EPA lies about toxins released by 9/11 attack exposed
- August 22: After the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to give the public misleading information, telling New Yorkers it was safe to breathe when reliable information on air quality was not available. That finding is included in a report released by the Office of the Inspector General of the EPA, "EPA's Response to the World Trade Center Collapse: Challenges, Successes and Areas for Improvement." The report states, "[t]he White House Council on Environmental Quality influenced...the information that EPA communicated to the public through its early press releases when it convinced EPA to add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones." On September 12, Christine Todd Whitman, then the head of the EPA, issued a directive that all statements to the media about the air quality in and around the strike zone would be cleared through the National Security Council. A draft statement that was never released raised concerns about the effects of the pollutants on "sensitive populations" such as asthma patients, those with respiratory ailments, and the elderly. Unsafe levels of asbestos were reported in the draft; that was changed to say that the levels of asbestos found were "not a cause for public concern." Language in another EPA draft stating that asbestos levels in some areas were three times higher than national standards was changed to "slightly above the 1 percent trigger for defining asbestos material." A warning on the importance of safely handling Ground Zero cleanup due to lead and asbestos exposure was changed to say that some contaminants had been noted downtown but "the general public should be very reassured by initial sampling."
- Area lawmakers, particularly Democrats, are outraged by the Bush administration's actions. Numerous local, state, and federal-level officials begin calling for a Justice Department investigation into the situation. City Council member David Yassky, who has questioned the safety of Brooklyn and lower Manhattan air after Sept. 11, says that he is "outraged that the White House manipulated the information that was communicated to the people of New York. I want an independent investigation to determine exactly who at the White House manipulated the information." One resident who volunteered her help at the site now says, "I might not have stayed down here -- with dust on me for days -- had I known of the dangers. We were all lied to, and I'm afraid everybody is going to be seriously sick." A volunteer firefighter says, "For me, it's very scary. We lost another firefighter, and that makes one in New York and two volunteers who have died of pneumonia. My lungs are totally shot, and I'm afraid that's what many of us are going to die of." The Bush administration refused to comment; EPA acting administrator Marianne Horinko says that the EPA did as good a job as it could under the circumstances, and blames firefighters and rescue workers for not wearing standard respirators and other protective gear "despite our best efforts." As for the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of residents nearby who are still sick with a variety of debilitating ailments and conditions, Horinko finds it all "mystifying."
- One explanation of Whitman's reluctance to declare an environmental emergency may revolve around her own financial interests. At the time of the attacks, she was heavily invested in the New York/New Jersey Port Authority, which in turn owned the World Trade Center and is the principal liable party for damages and claims. Whitman's husband managed hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of Citigroup assets; Travelers Insurance, a Citigroup subsidiary, stood to lose millions in medical claims. The Whitmans owned $250,000 worth of Citigroup stock. To declare an environmental hazard would have cost the Whitmans dearly. Whitman should have recused herself from all EPA decisions regarding the WTC; instead, she made decisions favorable to herself. (Newsday, MSNBC, Laura Flanders)
- August 22: The US commander of the Guantanamo detention camp says he is considering freeing the three children currently being held prisoner there. The three are boys between the ages of 13 and 15. General Geoffrey Miller, the camp commander, says that there is evidence to believe that the three were "coerced" into taking up arms against American forces in Afghanistan. "These juvenile enemy combatants were impressed, were kidnapped into terrorism," Miller says. "They have given us some very valuable intelligence. We are very close to making a recommendation on their transfer back to their home countries." The three have been kept apart from the other 700 detainees since their incarceration in late 2001. They have had no access to lawyers or family members, and it is unclear whether or not they understand why they are being held. (BBC)
- August 23: Osama bin Laden is believed to be in hiding in northern Pakistan, surrounded by a 120-mile guard ring of tribesmen who are on constant guard against any military incursions. One of the reasons bin Laden is so safe in Pakistan is because of an agreement made between the US and Pakistani ruler Pervez Musharraf, who struck a deal with the US not to turn over bin Laden after the invasion of Afghanistan because to turn over bin Laden to American authorities would threaten his grip on power and spur terrorist attacks on Pakistani targets. Pakistani intelligence claims that they are no closer to apprehending bin Laden than they were a year ago; they attribute this failure to the inhospitable terrain and the fierce loyalty of bin Laden's supporters, who are apparently so devoted to the man that they are almost impossible to buy off. (Guardian)
- August 23: Andrew Wilkie, a former senior analyst in the Office of National Assessments (ONA), says the Blair administration lied to the public before the Iraq war, exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam Hussein by ignoring vital qualifications placed on intelligence about his arms programs. He also asserts that the administration fabricated vital intelligence about Iraq's WMD programs, and accuses the Australian government of "sexing up" its own claims about Iraq. "The Government lied every time," Wilkie states. "It skewed, misrepresented, used selectively, and fabricated the Iraq story. The Government lied when the Prime Minister's office told the media I was mentally unstable. The Government lied when it associated Iraq with the Bali bombing and the Government lied every time that it associated Iraq with the war on terror." Wilkie resigned from the administration in protest of the Iraqi invasion. "It was sexed up," he says of the information provided by the Blair administration. "sometimes the exaggeration was so great it was clear dishonesty. ...The material was going straight from ONA to the Prime Minister's office and the exaggeration was occurring in there. Or the dishonesty was occurring somewhere in there." Foreign Minister Alexander Downer retorts by calling Wilkie a "hysterical malcontent." Wilkie goes on to tell Parliament, "I think it would be far more valuable, far more useful for this country if instead of attacking those who criticise it, the Government sought to explain in a sensible and honest way why there is such a gap between their justification for the war and what we all now know for sure." (Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Broadcasting Company)
- August 23: The US admits to recruiting spies and other intelligence operatives previously employed by Saddam Hussein's once-dreaded Mukhabarat to help identify Iraqi resistors to American forces. Many Iraqis on the US-appointed governing council have objected to these operatives being used, but their objections have so far been ignored. A Western diplomat observes, "There is an obvious evolution in American thinking. First the police are reconstituted, then the army. It is logical that intelligence officials from the regime would also be recruited." (Washington Post)
- August 23: Columnist Jimmy Breslin responds with anger to the Environmental Protection Agency's revelation that the destruction of the WTC on 9/11 released huge levels of toxins and contaminants into the air. He reveals that he was sick for two months after the strike, but was too embarrassed to say anything in the light of the tragedy of that day. "so many others were scorched and broken and maimed," he writes, "I had no right to open my mouth, I thought. Besides, from the first day, the government's Environmental Protection Agency had announced that air was remarkably clean. Work on. Breathe on. You're fine. They lied. They lied because the administration did not want people not going to work. They lied the first week and they lied the week after that and they have lied every day of the past two years to the people of this city." (Newsday/Thinking Peace)
- August 23: Bush signs an order to freeze the assets of top officials of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, along with the assets of five European charities that the US believes is financing Hamas. (AP/Comcast)
- August 24: Experts who have examined Saddam Hussein's fleet of abandoned unmanned aerial drones have concluded that the drones were never meant to carry biological or chemical weapons, but instead were, as Hussein's government claimed, merely reconnaisance drones. The Bush administration, backed by intelligence findings from the CIA and DIA, has insisted for months that the drones, or UAVs, were intended for use in delivering biological or chemical weapons payloads to targets as far away as the US mainland. However, Air Force intelligence and the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency never felt that the UAVs were any threat to anyone. (AP/FindLaw)
- August 24: British PM Tony Blair is personally responsible for the public grilling that Dr. David Kelly received at the hands of Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee. Kelly's family blames the public humiliation for Kelly's death, which is so far considered a suicide. The Blair administration had attempted to pin the blame for Kelly's harassment on defense minister Geoffrey Hoon, but declassified documents released to the press prove that it was Blair who made the decision to go after Kelly. Other documents also prove that senior Blair officials leaked Kelly's name to the press on July 9, a move that placed Kelly under extreme pressure and brought a great deal of unwanted public attention to the shy, retiring analyst. Kelly was found dead in the woods near his home on July 18. (Scotland on Sunday)
- August 24: Tim Predmore, a member of the US 101st Airborne stationed in Iraq since the war began, writes an editorial printed in his hometown paper, the Peoria Journal-Star. In it, he says, "...as a soldier preparing for the invasion of Iraq, the words 'shock and awe' rang deeper within my psyche. These two great superpowers were about to break the very rules they demand of others. Without the consent of the United Nations, and ignoring the pleas of their own citizens, the United States and Britain invaded Iraq. ...From the moment the first shot was fired in this so-called war of liberation and freedom, hypocrisy reigned. Following the broadcasting of recorded images of captured and dead U.S. soldiers over Arab television, American and British leaders vowed revenge while verbally assaulting the networks for displaying such vivid images. Yet within hours of the deaths of Saddam's two sons, the American government released horrific photos of the two dead brothers for the entire world to view. Again, a 'do as we say and not as we do' scenario.
- "As soldiers serving in Iraq, we have been told that our purpose here is to help the people of Iraq by providing them the necessary assistance militarily as well as in humanitarian efforts. Then tell me where the humanity was in the recent Stars and Stripes account of two young children brought to a U.S. military camp by their mother, in search of medical care? The two children had been, unbeknown to them, playing with explosive ordinance they had found and as a result were severely burned. The account tells how the two children, following an hour-long wait, were denied care by two U.S. military doctors. The soldier described the incident as one of many 'atrocities' he has witnessed on the part of the U.S. military. So then, what is our purpose here? Was this invasion due to weapons of mass destruction as we so often heard? If so, where are they? Did we invade to dispose of a leader and his regime on the account of close association with Osama bin Laden? If so, where is the proof? Or is it that our incursion is a result of our own economic advantage? Iraq's oil can be refined at the lowest cost of any in the world. Coincidence? This looks like a modern-day crusade not to free an oppressed people or to rid the world of a demonic dictator relentless in his pursuit of conquest and domination but a crusade to control another nation's natural resource. At least for us here, oil seems to be the reason for our presence. There is only one truth, and it is that Americans are dying. There are an estimated 10- to 14-attacks on our servicemen and women daily in Iraq. As the body count continues to grow, it would appear that there is no immediate end in sight. I once believed that I served for a cause: 'to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.' Now, I no longer believe; I have lost my conviction, my determination. I can no longer justify my service for what I believe to be half-truths and bold lies. My time is done as well as that of many others with whom I serve. We have all faced death here without reason or justification. How many more must die? How many more tears must be shed before America awakens and demands the return of the men and women whose job it is to protect them rather than their leader's interest?" One has to admire Predmore's courage in daring to publish such a missive; one wonders just what kind of repercussions he and his family will suffer. (Peoria Journal-Star)
- August 24: Columnist Will Hutton observes that unless the US decides to legitimize its presence in Iraq by full and complete cooperation with the UN, it will continue to fail to rebuild Iraq's shattered social, economic, and governmental concerns. "The mismatch between post-war reality and the Pentagon's pre-war reconstruction planning is huge, revealing how ideologically blinkered America's conservative leadership has been. Iraq's reconstruction, believed George Bush, would be analogous to that of post-war Germany and Japan, and could proceed similarly but on more ultra-free market lines. Iraq's interim government would be assumed by a US military viceroy with an Iraqi advisory council to input local advice. The US would run all internal affairs; the United Nations, as May's Resolution 1483 made crystal clear, would be confined to 'promoting', 'encouraging' and 'facilitating' those international efforts that would support the US viceroy in his aims. The US would have complete control. Security was to be undertaken by the functioning police force which the Americans expected to inherit along with friendly elements of the armed forces; within months the US could expect drastically to reduce troop commitment. If additional help was needed, private security firms could be enlisted. It was envisaged, for example, that a mere 6,000 private security guards could look after Iraq's 300 kilometres of exposed desert oil pipeline. Production of oil was expected to more than treble to 3 million barrels a day by Christmas driven by a flood of inward investment from the great oil multinationals, and the revenue would be earmarked to finance the vital reconstruction of Iraq's utility infrastructure. This would be led by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the ultimate in anti-state minimalism. Its 600 officials would not do anything themselves, because it is an article of American conservative faith that state initiative in any form is pathetically inefficient; rather they would commission American companies (leavened with the odd British company as a concession to its participation) to spearhead reconstruction. Its budget could be small; Iraqi oil revenues would quickly kick in to provide the necessary supplementary finance. Five months later nothing remains of this fantasy put together by the Pentagon, free-market think-tanks and Iraqi exiles. Iraq, it is obvious, is not in the same situation as post-war Germany or Japan. Rather, the entire apparatus of a capitalist democracy has to be painfully created from scratch -- an exercise in state building from outside on a scale that has never been attempted before." (Guardian)
- August 25: George W. Bush is postulating a new "flypaper" justification for a continued military presence in Iraq, saying that since terrorists seems to be flocking to Iraq to attack American forces stationed there, "[o]ur military is confronting terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan and in other places so our people will not have to confront terrorist violence in New York, or St. Louis or Los Angeles." Bush seems ignorant of Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz's own refutation of the "flypaper" theory in June 2003, when he said that our having troops in Iraq would give us the opportunity to remove troops from Saudi Arabia and thus lessen Muslim hostility towards the US. The "flypaper" theory also seems ignorant of the fact that many of the "terrorists" currently in Iraq are recent converts to anti-American doctrines, and had not taken up arms against the US before the invasion of Iraq. (Newsday)
- August 25: Dr. Irvin Redlener, co-founder of the Children's Health Fund and founder of Columbia University's National Center for Disaster Preparedness, says that the US's health care system is completely unprepared for another terrorist attack on the scale of the 9/11 assault: "My biggest concern is that now, nearly two years after 9/11, the hospitals and public health systems are absolutely unprepared for another major act of terrorism. There's been very little improvement from two years ago. No one's really even defined what we mean by preparedness. ...We need to be prepared for things like car bombs, or a terrorist attack on a nuclear power facility. We need to be prepared for the release of a chemical or biological agent in a public place -- a train station, an airport, a sports arena. We need to be prepared for sabotage of major infrastructural systems -- bridges, for example, and transportation and communications facilities. The health care system has to be ready to respond effectively to any of these emergencies. And right now it's not." (New York Times)
- August 25: Security advisor Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld busily compare post-invasion Iraq to post-WWII Germany: "But as some of you here today surely remember, the road we traveled was very difficult. 1945 through 1947 was an especially challenging period. Germany was not immediately stable or prosperous. SS officers -- called 'werewolves' -- engaged in sabotage and attacked both coalition forces and those locals cooperating with them -- much like today's Baathist and Fedayeen remnants," Rice says to a group of VFW members in Texas. Rumsfeld tells the same audience, "One group of those dead-enders was known as 'werewolves.' They and other Nazi regime remnants targeted Allied soldiers, and they targeted Germans who cooperated with the Allied forces. Mayors were assassinated including the American-appointed mayor of Aachen, the first major German city to be liberated. Children as young as 10 were used as snipers, radio broadcasts, and leaflets warned Germans not to collaborate with the Allies. They plotted sabotage of factories, power plants, rail lines. They blew up police stations and government buildings, and they destroyed stocks of art and antiques that were stored by the Berlin Museum. Does this sound familiar?" Unfortunately for Rice and Rumsfeld, history does not bear out their comparison. The Nazi Werwolf program has been a staple of fiction, but in reality achieved almost nothing; it turned out to be a group of frightened, badly trained teenagers who largely refused to carry out their missions of resistance and sabotage. The mayor of Aachen was assassinated on the orders of Heinrich Himmler before the May 1945 surrender of the Nazi government. History shows that postwar Germany, far from the breeding ground of terrorism and homegrown resistance that Iraq is, was very cooperative with Allied occupiers; in fact, fraternization between former enemies was a bigger problem for the military than confrontation. There was no major campaign of sabotage. There was no destruction of water mains or energy plants worth noting. German historian Golo Mann wrote, "The [Germans'] readiness to work with the victors, to carry out their orders, to accept their advice and their help was genuine; of the resistance which the Allies had expected in the way of 'werewolf' units and nocturnal guerrilla activities, there was no sign." The total number of American combat casualties in post-war Germany was zero. Rice and Rumsfeld's comparisons are totally specious. (Slate)
- August 25: According to the General Accounting Office, the Bush administration collaborated heavily with corporations in developing its energy policy, but repeatedly refused to give congressional investigators details of the meetings. The GAO report states that Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham privately discussed the formulation of Bush's policy "with chief executive officers of petroleum, electricity, nuclear, coal, chemical and natural gas companies, among others." Dick Cheney's secretive energy task force relied for outside advice primarily on "petroleum, coal, nuclear, natural gas, electricity industry representatives and lobbyists," while shrugging off input from academic experts, environmentalists and policy groups. None of the group's meetings was open to the public, and participants told GAO investigators they "could not recollect whether official rosters or minutes were kept." David S. Addington, the vice president's counsel, said in a letter to Congress last year that the task force, formally the National Energy Policy Development Group, met with "a broad representation of people potentially affected by the group's work," including state and local regulators, labor unions and wildlife advocates. That statement has repeatedly proven to be untrue. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Democratic candidate for president, says that voters should know what role energy companies played in writing the policy. "They will never know the full truth because the White House chose to stonewall instead of cooperate with investigators." The report characterized the task force as "a centralized, top-down" process that involved several hundred federal employees but relied little on nonpolitical expertise in the government. The Interior Department, which manages many of the federal lands where White House officials want to increase oil and gas exploration, "was not assigned a lead role in writing any of the [task force] report chapters." The report documents $861,250 in administration spending on the policy, but that amount does not include spending by the White House, where the task force recommendations were produced and most of the meetings were held. Of the 77 pages Cheney's office provided the GAO, two-thirds contained no cost information, and the remaining third included "miscellaneous information of little or no usefulness," the report said. (Washington Post)
- August 25: Danish soldier Preben Pedersen is shot and killed by his own troops outside a small Iraqi fishing village. The other Danish soldiers also kill two unarmed Iraqi fishermen. Apparently the Danes mistake the fishermen for thieves. (Nettavisen)
- August 25: Conservative pundit Sean Hannity tells his audience, "It doesn't say anywhere in the Constitution this idea of the separation of church and state." Hannity obviously hasn't read the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Article VI of the Constitution says, "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." (Center for American Progress)
"I don't understand how poor people think." -- George W. Bush, confiding in the Rev. Jim Wallis, New York Times, 08-26-03, quoted by Brandi Mills
- August 26: The death of a US soldier in Hamariyah marked a "grim milestone" for the US; the death means more troops have died in Iraq since President Bush declared "mission accomplished" on May 1 than during the first phase of the war. Bush has recently said that he did not mean that the war was over during his May 1 speech, when he was flown to the USS Abraham Lincoln and gave a speech dressed in a flight suit that declared the war to be won; he now says that he meant that "major combat operations" were over in Iraq. (CBS)
- August 26: Details of direct, unrevealed connections between Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Osama bin Laden are revealed in a new book, Why America Slept, by Gerald Posner. Posner, who made his reputation by debunking conspiracy theories surrounding the assassinations of Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy, presents evidence that connects captured bin Laden operative Abu Zubaydah directly to the highest levels of Saudi finance and government. According to Zubaydah, the Saudi connection ran through Prince Turki al-Faisal bin Abdul Aziz, the kingdom's longtime intelligence chief. Zubaydah said Osama bin Laden "personally" told him of a 1991 meeting at which Turki agreed to let bin Laden leave Saudi Arabia and to provide him with secret funds as long as al-Qaeda refrained from promoting jihad in the kingdom. The Pakistani contact, high-ranking air force officer Mushaf Ali Mir, entered the equation at a 1996 meeting in Pakistan also attended by Zubaydah. Bin Laden struck a deal with Mir, then in the military but tied closely to Islamists in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), to get protection, arms and supplies for al-Qaeda. Zubaydah told interrogators bin Laden said the arrangement was "blessed by the Saudis." In a third meeting in Kandahar in 1998, Turki promises Taliban representatives that "more Saudi aid would flow to the Taliban, and the Saudis would never ask for bin Laden's extradition, so long as al-Qaeda kept its long-standing promise to direct fundamentalism away from the kingdom." In effect, the Saudis "had [bin Laden] on their payroll since the start of the decade."
- Zubaydah told the interrogators that the Saudis regularly sent the funds through three royal-prince intermediaries he named. All three of those princes died within days of each other: on July 22, 2002, Prince Ahmed died of a heart attack; on July 23, Prince Sultan bin Faisal bin Turki al-Saud was killed in a car crash; a week later, Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabir officially "died of thirst" while traveling east of Riyadh. Seven months later, Pakistani Air Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir died in a plane crash over the contested northwest frontier province of Pakistan. The deaths all occurred after CIA agents passed along Zubaydah's accusations to the Saudi and Pakistani interests. Zubaydah also claimed that "9/11 changed nothing" about the clandestine marriage of terrorism and Saudi and Pakistani interests, "because both Prince Ahmed and Mir knew that an attack was scheduled for American soil on that day." They couldn't stop it or warn the U.S. in advance, said Zubaydah, because they didn't know what or where the attack would be. And they couldn't turn on bin Laden afterward because he could expose their prior knowledge. While US authorities deny Zubaydah's testimony and Posner's conclusions, if true, it would prove what this site and many other sources have long alleged -- a direct connection between the Saudi government and al-Qaeda, with the Bush administration not only "in the know," but tacitly approving and protecting the secrecy of that connection. (Time)
- August 26: In an op-ed column in the New York Times, conservative columnnist Thomas Friedman speculates that the Bush administration may be contemplating reinstating the draft for the US military in order to continue the administration's plans for military domination of the Middle East. (New York Times/Middle East Information Center)
- August 28: Most US troops have been withdrawn from Saudi Arabia, ending a decade-long buildup started after the first war against Iraq's Saddam Hussein. US military officials have transferred back to the Saudis control of portions of Prince Sultan Air Base and deactivated the 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing that has operated there. "The end of (major combat operation in Iraq) and Saddam Hussein's government means the American military mission here is over," says Major General Robert Elder Jr. The withdrawal of American forces from Saudi Arabia was one of Osama bin Laden's major demands before and after the 9/11 attacks on American targets. A skeletal crew of a few hundred will remain in Saudi Arabia, and US forces will continue training with Saudi forces and holding joint exercises. (Houston Chronicle)
Executive Order 13315
- August 28: Bush signs Executive Order 13315, which essentially allows the total looting of Iraq by American oil corporations as licensed by the US government. It grants full and total legal immunity to these corporations for any actions taken while in Iraq, particularly for the removal of any properties, items, or holdings. The order expands on Executive Order 13303, signed in May. (IndyMedia, Executive Order 13315)
- August 28: Newly released documents show that Halliburton, Dick Cheney's "former" employer, has been awarded over $1.7 billion in no-bid contracts with the US military for operations in Iraq. The size and scope of the government contracts awarded to Halliburton in connection with the war in Iraq are significantly greater than was previously disclosed, and demonstrate the US military's increasing reliance on for-profit corporations to run its logistical operations. Independent experts estimate that as much as a third of the monthly $3.9 billion cost of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq is going to independent contractors. "The amount of money [earned by Halliburton] is quite staggering, far more than we were originally led to believe," says Congressman Henry Waxman. "This is clearly a trend under this administration, and it concerns me because often the privatization of government services ends up costing the taxpayers more money rather than less." Halliburton's stranglehold on US government contracts is so solid that even Bechtel withdraws from bidding on $1 billion worth of oil contracts in Iraq, complaining that Halliburton has an inside track. (Washington Post/CorpWatch, Amy and David Goodman)
GAO's final report on Cheney energy task force
- August 28: The General Accounting Office releases its final report on the Cheney Energy Task Force. The report was completed without the participation or cooperation of Cheney, and the GAO had no access to documents from the group. The GAO claims that Vice President Dick Cheney stymied their investigation of Cheney's 2001 energy task force by refusing to comply with legal requests to turn over documents pertaining to the task force. GAO Comptroller David Walker says, "This was the first time in the history of the agency that we were absolutely stonewalled and the first time during my tenure that we haven't been able to reach a reasonable accommodation with the subject." The report attempts to document which energy insiders and corporations have had the most access to, and influence on, the Bush administration's energy policies, but without the cooperation of the task force, is unable to draw many specific conclusions. Contrary to Cheney's August 9, 2001 claim that he has turned over sufficient documents to the GAO, the 77 pages that were given to the GAO are described as "useless." The report states, "The materials were virtually impossible to analyze, as they consisted, for example, of pages with dollar amounts but no indication of the nature or purpose of the expenditure." They are further described as "predominantly reimbursement requests, assorted telephone bills and random items, such as the executive director's credit card receipt for pizza." Cheney is apparently guilty of making false statements to Congress; it remains to be seen whether or not Congress will hold him accountable. "The extent to which submissions from any of these stakeholders were solicited, influenced policy deliberations or were incorporated into the final report is not something that we can determine based on the limited information at our disposal," reads the GAO report. (FindLaw, GAO, Arizona Daily Star, Reuters/WBUR)
- August 28: The Bush administration is now blaming "bogus defectors" who spread "disinformation" for its failure to find WMDs in Iraq. As evidence, officials say former Iraqi operatives have confirmed since the war that Hussein's regime sent "double agents" disguised as defectors to the West to plant fabricated intelligence. In other cases, Baghdad apparently tricked legitimate defectors into funneling phony tips about weapons production and storage sites. "They were shown bits of information and led to believe there was an active weapons program, only to be turned loose to make their way to Western intelligence sources," says a senior intelligence official. "Then, because they believe it, they pass polygraph tests...and the planted information becomes true to the West, even if it was all made up to deceive us." Another intelligence official says analysts may have been too eager to find evidence to support the White House's claims. As a result, he said, defectors "were just telling us what we wanted to hear." Common sense would wonder why Hussein would plant such bogus information, since suspicions about WMDs in Iraq would have strengthened the US's commitment to overthrown his regime, but the administration speculates that such disinformation may have been an attempt to "bluff" the US and other countries hostile to Iraq. (Los Angeles Times)
- August 28: Formmer US ambassador Peter Galbraith accuses the Bush administration of "abysmal planning" before, during, and after the Iraqi invasion, poor enough to lose track of everything from HIV virus strains to security documents. Galbraith, who served as ambassador to Croatia from 1993 to 1998, spent a month in Iraq beginning after the fall of Baghdad. He calls the post-war efforts of the US "catastrophic," and repeatedly uses the word "quagmire" in an attempt to draw a parallel between Iraq and Vietnam. Galbraith is not optimistic that Iraq will even exist as a separate country in 10 years; he believes it is very possible that the country will fragment along tribal and religious lines. (Brattleboro Reformer)
- August 28: In an amazing example of spin, Fox News attempts to downplay the deaths of Americans and Iraqis in Iraq by claiming that US soldiers would have more of a chance of dying in California: "Two hundred and seventy seven U.S. soldiers have now died in Iraq, which means that, statistically speaking, U.S. soldiers have less of a chance of dying from all causes in Iraq than citizens have of being murdered in California...which is roughly the same geographical size. The most recent statistics indicate California has more than 2,300 homicides each year, which means about 6.6 murders each day. Meanwhile, U.S. troops have been in Iraq for 160 days, which means they are incurring about 1.7, including illness and accidents, each day." This assertion, which was derived directly fron a statement by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, is specious on its face and falls apart under any analysis whatsoever. A Buzzflashreader did some quick calculations and proved that "a soldier in Iraq is 66 times more likely to be killed in combat or by accident than a person killed by homicide in California." Fox has yet to issue a retraction. (Fox News, Buzzflash)
- August 28: Huge orders of plywood bound for military use in Iraq have driven the price of plywood out of sight. This adds significantly to the cost of home and commercial construction. One supplier calls the price increases "unprecedented." Shortly after the 2001 US attack on Afghanistan, a similar, but smaller, order came from the Pentagon for use at the POW camp in Guantanamo Bay. Says an industry spokesperson, "Within days, I saw pictures on CNN of guard towers and holding cells made out of Southern pine plywood" (Raleigh News and Observer)
- August 29: Iraqi Shi'ite religious leader Ayatollah Mohammed Bakir Hakim, a moderate who advised closer cooperation with the US and a supporter of the Iraqi Governing Council, is killed in a car bombing of the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf. Hakim headed the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), an opposition group founded in 1982 and a voice for moderation in post-Hussein Iraq. His death removes his influence from SCIRI, which is locked in a growing rivalry with younger, more militant clerics seeking to give voice to Iraqis' growing frustration with the occupation. Without him, U.S. officials have lost their most important interlocutor with the Shiite community. "There's no political replacement for him," Sheik Hamid Ali Jaff, a 33-year-old cleric, says. "We'll have to wait many years for another replacement." At least 125 people died in the bombing. Two days later, an Iraqi member of the governing council quits in protest of the lack of security in Iraq. Mohammed Bahr al-Uloum tells the council that there is a "dangerous security void in Iraq, especially in Najaf." (Washington Post, Washington Post, CBS News, Guardian)
- August 29: William Beeman, Director of Middle East Studies at Brown University, predicts that the assassination of Shi'ite cleric Mohammed Bakir Hakim is the first step towards a major Iraqi civil war. He notes that before World War I, Iraq was three separate provinces in the Ottoman Empire, made up separately of Sunni Muslim Kurds, Sunni Arabs, and Shi'ite Arabs. After World War I, the British forced the three provinces together under a single Saudi Arabian ruler, Faisal, and forced the country to stay together by military fiat that favored the Sunni Arabs. Saddam Hussein was only able to keep the country together by the most ruthless totalitarian means. Beeman writes, "One of the most consistent and ominous prewar warnings to the Bush administration by Middle East experts was that removal of Saddam Hussein without the most careful political and social engineering would result in the breaking apart of Iraq into warring factions that would battle each other for decades. The hawks in the White House would not listen. They were so wedded to the fantasy scenario that the removal of Saddam in an act of 'creative destruction' would result in the automatic emergence of democracy. They brushed aside all warnings." Beeman believes that only careful and well-planned efforts can avoid the coming factional fighting. (Pacific News Service/Alternet)
- August 29: Alastair Campbell, the Blair administration's director of communications, announces his impending resignation. His place will be taken by David Hill, a former director of communications for the Labour party. While Campbell says that his decision to leave has been in place since April, many believe that his departure was inevitable due to the increasing perception that he was at the center of much of the Blair administration's spin and deception over the Iraq invasion. (Guardian)
- August 29: Israeli plans to bomb Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant exist, and may be triggered if the plant begins producing weapons-grade material. The plans are an attempt to ensure that Iran does not begin to develop a nuclear weapons program. Russia has signed an $800 million contract to provide two reactors for the plant near the port city of Bushehr. The United States opposes the deal, as well as any nuclear program in Iran. (Washington Times)
- August 30: Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, says that US forces in Afghanistan must curtail that country's drug trade because huge opium and heroin crops are being used by militants to finance their activities. "The terrorists and traffickers are the same people," he says. "You cannot fight the war against terror without going against drug trafficking." This is not the first time Costa has asked the US forces in Afghanistan to focus on the Afghani drug trade. In 2002, Afghanistan was the world's leading producer of opium poppies; the country is expected to lead opium production again in 2004. "Everyone is doing it, it is free at the moment, without penalty," says a local Afghani military official in Taloqan. "It really took off during the Taliban period and it is increasing now." (New York Times)
- August 30: On MSNBC's "saturday Final," author Ann Coulter dismisses US casualties in Iraq while disputing the idea that Iraq is becoming a Vietnam-like quagmire: "These are the same arguments, the precise same arguments that were being made before the war. It's going to be a quagmire. What is the plan? When do we get out? How much is it going to cost? Someone in the military might get his hair mussed. We heard all these arguments." Fellow guest Penn Jillette, a magician and Cato Institute fellow, retorts, "...This was not a hair muss; they died! They died! They did not get their hair mussed!"
- August 30: French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy believes that American journalist Daniel Pearl was killed to prevent him spilling "secrets." Levy claims that Pearl had uncovered dangerous secrets about the involvement of Pakistan's intelligence service with Islamic extremists. He also claims that British-born Islamic militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, convicted of killing Pearl, was in fact a double agent working for Pakistan's intelligence service, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Pearl was "kidnapped for one reason and he was killed for another," Levy says. "He was kidnapped obviously because he was American, Jewish and a journalist -- especially because he was American and Jewish in a country, in an area of the world where it is a crime to be Jewish and American. ...To be American and Jewish in Pakistan is not an identity, it is a sin -- it is a crime -- this is why he kidnapped." Once in the hands of his captors, Pearl was executed because of information he had unearthed about two sensitive areas. Pearl, according to Levy, had learned that Pakistan's nuclear program was far less controlled by the Pakistani government than is widely believed. Secondly, Pearl was working to uncover the identity of a shadowy Muslim operative named "Gillani," whom Levy describes as "one of the gurus of [Osama] bin Laden." Levy was France's special envoy to Afghanistan, and was sent to Pakistan to investigate Pearl's murder. (BBC)
- August 31: An American law firm with ties to the Bush administration has been hired to help set up a legal system in Iraq. The firm, Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, will earn "several million dollars" as a sub-contractor to Bearingpoint, formerly called KPMG consultants, as part of a $79.6 million deal to advise on the restructuring of Iraq. Squire, Sanders & Dempsey donated $41,350 to George W. Bush's election campaign in 2000, and earlier this year a Sanders partner, Ronald James, was made personnel chief of the new Department of Homeland Security. James used to work for Donald Rumsfeld, now Defense Secretary, when Rumsfeld was a member of Congress, and during the Nixon administration he shared a White House office with Dick Cheney, now Vice President. (Guardian)
- Late Summer: The summer issue of NATO Review contains a startling analysis of the psychological warfare techniques used before, during, and after the invasion of Iraq. Written by Lieutenant-Colonel Steven Collins, the chief of PSYOPS (psychological operations) in NATO's Operations Division at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, the article focuses on what Collins terms "perception-management operations." He defines perception management to mean "all actions used to influence the attitudes and objective reasoning of foreign audiences and consists of Public Diplomacy, Psychological Operations (PSYOPS), Public Information, Deception and Covert Action." He goes on to say, "It was surprising, even to PSYOPS practitioners, how often the term 'PSYOPS' was used in military briefings and by the press during Iraqi Freedom. In recent military operations, there has been a tendency to blur connotations and meanings by using fuzzier terminology, avoiding terms like psychological operations and opting for what is deemed by some to be more acceptable expressions like 'Information Operations' (INFO OPS)." The level of effort to shape public opinion both in American and abroad reached a level not seen since the end of the Cold War.
- Collins discusses one well-remembered example of shaping American public opinion, "embedding" reporters with a particular military unit during the war itself. "During the conduct of the military campaign, the Coalition attempted favourably to shape the world-wide perception of the conflict by a variety of measures, including that of 'embedding' reporters with military units scheduled to deploy. Although initially controversial, the decision to embed was, in retrospect, a brilliant move for several reasons. First, reporters who wanted to be embedded were forced to undergo a mandatory mini-boot camp, which gave many their first appreciation of the challenges faced by the average soldier. Second, embedding created an inevitable bond between reporters and the units they covered. And third, embedding made sense because it ensured the safety of the reporters and gave the world its first 'real-time coverage' of a battlefield. Because of the fluid nature of Iraqi Freedom, many more reporters would likely have been killed and captured had they been allowed to roam the battlefield freely." It has been shown that many reporters who were embedded were much more favorably inclined to report the news in a manner favoring the US military's, and consequently the administration's, own viewpoints.
- Collins also discusses the CIA's use of "black psyops," material purportedly produced by one source, but actually created by someone else, including that agency's "Radio Tikrit," which began broadcasting in February 2003. That radio station was supposedly set up by supporters of Saddam Hussein, and began by broadcasting messages of unconditional support for Hussein, but changed over the following weeks to become increasingly critical of the dictator. Text messaging and e-mails directly to Ba'ath party members was also quite effective. Collins believes that, like so many other aspects of the Iraqi occupation, the US gave short shrift to what kind of psyops should be implemented after the invasion was successful: "strangely, it appears that the Iraqi Freedom military planners gave little thought to developing a post-conflict PSYOPS capability in advance. As a result, Iranian agents, especially in southern Iraq, were in some instances able to fill the information vacuum, and the United States contracted companies to put virtually anything on the air rapidly to fill the void. This has led to some unintentionally amusing moments as the attention of the US media turned away from Iraq and contracted companies beamed parochial US news stories to bemused Iraqis." (NATO Review)