Saturday, July 17, 2004
The story has appeared so far in only one newspaper - albeit a major, reputable one: Australia's Sydney Morning Herald.
If it is true, it could be the biggest blow yet to America's intervention in Iraq - bigger than the Abu Ghraib prison scandal or the failure to find weapons of mass destruction.
Did new Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi pull out a pistol and cold-bloodedly execute as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before the United States handed control of the country to his interim government?
That sensational story is reported by Australian journalist Paul McGeough, who says that two witnesses that he tracked down and interviewed separately both told essentially the same story. The incident allegedly happened on the weekend of June 19-20, just three weeks after former exiled leader Allawi was tapped to lead the nation toward democracy.
The Australian media are all abuzz over this story, but so far there has been little mention of it here in America. You saw it here first!
President Bush must have left the buck in deer country, because the White House keeps passing the blame to the same CIA that Vice President Dick Cheney and his Pentagon henchmen leaned on to supply the rationale they needed for the war they were determined to launch. They’re trying to turn George Tenet, the recently-resigned head of the CIA, from lapdog to scapegoat, while letting Cheney, the 800-pound gorilla who tried to turn the little CIA analysts into parrots, continue his rumble in the jungle.
If this sounds like Animal Farm, it is. What is more Orwellian than Bush’s rhetorical fallacies? Campaigning at the nuclear weapons lab in Oak Ridge, Tennessee - he has finally found nuclear-related capability - Mr Bush defended is decision to go to war in Iraq: "So I had a choice to make. Either take the word of a madman or defend America." He also said of the terrorists: "We will confront them overseas so we do not have to confront them here at home."
That is nonsense. Just because more terrorists are attacking Americans abroad doesn’t mean terrorists aren’t poised also to attack us at home. And in fact, Bush officials keep warning us that terrorists are planning "something big" here.
It’s just like the president’s other false dichotomies: You’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists. If we don’t stop gays from marrying, it will destroy the institution of marriage...
Friday, July 16, 2004
They say the prisoners - handcuffed and blindfolded - were lined up against a wall in a courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell block in which they were held at the Al-Amariyah security centre, in the city's south-western suburbs.
They say Dr Allawi told onlookers the victims had each killed as many as 50 Iraqis and they "deserved worse than death".
The Prime Minister's office has denied the entirety of the witness accounts in a written statement to the Herald, saying Dr Allawi had never visited the centre and he did not carry a gun.
Not so fast, Sir.
Thursday, July 15, 2004
When the chief of the U.S. Park Police complained last December that her force was understaffed and stretched too thin to adequately protect National Park Service facilities, her bosses put her on leave, saying her comments were "an open invitation to lawbreakers." And then, last week, Chief Teresa C. Chambers was summarily fired with no further comment from the National Park Service or its parent, the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton held a press conference last week to declare that the Bush administration was virtually showering money on the nation's parks. She said the service's $1.8-billion budget was unprecedented and the number of park employees had increased by 829 since 2000. The figures are in dispute, but even if they are accurate, they do not paint a real picture of the state of funding, which the National Parks Conservation Assn., an advocacy group, says "is a critical and chronic issue" throughout the park system. The fact is, it was Congress that added more than $100 million to the Park Service budget, and many programs in the parks are a shambles. Things got so bad that, in March, park officials advised employees to explain cuts in visitor programs as "service-level adjustments."
The Bush administration has been intent on circumventing, blocking or ignoring a Clinton-era rule that protects about 60 million acres of national forest, including 69,000 acres in Wisconsin, from logging operations that cost taxpayers more of their hard-earned money while depleting a national resource. Talk about a lose-lose proposition. In the campaign season already upon us, voters should make it clear to candidates of all parties that both forests and money are good things to save.
Instead of providing national protection for some of the last remaining wild areas in the country - protection that has wide public support - the administration would allow timber operations to proceed unless states, through their governors, provided the necessary protection.
Wisconsin officials should move quickly, of course, to ask for that protection. But thanks in large part to the work of Republican President Teddy Roosevelt, the federal government has been the agency best suited to preserve national treasures. The current White House occupant apparently feels otherwise, though the official language being used to tout the new rules could lead you to a different conclusion.
"Our actions today advance President Bush's commitment to cooperatively conserving roadless areas on national forests," Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said at a news conference in Idaho on Monday.
[This editorial originally appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.]
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
That is the highly provocative question being asked in Bush on the Couch, a new book in which psychoanalyst and George Washington University professor Dr. Justin Frank uses the president’s public pronouncements and behavior, along with biographical data, to craft a comprehensive psychological profile of Bush 43.
It’s not a pretty picture, but it goes a long way in explaining how exactly our country got itself into the mess we are in: an intractable war, the loss of allies and international goodwill, a half-trillion-dollar deficit.
Poking around in the presidential psyche, Frank uncovers a man suffering from megalomania, paranoia, a false sense of omnipotence, an inability to manage his emotions, a lifelong need to defy authority, an unresolved love-hate relationship with his father, and the repercussions of a history of untreated alcohol abuse.
Other than that, George Bush is the picture of psychological health.
One of the more compelling sections of the book is Frank’s dissection of what he calls Bush’s “almost pathological aversion to owning up to his infractions” — a mindset common to individuals Freud termed “the Exceptions,” those who feel “entitled to live outside the limitations that apply to ordinary people.”
Limitations like, for instance, not driving while drunk. Or the limitation of having to report for required Air National Guard duty. Or the limitation of having to adhere to international law.
Not even science is safe from the all-politics-all-the-time style of the Bush administration. For the second time this year, a major scientific advocacy organization has blasted the administration for elevating ideology above science. That dangerous practice must come to a screeching halt.
In February, 62 scientists, including former senior advisers to earlier administrations, accused the current administration of manipulating the scientific process. Affirming that statement, the Union of Concerned Scientists published a report packed with details. Since then, 4,000 scientists have signed onto the statement, including 48 Nobel laureates and 62 National Medal of Science recipients.
Now the Union of Concerned Scientists has issued a new report with more cases. Among other things, it says that Department of the Interior officials ignored scientific evidence about the damage caused by mountaintop-removal mining. It also says that, in vetting scientists for posts on national advisory panels, administration officials pushed them for answers about their loyalty to President George W. Bush.
Sadly, Bush's science adviser, John H. Marburger III, a physicist who did a fine job running Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory, was stuck in the role of denying it all. Bush critics believe Marburger had nothing to do with abuses, but his job requires him to defend the indefensible. That's a shame. Federal science is far too important to our future for politicians to bend it to their purposes.
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
A Democratic congressman who receives classified briefings on the threat of terrorist attacks said yesterday that top U.S. government officials' repeated statements that international terrorists want to disrupt the American electoral process this year "appear to have no basis."
Rep. Jim Turner (Tex.), ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, said that after several recent briefings by U.S. intelligence officials about perceived terrorist threats this summer and fall, "I don't have any information that al Qaeda" plans to attack the election process. "Nobody knows anything about timing" or the exact nature of any possible attack, although U.S. officials say al Qaeda wants to mount an attack this year, Turner said.
Although Ridge and the intelligence official said they have no "specific" details on time or place of any attack, the intelligence official said, "Recent and credible information indicates that al Qaeda is determined to carry out these attacks to disrupt our democratic processes."
I don't think it's al Qaeda that wants to disrupt our democratic processes.
It's notable that in a week when the major reasons the administration offered for the war in Iraq were undercut by a Senate Intelligence Committee report, our presidential candidates devoted themselves to talk about "values."
The idea that our country fought a war on false premises is astonishing - and it has a lot to do with the "values" of this administration.
President Bush's government was unrelenting in trying to persuade Americans that Saddam Hussein posed an immediate threat to us, that he had scary weapons, that he was tied to al Qaeda and thus to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It is wholly inadequate to shuck all this off on the CIA. The president was determined to scare the hell out of the country and make the case for war by whatever means necessary.
That's a great idea. Applying it to the president means that he, not the CIA, is responsible for the case that was made for the war in Iraq. By the president's own logic, he can't blame a bunch of bureaucrats ("if you've got a problem, blame somebody else") for his administration's eagerness to offer the most lopsided picture possible of the threat Saddam posed.
"If it feels good, do it." Bush is absolutely right that this is an inadequate approach to the decisions we face in life. The "values" that lead Bush to reject this concept should pertain especially to decisions to start wars and to the methods used to sell them.
A July 9 news article reports that the Pentagon says that payroll records that included records for President Bush's National Guard service were accidentally destroyed and that there were no backup copies.
Anyone who has served in the military, especially in the Vietnam era, knows its notorious reputation for redundant paperwork. Forms were routinely filled out in duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate. Multiple copies were then routed to multiple record centers.
Microfilm is regarded by archivists to be extremely stable and reliable. It is still the backup record of choice, as electronic storage formats become obsolete overnight. It does not deteriorate in storage and, if stored properly in metal containers, can even withstand fire.
It is certainly conjecture to suggest that the records were deliberately destroyed, but without more information, a reasonable doubt remains. Only an investigation can reveal who was responsible for the missing records.
That, or common sense.
Back in the good ol' days of the Cold War, I returned from a visit to East Germany and was instantly berated by one of its diplomats in Washington. He wanted to know how I could have written that East Berlin was bleak and dismal when everyone knew that West Berlin was really that way. For years, I've wondered what happened to that man. Now I think he's the president of the United States.
When it comes to telling you right to your face that black is white, maybe no one compares with George W. Bush. Last week, for example, he responded to yet another report that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction by saying that it didn't matter. "Although we have not found stockpiles of weapons, I believe we were right to go into Iraq," Bush said. "America is safer today because we did."
But somehow, this terrorist whose capture did not matter all that much, whose apparatus would be shut down by Pentagon apparatchiks, has now caused much of Washington to break out in hives. The election may be interrupted. New York may be attacked. Still, we are safe. Check that: We are safer. In fact, we are both safe and not safe because, as the record makes clear, it is both important to get bin Laden and not important to get him - depending, of course, on which mistake some nincompoop is trying to excuse.
And, of course, this president has never made a mistake. What a worthless churl.
Does any of this make sense? Where is the common-sense consistency, the respect for truth and the logical hierarchy of priorities in our foreign policy? Why can't the president explain — without lying — why we are in Iraq? Why are Americans dying in a country that had no weapons of mass destruction, had no role in 9/11 and posed no immediate threat to the U.S.?
The 511-page Senate Intelligence Committee report makes it clear that despite the haughty posturing of national security heavyweights, we do not have adults watching the store. The report's epic series of embarrassing conclusions about how the intelligence on Iraq became distorted is a testament to how political ideology and ambitions consistently trumped logic and integrity. The Senate report is a thoroughly damning indictment of the Bush administration's doctrine of "preemptive" war based on intelligence. In the case of Iraq, the intelligence that was false was adopted by the administration, while the intelligence that was true was ignored as inconvenient. And it is telling that the CIA, try as it did to accommodate the White House, couldn't find any evidence that Al Qaeda and Iraq were collaborators.
Not that the CIA didn't try, though. "This intelligence assessment responds to senior policymaker interest in a comprehensive assessment of Iraqi regime links to Al Qaeda. Our approach is purposefully aggressive in seeking to draw connections," said one report. "I was asking the people who were writing [the report on Iraq-Al Qaeda links] to lean far forward and do a speculative piece. If you were going to stretch to the maximum the evidence you had, what could you come up with?" the deputy director for intelligence at the CIA told the Senate committee.
With this approach, we might as well base our foreign policy on reruns of "The X-Files." Maybe this is why the president wants us to go to Mars: It's a preemptive strike.
The very best that can be said on President Bush's behalf is that he used the CliffsNotes version of intelligence information about Iraq as the basis for a poorly planned and rushed invasion of Iraq in March of last year.
The problem with this charitable approach to Bush is that it's unfair to CliffsNotes.
The lazy student's version of anything is at least an accurate summary.
But the intelligence information about Iraq was wrong. In terms that Bush can perhaps recall from his days at Yale as a budding intellectual of limited achievement, it's as if he went forth to his final exam on Dickens and wrote confidently that David Copperfield murdered Uriah Heep with a fireplace poker. The policy sophisticates and intelligence insiders are having a field day with the Senate Intelligence Committee's limited and highly censored report on prewar information. However, the sophisticates are missing the truly jarring truth.
In plain English, the Central Intelligence Agency was serving Bush large helpings of baloney in the form of summaries of analyses and conclusions that were directly contradicted by the detailed information on which these analyses and conclusions were supposedly based. For those seeking to blame the summaries, including Bush's own campaign and policy big shots, the desperate finger-pointing works only on the basis of an assumption that is grounds for tossing Bush out of office.
To try to escape accountability by blaming CIA summaries, the president would have to ask the country to believe that he led it to war after reading a few cover pages without once glancing at the backup material that was sent to him and his top advisers. This view of the Bush style - big picture and full of alleged moral clarity - is grounds all by itself for electing a new president.
Or impeaching the current one.
Monday, July 12, 2004
If we know that bin Laden and his top leadership are somewhere along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and that they're plotting an attack against the United States, why are we not zeroing in on them with overwhelming force? Why is there not a sense of emergency in the land, with the entire country pulling together to stop another Sept. 11 from occurring?
Why are we not more serious about this?
I don't know what the administration was thinking when it invaded Iraq even as the direct threat from bin Laden and Al Qaeda continued to stare us in the face. That threat has only intensified. The war in Iraq consumed personnel and resources badly needed in the campaign against bin Laden and his allies. And it has fanned the hatred of the U.S. among Muslims around the world. Instead of destroying Al Qaeda, we have played right into its hands and contributed immeasurably to its support.
Most current intelligence analysts agree with Secretary Ridge that Al Qaeda will try before long to strike the U.S. mainland once again.
We've trained most of our guns on the wrong foe. The real enemy is sneaking up behind us. Again. The price to be paid for not recognizing this could be devastating.
I think we know where the real enemy is.
US counter-terrorism officials are examining what steps would be needed to permit a delay, Newsweek reports.
Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge last week warned al-Qaeda was planning to attack the US to disrupt the poll but conceded he had no precise information.
A senior Democrat in Congress has said talk of postponement is "excessive".
In its latest edition, Newsweek reports that Mr Ridge has asked the Justice Department to examine what legal steps would be needed to permit the postponement of the 2 November election.
Abraham Lincoln was urged by some aides to suspend the election of 1864 - during the US Civil War - but despite the expectation that he would lose, he refused.
"The election is a necessity," Lincoln said. "We cannot have a free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forgo, or postpone, a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered us."
Of course, Lincoln was a different kind of president. A good one.
NAACP chairman Julian Bond condemned Bush administration policies on education, the economy and the war in Iraq on Sunday, imploring members of the nation's oldest civil rights organization to increase voter turnout to oust the president from office.
"They preach racial neutrality and practice racial division," Bond said Sunday night in the 95th annual convention's keynote address. "They've tried to patch the leaky economy and every other domestic problem with duct tape and plastic sheets. They write a new constitution of Iraq and they ignore the Constitution here at home."
Bond, a leader in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the 1960s civil rights movement and a Georgia legislator for 20 years, became chairman of the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1998.
"On our present course, we are formalizing two school systems: one filled with middle-class children, most of them white, and the other filled with low-income minorities," Bond said.
The world's biggest HIV/AIDS conference opened yesterday with organisers bitterly criticising George Bush's religious fundamentalist line on disease prevention.
They also condemned as "shameful" a cut in US delegates to the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok.
The Bush administration, backed by the Christian Right, promotes what it calls ABC - abstinence, being faithful, and condom use "when appropriate". "We need to tell our children that abstinence is the only certain way to avoid contracting HIV," President Bush said last month.
However, many AIDS activists say that condoms should be seen as the prime method of prevention because trying to persuade people not to have sex is ineffective.
Joep Lange, president of the International AIDS Society and co-chairman of the conference, said Bush was playing "ideological games" and that the reason for the cut was "entirely political".