War with IranShe notes that Bush has consistently said he supports a diplomatic resolution to differences with Iran, "and I take him at his word." She adds, "I do believe that Congress should assert itself, though, and make it very clear that there is no previous authority for the president, any president, to go into Iran."
Middle East unrestThough American authorities will say little about the huge arms fair, it is well known that allies of the Iraqi Sunni insurgents, including Saudi Arabia and Jordan, are buying arms and equipment to arm their comrades against their American and Shi'ite enemies in Iraq. "The growth of the official and unofficial Saudi and Jordanian support for the militants is one of the most worrying developments," says a senior British official. And Arab states are arming themselves in preparation for the US offensive against Iran -- either to help the US or the Iranians. No one is as yet sure what the arms will be used for, or who they will be used against. (First Post)
Iraq war and occupationThree top Government Accountability Office auditors overseeing contract work in Iraq tells the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that $10 billion in spending was wasteful or poorly tracked. They point to numerous instances in which Defense and State department officials condoned or otherwise allowed poor accounting, repeated work delays, bloated expenses and payments for work shoddily or never done by US contractors. And the problem will likely worsen, given limited improvement so far by the Department of Defense even as the Bush administration prepares to boost the US presence in Iraq. David Walker, comptroller general of the GAO, Congress' auditing arm, says his agency has been pointing out problems for years, only to be largely ignored or given lip service with little result. "There is no accountability," he says. "Organizations charged with overseeing contracts are not held accountable. Contractors are not held accountable. The individuals responsible are not held accountable. ...People should be rewarded when they do a good job. But when things don't go right, there have to be consequences."
US Attorney firingsThey want Gonzales to allow Lam to continue heading the corruption and fraud investigation into former Republican representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham and his cronies. Lam, two days after bringing indictments against Cunningham's business colleagues Kyle Foggo and Brent Wilkes (see above items), was notified that she was being replaced. Four House members, including the chairman of the Judiciacy Committee, John Conyers, and Rahm Emanuel, Howard Berman, and Linda Sanchez, send Gonzales a letter following up on Emanuel's first request that Lam be retained -- a letter that was ignored by Gonzales. The letter notes that not only Lam, but two other fired US attorneys, Daniel Bogdan of Nevada and Paul Charlton of Arizona, were dismissed while in the midst of investigating elected officials. "Carol Lam's indictments of Foggo and Wilkes underscore the importance of last week's request and the need for an explanation of why these diligent public servants were dismissed. It is vital that US Attorneys be able to prosecute wrongdoing free from political pressure." (TPM Muckraker)
Randy Cunningham corruption investigationThat prosecutor, Carol Lam, recently brought indictments against Wilkes and his cohort, former top CIA official Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, but Lam will not be continuing the investigation -- she was recently fired by the Department of Justice. Yesterday, Wilkes pleaded not guilty to improperly using his friendship with Foggo to land a $1.7 million contract in Iraq. He also pleaded not guilty to bribing former Republican representative Randy Cunningham to gain other contracts from the Defense Department. Foggo also pled not guilty to charges in the case.
Iraq war and occupationThe ABC report comes from information provided by the former chief of staff of the Washington Office of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Frederick Smith. In an interview, Smith says, "Some people were overlooked because they didn't meet the political saliva test." Smith says political appointees at the Pentagon, including a special assistant to the secretary of defense and White House liaison, James O'Beirne, led the screening. "We needed to get the best people out there," Smith says, "not just because they were a member of the Young Republicans Club at Michigan State." The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is now investigating the role of O'Beirne and allegations of what Democratic chairman Henry Waxman calls "an organized and systematic screening process." Waxman has also demanded all e-mails between O'Beirne and the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and "other think tanks, political parties or activists." Smith says he personally saw O'Beirne favor Republican candidates over others. "We did not send our A-team to Baghdad," Smith says, recounting how O'Beirne pushed for a candidate based on the fact that he had been involved in counting chads during the presidential election recount in Florida in 2000. Smith says he attempted to talk to O'Beirne about changing his hiring policies, but "that fell on deaf ears." (ABC News)
Secrecy of Bush administration"He should get a list of the executive orders for the last 200 years, as a guide, and choose what he wants to do," says an informal Bush adviser. One proposal that fiscal conservatives are pushing is to halve all capital-gains taxes, as a way to encourage investment and job creation. Some conservatives argue that even if Bush somehow regains his political footing, whatever he might work out with the Democratic majority in Congress wouldn't be very good legislation, so he should go the executive-order route and bypass Congress altogether.
"I'm not sure anything went wrong [in Iraq]." -- White House press secretary Tony Snow, February 15
Iraq war and occupation(See above item.) The reporter asks Snow, "What went wrong?" to which Snow responds, "I'm not sure anything went wrong." Snow, adopting the posture of a teacher patiently lecturing ignorant children, elaborates, "At the beginning of the Civil War, people thought it would all be over at Manassas. It is very difficult -- no, Jessica, the fact is, a war is a big, complex thing. And what you're talking about is a 2002 assessment. We're now in the year 2007, and it is well-known by anybody who has studied any war that war plans immediately become moot upon the first contact with the enemy. For instance, a lot of people did not think that we would have the success we had moving swiftly into Baghdad. All I'm saying is that -- what happens is, you're looking at a pre-war assessment, and there have been constant assessments ever since. A war is not a situation where you can sit down and neatly predict what exactly is going to happen. You make your best estimates, but you also understand that there are going to continue to be challenges, there are going to be things that you don't anticipate, there are going to be things that the enemy doesn't anticipate. And the most important task, frankly, is to continue to try to assess near-term and mid-term to figure out how best to address the situation."
Lewis Libby perjury trialO'Donnell says that Libby's guilt became obvious, if it wasn't already, when NBC's Tim Russert shattered Libby's claim that Russert had informed him of the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson. O'Donnell writes, "The multi-million dollar defense, which provided no defense at all, did not call Libby to the witness stand for one very simple reason: Libby is very very guilty. Publicly, defense lawyers cling to the text book theory that the defendant has no burden of proof and that no negative inference should ever be taken when a defendant doesn't defend himself on the witness stand. Practically, every defense lawyer knows that the jury desperately wants to hear from the defendant and that the only reason not to put him on the stand is that he is soooo guilty that every answer he gives after his name will eradicate any shred of reasonable doubt. Think about it. Your whole life is at stake in the outcome of a criminal trial. You're innocent. And you don't testify in your own defense? Around the courthouse when defense lawyers are chatting about their cases, the only question they ask each other is can you put your guy on the stand? Those conversations always assume the defendant is guilty. The question is just about the degree of difficulty in presenting a defense."
Iraq war and occupationSchoomaker says that US commanders in Iraq have requested an additional 2,500 soldiers to serve as embedded trainers for Iraqi forces, and 5,000 to 6,000 additional soldiers could be needed to provide logistical and other support to the five Army combat brigades flowing into Baghdad. "We are having to go to some extraordinary measures to ensure we can respond," and adds that even then he can't guarantee the combat units would receive all the translators, civil affairs soldiers and other support troops they request. "We are continuing today to get requests for forces that continue to stress us." Schoomaker says that he expressed his concerns about Bush's plans to escalate American troop levels in Iraq, and spoke out to Bush and Defense Secretary Robert Gates about his worries that the escalation would further deplete Army units at home. "We laid out...exactly what the risks are in terms of other contingencies...to include my concerns about the lack of adequate dwell time," he says, referring to the fact that active-duty soldiers now spend only about a year at home between 12-month war zone rotations.
Congressional oversight"I think you've got a lot of explaining to do," says Democrat David Obey. "A huge majority of the funds in the supplemental are for military, not political or economic or reconstructive, purposes." Republican Frank Wolf tells Rice that the administration must increase its diplomatic engagement with Iraq's neighbors in the Middle East, especially in light of the tremendous expenditures being made by the Bush administration. "I plead with you, I beg of you," Wolf says, "if we're going to ask a young man or woman in our military to go to Iraq three different times, it's not asking too much...to send somebody to engage with regard to the Syrians." Rice responds to Wolf, "We don't have an ideological problem with talking to Syria, [but] there just isn't any evidence that they're trying to change their behavior."
War with IranAccording to Parsi, Ney, who is now serving 30 months in jail for his role in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, took a copy of the Iranian proposal to the White House, where it was delivered specifically to Rove. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has denied ever seeing the proposal. Parsi says the proposal was delivered to Rove the same week that the State Department received it by fax, which was on or about May 4, 2003, according to the cover letter accompanying it. Ney was chosen by Swiss Ambassador in Tehran Tim Guldimann to carry the Iranian proposal to the White House, according to Parsi, because he knew the Ohio congressman to be the only Farsi-speaking member of Congress and particularly interested in Iran. Guldimann helped the Iranians draft the proposal and passed it on the United States. Bush officials have implied that Guldimann may have forged the proposal, a ludicrous accusation without any evidence or motive.
Iraq war and occupation17 Republicans join the vast majority of Democrats to pass the two-sentence resolution, 246-182. The Senate will bring the measure up for debate tomorrow, but it is likely Senate Republicans will block the measure from even being brought to the floor.
US Attorney firingsUS attorney H.E. "Bud" Cummins was fired after then-White House counsel Harriet Miers intervened on behalf of his replacement, former Rove aide Timothy Griffin. The evidence is provided by Congressional aides who were briefed on the matter. According to the aides, Miers telephoned an aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and suggested that Griffin replace Cummins. Griffin is a former military prosecutor with little civilian prosecutorial experience, but most of his experience is political, having most recently served as a political director for the Republican National Committee and as Rove's deputy. Shortly after Miers's phone call, Cummins was fired without explanation and replaced on an "interim" basis by Griffin.
US torture allegationsThe trial will begin June 8, though it is highly unlikely that the Bush administration will allow the Americans -- all but one CIA agents -- to be extradited. Prosecutors say that five Italian intelligence officials worked with the Americans to abduct terror suspect Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr from a Milan street on February 17, 2003. (See earlier items on Nasr's kidnapping and the resultant court case.) Nasr was taken to the Aviano Air Force base near Venice, and then flown to the US airbase in Ramstein, Germany. From there, he was flown to Egypt, where he was tortured by Egyptian interrogators under the supervision of the CIA. The 26 Americans include the former station chiefs in Rome and Milan, and a US Air Force officer stationed at the time at Aviano. The CIA refuses to discuss the matter, and Italy's intelligence agency, SISMI, says it was not involved in Nasr's kidnapping.
George W. BushNeuharth writes, "I remember every president since Herbert Hoover, when I was a grade school kid. He was one of the worst. I've personally met every president since Dwight Eisenhower. He was one of the best. A year ago I criticized Hillary Clinton for saying "this [Bush] administration will go down in history as one of the worst.' 'She's wrong,' I wrote. Then I rated these five presidents, in this order, as the worst: Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan, Ulysses Grant, Hoover and Richard Nixon. 'It's very unlikely Bush can crack that list,' I added. I was wrong. This is my mea culpa. Not only has Bush cracked that list, but he is planted firmly at the top." Neuharth says that four "Bushisms" will follow him through the course of history as marking the abject failures of his presidency: "Shock and Awe," early 2003; "Mission Accomplished," May 1, 2003; "Stay the Course," June 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006; and "New Strategy," 2007. "Is he just a self-touted decider doing what he thinks right? Or is he an arrogant ruler who doesn't care or consider what the public or Congress believes best for the country? Despite his play on words and slogans, Bush didn't learn the value or meaning of mea culpa...during his years at Yale. Bush admitting his many mistakes on Iraq and ending that fiasco might make many of us forgive, even though we can never forget the terrible toll in lives and dollars." (USA Today)