Saturday, November 15, 2003
It was a great speech. It was delivered in San Antonio, Texas, at a Bush-Cheney reception on the day before Halloween.
President Bush said: "And to get the economy going again, I have twice led the United States Congress to pass historic tax relief for the American people. When Americans have more take-home pay to spend, to save or invest, the whole economy grows and people are more likely to find a job. So we're returning more money to the people to help them raise their families. ... With all these actions, this administration has laid the foundation for greater prosperity and more jobs across America so that every single one of our citizens can realize the American Dream."
He wasn't talking about the American Dream of being free from hunger. He wasn't talking about the American Dream of being employed. He was talking about rich people's dream of being free from taxes. Had he been talking about hunger or jobs he would have said it was too bad that so many Americans were still going hungry and unemployed at the same time we were spending $86 billion for people who live in Iraq. He probably didn't know his subjects were going hungry because the Department of Agriculture had not yet released its report. He didn't know lots of people were unemployed because no one had told him.
Heck, he doesn't even know he was never elected.
From Bush Bashed By Hero's Wife: Reassure me Ian didn't die in vain, Mr Bush. Come up with the proof of WMD by Lorraine Fisher
The widow of a British soldier killed in Iraq called yesterday for George Bush to tell her he did not die in vain - by proving Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Lianne Seymour, whose 28-year-old husband Ian was one of eight Marines killed when their US helicopter crashed, is among relatives invited to meet Mr Bush on his state visit next week.
The president will tell them the men died for a "noble cause". But some relatives slammed the plan as a public relations exercise.
Lianne, 27, of Poole, Dorset, who has a three-year-old son Beck, said: "If he wants to reassure me Ian did not die in vain he'll come up with the proof of weapons of mass destruction. I don't want him to say, 'Yes, it was worth it' because anyone can say that. I want him to mean it and back it up."
We all want that, Lianne.
During the run-up to the Iraq war, it was impossible not to notice that those most gung-ho for the adventure were, by and large, virgins when it came to the actual battlefield. George W. ("I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes") Bush; Dick ("I had other priorities") Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, Tom DeLay, Elliott Abrams--to a man, all found better things to do than join the armed forces during Vietnam, a war most of them supported.
During the war debate, this issue was confused by the casual tossing of the epithet "chickenhawk." This discussion was actually promoted by the war party itself--together with its punditocracy cheerleaders--as it allowed its members to wrap themselves in the flag of free speech. It also appealed to the media, few of whose denizens had seen the inside of a military uniform either. But the point was not--or should not have been--to question the right of those who never served in the military to make military policy, which, after all, is intelligently enshrined in the Constitution. Rather it was a matter of judgment: Knowing nothing of war from firsthand experience, these men (and women) were more likely to have a romantic view of what war could accomplish.
The results of this foolish faith are all around us. While Bush prefers to avoid the many unpleasant aspects of the war--allowing no photographing of returning coffins and attending no funerals of fallen soldiers--he waxes rhapsodic about the alleged democratic benefits the Arab world will one day reap from this botched operation.
When monkeys fly.
Of major concern to policymakers is the erosion in the homeland of support for the occupation as the US casualties continue to mount: Nearly 400 US soldiers have died since the beginning of the War, and recently the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes, reported that more than 7,000 wounded US soldiers have been treated at a single US military hospital -- Landstuhl Regional Medical Center -- in Germany. The Iraq Coalition Casualty Count Web site has the number of wounded at nearly 2300 (an average of nearly 10 soldiers per day).
The daily drip, drip, drip of bad news
And then, there's the drip, drip, drip of daily stories that are, at best, minor annoyances to the White House -- and at worst, a signal of an administration in disarray: What's up with cutting back veterans' benefits and services? Why aren't cameras allowed into Dover Air Force Base to record the homecoming of US casualties? Why hasn't the president visited with families of soldiers killed in Iraq? Which Pentagon whiz kid was behind the manufacturing and marketing of the story of the "rescue" of Jessica Lynch?
So many questions, so little time.
An Illinois National Guardsman at home on leave blasted the President today on a Rockford area radio show, saying the President lied about his reasons for American military going to Iraq.
Sergeant Jessica Macek of Rockford, Illinois has been serving in Iraq for six-months with the National Guard's 333rd MP Company, and while home on leave, during an interview on WNTA 1330 AM Radio in Rockford said she believes that President Bush lied about the reasons for going to war.
"I believe it is in the forefront in the minds of many soldiers that we were lied to about the reasons for going to war," Macek told the radio audience.
The bulk of Macek's criticism comes over what she said was a lack of evidence of weapons of mass destruction. "We have been there for six months now, and we have not found any weapons," said Macek. "If there were weapons it seems we should have found them by now."
Congressional Republicans said yesterday they had reached agreement on the final version of a sweeping bill meant to address the nation's growing energy demands. But New England lawmakers said the bill would push up electricity and gasoline prices in the region and pose threats to its environment.
Republicans who crafted the energy legislation in secret meetings -- Democrats were not invited -- revealed few details about its provisions. Lawmakers and lobbyists familiar with the legislation outlined a plan that would encourage oil, gas, and nuclear power production and require greater use of ethanol, a gasoline additive made from corn.
House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Billy Tauzin, Republican of Louisiana, touted the legislation as a "jobs bill," and Senate Energy and Natural Resources chairman Pete Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, predicted it would put an end to blackouts.
But the legislation has raised regional ire, particularly from New England members of Congress who forsee higher energy costs for their constituents as a result of provisions crafted largely by Southern and Midwestern lawmakers.
And largely for Southern and Midwestern voters.
Friday, November 14, 2003
Last week the 9-11 Commission subpoenaed some Pentagon papers and is still arguing with the White House about the release of other documents, complaining that panelists have "encountered some serious delays in obtaining needed documents from the Department of Defense. We are especially dismayed by problems in the production of the records of activities of NORAD and certain air force commands on September 11, 2001."
So far the government simply has not answered basic questions, brought not by politicians but by families of the victims. Mindy Kleinberg, who lost her husband at the WTC, has pointed out to the commission that NORAD was not contacted by the FAA until 32 minutes after the loss of contact with Flight 11. And she called it "more baffling still" that fighters weren't scrambled from the nearest air force bases to intercept the hijacked airliners. Kleinberg noted that planes of NORAD's North East Air Defense Sector (NEADS) were actually on maneuvers that morning that should have made them immediately available. Nevertheless, at 9:41 a.m., one hour and 11 minutes after NORAD confirmed that the first plane was hijacked, the skies over D.C. were unprotected and Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. Fighter jets, she pointed out, were still miles away.
"Why," she asked, "was there a delay in the FAA notifying NORAD? Why was there a delay in NORAD scrambling fighter jets? How is this possible, when NEADS was fully staffed with planes at the ready and monitoring our Northeast airspace?"
These are the kinds of questions the Bush administration is so desperately trying to avoid. The gap between the 9/11 "investigation" and the Clinton-Lewinsky witchhunt is truly staggering, if you think about it.
Upon hearing news of the latest shift in U.S. policy in Iraq — a shift aimed at accelerating the handover of sovereignty and security responsibility to Iraqis — Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister, must have been overcome by a feeling of déjà vu. In the lead-up to the Oct. 15 vote that conferred the U.N. Security Council’s blessing on the Iraq occupation, the United States, backed by Britain and Spain, had insisted that Iraq would not be ready to govern itself so quickly.
Senior Bush administration officials were predicting two years minimum before anything approaching an Iraqi government would be convened and insisted that a constitution had to be in place before any elections could be held.
Now, that’s all out the window. But far from conceding his difficult European allies might have been right on this one, President Bush on Thursday remained upbeat. “That’s a positive development,” Bush told reporters. “That’s what we want. We want the Iraqis to be more involved in the governance of their country.”
Admit it - the man is amazing.
A number of liberal activists have stated that they hate President Bush. Just hate him and hate all of his policies. On hardcover nonfiction best-seller lists, there are four books that spew varying degrees of outright hatred for Bush and conservatives. Hate is something that not only sells, but can now be packaged and marketed.
"Hate" is a strong, obscene and destructive word, and yet it is being uttered with more and more frequency by many on the left and by many who should know better. The crass and childish name-calling directed at Bush by candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination not only creates more hate and anger but should bring shame to those in that party who would choose statesmanship and honor over insults and partisanship.
To be fair, hate was the fuel that energized many on the right during their diatribes against former President Clinton. And hate clouds the judgment of a number of Republicans today. Hatred of the left can also be found in a number of best-selling volumes by conservative authors.
To be fair, if one side in a controversy bellows and spews hate, and the other side cringes and submits, the bellowing side will win every time (think Hannity and Colmes). When liberals fight fire with fire, they're told they "should know better". Huh?
[By the way, the author of this piece was Bob Dole's press secretary, and also served in the White House under Reagan and Bush I.]
For the first few months of the Bush administration, if career employees at the agencies charged with protecting the environment disagreed with the new president's agenda, they expressed their concerns primarily among themselves — or sometimes, demanding anonymity, to reporters.
Then several left their government jobs and started openly criticizing the administration, calling it hostile to wilderness, wildlife and clean air. Others stayed — but tried to sabotage, or at least expose, administration initiatives by leaking documents to the media.
On Thursday, disagreements between the administration's environmental officials and some of their employees took a turn toward the bizarre.
Two longtime National Park Service workers — disguised by dark glasses, hats and scarves — arrived at the National Press Building in a sedan with tinted windows. Long before reporters filed in for a news conference, they hid behind a thick blue curtain.
Then, with their voices modified by a "voice disguiser" from a counterespionage store, they denounced the administration for "enacting policies and laws that will destroy the grand legacy of our national parks," as one put it.
The fact that the two men resorted to tactics usually reserved for organized-crime informants or witnesses in espionage cases suggests the intensity of the conflict between the administration and some longtime government employees who have spent their careers protecting natural resources.
Between this and the Senate's talkathon, it's been a great week for political theater.
Administration officials denied that the switch toward a faster power transfer and military offensive [in Iraq] was a political decision to improve the president's standing in the polls, as a growing number of Americans have expressed doubt over the administration's handling of postwar Iraq.
Instead, aides said, the change was driven by events on the ground, including a growing number of attacks by insurgents.
"It's high-risk, both steps," said former US representative Lee Hamilton of Indiana, who chaired the House International Relations Committee and is now with the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington. "It's . . . more of a political strategy than it is a strategy for rebuilding the country. It's a strategy that responds to the domestic political pressures in the United States more than it responds to the situation in Iraq."
For this administration, the only reality is more power for them.
Maybe this picture isn't worth a thousand words. That honor probably belongs to the flight deck portrait of the president under the sign "Mission Accomplished." Maybe the presidential photo op now flying around the Internet and soon to be available on your local T-shirt is only worth 750 words.
The picture shows the president surrounded by an all-male chorus line of legislators as he signs the first ban on an abortion procedure. It's a single-sex class photo of men making laws governing something they will never have: a womb.
This was not just a strategic misstep, a rare Karl Rove lapse. It perfectly reflected the truth of the so-called partial-birth abortion law. What's wrong with this picture? The legislators had indeed erased women. They used the law as if it were Photoshop software, to crop out real women with real problems.
Indeed, just days after the shutter snapped, three separate courts ordered a temporary halt to the ban on these very grounds: It doesn't have any exemption for the health of a woman.
I don't think these guys are focused on the "health of a woman".
The Supreme Court took a crucial step in defense of due process when it decided to review federal courts' rulings that the Bush administration may detain foreign captives indefinitely as "unlawful combatants" at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. By rejecting the administration's argument that they lack jurisdiction even to hear legal challenges to the status of the Guantanamo detainees, the justices opened up a possibility that the judicial branch may remedy some of the harm done by the executive branch to constitutional liberties and to America's reputation in the world.
The legal knot the court has agreed to untie concerns the administration's assertion that the camp in Guantanamo is not subject to US sovereignty and therefore no US court has jurisdiction to hear writs of habeas corpus brought on a prisoner's behalf. In essence, the administration is asking that it be allowed to continue holding some 650 foreign captives indefinitely without bringing specific charges against them, without allowing them to be represented by legal counsel, and without having to classify them either as accused criminals with legal rights or as prisoners of war entitled to due process under the Geneva Conventions governing the rules of war.
So eager is the Bush administration to maintain the fiction that Guantanamo is not subject to the same legal requirements as other sites under US sovereignty that it moved Yaser Hamdi, who was born a US citizen, from there to a military brig on the US mainland. The aim of that move was to avoid the setting of a legal precedent. The government did not want a federal court to order that Hamdi, as a US citizen, must be granted a hearing in court.
The Bush attititude toward the Supreme Court seems to be "They're OK when they are installing me as president, but when they want to protect the Constitution, they go too far." He obviously wants both the judicial and legislative branches to just get the hell out of his way. As the Founding Fathers intended, I guess.
President Bush invited three of his judicial nominees to the White House yesterday to call attention to what he described as their unfair treatment by Senate Democrats.
The overwhelming majority of Bush's judicial nominees have been approved by the Senate, but Democrats have blocked a vote on a handful, arguing that their views are so far out of the political mainstream they could not be effective judges.
Republicans in the Senate held a 30-hour talkathon that was supposed to end at midnight yesterday. But Republicans added nine more hours to take them through 9 a.m. today, to continue decrying what they call the obstructionism of Democratic colleagues. Bush invited the judges to the White House to support the action of his Republican allies in the Senate. "If they get an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor, they will be confirmed because the majority of [senators] believe they should serve," Bush said. "And yet a few senators are playing politics. And it's wrong, and it's shameful, and it's hurting the system."
He has a 98% approval rate on his judicial appointments. Yet he says it's "wrong" and "shameful" that the Congress did not rubber-stamp every single one. The Republicans sound like crybabies when they insist on getting their own way all the time.
The Army tightened rules yesterday on press coverage of funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, directing that reporters be kept far enough away from the graveside that they would likely be unable to hear a chaplain's eulogy.
Reporters will be restricted to a roped-in "bullpen" that is generally far enough away that words spoken at graveside cannot be heard, officials said.
Jack Metzler Jr., the superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery, said the cemetery will be following rules that were already in the books but had not been strictly observed in recent years. "We're just enforcing what was already in place," he said.
The order to enforce the restriction came from Army officials at the Pentagon, Metzler said. He said the order came in response to a complaint, but he declined to provide details.
The change comes as the White House and the Pentagon are showing increased sensitivity to the portrayal of U.S. casualties from the war in Iraq. Officials have barred media coverage of the bodies of troops arriving at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, in that case also insisting that a long-ignored rule be enforced.
It's the same old story. First come the lies, then comes the coverup.
Thursday, November 13, 2003
In 2000, Bush said that the Clinton-Gore administration had been reckless in overcommitting the United States, and the military in particular, to exercises in "nation-building." By that he meant trying to establish institutions of democratic government and civil society. The intervention in Somalia, for example, begun by Bush's father, "started off as a humanitarian mission and it changed into a nation-building mission and that's where the mission went wrong." Just as with his current nearly opposite philosophy, Bush stated the principle in the categorical terms of someone who has adopted it and checked it off his list without diving for subtleties. Preventing starvation: good. Overthrowing the occasional dictator: well, OK. Nation-building: bad. "Maybe I'm missing something here. I mean, we're going to have kind of a nation-building corps from America? Absolutely not. It needs to be in our vital interest, the mission needs to be clear, and the exit strategy obvious. I'm not so sure the role of the United States is to go around the world and say this is the way it's got to be. I think the United States must be humble … in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own course."
One way to show your respect for democracy is to state your beliefs when running for office and then apply those same beliefs when you're elected. Democracy becomes pointless if there is no connection between the policies that citizens think they are voting for and the policies they get. In this case we actually do seem to have the policies that a majority of voters thought they were supporting. But we cannot count on election theft and broken promises to cancel each other out every time.
The president's fans in the U.S. Senate seem fickle about majority rule.
They loved the Electoral College when it allowed George W. Bush to claim the presidency without receiving a majority of the popular vote. But they now hate the Senate filibuster rule, which allows less than a majority to stall a vote. In this case, Democrats are stalling votes on three ultraconservative judicial nominees.
Led by Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the GOP senators are throwing a 30-hour temper tantrum -- wailing like spoiled children because they can't have their way all of the time. Never mind that Democrats have already confirmed 168 of the 172 judicial nominations put forth by President Bush.
The Republicans' pointless pouting session may backfire when Americans learn the real facts. When Bill Clinton was president, the GOP didn't stop at holding up a measly four judicial nominees. They held up 60, refusing to allow committee votes on most of them.
It's lucky for George W. Bush that he wasn’t born in an earlier time and somehow stumbled into America’s Constitutional Convention. A man with his views, so depreciative of democratic rule, would have certainly been quickly exiled from the freshly liberated United States by the gaggle of incensed Founders. So muses one of our most controversial social critics and prolific writers, Gore Vidal.
Q. In this context, would any of the Founding Fathers find themselves comfortable in the current political system of the United States? Certainly Jefferson wouldn’t. But what about the radical centralizers, or those like John Adams, who had a sneaking sympathy for the monarchy?
A. Adams thought monarchy, as tamed and balanced by the parliament, could offer democracy. But he was no totalitarian, not by any means. Hamilton, on the other hand, might have very well gone along with the Bush people, because he believed there was an elite who should govern. He nevertheless was a bastard born in the West Indies, and he was always a little nervous about his own social station. He, of course, married into wealth and became an aristo. And it is he who argues that we must have a government made up of the very best people, meaning the rich.
So you’d find Hamilton pretty much on the Bush side. But I can’t think of any other Founders who would. Adams would surely disapprove of Bush. He was highly moral, and I don’t think he could endure the current dishonesty. Already they were pretty bugged by a bunch of journalists who came over from Ireland and such places and were telling Americans how to do things. You know, like Andrew Sullivan today telling us how to be. I think you would find a sort of union of discontent with Bush among the Founders. The sort of despotism that overcomes us now is precisely what Franklin predicted.
The sweet illusion that a free press exists in America has once again brutally collided with the bitter reality that journalistic freedom is severely limited by financial considerations. Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone has ordered his CBS broadcasting subsidiary to cancel its scheduled airing of the docudrama “The Reagans” because the show’s impartial tone had generated objections from the Republican Party. Viacom is dependent upon the GOP for the broadcasting deregulations and tax cuts that sustain the corporation, so it acceded to the demand that the offending program must never appear on CBS.
Technically, Viacom had the constitutional right to financially self-destruct by alienating its benefactors and incurring the consequences of being disobedient. Realistically, Redstone opted for self-preservation by submitting to government pressure, just as businessmen routinely capitulate in Third World dictatorships that make no star spangled pretense of liberty.
Redstone has now publicly granted to the Republicans the same de facto veto authority over his network’s entertainment programming that the GOP has long privately possessed over the news division. In the aftermath of 9/11, CBS News Managing Editor Dan Rather granted an interview to a European periodical in which he cryptically complained that American journalists were “not allowed to tell the truth”. Rather refused to elaborate on the factor that was inhibiting them, but the Reagan docudrama fiasco has elaborated for him.
The incident is the latest evidence that the autonomy claimed by the communications conglomerates is a mirage. The reality is that, for America’s media companies, the bottom line trumps all other considerations, and maintaining their profits requires submitting to the Republican politicians who champion corporate welfare.
So it's not just Fox News.
After the seizures in late 1942 of five U.S. enterprises he managed on behalf of Nazi industrialist Fritz Thyssen, Prescott Bush, the grandfather of President George W. Bush, failed to divest himself of more than a dozen "enemy national" relationships that continued until as late as 1951, newly-discovered U.S. government documents reveal.
Furthermore, the records show that Bush and his colleagues routinely attempted to conceal their activities from government investigators.
Bush's partners in the secret web of Thyssen-controlled ventures included former New York Governor W. Averell Harriman and his younger brother, E. Roland Harriman. Their quarter-century of Nazi financial transactions, from 1924-1951, were conducted by the New York private banking firm, Brown Brothers Harriman.
The White House did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Although the additional seizures under the Trading with the Enemy Act did not take place until after the war, documents from The National Archives and Library of Congress confirm that Bush and his partners continued their Nazi dealings unabated. These activities included a financial relationship with the German city of Hanover and several industrial concerns. They went undetected by investigators until after World War Two.
Evidently, the Bush family has always been this way. Is this the dynasty we want ruling America?
This week's Newsweek cover story on the vice president characterized a recent article by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker as raising the question of whether "Cheney had, in effect, become the dupe of a cabal of neoconservative full-mooners, the Pentagon's mysteriously named Office of Special Plans, and the patsy of an alleged bank swindler and would-be ruler of Iraq, Ahmad Chalabi."
Mr. Cheney's parallel universe is a Bizarro world where no doubts exist. He indulges in extremes of judgment, overpessimistic about our ability to contain Saddam and overoptimistic about the gratitude we would encounter as "liberators" in Iraq.
In Cheneyworld, the invasion of Iraq has made the world a safer place (tell it to the Italians), W.M.D. are still concealed in all those Iraqi basements, every Iraqi insurgent is a card-carrying member of Al Qaeda, and the increase in attacks on Americans reflects the guerrillas' desperation, not their strengths. Guerrilla attacks on American soldiers are labeled acts of terrorism rather than acts of war, even though the official U.S. definition describes terrorism as attacks on civilians.
As Eric Schmitt reported in The Times this week, Mr. Cheney has implied in recent speeches that Al Qaeda is responsible for the major attacks in Iraq this past summer, even though senior military and intelligence officials say there is no conclusive evidence for that. Clearly, Mr. Cheney remains oblivious to the fact that the president has already had to correct the vice president's previous assertion that the government did not know whether Saddam Hussein had a connection to the 9/11 attacks. Mr. Bush conceded that "no, we've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th."
If you look up "loose cannon" in the dictionary, you will see a picture of Vice President Dick.
President Bush is missing his Nixon-Goes-to-China moment.
In 1972, President Nixon was able to go to Beijing and negotiate with the Communists because he was an ardent anti-Communist. Bush, the Texas oil man, has an opportunity to ignite fundamental change in Washington's ruinous energy policies. But he's never done it.
The simple truth is that, despite the energy policy plan put forward by Dick Cheney's task force in 2001 and the pending energy bill in Congress, the U.S. doesn't have a viable long-term energy policy. It never has.
The new energy bill offers more of the same misguided policies that have driven the U.S. for the last 40 years. The measure, likely to be voted on by the House of Representatives shortly, provides $16 billion in new incentives to increase oil drilling and build new nuclear power plants. It's the same thinking that was in place in 1973, when the first oil shocks rocked the U.S. economy. The U.S. still has energy myopia — a belief that we can produce ever-increasing amounts of energy to fill our gas tanks.
It can't be done.
[Robert Bryce is the author of Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego and the Death of Enron.]
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) noted in a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations last week that quicker training of Iraqis may fall short of what's needed: "When the United States announces a schedule for training and deploying Iraqi security officers, then announces the acceleration of that schedule, then accelerates it again, it sends a signal of desperation, not certitude," McCain said. In mid-October, the number of Iraqis listed as being in security jobs was 85,000. As of Monday, national security advisor Condoleezza Rice put the number at 118,000, and Myers said it was 131,000 on Tuesday.
No matter what the real number, putting guns in the hands of teenagers after a few weeks of training is a poor substitute for seasoned soldiers. More effort needs to go into luring back former Iraqi troops who were not key parts of Saddam Hussein's brutal repression. Having brought war to Iraq, Bush has no alternative but to leave U.S. soldiers in harm's way until it can be honestly ended, or at least until more nations can be persuaded to help bring peace. Bremer's meeting in Washington suggests the administration recognizes the gravity of the choices to be made. Better to grapple with reality than to bluster that there's no cause for alarm.
Or at least grapple while blustering.
The independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks reached an agreement with the White House yesterday to gain restricted access to years of classified presidential briefings, which had been the focus of subpoena threats from the panel's chairman.
The compromise will allow the 10-member commission to create a four-person subcommittee that will have varying degrees of access to the documents known as Presidential Daily Briefs from the Bush and Clinton administrations, according to a commission statement and sources familiar with the agreement.
But the accord also includes restrictions limiting what parts of the briefings can be seen and what parts can later be shared with the rest of the bipartisan panel, and it includes White House review of much of that information, sources familiar with the agreement said. Those with direct access will take notes, and those notes are subject to review by the White House before being shared with others, sources said.
The limitations prompted angry condemnations yesterday from two Democratic commissioners -- former senator Max Cleland (Ga.) and former representative Timothy J. Roemer (Ind.) -- who have argued that the commission should be more aggressive in seeking sensitive materials from the Bush administration.
Cleland called the agreement "unconscionable" and said it "was deliberately compromised by the president of the United States" to limit the commission's work.
Hey, that's his job.
A new, top-secret CIA report from Iraq warns that growing numbers of Iraqis are concluding the U.S.-led coalition can be defeated and are supporting the insurgents.
The report paints a bleak picture of the political and security situation in Iraq and cautions that the U.S.-led drive to rebuild the country as a democracy could collapse unless corrective actions are taken immediately.
L. Paul Bremer, leader of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, who arrived unexpectedly in Washington for strategy sessions yesterday, essentially endorsed the CIA's findings, a senior administration official said.
The report's bleak tone and Bremer's private endorsement differ sharply with the upbeat public assessments that President Bush, his chief aides, and even Bremer are giving as part of an aggressive publicity campaign aimed at countering rising anxieties over increasing U.S. casualties in Iraq.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
A British health group that opposed the war in Iraq released a report yesterday estimating that total casualties from the war could range from 21,700 to 55,000, though they acknowledged that their calculations were hampered by a lack of verifiable data.
Using a combination of public record estimates and statistical extrapolation, Medact, the British affiliate of the nonprofit International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, released its report as an attempt to assess the ongoing "health and environmental costs" of the war.
Although the Pentagon regularly produces detailed information about US troops wounded or killed, military officials have largely refused to quantify Iraqi civilian and military casualties. But critics of the war in Iraq have said that its effects cannot be accurately judged without that number.
"The most important thing that comes out of it is that the data are not available," said Dr. Victor W. Sidel, a past president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and an adviser to the study. "If you want other organizations to help [with the reconstruction of Iraq], you've got to provide the data on what the needs are, and it's virtually impossible to get the data out of the occupying powers."
Well, of course it is. The Bush administration doesn't want to discuss their immoral killing of 20,000 or more Iraqis to "avenge" the killing of 3,000 of our citizens by Osama bin Laden, a Saudi.
At a 1999 fund-raiser, George W. Bush said: "I think it's important for our party to look at candidates and determine who's a uniter, not a divider. Who has proven that they know how to bring people together based upon common consensus?"
In 2000, he said: "I do not believe in pitting one group against another. There is a trend in this country to put people into boxes. . . . I see a United States with one big box: American."
Three years later, Americans are sealing themselves away from each other in thicker boxes than ever -- on war, on race, on religion, on just about everything. This cannot be a surprise. Bush began his presidency by having the United States secede from the earth. His anti-environmental and anti-family planning policies and his unprovoked invasion of Iraq prove that Americans under his leadership will do what we want, take what we want, pollute what we want, and invade whom we want.
Three years of such ferocious desire to dominate the planet could hardly inspire Americans to find common ground back home. Sure enough, two years after Sept. 11, "United We Stand" is "Divided We Scowl."
This president is the worst thing that has happened to our great nation in many, many years.
Private First Class Jessica Lynch said yesterday that she is disturbed that the military seemed to overdramatize her rescue by US troops and spread false stories that she went down shooting in an Iraqi ambush.
"That wasn't me. I wasn't about to take credit for something I didn't do," she said. "I'm not that person."
The 20-year-old former Army supply clerk described her ordeal in a Veterans Day interview seven months after the rescue made her a national hero.
Reports circulated by the US military early in the war said Lynch waged a fierce gunbattle with Iraqi fighters who ambushed her 507th Maintenance Company on March 23 at Nasiriyah.
She has since said her rifle jammed, and she did not get off a shot.
Video shot by the Americans who rescued her nine days later at an Iraqi hospital suggested they encountered resistance in a daring raid. Lynch's new book says hospital staff did not resist, and even offered US troops a key.
Faced with growing public uneasiness over Iraq, Republican Party officials intend to change the terms of the political debate heading into next year's election by focusing on the "doctrine of preemption," portraying President Bush as a visionary acting to prevent future terrorist attacks on US soil despite the costs and casualties involved overseas.
The strategy will involve the dismissal of Democrats as the party of "protests, pessimism and political hate speech," Ed Gillespie, Republican National Committee chairman, wrote in a recent memo to party officials -- a move designed to shift attention toward Bush's broader foreign policy objectives rather than the accounts of bloodshed.
"It seems to me they [Republicans] are benefiting from having the bully pulpit and just repeating their message all the time," former Clinton national security expert Daniel Benjamin said. "But at the end of the day, bad news on the ground trumps all that repetition in Washington. And they have a real problem on their hands squaring those two things."
Twenty months ago, the Bush administration determined that imports of steel were injuring our domestic steel industry and proceeded to impose tariffs on those imports.
The European Union, a target of the tariffs, complained to the World Trade Organization, as the EU has a right to do, asking it to declare the tariffs illegal under the WTO rules the U.S. long ago signed on to. The WTO this week agreed with the EU and laid out a choice for Washington: Either get rid of the tariff or the Europeans will have the right to impose retaliatory tariffs. And they will impose them.
But there were politics: Steel workers were concentrated in battleground states such as West Virginia and Pennsylvania. So sound policy lost out.
The Bush administration is now confronted with a stark choice. It can either roll the tariffs back or defy the WTO and face European retaliation. When you size it up, it's a no-brainer.
Unfortunately, so is the administration.
[Also check out this Los Angeles Times editorial on the same subject.]
Tucked inside federal transportation law is a small phrase that has done a fairly heroic job of protecting some of the nation's most important historic areas for almost 40 years. These few words in the 1966 Department of Transportation Act say that a federal highway project cannot destroy any historic area if there is a "prudent and feasible alternative." These words have blocked, for example, highways from paving parts of the French Quarter in New Orleans and Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.
But as Congress begins negotiating a new transportation bill, the Bush administration and the highway lobby are trying to weaken those protections in the name of "streamlining" the process of building the nation's roads.
Instead of acting as a powerful deterrent against building roads through national treasures, the administration's proposal would rely on transportation agencies to decide what is historic. The agencies would then consult with communities over a site's importance. That sounds a lot like the old-fashioned way of building an interstate highway — the "decide, announce and defend method." Consultation with property owners or communities would end up being a weak defense against the big bulldozers run by the highway crowd.
I am appalled at the tendency of this ahistorical administration to undo arrangements - whether for environmental protection, international security, or anything else - that have been in place and working well for decades. It's as if they want to cut us off from our roots, while rolling back all progress made in every area for the last 50 years. And we're letting them do it!
At a time when the United States faces a growing security threat, the poll [of Iraqi citizens] pointed to other possible reasons why coalition forces are being looked upon as occupiers instead of as liberators.
Almost everyone interviewed -- 94 percent -- said Baghdad "now is a more dangerous place than before the invasion," and 86 percent said that for the previous four weeks "they or a member of their household had been afraid to go outside their home at night for safety reasons," Burkholder said in his analysis. He noted that in the two months before the U.S. invasion, only 8 percent said they had experienced a similar fear.
Asked about attacks against U.S. troops, 64 percent said they were not justified; 36 percent said they sometimes were. Burkholder noted that those who believed such attacks were somewhat or completely justified -- 11 percent and 8 percent, respectively -- would translate to 440,000 adults 18 or older among Baghdad's adult population of 2.3 million.
Forty-eight percent of those polled said they did not believe that the United States will "remain in Iraq as long as necessary, but not a day more," as President Bush has said. Thirty-six percent said they believed that the Americans would leave as Bush had promised.
The Iraqis don't seem to realize how many schools we have rebuilt. Instead, they insist on focusing on "bad news". There must be something wrong with their media.
Confounding President Bush's pledges to rein in government growth, federal discretionary spending expanded by 12.5 percent in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, capping a two-year bulge that saw the government grow by more than 27 percent, according to preliminary spending figures from congressional budget panels.
The sudden rise in spending subject to Congress's annual discretion stands in marked contrast to the 1990s, when such discretionary spending rose an average of 2.4 percent a year. Not since 1980 and 1981 has federal spending risen at a similar clip. Before those two years, spending increases of this magnitude occurred at the height of the Vietnam War, 1966 to 1968.
"The president has said that he would spend what's necessary to win the war on terrorism and protect Americans at home," she said, "but outside these items, he has put a serious brake on other spending, which is key to halving these deficits over five years."
Even some Republicans have trouble squaring such comments with the evidence. "It's still more than it ought to be," Hazen Marshall, Senate Budget Committee staff director, said of spending that excludes the military and homeland security.
The last time government spending rose this fast was during the borrow-and-spend Reagan Revolution, which ultimately quadrupled the national debt. The rise in spending slowed down under Clinton, who brought us four years of budget surpluses. Now we have the borrow-and-spend Bush Junior administration. And how's the budget deficit looking these days?
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
[Retired Air Force Colonel Sam] Gardiner's dogged research identified a long list of stories that passed through Rumsfeld's propaganda mill. According to Gardiner, "there were over 50 stories manufactured or at least engineered that distorted the picture of Gulf II for the American and British people." Those stories include:
The link between terrorism, Iraq and 9/11
Every one of these stories received extensive publicity and helped form indelible public impressions of the "enemy" and the progress of the invasion. Every one of these stories was false.
"I know what I am suggesting is serious. I did not come to these conclusions lightly," Gardiner admits. "I'm not going to address why they did it. That's something I don't understand even after all the research." But the fact remained that "very bright and even well-intentioned officials found how to control the process of governance in ways never before possible."
Families with husbands, sons and other relatives serving in Iraq gathered in drizzling weather Saturday in this military-dependent city to voice their opposition to the way in which the U.S.-led war is being handled.
"This is how I show my support," said Candance Robison, whose husband, Army 1st Lt. Mike Robison, is serving with the 82nd Airborne Division in Fallujah, Iraq, the heart of anti-American insurgency.
"If my husband got killed and I hadn't done everything I could to bring him home, I'd never forgive myself," said Robison, 27, a mother of two from the Dallas area.
She and others stressed that they wholeheartedly support troops stationed in the Middle East. Their complaint is with the decision-makers in Washington.
"It's our job and our duty to question our government and hold it accountable for what they're doing over there," said Shannon Sharrock, of Temple.
"They think you can't speak against the war without speaking out against the troops," she said. "I'm against the war, therefore (to them) I'm unpatriotic."
Well, that's what they say on Fox News. If you oppose the war, you are anti-American. Never mind that such a statement makes no logical sense. Never mind that over half of Americans now oppose the war. I guess we're all anti-Americans now.
One of George W. Bush's major campaign themes in 2000 was his promise to improve the lives of America's soldiers — and military votes were crucial to his success. But these days some of the harshest criticisms of the Bush administration come from publications aimed at a military audience.
For example, last week the magazine Army Times ran a story with the headline "An Act of 'Betrayal,' " and the subtitle "In the midst of war, key family benefits face cuts." The article went on to assert that there has been "a string of actions by the Bush administration to cut or hold down growth in pay and benefits, including basic pay, combat pay, health-care benefits and the death gratuity paid to survivors of troops who die on active duty."
At one level, this pattern of cuts is standard operating procedure. Just about every apparent promise of financial generosity this administration has made (other than those involving tax cuts for top brackets and corporate contracts) has turned out to be nonoperational. No Child Left Behind got left behind — or at least left without funds. AmeriCorps got praised in the State of the Union address, then left high and dry in the budget that followed. New York's firefighters and policemen got a photo-op with the president, but very little money. For that matter, it's clear that New York will never see the full $20 billion it was promised for rebuilding. Why shouldn't soldiers find themselves subject to the same kind of bait and switch?
And welcome to the club!
It takes stunning arrogance for a president to invade an oil-rich, politically strategic country on the basis of demonstrable lies, put his favorite companies in control of its economic future, create a puppet regime to do his bidding and then claim, as George Bush did last week in a speech, that this is all a bold exercise in spreading democracy. "Iraqi democracy will succeed, and that success will send forth the news from Damascus to Tehran that freedom can be the future of every nation," the president said. "The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution."
Meanwhile, the chaos and bitterness of postwar Iraq continues without break, all the more tragic for its predictability. In fact, we would not be in such a mess today if the president had listened to his own father.
"Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq … would have incurred incalculable human and political costs," co-wrote the senior George Bush in the 1998 book A World Transformed.
"Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world," he continued. "Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land."
Unfortunately, because of George W. Bush, it is just that.
The World Trade Organization yesterday declared that US duties on steel imports violate international trade rules, pressuring the White House to either remove them or face up to $2.2 billion in punitive taxes on US exports.
Repealing the steel tariffs, which have driven down the volume of steel imports while driving up prices on everything from cars to tanker ships, could provoke a backlash against President Bush in three steel-producing states that are crucial to his re-election bid.
"The Europeans know this is difficult for the president politically," said Lael Brainard, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution. "And the president's decision will probably be made on political grounds."
Economists said the Bush administration may respond to the WTO ruling with a half-measure, which would likely be met with new litigation that could prolong the dispute well beyond the presidential election.
Any Veterans' Day that comes in the year before a presidential election will inevitably be marked by accusations that the administration in power is not doing enough to honor the nation's debt to those who defended it. This Nov. 11 is no exception. Democrats charge the Bush administration with sacrificing veterans' benefits, especially health care, to the budget deficits caused by the Bush tax cuts. Medical costs for veterans have skyrocketed as the World War II generation ages and needs more care. Last year Senator Kerry and others blasted the Department of Veterans Affairs for telling its hospitals to stop outreach encouraging veterans to avail themselves of VA aid.
The administration's program to concentrate more resources in states where more veterans reside has resulted in the closing of some health facilities elsewhere. As sensible as that effort may be in theory, it should not leave veterans in other areas with no convenient VA centers.
President Bush responds to criticism by noting that his proposed 2004 budget contains the largest increase ever for veterans' health care. For the first time, veterans with a prescription from a private physician will be able to get it filled at a Department of Veterans Affairs facility, a reflection of the long waiting lists for medical consultations at many VA health centers.
But the administration's least defensible money-saving moves affecting service members concerns their children's education. The administration has proposed closing or transferring control of 58 schools the Defense Department operates on 14 military bases. In addition, it tried to get away with cutting the assistance that civilian school districts get when they educate the children of service members, but Congress flatly rejected that increased burden on communities.
Inexplicably, the administration continues to treat our soldiers and veterans in a shabby manner.
George Soros, one of the world's richest men, has given away nearly $5 billion to promote democracy in the former Soviet bloc, Africa and Asia. Now he has a new project: defeating President Bush.
"It is the central focus of my life," Soros said, his blue eyes settled on an unseen target. The 2004 presidential race, he said in an interview, is "a matter of life and death."
Soros, who has financed efforts to promote open societies in more than 50 countries around the world, is bringing the fight home, he said. On Monday, he and a partner committed up to $5 million to MoveOn.org, a liberal activist group, bringing to $15.5 million the total of his personal contributions to oust Bush.
Overnight, Soros, 74, has become the major financial player of the left. He has elicited cries of foul play from the right. And with a tight nod, he pledged: "If necessary, I would give more money."
"America, under Bush, is a danger to the world," Soros said. Then he smiled: "And I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is."
Soros believes that a "supremacist ideology" guides this White House. He hears echoes in its rhetoric of his childhood in occupied Hungary. "When I hear Bush say, 'You're either with us or against us,' it reminds me of the Germans." It conjures up memories, he said, of Nazi slogans on the walls, Der Feind Hort mit ("The enemy is listening"). "My experiences under Nazi and Soviet rule have sensitized me," he said in a soft Hungarian accent.
At least we have one rich guy on our side.
Monday, November 10, 2003
For example, on Feb. 20, a month before the invasion, Rumsfeld fielded a question about whether Americans would be greeted as liberators if they invaded Iraq. "Do you expect the invasion, if it comes, to be welcomed by the majority of the civilian population of Iraq?" Jim Lehrer asked the defense secretary on PBS's "The News Hour."
"There is no question but that they would be welcomed," Rumsfeld replied, referring to American forces. "Go back to Afghanistan, the people were in the streets playing music, cheering, flying kites, and doing all the things that the Taliban and the al-Qaeda would not let them do."
The Americans-as-liberators theme was repeated by other senior administration officials in the weeks preceding the war, including Rumsfeld's No. 2 - Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz - and Vice President Cheney.
But on Sept. 25, - a particularly bloody day in which one U.S. soldier was killed in an ambush, eight Iraqi civilians died in a mortar strike and a member of the U.S-appointed governing council died after an assassination attempt five days earlier - Rumsfeld was asked about the surging resistance.
"Before the war in Iraq, you stated the case very eloquently and you said . . . they would welcome us with open arms," Sinclair Broadcasting anchor Morris Jones said to Rumsfeld as the prelude to a question.
The defense chief quickly cut him off. "Never said that," he said. "Never did. You may remember it well, but you're thinking of somebody else. You can't find, anywhere, me saying anything like either of those two things you just said I said."
Very nearly 40 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the month of November began. 33 more were killed in October, and 16 more died in September. The total losses, to date, creep towards 400. Few American citizens are aware of this, because the Bush administration has made it policy to deliberately hide these honored dead from the media. No cameras are allowed inside the Dover, DE facility that receives the ruined bodies of our troops.
No cameras are allowed inside Walter Reed Army Medical Center to film the thousands of soldiers who have been catastrophically wounded in Iraq, nor are cameras allowed inside the facility at Ft. Stewart in Georgia where the wounded await treatment in conditions they have described as inhumane.
No Bush official has been to a single funeral for any of the fallen, because that would bring unwanted publicity onto the ruinous casualties we have suffered. The Pentagon is doing its part as well. The term "body bags" was dispensed with during the 1991 Gulf War for the kinder, gentler euphemism "human remains pouches." The term has been changed again by the Pentagon. Today in Iraq, soldiers killed in the line of duty are placed inside "transfer tubes" for their anonymous, unnoticed trip home.
Then again, a just world would have left George W. Bush in the dustbin of history as a thrice-failed oilman who lacked even the courage to complete his stint in the National Guard while better men went off to war in Vietnam to die in his place.
Conservative activists have been demanding that Senate Republicans do more to push through the Bush administration's most extreme judicial nominees. So the Republican leadership is planning a 30-hour talk marathon later this week to protest the Democrats' blocking of a handful of candidates. To up the public-relations quotient, there may be calls for votes on three controversial female nominees. Lost amid the grandstanding about a "crisis" in judicial nominations are the facts: 168 Bush nominees have been confirmed and only four rejected, a far better percentage than for President Bill Clinton.
Bush administration nominees have been moving through the Senate at a rapid clip: in his first three years in office, President Bush has gotten more judges confirmed than President Ronald Reagan did in his first four. When Republicans controlled the Senate, more than 60 Clinton administration judicial candidates were blocked.
Imagine if the government took away the driver's license of anyone who opposed pay raises for government bureaucrats. Imagine it cut off Social Security benefits to retirees who protested the Iraq war. Suppose it withheld a university's cancer research funds because the school refused to support the military's policy of discrimination against gays and lesbians.
That last example isn't imaginary -- it's the law of the land. The law is called the Solomon Amendment, and it gives the Department of Defense the power to cut federal funds to universities unless they give up deeply held beliefs about the equality of students.
The statute is pockmarked with constitutional flaws. Primary among them is the government's attempt to use the power of the purse to reshape the academic environment and suppress educational messages in ways it could never accomplish by direct command.
It'll probably sound like Bush-bashing, but it is becoming clearer every day -- it became crystal, with David Rieff's exhaustive piece in the New York Times Magazine of Nov. 2 -- that we went into Iraq with no postwar plan save unfounded optimism. And now with so little going according to predictions, we don't know what to do next.
George Bush is not a dumb man. But before he decided to seek the presidency, he was willfully ignorant of international affairs -- or at least strangely incurious. How many Americans of his age, opportunity, means and family connection hadn't visited even London, Rome or Paris? His mind became a blank slate for a set of neocon ideologues, whose audacious goal was to reshape the geography of the Middle East, and the 9/11 attacks gave them their opening.
What the Rieff piece makes clear is how methodically the neocons, mostly in the Defense Department, managed to strip influence and power from the experienced and knowledgeable pragmatists, mostly in the State Department.
What now, boss?
The National Park Service, responding to intense conservative criticism, is hoping to unveil next month what a spokesman said was a "more balanced" version of a video that has been shown since 1995 as part of an exhibit at the Lincoln Memorial.
Conservatives have been complaining for months that the eight-minute video -- portions of which have President Abraham Lincoln's speeches read by an actor while footage is shown of historic moments and demonstrations at the memorial -- implies that Lincoln would have supported abortion and gay rights.
A second change would be to add some conservative events, Barna said. One problem seems to be that there haven't been many conservative demonstrations at the memorial, which has been a focal point for liberals for many years.
So the plan now, Barna said, is to add footage of the Christian "Promise Keepers" rally in 1997 and a Desert Storm march after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. One problem, however, is that neither event took place at the memorial, but on the Mall.
Well, how important is historical accuracy anyway? It's not like it's some CBS mini-series.
In his second major policy speech in three months, former vice president Al Gore took aim yesterday at what he said was the Bush administration's exploitation of the terrorist attacks of 2001 to justify an undemocratic suspension of domestic freedoms and to create a government built on "secrecy and deception."
Looking energized and fit, Gore told 3,000 cheering supporters in Washington's DAR Constitution Hall -- and innumerable others who watched on C-Span and on a live Internet webcast -- that President Bush was taking the wrong approach to protecting the nation from terrorist threats.
"I want to challenge the Bush administration's implicit assumption that we have to give up many of our traditional freedoms in order to be safe from terrorists," Gore said during the one-hour speech sponsored by MoveOn.org and the American Constitution Society (ACS).
"Rather than defending our freedoms, this administration has sought to abandon them. Rather than accepting our traditions of openness and accountability, this administration has opted to rule by secrecy and unquestioned authority. Its assaults on our core democratic principles have only left us less free and less secure," he said.
Gee, this Gore fellow would make a great president!
Sunday, November 09, 2003
Moving to pull US troops from Iraq amid intensifying attacks, replacing them with a hurriedly trained Iraqi force, Washington is accused of seeking an exit strategy similar to the Vietnam war.
The move to "Iraqify" military and police forces is reminiscent of the option taken by Washington over the so-called Vietnamization that came before South Vietnam collapsed before northern forces in 1975, observers and politicians say.
Former president Richard Nixon chose to "Vietnamify" -- progressively putting heavier military responsibility on the south Vietnamese so as to disengage the United States, which lost 58,000 soldiers in the tortuous war.
Though the Iraqi conflict is quite different and US casualties nowhere near the levels een in Vietnam, the analogy is being seen increasingly, after Washington said it may cut US troops from 132,000 to 105,000 by next spring.
Parallely, the United States is aiming to take the number of Iraqi security forces -- army, police and border guards -- from 118,000 men to 170,000 by early 2004.
Concerns have been raised over the policy, with claims the US administration is more interested in improving public opinion ahead of the November 2004 elections -- in which Bush will seek a second term -- than in Iraq's stability.
No! Say it ain't so.
An unprecedented array of US intelligence professionals, diplomats and former Pentagon officials have gone on record to lambast the Bush administration for its distortion of the case for war against Iraq. In their view, the very foundations of intelligence-gathering have been damaged in ways that could take years, even decades, to repair.
A new documentary film beginning to circulate in the United States [Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War, put together by Robert Greenwald] features one powerful condemnation after another, from the sort of people who usually stay discreetly in the shadows - a former director of the CIA, two former assistant secretaries of defence, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and even the man who served as President Bush's Secretary of the Army until just a few months ago.
Between them, the two dozen interviewees reveal how the pre-war intelligence record on Iraq showed virtually the opposite of the picture the administration painted to Congress, to US voters and to the world. They also reconstruct the way senior White House officials - notably Vice-President Dick Cheney - leaned on the CIA to find evidence that would fit a preordained set of conclusions.
"There was never a clear and present danger. There was never an imminent threat. Iraq - and we have very good intelligence on this - was never part of the picture of terrorism," says Mel Goodman, a veteran CIA analyst who now teaches at the National War College.
Although it is now.
What the Bush White House has done, [veteran CIA analyst Ray McGovern] believes, is far worse than the false premise that dragged the United States into the Vietnam War - a reported second attack on a US destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin which later turned out not to have taken place. "The Gulf of Tonkin was a spur-of-the-moment thing, and Lyndon Johnson seized on that. That's very different from the very calculated, 18-month, orchestrated, incredibly cynical campaign of lies that we've seen to justify a war. This is an order of magnitude different. It's so blatant."
Mr. McGovern accuses Mr. Bush of an extraordinary act of chutzpah - taking advantage of his authority as President of the United States to make people believe there must be something to his insistent allegations that Iraq possessed potentially devastating weaponry.
"Many of us felt there had to be something there ... If this had been another country, one would have written a convincing analysis that this guy is lying through his teeth, that there are no weapons in Iraq. But people thought, the President can't say he knows something if he doesn't. That was persuasive, in a way.
"Now we know that no other President of the United States has ever lied so baldly and so often and so demonstrably ... The presumption now has to be that he's lying any time that he's saying anything."
That's been my presumption for some time.
An Iraqi scientist killed in the U.S. invasion and now linked by arms hunter David Kay to possible nuclear weapons research was working on an advanced gun, not atomic bombs, fellow physicists say.
They and eyewitnesses also say Khalid Ibrahim Sa'id was killed not when he tried to "run a roadblock," as asserted by Kay, but when a U.S. tank crew blasted his civilian car without warning on an open street.
These accounts of the physicist's research and death, provided by 10 Iraqis and supported on key points by U.N. arms inspectors, challenge a core element of Kay's testimony Oct. 2 to congressional committees in Washington.
The Associated Press asked Kay's Iraq Survey Group to better detail its allegations about the late scientist, but the ISG repeatedly declined. The U.S. weapons hunters also have not disclosed any basis for such allegations to U.N. inspectors, although they had been expected to do so under U.N. resolutions.
President Bush endorsed Kay's work again Oct. 28, telling reporters his chief weapons investigator "continues to ferret out the truth." But Sa'id's longtime colleagues and friends sharply disagree, calling what they read in Kay's report "lies."
The reason every U.S. administration since FDR's has excused Arab autocracy and authoritarianism is not simply a product of what the President described as "cultural condescension" — a notion that Arab societies are unable to support democracy. No. The reason the U.S. has found itself propping up royal autocrats in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Gulf emirates and pre-revolutionary Iran, and military autocrats in Egypt, Algeria and (looking further east) Pakistan is that it prefers governments that will do Washington's bidding over the bidding of their own citizens. During the Cold War, these governments served as a bastion against leftist and nationalist currents hostile to Washington and also as guarantors of a smooth flow of oil to the West. Today, it is the war on terrorism that functions to excuse the authoritarianism of many of Washington's allies in Arab and Muslim lands.
Democracy in the Middle East and nearby Muslim lands would almost certainly restrain cooperation with the U.S. war on terror. Just look at what happened in Turkey on the eve of the Iraq war: Washington had simply assumed that Ankara would jump into line once the U.S. was on the march to war — after all, the country had been effectively ruled since World War II by generals closely aligned with Washington. But Turkey is far more democratic today, and when it was left up to the elected parliament to choose, the U.S. request to invade Iraq from Turkish territory was declined. And it's a safe bet that if Jordan and Saudi Arabia had put the matter of their own cooperation with the Iraq invasion to a freely elected legislature, the response would have been the same as Turkey's.
I have wondered what would happen if the Iraqis voted democratically for a regime or a form of democracy that the Bushies didn't like. Would the new democracy survive without American support, or would it be replaced by a more suitable one - by force if necessary?
Iraq isn't Vietnam, not yet at least. But as criticism of the Bush administration's conduct of the war there intensifies, a number of prominent Vietnam War veterans say they are frequently reminded of the way the White House fumbled away public support for the only major war the United States ever lost.
Many who served in Vietnam -- including members of Congress, former Pentagon officials and a small but influential group of retired generals -- have begun to say what those now in uniform cannot: The Bush administration, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in particular, have not leveled with the public about the difficulty of winning in Iraq.
Though the scale of the war in Iraq is vastly different from the one in Vietnam -- 58,000 Americans died there over nine years, compared with 381 over eight months so far in Iraq -- these critics say the Bush administration is making mistakes that are eerily similar to the ones Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and military leaders made a generation ago. Critics say the administration has underestimated the determination and skill of the enemy, downplayed the danger to U.S. troops and offered overly optimistic predictions that seem blatantly at odds with the grim news Americans see in newspapers and on TV -- just like the White House often did during Vietnam.