- November: The US announces its intention to withdraw from supporting the treaty it signed at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development unless radical changes are made to the treaty's provisions. The US delegation, staffed by a group of right-wing activists, demands all references to "reproductive rights" and "reproductive health services" be dropped; one delegate insists that "natural family planning methods" such as the infamous "rhythm method" are perfectly acceptable alternatives until corrected by an Iranian delegate who happens to be an OB-GYN. The US loses the contested votes 31-1 and 32-1. The US insists on appending a "general reservation" to the document that asserts, in flat contradiction to US law and natural science, "Because the United States supports innocent life from conception to natural death, the United States does not support, promote, or endorse abortions, abortion-related services or the use of abortifacients." The fact that abortions and "abortifacients" such as birth-control pills are perfectly legal in the US does not faze the delegates. (Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose)
CIA officials murder Iraqi prisoner
- November: CIA officials, possibly with the participation of Army military intelligence officials, beat an Iraqi prisoner, Manadel al-Jamadi, to death in the showers of Abu Ghraib prison. Details of Jamadi's death are not made public until May 2004 (see that month's entry for more). Jamadi's body is packed in ice for 24 hours, then is wheeled out of the prison on a stretcher with a fake IV inserted into his arm. Military and CIA officials attempt to keep his death a secret for months. (Seymour Hersh)
- November: American GIs turn a military dog loose on a group of civilians during a sweep in Ramadi, a town west of Falluja, according to Cliff Kindy, a member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams observing human rights in Iraq. After rounding up about thirty people, a firefight breaks out nearby; the handcuffed detainees are shoved into a house, where the soldiers "turned the dog loose inside the house, and several people were bitten." Major General Charles Hines, the former commandant of the Army's military police school, is horrified by the report. "Turning a dog loose in a room of people? Loosing dogs on prisoners of war? I've never heard of it, and it never would have been tolerated." Hines notes that police dogs are routinely used by MPs for sniffing out drugs and, occasionally, for riot control, but "I never would have authorized it for interrogating or coercing prisoners. If I had, I'd have been put in jail or kicked out of the Army." Nothing is done to punish the GIs involved in the incident. The story adds to those told in 2004 of soldiers routinely turning dogs on prisoners in Abu Ghraib; one military intelligence witness, Specialist John Harold Ketzer, will tell Army investigators of one incident where he saw a dog team cornering two male prisoners against a wall in Abu Ghraib, with one prisoner cowering behind the other and screaming. The prisoners were not being interrogated; when Ketzer asked what was going on, he was informed by the handler that "he and another of the handlers was having a contest to see how many detainees they could get to urinate on themselves." (Seymour Hersh)
Baghdad CIA station chief hounded into resigning over grim assessment of rising insurgency; other CIA officers learn to keep their assessments rosy
- Early November: The CIA's Baghdad station chief comes to the Tiger Forward Operating Base, the center of operations of the Army's Third Armored Cavalry, in an old train station on the outskirts of the town of al-Qa'im, 200 miles northwest of Baghdad. An army commander tells the station chief matter-of-factly, "The war is about to begin." He explains that over the last few weeks, something new is brewing: Iraqi insurgents are coalescing, exhibiting in their methods greater command, control, and sophistication. The insurgents are gearing up for a new and deadly phase in their attempts to fight a guerrilla war against the American occupation forces. The commander's observations tally with the CIA station chief's own information he has put together. The relatively broad popular support enjoyed by the Americans since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein is unraveling; now the US is facing a well-armed guerrilla force with near-unlimited resources, dedicated to throwing the Americans and their provisional government out of Iraq. The station chief issues a report to his Washington superiors, making the grim prediction that the US could soon begin to lose a war it had thought already won, and pulls no punches in describing the power vacuum that had arisen after the Americans occupied Iraq. The report, a formal assessment called an AARDWOLF (the nickname for such a report, handed down through generations of CIA officers), travels to Washington and the attention of senior CIA officials.
- The November AARDWOLF, titled "The Expanding Insurgency in Iraq," reports that the insurgency in central and northern Iraq is gaining momentum and beginning to tip the balance against the US. The insurgents are "self-confident and believe they will ultimately succeed in returning to power as they have in the past." The rebels know that America's political will is "wavering" and the pressure from the US military is not seriously impeding their efforts. They are far more agile than the military, the report warns, and are taking advantage of the fact that the US has not as yet developed a clear message that is resonating with the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people realize that, though divested of official power, Hussein's Ba'athists are still powerful, and in the Sunni heartland, the Ba'athists appear "largely unchallenged." The Husseinists had been taken off balance by the speed in which the Americans took over their country, and had melted away into the countryside. But now, seeing little direction from the Americans in establishing a strong government, they are reforming. "By the end of the summer," the report states, "the continued sense of isolation in the Sunni heartland, the complete dissolution of the army and other institutions of security, rigid de-Ba'athification, and the lack of economic opportunities or political direction gave these regime elements the confidence they needed to repair their networks and reestablish themselves. The ease with which the insurgents move and exist in Baghdad and the Sunni heartland is bolstering their confidence further."
- Unfortunately for the station chief's career, the prescient and clear-minded AARDWOLF has the opposite effect of what he had hoped. As reporter James Risen notes, the chief "had committed the unpardonable sin of telling the truth." Some CIA officials initially praise the report, with one telling the station chief it was the best AARDWOLF he had ever read. The report clearly caught the attention of senior officials in the White House and the Pentagon, and the station chief is asked to personally brief Bush. But, it isn't what these officials want to read. Senior military officials in Baghdad begin complaining that the report "blindsided" them, and tensions between the CIA and the Pentagon, already high, begin to further escalate. The station chief suddenly finds himself battling all kinds of accusations about his personal life, and, fearing that he is about to be made a scapegoat, quits the CIA in disgust. (This is actually his second AARDWOLF, having already written one in August 2003 that said, correctly, that the UN bombing of August 19 was part of a strategy to discredit and isolate the US-led coalition, and warning that the insurgents have the capability to mount many more devastating attacks against "soft targets." The August AARDWOLF correctly identified two strands of insurgent violence -- one from foreign jihadists and the other from native Iraqis -- and stated that there was "no shortage" of combatants. It also predicted that the capture of Saddam Hussein would not end the insurgency, because he isn't leading it. Instead of acting on the report, CPA administrator Paul Bremer writes a tart rejoinder, downplaying the grim analysis, calling the fighting in Iraq a "low-intensity conflict," and saying that, despite the naysaying from the station chief, excellent progress is being made in Iraq.) Within days of his briefing of Bush, the station chief is told he will not be returning to Baghdad; he quits the CIA shortly thereafter.
- Former CIA officials tell a different story, saying the station chief had found himself managing a station he was too young and inexperienced to handle, having grown from a station of about 70 staffers into the largest CIA station in the world, with over 300 staffers, and the station chief had failed to adequately monitor situations such as the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. But the station chief is not the only CIA official to have his career jeopardized for telling unwanted truths about Iraq. After the station chief's sudden resignation and other such incidents, veteran CIA officers quickly learned to keep their mouths shut. "When I read that November AARDWOLF," recalls a CIA colleague, "I thought that he was committing career suicide." Other CIA officials in Baghdad learn, among other things, to keep their worries about INC chief Ahmad Chalabi to themselves, even though they learn that the men of the high-riding former exiles are running rampant throughout Iraq, looting, thieving, and committing acts of personal and tribal revenge. When Chalabi and his supporters raced to seize the files of Hussein's Ba'ath Party and the former regime's intelligence service, neither the US military nor the CIA intervened. CIA officials knew Chalabi and his INC honchos were using the files to exact personal revenge against their enemies, but Chalabi's cozy relationship with, among other top-ranking Washington officials, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, made Chalabi all but untouchable. (Even evidence showing that Chalabi has been working with Iranian intelligence for years, and gave the US misleading information that helped push the US into war with Iraq for the benefit of Iran, proves to be only a temporary setback for Chalabi, who transforms himself into an anti-American supporter of the radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, and continues to hold powerful positions in the Iraqi governments, and continues meeting with Wolfowitz, Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld.)
- In early 2004, case officers in Baghdad tell their colleagues that they are frequently ordered to revise their intelligence reports that were considered "negative" about Iraq. And in late 2004, when the Baghdad station chief, the successor to the one mentioned above, writes his own AARDWOLF reporting on the deadly conditions in Iraq, he finds himself questioned about his "suspect" political leanings. One NSC member asks Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte whether the station chief is a Republican or a Democrat.
- But all the political posturing and scapegoating changes nothing on the ground. Months later, a US intelligence official says grimly, "Today, Iraq is the Super Bowl for jihadists." There wasn't a serious connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda before, but there certainly is one now. (James Risen)
- Early November: The latest classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), this one on the state of the Iraq insurgency, is released internally to White House, Pentagon, and intelligence personnel. It has been in the works since August, and attempts to answer, in the words of INR analyst Wayne White, "who the hell is shooting at us and why." The first draft of the NIE is, in White's opinion, "terribly one-dimensional," dismissing the insurgency as disgruntled Hussein supporters and former regime elements of little consequence. White believed the insurgency has a far broader makeup, and coins his own phrase: Pissed-Off Iraqis. White fought for a more comprehensive NIE report that shows the insurgency for the dangerous, widespread, loosely organized compendium of former Ba'athists, Sunni militants, and other elements. White found himself at odds with CIA analysts who tended to downplay the effect and the projected longevity of the insurgency, and who are not eager to take such a negative approach in a document that will be perused by senior White House officials. "We got some of the changes we wanted into the draft," White recalls, "which weren't enough." Meanwhile, top administration officials, led by Cheney, continue to supply upbeat, rosy estimates.
- Though White and others want the NIE to recommend large troop escalations to contain the expansion of the insurgency, that recommendation is not made in the final draft. NIEs don't recommend policy in general. But the thrust of the draft leads a careful reader to that conclusion -- unfortunately, there are few careful readers in the White House. And little of the latest CIA AARDWOLF, from the CIA's Baghdad station chief who will be fired for his dark assessments (see the item above), find their way into the NIE. Once again, the NIE is a compilation of reality, fantasy, and rosy predictions that have little basis in reality. (Michael Isikoff and David Corn)
The Iraq insurgency is "strategically and operationally insignificant." -- General Ricardo Sanchez, November 1, quoted by Frank Rich p.108
US military commanders dispute Bush claim that foreign fighters are majority of Iraqi insurgents
- November 1: US military commanders in the field in Iraq dispute the claims of the Bush administration that there is a heavy influx of foreign fighters and terrorists arriving to escalate attacks against American forces. According to these commanders, there is no evidence of any such foreign influx. "We cover the border, so we would know if they came in or not," says Lt. Col. Antonio Aguto, executive officer of the U.S. Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which monitors Iraq's border with Syria and Saudi Arabia. "Most of them are locals." The officers say that very few foreigners have been captured while crossing into Iraq illegally, arrested later inside Iraq or detained when trying to enter the country at existing border checkpoints. One intelligence officer say emphatically that there was simply no evidence to support the claim. We keep hearing that, but we haven't seen anything to back it up," the officer says. Days before, Bush stated emphatically, "the foreign terrorists are trying to create conditions of fear and retreat because they fear a free and peaceful state in the midst of a part of the world where terror has found recruits." It is becoming obvious that the US military still isn't sure who is attacking them; there is disagreement even among senior officials as to who is mounting the attacks and where they originate from. "People are producing all kinds of impressions, without the intel to back it up," says senior analyst Anthony Cordesman. "They have no information base whatsoever. ...There's also the 'Casablanca' problem, that when you don't know, you round up the usual suspects, and right now Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda are fashionable." (Chicago Tribune)
Scapegoating of US intelligence
- November 1: Journalist and author Sidney Blumenthal writes about the "scapegoating" of US intelligence by the Bush administration for being correct about Iraq. "In Baghdad," he writes, "the Bush administration acts as though it is astonished by the postwar carnage. Its feigned shock is a consequence of Washington's intelligence wars. In fact, not only was it warned of the coming struggle and its nature -- ignoring a $5 million State Department report on 'The Future of Iraq' -- but Bush himself signed another document in which that predictive information is contained. According to the congressional resolution authorising the use of military force in Iraq, the administration is required to submit to the Congress reports of postwar planning every 60 days. The report, bearing Bush's signature and dated April 14 -- previously undisclosed but revealed here -- declares: 'We are especially concerned that the remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime will continue to use Iraqi civilian populations as a shield for its regular and irregular combat forces or may attack the Iraqi population in an effort to undermine Coalition goals.' Moreover, the report goes on: 'Coalition planners have prepared for these contingencies, and have designed the military campaign to minimise civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.' Yet, on August 25, as the violence in postwar Iraq flared, the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, claimed that this possibility was not foreseen: 'Now was -- did we -- was it possible to anticipate that the battles would take place south of Baghdad and that then there would be a collapse up north, and there would be very little killing and capturing of those folks, because they blended into the countryside and they're still fighting their war?' 'We read their reports,' a Senate source told me. 'Too bad they don't read their own reports.'"
- In fact, Vice President Dick Cheney viewed the US intelligence agencies as largely "disloyal," largely because those agencies' analysts insisted on sifting through the intelligence reports to try to determine the reality of Saddam Hussein's military infrastructure instead of telling administration officials what they wanted to hear. "For them [intelligence analysts], this process is at the essence of their professionalism and mission. Yet the strict insistence on the empirical was a threat to the ideological, facts an imminent danger to the doctrine. So those facts had to be suppressed, and those creating contrary evidence had to be marginalized, intimidated or have their reputations tarnished. ...If the CIA would not serve, it would be trampled. At the Pentagon, Rumsfeld formed the Office of Special Plans, a parallel counter-CIA under the direction of the neoconservative deputy secretary of defence, Paul Wolfowitz, to 'stovepipe' its own version of intelligence directly to the White House. Its reports were not to be mingled or shared with the CIA or state department intelligence for fear of corruption by skepticism. Instead, the Pentagon's handpicked future leader of Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, replaced the CIA as the reliable source of information, little of which turned out to be true -- though his deceit was consistent with his record. Chalabi was regarded at the CIA as a mountebank after he had lured the agency to support his 'invasion' of Iraq in 1995, a tragicomic episode, but one which hardly discouraged his neoconservative sponsors. Early last year, before Hans Blix, chief of the UN team to monitor Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, embarked on his mission, Wolfowitz ordered a report from the CIA to show that Blix had been soft on Iraq in the past and thus to undermine him before he even began his work. When the CIA reached an opposite conclusion, Wolfowitz was described by a former state department official in the Washington Post as having 'hit the ceiling.' Then, according to former assistant secretary of state James Rubin, when Blix met with Cheney at the White House, the vice-president told him what would happen if his efforts on WMDs did not support Bush policy: 'We will not hesitate to discredit you.' Blix's brush with Cheney was no different from the administration's treatment of the CIA. Having already decided upon its course in Iraq, the Bush administration demanded the fabrication of evidence to fit into an imminent threat. Then, fulfilling the driven logic of the Bush doctrine, preemptive action could be taken. Policy a priori dictated intelligence a la carte. In Bush's Washington, politics is the extension of war by other means. Rather than seeking to reform any abuse of intelligence, the Bush administration, through the Republican-dominated senate intelligence committee, is producing a report that will accuse the CIA of giving faulty information."
- Blumenthal also speaks to Joseph Wilson, wife of outed CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson: Wilson tells him, "It's important to recognize that the person who decided to make a political point or that his political agenda was more important than a national security asset is still there in place. I'm appalled at the apparent nonchalance shown by the president." Blumenthal concludes, "Now, postwar, the intelligence wars, if anything, have got more intense. Blame shifting by the administration is the order of the day. The Republican senate intelligence committee report will point the finger at the CIA, but circumspectly not review how Bush used intelligence. The Democrats, in the senate minority, forced to act like a fringe group, held unofficial hearings this week with prominent former CIA agents: rock-ribbed Republicans who all voted for and even contributed money to Bush, but expressed their amazed anger at the assault being waged on the permanent national security apparatus by the Republican president whose father's name adorns the building where they worked. One of them compressed his disillusionment into the single most resonant word an intelligence agent can muster: 'betrayal.'" (Guardian)
- November 1: In a speech given at the University of Virginia, Joseph Wilson, husband of outed CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, rips the lax response of the Bush administration to this serious breach of national security. Wilson compares the administration's actions to the actions of convicted spy Robert Hansson. "The person who decided that they were going to make a political point at the expense of the national security of our country -- that person or persons are still in place. ...And if they were willing to do that yesterday, what is to prevent them" from doing it again, Wilson asks. After his speech, Wilson suggests that there is little difference between the White House leakers and Hanssen: "The difference right now is that Robert Hanssen is in jail for life while the person who gave up my wife's name is still in office." Hanssen's espionage led to the execution of two double agents working in Soviet intelligence for the United States and cost hundreds of millions of dollars in communications and counterintelligence efforts. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
- November 1: An article in the French magazine Le Figaro details some of the tragedies suffered by the Iraqi people. Two nights before, two ancient buildings in old Baghdad are burned to the ground, probably by arsonists. The buildings hosted one of the last open-air book fairs to be held in Baghdad. An Iraqi student watching the Baghdad firemen battling the flames said, "The Americans are scared stiff to come out here, into the center of a capital they're supposed to be administering. They let Iraq burn like the pages of these books...." An Iraqi artist says of the burnings, "This criminal arson is a deliberate attack against culture. ...We've been liberated from Saddam, but our society's liberation from the religious pall that weighs on us is not happening any time soon. Here, Americans are like princes living in an ivory tower. We can't count on them to bring any progress to our backward society." (Le Figaro/Truthout)
- November 1: In an interview with US Marines stationed in Camp Lejeune, NC, it becomes apparent that the former staunch conservatism and unquestioning support of George Bush is rapidly draining away from these troops and their community. "I'm a strong Republican, but the Republicans have been the problem; we've been treated like second-class citizens," says a retired Marine. The mayor of Jacksonville, the town that hosts Camp Lejeune, says, "There's a few people who have become very hostile [towards the Bush administration]...the longer the war goes on, the more of that subtle shift you're going to see." The Republican congressman for the region, Walter Jones, has joined other pro-military conservatives in challenging the Bush administration's policies towards veterans; Jones echoes the Marine quoted above in saying the administration treats vets like "second-class citizens." The disenchantment with the administration isn't confined to Jacksonville. As reported in the Washington Monthly, "[a] similar mood is emerging in small, patriotic towns around the country. According to a study conducted in mid-October by Stars and Stripes, half of American soldiers in-country say their units have low morale, that they were insufficiently trained, and that they won't reenlist. The ubiquity of e-mail in Iraq means that husbands, wives, families, and friends of these troops have a mainline to these gripes, and to the day-to-day grit and threat of combat, that they haven't had in previous wars. Holly Rossi, whose husband, Rob, is an Army reserve engineer out of Londonderry, NH, has watched the Family Support Group for his unit, wives who started the war as staunch pro-Bush patriots, come to doubt the political mission. 'A lot of people feel tugged. We have built our lives around...patriotism no matter what, but we're feeling very abandoned,' Charles Carter, a retired Naval chief petty officer, told Knight Ridder: 'I will vote non-Republican in a heartbeat if it continues as is.'" (Washington Monthly)
- November 1: The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility opens an investigation of alleged misconduct by about two dozen current and former government lawyers involved in the 1983 prosecution of former CIA officer Edwin Wilson. A federal judge in Houston this week overturned Wilson's conviction for illegally selling explosives to Libya in the years after he left the agency, writing that the government "knowingly used false evidence" in Wilson's trial and his appeal. The judge said that Justice Department and CIA lawyers concealed the fact that Wilson did work for the agency after he left its official employ. She wrote, "The government could have produced records supporting Wilson's claim that the CIA knew -- even authorized -- the shipment of explosives to Libya," in an opinion that lambasted Reagan-era CIA and Justice Department officials. (Washington Post/Scoop)
- November 2: Congress approves $18.4 billion for Iraqi reconstruction, the second installment of monies intended to rebuild the shattered Iraqi infrastructure. It is now called the Iraqi Relief and Reconstruction Fund, and is the largest US aid package to any single country since the Marshall Plan. (T. Christian Miller)
- November 2: Iraqi resistance forces shoot down a Chinook transport helicopter near Fallujah, killing 16 US troops and wounding 21, in the worst single loss of life among American troops since March 23, when the invasion was still underway. The Chinook helicopter was ferrying troops out of Iraq to begin leave. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says, "It's clearly a tragic day for America. In a long, hard war, we're going to have tragic days. But they're necessary. They're part of a war that's difficult and complicated." The Chinook downing gives dramatic and tragic evidence of the insurgents' steady improvement in their choice and usage of weaponry, progressing from homemade roadside bombs to rocket-fired grenades used in ambushes on American patrols, and vehicles stuffed with explosives and detonated by suicide attackers. Some villagers tried to help the downed helicopter, and others celebrated the downing. "This was a new lesson from the resistance, a lesson to the greedy aggressors," says one Fallujah resident. "They'll [the Americans will] never be safe until they get out of our country."
- The day of the attack, an AP reporter, Scott Lindlaw, casually mentions to Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt that another campaign official had told him on background that the campaign hoped there wouldn't be more days like this one in Iraq. Holt runs back to his superiors with the tale, which sends the campaign into a tizzy: the standing orders are that no one talks to the press about Iraq. The campaign mounts an investigation into who spoke with Lindlaw. Low-level media coordinator Brad Dayspring, who admits speaking to Lindlaw but denies discussing Iraq, is shortly fired. Dayspring is a four-year veteran of the Bush campaigns; his protests to campaign chairman Ken Mehlman go unheeded. The effect on the campaign workers is chilling. (AP/NewsMax)
"If this is winning, you have to ask the question: How much of whis winning can we stand?" --CBS's Bob Schieffer, referring to the Chinook downing in Fallujah, quoted by Frank Rich, p.109
- November 2: US dead returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are being moved back and forth out of the US media's eye. Nor do American citizens see or hear from the thousands of wounded returning stateside. The Bush administration, mindful of public appearance, has decided to "sanitize" the perception of this war by refusing to allow the media to take photos of the returning dead. The national media is officially discouraged from interviewing or even discussing the wounded. Perhaps as part of this "out of sight, out of mind" mindset, Bush has not chosen to visit the burial ceremonies of a single dead US soldier, nor has he contacted the families of any of the Americans killed in action. Communications professor Christopher Simpson of American University says, "You can call it news control or information control or flat-out propaganda. ...Whatever you call it, this is the most extensive effort at spinning a war that the Department of Defense has ever undertaken in this country." Simpson notes that photos of the dead returning to American soil have historically been part of the ceremony, part of the picture of conflict and part of the public closure for families, until now. "This White House is the greatest user of propaganda in American history and if they had a shred of honesty, they would admit it. But they can't." Democratic strategist Lynne Cutler notes that this is the first time in history that bodies have been brought home under cover of secrecy. "It feels like Vietnam when Lyndon Johnson was accused of hiding the body bags.... This is a big government and a big Pentagon and they could have someone there to meet these bodies as they come back to the country." Incredibly, the Pentagon has even banned the use of the term "body bags." They are now to be termed "transfer tubes." Military historian Joseph Dawson says, "The administration has clearly made an attempt to limit the attention that would build up if they were showing Dover every day." Dawson says that the policy works to a point. Analysts agree that to an extent, if Americans don't see television or newspaper photos of caskets being delivered to airbases, they don't think about them.
- Dawson says most Americans equate war casualties with highway accidents: They know men are killed, and don't need to see graphic photos. "The administration may have to come to grips with this in the months to come. This strategy depends on how long this war goes on. ...The country should be asking whether these men and women are putting their lives on the line for a justifiable purpose." Dawson says that he believes the Bush strategy is to divert focus from the dead and the wounded until — or if -- his administration's policy can be judged a winner, then laud the men and women who gave their lives for freedom. Other observers believe that the policy is rooted in the perception that it was the intense media coverage of the Vietnam war that caused the US to pull out of that conflict; the news coverage of the dead American soldiers dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia spurred President Clinton to withdraw American troops from that beleagured country. (Toronto Star)
- November 2: The New York Times Magazine prints an exhaustive study of conditions in Iraq by journalist David Rieff. The conclusions are grim, if not surprising. The administration's efforts to put a happy face on the Iraqi situation have changed nothing. Iraq is a festering hotbed of tribal and religious conflicts, out-of-control criminal activity, burgeoning terrorism from all over the Middle East, and an overwhelming antipathy and sometimes outright hatred of America and its occupation. "It is becoming painfully clear that the American plan (if it can even be dignified with the name) for dealing with postwar Iraq was flawed in its conception and ineptly carried out," writes Rieff. "At the very least, the bulk of the evidence suggests that what was probably bound to be a difficult aftermath to the war was made far more difficult by blinkered vision and overoptimistic assumptions on the part of the war's greatest partisans within the Bush administration. The lack of security and order on the ground in Iraq today is in large measure a result of decisions made and not made in Washington before the war started, and of the specific approaches toward coping with postwar Iraq undertaken by American civilian officials and military commanders in the immediate aftermath of the war." Rieff points out that not only could these conditions have been predicted before the war began, they were predicted by sources both inside and outside the administration, from military and civilian sources, from Americans and Iraqis. They were uniformly dismissed by the administration, who chose to believe that once Hussein was forced out of power, Iraq would meekly fall into line and all problems would be instantly solved.
Rieff makes no strong recommendations or predictions as to Iraq's future; but the picture he paints is grim beyond the imaginations of any adminstration Pollyannas. (New York Times, The Atlantic)
- Ahmad Chalabi. Rieff cites the administration's support of exile Ahmad Chalabi as an example of its shortsighted and uninformed decision-making. Chalabi, a secular Shi'ite Muslim who had been out of the country for decades, carried no real weight inside Iraq. But Chalabi was popular with Richard Perle, one of Donald Rumsfeld's chief civilian advisors. Chalabi won over the core group of neo-conservative hawks who engineered the war from within the Bush administration, a group that includes Rumsfeld, Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and Dick Cheney. Though the CIA had little use for Chalabi, seeing him as an opportunist who was guilty of misappropriating American funds, Chalabi continued to enjoy the support of neoconservatives, particularly at the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. In 1998, Chalabi and his neoconservative allies persuaded the Republican-led Congress to pass the Iraq Liberation Act, which, after being signed into law by President Clinton, made regime change in Iraq the official policy of the United States. While "nation building" was something that the campaigning Bush opposed, the elected Bush almost immediately took a different tack. It wasn't until after the 9/11 attacks that public opinion swung around enough to enable the administration to begin actively pursuing military action to topple the Hussein regime -- something that was undertaken within hours of the attacks. Afghanistan was to come first, since its Taliban was directly linked to the al-Qaeda attackers, but Iraq was always understood to be next on the list. Vigorous lobbying by neocons helped keep the invasion of Iraq in the forefront of Bush's foreign policy. Plans for the war and its aftermath began in the days after 9/11; numerous projects and study groups began considering the question of postwar Iraq.
- As Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld would put it later, planning "began well before there was a decision to go to war. It was extensive." The overarching agency in charge of war plans against Iraq was the Office of Special Plans, which reported to the Pentagon's Douglas Feith. Feith later admitted that the agency was deliberately given such a vague name because the Bush administration did not want it widely known that there was a special Pentagon unit doing its own assessments of intelligence on Iraq. "We didn't think it was wise to create a brand-new office and label it an office of Iraq policy," Feith said in July 2003. Though the OSP was created to "evaluate" intelligence on Iraqi WMDs and military strength, in reality it was mandated to challenge the CIA's evaluations of Iraqi weapons programs as too limited, and supplant the CIA assessments with its own, much more alarming assessments. OSP's assessments were always based on unreliable information and gave neocon hawks like Wolfowitz and Perle what they wanted to hear, which they then funneled immediately to the White House. Chalabi had a great deal to do with the shape of OSP intelligence; even further, his exile group, the Iraqi National Congress, was inflated from a group of exiled friends and business associates of Chalabi's into a de facto "government-in-waiting." During the first weeks of the war, in April 2003, Chalabi and 500 of his "Free Iraq Fighters" were airlifted into Iraq, where they were supposed to form the core of the new Iraqi army. Instead, the Iraqi people snubbed Chalabi. Chalabi and his forces waited in the desert, well out of the fighting, until after Hussein was overthrown and Baghdad was believed secured. Then they were brought in and installed as the new Iraqi ruling authority, second only to the US-dominated administration under Paul Bremer.
- Defense vs. State. Rieff also details the vicious infighting between the State and Defense Departments, mostly carried out by hawks inside the Defense Department. It began with the rejection of the State Department's "Future of Iraq Project," led by Thomas Warrick. The Project was a huge, comprehensive report on the current state of Iraq along with detailed recommendations to dealing with it after the proposed toppling of the Hussein regime. The final report recommended that the people of Iraq be allowed to choose their own leadership instead of having Chalabi's INC installed by American fiat; the Defense Department fought this, and eventually won. Additionally, the Defense Department saw no reason why Iraq couldn't be transformed into an electoral democracy within weeks of the Hussein regime being overthrown; the State Department and the CIA were much less sanguine about the inevitability of such a transformation. The Defense Department unfairly portrayed this lack of certainty among State Department and intelligence officials as a lack of commitment to an Iraqi democracy. The report was not heavily relied upon in official post-war planning. In fact, the first post-war administrator of Iraq, General Jay Garner, says that Rumsfeld told him to ignore the report. Garner also wanted to add Warrick to his staff; the Pentagon, determined to have nothing to do with anything or anyone from the State Department, vetoed the choice. After Hussein was overthrown, it took little time to see that the Defense Department's predictions of an easy, painless transition were unfounded.
- One Project member recalled, "[W]e in the Future of Iraq Project predicted widespread looting. You didn't have to have a degree from a Boston university to figure that one out. Look at what happened in LA after the police failed to act quickly after the Rodney King verdict. It was entirely predictable that in the absence of any authority in Baghdad that you'd have chaos and lawlessness." Another Project member said that Iraqi exiles on the project specifically warned of the dangers of policing postwar Iraq: "Adnan Pachaci's first question to US officials was, How would they maintain law and order after the war was over? They told him not to worry, that things would get back to normal very soon." Significantly, three of its intended working groups never actually met, including "Preserving Iraq's Cultural Heritage."
- Little Postwar Planning. Raiff notes that the agency in charge of Iraqi reconstruction, the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), under the supervision of General Garner, was established only eight weeks before the invasion took place. Since the Defense Department insisted on essentially throwing out the Project reports, Garner's staff had to begin from scratch. Few Arab experts or even Arabic speakers were part of ORHA in the beginning. One staffer recalled that, in late January 2003, "we only had three or four people." In mid-February, the office conducted a two-day "rehearsal" of the postwar period at the National Defense University in Washington. Middle East expert Judith Yaphe says that "even the Messiah couldn't have organized a program in that short a time." Raiff writes, "Although ORHA simply didn't have the time, resources or expertise in early 2003 to formulate a coherent postwar plan, Feith and others in the Defense Department were telling a different story to Congress. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Feb. 11, shortly before the beginning of the war, Feith reassured the assembled senators that ORHA was 'staffed by officials detailed from departments and agencies throughout the government.' Given the freeze-out of the State Department officials from the Future of Iraq Project, this description hardly encompassed the reality of what was actually taking place bureaucratically." The one area of ORHA's mandate that did go well was initial humanitarian aid -- Garner's own area of expertise. However, other areas of need, like the need for security to prevent looting, went unrecognized.
- Garner later said that while he had expected Iraqis to loot the symbols of the old regime, like Hussein's palaces, he had been utterly unprepared for the systematic looting and destruction of practically every public building in Baghdad. Many Iraqis were also surprised by the widespread looting and pillaging. One mullah in Sadr City observed, "People can be weak. I knew this before, of course, but I did not know how weak. But while I do not say it is the Americans' fault, I simply cannot understand how your soldiers could have stood by and watched. Maybe they are weak, too. Or maybe they are wicked." American troops indeed stood by and did nothing -- except to protect the Iraqi Oil Ministry. Raiff believes that this single act did more than anything else to convince Iraqis that America had invaded their country simply to secure their oil, and had no interest in ensuring the safety, much less the liberty, of the citizenry. "It is not that they could not protect everything, as they say," said one Shi'ite religious leader. "It's that they protected nothing else. The Oil Ministry is not off by itself. It's surrounded by other ministries, all of which the Americans allowed to be looted. So what else do you want us to think except that you want our oil?" An Iraqi-American lawyer who worked on the Future of Iraq Project added, "When the Oil Ministry is the only thing you protect, what do you expect people to think? It can't be that U.S. troops didn't know where the National Museum was. All you have to do is follow the signs -- they're in English! -- to Museum Square." 17 of 23 ministries were gutted, as were the National Library and National Museum. And the Iraqi hospitals were indeed protected, but not by American forces. The Hazwa, the religious leadership of Iraq, took care of that. "The U.S. thinks of Iraq as a big cake," said one Iraqi journalist. "By letting people loot -- and don't tell me they couldn't have stopped the looters if they'd wanted to; look at the war! -- they were arranging to get more profits for Mr. Cheney, for Bechtel, for all American corporations."
- Not Enough Troops Operating Under Too Many Restrictions. On February 25, General Eric Shinseki warned the Bush administration that it was grossly underestimating the need for ground troops in Iraq. The Defense Department laughed off Shinseki's assessment; Wolfowitz told Congress two days later that Shinseki was "wildly off the mark," and added, "It's hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and secure the surrender of Saddam's security force and his army." Shinseki retired soon afterward. Yet he proved to be correct, and the Pentagon civilian advisors proved to be terribly wrong. Shinseki wasn't the only one to predict problems in the aftermath. Former ambassador Timothy Carney, who worked with ORHA, says that the US military "simply did not understand or give enough priority to the transition from their military mission to our political military mission." Robert Perito recalls: "The military was warned there would be looting. There has been major looting in every important postconflict situation of the past decade. The looting in Panama City in the aftermath of the US invasion did more damage to the Panamanian economy than the war itself. And there was vast looting and disorder in Kosovo. We know this." Yet no plans were drawn up to avoid or minimize the problem.
- Lieutenant Colonol Scott Rutter recalls that while he was given specific plans, and opportunities to rehearse and practice them, for the various phases of the invasion, once the invasion was over, he was left on his own to handle the problems of looting, food distribution to displaced Iraqis, and virtually every post-invasion problem that cropped up on his watch. An exhaustive report about the Third Infantry Division's proves that the division did exceptionally well during the invasion itself, because it had been trained for it. Its success in dealing with situations after the invasion is much less solid, because its members were not trained to deal with any of it: "Higher headquarters did not provide the Third Infantry Division (Mechanized) with a plan for Phase IV. As a result, Third Infantry Division transitioned into Phase IV in the absence of guidance." The report concludes, "...division planners should have drafted detailed plans on Phase IV operations that would have allowed [the Third Infantry Division] to operate independently outside of guidance from higher headquarters. Critical requirements should have been identified prior to" the beginning of the war. The division also should have had "a plan to execute" a stability-and-support operation "for at least 30 days." The report says that such an operation should have included "protecting infrastructure, historic sites, administrative buildings, cultural sites, financial institutions, judicial/legal sites and religious sites." It notes, with hindsight, that "protecting these sites must be planned for early in the planning process." But as the report makes clear, no such planning took place.
- Neglecting ORHA. While Douglas Feith warbled to Congress about how well ORHA and the military were working together to stabilize Iraq, in reality, the two found themselves at odds from the outset. ORHA officials had trouble getting to Baghdad to begin operations, when the plane slated to deliver them to their headquarters was commandeered by a general. Carney writes, "''Few in the military understood the urgency of our mission, yet we relied on the military for support. For example, the military commander set rules for transportation: we initially needed a lead military car, followed by the car with civilians and a military vehicle bringing up the rear. But there weren't enough vehicles. One day we had 31 scheduled missions and only nine convoys, so 22 missions were scrubbed." Carney quoted an internal ORHA memorandum arguing that the organization "is not being treated seriously enough by the command given what we are supposed to do." The lack of respect for the civilian officials in ORHA was a source of astonishment to Lieutenant Colonel Rutter. "I was amazed by what I saw," he said. "There would be a meeting called by Ambassador Bodine" -- the official on Garner's staff responsible for Baghdad -- "and none of the senior officers would show up. I remember thinking, This isn't right, and also thinking that if it had been a commander who had called the meeting, they would have shown up all right." Little, if any, of ORHA's objectives were completed without at least some resistance from the military; many of ORHA's objectives would remain unaddressed.
- Bremer Starts Off Offending Half a Million Iraqis When Paul Bremer took over from General Jay Garner, who was removed within weeks in an attempt to show that the Bush administration was dealing with the raft of "unforeseen" problems in stabilizing and reconstructing Iraq, Bremer immediately placed a wrong foot. Garner, on the advice of Chalabi and many other Iraqis, had resisted "de-Baathification" of the Iraqi citizenry, removing only those Ba'athists who could be proven to be real enemies of the Americans, and retaining the Iraqi Army to use in labor battalions. Bremer's first action was to totally disband the 400,000-strong Iraqi Army and purge 50,000 Ba'ath party members from participating in reconstruction efforts. As one official said, "That was the week we made 450,000 enemies on the ground in Iraq." The decision was probably made in the White House and not by Bremer, but either way, it was, Raiff writes, "disastrous." He continues, "In a country like Iraq, where the average family size is 6, firing 450,000 people amounts to leaving 2,700,000 people without incomes; in other words, more than 10 percent of Iraq's 23 million people. The order produced such bad feeling on the streets of Baghdad that salaries are being reinstated for all soldiers. It is a slow and complicated process, however, and there have been demonstrations by fired military officers in Iraq over the course of the summer and into the fall."
- Ignoring the Shi'ites. The American presence in Iraq depends on the acceptance of the Shi'ite majority of them. Hussein ruthlessly repressed the Iraqi Shi'ites for decades, so the US rightly assumed that the Shi'ites would welcome a change. However, the view that the Iraqi Shi'ites were not strongly connected to their more radical brethren in Iran was wrong. Additionally, the US relied far too much on Chalabi and his Shi'ite background as being enough to bring the vast majority of Iraqi Shi'ites on board. Although the US did grant the Shi'ites critical religious autonomy, it was not prepared to deal with parallel demands for political autonomy. The August murder of religious leader Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim was devastating to American hopes to have the Shi'ites accept their presence on any longterm basis. Raiff writes, "Meanwhile, in the streets the anger of ordinary Shiites grows hotter. Every reporter who has been in Iraq has encountered it, even if administration officials think they know better. As Robert Perito argues, 'One of the things that has saved the U.S. effort is that the Shiites have decided to cooperate with us, however conditionally.' But, he adds, 'if the Shiites decide that they can't continue to support us, then our position will become untenable.' Although they are, for the most part, not yet ready to rebel, the Shiites' willingness to tolerate the American occupation authorities is growing dangerously thin. 'We're happy the Americans got rid of Saddam Hussein,' a young member of the Hawza in Sadr City told me. 'But we do not approve of replacing "the tyrant of the age" -- as he referred to Hussein -- with the Americans. We will wait a little longer, but we will fight if things don't change soon.' Last month, in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, the first firefights between American forces and Shiite militants took place, suggesting that time may be running out even more quickly than anyone imagined."
- November 2: Experts and officials formerly delegated to hunt for WMDs in Iraq are being relieved of that duty and transferred to other posts, as it becomes increasingly obvious that there are no major caches of WMDs to be found. Most are being placed in security roles, as the death toll among American forces continues to escalate and the situation in Iraq becomes more unstable and dangerous for US and British occupying forces. (Independent/Amenusa)
- November 2: Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security Asa Hutchinson flies to Saudi Arabia to oversee new visa restrictions mandated for Saudis traveling to the United States. Since long before September 11, Saudi citizens have been able to obtain visas to travel to the US with relative impunity; the situation has been scrutinized, and criticized, since shortly after 9/11, when it was learned that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, but until now virtually nothing has been done to tighten up travel restrictions on Saudis. Hutchinson lays some of the blame on foreign governments, saying they must make it tougher for people to forge travel documents like passports. "We've got to have increased international support for enhancing security on travel documents and diminishing the capability for stolen passports, stolen travel documents and fraudulent use of those," he says. "I think there have been some instances our international partners have slacked off from concentrating on this effort." Hutchinson fails to note that until now, any move to tighten up Saudi restrictions has met with stiff opposition from the Bush administration as well as the Saudi government. (FindLaw)
- November 2: Investigative journalist Stephen Pizzo writes a detailed and damning report on the Bush administration's systematic attempts to hide the truth from the citizenry and other elements of the government. Pizzo traces the administration's penchant for secrecy -- "hermetically sealing formerly public sources of government information" -- back as far as the infamously clandestine Energy Task Force led by Vice President Dick Cheney. Shortly afterwards, Bush signed an Executive Order which mandated that virtually all Executive Branch documents from former and current presidencies be kept from public view. Bush claimed that the order was to protect the privacy of former White House officials. In reality, the order protected current Bush administration officials from documents that were about to be released from Reagan administration archives, documents that were suspected to document highly embarassing, if not outright criminal, behavior. The documents, mostly related to the Iran-Contra scandal, specifically threatened Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and former Budget Director Mitch Daniels. Much of the resistance and outrage towards these actions were forgotten, or at least set aside, after 9/11. Instead, the administration found little resistance to a wholesale lockdown of information from every branch of government. "This administration is the most secretive of our lifetime, even more secretive than the Nixon administration," says Larry Klayman of the conservative activist group Judicial Watch. "They don't believe the American people or Congress have any right to information." Gary Bass, the executive director of watchdog group OMB Watch, says that the United States "is moving from a society based on the right to know to one based on the need to know." (Stephen Pizzo)
- November 2: A new book, The Faith of George W. Bush, written by Christian author Stephen Mansfield, is causing a stir. According to the book, Bush believes that direct, divine intervention brought him to the White House -- in other words, he was directly chosen by God to lead the US. "'I feel like God wants me to run for President," he reportedly told Texas evangelist James Robinson. "I can't explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me. Something is going to happen.... I know it won't be easy on me or my family, but God wants me to do it." Bush credits Christianity with helping him overcome his addiction to alcohol. In return, Bush has given sweeping new federal benefits to Christian charities and other organizations affiliated with Christian churches. Bush told a Texas evangelist that he had a divine premonition of disaster shortly before the 9/11 attacks. (Guardian)
- November 3: Days before the downing of the US Chinook helicopter near Fallujah, leaflets were distributed in mosques throughout the city warning of new attacks using "modern and advanced methods," it is now revealed. One leaflet posted in mosques urged people to avoid public places over the weekend. "special operations against occupation forces might be carried out by using modern and advanced methods," it read. The leaflet also warned people to stay at home, avoid going to work or school and to stay away from markets on Saturday and Sunday. "Any persons who move during this period will be responsible for their own safety," the note said. (AP/The Hindu)
- November 3: The US and British governments, along with the private contractors they have engaged, could soon face a blizzard of lawsuits over the illegality of the Iraqi invasion and occupation, and the use and misuse of Iraq's resources and wealth. International lawyer David Scheffer, who was President Clinton's ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, believes that both countries have ignored the restraints imposed by international laws governing the behavior of occupying powers. He contends that they have gone far beyond just patching up Iraq, which he said is allowed under international law, and are now moving onto the forbidden ground of exploiting the oil wealth of the country. Scheffer predicts that sooner or later Iraqis will sue both governments as well as private contractors such as Halliburton and Bechtel, arguing that Iraqi property, particularly oil, was misused by the Coalition Provisional Authority. Moreover, he says, the future sovereign Iraqi government, as well as the nations that were owed millions of dollars by the former government of Saddam Hussein, could also find grounds for lawsuits. Scheffer says that the Iraqi situation is far different from that faced by Marshall Plan countries in their rebuilding of Germany after World War II; he also notes that Iraq's vast oil resources, while nominally belonging to the Iraqi people, are being managed and profited from by the CPA and an array of US-owned corporations. "We [the US] have walked into a liability trap" by going into Iraq without UN approval, he says. Scheffer also characterizes Executive Order 13303, giving US oil companies virtual carte blanche to operate within Iraq without fear of legal restraint, as rich ground for lawsuits and legal disputes of all kinds. Several conservative lawyers dispute Scheffer's interpretation of international law; one calls Scheffer's argument "an interesting theoretical exercise" with little chance "of coming to fruition." However, it is notable that lawsuits sparked by the 1979 Iranian kidnapping of US hostages are still wending their way through international courts of law. (Government Executive Magazine)
- November 3: Contradicting the opinions of most military observers, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld denies the need to send more troops to Iraq to shore up security, saying that Iraqi forces under US command can adequately fill the need. He says, "In a long, hard war, we're going to have tragic days, as this is," referring to the deaths of 19 Americans in a single day. "But they are necessary. They are part of a war that's difficult and complicated." Rumsfeld claims that over 100,000 Iraqi security forces are ready to provide security, a number that is substantially higher than the 85,000 provided by Condoleezza Rice and US occupation officials days before. The steadily increasing death toll in Iraq, and the increasing sophistication and effectiveness of resistance forces' attacks on US forces, have blunted the Bush administration's attempt to massage the perceptions of Americans that the situation in Iraq is much better than the media chooses to portray. In response to perceptions of escalating danger for US troops and sagging morale in the US military, Bush has added a line to his fund-raising speech: "When I came into office, morale in the U.S. military was beginning to suffer, so we increased the defense budget." No word yet on whether that line has had any positive effect on either US military morale or on the situation faced by those troops in Iraq. (Washington Post)
- November 3: The Pentagon continues to deal with the problem of troop rotation, a week after President Bush complained that a query about troop rotation was "a trick question." Other countries have proven unwilling to commit large numbers of forces in support of American and British troops, and the Pentagon is already planning on mobilizing 15,000 more National Guard troops to Iraq, with the possibility of mobilizing more.
- November 3: Many senior US military officials are angry in their opposition to Pentagon plans to close a number of military-run schools and commissaries as part of cost-cutting operations. The Pentagon intends to close between 19 and 38 commissaries, and is studying ways to close or transfer control of the 58 schools it operates on 14 military installations in the continental United States. The two sets of cuts are the latest in a string of actions by the Bush administration to cut or hold down growth in pay and benefits, including basic pay, combat pay, health-care benefits and the death gratuity paid to survivors of troops who die on active duty. Unit and base commanders are fighting the proposals. "As Marines, we take the short end of the stick in many ways," says Colonel James Lowe, commander of Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. "But when it comes to our children, we're very intolerant about them being shortchanged." Joyce Raezer, director of government relations for the National Military Family Association, says, "How can leadership be talking about cutting back on quality-of-life benefits right now when the force and everyone supporting the force is at such a high stress level?" Colonel John Kidd, garrison commander of Fort Stewart, Georgia, says, "Betrayal — write that down and put it in your report." to the officials in charge of the school study. "As a commander, I will fight this tooth and nail. Folks down there are not just militant on this issue. They will march on Washington."
- Lowe says he never has seen his community more united than it is over the schools issue. "The very fact that this transfer study is being conducted at this time when Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen and their families are increasingly required to give more of themselves and to go in harm's way is taken by many as a personal affront. It raises serious questions about DoD's commitment to all quality-of-life issues." Brigadier General Ben Freakley, commander of Fort Benning, Georgia, says that the parents who attended a recent meeting on his post are "mad that this is even being suggested at a time of war and deployment. ...I remind you we're at war. ...Having just come from Iraq, I know that the last thing soldiers, sailors and airmen want is to be concerned about the education of their children while they're fighting." He warned against making a decision based on dollars rather than quality of life. "Dollars don't tell the whole story — they never do." Colonel Larry Ruggley, garrison commander at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, says that the local schools aren't able to shoulder the burden of absorbing the base children. "We look to the stability and support of the school environment on Fort Campbell to take care of the children," Ruggley says. "It's all about the soldier we put in harm's way." Colonel John Neubauer, commander of Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, says his base's schools outperform those outside the gate. DDESS students at Maxwell consistently score in the 75th percentile nationally, he said, while "students outside the gate consistently score in the lower half. ...We have a close relationship with the local community. But the state of Alabama refuses to adequately fund education."
- Lieutenant General William Lennox, superintendent of the US Military Academy at West Point, urges defense officials not to overlook the potential impact on recruiting and retention that this study could have. Lennox is not pleased that the senior Pentagon leaders who would make the decisions about the future of DDESS were not present to be questioned. He says the study probably is the top concern among families at West Point. "I dare say I would lose 50 percent of those who want to teach because they wouldn't want to put their kids in jeopardy. I would be transferring 800 students into a 600-student [public] school, and have no voting representation in the school board." He refers to a video clip from a town hall meeting held at West Point in which parents said the first reason they love living at West Point is the schools. Said one soldier: "We choose not to invest in a home [off post] because our equity is in our children." The same is true at Quantico, says Lieutenant General Edward Hanlon, commander of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command. "To win battles, you'd better have a good family foundation," he says. (Army Times)
- November 3: The Executive Editor of Governing Magazine, Alan Ehrenhalt, gives a remarkably frank speech at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) entitled "The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy and How it Grew." Ehrenhalt discusses the neoconservative efforts to dominate the media, saying, "If you're talking about religion, abortion, social issues, sure there's a liberal media elite." He adds, "by 1996 I would say the intellectual left had been neutralized on economics and foreign policy...there wasn't much organized support for...left positions of any kind. There was a pretty impressive organized right. Some of which is in this room." The American Enterprise Institute concentrates on promoting neoconservatism and free market ideology. It provides a continuous stream of editorials to over 100 newspapers, and its "experts" appeared on television news programs throughout the 1980's and 1990's, usually without having their conservative free market agendas mentioned on air. Members of the group sometimes identify themselves as 'Democrats' on public affairs shows so that the message to viewers is completely controlled. The Institute has advocated military operations, such as Reagan's attack on Grenada, while it or its members have received grants from the US Foundation of Peace. The Institute allied with corporate directors from American Cynamid, Dow Chemical, and Chase Manhatten Bank to support the pro-apartheid government of South Africa. Ehrenhalt says that the Republican Party, and neoconservatives specifically, had learned how to use the "white middle class resentment of the Great Society."
- He goes on to say that Hillary Clinton's phrase "vast right-wing conspiracy" did not adequately describe the lack of "organized support for things he [Bill Clinton] wanted to do. ...If she had said, 'We're up against an elaborate and sophisticated conservative network,' I'm not sure that that would have been all that controversial or debatable a statement. It's pretty clear that something exists." Ehrenhalt also discusses the Reagan presidency's success at joining the big business elites and the fundamentalist right through the rhetoric of anti-communism: "These people only had one thing in common. They hate communists. That's what they had in common. What would they ever do without the communists? It was not known at that time that the Baathist Party could be used as an effective substitute. But in 1992 we found out what happened when there were no communists. Republicans fight with each other, and they lost the election." Ehrenhalt notes the emergence of the aggressive right-wing, populist voice during the Clinton era, saying, "One other crucial development of the mid-1990s that a lot of you probably know more about than I do is the emergence of what I would call the 'republican megaphone:' talk shows, think tanks." In addition to saturating television, radio and newspapers with the neoconservative agenda, the last decade also saw efforts to destroy left-liberal political organizations. The Wall Street Journal called the campaigns "A GOP effort to cripple advocacy groups with whom they [party leaders] have ideological differences." "Contract with America" strategist Grover Norquist was even more direct, saying, "We will hunt [these liberal groups] down one by one and extinguish their funding sources." Near the end of his speech, Ehrenhalt speculates on methods that Democrats might use to attack the Bush presidency: "I wonder if next year we'll get people talking about Iraq, Enron, and arrogance?" (OpEd News)
- November 3: San Francisco columnist Harvey Sorenson notes that, if you believe the material given to the US media by the Pentagon, no one wounded in Iraq ever dies. "Maybe I don't know where to look, but I haven't been able to find one single report of a soldier who died later of his or her injuries. Not one. Isn't that curious?" Sorenson, bolstered by reports from soldiers involved in the treatment of the injured and his own frustrated attempts to find out more from the military, believes that it's part of the media manipulation campaign waged by the Bush administration to keep as many stories of deaths and injuries suffered by US troops in Iraq out of the public eye. One soldier confirms that casualties in Iraq "are not reported unless the press is nearby and gets wind of them." Senator Patrick Leahy, Democratic co-chair of the Senate National Guard Caucus, said, "The wounded are brought back after midnight, making sure the press does not see the planes coming in with the wounded." (San Francisco Chronicle, Mother Jones)
- November 3: Two Iranian journalists freed after four months of detention at the hands of US occupation forces in Iraq claim that they were subjected to "severe torture" at the hands of their captors. "The detention was unimaginable," says Saeed Abou Taleb as he and his colleague Sohail Karimi cross back into Iran. "The first 10 days was like a nightmare. We were subjected to severe torture. ...The other four months were terrifying. I would rather not remember it. It was very bad, very bad." Abou Taleb gave no details of the alleged torture. Both journalists were arrested in early July after filming a US base south of Baghdad; although US officials intimated that the two were suspected of spying, no charges against the two were ever filed. Abou Taleb says that they were filming in an unrestricted area, and that a US officials apologized to them, telling them that their arrest was a mistake. (Agence-France Press/IranMania)
Congress finds Bush administration misled public about Iraq
- November 4: Both the Senate and House Intelligence Committees find that Bush administration neo-conservatives "oversold" prewar intelligence about Iraq in order to push the administration's case for war. "There seemed to be an unseemly eagerness to believe any information which would portray the Iraqi threat as being extremely grave and imminent," says one intelligence officer. House Intelligence Committee chairman Porter Goss concludes that intelligence assessments leading up to the war were "not 100 percent on target." Former National Security Council official Kenneth Pollack says that the Bush people, "dismantle[d] the existing filtering process that for fifty years had been preventing the policymakers from getting bad information. They created stovepipes to get the information they wanted directly to the top leadership. Their position is that the professional bureaucracy is deliberately and maliciously keeping information from [the top leadership]." Chas Freeman, a former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Assistant Secretary of Defense, says, "I don't think it's an accident at all that so much of the justification turned out to be fallacious -- misleading -- deliberately so. These people, the neo-conservatives are very committed advocates of a policy. They apparently were not troubled by distorting the truth in order to sell the policies that they believed in." Pollack continues, "They always had information to back up their public claims, but it was often bad information. They were forcing the intelligence community to defend its good information and good analysis that the intelligence analysts didn't have the time or the energy to go after the bad information." (Daily Misleader, Seymour Hersh)
- November 4: A memo is leaked to Fox TV News; written by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, it discusses strategies to bring about an independent commission to look at how the Bush administration used prewar intelligence to justify going to war in Iraq. The memo suggests launching an independent inquiry when cooperation with the majority Republicans was exhausted and that the best timing for such action would be next year. The memo was "very troubling to me," says Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, a Republican who is accused of attempting to massage the commission's reporting to deflect blame onto the US intelligence agencies and away from the Bush administration. "I'm pretty despondent right now, it's sort of like a personal slap in the face after you have worked over time to come up with what we think is going to be a very good report on how to improve our intelligence capabilities." Later the same day, Roberts is even more critical: "[Q]uite frankly, I think this will give some comfort to terrorists. ...We have to put back together some semblance of a bipartisan committee." Roberts goes on to accuse the Democrats of "politicizing" the committee. Roberts uses the excuse to cease the remainder of investigations still ongoing by the committee. Republican Senator Jon Kyl says, "This strategy memo lays bare what we've started to see for some time: an orchestrated effort by Democrats at a time of war to improperly use an intelligence investigation as a weapon against President Bush." A GOP leadership aide says, "This is very damaging to [the Democrats]. Why should the administration cooperate with Democratic demands when the information is going to be used for partisan purposes?"
- Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller says that the memo was probably retrieved from a wastebasket, and had not been approved by or shared with members of the community. "Having said that," he continues, "the memo clearly reflects staff frustration with the conduct of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation and the difficulties of obtaining information from the administration. ...The American people deserve a full accounting of why we sent our sons and daughters into war." The memo, as reported by Fox News, discussed a plan to "pull the majority along as far as we can on issues that may lead to major new disclosures regarding improper or questionable conduct by administration officials. ...We can pull the trigger on an independent investigation of the administration's use of intelligence at any time. But we can only do so once. ...The best time to do so will probably be next year." Rockefeller refuses to repudiate the memo, defying the calls from Fox commentator Sean Hannity and other conservative media mavens. (Reuters/New York Times, CBS, Truthout, Fox News [the actual memo], The Hill)
- November 4: GOP Senator Pat Roberts, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, admits that he was wrong in declaring that the Bush administration would provide his panel with the documents and interviews it wants as part of its investigation into prewar intelligence on Iraq: "I probably spoke too hastily. ...When you are dealing with the White House, they want to make sure they are not getting into a precedent in regard to various documents used by the executive." However, Roberts believes that eventually the committee will be provided with the requested materials. "There has been a willingness to provide a great many of the list (of materials) that we requested." Roberts and senior Democrat Jay Rockefeller say that the committee is unlikely to complete an interim report on the intelligence before Congress adjourns for the year late this month or in December. Public hearings probably also will be postponed until next year. Rockefeller doesn't believe that the documents and interviews will be willingly provided. "It's very hard for me to come to believe that the White House is going to cooperate on things which potentially could put them in a different light," he says. "This is not a game. This is a question of how did we get into this war." (Guardian)
- November 4: The UN asks its global security chief to go on enforced leave after an investigation of the August 19 bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad shows "sloppy safety precautions" made the attack more likely to succeed. Tun Myat, a lawyer from Myanmar, is going on leave until the probe is finished. An October 22 report on the bombing shows that the UN security system was so "dysfunctional" and "sloppy" that it probably cost lives. Deficiencies included a lack of knowing how many foreign staff were in Iraq, a delay in installing shatter-proof glass (which still hasn't been installed), and a rejection of U.S. military protection without making alternate arrangements. "We are going through the details trying to find out exactly who did what and we are going to make some changes," says UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who adds that "quite a lot" of tightening of security had been done in Baghdad and around the world. (Reuters/AlertNet)
- November 4: Spain pulls six of its staff members from its embassy in Baghdad, citing security concerns. The remaining 20 members are being housed in more secure locations. Spain has about 1,300 troops in Iraq, stationed in the Polish-controlled sector of the country between Baghdad and Basra; those troops are not affected by the embassy pullout. (CNN)
- November 4: Democratic Senator Fritz Hollings calls the war in Iraq "a mistake from the very beginning" and says he was misled by the Bush administration before he voted last year to authorize the war: "Iraq was not part of the war on terror. It was quiet. It was not bothering anybody. They did not have al-Qaeda. They did not have nuclear capabilities. They were not connected in any way to 9/11." In a speech to the Senate, Hollings admits he would be hard-pressed to tell a grieving family why their son or daughter died in Iraq: "If I went to a funeral this afternoon for a fallen soldier in Iraq, what would I say? Did they fall there for democracy? There will be no democracy.... Your son gave his life for what? As their senator, I am embarrassed." Hollings says of the Iraqi war and the Bush administration, "Now they say this is not Vietnam. The heck it is not. This crowd has got historical amnesia. There is no education in the second kick of a mule. This was a bad mistake. Somehow, sometime, they've got to put the force in there and quit doing it on the cheap, or otherwise get out as fast as we can. This is, chapter and verse, Vietnam." Republican Representative Joe Wilson, a fellow South Carolinian, responds by questioning Hollings' support for the troops and by implication, his patriotism: "That's sad for Senator Hollings not to understand that each of our troops is a hero for participating in the war. ...Everything we're doing now is to disrupt the terrorists. If you don't fight them overseas, they will come here." (The State)
- November 4: Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark criticizes the Pentagon's decision to close a number of schools on US military bases as a cost-cutting measure, calling the idea an example of the Bush administration "gouging away benefits" owed to US troops. "To be talking about closing these schools when we're in the fix we're in now really shows a lack of sensitivity. It's petty, particularly given what's going on in the US Army. ...It's the same old sorry story of gouging away benefits and fundamental elements of what makes the military such a great place to work and live in." Clark has written a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld complaining about the proposal, especially while US forces are fighting in Iraq. The letter reads in part, "Our armed forces and the United States Army are under enormous stress. Sacrifice will no doubt be demanded. Surely, the department must know better than to recommend such a proposal in wartime." (AP/Fox News)
- November 5: The Pentagon begins filling employment vacancies at local draft boards around the United States, opening up the possibility that a new military draft is in the offing. Pentagon officials deny any plans to reinstate the draft, but the Selective Service web site is frank about the requirements that will be in place should a draft be reinstated: "If a military draft becomes necessary, approximately 2,000 local and appeal boards throughout America would decide which young men who submit a claim receive deferments, postponements or exemptions from military service, based on federal guidelines." The Selective Service denies that a draft is being considered: "That would require action from Congress and the president and they are not likely to do that unless there was something of the magnitude of the second world war that required it," says a spokesperson. Most political observers feel that reinstating the draft would be politically catastrophic for the Bush administration, but no explanation as to why the Pentagon is now attempting to fill the vacancies at these draft boards has been made available. The only explanation offered is that the entire procedure is "routine." A draft is becoming more of a topic of discussion among Democrats and some military officials, especially in light of new studies showing that up to half of the reservists and National Guardsmen currently deployed in Iraq intend to refuse to re-enlist once their tours of duty are complete. (Guardian)
- November 5: In order to preclude having to answer questions from Democrats, the Bush White House has decided not to listen to any queries from Democratic lawmakers. All such queries must be submitted to, and approved by, GOP committee chairmen before being given to the White House. The decision was precipitated by Democratic inquiries into the cost of the "Mission Accomplished" banner that adorned Bush's May 1 speech aboard the Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier. Scholars call the decision "highly unusual." The director of the White House Office of Administration, Timothy A. Campen, informs staff members of the Senate and House Appropriations panels in an e-mail that justifies the decision by saying it will limit "duplicate requests" and help answer questions "in a timely fashion." "It's saying we're not going to allow the opposition party to ask questions about the way we use tax money," says R. Scott Lilly, Democratic staff director for the House committee. "As far as I know, this is without modern precedent." Norman Ornstein, a congressional specialist at the American Enterprise Institute, agrees. "I have not heard of anything like that happening before," he says. "This is obviously an excuse to avoid providing information about some of the things the Democrats are asking for." Brookings Institution government scholar Thomas Mann observes, "This is just one of many instances where Republicans have a legal basis for what they're doing, but it violates long-standing norms." Even some Republicans take a dim view of the edict: "The word stupid comes to mind," says Jim Dyer, the House Appropriations Committee's Republican staff director. He says that it would be a good idea for the White House to drop an idea that he terms "stupid beyond belief." "We can play this game with them," he continues, "and we can make them put every request in writing. It will [be] to their benefit" to drop it. (Washington Post, The Hill)
- November 5: In a ceremony attended by 400 anti-abortion lawmakers and protesters, President Bush signs into law a bill to outlaw third-trimester or "partial-birth" abortions, the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. A similar bill was vetoed almost a decade before by then-president Clinton. At least one judge has already said the bill is probably unconstitutional, and legal challenges are already being mounted. Six months later the law will indeed be declared unconstitutional by a federal judge, and again two months later, this time because the law lacks a provision for exceptions in the case of threats against the mother's life and/or health. A third judge rules the Act is unconstitutional in September. On February 21, 2006, on the first day of the ascension of Justice Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, the Court announces it is willing to once again consider banning third-trimester abortions. (CBS)
- November 5: Paul Bremer, the US administrator of Iraq, has conditionally lent his support to the creation of an Iraqi-led paramilitary force composed of former employees of the country's security services and members of political party militias. Iraq's US-appointed Governing Council wants the force, which would pursue resistance fighters who have eluded American troops, to include a domestic intelligence-gathering unit and to have broad powers to conduct raids and interrogate suspects. Such characteristics would make the proposed force different from those created under other security initiatives undertaken by the Americans, who until now had expressed opposition to the idea. "We need a security force that is run by Iraqis, that is more heavily armed than the police and is able to act quickly," says one member of the IGC. Bremer initially opposed the creation of such a force, but has softened his resistance in the face of escalating attacks on US troops and Iraqi security forces. Jalal Talabani, the current IGC president, wrote in a letter to President Bush that "Iraqis are more able than others to handle this matter because they are well aware of the course of events in Iraq, more knowledgeable about the situation, the complexities of Iraqi society and the nature of Saddam Hussein's terrorist regime." (Washington Post/Iraq Foundation)
- November 5: A number of economic observers believe that the Republican-created deficit, projected to top $6 trillion by the end of the decade, is a deliberate attempt to "starve" the federal government. Commentator Ted Rall quotes GOP supply-side economics guru Milton Friedman to prove his point: "History suggests that Washington spends whatever it receives in taxes plus as much more as it can get away with...how can we ever cut government down to size? I believe there is one and only one way: the way parents control spendthrift children, cutting their allowance. For government, that means cutting taxes. Resulting deficits will be an effective -- I would go so far as to say, the only effective -- restraint on the spending propensities of the executive branch and the legislature." Economist Paul Krugman notes, "[M]any analysts now acknowledge that the administration never had any intention of pursuing a conventionally responsible fiscal policy. Rather, its tax cuts were always intended as a way of implementing the radical strategy known as 'starve the beast,' which views budget deficits as a good thing, a way to squeeze government spending. Did I mention that the administration is planning another long-run tax cut next year? Advocates of the starve-the-beast strategy tend to talk abstractly about 'big government.' But in fact, squeezing government spending almost always means cutting back or eliminating services people actually want...." Krugman goes on to note the shocking cutbacks in military expenditures, education, police and fire protection, even the $20 billion promised to New York City to rebuild the area devasated during the 9/11 attacks. "Just about every apparent promise of financial generosity this administration has made (other than those involving tax cuts for top brackets and corporate contracts) has turned out to be nonoperational." (Yahoo! News, Truthout)
$87 billion Iraq spending bill signed into law
- November 6: President Bush signs into law an $87 billion aid package for Iraq, approved by a sharply divided US Congress. The package is more than double the amount spent on homeland security, more than 10 times the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, and enough to provide all US unemployment benefits for almost two years. The package will help in pushing the US deficit above $525 billion, a record deficit level. In joint sessions, the House succeeded in restoring much of the cuts and modifications made by the Senate, who tried to cut significant portions from the aid request, as well as trying to make large portions of the funding loans to the Iraqi government instead of grants. The House, which is under much stronger GOP control than the Senate, also kills a Senate provision for penalities against corporations that engage in profiteering and taxpayer fraud. "The White House and House GOP leadership didn't want [the provision] in there. ...Congress is about to send billions and billions of dollars to a place where there is no functioning government, under a plan with too little accountability and too few financial controls," says Democratic Senator Pat Leahy, who co-authored the provision with fellow Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Richard Durbin. "That's a formula for mischief. We need strong disincentives for those who would defraud taxpayers, and removing this protection is another major blot on this bill." Feinstein says, "We are about to spend a lot of money in Iraq, quickly and with few real controls on how it is spent. ...The least we can do is prevent private companies from taking advantage of the American Government, its people, and the men and women who are risking their lives every day to make Iraq, and the world, a better, safer place to live. It was a mistake to strip the anti-profiteering provision from the conference report, and restoring it through this bill would send a clear signal that this kind of activity will not be tolerated."
- Durbin adds, "When the Senate Appropriations Committee considered this supplemental request, Senators Leahy, Feinstein, and I joined together to criminalize war profiteering -- price gouging and fraud -- with the same law that was passed during World War II. Yet this amendment, was stripped out of the final bill. I fail to understand how anyone can be opposed to prosecuting those who want to defraud and overcharge the United States government and the American taxpayers." Durbin goes on to say that the Iraq spending bill opens the door for "fat and sloppy good-old-boy contracts." A Senate Democratic aide explains, "several House Republican conferees were clearly empathetic, but they had to look to a higher authority. That higher authority was the White House, which had sent the marching order to strip this from the bill."
- Senator Robert Byrd, who voted against the funding, says in an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, "The Iraq supplemental conference report before the Senate today has been widely described as a victory for President Bush. If hardball politics and lock-step partisanship are the stuff of which victory is made, then I suppose the assessments are accurate. But if reasoned discourse, integrity, and accountability are the measures of true victory, then this package falls far short of the mark. ...In the end, the President wrung virtually every important concession he sought from the House-Senate conference committee. Key provisions that the Senate had debated extensively, voted on, and included in its version of the bill –- such as providing half of the Iraq reconstruction funding in the form of loans instead of grants -– were thrown overboard in the conference agreement. Senators who had made compelling arguments on the Senate floor only days earlier to limit American taxpayers' liability by providing some of the Iraq reconstruction aid in the form of loans suddenly reversed their position in conference and bowed to the power of the presidency. ...Perhaps this take-no-prisoners approach is how the President and his advisers define victory, but I fear they are fixated on the muscle of the politics instead of the wisdom of the policy. The fact of the matter is, when it comes to policy, the Iraq supplemental is a monument to failure. ...It has been said many times on the floor of this Senate that a vote for this supplemental is a vote for our troops in Iraq. The implication is that a vote against the supplemental is a vote against our troops. I find that twisted logic to be both irrational and offensive. To my mind, backing a flawed policy with a flawed appropriations bill hurts our troops in Iraq more than it helps them.
- "Endorsing and funding a policy that does nothing to relieve American troops in Iraq is not, in my opinion, a 'support the troops' measure. Our troops in Iraq and elsewhere in the world have no stronger advocate than Robert C. Byrd. I support our troops, I pray for their safety, and I will continue to fight for a coherent policy that brings real help – not just longer deployments and empty sloganeering –- to American forces in Iraq. The supplemental package before us does nothing to internationalize the occupation of Iraq and, therefore, it is not -- I say NOT -- a vote 'for our troops' in Iraq. ...Every Senator, upon taking office, swears an oath to support and defend the Constitution. It is the Constitution -– not the President, not a political party, but the Constitution –- to which Senators swear an oath of loyalty. And I am here to tell you that neither the Constitution nor the American people are well served by a process and a product that are based on blind adherence to the will of the President at the expense of congressional checks and balances." Over $65 billion of the money will go to military support, with large portions earmarked for private contractors supplying the military, and over $19 billion goes towards Iraqi reconstruction, again with large portions slated to find their way into contractor pockets. Some observers predict that this package will contribute to a generally weakening American economy, and will work to offset the short-term gains achieved by Bush's enormous tax cuts. (CBS, The Hill, Robert Byrd/Antiwar.com, CNN)
Last-ditch Iraqi effort to comply with inspections and terror investigation spurned, press learns
- November 6: It comes to light that days before the US invasion, Iraq made a last-ditch effort to avoid the war, offering to open the country to unfettered inspections for WMDs and to turn over a top al-Qaeda terrorist, Abdul Rahman Yasin, a suspect in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings who had been held in Iraqi custody since 1994. The Iraqis also offered UN-supervised free elections and oil concessions to US companies. "Definitely these people feared for their life and they realized that the threat was real," says Lebanese-American businessman Imad Hage, who contacted the US government on behalf of Saddam Hussein, recalling, "They were motivated for some deal, that some deal could be achieved...." Hage also claims that Hussein offered to have his senior officials meet directly with US officials to negotiate a deal, but the US refused. The US was insistent on going to war and refused to consider any deal from the Hussein regime. "The United States exhausted every legitimate and credible opportunity to resolve this peacefully," replies presidential spokesman Scott McClellan. "Saddam Hussein could have averted military action. He had a number of opportunties to do so." McClellan notes that Hussein had 48 hours to leave Iraq and avoid an invasion, but failed to do so. As for Yasin, the terrorist is now at large and believed to be one of the driving forces behind the Iraqi resistance. Hage observes, "It seemed to me there was a genuine offer that was on the table and somebody should have talked, at least talked." Shortly after the invasion began, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld claims that the United States had done everything possible to avoid war. "The American people can take comfort in knowing that their country has done everything humanly possible to avoid war and to secure Iraq's peaceful disarmament."
- hge met with the chief of Iraq's intelligence service, who told Hage that Iraq had no WMDs, and would prove it by letting the Americans in to look for themselves. Hage then passed the message along to his business colleage, Richard Perle, the chief of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, but when Perle called the CIA to inform them about the deal, he was told simply, "we will see them in Baghdad." (Guardian, ABC, US Newswire, James Risen)
- November 6: Talks between the US and Turkey to deploy up to 10,000 Turkish troops in Iraq are at a "standstill," and most observers believe that the troops will not enter Iraq after all. British Foreign Minister Jack Straw says, "There is no early prospect of Turkish troops going into Iraq." The Turkish government is said to be "amazed" at the turn of events, and privately blames the inept diplomacy of the US for the problem. Turkey is also concerned that the US failed to make the proper logistical and political preparations for the deployment. The failure is a serious blow to US attempts to improve security in Iraq and ease the pressure on its own troops currently serving in that country. Iraqi Kurds hail the decision. The Turkish parliament voted to authorize the deployment on October 7, in defiance of strong public opposition; the vote is widely seen as a response to a US promise of $8.5 billion in loans. Turkish officials say the US made it appear that it was trying to buy votes. (Guardian)
North Korean nuclear belligerence
- November 6: North Korea claims it has a nuclear device "ready to use" and powerful enough to deter any threat from America or anyone else. Ambassador Ri Yong Ho says that North Korea would only use its capability in self-defense; he prefers to use the term "nuclear deterrent capability." Ri says the bomb is made of plutonium, most of which was recently reprocessed but was extracted before a 1994 freeze on its nuclear weapons program under a pact with Washington. In response, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli repeated the US stance that "we have no intention of attacking North Korea." Ambassador Ri says that his country is ready to restart discussions for a non-aggression pact when and if the US is ready to join them at the bargaining table. (Reuters/CNN)
- November 6: Congress overwhelmingly passes a bill doubling the death benefits of US troops killed in the line of duty from $6,000 to $12,000, tax-free. Families of slain soldiers already pay no federal income taxes for the year the service member died. Surviving spouses, while still unmarried, and surviving children get a monthly dependency compensation payment. They are also eligible for full Social Security death and survivors' benefits. "It's long overdue," says Republican congressman Sam Johnson. "It's been a long time since 9-11, and we are trying to take care of our military." Another Republican congressman, Arno Houghton, says, "We made modest improvements to help the families of the members of the military who have given the supreme sacrifice." (Guardian)
Halliburton overcharges US government for gasoline
- November 6: After charges that Halliburton is grossly overcharging the US government for gasoline it is shipping into Iraq, the Army Corps of Engineers decides to cancel the no-bid contract extension is has previously awarded to the corporation. Jeffrey Jones, Director of the Defense Energy Support Center, has told the House Government Reform Committee that it costs the DESC $1.08 to $1.19 to buy and import fuel via truck into Iraq, a price that's less than half the $2.65 Halliburton is charging the US government. (Daily Misleader)
- November 6: A British legal expert says that Prime Minister Tony Blair and members of his Cabinet could face international prosecution for war crimes over the conduct of the war in Iraq. Professor Andrew Williams of Warwick University says, "We don't know if war crimes have been committed or if global laws have been violated but there are troublesome aspects that deserve examination and inquiry." Williams says that at the time of the invasion, the legality of the war was a key concern and the Attorney General was required to back the government with an opinion, but the way the war was conducted might also become a matter for the international criminal court. The UK could face prosecution in the court, though since the US has refused to join the court, that nation cannot be prosecuted. Potentially the court could prosecute the UK for the use of cluster bombs or targeting civilians, and the case might be looked on more seriously if the war was judged to have been illegal in the first place. "If the strategy of conflict is authorized by government figures then that is where the buck stops," says Williams. "If there is an opinion that there is a case to investigate over the strategy and conduct of the war and occupation, that responsibility would have to lie at the head of government. It's not a question 'is Tony Blair guilty of war crimes?' -- that would take us into the realms of campaigning which we are trying to avoid." International law expert Professor Upendra Baxi says that in recent weeks the credibility of the case for an invasion of Iraq has crumbled. "It is now clear that there was no imminent threat to the UK. Evidence to suggest that the government misled the country has to be scrutinized very carefully if democracy, transparency and honesty are to be respected," Baxi says. (Guardian)
- November 6: Bush gives a speech defining his "vision" for the Middle East to an audience at the National Endowment for Democracy. (He will give a similar speech at Whitehall Palace, London, on November 19.) He challenges countries like Iran and Syria to allow more democratic reforms in their governments, and admits that the US may have erred in supporting non-democratic regimes in the region in years past, calling 60 years of "excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East" a mistake. He says that it is essential that democracy in Iraq be restored: "The failure of Iraqi democracy would embolden terrorists around the world, increase dangers to the American people, and extinguish the hopes of millions in the region. Iraqi democracy will succeed -- and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Tehran -- that freedom can be the future of every nation." He goes on to claim that the past sixty years of US accomodation of dictatorships and non-democratic regimes in the region "did nothing to make us [the United States] safe," an assertion that conservative Pat Buchanan says indicates that Bush believes the entire Middle East foreign policy of the US since Roosevelt has been a failure, "because our allies were not democratic." Buchanan says, "But this is nonsense. ...Were the policies of all eleven of his predecessors back to FDR, which prevented Soviet domination of the oil wealth of the world, really failures? How can President Bush say we are not secure if the Islamic world is not democratic? The Islamic world has never been democratic. Yet, before we intervened there, our last threat came from Barbary pirates." (Radio Netherlands Wereldomroep, White House, Fox News, Pat Buchanan)
- November 6: A study published by the BBC shows that much of the war coverage from so-called "embedded" journalists has been "sanitized" for public consumption. Mark Damazer, deputy director of BBC News, says the sanitized coverage is a "disservice to democracy." He continues, "For reasons that are laudable and honourable, we have got to a situation where our coverage has become sanitized. We are running the risk of double standards, and it is not a service to democracy." Damazer notes that British television viewers have not seen images of dead or injured British soldiers since the Falklands war. "The culture has become more and not less sanitized over the years. We have a problem, and we need to start a debate about this. ...I'm not saying we should go fully down the al-Jazeera route and show everything, but we need to move from where we are." The study also shows that, in varying degrees, all of the British news channels reported the war from a "pro-war" perspective. Although British broadcasters were not guilty of the overt pro-war bias of their US counterparts, the study says, they tended to assume the truth of what they had been told. In 90% of the references to weapons of mass destruction during the war, there was an assumption that Iraq possessed them. (Guardian)
- November 6: Former president Bill Clinton calls on the Bush administration to sign a non-aggression pact with North Korea in return for unlimited access to that country's nuclear laboratories. Clinton says that despite the determination of North Korea to pursue its nuclear weapons program, "I don't believe they want to drop a nuclear bomb on Japan or South Korea. They want to eat and stay warm. ...They don't want to disappear from history like East Germany and they don't want to be disrespected and that's why they want the non-aggression treaty. ...I think we should offer them a mega deal; help with food, help with energy, help with becoming a self-sustaining economy...in return for total access to all the labs and all the sites and taking the plutonium rods out of Korea altogether and giving them a non-aggression pact. ...I think we should give them that because we're never going to be aggressive against them unless they violate the pact anyway." Clinton's argument dovetails with the wishes of Russia, China, and Japan, who have been instrumental in defusing the standoff between North Korea and the US. (Agence-France Press/Spacewar)
- November 6: Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark says that the war in Iraq never was about terrorism, but was the result of senior Bush administration officials with a long score to settle. "It is a world-class bait and switch," he says. Clark says he decided to leave the Republican party and become a Democrat because "[t]o be really cold about it, the Republicans are mostly interested in weapons systems. The Democrats are more interested in people." Clark says that if he is elected, he will transform the Iraq occupation into something viable. He would turn the US occupation into a NATO operation led by the US forces and name a civilian from an allied nation to guide reconstruction, a post presently held by Bush corporate crony L. Paul Bremer. Clark says he would seal Iraq's borders, rebuild the Iraqi military, and send in more intelligence officers and troops to guard weapons dumps. He said Iraqis should be given the responsibility for drafting a constitution and given control of oil revenues. Clark would also create a new Atlantic Charter that would stipulate that although the United States will not give up the right to act alone, working together with European allies should be the first option. (Nashua Telegraph, Guardian)
- November 6: In an interview with Today's Katie Couric, US soldier Simone Holcomb admits to going AWOL from active duty in Iraq; she chose to do so in order to keep custody of two of her seven children. Both Holcomb and her husband have served in Iraq since February, but both took emergency leave to return to the US when her husband's ex-wife went to court to gain custody of two of the Holcomb children. A judge ruled that one of the two Holcombs would have to stay in the US to retain custody of the children; Simone decided to stay because she is a reservist and her husband has twenty years of active duty experience and is near retirement. He has since returned to Iraq. The US Army insists that Simone also return to duty, ignoring the fact that for her to return to Iraq would mean losing two children. "We want them to put her back on duty at Fort Carson, like before," says Holcomb's mother, who briefly cared for the children while both parents were serving in Iraq. "Let her do her service there where she could still be with the children." Holcomb says her children are frightened that they will be taken from her. "For them, the Army is bigger than the world and it holds the strings to all of us. I feel terrible because I make these promises and now the Army could take it all away." (MSNBC)
- November 6: Former Iraqi captive Jessica Lynch says in an ABC interview that she is "no hero," and is angered that the Bush administration made up lies about her capture and rescue. She says that she was unable to fire a single shot to defend herself and her captured colleagues: "My weapon did jam and I did not shoot, not a round, nothing. I don't look at myself as a hero. My heroes are Lori [Private Lori Piestewa, who died in the ambush of Lynch's convoy], the soldiers that are over there, the soldiers that were in the car beside me, the ones that came and rescued me. ...I am just a survivor." She insists that the stories told about her by the administration were deliberate lies: "I'm not about to take credit for something that I didn't do... It hurt in a way that people would make up stories that they had no truth about. Only I would have been able to know that because the other four people on my vehicle aren't here to tell that story." Early media reports quoted unnamed US officials as saying she "fought to the death" before being captured and suffered multiple gunshot wounds. The Army later concluded she was hurt when her Humvee crashed into another vehicle in the convoy after being hit by a grenade. When asked if she went down "like, somebody said, Rambo?" she replies, "No, I went down praying on my knees." She says she is thankful to the soldiers who rescued her, but is troubled by the way the incident was portrayed by the military. "It does [bother me] that they used me as a way to symbolize all this stuff.... Yeah, it's wrong. ...I don't know why they filmed it, or why they say the things they, you know."
- Lynch claims in her authorized biography that she was raped while in captivity. The biography, titled I am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story and written by reporter Rick Bragg, is due to be released on November 11. Reporter Diane Sawyer, who interviewed Lynch, says, "The book does indeed cite some intelligence reports that she was treated brutally and a medical record which says, in the book, that she was a victim of a sodomizing rape." Lynch claims to have gaps in her memory which preclude her being able to fully relate the story of her capture and eventual "rescue;" she has no memory of being assaulted while in captivity. She says that she does not remember being raped, but adds, "even just the thinking about that, that's too painful." The Iraqi doctors who treated Lynch deny she was raped; the doctor who examined her when she arrived, Dr. Mahdi Khafazji, an orthopedic surgeon at Nasiriyah's main hospital who performed surgery on Lynch to repair a fractured femur and said he found no signs that she was raped or sodomized. The doctors point out that Lynch had suffered multiple injuries and severe blood loss; any such sexual assault upon her would have probably killed her. (ABC, China Daily, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- November 6: Claiming the Wasit compound in Kut, Iraq, is too insecure to continue work, KBR abandons the site altogether and refuses to continue working there, including the task of building the perimeter, concrete T-walls. Ironically, KBR has been tasked with building the site since just after the invasion months before; they have consistently refused to build the compound properly, nor have they completed building the security structures. Now they are using the fact that they have not built the security structures to justify their withdrawal from the site, claiming it is unsafe. Wasit governor Mark Etherington writes, "We still did not have our perimeter T-Walls, and perversely KBR would not now put them in place because of the claimed insecurity of the site. We were now in the position of being effectively held hostage by our contractor, which by withholding the concrete defenses that could alone secure the site against car-bombs -- the central threat -- now prolonged the very security deficiencies that precluded it from resuming work." KBR wants Etherington to withdraw his staff to the Camp Delta military base, which in Etherington's opinion would drastically reduce their potential to effect positive political change. Etherington refuses to withdraw, and the governing staff remains in the compound, constantly under threat of insurgent attacks. (Mark Etherington)
- November 6: Bush demonstrates his grasp of both history and geography: "This very week in 1989, there were protests in East Berlin and in Leipzig. By the end of that year, every communist dictatorship in Central America had collapsed." (AllHatNoCattle)
- November 6: Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern contrasts the censure of Australian Prime Minister John Howard, handed down by the Australian Senate on October 7 for misleading the citizenry, to the kid-gloves treatment being afforded US President George W. Bush. Howard was censured for producing no evidence of his claims that Iraq had stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and for suppressing Australian intelligence warnings that a war with Iraq would promote, not weaken, terrorist activities against Western countries. One senator accused Howard of "unprecedented deceit." The censure was made possible by the efforts of a single Australian intelligence official, Andrew Wilkie, who resigned his post and went public with the tissue of lies promulgated by his government. Wilkie testified to the following: "Australia's tiny agencies needed to rely on the sometimes weak and skewed views contained in the assessments prepared in Washington.... Intelligence gaps were sometimes back-filled with disinformation. Worst-case sometimes took primacy over most-likely. The threat was sometimes overestimated as a result of the fairy tales coming out of the U.S." "Most often the government deliberately skewed the truth by taking the ambiguity out of the issue... Qualifications like 'probably,' 'could' and 'uncorroborated evidence suggests' were frequently dropped. Much more useful words like 'massive' and 'mammoth' were included, even though such words had not been offered to the government by the intelligence agencies. Before we knew it, the government had created a mythical Iraq, one where every factory was up to no good and weaponization was continuing apace." The Howard administration has relentlessly smeared and discredited Wilkie; McGovern asks, "sound familiar?" He concludes, "It is all the more essential, then, that the Andrew Wilkies of US and British intelligence come out of hiding and tell their fellow citizens of the curious change that Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have introduced into the intelligence cycle -- first decide on war, and then cook up the 'intelligence' to justify it." (Buzzflash)
- November 6: Columnist Steven Chapman observes that the American people are showing far more resistance far more quickly to the Iraq occupation than they did to the Vietnam war: "The administration's supporters think critics are overwrought when they raise parallels to Vietnam, and that's partly true. The scale of the US commitment and the volume of American casualties are far smaller today than they were then. But the parallel also diverges in a way that should alarm the hawks. Even before the attack Sunday that killed 15 soldiers, 38% of Americans favored withdrawal. Broad opposition to this war has emerged far more quickly than during Vietnam." Americans will handle combat fatalities in a war the citizenry perceives as just and necessary; "...the public won't support endless bloodshed to underwrite a faulty policy. If the American people conclude that we can't establish order and democracy in Iraq at a reasonable cost, their patience will evaporate. Losing soldiers in a worthy and winning cause is one thing. Throwing away lives on a mistake is another. A mistake is what Iraq looks more like each day. Six months after the victory was won, security is deteriorating and attacks on U.S. troops are on the rise. Nor is the battle for hearts and minds going well. A recent poll by Zogby International found that two out of three Iraqis want the U.S. out in a year or less."
- Noted foreign policy scholar David Edelstein notes that there is a tremendous difference between a population whose government was defeated in a war and a population liberated from a dictator: "Liberated populations are likely to desire independence, not further occupation." He goes on to observe that, as recorded by Chapman, "failing occupations typically have three stages. In the first, 'occupying powers belatedly recognize the difficulty of the occupation tasks confronting them.' In the next, 'despite the growing commitment of the occupying power, the challenges of the occupation only multiply instead of diminish.' Sound familiar? Finally, the occupier faces a choice: to leave with its goals unmet or, as Bush puts it, 'stay the course.' This show of resolve may impress voters and other nations. Unfortunately, notes Edelstein, history suggests that this option 'is only likely to generate more resentment, more cost, and less success. Stay or go, the occupying power has failed.' During the Vietnam War, President Lyndon Johnson's national security adviser, McGeorge Bundy, once asked whether it was better politically 'to lose now or to lose after committing 100,000 men. Tentative answer: the latter.'" Chapman, like many others, doubts that Bush will have the option to sacrifice thousands of American troops simply to postpone the inevitable. (Chicago Tribune)
- November 6: A protester arrested for entering a restricted area has subpoenaed Attorney General John Ashcroft and senior Bush advisor Karl Rove to appear at his trial. The protester, Brett Bursey, says the testimony will show that the Bush administration tries to "sanitize" areas of dissent around the president during visits. Bursey, 55, was arrested over a year ago during a Bush visit to Columbia, South Carolina in October 2002. Bursey, who was carrying a sign reading "No War for Oil," was charged with trespassing by local police when he refused to move to a "free-speech zone." The charge was dropped, but federal charges were filed five months later. "We intend to find out from Mr. Ashcroft why and how the decision to prosecute Mr. Bursey was reached," says Bursey's attorney. Bursey believes he was arrested because of his anti-Bush sign; the US attorney's office says that Bursey was arrested because he was in a "secure area," not because of his sign. Bursey's attorney says, "We believe that not only was Mr. Bursey selectively prosecuted for the content of his message to President Bush, we also believe that the Justice Department chose to selectively prosecute Mr. Bursey five months after the incident because he is an effective and outspoken opponent of the Bush administration." When he was arrested, Bursey asked the police officer if "it was the content of my sign, and he said, 'Yes, sir, it's the content of your sign that's the problem.'" Bursey says that he had already moved 200 yards away from where Bush was slated to speak. He recalls, "The problem was, the restricted area kept moving. It was wherever I happened to be standing." US Attorney Strom Thurmond Jr. later charged Bursey violating a rarely enforced federal law regarding "entering a restricted area around the president of the United States." If convicted, Bursey faces six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
- Federal Magistrate Bristow Marchant denied Bursey's request for a jury trial because his violation is categorized as a petty offense. Some observers believe that the feds are seeking to set a precedent in a conservative state such as South Carolina that could then be used against protesters nationwide. Bursey was tried on November 12 and 13. His lawyers sought the Secret Service documents they believed would lay out the official policies on restricting critical speech at presidential visits. The Bush administration sought to block all access to the documents, but Marchant ruled that the lawyers could have limited access. Bursey sought to subpoena Attorney General John Ashcroft and presidential adviser Karl Rove to testify; Bursey lawyer Lewis Pitts declared, "We intend to find out from Mr. Ashcroft why and how the decision to prosecute Mr. Bursey was reached." The magistrate refused, however, to enforce the subpoenas. Secret Service agent Holly Abel testified at the trial that Bursey was told to move to the "free-speech zone" but refused to cooperate. (AP/The State, San Francisco Chronicle)
- November 6: The Los Angeles Times has ordered its reporters to stop describing anti-American forces in Iraq as "resistance fighters," saying the term romanticizes them and evokes World War II-era heroism. The ban was issued by Melissa McCoy, a Times assistant managing editor, who told the staff in an e-mail that the phrase conveyed unintended meaning and asked them to instead use the terms "insurgents" or "guerrillas." "Really, it was something that just stopped us when we saw it, and it was really about the way most Americans have come to view the words," McCoy says. She says she is confident that the Times reporters who used the term had no intention of romanticizing the Iraqis who have killed more than 100 US soldiers since Washington declared major combat over in May, and that the paper's Baghdad bureau had no objection to the policy change. David Hoffman, foreign editor of the Washington Post, says his paper had used the phrase "resistance fighters" to describe Iraqi forces and had no objection to the term. "They are resisting an American occupation so it's not inaccurate," Hoffman says. "We try to be as precise as possible and distinguish whether they are former Baath party, Fedayeen, outsiders, insiders. But that's not always possible." (Yahoo! News Australia)
Huge new troop deployments to Iraq
- November 7: One week after President Bush says that no new troops will be needed in Iraq, the Pentagon announces that it intends to deploy well over 50,000 more troops, before attempting to shrink the number of troops in Iraq to 105,000 by the spring. 20,000 Marines will be deployed to take the place of departing Army troops. The Army is sending up to 85,000 new troops to Iraq to replace soldiers ending one-year tours, and alerting up to 43,000 National Guardsmen and Army Reservist that they, too, may be activated. Reservists will be called up for a maximum of 18 months, with a year in Iraq. The Army also announces that soldiers in every unit designated for deployment to Iraq next year -- whether active duty or reserve -- will be prohibited from leaving the service during a period beginning 90 days before their departure to 90 days after they return. GOP Senator John McCain says, "There does not appear to be a strategy behind our current force levels in Iraq other than to preserve the illusion that we have sufficient force levels in place to meet our objectives." The announcement comes on the heels of news that Turkey will not deploy 10,000 troops in Iraq as earlier expected. The Pentagon has also been moving to fill the 16% of vacancies on local draft boards around the nation. The government last sought to fill all draft board positions in 1981 at a critical moment in the Cold War, shortly after Ronald Reagan took office. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says, "We're not going to reimplement a draft. There is no need for it at all." The draft was ended in 1973, as the Vietnam War was drawing to a close. "This is significant," says presidential scholar Ned Lebow of Dartmouth College. "What the department of defence is doing is creating the infrastructure to make the draft a viable option should the administration wish to go this route." "I don't think a presidential candidate would seriously propose a draft," says the Cato Institute's Charles Pena. "But an incumbent, safely in for a second term — that might be a different story. When you crunch the numbers, you understand why you hear talk about a draft. You only have to look at troop levels to realize we don't have the numbers to do the job in Iraq properly." (Daily Misleader, AP/New York Times, Toronto Star)
- November 7: Arabs throughout the Middle East respond angrily to Bush's speech yesterday calling for democracy in the region. Many say they are appalled Washington was preaching liberty for Arabs while occupying Iraq. "Bush's speech is like a boring, broken record that nobody believes," says Gulf-based political analyst Moghazy al-Badrawy. "He wants democracy and the U.S. is occupying Iraq and its ally Israel is killing Palestinians? Arabs just don't buy it." Abdel-Monem Said, director of Egypt's Al-Ahram Center for Political Strategic Studies, said the perceived U.S. dishonesty in justifying the Iraq war had also tarnished its credibility. "Democracy is all about legalities, rule of law and legitimacy. There is an issue of double standards." Mohammad al-Bsairi, a Kuwaiti member of parliament and spokesman for the Gulf state's Muslim Brotherhood, says the Bush administration's blind bias for Israel -- battling a Palestinian independence uprising -- also flew in the face of democracy. Lebanon's top Shi'ite Muslim cleric, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, scornfully described Bush's call as an attempt to ensure compliancy in the region, rather than better lives. "It's the democracy of the American administration to preserve its strategic interests in the Middle East and not to preserve the interests of the people," he declares. Saudi Arabia's Al-Riyadh newspaper writes that it is ironic that Bush was now concerned with the welfare of the Arab people after the United States vetoed almost all UN resolutions that would benefit them: "America is traveling in a path that is totally opposite to the economic and political future of the Arabs."
- Some commentators observe that Bush's Middle East assessment, in which he praised many authoritarian governments and criticized Iran and Syria, is based on which nations backed US policies rather than their democratic credentials. "Praising Saudi Arabia and criticising Iran. It's not fair at all," said Egyptian analyst Gamal A.G. Soltan. "The spectrum of freedom available in Iran is much wider than Saudi Arabia." Bush also appeared to add insult to injury when he said the United States had made a mistake by supporting non-democratic governments in the region for the past 60 years. The US has for decades backed governments throughout much of the Middle East which are seen by their own citizens as totalitarian, corrupt, politically illegitimate and un-Islamic. "Mr. Bush has not read history," says one Arab analyst in Dubai. "Who supported and still supports the very governments whose oppressive rules breed extremism and terrorism?" Other Arab commentators read the speech as a precursor for US-backed aggressions in the Middle East aimed at justifying the US presence in Iraq despite mounting casualties: "As the crisis in Iraq deepens, the United States is trying to open a new front in the region, especially with Syria," Qatar's Al-Sharq newspaper said in an editorial. (Reuters)
- November 7: In an astonishing example of nakedly partisan power politics, Senate Majority Bill Frist, a Republican, disbands the Senate Intelligence Committee in its entirety until committee Democrats reveal the identity of the author of a memo outlining a plan to politicize intelligence data in a bid to undermine Bush's re-election. (See the November 4 item for more.) "The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has been harmed by a blatant partisan attack," says Frist in his blast against what Republicans and the right-wing media are calling "Memogate," and asserts that the memo has rendered the committee "incapable of meeting its responsibilities to the United States Senate and to the American people. ...Those responsible for this memo appear to be more focused on winning the White House than they are on winning the war against terror. ...There will be no more pulling along and no more useful collaboration on partisan schemes." Committee chairman Pat Roberts, a fellow Republican, endorses the shutdown of his committee, saying, "Unless and until this reprehensible attack plan and strategy to derail the committee's important work is properly addressed, I am afraid that it will be impossible to return to business as usual in the committee." Frist also demands "a personal apology" from Democrats to Roberts. The committee is preparing a report on the failure of intelligence preceding the invasion of Iraq.
- One Democrat, retiring senator Zell Miller, calls the memo, which was leaked to Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity on November 4 by unknown sources, "perhaps treasonous," but other Democrats refuse to go down that road. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid says that the memo was stolen by Republicans and then leaked to the media in an attempt to smear Democrats and distract the public from the intelligence investigation; Reid says that act is more offensive than anything revealed in the memo.
- Truthout's William Rivers Pitt writes on November 15 that the memo, which in essence details possible responses to attempts by Roberts and other committee Republicans to sanitize the report and protect the White House, is far less significant that these attempts. Although committee Democrats have insisted, without success, that the committee's investigation focus on the actions of the White House and the Pentagon as well as the intelligence community, Roberts has resisted any attempts to do so. Pitt writes, "No questions about the dozens of public statements made by the Bush administration about Iraq's weapons capabilities have been allowed. No questions about the Office of Special Plans, which was created out of whole cloth by Rumsfeld for the specific purpose of re-interpreting CIA and State Department intelligence reports, have been allowed. No questions about repeated visits to CIA headquarters by Dick Cheney, who went there to browbeat intelligence analysts for more aggressive interpretations of the threat posed by Iraq, have been allowed. Roberts has already made it clear that the CIA is to blame for the fact that there are no weapons in Iraq, and is blocking Rockefeller and the Democrats from questioning this dubious premise." The memo, which was apparently prepared either by ranking minority member Jay Rockefeller or his staff, says that Democrats either need to steer the inquiry towards these matters, or hold their own separate and independent investigation because Roberts is using the committee to defend the White House from taint. "We have an important role to play," the memo reads, "in revealing the misleading, if not flagrantly dishonest, methods and motives of senior administration officials who made the case for unilateral pre-emptive war."
- Instead, the Republicans, and the right-wing noise machine in their employ, have tried to gin up a controversy over the memo and smear Democrats for trying to find out the truth. Pitt also cites a November 12 article in the Boston Globe that is interesting in contrast. The Globe writes of a memo distributed by the Republican National Committee's Ed Gillespie: "The strategy will involve the dismissal of Democrats as the party of 'protests, pessimism and political hate speech,' ...Gillespie...wrote in a recent memo to party officials--a move designed to shift attention toward Bush's broader foreign policy objectives rather than the accounts of bloodshed. Republicans hope to convince voters that Democrats are too indecisive and faint-hearted--and perhaps unpatriotic--to protect US interests, arguing that inaction during the Clinton years led to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001." Pitt writes, "The Rockefeller memo described a strategy to get to the bottom of what happened in the run-up to the war, a strategy that is required because Senator Roberts and his fellow Republicans are using their majority position to protect the White House from embarrassing questions. The Gillespie memo accused the Democrats of using 'hate speech,' blamed them for the attacks of September 11, and further outlined a political attack strategy that laments the unpatriotic behavior of the Democrats while painting a joyous picture of what is, in reality, a spectacularly failed Bush administration policy in Iraq."
- An obviously livid Pitt excoriates Democrats for failing to stand up to their Republican counterparts. "The worst problem is the Democratic Party, that loyal opposition which is all too quick to be embarrassed by revelations that they actually oppose the Bush administration," he writes. "Senator Evan Bayh, Democratic Senator from Indiana and member of the now-defunct Intelligence Committee investigations, stated publicly that Rockefeller should admit drafting the memo was a mistake. 'I think the tone of the memo was unfortunate,' said Bayh. How about this, Senator Bayh? 'What is unfortunate is the fact that members of this committee who are committed to finding the truth about the development of the Bush administration's argument for war have to go outside the normal process, because the normal process has been corrupted by partisan Republicans who abuse their positions by blocking legitimate areas of inquiry. We have pages and pages of statements by administration officials that have turned out to be wildly false. There is plenty of evidence that the American people have been lied to in a process that has gotten a lot of good people killed. Why is the White House hiding? Why is Senator Roberts whitewashing this investigation? We apologize for nothing, and demand that this inquiry be widened to any and all areas that can bring us answers to these important questions.' That would be nice to hear. Instead, we hear hangdog apologies from shamefaced Democrats. We have partisan Republicans shutting down vital inquiries for purely political reasons. We have a memo from the chairman of the Republican party calling Democrats unpatriotic and blaming them for September 11, with no notice being given to this vicious political attack whatsoever. We have a fraudulent war that grinds on and on, killing and maiming our soldiers every day. Where is the real scandal here?"
- An article in the conservative Washington Times-published magazine Insight shows the breadth and the depth of the attempts to manufacture a controversy out of nothing. J. Michael Waller accuses the Democrats of trying to "abuse" the committee and use it "as a stealth weapon to undermine and discredit President George W. Bush and the US war effort in Iraq...." Rockefeller and the Democrats have "poisoned the working atmosphere of a crucial legislative panel in a time of war," he writes, while attributing his comment to unspecified "Senate sources." Waller accuses Rockefeller and the Democrats of "duping" Roberts "into approving probes that in actuality would be fishing expeditions inside the State Department and Pentagon.... In other words, they would manufacture and denounce a cover-up where none existed. The Democrats then would drag the issue through the 2004 presidential campaign by creating an independent commission to investigate, according to the memo...." (Editor's note: This is a classic example of the schoolyard bully tactic of doing something reprehensible and then accusing your victim of actually perpetuating the action.) Waller calls Democratic staffer Christopher Mellon, whom many believe wrote the memo, "part of a network of liberal operatives within the Pentagon and CIA who reportedly are seeking to discredit and politically disable some of the nation's most important architects of the war on terrorism and their efforts to keep weapons of mass destruction from falling into terrorist hands...." Mellon and other Clinton-era officials "burrow[ed] into vital Pentagon posts as careerists, administration officials say [who exactly are these sources?], where they have been maneuvering to keep Bush loyalists out of key positions and/or undermine their authority while pushing their own political agendas that run contrary to those of the president." (NewsMax, Truthout, Insight/Raw Story)
- November 7: Speakers at the National Conference on Media Reform at the University of Wisconsin at Madison says "[m]isleading and incomplete reporting by major news outlets" bears some of the blame for America being led into a war with Iraq. "This war could never have taken place without the complicity of the news media," says John Stauber, author and founder of the Center for Media and Democracy. "The media that sold this war doesn't want to examine how they did it." Amy Goodman, host of Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now!" program, says war would stop if media outlets showed images of injured and dead Iraqi civilians, including children, as often as they showed images such as the toppling of a large statue of Saddam Hussein draped with an American flag. "I don't consider a little dead Iraqi girl or boy on the ground my enemy," Goodman says. (Wisconsin State Journal)
- November 7: A soldier recently returned from Iraq makes negative comments on her local talk radio show; she is later informed she may face court martial for her comments. National Guard Sergeant Jessica Macek of Rockford, Illinois, who has now returned to duty in Kuwait, is accused of calling President Bush a "liar" on the air. Macek's remarks were reported on a local conservative Web site, which reports Macek as saying: "I believe it is in the forefront in the minds of many soldiers that we were lied to about the reasons for going to war." WNTA radio host Chris Bowman says that the site, the "Illinois Leader," misreported her remarks: "I don't believe [Macek] said 'liar,' I think she may have used the words 'less than truthful,' but I don't recall her saying the President was a liar." (Radio Ink, Illinois Leader)
- November 7: Former Marine Corp intelligence analyst Sgt. Robert Ferriol has been court-martialed for disloyalty; the charges stem from a March 2003 letter he penned that questioned Bush's leadership abilities and recommending UN approval for the invasion of Iraq. Although Ferriol was able to clear himself, he is no longer allowed to work in intelligence or any "sensitive" areas; this after eight years of spotless service. Ferriol was able to show that he was being tried, not for disloyalty, but for having political views different from his commander-in-chief: "Never mind the fact that there is not one single negative mark on my entire eight years of service" Ferriol writes, "or the fact that every one of my superiors stood up for me during this time, praising my abilities and loyalty to this country. None of that mattered; only my 'liberal beliefs.'" He continues, "Also unfortunate is that I am not alone in this situation. We now live in a climate of political correctness and false patriotism where anyone who goes against our president is immediately labeled as disloyal; unpatriotic; a traitor; a liberal. ...[I]f I had it to do all over again, nothing would change. I would still write that letter and I would still complete my service standing tall and proud. I don't have a disloyal bone in my body and most likely never will. Having said that, it's a shame that because of my political views this country lost one more honest service member protecting its borders." (The Item)