Saturday, June 19, 2004
"US air forces fired two missiles into a residential area of the troubled Iraqi city of Fallujah yesterday, killing 22 people and sparking a bitter row just 10 days before the country is supposed to come under Iraqi control.
Angry local people said at least five children and three women were among the dead, and that the Americans had sought to maximise casualties by firing a second missile at people trying to rescue victims. According to a US military spokesman in Baghdad, the target was a known hideout of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an al-Qa'ida-linked militant who is the Americans' most wanted man in Iraq. ..."
The Dubious Duo: Dick Cheney, deputy White House chief of staff, and his boss Donald Rumsfeld in 1975
Living through the Nixon presidency was bad enough. But people tend to forget the netherworld that immediately followed. After Nixon resigned and flew back to San Clemente, the United States entered into a constitutional netherworld of sorts. Not since George Washington was appointed by a fledgling Congress to administer the virtually non-existent executive branch of a nascent American government had there been such uncertainty; and Gerry Ford, a congressman from Michigan, was no George Washington.
Without looking back at a chronology of those confusing days of the mid 1970s, it's hard to recall from memory the exact turn of events. Ford may have been in line to succeed Nixon, but things had become exceedingly fuzzy by that point. Spiro Agnew, Nixon's vice president, had resigned after being nailed for income tax evasion. So Ford, the Speaker of the House, was named to take his place. When Nixon bailed out to avoid facing impeachment for the Watergate cover up, Ford ascended to the Oval office, becoming the first appointed president in modern American history. It was an unprecedented predicament. But I never did understand how Nelson Rockefeller ended up as Ford's vice president. How was the former New York governor and heir to the oil fortune selected? What secret cabal decided on that one?
Donald Rumsfeld became Ford's chief of staff, overseeing an executive branch that had absolutely no legal legs to governor. If the U.S. had a parlimentary democracy, elections would have been called immediately. But the United States model is far less responsive to the will of the people.
Dick Cheney became Rumsfeld's deputy chief of staff. Niether one of these guys were ever leaders, they were and remain cold, lifeless, zombie-like technocracts. When they originally worked in the executive branch, they were brought in to oversee a caretaker government.
History would repeat itself a quarter of century later following the contentious 2000 presidential election. George W. Bush won the election by the slimest margin -- if he won at all. Massive voter fraud in Florida makes it impossible to say who won. So Bush was appointed to the presidency by a Republican-dominated Supreme Court.
Bush has other traits in common with his appointed predecessor: like Ford he frequently stumbles over his words and feet.
Isn't it a bit strange that the dubious duo of Rumsfeld and Cheney would once again take over positions of authority in an administration that has no constitutional grounds to govern -- and for a president who's not so bright?
In Ford's case, nothing much happened. He muddled through his truncated term, played a lot of golf and lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976. Rumsfeld served as chief of staff and later Defense Secretary during the Ford presidency.
But when Rumsfeld and Cheney got their second chance, they acted as if they were handed a mandate from the people to suspend the Constitution all because of September 11.
Guess what, guys? You weren't.
Fahrenheit 451 tells the story of a world in which firemen start fires instead of putting them out. The purpose of the arson is to destroy all book in order to brainwash people.
Unfortunately for Bradbury, titles can't be copyrighted and Moore's title isn't the same, anyway. Don't look for Moore to change the name at this stage of the game.
The plan will allow medical professionals to treat otherwise undetected cases of mental illness. But some critics question whether the plan is just another means of expanding the drug companies' customer base. Some commissioners have ties to the pharmaceutical industry and the industry has contributed heavily to Bush's campaign.
official faults President George W. Bush fro playing into Osama bin Laden's hands, the Guardian of London reports.
His view is representative of many members of the intelligence community, the story says.
Contrary to the Bush administation's position, the author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror asserts that bin Laden is safer than ever and tha al-Qaida's strength has not been diminished.
"I'm very sure they can't have a better administration for them than the one they have now," says the anonymous author.
"One way to keep the Republicans in power is to mount an attack that would rally the country around the president."
According to the Guardain, he believes Mr Bush is taking the US in exactly the direction Bin Laden wants, towards all-out confrontation with Islam under the banner of spreading democracy.
He said: "It's going to take 10,000-15,000 dead Americans before we say to ourselves: 'What is going on'?"
Halliburton consultants Albert J. Stanely and William Chaudan until recently were high-ranking executives at the Houston-based oil services company. Stanley is suspected of channeling as much as $5 million for his personal benefit. But the total amount of the fraud is over $180 million dollars.
At issue is corruption associated with Halliburton's Nigerian natural gas project. Halliburton led a consortium of international companies involved in the project
The case is currently being investigated by the Justice Department, but no charges have been filed. France, however, is conducting a more aggressive inquiry into the scandal.
The French company, Technip, had partnered with Halliburton in the project.
Halliburton CEO David Lesar has label the allegations of massive fraud "a political attack."
The company has also cut its ties with Tri-Star Investments, a Gibraltar-based company controlled by British barrister Jeffrey Tesler. Tesler and Chaudan are longstanding business associates.
Chaudan and Stanley were both formerly executives for Kellogg Brown & Root, an engineering subsidiary of Halliburton. KBR is currently under investigation for overcharges related to its wartime contracts doled out by the Bush administration.
M.K. Kellogg Company became part of the elaborate payment schemes in the mid 1990s, according to the Times. The graft continued after Halliburton bought out Kellogg's parent company, Dresser Industries, in 1998 and merged it with Brown & Root. The payments are alleged to have been made between 1995 and 2002.
All the companies are tied to the Texas oil industry. President George W. Bush's grandfather, Preston Bush, had ties to Dresser. Vice President Dick Cheney headed Halliburton until 2000. George and Herman Brown of Houston founded Brown & Root in the World War II era.
According to the French investigation, a Portuguese consortium called TSKJ, formed and coordinated by KBR, carried out the work for the Nigerian project. The consortium was comprised of Technip, Eni of Italy and JGC Corp. of Japan.
Last year, Halliburton admitted to the Security and Exchange Commission that it had engaged in a series of questionable activities in Nigeria involving $2.4 million in pay offs to Nigerian officials to dodge taxes.
The Nigerian project involved freezing natural gas for shipment to southern Europe and Turkey.
The finding is at odds with an earlier classified report by the Senate Intelligence Committe, then chaired by Democratic Sen. Bob Graham of Florida.
The commission's conclusions did find that wealthy Saudis contributed heavily to Islamic charity front organizations that sponsored al-Qaida, however.
The investigation, headed by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, is probing the leak of agent Valerie Plame's identity to conservative columnist Robert Novak last summer. Plame is the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of President George W. Bush.
One week after Wilson wrote an op-ed article for the New York Times last year, a yet unidentified Bush administration official released his wife's covert identity in an apparent retaliation. Releasing the name of covert agents is a federal crime.
Past news accounts have speculated that the leak came from Bush political advisor Karl Rove, a close associate of Attorney General John Ashcroft. The attorney general recused himself from the case in October, when he name Fitzgerald as special prosecutor.
Citing Wilson's recently published book, the Times today reported that the chief suspect in the case may be Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff I. Lewis Libby.
Cheney's aide's title is also mentioned in a recently released Army memo indicating that the vice-president's office coordinated the fast-track approval of a multi-billion-dollar, no-bid contract to Halliburton, which related to rebuilding Iraq's oil infrastructure. The contract was approved shortly before the U.S. invaded Iraq last year. Cheney is the former CEO of Halliburton.
The Commission, which has spent 17 months studying the September 11 terrorists attacks on the U.S., found no collaborative relationship" between Saddam Hussein's regime and al-Qaida.
Since the commission made public that conclusion in a report earlier this week, the Bush administration has went on the offensive, attacking the commission's findings that oppose statements made repeatedly by the president and senior officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney.
The president and all of his men have long claimed a close relationship existed between the secular Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden's Islamic extremists. The Bush administration used the alleged ties as one of its primary reasons for invading Iraq without provocation last year.
Cheney has been particularly aggressive in maintaining the administration's line. He has accused the press of "not doing its homework," contending that news coverage has not fairly or accurately reported the story. He has also blamed less directly the commission itself. In an interview with CNBS on Thursday, Cheney brought up the unsubstantiated claim that 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague in April 2001. Cheney's assertion has been refuted by the CIA.
When asked by the network correspondent whether he had knowledge that would substantiate his claim that others didn't, Cheney's responded, "probably."
Cheney's response has prompted both the Republican and the Democratic chairmen of the commission to ask Cheney to turn over any information to them that would support the proposition that Saddam Hussein's regime had a close working relationship with al-Qaida. Cheney has yet to respond to the commissioners' request.
One leader who is backing the Bush administration's dubious contentions is President Vladimir Putin of Russia. In a strategically-timed announcement, Putin said that his government gave intelligence reports to the Bush administration after 9/11 that indicated Iraq was planning to attack U.S. targets abroad. Putin, as a is former high-ranking official in the former Soviet KBG, is, of course, well schooled in disinformation and propaganda techniques.
Both the White House and the commission itself are talking about revising or deleting certain text from the final commission report due out next month.
The last two grafs in the Times story are perhaps the most revealing, and worthy of being bumped up to the lede. But that would have spoiled the punchline. Finding a gem of a quote at the end of the story is a reader's reward for drudging through the summary of subterfuge being disseminated by Bush and his cronies on this issue. I guess it's good to rely on gallows humor to get through these times, especially when its comes out of the mouth of a Bush advisor According to the Times' account:
" ... One outside adviser to the White House said the administration expected the debate over Iraq's ties to Al Qaida to be 'a regular feature' of the presidential campaign.
" 'They feel it's important to their long-term credibility on the issue of the decision to go to war," the adviser said. "It's important because it's part of the overall view that Iraq is part of the war on terror. If you discount the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaida, then you discount the proposition that it's part of the war on terror. If it's not part of the war on terror, then what is it; some cockeyed adventure on the part of George W. Bush?'"
"No other shipwreck has stirred emotions like this one," said John F. Turner, assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs. "It is an important step in protecting this scientific and historical treasure."
Apparently, the Bush administration cares more about junk at the bottom of the ocean than the earth's environment because it has refused the sign the Kyoto accord to combat global warming.
Friday, June 18, 2004
Total casualties are estimated to be much higher.
It started as a casual fling between an Indiana socialite and her pistol-wielding psychiatrist and ended tragically in the Everglades. Somehow this all ties in with Bechtel, 9/11 and the Carylyle Group and Ft. Wayne, Ind. is the center of a worldwide conspiracy. Hey, I wouldn't rule anything out at this stage.
Katherine Ann Kryder
Frank Kryder's Lost Daughter
Born May 25, 1931, Fort Wayne,Indiana.
Died September 16,1972,Fort Lauderdale,Florida.
When dining out in New York City in the sixties, "Kay" was sometimes mistakenly escorted by the maitre d' hotel to Mrs. John F. Kennedy's favorite table. She resided in Florida at the time of her grandmother's death in 1960, and at the time of her father Frank Kryder's 1966 death.
In 1963, Dr. Kenneth D. Kiester II, a psychiatrist whose roots were in Whitley, Indiana, and Duncan Oklahoma (headquarters of HALLIBURTON ENERGY), moved to Kay's town. He became romantically involved with her and over the next six years hypnotized, drugged, stalked and terrified her.
Kay never knew exactly when her father had died, but sometime before her death received information that her father and grandparents had died paupers.
Dr. Kiester took Kay into the Everglades on a boat and taught her to shoot beer cans. He gave her a Smith and Wesson. A police report concluded she committed suicide with a gun in 1972.
In 1977 I.M. Rolland became President of Lincoln National Corporation while K.W. Maxfield became President iof North American Van Lines, Inc., which had already sold to Pepsico as Vice-president in 1969. Also in 1977: Kiester was killed in a private plane crash near Fletcher, North Carolina
Ironically, however, Kevin Drum points out that the Patriot Act gives the Attorney General Ashcroft the authority to prosecute the alleged offenders. According to the law:
"... the premises of United States diplomatic, consular, military or other United States Government missions or entities in foreign States, including the buildings, parts of buildings, and land appurtenant or ancillary thereto or used for purposes of those missions or entities, irrespective of ownership...."
The ad sponsored by Citizens United is scheduled to air this Sunday during 60 Minutes. Clinton is scheduled to be interviewed on the show related about his new autobiography, My Life.
Reich and the remaining troika are emblematic of the the parallels between now and then. In fact, it isn't really parallels at all. It's the same crooked line.
from the Council on Hemispheric Affairs:
"... Other Reagan Obsessions
While the Iran-contra affair was among the most significant of the foreign policy excesses of the Reagan years, it was by no means unique. When not dealing with Iranian arms traders, the administration enthusiastically supported a series of bloody military dictators in Guatemala, including the infamous evangelical General Efraín Ríos Montt, who was responsible for a severe escalation of the army and paramilitary’s attacks on Mayan peasant villages. Further south in El Salvador, more than a billion dollars of U.S. aid flowed in to finance a brutal guerrilla war that caused 75,000 deaths in a decade. Among the most blatant of Reagan’s anti-Communist initiatives was the invasion of the tiny island of Grenada in 1983, a maneuver that was ostensibly initiated to protect a small group of American medical students studying on the island (who in fact were forced to remain there when the U.S. cut all air links with the island), but was almost certainly executed in response to the leftward drift of the island’s government—deemed a threat to the United States’s strategic interests by a group of rather paranoiac policymakers.
Dismissed as relics of the Cold War era, the Iran-contra affair as well as other lesser-known hemispheric escapades of the 1980s in fact represent a crucial—if at the time almost unnoticed—portent of foreign policy explosions that would unfold during the tenure of Reagan’s ideological heir and reverent protégé, George W. Bush. What was later to become a reckless and unilateralist aggression in Iraq, began under Reagan as the Central American wars of the 1980’s, marked by a driven rightwing ideology, a contempt for both international organizations and pesky mechanisms of congressional intent and oversight, and the utter subversion of democratic processes. Elliot Abrams, Otto Reich, John Negroponte and Admiral Poindexter—all highly placed ideologues who conspired in Iran-contra and who are once again in power— fervently believed that only they understood the full scope of the danger posed by the Soviet Union and its Latin American allies (which has never been authenticated following the fall of the Soviet Union.)
The Iraq Parallel
Even more dismaying, the remarkable continuity between the contra war and Washington’s game plan for Iraq is not merely a coincidence, but rather reflects the return of a host of key players in the Iran-contra affair. Among these are Abrams, who as the State Department’s chief policymaker for Latin America under Reagan helped formulate and implement its strategy of unremitting support for Central American death squads and the contra cause. Cynically enough, he is now serving as the National Security Council’s director for democracy, human rights and international operations. Negroponte oversaw the supplying of the Contras as ambassador to Honduras in the early 1980s, and was recently appointed to the enormously important post of U.S. ambassador to the newly formed Iraqi government. Reich served until a few days ago as a special presidential envoy for Latin American affairs; from 1983 to 1986, Reich headed the State Department Office of Public Diplomacy, which the Comptroller-General of the U.S. found to have engaged in “prohibited, covert propaganda activities” on behalf of the Nicaraguan contras. ..."
During his latest stint at the State Department, Reich supported the failed right-wing coup that attempted to unseat President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
President George W. Bush had appointed Reich as a special envoy for Latin American affairs, after his nomination to higher-ranking position, requiring Senate confirmation, was opposed by Democrats.
Reich has long been a favorite among right-wing anti-Castro Cubans in Florida. During the Reagan administration, Reich operated a propaganda operation out of the State Department to bolster public support for the Nicaraguan Contras.
The Contras were led by officers from the ousted Somaza regime, which had been in power for decades in Nicaragua. Support and training for the Contras was originally provided by death squad leaders from Argentina, who were seeking to gain favor with the Reagan administration.
After U.S. involving in the Contra war was uncovered the U.S. comptroller general charged in 1987 that Reich's office "engaged in prohibited, covert activities" and "domestic propaganda" intended to mislead the media and public and generate support for the administration's policies.
This latest killing made me recall an alarming radio broadcast I heard not too long after the September 11 attacks. I had went out for a walk and took a tiny battery-operated shortwave radio and headphones with me.
As I fiddled with the dial, I picked up a broadcast from an unknown origin. A female instructor, who was speaking English, was reciting the same refrain over and over, as a group of children repeated her admonitions over. The kids' English lesson was a hate-filled invective that called on Allah to curse all Americans for eternity. I couldn't believe my ears. The recitation went on for five or ten minutes uninterrupted. The frequency finally faded out.
Who would preach this to little children and then have them repeat it in English over a shortwave radio station?
John Kerry with John Lennon, New York City, circa 1971
Donald Rumsfeld with Saddam Hussein, Baghdad, Dec. 20, 1983
MR. RUSSERT: The Washington Post asked the American people about Saddam Hussein, and this is what they said: 69 percent said he was involved in the September 11 attacks. Are you surprised by that?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. I think it's not surprising that people make that connection.
MR. RUSSERT: But is there a connection?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: We don't know. You and I talked about this two years ago. I can remember you asking me this question just a few days after the original attack. At the time I said no, we didn't have any evidence of that. Subsequent to that, we've learned a couple of things. We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the '90s, that it involved training, for example, on BW and CW, that al-Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems that are involved. The Iraqis providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the al-Qaeda organization.
We know, for example, in connection with the original World Trade Center bombing in '93 that one of the bombers was Iraqi, returned to Iraq after the attack of '93. And we've learned subsequent to that, since we went into Baghdad and got into the intelligence files, that this individual probably also received financing from the Iraqi government as well as safe haven.
Now, is there a connection between the Iraqi government and the original World Trade Center bombing in '93? We know, as I say, that one of the perpetrators of that act did, in fact, receive support from the Iraqi government after the fact. With respect to 9/11, of course, we've had the story that's been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we've never been able to develop anymore of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don't know.
MR. RUSSERT: We could establish a direct link between the hijackers of September 11 and Saudi Arabia.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: We know that many of the attackers were Saudi. There was also an Egyptian in the bunch. It doesn't mean those governments had anything to do with that attack. That's a different proposition than saying the Iraqi government and the Iraqi intelligent service has a relationship with al-Qaeda that developed throughout the decade of the '90s. That was clearly official policy
Attorney General John Ashcroft refused to voluntarily turn over the documents to the committee last week.
"It's a dumb-ass thing to do," said Hatch, urging all sides to try to reach a voluntary accord.
"The committee had an opportunity to stop the cover-up, but Republicans refused to do it," said Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the panel's top Democrat.
Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Maura Harty told the Senate Judiciary committee June 15 that the technological challenges involved in introducing biometric features to passports are too great for nations to meet the 2004 deadline set by Congress in the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002.
Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Assistant Secretary of State Maura Harty earlier this week explained that the technology is not yet available for microchips to be implanted in password that would positively recognize the identity of incoming travelers to the U.S. based on facial recognition.
Harty advised that it may take two years to implement the plan with cooperating nations. Judiciary chairman Sen. Orin Hatch, a Republican for Utah, urged that the project be delayed no more than one year.
Also this week, the Republican-led House defeated an amendment from the appropriations bill that would have prohibited companies that locate off-shore to dodge taxesoff-shore from receiving government contracts. At issue is a $10 billion contract awarded to Accenture LLP, a Bermuda-based company, to design and install biometric technology at all U.S. ports of entry.
Earlier this week, the national commission investigating the 9/11 attacks concluded that there was no credible evidence to indicate a substanitive connection between al-Qaida and the Iraqi regime.
In response, Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice have all gave the same pat answers: "We never said Iraq had anything to do with al-Qaida's 9/11 attack, but there were, nevertheless, close ties between the two.
Using the Bush administration's reasoning a case could be made that Rumsfeld, as an agent of the Reagan regime, supported terrorism.
If a picture tells a thousand words, than the one of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein speaks volumes. The photograph, which has proliferated on the Internet in recent months, shows Rumsfeld meeting with the now-deposed dictator in Baghdad in the early 1980s. Rumsfeld was dispatched as a special envoy to Iraq by the Reagan administration.
During this time period, the U.S. was arming both sides of the Iran-Iraq war, encouraging both nations to wage war against the other as part of a diplomatic policy of mutually assured destruction.
At least half of this flawed policy, the arming of Iran, was done secretly as part of an arms for hostage deal that used money from the arms sales to fund an illegal, covert war in Nicaragua.
"... Ironically, as the commission reported, the al-Qaida-Iraq connection has become a self-fulfilling prophecy with terrorists pouring into Iraq to attack U.S. forces. But that is a situation caused by Mr. Bush's war, not prevented by it. ..."
Thursday, June 17, 2004
The CD is entitled The Revolution Starts ... Now, but Earle's comrades will have to wait until Aug. 24 to buy it. Titles on Earle's new release include F the CC, a Ramones-like rant against Michael Powell and Clear Channel, which would ban it from its airwave monopoly, if Earle hadn't have already been blacklisted by the fascists.
Besides the title cut, other protest songs on the CD include Condi, Condi, a swipe at National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Gringo and Rich Man's War.
Earle begins a promo tour in a couple days, but mainly restricted to the West Coast. Since I have a "worldwide" audience here are the concert dates:
June 22: San Diego (Humphrey's Concerts by the Bay)
June 23: Saratoga, Calif. (Mountain Winery)
June 25: Reno, Nev. (Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheater)
June 26: Laytonville, Calif. (Kate Wolf Memorial Music Festival)
June 28: Portland, Ore. (Aladdin Theater)
June 30: Seattle (Woodland Park Zoo Amphitheatre)
July 2: Jacksonville, Ore. (Britt Pavilion)
July 3: Quincy, Calif. (High Sierra Music Festival)
July 9: Santa Barbara, Calif. (Santa Barbara Bowl; Gram Parsons Tribute)
July 10: Los Angeles (Universal Amphitheater; Gram Parsons Tribute)
Aug. 8: Portland, Maine (State Theater)
Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.
(For the full list of Reagan's dirty deeds, click on the link below.)
* Cruelly slashing the social safety net. Reagan cuts in social
spending exacerbated a policy of intentionally raising the unemployment rate. The result was a huge surge in poverty. With homelessness skyrocketing, Reagan defended his administration's record: "One problem that we've had, even in the best of times, and that is the people who are sleeping on grates, the homeless who are homeless, you might say, by choice."
* A targeted tax cut for the rich. The 1981 tax cut was one of the largest in U.S. history and heavily targeted toward the rich, with major declines in tax rates for upper-income groups. The tax break helped widen income and wealth inequality gaps. As David Stockman admitted, one of its other intended effects was to starve the government of funds, so as to justify cuts in government spending (for the poor -- the cash crunch didn't restrain government spending on corporate welfare).
* Firing striking air traffic controllers. Reagan's decision to fire 1,800 striking air traffic controller early in his term sent a message that employers could act against striking or organizing workers with virtual impunity.
* Deregulating the Savings & Loan industry, paving the way for an industry meltdown and subsequent bailout that cost taxpayershundreds of billions of dollars.
* Undermining health, safety and environmental regulation. Reagan decreed such rules must be subjected to regulatory impact analysis -- corporate-biased cost-benefit analyses, carried out by the Office of Management and Budget. The result: countless positive regulations discarded or revised based on pseudo-scientific conclusions that the cost to corporations would be greater than the public benefit.
* Slashing the Environmental Protection Agency budget in half, and installing Anne Gorsuch Burford to oversee the dismantling of the agency and ensure weak enforcement of environmental rules.
* Kick-starting the era of structural adjustment. It was under Reagan administration influence that the International Monetary Fund and World Bank began widely imposing the policy package known as structural adjustment -- featuring deregulation, privatization, emphasis on exports, cuts in social spending -- that has plunged country after country in the developing world into economic destitution. The IMF chief at the time was honest about what was to come, saying in 1981 that, for low-income countries, "adjustment is particularly costly in human terms."
* Enabling a corporate merger frenzy. The administration effectively re-wrote antitrust laws and oversaw what at the time was an unprecedented merger trend. "There is nothing written in the sky that says the world would not be a perfectly satisfactory place if there were only 100 companies, provided that each had 1 percent of every product and service market," said Reagan's antitrust enforcement chief William Baxter.
Reporting for NOW, Michele Mitchell correspondent says that the actual casualty numbers may triple those released by the Pentagon. Critics also question the number of official combat casualties repoorted by the Defense Department, as well.
The executive order, which violates the terms of the 1978 Presidential Records Act, has delayed the release of most of the late Ronald Reagan's presidential papers, more than 39 million pages. A lawsuit forced the release of a fraction of the papers that have been withheld.
Under the terms of the federal law, former President George H.W. Bush's papers should be released next year. But the sitting president, his son, signed the order that is prohibiting the American public from examining the historic record.
A May 2001 story by Mara Leveritt in the weekly Arkansas Times provides the background on the Homeland Security lieutenant's earlier career. Hutchinson refused to talk to the writer about Seal and Mena, but IRS agent William C. Duncan was willing to tell a grand jury plenty.
According to Leveritt's story:
In 1991, Treasury agent Duncan was questioned under oath about the Seal investigation. Asked what conclusions he and his superiors at the IRS had drawn, Duncan answered matter-of-factly, "There was a cover-up."
"I had found Asa Hutchinson to be a very aggressive U.S. attorney in connection with my cases," Duncan said. "Then, all of a sudden, with respect to Mena, it was just like the information was going in, but nothing was happening, over a long period of time. But, just like with the 20 witnesses and the complaints, I didn't know what to make of that. Alarms were going off...
"We were astonished that we couldn't get subpoenas. We were astonished that Barry Seal was never brought to the grand jury, because he was on the subpoena list for a long time. And there were just a lot of investigative developments that made no sense to us."
Asked to elaborate, Duncan explained, "One of the most revealing things was that we had discussed specifically with Asa Hutchinson the rumors about National Security [Administration] involvement in the Mena operation. And Mr. Hutchinson told me personally that he had checked with a variety of law enforcement agencies and people in Miami, and that Barry Seal would be prosecuted for any crimes in Arkansas. So we were comfortable that there was not going to be National Security interference."
Duncan also said he found it "very strange" that he saw so few signs of the DEA at Mena while Seal was headquartered there. "We were dealing with allegations of narcotics smuggling [and] massive amounts of money laundering," Duncan said in his deposition. "And it was my perception that the Drug Enforcement Administration would have been very actively involved at that stage, along with the Arkansas State Police. But DEA was conspicuously absent during most of that time."
Duncan did not know while he was investigating Seal that, about a year and a half after Seal's move to Arkansas - and about midway through Hutchinson's term as U.S. attorney - the smuggler had changed his mind about becoming a federal informant.
Passaro is alleged to have beaten to death Adul Wali, an Afghan prisoner, at a U.S. concentration camp near Asadabad, Afghanistan on June 21, 2003.
But on Tuesday, the House Rules Committee voted not to honor the amendment to the appropriations bill. The Republican congressmen behind the move are supporting Accenture LLP, a Bermuda-based company that was earlier awarded a $10 billion Homeland Security contract. On Wednesday the Republican-controlled House voted 224-205 to kill the amendment that would have prohibited companies that locate off-shore to avoid paying taxes from receiving government contracts.
"It is absolutely irresponsible for the House leadership to take this [amendment] out of the bill," Rep. Marion Berry (D-Ark.), a co-sponsor of the amendment, said. "My citizenship in the United States is not for sale but Accenture chose to renounce its citizenship and it is rewarded with a $10 billion contract paid for by hard-working taxpayers."
The Homeland Security 10-year contract was awarded to Accenture to to design and implement biometrics systems that will verify the identities of arriving visitors at all U.S. entry points.
Accenture's subsidiary is based in Reston, Va., a Washington, D.C. suburb, but the company is headquartered in Bermuda to avoid taxes.
"Who has the competitive advantage? The company that pays its taxes or the one that dodges its taxes to lower its costs?" Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.) said. "To add insult to injury, they say they not only don't want to pay their taxes, but they want ours too. Why are we giving a competitive advantage to a company that dodges its taxes and responsibilities?"
Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Asa Hutchinson dismissed questions about Accenture's tax-dodging status when he announced the contract two weeks ago.
"I wonder if John Ashcroft’s refusal to provide the Senate with declassified memos connected to the torture scandal raised any eyebrows among his God-fearing friends? After all, it seems a bit odd that a Bible-wielding scold like the Attorney General would conceal information that might reveal the truth about something as serious as prisoner abuse. ..."
A car bomb at the site of a Iraqi military recruitment center in Baghdad killed 35. The recruitment center is located at the Mothenna airbase, which is also used by the U.S. military. No American casualties were reported.
A second car bombing killed six people north of Baghdad.
The revelations that are being made public almost on a daily basis increasingly show that President George W. Bush and top officials in his administration have systematically lied to the American public and the world.
They lied about the reasons for going to war against Iraq. The two most obvious expamples are weapons of mass destruction, which were never found; and the alleged ties between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein's regime, which have now been refuted by the presidentially-appointed 9/11 commission.
The Bush administration has also lied about torturing prisoners of war, claiming that it was an aberation, an isolated incident perpetrated by some hillybilly national guardsmen. We now know that the orders came from the top -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Those orders were based on legal opinions produced by the Justice Department led by -- Attorney John Ashcroft.
And then there's -- Vice President Dick Cheney, the most avid hawker of the al-Qaida-Iraq connection that never existed. In the months leading up to the war, the Army gave Halliburton a $7-billion, no-bid contract. A document obtained by Judicial Watch, an advocacy group, show that Cheney's office was involved in coordinating fast-track approval of the Halliburton contract. Cheney is the former CEO of Halliburton.
Another facet of the Bush's administration's seemingly myriad misrepresentations was forged in the basement of the Pentagon through the Office of Special Planning. I like to call this group of rouge neo-con ideolouges the Pentagon plumbers. Led by the likes of Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz, the team fabricated intelligence indicating that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The plumbers put Ahmad Chalabi, a convicted embezzler, on the payroll and used misinformation from informants that he provided to substantiate the rationale for the invasion. Chalabi is now under investigation for leaking secrets to Iran and the FBI is questioning his handlers -- the Pentagon plumbers. down
Across the Potomac at the big house on Pennsylvania Avenue, a special prosecutor is looking into another leak. In this case, somebody on the White House staff, probably dirty trickster Karl Rove, leaked the name of a covert CIA agent to conservative columnist Robert Novak, who duly outed her in the press. Valerie Plame, the agent, is married to former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who refuted Bush's bogus claim that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger for its nuclear weapons program.
The continuing leaks that keep springing up suggest that the Bush administration is being sabotaged by career military and intelligence officials who oppose Bush and his cowboy methods.
The ship of state is listing badly. To put his administration and the country on an even keel, Bush should fire Rumsfeld and Ashcroft. But he can't because it's an election year and to fire two cabinet members would show weakness on his part. The president should likewise dump Cheney but he won't do that, either, for the same reason. So the president and his sorry crew will go down with the ship. Let's hope the rest of us can survive until after the election.
"There are two unpleasant alternatives: either Mr. Bush knew he was not telling the truth, or he has a capacity for politically motivated self-deception that is terrifying in the post-9/11 world."
The conclusion contradicts repeated claims otherwise by President George W. Bush and other members of his administration, particularly Vice President Dick Cheney. Allegations of Iraq's ties to the al Qaida network and Osama bin Laden were used both as a reason for the U.S. invasion of Iraq and a justification for the action after the fact.
In a story that appears in today's Washington Post, reporters Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank cite several examples of Cheney's false accusations of a al-Qaida-Iraqi connection, including one earlier this week, which was reported by Media Mayhem. But there are many, many more.
On his web site, Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat and the ranking member of the House Committee on Government Reform, has created a database of misleading statements by the Bush administration regarding the rationale for waging war against Iraq.
A search of the word "al-Qaeda," which is the alternative spelling of the terrorist group, brings up 64 hits. The top five are all by Cheney.
Displaying statements 1 to 5 of 64 statements found
Statement by Vice President Richard Cheney
"I continue to believe. I think there's overwhelming evidence that there was a connection between al-Qaeda and the Iraqi government. We've discovered since documents indicating that a guy named Abdul Rahman Yasin, who was a part of the team that attacked the World Trade Center in '93, when he arrived back in Iraq was put on the payroll and provided a house, safe harbor and sanctuary. That's public information now. So Saddam Hussein had an established track record of providing safe harbor and sanctuary for terrorists. . . . I mean, this is a guy who was an advocate and a supporter of terrorism whenever it suited his purpose, and I'm very confident that there was an established relationship there."Source: Morning Edition, NPR (1/22/2004).
Explanation: This statement was misleading because it suggested that Iraq was providing support to al Qaeda. In fact, the U.S. intelligence community had conflicting evidence on this issue and was divided regarding whether there was an operational relationship.
Statement by Vice President Richard Cheney
"Saddam Hussein had a lengthy history of reckless and sudden aggression. His regime cultivated ties to terror, including the al Qaeda network, and had built, possessed, and used weapons of mass destruction."Source: Richard B. Cheney Delivers Remarks to Veterans at the Arizona Wing Museum, White House (1/15/2004).
Explanation: This statement was misleading because it suggested that Iraq was providing support to al Qaeda. In fact, the U.S. intelligence community had conflicting evidence on this issue and was divided regarding whether there was an operational relationship.
Statement by Vice President Richard Cheney
"Saddam Hussein had a lengthy history of reckless and sudden aggression. His regime cultivated ties to terror, including the al Qaeda network, and had built, possessed, and used weapons of mass destruction."Source: Richard B. Cheney Delivers Remarks to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, White House (1/14/2004).
Explanation: This statement was misleading because it suggested that Iraq was providing support to al Qaeda. In fact, the U.S. intelligence community had conflicting evidence on this issue and was divided regarding whether there was an operational relationship.
Statement by Vice President Richard Cheney
"QUESTION: When I was in Iraq, some of the soldiers said they believed they were fighting because of the Sept. 11 attacks and because they thought Saddam Hussein had ties to al Qaida. You've repeatedly cited such links. . . . I wanted to ask you what you'd say to those soldiers, and were those soldiers misled at all? VICE
PRESIDENT CHENEY: . . . . With respect to . . . the general relationship. . . . One place you ought to go look is an article that Stephen Hayes did in the Weekly Standard . . . That goes through and lays out in some detail, based on an assessment that was done by the Department of Defense and forwarded to the Senate Intelligence Committee some weeks ago. That's your best source of information. I can give you a few quick for instances, one the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.
QUESTION: Yes, sir . . . .
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: The main perpetrator was a man named Ramzi Yousef. He's now in prison in Colorado. His sidekick in the exercise was a man named Abdul Rahman Yasin. . . Ahman Rahman . . . Yasin is his last name anyway. I can't remember his earlier first names. He fled the United States after the attack, the 1993 attack, went to Iraq, and we know now based on documents that we've captured since we took Baghdad, that they put him on the payroll, gave him a monthly stipend and provided him with a house, sanctuary, in effect, in Iraq, in the aftermath of nine-ele (sic) . . . the 93' attack on the World Trade Center.
QUESTION: So you stand by the statements?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Absolutely. Absolutely. And you can look at Zarkawi, (Abu Mussab) al-Zarkawi . . . Who was an al-Qaida associate, who was wounded in Afghanistan, took refuge in Baghdad, working out of Baghdad, worked with the Ansar al Islam group up in northeastern Iraq, that produced a so-called poison factory, a group that we hit when we went into Iraq. . . . We'll find ample evidence confirming the link, that is the connection if you will between al Qaida and the Iraqi intelligence services. They have worked together on a number of occasions."Source: Transcript of interview with Vice President Dick Cheney, Rocky Mountain News (1/9/2004).
Explanation: This statement was misleading because it asserted that Iraq was providing support to al Qaeda. In fact, the U.S. intelligence community had conflicting evidence on this issue and was divided regarding whether there was an operational relationship. The statement also refers to the Ansar al Islam group in Northeastern Iraq without acknowledging that this area was not controlled by Saddam Hussein.
Statement by Vice President Richard Cheney
"We did have reporting that was public, that came out shortly after the 9/11 attack, provided by the Czech government, suggesting there had been a meeting in Prague between Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker, and a man named al-Ani (Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani), who was an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague, at the embassy there, in April of '01, prior to the 9/11 attacks. It has never been -- we've never been able to collect any more information on that. That was the one that possibly tied the two together to 9/11."Source: Transcript of Interview with Vice President Dick Cheney, Rocky Mountain News (1/9/2004).
Explanation: This statement is misleading because it describes a Czech government report of a meeting between Mohammed Atta and Iraq intelligence official Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani in April 2001 and states that there hasn’t been more information on that, despite the fact that Czech intelligence officials were skeptical about the report; U.S. intelligence had contradictory evidence regarding this report, such as records indicating Atta was in Virginia at the time of the meeting; and the C.I.A. and F.B.I. had concluded the meeting probably didn’t occur.
A ballot initiative proposal by state election law reformers would divide the number of electoral votes a candidate received based on the percentage of the popular vote.
Eliminating the winner-take-all rule could impact the November national election. The movement has already raised the hackles of Colorado conservatives, who are questioning whether the signature gathering campaign is non-partisan. The Denver Post reports that the funding for the ballot initiative is coming from a wealthy Brazilian.
Rumsfeld ordered in July 2002 that a captured member of the Ansar al Islam terror group be held in secret. Acting on Rumsfeld command, The U.S. military secretly transported the prisoner to an undisclosed location outside Iraq, Pentagon sources told NBC.
After being advised that incarcerating the prisoner outside Iraq could be illegal, Rumsfeld rescinded the order and the prisoner was returned to Iraq, according to the NBC report. But the prisoner never was granted offcial status and has since been lost in the prison system, according to the network's account.
Human rights groups say the secret incarceration of the prisoner is a violation of the Geneva Conventions.
“If they thought he was such a threat that he could not get Red Cross visits," says Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch, "then how come such a threatening prisoner got lost in the system?”
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
From Rep. Henry Waxman's database of Bush administration lies on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction:
Statement by Secretary of State Colin Powell
"One item I showed was cartoons of the mobile biological van. They were cartoons, artist's renderings, because we had never seen one of these things, but we had good sourcing on it, excellent sourcing on it. And we knew what it would look like when we found it, so we made those pictures. And I can assure you I didn't just throw those pictures up without having quite a bit of confidence in the information that I had been provided and that Director Tenet had been provided and was now supporting me in the presentation on, sitting right behind me. And we waited. And it took a couple of months, and it took until after the war, until we found a van and another van that pretty much matched what we said it would look like. And I think that's a pretty good indication that we were not cooking the books."
Source: Press Briefing, State Dept (7/10/2003).
Explanation: This statement was misleading because it claimed the purpose of the trailers was to produce biological weapons without disclosing that engineers from the Defense Intelligence Agency who examined the trailers concluded that they were most likely used to produce hydrogen for artillery weather balloons.
Displaying all statements of 2 statement(s) found
For instance, appearing on Face the Nation last July, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice asserted that CIA Director George Tenet agreed with the administration that Saddam Hussein attempts to aquire uranium from Africa for its nuclear weapons program. Bush made the statement in his January 2003 State of the Union address before Congress in the lead up to the Iraqi invasion.
Waxman's database of Bush administration lies on WMD cites two October 2002 memos from Tenet -- one addressed to Rice -- and a phone call to the national security advisor cautioning that the nuclear weapons threat far less dangerous to U.S. national security and
Statement by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice:
"My only point is that, in retrospect, knowing that some of the documents underneath may have been--were, indeed, forgeries, and knowing that apparently there were concerns swirling around about this, had we known that at the time, we would not have put it in. . . . And had there been even a peep that the agency did not want that sentence in or that George Tenet did not want that sentence in, that the director of Central Intelligence did not want it in, it would have been gone."
Source: Face the Nation, CBS (7/13/2003).
Explanation: Ms. Rice was responding to questions regarding how the claim that Iraq sought uranium in Africa made it into the President's January 28, 2003, State of the Union address. The statement that the Director of Central Intelligence and the CIA did not object to the claim was false. In October 2002, the CIA expressed doubts about the claim in two memos to the White House, including one addressed to Ms. Rice. Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet also warned against using the claim in a telephone call to Ms. Rice’s deputy in October 2002.
Tom Engelhardt, aka Tom Dispatch, writing on the torture scandal for the Nation Institute:
Add it all up -- only what's been revealed so far -- and you have a global system of injustice and torture, purposely mounted in the moral and legal darkness, beyond the reach or oversight of anyone but the President, vice-president, secretary of defense and associated officials, meant to extract information (and take revenge), meant as in Kafka's fictional penal colony to write the sentence these men had passed on the bodies of America's captives.
And talk about paper trails! If you need any evidence of the combination of arrogance, incompetence, and plain stupidity of the Bush administration, it now sits unavoidably before our eyes. Didn't they know anything about deniability? Didn't they know that you can get so much done without committing anything to paper? Didn't they know that you can signal what you want from the top without issuing orders, making direct demands, or demanding supporting opinions on paper?
Note two things here: That almost all of the above, this whole little global shop of horrors, is already documented -- quite literally in papers pouring out of the bowels of this administration. These documents are leaking daily from an administration that seems to have split open along many angry rift lines. The British Telegraph this week, writing of the leaking of a legal document on torture to the Wall Street Journal commented, for example:
"The leak appears to be part of an extraordinary civil war in the Pentagon between civilian officials and uniformed officers appalled by what they have described as moves by political appointees to shroud the war on terrorism in an ‘environment of legal ambiguity'."
Bush and his henchmen, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, have repeatedly claimed that Iraq aided al-Qaida terrorist efforts. The Bush administration used the alleged aid as one of false reason to invade Iraq last year.
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
The Saudi daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat, monitored in Beirut, reports Iran has massed four battalions at the border.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat quoted "reliable Iraqi sources" as saying, "Iran moved part of its regular military forces towards the Iraqi border in the southern sector at a time its military intelligence agents were operating inside Iraqi territory."
Hard to believe but true.
Peel was a minor New York City rock `n' roller, who fronted a band called the the Lower East Side. That's where he lived, too, in a warehouse loft -- way before lofts were trendy. It was a rathole.
The FBI got the two mixed up because Peel resembled Lennon, and that wasn't an accident, either. Peel had his hair cut or uncut similar to the ex-Beatle and he wore round wire-rimmed glasses like Lennon. Peel was, in some ways, a Lennon imitator.
When I met Peel, at his East Side loft in early 1972, he was so downed out he could barely speak. I visited him with a couple of my college roommates, one of them a New Yorker. My friends were trying to convince Peel to come down to a branch of Antioch College in Baltimore to do a show.
Their request wasn't purely altruistic. They were theater majors and were attempting to earn credit through a whacky curriculum they had created for themselves. These two made the same pitch to Manhattan Transfer backstage at the Mercer Arts Center on the same trip. They were rejected both times.
My roommates did manage to talk Tuli Kupfenberg, a former member of the Fugs, into doing a poetry reading, however. Tuli, and I apologize if I spelled his last name wrong, was by then a New York City street poet. He wrote the now-forgotten tract of verse entitled 10,000 Ways to Evade the Draft. He also crashed on the couch at our basement apartment at 33rd and Guilford in Baltimore. Even then, Tuli was nothing but a sack of bones and had the appearance of a needle freak.
Four or five years earlier, Tuli and and fellow Fug Ed Sanders and Abbey Hoffmann and thousands of other people surrounded the Pentagon for the purpose of levitating it off the ground. That might have been been Tuli's idea, actually.
Peel, on the other hand, lacked the same poetic genius. How the FBI mistook him for Lennon I can't "Imagine," if you'll excuse the pun. The FBI records show photographs of Peel's album The Pope Smokes Dope and identify him as the Lennon. Now The Pope Smokes Dope wasn't exactly on the same caliber as Abbey Road, but maybe the FBI didn't listen to much rock music back then. The only thing I can remember Peel saying during our one-time meeting was: "We're going to rip-off Apple Records, man."
If the FBI can get Lennon mixed up with Peel maybe they got Kerry mixed up with somebody else, too. Who might that be? I can't Imagine.
The FBI documents indicate the bureau was interested in athe VVAW's alleged ties to the Communist Party, including financial aid for the trip to Paris to meet with North Vietnames representatives.
The documents also referred to Kerry and a Kansas City meeting of the VVAW in which the assassination of congressional leaders was discussed.
According to Judicial Watch:
"... The documents, obtained from the Office of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection through a Freedom of Information Act request, show that 160 Saudis were allowed to leave on 55 commercial flights from airports around the country between Sept. 11 and Sept. 15, 2001. Judicial Watch received no response from six other agencies about the Saudi flights. (For a copy of the documents, visit Judicial Watch’s Internet site at www.judicialwatch.org/archive/2004/homelandsecurity.pdf.)
Author Craig Unger, in a June 1, 2004, New York Times opinion piece, pointed out that the 9/11 Commission is investigating only the departure of 142 Saudis on six charter flights. The commission was never told about the additional 160 Saudis who left.
Although the FBI says that it checked the manifests of the flights taken by the Saudis against its terror watch list, the 9/11 panel has indicated that there is no evidence that happened. ..."
Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton, the parent company of KBR, before taking office in 2001. The email was obtained by Judicial Watch through the Freedom of Information Act.
In part the email reads as follows:
Sent: Wednesday, March 5, 2003
Subject: RIO (Restore Iraqi Oil) status update 5
... Dep ec Def sent us to Under Sec Fieth (sic) and gave him authority to approve both.
... Fieth (sic) approved contingent on informing WH tomorrow. We anticipate no issue, since action has been coordinated w VP's office. ..."
Final approval of the $7 billion no-bid contract was approved by Assistant Secretary of the Army Claude M. Bolton Jr. on Feb. 28, 2003.
But the plans to award the no-bid contract were ironed out nearly four months earlier according to the memo. obtained through a Freedom of Information Request filed by Judicial Watch.
The memo indicates that KBR "received the task order" on Nov. 11, 2002.
In part the memo reads as follows:
"... In November 2002, KBR was determined to be the only source capable of developing a CSP in the time required. A task order was issued under LOGCAP contract to develop and deliver the CSP. KBR received the task order Nov. 11, 2002.
Centcom identified a need for CSP to describe how contractor support can be provided to the Commander, USCENTCOM in the context of post-Saddam US military actions in Iraq to effect the repair and to maintain continuity of operations of the Iraqi energy infrastructure and all related systems and facilities ..."
There has been much talk about how ill-prepared the United States was to occupy Iraq. But the one thing that the Bush-Cheney regime prepared for was protecting the oil infrastructure -- using Cheney company to do it.
A little later I heard an abbreviated version of the same story on CBS News. While I had the TV on in the living room, I was busy trying to comprehend the technie end of blogging, RSS, Atom, etc., which is all Greek to me. But I decided to check out the Bell-DeLay story on Feedster, one of the many Internet sites that offers aggregator services (whatever that is).
I do have the ability to do a keyword search, however, which was available at Feedster. So I typed in "Bell and DeLay." I got more than 500 hits on blogs that used those words. The most recent hits were related to the ethics charge story, which were listed in chronological order. Out of curiousity, I started scrolling down to see who reported on it first. I didn't make it to the bottom of the list, but votelaw.com/blog reported on the story in detail almost 24 hours ago.
The blogger scooped NPR and CBS by an entire day.
A Democratic congressman plans to file a wide-ranging ethics complaint today against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), shattering the remnants of a seven-year-old, unwritten ethics truce between the two parties and possibly nudging the House back toward a brand of political warfare that helped topple two speakers.
The complaint, which Rep. Chris Bell (D-Tex.) said he will send to the House ethics committee, accuses the House's second-ranking Republican of soliciting campaign contributions in return for legislative favors; laundering illegal campaign contributions through a Texas political action committee; and improperly involving a federal agency in a Texas partisan matter. The House's top two Democrats raised no objections when Bell told them he would file the complaint, according to Bell's office and party leadership aides.
A grand jury in Austin has been looking into the Texas PAC's activities, although DeLay's aides say there is no evidence he is a target of the probe. DeLay has denied wrongdoing in all the matters cited in Bell's complaint. ...
"... We may be in the golden age of blogging, a quirky Camelot moment in Internet history when some guy in his underwear with too much free time can take down a Washington politician. It will be interesting to see what role blogs play in the upcoming election. Blogs can be a great way of communicating, but they can keep people apart too. If I read only those of my choice, precisely tuned to my political biases and you read only yours, we could end up a nation of political solipsists, vacuum sealed in our private feedback loops, never exposed to new arguments, never having to listen to a single word we disagree with. ..."
June 14, 2004
WASHINGTON -- Pentagon officials have acknowledged that Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff and other Bush administration political appointees were involved in a controversial decision to pay Halliburton Inc. to plan for the postwar recovery of Iraq's oil sector, a Democratic lawmaker said yesterday.
The decision, overruling the recommendations of an Army lawyer, eventually resulted in the award of a $7 billion no-bid contract to Halliburton, which Cheney ran for five years before he was nominated for vice president.
Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., who was briefed by Pentagon officials last week, issued a letter to the vice president yesterday demanding full disclosure of the top-secret process that led to awarding the contract to the Houston-based oil services company. ...
Cheney repeatedly has denied that he had any influence over the decision to award the massive contract last March. "As vice president, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts let by the Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the federal government," he said on NBC's "Meet The Press" last fall. ...
(Cheney staffers) have said that officials with Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, who was responsible for overall planning in postwar Iraq, talked with the vice president's office as a courtesy to warn of a decision with potentially controversial political ramifications. ...
In an earlier interview, Larry Di Rita, the Pentagon's chief spokesman, said the process was done without bidding to ensure both speed and discretion in the months leading to the war. He said the final decision to award the oil reconstruction contract to Halliburton was made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. ...
... Waxman said, Michael Mobbs - a special assistant to Feith - said that in summer 2002 he was placed in charge of the Energy Infrastructure Planning Group, whose job was to create a plan for the reconstruction of Iraq's oil industry in case of war. Mobbs did not return calls for comment. ...
Mobbs told Waxman's staff that his group - not contracting officers - had chosen Halliburton to do the work because the company was already working with the military under a separate, multibillion-dollar contract to provide housing, food and other logistics.
MR. McCLELLAN: We certainly talked about the ties with terrorism between the -- between the regime that was removed from power, and we talked about those ties prior to the decision to remove that regime from power. So that was well-documented. Secretary Powell went before the United Nations and talked about some of those ties to terrorism, as well. And Zarqawi is certainly a senior al Qaeda associate who was in Iraq prior to the decision to go in and remove the regime from power.
Q There's also al Qaeda in the United States. That does not mean the United States is cooperating with those members of al Qaeda. Just by the presence of someone does not mean there's a cooperation.
MR. McCLELLAN: But, remember, we're talking about an oppressive regime that was in power in Iraq that exercised control over that country. And go back and look at what we documented, Norah. We documented all this, and I think that's what the Vice President was referring to.
Q So today you're saying the President does agree there were long --
MR. McCLELLAN: We stand by what we've said previously, in terms of the regime's ties to terrorism, yes. And I think that's what the Vice President was referring to.
Q The President said there were no ties in the run up to the war.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, Helen, that's a mischaracterization. There were clear ties to terrorism between the regime --
Q He said there were no ties with al Qaeda.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- certainly supporting suicide bombers in the Middle East.
Q Are you repudiating what the President said?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think you're talking about September 11th.
From a reveiw by Greg Palast:
For the first time in living memory, a single party-the Republicans-controls every major institution of the federal government: the White House, the Supreme Court, the Senate and House of Representatives-not to mention the "fourth branch of government," the mass media. How did this come to pass?
Banana Republicans reveals how the national GOP maintains its hold on power through the systematic manipulation of the electoral system, the courts, the media, and the lobbying establishment. The book examines:
* The legacy of the Florida ballot scandal, and how it has played out in the recall movement in California-and other states, where recall efforts are under way-and in the redistricting controversy in Texas.
* How a GOP echo chamber systematically spreads its views through conservative media giants-e.g., Clear Channel, Fox-and highly placed columnists, journalists, and opinion makers.
* How the Bush administration is loading the federal courts with a generation of demagogues, and smearing the names of legislators who attempt to stand in its way.
* How House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has strong-armed traditional lobbying firms into exclusively hiring Republicans, so that even K Street is political, rather than merely opportunistic.
* How the GOP has equated dissent with treason-e.g., Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accusing war critics of abetting terrorism.
* How the Bush administration uses its power to punish dissent, such as the leaking of a CIA agent's name to the press, and unprecedented lawsuits against activist organizations such as Greenpeace.
In his new book Losing America: Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidency -- Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia -- the dean of the Senate, writes that the Bush Bund "is systematically, relentlessly and with stubborn arrogance making a mockery of these constitutional mandates through subterfuge, warmongering and intimidation of a Congress that is cowed, timid, and deferential."
Congress may not have the power to wage war, as the executive branch does, but it does have the responsiblity for overseeing the government's pursestrings.
But the Republican head of the House committee that should be looking into the fraud, waste and abuse at Halliburton has refused to hold hearings on the matter.
This prompted Rep. Henry Waxman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, to fired off a letter yesterday criticizing the committee chairman, Rep. Thomas Davis, a Virginia Republican.
In the Los Angeles Times story over this congressional battle, the newspaper wrote: "It has become increasingly difficult to separate politics from unbiased criticism of Halliburton's contract."
Waxman is noted for being one of the most liberal and outspoken congressional Democrats and frequent critic of the Bush administration. But the LA Times' specious caveat doesn't detract from the facts.
Waxman's staff has assembled a handful of former Halliburton employees with first-hand knowledge of the companies dodgy finanicial practices, including David Wilson, who served as a transport specialist for Halliburton in Iraq.
The LA Times indirectly mentions one of Wilson's allegations in its story but doesn't give the details of his account. In the newspaper's version Wilson faults abandoning $85,000 trucks in the desert because of a "lack of spare parts."
In general, that summary is true. More than one truck was thrown away. The exact reasons for abandoning all the trucks is not clear. But Wilson and another former Halliburton employee have explained to Waxman's staff why some of the trucks were ditched -- they didn't have a spare tire.
According to Wilson's statement to Waxman's staff: "For some reason that was never explained to us, (Halliburton) removed all the spares tires in Kuwait. So when one of our trucks got a flat tire on the highway, we had to leave it there for the Iraqis to loot. I remember saying to myself when it happened, `You just lost yourself a $85,000 truck because of a flat tire."
As astounding as this sounds, this account begs another question: Why did Halliburton remove the spare tires in Kuwait before the trucks were sent ti Iraq? Were the tires sold on the black market? Was something smuggled in place of the spare tire? Or was there contraband inside the spare tire?
Even for a wasteful company like Halliburton it seems unreasonable for it to go out of its way to remove the spare tires of its truck fleet for no reason.
Rep. Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat, was planning to introduce the whistle-blower testimony at a hearing today by the House Government Reform Committee, but was blocked by Rep. Thomas M. Davis, a Virginia Republican, the committee chairman, who was seeking more time to investigate the complaints.
"How it happened or why those photographs came to the Criminal Investigation Division's attention in January I think will probably come out very clearly at each individual's court martial."
It's interesting that the Karpinski's version of events was first reported by a foreign news outlet.
June 14, 2004
Lawyer wants Rumsfeld, others to testify in prison abuse case
By Dennis Cauchon
The attorney for an Army reservist who allegedly led the abuse of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison says he wants to force top Defense Department officials and at least three generals to testify at the soldier’s upcoming court-martial.
To try to prove that Army Spc. Charles Graner was acting legally, defense attorney Guy Womack wants testimony not just from Graner’s immediate supervisors, but also from those well up the chain of command. Womack says his list of potential witnesses includes Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.
"... Nor was he wholly isolated from the America beyond Hollywood. A contract player who became "Errol Flynn of the B's," he wasn't a big enough star to merit all the perquisites of top show-biz royalty. As his movie career dwindled in the early 50's, he was briefly reduced to serving (at age 42) as the baggy-pants M.C. to a cheesy, showgirl-laden revue at the Last Frontier casino on the Vegas strip. Once he was reborn as a G.E. spokesman, he spent years meeting workers in the company factories that he repeatedly toured when off camera. ..."
Did the Times get the Vegas casino's name wrong? Was it simply the "Frontier?" The Frontier was mobbed up.
Monday, June 14, 2004
Reagan's Osama Connection
How he turned a jihadist into a terrorist kingpin.
By Fred Kaplan
June 10, 2004
Earlier this week, I cited recently declassified documents to show that Ronald Reagan did indeed play a major role in ending the Cold War. Now it's time to note that a similar set of documents shows that Reagan also played a major role in bringing on the terrorist war that followed—specifically, in abetting the rise of Osama Bin Laden.
Once again, the story concerns the fascinating relationship between Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Gorbachev took the helm as the reform-minded general-secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in March 1985. Within months, he had decided privately to pull Soviet troops out of Afghanistan. One of his predecessors, Leonid Brezhnev,* had invaded Afghanistan in 1979, and the move was proving a disaster. Tens of thousands of Soviet troops had died; military morale was crumbling; popular protest—unheard of, till then, in Communist Russia—was rising. Part of the Soviet failure in Afghanistan was due to the fact that the Reagan administration was feeding billions of dollars in arms to Afghanistan's Islamic resistance. Reagan and, even more, his intensely ideological CIA director, William Casey, saw the battle for Afghanistan as a titanic struggle in the war between Eastern tyranny and Western freedom. (Jimmy Carter and his national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, had started assisting the resistance, but with not nearly the same largess or ambition.)
At a Politburo meeting of Nov. 13, 1986, Gorbachev laid his position on the table: The war wasn't working; it had to be stopped:
People ask: "What are we doing there?" Will we be there endlessly? Or should we end this war? ... The strategic objective is to finish the war in one, maximum two years, and withdraw the troops. We have set a clear goal: Help speed up the process, so we have a friendly neutral country, and get out of there.
In early December, Gorbachev summoned President Najibullah, the puppet leader of Afghanistan, to give him the news: The Soviet troops would be leaving within 18 months; after that, he was on his own.
Two months later, on Feb. 23, 1987, Gorbachev assured the Politburo that the troops wouldn't leave right away. He first had to foster a stable environment for the reigning government and to maintain a credible image with India, the Soviet Union's main ally in the region. The exit strategy, he said, would be a negotiated deal with Washington: The Soviets pull out troops; the Americans stop their arms shipments to the rebels.
However, within days, Gorbachev learned to his surprise that Reagan had no interest in such a deal. In a conversation on Feb. 27 with Italy's foreign minister, Giulio Andreotti, Gorbachev said, "We have information from very reliable sources … that the United States has set itself the goal of obstructing a settlement by any means," in order "to present the Soviet Union in a bad light." If this information is true, Gorbachev continued, the matter of a withdrawal "takes on a different light."
Without U.S. cooperation, Gorbachev couldn't proceed with his plans to withdraw. Instead, he allowed his military commanders to escalate the conflict. In April, Soviet troops, supported by bombers and helicopters, attacked a new compound of Islamic fighters along the mountain passes of Jaji, near the Pakistani border. The leader of those fighters, many of them Arab volunteers, was Osama Bin Laden.
In his magisterial book, Ghost Wars (possibly the best diplomatic history written in the past decade), Steve Coll recounts the fateful consequences:
The battle lasted for about a week. Bin Laden and 50 Arab volunteers faced 200 Russian troops. … The Arab volunteers took casualties but held out under intense fire for several days. More than a dozen of bin Laden's comrades were killed, and bin Laden himself apparently suffered a foot wound. … Chronicled daily at the time by several Arab journalists … the battle of Jaji marked the birth of Osama bin Laden's public reputation as a warrior among Arab jihadists. … After Jaji he began a media campaign designed to publicize the brave fight waged by Arab volunteers who stood their ground against a superpower. In interviews and speeches … bin Laden sought to recruit new fighters to his cause and to chronicle his own role as a military leader. He also began to expound on expansive new goals for the jihad.
Had Gorbachev thought that Reagan was willing to strike a deal, the battle of Jaji would not have taken place—and the legend of Bin Laden might never have taken off.
Reagan can't be blamed for ignoring the threat of Osama Bin Laden. Not for another few years would any analyst see Bin Laden as a significant player in global terrorism; not till the mid-1990s would his organization, al-Qaida, emerge as a significant force.
However, Reagan—and those around him—can be blamed for ignoring the rise of Islamic militancy in Afghanistan and for failing to see Gorbachev's offer to withdraw as an opportunity to clamp the danger. Certainly, the danger was, or should have been, clear. Only a few years had passed since the Ayatollah Khomeini rose to power in Iran—the shah toppled, the U.S. Embassy employees held hostage, the country turned over to the mullahs, the region suddenly destabilized. Reagan beat Jimmy Carter so decisively in the 1980 election in part because of the hostage crisis.
Gorbachev had accepted that Afghanistan would become an Islamic country. But he assumed that Reagan, of all people, would have an interest in keeping it from becoming militantly, hostilely, Islamist.
In September 1987, after the previous spring's escalation failed to produce results, Soviet Foreign Minister Edvard Shevardnadze met with Secretary of State George Shultz to tell him that Gorbachev planned to pull out of Afghanistan soon. He asked Shultz for help in containing the spread of "Islamic fundamentalism." Shultz had nothing to say. Most Reagan officials doubted Gorbachev would really withdraw, and they interpreted the warnings about Muslim radicals as a cover story for the Soviet Union's military failure.
By this time, Reagan and Gorbachev had gone some distance toward ending the Cold War. The dramatic moment would come the following spring, during the summit in Moscow, when Reagan declared that the U.S.S.R. was no longer an "evil empire." At the same time, though, the U.S. national-security bureaucracy—and, in many ways, Reagan himself—continued to view the world through Cold War glasses.
After the last Soviet troops departed, Afghanistan fell off the American radar screen. Over the next few years, Shevardnadze's worst nightmares came true. The Taliban rose to power and in 1996 gave refuge to the—by then—much-hunted Bin Laden.
Ten years earlier, had Reagan taken Gorbachev's deal, Afghanistan probably still wouldn't have emerged as the "friendly, neutral country" of Gorby's dreams. Yet it might have been a neutral enough country to preclude a Taliban takeover. And if the Russian-Afghan war had ended earlier—if Reagan had embraced Gorbachev on the withdrawal, as he did that same autumn on the massive cutback of nuclear weapons—Osama Bin Laden today might not even be a footnote in history.
Fred Kaplan writes the "War Stories" column for Slate. He was the Boston Globe's military reporter from 1982-91 and its Moscow bureau chief from 1992-95