Saturday, November 08, 2003
In the bad old days of the U.S.S.R., few things aroused more derision in the west than the phenomenon of the "vanishing commissar," that being the Soviet habit of rewriting textbooks and encyclopedias and airbrushing old photographs to conform with a version of history that omitted facts that might cause a Soviet citizen to question the consistency, judgement and/or good will of Soviet leaders.
Absurd as this practice was, it made sense. Lies, after all, are the life's-blood of modern tyranny, and both a knowledge and acknowledgement of history can serve as an inoculation against deceit. It's interesting to note that the changes made to Soviet texts and photos often involved events that had occurred within living memory and so were unlikely to fool many informed adults. Soviet leaders were not just attacking ancient history, not merely trying to convince Soviet citizens to believe things that were false. They were attacking memory. They were attempting to stamp out written or photographed evidence of what they, and thousands of Soviet citizens knew to be true, and hoping that in that way, as time went on and new generations were born, the truth would eventually be lost.
Suppressing previously available documentation and altering published texts after the fact goes beyond the normal drive of a government to massage or slant information. It's an attempt to ensure that contemporary citizens are too bereft of reliable sources to assess a government effectively, and that future citizens will be too ignorant to do so. Nobody who values democracy would countenance it.
It amazes me the degree to which the Bush administration is turning America into a capitalist version of the old Soviet Union - you remember, the "Evil Empire". When I was a kid, the government secrecy, suppression of dissent, rigged elections, lack of civil liberties, and all the other evils of the Red Menace were put forth as reasons to "hate" the USSR. Who are we supposed to hate now?
One of the many issues on which President George W. Bush and [Texas] Gov. Rick Perry see eye to eye is open records. Both men seem to have a gut instinct against public disclosure of the operations of government. And if they succeed in their ongoing attempts to restrict access to public records in Texas, they will have undermined a law that, 30 years after its enactment, advocates often describe as one of the best open records laws in the U.S.
The last time Bush and Perry hooked up in an attempt to defeat the Texas Public Information Act was two years ago, when the new governor tried to help the new president keep his state papers out of the hands of journalists and scholars. Now the two leaders are at it again, threatening to create an important exception to disclosure of the same Bush records and thereby restricting the public's right to know.
George W. Bush suffered few setbacks during his time as a public official in Texas, but the defeat of his original plans for his state papers was total. During the chaotic period following the disputed 2000 presidential election, Bush's Capitol staff loaded up a couple of trucks and carted his administration's archives to his father's Presidential Library, and nominally federal jurisdiction, on the campus of Texas A&M. The younger Bush may or may not have had legal authority to attempt the transfer, but the consensus view of the library officials is that he did not. In particular, state archivists began to howl, politely but firmly insisting that the papers are state property and needed to be cataloged before they went anywhere (see W's Paper Chase, Sept. 28, 2001).
This president is determined that the public will know only what he chooses to allow them to know about his activities, the law be damned. Meanwhile, our rights to privacy are under continuous attack from Bush's "Justice" Department. Welcome to New America.
When the state of Texas bestowed "exemplary" status on Austin High School in August 2002, ecstatic administrators compared the honor to winning the Super Bowl. There was more cheering and pompom-waving a few weeks later when a private foundation honored Houston for having the nation's best urban school district.
Just a year later, the high school has been downgraded to "low-performing," the lowest possible rating. And the Houston Independent School District -- showcase of the "Texas educational miracle" that President Bush has touted as a model for the rest of the nation -- is fending off accusations that it inflated its achievements through fuzzy math.
Austin is one of more than a dozen Houston high schools caught up in a burgeoning scandal about the reliability of their dropout statistics. During a decade in which, routinely, as many as half of Austin students failed to graduate, the school's reported dropout rate fell from 14.4 percent to 0.3 percent. Even a Houston school board member calls the statistic "baloney."
If this were any other school district in the nation, few people would pay much attention. But Houston is the political springboard for U.S. Education Secretary Roderick R. Paige. He was school superintendent here before moving to Washington, and what originally began as an argument over dropout data has expanded into a debate about the administration's entire approach to educational reform.
It's the same with education as with every other policy area. Their phony "successes" always turn out to be based on lies.
One of President Bush's first acts was to convene a task force to produce a national energy strategy. Led by Vice President Dick Cheney, the group met secretly with hundreds of witnesses. It heard from few environmentalists, but many lobbyists and executives from industries whose fortunes would be affected by any new policies. Despite lawsuits, the White House has refused to divulge the names of those privileged to get Mr. Cheney's ear. The results, however, have been plain as day: policies that broadly favor industry — including big campaign contributors — at the expense of the environment and public health.
That unfortunate bias was demonstrated anew this week when the Environmental Protection Agency decided to drop investigations into more than 140 power plants, refineries and other industrial sites suspected of violating the Clean Air Act. The winner is industry; the loser, the public.
The administration swore to Congress months ago that this would not happen, that all the old investigations would be aggressively pursued under the old rules. So in addition to another rollback of environmental law, we have here another depressing example of official mendacity. Abandoning these cases is also deeply unfair to the companies that have already installed pollution controls in a good-faith effort to comply with the law.
I think "deeply unfair" should join "miserable failure" as a standard description of this dreadful administration.
Iran told President Bush to mind his own business yesterday after he called for greater democracy in the region. Similar and equally caustic views were expressed by commentators across the region.
While some commentators stressed that most people in the Middle East do want democracy, Bush's preaching aroused resentment in a region where America is accused of waging war on Iraq and siding blindly with Israel against the Palestinians.
Hamid Reza Asefi, a spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, condemned Bush's speech, given Thursday in Washington, as an "obvious interference in Iran's internal affairs," the country's Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
"No individual, or group, has ever commissioned Mr. Bush to safeguard their rights . . . and basically, keeping in mind the dark record of the United States in suppressing the democratic movements around the globe, he is not in a position to talk about such issues," Asefi was quoted as saying.
Uh-oh - they're onto him.
Presidential contender Howard Dean plans to air television commercials showing footage of President Bush's landing on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln -- images Bush deployed as a triumphant visual coda to the Iraq conflict but which Dean says are now powerful reminders of a war gone wrong.
With mounting casualties and unrest in Iraq, the images, which include a backdrop banner reading "Mission Accomplished," are increasingly viewed by Bush's political opponents as a liability. Dean is the first Democrat to commit to using them in his ads.
"We're going to put up the aircraft carrier ad and show what his real defense is," Dean said in an interview on Thursday. "We're going to use this footage of him landing on the aircraft carrier . . . to show that he's all talk and no action. And the action he's got us into has cost us 400 lives and thousands of wounded people who will never get their limbs back."
An independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks announced yesterday that it will issue a second subpoena for documents from the Bush administration, but the legal demand does not include the classified intelligence briefings that have been the focus of an ongoing dispute with the White House.
The new subpoena, for Pentagon records about US air defenses on the day of the attacks, follows a demand last month for similar material from the Federal Aviation Administration. The commission said in a statement that it "has encountered some serious delays in obtaining needed documents from the Department of Defense" and that "records of importance to our investigation had not been produced." The Pentagon said in a statement that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has pledged cooperation.
But the commission acted more cautiously in its more visible fight with the White House, which has focused on access to daily briefs prepared for President Bush. The documents include a briefing from Aug. 6, 2001, containing information about possible attacks by Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network. The administration has steadfastly resisted granting access to the documents, citing national security concerns.
What are they hiding?
Friday, November 07, 2003
No two historical situations are exactly the same. Vietnam and Iraq are not the same places. The two wars are not precisely the same. Fair enough. However, in both cases the United States entered a war with the best intentions, monumental ignorance, and no exit strategy. The government never asked how and when it might be time to leave. So the two wars slogged on, as Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would say, with no end in sight. We must stay the course, even if we don't know how long the course will be.
Might one say, in all due modesty, that this is crazy?
Could we not say to the Iraqis: Hey, you don't want us as an occupying power, and we don't want to be here any more than you want us to be here. So you have six months to get your act in order, and then we're out of here.
It will be said that this is a radical design for the end game. Maybe it is, but I predict that by, say, April or May, it will be Republican paradigm, the final stages of the administration's ''mission accomplished" in Iraq. As Sen. Warren Austin advised President Johnson, it is time to proclaim victory in Vietnam and get out. Johnson didn't listen. For him, winning the 1968 election wasn't worth the humiliation of an ignominious retreat.
For President Bush, winning the 2004 election will be worth such a humiliation of an ignominious retreat. Mindful of his father's loss in 1992, there is nothing more important than winning the election.
In her first public statements since her rescue in Iraq, Jessica Lynch criticized the military for exaggerating accounts of her rescue and re-casting her ordeal as a patriotic fable.
Asked by the ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer if the military's portrayal of the rescue bothered her, Ms. Lynch said: "Yeah, it does. It does that they used me as a way to symbolize all this stuff. Yeah, it's wrong," according to a partial transcript of the interview to be broadcast on Tuesday.
At first, a military spokesman in Iraq told journalists that American soldiers had exchanged fire with Iraqis during the rescue, without adding that resistance was minimal. Then the military released a dramatic, green-tinted, night-vision video of the mission. Soon news organizations were repeating reports, attributed to anonymous American officials, that Ms. Lynch had heroically resisted her capture, emptying her weapon at her attackers.
But subsequent investigations determined that Ms. Lynch was injured by the crash of her vehicle, her weapon jammed before she could fire, the Iraqi doctors treated her kindly, and the hospital was already in friendly hands when her rescuers arrived.
The Bush White House, irritated by pesky questions from congressional Democrats about how the administration is using taxpayer money, has developed an efficient solution: It will not entertain any more questions from opposition lawmakers.
The decision -- one that Democrats and scholars said is highly unusual -- was announced in an e-mail sent Wednesday to the staff of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. House committee Democrats had just asked for information about how much the White House spent making and installing the "Mission Accomplished" banner for President Bush's May 1 speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.
Norman Ornstein, a congressional specialist at the American Enterprise Institute, agreed. "I have not heard of anything like that happening before," he said. "This is obviously an excuse to avoid providing information about some of the things the Democrats are asking for."
To appreciate the significance of James Risen's article in yesterday's Times about an 11th-hour Iraqi peace offer last March, it helps to think back to that period. For months the Bush administration had been arguing that the only hope of disarming Baghdad was to steadily ratchet up the threat of an imminent American invasion. Only at that point, Washington asserted, might Saddam Hussein yield to the demands of repeated United Nations Security Council disarmament resolutions.
Yesterday's article shows that such reasoning may well have been sound. With American forces massed and ready to invade, the Iraqis suddenly expressed interest in meeting their obligations. Yet the article also shows that the administration seems not to have been serious about the idea of a coerced but peaceful solution at the very moment it may have been a realistic possibility.
Iraq has not worked out as planned in the last seven months. As President Bush frankly acknowledged yesterday, a democratic outcome is still far from assured. Yet even without resorting to hindsight, the Bush administration can be faulted for not making more of an effort to determine whether a satisfactory resolution of the weapons issue might have been achieved without war. Put differently, Washington should have put to the test its own words about using the threat of force to coerce concessions.
It's only words. Words that never were true, spoken to help nobody but you, Mr. Bush. Words with lies inside, but small enough to hide till your playing was through.
Bush administration officials on Thursday played down the significance of an Iraqi effort to avert war by holding last-ditch negotiations with Washington through a back channel in the weeks before the war began in March.
Top Iraqi intelligence officials tried to open a secret communications channel with the administration, according to intermediaries and others familiar with the channel. The Iraqis told a Lebanese-American businessman that they no longer had any illicit weapons, that Baghdad would allow American experts to conduct an independent search and that Saddam Hussein would turn over a suspect in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
But the businessman and others said that Baghdad's entreaties were rebuffed by the Bush administration.
The White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said that Iraq had had plenty of chances over the years to comply with United Nations resolutions. "The United States exhausted every legitimate and credible opportunity to resolve this peacefully," he said.
Maybe my memory is bad, but I recall a hasty rush into war - two weeks was too long to wait - because of the imminent threat to America posed by Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.
The protracted partisan maneuvering in Washington cannot be allowed to conceal a lingering, fundamental question about Iraq: Where are the weapons of mass destruction that Bush administration officials insisted the United States needed to destroy because they so urgently threatened this nation?
Before the March invasion, there was little evidence that Iraq was trying to develop nuclear weapons but there were hints it possessed biological weapons; many analysts believed Baghdad had chemical weapons or stockpiles that could quickly be assembled into weapons. Yet searches by hundreds of United Nations inspectors before the war and hundreds of U.S. and allied sleuths afterward have turned up nothing.
Was, then, the initial intelligence wrong and did the weapons not exist? Or was the intelligence supporting their existence weak and then massaged for political reasons to support the war?
"We've seen a real turnaround this year," Treasury Secretary John W. Snow said this week, "and the recovery is clearly solidifying." Not so fast, please.
Just as the administration was embarrassed in Iraq by prematurely stating "mission accomplished," so it may regret declaring economic triumph. Yes, consumers are still buying pretty vigorously and productivity is zooming. Low interest rates play a big role, and some credit may well be due to hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts directed mainly to the wealthy. The nation enjoyed a modest rise of 57,000 new jobs in September.
But there's still a "but" in the good news. Almost 2.6 million jobs have disappeared since President Bush entered office. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the unemployment rate will remain above 6% next year, not including the 2.1 million long-term jobless who've given up looking for work. The normal, historical rate for creation of new jobs in an expansion is 250,000 to 300,000 a month — a number out of reach in this "recovery."
Businessmen with close ties to a leading — and controversial — member of Iraq's Governing Council have won large contracts for the country's reconstruction, leading to charges by some council members and other Iraqis that the actions are fueling a cronyism that threatens to sabotage the nation-building effort.
The men are associates of Ahmad Chalabi, an American-trained financier who has close ties to senior Pentagon officials and is a prominent member of the council, the U.S.-appointed interim government in Iraq.
Although it is perfectly legal for entrepreneurs with ties to top government officials to land reconstruction contracts, the perception of favoritism is setting back the rebuilding effort in Iraq by discouraging some foreign companies from seeking contracts, Iraqi and U.S. businessmen and officials said in interviews in Washington and Iraq.
It is further damaging the image of a reconstruction effort already hurt by the granting of huge no-bid awards to the politically connected U.S. firms Halliburton Co. and the Bechtel Group, Iraqis said.
Well, we said we would bring them American-style democracy.
Thursday, November 06, 2003
So, the President’s performance thus far raises some fair questions: Where was Bush’s MBA training when he planned — or seemingly, failed to plan — the post-conquest management of Iraq? And now that his Administration’s lack of foresight has been amply illustrated, what’s the best way, according to B-school dogma, for Bush to successfully recover?
Certainly, postwar Iraq could be a Harvard case study of crisis management gone wrong. Five months after the president proclaimed the U.S. invasion a victory and declared a cessation of hostilities, basic services such as electricity and water remain subpar, public safety in Iraq is lacking [especially for friends of the U.S.], deposed dictator Saddam Hussein remains on the loose — and the continued loss of American soldiers, including 16 killed in one attack on Nov. 1, threatens to turn U.S. public opinion against the Bush Administration and its war.
Most often, the President blames “terrorists” for the U.S. military’s inability to control the situation. Yet professor emeritus Howard Raiffa, who taught at Harvard Business School and Harvard’s Kennedy School in the 1970s, offers a different theory. “I see a lot of fumbling around,” he says, which leads him to conclude that the Bush team’s own postwar “actions have fostered this reaction” by an Iraqi rear guard. Raiffa adds that he’s “anti-Bush, so I come with that prejudice.”
President George W. Bush finally has the bill he demanded: $87.5 billion, the latest installment in what's sure to be a long line of invoices for destroying Iraq, then rebuilding it, then destroying it, then rebuilding ...
But a funny thing happened on the way to the White House. The Senate version of this bill included a provision written by three Democrats -- Vermont's Patrick Leahy, California's Dianne Feinstein and Richard Durbin of Illinois -- that passed with strong support on both the Democratic and Republican sides of the aisle. It would have made it a serious crime to defraud the government and overcharge for goods or services delivered in Iraq. So it would have been the end, for example, of Halliburton's $2.65-per-gallon gasoline scam.
Incredibly, when the House and Senate leaders sat down in a conference committee to hammer out a final bill, House Republicans demanded the anti-war-profiteering provisions be deleted. According to the provision's co-authors, House conservatives offered no substitutes or compromises -- this was non-negotiable. War profiteers for DeLay!
Is Vice President Dick Cheney an electoral liability for President Bush? Some top Republicans are reportedly worried that Cheney's actions might threaten Bush's bid for reelection in 2004.
The dump-Cheney talk probably originated with disgruntled State Department folks, who would like nothing better than to undermine the neocon foreign policy cabal headed by Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The movement's underlying premise is that the vice president's hawkish positions and statements related to terrorism, Iraq and foreign policy have put Bush at risk.
But even as more Republicans criticize the handling of postwar Iraq, international issues are only half the story. Another problem is Cheney's failed stewardship of the administration's domestic agenda in Congress, which also leaves the president vulnerable next year.
In the 2002 election cycle, the U.S. drug industry gave political candidates nearly $30 million. For the 2004 cycle it has already spent more than $3 million, two-thirds of it on GOP members of Congress. The industry is getting a good return on its money. Bush administration officials and sympathetic legislators are still trying to add a $400-billion drug benefit to Medicare that prohibits, not just omits, cost controls. House and Senate conferees have proposed forbidding the federal government to negotiate better prices, as such countries as Canada and agencies as the Department of Veterans Affairs do.
[Los Angeles Times, 11/6/03]
Read that again. Bush and the Republicans want to forbid the federal government to negotiate better prices. It makes it sound like they are serving the drug corporations rather than the American people, doesn't it?
The vacancy rate on the federal bench is at its lowest point in 13 years, because of a recent surge of judges nominated by President Bush and confirmed by the Senate.
The intense partisan battle over a handful of judges aside, Bush has already won approval of 168 judges, more than President Reagan achieved in his first term in the White House. And with 68 of his nominees winning confirmation in 2003 as of Wednesday, President Bush has had a better record this year than President Clinton achieved in seven of his eight years in office.
Experts who track federal judgeships say Republican complaints about a Democratic filibuster of four judges have obscured the larger picture.
"The Bush administration has been spectacularly successful in getting the overwhelming proportion of its judicial nominations confirmed," said political scientist Sheldon Goldman at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. "There are only a relative handful being filibustered and held up. And this contrasts with the dozens of Clinton nominees who were held up by the Republicans in the last six years of the Clinton administration. The truth is the Republicans have had an outstanding record so far."
An outstanding record of packing the judiciary with out-of-the-mainstream, right-wing judges, that is.
[Check out this related item, also from the Los Angeles Times, about the latest nominee, Janice Rogers Brown.]
Bush administration officials have drafted a rule that would significantly narrow the scope of the Clean Water Act, stripping many wetlands and streams of federal pollution controls and making them available to being filled for commercial development.
The rule, spelled out in an internal document provided to The Times by a senior government official, says that Clean Water Act protection would no longer be provided to "ephemeral washes or streams" that do not have groundwater as a source. Streams that flow for less than six months a year would also lose protection, as would many wetlands, according to the document.
"It would dramatically cut back the scope of Clean Water Act jurisdiction," said the official who provided the document on the condition that neither he nor his agency be identified. "It would eliminate protections for ephemeral streams, which could be in the millions of miles of streams, particularly out West where many streams do not flow all year long."
Julie Sibbing, a wetlands policy expert at the National Wildlife Federation, said, "It's like writing off the entire Southwest from the Clean Water Act, where water is more precious than in any other region of the country. Up to 80% to 90% of streams in the Southwest would not fall under the Clean Water Act if this rule were to go forward."
I thought the Southwest was Bush Country. Don't they like clean water out there?
The Republican Congressional majority is working its will in the fine print of the huge appropriations bills that will detail the spending next year by a government already hobbled by a record deficit. From an incumbent's point of view, the print gets no finer than the $1 billion in "earmarks" — custom-tailored pork-barrel spending — tucked into the enormous $470 billion budget for the labor, education and health agencies. Fans of Congressional budget politicking are familiar with the way lawmakers compete for projects that benefit their districts alone. But earmarks take it one step further, granting to specially favored lawmakers the ability to bypass formulas for allocating federal funds and pluck money from the budget. Sugarplums is a better term.
One notable aspect of the earmark tab is that it has quietly grown 30-fold in the years since the G.O.P. won the House in 1994. Remember the Contract with America's promises of a meaner, leaner government? Well it's meaner, if not leaner: House leaders are threatening to dole out earmark money only to loyal Republicans. They would stiff taxpayers whose Democratic representatives dared to oppose obvious flaws in the spending measure.
Fair and balanced, like always.
There are those who say Mr. Bush should have emulated Rudy Giuliani's empathetic leadership after 9/11, or Dad's in the first gulf war, and attended some of the funerals of the 379 Americans killed in Iraq. Or one. Maybe the one for Specialist Darryl Dent, the 21-year-old National Guard officer from Washington who died outside Baghdad in late August when a bomb struck his truck while he was delivering mail to troops. His funeral was held at a Baptist church three miles from the White House.
But let's look at it from the president's point of view: if he grieves more publicly or concretely, if he addresses every instance of bad news, like the hideous specter of Iraqis' celebrating the downing of the Chinook, he will simply remind people of what's going on in Iraq.
So it's understandable why, going into his re-election campaign, Mr. Bush wouldn't want to underscore that young Americans keep getting whacked over there, and we don't know who is doing it or how to stop it.
The White House is cleverly trying to distance Mr. Bush from the messy problem of flesh-and-blood soldiers with real names dying nearly every day, while linking him to the heroic task of fighting global terror.
I think people are starting to see through this act.
The Bush administration confirmed yesterday that it will close pending investigations of 70 power plants suspected of violating the Clean Air Act and will consider dropping 13 other cases against utilities that were referred to the Justice Department for action, following the Environmental Protection Agency's decision in August to ease enforcement rules.
J.P. Suarez, the EPA's assistant administrator for enforcement, first disclosed the decision during a speech to agency enforcement officers in Seattle late Tuesday, and a senior EPA official confirmed it. Since the EPA issued the final rule changes this summer, government lawyers have found it increasingly difficult to prosecute existing pollution cases.
"First the administration weakens our clean-air law, and now it won't enforce it," said Sen. James M. Jeffords (I-Vt.), the ranking minority member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "Instead of fighting pollution, this administration is at war with the Clean Air Act. Innocent bystanders such as children, the elderly and the infirm will be the principal casualties."
Who cares about them? They don't have any money.
[Also check out this item from the Los Angeles Times on the same subject.]
I suspect we students of the cyberworld are getting a distant early warning of a potential electoral disaster that could make hanging chads look trivial. Newsweek’s Steven Levy wrote about the gathering storm around electronic voting systems last week in the magazine. Today, the New York Time’s ever-vigilant John Schwartz has a terrific piece on the attempts of the major electronic voting device maker, Diebold Voting Systems, to quash efforts to expose its systems’ flaws.
Briefly, Diebold is trying to use copyright law to keep people from posting the company’s internal documentation about flaws and security problems in its voting machines. But it’s far too late for Diebold Voting Systems to try to kill this story: it’s only going to get worse until an election outcome falls into doubt, whereupon the whole notion of electronic balloting — itself a very good idea — will fall into disfavor.
Diebold’s desperate attempts remind me of the early days of the commercial Internet, when Cisco Systems was among the first tech companies to put all of their bug reports on its Web site. The Cisco salespeople in the field immediately complained, fearing that their competitors’ reps would just print out the bug reports as arguments against buying Cisco. Cisco’s CEO John Chambers suggested they remind customers that all software has bugs, but Cisco was honest enough to admit it instead of making customers find out by accident. Cisco thereafter prospered mightily.
The same standard should go for companies like Diebold Voting Systems, who will profit richly by serving the public trust. The public trust doesn’t come free, and the price of entry must be openness even at the cost of corporate discomfort.
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
As a veteran and unashamed patriot, I am once again incensed at the effects of the Bush Doctrine on our troops.
The mounting toll of U.S. casualties has made it clear to me that the stubborn, unyielding stance by the president regarding weapons of mass destruction not only got us into war but also directly contributed to deaths and injuries after the announced "close of hostilities" May 1.
Here's how. The misuse of large numbers of our intelligence experts, who were pushed hard for six months in the futile attempt to prove the president's case for WMD, prevented the carrying out of essential intelligence functions in Baghdad and the Sunni Triangle. These resources could have been used to help prevent the deaths and wounding of many American and Iraqis.
According to reports in The Washington Post, a senior intelligence official said the United States had not been able to devote enough attention to understanding the anti-American groups in Iraq because intelligence resources have been devoted to locating weapons of mass destruction.
We definitely have an intelligence problem.
President Bush blames the media for filtering out good news on Iraq. He says he does not even read newspapers. "The best way to get the news is from objective sources," Bush said in a Fox News interview. "And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world."
This is the same president who erases history itself.
Bush's desire for us to become ostriches over the deaths and wounding of American soldiers in Iraq -- 379 dead and 2,155 hurt at last count -- is but one more pathological act in sticking all of America into the sand. Bush severely limited access to the presidential papers of his father. Vice President Dick Cheney erected an iron curtain around his energy task force. Hundreds of Muslim immigrants were detained without due process and with no evidence they were involved in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The administration wiped out parts of an Environmental Protection Agency report that specifically tied human activities to global warming.
Bush has his eraser out again. The Justice Department recently released a commissioned report on diversity among its attorneys. Half of its 186 pages were blacked out.
This is the most intellectually dishonest administration America has ever suffered under. They're just lucky that most Americans are too ignorant (or too busy eating) to pay any attention as their country is stolen from them.
Critics complain that [Bush and his aides] lied to the American public about how difficult the war would be, but I fear the critics are wrong: they didn't just fool us — they also fooled themselves. Evidence suggests that Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney may have actually believed that our troops would be, as Mr. Cheney predicted, "greeted as liberators." The administration chose to rely not on intelligence but on wishful thinking, and it became intoxicated by the siren calls of Ahmad Chalabi, a silver-tongued charlatan.
I wish administration officials were lying, because I would prefer hypocrisy to delusion — at least hypocritical officials make decisions with accurate information.
Policy by wishful thinking is crippling our occupation. Initially, U.S. officials didn't restrain looting because they regarded it as celebratory high jinks. Then, confident that security was in hand, they disbanded the Iraqi Army. They didn't push hard to bring in international forces.
The foreign forces they suggest introducing are Turks, which adds to my fear that administration officials have been more deluded than duplicitous. It is a crazy scheme: anyone who has spent time in Iraq knows that Iraqis will never accept their former colonial power policing them.
Mr. Cheney has cited a Zogby International poll to back his claim that there is "very positive news" in Iraq. But the pollster, John Zogby, told me, "I was floored to see the spin that was put on it; some of the numbers were not my numbers at all."
Mr. Cheney claimed that Iraqis chose the U.S. as their model for democracy "hands down," and he and other officials say that a majority want American troops to stay at least another year. In fact, Mr. Zogby said, only 23 percent favor the U.S. democratic model, and 65 percent want the U.S. to leave in a year or less.
I don't know. It still sounds like lying to me.
Politicians routinely cite education as their absolute top concern, no doubt because the polls tell them it should be. But when government entities finally get around to focusing on education, they always seem to come up with variations on the same solutions that have not worked for years: a frenzy of "testing and accountability" programs.
Principals, teachers and parents give it their best and try to make it work. But each time we look for a payoff for the kids, the promise has disappeared. It doesn't work.
Like so many reforms before it, the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind Act was loudly trumpeted as the solution to our problems. But thanks to its unimaginative approach, the extent to which pedagogy and curriculum are now driven by testing in California is almost total. We are faced with a dizzying combination of testing programs, such as STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting, which aligns with the state standards), CAT/6 (California Achievement Test, which indexes to national norms) and CAPA (California Alternate Performance Assessment, for students with "the most significant cognitive disabilities"). These requirements, often accompanied by additional district assessments, have created an instructional culture that is almost entirely test-driven.
Which results in students who are almost entirely ignorant about everything important. Wait, isn't that what the Bushies want?
Iowa Republican Representative Jim Leach, once an aide to now-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said yesterday that White House policy makers had made one of the most misguided assumptions ever in US strategy by not planning for a decisive withdrawal from Iraq.
"The current [administration] thinking is that we'll be there six or seven years, people will realize that we're saviors and they'll want us to have many [military] bases and that this will be a bulwark in the Middle East for an American presence," said Leach, a 13-term House of Representatives veteran.
"I think that is one of the most misguided assumptions in the history of United States' strategic thinking."
In a conference call with Iowa reporters, Leach said his views were not the "majority sentiment" inside the White House. He said the Bush administration was on a "slow slog" in Iraq, instead of announcing a "decisive" withdrawal of US military forces by the end of next year.
"If we stay longer, we are going to have more, not fewer, problems in Iraq, and . . . consequently more problems around the world and potentially in the United States as well," Leach said.
[Jim Leach, a member of the House International Relations Committee, worked for Rumsfeld, then an Illinois Republican representative in 1965 and 1966, and as a special assistant when Rumsfeld was director of the Nixon administration's Office of Economic Opportunity a few years later.]
"The Bush administration refuses to be straight with the American people about what's happening on the ground every day in Iraq because they are in denial about their failed policy in Iraq," declared US Senator John F. Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who is one of nine candidates competing for his party's presidential nomination. "If they faced the truth of what's happening there, then they would have to admit that they need to reverse course and bring more allies into the process and do the hard work and diplomacy that it takes to remove the targets off the backs of American soldiers."
Political observers say Bush is in a difficult position. He does not want to appear unmindful of the deaths of US soldiers, but he also does not want to be drawn into a situation where every death is something he must address.
"They are trying to avoid reinforcing the perception that this was a seminal event," said Bruce Jentleson, a political science professor at Duke University who was a foreign policy adviser to former vice president Al Gore. "A presidential statement, one way or another, elevates it in their minds."
Bush has lashed out at media coverage of Iraq, complaining that it overlooks positive developments there, but political observers say the coverage of the Vietnam War and the hostage crisis was more damaging to Johnson and Carter than anything the media have reported about Bush and Iraq.
Bush's know-nothing happy talk and media bashing seemed desperate to me. How long before the Iraq quagmire is Clinton's fault?
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
On Sunday, 19 more young Americans died in Iraq serving the vanity of an American president who woefully betrayed them and who has no idea where his policies are taking the country.
This is a president who, as is now amply clear, has systematically lied to the troops and the nation about the reasons for going to war, distorting evidence to claim that the United States was threatened by Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and linking Iraq to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Having led the country by the nose into a clumsy, ill-advised Middle East power grab, President Bush is faced with a terrible quandary: What do we do now?
The first thing is to resist the logic of the self-fulfilling prophecy: Bush claimed Iraq was a center of international terrorism — it wasn't — and now says that because terrorists are coming over Iraqi borders to take potshots at Americans, we need to stay and fight them.
"We won't run," Bush said, cavalierly dismissing the lives of the young soldiers mired in his folly. This amounts to using our young men and women as bait and assumes there are a finite number of fanatics who can be dispensed with once and for all.
I know of at least one fanatic we need to dispense with once and for all, next November.
The Bush administration proposed Monday to allow sewage treatment plants to release partially treated sewage into waterways when utilities are inundated with wastewater during heavy rainstorms or snowmelts.
The change would be the latest in a series of apparent rollbacks of environmental regulations by the administration, a record Democrats hope to capitalize on during the presidential election next year.
The Environmental Protection Agency said the proposal would help local utilities prevent the accidental overflows of raw sewage into waterways that sometimes occur when treatment plants are overloaded.
"We are working with these facilities to prevent backups of sewage in homes and the environment while requiring all discharges to meet Clean Water Act permit limits," said G. Tracy Mehan, assistant EPA administrator for water.
But environmental groups said the proposal would violate the Clean Water Act and allow more viruses and parasites into drinking and swimming water.
"More Americans would get sick from waterborne illnesses because of this indefensible and illegal policy change," said Nancy Stoner, director of the clean water program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a national environmental group.
President Bush said Monday that he mourned the life of every fallen American service member and vowed that the United States would "never run" from Iraq despite the continuing attacks on Americans and Iraqi civilians.
But in two appearances here, he made no specific reference to the 16 U.S. soldiers who were killed when their Chinook helicopter was shot down Sunday by a surface-to-air missile near Fallouja — the deadliest attack on American forces since the United States invaded Iraq in March.
Instead, Bush delivered versions of his standard stump speeches, proclaiming the start of an economic recovery and reaffirming U.S. resolve in the war on terror.
What he did not say was, perhaps, as noteworthy as what he did say. He not only did not mention Sunday's casualties, but also largely omitted his usual detailed recitation of the progress being made in the reconstruction of Iraq — from the opening of schools to the political freedoms that Iraqis now enjoy.
Sounds like Karl's fine-tuning the message.
"The political season will come in its own time."
-- Bush, Oct. 30.
"We've already announced on Monday that the president will be participating in a campaign event in Alabama. . . . Then on November 7th, we've got a campaign event in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. On November 10th, a campaign event in Little Rock, Arkansas. And also on the 10th, in Greenville-Spartanburg, South Carolina. On the 13th, we have campaign events in Orlando, Florida, and Fort Myers, Florida. On the 25th of November . . . campaign events in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Scottsdale, Arizona."
With polls showing a growing number of voters questioning the human and monetary costs of the occupation, Bush portrayed his ultimate goal in Iraq as preventing terrorist attacks in the United States. "A free and peaceful Iraq will make it more likely that our children and grandchildren will be able to grow up without the horrors of September the 11th," he said.
Bush ratcheted up his vow to "finish what we have begun," as the White House seeks to avoid further erosion of support among Iraqi people, some of whom have been shown on worldwide television gloating over attacks on U.S. forces.
Bush was surrounded by cranes in the warehouse of a family-owned rental business, on a set the White House had designed for a speech highlighting economic recovery.
"The enemy in Iraq believes America will run. That's why they're willing to kill innocent civilians, relief workers, coalition troops. America will never run. America will do what is necessary to make our country more secure," he said to a standing ovation.
Bush did not take questions from reporters. He glared at a Birmingham newspaper reporter who, not observing the usual protocol, shouted as Bush walked from Air Force One to his limousine, "How long will U.S. troops be in Iraq?"
The day's rhetoric, and the potential incongruity of emphasizing his six-point plan for job creation at a time when bloodshed in Iraq was dominating headlines and newscasts, reflected the White House's challenge as Bush tries to avoid letting setbacks in Iraq drown out a campaign message designed to exude optimism.
Bush stands in front of a White-House-designed "set" and once again links Saddam to 9/11. Then he refuses to take questions from reporters, ignores the bad news from Iraq, and continues to "exude optimism" about the jobless economy. That's our prez!
Monday, November 03, 2003
A year ago, federal officials said the government was nearly ready to go ahead with military tribunals for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Last May, a senior defense official said, "Pretty much, we're ready to go." This week, Army Col. Frederic L. Borch III -- the chief prosecutor for the planned trials -- declared, yet again, that their start was "imminent." In light of the previous delays, this promise should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt. The tribunals were announced with much fanfare and controversy -- and no small sense of urgency -- barely two months after the 9/11 attacks. Yet the administration's urgency has waned -- no doubt partly because it has discovered that indefinitely detaining Taliban and al Qaeda fighters captured abroad is a lot easier than the messy process of trying them. Nearly two years after President Bush ordered their preparations, the tribunals are ever impending but never seem to arrive.
Only six people have been designated for trial before tribunals, so tribunals will not initially serve as a means of processing many cases -- even when they do get started. And while officials have spoken of a process of internal review of the detentions, they have so zealously guarded basic information about the detainees that it is impossible to assess whether people are being detained reasonably or not. Who is actually being held? What standards are being used to assess whether continued detention is required? How many are still the subjects of active intelligence interrogations? These questions require answers; somehow, law must prevail, even at Guantanamo Bay and at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan. Repeatedly declaring that progress is imminent isn't good enough anymore.
[Washington Post, 11/3/03]
Actually, it appears to be working.
A list of nearly 200 scientific researchers has been compiled and given to federal officials by the Traditional Values Coalition, a conservative group that goes wild over gay issues and federal funding of research related to human sexuality.
The list, which has sent a chill through some researchers, is being used by the coalition and its government allies in attempts to discredit the researchers and challenge or revoke their federal grants. It's a sloppy, dangerous and wildly inaccurate list, put together by people who are freaked out by the content of the studies, and unconcerned about their value.
Science has to suffer when the know-nothings come traipsing through the laboratories, infecting the research with their religious beliefs and political ideologies. Andrea Lafferty is the executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, which she says represents more than 43,000 churches.
"What makes us unique among all the conservative groups," she said, "is that I believe we truly represent the body of Christ."
I guess that qualifies her to make scientific judgments. Who needs a college degree when you have faith?
[Be sure to check out the Traditional Values Coalition web site.]
In his Oct. 30 commentary, Benjamin Schwarz's reasoning for forgiving President Bush is as disingenuous and ridiculous as the softball headline, "Bush Fibbed, and That Might Be OK." And to warn Democrats against judgment because of previous Democratic presidents was absurd. There was already a serious war going on that would have eventually engulfed the U.S. when Franklin Roosevelt "maneuvered" the United States into war, and Harry Truman never "hyped" us into a preemptive war as President Bush has. There was no reason to forgive them because they did nothing wrong.
Schwarz then theorizes that we forgave Ronald Reagan for Grenada (why were we there again?), former President George Bush for Panama (why were we there again?) and Bill Clinton for Kosovo (for stopping genocide with practically no American lives lost. You're forgiven, Bill). No, it is not OK for presidents to "lie" us into a war. Bush deserves our animosity for exactly the same reasons we give it to Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, for being deceiving, manipulating and destructive misleaders of our public trust. And I won't be forgiving any of them real soon.
And, as [Iraq war supporter and author Kenneth] Pollack concedes, our discovery that the regime of weapons inspections that lasted from 1991 to 1998 had been far more effective than we thought means that we might have purchased our security at a far lighter cost. Though we do not know whether Saddam Hussein has hidden large stocks of biological or chemical weapons, he appears not to have had the nuclear program Pollack and others feared. It no longer seems so naive to think that he might have been contained.
The threat was less grave, and so the gain, though still very considerable, is proportionately smaller. What of the losses? The expense in blood and treasure is hardly trivial; as many as 246 American soldiers, as well as thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians, have died since the conflict began, while our costs have been running at about $4 billion a month.
But those are scarcely the only costs. The arrogant and unilateralist fashion in which the Bush administration conducted the war had a ruinous effect on our relations with our chief allies. And the failure to act in concert with others, in turn, made the United States the singular target of wrath across the Islamic world. Even a multilateral war conducted with the consent of the U.N. Security Council might have turned Iraq into the jihadists' ground zero, but at least it would have made terrorism everyone's problem and not just our own. Now we must live with the consequences of our isolation.
So, what's the score?
Allegations of widespread irregularities marred parliamentary elections here Sunday that U.S. and European leaders view as a key test of this former Soviet republic's democratic development.
Many Georgians interviewed outside polling stations complained that voting lists were inaccurate, depriving some citizens of their right to cast ballots and perhaps providing opportunities for fraud.
Mikheil Saakashvili, head of the National Movement, one of the main opposition parties, alleged that the balloting was marred by "mass fraud." Saakashvili, a potential presidential candidate in 2005, charged that groups of police were taken to various precincts to vote multiple times.
"People should not be frightened," he added. "If the government does everything to falsify the election, they should expect that people will react. I don't know whether with all this falsification — and with the opposition having overwhelming support of the people — whether the government will be successful enough to stop the popular will. I think they will fail miserably."
How long before this happens in our Georgia? Welcome to my nightmare.
The Bush administration's point man on nonproliferation has exaggerated the threat posed by Syria, Libya and Cuba in an effort to build the case that strong action is needed to prevent them from developing weapons of mass destruction, former intelligence officials and independent experts say.
Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton has long been one of the most controversial figures in the Bush administration — a pugnacious neoconservative with a reputation for blunt talk and tough action. The allegations that he is inflating the evidence against regimes that Washington dislikes, come as the administration is defending itself against criticism that it misused intelligence to make the case for invading Iraq.
"Very often, the points he makes have some truth to them, but he simply goes beyond where the facts tell intelligent people they should go," said Carl W. Ford Jr., who retired in October as head of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research.
Where do they find so many people who are willing to do this?
"In the last three or four weeks, we've seen an increase in the number of incidents per week," [Rumsfeld] said. "I think that reasonably we have to expect that that will go on for a bit.... I'm not putting a positive spin on it," he added. "This is a rough business.... It's a war, a low-intensity conflict that's taking place."
That was a shift, in tone at least, from earlier pronouncements, when Bush said the escalating attacks were a reaction to U.S. progress.
Those comments drew public criticism from Democrats, including several presidential candidates, as well as some Republicans.
"When there's a rocket attack on the Rashid Hotel when the deputy Defense [secretary] is there, it is not a sign that we're winning," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), one of the GOP's most frequent critics of the administration. " 'Duhhh,' as my kids say."
Bush, asked Tuesday whether voters might be impatient with a long war, responded mildly: "I think the American people are patient during an election year, because they tend to be able to differentiate between, you know, politics and reality."
Unlike, you know, the Bush administration.
Sunday, November 02, 2003
"Deland, Fla., Nov. 11 - Something very strange happened on election night to Deborah Tannenbaum, a Democratic Party official in Volusia County. At 10 p.m., she called the county elections department and learned that Al Gore was leading George W. Bush 83,000 votes to 62,000. But when she checked the county's Web site for an update half an hour later, she found a startling development: Gore's count had dropped by 16,000 votes, while an obscure Socialist candidate had picked up 10,000--all because of a single precinct with only 600 voters."
-- Washington Post Sunday , November 12, 2000 ; Page A22
Yes. Something very strange happened in Volusia County on election night November 2000, the night that first Gore won Florida, then Bush, and then as everybody can so well remember there was a tie. Something strange indeed. But what exactly? In the above report, written days after the election, hotshot Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank goes on to attribute the strange 16,022 negative vote tally from Volusia's precinct 216 to an apparently innocent cause. "Faulty 'memory cards' in the machines caused the 16,000-vote disappearance on election night. The glitch was soon fixed," she wrote. But thanks to recent investigations into Black Box Voting by Washington State writer Bev Harris, we now know this explanation is not correct. In fact it is not even in the ballpark.
According to recently discovered internal Diebold Election Systems memos, Global Election Systems' (which was later purchased by Diebold) own technical staff were also stumped by the events in Volusia County. In Chapter 11 of her new book, Black Box Voting In the 21st Century, released early today in PDF format at Blackboxvoting.com and here at Scoop, Ms Harris observes:
"If you strip away the partisan rancor over the 2000 election, you are left with the undeniable fact that a presidential candidate conceded the election to his opponent based on [results from] a second card that mysteriously appears, subtracts 16,022 votes, then just as mysteriously disappears."
Wait till you read this one! It's becoming clear that our nation was a victim of massive voting fraud in Florida, much of it perpetrated by the voting-machine companies, every one of which is run by a Republican. Does anybody care?
Bush administration officials repeatedly insisted before the war [in Iraq] that they could not estimate how much the war or the postwar occupation might cost.
But the Congressional Budget Office, for example, estimated in September 2002 that occupying Iraq would cost between $1 billion and $4 billion a month.
The current figure? About $4 billion a month.
Before the war, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials disputed a prediction by then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki that more than 200,000 troops would be needed. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz called Shinseki's estimate "wildly off the mark.''
The occupation now occupies some 132,000 American troops, supported by 22,000 troops from other nations and more than 90,000 Iraqi security forces - more than 244,000 people under arms. The money to pay for both the U.S. troops and the Iraqi forces comes almost exclusively from the United States.
The pattern is crystal clear. These people do not listen to anyone at all about anything. Other than God, I mean. They seem to hear him appointing Bush King of the World just fine.
Top Democrats in Congress are planning a second, "independent" investigation into the role of the White House and the Pentagon in processing pre-war intelligence on Iraq.
The Democrats-only inquiry, targeting the actions of Condoleezza Rice and senior Pentagon officials, would be a dramatic breach of Washington protocol. It would be led by rebel members of the Senate Intelligence Committee (SIC), which has spent more than four months investigating the quality and use of the intelligence.
Senior Democrats have accused the committee's Republican chairman, Pat Roberts, of giving top White House and Pentagon officials an easy ride. According to Richard Durbin, a Chicago senator and SIC member, a public split and new inquiry is inevitable.
"We want to know whether the administration put pressure on the agencies to come up with certain kinds of information. It's the very question that has been explored at great length in Britain at the Hutton Inquiry," he told The Telegraph.
"If the Republican leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee is determined to protect the administration at any cost, we'll do the investigative job on our own."
Go for it! This is the sort of chutzpah that only the Republicans have displayed, up until now.
Few US Presidents have been as openly religious as Bush. Now a new book has lifted the lid on how deep those Christian convictions run. It will stir up controversy at a time when the administration is keen to portray its 'war on terror' as non-religious.
The book, which depicts a President who prays each day and believes he is on a direct mission from God, will give ammunition to critics who claim Bush's administration is heavily influenced by extremist Christians.
Bush is already under fire for allowing the appointment of General William Boykin to head the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Boykin, who speaks at evangelical Christian meetings, once said the war on terror was a fight against Satan, and also told a Somali warlord that, "My God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."
Among Mansfield's revelations is his insistence that Bush and Tony Blair have prayed together at a private meeting at Camp David. Blair has previously denied this.
Mansfield, however, says that, while there were no witnesses, aides were left in little doubt as to what had happened. He told The Observer: "There is no question they have shared scripture and prayed together."
Is it just me? This heavy religious stuff coming from the most powerful man in the world gives me the creeps. Real bad.
The distinguishing feature of modern Washington dishonesty is that it is almost transparent, barely intended to deceive. It uses true-ish factoids to construct an implied assertion about reality that is not just false but preposterous. Modern Washington dishonesty is more like an elaborate, stylized ritual than a realistic Western-style performance. The goal is not to persuade but merely to create an impression that there are two sides to the question without actually having to supply one of them.
[Bush domestic policy adviser Jay] Lefkowitz, for example, denies that Bush’s stem-cell policy, announced in 2001, was “unexpectedly restrictive.” It was “actually a liberalization” of previous rules. It included “the first-ever offer of federal aid” for embryonic stem-cell research. And Bush has “removed barriers to privately funded stem cell research” imposed by President Clinton.
You don’t need to know the first thing about stem cells to smell something fishy here. It’s not just me: The entire world is under the impression that Bush has restricted embryonic stem-cell research. That is how the story was reported two years ago and how it has been universally summarized ever since. If this storyline is 180-degrees wrong, the White House has made almost no effort to correct it. Furthermore, the revised version makes no sense. Bush is a strong believer in the right to life from the moment of conception or claims to be. His predecessor was (and is) a strong believer in abortion rights. Why would Clinton have a terribly restrictive policy on the use of embryos in medical research, and why would Bush liberalize it?
But these questions are only puzzling if you forget that modern Washington dishonesty does not require plausibility. More puzzling is whether the politicians and their advisers who build these alternative realities don’t yet realize that there’s this thing called the Internet, or whether they realize it and don’t care. It is the work of minutes to Google Lefkowitz’s storyline into shreds.
In the week since Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's Oct. 16 memo appeared in USA Today, the press squall has churned mostly around the doubts it expresses about the prosecution of the war on terror and the way those doubts contradict the administration's public statements. But the memo is significant for an entirely different reason. It opens a window onto the Bush team's flawed thinking about the war on terror.
Two key passages stand out: First, Rumsfeld wonders, "Does the US need to fashion a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists? The US is putting relatively little effort into a long-range plan, but we are putting a great deal of effort into trying to stop terrorists." Then, later, he asks, "Are we capturing, killing or deterring more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?"
As foreign fighters pour into Iraq to attack U.S. troops and undermine the occupation, the questions are long overdue. They suggest that a top official is beginning to recognize what others outside and inside government have been arguing since Sept. 11, 2001: The United States faces an insurgency that is not tied to one piece of Middle East real estate or to one rogue state.
I find it fascinating (and scary) that I, a random American in the heartland, have realized for years something that America's Secretary of Defense is only just now "beginning to recognize". Is this when we say "I told you so"?
Despite arguments in the mainstream press that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is leading us down the road to defeat in Iraq, Rumy is being hailed anew as a great warrior and the sexiest man alive. His right-wing fans have opened an attack on the lefty worms and traitors who have unfairly attacked this great American hero.
So far there has been little serious criticism of Rumsfeld in Congress, and professional politicians are saying it's too late in the game for Bush to drop the Secretary, even if he wanted to. And anyhow, Rumsfeld represents an important Bush constituency of businessmen and defense contractors.
You have to wonder about the sanity of people who "think" this way. Is it really only the Socialists who are upset with Rumsfeld?
The Bush administration's rationale for the Iraq war was "nonsense" and totally dishonest, [MSNBC host Chris] Matthews told a gathering of 200 students at Brown University this week, according to the Woonsocket Call newspaper in Rhode Island.
Vice President Richard Cheney was "behind it all," contended Matthews, who served as an aide to the late House Speaker Tip O'Neill of Massachusetts and wrote speeches for former President Jimmy Carter.
"The whole neo-conservative power vortex, it all goes through his office," Matthews said, referring to Cheney, according to the paper. "He has become the chief executive. He's not the chief operating officer, he's running the place. It's scary."
The vice president, he asserted, is the man "who put his thumb on the scale" to affect the balance between Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
"The ideologues started circling around the president," Matthews said, according to The Call. "They saw a man who never read any books, who didn't think too deeply and they gave him something to think about for the first time in his life. This thing called pre-emption, the Bush Doctrine. They put it in his head and said 'Iraq, Iraq, Iraq.'"
Our president is an empty suit stuffed full of money and pushed out on a stage to raise even more money, the bulk of it coming from the tiny percentage of wealthy Americans who are benefitting from his dreadful policies. We deserve a real leader.
The single most striking impression from watching Bush in his session with White House reporters was the president's defensiveness. Barely two weeks ago, the White House set out to "correct" the negative cast it said the Washington press corps had placed on Iraq with a series of upbeat statements from Bush, Vice President Cheney and other top officials.
That effort was cut short by the leak of a memo from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld questioning how much progress was really being made in the war on terrorism and describing prospects in Iraq as "a long, hard slog." The White House offensive was further overwhelmed by the news bulletins that produced the Tuesday headline in USA Today, "Violence in Iraq reaches new level."
This is not the environment a president wants as the calendar reminds him that his next date with the voters is just a year away. So Bush set out to influence public opinion by doing something he really does not like to do. For only the 10th time in his 33 months in office, he called a full-scale news conference.
By my count, two-thirds of the questions dealt with aspects of the struggle in Iraq -- and almost all of them started from a premise uncomfortable for the administration. There were reminders of the May 1 banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln -- "Mission Accomplished," a sign the president now disowns -- and a citation of the casualties since then. There were questions about the costs of reconstructing Iraq and the lack of assistance from traditional allies, questions about the missing weapons of mass destruction and a blunt statement that "there are people out there who don't believe that the administration is leveling with them about the difficulty and scope of the problem in Iraq."
I am one of those people.