Highlights of This Page
Ibrahim al-Jafari named new prime minister of Iraq; Iraqi government forming fitfully.
See my Update Information page for an explanation of why this and other pages between September 2004 and September 2006 are not yet complete.
Ibrahim al-Jafari named new prime minister of Iraq; Iraqi government forming fitfully
- April 7: Shi'ite leader Ibrahim al-Jafari (or al-Jafaari) is chosen to be prime minister of Iraq by Condoleezza Rice and the State Department officials in charge of the Iraqi government.
Iraq war and occupation
Al-Jafari is a member of the temporary, post-election government and a veteran of the Bremer-era Iraqi Governing Council. Former US ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte found al-Jafari incredibly difficult to work with, a man who can talk for an hour and say virtually nothing. Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani is also sworn in as president, a largely ceremonial post that has more symbolic value than anything else. Al-Jafari had pushed for a Sunni to be named president, but after extensive jawboning with Negroponte, relented. Talabani is one of Rice's prime contacts in the new Iraqi government, and he constantly assures her that he is sensitive to the need to appoint Sunnis to positions of power to placate that angry and disaffected power group. NSC official Jim Jeffrey realizes that Talabani is blowing smoke, but Rice, wanting everything to go smoothly, seems to accept it without serious question.
- In early May, after the Shi'ites who lead the new government have promised to add nine Sunnis to the government process, the entire process falls apart. Jeffrey, who has pressed for months for the inclusion of the Sunnis, realizes that for months he has been the victim of smoke himself. The Shi'ites and Kurds have never had any intention of letting the Sunnis have any real participation in the new government. The Sunnis lorded it over the Shi'ites and Kurds for decades under Saddam Hussein, and now it was time for them to learn their place at the bottom of the pecking order. Rice is scheduled to visit on May 15 to participate in government ceremonies, and Jeffrey is furious. (See the May 2005 page for further information.) (Bob Woodward, T. Christian Miller)
- April 13: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi accuses the Republican leadership of Congress of abusing power in a manner that undermines Congressional ethics and destroys the democratic process that underlies this country's method of governance.
In a statement, Pelosi says, "The Republican majority promised after the 1994 elections to manage the House in a way that fostered 'deliberative democracy,' which they defined as the 'full and free airing of conflicting opinions through hearings, debates, and amendments.' They also pledged in their Contract with America to 'restore accountability to Congress' and to 'end its cycle of scandal and disgrace.' Instead of sticking to their word, they have broken their promises, betrayed the public trust, and abused their power. Specifically, they have undermined the ethics of the House, abandoned any principle of procedural fairness or democratic accountability, and overreached into private family matters and the federal judiciary." Pelosi cites a study by Louise Slaughter, the ranking Democrat on the House Rules Committee, that documents a host of ethics violations and rules abuses by Republicans during the 108th Congress.
- Pelosi writes, "Under the current House leadership, floor debate is muzzled, votes are cast with fear of retribution and legitimate amendments never see the light of day. They ram thousands of pages of major legislation through with only a few hours for review, permit few if any floor amendments (4 percent in the Democratic amendments submitted in the 108th), and hold open floor votes until enough arms have been twisted to ensure passage. As a result, many Members do not have an opportunity to express the views and values of their constituents -- effectively disenfranchising half the country. ...Republicans effectively shut down the ethics process. Republicans made their first order of business for the 109th Congress to attack the Ethics Committee, rewriting many of its bipartisan rules in favor of rules that will make ethics investigations more difficult to pursue. The new rules seriously weaken enforcement by automatically dismissing any ethics complaint after 45 days unless a majority of the bipartisan committee votes to begin an investigation. The GOP rules change allows one party to block the Ethics Committee from investigating the facts of the complaint. The former Republican chairman of the Ethics Committee said: 'The rules package adopted by the House in January stands to undermine the committee's mission, not to mention the integrity of the House.' ...That the GOP's first priority for the 109th Congress has been to lower the bar of integrity should be a warning to the American people. Not only did Republicans undermine the ethics process, but they stacked the Ethics Committee. At the beginning of the year, the Republican Leadership dismissed Republican Members of the Ethics Committee, even the Chairman, who had refused to compromise the ethics rules for the party leadership. And then, the newly appointed Chairman unilaterally fired non-partisan Committee staff who assisted in the ethics work in the last session."
- Pelosi cites serial ethics violator Tom DeLay as a prime example: "Republicans are protecting Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who has been admonished three times by the Ethics Committee. Last fall, the House Majority Leader was admonished three times by the Ethics Committee for: offering political support in return for a vote on the prescription drug bill; misusing federal resources for partisan political purposes; and offering special access for campaign contributor, Westar Energy. These admonishments were unanimous and bipartisan. The Ethics Committee also warned DeLay that it had identified a clear pattern of misbehavior by him and would be on the lookout for additional instances when he pushed the bounds of acceptable conduct in pursuing his legislative and political goals. ...In recent weeks, newspaper articles have detailed trips DeLay took to Russia and Scotland that he had reported were funded by nonprofit organizations, but which were directly or indirectly paid for by lobbyists or foreign agents. House rules prohibit members from taking trips funded by such entities. In both cases, lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is under investigation by the US Department of Justice and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, was involved in these trips. Tom DeLay's extensive ties with special interest lobbyists are raising serious questions about his conduct. Even the Wall Street Journal has raised questions. In fact, even conservatives have begun to raise questions about the Majority Leader. As the Wall Street Journal editorial page commented [on March 28, 2005], 'The problem...is that Mr. DeLay, who rode to power in 1994 on a wave of revulsion at the everyday ways of big government, has become the living exemplar of some of its worst habits. Mr. DeLay's ties to Mr. Abramoff might be innocent, in a strictly legal sense, but it strains credulity to believe that Mr. DeLay found nothing strange with being included in Mr. Abramoff's lavish junkets.' They went on to say, 'Whether Mr. DeLay violated the small print of House Ethics or campaign-finance rules is thus largely beside the point. His real fault lies in betraying the broader set of principles that brought him into office, and which, if he continues as before, sooner or later will sweep him out.' Congressional Republicans raise questions about DeLay.
- Pelosi continues, "Republicans threaten an independent judiciary and assert themselves in private family matters. Republicans have said they believe in limited government, but then the majority brought the entire federal government to intervene in the personal tragedy of just one family [in reference to the Terri Schiavo debacle]. Likewise, their thinly-veiled threats toward federal judges are just an irresponsible attempt to undermine the independence of the federal judiciary. Speaking about the federal judges that allowed the feeding tube to be removed from Terry Schiavo, DeLay said, 'The time will come for the men to answer for their behavior.'" ...Members of the House should be held to the highest ethical standard, not the lowest." (US NewsWire)
- April 14: Of Social Security, Bush says,
Bush's economic policies
"I'm going to spend a lot of time on Social Security. I enjoy it. I enjoy taking on the issue. I guess, it's the mother in me." (AllHatNoCattle)
"We look forward to analyzing and working with legislation that will make -- it would hope -- put a free press's mind at ease that you're not being denied information you shouldn't see." -- George W. Bush, April 14, 2005
"Well, we've made the decision to defeat the terrorists abroad so we don't have to face them here at home. And when you engage the terrorists abroad, it causes activity and action." -- George W. Bush, April 28, 2005
"I can only speak to myself." -- George W. Bush, April 28, 2005
"It's in our country's interests to find those who would do harm to us and get them out of harm's way." -- George W. Bush, April 28, 2005
"It means your own money would grow better than that which the government can make it grow. And that's important." -- George W. Bush, on what private accounts could do for Social Security funds, April 29, 2005
- April 30: Author and sociologist Jerry Lembcke writes in a Boston Globe op-ed that, after years of research,
he has determined that the stories of Vietnam veterans being spat on by antiwar protesters upon their return from service to be an urban legend. He writes, "Stories about spat-upon Vietnam veterans are like mercury: Smash one and six more appear. It's hard to say where they come from. For a book I wrote in 1998 I looked back to the time when the spit was supposedly flying, the late 1960s and early 1970s. I found nothing. No news reports or even claims that someone was being spat on. What I did find is that around 1980, scores of Vietnam-generation men were saying they were greeted by spitters when they came home from Vietnam. There is an element of urban legend in the stories in that their point of origin in time and place is obscure, and, yet, they have very similar details.
- "The story told by the man who spat on Jane Fonda at a book signing in Kansas City recently is typical. Michael Smith said he came back through Los Angeles airport where ''people were lined up to spit on us.' Like many stories of the spat-upon veteran genre, Smith's lacks credulity. GIs landed at military airbases, not civilian airports, and protesters could not have gotten onto the bases and anywhere near deplaning troops. There may have been exceptions, of course, but in those cases how would protesters have known in advance that a plane was being diverted to a civilian site? And even then, returnees would have been immediately bused to nearby military installations and processed for reassignment or discharge. The exaggerations in Smith's story are characteristic of those told by others. 'Most Vietnam veterans were spat on when we came back,' he said. That's not true. A 1971 Harris poll conducted for the Veterans Administration found over 90 percent of Vietnam veterans reporting a friendly homecoming. Far from spitting on veterans, the antiwar movement welcomed them into its ranks and thousands of veterans joined the opposition to the war."
- Lembcke suggests that the persistence of the stories of spat-upon Vietnam veterans continues to "fill a need in American culture. The image of spat-upon veterans is the icon through which many people remember the loss of the war, the centerpiece of a betrayal narrative that understands the war to have been lost because of treason on the home front. Jane Fonda's noisiest detractors insist she should have been prosecuted for giving aid and comfort to the enemy, in conformity with the law of the land. But the psychological dimensions of the betrayal mentality are far more interesting than the legal. Betrayal is about fear, and the specter of self-betrayal is the hardest to dispel. The likelihood that the real danger to America lurks not outside but inside the gates is unsettling. The possibility that it was failure of masculinity itself, the meltdown of the core component of warrior culture, that cost the nation its victory in Vietnam has haunted us ever since."
- He says the fact that most of the "spitters" are girls is a telling detail. He adds that the stories are quite similar to the "legends of defeated German soldiers defiled by women upon their return from World War I, and the rejection from women felt by French soldiers when they returned from their lost war in Indochina, to suggest something universal and troubling at work in their making. One can reject the presence of a collective subconscious in the projection of those anxieties, as many scholars would, but there is little comfort in the prospect that memories of group spit-ins, like Smith has, are just fantasies conjured in the imaginations of aging veterans."
- Lembcke concludes, "Today, on the 30th anniversary of the end of the war in Vietnam, new stories of spat-upon veterans appear faster than they can be challenged. Debunking them one by one is unlikely to slow their proliferation but, by contesting them where and when we can, we engage the historical record in a way that helps all of us remember that, in the end, soldiers and veterans joined with civilians to stop a war that should have never been fought."
- Note: Other reliable witnesses have, indeed, reported isolated spitting incidents, so Lembcke's blanket dismissals must be taken with a grain of salt. (Boston Globe)