Saturday, March 27, 2004
Republicans have accused Democratic U.S. House candidate Stephanie Herseth of maintaining a secret Web page to receive campaign donations raised from ads on liberal groups' Internet sites.
But a Herseth campaign official scoffed at the charge, saying the Web page is not secret and can be found easily with a standard search of the Internet.
Herseth faces Republican Larry Diedrich in a June 1 special election to fill the vacancy left when Bill Janklow resigned as South Dakota's lone member of the U.S. House.
Jason Glodt, executive director of the South Dakota Republican Party, said the Herseth campaign arranged the special Internet donation site to prevent most South Dakotans from knowing about Herseth's relationship with such liberal groups.
The Herseth Web page takes campaign donations from people directed there from Internet sites called "blogs," which are online bulletin boards that feature journals, opinionated articles and messages.
"There's a reason she's got that secret site. She doesn't want to advertise the fact she's doing this," Glodt said Thursday.
I'll save you the trouble. Here's a link to the "secret site".
Forty-nine retired generals and admirals yesterday urged President Bush to suspend plans for a national missile shield and instead use the money to secure nuclear materials abroad and ports and borders at home.
The Bush administration plans to field a nationwide defense system in September to shoot down missiles armed with chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons, and has budgeted $3.7 billion this year for the project.
The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, recently concluded that only two of the antimissile system's 10 key technologies have been fully tested. Meanwhile, to make the September deadline, the Pentagon has waived some operational testing requirements. The military's top weapons tester stated earlier this month that such testing is not planned "for the foreseeable future."
The letter calls on the president to "postpone operational deployment of the expensive and untested" system.
This president routinely ignores advice from experts. Why should 49 generals and admirals be treated any differently?
The administration that began by neglecting George Bush's popular-vote deficit in the 2000 and claiming a mandate for radical change has been consistent in nothing so much as its refusal to accept unpleasant realities. Bush and his aides always refuse to take responsibility for anything that goes wrong. As such, they are always pointing fingers of blame at others.
September 11? Blame evil or Bill Clinton - pretty much the same thing in the Bush administration's collective mind. False information about Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction program gets into the State of the Union Address? Blame the CIA or someone, anyone, in Europe. Economic downturn? Blame Democrats in Congress for not backing bigger tax cuts for corporations and more-of-the-same trade policies. False figures on the cost of Medicare reform go to Congress? Blame, well, er, gee, gay marriage?
No matter what goes wrong, the ironclad rule of the Bush administration has been to find someone outside the administration - preferably a Democrat or a foreigner - to blame. And if there is no way to blame someone else, the policy has been to keep expressing an Orwellian faith in the prospect that the failure will become a success, or that the lie will be made true -- witness Cheney's refusal to back away from his pre-war "they'll greet us with flowers" fantasy about the Iraqi response to a U.S.-led invasion.
Supposedly, this refusal to bend in the face of reality is smart politics. But a constant pattern of avoiding responsibility tends, eventually, to catch up even with the smartest politicians.
What does it say about our government that the man who was forced to resign his position faced his most bitter public failure with class and dignity, while the other who continues to occupy the highest office in that government dismisses his failures with arrogant contempt for its victims?
To even further highlight this shameful dichotomy: On the very day that Mr Bush was making this despicable attempt at humor three more American soldiers met an untimely and violent death 10,000 miles from home. Young men who had most likely never been within a country mile of a black tie dinner. Young men who thought that they were fulfilling a noble and just cause. Young men who now lie dead, only to be mourned by those who knew and loved them.
The Salt Lake Tribune and other news media scrupulously keep count of the hundreds of brave U.S. soldiers who have lost their lives during Operation Iraqi Freedom. They fail, however, to tally up the thousands of Iraqi civilian lives lost in the last year.
This failure raises some questions in my mind: Do members of the news media think that Iraqi lives somehow don't count in this ill-conceived war? Are they incapable of reporting such information unless it is spoon-fed to them by the U.S. military? Shouldn't Americans have a better picture of the ultimate price Iraqi civilians are paying, especially now that the Bush administration's pretext for this war has shifted from pre-emptive self-defense to Iraq's liberation?
The U.S. military refuses to track the number of Iraqi lives lost, but an organization of British and American academics has kept a tally since March 2003. Iraq Body Count estimates the civilian death toll at between 8,580 to 10,430. Want a better understanding of the true cost of this war? See http://www.iraqbodycount.net.
Friday, March 26, 2004
The refusal by President Bush's top security aide to testify publicly before the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks elicited rebukes by commission members as they held public hearings without her this week. Thomas H. Kean (R), the former New Jersey governor Bush named to be chairman of the commission, observed: "I think this administration shot itself in the foot by not letting her testify in public."
At the same time, some of Rice's rebuttals of Clarke's broadside against Bush, which she delivered in a flurry of media interviews and statements rather than in testimony, contradicted other administration officials and her own previous statements.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage contradicted Rice's claim that the White House had a strategy before 9/11 for military operations against al Qaeda and the Taliban; the CIA contradicted Rice's earlier assertion that Bush had requested a CIA briefing in the summer of 2001 because of elevated terrorist threats; and Rice's assertion this week that Bush told her on Sept. 16, 2001, that "Iraq is to the side" appeared to be contradicted by an order signed by Bush on Sept. 17 directing the Pentagon to begin planning military options for an invasion of Iraq.
Rice, in turn, has contradicted Vice President Cheney's assertion that Clarke was "out of the loop" and his intimation that Clarke had been demoted. Rice has also given various conflicting accounts. She criticized Clarke for being the architect of failed Clinton administration policies, but also said she retained Clarke so the Bush administration could continue to pursue Clinton's terrorism policies.
Can anyone in this administration tell the truth?
The president wanted war with Iraq, and ultimately he would have his war. The drumbeat for an invasion of Iraq in the aftermath of the Qaeda attack was as incessant as it was bizarre. [former counterterrorism chief Richard] Clarke told "60 Minutes" that an attack on Iraq under those circumstances was comparable to President Roosevelt, after Pearl Harbor, deciding to invade Mexico "instead of going to war with Japan."
The U.S. never pursued Al Qaeda with the focus, tenacity and resources it would expend — and continues to expend — on Iraq. The war against Iraq was sold the way a butcher would sell rotten meat — as something that was good for us. The administration and its apologists went out of their way to create the false impression that Saddam and Iraq were somehow involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, and that he was an imminent threat to the U.S.
Condoleezza Rice went on television to say with a straight face, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
With the first anniversary of Sept. 11 approaching and Osama bin Laden still at large, George Shultz, a former secretary of state (and longtime Bechtel Corporation biggie) ratcheted up his rant for war with Iraq in an Op-Ed article in The Washington Post. The headline said: "Act Now: The Danger Is Immediate."
Mr. Shultz wrote: "[Saddam] has relentlessly amassed weapons of mass destruction and continues their development." Insisting that the threat was imminent, he said, "When the risk is not hundreds of people killed in a conventional attack but tens or hundreds of thousands killed by chemical, biological or nuclear attack, the time factor is even more compelling."
Richard Clarke has been consistently right on the facts, and the White House and its apologists consistently wrong. Which is why the White House is waging such a ferocious and unconscionable campaign of character assassination against Mr. Clarke.
[Also check out this New York Times editorial on the same subject.]
Laughter filled the room Wednesday night at the annual dinner for radio and television correspondents when President Bush displayed a photograph showing him down on his hands and knees looking under furniture in his office and saying, "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere!"
This morning the joke did not seem quite so funny. CNN, which showed a clip of the event, was getting e-mail messages from unhappy viewers. Foreign newspapers were reacting with outrage. And the White House was busy defending the joke that President Bush delivered as he put on a slide show, called the "White House Election-Year Album," at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association's 60th annual dinner.
It is a long tradition among the Washington press corps to invite presidents and other politicians to such dinners, during which they make jokes at their own expense.
Claire Buchan, a White House spokeswoman, said Mr. Bush was not making light of the war in Iraq, but engaging in self-deprecating humor, as is the custom at such dinners. "There's no question about the president's seriousness about this issue," she said. "As is tradition at these events, the president was poking fun at himself."
The problem is, falsely leading the country into war just isn't funny. Mostly, it just gives the White House yet another issue to be defensive about.
The Bush mantra has always been that the best defense is offense, so [national security adviser Condoleezza] Rice has been hitting back hard — using television appearances and media briefings to try to undermine the credibility of Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism chief who contends that Rice and the rest of the administration failed to respond to repeated warnings about terrorist threats.
But Rice's aggressive strategy risks damaging her own credibility, rather than Clarke's.
"Rather than deal with the substance of what he's saying, they're trying to impugn his character," said Nancy Soderberg, a deputy national security advisor during the Clinton administration. "It's not a campaign issue, it's an issue of national security, so I think their pit-bull tactics are going to backfire."
Although Rice has made herself available to news outlets, she has refused to testify under oath before the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks. That panel questioned a series of current and former government officials this week, including Clarke. As a result, the controversy created by Clarke is increasingly focusing on Rice, perhaps the president's closest advisor.
Mary Fetchet, co-chair of Voices of September 11th, an advocacy group for families of the victims of the 2001 attacks, argued that Rice was key to the flow of information and therefore should testify about what she knew.
"I wish she would just skip the television interviews and take the time to testify in an open hearing under oath," said Fetchet, whose son, Bradley, died in the World Trade Center. "I believe that I deserve the answers to the questions I have, and so does our country."
What is she hiding?
In April of 2001, Richard Clarke said he raised the specter of Adolf Hitler with Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to explain how serious a threat Al Qaeda was. In his book Against All Enemies Clarke said he told Wolfowitz, "sometimes, as with Hitler in 'Mein Kampf,' you have to believe that these people will actually do what they say they will do." Clarke said Wolfowitz responded, "I resent any comparison between the Holocaust and this little terrorist in Afghanistan."
This week, in his testimony to the commission on the 9/11 attacks, Wolfowitz said, "I can't recall ever saying anything remotely like that. I don't believe I could have. In fact, I frequently have said something more nearly the opposite of what Clarke attributes to me. I've often used that precise analogy of Hitler and "Mein Kampf" as a reason why we should take threatening rhetoric seriously, particularly in the case of terrorism and Saddam Hussein."
Even as he denied the specific charge, Wolfowitz reconfirmed the general obsession. The administration was so bent on demonizing Saddam Hussein that it may have missed an opportunity to focus on the masterminds of 9/11 who turned commercial flights into weapons of mass destruction.
No one will ever know if demonization cost 3,000 lives on Sept. 11. Even Clarke said, "if we had stopped those 19 deluded fools who acted on Sept. 11, as we should have done, there would have been more later . . . America, alas, seems only to respond well to disasters, to be undistracted by warnings." But there is no denying that the Bush family spent a decade and a half making Saddam the face of evil while Al Qaeda remained relatively faceless to Americans.
Thursday, March 25, 2004
It is a strange occurrence in Washington when members of the well-ordered Bush White House publicly disagree with each other, but it happened on Wednesday.
Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, took exception to Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion that Richard A. Clarke, the administration's former counterterrorism chief, was "out of the loop."
On the contrary, Ms. Rice said, Mr. Clarke was very much involved in the administration's fight against terrorism.
"I would not use the word 'out of the loop,' " Ms. Rice told reporters in response to a question about whether she considered it a problem that the administration's counterterrorism chief was not deeply involved "in a lot of what was going on," as Mr. Cheney said on Monday in an interview on Rush Limbaugh's radio program.
Ms. Rice painted a distinctly different picture of the involvement of Mr. Clarke, who has prompted furious responses since he asserted in a new book and in testimony on Capitol Hill that President Bush did not heed warnings before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"He was in every meeting that was held on terrorism," Ms. Rice said. "All the deputies' meetings, the principals' meeting that was held and so forth, the early meetings after Sept. 11."
Come on now, kids. One of you must be fibbing.
Last Friday, President George W. Bush spoke to a distinguished audience of national security experts commemorating the one year anniversary of the Iraq war. Characteristic of his direct style, the president quickly made clear his message: "There is no neutral ground between good and evil, freedom and slavery, and life and death."
To critics of American involvement in Iraq, the president powerfully asked, "Who would prefer that Saddam's torture chambers still be open? Who would begrudge the Iraqi people their long-awaited liberation?" Indeed, he said, we have "served freedom's cause. And that is a privilege."
This seemingly noble rhetoric has little relation to the arguments used for invading Iraq a year ago. Last year Americans became familiar with the ubiquitous phrase, "weapons of mass destruction," and watched as Colin Powell "proved" to the United Nations Security Council that Iraq stockpiled an arsenal of weapons. Repeatedly we heard the urgent White House message: Saddam Hussein is a danger to world peace because he possesses weapons of mass destruction.
Leading American Indian groups Wednesday strongly protested President Bush's nomination of William G. Myers III to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, contending the former Interior Department lawyer has shown disrespect for Indian lands and rights.
"For Indian country, Mr. Myers is the worst possible choice," Tex Hall, president of the National Congress of American Indians, told a news conference. "We dread to think what damage Myers could do as a judge for the appeals court."
"He has a clear lack of understanding" of tribal sovereignty, said Anthony Miranda, chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association.
Myers, who served as the top attorney at the Interior Department from 2001 to 2003, is Bush's choice to join the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit court, which has jurisdiction over nine Western states and decides many tribe-related disputes. The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on the nomination next week.
Hall and other tribal leaders said Myers removed protections for sacred Indian lands while Interior Department solicitor and opened the way for a gold mine to be built in Imperial County, Calif., that threatened tribal lands.
Is there a group that doesn't feel threatened by the actions of this administration? I mean, besides the super-rich and the super-religious.
Let us dare to ask what if.
What if those thousands of American troops occupying Iraq had instead been with Pakistani allies in those mountains near the Afghan border bearing down hard on al-Qaida's inner circle? And what if Saddam Hussein, while still in tenuous power in Iraq, was stymied in developing the weapons of mass destruction we now know he didn't have - stymied, that is, by an intense United Nations inspection program that America had smartly prevailed upon the civilized world to conduct for us so that we could focus our unparalleled might on going after the madmen who actually did 9-11 to us?
This week brings juicy new revelatory detail from Richard Clarke, a counterterrorism expert in four White Houses including, formerly, this one.
He says President Bush pulled him into a room after 9-11 and insisted vigorously that he check again on whether Iraq had anything to do with the attack. This was after Clarke and every other knowledgeable source had belabored the obvious by blaming al-Qaida singularly and pointing out that Iraq had nothing to do with al-Qaida except exist on the serious cultural and religious outs with it. You see, Saddam was a secular despot who invoked Allah only for occasional propaganda purposes and al-Qaida was a bunch of fundamentalist religious crazies who thought they'd get their way with swarms of virgins in paradise if they suicide-bombed the evil Americans.
Remember how you felt the day after 9-11, then ask yourself: Could you have imagined that America would let Pakistan chase the perpetrators while it used all its energy to try to clean up a mess it had made by invading and conquering a wholly irrelevant country?
In short, Bush is on the side of the states against "distant bureaucracies" when he is governor of Texas and on the side of Washington, D.C., when he is running the federal government. When there is a budget surplus, he is in favor of tax cuts to return the surplus to the taxpayers, and when there is a deficit, he is still in favor of tax cuts.
When he focuses on human embryos, he speaks of his obligation to foster and encourage respect for life, but when respect for human life gets in the way of his wish to strike back at those he considers enemies of the United States, he is willing to bring about the deaths of thousands of innocent human beings. These are not the actions of a person of principle.
In an interview with journalist Bob Woodward, Bush repeatedly referred to his "instincts" or "instinctive reactions" and said: "I'm not a textbook player. I'm a gut player." That may be true. The problem is that Bush's moral instincts seem to allow him to sway in whatever direction seems most convenient.
The Sept. 11 commission shed its bipartisan spirit and turned a Senate hearing room into a courtroom yesterday for the testimony of Richard A. Clarke, the White House counterterrorism chief-turned-Bush administration whistle-blower.
Democrats, prosecuting President Bush for ignoring terrorism before the 2001 attacks, used the newly famous Clarke as their star witness. Republican commission members -- armed with fresh information on Clarke released by the White House yesterday through Fox News -- played defense lawyers determined to discredit the witness as a closet Democrat.
I'm fascinated by the phrase "released by the White House yesterday through Fox News". Is Fox News now the official propaganda arm of the Bush White House?
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Last week at the White House, President Bush marked the first anniversary of the Iraq invasion by saying: "The murders in Madrid are a reminder that the civilized world is at war. And in this new kind of war, civilians find themselves suddenly on the front lines."
There was no mention of Iraqi civilians killed by American bombs and bullets in the invasion and occupation.
Bush went to Fort Campbell, Ky., to tell soldiers that they had liberated a nation "in which millions of people lived in fear, and many thousands disappeared into mass graves. That was the life in Iraq for more than a generation until the Americans arrived."
The soldiers applauded. There was no mention of the civilian carnage caused by the arrival of the Americans.
At both Fort Campbell and in another speech in Orlando, where the crowd chanted "USA! USA! USA!" Bush said America will do whatever it takes to defeat and destroy the terrorists "so that we do not have to face them in our own country."
In his three speeches, Bush made no mention of the Iraqis who were permanently defaced.
Bush cannot mention them because the invasion had no grounds. Neither weapons of mass destruction nor proof of an imminent threat was found. Bush cannot mention them because he knows a needless invasion was not worth up to 10,000 Iraqi civilians killed by US and British forces.
Who would Jesus bomb?
Democrats on Capitol Hill continued to press the White House yesterday to allow President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, to testify before an independent commission looking into how the Bush and Clinton administration handled the growing threat of Al Qaeda before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Such top-level government officials as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell faced questions from commission members yesterday, but Rice did not appear. Administration officials said having Rice, one of the president's senior staff members, give public testimony would set a bad precedent and violate the constitutionally mandated separation of congressional and executive power.
Rice's absence, however, coupled with the strict guidelines the White House is placing on Bush's private meeting with commission members, has given Democrats an opening to portray the administration as hiding a less-than-robust response to Al Qaeda behind executive prerogatives. That portrayal takes on new potency now that Richard A. Clarke, a former terrorism specialist who served Bush and three other presidents, has said the administration was fixated on Iraq in the weeks before and after the attacks and overlooked repeated warnings about the growing threat of Al Qaeda.
Though she has met with the commission in private, members criticized Rice yesterday for refusing to offer public testimony.
"I hope that Dr. Rice will reconsider and come before our commission tomorrow," said Tim Roemer, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana who sits on the commission.
She'll "reconsider" if and when she's told to.
Colonel David Teeples, commander of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment in Iraq, can't figure it out. If he can recruit and train members of Iraq's new security force, why can't the Coalition Provisional Authority -- the US-led administration that is running postwar Iraq -- provide them with the uniforms, radios, weapons, and vehicles they need to do their job?
His frustration is common in postwar Iraq -- among Iraqis as much as US forces. More than a year after the US government secretly divvied up the first contracts for postwar reconstruction, much of the subcontracting process remains confusing, overcentralized, and fertile ground for corruption, say watchdog agencies and Iraqi contractors.
Pentagon officials acknowledge confusion over the way some subcontracts have been awarded, but say they are working to make the process transparent. "We're putting all the information out there," said Steven Susens, spokesman for the CPA, adding that all applicants meet US standards, with sealed bids. The United States says it will by June 30 transfer sovereignty over Iraq to a local government. With the deadline approaching, charges of cronyism are proliferating as links emerge between winning bidders and Iraqi officials. While allegations of overcharging related to work done by US oil-giant Halliburton Co. have drawn media attention, other less publicized deals and alleged conflicts of interest are raising eyebrows in the United States and Iraq.
If coalition efforts to win Iraqi hearts and minds hinge on the integrity of the rebuilding process, the Americans have already lost ground, say Iraqi contractors. Frustration over the country's high unemployment and the slow pace of reconstruction has intensified, they say, because of the perception that foreign companies and a cabal of Iraqi exiles are snatching the best deals. So exasperated are many Iraqis with the contract awards process that many compare it unfavorably with the abusive business practices that flourished under Saddam Hussein's regime. At least back then, Iraqis say, it was clear whom to bribe.
It still is, isn't it?
In the presidential race's war of words over the economy, President Bush makes it sound as if small-business owners are in the cross hairs of Democrat John Kerry's plan to roll back tax cuts for wealthy Americans.
But data from the Internal Revenue Service and the Census Bureau suggest the vast majority of small businesses provide their owners with incomes far below the $200,000-a-year mark where Kerry says he would begin eliminating tax cuts.
"Taxing the rich?" Bush said during a recent White House forum where his guests included the owners of a hair salon, a convenience store franchise and an office supply dealer.
"When you're running up individual tax rates, you're taxing small businesses," he said.
The only problem is that most companies in the small-business world are so-called Main Street businesses with 10 or fewer employees, including restaurants, small retailers and small manufacturers, Census and IRS data show.
Their profits fall into a median range of $40,000 and $60,000, according to the National Federation of Independent Business, a leading advocate of the small-business community. That puts them just above U.S. median household income of $42,409.
"These are not rich people," said NFIB researcher Bruce Phillips. "Changing the tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, for the most part, doesn't apply to our membership."
On the first anniversary of the Iraqi attack on Private Jessica Lynch's Army unit, the widow of a soldier who died in the fight blasted President George Bush for "lying to America" to justify the Iraq war.
In bitter comments beside the grave of Army Specialist James Kiehl on Tuesday, Jill Kiehl accused Mr Bush of fabricating reasons to launch the invasion that toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
"The evidence that's starting to come out now feels like he [Bush] was misleading us," Mrs Kiehl said, holding the couple's 10-month-old son Nathaniel, born seven weeks after his father died.
"In a way, it's like he used people. That's how I feel. I think the reasons for going over there were bogus and misleading."
Mr Bush justified the invasion on the grounds that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was linked to al-Qaeda. So far, no such weapons have been found and little evidence of al-Qaeda connections has turned up.
Re "Bush Urges Unity on Terror," March 20: How unseemly and degrading to have your president begging for help from the very folks he rejected so cavalierly when he just had to go to war with Iraq. In our world, begging is the last resort of a person who has made some very bad decisions in life. In George W. Bush's world, it's basically an admission that he has started a war on false pretenses, waged it with unwarranted assumptions and run up an incredible amount of debt while financing it, and is now sitting on the sidewalk asking for a bailout from folks who patiently told him he was doing the wrong thing in the first place.
A shameful time to be an American, what with the "Little Cowboy Who Couldn't" making the decisions.
The Bush White House is treating charges by its former counterterrorism chief, Richard Clarke, as a direct threat to its most precious political asset, the stubborn belief among many Americans that President Bush has led wisely and well in the struggle against international terror.
The administration's near-panic is justified. According to Clarke, the incoming Bush administration had been warned by its predecessors in the Clinton administration that al-Qaida posed the most serious of threats to U.S. security, yet Bush officials failed to take that warning seriously until the truth was made so tragically apparent on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Even after that attack, Clarke claims, top Bush officials responded not by committing all available resources to destroying al-Qaida, but by seizing upon the attacks as a pretext to justify their long-sought invasion of Iraq.
The more than 560 U.S. soldiers who have since died in Iraq, Clarke claims, "died for the president's own agenda, which had nothing to do with the war on terrorism."
The potential impact of that charge is enormous, especially coming from a top-level insider of impeccable connections who has worked for four consecutive U.S. presidents dating back to Ronald Reagan. The situation is so serious that Vice President Dick Cheney was even dispatched to appear on the Rush Limbaugh show to shore up support among an audience that the administration would ordinarily take for granted.
That venue also ensured that Cheney's assertions would not be challenged by the interviewer, an important consideration given the vice president's repeated excursions into deception. He made the most of that freedom with Limbaugh, claiming Clarke's statements could be ignored because "he wasn't in the loop, frankly, on a lot of this stuff."
That is, frankly, a lie. Clarke, a blunt and longtime advocate of much stronger action against terrorist networks, served as the top White House counterterrorism expert from the beginning of the Bush administration through the aftermath of Sept. 11.
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
A US business group that monitors federal spending took out a full-page advert in The New York Times, likening President George W. Bush to a corrupt chief executive officer who has forfeited public trust.
Timed to coincide with the weekend anniversary of the US-led war against Iraq, the advertisement - paid for by Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities - said Bush's case for invasion "was built entirely out of falsehoods."
Highlighting the cost of the war in terms of hundreds of US casualties and tens of billions of dollars, the ad said the "state-sponsored deception" underpinning the conflict dwarfed the damage caused by the series of corporate scandals that recently rocked Wall Street.
"It's past time for finger pointing," it said.
"It's time for someone in this government to step forward and take personal responsibility for the deadly deceptions used to mislead this great nation into war.
"And that someone must be George W. Bush."
While the Kerry campaign addressed their concerns with how the [recent Bush campaign] ad portrays the Senator's positions on taxes, the Patriot Act and the war with Iraq, what troubled me was the way the ad used a young Middle Eastern-looking male to evoke fear of terrorists. This was negative stereotyping at its worst and, as I wrote to the campaign manger of the President's reelection effort, it "undercuts the message of tolerance that President Bush issued to the nation in the wake of September 11th...the use of this type of imagery can only reinforce and build upon the fear and suspicion that law-abiding Arab Americans and Arab immigrants are already subject to."
If the ad had used the face of Osama bin Laden, Mohammed Atta, or even Timothy McVeigh, I wouldn't have objected. But the use of what appeared to be a young Middle Eastern man was a different matter. I have sons who look like that young man. There are U.S. soldiers who look like him too. In fact there are millions of Americans (of many ethnicities) and many more over the world who look like that face in the ad.
That is what is wrong with negative stereotyping and racial profiling. And that is why the President was right to insist that the campaign against terror was not about Arabs or Muslims in general. Rather it was about a small group of terrorists. I, therefore, concluded my letter with a simple request that the campaign merely change that one image.
The campaign's response was disappointing and disingenuous. The face was not an Arab, they said. It was an Italian American actor. They said that they were not intending to portray an Arab or Muslim-just a young man. Then, as if to make my point, a Bush campaign spokesperson said, "the images in the ad fairly represent the challenges and threats we face"!
No, they represent the challenges and threats we face as we try to oust this corrupt regime.
The Bush campaign, usually in the dour person of Cheney, is emphasizing two knocks on Kerry -- that he once voted to cut the intelligence budget by $1.5 billion and that he voted against the $87 billion for the Iraq mop-up that Bush sprung on Congress last year.
Kerry did indeed vote to cut the intelligence budget in 1995, but so did the rest of the Senate, on a voice vote without dissent. The cut was for one agency, which had accumulated a surplus that could fund it for the following year.
And Kerry voted against the $87 billion in a failed effort to force the president to pay for war out of current revenues, by shaving his tax cuts, rather than loading the bill into the deficit.
In all of this, the Bush campaign is resorting to a political scam that you could call lying with the facts. A charge may be literally true, but the intent is to mislead voters about what the facts actually mean, often by dredging up old votes cast in far different times and circumstances. It is a technique that presumes on the credulity of voters and cynically manipulates whatever good faith an abused electorate still brings to its democratic task.
As Joe Conason points out in a salon.com article, Cheney, as defense secretary under Bush the First, killed the Navy's A-12 Stealth fighter and F-14D Tomcat fighter, cut troop strength in half, closed three dozen military bases, cut back the production of armored tanks and in his final budget proposed a $50 billion reduction in the defense budget over five years.
By the same argument that he is using against Kerry today, Cheney was a surrender monkey naively -- traitorously even? -- out to leave America defenseless in a dangerous world. A likely story.
The first myth - that there was no hint the American homeland would be targeted by al-Qaida, and nothing that could have prevented the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks - was propagated that very morning. "No warnings," former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters aboard Air Force One.
To deconstruct this myth, you do not have to listen this week to the testimony of former Clinton administration officials before the independent commission investigating the 9/11 attack. You can dismiss them as self-serving partisans and ignore their statements about the screeching alarms they sounded for the incoming Bush administration.
But you can look at the record and know that of course our cities and our transportation systems were targets. The World Trade Center was attacked in 1993. Through the 1990s, the government thwarted a series of terrorist plots against the United States - plans to blow up the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, to attack the Los Angeles airport, to unleash mayhem in New York City's subways. These are warnings of plots against the homeland, are they not?
The second myth - that Iraq is, in the words of President George W. Bush, "the central front in the war on terror" - has led America to launch an occupation of unspecified duration and incalculable cost.
Bush continues to merge in his speeches - and so in the public mind - the attacks of 9/11 with the war in Iraq. Marking the first anniversary of the Iraq invasion, he unabashedly tied the two. "The establishment of a free Iraq is our fight," Bush told assembled diplomats. "The success of a free Afghanistan is our fight. The war on terror is our fight."
No one else - not the Spaniards who voted out a government that supported Bush on Iraq, not the rest of Europe, not the FBI nor the CIA - believes the two were one and the same.
Monday, March 22, 2004
Hagel joined fellow Vietnam veteran Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in criticizing ads sponsored by the Bush campaign that call Kerry, a senator from Massachusetts who also is a Vietnam veteran, "weak on defense."
"The facts just don't measure [up to]the rhetoric," Hagel said on ABC's "This Week."
One ad includes video footage of Kerry in West Virginia last week, responding to a charge that he had failed to support U.S. troops in Iraq by opposing the $87-billion military funding bill last fall. "I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it," he said — a phrase the Bush campaign seized upon as showing the Massachusetts senator flip-flopping on issues.
"You can take a guy like John Kerry, who's been in the Senate for 19 years, and go through that voting record," Hagel said. "You can take it with … any of us, and pick out different votes, and then try to manufacture something around that."
What ever happened to that "eleventh Commandment" about not criticizing a fellow Republican? I guess a few of these guys are just too honest to toe that old line.
Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, spoke to CNN from IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria.
ElBaradei said he had been "pretty convinced" that [as of March 2003] Iraq had not resumed its nuclear weapons program, which the IAEA dismantled in 1997.
Days before the fighting began, Vice President Dick Cheney weighed in with an opposing view.
"We believe [Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons. I think Mr. ElBaradei, frankly, is wrong," Cheney said. "And I think if you look at the track record of the International Atomic Energy Agency in this kind of issue, especially where Iraq's concerned, they have consistently underestimated or missed what Saddam Hussein was doing."
Now, more than a year later, ElBaradei said, "I haven't seen anything on the ground at that time that supported Mr. Cheney's conclusion or statement, so - and I thought to myself, well, history is going to be the judge."
No evidence of a nuclear weapons program has been found so far.
We found ourselves puzzling over Bush’s [first Iraq anniversary] speech, in which he recounted the successes of the past year in the fight against terrorism and the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. He used phrases like "good and evil," "terrorist enemy," and "embittered few." He gave a chronology of the last year, a listing of events that these diplomats know well.
That realization got us wondering: Why would Bush give such a basic, oversimplified speech to high-level diplomats who well understand the complexity of what’s involved in fighting terrorism? Simple "good and evil" speeches may work on the campaign stump, but he was speaking to those who know full well that an individual’s path to terrorism is a long and winding one. Terrorism — and the fight against it — is complex.
In fact, you can find in most newspapers every day a much more in-depth analysis of the problem faced by the Western world. So why is Bush oversimplifying it?
We don’t buy the argument that Bush himself is simple. Rather, we think that he’s talking down to the public, because he thinks that his support depends on simple explanations that portray terrorists as cartoon villains.
Maybe that's good enough for him. Increasingly, it is not good enough for us.
"Go back over everything, everything," Bush said, according to [counter-terrorism coordinator Richard] Clarke's account. "See if Saddam did this."
"But Mr. President, al Qaeda did this," Clarke replied.
"I know, I know, but . . . see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred."
Reminded that the CIA, FBI and White House staffs had sought and found no such link before, Clarke said, Bush spoke "testily." As he left the room, Bush said a third time, "Look into Iraq, Saddam."
During Bush's first week in office, Clarke asked urgently for a Cabinet-level meeting on al Qaeda. He did not get it -- or permission to brief the president directly on the threat -- for nearly eight months. When deputies to the Cabinet officials took up the subject in April, Clarke writes, the meeting "did not go well."
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, Clarke wrote, scowled and asked, "why we are beginning by talking about this one man, bin Laden." When Clarke told him no foe but al Qaeda "poses an immediate and serious threat to the United States," Wolfowitz is said to have replied that Iraqi terrorism posed "at least as much" of a danger. FBI and CIA representatives backed Clarke in saying they had no such evidence.
"I could hardly believe," Clarke writes, that Wolfowitz pressed the "totally discredited" theory that Iraq was behind the 1993 truck bomb at the World Trade Center," a theory that had been investigated for years and found to be totally untrue."
As if that would make any difference.
Sunday, March 21, 2004
Recall how [the Medicare] bill squeaked through Congress only after some heads were cracked. A retiring Republican from Michigan, Rep. Nick Smith, even charges that supporters of the bill offered him a bribe in the form of financial support for the political campaign of his son. The bill was priced at the time at $400 billion over 10 years. After the deed was done (the specifics of which amounted to a huge giveaway to the pharmaceutical and health-care industries), it came out that the real cost will be at least $551.5 billion—a difference of $150-plus billion that will translate into trillions over time. Now we learn that the Bush administration knew the truth beforehand and squelched it. Rick Foster, the chief actuary for Medicare, says he was told he would be fired if he passed along the higher estimates to Congress. "I'll fire him so fast his head will spin," Thomas Scully, then head of Medicare, said last June, according to an aide who has now gone public.
I knew Tom Scully a bit when he worked for Bush's father during the early 1990s. He is a whip-smart health-policy expert and Bush-family loyalist. He denies making the firing comment or saying that Foster was guilty of "insubordination" for wanting to tell Congress the truth. But Scully, who (natch) now works as a highly paid lobbyist on health issues, is stuck with the fact that Foster made clear efforts to be honest about the cost of this monstrosity.
As for Bush himself, there are only two possibilities, both bad. The first is that he never learned the true cost of one of the major policy initiatives of his presidency. If so, he was incompetent. The second, more plausible, alternative is that he simply chose the lower, more convenient number and didn't have any problem with the honest figures produced by the bureaucracy's getting "deep-sixed," as they used to say during Watergate.
You might think this is standard operating procedure in Washington. It is not. Every White House sends the press secretary out to spin the numbers that emerge on a weekly or monthly basis from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other agencies. But applying political pressure to cook the numbers themselves is a true scandal.
Maybe something useful will come of this one.
Does it really matter that the Bush administration has tried to manipulate science in the service of its conservative political agenda?
Yes, and here's why. The federal government's agencies are charged with providing expert, impartial scientific advice to Congress and the American people. When this information is suppressed, altered or ignored, our health - and that of the environment - is endangered.
Last month, 62 of the nation's top scientists, including a dozen Nobel laureates, denounced the Bush administration for "misrepresenting and suppressing scientific knowledge for political purposes."
The scientists accused the administration of distorting research findings, stacking scientific advisory panels with unqualified conservative ideologues, deleting accurate information from government Web sites, censoring or suppressing reports by the government's own scientists, declining to seek independent scientific advice from leaders in their fields, misleading the public on issues, ranging from safe levels of mercury emissions and lead poisoning to climate change, blocking the publication of research that could adversely affect particular industries and slashing funds for scientific research that conflicts with the administration's political goals.
It's hard to believe they continue to get away with this, what with doing it in plain sight and all.
Surely, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, a key player on all the fronts that were in play [last week], had a very long list of responsibilities. No time for diversions on Friday, right? Wrong.
Rice took time out of the middle of the day to address a secretive gathering that included global media mogul Rupert Murdoch and top executives from television networks, newspapers and other media properties owned by Murdoch's News Corp. conglomerate. Rice spoke at some length via satellite to Murdoch and his cronies, who had gathered at the posh Ritz Carlton Hotel in Cancun Mexico, according to reports published in the British press.
The Guardian newspaper, which sent a reporter to Cancun, revealed that Rice was asked to address the group by executives of the Murdoch-controlled Fox broadcast and cable networks in the US. The Fox "family" includes, of course, the Fox News cable channel, which the Guardian correctly describes as "hugely supportive of President George Bush."
So it seems that, when the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States calls, the Bush Administration's national security is not available. But when Rupert Murdoch calls, well, how could Condoleezza Rice refuse?
Commemorating the first anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, George W. Bush gave the American people a glimpse of his vision of the future: a grim world where a near endless war is waged against forces of evil by forces loyal to Bush who represents what is good.
“There is no neutral ground – no neutral ground – in the fight between civilization and terror, because there is no neutral ground between good and evil, freedom and slavery, and life and death,” Bush said on March 19. “The terrorists are offended not merely by our policies; they’re offended by our existence as free nations. No concession will appease their hatred. No accommodation will satisfy their endless demands.”
So to Bush, the "war on terror" is a fight to the finish. Eliminate everyone who would or might engage in terrorism before they destroy civilization and impose slavery on the rest of us. To Bush’s supporters, this black-and-white analysis represents “moral clarity.” To others around the world, it is taking on the look of madness.
This concept of grander truth may help explain why Bush has not apologized for his false assertions about weapons of mass destruction or his misleading comments linking Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Indeed, even in his March 19 address, Bush continued to lie with impunity about the facts leading up to war.