"Iraq was put under occupation, which was an idiot decision." -- Iraqi vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi, January 25, quoted by Reuters
Prewar intelligence on IraqRockefeller charges Bush of running an illegal program by ordering eavesdropping on Americans' international e-mails and telephone communications without court-issued warrants. Rockefeller says that it is "not hearsay" that Cheney, a leading proponent of invading Iraq, pushed the former chairman, Senator Pat Roberts, to drag out the probe of the administration's use of prewar intelligence. "It was just constant," Rockefeller says of Cheney's interference. He adds that he knew that the vice president attended regular policy meetings in which he conveyed White House directions to Republican staffers. Republicans "just had to go along with the administration," says Rockefeller. Roberts' chief of staff, Jackie Cottrell, blames Democrats for the investigation remaining incomplete more than two years after it began, even though Democrats had little control of the scope and duration of the investigation. "Senator Rockefeller's allegations are patently untrue," says Cottrell. "The delays came from the Democrats' insistence that they expand the scope of the inquiry to make it a more political document going into the 2006 elections. Chairman Roberts did everything he could to accommodate their requests for further information without allowing them to distort the facts. And Roberts's former staff director, Bill Duhnke, adds, "I'm not aware of any effort by the vice president, his staff or anyone in the administration to influence the speed at which the committee did its work."
Lewis Libby perjury trialThe prosecution also presents new details about the depth of involvement Cheney had in leaking Plame's identity. Cheney and other White House officials, including Libby, planned to discredit Wilson, who had debunked White House claims that Iraq tried to purchase uranium from Niger, by outing Plame and accusing Wilson of being sent to Niger by his wife. Martin testifies that Cheney was the one coordinating the media campaign to out Plame and vilify Wilson, prompted by Wilson's blistering July 6, 2003 op-ed and his same-day appearance with Russert on Meet the Press. Martin, who says that both Cheney and Libby were "intensely interested" in both Wilson and Plame, testifies that Cheney "dictated" media talking points to her, including direct quotes from the National Intelligence Estimate, which had been declassified without her knowledge. And jurors learn that Libby was directed by Cheney to speak directly to reporters, bypassing the normal communications staff in the office of the vice president. Martin testifies that Cheney also wanted to tell reporters that US intelligence agencies concluded in a formal National Intelligence Estimate in October 2002 that Iraq did seek uranium, an assertion that flatly contradicted the facts. Additionally, Martin says that Cheney called the CIA while in her presence to ask about Plame's identity, and spoke to CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, who confirmed that Plame was a CIA agent and that Wilson went to Niger at the behest of the agency. She says Cheney ordered her to get all the facts out, but she did not think Plame's role was part of the story she had to tell. "It didn't seem appropriate or helpful for us to get that out," she testifies. "It gave me some explanation" of the affair, but "we didn't need it as a talking point."
Lewis Libby perjury trialThe memo confirms -- in flat contradiction to what many conservatives have alleged -- that everything Wilson said about the Nigerans, and about the circumstances surrounding his trip to Niger, is true. According to the INR memo, Wilson met with two key former Nigerien officials: former Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki and former Minister of Energy and Mines Boucar Mai Manga. The INR memo records that Wilson supported the INR position that the embassy was quite capable of reporting on this matter without his intervention. Wilson did not Joe was not advocating to go to Niger and his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, was not in the meeting when this issue came up. (She had only introduced him at the start of the meeting.) The CIA ultimately prevailed and sent Joe to Niger. In coordination with the US Ambassador to Niger, Wilson agreed to meet with only former officials who were knowledgeable about the uranium program. According to the INR memo, Mayaki told Wilson he had rebuffed an effort in June of 1999 to arrange a meeting with the Iraqis because he supported the US sanctions. He said, "[I]f there had been any rogue state during his tenure, he would have seen the contract." Manga said, "[T]here were no sales outside of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since the mid-1980s." He went on to tell Wilson that the uranium was tightly controlled and accounted for from the time it is mined until the time it is loaded onto ships.
Iraq war and occupationPelosi recalls asking Bush, "Mr. President, why do you think this time it's going to work?' And he said, 'Because I told them it had to.' ...That was the end of it. That's the way it is." (CBS fails to report Pelosi's followup question to Bush's "Because I told them I had to" retort. She asks, "Why didn't you tell them that the other two times?") Pelosi says Bush never consulted with her over his plans to send at least 21,500 more US troops to Iraq. In Bush's speech on Iraq more than two weeks ago, he said he had "consulted members of Congress from both parties," as well as overseas allies and distinguished outside experts. Bush and his top aides had a swirl of meetings with lawmakers from both parties. But Pelosi says she was not satisfied, particularly recalling a White House meeting the afternoon of the speech. "He brought us in to tell us what he was going to say in a matter of hours," she says. "It wasn't a consultation -- it was a notification. And a late-minute one at that." She adds, "I don't see any signal that the president is ready to listen. Nonetheless I pray -- and I use the word very, very specifically -- pray that he will go to another place on Iraq." (CBS News, AmericaBlog)
Iraq war and occupationSo far, the wars have cost American taxpayers $500 billion, with Bush ready to ask for another $100 billion. The Army alone expects to spend an extra $70 billion on an additional 65,000 permanent troops from fiscal year 2009 through 2013. According to Army officials, $18 billion of that will be spent on equipment.
Bush's economic policiesThe Democrats' bill, which would raise the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour over two years, is running aground on Republican filibusters. It takes 60 votes to break a filibuster; the latest vote was 54-43. Any hybrid bill featuring an array of corporate tax cuts will face serious opposition in the House.
Bush's economic policiesAccording to Labor Department reports, 325,000 newly laid-off workers filed claims for jobless benefits last week, an increase of 36,000 from the previous week. That is the biggest one-week rise since a surge of 96,000 claims the week of Sept. 10, 2005, when devastated Gulf Coast businesses laid off workers following Hurricane Katrina. The jump in jobless layoffs followed a string of reports showing the economy was performing at a better-than-expected pace at the end of 2006 and the beginning of the new year. It is difficult to use unemployment applications to measure real-world gains and losses because of the Bush Labor Department's decision to not count millions of long-term unemployed Americans in their numbers, thus inaccurately portraying employment numbers as far higher than they really are. (AP/ABC News)
Election fraudA third employee who had been charged was acquitted on all counts. Jacqueline Maiden, the elections coordinator who was the board's third-highest ranking employee when she was indicted last March, and ballot manager Kathleen Dreamer each were convicted of a felony count of negligent misconduct of an elections employee. The felony conviction carries a possible sentence of six to 18 months. Prosecutor Kevin Baxter says he still isn't sure that others were not involved in the recount tampering. "We'd like to listen to them if they had anything to say, if anyone else was involved with this," he says. "We still haven't been able to determine that." Since the 2004 elections, the board has since enacted reforms meant "to fully restore the public's confidence in the election process in Cuyahoga County," a spokesman says. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, AP/OpEd News/Daily Kos)
Iraq war and occupationDurbin is responding to Cheney's recent statements claiming "enormous successes" in Iraq, statements (reported above) that cast serious doubt on Bush's claims that he wants to work in a bipartisan manner with Congress. Like many others in Congress, Durbin blames Cheney for Bush's insistence on building up troop levels in Iraq rather than pulling out of the sectarian violence there after nearly four years and redeploying troops to Afghanistan and other terrorist trouble spots. "To have Vice President Cheney suggest that we have had a series of enormous successes in Iraq is delusional," Durbin says. "I don't understand how he can continue to say those things while the president calls them 'slow failure'." Bush used the term "slow failure" in a separate television interview earlier this month, saying that's where the situation would be headed unless another 21,500 troops were injected. (McClatchy)
US Attorney firingsCummins, like at least ten other US attorneys, has been fired and replaced with more politically correct appointees by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, using an obscure provision of the USA Patriot Act. Cummins says that his firing violates the presidential appointments clause of the Constitution. Many Democrats and others outside of the White House believe that the firings and replacements are to reward friends of Bush, and to punish prosecutors who have pursued convictions against Bush's political allies. Cummins is being replaced by Tim Griffin, a friend and former staff member of Karl Rove. Cummins, through his attorney John Wesley Hall, contends that the section of the Patriot Act that Gonzales is relying on is an attempted "end run" around the appointments clause, which mandates that the Senate confirm the president's appointees. "Under the Constitution, only the president can appoint a US attorney, not the attorney general, so this appointment is void," says Hall. Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse counters by saying that "Congress provided the attorney general the authority in federal law...to appoint a United States attorney because we must ensure that someone is able to carry out the important function of leading a US attorney's office in the event a vacancy arises. We have clearly stated our commitment to having a US attorney in every district who is confirmed by the Senate, and thus there is no merit to the assertion that we are using this authority in an attempt to circumvent the confirmation process." There has been no word as to when, or even if, Gonzales will ask for hearings for Griffin and the other Bush-friendly replacements. (Los Angeles Times)
Military-industrial complexCurrently Blackwater is preparing to undergo intense Congressional scrutiny on their financial relationship with the US government and with other firms such as Halliburton, and the possible corruption, graft, and fraud Blackwater may be guilty of taking part in. Blackwater has a $300 million contract with the State Department to protect US potentates in Iraq like ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, a contract dating back to 2003, when it provided security for CPA bigwigs like Paul Bremer. Bush's own plans to escalate the troop presence in Iraq means that Blackwater, and other firms like it providing mercenaries for the US government, will be ever more in demand.
War with IranThe administration also reveals that for over a year, US forces in Iraq have secretly detained dozens of suspected Iranian agents, holding them for three to four days at a time. The "catch and release" policy was designed to avoid escalating tensions with Iran and yet intimidate its emissaries. US forces collected DNA samples from some of the Iranians without their knowledge, subjected others to retina scans, and fingerprinted and photographed all of them before letting them go. Last summer, however, senior administration officials decided that a more confrontational approach was necessary, as Iran's regional influence grew and US efforts to isolate Tehran appeared to be failing. The country's nuclear work was advancing, US allies were resisting robust sanctions against the tehran government, and Iran was aggravating sectarian violence in Iraq. "There were no costs for the Iranians," says one senior administration official. "They are hurting our mission in Iraq, and we were bending over backwards not to fight back."
Iraq war and occupationMeanwhile, Defense Secretary Robert Gates warns that a proposed Senate resolution criticizing the deployment of additional troops would embolden the enemy. "Any indication of flagging will in the United States gives encouragement to those folks," Gates says. "I'm sure that that's not the intent behind the resolutions, but I think it may be the effect." At a retreat with House Republicans, Bush mocks Senate Democrats, telling the gathered Republicans that he finds it "ironic" that the same Senate Democrats who oppose his plan to send 21,500 more combat troops to Iraq would unanimously confirm Lieutenant General David Petraeus as the head of US forces in Iraq, when Petraeus helped design the escalation. Democrats respond angrily to Gates's comments, which were similar to what Petraeus said at his Tuesday hearing before his confirmation yesterday. "The American people will rightly dismiss these accusations as a desperate attempt by the administration to support a failed policy that is not worthy of the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform," says Senator Edward Kennedy. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer disputes Bush's suggestion that the Democrats have not come up with an alternative plan. Hoyer says the Democrats are united around the proposition that the United States should shift more responsibility to the Iraqis, begin a "phased redeployment" of troops and initiate more aggressive regional diplomacy to stabilize Iraq.
War with IranPerle makes his statements during a raucous discussion held as part of a PBS documentary to be aired in April. Perle is repeatedly booed and hissed during his portion of the discussion. According to Salon blogger Alex Koppelman, the discussion leader showed a video of Perle saying that "it would be a mistake to send Marines to Iran, and that it was not being contemplated." Perle then said that the quote had been filmed several months earlier and that he "can't say [the same] now." This past Sunday, the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported that Perle had said at a conference in Israel that Bush "will order an attack on Iran if it becomes clear to him that Iran is set to acquire nuclear weapons capabilities while he is still in office." Perle is quite close to Cheney and his office; Cheney's is the loudest voice pushing for a military confrontation with Iran. (Raw Story)
US Attorney firingsWhile some of the new appointees have strong legal credentials, few if any have any ties to the communities they are representing, and many have no experience as prosecutors. All of the new appointees held high-level White House or Justice Department posts. Gonzales is using an obscure provision of the USA Patriot Act to avoid Senate confirmation hearings, instead appointing the new prosecutors as interim appointees for indefinite terms. Many legal experts believe that the administration pushed for the change in the Patriot Act as part of its ongoing attempt to expand the power of the executive branch, a charge that administration officials deny. Being named a US attorney "has become a prize for doing the bidding of the White House or administration," says Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor who's now a professor at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. "In the past, there had been a great deal of delegation to the local offices. Now, you have a consolidation of power in Washington." Obviously, the new appointees' loyalties lay primarily with the Bush administration, and cannot be relied upon to aggressively pursue criminal cases against Bush friends or officials.
Media manipulation and marketing by GOPLogan has recently compiled a gritty story she calls "Battle for Haifa Street" that CBS refused to air, but merely posted on its Web site. In response, Logan sends out an e-mail to friends and colleagues asking for their help in lobbying CBS to air the piece. She calls it "a story that is largely being ignored even though this is taking place everysingle [sic] day in Baghdad, two blocks from where our office is located." The piece includes interviews with Iraqi civilians who complain that the US military presence is only making their lives worse and the situation more deadly. "They told us they would bring democracy, they promised life would be better than it was under Saddam," one told Logan. "But they brought us nothing but death and killing. They brought mass destruction to Baghdad." Logan's piece includes footage of dead bodies, "some with obvious signs of torture," as she points out. She also notes that her crew had to flee for their lives when they we were warned of an impending attack. While fleeing, another civilian was killed before their eyes. Logan says that her story is "not too gruesome to air, but rather too important to ignore.... It should be seen. And people should know about this."
2008 presidential electionsOutside of Hagel's outspoken opposition to the Iraq war, Hagel is an unreconstructed, unrepentant conservative. Carpenter lists Hagel's conservative qualifications: