Friday 25 November 2005
The Indian writer Vandana Shiva has called for an "insurrection of subjugated knowledge." The insurrection is well under way. In trying to make sense of a dangerous world, millions of people are turning away from the traditional sources of news and information and toward the world wide web, convinced that mainstream journalism is the voice of rampant power. The great scandal of Iraq has accelerated this. In the United States, several senior broadcasters have confessed that had they challenged and exposed the lies told about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, instead of amplifying and justifying them, the invasion might not have happened.
Such honesty has yet to cross the Atlantic. Since it was founded in 1922, the BBC has served to protect every British establishment during war and civil unrest. "We" never traduce and never commit great crimes. So the omission of shocking events in Iraq - the destruction of cities, the slaughter of innocent people and the farce of a puppet government - is routinely applied. A study by the Cardiff School of Journalism found that 90 per cent of the BBC's references to Saddam Hussein's WMDs suggested he possessed them and that "spin from the British and US governments was successful in framing the coverage." The same "spin" has ensured, until now, that the use of banned weapons by the Americans and British in Iraq has been suppressed as news.
An admission by the US State Department on 10 November that its forces had used white phosphorus in Fallujah followed "rumours on the internet," according to the BBC's Newsnight. There were no rumours. There was first-class investigative work that ought to shame well-paid journalists. Mark Kraft of insomnia.livejournal.com found the evidence in the March-April 2005 issue of Field Artillery magazine and other sources. He was supported by the work of film-maker Gabriele Zamparini, founder of the excellent site, thecatsdream.com. ..........
The Steelers travel to Indianapolis to take on the Colts at the RCA Dome on Monday night. Kickoff for the game is at 9:00 p.m. EST. The Steelers are 7-3 and coming off a loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The Colts are 10-0 after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals.
Steelers-Colts Game Day Coverage
Thursday, November 24, 2005
The lawmakers hailed from both parties, including House Appropriations subcommittee Chairman Charles Taylor, R-N.C., and Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, the top Democrat on the Senate committee currently investigating Abramoff.
Most wrote letters that pressed a reluctant Bush administration to renew a program that provided tribes federal money for building schools. Others worked the congressional budget process to ensure it happened, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
In pursuing a case that threatens to envelop Congress in an election-year lobbying scandal, federal prosecutors are arguing that campaign dollars and other perks routinely showered on lawmakers by those with legislative and political interests on Capitol Hill can reach the level of criminal misconduct.
The prosecutors say that among the criminal activities of Michael Scanlon, a former House leadership aide who pleaded guilty on Monday to bribery conspiracy, were efforts to influence a lawmaker identified in court papers only as Representative No. 1 with gifts that included $4,000 to his campaign account and $10,000 to a Republican Party fund on his behalf.
Those watching the current case see Mr. Scanlon's decision to cooperate in the continuing investigation of Mr. Abramoff and others as a crucial link to the possibility of further charges: as an insider, he could conceivably provide evidence of a strong tie between efforts to influence lawmakers and their official actions.
A British civil servant has been charged under the Official Secrets Act for allegedly leaking a government memo that, according to a newspaper report Tuesday, suggests British Prime Minister Tony Blair persuaded U.S. President (sic) George W. Bush not to bomb the Arab satellite television station Al-Jazeera.
Cabinet Office civil servant David Keogh is accused of passing it to Leo O'Connor, who worked for former British lawmaker Tony Clarke. Both Keogh and O'Connor are scheduled to appear at London's Bow Street Magistrates Court next week.
According to the Crown Prosecution Service, Keogh was charged with an offense under section 3 of the Official Secrets Act relating to "a damaging disclosure" by a servant of the crown of information relating to international relations or information obtained from a state other than the United Kingdom. O'Connor was charged under section 5, which relates to receiving and disclosing illegally disclosed information.
A US missile has hit the Baghdad offices of Arab news service al-Jazeera television, killing one member of staff and wounding another, the station reported on Tuesday.
Al-Jazeera's Baghdad correspondent Maher Abdullah said the missile strike destroyed an electricity generator and set fire to the office.
But a US Central Command spokesman told BBC News Online the station "was not and never had been a target", although US military officials were looking into the incident.
The Qatar-based network - dubbed the 'Arab CNN' - has come under intense criticism in London, Washington and Baghdad with its no-holds-barred coverage of the war in Iraq.
But it remains the news source of choice in 35 million Arab-speaking homes around the world.
Al-Jazeera's Baghdad office is near the Iraqi Information Ministry but its correspondents are thought to conduct their live reports from a location near the Palestine Hotel, where many journalists are staying.
"We were caught by surprise," Abdullah said. "One missile hit the pavement in front of us, ripping out windows and doors and then one hit the generator."
News announcers named the dead man as Tarek Ayoub, and the injured man as Zohair al-Iraqi.
Rival satellite station Abu Dhabi TV announced its Baghdad bureau had also been hit and broadcast a live report showing its camera position under attack.
Footage from Abu Dhabi TV also showed a fire blazing in the al-Jazeera office.
Al-Jazeera TV crew were seen carrying a wounded colleague into an Abu Dhabi TV car.
Al-Jazeera's office was one of the first targets hit in Kabul when US-backed Northern Alliance fighters routed the Taleban in the Afghan capital.
Men and women stood outside Al-Jazeera's Doha, Qatar offices on Thursday holding signs in Arabic and in English, one reading "Don't bomb the messenger." Another sign read "Hostage of Truth" over a photo of Sami al-Hajj, an Al-Jazeera cameraman imprisoned at the U.S. military facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Al-Hajj was detained in Afghanistan, and the network has been asking for his release.
Employees staged similar protests at bureaus in Cairo, Beirut, and Ramallah, with banners condemning U.S. President George Bush.
Qataris, including senior officials, reacted with shock on Wednesday to newspaper reports in Britain suggesting that George W Bush, the US president, had discussed bombing the Doha headquarters of the Arabic satellite TV channel al-Jazeera.
“I thought this was just a rumour, but now the UK has used the secrecy act to stop it, it raises more questions. It makes this high profile and we would be really interested to know what is going on,” a senior member of the ruling Al-Thani family said.
The Bush administration avoided meeting Qatari officials for several months and Washington insisted Qatar should put pressure on al-Jazeera – launched with government funding nine years ago – to tone down its broadcasts out of Iraq.
“It is time for the United States to tell the truth about this attack and to take responsibility for its actions, which appear to be gross violation of international humanitarian law,” said Aidan White, general secretary of the IFJ.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Prisoners at an Iraqi detention centre opened up to journalists have told the BBC of widespread abuse.
One man said he had been whipped with a cable and then had salt rubbed in the wound, while another said his captors had tried to pull out his toenails.
The BBC was also shown inside a Baghdad bunker at the centre of a scandal over detainee abuse by Iraqi forces.
More than 170 prisoners were found there last week, showing signs of malnourishment and torture.
A government-ordered inquiry is under way and Interior Minister Bayan Jabr has said torture will not be tolerated.
But he has also brushed aside reports of abuse, saying they have been exaggerated.
There are calls for an independent inquiry from Iraqis who do not trust the government to investigate itself. There have been no findings yet.
The UN has expressed concern over the number of Iraqi detainees being held and the government faces growing international pressure over their treatment.
Hastert for Congress sent a $2,000 check payable to the U.S. Treasury to the Federal Election Commission. The committee wished to return money it had received from employees of AMEC Construction Management. AMEC signed a conciliation agreement with the FEC and agreed to pay an $85,000 civil penalty for an illegal employee reimbursement scheme. AMEC also gave $25,000 to ARMPAC Non-Federal Account on 3/31/02.
The Bob Ney For Congress agreed to pay a $2,000 civil penalty for failure to report all disbursements. They neglected to report two wire transfers, one for $47,828.86 and another for $35,206.95.
The Mirror, a UK publication which reported Tuesday on an alleged US plan to bomb an Arab TV station seen as anti-US, has been gagged from reporting any further on the memo and its contents by Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, Raw Story has learned.
According to The Mirror's political editor, Kevin Maguire, Lord Goldsmith "... threatened an immediate High Court injunction unless the Mirror confirmed it would not publish further details. We have essentially agreed to comply," stated Maguire in a recent editorial.
Bombings now Suspect
According to the Guardian, in reaction to the article in the Mirror, the International Federation of Journalists is demanding complete disclosure with regard to the death of 16 journalists and media staff, including al-Jazeera cameraman Tarek Ayoub, who was killed when the station's Baghdad office was hit during a US air strike in April of 2003.
All media outlets had to provide the US military with their locations in Baghdad and neighboring cities. Al-Jazeera provided the location of its Baghdad office to Washington prior to the bombing on its Baghdad office.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
At the U.S. prison for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, everyone can get a Koran, but no one gets a Bible.
Saifullah Paracha, a 58-year-old former Pakistani businessman with alleged ties to Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, has been in U.S. custody since 2003. Like the other inmates at Guantanamo Bay, he has a copy of the Koran. But he also wants an English translation of the King James version of the Bible.
Paracha believes that because the Bible is one of the scriptures accepted in Islam, he is entitled to a copy to read in his small wire-mesh cell. But after his lawyer shipped him a Bible, along with two volumes of Shakespeare, prison officials confiscated the package.
Paracha's American lawyer filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington, demanding that Paracha be given the Bible and copies of "Hamlet" and "Julius Caesar." The government responded that certain books were kept from prisoners because they could "incite" them.
How dare you, Mr. Secretary, imply that we are here for the cash. We are not mercenaries. Your comments only prove just how out of touch you are with the soldiers you lead. Your mind-set is akin to the comments made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about going to war with the army you have and not the one you want.
The benefits you speak of do not apply to everyone equally. Do you honestly think that the Army spends the same amount of money on housing for a private who lives in the barracks that it does for the general who commands the base? Do you really think that the Army spends all that money for medical care on a soldier who only goes on sick call once a year? They most certainly do not.
These so-called benefits are averages across the board as I understand them. Although I cannot quote facts and figures, it is also my understanding that we still have soldiers who qualify for food stamps. If this is true, you should be ashamed of yourself.
I challenge you to lead by example. If you think we should cut benefits for soldiers, then start with your own. Demand that Congress cut your benefits and pay by 10 percent, demand that they cut their own benefits and pay by 10 percent. Show us that you believe what we have been taught when it comes to leadership, “Follow me.”
Staff Sgt. Dennis E. Schell Jr.
© National Journal Group Inc.
Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2005
Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda, according to government records and current and former officials with firsthand knowledge of the matter.
The information was provided to Bush on September 21, 2001 during the "President's Daily Brief," a 30- to 45-minute early-morning national security briefing. Information for PDBs has routinely been derived from electronic intercepts, human agents, and reports from foreign intelligence services, as well as more mundane sources such as news reports and public statements by foreign leaders.
One of the more intriguing things that Bush was told during the briefing was that the few credible reports of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda involved attempts by Saddam Hussein to monitor the terrorist group. Saddam viewed Al Qaeda as well as other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime. At one point, analysts believed, Saddam considered infiltrating the ranks of Al Qaeda with Iraqi nationals or even Iraqi intelligence operatives to learn more about its inner workings, according to records and sources.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked the White House for the CIA assessment, the PDB of September 21, 2001, and dozens of other PDBs as part of the committee's ongoing investigation into whether the Bush administration misrepresented intelligence information in the run-up to war with Iraq. The Bush administration has refused to turn over these documents.
Tuesday 22 November 2005
Perhaps we should redeploy the democracy experts we have sent to the Middle East and ask them to work on our Congress. The past few days have confirmed that our national government is dysfunctional.
It wasn't just the nasty Friday evening "debate" over Iraq policy in the House, set up by Republican leaders to score political points after Rep. John Murtha's call for immediate withdrawal received so much attention. And it wasn't just Rep. Jean Schmidt, an Ohio Republican, deciding to send a constituent's "message" to Murtha - a Marine combat veteran with 37 years of active and reserve service - to the effect that "cowards cut and run, Marines never do."
What happened hours earlier, at 1:45 a.m., symbolized all that is wrong with Washington. After immense pressure from Republican leaders, the House passed $50 billion in budget cuts - including reductions in Medicaid, food stamps and child support enforcement - on a 217 to 215 vote. Republicans who pride themselves on being moderate had their arms twisted into backing the bill, partly on the basis of promises that many of the cuts it contained wouldn't survive in House-Senate negotiations.
Not a single Democrat was willing to vote for the budget, because there are far better ways to cut the deficit. Rep. Jim Ramstad, a Minnesota Republican who dissented from his party, made the case against the budget as well as anyone. "We should cut the pork," he told the Washington Times, "not the poor."
The current leadership in Congress simply refuses to revisit any of the tax cuts it has passed since President Bush took office. On the contrary, the leaders plan to push through $70 billion in tax cuts after Thanksgiving, including dividend and capital gains reductions that go overwhelmingly to the wealthiest Americans.
Some of the most powerful words on the budget cuts came from one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress. Rep. Gene Taylor, whose district was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, couldn't believe that cuts in programs for the poor were being justified as necessary to cover the costs of relief for hurricane victims. Taylor's syntax only underscored the emotion he brought to the floor: "Mr. Speaker, in south Mississippi tonight, the people . . . who are living in two- and three-man igloo tents waiting for Congress to do something, have absolutely got to think this place has lost their minds. The same Congress that voted to give the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans tax breaks every time . . . suddenly after taking care of those who had the most, we have got to hurt the least. . . . Folks, this is insane. . . . This is the cruelest lie of all, that the only way you can help the people who have lost everything is by hurting somebody else."..........
The five-page transcript of a conversation between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair reveals that Blair talked Bush out of launching a military strike on the station, unnamed sources told the daily which is against the war in Iraq.
The transcript of the pair's talks during Blair's April 16, 2004 visit to Washington allegedly shows Bush wanted to attack the satellite channel's headquarters.
Blair allegedly feared such a strike, in the business district of Doha, the capital of Qatar, a key western ally in the Persian Gulf, would spark revenge attacks.
The Mirror quoted an unnamed British government official as saying Bush's threat was "humorous, not serious".
Al-Jazeera's perspectives on the war in Iraq have drawn criticism from Washington since the US-led March 2003 invasion.
The station has broadcast messages from Al-Qaeda terror network chief Osama bin Laden and the beheadings of Western hostages by insurgents in Iraq, as well as footage of dead coalition servicemen and Iraqi civilians killed in fighting.
A source told the Mirror: "The memo is explosive and hugely damaging to Bush.
"He made clear he wanted to bomb al-Jazeera in Qatar and elsewhere. Blair replied that would cause a big problem.
"There's no doubt what Bush wanted to do -- and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it."
The Geneva Conventions must be applied to detainees at the camp, Blair stressed. He did not have an up-to-date report that indicated whether that was the case at present, he added.
Giving evidence to senior British parliamentarians, the prime minister said that detention at the camp "has got to be brought to an end."
"This is an anomaly that has to be dealt with," he said.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Monday 21 November 2005
Not long ago wise heads offered some advice to those of us who had argued since 2003 that the Iraq war was sold on false pretenses: give it up. The 2004 election, they said, showed that we would never convince the American people. They suggested that we stop talking about how we got into Iraq and focus instead on what to do next.
It turns out that the wise heads were wrong. A solid majority of Americans now believe that we were misled into war. And it is only now, when the public has realized the truth about the past, that serious discussions about where we are and where we're going are able to get a hearing.
Representative John Murtha's speech calling for a quick departure from Iraq was full of passion, but it was also serious and specific in a way rarely seen on the other side of the debate. President Bush and his apologists speak in vague generalities about staying the course and finishing the job. But Mr. Murtha spoke of mounting casualties and lagging recruiting, the rising frequency of insurgent attacks, stagnant oil production and lack of clean water.
Mr. Murtha - a much-decorated veteran who cares deeply about America's fighting men and women - argued that our presence in Iraq is making things worse, not better. Meanwhile, the war is destroying the military he loves. And that's why he wants us out as soon as possible.
I'd add that the war is also destroying America's moral authority. When Mr. Bush speaks of human rights, the world thinks of Abu Ghraib. (In his speech, Mr. Murtha pointed out the obvious: torture at Abu Ghraib helped fuel the insurgency.) When administration officials talk of spreading freedom, the world thinks about the reality that much of Iraq is now ruled by theocrats and their militias.
Some administration officials accused Mr. Murtha of undermining the troops and giving comfort to the enemy. But that sort of thing no longer works, now that the administration has lost the public's trust.
Instead, defenders of our current policy have had to make a substantive argument: we can't leave Iraq now, because a civil war will break out after we're gone. One is tempted to say that they should have thought about that possibility back when they were cheerleading us into this war. But the real question is this: When, exactly, would be a good time to leave Iraq?
The fact is that we're not going to stay in Iraq until we achieve victory, whatever that means in this context. At most, we'll stay until the American military can take no more.
Mr. Bush never asked the nation for the sacrifices - higher taxes, a bigger military and, possibly, a revived draft - that might have made a long-term commitment to Iraq possible. Instead, the war has been fought on borrowed money and borrowed time. And time is running out. With some military units on their third tour of duty in Iraq, the superb volunteer army that Mr. Bush inherited is in increasing danger of facing a collapse in quality and morale similar to the collapse of the officer corps in the early 1970's.
So the question isn't whether things will be ugly after American forces leave Iraq. They probably will. The question, instead, is whether it makes sense to keep the war going for another year or two, which is all the time we realistically have.
Pessimists think that Iraq will fall into chaos whenever we leave. If so, we're better off leaving sooner rather than later. As a Marine officer quoted by James Fallows in the current Atlantic Monthly puts it, "We can lose in Iraq and destroy our Army, or we can just lose."
And there's a good case to be made that our departure will actually improve matters. As Mr. Murtha pointed out in his speech, the insurgency derives much of its support from the perception that it's resisting a foreign occupier. Once we're gone, the odds are that Iraqis, who don't have a tradition of religious extremism, will turn on fanatical foreigners like Zarqawi.
The only way to justify staying in Iraq is to make the case that stretching the U.S. army to its breaking point will buy time for something good to happen. I don't think you can make that case convincingly. So Mr. Murtha is right: it's time to leave.
November 21,2005 CAIRO, Egypt -- Leaders of Iraq's sharply divided Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis, seeking common ground for their political future together, agreed Monday there should be a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops, and that resistance was the right of all -- but that acts of terror should be condemned.
After hours of negotiations at the Arab League, the participants in a national accord conference reached a final statement aimed at showing the points of agreement between the communities.
The three-day gathering was held to prepare for a wider conference due to be held in February in Iraq, part of a U.S.-backed league attempt to bring the communities closer together and assure Sunni Arab participation in a political process now dominated by Iraq's Shiite majority and large Kurdish minority.
The participants in Cairo agreed on "calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces ... control the borders and the security situation" and end terror attacks.
"The Iraqi people are looking forward to the day when the foreign forces will leave Iraq, when its armed and security forces will be rebuilt and when they can enjoy peace and stability and get rid of terrorism," the statement said.
Sunni leaders have been pressing the Shiite-majority government to agree to a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops. The statement recognized that goal, but did not lay down a specific time -- reflecting instead the government's stance that Iraqi security forces must be built up first.
On Monday, Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr suggested U.S.-led forces should able to leave Iraq by the end of next year, saying the one-year extension of the mandate for multinational force in Iraq by the U.N. Security Council earlier this month could be the last.
November 21, 2005 · Swiftboat Redux Edition
While George W. Bush makes a nuisance of himself in Asia, Republicans at home have been on a mission to smear Iraq war dissenters. It began with Dick Cheney's attempt to rewrite history, and culminated in The White House and House Republicans accusing a decorated 36-year Marine Corps veteran of cowardice and anti-Americanism.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Out of the Money (67)
Race # 4
Horse: CRYSTAL TRIP (Won)
Post Position: # 5
Race # 3
Horse: WHY CURT WHY (Won)
Post Position: # 4
Race # 5
Horse: ROSEWOOD'S BEST (Won)
Post Position: # 4
Sunday 20 November 2005
If anyone needs further proof that we are racing for the exits in Iraq, just follow the bouncing ball that is Rick Santorum. A Republican leader in the Senate and a true-blue (or red) Iraq hawk, he has long slobbered over President Bush, much as Ed McMahon did over Johnny Carson. But when Mr. Bush went to Mr. Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania to give his Veterans Day speech smearing the war's critics as unpatriotic, the senator was M.I.A.
Mr. Santorum preferred to honor a previous engagement more than 100 miles away. There he told reporters for the first time that "maybe some blame" for the war's "less than optimal" progress belonged to the White House. This change of heart had nothing to do with looming revelations of how the new Iraqi "democracy" had instituted Saddam-style torture chambers. Or with the spiraling investigations into the whereabouts of nearly $9 billion in unaccounted-for taxpayers' money from the American occupation authority. Or with the latest spike in casualties. Mr. Santorum was instead contemplating his own incipient political obituary written the day before: a poll showing him 16 points down in his re-election race. No sooner did he stiff Mr. Bush in Pennsylvania than he did so again in Washington, voting with a 79-to-19 majority on a Senate resolution begging for an Iraq exit strategy. He was joined by all but one (Jon Kyl) of the 13 other Republican senators running for re-election next year. They desperately want to be able to tell their constituents that they were against the war after they were for it.
They know the voters have decided the war is over, no matter what symbolic resolutions are passed or defeated in Congress nor how many Republicans try to Swift-boat Representative John Murtha, the marine hero who wants the troops out. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup survey last week found that the percentage (52) of Americans who want to get out of Iraq fast, in 12 months or less, is even larger than the percentage (48) that favored a quick withdrawal from Vietnam when that war's casualty toll neared 54,000 in the apocalyptic year of 1970. The Ohio State political scientist John Mueller, writing in Foreign Affairs , found that "if history is any indication, there is little the Bush administration can do to reverse this decline." He observed that Mr. Bush was trying to channel L. B. J. by making "countless speeches explaining what the effort in Iraq is about, urging patience and asserting that progress is being made. But as was also evident during Woodrow Wilson's campaign to sell the League of Nations to the American public, the efficacy of the bully pulpit is much overrated."
Mr. Bush may disdain timetables for our pullout, but, hello, there already is one, set by the Santorums of his own party: the expiration date for a sizable American presence in Iraq is Election Day 2006. As Mr. Mueller says, the decline in support for the war won't reverse itself. The public knows progress is not being made, no matter how many times it is told that Iraqis will soon stand up so we can stand down.
On the same day the Senate passed the resolution rebuking Mr. Bush on the war, Martha Raddatz of ABC News reported that "only about 700 Iraqi troops" could operate independently of the U.S. military, 27,000 more could take a lead role in combat "only with strong support" from our forces and the rest of the 200,000-odd trainees suffered from a variety of problems, from equipment shortages to an inability "to wake up when told" or follow orders.
But while the war is lost both as a political matter at home and a practical matter in Iraq, the exit strategy being haggled over in Washington will hardly mark the end of our woes. Few Americans will cry over the collapse of the administration's vainglorious mission to make Iraq a model of neocon nation-building. But, as some may dimly recall, there is another war going on as well - against Osama bin Laden and company.
One hideous consequence of the White House's Big Lie - fusing the war of choice in Iraq with the war of necessity that began on 9/11 - is that the public, having rejected one, automatically rejects the other. That's already happening. The percentage of Americans who now regard fighting terrorism as a top national priority is either in the single or low double digits in every poll. Thus the tragic bottom line of the Bush catastrophe: the administration has at once increased the ranks of jihadists by turning Iraq into a new training ground and recruitment magnet while at the same time exhausting America's will and resources to confront that expanded threat.
We have arrived at "the worst of all possible worlds," in the words of Daniel Benjamin, Richard Clarke's former counterterrorism colleague, with whom I talked last week. No one speaks more eloquently to this point than Mr. Benjamin and Steven Simon, his fellow National Security Council alum. They saw the Qaeda threat coming before most others did in the 1990's, and their riveting new book, "The Next Attack," is the best argued and most thoroughly reported account of why, in their opening words, "we are losing" the war against the bin Laden progeny now.
"The Next Attack" is prescient to a scary degree. "If bin Laden is the Robin Hood of jihad," the authors write, then Abu Musab al-Zarqawi "has been its Horatio Alger, and Iraq his field of dreams." The proof arrived spectacularly this month with the Zarqawi-engineered suicide bombings of three hotels in Amman. That attack, Mr. Benjamin wrote in Slate "could soon be remembered as the day that the spillover of violence from Iraq became a major affliction for the Middle East." But not remembered in America. Thanks to the confusion sown by the Bush administration, the implications for us in this attack, like those in London and Madrid, are quickly forgotten, if they were noticed in the first place. What happened in Amman is just another numbing bit of bad news that we mentally delete along with all the other disasters we now label "Iraq."
Only since his speech about "Islamo-fascism" in early October has Mr. Bush started trying to make distinctions between the "evildoers" of Saddam's regime and the Islamic radicals who did and do directly threaten us. But even if anyone was still listening to this president, it would be too little and too late. The only hope for getting Americans to focus on the war we can't escape is to clear the decks by telling the truth about the war of choice in Iraq: that it is making us less safe, not more, and that we have to learn from its mistakes and calculate the damage it has caused as we reboot and move on.
Mr. Bush is incapable of such candor. In the speech Mr. Santorum skipped on Veterans Day, the president lashed out at his critics for trying "to rewrite the history" of how the war began. Then he rewrote the history of the war, both then and now. He boasted of America's "broad and coordinated homeland defense" even as the members of the bipartisan 9/11 commission were preparing to chastise the administration's inadequate efforts to prevent actual nuclear W.M.D.'s, as opposed to Saddam's fictional ones, from finding their way to terrorists. Mr. Bush preened about how "we're standing with dissidents and exiles against oppressive regimes" even as we were hearing new reports of how we outsource detainees to such regimes to be tortured.
And once again he bragged about the growing readiness of Iraqi troops, citing "nearly 90 Iraqi army battalions fighting the terrorists alongside our forces." But as James Fallows confirms in his exhaustive report on "Why Iraq Has No Army" in the current issue of The Atlantic Monthly, America would have to commit to remaining in Iraq for many years to "bring an Iraqi army to maturity." If we're not going to do that, Mr. Fallows concludes, America's only alternative is to "face the stark fact that it has no orderly way out of Iraq, and prepare accordingly."
That's the alternative that has already been chosen, brought on not just by the public's irreversible rejection of the war, but also by the depleted state of our own broken military forces; they are falling short of recruitment goals across the board by as much as two-thirds, the Government Accountability Office reported last week. We must prepare accordingly for what's to come. To do so we need leaders, whatever the political party, who can look beyond our nonorderly withdrawal from Iraq next year to the mess that will remain once we're on our way out. Whether it's countering the havoc inflicted on American interests internationally by Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo or overhauling and redeploying our military, intelligence and homeland security operations to confront the enemy we actually face, there's an enormous job to be done.
The arguments about how we got into Mr. Bush's war and exactly how we'll get out are also important. But the damage from this fiasco will be even greater if those debates obscure the urgency of the other war we are losing, one that will be with us long after we've left the quagmire in Iraq.