Iraq war and occupationThe vote is seen as a victory for the Bush administration, who had lobbied hard for passage. Previously, France, Germany, and Russia had announced their intentions to abstain from the vote, but in the end, they voted yes. Secretary of State Colin Powell says, "I think the major disagreements of the early part of the year -- to go to war or not to go to war -- that's over. ...What we have been debating the last several weeks is how best to create the peace -- not whether to go to war or not -- and how best to create a new government in Iraq that will be representative of its people and live in peace with its neighbors. I think we are all now agreed to that." Veteran political correspondant Fred Kaplan characterizes the resolution as "toothless." Kaplan writes, "The resolution essentially changes nothing. Its drafters have paid lip service to accelerating the process of Iraqi self-governance and strengthening the United Nations' role in this process. But a close reading of the resolution indicates that all power remains in American hands, that no real authority is transferred to the United Nations, and that a new Iraqi government remains a long way off. The resolution may pass, but the act will have no effect. It will not compel or persuade other countries to donate money or manpower. Nor will it convince anyone who needs convincing on the ground in Iraq that the U.S. occupation is short-term or legitimate. In short, the resolution fails to accomplish the main diplomatic tasks at hand -- to share the burdens of building postwar Iraq and to quell the violent resistance so the rebuilding can proceed securely." (CNN, Slate)
Iraq war and occupationit intends to launder the bulk of that money through its business cronies and receive some of it back in political contributions, while the bulk of the remainder goes into the coffers of administration-friendly corporations. Reporter Robert Trilling writes, "Against the backdrop of a treasury-draining scheme to remake the world, a few million dollars in corporate contributions to a sitting president may seem insignificant, but one can be sure they matter to Bush -- and to his political opponents. For Democrats, the spectacle of a Republican administration larding out contracts to close allies is a political disaster. ...Iraq is being set up for auction, and in Washington and Baghdad, the administration is lining up bidders. Lawyers and lobbyists, many with deep ties to the Republican electoral machine, are corralling investors ready to join in the enormous gamble. 'If you go to the Four Seasons and shout out "Who's working on a deal in Iraq?" everybody there will raise their hand,' said Ed Rogers, one of the GOP's top lobbyists in Washington.... With non-American companies frozen out, and the UN withdrawing its mission, U.S. firms will be on their own, just the way the administration wants it. " Firms like Halliburton, its subsidiary Kellogg, Brown, & Root, Bechtel, and others are already repaying their huge, lucrative Iraq contracts with fat campaign contributions to the GOP and to Bush's re-election campaign fund. Middlemen firms like the emergent New Bridge Strategies have been formed to guide new Iraqi contracts to GOP-friendly corporations. (New Bridge is closely linked with GOP lobbying firm Barbour, Griffith, and Rogers; former GOP chairman Haley Barbour and BGR founder Ed Rogers are two of New Bridge's executive directors. New Bridge's chairman, Joe Allbaugh, is a long-time Bush crony and recent head of FEMA; he resigned that post to take the chair of New Bridge. Trilling writes of Allbaugh, "...he may not be leaving Bush's circle so much as becoming a different kind of operative, able to bind corporate and lobbying dollars to White House priorities.") Campaign finance expert Thomas Ferguson says, "Forget all the talk about Arab democracy. The election these guys are focused on is right here at home." (Village Voice)
9/11 attacks...It is clear that the FAA's delay has significantly impeded the progress of our investigation." The commission warns that other executive brance agencies may have documents and material subpoenaed in the near future. The resulting delays could force the commission to extend its investigation beyond May 2004, when it is supposed to finish its task. The possibility of an extension worries the Bush administration, since it could mean the public release of a potentially embarrassing report in the heat of 2004's presidential campaign. One of the main focuses of the commission's investigation is whether or not the FAA, NORAD, and other reacted too slowly to the hijacking of four aircraft the morning of the attacks; the panel and its staff are alarmed by discovering they had not been provided with detailed transcripts and other information about communications on that day between the the FAA and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, the unit of the Pentagon that is responsible for defending American air space. Some of the data sought by the commission concerns the critical 29 minutes between the time the FAA knew the commercial flight that eventually hit the Pentagon had been diverted and notification of the North American air defense command. The FAA says it intends to fully cooperate with the investigation. "I am deeply concerned to learn that the F.A.A. has apparently both misled and failed to adequately respond to the 9/11 commission's request for documents," says Republican Senator John McCain, who cosponsored the bill that created the commission last year. Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman, the lead Democratic sponsor, says that the significance of the subpoena was clear: "This administration is standing in the way of a thorough and searching inquiry." (New York Times, Memphis Commercial Appeal)
Islamist terrorismThe report calls the US efforts to claim that it is winning the war on terrorism as "overconfident." The IISS is one of the most respected sources for information on military capabilities and readiness of countries around the globe. The report recommends that the US impose security in Iraq to prevent the country from "ripening into a cause celebre for radical Islamic terrorists." "Nation-building" in Iraq is paramount and might require more troops than initially planned. "On the plus side, war in Iraq has denied al Qaeda a potential supplier of weapons of mass destruction and discouraged state sponsors of terrorism from continuing to support it. ...On the minus side, war in Iraq has probably inflamed radical passions among Muslims and thus increased al Qaeda's recruiting power and morale and, at least marginally, its operating capability. ...The immediate effect of the war may have been to isolate further al Qaeda from any potential state supporters while also swelling its ranks and galvanizing its will." It says that 18,000 veterans of al Qaeda's Afghan training camps were still probably operating worldwide "with recruitment continuing and probably increasing following the war in Iraq." (Reuters/Wired News)
Prewar intelligence on Iraqand for not appointing a special counsel to impartially investigate the incident. The prosecutors represent a cross section of experienced criminal prosecutors and include political supporters of Ashcroft at the department's headquarters in Washington as well as US attorneys' offices around the country. They fear that Ashcroft could be damaged by continuing accusations that as an attorney general with a long career in Republican partisan politics, he could not credibly lead a criminal investigation that centered on the aides to a Republican president. Democrats have criticized each step of the inquiry as tainted by Ashcroft's relationship with the White House. Ashcroft has parted with the thirty-year tradition of the Attorney General attempting to maintain a certain distance from the White House; instead, Ashcroft is an open ally and confidant of Bush and his inner circle. (New York Times)
Iraq war and occupationBartlett says that the media doesn't provide "the full picture" of the "incredible amount of progress being made in Iraq." He calls for a "debate about the content as well as the judgment of what makes news." Violence in Iraq shouldn't be reported, he says, because it is "old news" and not representative of what is happening in Iraq today. Instead, Bartlett says, the news stories on Iraq should be about "freedom."
Prewar intelligence on IraqAfter another reporter asks about a review conducted by the House Intelligence Committee of intelligence about prewar Iraq, which he characterizes as "fragmentary, unsubstantial, and contain[ing] too many uncertainties." McClellan asserts that the administration knew for a fact that Iraq possessed large and unaccounted-for stockpiles of biological and chemical weaponry. He then adds, "And then came 9/11." Corn challenges McClellan, pointing out that all documentation of Iraq's weapons program prove that Iraq had no such weapons stockpiles, including testimony from Colin Powell in February 2001, any number of UN weapons inspections reports, and a fall 2002 report from the DIA. McClellan accuses Corn of twisting Powell's statements and insists that the UN documented the existence of said stockpiles. McClellan refuses to hear Corn's follow-ups and states, "America is safer because Saddam Hussein was removed from power." Corn says that he couldn't get McClellan to address the facts "because he refused to recognize their existence." He characterizes McClellan's response as "bizarre, because that is what is in the public record. ...Refusing to acknowledge reality, it seems, can be effective spin." He wonders if McClellan is deliberately lying or if he, like so many other administration officials, seems to be "detached from reality." (NPR)
Middle East unrestThe three were security guards for American diplomats attempting to mediate a settlement between Israel and Palestinian groups. Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat says, "These are American martyrs that came here at Palestinian request." (AP/Akron Beacon Journal)
Congressional Democratstitled Like No Other Time: The 107th Congress and the Two Years That Changed America Forever, contains an interesting recounting of the first meeting between Daschle and newly elected President Bush. Bush, who initially was very cordial to Daschle, then stated, "I hope you'll never lie to me." Daschle recalls, "That statement caught me up short. What an unusual concern to express in such a meeting. ...I've often wondered since then what George Bush might have been told about me that would make him begin this conversation, this relationship, from an implied position of mistrust." (The Hill)
Conservative media slantApparently the American media has not given a lot of attention to the details of Limbaugh's addiction, and Limbaugh has been far less than truthful in his own statements. From what is currently known, he began abusing prescription drugs in March 1998, when he began regularly "borrowing" painkillers from his housekeeper, Wilma Cline. (Limbaugh's original story to Cline was that he was suffering from persistent ear pain. The story about upper and lower back pain is a new wrinkle, one he hasn't claimed before. Medically, Limbaugh's ear condition should not have caused him pain.) She was able to keep Limbaugh in pills from prescriptions that her husband had until early 1999, when the prescriptions ran out. After that, Limbaugh began sending Cline to buy illegal, "street corner" supplies of the drugs. Sometime in summer 1999, Limbaugh attended a secret detoxification session at the Addiction Research Institute in New York City which claimed to be able to cure a patient's addiction within a 24-hour period. The detox session, which relies on the supplanting of the opiate buprenorphine for the drugs being abused, is apparently quite popular with celebrities and rich abusers who wish to keep their identities secret. The detox session obviously did not work, because Limbaugh went right back to abusing the drugs, particularly OxyContin, a prescription drug well known on the street as "hillbilly heroin," among other nicknames, because of its ability to give a heroin-like high when crushed and snorted. It is not known whether Limbaugh ever snorted the OxyContin. What is known is that at his worst, he was taking 93 40 mg pills a day, or 3720 mg a day -- a dosage far, far beyond safe tolerance levels (the maximum dosage is 160 mg a day). It is possible that the spinal pain Limbaugh is now claiming may have been actually caused by the OxyContin abuse. At some point in the spring of 2002, Limbaugh went back to ARI for a second one-day detox session, which also failed. Sometime in early 2003, Wilma Cline and her husband reported Limbaugh's drug abuse to the Palm Beach County, Florida, Assistant District Attorney. Limbaugh's famous hearing loss, once diagnosed as a rare condition known as AIED, or autoimmune inner ear disease, may well have been caused by his abuse of drugs. Two of the drugs that he abuses, OxyContin and Vicodin, are known to be ototoxic, or able to destroy a user's hearing. Apparently Limbaugh was originally diagnosed with AIED even though he displayed few of the symptoms.
Anti-terrorism and homeland securityThere has been no call for rationing or conservation of critical supplies, such as gasoline. There has been no call for obligatory national service in community aid projects or emergency services. As he sent 150,000 soldiers into battle and now asks them to remain in harm's way longer than expected, the president never raised even the possibility of reinstating the military draft, perhaps the most democratizing influence in the nation's history. Instead, he has cut taxes hugely, mostly for affluent Americans, saying this would put money into circulation and create jobs. Since Bush began the tax cutting two and a half years ago, 2.7 million jobs have disappeared. All this I don't understand. If it's a crisis -- and global terrorism surely is -- then why hasn't the president acted accordingly? What he did do, when he sent out those first tax rebate checks, was to tell us to go shopping. Buy clothes for the kids, tires for the car -- this would get the economy humming. How does that measure up as a thoughtful, farsighted fiscal plan? In effect, George Bush says, believe in me and I will lead you out of darkness. But he doesn't tell us any details. And it's in the details where the true costs are buried -- human costs and the cost to our notion of ourselves as helpers and sharers, not slayers. No one seems to be asking themselves: If in the end the crusade is victorious, what is it we will have won? The White House never asked that question in Vietnam either." (Village Voice)
Media manipulation and marketing by GOPJust ask people who have been there." In response, a reservist writes, "Everyone hears that morale is high and it is a bold-faced lie. The only people they [the media? the politicians?] ever talk to are these commanders. The reserve soldiers never get to speak their mind. We are the pawns of this war." (Washington Post/Intervention Magazine)
War with IranThe rationale is more solid than the "evidence" used to convince the American public of the need to invade Iraq. Iran does indeed have a program for developing a nuclear weapon, a program which has caused a strong reaction in the Bush administration. Iran has long been a sponsor of terrorism, although evidence connecting its government to al-Qaeda is not yet strong enough to base an accusation upon. The administration seems to be ignoring the Iranian people's well-documented desire to jettison the harsh policies of past regimes and join the developing world as a civilized, Westernized nation. And in contrast to Iraq's depleted and chaotic military, Iran has a strong military as well as the ability to easily annihilate American forces currently occupying Iraq; the Iranian mullahs believe, probably rightly, than another invasion would drastically overextend the American military and could be beaten back. Newsweek reports, "The troops Washington has on the ground in Iraq, meanwhile, are easy prey for guerrillas, terrorists or mobs any time the mullahs want to play that game. The Iranians don't need to show their hand. They have lines in with the Kurds, they can buy off Sunnis and they know all the players among the Iraqi Shiite majority. A Western official who negotiated with several of the powerful clergy in Najaf and Karbala recently came back to Europe convinced that Tehran had those holy cities completely wired: 'When I talked to the Iranians they knew verbatim -— verbatim —- my conversations with the Iraqi ayatollahs.' At best, there's a stand-off, and a dangerous one for both sides. But the countdown continues." (Newsweek/MSNBC)
Iraq war and occupationThe CRS study shows that adequate funding has already been allocated through May of 2004. It suggests that the recently-passed $368.2 billion 2004 Defense funding bill plus the emergency funding Congress passed at the start of the war provides the Army alone with $37 billion in funding for personnel and operations and maintenance, enough to fund operations through early May. Bush, as well as administration officials like Donald Rumsfeld, refuse to discuss the issue with Congress, preferring instead to simply insist on the passage of the funding package without explanation. "I'm not here to debate you," Bush recently snapped to a Republican Congressman who questioned him about particular aspects of the funding bill. He refused to allow the Congressman to speak further. (Daily Misleader)
Iraq war and occupationHe points out, accurately enough, that the American military is trained and equipped to fight larger wars such as World War II, and copes less well with guerrilla resistance such as in Vietnam and Iraq. He suggests that a new institution might be created to handle the US efforts to eradicate terrorism: "It is not possible to change DoD fast enough to successfully fight the global war on terror; an alternative might be to try to fashion a new institution, either within DoD or elsewhere -- one that seamlessly focuses the capabilities of several departments and agencies on this key problem." He calls the US results of trying to deal with al-Qaeda "mixed," says that there is slow progress in tracking Taliban leaders, and says "we are just getting started" with dealing with Ansar al-Islam and other terrorist groups. "Have we fashioned the right mix of rewards, amnesty, protection and confidence in the US?" he asks. "Does DoD need to think through new ways to organize, train, equip and focus to deal with the global war on terror? Are the changes we have and are making too modest and incremental? My impression is that we have not yet made truly bold moves, although we have have made many sensible, logical moves in the right direction, but are they enough?"
Secrecy of Bush administrationThe order is leaked to the press almost immediately. The three-way turf war between the agencies led by Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice is alleged to be the cause for so many of the recent media leaks; observers characterize the situation as "way worse" than the notorious turf wars between the Reagan administration's George Shultz and Caspar Weinberger. Bush's response prompts historian Robert Dallek to observe, "What's most revealing is the extent of frustration taking hold. ...It's really reminiscent of Johnson and Vietnam. Members of the Senate... and the media were giving him grief. It sounds like Bush is falling into that pattern. He's blaming the media, much like Johnson did." (Philadelphia Inquirer)
Iraq war and occupation"I'd like to see us going back and doing monitoring for a few years in Iraq, because the situation in Iraq is an absolute mess right now," El-Baradei says. He says there are still people in Iraq with a lot of knowledge about making chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. "They have the know-how and the capabilities" to make weapons of mass destruction, ElBaradei continues. "so from a non-proliferation perspective it's very important for us to complete the job." (Reuters/Alertnet)
Iraq war and occupationAdditionally, members of the Iraqi Governing Council believe that American contractors such as Halliburton and Bechtel are grossly inflating the cost of reconstruction projects. The Iraqi governors told members of the U.S. Congress that Iraqi companies could be doing the work at 10 percent of the cost. (Daily Misleader)
Anti-terrorism and homeland securityClinton, while speaking at a luncheon sponsored by the History Channel, says that he spoke directly to president-elect Bush about bin Laden. During the so-called "exit interview," Clinton says he tried to correct Bush's view of the threat posed by bin Laden. "In his campaign, Bush had said he thought the biggest security issue was Iraq and a national missile defence," Clinton says. "I told him that in my opinion, the biggest security problem was Osama bin Laden." Clinton goes on to say that his inability to convince Bush of the danger from al Qaeda was "one of the two or three of the biggest disappointments that I had." According to Clinton, his priorities would have been first bin Laden, then the creation of a Middle East peace agreement, then dealing with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. "I would have started with India and Pakistan, then North Korea, and then Iraq after that," he says. "I thought Iraq was a lower order problem than al-Qaeda." (Reuters)
US veteransNational Guard and reserve troops reported the lowest morale, while Marines and airmen reported much more positive results. Leaders insist that troop morale is fine, but the troops themselves often tell a different tale. They also claim that delegations from home are treated to "dog and pony shows" that distort reality: "When congressional delegations came through," says one artillery master sergeant, commanders "hand-picked the soldiers who would go. They stacked the deck." An NCO with over 20 years' experience tells a New Zealand reporter, "I had one guy tell me all he wanted was to see his little daughter; she was born three days after the war started. He died in the sand holding my hand and crying because his daughter would never know him. Tell me that's f*cking right. Where was George Bush when this kid was gasping for air and spitting his blood on foreign soil?"
HalliburtonCheney holds around 400,000 Halliburton stock options, receives hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in deferred compensation, and has been proven to have been instrumental in Halliburton's receiving billion-dollar no-bid contracts in Iraq. (In These Times)
Middle East unrestHe went on, "The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy. ...They get others to fight and die for them." Mahathir, a respected Asian statesman, takes over the chair of the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference. Mahathir receives a standing ovation from the gathered leaders, but strong criticism from Israeli and Jewish spokespersons. The Malaysian government later issues a weak and insincere apology ("I'm sorry that they have misunderstood the whole thing," says the foreign minister. "The intention is not to create controversy. His intention is to show that if you ponder and sit down to think, you can be very powerful."), but Mahathir's long reputation for virulent anti-Semitism precedes his commentary. Mahathir also criticizes Muslim nations for their infighting, and accuses them of accomplishing nothing in over 50 years of fighting Israel and world Judaism. (Chicago Sun-Times)
Anti-terrorism and homeland securityBoykin is also an evangelical Christian who sees the war on terrorism as an apocalyptic clash between Judeo-Christian values and Satan. Boykin, a much-decorated soldier and 13-year veteran of Delta Force, appeared in dress uniform and polished jump boots before a religious group in Oregon in June to declare that radical Islamists hated the United States "because we're a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian...and the enemy is a guy named Satan. ...Satan wants to destroy this nation, he wants to destroy us as a nation, and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army." Discussing the battle against a Muslim warlord in Somalia, Boykin told another audience, "I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." Boykin also claimed to have seen the face of the devil in a photograph of smoke rising from Mogadishu: "Ladies and gentleman, this is your enemy," Boykin said to a church audience in 2002 as he flashed his pictures on a screen. "It is the principalities of darkness. It is a demonic presence in that city that God revealed to me as the enemy." Last year Boykin proclaimed, "We in the army of God, in the house of God, kingdom of God have been raised for such a time as this." And of President Bush, he says, "He's in the White House because God put him there. ...He was appointed by God."
US veteransAround 20 percent of the wounds suffered by the troops in Iraq have been severe brain injuries, and according to Major General Kevin Kiley, commanding general of the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command, that figure does not even take into account milder neural injuries. Kiley estimates that as many as 70 percent of the wounds suffered by US forces in Iraq had the potential for resulting in brain injury. Virtually all who suffer the injuries, say Kiley and others, require extra attention because, unlike lost limbs, severe neural trauma is not always easily spotted. Says one soldier who survived a bullet in the brain, "Head injuries are there. You don't have to see them." (Boston Globe)
Antiwar protestsOne Pittsburgh protester, retired steelworker Bill Neel, was told to leave the crowd of Bush supporters that was gathering along the side of the road where a Bush motorcade was due to pass, and take himself and his sister to the designated "free speech zone." "He pointed out a relatively remote baseball diamond that was enclosed in a chain-link fence," Neel remembers. "I could see these people behind the fence, with their faces up against it, and their hands on the wire. It looked more like a concentration camp than a free speech area to me, so I said, 'I'm not going in there. I thought the whole country was a free speech area.'" After refusing several more times to report to the designated protest area, the 66-year old Neel was handcuffed and arrested on charges of disorderly conduct. Neel's sister argued against the arrest, and she, too, was arrested. Both spent the rest of the day in a firehouse that was serving as Secret Service and police headquarters for the event. Neel later says, "As far as I'm concerned, the whole country is a free-speech zone. If the Bush administration has its way, anyone who criticizes them will be out of sight and out of mind." At Neel's trial, police Detective John Ianachione will testify that the Secret Service told local police to confine "people that were there making a statement pretty much against the president and his views" in a so-called free- speech area. Pennsylvania District Judge Shirley Rowe Trkula will throw out the disorderly conduct charge against Neel, declaring, "I believe this is America. Whatever happened to 'I don't agree with you, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it'?"
Iraq war and occupationDuring a speech that underscores his opposition to the administration's request for $87 billion in new funding for Iraq, Kennedy says, "The trumped up reasons for going to war have collapsed. ...The administration still refuses to face the truth or tell the truth. Instead the White House responds by covering up its failures and trying to sell its rosy version of events by repeating it with maximum frequency and volume, and minimum regard for realities on the ground." Kennedy asserts that the Bush administration has misled the country about every aspect of the Iraqi operation, from its motivation, to its aftermath and the costs incurred. "Our men and women in uniform fought bravely and brilliantly, but the president's war has been revealed as mindless, needless, senseless, and reckless. We should never have gone to war in Iraq when we did, in the way we did, for the false reasons we were given." Observers note that the relationship between Kennedy and the Bush administration has gone from initially cordial and friendly to icy. "They blew it," says one Democratic official of the White House's handling of its relationship with Kennedy. "They came into office and they started to work together on a number of issues, and then they completely dissed him." Kennedy goes on to say, "Nearly six months have elapsed since President Bush flew out to the aircraft carrier and declared `Mission Accomplished' in Iraq. Today, we all know all too well that the war is not over; the war goes on; the mission is not accomplished. An unnecessary war, based on unreliable and inaccurate intelligence, has not brought an end to danger. Instead, it has brought new dangers, imposed new costs, and taken more and more American lives each week. We all agree that Saddam Hussein was a murderous tyrant, and his brutal regime was an affront to basic human decency. But Iraq was not a breeding ground for terrorism. Our invasion has made it one. ...All the administration's rationalizations as we prepared to go to war now stand revealed as double-talk. The American people were told Saddam Hussein was building nuclear weapons. He was not. We were told he had stockpiles of other weapons of mass destruction. He did not. We were told he was involved in 9/11. He was not. We were told Iraq was attracting terrorists from Al Qaeda. It was not. We were told our soldiers would be viewed as liberators. They are not. We were told Iraq could pay for its own reconstruction. It cannot. We were told the war would make America safer. It has not." (Boston Globe)
2004 presidential elections"I think their principal motivation is to undo the pillars of the New Deal, particularly Medicare and Social Security, by making the budget deficit so big that those programs can't be sustained," Dean says. A GOP spokesperson blames the war on terrorism for the deficits and calls Dean's statement "disturbing." (USA Today)
Republican corruptionThey have taken the art of character assassination to the point where it is their number-one tool." He says that in the last 20 years, the political climate has "gotten much more partisan and negative. It's gotten much more dependent on money, particularly special interest money. Soft money has been used by certain groups to literally destroy the reputations of good progressive politicians. ...Limbaugh has made this into a fine art. I was the first person to put Limbaugh on television, back in '89 when I had a show for Fox. And I always admired his quick wit and his intellect, but he has gotten increasingly more into the business of character assassination. For example, he referred to John Kerry as 'the presumed Vietnam war hero.' 'Presumed' was the word he used. I mean, that's all you need to know. That's the most ridiculous, absurd statement. Here's a guy who won a Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts, and 'presumed' is a word that, given the low end of the bell curve that most of Rush's audience is, probably went right by them. But Rush does that."
ImpeachmentFour days after the letter was delivered, Mayor Emily Reilly's bakery is robbed, with the burglar dodging a sophisticated security system to steal her computer's hard drive and backup drive. Days later, agents of the Food and Drug Administration visit the bakery and interrogate Reilly about the quality of her goods. Other town bakers wonder why Reilly was visited when, in over twenty years of doing business, their firms have never been visited. Reilly refuses to worry: "I think it's a coincidence. I don't think it's healthy to dwell on the possibility of conspiracy. It tends to make people afraid, and I don't think that's a good place to be. I'd rather be positive and move on." (San Francisco Chronicle)
Republican corruptionWashington is president of the Washington Group International and a long-time supporter of George Bush and the GOP. His WGI fits perfectly with the other firms profiting from the government's lucrative Iraqi contracts: in the words of a British newspaper, "All the American firms to get Iraqi reconstruction contracts have bankrolled George Bush and the Republican Party, or have direct links to USAID." WGI gave almost half a million dollars to Bush's 2000 election campaign. After 9/11, WGI began marketing itself as a "homeland security contractor" (the firm has extensive experience in dam building, environmental cleanup, and weapons destruction). A company spokesperson dismisses the widely held perception that large campaign contributions help well-connected companies land big government contracts, saying, "That's part of the competitive market." In contrast, author Stephen Pizzo writes, "While Vice President Dick Cheney's company, Halliburton, has attracted most of the press attention for its Iraq-related contracts, Halliburton is hardly the whole story. Halliburton's share is but a slice of multi-billion-dollar pie being divided up among a brotherhood of unusually well-connected and economically related individuals and entities." (Missoula Independent)
"Why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. Why is he there? And I tell you this morning that he's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this." -- Lieutenant General William Boykin, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, New York Times, 10-17-03, quoted by Brandi Mills
Iraq war and occupationbut the Senate insists that at least $10 billion of that be considered a loan to Iraq, not a grant, against the express wishes of Bush and his officials. (See above items.) The amendment passed by the Senate would transfer the $10 billion into a grant if 90% of foreign debt amassed by Iraq with other debtors such as France and Germany were forgiven by those countries. The funding request is far from settled yet. Republican Senator John Ensign says, "Why should the American taxpayer not be paid back if the taxpayer in France, if the taxpayer in Germany, if the taxpayer in Russia -- countries that were not willing to support us when we were doing what was right in the world -- why should those taxpayers be paid back and not the taxpayers of America?" (CNN)
Iraq war and occupationis a strain called C. botulinum Okra B, most likely purchased legally from a US organization in the 1980s, and a toxin that has never been successfully used to produce a weapon. "The Soviets dropped it [as a goal] and so did we, because we couldn't get it working as a weapon," says Dr. David Franz, the former commander of the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Ft. Detrick, the Pentagon's lead laboratory for bioweapons defense research. "From the weapons side, it's not something to be concerned about," agrees Dr. Raymond Zilinskas, a former UN inspector who is now director of the chemical and biological weapons nonproliferation program at the Monterey Institute in California. A US spokesperson retorts, "[Kay] stated a simple fact. What Dr. Kay said was botulinum B can be used to produce a biological agent. Can that agent be used to produce a biological weapon? You bet." However, the experts are unanimous in their dismissal of the toxin as evidence of any serious bioweapons research. Other evidence produced by Kay that he uses to assert that Iraq was involved in bioweapons research is similarly suspect. Iraq had continued to work with a number of toxins, including aflatoxin, brucella, ricin, and CCHF (Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever).
Iraq war and occupationAt one point, he suspended the negotiations for six weeks to show his displeasure with efforts by the agencies, including the UN and the World Bank, to ensure the independence of the new watchdog agency, to be known as the International Advisory and Monitoring Board. In the end, the agencies were able to get ground rules that they could live with, more or less. "The resolution says there must be an independent voice, and there will be," says one official said. "One has to wonder whether this [Bremer's opposition] was a question of ignorance or ill will." The US characterizes the delay as part of an effort to make the process fully transparent and to give the oversight board the proper authority, but members of the agencies involved in the negotiations say that Bremer wanted to restrict the authority's role to mere bookkeeping. (Reuters/Yahoo News)
US veteransApproximately 600 sick or injured soldiers, all either members of the Army Reserves or the National Guard, are warehoused in rows of spare, steamy and dark cement barracks in a sandy field, waiting for doctors to treat their wounds or illnesses. Their living conditions are described as "substandard," and the medical care is so poor that many of them believe the Army is trying push them out with reduced benefits for their ailments. One document given to the soldiers states that no more doctor appointments are available from Oct. 14 through Nov. 11, almost a month without a single doctor's visit for a single wounded or ill soldier. "I have loved the Army. I have served the Army faithfully and I have done everything the Army has asked me to do," says one sergeant, a 27-year veteran and participant in the 1991 Persian Gulf War who has been trying in vain to have doctors find out why he is experiencing intense pain in his abdomen since returning from Iraq in May. "Now my whole idea about the U.S. Army has changed. I am treated like a third-class citizen." After waiting since May for a diagnosis, the sergeant has given up; he has accepted 20 percent of his benefits for bad knees and is going home to his family in Mississippi. "They have not found out what my side is doing yet, but they are still trying," he says. The soldiers are on what the Army calls "medical hold," while the Army decides how sick or disabled they are and what benefits -- if any -- they should get as a result. Some of the soldiers say they have waited six hours a day for an appointment without seeing a doctor. Others describe waiting weeks or months without getting a diagnosis or proper treatment. The soldiers said professional active duty personnel are getting better treatment while troops who serve in the National Guard or Army Reserve are left to wallow in medical hold. "It is not an Army of One. It is the Army of two -- Army and Reserves," says another soldier, who developed a serious heart condition and strange skin ailment while in Iraq.
Iraq war and occupationMeanwhile, critics insist that the Pentagon begin planning to rotate some of the longest-serving reserve and Guard units home. Republican John McCain, a member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, says, "If we don't ease the burden on the Guard and Reserves, we're going to have retention problems." Fellow Republican Senator Trent Lott agrees: "You have to have some sort of rotation scheme for the men or women that are over there that's a limit to how long they'll stay. Then you have to bring in other people, other divisions or other National Guard or whatever." (AP/San Jose Mercury News)
Plame outingbut cites no specifics and won't yet recuse himself from the proceedings. He claims, "I believe that we have been making progress that's valuable in this matter. And we will devote every energy that's available, and every resource that's available at the highest level of intensity." (New York Times)
9/11 attacksSaudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz and Prince Turki al-Faisal, formerly head of Saudi Arabia's intelligence agency, have been sued by hundreds of relatives of the victims, who allege that they knowingly contributed money and support to al Qaeda through Islamic charitable organizations. The $1 trillion lawsuit says members of the Saudi royal family paid protection money to Osama bin Laden's group to keep it from carrying out terror attacks in Saudi Arabia. (CNN)
Media manipulation and marketing by GOPTwo "poster children" of the offensive are two Baghdad street kids who sell soft drinks on the side of the road. They were spotted by US Commerce Secretary Don Evans during his recent two-day visit, and quickly chosen to put a happy face on the US's public relations assault. The flip side to the "cola kids" is reflected in the Bank of Baghdad, Mowafaq Mahmood, who complains that business is awful: "No one's applying for credit," he complains. As part of the offensive, the American military as well as the Bush administration are ratcheting up their efforts to force the US and world media to present only the approved government version of events in Iraq. One colonel complains that the US media insists on focusing on the stories of the soldiers who are regularly injured and killed in Iraq, but ignore stories like the arrival of new fire trucks in Baghdad. Republican Senator Larry Craig complained on October 6 that the media failed to report that "thousands and hundreds of [Iraqi] children went back to school this week; fellow Republican Senator Mitch McConnell retorted that "Journalism schools teach that news means bad news." In reality, American media outlets across the country reported the story of Iraq's reopening schools, and color photos of Iraq's new fire trucks were sent nationwide by a US newsphoto network. The media also reported that many Iraqi schools couldn't handle the influx of schoolchildren because of the damage caused by rampant looting in April, and that the majority of schools in the poorer neighborhoods of Baghdad and in southern Iraq have not yet been rehabilitated. Commerce Secretary Evans, while riding on a bus through Baghdad, tells reporters, "You know, the impression people get back home is very different from what's going on on the ground." ' His own presence showed that Iraq is safe, Evans says. What he fails to say is that minutes before, the bus had been diverted -- US soldiers had found a roadside bomb that could have killed Evans and everyone on board. (Guardian)
Antiwar protestsIn Miami, Ashcroft charges the environmental group Greenpeace with "sailor-mongering," an 1872 law designed to keep sailors from being lured from their ships with liquor and prostitutes. Ashcroft chose to charge Greenpeace with the obscure violation after some of their members boarded a vessel near the port of Miami, a ship that was illegally involved in smuggling mahogany. Observers call the charges an "unprecedented attack on the First Amendment" and characterize them as part of a "broader campaign to protect the nation against free speech, a campaign that has converted environmentalists into 'sailor-mongers' and nuns into terrorists." Earlier, Ashcroft filed charges against two nuns for obstructing national defense, a felony that netted both nuns over two years in federal prison. The nuns had gone to a missile silo housing a Minuteman III nuclear missile, painted crosses on the cement cap protecting the missile, and sang religious songs while awaiting arrest. Environmental and anti-war groups have noted that Ashcroft's Justice Department refuses to prosecute identical offenses perpetrated by right-wing protest groups such as the Cuban-American Democracy Movement. (Los Angeles Times)
Prewar intelligence on Iraq"[The fairy tale of the emperor with no clothes] seems to me very like the way this nation was led to war. We were told that we were threatened by weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but they have not been seen. We were told that the throngs of Iraqi's would welcome our troops with flowers, but no throngs or flowers appeared. We were led to believe that Saddam Hussein was connected to the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, but no evidence has ever been produced. We were told in 16 words that Saddam Hussein tried to buy 'yellow cake' from Africa for production of nuclear weapons, but the story has turned into empty air. We were frightened with visions of mushroom clouds, but they turned out to be only vapors of the mind. We were told that major combat was over but 101 [as of October 17] Americans have died in combat since that proclamation from the deck of an aircraft carrier by our very own Emperor in his new clothes. Our emperor says that we are not occupiers, yet we show no inclination to relinquish the country of Iraq to its people. Those who have dared to expose the nakedness of the Administration's policies in Iraq have been subjected to scorn. Those who have noticed the elephant in the room -- that is, the fact that this war was based on falsehoods -– have had our patriotism questioned. Those who have spoken aloud the thought shared by hundreds of thousands of military families across this country, that our troops should return quickly and safely from the dangers half a world away, have been accused of cowardice. We have then seen the untruths, the dissembling, the fabrication, the misleading inferences surrounding this rush to war in Iraq wrapped quickly in the flag. The right to ask questions, debate, and dissent is under attack. The drums of war are beaten ever louder in an attempt to drown out those who speak of our predicament in stark terms. Even in the Senate, our history and tradition of being the world's greatest deliberative body is being snubbed. This huge spending bill has been rushed through this chamber in just one month. There were just three open hearings by the Senate Appropriations Committee on $87 billion, without a single outside witness called to challenge the Administration's line. But the time has come for the sheep-like political correctness which has cowed members of this Senate to come to an end. The Emperor has no clothes.
HalliburtonIn a memo entitled "Defending Our Company," Lesar said he was offended by the criticism but cautioned employees to be positive in their letters. "We should avoid stooping to our critics' level of dialogue, no matter how tempting that may be," he wrote. He said the critics are "distorting our efforts" to restore Iraq's oil industry and provide other services to the US military in Iraq. Among Lesar's suggestions for the letters to newspapers: "Halliburton makes our troops more comfortable in a difficult environment by bringing shelter, supplies, clean uniforms and mail from home." Halliburton is proud to offer its global resources at this critical time in the Middle East." "Halliburton has successfully helped to restore needed services in Iraq that will help bring some sense of normalcy for those who have suffered losses." The e-mail also included suggestions for making the letter effective, telling employees to "write from the heart and use your own words and, where possible, use firsthand stories." "It's OK to show your pride in your work and your co-workers, and to mention your own experience with Halliburton," Lesar said. According to published reports, however, as few as 20 percent of American soldiers in Iraq have access to purified water and entire units are suffering from dysentery. One senior military commander wrote that soldiers were "using hoses from an Iraqi latrine stall to get water enough to maintain their hygienic needs." (Daily Misleader, Daily Misleader [original Halliburton e-mail], AP/Fox News)
Election fraudStreet claims the federal government is interfering with his re-election bid. On October 7, police found an electronic listening device in the mayor's office; since then, federal officials have confiscated Street's handheld computer and raided the offices of the city pension board, finance department and treasurer as well as the office of one of Street's top political allies. Street's supporters believe the FBI probe and corresponding raids are campaign-related attempts to help Republicans win the state of Pennsylvania in the 2004 presidential election. "The media learned of (the raids) before we did," says Street spokesman Dan Fee. "The way they are handling this and the timing of it raises serious, serious questions." A week later, FBI reports show that no incriminating material were recorded by the bug during its two weeks of functionality. Street will go on to win the mayoral election, in part because of outrage over the bugging. (Reuters/CNN, Philadelphia Inquirer)
Iraq war and occupationThe House turns back a number of attempts to make $10 billion of that a loan instead of a grant for Iraq. Some expenditures, including money to establish a new postal service, is cut from the final proposal, and some Congressional members insist that they will continue to fight to make some of the money a loan. Senator Robert Byrd votes against the funding request, and says, "Eighty-seven billion dollars is too much to pay for the continuation of a war based on falsehoods." (Chicago Tribune)
Iraq war and occupationHamza helped perpetuate the lie that Iraq was on the brink of developing nuclear weapons and was an imminent threat to the US and to the world, an argument that helped push Americans towards supporting an invasion of Iraq. Weapons inspector David Kay and Bush defense advisor Richard Perle, among others, promoted Hamza's book. Perle supported Hamza's statements that after the 1981 Israeli bombing of the Osiraq nuclear facility outside Baghdad, Saddam Hussein ordered future nuclear facilities to be dispersed at four hundred sites across the nation. "Every day," Perle said, these sites "turn out a little bit of nuclear materials. ...Do we wait for Saddam and hope for the best, do we wait and hope he doesn't do what we know he is capable of...or do we take some preemptive action?" As one after another of the "facts" Hamza provided have been shown to be lies, an IAEA representative asked General Hussein Kamal about Hamza. Kamal, Saddam Hussein's son-in-law who defected to Jordan in 1995, is an expert on Hussein's weapons programs and one of the most reliable sources of information about Iraq's weaponry. Kamal said of Hamza, "He is a professional liar. He worked with us, but he was useless and was always looking for promotions. He consulted with me but could not deliver anything." According to Imad Khadduri, an Iraqi expert who worked with Iraq's Atomic Energy Commission until 1998, Hamza "did not, even remotely, get involved in any scientific research –- except for journalistic articles -– dealing with the fission bomb, its components or its effects" -- a far cry from the nuclear weapons expert Hamza paints himself to be. Khadduri says that Hamza was in Iraq's nuke program for a few months, but was "kicked out of the program at the end of 1987 for stealing a few air conditioning units from the building assigned to his project." Hamza "retired from the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission in 1989 and became a college lecturer, a stock market swindler and a shady business middle-man." Currently Hamza is traveling with David Kay in search of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. (World Net Daily, New Yorker)
Iraq war and occupationAs of April 2002, the State Department project brought together over 200 Iraqi lawyers, engineers, business people, and other experts to study topics from creating a new justice system to reorganizing the military to revamping the economy. Their findings included a much harsher assessment of Iraq's dilapidated electrical and water systems than many Pentagon officials assumed. They warned of a society so brutalized by Saddam Hussein's rule that many Iraqis might react badly to Americans' notion of quickly rebuilding civil society. Some officials say that until recently, the Pentagon all but ignored the findings of the $5 million study, though the Pentagon claims that its officials took the findings into account. The study is now being relied on heavily as occupation forces struggle to impose stability in Iraq. The report read in part, "The period immediately after regime change might offer these criminals the opportunity to engage in acts of killing, plunder and looting...." It urged American officials to "organize military patrols by coalition forces in all major cities to prevent lawlessness, especially against vital utilities and key government facilities." Remarkably, the military office initially charged with rebuilding Iraq did not learn of the report until February 2003, less than a month before the invasion. The staff of General Jay Garner, the first administrator of postwar Iraq, wanted to have the head of the project, Tom Warrick, join it, but Warrick's appointment was blocked by senior Pentagon officials. "It was mostly ignored," says one senior defense official. (New York Times)
9/11 attacksThe FBI states that is has long believed that Moussaoui "played no part in the 9/11 scheme and was only a minor player in al-Qaeda." This is a radical shift from previous FBI statements that Moussaoui was a major player in the 9/11 planning. Moussaoui, who has acknowledged that he was a member of al-Qaeda but denies any involvement in the 9/11 operations, is currently in a legal limbo while prosecutors wrestle with Judge Leonie Brinkema's ruling that because the government refuses to allow Moussaoui to interview captured members of al-Qaeda, the prosecution cannot allege that he was directly linked to the attacks. Moussaoui has argued that the captured al-Qaeda members could provide evidence that he was not involved in the September 11 plot. (SA/News24)
Anti-terrorism and homeland securityButler was working with an antidote to a weapons-grade form of plague: "I was working with a specific antibiotic called gentimycin, which our FDA wants, if effective in plague, to add to the national stockpiles for use in a possible bio-terrorist attack," says Butler. When Butler made the report in early 2003, 60 FBI agents responded. He was questioned for nine hours, and his lab and home searched. After finding no evidence of a break-in, the FBI concluded there had been no theft and focused on Butler. "They presented me with their evidence of the investigation that pointed to only one possibility, and that was accidental destruction," says Butler. He claims that he never destroyed any of the vials, but the FBI still pressured him to sign a statement that he had "accidentally destroyed" the vials, and that he had destroyed them well before he made the report -- in other words, he lied to the FBI. Butler says that the FBI assured him he would go free if he just admitted to the accidental destruction; he signed the confession and instead of being freed, he was hauled away in chains, charged with lying to the FBI. "I was tricked and deceived by the government. I feel I was naive to have trusted them and the assurances they gave me," he says. "They wanted to conclude the investigation and, they told me, reassure the public that there was no danger to the public."
Anti-terrorism and homeland security"The president is going with very little of economic importance in his pocket, to a part of the world where US relations have to a great extent been about economic ties," says security expert Kurt Campbell. "Now it's basically all security all the time." The visits, which have been tailored to tie in to Bush's PR campaign to put a brighter spin on the Iraqi situation, have angered some Asian governments, who wish to hear less about terrorism and more about the world's economic problems and regional concerns such as the nuclear threat from North Korea. "What's most needed in Asia are the very things the president is least likely to do," says Joseph Cirincione, director of the Non-Proliferation Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. At the top of Mr. Cirincione's list is "getting serious about negotiating an end to North Korea's nuclear program." He also includes a push to secure Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, redoubled efforts to reduce tensions between India and Pakistan, and more focused attention to Iran's nuclear program. Efforts like the Proliferation Security Initiative, which the president unveiled in a speech in Warsaw last May, are "a good idea," Cirincione adds, "but it's not a substitute for core policy on solving the most pressing problems." (Christian Science Monitor)
Prewar intelligence on IraqOne intelligence analyst says, "The intelligence community made all kinds of errors and handled things sloppily." Problems include a lack of quality control and contradictory assessments coming from different agencies at the same time. The committee has found that UN inspection teams and the IAEA provided much more accurate intelligence than anything provided by US agencies: "some of the old-timers in the community are appalled by how bad the analysis was," says the analyst. "If you look at them side by side, CIA. versus United Nations, the UN agencies come out ahead across the board." Another part of the problem is the Bush administration's early decision to bypass the usual procedures for "vetting" intelligence. A retired CIA officer explains vetting thusly: "Does dramatic information turned up by an overseas spy square with his access, or does it exceed his plausible reach? How does the agent behave? Is he on time for meetings?" Vetting is especially important when dealing with foreign-agent reports, which sometimes contain potentially explosive allegations that can trigger major policy decisions. Usually, no request for action should be taken directly to higher authorities -- a process known as "stovepiping" -- without the information on which it is based having been subjected to rigorous scrutiny. Instead, the Bush administration "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 them," asserts Kenneth Pollack, a former NSC expert on Iraq and author of the book The Threatening Storm. "They always had information to back up their public claims, but it was often very bad information," Pollack continues. "They were forcing the intelligence community to defend its good information and good analysis so aggressively that the intelligence analysts didn't have the time or the energy to go after the bad information." Eventually the administration won out over the intelligence agencies, according to one former CIA official. "The analysts at the CIA were beaten down defending their assessments. And they blame [CIA director] George Tenet for not protecting them. I've never seen a government like this."
Islamist terrorismIn the tape, bin Laden warns Iraqis against cooperating with US forces and urged youth in neighboring nations to join a jihad, or holy war, against the Americans. "We reserve the right to respond at the appropriate time and place against all the countries participating in this unjust war, particularly Britain, Spain, Australia, Poland, Japan and Italy," bin Laden said. "The Islamic countries who participate will not be exempt, especially the Gulf countries, most prominent among them is Kuwait, the launching base for infantry troops of the crusaders." (CBS News)
Congressional oversightas head of the new Iraq Stabilization Group, for disbursing huge amounts of US funds slated for the rebuilding of Iraq's and Afghanistan's infrastructures, and said responsibilities were taken away from Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld. As National Security Advisor, Rice is exempt from Congressional oversight; therefore, no Congressional questions about how monies are spent will need to be answered if they lead to Rice's department. Rice does not have to answer to Congress for anything, which makes her much less vulnerable to questioning and investigation than Rumsfeld. (Buzzflash)
US veteransWounded soldiers routinely wait from two to six weeks before receiving needed surgery, while they wait in squalid conditions in Fort Stewart, Georgia. At present, 633 sick and wounded National Guardsmen and reservists are waiting on what the military terms "medical hold." The garrison commander acknowledges the poor conditions and interminable waits, and says, "We would like to do better." "They are being treated like dogs," says one officer who works at the base. Soldiers who pay $10/day can stay in smaller, shared rooms with air conditioning and plumbing; most soldiers are living in large, communal barracks with no indoor plumbing and no air conditioning. "I've been in [the military] for 30 1/2 years and never thought the Army would turn on its own like this," says one injured Guardsman, who has been waiting for treatment since he injured his back on the first day of the war. "I am not in a case by myself. They are telling you it's going to be four to six months if you're going through a medical evaluation.... We're being treated so differently from the active duty troops, it's not funny." "This is about what the administration says versus what they do," says the executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center. After the news breaks in the American media, those in charge of the base work to improve some conditions, including putting up partitions between bunks and planning to bring in more doctors. Another soldier waiting since May for treatment speculates, "I don't believe they planned for it. They don't have enough doctors and facilities to take care of them." He believes the Pentagon didn't plan for extensive casualties in Iraq. Veterans' groups note that the delays faced by these soldiers are similar to those faced by veterans trying to receive care from VA hospitals. (AP/Tallahassee Democrat)
Partisan Bush appointeesThe Pentagon also deletes a statement that affirms Boykin's belief that George W. Bush won the Presidency due to divine intervention. The director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, Nihad Awad, says, "This apology should be appreciated, but the question is do we want a person with extremist views...in this position in the war on terror. If he continues to be there it sends a very negative message to the Muslim world." Boykin also fails to address his belief that he saw some kind of demonic face in a picture of smoke over a 1993 battle in Somalia, and that two more hijacked planes were heading for Washington on the morning of 9/11 and "were thwarted by the hand of God." (CNN, Washington Post, TomPaine.com)
Iraq war and occupationfor terms as long as two years. Pentagon officials say they are trying to bring some of the soldiers already deployed for a year or more home, and do not anticipate more callups, though they don't rule out further deployments of reservists and Guardsmen. (New York Times/Truthout)
US veteransIn 2002, when he could have approved an emergency funding bill that included $275 million for medical care of veterans, he said, "We'll spend none of it." Now the proposed 2004 budget request for the Veterans Administration will cut even more spending for its already desperately underfunded health care system. The American Legion calculates that Bush's 2004 request "comes $1.9 billion short of maintaining an inadequate status quo." A task force commissioned by Bush himself has reported that federal funding to handle the ailments of former soldiers continues to be considerably less than their needs. In the past ten years the spending per patient dropped from almost $15,000 to less than $5,000. Overall the Bush administration will cut $3 billion from funding for VA hospitals. (Daily Misleader, Ian Williams)
Media manipulation and marketing by GOPAccording to a Defense Department order, "There will be no arrival ceremonies for, or media coverage of, deceased military personnel returning to or departing from Ramstein [Germany] airbase or Dover [Delaware] base, to include interim stops." Apparently the idea is to minimize the amount of publicity the returning slain soldiers receive, and thereby reduce the amount of "negative" publicity received by the administration. Joe Lockhart, former press secretary for the Clinton administration, says, "This administration manipulates information and takes great care to manage events, and sometimes that goes too far. For them to sit there and make a political decision because this hurts them politically -- I'm outraged." Pentagon officials insist the decision is simply to protect the families' interests and privacy, and ensure that some soldiers don't receive undue attention. Another admitted consideration is the desire for Bush, who has yet to attend a single memorial ceremony, not to be trapped, as many feel Lyndon Johnson was trapped during Vietnam, defending daily body counts of returning dead soldiers. "I have to say, I think we have to note tragedies of this magnitude," says Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle. "I think it needs to be expressed over and over by the president, and I think all deference ought to be given those dead and wounded who return home." Some families don't swallow the administration's rationale. One family member of a dead soldier suggests that Bush and his own family members need to experience Iraq for themselves. "Then he'll realize what's going on," he says. "As long as they ain't over there, he don't care." White House spokesman Dan Bartlett notes that Bush sends a note of condolence to every killed soldier's family, and has met with some families during appearances at military bases. Bush reportedly thought that Bill Clinton's public meetings with families of dead US troops from Somalia was mere explotation of their grief for political gain; apparently he does not feel the same way about his father, who when he was president, went to a number of memorial services for fallen soldiers from the 1991 Persian Gulf War. (Washington Post, New York Times)
HalliburtonIt is a follow-up to their letter of October 15 to the Office of Management and Budget, which asserts that Halliburton is profiteering from its provision of gasoline to Iraq. This second letter provides clear proof that Halliburton is profiteering, proving that Halliburton charges between 66% and 88% more for gasoline than SOMO, Iraq's state-owned oil company, after using the same vendors and suppliers as Halliburton. Further, some of the funds used to pay Halliburton for gasoline are coming from the humanitarian funds earmarked for Iraq's UN-sponsored Oil for Food program: Waxman and Dingell write, "Although it initially appeared that Halliburton was gouging only American taxpayers, it now seems that the company is overcharging the humanitarian Oil for Food program and the Iraqi people as well. This significantly compounds the implications of Halliburton's actions." Waxman and Dingell urge an immediate investigation, a forcible reimbursement from Halliburton, and the prohibition of Halliburton from receiving further oil reconstruction contracts in Iraq. So far Halliburton has received over $700 million in funds from the Army Corp of Engineers to provide gasoline to Iraq. It is slated to receive $900 million of the $87 billion government funding request; according to some sources, at least $200 million of that is unnecessary and will end up in Halliburton's corporate coffers, on top of hefty oil profits already rolling in. Halliburton denies the allegations of overcharging. (House Committee on Government Reform, New York Times/CommonDreams, Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Iraq war and occupationthat would have granted each member of the armed forces a one-time, $1,500 bonus for their service in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom. The bonus money -- $265 million -- would have come from the account set aside to import oil products under the Iraq Relief and Reconstructions Fund, which is grossly overfunded, according to observers, and will probably end up going largely into Halliburton's pockets. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
9/11 attacksPearl was kidnapped in January 2002 and murdered shortly afterwards. Authorities will not say what leads them to believe that Mohammed is Pearl's killer; they say that Mohammed may or may not stand trial for the slaying in the future. (CNN)
Bush administration's contempt for democracyThis bill was sparked by debates about Middle East Studies departments at a variety of American universities and colleges, described by neoconservative critics as hotbeds of anti-American teachings. Others see it as yet another attempt by neoconservative thinkers and legislators to legislate their beliefs as the only ones sanctioned by federal approval: "Since they are the mainstream in Washington think tanks and the right-wing corridors of Congress, they figure, 'Let's translate that political capital to education,'" says Columbia University's Rashid Khalidi. After 9/11, hardline supporters of Israel and their neoconservative allies mounted an attack on academics who study the Middle East and Arabian culture.