Iraq war and occupationThe IRMO will oversee USAID, the Project and Contracting Office, and other government agencies involved in reconstruction and rebuilding. The Iraq Defense Minister, Ziad Cattan, a US appointee, will sign the first weapons and equipment contracts worth nearly $3.1 billion, to be paid in Iraqi funds. Iraqis later accuse Cattan of massive corruption in connection with the contracts. (T. Christian Miller)
Terrorism detainees and "enemy combatants"
9/11 attacksCullison managed to copy the files from the desktop before being forced to turn them over to the CIA (the CIA later returned the laptop, and told Cullison that its hard drive was nearly empty, a story Cullison isn't sure whether to believe). For years Cullison and his colleagues, including contacts in the Islamic jihadist movements, struggled to decipher the files, thousands of text documents dating back to 1997, written in Arabic, French, English, Farsi, and Malay, encrypted, and usually written in code. Recently Cullison and colleague Andrew Higgins of the Wall Street Journal were successful in translating most of the documents. Cullison writes that the documents shed a fascinating and troubling light on the inner workings of al-Qaeda, including background on the 9/11 attacks.
Anti-terrorism and homeland securityThe chairman of the board is William Schneider, a colleague from the Project for a New American Century; his task is to produce a report detailing how the US can improve its strategic communication in the global war on terror. The report is so damning that, though it is unclassified, the Defense Department refuses to release it until after the November elections. It notes that "a year and a half after going to war in Iraq, Arab/Muslim anger has intensified. Data from Zogby International in July 2004, for example, show that the US is viewed unfavorably by overwhelming majorities in Egypt (98%), Saudi Arabia (94%), Morocco (88%), and Jordan (78%)."
Iraq war and occupationWhite House communications director Dan Bartlett calls a meeting of experts from the various departments to discuss how to improve the message on Iraq -- to craft the spin on the increasing chaos. Several of the participants suggest that Bush carefully acknowledge some mistakes in Iraq, perhaps arguing that it is human and powerful to admit to even limited mistakes. Bartlett cuts that line of discussion off; Bush is absolutely not going to talk about mistakes, he says. "Do you want to inspire or inform?" a general asks. Bush would like to do both, Bartlett replies. He probably can't have it both ways, the general says. Informing people is often boring, the general continues, and the information from Iraq is anything but good news. He cites the example of Ronald Reagan, who eschewed facts to give uplifting and inspiring speeches.
Bush's economic policiesThe rationalization is that workers will be able to spend more time with their families. What Bush doesn't mention is that in August, the Labor Department already implemented half of his "proposal," eliminating overtime pay for nearly 3 million workers but failing to put in a single word about comp time. These workers lost their right to overtime pay for working over 40 hours, a practice in place since FDR's New Deal. And, prompted by the Labor Department, millions more workers will lose their overtime privileges after their bosses reclassify their jobs as "management." (Greg Palast)
Iraq war and occupationOne is Jeremy Hinzman, who has applied for refugee status in Canada. Hinzman says, "This is a criminal war and any act of violence in an unjustified conflict is an atrocity. I signed a contract for four years, and I was totally willing to fulfill it. Just not in combat arms jobs." Hinzman says he realized that he had made the "wrong career choice" as he marched with his platoon of recruits all chanting, "Train to kill, kill we will." He says, "At that point a light went off in my head. I was told in basic training that if I'm given an illegal or immoral order, it is my duty to disobey it. I feel that invading and occupying Iraq is an illegal and immoral thing to do.'" Another Canadian refugee, Brandon Hughey, says that he had volunteed for the Army because it offered to pay for his college. He began training soon after the invasion of Iraq but became disillusioned when no weapons of mass destruction were found. "I had been willing to die to make America safe," he says. I found out, basically, that they found no weapons of mass destruction and the claim that they made about ties to al-Qaeda was coming up short. It made me angry. I felt our lives as soldiers were being thrown away." Hughey used an "underground railroad" operation to make his way to Canada. The Pentagon is pressuring Canadian officials to extradite all American deserters: "The men in Canada have an obligation to fulfil their military contracts and do their duty," says a spokesman. "If and when they return to this country, they will be prosecuted." In order to stay in Canada, deserters must convince an immigration board that they would face not just prosecution but also "persecution" if they returned to America. (Daily Telegraph)
2004 presidential elections"[F]or more than twenty years, on every one of the great issues of freedom and security, John Kerry has been more wrong, more weak, and more wobbly than any other national figure," Miller shouts, a charge that would be quite damning if Miller's evidence wasn't so false and manipulated.
2004 presidential electionsStaying with the theme of attacking John Kerry and touting the administration's own "successes" in the war on terrorism, Cheney says of Kerry, "He talks about leading a more sensitive war on terror, as though al-Qaeda will be impressed with our softer side. He declared at the Democratic Convention that he will forcefully defend America -- after we have been attacked. My fellow Americans, we have already been attacked, and faced with an enemy who seeks the deadliest of weapons to use against us, we cannot wait for the next attack. We must do everything we can to prevent it -- and that includes the use of military force." Of Kerry's call for building alliances to assist the US in fighting terrorism, Cheney twists Kerry's words: "George W. Bush will never seek a permission slip to defend the American people," repeating the lie that Kerry would give the United Nations or other nations the deciding call of whether or not the US should use force against its enemies. Of the economy, Cheney repeats the old GOP mantra of blaming Bill Clinton, putting the blame for four years of economic misery on the Clinton economic policies while touting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and the proposed privatization of Social Security. Of Cheney's and Miller's speeches, vice presidential candidate John Edwards says, "There was a lot of hate coming from that podium tonight. What John Kerry and I offer to the American people is hope." (New York Times)
2004 presidential elections"It was a moment crystallising enduring national unity, that saw the emergence of a president whose strategy against terrorism required an invasion of Iraq. Anyone who believed other than the patriotic consensus wrought by the moral clarity of the president was being misled by the documentary filmmaker and prankster Michael Moore." He also notes that while moderate Republicans -- a dying breed -- dominate the speaker's platform during the convention, in an attempt to woo moderate voters, the party has adopted a hard-right platform, and moderates from the Bush administration -- Colin Powell, Christine Todd Whitman, Paul O'Neill -- are nowhere to be seen. (Guardian)
2004 presidential electionsMorton Blackwell, a prominent Virginia delegate who never served in the military, has been handing out the heart-covered bandages to delegates, who've worn them on their chins, cheeks, the backs of their hands and other places, and spout the line, "It was just a self-inflicted scratch, but you see I got a Purple Heart for it." Blackwell is president of the Leadership Institute, a conservative educational foundation he founded in 1979, a former director of the secretive and powerful Council for National Policy, and a political mentor of Karl Rove; it is very likely that the entire idea originated with, or is at least approved by, Rove. "Probably a lot of people are handing them out because they are very symbolic," one delegate, Donna Cain of Oregon, says of Kerry, who, she says, "has made the war that he served in far more important than his recent records of the last 18 to 20 years."
2004 presidential electionsAstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals has an afternoon tea scheduled with New York State's first lady Libby Pataki, a nomination celebration scheduled for key members of the Bush campaign by Bristol-Myers Squibb, and a breast cancer awareness seminar by Novartis. Pfizer is holding a dinner for the Colorado delegation at the tony restaurant Tavern on the Green and an evening reception at the Rainbow Room in honor of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Pfizer also hosted a breakfast meeting for the members of the Oregon delegation, whose Democratic governor has recently asked the federal government for permission to begin importing Canadian pharmaceuticals. "It is important that we decisively convey our side of the story. We need to emphasize that there are real safety risks associated with importation," says Jeff Trewhitt, a spokesman for the industry's biggest lobby, the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America. The pharmaceutical industry is the biggest donor among health care interests, spending $85 million lobbying the Bush administration and Congress last year, and donating $11.5 million to a variety of political campaigns. Two-thirds of its donations go to Republicans. The industry has donated $850,000 to the Bush campaign, almost three times the amount it has donated to the Kerry campaign. (AP/La Leva di Archimede)
2004 presidential elections"[E]xtremism has gained momentum" as a result of administration missteps in Iraq, Kerry says, but vows that the war on terror is a winnable one with the right policies. "When it comes to Iraq, it's not that I would have done one thing differently, I would have done almost everything differently" than Bush, Kerry tells the national convention of the American Legion. "With the right policies, this is a war we can win, this is a war we must win, and this is a war we will win," Kerry says. "In the end, the terrorists will lose and we will win because the future does not belong to fear, it belongs to freedom." To a largely conservative crowd who is silent during much of his speech, Kerry says, "[T]oday's terrorists have secured havens in Iraq that were not there before. And we have been forced to reach accommodation with those who have repeatedly attacked our troops. Violence has spread in Iraq. Iran has expanded its influence, and extremism has gained momentum. ...I would never have diverted resources so quickly from Afghanistan," where the Taliban has been forced from power but Osama bin Laden and other members of al-Qaeda remain free. "I wouldn't have ignored my senior military advisers. I would have made sure that every soldier put in harm's way had the equipment and body armor they needed. I would have built a strong, broad coalition of our allies around the world. And if there's one thing I learned from my service, I would never have gone to war without a plan to win the peace." The Kerry campaign plans a television ad covering many of the same points as he addresses today. (New York Times/Neil Rogers)
2004 presidential electionsreceives a standing ovation from Arizona's Republican delegation when he announces that, partly due to their complaints, USA Today has rescinded filmmaker Michael Moore's brief to cover the Republican convention for that newspaper. When a top executive from the paper asked Shadegg why he was angry, Shadegg tells the delegation that he responded: "You're just nuts if you think we're going to buy your paper, when you credentialed kind of the anti-Christ." Shadegg also says that Kerry voters "have mental health problems," adding: "I'll probably get in trouble for that." (Arizona Daily Star)
2004 presidential elections(see the August 30 item for a note on his previous column; see the item immediately above for information about Moore's removal from the convention). He riffs on the Bush twins' disconcerting speech but praises the twins for being "funny, sassy and free spirits," and commends the Bushes as parents: "[the twins] love their parents and, when you see that happen, you know the Bushes did something right in their home. For that, they should be commended." But in prime Moore fashion, he uses the carefree, excessively privileged Bush daughters as a basis for a very serious comparison: "Other fathers and mothers who loved their daughters and sons across America can no longer celebrate with them. That's because their children are dead on the streets and roads of Iraq, sent there by Mr. Bush to 'defend' America." Moore continues, "I would love to hear Bush apologize tonight to the parents and loved ones of those who have died in Iraq. I would like to hear him say he knows what it means to love your children and that he, in good conscience, cannot send any more children to their deaths. I would like to hear him say tonight, 'I'm sorry. There never were weapons of mass destruction and there never was a connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. There was no imminent threat, our lives were not in danger, no missiles were going to hit Cleveland. Because of our desire to get our hands on the second largest supply of oil in the world, we sacrificed a thousand of your sons and daughters. For this, we are greatly sorry.' I guess a boy can dream.
2004 presidential electionsare heard to join in the crowd's chants of "Four more years! Four more years!" "It stopped me dead in my tracks," says the source, who told the New York Daily News columnist Lloyd Grove. "It was outrageous -- but not surprising." Fox News staffers admit to the chanting, but claim it was nothing more than a humorous toast to a retiring technical staffer. (New York Daily News)
Conservative smear campaigns"It's kind of like stealing my identity," he says. "After reading the letter, it kind of got under my skin. I had never come across a situation where someone used my name without my support or approval. It's not a very comforting feeling. Had they asked me to use my name, I wouldn't have allowed them to." Anderson, who never served with Kerry and never met him until a veterans' reunion in 2003, says he is quite nonpolitical but disagrees with the content of the letter. He supports Kerry's right to state his opinion. "We say we're protecting democracy," he says. "That's why we go to war. As Americans, we can have our opinions, right?" Fellow swift boat veteran Bob Wedge, who served with Anderson and lost a leg during combat, says he is sick of the SBVT's attempts to recruit his support. His name is also on the letter as a putative signee. "This is the fourth or fifth time someone has called me or e-mailed me in regard to signing this damn letter," he wrote in an e-mail to Anderson. "I don't agree with it and want no part of it and especially don't want my name on it." The SBVT have refused to honor both veterans' repeated requests to take their names off the letter and off of their website. Anderson says of the dozen or so veterans he knows of whose names are on the letter, three more have not given their permission for their names to be used. "That leads me to believe that as many as 25 percent of the names are fictitious supporters of that group," he says. Anderson describes himself as an independent, saying he has voted both sides of the ticket when it comes to presidential races. Neither he nor Wedge, a registered Democrat, say they know who they will vote for this election. "I don't know enough about Kerry to say whether I will vote for him," Anderson says. "I know enough about Bush that I won't vote for him." Regardless of political loyalty, Anderson said he has a message he'd like to pass along. "Don't believe everything you read. All it tells me is there is some politics going on there." (Billings Gazette)
Republican corruptionHollinger is suing Black to recover $1.25 billion from Black. Former Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle, a current Hollinger board member, is also criticized heavily in the report, which calls on Perle to return $5.4 million in pay after "putting his own interests above those of Hollinger's shareholders." The report, prepared by a special committee and advised by former SEC chairman Richard Breeden, says that "Behind a constant stream of bombast regarding their accomplishments as self-described 'proprietors,' Black and Radler made it their business to line their pockets at the expense of Hollinger almost every day, in almost every way they could devise." The connections between Black and Radler to Republican powerbrokers goes far beyond Perle. Black charged the company $28,480 for three dinners with Henry Kissinger (a former board member) and his wife Nancy. Black also charged the company for hobnobbing with members of America's media elite; among other things, charging the company $24,950 for "summer drinks" with Barbara Walters, Charlie Rose, and Peter Jennings at a tony Manhattan restaurant. Black and Radler both resigned from the company last fall when the company charged them and other officials with receiving $32 million in unauthorized payments.
2004 presidential electionsThe decorative panels of the podium form a cross, easily visible from the audience and from television cameras; another cross can be seen in the gavel panel behind the podium. "It is the very height of insensitivity for the Republican Party to feature a cross at the center of the podium of this convention," says Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council. "This wooden cross must be at least three feet tall, and it sends a signal of exclusivity loudly and clearly." Karl Rove denied that the podium was designed to represent a cross, saying, "My God, where do they come up with this stuff?" (Reuters/Free Republic)
2004 presidential electionsconservative activist Phyllis Schafly continues to help shape the Republicans' opposition to same-sex marriage and social acceptance of homosexuality, assisted by her eldest son John, who is openly gay. "It's no problem," Schlafly says. "He supports me in everything I do." Christian leader Ralph Reed, the Bush campaign's coordinator for the Southeast region, says Schlafly has been a behind-the-scenes player on GOP platform issues since she began attending as a delegate in the 1950s. "Given her leadership on the pro-life plank on the platform, she's highly respected and well-regarded and influential," he says. "she's prominent at every convention." Fellow conservative Gary Bauer says Schlafly's role reflects her stature as a member of the anti-abortion movement, which he said is ardently opposed to gay marriage. "The whole pro-life movement feels very strongly about that issue, as does the president," he says. "I bet if you asked the delegates to vote, it would be 99%" against same-sex marriage. John Schafly, a lawyer who runs an Eagle Forum office in Illinois, says of same-sex marriage, "I think the traditional definition of marriage has served our society well, and it shouldn't be changed. That was the law in every state, and still is except for certain court decisions. I don't see why there's anything wrong with it." John, who doesn't discuss his sexual orientation, was outed in September 1992 by the New York gay magazine QW, just after the Republican convention in Houston at which Pat Buchanan declared "America's culture war" and where his mother debated a gay Republican. "There is no way to control your adult children," Phyllis Schlafly said in response. "They have their own lives to live. I still love them.... He's an adult. What am I supposed to do? I can't control what he says or his behavior." She also said at the time that she supported the plank in her party's platform that opposed extending civil rights to gays or allowing them in the armed forces. She said, "I don't believe in sex outside of marriage," and since homosexuals couldn't marry, she disapproved of the homosexual sex act. She refuses to discuss the effects her proposals will have on her son and his life. (Los Angeles Times/Aegis)
George W. BushThe writer, a Legionnaire, cites statements Bush made in 2000 and 2003 claiming to be a member of Legion Post 77 of Houston. In 2000, he introduced himself to a Legion audience by taking the podium and saying, "George Bush, Post 77, reporting for duty." In August 2003, the Houston Chronicle described him as a member of Post 77 in an article about Bush's war on Iraq. And the September 2004 issue of the Legion magazine describes Bush as a member of Post 77. The writer points out that three criteria need to be met for a person to be a true member of the American Legion: at least one day of active military duty, on specific dates, and was either honorably discharged or still serving honorably. Military training is not a substitute. Bush has never given proof that he served a moment on active duty, nor that he was honorably discharged from an active-duty assignment. Service in a unit of the Texas Air National Guard does not meet the Legion's criteria. Neither Bush nor the American Legion have yet produced evidence that Bush's Legion membership is legitimate. (Buzzflash)