Saturday, November 22, 2003
George W. Bush will go down in history as America's worst environmental president. In a ferocious three-year attack, the Bush administration has initiated more than 200 major rollbacks of America's environmental laws, weakening the protection of our country's air, water, public lands and wildlife. Cloaked in meticulously crafted language designed to deceive the public, the administration intends to eliminate the nation's most important environmental laws by the end of the year. Under the guidance of Republican pollster Frank Luntz, the Bush White House has actively hidden its anti-environmental program behind deceptive rhetoric, telegenic spokespeople, secrecy and the intimidation of scientists and bureaucrats.
The Bush attack was not entirely unexpected. George W. Bush had the grimmest environmental record of any governor during his tenure in Texas. Texas became number one in air and water pollution and in the release of toxic chemicals. In his six years in Austin, he championed a short-term pollution-based prosperity, which enriched his political contributors and corporate cronies by lowering the quality of life for everyone else. Now President Bush is set to do the same to America. After three years, his policies are already bearing fruit, diminishing standards of living for millions of Americans.
Today, George W. Bush and his court are treating our country as a grab bag for the robber barons, doling out the commons to large polluters. Last year, as the calamitous rollbacks multiplied, the corporate-owned TV networks devoted less than four percent of their news minutes to environmental stories. If they knew the truth, most Americans would share my fury that this president is allowing his corporate cronies to steal America from our children.
This long article is well worth reading.
[For more information on the Bush administration's environmental actions, see The Bush Record from NRDC, the Natural Resources Defense Council.]
What if you were the boss, and you discovered that nine out of ten of your employees thought you were making decisions detrimental to the company but darn helpful to some of your close friends? That’s how 84 percent of National Park Service employees feel, according to a survey commissioned by the Rockefeller Family Fund’s Campaign to Protect America’s Lands (CPAL). They are concerned that “Decisions are being influenced by politics rather than professional experiences/science.”
Former Shenandoah National Park Superintendent Bill Wade sounds the alarm that, “the national park system is under attack.” What is it that’s threatening everything from the Grand Canyon to the Great Smoky Mountains? Is it the California wildfires, law-breaking logging companies, or some supernova form of Dutch Elm Disease? Nope. It’s a man who, ironically, is named after a plant himself: George W. Bush.
CPAL Director Peter Altman says “All of America’s public lands are under assault by an administration that favors corporations over conservation.”
When you stop and think about it, it really is astonishing how many areas of American life this administration is simultaneously destroying. The grotesque imbalance in Bush's unwavering "100% corporations, 0% people" mentality has to be called pathological. And 87% of Republicans approve of this president!
Prepared nightly by the CIA, the dozen-page [President's Daily Brief] for the president and top aides sets out the most important intelligence gathered in the previous 24 hours. The commission likely will examine an Aug. 6, 2001, presidential briefing that focused on Osama bin Laden's intent to strike the U.S. and raised the possibility of hijackings. The commission also requested CIA daily briefs prepared for former President Bill Clinton.
But "examine" may be the wrong word. "Catch a fleeting glimpse" may be more appropriate. Under the deal with the White House, two members of the 10-member commission will have brief access to about two dozen specific items requested for review that had been part of presidential briefs. A four-member team will review more than 300 items pertaining to Al Qaeda, bin Laden and other issues related to Sept. 11. The review team may only take notes to deliver summaries to the entire commission. Commission members will have to brief White House officials on what they plan to use.
The bureaucratic hoops devised by White House lawyers are a far cry from President Bush's comments when he signed the law creating the commission, exhorting the panel to "follow all the facts, wherever they lead." A committee of Sept. 11 victims' family members criticized the limited access to White House documents, arguing that will "prevent a full uncovering of the truth." The group also called on the commission to publicly release the full, written agreement it reached with the White House, which would help the public understand limits placed on the commission.
The top security official in the former Soviet republic of Georgia called Friday for new parliamentary elections as a compromise solution to the countr's political crisis.
National Security Council chief Tedo Japaridze acknowledged "vote rigging and fraud" in balloting early this month but said the officially chosen parliament should be allowed to convene pending early elections to pick a replacement.
Opposition leaders, however, vowed to press on with protests aimed at preventing the new parliament from opening as scheduled today. They said they feared the proposal for lawmakers to convene was aimed at installing a regional strongman allied with President Eduard A. Shevardnadze as the beleaguered leader's successor.
Could it happen here?
Brazil, by far Latin America's largest economy, has never been eager to create a meaningful free trade area for the entire hemisphere. It would like to protect its industry from outside competition, and it has no desire to agree to the types of rules governing intellectual property, investment and government procurement that should be part of a muscular trade deal.
That ambivalence was to be expected, but American negotiators' deference to it was rather shocking. Nations like Canada, Mexico and Chile — strong Washington allies that have already signed ambitious trade deals with the United States — could not help but feel betrayed by the outcome in Miami. Washington says it wants to strike more ambitious deals with individual Latin American nations, but the prospect of a patchwork of minideals is a messy one, and one potentially unfair to those countries that have made greater concessions to Washington.
The Bush administration succumbed to Brazil's ambivalence because of its unwillingness to end America's trade-distorting farm subsidies. At the W.T.O.'s gathering in Cancún, the United States sided with the European Union on this point and against Brazil. Agriculture is of immense importance to Latin America because its farmers can compete against American agribusiness in some markets if given a level playing field.
The Bush administration's disturbing pattern of defensively siding with the most obstructionist party at these international negotiations mirrors its domestic strategy of trying to placate narrow protectionist special interests, be they steel makers, cotton farmers or the textile lobby. Both at home and abroad, this approach is a recipe for disaster.
Friday, November 21, 2003
"This is a good bill that will help every Medicare beneficiary," wrote Tom Scully, the Medicare administrator, in a letter to The New York Times defending the prescription drug bill. That's flatly untrue. (Are you surprised?) As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, the bill will force millions of beneficiaries to pay more for drugs, thanks to a provision that cuts off supplemental aid from Medicaid. Poorer recipients may find previously affordable drugs moving out of reach.
That's only one of a number of anti-retiree measures tucked away in the bill. It contains several Trojan horse provisions that are clearly intended to undermine Medicare over time — it will allow private insurers to cherry-pick healthy clients in selected cities, and it will heavily subsidize private plans competing with traditional Medicare. Meanwhile, the bill prohibits Medicare from using its bargaining power to cut drug prices; drug company stocks have soared since the bill's details became public.
Yet the bill has a good chance of passing, thanks to an endorsement from AARP, the retiree advocacy organization, which has already begun an expensive advertising campaign on the bill's behalf. What's going on?
This Republican-written Medicare bill sounds pretty bad, unless you happen to be a drug or insurance company.
The Medicare reform bill expected to clear Congress in the next few days promises the prescription drug benefit older Americans have been waiting for. But analysts say many seniors will find that the plan fails the what's-in-it-for-me test.
The drug benefit is the centerpiece of a $400-billion bill, endorsed by a conference committee Thursday, that would make the most far-reaching changes in Medicare since its enactment in 1965. But the bill's particulars suggest that the benefit will vary depending on seniors' drug needs and incomes.
"Seniors felt they had been promised the kind of prescription drug coverage that members of Congress have," said Judith Feder, dean of public policy at Georgetown University. "What they're getting doesn't even remotely resemble that."
Just last week, President Bush implied that the new benefits would be much like those enjoyed not only by many working average Americans, but also by their elected representatives.
"Every member of Congress gets to choose a health-care plan that makes the most sense for them. And the same for federal employees. If choice is good for members of the Congress, then choice is good for America's seniors," he said.
And we know this president is pro-choice. Don't we?
The Bush administration's Medicare bill is a calculated first step toward ending universal Medicare in favor of vouchers. President Bush and his congressional allies have baited this hook with prescription drug benefits. And with legislators wanting to go home for Thanksgiving, the White House hopes to force a vote next week.
The haste is understandable: The more time legislators have to study this Trojan horse of a bill, the less likely they are to vote for it.
Bush's bet is that the Democrats are damned either way. Either voters don't read the fine print and Democrats get tarred for opposing a drug-benefit bill in an election season or they are made to collude in "voucherizing" Medicare.
If the Senate's liberals and moderates can withstand the pressure for a quick vote, the bill's cynically contrived deficiencies will come to light. And at least 41 senators — the number needed to filibuster — will realize that it's better election-season politics to resist wrecking a much-loved program than being complicit in its demise.
For the second time in a year, the United States is trying to persuade a skeptical international community to confront a Middle Eastern nation that the Bush administration believes is bent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
This time, the target is Iran instead of Iraq, but much of the script is the same. The administration believes that intelligence shows beyond a doubt that Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons, and that the United Nations should respond with punitive action. Key members of the international community disagree on what to do.
And this time, the U.S. must contend with the skepticism raised by its failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
The U.N. atomic watchdog agency last week issued a report saying that although Iran has long concealed elements of a nuclear program, inspectors have "found no evidence" that Iran's activities were part of a weapons program — although it said such a goal could not be ruled out.
This is the real tragedy of the Bush administration's lying cries of "Wolf!" in Iraq. The resulting erosion of trust may cause the international community to dismiss real dangers elsewhere.
A key opposition leader in the former Soviet republic of Georgia denounced the announcement Thursday of official election results favorable to pro-government parties as a "coup" engineered by President Eduard A. Shevardnadze.
"These results are illegitimate, and the parliament is illegal," Mikheil Saakashvili told a televised news conference in Tblisi, Georgia's capital. "This parliament should not and will not survive if we are to have a future. This is usurpation of power. It is a coup by the dictator Shevardnadze."
Setting the stage for a fresh standoff in the streets after more than two weeks of almost daily opposition rallies, Shevardnadze scheduled the new parliament's first session for Saturday.
"We have no more illusions left," Saakashvili declared. "President Shevardnadze has turned into Dictator Shevardnadze, so any country that supports him will risk its own reputation, its international authority, because it is a sin to support dictators who stand on violence, on such rigged elections, on lies and ignoring the will of their own people."
Could it happen here?
A sweeping measure laying out the nation's first energy policy in a decade -- hammered together during two years of backroom negotiating, then hailed as a way to prevent a repeat of August's embarrassing blackout -- has hit bipartisan opposition in the Senate, where lawmakers are denouncing the package as a corporate giveaway that will not reduce US reliance on foreign oil.
The Senate is expected to vote today on whether to end debate on the contentious bill or kill it for the foreseeable future. The Bush administration and Republican leaders have been lobbying frenetically to approve the bill, a priority of both President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, whose task force began developing a new energy policy in closed-door meetings nearly three years ago.
Many Democrats and some Republicans are balking at the 1,100-page bill, calling it a hodgepodge of regional pork projects and industry giveaways, including some $23 billion in incentives for energy companies and cash for projects such as ethanol production and an environmentally-friendly Hooters restaurant in Louisiana, the home state of Republican Representative Billy Tauzin, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
"The energy bill is the worst case of pork-barreling and vote-buying I've seen," said Senator John S. McCain, Republican of Arizona, who has pledged to back a threatened filibuster of the bill. New England senators also oppose the bill, which Senator John Sununu, Republican of New Hampshire, said would "transfer wealth and tax revenues from the Northeast to agribusiness in the Midwest."
So we finally get our long-awaited energy bill - lovingly hand-crafted in a locked room containing only Republicans and corporate executives. Many Republicans simply will not listen to any point of view they don't already agree with. Result: the corporations win; the people lose.
Always an advocate for public transportation, Michael Dukakis rode a bus to the state for his address to a political science class at the University of New Hampshire.
"I’m a somewhat obsessively transit-oriented guy," Dukakis said. "I wish the Amtrak ran faster and more frequently."
Dukakis, who won the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1988, gave the class a personal account of his campaign more than a decade ago.
"I ran into a bit of a buzz saw," Dukakis said.
He said he dropped eight points in one week after Bush allegedly had President Reagan refer to Dukakis as an "invalid." Dukakis said he hopes the current Democratic candidates are ready for similar encounters.
"Whoever the Democratic nominee will, in my judgment, be subjected to a brutal attack campaign by Bush," Dukakis said. "This is the worst national administration I’ve ever lived under, bar none. I want this guy out of there."
You and me both, Mike.
The Bush administration has gone to great lengths, even so far as giving false information to Congress, to gut a clean air regulation opposed by electric utilities – an industry that funneled $4.8 million into Bush’s 2000 campaign.
An investigation by the GAO now has confirmed key findings contained in Public Citizen’s report, EPA’s Smoke Screen: How Deception of Congress, Campaign Contributions and Political Connections Gutted a Key Clean Air Rule.
Documents and discussions with former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials reveal that Bush appointees made untrue statements to two Senate committees when asked if a weakened New Source Review (NSR) rule was expected to jeopardize pollution lawsuits. Contrary to what senators were told, EPA staffers had concluded that the new rule would undercut enforcement cases that had the potential to reduce air pollution from U.S. electric utilities by 50 percent annually.
[Page down for this item. Also check out the Executive Summary of the GAO report. Other related items are also available from this valuable web site.]
Australian officers were denied access to critical US intelligence during the Iraq war, potentially putting their lives at risk, under a policy described by a senior US Air Force intelligence officer as "damn silly".
Australian and British officers were sometimes asked to leave the room during US intelligence briefings, even though some of the information came from Australian and British intelligence services, a conference in Washington was told this week.
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, at a joint news conference with Australian Defence Minister Robert Hill on Wednesday, conceded there was a problem but it was being fixed.
The London Daily Telegraph quoted a US Air Force intelligence officer, Colonel Allen Roby, saying: "They gave us stuff and we labelled it secret and then they weren't allowed to see it."
That is damn silly.
Thursday, November 20, 2003
A leaked Defense Department memo claiming new evidence of an “operational relationship” between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein’s former regime is mostly based on unverified claims that were first advanced by some top Bush administration officials more than a year ago—and were largely discounted at the time by the U.S. intelligence community, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials.
CASE CLOSED blared the headline in a Weekly Standard cover story last Saturday that purported to have unearthed the U.S. government’s “secret evidence of cooperation” between Saddam and bin Laden. Fred Barnes, the magazine’s executive editor, touted the magazine’s scoop the next day in a roundtable chat on “Fox News Sunday.” (Both the Standard and Fox News Channel are owned by the conservative media baron Rupert Murdoch.) “These are hard facts, and I’d like to see you refute any one of them,” he told a skeptical Juan Williams of National Public Radio.
International lawyers and anti-war campaigners reacted with astonishment yesterday after the influential Pentagon hawk Richard Perle conceded that the invasion of Iraq had been illegal. In a startling break with the official White House and Downing Street lines, Mr Perle told an audience in London: "I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing."
President George Bush has consistently argued that the war was legal either because of existing UN security council resolutions on Iraq - also the British government's publicly stated view - or as an act of self-defence permitted by international law.
But Mr Perle, a key member of the defence policy board, which advises the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said that "international law ... would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone", and this would have been morally unacceptable.
And your point is...?
Here at home we are told that the true reason we invaded [Iraq] was to rid the oppressed Iraqi people of their tyrant and to prevent him from harming us sometime in the future. Oh, and to sow the seeds of democracy in the Middle East which so desperately needs our Western guidance.
So everybody wins in the end. A hodgepodge council of Iraqi exiles we've magically installed as the ruling council will write a constitution (now in very short order). We then get to the good part where they elect a democratic government in six months and thus are pronounced saved. We get our troops out before the electorate kicks the Republicans out of the White House next November.
It is obscene that we have killed so many Iraqis in the sacred name of Democracy. It is a betrayal of our heritage to have invaded a nation because it fit a neocon model of how best to mold the world in our own image now that the Soviets are gone. (Syria, watch out).
Waging war is not a one-size-fits-all solution to international problems, but it is the one capability we budget for with religious fervor. Imagine what would happen if we spent that money on teaching our best and brightest how to be genuine statesmen and righteous diplomats or perhaps in finding pure water or providing medical care and local teachers and other necessary building blocks like that. But no, we are told these kinds of things should come from private charities and religious groups. It's not the province of government. At least not a Republican government.
At least not this one.
The FBI has launched a new background-check system that notifies counterterrorism agents when suspects on its terrorist watch list attempt to buy guns, but regulations prohibit those officials from obtaining details if the transaction occurs, according to federal officials familiar with the system.
If the purchase is blocked, however, the FBI is permitted to investigate the person who attempted to buy the weapon.
The result, according to the officials, is an awkward situation in which terrorism suspects who do not complete gun purchases may be located but those toting lawfully purchased weapons may not be sought.
Sounds like more shameless pandering, this time to the gun lobby and the NRA. As always, political gain trumps national security for the Bushies.
One of the energy industry's most influential lobbying groups paid for the travel to Europe last summer of several congressional aides who worked on the energy legislation now pending in Congress.
The Edison Electric Institute sponsored the trip, which included aides to such lawmakers as House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-La.) and Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), who heads the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The group flew Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), another key lawmaker on energy legislation, to Colorado Springs days later.
The lawmakers and their aides are among the most important authors of the energy legislation now before Congress. The trips were first reported by the congressional newspaper Roll Call, which analyzed disclosure forms required under the chambers' ethics rules. Acceptance of such travel is not illegal.
The newspaper found that, in all, eight Republican staffers flew, with a handful of officials from American utility companies, to London and Scotland.
It makes it sound as if these trips were offered only to Republicans and corporate executives. Where were the Democrats?
Everything Mr. Bush did in London reinforced the idea that this was a trip made not so much to thank the British people for their friendship, but to send a message to the voters back home that he was at ease as a world leader.
The White House spared Mr. Bush from having to endure a session with the rowdy Parliament and flew him by helicopter over the protesting rabble, who think a bullying Bush administration dragged Britain into the war under false pretenses. (Scotland Yard even wanted to keep the president in a "mobile-free bubble" that would block cellphone calls in his vicinity, but the phone companies refused, calling it "Bush hysteria.")
The White House packaged the visit for the viewers at home.
How else to explain the same Bush advance geniuses who brought us the "Mission Accomplished" banner putting up a blue PowerPoint-ish backdrop for the president's speech at Whitehall Palace that stuttered, "United Kingdom," "United Kingdom," "United Kingdom."
The people in the United Kingdom already knew he was in the United Kingdom. And the kingdom isn't very united at the moment.
Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, captured the spirit of the moment when he told NPR that the Republican National Committee should foot the bill for Mr. Bush's extraordinary security, the largest police operation ever in Great Britain. All this, he harrumphed, "just so George Bush can use a few clips of him and the queen in his campaign advertisements for re-election next year."
Why else would you go to London in November? It's just another phony photo op.
The Victoria's Secret prime-time fashion show was broadcast last night. Neither Heidi Klum nor Tyra Banks unfurled banners protesting Washington's plans to restrict the importation of made-in-China lingerie. And that's too bad. It might have lent the vapid hour a worthier air.
On Tuesday, the Bush administration announced that it would restore curbs on imports of Chinese knit fabrics, dressing gowns and bras. Under the terms of the agreement China signed to join the World Trade Organization, Washington is entitled to stem any surge of imports from China, without needing to allege any wrongdoing.
But the case against Beijing looks flimsy. China simply appears to be the current scapegoat of choice in Washington for any and all economic woes. Far more of the 2.5 million manufacturing jobs lost in this country since 2001 were lost to a slowing economy and to productivity growth than to any foreigner's nefarious ways.
I assume they couldn't find a way to blame the problem on Bill (or Hillary) Clinton, so they took off after China.
We'll never know whether strenuous efforts to persuade the European public [to support an invasion of Iraq] would have worked. We only know they weren't tried.
Why didn't Bush fly to Paris and make a major public address on the reasons the U.S. viewed military force as necessary, in order that the resolutions of the U.N. and the free world were not mocked and exposed as hollow? Why didn't he say he understood that Europe's bloody history and newly integrating political culture gave the Continent a different view of the legitimacy of force as a way to solve international problems? And that although he empathized with that history, he nonetheless felt that his duty to protect the United States impelled him to view the risk of inaction as greater than the risk of acting?
Why didn't Powell and Rumsfeld fan out to Berlin and London and Istanbul with similar messages — generating coverage and debate in which American officials would have been seen respectfully making the case to allies whose views were deemed relevant and worthy of persuasion? Why instead did Rumsfeld simply dismiss "Old Europe" in macho fashion and assert (wrongly, in the long run) that we could go it alone?
Why, in a word, didn't Bush lead?
I'm trying to remember the protests that occurred when President Clinton visited foreign capitals.
The fingerprints of the energy industry, major contributor to the Bush 2000 campaign and to Republicans in Congress, are all over [the Republican-written energy] bill. In addition to the tax incentives, it would protect the makers of the gasoline additive MTBE from some of their liability for the damage it does to ground water.
The bill grants the natural gas industry an $18 billion loan guarantee for a pipeline to send Alaskan gas to the lower 48. Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel, but if the pipeline makes sense economically it shouldn't need such a large guarantee.
One rider would exempt from Clean Air Act protections some of the most polluted cities in the country, including Dallas, Baton Rouge, La., and Atlanta. The bill would also exempt the oil and gas industry from Clean Water Act provisions limiting storm water pollution from construction sites. Thanks to the bill's repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act, utilities would be even freer to engage in Enron-like abuses.
By spurring use of fossil fuels, especially coal, this bill would actually accelerate global warming and do little to make the United States less dependent on foreign petroleum. The legislation should be rejected, even if that requires a Senate filibuster.
Diplomats convening today to address Iran's alleged weapons program worked late into last night in an effort to mend a growing rift between the United States and key European allies over how hard a line to take with Tehran.
The Bush administration has accused Iran of using its civilian nuclear power program to covertly produce plutonium and enriched uranium, which could be used in nuclear bombs. It had been pushing for the International Atomic Energy Agency to declare Tehran in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and to bring the issue before the UN Security Council, which could impose sanctions.
"America believes the IAEA must be true to its purpose and hold Iran to its obligations," President Bush said in a speech in London yesterday.
Britain, Germany, and France are pushing a softer line and have circulated a draft resolution on Iran that the United States views as inadequate. The European nations argue that despite past concealments of nuclear activities, Iran has recently come clean and agreed to comprehensive inspections.
This all has a familiar ring to it.
President Bush yesterday delivered what was widely viewed as a powerful call for resolve in the war on terrorism and in transforming the Middle East, but to many British and European observers, it sounded like a sermon Bush has preached before.
And if -- as senior White House officials told reporters before his arrival -- a goal of this historic state visit was to reintroduce Bush to Britain and the rest of Europe and erase the caricature of him as a unilateralist cowboy, then, analysts here say, the speech fell short.
Charles Grant, director of the Center for European Reform, a London-based think tank, said Bush did little to change perceptions.
"It was the same message we've heard. He has not given Europeans much reason to believe that he is leaving behind the cowboy, gun-slinging approach," Grant said. "The speech still had that moralistic and preachy tone."
Well remember, Bush was appointed by God. Of course he is going to be preachy.
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
There has been considerable discussion recently about whether President Bush has done enough to honor the lives of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. While the president writes letters to the families of soldiers who have been killed and meets privately with them at military bases, he has not attended an open memorial or a military service. That's a mistake.
And if given the opportunity, I would tell the president today what I told the general back then [regarding presidential acknowledgment of military memorial services]. The commander in chief should publicly honor the individual lives sacrificed in war. He should show his respect in front of the television cameras. A nation is a community, and the lives that are lost belong not just to their families, but to us all. As the only political figure who represents the whole nation, the duty of commemorating these deaths belongs uniquely to the president.
As a fellow Republican, I would also offer Karl Rove some friendly political advice. Skipping memorial services makes the president look weak. It creates the impression that he values his own political standing above the lost lives of servicemen and women. Avoiding the grieving families invites demagoguery because so many of our professional soldiers come from the middle and lower classes of American society, and not the president's own privileged social class. With an election approaching, presenting the picture of a president who has time for fundraisers but not for military funerals would be an egregious mistake.
Finally, there is an asymmetry to the administration's use of the military in presidential events. It is wrong to bask publicly in glory on the deck of an aircraft carrier unless you are also willing to grieve openly for fallen soldiers. You can't wrap yourself in the flag while avoiding flag-draped coffins.
With Fox News to help, maybe you can.
The Bush administration insists that it can hold American citizens in secret as long as it wants, without access to lawyers, simply by calling them "enemy combatants." A New York federal appeals court heard a challenge to that policy this week by the so-called dirty bomber, Jose Padilla. The administration's position makes a mockery of the Constitution and puts every American's liberty at risk. It is important that the court strike it down, and give Mr. Padilla the rights he has been denied.
Mr. Padilla is an American citizen who was taken into custody in Chicago in May 2002. The government suspects him of being part of a "dirty bomb" plot by Al Qaeda, but it has not charged him. Instead, it has labeled him an enemy combatant and locked him up in a naval brig in South Carolina. He has been held there nearly 18 months, with no indication of when he will be tried or released. He has not been allowed to meet with a lawyer, despite a lower court ruling that he should be.
Of all the post-Sept. 11 denials of civil liberties, the enemy combatant doctrine is among the worst. It gives the president untrammeled authority to lock up Americans merely by asserting that they are part of a terrorist plot. In its argument to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit this week, the government insisted that military-style rules like the enemy combatant doctrine now apply to American citizens, even on American soil, because Al Qaeda has "made the battlefield the United States."
The final tallies for spending during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 are coming in, and for anyone who thought Republican control of Congress and the presidency meant a new era of budgetary discipline -- indeed, for anyone who's worried about the country's fiscal condition -- the numbers are sobering. Discretionary spending authority swelled by 9 percent in 2003, even after adjusting for inflation. Over the past two years, it's grown nearly 26 percent.
Now the Republican majority, having done nothing to restrain spending, is on the brink of two legislative "accomplishments" that would spill more red ink. The energy bill was stuffed full of special interest provisions to grease its passage -- bringing the 10-year cost to $31 billion, four times what the Bush administration proposed. But that's small change compared with the Medicare prescription drug bill, expected to be officially "scored" at $400 billion but apt to cost even more. And a new report by House Appropriations Committee Democrats details the dizzying rise in "earmarks" since the GOP took control of the House -- the very kind of pork spending Republicans railed against when they were out of power.
This is restraint?
No, it's not. The administration doesn't know the meaning of the word.
A federal judge yesterday upheld Interior Department regulations that allow more mining on public lands but criticized the rules, redrafted just weeks after President Bush took office, for putting industry wishes above environmental protections.
U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. said he had no legal grounds to strike down the rules but did order the Interior Department to rewrite and review a portion of the regulations. He said some of the new rules fail to require that mining companies pay the government full market value if they alter public lands in the course of digging up valuable minerals.
"It is clear that mining operations often have highly significant -- and sometimes devastating -- environmental consequences," Kennedy wrote. "It is also clear that the 2001 regulations, in many cases, prioritize the interest of miners . . . over the interests of persons . . . who seek to conserve and protect the public lands."
It only violates our planet, and our sense of justice.
Several newspapers and other media outlets had egg on their face Monday after reporting or endorsing a Weekly Standard story revealing new evidence of an "operational relationship" between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden.
Several outlets, including the New York Post, The Washington Times and Fox News, ran with the story. There was just one problem: On Saturday, the Pentagon issued a press release stating that "news reports that the Defense Department recently confirmed new information with respect to contacts between al-Qaida and Iraq ... are inaccurate."
Despite this, the New York Post on Monday titled its editorial on the subject: "Bush Was Right."
Some dreams die hard.
You've just liberated a nation from a tyrant who spread his lies through a state-run TV network. What do you do next? If you're the Bush Administration, you spread the good news...by setting up a state-run TV network!
Apparently, along with market capitalism and the one-man-one-vote principle, the Administration intends to export to Iraq America's delicious sense of irony. As reported in the New York Observer, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) plans to begin a 24-hour broadcast service, dedicated to reporting the Iraq news it deems important. The broadcast will be live and unfiltered — unfiltered, at least, by meddlesome journalists. Dorrance Smith, a CPA media adviser and a former ABC News producer, told the Observer that the network's model was the wartime broadcasts from Centcom headquarters, which frustrated journalists with their lack of specifics but convinced audiences that we were blowing up a lot of stuff real good. The hope is that local TV stations will use the feed, allowing the government to take its reportage straight to the public.
This is not the first time the Bush Administration has pulled an end-around play on the national media. Just before the war, the President held a press conference with preselected questions from preselected reporters; in September, he gave a round of interviews with local journalists, a slap at big-media reporters who weren't playing nice. Now the Bushies gripe that the press is ignoring the good news from Iraq in favor of the bombing of the minute. With a dictator overthrown and schools being rebuilt, why should the press fixate solely on violence and dramatics?
Sins of omission, sins of omission, so often so much more grave than our sins of commission. And we rarely pay for them in a timely fashion -- it is usually further on down the road that the gravity of whatever it was we should have done and failed to do becomes apparent. But the Bush administration seems to be an exception to this rule. The consequences of what the Bushies resolutely ignore, shove under the rug or divert our attention from seems to come back to bite them with atypical speed.
I suspect the Bushies' gravest sin of omission does in fact follow the usual rule -- it's a pretty good bet both future historians and future citizens will curse this administration for ignoring the growing avalanche of evidence about global warming. But operating on the splendid principle that sufficient-unto-the-day-is-the-evil-thereof, Bush & Co. have decided to put off even thinking about or studying that rather menacing problem in favor of more important stuff, like Star Wars.
On the it-won't-go-away-if-you-ignore-it front, we find Osama bin Laden, the nation's health care system, the Israeli-Palestinian problem, regulation of the financial industry, the environment, Afghanistan, dependence on foreign oil, dependence on fossil fuels and a whole host more.
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
No decision can be more sobering and important for our president and the country than the decision to send America's sons and daughters to war. Since Sept. 11, 2001, that decision has become even more difficult. Now the United States may have no choice but to be ready to strike preemptively if a threat from terrorists or rogue nations rises to a clear and present danger. But initiating war by preemptive attack unquestionably requires that an enemy have not only the desire but also the capability to carry out an attack against our citizens.
In the case of Iraq the president unequivocally told the country that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction of such force and readiness that our nation was at risk. The president's case was based in part on U.S. and foreign intelligence and in part on the judgments of his administration. I and many others supported the Iraq war resolution largely because of those presentations. And while today there is no question that Saddam Hussein was a brutal and dangerous dictator, we must face the fact that both the intelligence agencies and the administration increasingly appear to have been wrong in their assessment of the threat Hussein posed to the United States.
The chairman recently went so far as to say that "there is no doubt how the intelligence was used" prior to the war, and so there is "nothing to review" [Pat Roberts, op-ed, Nov. 13]. In fact, there is disconcerting evidence that in this administration, the policymaking is driving the intelligence rather than the other way around.
[The writer is a Democratic senator from West Virginia and vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.]
The Environmental Protection Agency is considering an important rule change that for the first time would allow the nuclear industry to store low-level radioactive material in ordinary landfills and hazardous waste sites.
The agency today will formally invite public comment on its plan to "promote a more consistent framework" for the disposal of the waste, including such low-yielding radioactive materials as cesium, strontium, cobalt and plutonium. Currently, those materials must be stored in nuclear waste sites closely regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the EPA and state governments.
"The EPA's proposal is to deregulate radioactive waste, pure and simple," said Diane D'Arrigo of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, a watchdog organization.
Well, it's simple, anyway.
On the eve of President Bush's state visit to Britain, the wife of Prime Minister Tony Blair strongly criticized the administration's campaign against the International Criminal Court, saying its concerns are "not well founded."
Cherie Booth, a leading human rights lawyer, levied the criticism yesterday during a panel discussion on human rights and international law at Georgetown University. Most of her remarks were an academic and historical overview of the development of international law, but she devoted a substantial portion to countering Bush's arguments for rejecting the court.
The administration, which removed the United States from the treaty establishing the court signed by President Bill Clinton, has argued that with peacekeeping missions around the world, U.S. military personnel would be subject to whims of an "unaccountable prosecutor and its unchecked judicial power." The administration has not only rejected the court, designed to deal with war crimes and genocide, but pressured countries to sign bilateral agreements that would exempt the United States from the court's jurisdiction.
The court, she said, would only take on a case if a country has no functioning judicial system or if it refused to investigate a case without adequate explanation. The court "buttresses but does not override national judicial systems," she said.
"It seems inconceivable that a state committed to the rule of law, such as the U.S., would refuse to investigate and prosecute its nationals should there be reliable evidence that they had been involved in international crimes," she said.
Welcome to New America, where the inconceivable becomes reality!
President Bush seems to have been the recipient of poor intelligence again. Last weekend, he claimed that the energy bill approved by Republican leaders would make the country "more secure." Senator John McCain's description of the bill as a "leave no lobbyist behind" barrel of pork for selected industries and campaign contributors was closer to the truth. So was Senator Robert Byrd's unsparing judgment that the bill would "do about as much to improve the nation's energy security as the administration's invasion of Iraq has done to stem the tide of global terrorism."
One can only hope for a similar show of honesty from 39 of their Senate colleagues, 41 being the minimum needed to sustain a filibuster and launch this dreadful bill into the legislative netherworld where it belongs. At that point Congress can start again and give the country an energy strategy worthy of the problems it faces, oil dependency being one, and global warming another.
Both problems require fossil fuel alternatives — not just environmentalists' favorite hobbyhorses, like wind and solar power, but biofuels that can take the place of gasoline. They demand vastly more efficient cars and trucks, as well as more benign forms of coal, the world's most abundant fuel. This bill takes baby steps — a clean-coal demonstration project here, a hydrogen project there — that pale next to the huge tax breaks and generous regulatory rollbacks it gives fossil fuel producers.
It's a simple matter of priorities, you see.
Here we go again. Only now it's the "Iraqification" rather than the "Vietnamization" of a quagmire war in another distant and increasingly hostile land.
Washington's puppets are once again said to be on the verge of getting their act together, and the American people are daily assured that we are about to turn the corner. Soon we will be able to give Iraq back to the Iraqis, and some distant day the United States will get out. In the meantime, U.S. troops must continue in a "support role" while being maimed and killed with increasing frequency.
Sorry to appear so jaded, but it has been nearly 40 years since I was briefed in Saigon by U.S. officials about the great progress being made in turning the affairs of South Vietnam over to Washington's handpicked leaders of that country. I was also told with great emotional forcefulness that it would be irresponsible to just leave, given the dire consequences for world freedom.
We better stop - hey, what's that sound? Everybody look what's going down.
A House-Senate negotiating committee Monday sent to both chambers for final approval a Republican-drafted energy bill filled with home state measures designed to overcome objections to the legislation's cost and effect on the environment.
As early as today, the House is expected to approve the first overhaul of national energy policy in a decade. The more difficult battle for the bill's proponents lies ahead in the narrowly divided Senate.
The action came as the cost estimate of the tax breaks contained in the measure grew to $23 billion over the next decade, nearly triple what President Bush has advocated to promote production and conservation. Bush is, nonetheless, expected to sign the bill, which he has called critical to economic growth and national security.
Taxpayers say it would deepen the federal budget deficit. And water agencies object to a provision limiting the liability of makers of methyl tertiary-butyl ether, or MTBE, a fuel additive blamed for contaminating water supplies from California to New Hampshire.
But other than that, it's fine.
Posing an interesting challenge to the Democrats running for president, Treasury Secretary John Snow last week dusted off yet another package of tax cuts for the you-know-who that President Bush would love to make part of his reelection year agenda. So many highest-income shelters to create, so little time.
Coming after a third round of goodies last spring and an autumn crammed with corporate scams (from the oil and gas boys to health insurance companies), the next round is designed to slip through the back door a virtual exclusion of investment income from taxation.
The rhetoric will be all about promoting saving, but the reality will be something quite different -- part of a careful rearrangement of the tax burden, as Senator John Edwards likes to say, away from wealth and onto ordinary income (the kind you work for).
And what would this president know about that?
A federal appeals court yesterday sharply questioned the Bush administration's decision to classify a US citizen suspected in an alleged "dirty bomb" plot as an enemy combatant, thus denying him access to legal counsel.
A member of the three-judge panel called placing Jose Padilla in military custody a "sea change in the constitutional life of the country." US District Judge Barrington D. Parker Jr. said the result could lead to changes that "have been unprecedented in civilized society."
Padilla, a 33-year-old, Brooklyn-born Muslim convert, is accused of plotting with Al Qaeda operatives to explode a bomb containing radioactive materials within the United States. He was arrested at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago upon returning from Pakistan in May 2002 and has been held in the US Navy brig in Charleston, S.C.
"The Constitution demands that it be rejected," she said.
Is the Constitution prepared to make a large contribution to the Bush campaign? If not, sit down and shut up.
More than a dozen state attorneys general yesterday sought to block the federal government from implementing a rule change they argued would lead to more air pollution from the nation's power plants.
Fourteen states, including Massachusetts, and a number of cities -- including New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. -- are seeking a court injunction to impede a measure by the Environmental Protection Agency before it goes into effect Dec. 26.
They want to block the EPA's loosening of Clean Air Act regulations that would allow older power plants, refineries, and factories to modernize without having to install expensive pollution controls. "If these rules go into effect even temporarily," said New York state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, "utilities will get the green light to spew forth pollution and violate the clear meaning of a statute that has for decades protected the quality of the air that we breathe."
In Bushtopia, corporate profits are more important than clean air.
Monday, November 17, 2003
Energy industries that have invested millions of dollars in lawmakers' campaigns would reap billions in tax breaks and potential new business from compromise Republican legislation.
President Bush took office promising to develop a new energy policy. Since then, energy-related businesses have contributed nearly $70 million to lawmakers and political parties, with about three-fourths of it going to Republicans, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission records by the Center for Responsive Politics.
The energy sector also gave $67 million, $50 million to Republicans, during the 2000 election cycle, when Bush won the presidency and Republicans regained control of the Senate.
The House and Senate are expected to vote this week on the compromise developed by GOP negotiators. The measure is designed to boost energy production, improve the reliability of the electricity grids, and make it easier for energy companies to develop oil and gas on federal land.
Energy interests have been "giving heavily to the Republicans for a long time, and this is what it's all about in the end," said Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a bipartisan research group.
"It looks like they got an energy bill that they wanted."
"These [judicial nominees] deserve an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. If they get an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor, they will be confirmed because the majority of justices believe they should serve," Bush said, apparently substituting "justices" for "senators."
He added: "And yet a few senators are playing politics. And it's wrong, and it's shameful, and it's hurting the system."
The president spoke with reporters summoned to the Oval Office for his remarks before he left the White House for a trip to Florida built around two campaign fundraising events and a speech on Medicare.
The president's remarks put him front-and-center before television cameras in a message that added his voice to the complaints that Republican senators have been making during the all-night session that began at 6 p.m. Wednesday and was scheduled to last into tonight.
Bush and his Senate allies have complained for months that Democrats are using the rules of the Senate — much as Republicans did when Bill Clinton was president — to prohibit final votes on his most controversial judicial nominations.
And remember, Bush has sent over 172 judicial nominees. Of the 172, the Senate has confirmed 168, giving him a 98% success rate. To Bush, the rejection of three extremist judges (one nominee dropped out earlier) is "wrong, and it's shameful, and it's hurting the system". Clearly, the only thing that wouldn't "hurt the system" is for Congress to rubber-stamp each and every nominee. Now that's democracy!
Like a retreating army pushed back to the sea, Democrats rallied to hold the Louisiana governorship Saturday when Lt. Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco defeated Republican Bobby Jindal.
The win will probably avert a full-scale panic among Southern Democrats unnerved when the GOP captured governorships in Kentucky and Mississippi two weeks ago.
Yet the overall trend in the region since President Bush took office still looks ominous for Democrats. In 2004, with Bush on the ballot, the Republicans appear to be poised for further Southern gains. Indeed, the GOP's solidifying hold on Dixie now looms as perhaps the most imposing obstacle to Democratic hopes of regaining control of either Congress or the White House.
Today, Republicans hold 87 of the 142 seats in the House of Representatives from the 11 states of the old Confederacy plus Oklahoma and Kentucky, and they have 17 of the 26 Senate seats from those 13 states. In each chamber, the Southern advantage provides the GOP its margin of control; Democrats hold a majority of both House and Senate seats from outside the South.
Likewise in 2000, George Bush lost 71% of the electoral votes from outside the South. He's sitting in the White House because he won all 13 Southern states.
In other words, Bush has a good chance of winning in 2004 because every single state in the Confederacy is solidly behind him and his divisive policies. Blue states and red states? Try blue and grey.
While the failure of American policy in Iraq in recent months has been painfully visible and at the forefront of public debate, the Bush administration's failures in Afghanistan have been as serious, and the risks are also great. It was Afghanistan, not Iraq, that was the spawning ground for the Sept. 11 attacks. And now, less than two years after President Bush celebrated his first military victory, Afghanistan is in danger of reverting to a deadly combination of rule by warlords and the Taliban, the allies and protectors of Osama bin Laden.
A revived Taliban army, flush with new recruits from Pakistan, is staging a frightening comeback. Major cities remain in the hands of the corrupt and brutal warlords. Much of the countryside is too dangerous for aid workers. The postwar pro-American government led by Hamid Karzai rules Kabul and little else. Opium poppies are once again a major export crop. And Osama bin Laden remains at large.
This alarming state of affairs is not mainly the result of hidden conspiracies or bad luck. It flows from a succession of bad American policy decisions. These began with the Bush administration's reluctance to commit enough American troops to Afghanistan. Then it prematurely declared victory in its rush to a war of choice with Iraq.
Have you noticed that Bush never mentions Afghanistan, or Sheik Omar and the Taliban, or Osama bin Laden? I wonder why...
With two decisions in the last two weeks, the Bush administration has sent its clearest message yet that it values corporate interests over the interests of average Americans. In the Securities and Exchange Commission's settlement with Putnam Investments, the public comes away short-changed. In the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to forgo enforcement of the Clean Air Act, the public comes away completely empty-handed.
Even supporters of the Bush administration's environmental policy were stunned when the E.P.A. announced that it was closing pending investigations into more than 100 power plants and factories for violating the Clean Air Act — and dropping 13 cases in which it had already made a determination that the law had been violated.
Regulators may disagree about what our environmental laws should look like. But we should all be able to agree that companies that violated then-existing pollution laws should be punished.
Those environmental laws were enacted to protect a public that was concerned about its health and safety. By letting companies that violated the Clean Air Act off the hook, the Environmental Protection Agency has effectively issued an industry-wide pardon. This will only embolden polluters to continue practices that harm the environment.
[Eliot Spitzer is attorney general of New York.]
The United States is hastening the transfer of authority to Iraqis, [a senior administration official] explained, because the Governing Council and cabinet are working so well -- "they're exercising more authority and responsibility." There is "a very good dynamic with the Iraqi people." Many potential problems "didn't happen" -- massive refugee flows, ethnic violence.
This at-least-the-oil-wells-aren't-on-fire speech was inadequate even last spring, when it was used to deflect criticism of American troops' failure to stop the looting of virtually every office and factory in the country. Today it serves only as a reminder of the failure to prepare for the real challenges of occupation. Worse, it raises questions about the administration's commitment to meet those challenges now.
The difficulty is that the administration's emerging strategy is susceptible to two interpretations. Hastening the training of Iraqi forces could be an important step toward improving intelligence and freeing American soldiers for more aggressive operations; or it could be a prelude to America's turning over an unfinished operation to an unready force. When senior officials sugarcoat the current situation, they naturally raise suspicions that they are tending toward the latter option -- that they are fooling themselves, or think they can fool the rest of us, about what it will take to win.
Britain was America's closest ally before and during the Iraq conflict, thanks largely to Blair's personal commitment. But a large majority of Britons favored winning U.N. approval before launching military action. Although the public rallied behind British troops during the conflict, support for the war -- and for Blair -- has plummeted in the months since, especially among members of the ruling Labor Party.
Bush, labeled "the Toxic Texan" by critics here, has never been a popular figure in Britain. A poll last week for the antiwar Daily Mirror newspaper found that three of four Britons surveyed believed Bush's war on terrorism had made the world a more dangerous place. Things have gotten so bad that commentators noted the high number of compliments Bush paid Blair in a recent interview with British reporters -- Riddell counted 15 during the 40-minute session -- and warned that each one could further damage Blair's political standing.
On Sunday, Bush said he was not worried by the prospect of protests during his visit, the Reuters news agency reported from Washington. "No, not concerned at all," he said. "Glad to be going to a free country where people are allowed to protest."
In England, people are "allowed to protest" without being secluded behind wire fences a half mile away, like they are in some countries.
Sunday, November 16, 2003
The ESEA [No Child Left Behind Act] is like a Russian novel. That's because it's long, it's complicated, and in the end, everybody gets killed.
--Scott Howard, former superintendent, Perry, Ohio, public schools
The Ohio Business Roundtable strongly supports the No Child Left Behind Act.
At first, many people liked the sound of "No Child Left Behind," President Bush's education plan. Who could object? The press and the public responded positively to the sentiment--until the failure-to-measure-up labels started rolling in. But now, New York Times education columnist Michael Winerip says NCLB (pronounced "nicklebee") "may go down in history as the most unpopular piece of education legislation ever created."
Jeffords has put his finger on it. This wretched "education" program is actually part of a grander plan to privatize the entire government, creating the ultimate Corporate State. Everything this administration does can be interpreted as serving this bleak vision of America's future.
[Susan Ohanian maintains a NCLB and high-stakes-test-resistance website at www.susanohanian.org.]
The lies and half-truths of the Bush Administration are by now old news. And since so much of what the Administration says publicly is fabricated, it's easy to let certain things go in order to get on with our lives.
Still, certain statements continue to shock and infuriate us, because we can't, for the life of us, figure out where Bush & Co. got the information on which their statements are based.
This was my reaction to the declaration by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in the September 29 issue of the Wall Street Journal that "5,000 small businesses [in Iraq] have opened since liberation on May 1."
On what data, I wondered, did the Secretary base this statement? And what exactly did he mean by "small businesses"?
For a month I tried to get an answer to these questions from the US government, sadly, I must admit, without success. Below is the story--not without its comic elements--of my minor quest for truth.
[In the article, Brown, a former Foreign Service officer, details his lengthy - and ultimately unsuccessful - attempt to discover the source for a statistic first mentioned (invented?) by Donald Rumsfeld, and subsequently used in a whole series of statements by various White House officials.]
It wasn't like this during the Vietnam War. Even in the Afghanistan war, flag-draped coffins were filmed, and during the Kosovo conflict, president Bill Clinton was on the tarmac to receive the US dead. The repatriation of the bodies of the American servicemen who died in the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 was a national story - with images - and presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, respectively, attended services for the 241 Americans killed in Beirut and for the troops killed in the failed hostage-rescue in Iran.
But it was during the Panama conflict, in 1989, that the first President Bush, George snr, dropped his media guard. At the precise moment that servicemen's caskets were being offloaded at Dover, he did a goof-walk for the cameras of the White House press corps, to demonstrate the effect of pain he suffered in his neck. At least three of the national networks split their screens, showing viewers an apparently thoughtless commander-in-chief acting the fool as the bodies of men he had sent to war were removed from a military transport.
Retribution was swift. The media were banned from Dover and the traditional body receival ceremonies were ended. Over time the ban came to be ignored, but in the days before this year's Iraq war, the Pentagon ordered that it be observed to the fullest.
The media manipulation of this Bush's team borders on paranoia. They go to great lengths to set the scene - carting specially produced backdrops around the country for his public appearances and even floodlighting the usually darkened Statue of Liberty for one of his New York night-time speeches.
Remember when they had him stand in front of Mt. Rushmore? And the time they turned the aircraft carrier around for him? And the "Made in USA" stickers they slapped on those imported cartons? What a phony operation.
This is one for the ages, a one-year journey from international and domestic consensus to international and domestic chaos.
It is hard to believe, but a year ago this week the United States was basking in the glow of a unanimous UN Security Council resolution -- with support from Syria, Britain, France, and Mexico -- finally bringing matters to a head with a recognized international outlaw in Iraq.
From that moment on, however, the United States has managed to squander all that goodwill and support in a truly astonishing display of duplicitous ineptitude -- and for what, the dubious distinction of occupying a country that should be forgiven its growing displeasure?
As the occupation boss, L. Paul Bremer, headed back to Baghdad last week to try to impose yet another American "solution" on a landscape no one in our government appears to understand, and to choose another bunch of pliant Iraqis who will in short order have all the trappings of puppet status, including targets painted on their backs, President Bush began flirting with a situation not encountered since the days of Vietnam.
At least until the situation changes, the United States is now embarked on an immense enterprise in Iraq that is increasingly resented by its people and decreasingly supported by the American people.
Isn't this exactly what we anti-American war protesters predicted before the Big Event? And where are the Clear Channel flag-wavers now?
Rebecca Foster couldn't believe it when a bank cited the USA Patriot Act and asked her and fellow homeowners association board members for their Social Security and driver's license numbers.
"They said they had to check us against a terrorist list," said Foster, a grandmother whose five-member board oversees a Las Vegas community. "That seemed kind of preposterous. None of us are terrorists."
A week earlier, the FBI in Las Vegas acknowledged agents used Patriot Act authorization instead of the grand jury to investigate a striptease club owner and several elected officials.
"What we see in the Patriot Act is an attempt to legalize and make more easily available to intelligence agencies tools that were used illegally and unconstitutionally to fight attempts to bring about social and political change," Saito said.
"I think people are seeing enough instances in which lawful and constitutionally protected activities are being targeted to realize they don't want this unbridled power given to law enforcement agencies," she said.
But John Ashcroft says everything's fine.
With the White House finally acknowledging that the challenge in Iraq runs deeper than gloomy journalism, the talk of what to do next is sounding rather like Afghanistan. And that's alarming, because we have flubbed the peace in Afghanistan even more egregiously than in Iraq.
"There is a palpable risk that Afghanistan will again turn into a failed state, this time in the hands of drug cartels and narco-terrorists," Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, writes in a grim new report on Afghanistan.
An analyst in the U.S. intelligence community, who seeks to direct more attention to the way narco-trafficking is destabilizing the region, says that Afghanistan now accounts for 75 percent of the poppies grown for narcotics worldwide.
"The issue is not a high priority for the Bush administration," he said.
Evidently Afghanistan is "old news". The Bushies are mostly focused on which country to invade next. Syria, Iran, North Korea?
British warnings that America was failing before the war to prepare properly for a crumbling security situation in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was ousted were ignored by Vice President Dick Cheney and the Pentagon. In some of the first direct evidence of serious divisions between the key allies in the run-up to the conflict, the former British Ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, said the US had failed to focus on what might happen after Saddam had been overthrown.
His admission raises serious questions that a lack of planning by US forces is at least partly to blame for Iraq's present security problems.
Last week 17 Italians and eight Iraqis were killed by a suicide bomber in the southern Iraqi town of Nasiriyah. It was the worst atrocity in the country for three months.
In an interview with The Observer, Meyer, who was ambassador just before the war began, said there were a series of meetings between British and American officials between the signing of the United Nations Resolution 1441 last November and the start of the war in March.
The British regularly raised their concerns about how much planning was going on to secure the country after Saddam, but the issue was largely ignored.
I don't know what's so amazing about the British having predicted the current situation and being ignored. Heck, I knew what would happen, and they ignored me, too.
The CIA's search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has found no evidence that former president Saddam Hussein tried to transfer chemical or biological technology or weapons to terrorists, according to a military and intelligence expert.
Anthony Cordesman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, provided new details about the weapons search and Iraqi insurgency in a report released Friday. It was based on briefings over the past two weeks in Iraq from David Kay, the CIA representative who is directing the search for unconventional weapons in Iraq; L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. civil administrator there; and military officials.
"No evidence of any Iraqi effort to transfer weapons of mass destruction or weapons to terrorists," Cordesman wrote of Kay's briefing. "Only possibility was Saddam's Fedayeen [his son's irregular terrorist force] and talk only."
One of the concerns the Bush administration cited early last year to justify the need to invade Iraq was that Hussein would provide chemical or biological agents or weapons to al Qaeda or other terrorists. Despite the disclosure that U.S. and British intelligence officials assessed that Hussein would use or distribute such weapons only if he were attacked and faced defeat, administration spokesmen have continued to defend that position.
That's their story, and they're sticking to it.