Anti-terrorism and homeland securityThe Hart/Rudman commission on national security issues its second report on the threat of terrorism and the state of national security. The Bush administration ignores the report. (Buzzflash, Gary Hart News)
9/11 attacks...Over several months beginning in April , a series of military and governmental policy documents [are] released that [seek] to legitimize the use of US military force in the pursuit of oil and gas." Michael Klare, an international security expert, says the military has increasingly come to "define resource security as their primary mission." An article in the Army War College's journal by Jeffrey Record, a former staff member of the Senate armed services committee, argues for the legitimacy of "shooting in the Persian Gulf on behalf of lower gas prices." He also "advocate[s] the acceptability of presidential subterfuge in the promotion of a conflict" and "explicitly urge[s] painting over the US's actual reasons for warfare with a nobly high-minded veneer, seeing such as a necessity for mobilizing public support for a conflict." In April, Tommy Franks, the commander of US forces in the Persian Gulf/South Asia area, testifies to Congress in April that his command's key mission is "access to [the region's] energy resources." The next month US Central Command begins planning for war with Afghanistan, plans that are later used in the real war. (CCR)
Oil profiteering and the "oiligarchy"crafted in secret by a task force chaired by Vice President Cheney, as a political weapon against Democrats. A memo drafted by Gillespie, who used his close ties to the administration to land the lucrative position with Enron, warns that the administration faces "a classic liberal-conservative...dynamic," which cast Republicans as the party of big business and enemies of the environment. "Instead of picking the fight that has been picked for us, we should pick a new fight," says the confidential memo, which is presented to energy companies and industry groups. The memo suggested the industry "change the dynamic by 'Carterizing' the Democrats" -- an allusion to former president Jimmy Carter. "We need to make them the 'eat your peas' party." An example of Gillespie's slant is in his earlier recommendation that Democrats who advocate lowering the country's energy usage should be characterized as rich elitists shoving their austerity programs down the throats of ordinary citizens: "The Democratic Party and its leadership is dominated by elitists who believe that the rest of us should carpool, while they drive their Chevy Suburbans to the lake house for the weekend." Gillespie's pseudo-populist rhetoric loses some of its impact when one discovers that he employed that particular piece of rhetoric on behalf of Enron and DaimlerChrysler.
Bush's economic policiesNamed early in the Bush administration to head the SEC, Pitt is a lawyer for the accounting industry that made his reputation fighting against the corporate reforms advocated by his predecessor, Arthur Levitt. Pitt spearheaded the efforts to continue allowing accounting firms to offer both auditing and consulting services to their clients, a practice that would be later exposed when the accounting firm Arthur Andersen is revealed to have helped its client Enron cook its books. Even after the Andersen/Enron debacle, Pitt will refuse to take action, instead advocating the corporate position that boards of directors should be responsible for deciding whether or not their auditing firms should audit the results of their own consulting, a position that would do nothing to halt the practices exposed by the Enron/Andersen scandal. Pitt, who promised the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants that his tenure would ensure the corporate world would be a "kinder, gentler place for accountants," is widely seen as a tool of corporate accounting firms and the corporations they contract with. New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer notes that Pitt seems to have "internalized the values of his clients" as the head of the SEC, and often "held cozy meetings with the folks he should be regulating aggressively." Spitzer, an aggressive, non-partisan prosecutor who will become a thorn in the administration's side, leads an investigation of the relationship between Pitt's SEC and the corporations it is failing to regulate; only after Spitzer releases a batch of explosive e-mails featuring SEC analysts privately deriding what they were publicly promoting does Pitt begin to cooperate with Spitzer. Still, Pitt will continue to do his corporate masters' bidding. His first choice for the head of the new accounting oversight board is John Biggs, a pension fund CEO with a reputation as a real reformer; when the accounting lobby protests, Pitt withdraws Biggs's name and instead nominates William Webster, a former FBI and CIA director. Webster not only has virtually no experience with accounting, but he is the head of US Technologies, a firm currently under investigation for securities and wire fraud. A public outcry follows the revelation of this information in November 2002; Pitt will resign from his position with the SEC, and Webster will withdraw his name from consideration. (Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
"The Enron failure is the biggest political scandal in American history. Teapot Dome -- a scandal about payoffs to Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall by a couple of greedy oilmen -- was memorable but involved very few people. The Watergate scandal was bigger and more pernicious but it, too, involved relatively few people.... Enron was different. By the time of its bankruptcy, Enron owned -- or perhaps was just renting -- politicians in the White House, Congress, state courts, state legislatures, and bureaucrats at every level."
-- Robert Bryce, Pipe Dreams
9/11 attacksa meeting takes place between 9/11 plotter Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague sometime during the month. The Bush administration seizes on the report and uses it to "prove" that the Iraqi government is connected to al-Qaeda. An investigation by Czech intelligence proves the report is completely false, and Atta was nowhere near Eastern Europe on the day in question. Months later, Czech president Vaclav Havel personally informs US officials that the report is false. An exhaustive report by the FBI also concludes that the meeting never took place. Yet Bush and administration officials continue to use the Czech report as evidence of a connection. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld goes so far as to call the evidence "bulletproof." In later months, as stories of the report's discreditation become more widespread, most administration officials stop citing the report (with the notable exception of Dick Cheney), but it never withdraws its earlier statements. (Strategic News Service/Smalla)
Islamist terrorismhas been trying to get aid from the US, but his people are only allowed to meet with low level US officials. In an attempt to get his message across, he addresses the European Parliament: "If President Bush doesn't help us, these terrorists will damage the US and Europe very soon." (CCR)
Oil profiteering and the "oiligarchy""The report is produced by a veritable who's who of US hawks, oilmen and corporate bigwigs," including key participant Kenneth Lay of Enron. The report says the "central dilemma" for the US administration is that "the American people continue to demand plentiful and cheap energy without sacrifice or inconvenience." It warns that the US is running out of oil, with a painful end to cheap fuel already in sight, argues that "the United States remains a prisoner of its energy dilemma," and that one of the "consequences" of this is a "need for military intervention" to secure its oil supply. Calling its energy situation critical, the report says "the United States should conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq, including military, energy, economic, and political/diplomatic assessments." It warns that "Iraq remains a destabilizing influence to...the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East. Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own export program to manipulate oil markets," and adds, "Over the past year, Iraq has effectively become a swing producer, turning its taps on and off when it has felt such action was in its strategic interest to do so." It recommends consideration of pre-emptive military strikes against Iran, Iraq, and/or Libya. Specifically on the question of Iraq, the Baker report recommends the usage of weapons inspections to be followed by "military intervention" to secure the Iraqi oil fields. In what may be a reference to a pipeline through Afghanistan, the report suggests the US should "[i]nvestigate whether any changes to US policy would quickly facilitate higher exports of oil from the Caspian Basin region... [T]he exports from some oil discoveries in the Caspian Basin could be hastened if a secure, economical export route could be identified swiftly." This report is produced in close association with the secretive Cheney Energy Task Force (see above), which says that it is in the "national interest" for Bush and the State Department to "support the [Caspian Sea] oil pipeline" that will help "oil companies operating in Kazakhstan" to get their oil to market. Two of the biggest of these companies are Condoleezza Rice's Chevron and Cheney's Halliburton. (Washington Post/American Assembler, Sunday Herald/Laura Flanders)
Bush's energy policiesFar from protecting the small family farms as claimed by the administration, the estate tax almost exclusively affects the top 10% of wealthy Americans. It affects the wealthiest 2% of estates, and half of the revenue it produces comes from taxes on 0.16% of estates, worth an average of $17 million. Analysts are unable to find a single family farm that owes a dime in estate taxes, though the entire bill is promoted as "saving America's family farms." Even conservative pundit David Brooks admits that the estate tax is "explicitly for the mega-upper class." Forecasters projected record levels of estates to pass to rich heirs during the 2000s, a forecast which prompted Bush's wealthy backers to clamor for tax relief. "Given that fully half of the federal estate tax was paid in 1999 by the 6.6% of estates over $5 million," writes historian Kevin Phillips, "and a quarter by the 467 estates worth more than $20 million, its full elimination [slated for 2010] promised to be the ultimate enabler of wealth dynastization." The US treasury will lose $740 billion in tax revenues due to the estate tax repeal after 2012, a loss equivalent to 40% of the projected shortfall of the Social Security Trust Fund. Phillips notes that "Even some of the nation's richest men found these priorities appalling. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett worried that 'without the estate tax, you will have in effect an aristocracy of wealth, which means you pass down the ability to command the resources of the nation based on heredity rather than merit.'" The abolition of the estate tax means that $300 billion in tax revenues will be retained by the most wealthy of Americans. Interestingly, Senate Democrats try repeatedly to rework the legislation in order to protect the farmers who would supposedly be hurt by the bill, asking Republicans to exempt the first $4 million per couple, then, when that was rejected, to exempt the first $8 million. When that was rejected, Democrat Russ Feingold asks for the tax to be continued, but for an astounding $100 million to be exempted. Republicans reject that proposal as well. (Sidebar: Polls show that 19% of Americans believe that they are in the top 1% of wage earners.) (Kevin Phillips, David Corn, Al Franken)
Bush administration's contempt for democracyThe rules say that patients must consent before medical records can change hands. But in April 2002, the administration recants, proposing new laws that would take the provision protecting the privacy of medical records away, instead just mandating that the patient be notified after his or her medical records have already been revealed to third parties. As a result, health care providers, drug manufacturers, and marketing companies can get a patient's health care records and then inundate them with targeted sales pitches for selected new drugs or other products. The new laws are a boon to telemarketers and product manufacturers, and a tremendous invasion of the privacy of medical patients. Despite fierce opposition from Congressional Democrats, the new regulations will go into effect in April 2003. (Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
Oil profiteering and the "oiligarchy"The plant, owned and operated by Enron though largely financed by the US Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, has been providing extraordinarily expensive electricity for India since 1999, but costs, environmental concerns, and rampant human rights violations by plant security prods the Maharashtra state government to stop paying for the power and seek to cancel the purchase agreement. Enron, after shutting down the plant, is currently in arbitration with India, claiming the state owes it tens of millions of dollars, and is trying to sell the plant for $2.3 billion. A recent State Department draft proposal has been amended by White House officials to include a provision encouraging oil and gas production in India that will directly profit Enron. (David Corn)
Bush's energy policieswho once bragged that under his regime "We will mine more, drill more, cut more timber," tells the Denver Post, "Everything Cheney's saying, everything the president's saying, they're saying exactly what we were saying 20 years ago, precisely. Twenty years later, it sounds like they've just dusted off the old work." (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Bush's economic policiesHe calls the program a "faith-based program...based on the universal concept of loving a neighbor just like you would like to be loved yourself." While posing for pictures with carefully selected minority children, Bush announces that he will donate part of the royalties from his book A Charge to Keep to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. While basking in the media's praise of his generosity, he fails to tell the boys and girls that his budget cuts $60 million from federal funding of the Boys and Girls Clubs. Naturally, the donated royalties fall far short of the federal cuts. (Joe Conason, Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
Bush's economic policiesa former librarian, kicks off the "Campaign for America's Libraries." A week later, her husband proposes gutting funding for the Library Services and Technology Act, and strips all funding from the Reading is Fundamental (RIF) program. (Laura Flanders)
Bush's energy policiesLay demands that Cheney do nothing to hold down energy prices, specifically warning against adopting any sort of price caps or market regulations. Lay gets his wish, and Enron continues to make stunning profits from artificially inflating energy prices in California and other markets.
9/11 attacksthat Middle Eastern terrorists could try to hijack or blow up a US plane and that carriers should "demonstrate a high degree of alertness." The warning stems from the April 6, 2001, conviction of Ahmed Ressam over a failed plot to blow up Los Angeles International Airport during the millennium celebrations. This warning expires on July 31, 2001. This is one of 15 general warnings issued to airlines between January and August. Bush administration officials have said the threats were so vague that they did not require tighter security. (CCR)
GOP campaign strategiesThe FCF is one of the organizations regularly patronized by senior officials, including Karl Rove, who is professionally very close to Weyrich and his organization. The document, authored by Eric Heubeck and titled "The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement," is a chillingly matter-of-fact overview of exactly what tactics Rove, Weyrich, and the conservative movement will use to keep moderates and liberals out of office and off the media radar. Heubeck begins by writing, "We must, as Mr. Weyrich has suggested, develop a network of parallel cultural institutions existing side-by-side with the dominant leftist cultural institutions. The building and promotion of these institutions will require the development of a movement that will not merely reform the existing post-war conservative movement, but will in fact be forced to supersede it -- if it is to succeed at all -- because it will pursue a very different strategy and be premised on a very different view of its role in society....
Bush's foreign policiesAsked if the US had an obligation to defend the Taiwanese in the event of attack by China, Bush says, "Yes, we do...and the Chinese must understand that. Yes, I would." This is a huge and apparently unscripted policy change for the US; later, administration officials will try to qualify and backtrack from Bush's remarks, which anger the Chinese government. Privately, Bush meets with his father's national security advisor, Brent Scowcroft, asking in essence, how can he wriggle out of the situation? Bush asks Scowcroft to accompany him to a secret meeting with China's president, Jiang Zemin, and explain US policy. Scowcroft explains to Jiang that Bush's policy is to defend Taiwan from an unprovoked attack, but if the Taiwanese take any action on their own, the US would not defend them. Jiang is mollified, and Scowcroft's meeting is not made public. (CNN, Bob Woodward)
Islamist terrorismThe presentation is made to the administration's deputies in the national security apparatus, including Cheney's chief of staff Lewis Libby, State's Richard Armitage, Defense's Paul Wolfowitz, and the CIA's John McLaughlin. The deputies fob off Clarke with promises of more meetings within the next few months, including one on al-Qaeda, one on Pakistan, and one on relations between Pakistan and India. A fourth meeting would integrate the findings of the three, and then, perhaps, some action might be decided upon. This fourth meeting would finally be held on July 16, and the deputies scheduled the fifth and supposedly decisive meeting for September 4. (Al Franken)
Conservative media slantShortly after her disappearance, rumors of a possible romantic involvement between her and Democratic congressman Gary Condit hit the media, and a feeding frenzy of rumor and speculation begins, with Fox News and other cable TV news outlets leading the way. Although Condit initially denies any involvement with Levy besides friendship, and the police never name Condit as a suspect, the media essentially crucifies Condit, pinning Levy's apparent murder on him; speculation intensifies after Levy's parents tell media representatives that they believe Condit, who is married, is lying about having an affair with their daughter, and they think he may know more about her disappearance than he is telling. The media dog Condit's footsteps day and night, and for months every tidbit about Levy and Condit that can be wrung out of what essentially is a common missing-persons case is flashed across TV screens across the country. Condit, a conservative Democrat who often crosses party lines to vote with the Republicans in the House, initially believes that his close ties to the Republican leadership in Congress may help deflect some of the media attention he receives, but he is wrong. The Levy disapperance becomes a staple of conservative talk radio, with hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity devoting hours of coverage each day to essentially accuse Condit of getting away with murder and using the case to bash Democrats in general. Media speculation about Condit's involvement with Levy increases after another woman, flight attendant Anne Marie Smith, comes forward to reveal that she and Condit have had an affair, and that Condit asked her to sign an affidavit denying their involvement.