War with IranHillary Mann, the former director for Iran and Persian Gulf Affairs on the National Security Council under Condoleezza Rice during Bush's first term, says, "When they state that the Iranians are building support networks to kill US soldiers -- I mean, I went to Harvard Law School, and that's a casus belli. Nick Burns recently invoked Article 51 of [the] UN charter. That's the right to self-defense. That means you don't need another UN Security Council resolution to go to war." Burns later backs away from the statement, saying that his invocation of Article 51 is not directed toward justifying war in any way, but is merely a general statement of any state's right to self-defense. "We are not planning offensive military operations against Iran," Burns says. "We are definitely on a diplomatic path. I do not believe that military conflict with Iran is inevitable or desirable." But Mann says that Bush and his senior officials, particularly Dick Cheney, have any real interest in diplomacy with Iran. "I think the president does believe the Iranian government is fundamentally illegitimate, and as long as Iran stays that way there will never be the freedom that needs to be brought to the Middle East," she says. "I attended meeting after meeting on Iran for years. This was the tenor of the discussions, that the Iranian government was shaky, a ripe apple on the tree.... And I don't think war fever has ever abated." (MSNBC)
War with IranIranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says. Speaking to a gathering of Iranian air force commanders, Khamenei says, "The enemy knows well that any invasion would be followed by a comprehensive reaction to the invaders and their interests all over the world." (AP/Guardian)
Iraq war and occupationThe CBO reports that so far the Iraq occupation has cost US taxpayers $351 billion. The total amount, approved and requested, by the Bush administration is $532 billion. The CBO uses two scenarios to extrapolate costs over the next years. First, under a "stay the course" scenario with a gradual drawdown that leaves 75,000 soldiers overseas in 2013 and each year thereafter, the cost would be $919 billion for the next ten years. The second scenario proposes a faster drawdown, leaving only 30,000 military personnel overseas over the 2010–2017 period, although not necessarily in Iraq and Afghanistan. The cost of that plan would be $472 billion for the next ten years. The CBO admits that its extrapolations are, by their very nature, uncertain. "The President has announced a plan to increase the number of military personnel deployed to Iraq, but it is not clear how many troops will be involved, how long the size of deployed forces will remain elevated, or what the nature of the United States' long-term military commitment in Iraq and elsewhere will be." it states. (Think Progress)
War with IranBut in June 2006, the Washington Post reported that administration officials, which certainly included Rice, were well aware of the overtures. The Post reported then that the State Department received via fax the Iranian proposals: "It was a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table -- including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups. But top Bush administration officials, convinced the Iranian government was on the verge of collapse, belittled the initiative. Instead, they formally complained to the Swiss ambassador who had sent the fax with a cover letter certifying it as a genuine proposal supported by key power centers in Iran, former administration officials said."
Iraq war and occupationThe details of the disappearance of 363 tons of bills, sent from the Federal Reserve in New York City to Baghdad in C-130 cargo planes, are being revealed in hearings conducted by the House (see items above). Committee chairman Henry Waxman says the way the cash had been handled was mind-boggling. "The numbers are so large that it doesn't seem possible that they're true," he says. "Who in their right mind would send 363 ton of cash into a war zone?" The committee details the casual manner in which the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority disbursed the money, which came from Iraqi oil sales, surplus funds from the UN oil-for-food program and seized Iraqi assets. "One CPA official described an environment awash in $100 bills," a committee memorandum reports. "One contractor received a $2 million payment in a duffel bag stuffed with shrink-wrapped bundles of currency. Auditors discovered that the key to a vault was kept in an unsecured backpack. They also found that $774,300 in cash had been stolen from one division's vault. Cash payments were made from the back of a pickup truck, and cash was stored in unguarded sacks in Iraqi ministry offices. One official was given $6.75 million in cash, and was ordered to spend it in one week before the interim Iraqi government took control of Iraqi funds." The minutes from a May 2004 CPA meeting reveal "a single disbursement of $500 million in security funding labelled merely 'TBD', meaning 'to be determined'." The memo concludes: "Many of the funds appear to have been lost to corruption and waste...thousands of 'ghost employees' were receiving paychecks from Iraqi ministries under the CPA's control. Some of the funds could have enriched both criminals and insurgents fighting the United States."
Military-industrial complexIt is, however, a Christmas list for Pentagon officials and defense contractors eager to lap up billions in taxpayer funding for their pet projects. The military budget, presented as necessary for supporting the troops in the Middle East, seeks $400 million this year alone to fund a pair of F-35 fighters, even though the new model of plane won't be ready for combat until at least 2010. It also contains $74 million to begin designing a spy plane that won't be tested for two years. In the war budget, the Pentagon lists the planes among the costs of "reconstituting the force," or replacing equipment lost in battle. The administration has requested more than $51 billion in such replacement spending for the rest of this year and next. In 2005, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the price tag for replacing equipment lost in Iraq would be no more than $8 billion each year. "There are a number of reasons to be suspicious" that programs requested as war spending may not go to the war, says Steve Kosiak, a defense budget specialist at the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington. "Reconstitution costs have really jumped. That's a big question mark."
Iraq war and occupationGOP senator John Warner, who voted against the resolution he co-authored, writes a letter signed by six other Republican senators saying that they may attach the Warner-Levin resolution to any bill sent to the Senate for a vote in the coming weeks. The senators -- Warner, Chuck Hagel, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Norm Coleman, Gordon Smith, and George Voinovich -- write to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, calling the war "most pressing issue of our time" and declaring, "We will explore all of our options under the Senate procedures and practices to ensure a full and open debate." GOP senators are reeling under a firestorm of criticism over their two-faced tactics in pretending to support the resolution, then uniting -- along with "Democrat" Joseph Lieberman -- in voting to block debate on it. "Monday's procedural vote should not be interpreted as any lessening of our resolve to go forward advocating the concepts" of the resolution, the letter says. "The current stalemate is unacceptable to us and to the people of this country."
Lewis Libby perjury trialRussert spends most of his time defending his memory, ethics, and credibility under harsh questioning from Libby's lead defense attorney Theodore Wells. Yesterday, Russert testified that he never discussed outed CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson with Libby, refuting Libby's contention that he first learned of Plame's identity from Russert (after "forgetting" he learned it in June from his boss, Dick Cheney). Wells tries to suggest Russert was eager to see Libby face charges, and played a video clip of Russert discussing the impending indictment with MSNBC's Don Imus in which Russert joked and laughed in describing his anticipation of a big news story the day Libby was indicted in October 2005. Russert asserted to Imus the day was "like Christmas Eve." Russert explains he was eager for the story to unfold like any big event. "Did you take joy in Mr. Libby's indictment?" Fitzgerald asks during follow-up questioning. "No, not at all," Russert says. "And I don't take joy in being here," in the courtroom as a witness. Fitzgerald rests the government's case.
US Attorney firingsThe change will revert the law back to what it was before a member of Republican senator Arlen Specter's staff, acting on behalf of the Justice Department, surreptitiously inserted a measure in the USA Patriot Act reauthorization that allows the administration to appoint US Attorneys in perpetuity without Senate confirmation. Three Republicans, including Specter, vote for the change. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he will "do everything I can" to bring the bill to the floor.
US Attorney firingsAt least seven US attorneys have been fired in recent weeks and replaced by political cronies of Bush and other Republicans. The Judiciary Committee voted 13-6 to send the measure to the Senate floor, where it is certain to face opposition from Republicans who oppose giving more appointment power to federal judges. (Federal judges, not the Department of Justice, used to nominate US attorneys.) Three Republicans -- Arlen Specter, Charles Grassley, and Orrin Hatch -- joined all the panel's Democrats in backing the bill. The measure will eliminate a provision in the USA Patriot Act that gave the attorney general new power to replace fired US attorneys indefinitely, avoiding the Senate confirmation process. It will allow the attorney general to appoint an interim US attorney for 120 days. If after that time someone had not been nominated and confirmed by the Senate, authority to appoint an interim US attorney would fall to the district court. The bill would apply to any interim US attorneys who have not been confirmed, including those appointed to replace the seven prosecutors who have been fired since the Patriot Act reauthorization went into effect.
US Attorney firings"I was ordered to resign as US attorney on December 7 by the Justice Department," says McKay, who until recently headed the DOJ's Western Washington office. "I was given no explanation. I certainly was told of no performance issues." McKay has chosen before now not to comment on his resignation. McKay is speaking out now in part because on February 7, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Justice Department has fired McKay and six other US attorneys in the West because of "performance-related" reasons he would not divulge.
Congressional oversightDays after Jennifer Esposito became majority staff director of the House transportation panel's subcommittee on railroads, her father, Sante Esposito (the former chief council of the subcommittee), and brother Michael Esposito (like Jennifer, a former committee intern) signed up as railway lobbyists. House Democrat Daniel Lipinski has just taken a seat on the subcommittee, and in the coming weeks his father and predecessor in Congress, William Lipinski, will register as a railroad lobbyist as well. The new lobbyists join Bud Shuster, a former Republican congressman and chairman of the transportation committee who lobbies for railroads and whose son, Bill Shuster, also a Republican, has just joined the railroads subcommittee. It is legal for family members (although not spouses, in some instances) to lobby Congressional members, mostly because no one has ever thought to ban it.
Iraq war and occupationBudowsky writes in part, "For four years of failure and bloodshed in the Iraq war, you have issued warnings, concerns, sage advice, and major suggestions for change. For four years, the man who calls himself the Decider has given you nothing but contempt for your views, confident that in the end, you would vote with your party. For four years, you have proven him brilliantly right in his judgment of you, as he was deadly wrong in his conduct of war. For four years, you advised no, and voted yes."
War with Iran"I think there's some serial numbers, there may be some markings on some of the projectile fragments that we found" that point to Iran, he says. Gates's statement is the first "hard" evidence of Iranian complicity with Iraqi insurgents who are targeting American forces in Iraq -- while the rhetoric has been strong, the evidence has been lacking. (As noted later in this site, Gates is wrong about the Iranian connection.) Gates's claims about Iranian bombs will be included in the so-called "Iran dossier" to be released, in attempts to prove administration claims about Iran's involvement with Iraqi insurgents. The dossier also includes claims that Iranians are training Iraqis in military techniques.
War with IranUnfortunately, reporter Michael Gordon, who collaborated with former Times reporter in spreading administration-sourced propaganda and misinformation in the runup to the Iraq invasion, relies on anonymous sources who provide no hard evidence of the charges. The allegation is being used as justification for potential military action against Iran by administration officials, but if the allegation is false -- as it is later proven, see items below -- then Gordon and the Times are once again planting misinformation in America's most influential newspaper. Gordon writes, "The assertion of an Iranian role in supplying the device to Shiite militias reflects broad agreement among American intelligence agencies, although officials acknowledge that the picture is not entirely complete." Throughout the article, Gordon cites interviews with "civilian and military officials from a broad range of government agencies" who have "provided specific details to support what until now has been a more generally worded claim, in a new National Intelligence Estimate, that Iran is providing 'lethal support' to Shi'ite militants in Iraq." But neither Gordon nor his anonymous sources provide any basis for the allegations.
Prewar intelligence on IraqFeith's office "was predisposed to finding a significant relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda," according to portions of the report. Feith's assessment in 2002 that Iraq and al-Qaeda had a "mature symbiotic relationship" was not supported by available intelligence but was nonetheless used by policymakers. The Democratic head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, calls the report "very damning," and says, "That was the argument that was used to make the sale to the American people about the need to go to war." The Pentagon's work, "which was wrong, which was distorted, which was inappropriate...is something which is highly disturbing. ...The bottom line is that intelligence relating to the Iraq-al-Qaeda relationship was manipulated by high-ranking officials in the Department of Defense to support the administration's decision to invade Iraq. The inspector general's report is a devastating condemnation of inappropriate activities in the DOD policy office that helped take this nation to war." However, the IG report says that such intelligence manipulation, while clearly unethical and wrong, is not illegal -- probably because no one has ever considered the need to make such intelligence manipulation illegal.
Prewar intelligence on Iraq(See the above items for more information.) Among those that will be called, says Levin, include national security advisor Stephen Hadley and former Cheney chief of staff Lewis Libby. Both received a briefing from the defense secretary's policy office in 2002 on possible links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's government. The committee will likely have to subpoena Hadley and Libby to compel their testimony. The two may also be asked to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Iraq war and occupationThe CFR report, written by Stephen Simon, says that a US military victory is impossible in Iraq, where "amateurish" post-invasion rule by American officials had seen Iraq collapse into civil war. "The United States has already achieved all that it is likely to achieve in Iraq," Simon writes. "Staying in Iraq can only drive up the price of those gains in blood, treasure and strategic position. The time has come to acknowledge that the United States must fundamentally recast its commitment to Iraq. It must do so without any illusions that there are unexplored or magic fixes, whether diplomatic or military. ...Some disasters are irretrievable." According to the CFR report, the US invasion "plunged the country into a civil war that brought about the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, wrecked the country's already debilitated infrastructure, and spurred violent sectarian rivalries. ...The crisis has now moved beyond the capacity of Washington to control on its own.... The United States lacks the military resources and the domestic and international political support to master the situation." Simon also says that the administration's focus on Iraq has left the situation in Afghanistan adrift, allowing the Taliban to regroup and once again threaten the US in the region. "By siphoning resources and political attention away from Afghanistan, a continuing military commitment to Iraq may lead to US losses in southwest Asia," Simon writes. American failures since the March 2003 invasion had cost Bush public support at home, making military disengagement inevitable, the report warns. "It is now just a matter of time. Better to withdraw as a coherent and somewhat volitional act than withdraw later in hectic response to public opposition to the war in the United States." (AFP/Yahoo! News)
US Attorney firingsConason calls it Gonzales's "coup d'etat." Strong words, but backed by the realities of the situation: Conason writes, "Again, the White House and the Justice Department have been exposed in a secretive attempt to expand executive power for partisan purposes. And again, their scheming is tainted with a nasty whiff of authoritarianism. There is much more at stake here than a handful of federal jobs."
Conservative media slantToday's journalists no longer have the freedom or the resources "to expose truths that powerful politicians and special interests often did not want exposed," he says during a speech at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. Instead, "they face rounds and rounds of job cuts and cost cuts that require them to do ever more with ever less." Cronkite warns, "It's not just the journalist's job at risk here. It's American democracy. It is freedom."