Iraq war and occupationA report produced by the British Joint Intelligence Committee concludes that Iraq poses no greater threat to the world than it did after the conclusion of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. The report is suppressed by the Blair administration, who instead claims that hard evidence of Iraq's production of WMDs will be given in two weeks. The evidence was never made public. (CCR)
Islamist terrorismHe carries a gift carpet and a letter from Afghan leader Mullah Omar for Bush. He discusses turning Osama bin Laden over to US custody, but the US wants to be directly handed bin Laden and the Taliban want to turn him over to some third country. A CIA official later says: "We never heard what they were trying to say. ...We had no common language. Ours was, 'Give up bin Laden.' They were saying, 'Do something to help us give him up.' ...I have no doubts they wanted to get rid of him. He was a pain in the neck." Others claim the Taliban were never sincere. About 20 more meetings on giving up bin Laden take place up till 9/11, all fruitless. Hashimi also proposes that the Taliban would hold bin Laden in one location long enough for the US to locate and destroy him. However, this offer is refused. (CCR)
Bush's economic policiesHis administration issues a prediction of a $125 billion surplus for 2001. In August, the Congressional Budget Office will issue a report showing that the surplus figures are actually zero, and that by year's end, the US government will be running a $9 billion shortfall. The CBO predicts, accurately, that the government will have to raid the Social Security "lockbox" funds to keep the government running. Bush's promise of a trillion-dollar "cushion" is forgotten, as is his promise never to raid Social Security funds, and his promise to pay down the federal debt. Instead, Bush racks up record-breaking deficits, guts Social Security, and increases the national debt. While Bush wins notable political victories in steamrolling Democratic opposition to get his tax cuts enacted, the cost to the American taxpayer is staggering. (David Corn)
Global warming and the environment(Arsenic causes cancer and is particularly a risk for pregnant women and young children.) Whitman states falsely that the new rules have not been fully studied by scientists for their environmental and economic impact. The new standards lowering the permissible amount of arsenic in drinking water from 50 ppb (parts per billion) to 10 ppb; Whitman concedes that no scientists believe the 50 ppb levels are safe, but contends that no one can agree on a level that is safe for people to drink. In reality, the EPA worked for 10 years on establishing the standard of 10 ppb; most EPA officials believe that a level of 3 ppb would be safer, but took economic considerations into account and compromised with a recommendation of 10 ppb. The new EPA standard was identical to standards already adopted by the World Health Organization and the European Union.
Iraq war and occupationneoconservative Richard Perle, tells the Senate Foreign Relations committee, "Does Saddam [Hussein] now have weapons of mass destruction? Sure he does. We know he has chemical weapons. We know he has biological weapons. ...How far he's gone on the nuclear-weapons side I don't think we really know. My guess is it's further than we think. It's always further than we think, because we limit ourselves, as we think about this, to what we're able to prove and demonstrate.... And, unless you believe that we've uncovered everything, you have to assume there is more than we're able to report." Perle, true to his theme, offers no evidence of the existence of any Iraqi WMDs to the senators. Worse, he fails to offer evidence from the UN inspectors that shows virtually all of Iraq's WMD stockpiles and programs have long since been destroyed. (Seymour Hersh)
Bush's economic policiesBush reportedly gets "misty-eyed" during one mother's account of her daughter's battle with cancer. Bush's emotional response is not enough for him to ask that congressional Republicans restore $35 million to a program that trains pediatric physicians at hospitals such as Egleston. (Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
Bush's foreign policiesTaliban forces begin blowing up two ancient stone Buddhas in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. This sparks international outrage, but the Taliban seems not to care. Even pressure from Pakistan's ISI to leave the Buddhas alone does not work. As for the Bush administration, it makes outraged noises, but continues to cultivate relations with the Taliban. (CCR)
Election fraudMost, though not all, of the recommendations are adopted in the Election Reform Act that sails through Florida's legislature in the spring. One major change is the triggering of automatic recounts if a margin of victory in a race is is one-half of 1% or less, and if the margin of victory is less than one-quarter of 1%, a manual recount is mandated of the undervotes and overvotes. Provisional ballots are also mandated for voters who cannot be found in the register or who is denied the right to vote because of, say, appearing on a purported felons list. The board of elections will decide if each provisional ballot is legitimate. Other changes are made, including adopting "convenience voting" for absentee ballots, which allows any voter to vote absentee; for overseas ballots, postmarks will no longer be an issue, with any ballots received within 10 days of an election being counted. Most dramatically, punch-card voting machines are prohibited, making the entire issue of "hanging chads" and so forth moot. Also gone are centralized optiscan machines that hook up to a central county server (thousands of overvotes, mostly from poorer black counties, were rejected in 2000 because centralized county servers did not recognize the votes). 39 counties -- 24 punch-card and 15 central optiscan -- will now need to either adopt precinct-based optiscan machines or go to newer touch-screen machines. (Touch-screen machines had just been legalized in Florida due to a huge push by vendors, and because larger counties wanted to get rid of paper ballots once and for all.)
9/11 attacksa spin-off of The X Files, airs a pilot episode in which terrorists try to fly an airplane into the WTC. There are no terrorists on board the aircraft; remote control technology is used to steer the plane. Ratings were good for the show, yet the eerie coincidence is barely mentioned after 9/11. Says one media columnist, "This seems to be collective amnesia of the highest order." The heroes avert disaster, and at the end of the show state, "The terrorist group responsible was actually a faction of our own government. These malefactors were seeking to stimulate arms manufacturing in the lean years following the end of the Cold War by bringing down a plane in New York City and fomenting fears of terrorism." (Killtown)
Islamist terrorismThe Russian Permanent Mission at the United Nations secretly submits "an unprecedentedly detailed report" to the UN Security Council about Osama bin Laden, his whereabouts, details of his al-Qaeda network, Afghan drug running, and Taliban connections in Pakistan. The report provides "a listing of all bin Laden's bases, his government contacts and foreign advisors," and enough information to make an assassination attempt possible. The US fails to act. Alex Standish, the editor of the highly respected Jane's Intelligence Review, concludes that the attacks of 9/11 were less of an American intelligence failure and more the result of "a political decision not to act against bin Laden." (CCR)
Bush's foreign policiesand pointedly snubs Kim in an official press conference, announcing that he has no intention of following the Clinton policy of engaging North Korea in any sort of dialogue regarding North Korea's nuclear buildup. Kim has attempted to implement a "sunshine" policy of open negotiations with the North, including economic trade and nuclear talks, but his efforts are predicated on US support. Secretary of State Colin Powell has been advocating working with Kim to further implement negotiations with North Korea, but loses out to pressure from Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Rumsfeld's deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, who state that they believe Clinton had been doing little more than appeasing a tyrant in negotiating with North Korea's Kim Jong Il. Bush misstates reality in the conference, saying that "we're not certain as to whether or not they're keeping all terms of all agreements," when there has only been a single agreement between the US and North Korea, the 1994 agreement to freeze North Korea's plutonium processing. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill believes that the tremendous gaffe is due to Bush's lack of understanding of the complex situation between the US, North Korea, and the US's allies in Southeast Asia, and Bush's failure to "do his homework" before Kim's arrival in Washington. O'Neill attempts to salvage the situation by lauding South Korea's superb literacy rate among its citizens, earning a look of surprise from Bush. O'Neill privately mulls over the decision-making process in the White House, with Bush destroying ten years of "delicately stitched US policy towards North Korea" in just a few minutes. He determines not to let what is happening to Powell over US foreign policy happen to him over US fiscal policy. (Ron Suskind)
Media manipulation and marketing by GOPa business lobbying group, on a strategy worked out with the assistance of Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. The memo asks for Bush supporters to come to a rally in support of Bush's tax cut plan; however, to avoid the attendees looking like the button-downed lobbyists they are, the memo instructs them to dress like construction workers: "The theme involves working Americans," reads the memo. "Visually, this will involve a sea of hard hats, which are construction and contractor and building groups are working very hard to provide. But the Speaker's office was very clear in saying that they do not need people in suits. If people want to participate -- AND WE DO NEED BODIES -- they must be DRESSED DOWN, appear to be REAL WORKERS types, etc. We plan to have hard hats for people to wear." Journalist Paul Waldman notes that this type of masquerade is typical Bush manipulation; in 2003, White House aides will instruct people standing behind Bush at an event promoting his tax cuts to remove their ties, so they would appear to be ordinary folks. (Washington Post/New York Times/Paul Waldman)
Election fraudGore's efforts to claim the presidency, which he won by the popular vote, were stopped when a Republican-led Supreme Court decision granted the election to George W. Bush in a fatally flawed decision. A comprehensive new survey of "undervotes" in Palm Beach County shows that Gore would have gained 784 more votes than Bush if every excluded ballot bearing some kind of mark next to a candidate's name had been counted. Palm Beach County had well-publicized problems with the so-called "butterfly ballot," which confused thousands of voters and resulted in thousands of probable Gore votes going to Pat Buchanan. By themselves, those votes would have been enough to give Gore the Florida victory. The Palm Beach recount figures came too late to be included in the official tally of votes certified by the Florida secretary of state Katherine Harris 19 days after the November 7 election; Harris also served as co-chairman of the Bush election campaign in Florida, and has been shown to have improperly used her office to assist her candidate. Another vote analysis shows that Gore was unfairly cost 130 votes in Lake County that were simply not counted by the county election officials. (Guardian, Guardian)
Bush's economic policiesThey also wanted to pay down the federal debt more swiftly than the Bush administration was proposing. Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker publicly state that Bush's own proposals were "fiscally unsound." On the other side, Senate and House Republicans are fighting for deeper tax cuts, slanted heavily towards the wealthy. House Majority Whip Tom DeLay calls the Bush proposals "a floor, not a ceiling;" House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott are pushing to add deep capital gains tax cuts to the package. OMB chair Mitch Daniels produces an estimate that the federal budget surpluses will far exceed the administration's current estimate of $5.6 trillion over ten years, itself a fantasy, but useful for waving around in support of Bush's huge tax cut proposals. A proposal for implementing "triggers," fiscal and budgetary conditions which must be met before allowing tax cuts to proceed, introduced by Senate Republican Olympia Snowe and her Democratic counterpart Evan Bayh and supported by four other Republicans and five Democrats -- centrists all -- is quietly supported by Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who, with Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, came up with the idea in the first place. But the White House and the conservatives in Congress have no intention of allowing any such measures to be implemented. Bush and the Congressional Republican leadership are adamant: no negotiations, no nothing. (Ron Suskind)
Islamist terrorismreports that the US is working with India, Iran and Russia "in a concerted front against Afghanistan's Taliban regime." India supplies the Northern Alliance with military equipment, advisers and helicopter technicians and both India and Russia are using bases in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for their operations. (Project Censored, From the Wilderness)
Bush's foreign policieswhen, during Kim's visit to Washington to meet with the new president, Bush publicly repudiates negotiations between North and South Korea that both Kim and Powell have endorsed. (See related item above.) Worse, he accuses North Korea of breaching the single agreement that exists concerning North Korea's nuclear weapons without either providing proof or showing any understanding of the agreement. To justify Bush's diplomatic sabotage, a White House spokesperson says, "That's how the president speaks." Mark Crispin Miller observes, "Bush thus set back the Korean reconciliation effort, pushed the North Koreans to speed up nuclear arms production, and soured US relations with both South Korea and Japan." (Salon/Eric Alterman and Mark Green, Mark Crispin Miller)
Global warming and the environmentChristine Todd Whitman, says, "This president is very sensitive to the issue of global warming.... There's no question that global warming is a real phonomenon...." and just days after Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill compares the threat of global warming to that posed by a nuclear holocaust, Bush announces that he is breaking his campaign pledge to place a cap on carbon dioxide emissions, the most direct cause of global warming (a phrase his administration will refuse to use, preferring instead the more general "climate change"). A White House spokesperson says that "CO2 should not have been included as a pollutant during the campaign. It was a mistake." Bush himself tells the public that he has been presented with "important information" that has led him to change his mind. The "important information" certainly wasn't the report just issued by the National Academy of Sciences, which concludes that carbon dioxide and other emissions from automobiles and factories are indeed being trapped in the atmosphere and are, indeed, causing global warming. It is far more likely that the information that supposedly changed Bush's mind comes directly from the oil and gas industries. Later in the year, the resignation letter of Jane Hughes Turnbull (a member of the National Coal Council) from the Cheney energy task force warns that Bush's turnabout is "profoundly short-sighted [and] an obvious and expedient response to industry interests." Those selfsame industry interests, which had lavished $3 million in contributions to the Bush campaign, are not slow in deluging Bush and Cheney with thank-you letters and other, more tangible, expressions of their gratitude. Bush's new plan to curb the "emissions intensity" of CO2 by 2012 will actually see a 14% rise in emissions over the next decade. And since Bush's new industry standards are voluntary, the raise may be much higher, as most industries will "voluntarily" ignore the standards. "There's no evidence that would convince the administration [voluntary reductions] will work," says Howard Ris of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "We've had a voluntary approach since 1990, and 13 to 15% more carbon emissions since then.... I don't even think the Bush administration believes it. It's a smokescreen." The international press is far more outraged than the compliant American media, a position best summed up by the commentary of the Scottish Sunday Herald: "It was the callousness of his words, the naked self-interest of his sentiment and the disregard he showed for the health and safety of the world, that really shook people." While the Bush administration gives over to the desires of the industry that pollutes, the facts are grim: the decade of the 1990s was the warmest on record in a millennium, and 2001 and 2002 will be proven to be two of the three warmest years since the 1800s. Glaciers in the Arctic and the Andes Mountains are melting at a shocking rate, and ocean levels are beginning to rise, threatening coastal habitats for people and animals all over the world. But Republican pollster Frank Luntz, the source of renaming global warming "climate change," has a uniquely Republican solution: spin the science. He recommends fostering skepticism about global warming among the American electorate, and warns, "should the public come to believe that scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly." (Washington Post/Guardian/Sunday Herald/Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
Bush's foreign policiesThe only others in attendance are national security advisor Condoleezza Rice and Bandar's trusted aide, Rihab Massoud. Bandar enjoys singular access to Bush, more so than many of his senior White House officials. Bandar and Bush discuss covert action against Iraq's Saddam Hussein; Bandar is impatient with the no-fly zones and economic sanctions, and, like Bush, wants direct action taken against Hussein. Bush also wants to speak with Bandar at least once a month to help keep his thumb on the scales of the world's oil prices. An elated Bandar sends a secret message to Crown Prince Abdullah in Saudi Arabia: "Many positive signs as far as relations and issues that are of concern to both countries. Loyalty and honesty are sensitive issues for this president. It is important that we invest in this man, in a very positive way." The question, of course, is, to whom is Bush's honesty and loyalty directed? (Bob Woodward)
US militaryThe memos, which will undergo several revisions, is annotated and edited by, among others, Rumsfeld's personal assistant Stephen Cambone, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. The memo becomes a sprawling, overarching combination of mission statement, fix-it lists, and gripe session, reflective both of Rumsfeld's sincere ambitions to cut through the bloated and unresponsive military bureaucracy, and his more personal desire to run the US military in its entirety from his office. In short, Rumsfeld believes the system is broken. Congressional oversight, he feels, cripples the ability of the military to spend what it needs to on getting buildings built and weapons systems constructed. He complains that talented officers skip from one assignment to another every two years or so, too fast to "learn from their own mistakes." He complains that the military "mindlessly use[s] the failed Soviet model: centralized government systems for housing, commissaries, healthcare and education, rather than using the private sector competitive models that are the envy of the world." This apparently is the origin of the "privitization" of the military's logistical systems that will come to ugly fruition with Halliburton, Bechtel, and other private corporations providing everything from meals to housing for military personnel both in Iraq and in America. Forgetting, or ignoring, the fact that the Defense Department has demonstrated time and again that it will willfully squander billions if left to its own devices, he complains that Congressional oversight so hampers the department's functions that "the DOD no longer has the authority to conduct the business of the Department. The maze of constraints on the Department force it to operate in a manner that is so slow, so ponderous and so inefficient that whatever it ultimately does will inevitably be a decade or so late." Without transforming the relationship between the DOD and Congress, he writes, "the transformation of our armed forces is not possible." He says the task is too big for a single presidency: "[O]ur job, therefore, is to work together to sharpen the sword that the next president will wield." (Bob Woodward)
Bush's energy policiesAn e-mail to the Cheney energy task force from Bob Slaughter of the National Petrochemical Refiners Association recommends that "the EPA's enforcement campaign against US refineries should be halted and re-examined." Slaughter is referring to the EPA's practice of filing suits against refineries that increase production at their dirtiest plants but fail to implement stricter pollution controls. Cheney's task force makes the recommendation to overturn the enforcement policy, and the EPA complies. (Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
Islamist terrorismHe is "begged" by the Secret Service not to make the trip, as US intelligence believes the entire Pakistani government is riddled with ties to al-Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist groups. Clinton's security forces take extradordinary measures to ensure his safety; the visit goes off without a hitch. (CCR)
Kennedy assassinationDigital analysis of a police dictabelt audio recording shows there was a 90% to 95% chance that such a shot was fired, almost simultaneously with the shots fired from the book depository by Lee Harvey Oswald, who is officially believed to have acted alone in assassinating Kennedy. The study places the unknown gunman behind a picket fence at the top of the grassy knoll, in front of and to the right of the presidential limousine. (Washington Post)
Global warming and the environmenta set of overarching international guidelines designed to curb global warming. Since the Bush administration's position is that global warming does not exist, a position incompatible with reality, Bush sees no reason to participate in any discussions of the problem. (Worse, from Bush's point of view, implementation of the Kyoto treaty would cost polluting corporations billions in clean-up and prevention costs.) The US pullout subjects Bush to global criticism and outrage. 178 other countries ratify the protocols in August, but without US participation, the accords are all but meaningless, as the US accounts for about 25% of the world's greenhouse gases. The entire Kyoto situation is classic Bush. In 2000, while campaigning for president, Bush had repeatedly spoken out for the accords, approved by Clinton in 1997 but never ratified by Congress. During the meetings, the ideologically radical US delegation is arrogant and uncooperative with other delegates, and the decision to terminate US participation is handled by Condoleezza Rice, who peremptorily informs European Union delegates over a private lunch that the entire deal is "dead." White House spokesman Ari Fleischer adds, "The president has been unequivocal. He does not support the Kyoto treaty. It is not in the United States' economic best interest."
Bush's foreign policiesThe fighter crashes, killing the pilot; the EP-3 makes an emergency landing on China's Hainan Island, and 24 American crewmen are captured by the Chinese. Experts note that the Chinese pilot is part of an apparent program to harass American flights in the South China Sea; this is one of many incidents where Chinese fighters have flown too close to American planes in international airspace. Pentagon officials warn the Chinese not to board the plane, as it is full of secret electronic surveillance gear. The Chinese ignore the warning and board the plane anyway. Inexplicably, the crew has not followed standard procedure in destroying the sensitive contents of the plane, and the Chinese make off with an untold amount of high-tech surveillance equipment. Bush demands the immediate return of the 24 crewmen, but the Chinese detain them for 12 days. (The Bush administration is careful not to use the term "hostage." Secretary of State Colin Powell refers to them as "detainees" being held "incommunicado.") Four days lapse before US officials are allowed to meet with the crewmen. Meanwhile, the Chinese government holds the US fully responsible for the crash, and demands a string of apologies from the US before they will release the crew. Bush refuses to apologize. Powell's expression of "regret" over the incident isn't good enough for the Chinese, who continue to press for full apologies from the US government. Bush echoes Powell's expression of regret, and says he does not want the incident to jeopardize relations between the two countries. (Bush's statement during the crisis that the US will do "whatever it took" to defend Taiwan was a major gaffe, simultaneously rewriting almost 20 years of Sino-American relations and infuriating the Chinese; Bush officials immediately leapt into the fray to assure the Chinese that Bush didn't mean what he said, and that the "two-China" policies adopted during the Reagan administration were still in force.) Powell eventually apologizes on television for the loss of life (the Chinese pilot); Bush apologizes in passing, without acknowledging that he actually apologizes. On April 11, the crew is released to American officials; the Chinese keep the downed plane. One US official states, "The EP-3E is the jewel in the crown of the US Navy's electronic intelligence gathering capability and the loss of its secrets to a potential unfriendly nation is a grievous loss to the US."