War with IranWhite was a senior Middle East analyst in the State Department's INR until March 2005. The INR was one of the few US intelligence agencies to consistently make relatively accurate predictions about Iraq's putative WMDs. "I've seen some of the planning.... You're not talking about a surgical strike," says White. "You're talking about a war against Iran" that likely would destabilize the Middle East for years. White makes his remarks to the Middle East Policy Council, a Washington think tank. "We're not talking about just surgical strikes against an array of targets inside Iran. We're talking about clearing a path to the targets" by taking out much of the Iranian Air Force, Kilo submarines, anti-ship missiles that could target commerce or US warships in the Gulf, and maybe even Iran's ballistic missile capability. "I'm much more worried about the consequences of a US or Israeli attack against Iran's nuclear infrastructure," which would prompt vigorous Iranian retaliation, he says, than civil war in Iraq, which could be confined to that country.
North Korean nuclear programThe top US nuclear envoy, Christopher Hill, expresses optimism that progress could be made when wider arms negotiations reconvene. North Korea's Foreign Ministry says that three days of talks in Berlin between Hill and North Korea's main nuclear negotiator Kim Kye Gwan had been held "in a positive and sincere atmosphere and a certain agreement was reached there." No further details are given as yet. But Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino says, "I think it's premature to say there is an agreement -- premature to say the least." Hill says the talks have laid the foundation for progress when six-nation nuclear negotiations resume and that he has agreed with his North Korean counterpart "on a number of issues. ...I am pretty convinced that we have the basis for a good session of the six-party talks," Hill says. The negotiating countries, which include South Korea, the US, Japan, China and Russia, had been seeking to outline how to implement a September 2005 agreement in which the North pledged to disarm in exchange for aid and security guarantees. A South Korean news report says the six-nation arms talks could resume in early February due to progress made at the Germany meetings. (AP/Yahoo! News)
Election fraudProsecutor Kevin Baxter says on the first day of the workers' trial, "The evidence will show that this recount was rigged, maybe not for political reasons, but rigged nonetheless. They did this so they could spend a day rather than weeks or months" on the recount. The 2004 presidential election was one of the tightest in modern history, with Ohio providing Bush his narrow margin of victory -- 118,000 votes out of over 5.5 million cast. Opponent John Kerry decided not to pursue an aggressive recount of Ohio ballots, a decision which may have been affected by the decision to fraudulently misrepresent the results in Cuyahoga County, a key Democratic stronghold. Witnesses testify that, two days before a planned recount, selected ballots were counted so the result would be determined. Defense attorneys counter that the election workers were just "doing it the way they were always doing it." Charged with various counts each of election misconduct or interference are Jacqueline Maiden, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections' coordinator, who was the board's third-highest ranking employee when she was indicted last March; Rosie Grier, assistant manager of the board's ballot department; and election worker Kathleen Dreamer. The most serious charge faced by each is a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison.
War with Iran"The president does not have the authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking congressional authorization," says Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid. Bush said last week that US forces will "seek out and destroy" networks providing that support. While top administration officials have said they have no plans to attack Iran itself, they have declined to rule it out. This week, the administration sent another aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf -- the second to deploy in the region. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the buildup was intended to impress on Iran that the four-year war in Iraq has not made America vulnerable, but military experts say that sending carrier groups into the Gulf is more likely intended as a threat towards Iran. The US is also deploying anti-missile Patriot missiles in the region. Reid's statement follows a statement by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden last week, who challenged Bush's ability to make such a move. In a letter to Bush, Biden asked him to explain whether the administration believes it could attack Iran or Syria "without the authorization of Congress, which does not now exist." Instead, says Lee Hamilton, the Democratic co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, the US must try to engage Iran and Syria in a constructive dialogue on Iraq because of the countries' influence in the conflict. "Do we have so little confidence in the diplomats of the United States that we're not willing to let them talk with somebody we disagree with?" Hamilton asks. (AP/Yahoo! News)
Iraq war and occupationThe White House calls Pelosi's assertion "poisonous." Pelosi says the war should not be "an obligation of the American people in perpetuity," she says. "The president knows that because the troops are in harm's way, that we won't cut off the resources. That's why he's moving so quickly to put them in harm's way," she says on ABC's Good Morning America. Pelosi says she cannot be sure that Bush deliberately manipulated the deployments to avoid congressional action; she says she hopes he did not but thinks that "he could have told us about it sooner. ...We found out about it as the troops were going in." Pelosi adds that Bush "has dug a hole so deep he can't even see the light on this. It's a tragedy. It's a stark blunder."
Mark Foley scandalRepublican House leaders had refused to attempt any such restructuring. The vote was 416-0 to equalize the political membership of the House Page Board, whose Republican chairman never told two board colleagues that he believed for a year that Foley was a "ticking time bomb." The expanded board also will include a former page and the parent of a current or former page, to add new pairs of eyes to spot any future examples of misconduct. In remarks before the vote, lawmakers express anger that the past board chairman, Republican John Shimkus, failed to convene the board when he learned in the fall of 2005 that Foley had sent overly friendly e-mails to a former Louisiana page. Frozen out were Democrat Dale Kildee, the new board chairman, and Republican Shelley Moore Capito, who will remain on the board. Shimkus will not be on the new board. The House ethics committee, in a December report on the scandal, said that after Foley resigned, Shimkus told Capito "that he believed he had done the right thing in 2005 based on the information he had, but added words to the effect of Dale's a nice guy, but he's a Democrat, and I was afraid it would be blown out of proportion." The House legislation resolution expands the board membership to eight, including the former page and the parent. There also would be four House members, equally divided by party, as well as the clerk of the House and the sergeant-at-arms, who are permanent members. The previous board had five members: three lawmakers -- two from the majority -- plus the clerk and sergeant-at-arms. Capito says the equal representation "takes it out of the political realm. There's no way there should be a partisan upper hand when talking about the governance of the page board." (AP/Forbes)
US Attorney firingsShea, an business lawyer with no prosecutorial experience, seems to have as his main qualifications his friendship with Bush -- the two attended Harvard together and keep in regular contact. Shea has voiced what the San Diego Union-Tribune terms "keen interest" in the position. Lam, like many US Attorneys around the country, have recently been fired using an obscure provision of the USA Patriot Act, and the trend seems to be to replace the fired attorneys with those more politically reliable. Like the other fired attorneys, Lam's strong record of fighting political corruption and drug crime provided no grounds for her dismissal. The top FBI official for San Diego says that Lam's dismissal would jeopardize several ongoing investigations. "I guarantee politics is involved," says special agent in charge Dan Dzwilewski. "It will be a huge loss from my perspective." Peter Nunez, who held Lam's post from 1982 to 1988, says he is "in a state of shock" from hearing the news of Lam's forced ouster. "It's just like nothing I've ever seen before in 35-plus years. To be asked to resign and to be publicly humiliated by leaking this to the press is beyond any bounds of decency and behavior. It shocks me. It really is outrageous."
Conservative smear campaignsOn Fox News, Fox and Friends host Steve Doocy features a segment that charges Obama attended an Islamic "madrassa" school when he was six years old. The charge comes from Insight magazine, a publication of the right-wing Washington Times. Of course, the charge is completely false, as is the implication that Obama is Muslim. Doocy tells his viewers that madrassas are "financed by Saudis" and "teach this Wahhabism which pretty much hates us," then declares, "The big question is: was that on the curriculum back then?" One caller plays cooperatively into the smear, wondering if Obama's schooling means that "maybe he doesn't consider terrorists the enemy." Fox co-anchor Brian Kilmeade responds, "Well, we'll see about that." Another caller says, "I think a Muslim would be fine in the presidency, better than Hillary. At least you know what the Muslims are up to." Co-anchor Gretchen Carlson responds, "We want to be clear, too, that this isn't all Muslims, of course, we would only be concerned about the kind that want to blow us up."
Republican corruptionIncoming governor Mike Beebe has found himself with no emergency funds for the last half of fiscal 2007. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette discovered the destruction of the hard drives after receiving documents and memos from Huckabee's office through a Freedom of Information Act request. A January 9, 2007 memo, written the same day as Beebe took office, from a state Department of Information System official to Huckabee, tells of the "disposition of data maintained" by the department "for the office of the governor" during Huckabee's tenure: "All drives have been subsequently crushed under the supervision of a designee of your office," wrote Gary Underwood, the agency's chief technology officer and a former Huckabee staff member. Huckabee spent over $13,000 to destroy the drives. The office still owes DIS $12,000 for the destruction, which was performed on 83 computer hard drives and four servers. The data was transferred to backup tapes, which were delivered to Huckabee's chief of staff, Brenda Turner. Beebe says he was startled to learn of the data destruction. "It certainly removes any opportunity to have any information," he says. He has never heard of such measures being taken before. Asked whether "crushing" hard drives should be considered a criminal offense of destroying state property, Beebe, the former state attorney general, says he doesn't know. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
Attack on civil libertiesJasson says he will sue the airline. Qantas officials say the shirt could have upset other passengers. Jasson, who earlier had flown another Qantas flight wearing the same shirt without incident, says Qantas has infringed on his freedom of speech. "I am not prepared to go without the T-shirt. I might forfeit the fare, but I have made up my mind that I would rather stand up for the principle of free speech," he says. Meanwhile, Qantas has issued a statement saying comments made verbally or on a T-shirt which had the potential to offend other travellers or threaten the security of aircraft "will not be tolerated." (Reuters)
Iraq war and occupation"I think that Cheney has stepped way over the line," Mondale says at the opening of a three-day conference about former President Jimmy Carter at the University of Georgia. Mondale was Carter's vice president. Mondale says Cheney and his assistants pressured federal agencies as they prepared information for Bush. "I think Cheney's been at the center of cooking up farcical estimates of national risks, weapons of mass destruction and the 9/11 connection to Iraq," he says. That does not serve the president, because he needs facts, Mondale says. "If I had done as vice president what this vice president has done, Carter would have thrown me out of there. I don't think he could have tolerated a vice president over there pressuring and pushing other agencies, ordering up different reports than they wanted to send us. I don't think he would have stood for it." (AP/Yahoo! News)
War with IranConason writes, "The answer to that simple question is far from clear, despite the thousands of lives and billions of dollars we have sacrificed to support the ruling coalition in Baghdad. While the Bush administration seeks to isolate and even overthrow the Iranian regime, as well as its Syrian ally, its partners in Iraq are establishing closer relationships with both." The government under the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, regularly colludes with the Iranian intelligence community, who Bush officials accuse of arming Iraqi insurgents and terrorists who attack US forces, commit sectarian atrocities, and undermine the attempts to form a democracy in Iraq. The Iraqi government has also resumed diplomatic relations with Syria, signed a huge aid agreement with Iran, and is encouraging the expansion of Iranian consulates and border stations. And al-Maliki's friendly relations with Iran are encouraged by Kurdish leaders such as President Jalal Talabani and Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who say they believe in secular democracy and consider themselves friends of the US. This dichotomy almost came to a violent head during the recent raid by US soldiers on an Iranian office in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil, when, briefly, Kurdish troops surrounded the Iranian office and aimed their weapons at American troops. Since then, Zebari has defended the Iranians, demanded their immediate release, and emphasized his government's plans to "engage [Iran] constructively."
Conservative media slantCase in point: William Kristol, the neoconservative icon, Fox News regular, editor of the Weekly Standard, and former chief of staff for then-vice president Dan Quayle. Corn writes, "Before the Iraq war, rightwing (and middle-of-the-road) pundits claimed Saddam Hussein was a dire WMD threat, that he was in cahoots with al-Qaeda, that the war was necessary. The neoconservative cheerleaders for war also argued that an invasion of Iraq would bring democracy to that nation and throughout the region. They were wrong. But they have paid no price for their errors. They did not have to serve in Iraq. None, as far as I can tell, have had sons or daughters harmed or killed in the fighting there. They did not have to bear higher taxes, because George W. Bush has charged the costs of this military enterprise to the national credit card. Though they miscalled the number-one issue of the post-9/11 period, they did not lose their influential perches in the commentariat. Charles Krauthammer, Richard Perle, Robert Kagan, Gary Schmitt, Danielle Pletka and others (including non-neocon Thomas Friedman) who blew it on Iraq still regularly appear on op-ed pages and television news shows, pitching their latest notions about Iraq, Iran or other matters."
Conservative media slantFirst, though, he gives the example of Democratric presidential candidate John Edwards, who in 2005 said of his 2002 vote to authorize Bush's invasion of Iraq, "I was wrong [and] I take responsibility." Not everyone is as candid as Edwards. Some examples:
Hurricane Katrina and FEMASome White House officials suggested only Louisiana should be federalized because it was run by a Democrat, Governor Kathleen Blanco, Brown tells a group of graduate students at a lecture on politics and emergency management at Metropolitan College of New York. Brown says he had recommended to Bush that all 90,000 square miles along the Gulf Coast affected by the hurricane be federalized, making the federal government in charge of all agencies responding to the disaster. "Unbeknownst to me, certain people in the White House were thinking we had to federalize Louisiana because she's a white, female Democratic governor and we have a chance to rub her nose in it," he says. Brown refuses to say who made the suggestions, but says he later learned of the situation from Blanco's office and from other officials on the federal level.
Jack Abramoff scandalThe sentence is three months longer than the Justice Department's recommendation, because, says Huvelle, Ney had violated the trust placed in him as a public official. "Both your constituents and the public trusted you to represent them honestly," she says. Ney, who claims to have committed the raft of crimes because of his alcohol addiction, apologizes for his transgressions and says, "I will continue to take full responsibility, accept the consequences and battle the demons of addiction that are within me." He will serve his time at a federal prison in West Virginia which has an alcohol abuse rehabilitation program. Huvelle says that Ney has a "long way to go to make amends" for his actions, and adds, "[W]hat baffles the court is what went wrong...an alcohol problem doesn't explain everything." Ney pleaded guilty last October to conspiracy and making false statements. He admitted that he traded official actions for disgraced lobbyist Abramoff for expensive trips, sports tickets, meals and campaign donations. So far seven people -- Abramoff, Ney and former associates Michael Scanlon, Tony Rudy, Neil Volz and Adam Kidan, and Interior Department official Roger Stillwell -- have pleaded guilty. Stillwell was sentenced to two years' probation. In June, David Safavian, the former top procurement officer at the Office of Management and Budget, was found guilty on four charges of making false statements and obstructing justice stemming from his dealings with Abramoff. He was sentenced to 18 months, but has appealed his conviction.
Iraq war and occupationReporters Michael Abramowitz and Peter Baker call their work "[a] reconstruction of the administration's Iraq policy review, based on more than a dozen interviews with senior advisers, Bush associates, lawmakers and national security officials...." (Editor's note: While critically valuable, Abramowitz's and Baker's analysis strikes me as being far too crediting of Bush's own decision-making and leadership skills. As we have learned from many, many other sources, it is far more likely that the decisions were made by Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and other senior officials both in Washington and in Riyadh, with Bush more the tail being wagged than doing the wagging. But certainly Bush's obduracy, intransigence, and belligerence played key roles in the decisions that were made.)
Iraq war and occupationHagel responds on CBS's Face the Nation: "Let me tell you this. I served in Vietnam in 1968. Others did too. Jim Webb, John McCain. John Kerry. Other members in the House. In 1968 when I was there with my brother, worst year, deaths, I would have welcomed the Congress of the United States to pay a little attention as to what was going on. I would have welcomed that. That is complete nonsense to say we're undercutting the support of the troops. What are we about? We're Article 1 of the Constitution. We are a co-equal branch of government. Are we not to participate? Are we not to say anything? Are we not to register our sense of where we're going in this country on foreign policy? Bottom line is this: our young men and women and their families, these young men and women who are asked to fight and die deserve a policy worthy of those sacrifices. I don't think we have one now." (CBSThink Progress [link to video])