Saturday, June 19, 2004
When the commission studying the 9/11 terrorist attacks refuted the Bush administration's claims of a connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, we suggested that President Bush apologize for using these claims to help win Americans' support for the invasion of Iraq. We did not really expect that to happen. But we were surprised by the depth and ferocity of the administration's capacity for denial. President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have not only brushed aside the panel's findings and questioned its expertise, but they are also trying to rewrite history.
Mr. Bush said the 9/11 panel had actually confirmed his contention that there were "ties" between Iraq and Al Qaeda. He said his administration had never connected Saddam Hussein to 9/11. Both statements are wrong.
Before the war, Mr. Bush spoke of far more than vague "ties" between Iraq and Al Qaeda. He said Iraq had provided Al Qaeda with weapons training, bomb-making expertise and a base in Iraq. On Feb. 8, 2003, Mr. Bush said that "an Al Qaeda operative was sent to Iraq several times in the late 1990's for help in acquiring poisons and gases." The 9/11 panel's report, as well as news articles, indicate that these things never happened.
Mr. Cheney said yesterday that the "evidence is overwhelming" of an Iraq-Qaeda axis and that there had been a "whole series of high-level contacts" between them. The 9/11 panel said a senior Iraqi intelligence officer made three visits to Sudan in the early 1990's, meeting with Osama bin Laden once in 1994. It said Osama bin Laden had asked for "space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded." The panel cited reports of further contacts after Osama bin Laden returned to Afghanistan in 1996, but said there was no working relationship. As far as the public record is concerned, then, Mr. Cheney's "longstanding ties" amount to one confirmed meeting, after which the Iraq government did not help Al Qaeda. By those standards, the United States has longstanding ties to North Korea.
Curiouser and curiouser. And ever more desperate.
Re Account Recalls Cheney as a Swift and Steady Hand (news article, June 18):
The country is under attack, and the vice president urges the president not to return to Washington. The vice president issues the order to the military to send attack planes to shoot down civilian aircraft — indeed, directs the whole operation from his bunker under the White House while the president is flying from one place to another, a cellphone call away.
I am trying to picture Bill Clinton letting Al Gore take over; George H. W. Bush letting Dan Quayle take over; Jimmy Carter letting Walter F. Mondale take over; Richard M. Nixon letting Gerald R. Ford or Spiro T. Agnew take over; John F. Kennedy letting Lyndon B. Johnson take over — I go all the way back to Harry S. Truman and Franklin D. Roosevelt and try to imagine any vice president taking over under the same circumstances. I can't.
The whole story reads like Seven Days in May. America, we have a problem.
We sure do - and its name is Dick.
A senior US intelligence official is about to publish a bitter condemnation of America's counter-terrorism policy, arguing that the west is losing the war against al-Qaida and that an "avaricious, premeditated, unprovoked" war in Iraq has played into Osama bin Laden's hands.
Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, due out next month, dismisses two of the most frequent boasts of the Bush administration: that Bin Laden and al-Qaida are "on the run" and that the Iraq invasion has made America safer.
In an interview with the Guardian the official, who writes as "Anonymous", described al-Qaida as a much more proficient and focused organisation than it was in 2001, and predicted that it would "inevitably" acquire weapons of mass destruction and try to use them.
"I'm very sure they can't have a better administration for them than the one they have now," he said.
"One way to keep the Republicans in power is to mount an attack that would rally the country around the president."
America needs a forward-looking energy policy that reduces our reliance on fossil fuels. Unfortunately, the Bush administration is pushing a myopic energy bill that will cost taxpayers $19 billion in subsidies and tax breaks for the oil and gas industries and encourage air and water pollution while sacrificing our public lands in the quixotic pursuit of drilling our way to energy independence.
We cannot solve our energy challenges by increasing the speed and scale of drilling on our public lands. America has only 3 percent of the world's natural gas and 4 percent of the oil, but we consume about 25 percent of the world's energy. In the Rockies, there is very little oil; the emphasis is on natural gas where remaining undiscovered deposits are small with high production and environmental costs. Any real solution must look beyond fossil fuels.
Not bloody likely.
President Bush yesterday angrily denounced the beheading by al Qaeda terrorists of U.S. hostage Paul M. Johnson Jr., in Saudi Arabia, promising to pursue the "barbaric people" who killed the Lockheed Martin employee and "bring them to justice before they hurt other Americans."
Told of the brutal murder as he prepared to board Air Force One after a speech to troops at Fort Lewis, Wash., Mr. Bush said the killing "shows the evil nature of the enemy we face," adding there was "no justification whatsoever for his murder."
OK, but it's a little strange to hear Mr. Cheney condemn someone for having "no shame".
Thursday, June 17, 2004
It's hard to imagine how the commission investigating the 2001 terrorist attacks could have put it more clearly yesterday: there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, between Saddam Hussein and Sept. 11.
Now President Bush should apologize to the American people, who were led to believe something different.
Of all the ways Mr. Bush persuaded Americans to back the invasion of Iraq last year, the most plainly dishonest was his effort to link his war of choice with the battle against terrorists worldwide. While it's possible that Mr. Bush and his top advisers really believed that there were chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in Iraq, they should have known all along that there was no link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. No serious intelligence analyst believed the connection existed; Richard Clarke, the former antiterrorism chief, wrote in his book that Mr. Bush had been told just that.
Nevertheless, the Bush administration convinced a substantial majority of Americans before the war that Saddam Hussein was somehow linked to 9/11. And since the invasion, administration officials, especially Vice President Dick Cheney, have continued to declare such a connection. Last September, Mr. Bush had to grudgingly correct Mr. Cheney for going too far in spinning a Hussein-bin Laden conspiracy. But the claim has crept back into view as the president has made the war on terror a centerpiece of his re-election campaign.
On Monday, Mr. Cheney said Mr. Hussein "had long-established ties with Al Qaeda." Mr. Bush later backed up Mr. Cheney, claiming that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a terrorist who may be operating in Baghdad, is "the best evidence" of a Qaeda link. This was particularly astonishing because the director of central intelligence, George Tenet, told the Senate earlier this year that Mr. Zarqawi did not work with the Hussein regime.
Cheney's tenacious clinging to this universally discredited view reminds me of those votes in the House when he was a member - the ones that went 422-3 or 410-1, with Cheney, often alone, on the losing side.
Adlai Stevenson once said, "Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime." As a nation, we have become lost because the frenzied outburst of emotion which arose from the dust and death of September 11 was transformed, with deliberation and intent, into a shield which protects Bush and his people from any consequences arising from their actions. We have become lost because, in that frenzy and fear, millions of Americans were coaxed into believing that Bush alone could protect us, could save us, and any words against him or the actions of his administration were tantamount to treason.
Apply a different context and imagine an America today had September 11 not happened.
Would we tolerate a President who drove us to war on the basis of lies and exaggeration? Would we tolerate a President who used fear against his own people to get what he wanted? Would we tolerate a President whose people destroyed deep-cover CIA agents as a means of exacting political revenge? Would we tolerate a President who gave away billions of our tax dollars to his closest corporate friends, under the cover of the aforementioned lies and exaggerations? Would we tolerate a President who made the torture of fellow human beings an accepted policy, whose advisors and attorneys concocted twisted arguments to defend such torture, who came to the conclusion that the President is absolutely, totally and without exception above the law?
Put another way, would we have tolerated any of this had it happened during the Clinton administration? Certainly not. Had Clinton done even one of these things, he would have been impeached and removed from office, deservedly so, and none of us would have been required to hear about stained dresses and thong underwear.
That was then, and this is now.
On balance, I liked then better.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, acting at the request of George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, ordered military officials in Iraq last November to hold a man suspected of being a senior Iraqi terrorist at a high-level detention center there but not list him on the prison's rolls, senior Pentagon and intelligence officials said Wednesday.
This prisoner and other "ghost detainees" were hidden largely to prevent the International Committee of the Red Cross from monitoring their treatment, and to avoid disclosing their location to an enemy, officials said.
Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, the Army officer who in February investigated abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison, criticized the practice of allowing ghost detainees there and at other detention centers as "deceptive, contrary to Army doctrine, and in violation of international law."
International law is for the little people.
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
President Bush yesterday defended Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion this week that Saddam Hussein had longstanding ties with Al Qaeda, even as critics charged that the White House had no new proof of a connection.
"At various times Al Qaeda people came through Baghdad and in some cases resided there," said David Kay, former head of the CIA's Iraq Survey Group, which searched for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and links to terrorism. "But we simply did not find any evidence of extensive links with Al Qaeda, or for that matter any real links at all."
"Cheney's speech is evidence-free," Kay said. "It is an assertion, but doesn't say why we should believe this now."
There must be a name for the mental condition that causes the vice president to behave this way. Shouldn't someone offer to help him?
The finest legal minds in Washington presumably found reason to advise President Bush in March of 2003 that the President need not concern himself with international or federal laws anti-torture laws when the security of the nation was at stake. If we were to torture a detainee for a parking ticket it would be wrong, but because our nation is threatened we need not concern ourselves with laws that were clearly written for matters less significant than matters of national security. What nation? It is not clear to me that, at the point we decide our nation is above the laws the codify decency and humanity, we remain a nation worthy of our history. There is much in America that is worth dying for—this weasel opinion and the related abhorrent actions that are starting to seem more pervasive than exceptional are not.
I think it is time to dust off the word 'un-American.'
In fact, I can’t think of anything less in keeping with the moral and political idealism that this country purports to stand for. The premise of our constitution is that the means are the ends. The constitution was created no toward but from the idea of certain inalienable rights. The argument forwarded to our President in this memo is the same argument that has been whispered into the ears of torturers and dictators throughout history. The hope for a civilized world rests in our ability to reject this argument, to reject that we can achieve anything noble through such ignoble means.
Or with such corrupt leaders.
President Bush is fond of telling Americans they have liberated Iraq and that the country's future generations will be thankful. The current generation, however, overwhelmingly views U.S. forces as occupiers and wishes they would just leave, according to a poll commissioned by the administration.
The poll, requested by the Coalition Provisional Authority last month but not released to the American public, found more than half of Iraqis surveyed believed both that they'd be safer without U.S. forces and that all Americans behave like the military prison guards pictured in the Abu Ghraib abuse photos.
The survey, obtained by The Associated Press, also found radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is surging in popularity as he leads an insurrection against U.S.-led forces, but would still be a distant finisher in an election for Iraqi president.
"If you are sitting here as part of the coalition, it (the poll) is pretty grim," said Donald Hamilton, a career foreign service officer who is working for Ambassador Paul Bremer's interim government and helps oversee the CPA's polling of Iraqis.
It looks pretty grim from here, too.
Monday, June 14, 2004
Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that Saddam Hussein had "long-established ties" with al Qaeda, an assertion that has been repeatedly challenged by some policy experts and lawmakers.
The vice president offered no details backing up his claim of a link between Saddam and al Qaida.
Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, countered that the Bush administration had "a sorry record in the war on terror." Graham, former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, spoke Sunday in a conference call arranged by John Kerry's presidential campaign in anticipation of Cheney's speech.
The State Department said last week it was wrong in stating that terrorism declined worldwide last year in a report that the Bush administration initially cited as evidence it was succeeding against terrorism, Graham noted. Both the number of incidents and the toll in victims increased sharply, the department acknowledged.
After the error was revealed by the press, they acknowledged it, that is.
The newly disclosed details about Pentagon contracting do not suggest improper political pressures to direct business to Halliburton, the Houston-based company that the Vice-President, Dick Cheney, once headed.
But they raise questions about the repeated assertions by Mr Cheney and other Administration officials that Mr Cheney knew nothing in advance about the Halliburton contracts and that the decisions were made by career procurement experts, without the involvement of senior political appointees.
New evidence that the physical abuse of detainees in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay was authorised at the top of the Bush administration will emerge in Washington this week, adding further to pressure on the White House.
The Telegraph understands that four confidential Red Cross documents implicating senior Pentagon civilians in the Abu Ghraib scandal have been passed to an American television network, which is preparing to make them public shortly.
According to lawyers familiar with the Red Cross reports, they will contradict previous testimony by senior Pentagon officials who have claimed that the abuse in the Abu Ghraib prison was an isolated incident.
"There are some extremely damaging documents around, which link senior figures to the abuses," said Scott Horton, the former chairman of the New York Bar Association, who has been advising Pentagon lawyers unhappy at the administration's approach. "The biggest bombs in this case have yet to be dropped."
The stench from Washington is becoming so foul we can smell it way out here in Ohio!
Sunday, June 13, 2004
National Republican Chairman Ed Gillespie said of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush: "The parallels are there. I don't know how you miss them."
Not really, Ed. Reagan won presidency fair and square, by huge margins in Electoral College. (He even carried Massachusetts twice.) Bush is court-appointed administrator, installed with underhanded help from his brother Jeb, governor of Florida.
I never voted for Reagan but always felt he represented America with dignity and class. Bush's sloppy, casual manner at podium is embarrassing and unpresidential. And he still can't look serious without doing weird things with his mouth.
Reagan split Democratic Party and created Reagan Democrats; Bush has united Democrats as never before.
Reagan was never publicly pious and rarely set foot in church. Bush calls his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "crusades," says his favorite philosopher is Jesus Christ, gives tax money to "faith-based" groups, openly courts right-wing evangelical leaders.
Not sure when Reagan became Saint Ronald, but Republicans will worship him at their convention this fall. And when it's over, Bush will still be Bush.
Hopefully this week will see the end of the wall-to-wall Reagan coverage we have endured of late.
So desperate are Bush Republicans to kill Michael Moore's latest film, Fahrenheit 9/11, they have hired a public relations firm to set up a web site attacking Moore. The site, MoveAmericaForward.com, claims to be "non-partisan," but a glance at the "About" page of the site reveals the director and staff of Move America Forward are all diehard Republicans, anti-tax activists, and former legislative staffers. The PR firm is Russo Marsh & Rogers.
Russo Marsh & Rogers is a GOP consultation firm. In 2002, Ron Rogers teamed up with Reagan heavyweight Lyn Nofziger and Ed Rollins to work on the gubernatorial campaign of Bill Simon (see Campaign movements -- People & Organizations.)
Thanks to the detective work of WhatReallyHappened.com, it was revealed that Move America Forward's web site was registered in the name of Russo Marsh & Rogers. In other words, Move America Forward is about as partisan as it gets without putting the GOP seal of approval on the web site. In short, Move America Forward's campaign is a Republican dirty trick designed to smear Moore and pressure move theater owners not to run his film.
"Time is short," the Move America Forward web site declares, "we must act now to have our voices heard in time to make a difference. Help us get messages from millions of Americans sent to these film industry executives."
Certainly, time is short for the Republicans - millions of Americans are about to learn how George Bush had a business relationship with the Bin Laden family - and they will learn it right before the election. Russo and the "non-partisan" Republicans want to make sure you never see Moore's film. They don't want you to know the truth about Bush and his buddy-buddy dealings with the Saudis.
Facts are stubborn things.
It was 1970, and the Vietnam War was raging. A young U.S. intelligence case officer was delivering reports gathered by his indigenous agents to a local U.S. artillery captain. One report was of a crude Viet Cong hospital in the jungle, within range of the captain's guns. We won't be hitting that target, the captain said. Why not? he was asked. Because we don't hit their hospitals and they don't hit ours, the captain replied. In those few words, he expressed a central reason why international norms of behavior in war are important: Although you are trying to kill each other, the Golden Rule still applies: You must treat others as you want them to treat you.
Now comes the Bush administration, post 9/11, anxious to find a means of legitimizing torture and abuse that are outlawed both by U.S. law and by international treaties the United States has ratified. The effort is a despicable affront not only to U.S. and international law, but to the U.S. Constitution and to common decency. It also creates considerable risk for American forces in this and future wars: If the United States doesn't feel itself bound by agreed norms of behavior in war, why should anyone else?
Excellent national reporting on this scandal has been overwhelmed the past week by attention paid to the passing of former President Ronald Reagan. That was understandable, perhaps, but now attention needs to refocus on what is arguably the most egregious attempt ever to redefine the power of the presidency, to, in effect, make the president a king in time of war.
Two reports are at the center of this controversy, one from the Pentagon and one from the Justice Department. Attorney General John Ashcroft refuses to release the latter report to Congress even though he cites no legal justification for his refusal. His behavior is itself an offensive, and perhaps impeachable, attempt to redefine the constitutional power of the executive branch.
If you were going to choose someone to endow with unlimited power, would it be George W. Bush?
A State Department report that incorrectly showed a decline last year in terrorism worldwide was a "big mistake," Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday.
He said he was working with the CIA, which helped to compile the data, to determine why the errors got into the report.
Powell said he planned a meeting on the issue Monday and that the intelligence agency was working through the weekend in preparation.
"I'm not saying it is responsible until I sit down with all of the individuals who had something to do with this report: CIA, my department, members of my department, other agencies that contributed to it," Powell said.
"It's a numbers error. It's not a political judgment that said, 'Let's see if we can cook the books.' We can't get away with that now. Nobody was out to cook the books. Errors crept in," he told ABC's "This Week."
I'm sorry to say I no longer trust Colin Powell. I think this "error" was left uncorrected on purpose to let the president brag about something he didn't really accomplish. As he so often does.
The United States launched many more failed airstrikes on a far broader array of senior Iraqi leaders during the early days of the war last year than has previously been acknowledged, and some caused significant civilian casualties, according to senior military and intelligence officials.
Only a few of the 50 airstrikes have been described in public. All were unsuccessful, and many, including the two well-known raids on Saddam Hussein and his sons, appear to have been undercut by poor intelligence, current and former government officials said.
The strikes, carried out against so-called high-value targets during a one-month period that began on March 19, 2003, used precision-guided munitions against at least 13 Iraqi leaders, including Gen. Izzat Ibrahim, Iraq's No. 2 official, the officials said.
General Ibrahim is still at large, along with at least one other top official who was a target of the failed raids. That official, Maj. Gen. Rafi Abd al-Latif Tilfah, the former head of the Directorate of General Security, and General Ibrahim are playing a leadership role in the anti-American insurgency, according to a briefing document prepared last month by the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The broad scope of the campaign and its failures, along with the civilian casualties, have not been acknowledged by the Bush administration.