Defense officials secretly meet with Iranian gunrunner Manucher Ghorbanifar
- August 8: Pentagon officials working for Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith have held secret meetings with Iranian gunrunner Manucher Ghorbanifar, the middleman in U.S. arms-for-hostage shipments to Iran in the mid-1980s. At least two of the officials have been identified as Harold Rhode, Feith's top Middle East specialist, and Larry Franklin, a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst on loan to the undersecretary's office. The administration officials who revealed these meetings maintain that they were done without the knowledge and authorization of the White House, and were apparently aimed at undercutting current sensitive back channel negotiations with the Iranian regime. "They [the Pentagon officials] were talking to him [Ghorbanifar] about stuff which they weren't officially authorized to do," says a senior administration official. "It was only accidentally that certain parts of our government learned about it." A former intelligence official confirmed that the "certain parts" of the government who did not initially know about the meetings are the State Department, the CIA and the White House, itself. Feith is one of a number of hardline neoconservatives inside the Pentagon whose goals include the overthrow of the current Iranian government. Another administration official says that the immediate objective of these Pentagon hardliners appears to be to "antagonize Iran so that they get frustrated and then by their reactions harden U.S. policy against them."
- Secretary of State Colin Powell has complained to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about Feith's operatives conducting negotiations directly counter to administration policy. Feith's office drafted much of the administration's planning on handling Iraq after the fall of the Hussein regime, and Rhode has been a chief liason between the Pentagon and Ahmad Chalabi, a former Iraqi exile spurned by the CIA and State Department but groomed for leadership by the Pentagon. Rhode is a protege of Michael Ledeen, a neoconservative who was a National Security Council consultant in the mid-1980s when he introduced Ghorbanifar to Oliver North, a National Security Council aide, and others in the opening stages of the Iran-contra affair. A former CIA officer who himself was involved in some aspects of the Iran-contra scandal said that current intelligence officers told him it was Ledeen who reopened the Ghorbanifar channel with Feith's staff. Ledeen, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington and an ardent advocate for regime change in Iran, neither confirms nor denies that he arranged for the Ghorbanifar meetings. "I'm not going to comment on any private meetings with any private people," he said. "It's nobody's business." Ledeen once described Ghorbanifar as "one of the most honest, educated, honorable men I have ever known." But the CIA, noting he had failed four polygraph tests administered during the arms-for-hostages deals, warned its officers not to deal with him, asserting he "should be regarded as an intelligence fabricator and nuisance." A senior administration official said he was puzzled by the resurfacing of Ghorbanifar after all these years. "It would be amazing if anybody in government hadn't learned the lessons of last time around. These guys [including Ledeen] should have learned it, 'cause they lived it." (Newsday)
- August 8: KB Toys releases an "Elite Force Aviator: George W. Bush" action figure, dressed in a Navy pilot's outfit, looking, in the words of journalist Ian Williams, "thin-lipped and
tough-chinned from the package." The figure is obviously a marketing ploy designed to play on the May 1, 2003 landing on the USS Lincoln. The marketing blurb in the press releases claims, falsely, that Bush piloted the Navy fighter for part of the flight. (See the May 1 entry for more information.) The sheer marketing chutzpah of any commercial enterprise hawking such a product for any politician, Republican or Democrat, is almost too much to swallow. (Ian Williams)
- August 9: The US military finally admits to using napalm in Iraq. Earlier denials of the substance's use were based on the fact that the US military no longer calls it "napalm," instead referring to them as "Mark-77 fire bombs." The fire bombs use the same mixture of naphthalene and palmitate that makes up napalm. The use of napalm in Iraq was first reported on March 22, when US forces used Mark-77 fire bombs against Iraqi forces in southern Iraq. Marine spokespersons denied using napalm against the Iraqi soldiers, but were referring to Vietnam-era stocks of Napalm-B, which has been phased out of use. The flammable substance in the Mark-77 fire bombs is just different enough in chemical composition to allow the military to deny using napalm. "The generals love napalm," says Marine Colonel Randolph Alles. "It has a big psychological effect." Napalm was banned by a United Nations convention in 1980, but the US did not sign the agreement. The US military considers the use of Mark-77 weapons to be legal. (Sydney Morning Herald)
- August 9: The Iraqi Media Network, an American television network in Iraq run by a Pentagon contractor, is widely considered a flop. Iraqis do not watch it, judging its programming to be repetitive and larded with official propaganda, and it costs over $5 million a month to keep on the air. Network officials are promising to revamp the broadcast content to make it more appealing. (New York Times)
- August 9: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld acknowledges that Pentagon officials held secret meetings with Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar. While Rumsfeld characterizes the meetings, which were held in late 2001 through mid-2002, as fruitless and unworthy of notice, another senior defense officials verified that further meetings with Ghorbanifar were held in Paris in June 2003. The first meetings were sanctioned by the US government; the June 2003 have been described as "unplanned [and] unscheduled." Secretary of State Colin Powell has strongly protested the meetings, claiming that they could undermine US policy towards Iran. (Washington Post)
- August 9: General Anthony Zinni, who headed US missions to Iraq and Somalia, is one of many Americans to pay a price for speaking out against the Iraqi occupation. Zinni, who is now retired, has been tagged as a "turncoat" by senior officials in the Pentagon. Zinni was fired last fall as the Bush administration's Middle East peace envoy after he criticized the administration's march to war in Iraq; he has been told that he will never work for the administration again. Zinni is not the only one to be targeted. The ACLU has documented over 300 incidents of wrongful arrest and police brutality resulting from protests in Washington, DC and New York City. After publicly denouncing the war, actress Janeane Garofolo has been stalked and has received death threats. Actor Tim Robbins and his wife, actress Susan Sarandon, had their scheduled appearances at the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame cancelled after they made a public statement opposing the war. MCI refused to fire actor Danny Glover as their commercial spokesperson after he made similar statements, but the telephone giant did yank all of Glover's advertisements from the airwaves. The country-music artists Dixie Chicks have had their music pulled from the playlists of hundreds of radio stations after one of its members publicly criticized the President. Fans routinely walk out of Pearl Jam concerts when lead singer Eddie Vedder makes anti-war statements. Peace scholar Stephen Zunes, the winner of a Peace and Justice Studies Association award for leadership in promoting such scholarship, says he was recently "uninvited" to speak to the Arizona state bar association despite a six-month-old commitment after his opposition to the war was made public. But dissent has not been stifled. West Coast musicians are organizing a Bands Against Bush free concert and rally in Los Angeles this fall to publicize their discontent with American foreign policy in the Middle East. Full-page ads encouraging opposition to administration policies have appeared in major national newspapers. The Internet site MoveOn.org has launched a full-scale offensive against the administration, and has been key in the insurgent Presidential campaign of Democrat Howard Dean. Zinni defends his position, calling the invasion "the wrong war at the wrong time." He says, "It's an obligation you have -- in our history there have been too many times when generals didn't say what they thought. We all swear an oath to the Constitution. One of the things I thought I was defending was the right to dissent." (Toronto Star, Move On)
- August 10: US soldiers, firing blindly in the dark, kill a father and three of his children, leaving only the heavily pregnant mother and a fourth child alive. Adel abd al-Kerim and his family are driving through Baghdad in the evening, well before curfew, when they slowly approach a military checkpoint. Another car, driven by Iraqi teenagers with their stereo blaring, speeds through the checkpoint. Assuming the second car was attacking the checkpoint, the soldiers manning the post begin to fire at everything that might be a target -- including the al-Kerim family car. The post soldiers are joined by soldiers in a nearby building. The driver of the second car is shot to death, and US soldiers pull the other two teenagers out of the car and begin beating them. One of the three al-Kerim children dies instantly from a bullet in the head; the other two, and their father, slowly bleed to death in the car while the Americans refuse to allow family members to drive the wounded family members to a nearby hospital. The children's uncle tells the press, "The doctors checked her [the eight-year old daughter's] injuries and told us she would have lived if we had brought her sooner. ...The doctors said they [the father and the other two children] might have lived if they got there sooner: the main cause of death was bleeding. The Americans left them to bleed in the street for hours" Shortly after the incident, President Bush says to a radio audience, "Life is returning to normal for the Iraqi people." (Independent)
- August 10: The Washington Post publishes a damning analysis of the administration's record of deception in the run-up to war in Iraq. Reporters Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus examine the administration's lies about Iraqi WMDs from the mischaracterization of the aluminum tubes supposedly being used for nuclear weapons, to "the escalation of nuclear rhetoric." Gellman and Pincus note that "the introduction of the term 'mushroom cloud'" into White House rhetoric "coincided with the formation of the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, a task force assigned to 'educate the public'" about Iraq's WMDs. This article is the first time any mainstream media publication or broadcast has mentioned the PR group WHIG. (Interestingly, the Post's editorial page prints an editorial criticizing former vice president Al Gore for claiming that "we were all somehow bamboozled into war," in a speech that the editorial says "validated just about every conspiratorial theory of the antiwar left," an unusual choice considering their front-page article proved that America was indeed "bamboozled."
- The co-author of the article, Walter Pincus, later explains why all of his earlier articles detailing the administration's lies about Iraq were almost always printed on the back pages of the paper: "The Post was scared." Scared of what? It must be assumed that the Post, like so many other mainstream media outlets, is scared of the administration. As Paul Waldman observes, "A frightened press is a compliant press.") The article, by Pincus and Barton Gellman, details the lies behind the "aluminum tube" brouhaha (long claimed by administration officials to be "proof" of Iraq's nuclear capabilities), the misinformatin behind the alleged meetings between Saddam Hussein and three top Iraqi nuclear scientists, the overblown allegations of nuclear facilities based on scanty evidence from October 2002's National Intelligence Estimate, and the efforts of the "White House Iraq Group" to "educate" the public about the threat posed by Iraq.
(Washington Post/CommonDreams, Paul Waldman, Frank Rich [PDF file])
- August 10: Weapons inspector David Kay, dispatched to Iraq by the Bush administration, privately claims that his team has found substantial evidence of biological weapons and missile development. He has found little evidence of nuclear weaponry and has not yet begun looking for chemical weapons. The administration has decided to hold off announcing these discoveries until September. Kay has a history of misstating and fabricating evidence, and in 1992 was fired from a UN commission for fabricating evidence of Iraqi WMD programs (see above). (Chicago Sun-Times)
- August 10: A fuel and electricity crisis in Basra has impelled angry Iraqis to attack British troops. Basra, formerly one of the quietest cities in post-invasion Iraq, has become increasingly restive as fuel and electricity continue to be in short supply. British forces are working to alleviate the situation. (ABC News)
- August 10: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer prints an editorial lambasting the Bush administration over its "outing" of a CIA agent as an apparent act of revenge against her husband, whistleblower Joseph Wilson. Wilson confirmed for the world press that the administration's claim that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger was based on forged documents, and that the administration knew quite well that the claims were baseless. The editorial begins, "There's a cancer somewhere in the Bush administration," and ends, "[T]he administration must try to identify, fire and, possibly, prosecute those responsible. Abuse of national security for political aims is wrong. Until Congress and the public know that there has been an unfettered inquiry into the handling of intelligence, the administration will face growing distrust." (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
- August 11: While evidence of terrorist involvement in Iraq was sorely lacking during the war, military observers speculate that al-Qaeda and other groups' fighters may now be moving into Iraq to battle against American forces there. There is clear evidence that the terrorist group Ansar al Islam, which may have ties to al-Qaeda, is operating against US forces in Iraq already. The Bush administration has asserted in a recent document, "Results in Iraq: 100 Days Toward Security and Freedom," describes Ansar al-Islam as an al-Qaeda "affiliate," and goes on to state that "senior al Qaida associate" Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Ansar al-Islam together established facilities in northern Iraq that "were, before the war, an al Qaida's poisons/toxins laboratory." Other intelligence sources were not so definite about the connections between al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam. (Christian Science Monitor)
- August 11: Evidence is mounting that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will be charged with criminal acts related to bribery and fraud. Two investigations into Sharon's financial dealings are being done concurrently. (Ha'aretz)
- August 11: The Transportation Security Administration launches what some observers call a "witch hunt" ferret out and discipline employees in the federal air marshal program who have talked to the media; some air marshals are even being threatened with having the USA Patriot Act used against them. Some air marshals have told media sources that the TSA intends on slashing the number of air marshals allocated to the airlines for security purposes in order to save money, regardless of the repercussions to national safety. The TSA denies the investigations are taking place, but air marshals and TSA sources verify that the investigations are indeed under way. "If these allegations are true, they show misplaced priorities," says Representative Carolyn Maloney, chair of the Democratic Task Force on Homeland Security. "They shouldn't be going after civil servants doing their patriotic duty; they should be going after whoever made the boneheaded decision and whoever approved it at the OMB." By law, the TSA isn't allowed to invoke the Patriot Act. Threatening to use the Patriot Act "is not an act of law, it's an act of intimidation," says Steven Aftergood, who runs the project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists. "The politics of this are the agency is trying to regulate what kind of interaction its employees have with the media and the general public. That is something that raises questions of agency good faith." "[To] invoke, or threaten to invoke, the USA Patriot Act, a law meant to battle terrorism, to target patriotic employees seems to be not only illogical, but a misuse of the law as well," Maloney writes in a letter to the Judiciary committee leaders. "I urge your committee to formally investigate the alleged misuse of the USA Patriot Act by DHS for its internal probe of employees." (Stephen Pizzo/Daily Misleader, MSNBC)
- August 11: Watergate chief counsel Samuel Dash says that the Bush administration poses the biggest threat to American liberty and democracy since the Nixon administration: "Watergate was a wrenching turning point in our history and its lessons must be learned and re-learned. Now our lives as a free people are also being threatened by an administration bent on grabbing unprecedented power, a timid Congress and an uninformed electorate." He goes on to say, "The government overreaches when it employs its war against terror to attack the liberties of American citizens. We now face sweeping federal wiretapping, secret searches and seizures, arrest and detention without trial or right to counsel, infiltration by FBI agents in our places of worship and in our social and political clubs and associations. Not even what we read, either from libraries or bookstores, is respected. It is the time of the anonymous informer and the chilling threat, reminiscent of Watergate, that dissent is unpatriotic and giving aid to the enemy. The logic of the government appears to be that the only way we can preserve our freedom and liberty from the efforts of terrorists to destroy them is to temporarily destroy them ourselves. But true security comes from our being a free society blessed with constitutional democracy and a Bill of Rights -- rights that if lost cannot be easily recovered. An alert Congress would check the administration's grab for greater power than the Constitution permits. It would hold hearings and inform the people of the dangers they faced. Unfortunately, Congress today is shirking its constitutional responsibilities. There are no Sam Ervins in the Senate now. Instead of offering leadership, our congressional representatives defer to the White House in an attempt to show they are as patriotic as the president. The lesson of Watergate should teach them that a president free to assert excessive power could, even unintentionally, irreparably harm our democracy. Benjamin Franklin wisely wrote, 'They that would give up essential liberty to attain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.'quot; (Newsday)
Guantanamo Bay detentions draw increasing criticism
- August 12: The Bush administration admits it neither has an accurate list of prisoners being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, nor do they have an accurate count of how many prisoners are being held. The information was revealed during a court hearing on behalf of Falen Gherebi, a Libyan national believed to be in custody in Cuba. The hearing turned from a discussion on the rights of the US government to hold Gherebi into a debate on whether the government even knew who it was holding. "They won't let him out and they won't tell us if he's there," said Stephen Yagman, a lawyer for Gherebi's brother. "This is crazy." The panel of judges expressed shock about the apparent lack of record-keeping on people who have been in custody for 577 days. Though the prisoners are being held under orders of the United States government, in a US government facility, and are being guarded by Marines, the administration argues that US courts have no jurisdiction to rule on any issue concerning the prisoners, as Guantanamo Bay is in Cuba and therefore not under US rule. (NY Post)
- August 12: Congress is about to receive a report suggesting that the current method of "terror alerts" as promulgated by the Department of Homeland Security be replaced. It is described as too vague, lacking in any specific methodology of response, and far too costly. The system, which went into place in March 2002, has maintained a status of "yellow," or elevated, since it was first implemented. On four occasions, it has been raised to "orange," or "high," which requires law enforcement agencies nationwide to prepare contingency operations and take extra protective measures at public events and other sites that might be susceptible to attack. "It does need to be overhauled," says Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske. "People want confidence in their public safety professionals to be on top of this issue, and right now this isn't the system getting us there." The report is particularly critical of the vague nature of the alerts. It points out that every time the system has been raised, "no specifics" have been offered as to what might be targeted. "Moreover, DHS has never explained the sources and quality of intelligence upon which the threat levels were based," the report says. Such vagueness can lead to the public becoming more complacent, the report asserts. It also provides law enforcement with "no basis for formulating a clear, easily understood public message." (CNN)
- August 12: Complaints from American soldiers about the food they are provided are reaching epidemic levels. The least affected are those who have been forced to subsist on M.R.E.'s -- ",meals, ready to eat" -- for months on end, unless they are able to trade for better food with foreign units, as one unit was able to trade for food from an Italian unit. Other stories are worse. Many soldiers are being rationed water in the extremely hot and dry Iraqi desert environment; cases of heat exhaustion are common, and at least one soldier has died of heat stroke. The logistical support for American troops is described as the worst in living memory, according to more than one soldier. (New York Times/CommonDreams)
- August 13: Charges are filed against British national Hemant Lakhani for trying to smuggle a shoulder-launched missile into the US in July. He is ordered by a Newark, New Jersey court to be held without bond on charges of attempting to provide material support and material resources to terrorists and acting as an arms broker without a license. US Attorney Christopher Christie calls Lakhani an ally of terrorists who want to kill Americans: "He, on many occasions, in recorded conversations, referred to Americans as 'bastards' [and] Osama bin Laden as a hero." The Lakhani case is being exaggerated, according to law enforcement officials. The missile shipped into the New York area last month was not a real missile, but a mockup, that was built by the US government as part of a "sting" operation. The government also arranged the meetings at a New Jersey hotel and elsewhere, where Lakhani allegedly told undercover agents posing as al Qaeda terrorists about his support of bin Laden. "One would have to ask yourself, would this have occurred at all without the government?" said Gerald Lefcourt, a criminal defense attorney. Lakhani has no contacts in Russia to buy the missiles before the sting and has no known criminal record for arms dealing. "I would have hoped the United States is thwarting real terrorism and not something manufactured because here all they're doing is stopping something they created," says Lefcourt. (ABC News)
- August 13: An American helicopter crew knocks down a Shi'ite Muslim flag in the Sadr City ghetto of Baghdad, sparking riots and fueling anti-American sentiment among the nation's Shi'a population. Although the US initially denies that the incident was deliberate, on August 28, Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, the top US military commander in Iraq, admits that the helicopter crew acted deliberately in knocking the banner down, and characterizes the incident as an example of poor judgment on the part of the crew. "The poor judgment that was exercised was twofold," Sanchez will say. One, the crew flew "at a proximity to the tower that was unsafe and the second one was in the leadership judgment that was being exercised by soldiers on that aircraft." He plans on disciplining the crew in an unspecified manner. In the rioting that followed the incident, one Iraqi teenager was killed when U.S. troops opened fire on the crowd. Some members of the crowd were also shooting, US officials said at the time. Sanchez will claim that the troops' shooting was "within the rules of engagement." After the flag incident and rioting, clerics denounced America's "war against Islam," and what had been the neighborhood's relatively positive attitude toward the American occupation was replaced by anger and rejection. (Los Angeles Times)
- August 13: Investigative reports conducted by German journalists prove that German intelligence warned the CIA about one of the 9/11 terrorist pilots as early as March 1999. The pilot, Marwen Alshehhi, was the one who steered a Boeing jetliner into the south tower of the World Trade Center. Apparently Alshehhi was placed under surveillance by the CIA in March 1999 after German intelligence warned the CIA that Alshehhi was in contact with an al-Qaeda contact living in Hamburg. Shortly after, Alshehhi slipped from view, and did not turn up in the agency's view until after 9/11. (Expatica)
Scott Speicher declared KIA
- August 13: The search for Navy pilot Scott Speicher is officially over; the Pentagon has concluded that Speicher must have died of his injuries in the crash of his plane. Speicher was shot down on the first night of the Persian Gulf War on January 17, 1991. Evidence found by the latest search teams indicate that Speicher was never taken prisoner by Iraqi forces; instead, his body was buried in the desert near the site of the crash. Speicher, formerly classified as missing in action and presumed dead, was reclassified as a prisoner of war after an Iraqi defector claimed in 2001 that an American was being held prisoner by the Hussein regime. Speicher is the only American to die in the Persian Gulf War who was never accounted for. Senior military officials in the Pentagon have claimed that Speicher was reclassified as a POW to further justify the Bush administration's push for war in Iraq. Speicher's family continues to insist that he may still be alive and in Iraqi hands. (MSNBC)
- August 14: US intelligence officials warned the National Security Council that establishing a democracy in Iraq was so audacious a plan that it well might be "impossible" to achieve: "Liberal democracy would be difficult to achieve in Iraq," says a March State Department report. "Electoral democracy, were it to emerge, could well be subject to exploitation by anti-American elements." This warning took place well before the invasion of Iraq. This is a direct contradiction of the Bush administration's position that, as Bush stated, a democratic Iraq would lead to more liberalized, representative governments, where terrorists would find less popular support, and the Muslim world would be friendlier to the United States: "A new regime in Iraq would serve as an inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region," he said on Feb. 26. The administration also regularly dismissed predictions that cast doubt upon the ease of establishing a democratic government in Iraq such as this one, issued before the war by a senior State Department official under Clinton: "US efforts to impose a US vision on the area could lead to instability in countries like Jordan and Pakistan, and could result in further strengthening the hand of fundamentalism and terrorism." Pentagon and other administration officials are now working to lower expectations and extend earlier predictions of just how long US troops will be expected to stay in the country. The administration's initial vision for Iraq's occupation and redirection comes from a 1996 paper by senior Pentagon official Douglas Feith, advisor Richard Perle, and others. The paper was written for then-incoming Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The paper provides insight into the thinking of the current administration: it predicted that overturning the Hussein regime could start a possible rollback of neighboring autocracies such as Syria and Iran, as well as give Lebanese Shi'ite Muslims the opportunity to reconnect with Shi'ite religious leaders in southern Iraq and begin weaning them away from Iranian, Syrian and Hezbollah influence. Though such results are becoming increasingly unlikely, the Bush administration continues to insist that, in the words of Condoleezza Rice, "much as a democratic Germany became a linchpin for a new Europe...so a transformed Iraq can become a key element of a very different Middle East in which the ideologies of hate will not flourish." (Boston Globe)
- August 14: Paul Bremer, Iraq's US administrator, says that American troops are "not sitting ducks," regardless of how many are dying each day. He also admitted that the US occupation could last for an indefinite time. (ABC News)
- August 14: Early reports from the Pentagon tell of a weapon in development that kills by emitting huge blasts of lethal gamma radiation. While the science behind the weapon is still new, and the weapon may not be in use for years, observers warn that continuing development of such a weapon could trigger a new arms race. The weapon blurs the line between conventional and nuclear weapons, and may trigger nations who can't develop such weapons to begin stockpiling conventional nuclear weapons of their own as a deterrent to having the weapon used against them. (Guardian)
- August 14: Stung by heavy criticism over its attempt to cut military pay and benefits, the Bush administration promises that it will not cut the pay of nearly 160,000 American troops currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan on September 30 when special military pay hikes approved by Congress are due to expire. It promises that even if Congress does not reinstate the pay hikes, it will find another way to compensate the troops. Undersecretary of Defense David Chu states, "No one ever said we wanted to reduce pay in Iraq and Afghanistan. ...We prefer other compensation powers to ensure that we target benefits on the troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan," and cites incentive and other packages that the Pentagon is authorized to use. The Pentagon currently supports the expiration of pay increases for troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan of $75/month in danger pay and $150/month in family separation pay. Imminent danger pay, given to members of the armed forces in combat zones, was raised to $225 from $150 a month by Congress in April for the current fiscal year. The family separation allowance, which helps military families pay expenses while troops are away, was raised from $100 a month to $250. If the cuts are allowed to expire, families of affected servicemen will lose $225/month in pay.
- Democratic presidential candidates are quick to criticize the Bush administration. Senator John Kerry says it makes his "blood boil." Former Vermont governor Howard Dean says, "Virtually every priority faced by our nation is placed behind this President's obsession with tax cuts for those who need them least. As a result, we are now facing a ludicrous situation in which Vice President Cheney will reap a $116,000 per year tax windfall, and yet our soldiers -- on extended deployments and tragically dying every day -- are facing pay cuts of $225 a month. This administration's priorities are simply out of sync with the American people's." Senator Joseph Lieberman calls it "unconscionable." Senator Bob Graham characterizes it as "seriously wrong." Kerry continues, "The Bush administration questions the patriotism of those who ask questions about how you win a war, but I know no deeper violation of patriotism than dishonoring those who wear the uniform of our nation and breaking our promises to our soldiers."
- The proposed cuts in benefits and pay were part of a multibillion-dollar ravaging of veterans programs rammed through the House by its Republican leadership -- on the same day the House unanimously passed a resolution of "unequivocal support" for the nation's troops overseas. Proposed by Bush as part of his 2004 budget plan, the eductions -- estimated at $28 billion -- would erode health-care benefits already stretched thin by other budget shortfalls, raise costs, and decrease veterans' access to medical care. Democrats and some Republicans opposed the measure, but it passed by three votes. Democratic representative Joseph Hoeffel says, "These cuts to veterans' programs are indefensible. We are at war and our current troops will be our future veterans and this funding is inadequate, it's wrong, and it's an insult." Republicans, of course, claim that the huge slashes will actually make VA spending increase. (Reuters/FindLaw, Dean4AZ, Yes Magazine)
- August 14: Tape-recorded testimony by the late Dr. David Kelly is showing more and more that the Blair administration deliberately doctored evidence to "prove" that Iraq posed enough of a threat to warrant invasion. The source of the falsities is being fingered as Alastair Campbell, Blair's director of communications, and possibly Tony Blair himself. Pressure on the Blair administration to tell all it knows about its dealings with Kelly escalates when it comes out that Blair had scheduled a second interview with Kelly before Kelly's alleged suicide. (Mirror, Guardian)
- August 14: US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said that US troops would not leave Iraq until they found weapons of mass destruction there. "We will [find them]. I have absolute confidence about that," he told an audience in Sydney, Australia after previously speaking with Australian Prime Minister Howard. Armitage claims that the US does not want to remain in Iraq any longer than necessary, but says, "we are not going to leave until we find and destroy Iraq's capability to launch biological, chemical and nuclear weapons." He says the fact that no weapons had so far emerged was a "chilling" reminder that they were "far too easy to move and far too easy to hide." (Gulf Daily News)
- August 14: The biggest power blackout in US history takes out the electricity in much of the Midwest and Northeast, from Ohio to New York. The three power companies that cause the blackout are the Ohio and Pennsylvania units of a holding company called "First Energy," and a New York outfit called "Niagara-Mohawk Power," or NiMO. All three have been investigated for fraud, corruption, and financial mismanagement. The short-staffed First Energy unit in Ohio cannot handle a power surge that rips through their systems, and the surge travels up the lines to the Pennsylvania unit, also short-handed. Similarly understaffed units for NiMO allow the surge to blow out power in their unit as well. The units are short-handed because of corporate buyouts that have, in NiMo's case, resulted in the sudden firing of 800 employees and a carting off of $90 million in funds to the bank accounts of European stockholders. The blackout is the direct result of industry deregulation, but Dick Cheney, in charge of the administration's energy policies, blames regulation (which, until being thrown out, would have prevented the circumstances that led up to the blackout), and works to further deregulate the industry, culminating in the July 2005 passage of the Public Utility Holding Company Act, a New Deal-era set of laws that protects the consumer from predatory energy company policies. (Greg Palast)
- August 14: Diebold CEO Wally O'Dell, whose company makes and markets some of the most widely used electronic voting machines in America, writes a fund-raising letter to Ohio Republicans that states he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." O'Dell has attended fundraisers at Bush's Crawford, Texas ranch, and has hosted Republican fundraisers at his home in Columbus, Ohio. Diebold is currently vying to land a contract with Ohio to replace that state's paper ballot machines with electronic voting machines. Two requests have been made of Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican activist, to disqualify Diebold from consideration for providing its machines to Ohio voters, one over O'Dell's Republican activism and one over serious security concerns surrounding the "hackability" of Diebold machines. "Ordinary Ohioans may infer that Blackwell's office is looking past Diebold's security issues because its CEO is seeking $10,000 donations for Blackwell's party -- donations that could be made with statewide elected officials right there in the same room," says Ohio Senate Democratic leader Greg DiDonato. O'Dell is only one of many Diebold executives with Republican ties -- W.R. "Tim" Timken is, like O'Dell, a Republican loyalist and a major contributor to GOP candidates. Since 1991 the Timken Company and members of the Timken family have contributed more than a million dollars to the Republican Party and to GOP presidential candidates such as Bush. Between 2000 and 2002 alone, Timken's bearing and steel company gave more than $350,000 to Republican causes, while Timken himself gave more than $120,000. This year, he is one of Bush's campaign Pioneers, and has already pulled in more than $350,000 for the president's reelection bid. (The leading company in America for voting machines, ES&S, is partially owned by Republican senator Chuck Hagel, who won a narrow victory in Nebraska's 1996 senatorial elections largely on machines made by his company. Hagel resigned from the board of directors shortly before the 1996 elections, but continues to hold a large amount of stock in ES&S's parent company.) Blackwell will allow Diebold to supply Ohio with voting machines, and those machines will figure centrally in the ongoing dispute over Ohio's tainted votes in 2004 that return Bush to the White House. It is also worth noting that Diebold machines figured prominently in the tainted 2000 presidential election results in Volusia County, Florida, with the machines' original count showing candidate Al Gore with a negative 19,000 tally. The Volusia miscount led CBS to call the election for Bush, precipitating the entire 2000 election debacle. (Cleveland Plain Dealer/CommonDreams, Mother Jones)