Saturday, September 30, 2006

FRANK RICH: So You Call This Breaking News?

IF your head hurts from listening to the Washington furor over the latest National Intelligence Estimate, by all means tune it out. The entire debate is meaningless except as a damning election-year indicator of just how madly our leaders are fiddling while Iraq burns.

The supposedly shocking key finding in the N.I.E. — that the Iraq war is a boon to terrorism — isn’t remotely news. It first turned up in a
classified C.I.A. report leaked to the press in June 2005. It’s also long been visible to the naked eye. The latest New York Times/CBS News poll, conducted before any revelations from the N.I.E., found that nearly half the country believes that the Iraq war is increasing the terrorist threat against America and only 12 percent thinks the war is decreasing that threat. Americans don’t have to pore over leaked intelligence documents to learn this. They just have to turn on the television.

Tonight on “60 Minutes,” Bob Woodward will spill another supposedly shocking intelligence finding revealed in his new book: a secret government prediction that the insurgency will grow worse next year. Who’d have thunk it? Given that the insurgency is growing worse every day right now — last week suicide bombings hit a record high in Baghdad — the real surprise would be if the government predicted an armistice. A poll released last week by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland found that about 6 in 10 Iraqis approved of attacks on American forces. Tardy investigative reporting is hardly needed to figure out that the insurgency is thriving.

“The insurgents know what they are doing,” Mr. Woodward is to say on CBS, according to an advance excerpt. “They know the level of violence and how effective they are. Who doesn’t know? The American public.” He accuses the administration of keeping such information out of sight by stamping it “secret.” All this, too, apparently comes as eye-opening news to Mr. Woodward three and a half years into the war; his new book’s title, “State of Denial,” has a self-referential ring to it. But the American public does know the level of violence all too well, and it also knows how the administration tries to cover up its failures.

That’s why long ago a majority of that public judged the war a mistake and Mr. Bush a dissembler. It’s only the variations on the theme that change. When the president
declared last month that “the Iraqi government and the Iraqi military is committed to keeping this country together,” reality was once more busily contradicting him. The Los Angeles Times reported that a third of that government wasn’t showing up to parliamentary sessions and that only 1,000 Iraqi soldiers answered the American call for 4,000 reinforcements in the do-or-die battle to secure Baghdad.

Against this ominous reality, the debate over the N.I.E. is but a sideshow: politics as usual on both sides. The president reluctantly declassified what had already been leaked, somehow hoping he could override the bad headlines with Pavlovian repetition of shopworn slogans. (He said America must “stay on the offense” four times in one speech on Friday alone.) Democrats are huffily demanding that the White House release more than a few scraps of the 30-page-plus N.I.E., a debating point with no payoff. The N.I.E. is already six months out of date, and Americans can guess most of it, classified or not. In this war at this late stage, the devil can be found everywhere, not merely in the details.

The facts of Iraq are not in dispute. But the truth is that facts don’t matter anyway to this administration, and that’s what makes this whole N.I.E. debate beside the point. From the start, honest information has never figured into the prosecution of this war. The White House doesn’t care about intelligence, good or bad, classified or unclassified, because it believes it knows best, regardless of what anyone else has to say. The debate over the latest N.I.E. or any yet to leak will not alter that fundamental and self-destructive operating principle. That’s the truly bad news.

This war has now gone on so long that we tend to forget the early history that foretold the present. Yet this is the history we must remember now more than ever, because it keeps repeating itself, with ever more tragic results. In the run-up to the war, it should be recalled, the administration did not even bother to commission an N.I.E., a summary of the latest findings from every American intelligence agency, on Iraq’s weapons.

Why not? The answer can be found in what remains the most revealing Iraq war document leaked to date: the Downing Street memo of July 23, 2002, written eight months before the invasion. In that secret report to the Blair government, the head of British intelligence reported on a trip to Washington, where he learned that the Bush administration was fixing the “intelligence and facts” around the predetermined policy of going to war in Iraq. If we were going to fix the intelligence anyway, there was no need for an N.I.E., except as window dressing, since it might expose the thinness of the administration’s case.

A prewar N.I.E. was hastily (and sloppily) assembled only because Congress demanded it. By the time it was delivered to the Capitol after much stalling, on Oct. 1, 2002, less than two weeks remained before the House and Senate would vote on the Iraq war resolution. “No more than six senators and only a handful of House members got beyond the five-page executive summary,” according to an article last spring in Foreign Affairs by Paul Pillar, the C.I.A. senior analyst for the Middle East from 2000 to 2005. In a White House press briefing after the war started, an official said Condi Rice hadn’t read it at all, leaving that menial duty to her retinue of “experts.”

When one senator who did read the whole N.I.E., the now retired Democrat Bob Graham of Florida, asked that a declassified version be made public so that Americans could reach their own verdicts on the war’s viability, he was rebuffed. Instead the administration released a glossy white paper that trumpeted the N.I.E.’s fictions (“All intelligence experts agree that Iraq is seeking nuclear weapons”) but not its doubts about much-hyped evidence like aluminum tubes and uranium from Africa. The only time the president cared about the N.I.E., a document he never wanted, was when he thought it would be politically useful in fighting growing criticism in 2003 that he had manipulated prewar intelligence. Then he authorized his own cherry-picked leaks, which Scooter Libby fed to Mr. Woodward and Judith Miller of The Times. (Neither wrote about it at the time.)

As the insurgency continued to grow in the fall of 2003, the White House again showed scant interest in reality. The American military’s Central Command called for an N.I.E. instead. The existence of this second N.I.E. was only discovered in February of this year by Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay of Knight Ridder Newspapers. It found that the growing violence in Iraq was “fueled by local conditions — not foreign terrorists — and drew strength from deep grievances, including the presence of U.S. troops.” Yet the president ignored that accurate intelligence, refusing to raise troop levels and continuing to argue erroneously that the insurgency was mainly linked to Saddam and Al Qaeda. Three years later, he still makes that case rather than acknowledge that our troops are caught in the cross-fire of a civil war.

Having ignored the facts through each avoidable disaster, the White House won’t change its game plan now. Quite the contrary. Its main ambition seems to be to prop up its artificial reality no matter what the evidence to the contrary. Nowhere could this be better seen than in Ms. Rice’s bizarre behavior after the Bill Clinton-Chris Wallace slapdown on Fox News. Stung by the former president’s charge that the Bush administration did nothing about Al Qaeda in the eight months before 9/11, she couldn’t resist telling The New York Post that his statement was “flatly false.”

But proof of Ms. Rice’s assertion is as nonexistent as Saddam’s W.M.D. As 9/11 approached, both she and Mr. Bush blew off harbingers of the attacks (including a panicked C.I.A. briefer in Crawford, according to Ron Suskind’s “One Percent Doctrine”). The 9/11 commission report, which Ms. Rice cited as a corroborating source for her claims to The Post, in reality “found no indication of any further discussion” about the Qaeda threat among the president and his top aides between the arrival of that fateful Aug. 6 brief (“Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”) and Sept. 10.

That the secretary of state would rush to defend the indefensible shows where this administration’s priorities are: it’s now every man and woman in the White House for himself and herself in defending the fictions, even four-year-old fictions, that took us into the war and botched its execution. When they talk about staying the course, what they are really talking about is protecting their spin and their reputations. They’ll leave it to the 140,000-plus American troops staying the course in a quagmire to face the facts.

Visit The Babbling Academy

Rep.: Hastert Told of Foley Months Ago

WASHINGTON - Rep. Thomas Reynolds, head of the House Republican election effort, said he told Speaker Dennis Hastert after learning a fellow GOP lawmaker sent inappropriate messages to a teenage boy.

Reynolds, R-N.Y., was told months ago about e-mails sent by Rep. Mark Foley and is now defending himself from Democratic accusations that he did too little. Foley, R-Fla., resigned Friday after ABC News questioned him about the e-mails to a former congressional page and about sexually suggestive instant messages to other pages.

The boy who received the e-mails was 16 in summer 2005 when he worked in Congress as a page. After the boy returned to his Louisiana home, the congressman e-mailed him, and the teenager thought the messages were inappropriate, particularly one in which Foley asked the teen to send a picture of himself........

The Republican House leadership has known about Foley for a year

The page worked for Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., who said Friday that when he learned of the e-mail exchanges 10 to 11 months ago, he called the teen's parents. Alexander told the Ruston Daily Leader, "We also notified the House leadership that there might be a potential problem," a reference to the House's Republican leaders.House Speaker Dennis Hastert said Friday he had asked the chairman of the House's page board, Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., to investigate the page system. "We want to make sure that all our pages are safe and the page system is safe," Hastert said. More

CBS, NBC largely ignored new report showing hundreds of Abramoff/White House connections

CBS and NBC have almost completely ignored Roll Call's revelation that a House committee is preparing to release a bipartisan report documenting closer ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff than the Bush White House previously acknowledged. Read more

Friday, September 29, 2006

MAUREEN DOWD: Borat and Bush

Borat Sagdiyev, the Kazakh television reporter with the bushy mustache and cheap gray suit, showed up at the White House this week with an invitation for the man he calls the “mighty U.S. warlord.”

He wanted to invite “Premier George Walker Bush,” along with “other American dignitaries” like Mel Gibson and O.J. Simpson, to a screening of his new documentary about his anti-Semitic, misogynistic, scatological trek across America, followed by a cocktail party/summit meeting, no doubt featuring Kazakh-mopolitans made with fermented horse urine.

“We’ll make discussion of cooperation between the two countries at Hooters,” Borat told a befuddled White House guard.

Borat, of course, is Sacha Baron Cohen, the successor to Peter Sellers, a wildly original and brainy Cambridge grad and observant Jew from a distinguished British family. His HBO characters, the rapper Ali G, the fashion reporter Bruno, and Borat, collide with reality, exposing prejudice and puncturing pomposity.

The real Kazakhstan dictator was honored by President Bush at a state dinner this week. Nursultan Nazarbayev may have a corrupt and authoritarian regime where political opponents have been known to die very, very suddenly, but, hey, he’s got oil and he’s an ally in the war on terror. Respec’, as Ali G would say.

So Mr. Cohen popped up as well, loping around D.C. to promote his new movie, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” The satirist held a news conference in front of the Kazakh Embassy — as real officials inside fumed — to proclaim that any protestations that Kazakhstan treats women equally or tolerates all religions are “disgusting fabrications” by “evil nitwits” in rival Uzbekistan.

Mr. Cohen is a genius at turning reality into farce, taking lowbrow humor to high places, but he has met his match in W.

With the publication of parts of the classified intelligence report showing that the Bush administration has expanded the terrorist threat, as well as the books “State of Denial” by Bob Woodward, “Hubris” by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, and “Fiasco” by Thomas Ricks, all detailing the bumbling and infighting of Bush officials on Iraq, it’s a tossup as to where we can find the most ludicrous, offensive and juvenile behavior — in the new Borat movie or the Bush White House. Let’s compare and contrast:

At a Southern society dinner, an etiquette coach teaches Borat how to excuse himself to go to the bathroom. But when he returns to the table with a toilet doggie bag, no one laughs.

W. and Karl Rove “shared an array of fart jokes,” Mr. Woodward writes. A White House aide put a toy that made a flatulence sound under Karl’s chair for the senior staff meeting on July 7. When they learned of the terror attacks in London, the prank was postponed. But several weeks later, “the device was placed under Rove’s chair and activated during the senior staff meeting. Everyone laughed.”

Borat likes to wrestle guys naked. Karl liked to show W. his battery-powered “Redneck Horn,” blasting obscenities and insults like “Hey, hogneck, who taught you how to drive?” in a Southern drawl.

Family values in Borat’s comic portrait of Kazakhstan are reflected by his sister, an incestuous hooker, the town rapist, a cow in the bedroom, and the annual Pamplona-like “Running of the Jew.”

Mr. Woodward writes about Bush family values, or the “Running of the WASP.” Even though Poppy Bush found his old G.O.P. nemesis Donald Rumsfeld “arrogant, self-important, too sure of himself and Machiavellian,” the author notes, W. chose Rummy as defense chief, feeling “it was a chance to prove his father wrong.”

Borat had a fantasy life in which he would bag — literally — Pamela Anderson and yoke her happily ever after to a plow on his farm. Dick Cheney had a fantasy life in which he would bag Saddam’s W.M.D. by occupying Iraq. In July 2003, Vice and Scooter Libby pored over fragments of intelligence intercepts, trying to figure out where on earth those elusive W.M.D. were. Mr. Woodward notes that Cheney staffers even called the chief weapon hunter with satellite coordinates for possible hidden caches.

Borat thinks Pamela is silly to object to animal torture, just as Vice thinks the press is silly to object to prisoner torture.

After much chaos, Borat gives up on Pamela and marries a prostitute. After much chaos, and even though Laura wants Rummy out, W. sticks with him at Vice’s insistence.

No doubt. For lowbrow antics and silly stunts, W. is the clear winner. Respec’.

Pirates of the Mediterranean

NYT Op-Ed Contributor

Kintbury, England

IN the autumn of 68 B.C. the world’s only military superpower was dealt a profound psychological blow by a daring terrorist attack on its very heart. Rome’s port at Ostia was set on fire, the consular war fleet destroyed, and two prominent senators, together with their bodyguards and staff, kidnapped.

The incident, dramatic though it was, has not attracted much attention from modern historians. But history is mutable. An event that was merely a footnote five years ago has now, in our post-9/11 world, assumed a fresh and ominous significance. For in the panicky aftermath of the attack, the Roman people made decisions that set them on the path to the destruction of their Constitution, their democracy and their liberty. One cannot help wondering if history is repeating itself.

Consider the parallels. The perpetrators of this spectacular assault were not in the pay of any foreign power: no nation would have dared to attack Rome so provocatively. They were, rather, the disaffected of the earth: “The ruined men of all nations,” in the words of the great 19th-century German historian Theodor Mommsen, “a piratical state with a peculiar esprit de corps.”

Like Al Qaeda, these pirates were loosely organized, but able to spread a disproportionate amount of fear among citizens who had believed themselves immune from attack. To quote Mommsen again: “The Latin husbandman, the traveler on the Appian highway, the genteel bathing visitor at the terrestrial paradise of Baiae were no longer secure of their property or their life for a single moment.”

What was to be done? Over the preceding centuries, the Constitution of ancient Rome had developed an intricate series of checks and balances intended to prevent the concentration of power in the hands of a single individual. The consulship, elected annually, was jointly held by two men. Military commands were of limited duration and subject to regular renewal. Ordinary citizens were accustomed to a remarkable degree of liberty: the cry of “Civis Romanus sum” — “I am a Roman citizen” — was a guarantee of safety throughout the world.

But such was the panic that ensued after Ostia that the people were willing to compromise these rights. The greatest soldier in Rome, the 38-year-old Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (better known to posterity as Pompey the Great) arranged for a lieutenant of his, the tribune Aulus Gabinius, to rise in the Roman Forum and propose an astonishing new law.

“Pompey was to be given not only the supreme naval command but what amounted in fact to an absolute authority and uncontrolled power over everyone,” the Greek historian Plutarch wrote. “There were not many places in the Roman world that were not included within these limits.”

Pompey eventually received almost the entire contents of the Roman Treasury — 144 million sesterces — to pay for his “war on terror,” which included building a fleet of 500 ships and raising an army of 120,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry. Such an accumulation of power was unprecedented, and there was literally a riot in the Senate when the bill was debated.

Nevertheless, at a tumultuous mass meeting in the center of Rome, Pompey’s opponents were cowed into submission, the Lex Gabinia passed (illegally), and he was given his power. In the end, once he put to sea, it took less than three months to sweep the pirates from the entire Mediterranean. Even allowing for Pompey’s genius as a military strategist, the suspicion arises that if the pirates could be defeated so swiftly, they could hardly have been such a grievous threat in the first place.

But it was too late to raise such questions. By the oldest trick in the political book — the whipping up of a panic, in which any dissenting voice could be dismissed as “soft” or even “traitorous” — powers had been ceded by the people that would never be returned. Pompey stayed in the Middle East for six years, establishing puppet regimes throughout the region, and turning himself into the richest man in the empire.

Those of us who are not Americans can only look on in wonder at the similar ease with which the ancient rights and liberties of the individual are being surrendered in the United States in the wake of 9/11. The vote by the Senate on Thursday to suspend the right of habeas corpus for terrorism detainees, denying them their right to challenge their detention in court; the careful wording about torture, which forbids only the inducement of “serious” physical and mental suffering to obtain information; the admissibility of evidence obtained in the United States without a search warrant; the licensing of the president to declare a legal resident of the United States an enemy combatant — all this represents an historic shift in the balance of power between the citizen and the executive.

An intelligent, skeptical American would no doubt scoff at the thought that what has happened since 9/11 could presage the destruction of a centuries-old constitution; but then, I suppose, an intelligent, skeptical Roman in 68 B.C. might well have done the same.

In truth, however, the Lex Gabinia was the beginning of the end of the Roman republic. It set a precedent. Less than a decade later, Julius Caesar — the only man, according to Plutarch, who spoke out in favor of Pompey’s special command during the Senate debate — was awarded similar, extended military sovereignty in Gaul. Previously, the state, through the Senate, largely had direction of its armed forces; now the armed forces began to assume direction of the state.

It also brought a flood of money into an electoral system that had been designed for a simpler, non-imperial era. Caesar, like Pompey, with all the resources of Gaul at his disposal, became immensely wealthy, and used his treasure to fund his own political faction. Henceforth, the result of elections was determined largely by which candidate had the most money to bribe the electorate. In 49 B.C., the system collapsed completely, Caesar crossed the Rubicon — and the rest, as they say, is ancient history.

It may be that the Roman republic was doomed in any case. But the disproportionate reaction to the raid on Ostia unquestionably hastened the process, weakening the restraints on military adventurism and corrupting the political process. It was to be more than 1,800 years before anything remotely comparable to Rome’s democracy — imperfect though it was — rose again.

The Lex Gabinia was a classic illustration of the law of unintended consequences: it fatally subverted the institution it was supposed to protect. Let us hope that vote in the United States Senate does not have the same result.

Robert Harris is the author, most recently, of “Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome.”

Out of the Mouths of Aides

NYT Editorial

It has taken five and a half years, but at least some of President Bush’s aides have begun to acknowledge the patently obvious: There needs to be a serious effort to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Without one, the United States has no chance of salvaging its battered reputation in the Islamic world. No chance of rallying moderate Arab leaders to fight extremists or contain Iran. And no chance of ensuring Israel’s lasting security. We just hope that Mr. Bush will now make the long neglected peace effort a central priority for the remaining years of his presidency.

With Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveling to the region next week, Mr. Bush should give her an explicit mandate to press Israel, and not just the Palestinians, for real compromises. He should also give her the authority to talk to adversaries, and not just friends, about how to support the effort.

For years, Mr. Bush’s advisers have woven an entire mythology about how Middle East peace required tanks on the road to Baghdad, rather than diplomats on planes to Jerusalem, Ramallah and Damascus.

So it was surprising to hear one of Ms. Rice’s closest aides, Philip Zelikow, the State Department counselor, tell a think-tank audience that some sense of progress on the Arab-Israeli dispute is “just a sine qua non” for getting moderate Arabs and the Europeans to cooperate on Iran and the region’s many other dangerous problems. “We can rail against that belief. We can find it completely justifiable. But it’s fact,” Mr. Zelikow said.

We fear that Mr. Bush and his secretary of state haven’t yet caught up to that. As Ms. Rice prepared to leave, other aides said that the most she would do would be to rally support for the moderate Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and to solicit ideas on how to revive peace talks.

Ms. Rice should use this trip to commit herself to negotiating a comprehensive cease-fire. She can start by telling the Israelis they need to immediately end targeted killings and halt all settlement construction. Ms. Rice needs to make clear to the Palestinians that while words are important, she is less concerned with rhetoric than the ability and willingness of any Palestinian government to halt, rather than abet, all attacks on Israel.

Washington is already encouraging Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, to meet with Mr. Abbas, for more symbolic support. Ms. Rice should instead tell all sides that President Bush’s goal is a full resumption of peace negotiations — and that he will commit the full resources of his presidency to the effort.

Ms. Rice should be willing to go to Damascus — or send a top aide — to tell President Bashar al-Assad that relations can improve if he restrains his clients Hamas and Hezbollah. The Europeans — who have been desperate for the United States to engage — should make the same trip to warn of real punishments should he refuse.

The lesson of this summer’s disastrous wars in Lebanon and Gaza is that the time for listening tours and tactical steps is far past. We hope that Mr. Zelikow’s bosses start paying attention.

“State of Denial,” Bush Ignored Urgent Warning on Iraq


WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 — The White House ignored an urgent warning in September 2003 from a top Iraq adviser who said that thousands of additional American troops were desperately needed to quell the insurgency there, according to a new book by Bob Woodward, the Washington Post reporter and author. The book describes a White House riven by dysfunction and division over the war.

The warning is described in “State of Denial,” scheduled for publication on Monday by Simon & Schuster. The book says President Bush’s top advisers were often at odds among themselves, and sometimes were barely on speaking terms, but shared a tendency to dismiss as too pessimistic assessments from American commanders and others about the situation in Iraq.

As late as November 2003, Mr. Bush is quoted as saying of the situation in Iraq: “I don’t want anyone in the cabinet to say it is an insurgency. I don’t think we are there yet.”

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is described as disengaged from the nuts-and-bolts of occupying and reconstructing Iraq — a task that was initially supposed to be under the direction of the Pentagon — and so hostile toward Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, that President Bush had to tell him to return her phone calls. The American commander for the Middle East, Gen. John P. Abizaid, is reported to have told visitors to his headquarters in Qatar in the fall of 2005 that “Rumsfeld doesn’t have any credibility anymore” to make a public case for the American strategy for victory in Iraq. ...........

Gonzales Cautions (Threatens) Judges on Interfering


Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who is defending President Bush's anti-terrorism tactics in multiple court battles, said Friday that federal judges should not substitute their personal views for the president's judgments in wartime.

He said the Constitution makes the president commander in chief and the Supreme Court has long recognized the president's pre-eminent role in foreign affairs. "The Constitution, by contrast, provides the courts with relatively few tools to superintend military and foreign policy decisions, especially during wartime," the attorney general told a conference on the judiciary at Georgetown University Law Center.

"Judges must resist the temptation to supplement those tools based on their own personal views about the wisdom of the policies under review," Gonzales said.

And he said the independence of federal judges, who are appointed for life, "has never meant, and should never mean, that judges or their decisions should be immune" from public criticism.

LA Times, AP reported Boehner comment that Dems refused to "work with" GOP on detainee bill, ignored 15 blocked Dem amendments

The Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press reported House Majority Leader John Boehner's suggestion that Democratic opponents of the GOP-backed detainee legislation were refusing to "work with Republicans." Neither outlet noted that Democrats had offered 15 amendments to the bill that were barred from consideration by the Republican-led House Rules Committee. Read more

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Culture of Curruption: 485 Contacts Between Jack Abramoff Team and Bush White House Officials

Hundreds of contacts between top White House officials and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates "raise serious questions about the legality and actions" of those officials, according to a draft bipartisan report prepared by the House Government Reform Committee.

The 95-page report, which White House officials reviewed Wednesday evening but has yet to be formally approved by the panel, singled out two of President Bush's top lieutenants, Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman, as having been offered expensive meals and exclusive tickets to premier sporting events and concerts by Abramoff and his associates.

In total, the committee was able to document 485 contacts between White House officials and Abramoff and his lobbying team at the firm Greenberg Traurig from January 2001 to March 2004, with 82 of those contacts occurring in Rove¹s office, including 10 with Rove personally. The panel also said that Abramoff billed his clients nearly $25,000 for meals and drinks with White House officials during that period.

Rove, Mehlman, and other White House officials have denied having any close relationship with Abramoff, despite the fact that Abramoff was a "Pioneer" who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Bush's White House campaigns.


Roll Call: White House Intervened For Abramoff Clients

During the period examined by the committee, Bush administration officials repeatedly intervened on behalf of Abramoff¹s clients, including helping a Mississippi Indian tribe obtain $16 million in federal funds for a jail the tribe wanted to build. Abramoff was able to block the nomination of one Interior Department official using Christian conservative Ralph Reed as a go-between with Rove, according to e-mails between Abramoff and Reed. Abramoff also tried to oust a State Department employee who interfered with their efforts on behalf of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, one of Abramoff¹s most lucrative clients. More

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Heralded Iraq Police Academy a 'Disaster'


BAGHDAD, Sept. 27 -- A $75 million project to build the largest police academy in Iraq has been so grossly mismanaged that the campus now poses health risks to recruits and might need to be partially demolished, U.S. investigators have found.

The Baghdad Police College, hailed as crucial to U.S. efforts to prepare Iraqis to take control of the country's security, was so poorly constructed that feces and urine rained from the ceilings in student barracks. Floors heaved inches off the ground and cracked apart. Water dripped so profusely in one room that it was dubbed "the rain forest."

"This is the most essential civil security project in the country -- and it's a failure," said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an independent office created by Congress. "The Baghdad police academy is a disaster."


Even in a $21 billion reconstruction effort that has been marred by cases of corruption and fraud, failures in training and housing Iraq's security forces are particularly significant because of their effect on what the U.S. military has called its primary mission here: to prepare Iraqi police and soldiers so that Americans can depart.

Federal investigators said the inspector general's findings raise serious questions about whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has failed to exercise effective oversight over the Baghdad Police College or reconstruction programs across Iraq, despite charging taxpayers management fees of at least 4.5 percent of total project costs. The Corps of Engineers said Wednesday that it has initiated a wide-ranging investigation of the police academy project.

BOB HERBERT: A Platform of Bigotry

George Allen, the clownish, Confederate-flag-loving senator from Virginia, has apparently been scurrying around for many years, spreading his racially offensive garbage like a dog that should be curbed. With harsh new allegations emerging daily, it’s fair to ask:

Where are the voices of reason in the Republican Party — the nonbigoted voices? Why haven’t we heard from them on this matter?

Mr. Allen has long been touted as one of the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. But this is a man who has displayed the quintessential symbol of American bigotry, the Confederate battle flag, on the wall of his living room; who put up a hangman’s noose as a decoration in his law office; who used an ethnic slur — macaca — in an attempt to publicly embarrass a 20-year-old American student of Indian descent; and who, according to the recollections of a number of his acquaintances, frequently referred to blacks as niggers.

The senator has denied the last allegation. But his accusers are low-keyed, straight-arrow professionals who have no obvious ax to grind. They, frankly, seem believable.

Dr. R. Kendall Shelton, a North Carolina radiologist who played football with Mr. Allen at the University of Virginia in the 1970’s, recalled a number of incidents, including one in which Mr. Allen said that blacks in Virginia knew their place. Dr. Shelton said in a television interview that he believed then, and still believes, that Mr. Allen was a racist.

Beyond the obvious problems with the senator’s comments and his behavior is the fact that he so neatly fits into the pattern of racial bigotry, insensitivity and exploitation that has characterized the G.O.P. since it adopted its Southern strategy some decades ago. Once it was the Democrats who provided a comfortable home for public officials with attitudes and policies that were hostile to blacks and other minorities. Now the deed to that safe house has been signed over to the G.O.P.

Ronald Reagan may be revered by Republicans, but I can never forget that he opposed both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of the mid-1960’s, and that as a presidential candidate he kicked off his 1980 general election campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., which just happened to be where three civil rights workers — Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney — were savagely murdered in 1964.

During his appearance in Philadelphia, Reagan told a cheering crowd, “I believe in states’ rights.”

The lynching of Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney (try to imagine the terror they felt throughout their ordeal) is the kind of activity symbolized by the noose that Senator Allen felt compelled to put up in his office.

One of the senator’s Republican colleagues, Conrad Burns, is up for re-election in Montana. He’s got an ugly racial history, too. Several years ago, while campaigning for a second term, Mr. Burns was approached by a rancher who wanted to know what life was like in Washington. The rancher said, “Conrad, how can you live back there with all those niggers?”

Senator Burns said he told the rancher it was “a hell of a challenge.”

The senator later apologized. But he has bounced from one racially insensitive moment to another over the years, including one occasion when he referred to Arabs as “ragheads.”

You don’t hear President Bush or the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, or any other prominent Republicans blowing the whistle on the likes of George Allen and Conrad Burns because Republicans across the board, so-called moderates as well as conservatives, have benefited tremendously from the party’s bigotry. Allen and Burns may have been more blatant and buffoonish than is acceptable, but they have all been singing from the same racially offensive hymnal.

From the Willie Horton campaign to the intimidation of black voters in Florida and elsewhere to the use of every racially charged symbol and code word imaginable — it’s all of a piece.

The late Lee Atwater, in a 1981 interview, explained the evolution of the Southern strategy:

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger! By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

It’s been working beautifully for the G.O.P. for decades. Why would the president or anyone else curtail a winning strategy now?

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Rushing Off a Cliff

NYT Editorial

Here’s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws — while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.

Republicans say Congress must act right now to create procedures for charging and trying terrorists — because the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks are available for trial. That’s pure propaganda. Those men could have been tried and convicted long ago, but President Bush chose not to. He held them in illegal detention, had them questioned in ways that will make real trials very hard, and invented a transparently illegal system of kangaroo courts to convict them.

It was only after the Supreme Court issued the inevitable ruling striking down Mr. Bush’s shadow penal system that he adopted his tone of urgency. It serves a cynical goal: Republican strategists think they can win this fall, not by passing a good law but by forcing Democrats to vote against a bad one so they could be made to look soft on terrorism.

Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on this legislation that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies. Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error.

These are some of the bill’s biggest flaws:

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.

•There is not enough time to fix these bills, especially since the few Republicans who call themselves moderates have been whipped into line, and the Democratic leadership in the Senate seems to have misplaced its spine. If there was ever a moment for a filibuster, this was it.

We don’t blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they’ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.

They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

U.S. general warns that Iraq is close to dissolving into civil war

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A top-ranked U.S. military officer in Iraq said Wednesday that the United States thought that the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki was running out of time to prevent Iraq from dissolving into outright civil war.

"We have to fix this militia issue. We can't have armed militias competing with Iraq's security forces. But I have to trust the prime minister to decide when it is that we do that," said Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the second-highest-ranking American military official in Baghdad.

Chiarelli's comments to a gathering of reporters were a part of a growing chorus of concerns from U.S. political and military leaders about the Iraqi government's ability and willingness to tackle corruption and militia-run death squads. They suggest that top American leaders are growing frustrated with the pace of reforms and may even be starting to argue for eventual U.S. withdrawal.

Throughout the month, senior military officials - almost always speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the subject - have expressed frustration with the government, saying corruption and rogue militias backed by rebel Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al Sadr are rampant. They've complained of ministers using their offices to fill the coffers of their political parties and of government workers using their jobs to attack rival sects. They said the Iraqi government turned a blind eye, embracing a sectarian winner-take-all approach to governance.

Poll: Majority of Iraqis back attacks on U.S. troops

WASHINGTON About six in 10 Iraqis say they approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces and slightly more than that want their government to ask U.S. troops to leave within a year, according to a poll in that country.

The views expressed by the Iraqi public in the early September poll of 1,150 were at odds with the views of the Bush administration and Iraqi officials.

The poll done for University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes found:

_Almost four in five Iraqis say the U.S. military force in Iraq provokes more violence than it prevents.

_And 61 percent approved of the attacks — up from 47 percent in January. A solid majority of Shiite and Sunni Arabs approved of the attacks, according to the poll. The increase came mostly among Shiite Iraqis.

_The poll also found an overwhelmingly negative opinion of terror kingpin Osama bin Laden and more than half, 57 percent, disapproving of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

_Three-fourths say they think the United States plans to keep military bases in Iraq permanently.

_A majority of Iraqis, 72 percent, say they think Iraq will be one state five years from now. Shiite Iraqis were most likely to feel that way — though a majority of Sunnis and Kurds also believed that would be the case.

The PIPA poll, which included an oversample of 150 Sunni Iraqis, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. ...

Democrats: Americans deserve 'full story' of Iraq intelligence report

WASHINGTON — Some Democratic lawmakers today pushed the White House to release the full text of a previously secret intelligence assessment on terrorism, not just the key judgments, saying Americans deserve the "full story."

President Bush on Tuesday ordered a portion of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) declassified after sections of it were leaked to The New York Times. Bush charged that the document was leaked for political reasons in advance of November mid-term elections.


Democrats called for the release of the full report.

"The American people deserve the full story, not those parts of it that the Bush administration selects," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.

But Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, warned that releasing more of the intelligence assessment could aid terrorists. "We are very cautious and very restrained about the kind of information we want to give al-Qaeda," Hoekstra said in a C-SPAN interview today.

President Bill Clinton: The Difference Between Us and Them

The stakes have never been higher.

The opportunity has never been greater.

In fewer than 40 days, we have the opportunity to send America in a new direction and elect leaders who will bring the change this nation desperately needs.

The governing philosophy of the Republicans leading America today could be described as divide and conquer. Time after time, when faced with critical opportunities to bring Americans together in common purpose, Republicans in Congress chose instead to exploit wedge issues that divide America, foster fear, and promote insecurity.

We can put an end to this cynical governing philosophy. But doing that requires electing a Democratic Congress and requires supporting the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). You were an early supporter of the DCCC this cycle and I am grateful for your support. Today, I am asking you to help them once again at this critical crossroads. House Democratic leaders are committed to winning the majority. In fact, dozens of Democratic House members are willing to match any contribution you make by midnight, September 30th, three-to-one.

No single group of people has a monopoly on morality. No one party has the best ideas on how to keep us safe. Yet, a small group of people does have a monopoly on power in our government. And they've used that monopoly to prevent a true debate on how to grow the economy, to clean up and reform the political process and to protect our nation.

Each day brings greater evidence that America is ready for a new day.

Democrats have fresh ideas, progressive solutions, and a new direction for America. Expanding health care, making college education an opportunity for everybody, energy independence, and a raise in the minimum wage - when you hear talk of a "new direction," this is what we're talking about. But none of those things will become reality without a Democratic majority.

I have been campaigning non-stop with Democratic candidates all across America and will continue to do so through Election Day. The new direction we are offering is resonating with the American people. They are tired of hearing leaders sing the praises of an economic recovery that doesn't feel like one. They are tired of a government that gives more to those who already have the most. They are disheartened by leaders who have put personal gain before the public good.

They know that America can be better. And they are looking for Democrats to lead the way.

We have the dynamic candidates. I've met them. We have the ideas. I know them. What we need are the resources to make sure people meet the candidates and hear the ideas.

I was proud to serve as President of the United States. But there is no title I wear more proudly than that of American citizen. And so, as a citizen, I ask you to get involved. I ask you to shake off the feelings of cynicism and disappointment you've felt these past six years and commit to building a new and renewed majority. I ask you to give of yourself - your time, your money, your energy - to make that happen. I ask you again to support the candidates who best express your hopes and dreams. Because if you do those things, I know that come Election Day, we will usher in a better day for this nation.

I know you have supported the DCCC in the past, and I would not be asking again if it were not so important. Every dollar is making the difference. Please consider another gift today.

We can win in November. We must win in November. I'm counting on you.


Bill Clinton

Journal: Agency Blocked Hurricane Report

WASHINGTON - A government agency blocked release of a report that suggests global warming is contributing to the frequency and strength of hurricanes, the journal Nature reported Tuesday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration disputed the Nature article, saying there was not a report but a two-page fact sheet about the topic. The information was to be included in a press kit to be distributed in May as the annual hurricane season approached but wasn't ready.

"The document wasn't done in time for the rollout," NOAA spokesman Jordan St. John said in responding to the Nature article. "The White House never saw it, so they didn't block it."

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Most Iraqis Favor Immediate U.S. Pullout, Polls Show -- Leaders' Views Out of Step With Public

BAGHDAD, Sept. 26 -- A strong majority of Iraqis want U.S.-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their swift departure would make Iraq more secure and decrease sectarian violence, according to new polls by the State Department and independent researchers.

In Baghdad, for example, nearly three-quarters of residents polled said they would feel safer if U.S. and other foreign forces left Iraq, with 65 percent of those asked favoring an immediate pullout, according to State Department polling results obtained by The Washington Post.

Another new poll, scheduled to be released on Wednesday by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, found that 71 percent of Iraqis questioned want the Iraqi government to ask foreign forces to depart within a year. By large margins, though, Iraqis believed that the U.S. government would refuse the request, with 77 percent of those polled saying the United States intends to keep permanent military bases in the country.

The stark assessments, among the most negative attitudes toward U.S.-led forces since they invaded Iraq in 2003, contrast sharply with views expressed by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Last week at the United Nations, President Jalal Talabani said coalition troops should remain in the country until Iraqi security forces are "capable of putting an end to terrorism and maintaining stability and security."...


"The very fact that there is such a low support for American forces has to do with the American failure to do basically anything for Iraqis," said Mansoor Moaddel, a professor of sociology at Eastern Michigan University, who commissioned a poll earlier this year that also found widespread support for a withdrawal. "It's part of human nature. People respect authority and power. But the U.S. so far has been unable to establish any real authority."...

MAUREEN DOWD: Another Clinton Seduction

At least Jerry Falwell didn’t say Hillary smelled of sulfur.

But he did say that if she runs for president, she will bedevil evangelicals and fire them up to vote Republican with a dark force exceeding even Lucifer.

I suppose, since Senator Clinton’s shrill right-wing critics usually portray her as a witch, being promoted to devil can count as a feminist triumph. And she’s in good bipartisan company with the president, who was also cast as the devil by a world-class nutbar.

Hillary is morphing from workhorse back to show horse, paving the way for her historic presidential race with a series of big policy speeches. And she is taking on the other dynasty more energetically.

“I’m certain that if my husband and his security team had been shown a classified report entitled ‘Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States,’ he would have taken it more seriously than history suggests it was taken by our current president and his national security team,” she crisply told reporters on Capitol Hill yesterday.

Forty years after feminism brashly burst forth, female leaders are still struggling to figure out how to blend sexuality and strength in way that will not backfire. Consider Hewlett-Packard, the progressive Silicon Valley company. Carly Fiorina was fired as chairman and chief executive after a stereotypically alpha male reign, while Patricia Dunn lost her job as chairman after she used what some critics called a stereotypical “Mean Girls” subterfuge to spy on male board members rather than confronting them directly over leaks.

Hillary is also trying different methods, searching for the key that would allow her to break into the ultimate mahogany-paneled men’s club at 1600 Penn. She will try to get back to the West Wing based not on what she has done in the Senate, but on how she has done it.

She has been like a silent-film star, lacking a voice in this chilling time when the Bush administration has Photoshopped the Constitution, portrayed critics as traitors, and spurred terrorism with a misconceived and mismanaged war in Iraq.

Explaining why she had not taken any unpopular stances and championed no big ideas, Hillary answered Joshua Green more like diva than devil in the upcoming cover story for The Atlantic Monthly: “Everything I do carries political risk because nobody gets the scrutiny that I get. It’s not like I have any margin for error whatsoever.”

She has transformed her method from bulldozing alpha in the White House — high-handed, unilateral and insensitive on health care — to coalition-building gamma in Congress. Now the woman who hated being called first lady charms with the most handkerchief-dropping feminine wiles and stratagems, from fetching coffee for senior male Senate colleagues to stepping to the background so that preening male peacocks can hog the live shot.

As one of her male aides bragged to Mr. Green, it’s so effective because the men who tried to impeach her husband don’t expect the former first lady of the United States “to ask if you want two lumps of sugar.”

“Fetching coffee, I think, is too much,” said Michael Morris of the Columbia Business School. “But any good politician is a good flirt. Bill Clinton seduced every woman and every man he met.”

One Hillary aide recently crowed to me about the surprising number of her male colleagues who have crushes on her. And the Rev. Falwell may have missed her bonding with conservative lawmakers at Hill prayer breakfasts. As Mr. Green writes, Hillary and Sam Brownback worked together on legislation after the Kansas conservative gave testimony at a prayer breakfast that he realized it was a sin to have trashed her.

It may not be turning the other cheek for Hillary, so much as triangulating the other cheek. “The Warrior,” as her staff calls her, has not forgotten what she learned from her consort. The Clintons once polled on where to go on vacation when they were in the White House (Dick Morris advised that a camping trip would play well with swing voters), and now Mr. Green reports that the Clintons moved to Chappaqua at least partly in response to polling data.

He also writes that in 2003, the pollster Mark Penn created a 007-secret team to determine whether Hillary could break her pledge to serve a full Senate term and still have enough political clout to wage a presidential run — an assertion that Mr. Penn neither confirmed nor denied.

It may not smell of sulfur, but it smacks of truth.

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THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN: Fill ’Er Up With Dictators

Are you having fun yet?

What’s a matter? No sense of humor? You didn’t enjoy watching Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez addressing the U.N. General Assembly and saying of President Bush: “The devil came here yesterday, right here. It smells of sulfur still today.” Many U.N. delegates roared with laughter.

Oh well then, you must have enjoyed watching Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad breezing through New York City, lecturing everyone from the U.N. to the Council on Foreign Relations on the evils of American power and how the Holocaust was just a myth.

C’mon then, you had to at least have gotten a chuckle out of China’s U.N. ambassador, Wang Guangya, trying to block a U.N. resolution calling for the deployment of peacekeeping troops to Sudan to halt the genocide in Darfur. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that the China National Petroleum Corporation owns 40 percent of the Sudan consortium that pumps over 300,000 barrels of oil a day from Sudanese wells.

No? You’re not having fun? Well, you’d better start seeing the humor in all this, because what all these stories have in common is today’s most infectious geopolitical disease: petro-authoritarianism.

Yes, we thought that the fall of the Berlin Wall was going to unleash an unstoppable wave of free markets and free people, and it did for about a decade, when oil prices were low. But as oil has moved to $60 to $70 a barrel, it has fostered a counterwave — a wave of authoritarian leaders who are not only able to ensconce themselves in power because of huge oil profits but also to use their oil wealth to poison the global system — to get it to look the other way at genocide, or ignore an Iranian leader who says from one side of his mouth that the Holocaust is a myth and from the other that Iran would never dream of developing nuclear weapons, or to indulge a buffoon like Chávez, who uses Venezuela’s oil riches to try to sway democratic elections in Latin America and promote an economic populism that will eventually lead his country into a ditch.

For a lot of reasons — some cyclical, some technical and some having to do with the emergence of alternative fuels and conservation — the price of crude oil has fallen lately to around $60 a barrel. Yes, in the long run, we want the global price of oil to go down. But we don’t want the price of gasoline to go down in America just when $3 a gallon has started to stimulate large investments in alternative energies. That is exactly what OPEC wants — let the price fall for a while, kill the alternatives, and then bring it up again.

For now, we still need to make sure, either with a gasoline tax or a tariff on imported oil, that we keep the price at the pump at $3 or more — to stimulate various alternative energy programs, more conservation and a structural shift by car buyers and makers to more fuel-efficient vehicles.

“If Bush were the leader he claims to be, he would impose an import fee right now to keep gasoline prices high, and reduce the tax rate on Social Security for low-income workers, so they would get an offsetting increase in income,” argued Philip Verleger Jr., the veteran energy economist.

That is how we can permanently break our oil addiction, and OPEC, and free ourselves from having to listen to these petro-authoritarians, who are all so smug — not because they are educating their people or building competitive modern economies, but because they happen to sit on oil.

According to, in 2005 Iran earned $44.6 billion from crude oil exports, its main source of income. In the same year, the mullahs spent $25 billion on subsidies to buy off the population. Bring the price of oil down to $30 and guess what happens: All of Iran’s income goes to subsidies. That would put a terrible strain on Ahmadinejad, who would have to reach out to the world for investment. Trust me, at $30 a barrel, the Holocaust isn’t a myth anymore.

But right now, Chávez, Ahmadinejad and all their petrolist pals think we are weak and will never bite the bullet. They have our number. They know that Mr. Bush is a phony — that he always presents himself as this guy ready to make the “tough” calls, but in reality he has not asked his party, the Congress, the people, or U.S. industry to do one single hard thing to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Mr. Bush prattles on about spreading democracy and freedom, but history will actually remember the Bush years as the moment when petro-authoritarianism — not freedom and democracy — spread like a wildfire and he did nothing serious to stop it.

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"CAUSE CELEBRE" --- Bush Needs To READ the Report instead of goofing off riding his bycicle ....


Iraq war fuels terror - US report

The Iraq conflict has become a "cause celebre" for Islamic militants worldwide, declassified parts of a US intelligence report say.
The war has helped recruit "supporters for the global jihadist movement," the National Intelligence Estimate says.


The key judgements contain ammunition for both sides in the debate over Iraq, the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington notes.

He says the White House can point to a finding that "should Jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on".

This is in line with what the president says about the need to stay the course in Iraq.

But, our correspondent notes, the report says also things the Bush administration does not, and to many Americans the difference between what the White House states and what the spies believe will be striking.

"The Iraq Jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives," the document says.

It adds that the conflict had bred "a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world" and that "perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere".

GOP House Aide Resigns Over Fake Blog Posts

A top aide to U.S. Rep. Charles Bass resigned Tuesday after disclosures that he posed as a supporter of the Republican's opponent in blog messages intended to convince people that the race was not competitive.

Operators of two liberal blogs traced the postings to the House of Representatives' computer server. Bass' office traced the messages to his policy director, Tad Furtado, and issued a statement announcing Furtado's resignation Tuesday.

"Tad Furtado posted to political Web sites from my office without my knowledge or authorization and in violation of my office policy," said Bass, who apologized to the bloggers and said he referred the matter to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.

Posting as IndyNH and IndieNH, Furtado professed support for Democrat Paul Hodes but scoffed at a poll showing him tied with Bass and suggested Democrats should invest their time and money elsewhere.


News Groups Win Lawsuit Over Poll Access

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A federal judge on Tuesday struck down a 2004 directive by Ohio's elections chief against exit polling within 100 feet of a voting place.

U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson ruled that a verbal order by Secretary of State Ken Blackwell before the 2004 presidential election violated the press' rights under the First Amendment.

The lawsuit was brought by five television networks - ABC, CNN, CBS, Fox News and NBC - and The Associated Press, which had formed a consortium to collect exit-polling data in Ohio and other states.

"It's a victory for certainly all the organizations that gather information from voters on Election Day," said attorney Susan Buckley, who represented the news organizations. "It is very important that this information continues to be available not only to the public, but to scholars and historians and the like."

Watson ordered Blackwell to issue an explicit clarification by Oct. 15 so that exit polls can take place in this year's election.

Watson had issued a temporary order in 2004 that allowed the news organizations to conduct exit polls that year. His ruling Tuesday means polling can continue in the future, Buckley said.

A Blackwell spokesman declined immediate comment on the ruling.

Condi Rice, Proven Liar. Claim vs. Fact: Rice's Q&A Testimony Before the 9/11 Commission

April 8, 2004

Planes as Weapons

CLAIM: "I do not remember any reports to us, a kind of strategic warning, that planes might be used as weapons." [responding to Kean]

FACT: Condoleezza Rice was the top National Security official with President Bush at the July 2001 G-8 summit in Genoa. There, "U.S. officials were warned that Islamic terrorists might attempt to crash an airliner" into the summit, prompting officials to "close the airspace over Genoa and station antiaircraft guns at the city's airport." [Sources: Los Angeles Times, 9/27/01; White House release, 7/22/01]

CLAIM: "I was certainly not aware of [intelligence reports about planes as missiles] at the time that I spoke" in 2002. [responding to Kean]

FACT: While Rice may not have been aware of the 12 separate and explicit warnings about terrorists using planes as weapons when she made her denial in 2002, she did know about them when she wrote her March 22, 2004 Washington Post op-ed. In that piece, she once again repeated the claim there was no indication "that terrorists were preparing to attack the homeland using airplanes as missiles." [Source: Washington Post, 3/22/04]

August 6 PDB

CLAIM: There was "nothing about the threat of attack in the U.S." in the Presidential Daily Briefing the President received on August 6th. [responding to Ben Veniste]

FACT: Rice herself confirmed that "the title [of the PDB] was, 'Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.'" [Source: Condoleezza Rice, 4/8/04]

Domestic Threat

CLAIM: "One of the problems was there was really nothing that look like was going to happen inside the United States...Almost all of the reports focused on al-Qaida activities outside the United States, especially in the Middle East and North Africa...We did not have...threat information that was in any way specific enough to suggest something was coming in the United States." [responding to Gorelick]

FACT: Page 204 of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11 noted that "In May 2001, the intelligence community obtained a report that Bin Laden supporters were planning to infiltrate the United States" to "carry out a terrorist operation using high explosives." The report "was included in an intelligence report for senior government officials in August [2001]." In the same month, the Pentagon "acquired and shared with other elements of the Intelligence Community information suggesting that seven persons associated with Bin Laden had departed various locations for Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States." [Sources: Joint Congressional Report, 12/02]

CLAIM: "If we had known an attack was coming against the United States...we would have moved heaven and earth to stop it." [responding to Roemer]

FACT: Rice admits that she was told that "an attack was coming." She said, "Let me read you some of the actual chatter that was picked up in that spring and summer: Unbelievable news coming in weeks, said one. Big event -- there will be a very, very, very, very big uproar. There will be attacks in the near future." [Source: Condoleezza Rice, 4/8/04]

Cheney Counterterrorism Task Force

CLAIM: "The Vice President was, a little later in, I think, in May, tasked by the President to put together a group to look at all of the recommendations that had been made about domestic preparedness and all of the questions associated with that." [responding to Fielding]

FACT: The Vice President's task force never once convened a meeting. In the same time period, the Vice President convened at least 10 meetings of his energy task force, and six meetings with Enron executives. [Source: Washington Post, 1/20/02; GAO Report, 8/03]

Principals Meetings

CLAIM: "The CSG (Counterterrorism Security Group) was made up of not junior people, but the top level of counterterrorism experts. Now, they were in contact with their principals." [responding to Fielding]

FACT: "Many of the other people at the CSG-level, and the people who were brought to the table from the domestic agencies, were not telling their principals. Secretary Mineta, the secretary of transportation, had no idea of the threat. The administrator of the FAA, responsible for security on our airlines, had no idea." [Source: 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick, 4/8/04]

Previous Administration

CLAIM: "The decision that we made was to, first of all, have no drop-off in what the Clinton administration was doing, because clearly they had done a lot of work to deal with this very important priority." [responding to Kean]

FACT: Internal government documents show that while the Clinton Administration officially prioritized counterterrorism as a "Tier One" priority, but when the Bush Administration took office, top officials downgraded counterterrorism. As the Washington Post reported, these documents show that before Sept. 11 the Bush Administration "did not give terrorism top billing." Rice admitted that "we decided to take a different track" than the Clinton Administration in protecting America. [Source: Internal government documents, 1998-2001; Washington Post, 3/22/04; Rice testimony, 4/8/04]


CLAIM: The Bush Administration has been committed to the "transformation of the FBI into an agency dedicated to fighting terror." [responding to Kean]

FACT: Before 9/11, Attorney General John Ashcroft de-emphasized counterterrorism at the FBI, in favor of more traditional law enforcement. And according to the Washington Post, "in the early days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Bush White House cut by nearly two-thirds an emergency request for counterterrorism funds by the FBI, an internal administration budget document shows." And according to a new report by the Congressional Research Service, "numerous confidential law enforcement and intelligence sources who challenge the FBI's claim that it has successfully retooled itself to gather critical intelligence on terrorists as well as fight crime." [Source: Washington Post, 3/22/04; Congressional Quarterly, 4/6/04]

CLAIM: "The FBI issued at least three nationwide warnings to federal, state and law enforcement agencies and specifically stated that, although the vast majority of the information indicated overseas targets, attacks against the homeland could not be ruled out. The FBI tasked all 56 of its U.S. field offices to increase surveillance of known suspects of terrorists and to reach out to known informants who might have information on terrorist activities." [responding to Gorelick]

FACT: The warnings are "feckless. They don't tell anybody anything. They don't bring anyone to battle stations." [Source: 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick, 4/8/04]

Homeland Security

CLAIM: "I think that having a Homeland Security Department that can bring together the FAA and the INS and Customs and all of the various agencies is a very important step." [responding to Hamilton]

FACT: The White House vehemently opposed the creation of the Department of Homeland security. Its opposition to the concept delayed the creation of the department by months.

CLAIM: "We have created a threat terrorism information center, the TTIC, which does bring together all of the sources of information from all of the intelligence agencies -- the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security and the INS and the CIA and the DIA -- so that there's one place where all of this is coming together." [responding to Fielding]

FACT: "Knowledgeable sources complain that the president's new Terrorist Threat Integration Center, which reports to CIA Director George Tenet rather than to Ridge, has created more of a moat than a bridge. The ability to spot the nation's weakest points was going to make Homeland Security different, recalled one person involved in the decision to set up TTIC. But now, the person said, 'that whole effort has been gutted by the White House creation of TTIC, [which] has served little more than to give the appearance of progress.'" [Source: National Journal, 3/6/04]


CLAIM: "There was a discussion of Iraq. I think it was raised by Don Rumsfeld. It was pressed a bit by Paul Wolfowitz."

FACT: Rice's statement confirms previous proof that the Administration was focusing on Iraq immediately after 9/11, despite having no proof that Iraq was involved in the attack. Rice's statement also contradicts her previous denials in which she claimed "Iraq was to the side" immediately after 9/11. She made this denial despite the President signing "a 2-and-a-half-page document marked 'TOP SECRET'" six days after 9/11 that "directed the Pentagon to begin planning military options for an invasion of Iraq." [Source: Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04, 3/22/04; Washington Post, 1/12/03]

CLAIM: "Given that this was a global war on terror, should we look not just at Afghanistan but should we look at doing something against Iraq?"

FACT: The Administration has not produced one shred of evidence that Iraq had an operational relationship with Al Qaeda, or that Iraq had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks on America. In fact, a U.S. Army War College report said that the war in Iraq has been a diversion that has drained key resources from the more imminent War on Terror. Just this week, USA Today reported that "in 2002, troops from the 5th Special Forces Group who specialize in the Middle East were pulled out of the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan to prepare for their next assignment: Iraq." Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) confirmed this, noting in February of 2002, a senior military commander told him "We are moving military and intelligence personnel and resources out of Afghanistan to get ready for a future war in Iraq." [Sources: CNN, 1/13/04; USA Today, 3/28/04; Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), 3/26/04]

War on Terror

CLAIM: After 9/11, "the President put states on notice if they were sponsoring terrorists."

FACT: The President continues to say Saudi Arabia is "our friend" despite their potential ties to terrorists. As the LA Times reported, "the 27 classified pages of a congressional report about Sept. 11 depict a Saudi government that not only provided significant money and aid to the suicide hijackers but also allowed potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to flow to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups through suspect charities and other fronts." Just this week, Newsweek reported "within weeks of the September 11 terror attacks, security officers at the Fleet National Bank in Boston had identified 'suspicious' wire transfers from the Saudi Embassy in Washington that eventually led to the discovery of an active Al Qaeda 'sleeper cell' that may have been planning follow-up attacks inside the United States." [Source: LA Times, 8/2/03; CNN, 11/23/02; Newsweek, 4/7/04]

Professor Joins Others In Claiming Sen. Allen Used Racial Epithets To Describe Black People...

RICHMOND, Va. (Sept. 26) - A noted political scientist joined one of Sen. George Allen's former college football teammates in claiming the senator used a racial slur to refer to blacks in the early 1970s, a claim Allen dismisses as "ludicrously false."

Larry J. Sabato, one of Virginia's most-quoted political science professors and a classmate of Allen's in the early 1970s, said in a televised interview Monday that Allen used the epithet.

Sabato's assertion came on the heels of accusations by Dr. Ken Shelton, a radiologist who was a tight end and wide receiver for the University of Virginia in the early 1970s when Allen was quarterback. He said Allen not only used the n-word frequently but also once stuffed a severed deer head into a black family's mailbox.

Allen's campaign released statements from four other ex-teammates defending the senator and rejecting Shelton's claims.

CBS hires former Bush staffer as political consultant

Nicolle Wallace, who was White House Communications Director under George W. Bush, has joined CBS News as a political consultant.

Wallace, who joins the network effectively immediately, exited the White House in July, replaced by Former NBC Universal communication executive Kevin Sullivan.

Wallace has a long association with the Bushes, serving as director of communications for the 2004 campaign, as director of media affairs in the president's first term, and press secretary for President Bush's brother and Florida Governor Jeb Bush.


Russia sets date for Iran nuclear plant

MOSCOW Russia set the timetable Tuesday for Iran's first nuclear power station, resisting pressure from Tehran to speed up work and from Washington to abandon it.

Sergei Shmatko, head of Atomstroyexport, which is building the plant in southwest Iran, said an agreement had been signed with Iran on the delivery of nuclear fuel no later than March, with the reactor starting operation next September and supplying power to the grid in November 2007.

The United States has been pushing Russia to stop building the plant, near Bushehr, because it fears Iran could use the knowledge it gains to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran says it has no such plans.

Russia says it opposes any Iranian weapons program and sees no link with the plant, but it has repeatedly postponed the opening date for the plant, citing technical difficulties.

Marines charged over Iraq killing


Three US marines are to be tried by a military tribunal for the alleged murder of an Iraqi civilian, the US military has said in a statement.
The three are among eight US personnel who have been charged with the kidnap and murder of Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52, in the village of Hamdaniya in April.

Prosecutors allege Mr Awad was kidnapped, dragged from his home with his feet bound, and then shot.

Preliminary hearings of some defendants are expected in the coming weeks.

Pte John Jodka is accused of firing at the victim, Corp Marshall Magincalda is accused of kidnap and binding the victim's feet, while L/Cpl Jerry Shumate is alleged to have fired his rifle at him and to have lied to investigators about what had happened.

The US statement said the death penalty would not be sought against any of the three marines, although it is available in the case of premeditated murder.

The shooting of Mr Awad is one of several killings in Iraq in which US troops are accused of murdering Iraqi civilians.

'Million bomblets' in S Lebanon


Up to a million cluster bomblets discharged by Israel in its conflict with Hezbollah remain unexploded in southern Lebanon, the UN has said.
The UN's mine disposal agency says about 40% of the cluster bombs fired or dropped by Israel failed to detonate - three times the UN's previous estimate.

It says the problem could delay the return home of about 200,000 displaced people by up to two years.

The devices have killed 14 people in south Lebanon since the August truce.

The manager of the UN's mine removal centre in south Lebanon, Chris Clark, said Israel had failed to provide useful information of its cluster bomb strikes, which could help with the clearance operation.

Last month, the UN's humanitarian chief, Jan Egeland, accused Israel of "completely immoral" use of cluster bombs in the conflict.

Israel has insisted that the munitions it uses in conflict comply with international law.

Wash. Post reported on Bush's private "war anguish," ignored Bush's dismissive public treatment of war

Washington Post staff writer Peter Baker wrote that while President Bush's "public persona gives little sense that he dwells on the costs of war ... the private Bush comes across differently in the accounts of aides, friends, relatives and military family members who have met with him." However, Baker did not mention instances in which Bush has publicly made dismissive comments about U.S. involvement in Iraq. Read more

Fox News' Live Desk cluttered with falsehoods on Clinton, Bush terrorism records

In the Fox News premiere of her new show, The Live Desk, host Martha MacCallum advanced several falsehoods regarding the respective anti-terrorism efforts of Presidents Clinton and Bush, while discussing Chris Wallace's recent interview with Clinton. MacCallum falsely claimed that Richard Clarke was demoted by the Bush administration after 9-11 and that the Clinton administration abandoned opportunities to take out Osama bin Laden, despite having him "in their scope." Read more

ABC provided no Clinton response to Falwell's "Lucifer" comparison and no rebuttal to Perkins's smear of Dems

ABC's World News Sunday reported Rev. Jerry Falwell's September 22 attack comparing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to "Lucifer" and quoted Tony Perkins attacking Democrats who discuss their faith. ABC did not, however, include Clinton's response to Falwell's comments, nor did the network note that for all of Perkins's talk of a "disconnect" between Democratic faith and policy, some religious groups have identified what they say are inconsistencies between Christian tenets and GOP policies as well. Read more

Fox News rallies behind Wallace, attacks Clinton

Fox News dedicated its coverage of an interview of President Clinton by Chris Wallace to portraying Wallace as the victim, while depicting Clinton as having a "complete meltdown," an "angry explosion," a "volcanic reaction," and as going on a "tirade" during the interview. Read more

Consumers skeptical of dropping gas prices

Almost half of all Americans believe the November elections have more influence than market forces. For them, the plunge at the pump is about politics, not economics.

Retired farmer Jim Mohr of Lexington, Ill., rattled off a tankful of reasons why pump prices may be falling, including the end of the summer travel season and the fact that no major hurricanes have disrupted Gulf of Mexico output.

"But I think the big important reason is Republicans want to get elected," Mohr, 66, said while filling up for $2.17 a gallon. "They think getting the prices down is going to help get some more incumbents re-elected."

According to a new Gallup poll, 42 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that the Bush administration "deliberately manipulated the price of gasoline so that it would decrease before this fall's elections." Fifty-three percent of those surveyed did not believe in this conspiracy theory, while 5 percent said they had no opinion.


Monday, September 25, 2006

A textbook definition of cowardice, Keith Olbermann comments on Bill Clinton's Fox News interview

By Keith Olbermann

The headlines about them are, of course, entirely wrong.

It is not essential that a past president, bullied and sandbagged by a monkey posing as a newscaster, finally lashed back.

It is not important that the current President’s portable public chorus has described his predecessor’s tone as “crazed.”

Our tone should be crazed. The nation’s freedoms are under assault by an administration whose policies can do us as much damage as al Qaida; the nation’s marketplace of ideas is being poisoned by a propaganda company so blatant that Tokyo Rose would’ve quit.

Nonetheless. The headline is this:

Bill Clinton did what almost none of us have done in five years.

He has spoken the truth about 9/11, and the current presidential administration.

"At least I tried," he said of his own efforts to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. "That’s the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They had eight months to try; they did not try. I tried."

Thus in his supposed emeritus years has Mr. Clinton taken forceful and triumphant action for honesty, and for us; action as vital and as courageous as any of his presidency; action as startling and as liberating, as any, by any one, in these last five long years.

The Bush Administration did not try to get Osama bin Laden before 9/11.

The Bush Administration ignored all the evidence gathered by its predecessors.

The Bush Administration did not understand the Daily Briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S."

The Bush Administration did not try.

Moreover, for the last five years one month and two weeks, the current administration, and in particular the President, has been given the greatest “pass” for incompetence and malfeasance in American history!

President Roosevelt was rightly blamed for ignoring the warning signs—some of them, 17 years old—before Pearl Harbor.

President Hoover was correctly blamed for—if not the Great Depression itself—then the disastrous economic steps he took in the immediate aftermath of the Stock Market Crash.

Even President Lincoln assumed some measure of responsibility for the Civil War—though talk of Southern secession had begun as early as 1832.

But not this president.

To hear him bleat and whine and bully at nearly every opportunity, one would think someone else had been president on September 11th, 2001 -- or the nearly eight months that preceded it.

That hardly reflects the honesty nor manliness we expect of the executive.

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