- Spring: A Pentagon official tells journalist Seymour Hersh that, in Hersh's words, "secrecy and wishful thinking...[a]re defining characteristics of Rumfeld's Pentagon." The official says, "They always want to delay the release of bad news -- in the hopes that something good will break." In mid-2003, the callup of Army reserve units was delayed for nearly six weeks. waiting for Rumsfeld's decision while he and his staff "waited for the problem to take care of itself, without any additional troops," writes Hersh. The official says, "They were hoping that they wouldn't have to make a decision."
- That same year, Army war games produced best-case, moderate-case, and worst-case scenarios surrounding various aspects of the Iraq war and its predicted progress. In every case, the number of troops that would be required down the road exceeded the worst-case scenarios. Nevertheless, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Rumsfeld's civilians, continued to insist that future planning be based on the most optimistic scenario. According to Rumsfeld's rosy predictions, by mid-2004, "the US Army would need only a handful of combat brigades in Iraq," says the official. "There are nearly twenty now, with the international coalition drying up. They are wildly off the mark." He notes, "From the beginning, the Army community was saying that the projections and estimates were unrealistic." Now, "we're struggling to maintain a hundred and thirty-five thousand troops while allowing soldiers enough time back home."
- The predominant mood by midyear is pessimism. Wealthy Iraqi families are deserting Baghdad by the score in fear of heightened suicide attacks and terror bombings. "We'll see Christians, Shi'ites, and Sunnis getting out," says Lebanon's minister of information, Michel Samaha. "What the resistance is doing is targeting the poor people who run the bureaucracy -- those who can't afford to pay for private guards." Says former CIA official Whitley Bruner, an expert on the Middle East, "A lot of people have decided to get to Lebanon, Jordan, or the Gulf and wait this one out." (Seymour Hersh)
- Spring: Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is becoming extremely frustrated over the lack of progress in training Iraqi security forces. Wolfowitz has come to realize that the core of the problem is his boss, Donald Rumsfeld, who refuses to take the training seriously. For his part, Rumsfeld never understood why Wolfowitz and others believe that Special Forces personnel have to do the training; Rumsfeld later says, "There's no reason Marines and Army people can't train people. Then I said, 'Let's get contractors to do some of it.'" There's no reason to give the Iraqis in-depth training, he asserts: "It's not that they're going to end up winning the soldier of the year award at Fort Bragg." Wolfowitz has been pressuring Rumsfeld and others, including General Ricardo Sanchez, to focus more intensely on the training since his first visit to Iraq in June 2003. Wolfowitz later recalls that towards the end of 2003, he virtually had to hold Rumsfeld's hand for the secretary to sign off on ordering a study group to look into the issue of training, though Rumsfeld recalls it differently.
- In April, General David Petraeus is named the US head of training of the Iraqi forces. Petraeus has to begin from scratch more than a year after the invasion.
- Newly appointed ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte tells Wolfowitz in May, "I'm afraid we may have made the same mistake that we did in Vietnam, where we didn't start Vietnamization until it was too late." The Vietnamization strategy was designed to wean South Vietnamese forces off their reliance on US support and gradually allow them to take control of their own war operations and security. Wolfowitz gravely agrees.
- Wolfowitz, seen by many as the prime architect of the war, feels increasingly marginalized by Rumsfeld. His boss keeps canceling Wolfowitz's scheduled trips to Iraq without giving reasons besides "too much work for you," or in one case, a simple "It's not necessary for you to go." Rumsfeld has no intention of giving Wolfowitz a crumb of real authority in the Pentagon. Wolfowitz tells the House Armed Services Committee in June 2004 that training the Iraqis to handle their own security had been a primary focus "even before the war," but that it had never happened. "The key to defeating [the insurgency] all along has been getting Iraqis trained and equipped and capable of fighting them as quickly as possible." No one on the Republican-led committee asks why it took over a year to get the focus onto training. Wolfowitz doesn't tell the committee -- but does tell close associates -- that it wasn't just negligence, but Rumsfeld's active blocking of efforts to get the training up and running. Wolfowitz tells one associate, "I can't understand it." (Bob Woodward)
- April: Clinton's treasury secretary Robert Reich says, "A friend who specializes in foreign policy and hobnobs with subcabinet officials in the Defense and State departments told me that the only thing that's stopped the Bushies from storming into Iran and North Korea is the upcoming election. If Bush is re-elected, '[Dick] Cheney and [Donald] Rumsfeld are out of the box,' he said. 'They'll take Bush's re-election as a mandate to wage the "war on terror" everywhere and anywhere.'" (The American Prospect/Buzzflash)
- April: Kurdish leader Massound Barzani tells Robert Blackwill, the NSC official in charge of strategic planning for Iraq, that trying to work with the Sunnis is a terrible mistake. The only way to handle them, says Barzani, is to defeat and crush them utterly. They must know that they will pay the price for their lording it over the others in Iraq during their ascendancy under Hussein. Barzani says the withdrawal from Fallujah (see the April page) is a "disaster because you broadcast to every potential Sunni insurgent that they can wait you out, that if they cause enough casualties to you, you won't go through with it. There was an answer to this." Barzani says the US should have allowed the fearsome pesh merga, the Kurdish militia composed of at least 50,000 fighters, to enter Fallujah. "If your Marines couldn't do it, let the pesh go," he says. Blackwill says such a decision would have led to civil war. "Short term that may be a problem," Barzani replies, "but it's not as serious as the long term -- the lesson you're teaching these Sunnis, which is they can beat you." Paul Bremer isn't sure if Barzani is correct, but he tells Blackwill, "Unless this gets over pretty soon, we're not going to be able to finish." The prospect for completing the mission any time soon is unlikely, considering that no one is able to voice a coherent strategy for the mission. Deputy national security advisor Stephen Hadley tells Blackwill, "If we have a military strategy, I can't identify it. I don't know what's worse -- that they have one and won't tell us or they don't have one." Blackwill comes to the conclusion that the fundamental problem is the lack of troops -- the US needs significantly more boots on the ground to perform the myriad tasks assigned to them. Everyone gets diverted from one project and assignment to the next without adequately completing the first one. But that isn't going to happen any time soon. (Bob Woodward)
- April: A leading scholar on Afghanistan, Barnett Rubin, writes that Afghanistan "does not have functioning state institutions. It has no genuine army or effective police. Its ramshackle provincial administration is barely in contact with, let alone obediant to, the central government. Most of the country's meager tax revenue has been illegally taken over by local officials who are little more than warlords with official titles." Rubin writes that the US goal in Afghanistan "was not to set up a better regime for the Afghan people. The goal instead was to get rid of the terrorist threat against America." The US enlisted the aid of the local warlords in its war against terror and "the result was an Afghan government created at Bonn that rested on a power base of warlords." One military consultant says that, after January 2002, the US was "in the process of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory." And Mercy Corps' Nancy Lindborg, who worked extensively in Afghanistan, says the Pentagon's announcements of increased commitments to security and reconstruction are nothing more than "a big charade. ...The United States has left Afghanistan to fester for two years." (Current History/Seymour Hersh)
- April: Aid and humanitarian agencies begin receiving some US funds for their work in Afghanistan after two years of begging produced no results. The reason is not a belated recognition of the tremendous problems inside Afghanistan, but the decision that the Bush administration needs some good news from Afghanistan to balance the worsening situation in Iraq. Bush officials are desperate to ensure that the postponed Afghan elections take place before the US presidential elections in November (they are rammed through in late October 2004), and want to have "good news" from Afghanistan's humanitarian front. As a result, over $2 billion has suddenly been earmarked for Afghan reconstruction of schools, clinics, and roads. "Why are we getting this money now?" asks a US government relief official with a laugh. "We've been asking for two years and no one in their right mind thought about getting all this." (Seymour Hersh)
- April 1: Pentagon officials are privately comparing the situation in Fallujah, where four private US contractors were beaten and burned to death and then hung from a bridge, to the debacle in Mogadishu, which permanently turned US opinion away from continued involvement in Somalia. Fallujah proves that the Iraq mission is deeper and muddier than they'd imagined, that the country they have conquered is far uglier and far less pliant than they hoped, and that a new course of policy is necessary if the US wants to sustain the occupation. The US has virtually no sources of information within Fallujah, which seems to be a center for anti-American dissent that will not be easily contained. Massive bombing of the city is out of the question, and cordoning off the city is counter-productive and wasteful of US military resources. Sending in more troops to "pacify" Fallujah is similarly futile, and would stretch already-thin US troops presences in Iraq past the breaking point. Fred Kaplan writes, "The proof of a troop shortfall is the very presence of the four dead contractorsóretired special operations officers (three Navy SEALs and one veteran of the Army's Delta Force) who went to work for a private firm called Blackwater Security Consulting, which had been contracted to provide protection for food convoys into Fallujah. That's what it's come down to: US troops are so stretched, the Pentagon has to pay private contractors, at much higher pay scales, to do what soldiers and Marines normally do." While CPA head Paul Bremer says, "Their deaths will not go unpunished," Major General Mark Kimmitt, spokesman for the U.S. military command in Iraq, says, "We will not rush in to make things worse." He says that the response, when it comes, will be "deliberate, it will be precise, it will be overwhelming." So far, no response seems to be in the works. Kaplan, along with many Pentagon officials, believe that any military response in Fallujah will be insufficient. Rather, it will take a fundamental shift in US policy towards the angry, militant Sunnis in that region to bring any sort of peace. Juan Cole, a specialist in Iraqi politics at the University of Michigan, observes: "[T]he guerrilla violence will continue for years, since it has a firm class base in the Sunni Arab rentiers who had benefited from Sunni dominance in the Baath and to whom the best jobs, infrastructure and most power had been thrown. They are not going to be quietly reduced to a small, powerless, and much less wealthy minority.... [They] have to be convinced that they are not playing a zero-sum game...where...if your rivals get a bigger piece of the pie, then your piece will inevitably shrink.... The Iraqi economy has the potential to expand greatly. So the pie won't stay the same size, and Shiites could get richer without robbing the Sunni Arabs. Likewise, in a parliamentary system, the Sunni Arabs could make coalitions with Kurd and moderate Shi'ites in such a way as to be a key player and to retain a great deal of political power and to forestall the radical Shi'ites from taking over.... Unless the Sunni Arabs are drawn into parliamentary politics and convinced that the new game is not a zero-sum game, the bombs will continue to go off." (Slate)
- April 1: A speech originally slated to be delivered by national security advisor Condoleezza Rice on September 11, 2001, but never given, focused on the threat posed to the US by rogue nations with nuclear missiles, and did not mention the threat of terror attacks. Excerpts of the speech were given to the Washington Post; the White House refuses to release the entire speech. The address was designed to promote missile defense as the cornerstone of a new national security strategy, and contained no mention of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or Islamic extremist groups. Though the Bush administration maintains that its focus on national security always put terrorism at the top of the list, the facts show otherwise. For example, after his first meeting with NATO heads of state in Brussels in June 2001, Bush outlined the five top defense issues discussed with the closest US allies. Missile defense was at the top of the list, followed by developing a NATO relationship with Russia, working in common purpose with Europe, increased defense spending in NATO countries, and enlarging the alliance to include former East European countries. The only reference to extremists was in Macedonia, where Bush said regional forces were seeking to subvert a new democracy. On August 2, 2001, Vice President Cheney emphasized the new US plan for a 21st century approach to security. "We're fundamentally transforming the US strategic relationship around the world as we look at missile defenses and modifications to our offensive strategic arms," he said at a news conference with Republican congressional leaders on Capitol Hill. Two days before the attacks, Rice said on Meet the Press that the administration was ready "to get serious about the business of dealing with this emergent threat. Ballistic missiles are ubiquitous now." Rice's speech of 9/11 noted that Bush appointed Cheney to oversee a coordinated national effort to protect against a terrorist attack using weapons of mass destruction; the task force never met. At the time, the US concern about terror was heavily focused on Iraq and rogue states, and missile defense was viewed as a weapon against that terrorism -- a different interpretation of the leading threats and responses that would take hold after jetliners hit the World Trade Center and Pentagon. In April 2002, Rice followed through on her postponed September 11 speaking engagement at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. But the speech she delivered did not contain any of the original text, former US officials said. In the revamped speech, Rice's focus was on the threat of international terrorists -- and missile defense was mentioned only once, almost in passing. "An earthquake of the magnitude of 9/11 can shift the tectonic plates of international politics," she noted. (Washington Post)
- April 1: Colonel Tom Gross, who was chief planner for General Jay Garner, director of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, and then-chief of staff for Ambassador Paul Bremer, Coalition Provisional Authority administrator, says that contrary to popular wisdom, there was indeed plenty of planning for Iraq after the invasion was over. The problem was, says Gross, who is retiring from the military, the plans were ignored by the Pentagon and the Bush administration. "There was a plan," says Gross. "The administration chose not to accept it. Their plan was to put [Iraqi exile] Ahmed Chalabi in charge and run with it." According to veteran journalist Steven Rosenfeld, "...as former Clinton and Bush administration anti-terrorism czar Richard A. Clarke's recent testimony to the 9/11 commission revealed, the top staffers at the National Security Council and at the departments of State and Defense do almost nothing but plan, strategize, evaluate contingencies and sometimes get orders to act. But what people who were riveted by Richard Clarke's testimony may not realize is that the most powerful figures in the Bush administration, from its earliest day, dispensed with the interagency planning process prior White Houses used to evaluate threats, make decisions to go to war, and plan and carry out those actions. 'The interagency process is dead,' said Ehsan Ahrari, an independent strategic analyst based in Alexandria, Virginia, who follows military affairs."
- Clarke's testimony is a powerful example of how the Bush administration refused to listen to the recommendations of its own experts. Bush's security advisor Condoleezza Rice, who has virtually no experience dealing with the Middle East, downgraded the role and reach of Clarke and his staff. Under Rice and unlike the Clinton administration, Clarke said he could no longer aggressively coordinate government agencies and implement the nation's anti-terror policies. In his book Rise of the Vulcans, James Mann, a senior writer at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, notes that Bush's war cabinet, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Powell, Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of State Armitage and Rice, refused to cede any decision-making powers to senior State Department or Pentagon officials. According to Mann, not since Henry Kissinger was both national security adviser and secretary of state for Richard Nixon have presidential advisers held and exercised so much war-making power. Gross says he saw the impact of that concentration of power while in Iraq as a top aide to General Garner and Ambassador Bremer. "When Jay Garner and I were there, they made decisions out of the Pentagon that made no sense whatsoever," Gross recalls. "We'd provide guidance to the OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense). They'd blow it off.... Most of my perspective is the political stuff. What sticks in my mind is a cavalier approach to the whole thing."
- Both the State Department and the Pentagon's Central Command created detailed plans about the transition in Iraq from a post-war occupation to self-rule. He says that at a meeting with Garner, Wolfowitz was told it would take 36 months to put a viable Iraqi government together and that a sizeable American military force of more than 100,000 troops would be needed for five, maybe 10 years. When Garner's office told Rumsfeld that they were ready to write a detailed political-military plan based on those estimates, Gross said "Rumsfeld said no." Gross told Garner that they needed a political adviser, and a top State Department official was brought over to Iraq. From 2001 to 2003, this official ran a special project that worked with Iraqis to envision how a post-Saddam Iraq could be built. "There were thousands of documents, with Iraqis doing it, not Americans," Gross remembers. "We told Garner we needed a political adviser, so he came over. He lasted 12 hours. Rumsfeld fired him." Gross says he then asked Wolfowitz to "let us have the documents. Wolfowitz wouldn't let us touch one document from the Department of State." Former senior CIA, NSC and State Department officials confirm Gross's account. "I think I know why" Rusmfeld and Wolfowitz acted this way, says Tom Maertens, former National Security Council director for nuclear non-proliferation for both the Clinton and Bush White Houses. "They apparently thought that Chalabi had some sort of popular following in Iraq. They flew in Chalabi with his cronies and they thought that was the new Iraqi government." Mann's book portrays Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Armitage, Rice, and even Powell as extremists who refuse to listen to career diplomats or Pentagon generals who do not share their vision of a "Pax Americana," essentially an American empire spanning much of the globe, and their belief that American military force can carve out such an empire. "Thus," writes Rosenfeld, "the Bush White House purposefully unplugged the so-called interagency process, which in effect had been a system of shared responsibilities?and checks and balances?in the way America used its military power around the world."
- Gross says Rumsfeld has delegated virtually every Defense decision about Iraq to his deputy, Wolfowitz. "It's interesting," he says. "My take is there is now a huge rift between Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld. What I think is Rumsfeld's agenda is military transformation [converting the US military into a leaner, quicker force capable of enforcing American will around the globe on short notice]. Iraq is a sideshow. What he has done is turned the Iraq keys over to Wolfowitz...." Mann says Wolfowitz has been "focused on, if not obsessed with, Iraq since the mid-'70s," as Rosenfeld notes. "Then, he served in the Pentagon during the Carter administration and predicted that America's oil supply from Saudi Arabia and Iraq could be endangered by an aggressive Iraq under Saddam Hussein. After the Persian Gulf War in 1991, when he was outside government, Wolfowitz wrote numerous papers and articles urging that the US military return to Iraq and oust Saddam Hussein." Gross says flatly, "Wolfowitz is the most dangerous guy in America right now. He doesn't listen. The interagency process is broken. The bad thing is nobody will call him out. Condi doesn't say anything about it. Cheney is not going to do anything about it. And Rumsfeld is doing military transformation." (TomPaine.com)
- April 1: The Wall Street Journal provides a powerful debunking of Condoleezza Rice's criticisms of the testimony of Richard Clarke. The article says, "In the aftermath of those attacks, Bush administration officials have said they received no intelligence warning of such a tactic. 'I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon, that they would try to use an airplane as a missile,' National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said in a May 2002 news briefing. Yet on several occasions starting in the mid-1990s, U.S. intelligence agencies had passed on information concerning such a possibility, including early plans by al-Qaeda officials to use passenger jets as kamikaze weapons, according to records and current and former government officials." The article includes a listing of the many warnings the White House received, beginning with the strategy Richard Clarke worked on (and discusses in his book) to prevent kamikaze Aircraft from being used at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. These were applied to several other situations. "As a consequence," the article reports, "a strategy for protecting airspace over special events was drawn up by the National Security Council staff for the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, in response to concerns about possible Iranian-backed terrorism. It included closing airspace over events to civilian air traffic, placing armed Air National Guard fighter jets on alert at a nearby base and launching on patrol a small air force belonging to the U.S. Customs Service, including jets, Black Hawk helicopters and a special radar-equipped plane. The customs service had the aircraft to interdict drug smuggling."
- The article also notes the plan was also used for Clinton's second inauguration in 1997; NATO's 50th anniversary celebration in Washington in 1999; both the Republican and Democratic conventions in 2000; and Bush's own inauguration in 2001. The information comes not only from Clarke's book, but from former White House officials. The article continues, "The plan's use for designated 'National Security Special Eventsl was made official in a classified portion of a 'presidential decision directive' that Mr. Clinton signed in 1998. Use of the plan at these events wasn't publicized, and officials were forbidden to talk about it." Clarke writes of the security planning for the Atlanta Olympics, and mentions later efforts to get the same measures applied permanently to Washington. In addition, John Flaherty, chief of staff to Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, confirms that before September 11, the Bush administration was involved in planning airspace protection that was provided for the 2002 winter Olympics in Utah. The possibility of terrorists using hijacked jets against major US buildings was raised in a public federal-government report in 1999 on terrorist threats facing the US. Prepared by the federal-research division of the Library of Congress, it warned: "suicide bomber(s) belonging to al-Qaeda's Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency, or the White House." The report, referring to an al-Qaeda leader captured in 1995, added that "Ramzi Yousef had planned to do this against the CIA headquarters." Bush administration officials have said publicly that they weren't aware of the report before September 11. The article also lists examples of the prior warnings the White House recieved, including the 1994 threat to the Eiffel Tower, where Algerian terrorists were planning on hijacking an Air France plane and crashing it into the tower; the 1995 Bojinka plot, which would involve hijacked American planes and a suicide crashing into CIA headquarters; the 1996 Iranian plot to crash a Japanese jet in Israel; the 1998 plan by al-Qaeda to fly an explosives-laden plane into the World Trade Center or into a US airport; and the 1999 Federal Research Division Report on terrorism, which said that "suicide bomber(s)...could crash-land an aircraft...into the Pentagon...or the White House." (Wall Street Journal/Blogging of the President)
- April 1: A federal judge orders the government to release more documents related to Vice President Cheney's energy policy task force. Judge Paul Friedman rejects arguments by Bush administration lawyers that employees from the Department of the Interior and Department of Energy can claim special confidentiality privileges for the period when they worked for the task force, which held private meetings with energy industry representatives as it crafted a national energy policy. Ruling that those employees were not engaged in a deliberative process and were not temporary employees of the White House, Friedman says the agencies must search for and produce records of their employees' task force assignments. The release of the documents is mandated for June 1. Judicial Watch, a government watchdog group, the National Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, and the Sierra Club, another environmental group, want the records as part of an inquiry into whether energy executives and lobbyists helped draft a policy friendly to their industries early in Bush's first year in office. The administration maintains that only government employees were members of the task force, which disbanded in 2001. Judicial Watch has alleged that former Enron Chairman Ken Lay and lobbyists Mark Racicot, Haley Barbour and Thomas Kuhn, among others, participated. The order covers material that the Energy and Interior departments and other federal agencies had refused to produce since a similar federal court ruling two years ago.
- "The court's ruling is a wake-up call to the Bush administration: It's time to come clean about how it is doing the public's business," says NRDC senior attorney Sharon Buccino. "Once Congress and the American people finally get the details about what happened at the task force's closed-door meetings, the administration's energy plan will be revealed for what it is -- a payback to corporate polluters." The latest order could cover some material that is the subject of a separate lawsuit now before the Supreme Court. That case also involves documents about the inner workings of the task force, which was housed in Cheney's office. Cheney was ordered to produce some documents, and he appealed that part of the dispute to the high court, which will hear arguments next month. The Cheney case was the subject of recent headlines because of a hunting trip that Cheney took with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia weeks after the court had agreed to hear Cheney's appeal. Scalia rebuffed a request that he step aside, saying he had no conflict of interest. (AP/MSNBC, Washington Post)
- April 1: Hartford Advocate writer Alan Bisbort notes how easy it is to hack the Diebold voting machines now slated for used across the country, and the deep ties Diebold has with the Republican party and the Bush campaign. He writes, "Diebold's CEO, Wally O'Dell, is a proud pioneer (read: he donated more than $100,000 to the GOP's reelection bid) who has publicly announced he 'is committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president.' His company, in a Halliburton-like deal, received a lucrative government contract to manufacture 8 million of these touch-screen machines for the 2004 election (according to figures cited in The Progressive, 20 percent of America's voting machines are now touch screen; 31 percent optical scan; 24 percent punch-card; 15 percent lever; 1 percent paper ballots; the remainder 'a combination'). To add to the inherently partisan worries, Diebold's machines are said to be easily hacked. According to one software engineer, 'The security of a Diebold voting machine is inexcusable. It's not at all complicated. All you have to do is open Windows Explorer, locate the Diebold folder, double-click the Microsoft Access file and read, and modify, access to all votes recorded on that machine.' Most conveniently, Diebold's machines leave no paper trail. And attempts to examine or audit the machines have been thwarted by Diebold's contract language in the states where the machines are used ('proprietary trade secret'). As a friend of mine put it, 'Help America vote? I think America is voting just fine. It's the accurate and honest counting of votes that is in dire need of help.' Joe Stalin figured this one out way back in 1935, long before Bill Gates or Wally O'Dell were born." (Hartford Advocate)
- April 2: The FBI and Homeland Security Department warns Americans of possible summer bomb plots, most likely to be carried out against rail stations or bus terminals. They release a bulletin saying terrorists could attempt to conceal explosives in luggage and carry-on bags, such as duffel bags and backpacks. Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups have "demonstrated the intent and capability" to attack public transportation with a variety of bombs, including suicide bombers, the bulletin says. The bulletin is based on no specific warnings or evidence, and is later shown to be completely speculative. Many political observers believe that the warnings are based on nothing more than political expedience, and warn that more such warnings will be issued up to the November presidential elections. (AP/ABC)
Gary Hart recalls warning Condoleezza Rice about imminent terror threats
- April 2: Former Democratic senator Gary Hart, the co-chairman of the US Commission on National Security, a bipartisan panel that conducted the most thorough investigation of US security challenges since World War II, recalls trying to warn national security advisor Condoleezza Rice about the imminent threat of terror attacks against the US -- warnings which fell on deaf ears. After completing the report, which warned that a devastating terrorist attack on America was imminent and called for the immediate creation of a cabinet-level national security agency, and delivering it to President Bush on January 31, 2001, Hart and his fellow chairman Warren Rudman, a Republican, personally briefed Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell. But, according to Hart, the Bush administration never followed up on the commission's urgent recommendations, even after he repeated them in a private White House meeting with Rice just five days before 9/11. "All I can say is she didn't feel the degree of urgency I thought was necessary," he says. "We were not just another federal commission," says Hart. "This was supposed to be -- and was -- the most comprehensive review of US national security since 1947." Hart is not only concerned about the lies Rice and other Bush officials are telling about their administration's lack of preparedness for 9/11, but that little real preparation has been made to secure the country against fresh attacks, and the administration's failure to hold anyone responsible for the lapses that made the US so vulnerable.
- Salon's David Talbot writes, "The Bush White House, he charges, is locked in a strange and delicate dance with intelligence officials, maneuvering to place blame on the CIA but fearing if it does so too blatantly, the Bush team's own failings will be exposed." Hart says that he was given a respectful hearing by Rice, Rumsfeld, and Powell, but that his commission's recommendation to form a cabinet-level Homeland Security agency were not only ignored, but actively opposed by Bush. " [I]n the spring of 2001, some members of Congress introduced legislation to create a homeland security agency. Hearings were scheduled. And our commission, which was scheduled to go out of operation on February 15, 2001, was given a six-month extension so we could testify with some authority. Which we did in March and April. And then as Congress started to move on this, and the heat was turned up, George Bush -- and this is often overlooked -- held a press conference or made a public statement on May 5, 2001, calling on Congress not to act and saying he was turning over the whole matter to Dick Cheney. So this wasn't just neglect, it was an active position by the administration. He said, 'I don't want Congress to do anything until the vice president advises me.' We now know from Dick Clarke that Cheney never held a meeting on terrorism, there was never any kind of discussion on the department of homeland security that we had proposed. There was no vice presidential action on this matter. In other words, a bipartisan commission of seven Democrats and seven Republicans who had spent two and a half years studying the problem, a group of Americans with a cumulative 300 years in national security affairs, recommended to the president of the United States on a reasonably urgent basis the creation of a Cabinet-level agency to protect our country -- and the president did nothing!"
- Hart recalls meeting with Rice on September 6, 2001, and telling her in essence, "Get going on homeland security, you don't have all the time in the world." She replied that she would discuss the matter with Cheney. As Hart recalls, "[T]his tracks with Clarke's testimony and writing that even at this late date, nothing was being done inside the White House. ...She didn't seem to feel a terrible sense of urgency. When Hart is asked by Talbot if he got a sense that the administration had made any progress on security since you first briefed her, Rumsfeld and Powell in January, he replies, "No. I think she made some kind of gratuitous statements like, 'We've taken your report very seriously, we're looking at it, we're thinking about it, we've asked people to give comments on it.'" He also notes, "One more thing: I met with Rice not long after the president was in Crawford and being briefed by CIA officials on the possible use of aircraft against American targets. This was all happening in the weeks before 9/11. So I think it's terribly disingenuous for the president of the United States to say, 'If somebody had told us they were going to use aircraft against the World Trade Center, we would of course have taken action.' I think it's just ridiculous to say, 'We're not going to do anything until someone tells us where, when and how.'" Hart deplores the administration's closing of ranks after the attacks and its refusal to hold anyone responsible for the intelligence and planning failures that helped al-Qaeda successfully mount its attack. "I have said for over two and a half years that no one has been held accountable for 9/11. No one lost his or her job, not [CIA Director] George Tenet, not [FBI Director] Robert Mueller, not anybody. Now this is the president who claims to be strong and tough, but he clearly does not have on his desk a sign that says, 'The buck stops here.' I honor Dick Clarke for what he said to the victims' families. I think George Bush should say that, I think he should apologize. I think he should take responsibility, as John Kennedy did after the Bay of Pigs. That's presidential leadership, that's a strong president. This is a weak president. He will not take responsibility."
- albot notes that Kennedy "was clearly misled by his national security advisors who were bound and determined to go ahead with their Cuban adventure;" Hart responds, "And he fired some of them. None of that happened here. You know why I think George Tenet is still in his job? I think there are smoking guns all over the White House. I think if you crack the White House safe, you're going to find memos from Tenet saying, 'The terrorists are coming, the terrorists are coming.'" Hart believes that Bush and his officials were given plenty of intelligence that should have been acted upon: "[T]hat's the only explanation I can think of for why no one's been fired. Which leaves open the possibility that the president misled the American people." He says that there is a growing restiveness and disillusionment within the American intelligence community for the Bush administration, and a growing resolve not to be the "fall guys" to take the blame for the administration's inactions. "...I think Karl Rove is taking a huge risk," he says. "I think since 9/11 they've been walking a very fine line, between wanting to put the blame on the CIA and knowing if they did so unjustifiably, they're going to get whacked. And I think that's exactly what this little dance is about, and I think that's why they did not fire Tenet. They want him and those who work for him not to retaliate." Hart believes that the war in Iraq has made this country less safe against terror threats: "[I]t's increased our vulnerability. It's helped with terrorist recruitment, the spawning of cells in various countries. Don't take my word for it -- that's what the security authorities have said. The directors of the CIA, FBI and DIA have all warned that when America attacks an Arab state, the risk to America skyrockets, it doesn't go down. Now Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle have said we're safer, of course -- the more we keep them on the run abroad, the safer we are at home. I think that's just patent nonsense."
- Talbot asks, "What would it take for the American people to begin to doubt that Bush has made them safer?" and Hart replies, "Well, God forbid, another attack, and I don't rule that out. I know we're going to be attacked again." He goes on to say that terrorists will not necessarily affect our presidential election similarly to the effect the al-Qaeda attacks had on the Spanish elections: "I think they'd be wrong to assume that about this nation. And I think they'd be dead wrong to assume they'd be better off with a Kerry administration. John Kerry is not soft on terrorism." He concludes, "I think what will haunt this administration is its lack of accountability. Either George Bush was misled, which is his story, or he misled the American people. There are no other choices. If he's a strong president, as he and his supporters claim, then heads should roll. If the president of the United States is misled by those who advise him, heads should roll. And we have not seen this. If he misled the American people, then he must go." (Salon, Guardian)
- April 2: Anti-American sentiment in Iraq is growing by leaps and bounds, despite reassurances from the Pentagon that the "vast majority" of Iraqis welcome the American occupation. "There's an increasing feeling of anti-Americanism definitely," says Paola Gasparoli of Occupation Watch, an independent organization that monitors the occupation. "It's like all their hopes were destroyed. Families who had some hope the Americans would help Iraq now have sons who were killed or arrested, houses destroyed. This hope has died." The US authorities in Iraq cite polls showing that a vast majority of Iraqis are happy to have them in the country. But one survey of 2,500 Iraqis released in March found that while they were happy to be rid of Saddam Hussein, 41 percent said they were humiliated by the invasion, four in 10 had no confidence in occupation troops, and one in five believed attacks on foreign soldiers in Iraq were justified. Iraqis complain that they are routinely beaten and maltreated by American soldiers. US tanks with phrases like "Bloodlust" and "Kill Them All" rumble through the streets, angering Iraqis who say they might support the Americans more if so many of the occupiers were more willing to work with them. "They come and destroy our houses, it's the duty of all Muslims to fight them," says Ahmad Muhammad, a Falluja resident who watched four mercenaries burn to death in their car while crowds cheered and trampled the bodies. "We're happy to see this.... This is the democracy that Bush was waiting for." Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt responds, "On the issue of hearts and minds, trust and confidence, that's something we need to work on every day with the people of Iraq. It's an active battle. It's as important for us to win the moral battle, the trust and confidence as it is to provide a safe and secure environment for the people of Iraq." (Reuters)
German intelligence says that they warned information from Iraqi source "Curveball" was worthless; US intelligence ignored the warnings and used the information to sell Iraqi war
- April 2: German intelligence officials say that they repeatedly warned US intelligence officials that the information provided by a secret Iraqi source code-named "Curveball" was worthless, but say that their warnings were repeatedly ignored. It was the Iraqi defector's testimony that led the Bush administration to claim that Iraq had built a fleet of trucks and railway wagons to produce anthrax and other deadly germs. In his presentation to the UN security council in February last year, US Secretary of State Colin Powell explicitly used Curveball's now-discredited claims as justification for war. The Iraqis were assembling "mobile production facilities for biological agents," Powell said, adding that his information came from "a solid source." These "killer caravans" allowed Iraq to produce anthrax "on demand," it was claimed. US officials never had direct access to the defector, and have subsequently claimed that the Germans misled them. However, German agents say that they had warned the Bush administration long before last year that there were "problems" with Curveball's account. "We gave a clear credibility assessment. On our side at least, there were no tricks before Colin Powell's presentation," says one source. The revelation is embarrassing for the Bush administration and appears to bolster the contention that it used dubious intelligence in a partisan manner in the critical few weeks before the invasion of Iraq. It has now emerged that Curveball is the brother of a top aide of Ahmad Chalabi, the pro-western Iraqi former exile with links to the Pentagon. According to the Los Angeles Times, it was UN inspectors who came up with the idea that Iraq might have developed mobile factories to try to evade weapons inspections. They asked Chalabi, a bitter enemy of Saddam Hussein, to find evidence to support the theory. Recently, American officials have admitted that Curveball's information was false. Meanwhile, David Kay, who resigned as head of the Iraqi survey group in January after a fruitless nine-month search for weapons of mass destruction, said in an interview that Curveball had been "absolutely at the heart of the matter," but had turned out to be an "out and out fabricator." US and British intelligence officials have acknowledged since the war that much of the information supplied by Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress and other Iraqi groups was wrong. Yesterday, German sources said they were bemused by the idea that they had tricked the US. "We ask ourselves, what are they on about?" one says. (Guardian)
- April 2: Former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds says she has provided information to the panel investigating the 9/11 attacks which proves senior officials knew of al-Qaeda's plans to attack the US with aircraft months before the strikes happened. She says the claim by Condoleezza Rice that there was no such information is "an outrageous lie." Edmonds, who possessed top-secret clearance, spent more than three hours in a closed session with the commission's investigators providing information that was circulating within the FBI in the spring and summer of 2001 suggesting that an attack using aircraft was just months away and the terrorists were in place. The Bush administration, meanwhile, has sought to silence her and has obtained a gag order from a court by citing the rarely used "state secrets privilege." She says, "I gave [the commission] details of specific investigation files, the specific dates, specific target information, specific managers in charge of the investigation. I gave them everything so that they could go back and follow up. This is not hearsay. These are things that are documented. These things can be established very easily." She adds, "There was general information about the time-frame, about methods to be used ≠- but not specifically about how they would be used -≠ and about people being in place and who was ordering these sorts of terror attacks. There were other cities that were mentioned. Major cities -≠ with skyscrapers." She says it was clear there was sufficient information during the spring and summer of 2001 to indicate terrorists were planning an attack. "Most of what I told the commission -≠ 90 per cent of it -≠ related to the investigations that I was involved in or just from working in the department. Two hundred translators side by side, you get to see and hear a lot of other things as well." She continues, "President Bush said they had no specific information about 11 September and that is accurate but only because he said 11 September." There was, however, general information about the use of airplanes and that an attack was just months away. Rice wrote on March 22, "Despite what some have suggested, we received no intelligence that terrorists were preparing to attack the homeland using airplanes as missiles, though some analysts speculated that terrorists might hijack planes to try and free US-held terrorists." Edmonds says that by using the word "we", Rice told an "outrageous lie." She says, "Rice says 'we' not 'I'. That would include all people from the FBI, the CIA and DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency]. I am saying that is impossible." (Independent/CommonDreams)
- April 2: Over 15,000 mercenaries, called "private contractors" by the Pentagon and the US media, are currently working for the Pentagon in Iraq. These soldiers-for-hire are veterans of some of the most repressive military forces in the world, including that of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and South Africa's apartheid regime. Public awareness of these mercenaries was almost nil until four of them were murdered and hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River in late March. In February, Blackwater USA, a North Carolina-based Pentagon contractor, began recruiting "former commandos, other soldiers and seamen" from Chile, offering them up to $4,000 a month "to guard oil wells against attack by insurgents," according to Britain's Guardian daily newspaper. The company "flew a first group of about 60 former commandos, many of who had trained under the military government of Augusto Pinochet, from Santiago to a...[large] training camp in North Carolina." These recruits are slated to wind up in Iraq, where they will spend six months to a year: "We scour the ends of the earth to find professionals -- the Chilean commandos are very, very professional and they fit within the Blackwater system," Gary Jackson, the president of Blackwater USA, told the Guardian. Michelle Bachelet, Chile's defense minister, says that she is concerned about "whether paramilitary training by Blackwater violated Chilean laws on the use of weapons by private citizens," and she "ordered an investigation." Bachelet also was troubled by stories that "people on active duty were involved." She says, "Many soldiers are said to be leaving the army to join the private companies." Blackwater's profitability has jumped 300% each year over the past three years. Jackson says, proudly enough, "We have grown 300% over each of the past three years and we are small compared to the big ones. We have a very small niche market, we work towards putting out the cream of the crop, the best."
- Mother Jones reports, "since the attacks of September 11, the company has seen its business boom -- enough to warrant a major expansion of its training facility this year. 'To contemplate outsourcing tactical, strategic, firearms-type training -- high-risk training -- is thinking outside the box,' Jackson said. 'Is this happening? Yes, this is happening.'" Blackwater USA specializes in firearm, tactics and security training and is comprised of five companies; Blackwater Training Center, Blackwater Target Systems, Blackwater Security Consulting, Blackwater Canine, and Blackwater Air (AWS), and has been doing business with the Department of Defense, Department of State, and Department of Transportation, in addition to local and state entities from around the country, multi-national corporations, and countries from all over the globe. In October 2003, the company inked an estimated $35.7 million contract "to train more than 10,000 sailors from Virginia, Texas, and California each year in 'force protection,'" Mother Jones reports. According to the Web blog Spark, "In recent years, the presence of military contractors in U.S. wars and military operations has increased significantly. During the Persian Gulf War of 1991, one in every 50 people on the battlefield was an American mercenary, fighting under a contract. In Bosnia in 1996, that ratio was one in 10." Currently there are thousands of soldiers under contract with private companies serving in Iraq. "squads of Bosnians, Filipinos and Americans with special forces experience have been hired for tasks ranging from airport security to protecting Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority," reports the Guardian.
- Chile isn't the only country from which private companies have recruited mercenaries for Iraq. According to the South Africa newspaper, the Cape Times, "More than 1,500 South Africans are believed to be in Iraq under contract to various private military companies." The United Nations recently reported that South Africa "is already among the top three suppliers of personnel for private military companies, along with the UK and the US." The Cape Times reports that "The Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act, passed in July 1998, prohibits South African citizens from direct participation as a combatant in armed conflict for private gain. Such engagement includes recruitment, training, or financing and applies to South Africans acting outside the country as well."
- Several observers believe that the South African private companies appear to be working in Iraq "in contravention of South African law." Raenette Taljaard, a member of the South African Parliament, recently wrote in YaleGlobal Online that this new "booming cottage industry" of private security companies, which includes companies like Kroll, Armor, Control Risks, Rubicon and Global Risk, "boast of a whole range of specializations and hail from a range of countries but, together, they provide all the services normally carried out by national military forces, including intelligence, military training, logistics and security. "In addition to becoming an integral part of the machinery of war, they are emerging as cogs in the infrastructure of peace. US-allied military officials and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan are quickly becoming familiar with the 'brand services' provided by companies," says Taljaard. "But the battlefield is not merely another arena for business, and the profit motive may distort security strategy decisions. The expansion of services performed by civilian entities raises several concerns: the lack of transparency and oversight common to their operations; the performance of companies motivated by profit, not national foreign policy or security interest; and revolving-door-style nepotism and conflicts of interest. All these are concerns that grow ever more urgent as mega-corporation-style military companies diversify even further." The high salaries and shorter terms of employment that private companies are offering mercenaries could cause the US military and the militaries of other countries to face severe personnel shortages. "If they are going to outsource tasks that were once held by active-duty military and are now using private contractors, those guys [on active duty] are looking and asking, 'Where is the money?'" says Jackson. (Working for Change)
Bush refuses to ask OPEC to help curb soaring US gas prices
- April 2: Instead of keeping his 2000 promise to use his influence with OPEC to keep gas prices down, Bush has refused to speak with OPEC and oil cartel representatives to try to counter their policies that are driving US gas prices to record levels. In the 2000 election, Bush pledged to use his "political capital" to influence OPEC when gas prices soared, saying that during a crisis, a president, "ought to get on the phone with the OPEC cartel and say, 'We expect you to open your spigots." Instead, the White House says, Bush refuses to "personally lobby oil cartel leaders to change their minds." In recent days, OPEC opted to cut supply to further inflate gas prices and bilk American consumers. While Saudi Arabia's ambassador told the White House yesterday that his country supposedly opposed higher oil prices, the president's refusal to use his close relations with the Saudi government gave the Saudis a pass to support the OPEC production cut. Despite the Saudi effort to keep American energy prices high, and despite Saudi refusals to sever their ties with terrorists, Bush continues to insist that the Saudi Arabia is "our friend." During his term, the president has pursued other policies that help enrich the oil industry, which has given him more than $3 million since 2000. For instance, his tax legislation actually created a massive tax incentive for consumers to purchase gas-guzzling SUVs over fuel efficient hybrid cars. Meanwhile, the first budget President Bush introduced after taking office tried to cut 37%, (almost $200 million), out of federal research on renewable energy and energy efficiency programs. (Washington Times/Los Angeles Times/Miami Herald/Detroit News/Daily Misleader)
- April 2: Prosecutors are expanding their probe into the White House leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson's name to the media. The prosecutors are believed to be readying charges to be presented to a grand jury. Lead prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is said by lawyers involved in the case and government officials to be examining possible discrepancies between documents he has gathered and statements made by current or former White House officials during a three-month preliminary investigation last fall by the FBI and the Justice Department. (New York Times/CommonDreams)
- April 2: The Bush re-election campaign has, so far, outspent its Democratic opposition 2-to-1 in airing television ads. The large majority of those ads have attacked Democratic candidate John Kerry. The Bush campaign has spent $40 million on television ads, while Kerry has spent $6 million and organizations friendly to the Kerry campaign have spent an additional $14 million. Meanwhile, a recurring theme of the Bush campaign is its bemoaning of the "fact" that it is being routinely outspent by its well-heeled opposition, and that it is a campaign of "ordinary people" fighting an uphill battle against a rich, privileged opposition. The AP notes, "still, with $110 million in the bank, Bush has been burying Democrats since March 4, when he first went on the air with heavy levels of television advertising in 18 states, on national cable networks and on radio stations nationwide." Bush's ads have routinely misrepresented Kerry's positions on the military, health care, and the US economy, and the Kerry campaign has been hard-pressed to mount an effective counterattack. (AP/Guardian)
- April 2: In a move guaranteed to raise the hackles of those who believe that conservatives are increasingly controlling of the US media, Anna Perez, the Bush administration's chief of communications at the National Security Council, will become executive vice president for communications at NBC. Her duties will expand when NBC becomes NBC-Universal after the expected completion of the network's merger with entertainment units of Vivendi Universal. The deal is expected to be approved by June. Perez will start at NBC on May 1. She left the White House in December, where her titles included counselor for communications to Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice. Perez also worked in the White House for the first President Bush, as Barbara Bush's press secretary. Perez has no experience in television broadcasting, but her resume as a Republican communications official is exemplary. (New York Times)
- April 2: Former Nixon counsel John Dean believes that George W. Bush should be impeached because of his administration's secrecy and deception over the war with Iraq. "Clearly, it is an impeachable offense," he tells PBS's Bill Moyers. "I think the case is overwhelming that these people presented false information to the Congress and to the American people." Dean has just published a book, Worse than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush, in which he compares the Bush and Nixon White Houses. "There are many things worse than Watergate," he says. "Taking the nation to war in a time when they might not have had to gone to war, and people dying. ...No one died for Nixon's so-called Watergate abuses." Dean writes that the Bush administration is using "well-proven tactics not unlike those used by the Nixon White House during Watergate." When asked for details, Dean replies, "stall. Stall. We knew that at the Nixon White House. Some of these are time-tested tactics. When the Congress put together a joint inquiry itself was self-defeating because it's much more difficult for a joint inquiry with its size -- the lack of attention its staff can give to a group that large. It gets diffuse. ...Cheney and Bush were very involved. They didn't want any of the standing committees to do it. They put them together. And that was one of the first signs I saw that they're just playing it by -- I think they found an old playbook down in the basement that belonged to Richard Nixon. And they said, 'Well, this stuff looks like it works.'" Dean writes, "The evidence is overwhelming that George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney have engaged in deceit and deception over going to war in Iraq. This is an impeachable offense." He elaborates, "Absolutely is. The founders in the debates in the states -- I cite one. I cite one that I found -- I tracked down after reading the Nixon impeachment proceedings when -- Congressman Castenmeyer had gone back to look to see what the founders said about misrepresentations and lying to the Congress. Clearly, it is an impeachable offense. And I think the case is overwhelming that these people presented false information to the Congress and to the American people. ...And these are probably the most serious offenses that you can make -- when you take a country to war, blood and treasure, no higher decision can a President of the United States make as the Commander-in-Chief. To do it on bogus information, to use this kind of secrecy to do it is intolerable." (PBS/CommonDreams)
- April 2: The US House recently passed Resolution 3077, which includes a provision to establish an advisory board to monitor campus international studies centers in order to ensure that they advance the national interest. While the law would apply to all federally funded institutes with an international focus, the target is clearly the nation's 17 centers for Middle East studies. The driving force behind this provision is the same group of neoconservatives who have long promoted the war on Iraq and who support the extreme right-wing politics of the Sharon government in Israel. Their aim is apparently to defend the foreign policy of the Bush administration by stifling critical and informed discussion on US campuses. The bill is up for approval in the US Senate. Students and faculty connected academically or culturally to Muslim and Middle Eastern countries have been targeted, with many subjected to hate mail blitzes and their institutions pressured to short-circuit their careers. Republican senator Rick Santorum announced his intent last April to introduce legislation cutting federal funding to institutions of higher learning where students or faculty criticize Israel, labeling such criticism -- regardless of its content or basis in fact -- as anti-Semitic. However, H.R. 3077 goes far beyond even Santorum's recommendations. If the legislation clears the Senate, an advisory board would monitor area studies programs that receive money from the US government under the Title VI program. The Association of American University Professors, the ACLU and most professional organizations have raised alarms about this unprecedented government invasion of the classroom. Among their concerns are the board's sweeping investigative powers, lack of accountability and makeup, which would be composed in part from two agencies with national security responsibilities. A key supporter of the current Senate legislation, Campus Watch founder Daniel Pipes, recently told Salon in a discussion of controversial MIT linguistics Professor Noam Chomsky, Pipes said, "I want Noam Chomsky to be taught at universities about as much as I want Hitler's writing or Stalin's writing. These are wild and extremist ideas that I believe have no place in a university." Beshara Doumani, a history professor at the University of California, Berkeley, writes, "should academic freedom be effectively shelved in order to pursue a war against terror without end? Are these dark clouds hanging over US campuses a passing storm or the harbinger of fundamental changes in the freedom to teach, learn, question, discuss and debate? How will universities and colleges respond when they are starved for resources and more dependent than ever on the funding that would be withdrawn if a professor were deemed out of line? At stake is the continuation of the academy as the bastion of informed, independent and alternative perspectives crucial to a better understanding of the world we live in. If teachers and students cannot think and speak freely, who can?" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
- April 2: A pocket firestorm rages in Kentucky over the racial slur issued by Republican US senator Jim Bunning, who recently said that state senator Daniel Mongiardo, a Democrat, looks like one of Saddam Hussein's sons. Mongiardo intends on challenging Bunning for his Senate seat. Bunning's campaign issued an apology that Mongiardo finds unacceptable, first denying that he said anything, then passing the slur off as a joke that got blown out of proportion. "We're sorry if this joke, which got a lot of laughs, offended anyone," Bunning campaign manager David Young says. Bunning made the remark on March 20 at the annual 4th Congressional District Lincoln/Reagan Day Dinner at the Hilton hotel in Florence. Bunning's speech was videotaped, but the campaign refuses to make the tape public. Mongiardo has called for the public release of the videotape. "The fact that Jim Bunning finds ethnic slurs amusing shows how out of touch he is with Kentucky voters," says Jody Lassiter, Mongiardo's campaign manager. Mongiardo's campaign says that he had received no call from Bunning and that he should make the tape available so people can judge his comments for themselves. "senator Bunning is having a lot of trouble being honest," Lassiter says. "First he denies saying anything, but now he admits making ethnic slurs about Dan Mongiardo. He admits that he has a tape, but won't let the people of Kentucky see it. What does he have to hide?" Mongiardo spokesman Eric Niloff says that "a half-hearted apology from his campaign manager is no apology at all. Jim Bunning needs to come clean, show the people of Kentucky the tape, and let them decide whether or not that's funny." Bunning's campaign refuses to comment further on the issue. Mongiardo's parents emigrated from Italy. "The remarks by Senator Bunning are the type of remarks that shouldn't be made by anyone, much less one of the highest elected public officials in the state," Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Bill Garmer recently said. In his 2002 campaign for state Senate, Mongiardo accused Republican Johnnie Turner of using bigotry and racism in an advertisement that showed 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta. Mongiardo said the ad made a point of showing that he and Atta both had dark eyes, black hair and olive complexions. (Louisville Courier-Journal)
Powell says that some of the evidence he used in his February 2003 presentation to the UNSC was faulty
- April 3: Secretary of State Colin Powell now believes that some of the evidence used by the Bush administration to bolster its claims that Iraq possessed WMDs was faulty, including evidence he used in his February 2003 address to the United Nations that played a key role in the US's drive towards war with Iraq. Powell is specifically referring to the so-called mobile biological weapons labs, which have long been shown to have nothing to do with weapons development. Powell, describing the mobile labs as "the most dramatic" element of his speech before the UN Security Council, says he hopes the recently appointed commission to examine prewar claims of Iraqi weapons "will look into these matters to see whether or not the intelligence agency had a basis for the confidence...placed in the intelligence at that time." He also says he has spoken to CIA officials about how suspect information ended up in his speech. "Now it appears not to be the case that it was that solid," Powell continues. "But at the time I was preparing that presentation it was presented to me as being solid." Powell stresses that "I'm not the intelligence community." He says that "it was presented to me in the preparation of that as the best intelligence and information that we had. ...I made sure, as I said in my presentation, these were multi-sourced. And that was the most dramatic of them, and I made sure it was multi-sourced. Now, if the sources fell apart, then we need to find out how we've gotten ourselves in that position. I've had discussions with the CIA about it." (Washington Post)
Former members of Blair's Cabinet reveal that Bush decided to invade Iraq as soon as September 20, 2001
- April 3: In an interview with Vanity Fair, former British ambassador to the US Sir Christopher Meyer says he was in attendance at a private dinner on September 20, 2001, with Bush and Blair where Bush announced his intention to invade Iraq and topple the Hussein regime. Blair replies that he would rather concentrate on ousting the Taliban and restoring peace in Afghanistan. According to Meyer, Bush responds, "I agree with you, Tony. We must deal with this first. But when we have dealt with Afghanistan, we must come back to Iraq." Meyer says Blair "said nothing to demur" at the prospect. It was clear, Meyer says, "that when we did come back to Iraq it wouldn't be to discuss smarter sanctions." Blair has denied any intention on either the US or Britain's part to invade Iraq until days before the actual invasion in March 2003. The Vanity Fair article also features excerpts from former International Development Secretary Clare Short's personal diary, kept throughout the months leading up to the war. They reveal how, during the summer of 2002, when Blair and his closest advisers were mounting an intense diplomatic campaign to persuade Bush to agree to seek United Nations support over Iraq, and promising British support for military action in return, Blair apparently concealed his actions from his Cabinet. For example, on July 26, 2002, Short wrote that she had raised her "simmering worry about Iraq" in a meeting with Blair, asking him for a debate on Iraq in the next Cabinet meeting, the last before the summer recess. However, the diary says, Blair replied that this was unnecessary because "it would get hyped.... He said nothing [was] decided, and wouldn't be over summer." In fact, that week Blair's foreign policy adviser, Sir David Manning, was in Washington, meeting both Bush and his National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, in order to press Blair's terms for military support, and Blair himself had written a personal memorandum to the President in which he set them out.
- Vanity Fair quotes a senior American official from Vice-President Dick Cheney's office who says he read the transcript of a telephone call between Blair and Bush a few days later. "The way it read was that, come what may, Saddam was going to go; they said they were going forward, they were going to take out the regime, and they were doing the right thing. Blair did not need any convincing. There was no, 'Come on, Tony, we've got to get you on board.' I remember reading it and then thinking, 'OK, now I know what we're going to be doing for the next year.'" Before the call, the official says, he had the impression that the probability of invasion was high, but still below 100 per cent. Afterwards, he says, "it was a done deal." As late as September 9, 2002, Short's diary records, when Blair went to a summit with Bush and Cheney at Camp David in order to discuss final details, "T[ony] B[lair] gave me assurances when I asked for Iraq to be discussed at Cabinet that no decision [had been] made and [was] not imminent." Later that day she learned from the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, that Blair had asked to make 20,000 British troops available in the Gulf. She still believed her Prime Minister's assurances, but wrote that, if had she not done so, she would "almost certainly" have resigned from the government. At that juncture her resignation would have dealt Blair a very damaging blow. Short's diary shows in the final run-up to war Blair persuaded her not to resign and repeatedly stated that Bush had promised it would be the UN, not the American-led occupying coalition, which would supervise the reconstruction of Iraq. This, she writes, was the clinching factor in her decision to stay in the government, with devastating consequences for her own political reputation.
- As it turns out, the US government was following the lead of Vice President Cheney in refusing to turn the matter over to the UN. Blair even lied to Bush and Cheney at the Camp David meeting, telling them that if they didn't go along with his advice to keep the decision to go to war secret, he could be ousted from power at the next Labour Party conference. The party constitution makes clear that this would have been impossible and senior party figures agree that, at that juncture, it was not a politically realistic statement. Vanity Fair also discloses that on January 13, 2003, at a lunch around the mahogany table in Rice's White House office, President Jacques Chirac's top adviser, Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, and his Washington ambassador, Jean-David Levitte, made the US an offer it should have accepted. In the hope of avoiding an open breach between the two countries, they said that, if America was determined to go to war, it should not seek a second resolution, that the previous autumn's Resolution 1441 arguably provided sufficient legal cover, and that France would keep quiet if the administration went ahead. But Bush had already promised Blair he would seek a second resolution and Blair feared he might lose Parliamentary support without it. Meanwhile, Britain's Foreign Office legal department was telling him that without a second resolution war would be illegal, a view that Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney-General, seemed to share at that stage. When the White House sought Blair's opinion on the French overture, he balked. A Downing Street spokesman ripostes, "Iraq had been a foreign policy priority for a long time and was discussed at most meetings between the two leaders. Our position was always clear: that we would try to work through the UN, and a decision on military action was not taken until other options were exhausted in March last year." (Independent/CommonDreams, Guardian)
- April 3: The new head of British and American arms inspectors in Iraq, Charles Duelfer, is under fire for refusing to acknowledge that the program has all but ground to a halt. After his first progress report to Congress last week, Duelfer, the head of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), is accused of stalling until the presidential election in November is out of the way. "One ISG member told me that, since last year, the inspectors have been kept in Iraq to save political face rather than to find weapons," says Dr. Glen Rangwala, a Cambridge University expert on the WMD issue. "We regularly receive reports, some quite intriguing and credible, about concealed caches [of weapons]," Duelfer insisted to Congress, but Rangwala, who has visited Iraq to study the ISG's work, calls the report misleading. "shortly before he quit, Mr Kay cut back site visits," he says. "The inspectors have virtually given up looking for WMD." (Independent/CommonDreams)
- April 3: While Paul Bremer and the Bush administration tout the new Iraq Pepsi bottling plant as a signature event in the "modernization" and restoration of Iraq, the formerly pro-American head of the plant, Hamid Jassim Khamis, the Baghdad Soft Drinks Company's managing director, has a different outlook. "All the trouble in Iraq is because of Bremer," says Khamis. "He didn't listen to Iraqis. He doesn't know anything about Iraq. He destroyed the country and tried to rebuild it again, and now we are in chaos." Khamis is almost a stereotype of the sort of Iraqi touted by the Bush administration as welcoming the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Few Iraqis supported the war more staunchly than Khamis. Hussein executed both his brothers and Khamis was forced to resign as managing director of the bottling plant in 1999 after Uday Hussein threatened his life. When the Americans overthrew Hussein, "you can't imagine how much relief we felt," he says. Khamis used to be happy to defend his pro-US position, even if it meant arguing with friends. But one year after the invasion, many of his neighbors in the industrial park have gone out of business. "I don't know what to say to my friends anymore," he says. "It's chaos."
- His list of grievances against the occupation is long: corruption in the awarding of reconstruction contracts, the failure to stop the looting; the failure to secure Iraq's borders both from foreign terrorists and from unregulated foreign imports. Iraqi companies, still suffering from the sanctions and the looting, have been unable to compete. Most of all, Khamis is worried about how these policies have fed the country's unemployment crisis, creating far too many desperate people. He also notes that Iraqi police officers are paid less than half what he pays his assembly line workers, "which is not enough to survive." He becomes enraged when talking about Bremer, the man in charge of "rebuilding" Iraq. "Paul Bremer has caused more damage than the war, because the bombs can damage a building but if you damage people there is no hope," he says. Journalist Naomi Klein writes, "[I]t is the profound sense of disappointment and betrayal expressed by a pro-US businessman running a Pepsi plant that attests to the depths of the US-created disaster here." Khamis says, "I'm disappointed, not because I hate the Americans, but because I like them. And when you love someone and they hurt you, it hurts even more."
- Khamis, like many of his colleagues, is appalled by the number of devices Bremer is unveiling to ensure that the US continues to hold onto the real power in Iraq long after putative "self-rule" has been established. At the end of March, building on his Order 39 of last September, Bremer passed yet another law further opening up Iraq's economy to foreign ownership, a law that Iraq's next government is prohibited from changing under the terms of the interim constitution. Bremer also announced the establishment of several independent regulators, which will drastically reduce the power of Iraqi government ministries. For instance, the Financial Times reports that "officials of the Coalition Provisional Authority said the regulator would prevent communications minister Haider al-Abadi, a thorn in the side of the coalition, from carrying out his threat to cancel licences the coalition awarded to foreign-managed consortia to operate three mobile networks and the national broadcaster." The CPA has also confirmed that after June 30, the $18.4 billion that the US government is spending on reconstruction will be administered by its embassy in Iraq. The money will be spent over five years and will fundamentally redesign Iraq's most basic infrastructure, including its electricity, water, oil and communications sectors, as well as its courts and police. Iraq's future governments will have no say in the construction of these core sectors of Iraqi society. Retired rear admiral David Nash, who heads the Project Management Office, which administers the funds, describes the $18.4 billion as "a gift from the American people to the people of Iraq."
- Klein writes, "He appears to have forgotten the part about gifts being something you actually give up. And in the same eventful week, US engineers began construction on 14 'enduring bases' in Iraq, capable of housing the 110,000 soldiers who will be posted here for at least two more years. Even though the bases are being built with no mandate from an Iraqi government, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, deputy chief of operations in Iraq, called them 'a blueprint for how we could operate in the Middle East.'" The US will also retain control over Iraq's armed forces. Bremer has issued an executive order stating that even after the interim Iraqi government has been established, the Iraqi army will answer to US commander Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez. In order to pull this off, Washington is relying on a legalistic reading of a clause in UN security council resolution 1511, which puts US forces in charge of Iraq's security until "the completion of the political process" in Iraq. Since the "political process" in Iraq is never-ending, so will be US military control. The CPA also announced that it would put further constraints on the Iraqi military by appointing a national security adviser for Iraq. This US appointee would have powers equivalent to those held by Condoleezza Rice and will stay in office for a five-year term, long after Iraq is scheduled to have made the transition to a democratically elected government. However, the CPA has given over its authority over Iraq's health ministry.
- Klein writes, "Taken together, these latest measures paint a telling picture of what a 'free Iraq' will look like: the United States will maintain its military and corporate presence through 14 enduring military bases and the largest US embassy in the world. It will hold on to authority over Iraq's armed forces, its security and economic policy and the design of its core infrastructure -- but the Iraqis can deal with their decrepit hospitals all by themselves, complete with their chronic drug shortages and lack of the most basic sanitation capacity. (The US health and human services secretary, Tommy Thompson, revealed just how low a priority this was when he commented that Iraq's hospitals would be fixed if the Iraqis 'just washed their hands and cleaned the crap off the walls.')" Khamis concludes, "It's not the war that caused the hatred. It's what they did after. What they are doing now." (Guardian)
"I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it.... I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with answer, but it hadn't yet.... I don't want to sound like I have made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't -- you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one." -- George W. Bush, after being asked to name the biggest mistake he had made, April 3, 2004