Saturday, November 01, 2003
The entire case for war [in Iraq], put forth so meticulously by the Bushists in national forums and at the UN, was based on lies, bribes, distortions -- and threadbare intelligence cooked to order for the conspirators in the White House, who set up a system that deliberately ignored or rejected any finding that clashed with their unalterable plans for aggression and conquest, as Seymour Hersh reports in The New Yorker.
Not since the Nuremberg Trials has a criminal conspiracy to commit state terrorism been so nakedly revealed. For it's glaringly obvious that the top guns in the Bush Regime knew in advance there was no WMD threat in Iraq. They would never have acted so precipitously if they really believed Saddam could unleash anthrax missiles on Jerusalem or slaughter tens of thousands of American troops with his "armed and ready" biochemical weapons. (Witness their circumspection when confronted with a real WMD threat from North Korea.)
As for Saddam's nuclear "menace," they left his nuke plants unguarded for weeks after taking control of the country, allowing looters and terrorists to pillage them at leisure. The "aluminum enrichment tubes" that were the Bushists' "smoking gun" for Saddam's "aggressive" nuclear program were likewise abandoned to their fate by American forces, and why not? Even before the war, experts said the tubes couldn't be used in nuclear weapons, a fact belatedly confirmed by Kay's investigators. Some of these "sinister" tubes have been scavenged to make sewage pipes.
The Bushists are now in full flight from the reality of [weapons inspector David] Kay's report: hiding it, twisting it, pretending it doesn't mean what it clearly says -- but their own evidence cries out against them. They planned and executed a war of aggression in the full knowledge that their casus belli was false, a pious fig leaf cloaking their primitive lust for loot and dominance. They stand condemned -- by their own man, their own words -- of a sick and bloody crime against humanity.
About 12 million American families last year worried that they couldn't afford to buy food, and 32 percent of them actually experienced someone going hungry at one time or another, the Agriculture Department said yesterday.
It was the third year in a row that the USDA has seen an increase in the number of households experiencing hunger and those worried about having enough money to pay for food.
Based on a Census Bureau survey of 50,000 households, the department estimated that 3.8 million families were hungry last year to the point where someone in the household skipped meals because they couldn't afford them. That's an 8.6 percent increase from 2001, when 3.5 million families were hungry, and a 13 percent increase from 2000.
Also, more and more families are unsure if they can afford to eat or do not have enough food in their cupboards. Last year, 11 percent of 108 million families were in that situation. That's up 5 percent from 2001 and 8 percent from 2000.
So hunger has been on the increase in America for the past three years, you say? Hmm. I wonder if $87 billion would help.
The [McCain-Lieberman global warming bill recently defeated in the Senate] also found surprising support among Democrats and Republicans from big industrial and coal-producing states, where opposition to any legislation having to do with curbing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases usually runs high. This support materialized despite furious opposition from reactionaries like Oklahoma's James Inhofe, who stubbornly denies the science of global warming, and from the White House — which, true to form, warned of an economic Armageddon.
The bill is in fact a modest version of the 1997 Kyoto accord, which President Bill Clinton embraced but Mr. Bush rejected. Kyoto would indeed have required big changes in how we use and produce energy, as any determined assault on global warming eventually must. But McCain-Lieberman aims merely to accustom the nation gently to doing business in a different way. One suspects that the Senate will someday wake up to the fact that the White House sees bogymen where none exist.
And fails to see the ones that do exist.
As a deadline imposed by Republicans and Democrats passed, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said Friday that the Bush administration had yet to provide all of the information the panel was seeking for its review of intelligence before the war about Iraq's illicit weapons program.
But the senator, John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, said he and the committee chairman, Pat Roberts of Kansas, a Republican, would appeal directly next week to senior administration officials for further help before weighing whether to issue a subpoena or take some other action.
Mr. Rockefeller said the Defense Department and the White House in particular had yet to authorize the release of documents that the panel believes could shed light on how the C.I.A. reached its assessment that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons and had reconstituted its nuclear program. Still, after months in which requests by the panel have gone unanswered, Mr. Rockefeller said in a telephone interview that he was "satisfied that we have caught the attention" of Bush administration officials by imposing the deadline, which passed at noon on Friday.
It's not enough to "catch their attention". We need to find out what they are trying to hide, in this matter as well as in the similar stonewalling over the release of documents related to September 11.
The Pakistani city of Quetta lately has become more than a provincial capital; it might also be described as the new headquarters of the extremist Taliban movement, which ruled Afghanistan and sheltered Osama bin Laden until two years ago. According to one recent report by the respected Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, "Thousands of Taliban fighters reside in mosques and madrassas with the full support of a provincial ruling party and militant Pakistani groups. Taliban leaders wanted by the U.S. and Kabul governments are living openly in nearby villages." Mr. Rashid quoted the provincial government's information minister as saying, "Only the Taliban can constitute the real government of Afghanistan." During a recent visit, The Post's John Lancaster met with a Taliban recruiter who described how he traveled with 14 other Pakistanis across the border into Afghanistan last summer to wage war against U.S. and Afghan government forces. "It's no problem at all to cross back and forth," the recruiter said.
If Afghanistan now is in danger of slipping back into the chaos of civil war, the haven and support found by a regrouping Taliban in Pakistan is a major cause. Yet the Bush administration continues to shrink from demanding accountability from President Pervez Musharraf.
[Washington Post, 11/1/03]
Or anyone else.
Congressional Republicans have launched a renewed investigation of alleged wrongdoing by a Democratic-appointed federal judge in a landmark affirmative action case -- sparking countercharges that the GOP is using political pressure tactics against the judiciary.
The investigators said they were looking into charges -- first aired last year by a Republican-appointed judge on the 6th Circuit -- that the circuit's Democratic-appointed chief judge, Boyce F. Martin Jr., had rigged the lineup of judges who ruled on the University of Michigan Law School's affirmative action policy so the school would win.
In June, the Supreme Court affirmed the 6th Circuit ruling, establishing the constitutionality of race-conscious university admissions generally. Many conservatives, though, are still unhappy not only with that outcome but also with what they consider improper maneuvering by the lower court that made the Supreme Court case possible.
"They're mad at our court because they lost, and they won't let up. It's unbelievable," said Damon J. Keith, a senior judge who was appointed by Democratic President Jimmy Carter.
Republicans really, really hate to lose.
Friday, October 31, 2003
Not content with dominating U.S. foreign policy to a greater extent than any predecessor in memory, moreover, Rumsfeld and his supporters are now complaining that problems have arisen because they have too little power, rather than too much. As one "senior government official" told a reporter in the [Rumsfeld] memo's defense, "Who was responsible for winning the Cold War? The military. Who is responsible for winning the global war on terror? Everybody. The military. The State Department. The Central Intelligence Agency. Justice and Customs have a big piece. When everybody is responsible, nobody is accountable."
Casual readers might assume that this Alice-in-Wonderland view of history represents a slip of the tongue. Surely it was "everybody" who was responsible for winning the Cold War, as the Soviet Union collapsed after being hemmed in by nearly half a century of multilateral political, ideological, economic and strategic containment. And surely it is "the military" that has dominated the prosecution of the war on terror, jealously keeping other agencies and countries at arm's length.
But no, this is what the Rumsfeld crowd really seems to believe: that the U.S. military alone won the Cold War, and that the solution to current problems lies in giving it an even more unfettered hand today.
[Gideon Rose is the managing editor of Foreign Affairs.]
At a luncheon [in Columbus] Thursday attended by about 650 supporters, most of whom paid $2,000 apiece, President Bush added $1.4 million to his campaign war chest.
Hours later, Laura Bush spoke to 285 donors at a reception in Tyler, Texas, that brought in an additional $275,000. About the same time, the president made his second fund-raising appearance of the day, at a reception in San Antonio, Texas, that earned $1.2 million.
Including a $475,000 fund-raiser Wednesday night in Washington, where the guest of honor was Vice President Dick Cheney, the campaign brought in more than $3.3 million within 24 hours. So far, Bush and Cheney have raised about $90 million for their reelection bid — and they're nowhere close to finished.
On Thursday, the White House and the campaign staff announced next month's fund-raisers. The president will attend at least eight of the events, potentially putting him close, by the end of the month, to breaking the record for a presidential campaign — which he set in 2000 by raising $101 million.
What a liar he is. And a rich one, too.
The Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday sent angry letters to top officials in the Bush administration, demanding access to records and witnesses as part of the panel's inquiry into the prewar intelligence on Iraq.
The move suggests that the committee is sharpening its investigative focus on the White House, something the administration and key Republican lawmakers had sought to avoid.
The letters were sent to national security advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, and criticized their agencies for failing to deliver documents and testimony lawmakers said they had requested months ago. The officials were given until noon today to respond, although the letters do not spell out specific consequences.
Aren't the September 11 investigators having trouble getting access to documents as well? Hmm.
Companies that were awarded $8 billion in contracts to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan have been major campaign donors to President Bush, and their executives have had important political and military connections, according to a study released Thursday.
The study of more than 70 U.S. companies and individual contractors turned up more than $500,000 in donations to the president's 2000 campaign.
The report was released by the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington-based research organization that produces investigative articles on special interests and ethics in government. Its staff includes journalists and researchers.
The center concluded that most of the 10 largest contracts went to companies that employed former high-ranking government officials, or executives with close ties to members of Congress and even the agencies awarding their contracts.
Major contracts for Iraq and Afghanistan were awarded by the Bush administration without competitive bids, because agencies said competition would have taken too much time to meet urgent needs.
There was simply no time for competition, you see. Like there was no time to count all Americans' votes in 2000. Like there was no time to get the UN's help before invading Iraq.
President Hamid Karzai told U.S. military commanders more than a year ago that Afghan militias working for U.S. troops were committing abuses against villagers and that their actions were undermining the effort to combat terrorism, the president's spokesman said Thursday.
But the Afghan militia fighters, who are paid to guide U.S. forces, have continued to assault and rob villagers — including during a search operation last week in the village of Dai Chopan, spokesman Jawed Ludin said, confirming a report of the incident in Wednesday's editions of The Times.
"The story is true," Ludin said in an interview. "We know that this thing happened. Much of what [villagers] have been saying has some basis in reality."
"The U.S. government doesn't somehow feel the need even to respond to what we have to say," Kowalczuk said from London, where the rights group is based.
Magda, Magda. This government doesn't respond to what anyone says. I mean, except for the rich people.
Congress is about to hand President Bush a big victory by approving the money he wants for Iraq, but privately many lawmakers are fuming.
Their ire is caused not so much by events overseas as by the high-handed way they believe the administration has treated the legislative branch at home.
The House approved the Iraq package on a vote of 298 to 121 early today, and the Senate was expected to follow on Monday to send Bush the legislation providing $87.5 billion for military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan. But beneath the apparent victory for the administration lie deep tensions even among members of Bush's party who have felt shut out and taken for granted.
"I don't think there is any one of us that hasn't been frustrated," said Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and one of the most powerful members of Congress, who complained that he had been stood up by a senior administration official the day he was to begin writing the final version of the Iraq funding bill.
"They have treated us like a nuisance and appendage," said Sen. Charles Hagel (R-Neb.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Take it easy, Chuck. They treat the whole country that way. I mean, except for the rich people, of course.
Thursday, October 30, 2003
Americans long have supported protecting wildlife in this country and internationally. Yet the Bush administration is reversing decades of bipartisan efforts to save endangered species worldwide.
One recent proposal caught media attention. The Endangered Species Act prohibits imports of live endangered animals or products made from their body parts, but contains a narrow exception for zoos and scientific research. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to expand that loophole, to permit imports and so encourage international trade in live endangered animals or their body parts.
The Bush administration says the proposal is a small policy shift, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service statements. But in fact, the plan is a radical change. It could put 500 endangered animals, like tigers, elephants and orangutans, on a fast track to extinction, says Defenders of Wildlife, a moderate environmental group.
It and several dozen other conservation organizations that oppose the proposal have reason to worry. The published plan appears to have almost no safeguards. It won't require proof that any money paid to kill or capture the animals actually went to conservation. It doesn't even require importers to prove that the animals weren't poached.
On Wednesday and Thursday, newspapers around the country have reported that the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq following the official end of major combat has exceeded the number killed during the war.
This, however, continues the pervasive pattern of downplaying U.S. deaths from all causes in Iraq, many related to official duties and the stress of combat.
USA Today's report is typical: "the 115 American troops killed in combat in Iraq since May 1 -- the day Bush declared major combat operations over -- exceeds the 114 killed by hostile fire during the war itself." But these reports continue to ignore the total death count.
In fact, 218 troops have been killed since May 1 from all causes (nearly doubling the combat-only count), and a total of 139 before May 1. This includes suicides, drownings, and the many military vehicle accidents.
In addition, the toll of injured U.S. soldiers has now reached 2,084, including well over 1,000 since May 1. In his New York Times column Thursday, Thomas L. Friedman corrected his column of Oct. 23 when he cited a figure of 900 wounded in Iraq since May 1.
BUSH: "The best way to deal with them [terrorists] is to harden targets, harden assets as best as you can."
FACT: "Historically, there is no technological fix for terrorism. You have to deal with the complex sources of terrorism.... If you harden targets, then there are the vulnerable points, and even hardened targets are vulnerable; if you harden an entire society, what do you get?" said Beau Grosscup, author of The Newest Explosions of Terrorism and professor of international relations at California State University in Chico. [Contact information: email@example.com]
BUSH: "It's the same mentality, by the way, that attacked us in -- on September the 11th, 2001. 'We'll just destroy innocent life and watch the great United States and their friends and allies, you know, crater in the face of hardship.' It's the exact same mentality. And Iraq is a part of the war on terror. I said it's a central front, a new front in the war on terror."
FACT: "Bush is attempting to link the September 11 atrocities to the Iraq war in the public mind -- without asserting the link outright. Administration officials, including Bush, have employed this rhetorical tactic, an 'enthymematic argument,' time and time again before and since the war. There is still no evidence whatsoever that the former Iraqi regime, or any Iraqi, had anything to do with the September 11 attacks, but as many as 69 percent of Americans still believe there is a link. [See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A32862-2003Sep5.html] Bush achieves this rhetorical trick without telling an outright lie," said Chris Toensing, editor of Middle East Report. [Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.merip.org]
This interesting piece refutes in detail a dozen of Bush's recent false statements.
There's no question that President Bush stepped very deep in it yesterday when he sidestepped responsibility for the "Mission Accomplished" banner in the background at his announcement of the end of 'major combat operations' on board the USS Abraham Lincoln last May 1st.
As you may have seen, the president said that it was the Navy's idea to put up the sign, not the White House's. (The sign was carefully placed to frame the image of the president as he gave his speech.)
Everybody knows that it's ridiculous. And yet the president is on the record saying it.
And unlike a lot of other inherently more important issues, this is the sort of thing the White House press corps grabs onto and won't let go of.
We'll take what we can get.
Tom Devine is a decent American. A fighter for what he calls "free speech dissent" -- whistle-blowing to you and me -- he conceals the steel of a lifelong professional commitment to whistle-blowers beneath a gentle, soft-spoken exterior. It seems like he could not hurt a fly. But when he talks about Executive Order 13303 a quiet rage gathers about him.
Signed by United States President George W Bush in May, the order attracted only scant media attention when it was finally reported in August. Given that the order is a blank cheque for corporate anarchy in Iraq this is very curious indeed.
It means that the oil industry is magically exempt from liability for a vast range of things, including health and safety violations, child labour, minimum wage and other employment rights such as equal opportunity, consumer fraud, clean environment duties, and shareholder accountability, to name but a few.
For US companies such as Bechtel and Halliburton, there is a double beauty to this beast. They have become merrily endowed with US government contracts, post-invasion, and are now immune from the entire system of administrative law that ordinarily applies to protect the public interest of the taxpayer.
One example of American unilateralism that especially bothers foreigners is the Bush administration's rejection of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and its refusal to take serious steps to limit the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Today the Senate has a chance to take the lead on this issue when it votes on a bill sponsored by John McCain and Joseph Lieberman.
This bipartisan measure asks much less from US industry than the Kyoto Protocol does. But at least it begins the process of treating the chief greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, as an emission that has to be reduced if the planet is to avoid severe and unpredictable changes in weather, wildlife, and agriculture because of the warming that occurs when man-made gases function as a greenhouse layer above the earth's surface.
In July, leaked documents showed that Bush's own Environmental Protection Agency was coming to a similar conclusion in its own study, but the findings were suppressed.
Two students have embroiled the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in a nationwide controversy about the reliability of a company's high-tech voting machines.
Diebold Inc., of North Canton, Ohio, on Tuesday sent letters to MIT demanding that the school cut off Internet access to data files posted by C. Scott Ananian, a graduate student in computer science, and sophomore mathematics student David Meyer. The files, thousands of pages of Diebold internal documents, were stolen in March when someone broke into the Diebold computer network. They have been widely distributed on the Internet by political activists, who say the documents reveal serious flaws in Diebold's line of computerized voting machines.
Meyer said that even if the documents were stolen, they contain information the public needs. Diebold "should not be allowed to hide behind copyright law," he said.
About 33,000 Diebold machines are in use in the United States. Some experts have said the machines are inherently untrustworthy. In July, computer scientists at Johns Hopkins and Rice universities who analyzed Diebold's voting software said they found major security problems.
I'm feeling pretty insecure myself, these days.
Some similarities [between Vietnam and Iraq] do exist. As with the war in Vietnam, the one in Iraq has been plagued by questions of candor. Vietnam was triggered by the Gulf of Tonkin incident, an attack on two American warships that may never have occurred. The war in Iraq was justified by Saddam Hussein's WMD, which turned out to be Weapons of Mass Delusion. In the case of chemical and biological weapons, they may not exist. In the case of nuclear weapons, they certainly don't.
There are other similarities. Once again the government is whistling in the dark. President Bush sees progress in every terrorist attack. "The more successful we are on the ground, the more these killers react," he said recently. In that case, recent events put the United States on the lip of victory. Suicide bombings killed or wounded more than 250 Iraqi civilians, and a Baghdad deputy mayor was assassinated. Another week like this and the enemy will have had it.
Michael Leavitt, the Utah governor chosen by President Bush to run the Environmental Protection Agency, has finally won Senate confirmation after 56 days. The embarrassing delay was less a reflection of senatorial dismay with Mr. Bush's choice than a means of showing displeasure with his regressive environmental policies.
Nobody expects Mr. Leavitt to try to change these policies, although there are steps he can quickly take to improve his reputation among environmentalists. There is a proposal on his desk to narrow the scope of the Clean Water Act. He should get rid of it. A deadline approaches for imposing controls on mercury emissions from power plants. He should meet it. But what is absolutely essential — and what is clearly in Mr. Leavitt's power to do — is to restore the professional credibility of a demoralized agency that for nearly three years has been treated like an extension of Karl Rove's political operation in the White House.
Executive agencies inevitably reflect the preferences of the president they serve. But the E.P.A. has a long tradition of providing solid science and independent analysis on complex environmental questions. That reputation is now at risk, largely because the agency has been asked to manipulate or withhold science to serve political ends. The most shameful examples were two instances of censorship on global warming. In 2002, the White House ordered a chapter on climate change deleted from the E.P.A.'s annual report on air pollution trends. Last summer, as the agency was finishing a broad assessment of environmental problems, the White House ordered so many changes in the global warming chapter that Christie Whitman yanked all but a few paragraphs.
The war began with Bush illogic: false intelligence (from Niger to nuclear) used to bolster a false casus belli (imminent threat to our security) based on a quartet of false premises (that we could easily finish off Saddam and the Baathists, scare the terrorists and democratize Iraq without leeching our economy).
Now Bush illogic continues: The more Americans, Iraqis and aid workers who get killed and wounded, the more it is a sign of American progress. The more dangerous Iraq is, the safer the world is. The more troops we seem to need in Iraq, the less we need to send more troops.
The harder it is to find Saddam, Osama and W.M.D., the less they mattered anyhow. The more coordinated, intense and sophisticated the attacks on our soldiers grow, the more "desperate" the enemy is.
In a briefing piped into the Pentagon on Monday from Tikrit, Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno called the insurgents "desperate" eight times. But it is Bush officials who seem desperate when they curtain off reality. They don't even understand the political utility of truth.
After admitting recently that Saddam had no connection to 9/11, the president pounded his finger on his lectern on Tuesday, while vowing to stay in Iraq, and said, "We must never forget the lessons of Sept. 11."
As explained by [Vincent] Cannistraro, who served as the C.I.A.'s counterterrorism chief, "We had a pattern of pressure directed at C.I.A. analysts for a long period of time, beginning almost immediately after Sept. 11. The pressure was directed at providing supporting data for the belief that Saddam Hussein was, one, linked to global terrorism and, two, was a clear danger not only to his neighbors but to the United States of America."
That pressure came directly from Vice President Dick Cheney and his chief of staff, Lewis (Scooter) Libby, during repeated visits to C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Va.
The Beltway warfare escalated dramatically when former Ambassador Joseph Wilson exposed the hollowness of the administration's claims about Iraqi attempts to buy uranium "yellowcake" from Niger -- and persons unknown responded last July by outing his wife, Valerie Plame, as a C.I.A. officer.
Still angry, Mr. Cannistraro told the Senators that the unknown administration officials who committed that "dirty trick" did so not only to "undermine and trash Ambassador Wilson, but to demonstrate their contempt for C.I.A. by bringing Valerie's name into it."
How long can these "unknown administration officials" remain unknown?
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
In the top photo, a “Mission Accomplished” banner graces the island of the carrier Abraham Lincoln on May 1. In a speech to the ship’s crew, President Bush declared an end to major combat in Iraq. In the bottom photo, taken April 24, Bush’s staff had hung a similar banner. At Tuesday’s press conference, Bush said his staff had nothing to do with the “Mission Accomplished” banner. Later in the day, the Navy acknowledged the banner had been printed by the White House.
[Air Force Times, 10/28/03]
This fall, at every venue I visit to sign books and talk about politics, at least one worried citizen asks whether I believe rogue computer software can steal the next election for the Republicans. Others nod, murmur, and wonder aloud: What can we do about this threat to democracy? Why should we vote or encourage others to vote when the system can be gamed? How do we convince the mainstream media to cover this crucial story?
Web journalists have been probing the real and potential problems of electronic voting most notably on Black Box Voting.org and Black Box Voting.com, the Web sites Bev Harris runs, and in Salon -- but it is true that major media outlets have devoted little attention to the possibility that future elections could be untraceably rigged. Today, Newsweek tech reporter Steven Levy examines that dire prospect in the magazine's Nov. 3 issue.
The sickening irony of this situation is that it developed from congressional efforts to preclude another fiasco like Florida 2000. Now Rep. Rush Holt, D.-N.J., has proposed legislation that would require a separate printed record of every computerized vote so that recounts can be audited with a paper trail. But Rep. Bob Ney, the committee chairman, opposes Holt's Voter Confidence Act. Ney happens to be a Republican from Ohio. But why aren't Republicans -- many of whom fret incessantly about "ballot security" in black and Latino neighborhoods -- more disturbed by the threat of computer cheating?
A fair question, and one which in recent weeks has been much on my mind.
The commission investigating the government's failures before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is in danger of becoming a study in recalcitrance by the Bush administration. The independent commission's mandate is to supply a definitive account of the government's handling of the terrorist plot that killed almost 3,000 people. But the White House continues to fence with requests for classified documents crucial to the inquiry.
The commission chairman, former Gov. Thomas Kean of New Jersey, a Republican, is threatening to subpoena the administration for documents that officials should forthrightly turn over. Among the key questions is the nature of an intelligence report to President Bush a month before the attacks — only sketchily confirmed thus far by the White House — that Al Qaeda might try to hijack passenger airplanes.
In a blistering review of President Bush's national security policy, Gen. Wesley K. Clark said on Tuesday that the administration could not "walk away from its responsibilities for 9/11."
"You can't blame something like this on lower-level intelligence officers, however badly they communicated in memos with each other," said the retired general, the latest entrant in the Democratic presidential field. "It goes back to what our great president Harry Truman said with the sign on his desk: `The buck stops here.' And it sure is clear to me that when it comes to our nation's national security, the buck rests with the commander in chief, right on George W. Bush's desk."
"And," he added, "we've got to say again and again and again, until the American people understand: strong rhetoric in the aftermath is no substitute for wise leadership."
General Clark's remarks were his most scathing of the campaign to date and went further than those of a number of other Democratic candidates in laying blame on the administration for intelligence failures.
Give 'em hell, Wesley!
[Also check out this item on the same topic from SFGate.com.]
Despite his longstanding attempts to cast his foreign policy as conducted without regard to polls or domestic politics, he was drawn into rare comments about the electoral implications of a drawn-out conflict in Iraq.
Mr. Bush said he expected the American people to be patient because they were "able to differentiate between politics and reality," suggesting that he would cast criticism of his leadership as partisan and unfounded.
On Monday, Mr. Bush suggested that the latest violence in Iraq was a sign of progress, saying that "the more successful we are on the ground, the more these killers will react."
That formulation left even some Republicans wincing, and he recalibrated it on Tuesday, saying terrorists "are targeting the very success and freedom we're providing to the Iraqi people."
But the president made it clear that he saw his strategy as slowly but surely proving successful, and said he was looking forward to defending it "right in the mix" of election-year politics.
"I'll say that the world is more peaceful and more free under my leadership, and America is more secure," Mr. Bush said, describing how he will run on his record. "That will be how I'll begin describing our foreign policy."
What a whopper! I wish I'd seen this press conference. I hear it was quite a spectacle.
"Iraq is dangerous, and it's dangerous because [foreign] terrorists want us to leave," Mr. Bush said during a 48-minute Rose Garden news conference, his most extensive question-and-answer session with the news media since July. "And we're not leaving."
Mr. Bush did not specify where he thought the foreign terrorists had originated. But he suggested that the attackers were crossing into Iraq from Syria and Iran. "We're working closely with those countries to let them know that we expect them to enforce borders, prevent people from coming across borders, if in fact we catch them doing that," Mr. Bush said.
He added, "We are mindful of the fact that some might want to come into Iraq to attack and to create conditions of fear and chaos."
Mr. Bush's comments put him at odds with a military official on the ground in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the commander of the First Armored Division, who said Sunday that he had not seen "any infusion of foreign fighters" in Baghdad.
What would some general know about it? Bush knows best.
When you journey abroad, news from home tends to arrive in disjointed snippets. But rarely has such a tidbit seemed as unrooted in reality as the comment of President Bush that reached here a day after a series of devastating bombings in Baghdad. The attacks, Bush said, resulted from the progress of the occupation and the desperation of the insurgents.
Bush is right that progress is occurring in some places, including this city north of Baghdad. But even here progress is fitful, and dependent on Iraqi confidence that the Americans will not bail out anytime soon. The president's implication that the latest well-coordinated attacks are a last gasp of a desperate opposition seems so much a product of wishful thinking that it can only undermine that confidence, even as it continues to mislead Americans about the difficulty of defeating a ruthless insurgency.
Here's the reality: Insurgents are waging a strategic and malevolently clever campaign that is achieving, in its terms, considerable success. The kind of progress that Bush seeks cannot be accomplished under current conditions of danger and uncertainty.
Maybe this is all part of Bush's "plan".
For the past few weeks, Iraq administrator L. Paul Bremer has appeared every Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. on IMN, the Pentagon-run television network, with a taped message to the Iraqi people about what is going on in their country.
The speeches, dubbed in Arabic, are much like President Bush's weekly Saturday radio address, according to Gary Thatcher, the former CBS producer who is head of strategic communications for the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq. "We are here to set an example of journalism in the Western tradition," he said.
To many Iraqis, though, Bremer's prime-time addresses are more reminiscent of the regular television appearances of former president Saddam Hussein, according to both American and Iraqi media specialists who have studied IMN, the Iraqi Media Network. Iraqis see the station not as a vehicle for free speech but "as the mouthpiece of the CPA," the BBC World Service Trust reported after studying the stations this summer.
The administration consistently substitutes propaganda for information here at home - why not do it in Iraq too?
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
Lately, I find myself worrying about my adopted country, the United States. I'm alarmed that dissent is increasingly less tolerated, and that those in power seem unable to resist trying to intimidate those who speak their minds. I grew up in the People's Republic of China, so I know how it is to live in a place where voicing opinions that differ from official orthodoxy can be dangerous, and I fear that model.
Indeed, Bush press conferences, which I enjoy watching, seem to me to have become more and more like those held by the Chinese Communist Party: Nothing but the official line is given, and probing questions from reporters, which are crucial to advancing the public's understanding of the government's actions, are often evaded or ignored. Moreover, as Hearst Newspapers columnist Helen Thomas, dean of the White House correspondents, recently learned, too-persistent questioning on sensitive issues means that the next time you are ignored, even relegated to the back row of the briefing.
Open inquiry, freedom of expression and debate are essential parts of a well-functioning democracy. When leaders disdain debate, ignore expert advice, deride the news media as unpatriotic and try to suppress opposing opinions, they are likely to lead their country into dangerous waters. Even China now seems to have learned how dangerous it is to completely control the press — witness the attempted cover-up of the SARS epidemic — and to be loosening up a bit.
Thus, it makes me all the more discouraged to find the U.S. moving backward. When honest government officials and outspoken citizens are ignored or, worse, marked for intimidation, it begins to seem that the Bush administration is acting more in keeping with Lenin's notion of democratic centralism than with the founding fathers' notion of the necessity for a sometimes inquisitive citizenry and a free press.
Dick Cheney is the most powerful vice president of modern times -- more powerful than the seasoned Gore under the callow Clinton or the experienced Poppa Bush under the inexperienced Reagan. Cheney, in fact, is sometimes referred to as George W. Bush's brain or, to be even more mocking, his ventriloquist. It would be fitting, then, for this most powerful of all vice presidents to be the first in American history to be censured. He has it coming.
It won't happen, of course. But Cheney ought to be made to account for his repeated exaggerations of the Iraqi threat. I am referring specifically to his dire warning that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was working on a menacing nuclear weapons program and the United States had to do something about it. We know now that such a program did not exist.
It is hard to know whether Cheney's repeated assertions about Iraq's nuclear program were purposeful misrepresentations or the product of a true believer's faith in his own misconceptions. Either way, the always smug and contemptuous Cheney has much to answer for. He has failed as George Bush's brain. Let's hope he is not his conscience, too.
Why have we allowed this dreadful man to sieze control of our nation?
According to The New York Times, President Bush was genuinely surprised to learn from moderate Islamic leaders that they had become deeply distrustful of American intentions. The report on the "perception gap" suggests that the leader of the war on terror has no idea how badly that war — which must, ultimately, be a war for hearts and minds — is going.
Mr. Bush's ignorance may reflect his lack of curiosity: "The best way to get the news," he says, "is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff." Two words: emperor, clothes.
But there's something broader going on: a sort of willful ignorance, supposedly driven by moral concerns but actually reflecting domestic politics. Surely it's important to understand how others see us, but a new, post 9/11 version of political correctness has made it difficult even to discuss their points of view. Any American who tries to go beyond "America good, terrorists evil," who tries to understand — not condone — the growing world backlash against the United States, faces furious attacks delivered in a tone of high moral indignation.
Even with the number and sophistication of the daily attacks accelerating, Mr. Bush's response to questions about how the United States should respond has become almost automatic: The United States is slowly winning hearts and minds, and making Saddam Hussein's loyalists "more desperate" each day.
The situation will improve, he argues, as Iraqis themselves take more and more authority over the security scene.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bush's aides and Pentagon officials describe what is going on as a war of attrition, against enemies whose resources are being depleted, suggesting they will eventually run out of steam.
But when speaking on background, some senior administration officials acknowledge that some of those answers are beginning to ring hollow.
Very, very hollow.
Washington has a knack for fiscal folly. It's the place that created the Social Security trust fund, which has no funds and can't be trusted. It let George W. Bush reduce the stated cost of his tax cuts by pretending they will expire rather than become permanent. And now, in yet another example of financial fantasy, Washington is trying to pretend that we can get something for nothing when it comes to paying for the Iraq war.
Let's start with Bush's plan to get foreigners to lend us money for the war, rather than our paying cash for it. Bush doesn't say this, of course, but it's what his policy amounts to. We've just run the biggest federal budget deficit ever: $530 billion, if you include the money the rest of the government borrowed from Social Security's alleged trust fund. And you should count it, unless you're ready to say flat-out that the Treasury confiscated that money from the trust fund with no intention of ever making good on the borrowing. Now, Bush wants an extra $87 billion for the war at the same time that he's cutting taxes and hitting up foreigners for Iraq contributions.
It was one thing for the United States to borrow for the Revolutionary War, when the federal government, such as it was, didn't have any money. Or to go into hock, big-time, to fight World Wars I and II, which were expensive beyond belief. But the country is incredibly rich now, and Iraq is barely pocket change relative to the national economy, or even to the tax cuts Bush has pushed through the past three years.
The country is once again in the grip of borrow-and-spend conservatives.
The military also believes that insurgencies like the one in Iraq coalesce into larger rebellions if allowed to fester. Adding to the need for rapid action, a senior U.S. military official involved in Iraq strategy said yesterday that the Pentagon expects to significantly pare its presence in Iraq when major troop rotations come in February. "The feeling is, get it done while we have the assets available," the official said.
Bush gave no hint of such backroom deliberations as he argued that the recent attacks only demonstrated foes' desperation. It was an amplification of a theme he struck after terrorists attacked the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad on Aug. 19, when he said, "Every sign of progress in Iraq adds to the desperation of the terrorists and the remnants of Saddam's brutal regime."
Democrats reacted with ridicule. Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), a presidential candidate, likened Bush's statement to the "light at the end of the tunnel" claims during the Vietnam War. "Does the president really believe that suicide bombers are willing to strap explosives to their bodies because we're restoring electricity and creating jobs for Iraqis?" Kerry asked in a statement.
Bush got a similar reprimand earlier from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has supported the president on Iraq. "This is the first time that I have seen a parallel to Vietnam, in terms of information that the administration is putting out versus the actual situation on the ground," he told Newsweek.
The idea that the dramatic increase in attacks shows how successful we are in Iraq makes no sense to me. If we had 30 days of utter calm, would that signify failure?
Monday, October 27, 2003
If, as now seems likely, top White House aides leaked the identity of an American undercover agent, they may have committed an act of domestic terrorism as defined by the dragnet language of the Patriot Act their boss wanted so much to help him catch terrorists.
Section 802 of the act defines, in part, domestic terrorism as "acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state" that "appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population."
Clearly, disclosing the identity of a CIA undercover agent is an act dangerous to life - the lives of the agent and her contacts abroad whom terrorists groups can now trace - and a violation of the criminal laws of the United States.
And what about the intent of those White House officials in disclosing this classified information? Surely, this mean-spirited action on their part was for the purpose of intimidating the CIA agent's husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who had become a strong critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policies. And not just Wilson. By showing their willingness to make such a dangerous disclosure, the White House officials involved were sending a message to all critics of the administration to beware that they too can be destroyed if they persist. That apparent intention "to intimidate or coerce a civilian population" - in this case American citizens - also meets the Patriot Act definition of domestic terrorism.
Ain't it ironic?
[Samuel Dash, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, was chief counsel of the Senate Watergate Committee in 1973-74.]
I'm a registered Republican. I voted for George W. Bush and contributed financially to his campaign. I was wrong. I apologize. Bush is the worst president America has had -- ever.
Bush has turned the entire world against America. He has lied to the American people and gotten us in a terrible mess in Iraq. There were no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that threatened America. There was no Iraqi connection with international terrorism.
Before Sept. 11, 2001, there were a few hundred Saudi and Egyptian terrorists. Bush's policies since 9/11 have created hundreds of thousands of new terrorist recruits throughout the Muslim world. Bush created this monster.
We are wasting our national treasure in Iraq due to Bush's arrogant, "pre-emptive warfare" doctrine. We have lost 3 million jobs since Bush took office -- and we are exporting our remaining manufacturing and high-tech jobs to low-wage countries at a dizzying pace.
We are piling up massive deficits that will ultimately create chaos in our economy.
Bush must be replaced.
Winning hearts and minds, one by one.
Above the empty vapor that is President Bush swirls the incredulity of those rational Americans who simply cannot fathom how anybody aside from war profiteers, religious fanatics, corporate vultures and environmental predators could possibly vote for the re-election of such a dangerously unsuitable man.
We wonder, slack-jawed, at what is wrong with that other half of the populace. Are they too much in the grip of Wal-Mart and NASCAR and "Joe Millionaire" to appreciate what's happening right under their noses? Has the oft-lamented "dumbing down" of America really hit bottom? At the other pole, has the Darwinian detachment of our haughty rich really become that entrenched? Do they really want society's safety net shredded for good? No wonder Europe shakes its collective head.
We have numbers. We have facts. We know that more than half the nation voted for the other candidate in 2000, and we know that theft occurred. The laundry list of Bush's offenses is plain to see, and it continues to grow -- as does the body count from Iraq. Yet an alarming number of our fellow citizens still cling to the fantastic notion that he is an exemplar of "Christian" kindness, honesty and decency, when in truth he is nothing of the sort. He is among the greatest charlatans in American political history -- perhaps the greatest. The fact he's abetted by a fawning press corps makes his guy-next-door facade all the more infuriating, not to mention nauseating.
Even after all this time, I remain baffled at how anyone can support this miserable failure of a man. What is it, exactly, that they approve of?
Newsweek's investigation indicates that there may be just as many problems ahead, raising serious questions about the vast amounts of money Bush has demanded for Iraq with little tolerance for debate.
The Bush administration’s favorite statistic from Iraq is the 1,595 schools it has just finished rehabilitating. This is, after all, the human face of occupation—freshly painted walls, American know-how and generosity, all wrapped up in smiling, adorable faces. And though that number is still less than a fifth of Iraq’s 10,000 schools, it seems like amazingly fast work. The problem: many of the "rehabilitated" schools don’t look ready for the morning bell.
Newsweek visited five schools in Baghdad’s Camp Sara neighborhood, all of which were among those listed as rebuilt, all by different Iraqi contractors working for Bechtel. None had enough textbooks, desks or blackboards. Most had refuse everywhere, nonfunctioning toilets and desks made for two kids that were accommodating four. Even Ahmed Majid Jassim, a pro-U.S. headmaster who says that "Americans have made a great effort," comments, "I’ve seen rebuilt schools, and this isn’t one of them."
Every time Bush and his mouthpieces want us to believe things are going swimmingly in Iraq, they talk about the schools they have rebuilt. As usual, the truth is a bit different.
In the days before he assumed the presidency in 2001, George W. Bush liked to boast about the foreign policy ''Dream Team'' he had assembled.
Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were all ''smart people'' who would compensate for the former Texas governor's lack of international experience.
''General Powell's a strong figure, and Dick Cheney's no shrinking violet, nor Condi Rice,'' Bush said in December 2000. "I view the four as being able to complement each other.''
But after nearly three years in office, Bush's dream team is beset by infighting, backstabbing and maneuvering on major foreign policy issues involving North Korea, Syria, Iran and postwar Iraq. The result has been paralysis, inconsistency and a zigzagging U.S. policy that confuses lawmakers on Capitol Hill and disturbs America's friends, allies and would-be partners.
It bothers me, too.
The editorial "Responsibility Gap" [Oct. 16], which focused on certain Democratic presidential candidates, failed to address the huge responsibility gap created by President Bush's failure to pay for our efforts in Iraq in an honest and upfront manner. I agree that whatever position one may have had on the question of going to war in Iraq, we now have a responsibility to establish security and assist in the reconstruction of Iraq.
But we also have other obligations -- to level with the American people and pay for our efforts in Iraq in a responsible way. Both before and after the war, the president failed to prepare the American people for the real costs of "winning the peace." Now he seeks to disguise the consequences of those costs by putting them on our national credit card and running up huge deficits. Every penny of the $87 billion requested by the president -- and the $79 billion already spent for Iraq -- is borrowed money.
The president has called on the country to pay any price to defeat the scourge of terrorism, but he apparently means everyone except the wealthiest Americans. While the Bush administration has asked our troops and their families to make the ultimate sacrifice, the president has given the richest 1 percent of Americans a huge tax cut. It is wrong to ask the younger generation, including our troops and their children, to bear the burden alone. We should not be waging war and peace by credit card in order to shield the wealthiest among us from paying their fair share.
But isn't that the purpose of the Republican party?
The administration officials who stiffed "Frontline" habitually do the same to ABC's "Nightline." Ted Koppel explains why in a round-table discussion published in a new book from the Brookings Institution Press, The Media and the War on Terrorism: "They would much rather appear on a program on which they're likely not to get a tough cross-examination."
On Oct. 15, the week after the "Frontline" exposé, the White House was true to form when asked to provide a guest for a "Nightline" exploring the president's new anti-media media campaign. But later in the day, the administration decided to send a non-marquee name, Dan Bartlett, its communications director. Mr. Koppel, practicing the increasingly lost art of relentless follow-up questioning, all but got his guest stuttering as he called him on half-truth after half-truth. Mr. Bartlett tried — but soon failed — to get away with defending a litany of prewar administration claims and insinuations: that the entire American contribution to rebuilding Iraq would be only $1.7 billion; that Iraqi oil income would pay for most of the reconstruction; and that the entire war would proceed as quickly as a cakewalk.
The president tells us the economy is accelerating, and the statistics seem to bear him out. But don't hold your breath waiting for your standard of living to improve. Bush country is not a good environment for working families.
In the real world, which is the world of families trying to pay their mortgages and get their children off to college, the economy remains troubled. While the analysts and commentators of the comfortable class are assuring us that the president's tax cuts and the billions being spent on Iraq have been good for the gross domestic product, the workaday folks are locked in a less sanguine reality.
A cornerstone of post-Depression policy in this country has been a commitment to policies aimed at raising the standard of living of the poor and the middle class. That's over.
When it comes to jobs, taxes, education and middle-class entitlement programs like Social Security, the message from the Bush administration couldn't be clearer: You're on your own.
But the guerrillas [in Iraq] have two great advantages. First, the United States has been reluctant to use its full might against them, for fear of turning civilians against the occupation and inflaming public opinion worldwide.
Second, the guerrillas can win merely by creating chaos. As long as they are killing soldiers and Iraqi civilians, the Bush administration will have a difficult time convincing Americans that Iraq is becoming more stable — and in winning the foreign investment that Iraq's economy needs.
By that score, the attack on Sunday, which killed an American colonel and wounded 16 other people, was especially damaging. Mr. Wolfowitz came to Iraq hoping to underscore the progress the administration has made, and to persuade investors to come and help Iraq rebuild. He did not back away even after he and his rattled aides were evacuated from the smoking floors of their hotel.
But the attack sent the opposite message, by underscoring the vulnerability of even the best-protected part of the capital.
Key members of Congress from both parties blasted the Bush administration Sunday for refusing to turn over classified intelligence documents requested by the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), who co-wrote legislation that created the commission, issued a statement saying that the administration has "resisted this inquiry at every turn."
"After claiming they wanted to find the truth about Sept. 11, the Bush administration has resorted to secrecy, stonewalling and foot-dragging," the statement said. Lieberman, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, said that if the administration continued to refuse to turn over the documents, he would urge the commission to take it to court.
"President Bush may want to withhold the truth about Sept. 11, but the American people — and especially the victims' families — demand and deserve it," Lieberman said.
Sunday, October 26, 2003
No, he (and when I refer to “he” I mean GW in a larger sense—his cronies; he might be a dolt, but Cheney, Rove, etc. are not) is not driven solely by some religious morality, by a drive to restore “integrity.” He has shown no hesitation to lie when it suits his agenda. Nor is Bush driven by some sort of libertarian, conservative, strict constitutional ethic. He has flaunted many laws, including endangering the mission and life of an intelligence officer, when he has found it expedient to do so. Nor is he purely motivated to please his rich friends. Though I think this is a strong motive, the simple power and initiative he has shown in his Presidency, especially on the international scale, seems to indicate a stronger sense of global strategy. And, lastly, I don’t think it is ever as easy as calling someone evil.
So what drives Bush? Well, I can’t say for sure, and I won’t attempt to fully capture what I think it is here, but I will say that what is common in the scandals is an air of disregard for established laws, morals, and ethics in order to achieve some sort of [Leo] Straussian ideal of global hegemony. Bush is patriotic, but not in the way most Americans are, or at least claim to be, i.e. proud of some sort of democratic, moral principals we supposedly stand for. The Bush administration is patriotic in a more classic, nationalistic, premodern way.
According to the neocons of the adminstration, the new American Empire must be created and sustained because that is what is best for America the nation and the world. The world and the people of America need a strong elite leadership, embodied by the Bush administration, to guide them. If the greater good, as determined by the Bush administration, demands it, Bush and his cronies will lie and mislead.
[For a great short discussion on Strauss and his followers in the Bush administration see this from Adbusters.]
The Florida Legislature and Governor Jeb Bush are playing politics with Terri Schiavo's heart-wrenching shell of a life. Their grandstanding to right-to-life proponents, who cheered the mandated reinsertion of her feeding tube this week, is not only a violation of this woman's dignity but a disregard for the foundations of law.
The ill-considered action mocks the judicial process. Anti-abortion leader Randall Terry told The New York Times he was proud of politicians who had "the courage to stand up to judicial despots."
The US Constitution is apparently the enemy, too. the Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe noted in a phone interview that a 1990 US Supreme Court ruling in a Missouri case nearly identical to Schiavo's upheld a person's "right of bodily integrity," allowing the removal of life support from someone in a vegetative state if a fair determination could be made of that person's wishes.
Certainly the extensive examination of the Schiavo case by the Florida courts has allowed for that fair determination.
"There is nothing clearer in US constitutional law," said George Annas, professor of public health law at Boston University, referring to a person's right to reject medical treatment. He expects the Florida political gamesmanship to be declared unconstitutional.
The Bush family appears to be fundamentally indifferent to our American Constitution. I am posting this item about Jeb because he is evidently slated to succeed Big Brother on the family's presidential throne.
[Also check out this opinion piece by Ellen Goodman on the same topic.]
In his [recently leaked] memo, [Rumsfeld] prods his subordinates to think about new approaches and frets about whether the U.S. is "winning or losing the global war on terror." Rumsfeld asks whether a "new institution" that "seamlessly focuses the capabilities of several departments and agencies" on fighting terrorism should be created. That sounds a lot like what [controversial General "Jerry"] Boykin has been put in charge of.
But one of the other major themes in Rumsfeld's memo is a grand strategy question that is decidedly outside of the purview of the Defense Department: "Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the [Islamic schools] and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?" This suggests the questions that some at higher levels in the military have been asking for months: Is the military "war" enough? Can the United States really defeat terrorism one terrorist at a time? What else needs to be done to increase the standing of the United States in the Islamic world and neutralize extremism?
But those questions also make Rumsfeld's support of Boykin all the more difficult to defend. How can he on the one hand ask pointed questions about the progress of the war and at the same time defend a key official whose private views may hinder his ability to do his job and, more broadly, run counter to U.S. objectives in the Islamic world?
Cognitive dissonance doesn't bother these folks a bit.
Perhaps the clearest signal of just how extreme the Bush policy is can be gleaned from the list of those invited to the Rose Garden [for a speech outlining the Cuba policy]. Amply represented were members of the Cuban Liberty Council, a group that broke away from the conservative Cuban American National Foundation on the grounds that it was too moderate. Also present was Alberto Hernandez, an exile known for his militancy who is profusely thanked for his support and friendship in the memoirs of Luis Posada Carriles, currently in prison in Panama on charges that he attempted to assassinate Castro.
Though the president spoke of his intentions "to hasten the arrival of a new, free, democratic Cuba," it was the wind of political partisanship, not the spirit of democracy, that blew in the Rose Garden. Miami's three Cuban American Republican congressional representatives chatted with the president, but their colleague Robert Menendez, a fervently anti-Castro exile who represents a district in New Jersey, was left off the list. He is a Democrat. More stunning was the omission of representatives from the Cuban American National Foundation, a prominent exile group. The slight was viewed by insiders as part of ongoing punishment for the group's not having endorsed Bush (or any other candidate) in the 2000 presidential campaign. "These guys have no equal when it comes to revenge," says one foundation board member.
[Ann Louise Bardach writes for Newsweek International and is a commentator on the Public Radio program Marketplace. She is the author of Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana.]
In the southern cities of Basra and Najaf, almost two-thirds of those polled consider it important that religious leaders play a large role in politics and an Islamic state is far more popular.
Even in Baghdad, almost 60% of respondents deem it important that religious leaders play a major role in government and more than half of them consider it "very important."
The capital is almost evenly divided with about one-third favoring a Western democracy, another third a mix of democracy and Islam and the final third wanting an Islamic state with Sharia, the religious law, as part of government.
The poll results showing that a majority of Iraqis want a role for religion in their government appear to run counter to what Bush administration leaders expected. Last month, Vice President Dick Cheney referred to a Zogby International poll that he said showed overwhelming opposition to an Islamic government in Iraq.
"If you want to ask them do they want an Islamic government established, by 2-to-1 margins they say no, including the Shiite population," Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Where does Dick get his numbers?
The dismal employment picture may be changing as companies start trying to satisfy customers who want more of products that currently are in short supply. The economy has started adding jobs again, raising hopes that the unemployment rate will dip below 6 percent before year's end.
On the eve of an election year, these positive trends cheer policy makers in Washington as much as they do investors, but they also create some challenges. The Federal Reserve, which not long ago was fretting about prices falling too much, will most likely have to raise interest rates more than once during an election year, to check inflation.
Treasury Secretary John Snow said last week that he would be concerned if interest rates did not start creeping up. The White House should be worrying more about how its reckless budget deficits threaten a healthy economy. It's no accident that the economic expansion of the last decade was preceded by the Clinton administration's determination to get the deficit under control.
President Bush and his aides are in denial about the deficit's potential impact on long-term interest rates. It's true that a stronger economy, producing more income for Uncle Sam, may make the deficit projections less dire, but the books will not balance magically. The administration's tax cuts went too far for that. Democrats on the campaign trail are right to want to repeal some of the cuts awarded to the wealthiest Americans. It isn't simply a matter of fairness, but of sound economics.
President Bush is a man of steely discipline, but it appears the commander in chief has not gained complete mastery over his sweet tooth.
In a new book by author Stephen Mansfield, The Faith of George W. Bush, the following passage appears on page 173: "Aides found him face down on the floor in prayer in the Oval Office. It became known that he refused to eat sweets while American troops were in Iraq, a partial fast seldom reported of an American president."
Seldom reported -- and apparently little observed. When the White House sent out the shared "pool report" of Bush's roundtable interview with reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Australia, it became apparent that the president had fallen off the candy wagon.
"And he was relaxed. Very relaxed," was the description. "As a reporter began to ask about the Middle East . . . Mr. Bush popped a butterscotch Lifesaver in his mouth. He smacked the candy as he said: 'Middle East, that's right.' "
There's an arresting image for you - the President of the United States "face down on the floor in prayer in the Oval Office". And you thought Bill Clinton's Oval Office activity was undignified! Of the two, the praying bothers me much more.
By enacting a new congressional redistricting plan this month that replaced a court-ordered plan used in the 2002 elections, the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature did more than demonstrate a willingness to play political hardball against its Democratic opponents. It waded into uncharted legal and constitutional territory, raising a question to which there is no clear answer.
The Texas Republicans redistricted their state even more aggressively than Colorado Republicans did earlier in the year.
According to experts in the field, there is no precedent in modern U.S. politics for what the Texas and Colorado Republicans did: voluntarily redraw congressional district lines a year after lawmakers were elected from districts that had already been redrawn once in this decade.
In both cases, divided state legislatures could not agree on redistricting plans in 2001, after the 2000 Census. Courts stepped in to draw new district lines, the normal procedure in such circumstances. But in 2002, Republicans gained complete control of the legislative process in both states. This year, the GOP has moved aggressively to exploit that advantage, hoping to solidify the party's control of the U.S. House of Representatives through the end of this decade.
What they can't win in elections, the Republicans steal by cheating. Clinton's impeachment, Bush's appointment, Davis's recall, redistricting in Colorado and Texas - how long does the list have to get before something is done? And who will do it?
According to records made available to The Washington Post and interviews with arms investigators from the United States, Britain and Australia, it did not require a comprehensive survey to find the central assertions of the Bush administration's prewar nuclear case to be insubstantial or untrue. Although Hussein did not relinquish his nuclear ambitions or technical records, investigators said, it is now clear he had no active program to build a weapon, produce its key materials or obtain the technology he needed for either.
Among the closely held internal judgments of the Iraq Survey Group, overseen by David Kay as special representative of CIA Director George J. Tenet, are that Iraq's nuclear weapons scientists did no significant arms-related work after 1991, that facilities with suspicious new construction proved benign, and that equipment of potential use to a nuclear program remained under seal or in civilian industrial use.
Most notably, investigators have judged the aluminum tubes to be "innocuous," according to Australian Brig. Gen. Stephen D. Meekin, who commands the Joint Captured Enemy Materiel Exploitation Center, the largest of a half-dozen units that report to Kay. That finding is pivotal, because the Bush administration built its case on the proposition that Iraq aimed to use those tubes as centrifuge rotors to enrich uranium for the core of a nuclear warhead.
If Saddam was no threat, why are we there?
The chairman of the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks said that the White House was continuing to withhold several highly classified intelligence documents from the panel and that he was prepared to subpoena the documents if they were not turned over within weeks.
The chairman, Thomas H. Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, also said in an interview that he believed the bipartisan 10-member commission would soon be forced to issue subpoenas to other executive branch agencies because of continuing delays by the Bush administration in providing documents and other evidence needed by the panel.
"Any document that has to do with this investigation cannot be beyond our reach," Mr. Kean said on Friday in his first explicit public warning to the White House that it risked a subpoena and a politically damaging courtroom showdown with the commission over access to the documents, including Oval Office intelligence reports that reached President Bush's desk in the weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks.
"I will not stand for it," Mr. Kean said in the interview in his offices here at Drew University, where he has been president since 1990.
"That means that we will use every tool at our command to get hold of every document."
The tremendous effort the administration is making to hide this information suggests that it must be something really hot. Sounds like Kean is determined to get hold of it.