- April 15: After the US/British forces take Tikrit, both countries declares the war officially over.
Iraq war and occupation
American and British casualties are light; the body count among the Iraqi military and civilian populations is staggeringly high and rising every day. Retired Army General Jay Garner has already been appointed to lead the Iraqi post-war administration until a new government can be put into place.
- Jay Garner, the appointed civilian administrator of Iraq, was hand-picked by Donald Rumsfeld in January 2003 after Rumsfeld turned down nine different recommendations from the State Department to fill the position. Garner, a retired Army general, is the former president of SY Technologies, a large defense contractor. He has close ties to, and is a strong supporter of, Israel, and helped Israel develop its $2 billion Arrow missile defense system. Garner's ties to Israel make him popular with the administration neoconservatives, but guarantee problems with Iraq's virulently anti-Israeli populace. Garner's job is made more difficult from the outset, as Rumsfeld vetoes 16 of Garner's top appointees for being politically incorrect on one issue or another, for being unacceptable to White House ideologues or neocons in Rumsfeld's office. "The vetting process got so bad," recalls a member of Garner's team, "that even doctors sent to restore medical services had to be anti-abortion." Even Tom Warrick, the official who oversaw the State Department's yearlong postwar planning effort, fails to make Rumsfeld's cut. Garner's team is marked by its almost-total lack of experience and its fanatical ideology. Garner quickly makes himself unpopular with Rumsfeld's crowd by promising "free and fair" elections in Iraq within 90 days if possible, with one administration insider later saying, "They have Wolfowitz coming out saying it's going to be a democratic country...but we're going to do something that 99% of the Iraqi people wouldn't vote for." That something was the privatization of Iraq's oil industry into the hands of American corporations and the transformation of Iraq's economy into a completely unregulated "free" market structure -- free, that is, to only selected corporations, none of which are Iraqi. Garner, a registered Democrat, and his team will be replaced by Rumsfeld within weeks.
- "I think it was a mistake that we didn't use" the Future of Iraq project report to prepare for the aftermath of the invasion, says Garner after he was ousted during an October 2003 interview for PBS's Frontline. "It was my intention to use that, but we didn't. ...I was just told, and now it's just a decision that they made that we're not going to use that." Who made that decision? Garner says it was Secretary Rumsfeld, "and I don't think it was his decision." Reporter George Packer of the New Yorker believes the order came from Dick Cheney. Why not? Because the report came from Rumsfeld's and Cheney's ideological rivals at the State Department. "The Future of Iraq project wasn't the key to all solutions in Iraq," says Packer. "It was just a very useful compendium of information, a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to tackle alll the range of problems in the postwar that would have been of great use to any postwar administration. Rumsfeld and Cheney didn't believe the State Department's version of the electrical grid in Iraq was worth looking at. Because it's the State Department version. We have our own version of the electrical grid in Iraq, which is that it's actually in very good shape and it's not going to need a whole lot of repair."
- Garner also tells Frontline that his plan was "to use most of the army, the Iraqi army, for reconstruction. We were going to hire them and make them, for lack of a better word, reconstruction battalions and use them to help rebuild the country. Seemed like a great plan...because they had the skill set to do everything I thought we needed to do. I mean, they know how to fix roads. They know how to fix bridges. They know how to move rubble around. They are all trained, to a certain degree. They knew how to take orders. They have a command-and-control system over them. They have their own transporation, you can move them around, that type of thing. So that was a -- that was a good concept." Instead, Garner's replacement, Paul Bremer, fires the 120,000-man army, sending them -- with their weapons -- back to their homes, newly unemployed and seething with resentment, on May 23. He also fires 400,000 government employees the next day. How many of these formerly well-paid Iraqi citizens, now unemployed and unused, later joined the insurgency, bringing their talents and their weapons to bear against the US occupation forces, cannot be even guessed.
- And who is brought in to do all of the work that Garner planned to use the Iraqi army for? Halliburton, and later other large American corporations such as Bechtel, DynCorp, and Custer Battles LLC, a company created by former Republican congressional candidate and Fox News commentator Michael Battles and former defense contractor Scott Custer, which won a $16 million contract to provide security for civilian flights into and out of Baghdad International Airport even though there were no civilian flights allowed in or out of BIA; Custer Battles indulged in such lucrative side projects as repainting abandoned Iraqi forklifts and leasing them back to the US, and creating sham companies in the Cayman Islands that they use to bilk millions from the US in forged invoices and work orders, eventually stealing at least $50 million in US taxpayer funds. Bremer's number-one rule was to ensure that no one who had worked on similar projects in the Balkans -- i.e. anyone who had worked under the Clinton administration -- would be hired for Iraq. So Bremer brings in people like 23-year old college grad Casey Wasson, who has no experience whatsoever; Anita Greco, a 25-year old former teacher; John Hanley, a 24-year old website editor; and 21-year old college student Scott Erwin, a former intern for Dick Cheney and Tom DeLay, who later marvels, "In one week I went from chatting on the quad, eating in the Heilman Dining Center, and attending ODK (Omicron Delta Kappa) meetings to being briefed in the Pentagon, flying in a C-130 military plane from Kuwait City, and living in one of Saddam's many palaces." Erwin and his five colleagues, including the four mentioned above, are nicknamed "The Brat Pack," and given direct control of allocating Iraq's $13 billion reconstruction budget. Each had received unsolicited e-mails from the Pentagon inviting them to take the jobs. After comparing notes, they all realized that they had two things in common: they were all conservative ideologues, and they had all sent their resumes to the Heritage Foundation. $8.8 billion goes unaccounted for, mostly stolen, under Bremer's watch. How much of it was because of the rank inexperience and incompetence of the "Brat Pack" and their fellow ideologues is a question that can be answered, if Congress would bother to investigate it.
- It is known that by the fall of 2004, only 27% of the money allocated for Iraqi reconstruction could be traced to anything resembling a reconstruction project. And when Custer Battles is later banned from bidding on government contracts and sued by two whistleblowers for massively defrauding the United States, the firm will be defended by the Justice Department, the lawsuit will be dismissed, and Custer Battles will be reorganized and will go back into business with the government. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is charged with investigating such matters; Republican chair Susan Collins, a supposedly independent Republican, has, since 2003, overseen eight investigations into fraud at the Postal Service, two on Defense Department employees' illegal use of airline tickets, two into diploma mills -- and none into corruption in Iraq. The chair of the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Norm Coleman, has ensured that his committee will not have anything to do with any investigations into Iraq. Even Republicans such as Senator Charles Grassley and House member Jim Leach want such investigations, but they are not happening.
- As a side note, Packer also reports that Garner meets for 45 minutes with Bush after his return to the US, a meeting which consists largely of idle chit-chat and jokes like, "You want to do Iran for the next one?" "No sir, me and the boys are holding out for Cuba." (Wikipedia, FactMonster, PBS, New York Times/Washington Post/Eric Alterman and Mark Green, Greg Palast, Al Franken)
"This has been a tough war for commentators on the American left. ...Liberal writers for ideologically driven magazines like The Nation and for less overtly political ones like The New Yorker did not predict a defeat, but the terrible consequences many warned of have not happened. Now liberal commentators must address the victory at hand and confront an ascendant conservative juggernaut that asserts US might can set the world right." -- New York Times reporter David Carr, Dave Zweifel, April 16
- Mid-April: No "weapons of mass destruction" have yet been found; in response, the White House has changed its message.
Iraq war and occupation
In true Orwellian fashion, what was the overriding reason for invading Iraq as late as April 10, 2003 is now changed to "liberating the Iraqi people," and has always been the reason for invading Iraq. As part of this effort to distance itself from the WMD issue, the Bush administration has refused to allow UN inspectors back into the country to assist in locating the purported WMDs. Two of the four mobile teams originally assigned to search for the putative WMDs have already been reassigned to investigate war crimes or other duties unrelated to WMDs.
- Inside the White House, apprehensions are rising over the failure to find the WMDs. Almost every day, it seems, initial reports of the unearthing of this or that WMD cache excites White House officials, only to turn out to be nothing -- in one case, a report of the discovery of ricin, a toxic gas, turns out to be nothing more than curdled milk. "It seemed like every two or three days there would be some report that would turn out not to be true," recalls Victoria Clarke, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. Karl Rove fears that the failure to find Iraqi WMDs will undermine Bush's re-election campaign, and is unmoved by the assertions of some White House officials that it does not matter whether the WMDs are ever found as long as the war itself is viewed as a success.
- Carl Ford, the assistant secretary in charge of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) is particularly worried, and with good reason. Ford is reading the intelligence reports from captured senior Iraqi officials and scientists. All are denying any knowledge of weapons stockpiles. Worse, Ford believes, is that they don't seem to all be parroting a cover story. "Each person had a slightly different take on it," he later recalls. "They were not saying the same thing." Every Iraqi polygraphed by the US military passes the test. In the White House, officials dismiss the polygraph results, saying that every captured Iraqi must be a really good liar. These officials, Ford believes, are in "denial." But Ford and some of his colleagues are beginning to come around to the certain belief that there are no WMDs to be found. He recalls, "Our common reaction was, 'Holy sh*t, we're in trouble.'" (David Corn, Michael Isikoff and David Corn)
- Mid-April: Bush meets with Saudi ambassador Bandar Bush. Rumsfeld is leaving Bush's office as Bandar arrives.
Iraq war and occupation
"Don't worry," Rumsfeld tells Bandar. "We'll accelerate the withdrawal [from Iraq]." Bandar is worried about Iraq's stability. The US military has occupied the country, but Rumsfeld is talking about withdrawal. Bandar reiterates his fears about a power vacuum in Iraq, since Saddam Hussein's Ba'athists have, with the defeated Iraqi military, run just about everything in the country. Bandar has a suggestion about working with the Ba'athists: "Take the top echelon off because of their involvement and bloody hands. But keep and maintain the integrity of the institutions. What you should do, announce all of the military report back to their barracks and keep, let's say the colonels on down. Somebody has to run things."
- The same should be done with Iraqi intelligence and security, Bandar says. "Look, their intel service was the most efficient. Take off the top echelon and keep the second line and let them find those bad guys, because those bad guys will know how to find bad guys," most particularly the escaped Hussein. "That's too Machiavellian," says someone in the meeting, either Bush or Condoleezza Rice. "Let bad people find bad people, and then after that you get rid of them," Bandar says. "What's the big deal? Double-cross them. I mean, for God's sake, who said that we owe them anything?" Bandar knows that Iraq, with its long border with Saudi Arabia, will pose an imminent danger to Saudi Arabia unless it is secured. Chaos or an extremist, pro-Iranian Shi'ite government would be nightmarish for the Saudis. Bandar says that his people believe there are about 3 million retirees in Iraq, sitting at home, receiving the equivalent of $6 a month. "Go and pay them for six months, for God's sake," he advises. "Each of them supports a family, mind you. So from 3 million you could get the support of literally 10 million people. Suddenly you have a major constituency for you because you have paid them off." The payoffs would cost in total about $100 million. Use another $100 million to pay off the Iraqi military, after removing the top military echelon, and the US will have bought themselves instant stability. The Iraqis have high expectations, Bandar reminds Bush; they should not be disappointed. "You have to make people feel that their life is going to get better." Bush is dubious, and says the decision will be up to Rumsfeld. (Bob Woodward)
- Mid-April: Concerned that the US is losing the propaganda war, with too many stories in the news media about chaos, violence, and looting in Iraq dominating the headlines, White House political advisor Karen Hughes thinks that the State Department is doing a poor job of explaining Bush's foreign policy.
Iraq war and occupation
She persuades Margaret Tutwiler, the grande dame of Republican communications strategy during the Reagan-Bush years, to take the top job at State as the undersecretary for public diplomacy. Tutwiler was once described by a Washington Post reporter as a "one-woman psychological operations team," and is a former communications and political advisor to Bush crony James Baker while Baker was a senior cabinet member for both Reagan and the elder Bush. Now Hughes tells Tutwiler, currently serving as the US ambassador to Morocco, do the same job for Jay Garner that you did for Baker.
- When Tutwiler arrives in Baghdad, she is confronted by what she sees as a complete meltdown of government and society. There is no running water and no reliable electricity. Mosquitoes eat her alive. Garner personally shows her how to heat and eat military field rations, the infamous MREs, but everywhere she sets foot, she sees mess, gunk, garbage, and filth. She has no privacy, because no room in her "palace" has any doors. She can't sleep in the furnace heat of Baghdad's mid-spring. Tutwiler concludes that Baghdad is a catastrophe that even Baker, that consummate fixer, couldn't fix. The country has no functioning society and no functioning government. But she knows that Bush and his senior officials want total control and instant results. She hardly gets her shoes off before she is getting phone calls from Washington complaining about the news articles and photos about Iraq's chaos and violence. Get those pictures off, she is told. She tells Bush's people that the political power and infrastructure vacuums were of unimaginable magnitude, outstripping anything she has ever seen.
- She likes Garner, and considers him a workhorse who is committed to rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure. But Garner lacks the Washington skills that Baker has in spades -- he doesn't know the key players in Washington, the interagency process that makes the disparate departments and agencies work together. He lacks the contacts and clout in Washington, and the manpower in Iraq.
- Garner complains to Tutwiler that he has been muzzled since his arrival in Kuwait, that he is not allowed to talk to the press. She asks around and finds that Garner is considered a loose cannon -- no one wants him talking to reporters, making policy statements and off-the-cuff assessments that don't support the picture the Bush administration wants drawn. Tutwiler even fields complaints that Garner doesn't show the proper respect for the Iraqis because he won't wear a coat and tie. Garner finally complains to Rumsfeld, who says he is no longer embargoed -- he can talk to any reporter he likes. Tutwiler arranges a press conference, but 45 minutes later, she reports to Garner, "You've been embargoed" again. She says talking to Rumsfeld again won't help, that the order comes directly from Hughes. Tutwiler tries to set up "ambushes" from reporters, where Garner can "accidentally" be waylaid by reporters and make a few brief comments.
- All in all, Tutwiler realizes, the situation is growing worse. She long remembers the words from her new friend Hero Talabani, the wife of Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani. In one discussion, Hero turns to her and says, "We expected more from you Americans." (Bob Woodward)
- Mid-April: Bush appears at an Ohio ball-bearing factory (whose owners donated $260,000 to his election campaign) to tout his economic policies.
Bush's economic policies
He scoffs at Congressional members who oppose his plans for new tax cuts and budget proposals, and repeats the now-familiar lie that it was Congress, not his administration, who was responsible for phasing in the first round of tax cuts. His biggest lie of the day: "This nation has got a deficit because we have been through a war." He fails to note that the US was already in a deficit well before September 11, mostly because of his first round of tax cuts. He calls criticisms that his tax cuts disproportionately favor the wealthy as "Washington, DC political rhetoric." Congress will reject Bush's original budget proposal; House GOP leaders will craft a $550 billion bill structures much differently than Bush's own proposal, calling for lowered (not eliminated) taxes on stock dividends and short time limits on Bush's middle-class tax cuts. But this plan has its flaws as well, including the false assumption that Bush's tax cuts will be allowed to expire in a few years, a prediction most political observers believe to be false. Such an assumption allows the GOP bill to artificially lower the ten-year cost of the bill by over a trillion dollars. And the House bill is even more generous to the wealthy than Bush's own proposals. The Senate settles on a $350 billion tax-cut bill that lowers the stock dividend even more; Bush responds through press secretary Ari Fleischer, "Insufficient, but it's progress." (David Corn)
"Imagine these startling headlines with the nation at war in the Pacific six months after Dec. 7, 1941: 'No Signs of Japanese Involvement in Pearl Harbor Attack! Faulty Intelligence Cited; Wolfowitz: Mistakes Were Made.' Or how about an equally disconcerting World War II headline from the European theater: 'German Army Not Found in France, Poland, Admits President; Rumsfeld: "Oops!," Powell Silent; "Bring 'Em On," Says Defiant FDR.'"
-- Charles Goyette, American Conservative
Halliburton and Bechtel take over reconstruction efforts in Iraq
- Mid-April: Halliburton, formerly led by vice president Dick Cheney, and Bechtel, who formerly employed Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and boasts former Secretary of State George Schultz as a board member, are two major recipients of lucrative US government contracts to rebuild Iraq's oil industry.
(Bechtel's contract is worth $680 million, largely to rebuild Iraqi schools, water and electricity delivery systems, and sewage treatment plants. Bechtel will almost immediately subcontract the work out, keep most of the money for itself, and do very little, overall, to rebuild anything.) The contracts are awarded in secret, without the legally mandated Congressional oversight and bidding process, before the war even begins (October 2002). Schultz headed the "Committee for the Reconstruction of Iraq," which was committed to the "reconstruction of the Iraqi economy" -- a lucrative process Bechtel intended to be part of. Schultz and Bechtel succeed in landing an initial $680 million contract, and are first in line to land other contracts from the more than $100 billion reconstruction effort. The New York Times's Bob Herbert writes, "When the George Bushes and the George Shultzes were banging the drums for war with Iraq, we didn't hear one word from them about the benefits that would be accruing to corporate behemoths like Bechtel. And we didn't pay much attention to the grotesque conflict of interest engaged in by corporate titans and their government cronies who were pushing young American men and women into the flames of a war that ultimately would pour billions of dollars into a very select group of corporate coffers." Halliburton needs these contracts desperately -- in late 2002, it faced multibillion dollar asbestos lawsuits and plummeting stock prices, and was rumored to be considering bankruptcy. Now, with the government contracts, Halliburton's stock price has nearly doubled and the company is solvent once again. (New York Times/Naples News, Online Journal, T. Christian Miller)
- Mid-April: Not to be left behind, the bin Laden family is also poised to become heavily involved in the lucrative rebuilding of Iraq, through Bechtel.
Osama bin Laden (family)
The bin Laden family owns $10 million of the Fremont Group, a former subsidiary of Bechtel that still "enjoys a close relationship" with the corporate conglomerate (5 of Fremont's 8 directors sit on the Bechtel board of directors as well). Both Bechtel and the bin Ladens have made their fortunes primarily on huge construction projects in the Middle East. (New Yorker)
- Mid-April: A document leaked from the State Department outlines the plan for "rebuilding" Iraq;
Iraq war and occupation
the plans call for making Iraq a corporate haven, with no regulations, no taxes, no restrictions of any kind, and full and total corporate access to Iraqi oil. Only select American and British firms will be allowed to participate. (Greg Palast)
Bush administration begins to back off on WMD story, and instead cites "humanitarian reasons" justifying invasion (see below)
- April 17: Rumsfeld backs off more on the WMD issue, saying: "I don't think we'll discover anything, myself.
Iraq war and occupation
I think what will happen is we'll discover people who will tell us where to go find it. It is not like a treasure hunt where you just run around looking everywhere hoping you find something. I just don't think that's going to happen. The inspectors didn't find anything, and I doubt that we will. What we will do is find the people who will tell us." This flatly contradicts his earlier assertions that "we know where they are." David Corn writes, "[I]magine if Bush, Rumsfeld, and the others had said this prior to the war: We're invading another country to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction -- which we know are there -- but I doubt we'll find them unless locals tell us where they are. Would that have persuaded the public this war was absolutely necessary?" (Democratic Underground, David Corn)
- April 17: A study appearing in today's New England Journal of Medicine finds new evidence that lead levels in children currently found acceptable by the Bush administration causes decreased IQ and delayed onset of puberty.
Partisan Bush appointees
The study has no impact on the administration, which rejects the Lead Poisoning Advisory Committee's nomination of Bruce Lamphear and drops panel member Michael Weitzman, both of whom are advocates of lowering the legal limit of lead levels, and instead appoints William Banner, who repeatedly testifies on behalf of lead companies in poison-related litigation, and Joyce Tsuji, who had worked for a consulting firm whose clients include a lead smelter (Tsuji later withdraws her name). Banner and fellow nominee Sergio Piomelli are first contacted about serving on the committee, not by anyone in the administration, but by lead-industry representatives who seem to be recruiting favorable committee members with the blessing of HHS and Secretary Tommy Thompson. (Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
April 19: "The only people who think this wasn't a victory [in Iraq] are Upper West Side liberals, and a few people here in Washington." -- conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer, quoted by Dave Zweifel, April 19
Coalition Provisional Authority formed
- April 21: The Coalition Provisional Authority is formed to rule Iraq until, at least in theory, the country is secure and stable enough to form its own government.
Iraq war and occupation
The CPA draws its power from UN Resolution 1483 and the international Laws of War, and will wield complete executive, legislative, and judicial power over the Iraqi people until its formal dissolution on June 28. 2003. It will eventually be headed by former corporate executive and Bush colleague L. Paul Bremer, who takes charge as Bush's "presidential envoy."
- The CPA was preceded by the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, headed by retired Army Lieutenant General Jay Garner. From January 2003 (while the Bush and Blair administrations were still officially denying any plans to invade Iraq) through May 2003, Garner, a close friend of Donald Rumsfeld, headed ORHA, and ran the organization with the stated goal of returning power to the Iraqi people as soon as possible. But Garner was not on board with the private goal of the US to "de-Ba'athify" and will be replaced with Bremer on May 11 (Garner is unofficially removed today, though, ironically, this is the day Garner finally succeeds in getting into Baghdad with his staff). Upon assuming his post, Paul Bremer, a managing director of Kissinger and Associates, also assumes the title of US Presidential Envoy and Administrator in Iraq, and will frequently be called Ambassador by numerous media organizations and even by the White House itself. However, Bremer's ambassadorial post is never confirmed by the US Senate, his credentials are never formally presented to the Iraqi government, and there is no true US diplomatic mission present in Iraq at this time. Bremer is only answerable to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and higher officials in the White House. British official Mark Etherington, the governor of Wasit province under the auspices of the CPA, writes in his memoir of his time in Iraq, Revolt on the Tigris, "My first impressions of the CPA were of a large organization with unprecedented resources locked in logistical rather than ideological struggle. Much of its daily business appared to consist of establishing and administering itself in the provinces and the center, rather than persuading the population of the merits of its intervention." Etherington is not immediately taken with Bremer, of whom he writes, "[T]here was something a touch inhuman about Bremer, as though [his] professionalism, with its firm dry handshakes and quick formal smiles, had somehow drained away his humanity. One felt he would be a difficult person to get to know."
- The CPA forms the Iraqi Governing Council on July 2003, and appoints all of its members, most of whom are either Iraqi expatriates who had long ago fled the country or outspoken dissidents persecuted by the Hussein regime. The IGC is subordinate to the CPA and is seen by many Iraqis as little more than a puppet government. Greg Palast writes, "...Bremer chose the Pentagon's pet Iraqis for his Governing Council...that stitched together Kurdish warlords, scary sheikhs and sticky-fingered ex-psts under the control of Ahmad Chalabi, a convicted bank swindler sought by Jordanian authorities. Despised but not feared, Bremer's [Governing Council] could not hold power without a huge American guard."
- Garner later says that he was fully aware of the neocons' plans to transform Iraq into an unregulated free-market system to be taken apart by American corporations, he just ignored it: "You prevent epidemics, you start the food distribution program to prevent famine, you try to get the electricity going again." Obviously Garner's priorities were misplaced, at least in the eyes of Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Garner had no interest in immediately seizing control of Iraq's oil industry, as the plan from Washington mandates, nor did he care about rewriting the tax laws and trade rules to favor American and British business concerns. "My preference," he later says, "was to put the Iraqis in charge as soon as we can and do it in some form of elections." Garner has little patience for the plan he was supposed to implement: "I don't think they need to go by the US plan," he says. "I think that what we need to do is set an Iraqi government that represents the freely elected will of the people. It's their country...their oil." After Garner is sacked, or "replaced," Washington insiders begin savaging him with accusations of incompetence, calling him "hapless" and out of touch. Meanwhile, according to headlines across the country, Bush calls on Middle Eastern countries to embrace democracy, but his officials are busily ensuring that in Iraq, no such thing will take place. And Garner himself is no saint: his vision of Iraq was more along the lines of what the US transformed the Philippines into under Theodore Roosevelt: "The Philippines was in essence a coaling station for the Navy," he says. "And it allowed the US Navy to maintain a presence in the Pacific. It's a bad analogy, but I think we should look right now at Iraq as our coaling station in the Middle East...and it gives us a strategic advantage there and we ought to just accept that. ...But the privatizations, that's just one fight you don't want to take on right now."
- Bremer immediately cancels the planned elections and instead selects the members of the Iraqi Governing Council himself. Instead, Bremer announces, elections will indeed be held...in 2005. Plenty of time for the neocons' plan for transforming the Iraqi economy to be implemented. In June, Bremer will even cancel municipal elections for mayor and other city positions, which draws a hot reaction from Najaf mayoral candidate Asad Sultan Abu Gilal, who warns, "If they don't give us freedom, what will we do? We have patience, but not for long." His prediction of trouble down the line comes through, when frustrated Shi'ites in and around Najaf form the Mahdi Army, which decides if they can't have free elections, they will become one of the largest and most intransigent of the nascent insurgency. Bush's reaction? "Bring 'em on." But Bush's advisors knew what they were doing when they advised the president to "stand tough" against the Iraqi calls for democracy. It plunged Iraq into what will become, for all intents and purposes, a civil war, just in time for the November 2004 elections. Bush will ride into the elections as, again, a "war president."
- The State Department had gathered a group of former Ba'athist generals and leaders to form the core of its own vision of a "free" Iraqi government, but Bremer and the neocons have a different idea. The Ba'athists are arrested en masse. "US forces imprisoned all those we named as political leaders," complains Falah Aljibury, the advisor to Colin Powell's State Department planners. Aljibury believes that the imprisonment of those designated to become Iraq's new leaders gave even more impetus to the growing insurgency, especially when, after they were released, many joined that insurgency, giving the rebels a tremendous amount of military experience. Bremer's next plan, the "de-Ba'athification" of Iraq's governance, encouraged by Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi who himself planned on becoming the new leader (and perhaps dictator) of Iraq, resulted in the disbanding of the Iraqi Army, throwing nearly 500,000 soldiers and personnel out of what were good-paying jobs and into the streets, not only leaving the only armed forces outside of the US troops in Iraq to be the Shi'ite and Kurdish militias, but impelling many of the former Army personnel to join the insurgency. As Palast writes, "The Pentagon's neocons wanted total war and they were going to make sure they got it." (Wikipedia, Mark Etherington, Greg Palast, Bob Woodward, James Risen)
The official seal of the CPA
"The hunt for WMD is here, not in Talil. I'm assigned to cover that hunt. I want to remain here in Baghdad without disembedding until MET Alpha returns to Baghdad with the 75th XTF, when I shall rejoin them. I see no reason for me to waste time (or Met Alpha, for that matter) in Talil.... Request permission to stay on here with Ahmad Cha colleagues at the Palestine Hotel til Met Alpha returns or order to return [to Talil] is rescinded. I intend to write about this decision in the NYTimes to send a successful team back...just as progress on WMD is being made."
- Pomeroy recognizes Miller's note for what it is. "It was a threat, of course," he recalls. Miller is blackmailing the military: rescind the order or face her wrath on the front page of the Times. "I thought to myself, this is something that is going to bite her in the *ss," recalls Pomeroy. "The journalist is here as an observer. If you want to run around with Ahmad Chalabi, looking for baseball-hatted scientists, that's your own business. But to interfere with the operations of a military unit, it was unconsciousnable." Yet Miller gets her way after complaining directly to Petraeus, who "suggests" to McPhee that he cancel the order to go to Talil.
- Miller is obviously, and forthrightly, reliant on Chalabi for the bulk of her WMD (mis)information. Days later, after she is chastised by John Burns, the chief of the paper's Baghdad bureau, for writing about Chalabi without coordinating with his bureau, she fires off an e-mail to Burns noting that she has been "covering Chalabi for about 10 years [and Chalabi has] provided most of the front page exclusives on WMD to our paper." Years later, Times executive editor Howard Raines says, "I did not know Judy's sources." But Raines is lying. Miller has been up front about her reliance on Chalabi, even demanding in a May 5, 2003 e-mail to Raines and Boyd that she and only she be given access to Chalabi -- complaining that Times reporter Patrick Tyler, the new Baghdad bureau chief, had had the temerity to organize a lunch for Chalabi without consulting her. She complains that Tyler intends to write an article about Chalabi's relationship with Jordanian King Abdullah and Chalabi's conviction of fraud relating to his embezzlement of millions from Jordan's Petra Bank (see other related items throughout this site). Miller says she intends to write that story, and that Chalabi will give her, and not Tyler, his files on the matter. She writes, "As you know, I'm at Chalabi's every day because MET Alpha has a very sensitive relationship with his intell people -- a sharing of people and documents on WMD." Miller boasts of her "extremely close contacts with Chalabi" and the INC, and says that ever since arriving in Iraq, she has been "systematically cultivating their trust and renewing our relationship. ...Ultimately, Chalabi may provide not only the most important WMD info, but other info on terrorists, which, quite frankly, he has promised to give to me. That relationship is not transferable."
- Unfortunately for both Miller's and Chalabi's credibility, none of Chalabi's vaunted WMD information ever pans out. The other task forces, slated with finding evidence of Hussein's war crimes, are digging up plenty of evidence. But neither MET Alpha nor its companion unit, MET Bravo, ever found a single shred of evidence pointing to Iraqi WMDs. "It was extremely frustrating," recalls Tewfik Boulenouar, MET Alpha's translator. The team was using a prewar list of possible WMD sites, but it is becoming extremely obvious that the list is out of date. "[I]t was obvious to us that the Iraqis wouldn't leave the WMDs in the same place. We knew before we got to those places that we wouldn't find anything." Pomeroy recalls, "Everything we'd been told up to that point is, we had WMD there. We were scouring the landscape, and we hadn't found squat."
- See the related items from June 24, 2003 and May 27, 2004, for more information about Miller's propaganda efforts. (Amy Goodman and David Goodman, Michael Isikoff and David Corn, Huffington Post)
- April 21: The New Republic's Michael Cottle reports on how critical Christian conservative support is for George W. Bush, writing,
"Karl Rove would likely rather risk an international holy war than a drop in Bush's support among Christian conservatives." While some may dismiss Cottle's remarks as mere hyperbole, the likelihood of just such a "holy war" is increasing every day. (New Republic/Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
- April 21: Six members of Congress, including four Republicans and two Democrats, are living in a sumptuous Capital Hill townhouse at the expense of a secretive fundamentalist Christian organization called either "The Fellowship" or "The Foundation."
The six members pay $600 a month to live in this million-dollar townhouse located two blocks from the Capital. Two Republican senators, Sam Brownback and John Ensign, two Republican representatives, Zach Wamp and Jim DeMint, and two Democratic representatives, Bart Stupak and Mike Doyle, share the townhouse. "Our goal is singular, and that is to hope that we can assist them in better understandings of the teachings of Christ, and applying it to their jobs," says Fellowship director Richard Carver, a former assistant secretary of the Air Force during the Reagan administration. The house, valued at $1.1 million, is owned by the C Street Center, a sister organization of the Fellowship. Tenants of the house dine together once a week to discuss religion in their daily lives. Few in the Fellowship are willing to talk about its mission. It organizes the annual National Prayer Breakfast attended by the president, Congress members and dignitaries from around the world. But the group leaves its name off the program, even though it spent $924,373 to sponsor the event in 2001, bringing in $606,292 in proceeds, according to the most recent available IRS records, and pays travel expenses for foreign officials to attend. "My living arrangements are totally appropriate and within the House rules," Doyle says. "There's no direct correlation between the tenants and the Foundation -- there are tenants who have absolutely zero involvement, and some do. And there's no benefit to live there, other than the fact that it's convenient." Other than Doyle and DeMint, current and former lawmakers who have lived in the C Street house refuse to comment. "We feel like it's nobody's business but our own," says former representative Steve Largent, a Republican who lived there before leaving Congress to run unsuccessfully for governor of Oklahoma last year. "What concerns people is when you mix religion, political power and secrecy," says the Reverend Barry Lynn of the United Church of Christ. "Members of official Washington should always be open and direct about the groups they choose to join, just to dispel any concerns that there's an inappropriate or unconscious agenda in these groups." Lawmakers living under religion's roof isn't necessarily problematic, Lynn said, "as long as there are no sweetheart deals that are being made that could trade low rent for access." The C Street house is not the only religious-run organization that rents to lawmakers. (AP/Charleston Post and Courier)
"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual gay sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. All of those things are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family and that's sort of where we are in today's world, unfortunately. It all comes from, I would argue, the right to privacy that doesn't exist, in my opinion, in the United States Constitution." -- Republican senator Rick Santorum, Associated Press, April 22, quoted by Brandi Mills