Islamist terrorismThe decision is made by Bush's national security advisors, led by Condoleezza Rice; the advisors deliberately fail to inform Richard Clarke, the chief of counterterrorism, because he will strenuously object if informed. The cutback on Catchers Mitt is part of the Bush administration's overall effort to disable the entire Clinton-era counterterrorism apparatus and revamp it under the leadership of Rice, her deputy Stephen Hadley, and CIA director George Tenet. The cutback in the clandestine program is later revealed in a single Newsweek article from March 21, 2004, which explains the decision as stemming from a federal judge's slapdown of the FBI's efforts to "improperly seek...permission to wiretap terrorists." Instead, says the article, "Attorney General John Ashcroft downgraded terrorism as a priority, choosing to place more emphasis on drug trafficking and gun violence." On March 24, 2004, 9/11 commission general counsel Dan Marcus confirms that Clarke was deliberately left out of the loop; both Marcus and Clarke give extensive testimony to the commission about Clarke's frustration at the administration's refusal to take terrorism seriously before 9/11, and the almost-obsessive focus on Iraq by several top-level officials, including Hadley and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Clarke attempts numerous times to warn Bush officials about the major and imminent threat posed by al-Qaeda, particularly in regard to al-Qaeda "sleeper" cells within the US; his warnings are ignored, and Clarke is increasinly shut out of national security deliberations. (Yahoo! Business [Internet Archive copy], Washington Post [transcript of 9/11 commission hearings from March 24, 2004], Daily Kos)
Iraq war and occupationBefore the ramp-up, the JTFI has been relatively quiet; the entire CIA has not had a single source on Iraq's weapons program inside the country since 1998; even before then, the CIA was dependent on UN weapons inspection team reports. After the inspectors left in 1998, the CIA had virtually no information on Iraq WMDs whatsoever. Now the JTFI, and the CIA as a whole, is under increasing pressure to produce information on Iraq, pressure that increases exponentially after 9/11.
Bush's economic policiesO'Neill has never been one of Bush's yes-men, and his positions on, among other issues, global warming, the privatization of Social Security, and spiraling federal deficits have made him "untrustworthy." When O'Neill publicly comes out in opposition to an economic bailout of Argentina, a position actually supported on ideological grounds by the inner circle (the inner circle did not like O'Neill's pointed public criticism of Argentina, a political ally of the White House), O'Neill becomes a target for what O'Neill biographer Ron Suskind calls the "White House attack machine." The prime spearcarrier for the attacks on O'Neill is Larry Lindsey, Bush's senior economic advisor. The media quickly learns that Lindsey is the first one to call when they want some criticism of O'Neill, both on policy matters and personally. While Lindsey does not start the attacks -- the White House has regularly issued public criticism of O'Neill in private and from anonymous "senior official" sources, one of O'Neill's aides recalls, "Now, it went to an almost-daily footing. I mean, it was amazing before. But then it got crazy. We would get calls every couple of days, all of them pretty much the same: a reporter would call with some out-of-context thing Paul had said at the weekly economics lunch or some meeting with Larry. It wasn't even subtle. From the first month of the administration, every reporter in town knew they could get some inside punch at O'Neill just by calling Larry's office." On August 22, Bush breaks his own ideological resistance against any such bailouts by granting the Argentines' request for International Monetary Fund assistance. Lindsey blames Bush's reversal on O'Neill's influence, and escalates his attacks on O'Neill -- a step supported by the White House, who does not appreciate O'Neill's penchant for putting policy decisions ahead of political strategy. (Ron Suskind)
Bush's foreign policiesIts purpose is to oppose US dominance, especially in Central Asia; the organization began in a loose military alliance between Russia, China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan in 1996. The sixth member is Uzbekistan. Russian defense minister Igor Sergeyev notes, "The actions of Islamic extremists in Central Asia give Russia the chance to strengthen its position in the region." In March 2003, the Guardian will report that the new ring of US military bases built in the Afghan war "has, in effect, destroyed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization which Russia and China had established in an attempt to develop a regional alternative to US power." (Pravda)
Islamist terrorismgiving its support to Afghani Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. Massoud gives all of his intelligence on al-Qaeda to the US in return for its support, but none is forthcoming. (CCR)
Bush's energy policiesThe failure of the $3 billion plant, Enron's largest investment, contributes to Enron's bankruptcy later in the year. Earlier in the year, India stopped paying its bill for the energy from the plant, because energy from the plant cost three times the usual rates. Enron had hoped to feed the plant with cheap Central Asian gas, but this hope failed when a gas pipeline through Afghanistan was not completed. The larger part of the plant is still only 90 percent complete when construction stops at about this time. Other concerns include the plant's noxious environmental impact, and the human rights violations perpetrated by the plant's security forces. In response, the US's National Security Council sets up an interagency group called the "Dabhol Working Group" to push India to settle the conflict in Enron's favor, an amazing exercise of power for the NSC on behalf of a private corporation. (Albion Monitor/AlterNet, David Corn)
Bush's energy policiesThe caps cut Enron's profits, already gutted by enormous debt which have gone largely unreported to stockholders, and problems funding Enron's huge number of foreign developments such as the Dabhol plant further cut Enron's profitability. Enron's stock hit its high point, around $80, shortly after Bush's inauguration, and by June had fallen to $50. Enron executives have already begun quietly unloading their stock, although they continue to tout their supposed profitability, and continued to require Enron employees to sink their retirement benefits into Enron stock instead of allowing them to invest it as they saw fit. Most Enron employees saw their retirement portfolios vanish when the company finally declared bankruptcy. The Cheney energy task force sees Enron's increasing instability, and moves to help as best it could. It adopts a number of Enron recommendations, including the creation of a national energy grid, the greater use of eminent domain to speed construction of new power plants, the expediting of gas pipeline permits, the creation of a market-based program to trade pollution credits, and a recommendation that Bush "direct the Secretary of State to work with India's Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to help India maximize its domestic oil and gas production," a recommendation directly connected to Enron's troubled Dabhoul project that did not work. Once California's energy prices were capped, Rice's National Security Council began pressuring India to fulfill its contractual agreements with Enron. Rice and the NSC coordinate an effort comprised of State Department officials, Cheney's office, OPIC, and other administration officials to pressure India to pay Enron millions according to its contracts, regardless of India's reluctance due to Enron's failure to live up to its own end of its contractual responsibilities. Cheney himself talks to India's government officials, as does the assistant secretary of state and the American ambassador, who warned Bombay that India's failure to honor its obligations to Enron would endanger further US investments in that country. Lay himself contributed to the pressure when he told the Financial Times, "There are US laws that could prevent the US government from providing any aid or assistance to India going forward if, in fact, they expropriate property of US companies." The pressure fails to budge Indian officials, and Enron's future looks bleak. (Kevin Phillips)
Islamist terrorismThe new organization, called Qaeda al-Jihad, reflects the long and interdependent history of these two groups. Although Osama bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda, has become the public face of Islamic terrorism, the members of Islamic Jihad and its guiding figure, Ayman al-Zawahiri, have provided the backbone of the larger organization's leadership. According to FBI and CIA officials, Zawahiri has been responsible for much of the planning of the terrorist operations against the United States, from the assault on American soldiers in Somalia in 1993, and the bombings of the American embassies in East Africa in 1998 and of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11th. In 1979, the two men were drawn to each other in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan: "Bin Laden had followers, but they weren't organized," recalls Essam Deraz, an Egyptian filmmaker who made several documentaries about the mujahideen during the Soviet-Afghan war. "The people with Zawahiri had extraordinary capabilities -- doctors, engineers, soldiers. They had experience in secret work. They knew how to organize themselves and create cells. And they became the leaders." As for bin Laden, he provided the cash Zawahiri desperately needed; after years of unsuccessfully trying to overthrow the Egyptian government, his group was virtually penniless. (New Yorker)
Iraq war and occupation(Perle is the head of the Defense Policy Board, a formerly obscure organization that Perle has transformed into what Seymour Hersh calls a "bully pulpit from which to advance the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the policy of preemption.") Cheney and Chalabi forge a friendship based on mutual agendas and goals, an alliance that will shape the foundation of the Bush adminstration's foreign policy for years to come. Cheney ignores warnings from US intelligence that Chalabi may be an Iranian asset, and that his ties to Iran's theocracy make him an unreliable ally. Instead, Chalabi will do more than most other advisors to shape Cheney's desire to overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime, and Cheney agrees to help Chalabi become Iraq's new leader. Cheney will assist in the transference of over $33 million in US taxpayer money to Chalabi's group, and is instrumental in freezing out those in the administration who oppose Chalabi's influence. Chalabi, who already enjoys the support of prominent conservatives at think tanks such as the Project for the New American Century and the American Enterprise Institute, becomes close to senior administration officials such as Donald Rumsfeld, Lewis Libby, and Douglas Feith. (Knight Ridder/Kansas City Star, Seymour Hersh)
Iraq war and occupationHe also analyzes their assumption that Chalabi will be welcomed as a hero by the Iraqi people upon Hussein's ouster. An official familiar with the evaluation describes how it subjects that scenario to the principle of what planners call "branches and sequels" -- that is, "plan for what you expect not to happen." The official says, "Ir was a 'what could go wrong' study. What if it turns out that Ahmad Chalabi is not so popular? What's Plan B if you discover that Chalabi and his boys don't have it in them to accomplish the overthrow?" The evaluation runs into a wall when it becomes clear that Pentagon policy officials don't want to hear about what could go wrong. A colleague tells the official that the new Pentagon leadership only wants to hear about what could go right, and that the evaluation is essentially planning for failure. "Their methodology was analogous to tossing a coin five times and assuming that it would always come up heads. You need to think about what would happen if it comes up tails." (Seymour Hersh)
War with IranHe had been introduced to Ghorbanifar by neoconservative Michael Ledeen, a member of the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission who had maintained his ties with him. In December 2001 Rhode, Ledeen, and Lawrence Franklin have meetings in Rome with Ghorbanifar and other Iranians to discuss regime change in Iran. White House officials will sign off on what they believe is a Pentagon effort to gather info about Iranian terrorist activity in Afghanistan, but they didn't know about Ghorbanifar. (MSNBC/Washington Monthly/Daily Kos)
Islamist terrorismHe says the Taliban would like to resolve the bin Laden issue, so there can be "an easing and then lifting of UN sanctions that are strangling and killing the people of [Afghanistan]." (CCR)
Bush's foreign policiesBandar tells Bush that the US is seen by most Arabs as too friendly with, and too lopsidedly supportive of, Israel in its efforts to contain the Palestinians. Overriding rebuttals by Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, Bandar tells Bush that the US's routine condemnations of Palestinian violence against Israelis, along with US silence about Israeli violence against Palestinians, jeopardizes the work of Arab moderate states like Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia to temper the burgeoning violence in the Middle East. "The United States has to find a way to separate the actions of the Israeli government and its own interests in the region," Bandar tells Bush. The overall deterioration in the region even threatens the regimes in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, he says; even Egypt's Mubarek is in what Bandar calls "a very difficult situation." Bandar links the destabilization in the Middle East to Bush's bete noire, Saddam Hussein, saying that the "continuous deterioration is creating a golden opportunity for Saddam Hussein: one, to create an artificial petroleum crisis and disturb the market;" two, "Saddam's continuous calling for jihad against [Israel] and the imperialist America will create a very fertile ground" for extremists and terrorists to flourish.
Oil profiteering and the "oiligarchy"and insists it will not resume supplying its previous 2 million barrels a day until the UN blocks American and British attempts to extend sanctions against it. Oil prices soars to $29/barrel, and gas and oil prices around the world rise. (Washington Post/New York Times/American Assembler) (CCR)
Congressional RepublicansJeffords' break with his former party is prompted in part by his opposition to Bush's tax cut package, which guts spending for special education programs. Jeffords' switch changes the makeup of the Senate from a 50-50 split, with Republican leadership, to a 50-49-1 split that gives Democrats leadership of the Senate. Jeffords struck a deal with Senate Democratic leaders that he will vote with the Democrats on all procedural matters in return for chairmanship and leadership positions that would have been his had he been a Democrat for his entire tenure in the Senate. It is essentially the same deal that Republicans have with libertarian senator Ron Paul, though Paul is nominally a Republican. Jeffords is attacked immediately as a traitor by his former Republican colleagues. (Wikipedia, Joe Conason)
Congressional DemocratsThe Senate Democrats deliberately avoid a more outspoken, confrontational liberal as their Senate leader, in an attempt to show that they are sincere in wanting to build a working relationship with the new minority. Instead, Republicans and conservatives target Daschle. Initially they label him as an "obstructionist" whose only agenda is thwarting the Bush administration's agenda, a ludicrous charge; as time goes on, the attacks become more personal and more dirty. "We will f*ck him," Karl Rove snarls (overheard by Ron Suskind outside Rove's office; it is believed that Rove is referring to Daschle), "Do you hear me? We will f*ck him. We will ruin him. Like no one has ever f*cked him."
Election fraudThe report criticizes the president's brother, Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, and Katherine Harris, Florida's secretary of state and co-chair of the Florida Bush election campaign, for allowing discrimination against certain voters. The commission will ask the justice department and the Florida attorney general's office to investigate whether federal or state civil rights laws were violated. Unequal access to modern voting equipment and "overzealous efforts" to remove convicted criminals from the electoral roll most harshly affected black people in the state that saw George W. Bush given the presidency, the commission declares in its 167-page final draft report. "It is impossible to determine the extent of the disenfranchisement or to provide an adequate remedy to the persons whose voices were silenced in this historic election by a pattern and practice of injustice, ineptitude and inefficiency," the document says. 54% of the votes rejected in Florida were cast by black voters; blacks make up 11% of the voting populace. The report found several major problems with Florida's vote: black people were nearly 10 times as likely as whites to have their ballots rejected; poor counties populated by minorities were more likely to use voting systems such as the punch card system which rejected larger percentages of ballots than more affluent counties; some Hispanic and Haitian voters were not provided ballots in their native languages; physical barriers sometimes kept disabled voters from entering polling sites. JoNel Newman, speaking for the Florida Equal Voting Rights Project, tells the commission that many minority voters arrived at polling booths only to find that they had been improperly purged from the electoral lists or that they were mistakenly listed as felons and thus barred from voting. Newman also says that many election officials refused to provide bilingual ballots or assistance to disabled voters on election day. (Guardian, Guardian)
Election fraudThe report states, in part: "The Commission's finding make one thing clear: widespread voter disenfranchisement -- not the dead-heat contest –- was the extraordinary feature in the Florida election. ...The disenfranchisement of Florida's voters fell most harshly on the shoulders of black voters.... After carefully and fully examining all the evidence, the Commission found a strong basis for concluding that violations of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) occurred in Florida.... The state's highest officials responsible for ensuring efficiency, uniformity, and fairness in the election failed to fulfill their responsibilities and were subsequently unwilling to take responsibility...." It is impossible to say how many black voters were illegally removed from the voting rolls, or how many ballots marked with clear intent were not counted. It is certain, however, that there were more than enough of those ballots to have elected Gore if they had been properly counted. (Sidney Blumenthal/Buzzflash)
Global warming and the environment"My administration is committed to a leadership role on the issue of climate change." Bush uses the term "climate change" instead of the more accurate, but "divisive" term "global warming." In fact, during the first months of his tenure, Bush and his administration have fought to ignore global warming, refusing to even admit that the problem exists. Only after US allies around the world roundly criticize Bush for refusing to admit that global warming, with its already-extant effects of massive flooding, the extinction of species, the spread of disease and famine, and other severe consequences, does Bush even address the issue.
Islamist terrorismAn Egyptian named Diaa Mohsen and a Pakistani named Mohammed Malik are arrested and accused of attempting to buy Stinger missiles, nuclear weapon components, and other sophisticated military weaponry for the Pakistani ISI. Malik has connections to important Pakistani officials and Kashmiri terrorists, and Mohsen claims a connection to someone well connected to both the Taliban and bin Laden. Some other ISI agents came to Florida on several occasions to negotiate, with some offering to pay in heroin, but they escaped being arrested. These ISI agents said some of their purchases would go to the Taliban in Afghanistan and/or terrorists associated with bin Laden. Both Malik and Mohsen lived in Jersey City, New Jersey. Mohsen pleads guilty after 9/11, but even though he was willing to supply anti-American terrorists with sophisticated weaponry and even nuclear technology, he only receives 30 months in prison as a sentence. Malik's case is apparently dropped; reporters find him working in a store in Florida less than a year after the trial. Malik's court files remain completely sealed, and in Mohsen's court case, prosecutors "removed references to Pakistan from public filings because of diplomatic concerns." Also arrested are Kevin Ingram and Walter Kapij. Ingram, a former senior investment banker with Deutschebank, pleads guilty to laundering $350,000 and is sentenced to 18 months in prison. Walter Kapij, a pilot with a minor role in the plot, is given the longest sentence, 33 months in prison. Informant Randy Glass plays a key role in the sting, and has thirteen felony fraud charges against him reduced as a result, serving only seven months in prison. Federal agents involved in the case later express puzzlement that Washington higher-ups didn't make the case a higher priority, pointing out that bin Laden could have gotten a nuclear bomb if the deal had been real. Federal agents frequently couldn't get prosecutors to approve wiretaps. An FBI supervisor in Miami refused to front money for the sting, forcing agents to use money from US Customs and even Glass's own money to help keep the sting going.
Global warming and the environment"God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, 'Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It's yours." (Huffington Post)
"We spent a lot of time talking about Africa, as we should. Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease." -- George W. Bush, June 14, 2001
Election fraudOne of FAC's senior lobbyists is Sandra Mortham, the former secretary of state for Florida, an employee of ES&S, and the driving force behind 2000's "felon purge." ES&S promises FAC a commission on sales in return for its endorsement. By year's end, ES&S will win contracts with 12 of the 35 Florida counties seeking new voting machines, including the large, lucrative counties of Broward and Miami-Dade. Mortham earns at least $176,000 in commissions and fees for her double-dipping representation, and possibly earns as much as $706,000. On January 29, 2002, Miami-Dade County votes to spend $24.5 million on ES&S voting machines. Broward County proves a tougher nut to crack; Broward's African-American elections supervisor, Miriam Oliphant, prefers machines from a competitor, Sequoia. ES&S mounts a high-powered lobbyist to win Broward over, hiring a raft of lobbyists close to Broward's county commissioners. Broward's commissioners eventually decide to go with ES&Smachines. Unfortunately for both voters and ES&S, the challenge of handling the multiple languages of Miami-Dade and Broward County voters will prove troublesome. (Vanity Fair/Make Them Accountable)
HalliburtonTurns out that Cheney lied. During his term as CEO, Cheney oversaw the acquisition of two firms, Dresser-Rand and Ingersoll Dresser Pump (both with strong ties to the Bush family), that did over $73 million of business with Iraq. Cheney's spokesperson, Mary Matalin, denies that Cheney had any knowledge of any such dealings with Iraq, but two former senior executives of the subsidiary firms say that Cheney had to have known about the contracts. The contracts were technically legal, as they carefully avoided conflicts with the strictures surrounding the UN sanctions. In a July 30, 2000, interview, he denied that Halliburton or its subsidiaries traded with Baghdad: "I had a firm policy that we wouldn't do anything in Iraq, even arrangements that were supposedly legal," he said. "We've not done any business in Iraq since UN sanctions were imposed on Iraq in 1990, and I had a standing policy that I wouldn't do that." After being informed that a Halliburton spokesman had acknowledged that Dresser Rand and Ingersoll Dresser Pump traded with Iraq, Cheney began denying that he had any knowledge of the transactions. Ingersoll-Rand's former chairman, James Perrella, says differently: "Oh, definitely, he was aware of the business," he acknowledges. (Washington Post)
Anti-terrorism and homeland security"India and Iran will 'facilitate' US and Russian plans for 'limited military action' against the Taliban if the contemplated tough new economic sanctions don't bend Afghanistan's fundamentalist regime." Earlier in the month, Russian President Putin told a meeting of the Confederation of Independent States that military action against the Taliban may happen, possibly with Russian involvement using bases and forces from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan as well. (News Insight/Killtown)
"Culture Wars"Sullivan is well-known for his outspoken criticism of "hedonistic" gay lifestyles and the need for responsibility "in the age of AIDS." Sullivan is found to have posted a number of solicitations on gay Internet sites under the screen name "RawMuscleGlutes," including solicitations on "bare backer" sites (which advertise men who have sex without condoms). In his posts, Sullivan reveals that he is HIV-positive, and writes of his interest in "bi scenes," groups, parties, orgies, and "gang bangs." The report observes, "This hardly fit the gay ideal Sullivan created in his book Virtually Normal. In fact, RawMuscleGlutes is just the sort of 'pathological' creature who raises Sullivan's wrath." The story here is not of Sullivan's open homosexuality, nor of his more secretive penchant for "cruising," but is another in the many examples of conservative moralistic hypocrisy. (Village Voice/Mark Crispin Miller)
Oil profiteering and the "oiligarchy"This would circumvent the difficulties of building the pipeline through Afghanistan. Iran has been secretly supporting the Northern Alliance to keep Afghanistan divided so no pipelines could be put through it. Presumably the US government would be opposed to this, since much of its support for Afghanistan pipelines has been to prevent them from going through Iran. (CCR)
Oil profiteering and the "oiligarchy"Sonia Gandhi, and brings up the issue of Enron's Dabhol energy plant. Meanwhile the National Security Council, already pressuring the Indian government to settle the dispute between Enron and India in Enron's favor, helps Enron CEO Ken Lay to wangle a dinner invitation with Indian officials. (David Corn)
Republican corruptionHeritage has spent a great deal of time raising a great deal of money in Communist China, mostly from pro-Beijing tycoons. The think tank's fund-raising was coordinated through a shadowy Hong Kong shop, now being closed by Heritage. The office was run by a personal aide to the foundation's president, Edwin Feulner. Feulner opened the office in 1996, the same year he brought aboard Elaine Chao as an Asian scholar. Chao, now Labor Department secretary, has close family ties to Chinese President Jiang Zemin through her father. Heritage "has targeted tycoons in Hong Kong and around the region, and money raised is said to come mostly from a number of pro-China figures and property developers," said the South China Morning Post on June 25. The Hong Kong office's director, Kenneth Sheffer, admits that his office raised "several million dollars" for the foundation, although he refuses to disclose the source of the money.