A cell phone in the front pocket of a man's pants spontaneously combusted, quickly ignited his clothes and left the man with second- and third-degree burns across at least half his body, according to investigators.
Luis Picaso, 59, was apparently sleeping on a white, all-plastic lawn chair in his room Saturday night and was awakened as he as ablaze, said Vallejo, Calif., Fire Department investigator and spokesman Bill Tweedy. . . .
"There were no matches," Tweedy said. "There were no lighters. He wasn't smoking. The only source was the phone that was in his pocket. I know he didn't spontaneously combust."
Tweedy declined to name the manufacturer or model of the phone.
-- "Man Badly Burned after Cell Phone in Pocket Spontaneously Combusts," Minneapolis Star-Tribune, January 16, 2007.
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"Alliances: Signs that Shiites and Sunnis are Joining to Battle Americans" -- Jeffrey Gettleman in The New York Times, 4/9/04:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 8 ? When the United States invaded Iraq a year ago, one of its chief concerns was preventing a civil war between Shiite Muslims, who make up a majority in the country, and Sunni Muslims, who held all the power under Saddam Hussein.
Now the fear is that the growing uprising against the occupation is forging a new and previously unheard of level of cooperation between the two groups ? and the common cause is killing Americans.
"We have orders from our leader to fight as one and to help the Sunnis," said Nimaa Fakir, a 27-year-old teacher and foot soldier in the Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia. "We want to increase the fighting, increase the killing and drive the Americans out. To do this, we must combine forces."
This new Shiite-Sunni partnership was flourishing in Baghdad on Thursday. Convoys of pickup trucks with signature black Shiite flags flapping from their bumpers hauled sacks of grain, flour, sugar and rice into Sunni mosques.
The food donations were coming from Shiite families, in many cases from people with little to spare. And they were headed to the besieged residents of Falluja, a city that has now become the icon of the resistance, especially after the bombing on Wednesday of a mosque compound there.
"Sunni, Shia, that doesn't matter anymore," said Sabah Saddam, a 32-year-old government clerk who took the day off to drive one of the supply trucks. "These were artificial distinctions. The people in Falluja are starving. They are Iraqis and they need our help."
But it is not just relief aid that is flowing into the city.
According to several militia members, many Shiite fighters are streaming into Falluja to help Sunni insurgents repel a punishing assault by United States marines. Groups of young men with guns are taking buses from Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad to the outskirts of Falluja, and then slipping past checkpoints to join the action. "It's not easy to get in, but we have our ways," said Ahmed Jumar, a 25-year-old professional soccer player who also belongs to a Shiite militia. "Our different battles have turned into one fight, the fight against the Americans."
American leaders had been concerned that the rival sectarian groups would not find a common cause. Now, it seems, they have found a common enemy. "The danger is we believe there is a linkage that may be occurring at the very lowest levels between the Sunni and the Shia," Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of the occupation forces, said on Thursday. "We have to work very hard to ensure that it remains at the tactical level." . . .
In Baghdad, blood banks were packed. Imams at both Sunni and Shiite mosques put out a message that Falluja residents needed blood fast. On Thursday, a group of Shiite men formed a line at one Baghdad blood bank that wended out the door. The men were ready to get pricked with a needle for their Sunni brothers. "We share a cause now," said Mohammed Majid, a taxi driver. "Why not share our bodies?"
Pentagon officials said Thursday that they had no definitive figures on the size or scale of the Sunni or Shiite militias. That is largely because the militia movement seems too fluid, and it is splintered among several factions. "It's a mob mentality," said one intelligence official. "They are recruiting among a lot of unhappy people."
Shiite extremist groups have a long tradition of hiding their true strength, in large part because their history has been marked by persecution by Sunni elites in many Muslim countries. In southern Lebanon in the 1980's, for example, the Central Intelligence Agency was never able to get solid estimates of the number of Shiite fighters involved in Hezbollah or the Islamic resistance that eventually forced the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, former United States intelligence officials said Thursday.
Those former officials pointed out that the practice of Taqiyya ? dissembling about one's religion, especially in times of danger ? is particular to Shiism. That secretive tradition has made Shiite groups extremely difficult for intelligence officers to penetrate, the former C.I.A. officers said.
Until last week, the Shiite groups had mostly sat out the resistance. Many Sunni fighters were loyal to Mr. Hussein. That alienated Shiites, who had been ruthlessly persecuted by the former Iraqi leader.
All that changed this week when Mr. Sadr activated his militia at the same time Falluja faced its biggest battle. Now, the two sides have joined. There were even reports on Thursday of armed men from Falluja escaping to Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad. Mr. Hussein is no longer mentioned. Fighting the infidels is.
"Powell Calls U.S. Casualties 'Disquieting'" -- Dana Milbank and Robin Wright in The Washington Post, 4/9/04:
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell yesterday gave the administration's most sober assessment yet of the uprising in Iraq, calling the recent rise in U.S. casualties "disquieting" and acknowledging that coalition allies are "under the most difficult set of circumstances."
Powell served as the administration's point man while President Bush spent the second straight day out of public view on his ranch in Crawford, Tex. In congressional testimony, Powell said that despite the troubles in Iraq, the U.S. military will be able to quell both the new Shiite unrest and the Sunni insurgency within "the next few days and weeks." . . .
Bush spent the morning watching national security adviser Condoleezza Rice's televised testimony to the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, then toured his ranch with Wayne LaPierre Jr., chief executive of the National Rifle Association, and other leaders of hunting groups and gave an interview to Ladies' Home Journal. On Sunday, he is to appear in public at nearby Fort Hood, the home base for seven soldiers recently killed in Baghdad. . . .
This is Bush's 33rd visit to his ranch since becoming president. He has spent all or part of 233 days on his Texas ranch since taking office, according to a tally by CBS News. Adding his 78 visits to Camp David and his five visits to Kennebunkport, Maine, Bush has spent all or part of 500 days in office at one of his three retreats, or more than 40 percent of his presidency. . . .
Powell, in his testimony to the foreign operations subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, conceded that the new provisional Iraqi government is likely to face serious security challenges after the June 30 transfer of power, making it reliant on ongoing U.S. military support. "This will be a new government that is still getting its sea legs, that is still developing institutions of democracy, that has not yet finished a constitution and has not yet held an election to give it full legitimacy," Powell said.
"It will be challenged by the kinds of forces that you see challenging us today," he said.
Powell said U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is exploring three broad options for the handover of power to a new provisional Iraqi government: keeping the current 25-member Iraqi Governing Council; expanding it to bring in broader representation; and holding a "mini loya jirga," or national conference of prominent people, the approach used to select a new government for Afghanistan in 2002. Powell said that expanding the governing council "seems the most practical" option.
U.S. officials hope that Brahimi, who has just started holding talks in Iraq, will come up with a workable formula within the next two or three weeks, although there is growing concern that the unrest will make his ability to travel to other parts of Iraq impossible.
After the handover, Powell predicted, the United States will continue to be able to use its billions in reconstruction aid and political leverage to influence the policies and shape of Iraq as it debates a new constitution and holds its first election.
Powell also held out the prospect that members of the 26-nation NATO alliance might be willing to contribute to security in Iraq, particularly after June 30. "I think that in due course we will be able to structure a role for NATO that may add to the number of nations that are here, but more significantly, will give a collective tone, an alliance tone, to what we are doing," he said.
In a briefing at NATO headquarters in Brussels during Powell's trip last week, however, a senior official cast doubt on a NATO role in Iraq soon, since the priority is expanding control of Afghanistan's fragile new government beyond Kabul.
"Temporary Halt to Fighting in Fallujah Announced" -- Pamela Constable, Sewell Chan and Fred Barbash in The Washington Post, 4/9/04:
In Baghdad, coalition troops locked down the center of the city one year to the day after the toppling of the statue of former president Saddam Hussein. No reason was given. But authorities have expressed concern about the possibility of insurgent attacks timed with the anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. They are also worried about the potential for violence coordinated with the beginning of Arbaeen among Shiite Muslims.
Traffic of any kind was barred from the area near the statue and loudspeakers warned that anyone wielding a weapon in the area would be shot.
Pre-9/11 Doings Are Coming to Light" -- James P. Pinkerton in Newsday, 4/9/04:
If you knew that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had received a memo a month before Pearl Harbor entitled, "Japanese Determined to Attack the United States in the Pacific," and that he had done nothing about that information, would that knowledge change your perception of FDR as a wise war leader?
Roosevelt received no such memo, of course, but President George W. Bush got a blunt warning five weeks before 9/11 and he did little or nothing. He even presided over a stand- down in preparations, concentrating on other concerns.
The Washington Post reported in May 2002 that Bush had received a President's Daily Brief on Aug. 6, 2001, entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." But, of course, not everything that's reported becomes widely known, or is necessarily true. And so for most Americans, yesterday's 9/11 hearing provided their first occasion to learn, from the highest sources, just what was in that document.
Condoleezza Rice began her testimony with a statement in which she minimized the possibility that anyone could have known what was happening. All intelligence prior to 9/11 was "not specific as to time, nor place, nor manner of attack," she said. But then 9/11 Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste pressed her about that PDB memo, still rated as "classified" by the government. Ben-Veniste was legally prohibited from mentioning even the title of the document.
But he wasn't prohibited from asking Rice the title of the PDB. And she obliged: "I believe the title was, 'Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.'" Ouch. Just moments after she had said intelligence was "not specific" about the place of attack, here's a presidential-level document warning, specifically, that al-Qaida's target wasn't overseas somewhere, but rather the United States itself.
David Colton, Washington lawyer and veteran of the intelligence world, observes of this exchange: "Ben-Veniste hypnotized her." Colton adds, "She fell into the rhythm of a smart lawyer's questions, and so blurted out the single most damning admission of these hearings."
Seeming to realize she had said too much, Rice tried to bury the revelation by piling on words. She insisted that the document, the PDB's title notwithstanding, "did not warn of attacks inside the United States. It was historical information based on old reporting." Whereupon Ben-Veniste invited her to seek the declassification of the entire memo. Rice declined.
"U.S. Losing Support of Key Iraqis" -- Alyssa J. Rubin in The Los Angeles Times, 4/10/04:
BAGHDAD ? Tough U.S. tactics in Fallouja and Shiite Muslim cities of southern Iraq are driving a wedge between the Americans and their key supporter ? the 25-member Governing Council that puts an Iraqi face on the occupation and is expected to serve as the basis of a new government.
One council member, angered by this week's heavy fighting in Fallouja and the prospect of a U.S. move against the militia of an anti-American Shiite cleric, suspended his membership Friday. Four others say they are ready to follow suit.
A sixth council member, Adnan Pachachi, a respected former diplomat who less than three months ago had accompanied First Lady Laura Bush to the president's State of the Union address, harshly criticized U.S. actions as "illegal and totally unacceptable." . . .
The council members say the only move that would stop them from suspending or resigning their membership is the U.S. military's agreement to halt military operations in Fallouja long enough for council members to engage in negotiations with the local community to try to forestall further bloodshed.
On Thursday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told a Senate subcommittee that the U.S. would prefer to hand sovereignty on June 30 to an expanded version of the Governing Council. Experts said that option might be rapidly vanishing.
"The Governing Council is falling apart, so the hope of the Bush administration to have even a symbolic transition looks remote, especially because they won't have anybody to whom to transfer sovereignty," said Marina Ottaway, a democracy expert at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The council members threatening to suspend their membership are Ghazi Ajil Yawer, a Sunni tribal leader whose base is in Mosul; Salama Khafaji, a Shiite woman from Baghdad; and Hassani, who is acting on behalf of the Iraqi Islamic Party's council member. According to news reports, Abdul Karim Mohammedawi, a Shiite, announced the suspension of his council membership Friday. Fellow council members said Turkmen member Singul Chapuk was considering suspending her membership. Her aide would not confirm that.
Khafaji is among those trying to facilitate negotiations to end the fighting around Fallouja. One of her aides said that Khafaji would work to make negotiations possible even if occupation authorities failed to do so.
But perhaps the most serious development for U.S. authorities was an interview given to the Al Arabiya satellite TV station by Pachachi, a secular Sunni who is widely considered sympathetic to the U.S. and commands respect from many Iraqis.
"We consider the action carried out by U.S. forces illegal and totally unacceptable," Pachachi said. "We denounce the military operations carried out by the American forces because, in effect, it is [inflicting] collective punishment on the residents of Fallouja." . . .
Both Shiite and Sunni members of the Governing Council have criticized U.S. policy, but the week of fighting seems to have most affected the position of the Sunni members.
They have received personal appeals from Fallouja residents, almost all of whom are Sunnis, to intervene to stop the fighting.
Hassani's aide Saif Rahman said that his political party has an office in the city, and that the council member was aware of the deteriorating conditions there.
He said people were unable to bring injured to the hospital because they would have to cross the Euphrates River to do so, and troops had blocked access. The party turned its headquarters into a makeshift field hospital. As of late Friday, the field hospital had treated 367 injured people.
Most galling to the Sunni council members, who met Friday night in Pachachi's office, is that they were not allowed to enter Fallouja to negotiate. They said the Americans backtracked on a promise to let Yawer and Hassani into the city because the U.S. military could not guarantee their safety.
The coalition authority "kept saying we were partners?. If given the chance, we could have solved these problems manageably. But using these military tactics, F-16 bombers and helicopters to bomb shops and homes, how can we explain that to the people?" Hassani said.
"In Mideast, Anger and Solidarity" -- Scott Wilson in The Washington Post, 4/10/04:
AMMAN, Jordan, April 9 -- The U.S. military campaign across Iraq this week infuriated Arabs in the region and brought strident calls for Muslim solidarity against the American-led occupation.
Throughout the week, Arabic-language television networks have repeatedly aired images of U.S. tanks rumbling through Fallujah, a mosque damaged by a U.S. bomb and the corpses of Iraqis killed in the heaviest fighting in almost a year.
Arab commentators have compared the U.S. offensive to Israel's tactics against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, reinforcing long-standing Arab fears that the United States has no intention of leaving the region.
Leading Arab newspapers and clerics have praised Iraqi insurgents and the emerging anti-U.S. alliance among Sunni and Shiite Muslims as a turning point in the fight against the occupation.
One Egyptian opposition newspaper, Al-Ahali, declared on its front page that Fallujah -- a city west of Baghdad that has been at the center of resistance to the occupation -- has secured a vaunted place in Islamic history for its stand against U.S. troops.
"How will the Americans explain to the world the joint Shiite-Sunni intifada?" journalist Abdel Hady Abu Taleb wrote in Egypt's state-owned Al-Akhbar newspaper. "Ever since the fall of Baghdad a year ago, the Americans have been making one excuse after another to explain the escalation of the resistance."
In small demonstrations Friday in several capitals, protesters called for their governments to denounce the U.S. military tactics, which Arab leaders have so far declined to do.
"This comes on top of a broad unhappiness with Arab governments from Morocco to Iraq," said Kamel Abu Jaber, a former Jordanian foreign minister. "It seems like these governments are living in one reality and the people in another."
In Sunni-majority countries such as Jordan, many have watched with trepidation as Iraq's Shiite majority has garnered new political power under the U.S. occupation. But many Sunnis appear now to be setting aside fears of a Shiite resurgence, at least for the moment, to express support for a widening anti-occupation resistance. . . .
The frustrations have not been confined to the poor or ardently anti-American segments of the Arab population. Middle-class professionals, some of them already opposed to U.S. policy in the region because of its support for Israel, are also expressing solidarity with the Iraqi insurgents.
"What's so sad is that Arabs are so used to these American actions that nothing seems to shock us anymore" said Lamia Mansour, 34, a marketing consultant in Cairo. "You can't answer back with logic because there is no logic to what the U.S. is doing and you can't fight back because who can fight the tyranny of the Americans?"
"U.S. Targeted Fiery Cleric in Risky Move" -- Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Anthony Shadid in The Washington Post, 4/11/04.
"Text of the President's Daily Brief for Aug. 6, 2001" -- New York Times, 4/11/04:
Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate bin Laden since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the U.S. Bin Laden implied in U.S. television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and "bring the fighting to America."
After U.S. missile strikes on his base in Afghanistan in 1998, bin Laden told followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington, according to a . . . service.
An Egyptian Islamic Jihad (E.I.J.) operative told an . . . service at the same time that bin Laden was planning to exploit the operative's access to the U.S. to mount a terrorist strike.
The millennium plotting in Canada in 1999 may have been part of bin Laden's first serious attempt to implement a terrorist strike in the U.S. Convicted plotter Ahmed Ressam has told the F.B.I. that he conceived the idea to attack Los Angeles International Airport himself, but that bin Laden lieutenant Abu Zubaydah encouraged him and helped facilitate the operation. Ressam also said that in 1998 Abu Zubaydah was planning his own U.S. attack.
Ressam says bin Laden was aware of the Los Angeles operation.
Although bin Laden has not succeeded, his attacks against the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 demonstrate that he prepares operations years in advance and is not deterred by setbacks. Bin Laden associates surveilled our embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam as early as 1993, and some members of the Nairobi cell planning the bombings were arrested and deported in 1997.
Al Qaeda members ? including some who are U.S. citizens ? have resided in or traveled to the U.S. for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks. Two Al Qaeda members found guilty in the conspiracy to bomb our embassies in East Africa were U.S. citizens, and a senior E.I.J. member lived in California in the mid-1990's.
A clandestine source said in 1998 that a bin Laden cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks.
We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a . . . service in 1998 saying that bin Laden wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of "Blind Sheik" Omar Abdel Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists.
Nevertheless, F.B.I. information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.
The F.B.I. is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the U.S. that it considers bin Laden-related. C.I.A. and the F.B.I. are investigating a call to our embassy in the U.A.E. in May saying that a group of bin Laden supporters was in the U.S. planning attacks with explosives.
"A Warning, but Clear?" -- Douglas Jehl in The New York Times, 4/11/04:
WASHINGTON, April 10 -- In a single 17-sentence document, the intelligence briefing delivered to President Bush in August 2001 spells out the who, hints at the what and points toward the where of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington that followed 36 days later.
Whether its disclosure does lasting damage to Mr. Bush's presidency and re-election prospects may depend on whether the White House succeeds in persuading Americans that, as a whole, its significance adds up to less than a sum of those parts.
In a written rebuttal twice as long as the document itself, the White House sought Saturday night to drive home a single major point: that the briefing "did not warn of the 9/11 attacks." The idea that Al Qaeda wanted to strike in the United States was already evident, senior officials argued. They also said that while the document cited fresh details to make that case, they were insufficient to prompt any action.
Still, after two years in which the White House sought to prevent the disclosure of the document, Mr. Bush's critics are bound to seize on those details as evidence that the president had something to hide. While the White House has insisted the document was mostly vague and historical, critics will certainly seek now to paint it as something historic.
At a time, in the summer of 2001, when Mr. Bush and his advisers have said that the vast bulk of intelligence information pointed to the danger of a terrorist attack abroad, the Aug. 6 briefing can be read as a clear-cut warning that Osama Bin Laden had his sights set on targets within the United States and had already launched operations within America's borders. Based in part on continuing investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency, the brief spelled out fresh reason for concern about Qaeda attacks, very possibly using hijacked airplanes and conceivably in New York or Washington.
Depending on which side is arguing the point in this rancorous election year, the "patterns of suspicious activity" cited in the document will be presented either as yet another sign that the pre-Sept. 11 warnings were always too vague to act on, as the White House has argued, or as new evidence that Mr. Bush and his advisers were too slow to sense the danger at hand.
In making their case, White House officials who spoke to reporters in a conference call and issued a three-page "fact sheet" sought repeatedly to minimize the significance of the document.
"None of the information relating to the `patterns of suspicious activity' was later deemed to be related to the 9/11 attacks," the document issued by the White House said. The idea that Mr. bin Laden and his supporters wanted to carry out attacks in the United States, a senior official said, "was already publicly known," while the fresh concerns outlined in the document ? about surveillance of federal buildings in New York, and a telephone warning to an American Embassy in the Persian Gulf ? "were being pursued aggressively by the appropriate agencies."
Still, a preview of a very different assessment could be heard even last week, as Democratic members of the independent commission on the Sept. 11 attacks confronted Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, with pointed questions about the briefing.
Why, Timothy J. Roemer, the former congressman, wanted to know in that session, had not Mr. Bush, vacationing in Texas, responded to the warnings at least by summoning cabinet-level advisers for a meeting on terrorism, something that had not occurred by that point in his administration.
"At a time when our intelligence experts were warning of a possible strike against the United States, it's clear that the administration didn't take the threat seriously enough to marshal the resources that might have possibly thwarted the attack," said Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee.
In deciding to release the portion of the daily briefing document, something no previous White House has ever done, Mr. Bush and his advisers were clearly attuned to the potential political damage that had been caused as its contents began to leak out following Ms. Rice's testimony on Thursday. In taking the step, White House officials seemed determined to head off the protests before accounts in the Sunday morning newspapers and on talk shows inflicted another round of damage.
But in taking the step after 6 p.m. on Saturday, the day before Easter, the White House may also have been seeking to shorten the time that critics might have to offer their own interpretations of the document.
"Apocalypse Now? Part 1: The War Front" -- Patrick Cockburn in The Independent, 4/11/04:
If Iraq comes to be seen as President George W Bush's Vietnam, this past week may be the equivalent of the 1968 Tet offensive - the moment when America discovered that, for all its overwhelming military superiority, it is not winning the war.
The US civil and military leaders in Iraq discovered that their authority was a house built on sand. It crumbled with extraordinary speed in the face of poorly armed and ill-organised opposition in Fallujah and southern Iraq. The message was that the opponents of the US in Iraq are not very strong, but that the coalition itself is very weak.
Not only are large parts of Iraq outside its control, the US is weaker in Iraq than it was a year ago, after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. By yesterday its allies within the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) were accusing it of "genocide". On the ground, the US troops recognise that they have no friends among the Iraqi forces supposedly on their side - and even America's closest allies in Iraq are beginning to run for cover.
Yet the disasters of the past week, the worst in political terms since President Bush decided to invade Iraq, are in large measure self-inflicted. The US suddenly found itself fighting a two-front war because it over-reacted to pressure, political and military, from important minority groups in the Sunni and Shia communities.
In Vietnam a US commander once said of a village: "We had to destroy it in order to save it." In Iraq the same might apply to Fallujah. It is true that since the war Fallujah has been the most militant and anti-American city in Iraq, but it is not entirely typical. Sunni by religion and highly tribal, it has a well-earned reputation among Iraqis as being a bastion for bandits. Iraqis in Baghdad, even those sympathetic to the resistance, spoke of people in Fallujah pursuing their own private feud with the US.
Yet the US responded to the killing of the four US contractors in Fallujah by sending in 1,200 Marines to launch a medieval siege, one in which they initially refused to allow ambulances in or out. If the Americans really believed they were being attacked by a tiny minority, Iraqis asked, why were they attacking a city of 300,000 people? The result has been to turn Fallujah into a nationalist and religious symbol for all Iraqis.
For the first time the armed resistance is becoming truly popular in Baghdad. Previously Iraqis often approved of it as the only way to put pressure on the US. But they were also wary of the guerrillas, because of fear of religious fanaticism or connections with Saddam's deeply unpopular regime. But thanks to Fallujah, this has changed: Iraqi nationalism is back in business. . . .
The US made a similar mistake by driving Muqtada al-Sadr, the young Shia cleric, into a corner. His group has always been well organised, and he has a committed core of supporters. His position depends on the reputation of his martyred father, Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, assassinated by Saddam in 1999, but he has never been able to mobilise many people in the past. During his confrontation with the authorities last October he was unable to put more than a couple of thousand marchers on the streets in Sadr City, supposedly his home base.
Muqtada al-Sadr was an irritant for the Coalition Provisional Authority, but he never rivalled the influence of Shia clerical leaders such as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. There were no real signs that Mr Sadr's movement was going anywhere. Then on 28 March, Paul Bremer, the head of the CPA, closed Mr Sadr's newspaper, al-Hawza, before arresting one of his lieutenants, Mustafa Yaqubi, in Najaf. This may have been a pre-emptive strike to get Mr Sadr out of the picture before the nominal handover of power to the Governing Council on 30 June, but it has proved a disastrous misjudgement.
The young cleric's black-clad militiamen, known as the Army of the Mahdi, number perhaps 5,000 men. But as soon as they went on the offensive, they exposed the fragility of US support among the Iraqi police and US-trained paramilitary units, such as the Iraqi Civil Defence Corps, which were expected to assume an increasing share of security duties.
About 200,000 Iraqis belong to these forces. However, confronted by the Army of the Mahdi the police faded away, often handing over their weapons to Mr Sadr's men. As soon as the Army of the Mahdi moved on the city of Kut, on the Tigris south of Baghdad, the police disappeared and the Ukrainian soldiers in the city withdrew. Not only have local Iraqi allies showed they are not prepared to fight, the crisis has also put intense pressure on America's foreign allies, such as the Poles, Bulgarians and Japanese as well as the Ukrainians, who have military forces in the south. They had gone there in the belief that they were out of harm's way, only to find they were policing some of the most dangerous cities in Iraq.
On Friday a force of 1,000 US Marines counter-attacked and recaptured Kut. When the local police went to see them, the Marines immediately confiscated any of their remaining weapons that had not already been seized by the Army of the Mahdi, then pulled out of the city, leaving no one to keep order.
Revealed: Militants Plotted Iraq Anniversary Rebellion in London" -- David Pratt in The Sunday Herald, 4/11/04:
A secret meeting of senior Islamic activists held in London last month took the decision to ?stir the the Iraqi Shiite resistance? against the US-British led occupation of Iraq which led to the major escalation of hostilities over the last week to coincide with the first anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.
Delegates with affiliations to militant Islamic groups from across the Middle East, including many that are banned as terrorist organisations, travelled from all over Europe for the confidential closed-door sessions at various Islamic centres in central London.
Representative from both Sunni and Shiite groups and from countries such as Syria, the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia attended the conference.
According to an Arab source in Paris, among them were representatives of active terrorist organisations, like Lebanese Hezbollah, and some figures close to firebrand young Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr who is behind the current uprising in Iraq and now hunted by the US authorities in Iraq as an ?outlaw and fugitive from justice?.
They also agreed to avoid any armed clashes between Sunnis and Shiites after the handover of power scheduled for June 30, and to grant al-Sadr a greater margin of manoeuvrability on the ground allowing his al-Medhi militia army to confront coalition forces and exacerbate the crisis.
A source in Europe, who asked not to be named, said ?the secret debate and decision to move the Shiite front against the the American occupation in Iraq marked the the most prominent among the recommendations finalised at the conference held on March on 13 and 14?.
The Sunday Herald last night asked the Home Office if it was aware of the meeting and its repercussions. A spokesman would only restate their policy of not commenting on any matter involving intelligence agencies.
"For U.S., Uprising a Startling Turn of Fate" -- Thanassis Cambanis in The Boston Globe, 4/11/04:
BAGHDAD -- The armed struggle that erupted across much of Iraq last week has dramatically shifted fundamental assumptions about the country's future, as insurgents acquired a sense of their power and US authorities confronted their vulnerabilities.
Events have unfolded that would have seemed far-fetched a week ago. Yesterday, American forces came under attack in a downtown Baghdad neighborhood of diplomats and wealthy Iraqis that has long been considered safe. Across the Iraqi capital yesterday, shops were closed and streets were empty on what is usually the busiest day of the week, while gunfire rang out and shells pounded the occupation authority's Green Zone headquarters.
In a return to the visual props of last spring's invasion, the US military briefer pulled out a national map to tally all the of the country's trouble spots, and matter-of-factly listed major cities that were under resistance fighters' control. . . .
From an American perspective, the challenges appear daunting. For a year, coalition officials have blamed a minority of Ba'athists, international terrorists, and Sunni extremists for attacks against soldiers. Last week, it became apparent that coalition forces had little or no authority in at least three Iraqi cities -- Kut, Najaf, and Fallujah -- and that sympathy for anti-American attacks runs deep and wide through many sectors of society. US officials have acknowledged they need more troops to handle the insurgency.
The atmosphere inside Iraq also changed dramatically on other fronts last week.
The 70,000-member police force the US-led coalition has sought hard to promote collapsed in disarray in many parts of the country. Hundreds of police officers and members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps quit during the fighting, as barracks and police stations were taken over by militias. Many switched sides and fought US troops.
In Shuala, a Shi'ite suburb of Baghdad that saw fierce fighting between Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army, and US troops last week, police officers pulled up to the Sadr office in pickup trucks throughout the day to get instructions from the clerics.
"We are policemen, yes, but also Mahdi. And the Mahdi is stronger," said Natik Hussein, a 21-year-old policeman busy taping a poster of Sadr to his police truck as his colleagues played with the siren, turning it on and off. "Sadr is the ultimate authority. The Americans are Jews."
"How the Right Gets Taxes Wrong" -- Matthew Miller in The Los Angeles Times, 4/13/04:
Conservatives love to cite facts like these: The top 5% of taxpayers pay more than half of federal income taxes; the top 1% pay more than a third all by themselves; and the bottom 80% of earners pay less than 20%.
If these facts are all you carry in your head, then it's obvious that Ayn Rand was right: We're a nation of freeloaders who enjoy the blessings of liberty thanks to a handful of generous giants.
But this is not the full picture. Any fair-minded person should want to know two other things: What percent of total income do these different slices of earners actually earn; and what share of total federal taxes, not just income taxes, do they pay?
The conservative worldview inexplicably ignores the payroll tax ? predominantly the FICA deductions for Social Security and Medicare ? as well as excise taxes on things like liquor, gasoline and tobacco. Those taxes take their biggest bite, proportionally, from lower-income Americans.
These regressive taxes have quietly and shockingly reached near-parity with the income tax as a source of federal revenue. This year, the income tax will account for 42% of federal revenue; the payroll tax will come to 41% (up from 16% in 1960).
If you count the portion of the payroll tax paid by employers, which economists agree effectively comes out of workers' wages, four out of five workers pay more in payroll taxes than in income taxes.
When you look at who pays what based on total federal taxes, the United States doesn't look much like an Ayn Rand novel after all.
The top 1% of American taxpayers earn 17% of the income and pay 23% of total federal taxes; the top 5% earn 31% of the income and pay 40% of the taxes; the bottom 80% of the earners make 41% of the income and pay 31% of the taxes. These numbers are from 2001, the most recent available data; Bush's tax cuts have since made the burden on top earners lower. In other words, for all the conservative whining, we have a modestly progressive federal tax system.
Which brings us to the obvious question, one that could be posed to the president at his press conference tonight: Why do leading conservatives stress only part of the picture? Either they're not that smart, or they think the rest of us ? especially in the media ? aren't that smart.
I'll let you make the call. But the conservatives I know tend to be very smart people.
"Memo Not Specific Enough, Bush Says" -- Dan Eggen in The Washington Post, 4/12/04:
President Bush said yesterday that a memo he received a month before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks did not contain enough specific threat information to prevent the hijackings and "said nothing about an attack on America."
In his most extensive public remarks about a briefing he received Aug. 6, 2001, titled "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US," Bush also said that he "was satisfied that some of the matters were being looked into" by the FBI and the CIA that summer and that they would have reported any "actionable intelligence" to him.
"I am satisfied that I never saw any intelligence that indicated there was going to be an attack on America -- at a time and a place, an attack," Bush told reporters after Easter services in Fort Hood, Tex. "Of course we knew that America was hated by Osama bin Laden. That was obvious. The question was, who was going to attack us, when and where and with what?"
Bush agreed with a reporter who characterized the memo as containing "ongoing" and "current threat information." But he added that if the FBI or CIA "found something, they would have reported it to me. . . . We were doing precisely what the American people expects us to do: run down every lead, look at every scintilla of intelligence and follow up on it."
" A Scary Performance, and a Signal for Slaughter" -- Matthew Rothstein online for The Progressive, 4/13/04:
George Bush's press conference on April 13 was a scary performance.
Not because his second sentence was ungrammatical: "This has been tough weeks in that country."
Not because he pronounced "instigated" as "instikated" in his fourth sentence.
Not because he said Donald Rumsfeld was Secretary of State.
Not because of his foolish comment that before 9/11 "we assumed oceans would protect us." (Ever since the Russians built their first ICBMs fifty years ago, the oceans haven't protected us.)
Not because he said of the August 6 briefing, "Frankly, I didn't think it was anything new"!
Not because he said that even if he had known beforehand that Iraq did not have WMD stockpiles, he still would have gone to war against Saddam Hussein.
Not because he had no coherent answer as to why Dick Cheney must hold his hand when he testifies to the 9/11 commission.
Not because he said that no one in his Administration had "any indication that bin Laden might hijack an airplane and run it into a building," when in fact, at the Genoa G-8 summit, there were precautions taken against incoming airplanes as missiles.
And not because he repeatedly refused to take a shred of personal responsibility for allowing the 9/11 attacks to happen on his watch.
No, his performance was scary because he plunged the United States deeper into a no-win war in Iraq.
"Deaths of Scores of Mercenaries Hidden from View" -- Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn in The Star [South Africa], 4/13/04:
Baghdad - At least 80 foreign mercenaries - security guards recruited from the United States, Europe and South Africa and working for American companies - have been killed in the past eight days in Iraq.
Lieutenant-General Mark Kimmitt admitted yesterday that "about 70" American and other Western troops had died during the Iraqi insurgency since April 1 but he made no mention of the mercenaries, apparently fearful that the full total of Western dead would have serious political fallout.
He did not give a figure for Iraqi dead, which, across the country may be as high as 900.
At least 18 000 mercenaries, many of them tasked to protect US troops and personnel, are now believed to be in Iraq, some of them earning $1 000 (about R6 300) a day. But their companies rarely acknowledge their losses unless - like the four American murdered and mutilated in Fallujah three weeks ago - their deaths are already public knowledge.
The presence of such large numbers of mercenaries, first publicised in The Independent two weeks ago, was bound to lead to further casualties.
But although many of the heavily armed Western security men are working for the US Department of Defence - and most of them are former Special Forces soldiers - they are not listed as serving military personnel. Their losses can therefore be hidden from public view.
The US authorities in Iraq, however, are aware that more Western mercenaries lost their lives in the past week than occupation soldiers over the past 14 days.
The coalition has sought to rely on foreign contract workers to reduce the number of soldiers it uses as drivers, guards and in other jobs normally carried out by uniformed soldiers.
Often the foreign contract workers are highly paid former soldiers who are armed with automatic weapons, leading to Iraqis viewing all foreign workers as possible mercenaries or spies.
"Citing Security, U.N. Rules Out Large Iraq Team" -- Edith M. Lederer in The Washington Post, 4/13/04:
Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday virtually ruled out sending a large U.N. team to Iraq "for the foreseeable future" because of the recent upsurge in violence and kidnappings.
He also called for the immediate release of civilians held hostage and greater efforts to reduce the violence so the transfer of power from the U.S.-led coalition to Iraqis can go ahead in a positive political atmosphere.
Speaking to reporters on his arrival at U.N. headquarters, Annan said he did not believe the June 30 date for the transfer could be changed, a view backed by the United States.
"It has been embraced by the Iraqis themselves who are anxious to see the end of occupation as soon as possible, and I believe that it is going to be difficult to pull it back," Annan said.
"That having been said, I hope we are going to be able to bring down the violence and control the situation between now and then because the kind of violence we are seeing on the ground is not conducive for that sort of political process and transition."
Annan said the upsurge in fighting had made things "rather difficult" for the small U.N. team trying to help the Iraqis decide on an interim government that will take power. Team leader Lakhdar Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign minister, has been holding meetings in Iraq for the last nine days with political, religious, academic, professional and civil society leaders.
Annan said he was waiting for Brahimi to return to New York to discuss what kind of transitional government would be most acceptable. He said he also needed to check with U.N. experts now in Iraq on whether the legal framework was in place to hold elections by January.
With the upsurge in fighting and growing opposition to the U.S.-led coalition, some political figures in the United States and other countries have called for a much greater U.N. presence on the ground in Iraq.
Annan, who pulled all U.N. international staff out of Iraq in October following a spate of attacks, including two bombings of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, said Tuesday he was in no hurry for them to return because of the increased violence.
The first bombing, on Aug. 19, killed 22 people, including top U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, and sparked intense criticism of U.N. security failures.
"For the foreseeable future, insecurity is going to be a major constraint for us and so I cannot say right now that I'm going to be sending a large U.N. team," Annan said. "Obviously, we are monitoring the situation very closely and we are doing the best we can."
To deal with the current crisis, the United States announced plans to increase the U.S. troop strength in Iraq by 10,000, reportedly to about 120,000. Annan was asked whether he believed other countries would be prepared to contribute troops.
"Of course, the deterioration we've seen on the ground doesn't really encourage other governments to go in," he said. "But I think governments are also aware that it is in our collective interest to do everything we can to bring the violence down in Iraq, to stabilize Iraq, and ensure that we have a peaceful Iraq in the midst of that region.
"That collective responsibility, I think, is going to play a major role as we move forward."
"Bush Camp Scales Back Advertising" -- Ronald Brownstein in The Los Angeles Times, 4/14/04:
WASHINGTON ? Despite its unprecedented fundraising success, President Bush's reelection team is scaling back its massive level of television advertising, according to senior Republicans familiar with the campaign's planning.
In the next few weeks, viewers in the 18 states where the ads have aired since early March will see about 30% fewer a week, one ranking GOP strategist said.
Republicans say that the ad reduction was planned all along and that the commercials succeeded in planting doubts about presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry. And they say that although Bush's overall advertising budget will shrink, more of the ads that air will criticize Kerry.
In the nation's larger markets, the Bush campaign so far has divided its spending almost in half between ads touting his record and commercials criticizing Kerry, according to tracking conducted for The Times by TNSMI/Campaign Media Analysis Group.
Many Democrats are relieved that the race remains so competitive after a Bush ad barrage that appears to have totaled at least $40 million.
Pointing to recent polls that generally show Kerry at least even with the president, these Democrats say the Massachusetts senator has taken what could be the Bush campaign's hardest punch and is still standing.
The reelection team spent so much so soon "with the intent of putting this thing away early, and it didn't happen," said Erik Smith, executive director of the Media Fund, a group formed by leading Democrats that is running ads in support of Kerry.
Independent analysts agreed with that assessment.
Anthony Corrado, an expert on campaign finance at Colby College in Maine, said that since March 4 ? just after Kerry in effect wrapped up his party's nomination ? Bush has bought about as much television advertising as past presidential candidates purchased for the entire general election campaign.
"And frankly," Corrado said, the president's campaign "didn't move the [poll] numbers that much."
He added: "The Bush campaign came out heavy, both in terms of volume and with some of their strongest attacks, and they didn't get a knockout."
A key factor blunting the ads' impact, analysts said, was the escalation of violence in Iraq and questions that have surfaced about the administration's antiterrorism efforts before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"Bush has probably scored some points ? but it's awful hard to cut through events of that magnitude, said Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of TNSMI/Campaign Media Analysis Group.
"President Addresses the Nation in Prime Time Press Conference" -- whitehouse.gov transcript, 4/13/04
Q Mr. President, why are you and the Vice President insisting on appearing together before the 9/11 Commission? And, Mr. President, who will you be handing the Iraqi government over to on June 30th?
THE PRESIDENT: We will find that out soon. That's what Mr. Brahimi is doing; he's figuring out the nature of the entity we'll be handing sovereignty over. And, secondly, because the 9/11 Commission wants to ask us questions, that's why we're meeting. And I look forward to meeting with them and answering their questions.
Q I was asking why you're appearing together, rather than separately, which was their request.
THE PRESIDENT: Because it's a good chance for both of us to answer questions that the 9/11 Commission is looking forward to asking us, and I'm looking forward to answering them.
Let's see --
Q Mr. President --
THE PRESIDENT: Hold on for a minute. Oh, Jim.
Q Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: I've got some "must calls," I'm sorry. . . .
Q Thank you, Mr. President. In the last campaign, you were asked a question about the biggest mistake you'd made in your life, and you used to like to joke that it was trading Sammy Sosa. You've looked back before 9/11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have you learned from it?
THE PRESIDENT: I wish you would have given me this written question ahead of time, so I could plan for it. (Laughter.) John, I'm sure historians will look back and say, gosh, he could have done it better this way, or that way. You know, I just -- I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet.
I would have gone into Afghanistan the way we went into Afghanistan. Even knowing what I know today about the stockpiles of weapons, I still would have called upon the world to deal with Saddam Hussein. See, I happen to believe that we'll find out the truth on the weapons. That's why we've sent up the independent commission. I look forward to hearing the truth, exactly where they are. They could still be there. They could be hidden, like the 50 tons of mustard gas in a turkey farm.
One of the things that Charlie Duelfer talked about was that he was surprised at the level of intimidation he found amongst people who should know about weapons, and their fear of talking about them because they don't want to be killed. There's a terror still in the soul of some of the people in Iraq; they're worried about getting killed, and, therefore, they're not going to talk.
But it will all settle out, John. We'll find out the truth about the weapons at some point in time. However, the fact that he had the capacity to make them bothers me today, just like it would have bothered me then. He's a dangerous man. He's a man who actually -- not only had weapons of mass destruction -- the reason I can say that with certainty is because he used them. And I have no doubt in my mind that he would like to have inflicted harm, or paid people to inflict harm, or trained people to inflict harm on America, because he hated us.
I hope I -- I don't want to sound like I've made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't -- you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.
"Someone Saw This Coming a Long Time Ago" -- Zay N. Smith in The Chicago Sun-Times, 4/14/04:
An early warning about an invasion of Iraq:
"For us to get bogged down in the quagmire of an Iraqi civil war would be the height of foolishness."
It was a very early warning.
Defense Secretary Dick Cheney warned us in 1991.
And we didn't listen to him.
"Our Last Real Chance" -- Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek, 4/19/04 (online 4/14/04):
The history of external involvement in countries suggests that, to succeed, the outsider needs two things: power and legitimacy. Washington has managed affairs in Iraq so that it has too little of each. It has often been pointed out that the United States went into Iraq with too few troops. This is not a conclusion arrived at with 20-20 hindsight. Over the course of the 1990s, a bipartisan consensus, shared by policymakers, diplomats and the uniformed military, concluded that troop strength was the key to postwar military operations. It is best summarized by a 2003 RAND Corp. report noting that you need about 20 security personnel (troops and police) per thousand inhabitants "not to destroy an enemy but to provide security for residents so that they have enough confidence to manage their daily affairs and to support a government authority of its own." When asked by Congress how many troops an Iraqi operation would require, Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki replied, "Several hundred thousand" for several years. The number per the RAND study would be about 500,000.
But the civilian leadership of the Pentagon knew that such troop strength would require large-scale support from allies. Besides, it was convinced that the Clinton administration, the United Nations and the Europeans were feckless and incompetent. Donald Rumsfeld publicly ridiculed the U.N.'s efforts in Kosovo and declared that the administration intended to do its nation-building quite differently?better, lighter, cheaper. Thus America has tried to stabilize Iraq with one half to one third of the forces that its own Army chief of staff thought were necessary.
Even worse, these troops were not asked to make security for the Iraqi people their core mission. After spending a week in Iraq last November, the Brookings Institution's Kenneth Pollack noted that "the single greatest impediment" to the success of the reconstruction efforts was that Iraqis "do not feel safe in their own country. Iraqis resent the fact that American forces take such pains to protect themselves and do so little to protect the Iraqi people." He noted the "constant (and fully justified) complaint of Iraqis: the Americans have no presence and make no effort to stop street crime or the attacks on [Iraqis] by the [insurgents]." Since November, American forces have been moving out of cities into heavily armed base camps in outlying districts, out of sight. In Baghdad, the Army started out with more than 60 small units scattered throughout the city. It will soon be based in eight camps, mostly outside the city. When patrols take place, they are usually quick tours using armored cars and tanks, not the frequent foot patrols that provide order and friendly relations with locals. . . .
America's lack of presence on the ground is even greater when it comes to civilian authorities?political advisers, engineers, agronomists, economists, lawyers and other experts who could help Iraqis as they rebuild their country. The Coalition Provisional Authority has about 1,300 people working for it. Douglas MacArthur had four to five times as many when he was in Japan?and that was in circumstances where the Japanese state was fully intact and functioning. As a result, the CPA has virtually no presence outside Baghdad. Across much of the country, its acronym is jokingly said to stand for "Can't Provide Anything."
If the administration paid little attention to the need to assert power and authority on the ground, it paid even less attention to the need for legitimacy?whether from international or domestic sources. Weeks after formal hostilities ended, France and Germany made clear that they would be willing to provide major support for postwar reconstruction in Iraq. But they asked that it take place under U.N. auspices, as had all recent nation-building, including Afghanistan's. Tony Blair urged that the United States accept these offers, but Washington spurned them, finding the requirement for U.N. control intolerable. "We're utterly surprised," a senior U.N. diplomat told me in June 2003. "We thought the United States would dump Iraq on the world's lap and the rest of the world would object ... The opposite is happening. The rest of the world is saying, 'We're willing to help,' but Washington is determined to run Iraq itself."
Even worse, convinced by Iraqi exiles that Iraq was deeply pro-American, Washington didn't much bother about creating legitimacy inside Iraq. Anyone who had studied Iraq knew that Saddam Hussein had destroyed all rivals. The only political forces that existed in Iraq were tribal sheiks and religious leaders. Given that the Shia constitute a majority, their leaders would be key. One towered above the others: Grand Ayatollah Sistani, a moderate who had tacitly supported the American intervention. He was also a longstanding critic of the Iranian model and argued that clerics should not participate in politics. In other words, he was the key potential ally and should have been the center of American political efforts in Iraq. Yet the U.S. paid insufficient attention to him.
In March 2003, as American and British troops entered Iraq, Sistani issued a fatwa asking the people of Iraq "not to interfere" with the foreign troops. His later statements urged ethnic and religious harmony. Sistani was well aware that America had an image problem in the Arab world and that he could not seem to endorse a naked American occupation. "We had demanded from the beginning that the U.N. play a primary role in the political process," he later explained in an interview. He refused to meet with any American. Yet he held meetings with the U.N.'s representative, Sergio Vieira de Mello.
Once Sistani heard of American plans for transferring power to an unelected Iraqi interim government, he objected. But the United States did not try to satisfy him. Indeed, it did not make many overtures to the aging cleric. Sistani's objections were taken lightly until, finally, after weeks of increasingly critical statements, he issued a fatwa declaring the American transition plan unacceptable. Even then it took months?and street demonstrations?for the CPA to appreciate Sistani's power.
Washington believed that its hand-picked Governing Council gave the occupation legitimacy. In fact, besides the Kurdish leaders and a few others, the members of the Governing Council have little support within Iraq. The Council is stacked with Iraqi exiles who are mostly disliked and suspected by Iraqis. Shia leaders in particular are suspicious that American plans for a phased transition and an unelected interim government are ways to empower exiles like Ahmad Chalabi. Sistani has told gatherings of tribal leaders that it is they who must take power in Iraq, not "those from abroad." In the CPA's own polling, Chalabi has the highest negative ratings of any public figure in Iraq. And yet he continues to get plum positions and generous funding (for intelligence!) from the U.S. government.
In order to make possible a long-term commitment in Iraq, Washington needs to correct its mistakes. First, it must make the lives of Iraqis more secure. The experiment with hasty Iraqification has failed. Iraqi security forces and police should be pulled off the streets and given proper training. In the meanwhile, the United States will have to bulk up its forces?and make those forces engage in patrols and crime prevention and provide a general sense of law and order. The Third Infantry Division should be sent back into Iraq. The option of mobilizing reserves or transferring troops from other theaters of operation should not be ruled out. And after July, if the transition to Iraqi self-rule is administered by the United Nations, it should be possible to get other countries' troops involved. Obviously, the numbers offered will be much lower than they would have been a year ago. But something is better than nothing.
Next, the cpa must find a way to create a legitimate interim government. Ayatollah Sistani can provide that legitimacy. America will have to concede to Sistani's objections to the current plans: he is unlikely to endorse any transfer to the current Governing Council, or even a modestly expanded version of it. He has objected to a three-person presidency, and to giving the Kurds a veto over the constitution. He also wants restrictions on the powers of the interim government, and an understanding that the interim constitution can be amended. Many of Sistani's objections are valid, others less so. But in any event, right now his blessing is crucial.
"Kerry Was Right" -- Harold Meyerson in The Washington Post, 4/14/04:
Don't look now, but is the Bush administration creeping toward John Kerry's position on Iraq?
I am writing this column hours before the president's Tuesday news conference, so I have to allow for the possibility that he will stun us with some radical new departure -- perhaps even articulating a coherent policy. But whatever the president says, the administration has been moving closer to acknowledging the desirability -- and at times, the necessity -- of letting the United Nations do the work of nation-building that George Bush once assumed the United States should undertake.
In fairness, when the president plunged us into this war, he had a plan for converting Iraq into a stable democracy -- a plan so simple that it bore no relation to reality. Dick Cheney argued that we'd be greeted as liberators. The Pentagon war planners said that we could just hand the nation over to Ahmed Chalabi, a businessman with ties to various Beltway neoconservatives, who'd left Iraq as a child in the same year that the Dodgers left Brooklyn. Rumsfeld's minions spirited Chalabi into Iraq right after our troops rolled into Baghdad. The Iraqi people, however, were less than overwhelmed.
In the course of the year-long occupation, we've had several subsequent plans for creating some entity to which we could hand off power. None has come to fruition. Our ability to create a popular, legitimate interim authority to oversee the drafting of a constitution that would win broad support and to negotiate with major population groups that shared a common antipathy to Saddam Hussein was never remotely sufficient. We were an occupying authority that had brought war but had failed to create peace -- not exactly the ideal credentials for nation-building.
And so, our man in Iraq, Paul Bremer, has stood aside and invited U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to put together an Iraqi interim authority with sufficient support to manage the transition until Iraq's first elections. The administration that had proclaimed the United Nations all but irrelevant in its strategy statement of September 2002 now clamors for more U.N. involvement and more NATO troops to do what we cannot do alone: stabilize Iraq.
Bush has, with the greatest reluctance, moved closer to the policy that Kerry has been advocating all along: internationalizing the occupation. In his speech preceding his vote to authorize the war in the fall of 2002, Kerry stipulated that the success of any endeavor to remake Iraq depended on broad international involvement in that effort. Last September Kerry called for Bush to transfer authority in post-Hussein Iraq to the United Nations, as that would "enhance the credibility and legitimacy" of the campaign to create a new Iraqi order in the eyes of Iraq's citizens and the world. And campaigning in New Hampshire on Monday, Kerry suggested that Brahimi should supplant Bremer altogether, because the U.N. envoy would strike Iraqis as a more credible administrator of the occupation than Bremer could be. . . .
By the standard of previous presidential candidates running amid wartime quagmires, Kerry has been unusually forthcoming in his critique and prescriptions for Iraq. All Eisenhower pledged while seeking the office during the Korean conflict was, "I will go to Korea." In 1968 Nixon said that he had "a secret plan" to end the Vietnam War. Kerry, by contrast, foresaw the perils of unilateralism and has consistently proposed a more workable occupation policy than Bush's. By its growing dependence on Brahimi and its increasingly plaintive calls for more nations to send troops, even the administration tacitly acknowledges that Kerry was right.
"Insurgents Display New Sophistication" -- Thomas E. Ricks in The Washington Post, 4/14/04:
FORWARD OPERATING BASE DUKE, Iraq, April 13 -- Insurgents fighting the U.S.-led occupation force have sharply increased the sophistication, coordination and aggressiveness of their tactics over the past week, Army officers and soldiers involved in combat here said.
Most dramatically, as several thousand U.S. troops pushed south this week from the Baghdad area to this new base in central Iraq, one highway bridge on their planned route was destroyed and two others were so heavily damaged that they could not be used by heavy Army trucks and armored vehicles.
Those attacks on convoy routes, which U.S. forces were using for the first time, revealed a previously unseen degree of coordination among insurgent groups, said Army Col. Dana J.H. Pittard, the commander of a brigade-size task force now assembling for possible combat operations against the forces of radical Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr in or near the holy city of Najaf.
"The dropping of the bridges was very interesting, because it showed a regional or even a national level of organization," Pittard said in an interview. He said insurgents appeared to be sending information southward, communicating about routes being taken by U.S. forces and then getting sufficient amounts of explosives to key bridges ahead of the convoys.
With occupation forces battling Sadr's Shiite militiamen south and east of Baghdad and Sunni Muslim insurgents to the north and west, the timing of the Iraqis' tactical development is nearly as troubling for U.S. forces as its effect. But the explanation for the change is not yet clear, military commanders said.
Here in southern Iraq, which is overwhelmingly Shiite, U.S. officers say the best guess is that former soldiers who served under President Saddam Hussein have decided to lend their expertise and coordinating abilities to the untrained Shiite militiamen.
"It's a combination of Saddam loyalists and Shiite militias," Maj. Gen. John R. Batiste, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, said in a brief interview here at FOB Duke, where he was reviewing combat preparations.
Batiste said the influence of former Iraqi Republican Guard officers was especially apparent in the fighting in the Sunni town of Fallujah, where, he said, many veteran officers made their homes. "You could staff a division with the Iraqi officers living there," he said.
Maj. Kreg Schnell, Pittard's intelligence chief, agreed with Batiste's assessment. "There's been a marriage of convenience between Sadr's militia and Saddam loyalists," he said.
What officers here say they are not seeing is a sharp increase in the number of foreign guerrillas involved in the fighting. That element, said Pittard, is tiny -- perhaps "about 2 percent."
"Roberts Contradicts Frist on Clarke" -- Alexander Bolton at thehill.com, 4/14/04:
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says former Bush counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke?s testimony before a joint congressional panel on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks did not contradict his later testimony before a presidentially appointed commission.
Roberts?s comments to The Hill contradict a stinging condemnation of Clarke by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) on the Senate floor after Clarke accused President Bush of failing to take Osama bin Laden seriously before Sept. 11.
Roberts said Frist did not consult him before making his floor speech, which has been criticized by Democrats. Roberts?s words make perjury charges against Clarke highly unlikely. . . .
Roberts said Clarke?s 2002 testimony was on small-bore process issues related to the intelligence community while the later testimony took a big-picture view of policymakers? handling of evidence of a pending attack.
He wished that Frist had consulted with him before making his floor statement. . . .
Roberts said Republican staffers on the intelligence panel ?will be in trouble? if he finds out they took the initiative to relate Clarke?s closed-door testimony to Frist?s staff.
Roberts said the appropriate handling of the matter would have been for Senate intelligence staff to brief him and for Roberts to brief Frist directly.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a member of the intelligence panel, said that it would have been inappropriate for Intelligence Committee staffers to contact staff in the leader?s office to relate the contents of Clarke?s 2002 testimony.
Durbin added that Frist?s condemnation of Clarke was excessive and out of character for the leader. ?It?s like he was handed a script from the White House,? Durbin said.
Frist told The Hill he was not contacted by officials at the White House, officials from the intelligence community or members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
When asked if he based his floor criticisms on a transcript of Clarke?s 2002 closed-door testimony and drew his own conclusions from that transcript, Frist said that he had.
"Ambassador: Negroponte Is Expected to Be Picked for Iraq Post" -- Stephen R. Weisman in The New York Times, 4/14/04:
WASHINGTON, April 13 -- President Bush is expected to select John D. Negroponte, a veteran diplomat and current United States representative to the United Nations, as ambassador to Iraq once sovereignty is given over to a government in Baghdad on June 30, administration officials said Tuesday.
Mr. Negroponte's career dates to the war in Vietnam in the 1960's and the turmoil of Central America in the 1980's.
Confirmed more easily than expected as ambassador to the United Nations shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he had been questioned by some for his performance on human rights issues as ambassador in Honduras during the civil war in neighboring Nicaragua.
Now he is nominated for another crucial position in another chaotic place. After the transfer in Iraq, the American occupation authority is to be transformed into the United States' largest embassy, employing at least 3,000 people.
The ambassador will report to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.
Under the administration's plans, the American military ? which is expected to remain in Iraq after the transfer of power ? will remain under the command of the Defense Department, not the ambassador. Iraqi forces are to report to American military commanders.
The likely choice of Mr. Negroponte is being seen as a victory for Mr. Powell, who argued that the job required a candidate with diplomatic experience, bureacratic skills and experience dealing with military commanders, as well as someone who could quickly be confirmed, administration officials said.
Other possible names that officials said had been under consideration by Mr. Bush, including Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, and Robert Blackwill, director of Iraq policy at the White House, were said by administration officials to be less likely to win quick confirmation.
"'I Saw Papers that Show US Knew al-Qa'ida Would Attack Cities with Aeroplanes'" -- Andrew Buncombe in The Independent, 4/2/04:
A former translator for the FBI with top-secret security clearance says she has provided information to the panel investigating the 11 September attacks which proves senior officials knew of al-Qa'ida's plans to attack the US with aircraft months before the strikes happened.
She said the claim by the National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, that there was no such information was "an outrageous lie".
Sibel Edmonds said she spent more than three hours in a closed session with the commission's investigators providing information that was circulating within the FBI in the spring and summer of 2001 suggesting that an attack using aircraft was just months away and the terrorists were in place. The Bush administration, meanwhile, has sought to silence her and has obtained a gagging order from a court by citing the rarely used "state secrets privilege".
She told The Independent yesterday: "I gave [the commission] details of specific investigation files, the specific dates, specific target information, specific managers in charge of the investigation. I gave them everything so that they could go back and follow up. This is not hearsay. These are things that are documented. These things can be established very easily."
She added: "There was general information about the time-frame, about methods to be used ? but not specifically about how they would be used ? and about people being in place and who was ordering these sorts of terror attacks. There were other cities that were mentioned. Major cities ? with skyscrapers."
The accusations from Mrs Edmonds, 33, a Turkish-American who speaks Azerbaijani, Farsi, Turkish and English, will reignite the controversy over whether the administration ignored warnings about al-Qa'ida. That controversy was sparked most recently by Richard Clarke, a former counter-terrorism official, who has accused the administration of ignoring his warnings. . . .
Mrs Edmonds, 33, says she gave her evidence to the commission in a specially constructed "secure" room at its offices in Washington on 11 February. She was hired as a translator for the FBI's Washington field office on 13 September 2001, just two days after the al-Qa'ida attacks. Her job was to translate documents and recordings from FBI wire-taps.
She said said it was clear there was sufficient information during the spring and summer of 2001 to indicate terrorists were planning an attack. "Most of what I told the commission ? 90 per cent of it ? related to the investigations that I was involved in or just from working in the department. Two hundred translators side by side, you get to see and hear a lot of other things as well." . . .
It is impossible at this stage to verify Mrs Edmonds' claims. However, some senior US senators testified to her credibility in 2002 when she went public with separate allegations relating to alleged incompetence and corruption within the FBI's translation department.
Brad DeLong and Stephen Cohen on outsourcing at Brad DeLong's weblog, 4/2/04:
There is nobody in America who in the early 1990s worried more about the impact of trade on the wages of Americans in industries that came under pressure from foreign competition than H. Ross Perot. In his political career as advocate of deficit reduction and foe of NAFTA, there was nobody who clearly and visibly cared more about the long-run economic destiny of average Americans than H. Ross Perot. Yet on February 7, 2004, the Times of India reported that Perot Systems is going to double its employment in Asia from 3,500 to 7,000--which will then be half of Perot Systems' worldwide employment. Remember how H. Ross Perot used to talk about the "giant sucking sound" of U.S. jobs going to Mexico? It's not giant, but it is a sucking sound as people working for Perot Systems process medical bills and design software for other outsourcing operations in India. If the economic logic of "outsourcing" is the overwhelmingly powerful consideration for H. Ross Perot, for what American businesses will it not prove irresistible?
"Ban Is Eased on Editing Foreign Work" -- New York Times, 4/5/04:
WASHINGTON, April 4 ? The federal government has eased a ban on editing manuscripts from nations that are under United States trade embargoes, a move that appears to leave publishers free once again to edit scholarly works from Iran and other such countries.
The Treasury Department sent a letter on Friday to a lawyer for the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers, an international group representing more than 360,000 engineers and scientists, saying the organization's peer review, editing and publishing was "not constrained" by regulations from the department's Office of Foreign Assets Control. The group says its members produce 30 percent of the world's literature in electrical and electronics engineering and computer science.
The letter from the Treasury Department referred specifically to publishing by the institute, but Arthur Winston, the group's president, said he believed the ruling would be "a relief for nearly everyone" in the scholarly publishing community.
"The ruling eliminates potentially disturbing U.S. government intrusions on our scholarly publishing process," Mr. Winston said.
No one at the Treasury Department could be reached for comment Sunday night on the ruling.
The department and publishers have long quarreled over the exemption of "information or informational materials" from the nation's trade embargoes. Congress has generally allowed such exemptions.
Nonetheless, the Treasury Department sent out advisory letters over the past year telling publishers who were editing material from a country under a trade embargo that they were forbidden to reorder paragraphs or sentences, correct syntax or grammar, replace "inappropriate words" or add illustrations.
The advisories concerned Iran, but experts said the ruling seemed to extend to Cuba, Libya, North Korea and other nations with which most trade is banned without a government license.
In theory, even routine editing on manuscripts from those countries could have subjected publishers to fines of $500,000 and 10 years in jail.
"7 U.S. Soldiers Die as a Shiite Militia Rises Up" -- John F. Burns in The New York Times, 4/5/04:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 4 ? A coordinated Shiite militia uprising against the American-led occupation rippled across Iraq on Sunday, reaching into Baghdad and the sprawling Shiite slum of Sadr City on the capital's outskirts and roiling the holy city of Najaf and at least two other cities in southern Iraq.
Seven American soldiers were killed in Sadr City, one of the worst single losses for the American forces in any firefight since Baghdad was captured a year ago.
An Iraqi health official in Najaf said 24 people had been killed and about 200 wounded in clashes that ensued when armed militiamen loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, a 31-year-old firebrand Shiite cleric, besieged a garrison commanded by Spanish troops on the road leading into Najaf from neighboring Kufa.
An American military spokesman said one Salvadoran soldier had been killed in Kufa and 13 soldiers wounded, including an American. All the other casualties were said to be Iraqis.
Within hours of a call by Mr. Sadr to his followers to "terrorize your enemy," his militiamen, said to number tens of thousands across Iraq, emerged into the streets of Baghdad, Najaf, Kufa and Amara, a city 250 miles south of Baghdad where four Iraqis were reported killed in clashes with British troops.
Forbidden to bear arms under a decree issued last year by the American occupation authority, the Sadr militiamen bristled with a wide array of weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades that were fired at American tanks in Sadr City.
Taking advantage of an American policy that has largely kept American and other occupation troops out of volatile Shiite population centers like Sadr City, Najaf and Kufa, the militiamen succeeded in taking control of checkpoints and police stations in all three cities that had been staffed by the new Iraqi-trained police and civil defense force.
Residents in the three centers said the Iraqis had abandoned their posts almost as soon as the militiamen appeared with their weapons, leaving the militiamen in unchallenged control ? and punching a huge hole in American hopes that American-trained Iraqis can be relied on increasingly to take over from American troops in providing security in Iraq's major cities.
The insurrection, which spread across the Shiite heartland in a matter of hours, came five days after the ambush in the predominantly Sunni Muslim city of Falluja, outside Baghdad, in which a mob mutilated the bodies of four American security guards and hanged two of them from a bridge. Together, the events in Falluja and the other cities on Sunday appeared likely to shake the American hold on Iraq more than anything since the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein's government last April 9.
In effect, the militia attacks confronted the American military command with what has been its worst nightmare as it has struggled to pacify Iraq: the spread of an insurgency that has stretched a force of 130,000 American troops from the minority Sunni population to the majority Shiites, who are believed to account for about 60 percent of Iraq's population of 25 million.
"Private Guards Repel Attack on U.S. Headquarters" -- Dana Priest in The Washington Post, 4/6/04:
An attack by hundreds of Iraqi militia members on the U.S. government's headquarters in Najaf on Sunday was repulsed not by the U.S. military, but by eight commandos from a private security firm, according to sources familiar with the incident.
Before U.S. reinforcements could arrive, the firm, Blackwater Security Consulting, sent in its own helicopters amid an intense firefight to resupply its commandos with ammunition and to ferry out a wounded Marine, the sources said.
The role of Blackwater's commandos in Sunday's fighting in Najaf illuminates the gray zone between their formal role as bodyguards and the realities of operating in an active war zone. Thousands of armed private security contractors are operating in Iraq in a wide variety of missions and exchanging fire with Iraqis every day, according to informal after-action reports from several companies.
In Sunday's fighting, Shiite militia forces barraged the Blackwater commandos, four MPs and a Marine gunner with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47 fire for hours before U.S. Special Forces troops arrived. A sniper on a nearby roof apparently wounded three men. U.S. troops faced heavy fighting in several Iraqi cities that day.
The Blackwater commandos, most of whom are former Special Forces troops, are on contract to provide security for the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Najaf. . . .
A Defense Department spokesman said that there were no military reports about the opening hours of the siege on CPA headquarters in Najaf because there were no military personnel on the scene. The Defense Department often does not have a clear handle on the daily actions of security contractors because the contractors work directly for the coalition authority, which coordinates and communicates on a limited basis through the normal military chain of command.
"Iraq Better Off under Saddam, Blix Says" -- The Toronto Star, 4/6/04:
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) -- Iraq is worse off now, after the U.S.-led invasion, than it was under Saddam Hussein, Hans Blix told a Danish newspaper today.
"What's positive is that Saddam and his bloody regime is gone, but when figuring out the score, the negatives weigh more," the former chief UN weapons inspector was quoted as saying in the daily newspaper Jyllands Posten.
"That accounts for the many casualties during the war and the many people who still die because of the terrorism the war has nourished," he said. "The war has liberated the Iraqis from Saddam, but the costs have been too great."
"Almost 300 Dead in Falluja Street Battles" -- George Wright in The Guardian, 4/8/04:
The US military admitted today that it had lost control of two cities to Shia militants as fierce fighting continued to rage across Iraq.
Despite attempts by Washington to play down the scale of the uprisings that have swept the country, Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez said today that coalition troops in Najaf and Kut had been fought back by militants loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
He said coalition soldiers - Ukrainians in Kut and Spaniards in Najaf - had retreated to their bases on the outskirts of the cities, effectively ceding control to the Shia fighters.
He vowed to retake Kut "imminently", while conceding that the presence of large numbers of pilgrims in the holy city of Najaf for a religious festival could hamper any coalition counter-offensive. The coalition denied reports that some of its soldiers had been taken hostage by Shia militants in Najaf yesterday.
In a further setback to the coalition on what has been the bloodiest week since the end of the war on year ago, Al-Jazeera television broadcast footage of three Japanese, including one woman, dressed in civilian clothes it said were taken hostage by an Iraqi group.
The hitherto unknown group - Saraya al-Mujahideen - threatened to kill the captives unless Japan withdrew its troops from Iraq within three days.
Meanwhile, US forces sustained further casualties in fierce hand-to-hand battles with militants on the streets of Falluja, where local doctors said the Iraqi death toll had reached almost 300 in the last three days.
The US assault on Falluja began early on Monday, when marines surrounded the city of more than 200,000 people. Since then, US forces have been waging heavy street battles, using warplanes and tanks against Sunni insurgents in heavily populated districts who have dug themselves in.
Taher al-Issawi, a doctor in the besieged city's hospital, said today that more than 280 Iraqis have been killed and 400 wounded during the offensive. He told the Associated Press there were many more dead and wounded "in various places buried under rubble" who could not be reached because of fighting.
According to a report on Al-Jazeera news, at least 45 Iraqis were killed yesterday - including a family sitting in a car parked behind the Abd al-Aziz al-Samarai mosque compound when it was bombed by a US plane.
A spokesman for Iraq Body Count criticised the US tactics for putting the lives of civilians in at risk.
"The recent upsurge in violence has emphasised yet again that it is innocent Iraqi civilians who are the main victims of the US-led war and occupation. Up to 11,000 civilians are now reported killed since the invasion. Although we regret the loss of military lives too, military people have chosen to put their lives at risk. Civilians have no choice," he said.
"The US has responded to the deaths of four security contractors in Falluja with the killing of 16 children. This is not the 'winning of hearts and minds' but the destruction of human life and hope. The continuing failure of the USA and the UK to acknowledge the costs of their policies in civilian deaths further undermines the prospects for peace and reconciliation in Iraq."
Despite the air strike and a six-hour gun battle yesterday, insurgents still appeared to be using the area around the mosque as a base today and a fresh assault was under way to uproot them. . . .
In other developments, Iraqi interior minister Nouri Badran, who is responsible for Iraq's hard-pressed security forces, announced his resignation today.
Mr Badran's decision did not appear to be directly related to the turmoil sweeping the country. According to the Associated Press, he stepped down at the request of Iraq's US administrator Paul Bremer to maintain the Shia-Sunni balance in the government.
Mr Badran, a Shia Muslim, said he had been told that the US-led administration believed the defence minister and interior minister should not both be Shia. A new defence minister's position was created this month and filled by a Shia official.
However, critics will point to the fact that Mr Badran may have been forced to leave because the Iraqi police forces he controls have proved wholly ineffective in the face of sustained attacks by insurgents.
"Account of Broad Shiite Revolt Contradicts White House Stand" -- James Risen in The New York Times, 4/8/04:
WASHINGTON, April 7 ? United States forces are confronting a broad-based Shiite uprising that goes well beyond supporters of one militant Islamic cleric who has been the focus of American counterinsurgency efforts, United States intelligence officials said Wednesday.
That assertion contradicts repeated statements by the Bush administration and American officials in Iraq. On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that they did not believe the United States was facing a broad-based Shiite insurgency. Administration officials have portrayed Moktada al-Sadr, a rebel Shiite cleric who is wanted by American forces, as the catalyst of the rising violence within the Shiite community of Iraq.
But intelligence officials now say that there is evidence that the insurgency goes beyond Mr. Sadr and his militia, and that a much larger number of Shiites have turned against the American-led occupation of Iraq, even if they are not all actively aiding the uprising.
A year ago, many Shiites rejoiced at the American invasion and the toppling of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni who had brutally repressed the Shiites for decades. But American intelligence officials now believe that hatred of the American occupation has spread rapidly among Shiites, and is now so large that Mr. Sadr and his forces represent just one element..
Meanwhile, American intelligence has not yet detected signs of coordination between the Sunni rebellion in Iraq's heartland and the Shiite insurgency. But United States intelligence says that the Sunni rebellion also goes far beyond former Baathist government members. Sunni tribal leaders, particularly in Al Anbar Province, home to Ramadi, the provincial capital, and Falluja, have turned against the United States and are helping to lead the Sunni rebellion, intelligence officials say.
The result is that the United States is facing two broad-based insurgencies that are now on parallel tracks.
"The Issue Is Iraq" -- Michael Hirsch in Newsweek (online), 4/8/04:
The 9/11 Commission is a historical inquiry. Yet so much has happened since that dreadful day in 2001 that the commission?s findings are likely to be mere footnotes in future history books, even if they come to any definitive conclusion at all about whether 9/11 was preventable?and that?s an unlikely prospect, frankly. Iraq, on the other hand, will take up whole shelves of libraries in decades ahead. And the pages of that history are being written now, moment by moment.
This was always Richard Clarke?s main point as well. Rice?s former counterterrorism deputy, whose incendiary accusations have framed the entire commission inquiry, made clear that the reason he quit the administration in disgust and turned his back on his former bosses was the decision to attack Iraq. ?Many thought that the Bush administration was doing a good job of fighting terrorism when, actually, the administration had squandered the opportunity to eliminate Al Qaeda and instead strengthened our enemies by going off on a completely unnecessary tangent, the invasion of Iraq,? Clarke writes on the first page of his new book, ?Against All Enemies.?
This week?s headlines in Iraq, coming on top of a year of revelations, seemed to vindicate him. The overwhelming evidence that Iraq was not anything close to an imminent threat, on WMD or anything else; that whatever emerges from that nation now is not going to be a quick fix for America's strategic position; that in fact the terror threat was largely stateless, not state-sponsored; that America did not have the resources or ability to destroy Al Qaeda and transform Iraq at the same time?all this suggests that Clarke's central critique, the one still being shunted aside as we all buzz about Condi's big day, is probably on target.
For too long, official Washington, not to mention the nation?s leading pundits, have been missing the real elephant in the 9/11 hearing room: whether the Bush administration has completely misconceived the war on terror. Even John Kerry, Bush?s rival in November, seems reluctant to come out and say this as forthrightly as Clarke has. Indeed, the public may be getting there ahead of the pundits. The president finds his once-soaring ratings as a ?war president? falling into a growing credibility gap as every day brings fresh evidence that this critique is true.
Something clearly has gone very wrong. Al Qaeda knocked down those buildings on 9/11. And Al Qaeda was, at that time, a unique phenomenon, the only terrorist group of global reach that had declared war on America globally. Hamas, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda ?franchises? like Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia were all local or regional. America, this critique goes, had only one task after 9/11: to destroy Al Qaeda utterly, to cauterize it from the planet and replace its influence and that of its chief political ally, the Taliban, with something more civilized in the region they called home, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That would have really sent a message of American power. Yet we allowed our attention, money and military and intelligence resources to be diverted; worse, we permitted the ?war? on terror to grow into a strategic monstrosity, a lashing-out in all directions with no end to it in sight. We permitted Al Qaeda?and the Taliban?to linger on in the world far past what should have been their meager shelf live, thus inspiring other groups to follow in Osama bin Laden?s footsteps.
"Retired Top Brass Say No to 'Missile Shield'" -- Bryan Bender in The Boston Globe, 3/27/04:
WASHINGTON -- Forty-nine retired generals and admirals yesterday urged President Bush to suspend plans for a national missile shield and instead use the money to secure nuclear materials abroad and ports and borders at home.
The Bush administration plans to field a nationwide defense system in September to shoot down missiles armed with chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons, and has budgeted $3.7 billion this year for the project. . . .
But the 49 former senior military leaders contend that the system remains unproven. They also said it is more likely that terrorists would smuggle weapons of mass destruction into the United States than a country would launch a missile at the United States, risking a devastating retaliatory strike.
"As you have said, Mr. President, our highest priority is to prevent terrorists from acquiring and employing weapons of mass destruction," wrote the former officers, including retired Admiral William J. Crowe, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired General Joseph P. Hoar, former chief of the US Central Command.
The retired officers added that "the militarily responsible course of action" is to use the funding for the missile shield "to secure the multitude of facilities containing nuclear weapons and materials and to protect our ports and borders against terrorists who may attempt to smuggle weapons of mass destruction into the United States."
The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, recently concluded that only two of the antimissile system's 10 key technologies have been fully tested. Meanwhile, to make the September deadline, the Pentagon has waived some operational testing requirements. The military's top weapons tester stated earlier this month that such testing is not planned "for the foreseeable future."
The letter calls on the president to "postpone operational deployment of the expensive and untested" system.
"Clarke OKs Release of His Testimony, Documents" -- Reuters article at washingtonpost.com, 3/28/04:
Former U.S. counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke Sunday called on the White House to make public his own testimony to Congress as well as other statements, e-mails and documents about how the Bush administration handled the threat of terror.
Clarke, center of a firestorm over the level of engagement of President Bush in the issue before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was responding to Republican allegations that his earlier testimony to Congress contradicted statements he made last week that criticized Bush.
"I would welcome it being declassified, but not just a little line here or there. Let's declassify all six hours of my testimony," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, slamming Clarke on Friday, called for declassifying Clarke's July 2002 testimony to a joint hearing by the Senate and House of Representatives Intelligence committees.
Frist, a Tennessee Republican, said Clarke's words then, when, as a member of Bush administration he defended its policies, conflicted with last week's sworn public testimony before the bipartisan commission investigating the attacks, known popularly as the 9/11 Commission.
Clarke said he supported having that testimony declassified and also wanted testimony given in private to the commission by Bush's national security adviser Condoleezza Rice made public.
He said he wanted everything out in the open. "The White House is selectively now finding my e-mails, which I would have assumed were covered by some privacy regulations, and selectively leaking them to the press.
"Let's take all of my e-mails and all of the memos that I sent to the national security adviser and her deputy from January 20th to September 11th, and let's declassify all of it," he said.
"Rice Defends Refusal to Testify" -- Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus in The Washington Post, 3/29/04:
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, at the center of a controversy over her refusal to testify before the Sept. 11 commission, yesterday renewed her determination not to give public testimony and said she could not list anything she wished she had done differently in the months before the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Administration officials were searching for a compromise last night with the commission that would limit the political damage from her refusal to testify. But a defiant Rice gave no hint of that as she defended the Bush administration's counterterrorism performance on CBS's "60 Minutes" -- the same venue used a week earlier by former White House counterterrorism chief Richard A. Clarke to launch his criticism that the Bush administration did too little on terrorism before Sept. 11, 2001, and wound up strengthening al Qaeda by pursuing war in Iraq. . . .
Rice gave no ground on the administration's decision that she will not appear in public before the panel or testify under oath because Bush officials believe doing so would compromise the constitutional powers of the executive branch. The renewed refusal came despite the panel's unanimous plea for her testimony.
Republican commissioner John F. Lehman, who has written extensively on separation-of-power issues, said that "the White House is making a huge mistake" by blocking Rice's testimony and decried it as "a legalistic approach."
"The White House is being run by a kind of strict construction of interpretation of the powers of the president," he said on ABC's "This Week." "There are plenty of precedents that the White House could use if they wanted to do this."
Two Republican officials, who declined to be identified because they are not supposed to talk to reporters, said White House aides are discussing ways they could compromise with the commission, formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, perhaps by agreeing to the declassification of Rice's private testimony. "That would show people that she is cooperating, and make it clear that her testimony is consistent with her public pronouncements," one official said. "That would help our credibility."
Rice said she has "absolutely nothing to hide" and "would really like" to testify but will not because of the constitutional principle. . . .
Rice said that when Bush met with his top advisers on Sept. 15, 2001, "not a single one of the president's principal advisers suggested that he do anything more than go after Afghanistan, and that's what we did." Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz was at that meeting and did suggest that Iraq should be attacked, as described in detail in Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward's book "Bush at War."
Rice said the Bush administration's development of a counterterrorism plan before Sept. 11 was brisk.
The Bush administration has been sharply critical of Clinton and his antiterrorism policy for depending on diplomacy and law enforcement and not having military intervention as part of his plan to attack al Qaeda.
But Rice said yesterday that the United States is safer today because "we have an umbrella of intelligence and law enforcement worldwide."
Rice argued that "al Qaeda is not more dangerous today than it was on September 11" but said it is still dangerous. She also said, "The world is a lot safer and the war on terrorism is well-served by the victory in Iraq." When it was noted that there have been more terrorist attacks in the 30 months since Sept. 11 than in the 30 months prior, she replied: "That's the wrong way to look at it."
"US Now Looking to Install a PM in Iraq" -- Jonathan Steele in The Sydney Morning Herald, 3/29/04:
The United States wants to transfer power in Iraq to a hand-picked prime minister, abandoning plans for an expansion of the current 25-member governing council, coalition officials in Baghdad say.
With less than 100 days before the US occupation authorities are to transfer sovereignty on June 30, fears of wrangling among Iraqi politicians has forced Washington to make its third switch of strategy in six months.
The search is now on for an Iraqi to serve as chief executive. He will almost certainly be from the Shia Muslim majority, and probably a secular technocrat. It is not clear if Iraqi agreement on this issue has been sought.
Initial plans for enlarging the existing 25-member governing council, which has the task of appointing the cabinet, have been downgraded in favour of letting the present members get on with their job. Although the council may still be increased, the process need not be tied to the June 30 deadline.
Plans to create a three-man presidency - with a representative of the Shia, the Sunni and the Kurds - are still under way, but its powers would be mainly symbolic. The interim government will serve until direct elections for a national assembly are held at the end of the year.
A decision about how to pick an Iraqi government to take over when the Americans cede power have been in turmoil for several months. An initial US proposal to hold unelected caucuses of regional "notables" to choose a council which would then nominate a cabinet, collapsed in disarray after Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the leading Shia cleric, called for direct elections.
The latest plan is to choose a government after a vague process of "extensive deliberation and consultations with cross-sections of the Iraqi people".
Ayatollah Sistani said last week that he would not meet any United Nations officials if the world body endorsed the transitional law. One of his aides said on Saturday that the cleric might issue a religious edict against any Iraqis who join the interim government.
"9/11 Panel Wants Rice under Oath in Any Testimony" -- Philip Shenon and Richard W. Stevenson in The New York Times, 3/30/04:
WASHINGTON, March 29 ? The chairman and vice chairman of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks said on Monday that they would ask Condoleezza Rice to testify under oath in any future questioning because of discrepancies between her statements and those made in sworn testimony by President Bush's former counterterrorism chief.
"I would like to have her testimony under the penalty of perjury," said the commission's chairman, Thomas H. Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, in comments that reflected the panel's exasperation with the White House and Ms. Rice, the president's national security adviser.
Ms. Rice has granted one private interview to the 10-member, bipartisan commission and has requested another. But the White House has cited executive privilege in refusing to allow her to testify before the commission in public or under oath, even as she has granted numerous interviews about its investigation.
The White House declined to respond to Mr. Kean's comments. One official who had been briefed on discussions between the White House and the commission said Monday night that several options were under consideration that might lead to a compromise over Ms. Rice. The official, who asked not to be named because of the delicacy of the negotiations, declined to specify the options and said nothing had yet been decided.
In separate interviews, Mr. Kean and the panel's vice chairman, Lee H. Hamilton, a former Democratic House member from Indiana, said they would continue to press for Ms. Rice to testify under oath in public.
But they said that if the White House continued to refuse to have her answer questions at a public hearing, any new private interviews with Ms. Rice should be conducted under new ground rules, with the national security adviser placed under oath and a transcription made.
Mr. Kean and Mr. Hamilton also said that if the White House agreed, they were ready to declassify and make public the notes taken by commissioners when they interviewed Ms. Rice on Feb. 7, along with the transcripts of nearly 15 hours of private questioning of Mr. Clarke that was conducted by the commission before last week's hearing. "My tendency is to say that everything should be made public," Mr. Kean said.
Throughout the day on Monday, there were signs of a debate within the administration over whether to hold fast to the principle of not allowing White House aides to testify before Congress or to seek a deal that would allow Ms. Rice to appear before the commission. . . .
Ms. Rice has given a flurry of interviews to news organizations over the last week in which she has challenged Mr. Clarke's truthfulness, including his depiction of her as slow-footed in responding to intelligence warnings throughout 2001 that Al Qaeda was plotting a catastrophic attack on the United States.
Members of the commission, Democrats and Republicans alike, say they are angered by her interviews. They say the White House has made a major political blunder by continuing to assert executive privilege in blocking public testimony by Ms. Rice while continuing to use her as the principal public spokeswoman in defending the Bush's administration's actions before Sept. 11.
"I find it reprehensible that the White House is making her the fall guy for this legalistic position," said John F. Lehman, Navy secretary in the Reagan administration and a Republican member of the commission. "I've published two books on executive privilege, and I know that executive privilege has to bend to reality."
While there is precedent for the White House argument that incumbent national security advisers and other White House advisers should not be required to testify in public, constitutional scholars say that the position is based only on past practice, not law, and that presidents have repeatedly waived the privilege, especially at times of scandal or other intense political pressure.
"Rice Told to Testify before 9/11 Hearing as Bush Caves In" -- Suzanne Goldenberg in The Guardian, 3/31/04:
President George Bush surrendered yesterday to public demands for greater disclosure from the White House to the investigation into the September 11 attacks, authorising his national security adviser to testify in public before the commission.
The retreat - after weeks of resisting a public appearance by Condoleezza Rice - was one of two positive gestures to the commission yesterday from a White House acutely aware that the controversy was damaging Mr Bush's re-election prospects.
In addition to allowing Ms Rice to testify in public and under oath as investigators demand, Mr Bush and the vice-president, Dick Cheney, also agreed to meet the commission, but in a single private session.
The two men will not be under oath, but their appearance represents an advance on an earlier deal that would have had Mr Bush meeting only the commission chairman and vice-chairman.
In brief comments to reporters yesterday, Mr Bush claimed he waived the principle of executive privilege because of the gravity of the attacks. "I've ordered this level of cooperation because I consider it necessary to gaining a complete picture of the months and years that preceded the murder of our fellow citizens on September 11 2001," he said.
However, the concessions came with firm conditions making it evident that the White House - which opposed the establishment of the commission - does not intend to be forced into further compromises.
A letter from Mr Bush's counsel, Alberto Gonzales, said the White House would not entertain additional demands for testimony from Ms Rice, or other White House officials. There is also no scope for expanding the session with Mr Bush and Mr Cheney.
"Purported Al Qaeda Letter Calls Truce in Spain" -- Opheera McDoom (Reuters) at yahoo.com, 3/22/04:
A group claiming to have links with al Qaeda said on Wednesday it was calling a truce in its Spanish operations to see if the new Madrid government would withdraw its troops from Iraq, a pan-Arab newspaper said.
In a statement sent to the Arabic language daily al-Hayat, the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, which claimed responsibility for the Madrid bombings that killed 201 people, also urged its European units to stop all operations. . . .
In a shock election result three days after the Madrid bombs, Spain voted in the Socialist party, which has since said it will probably withdraw its troops from Iraq. . . .
The statement said it supported President Bush in his reelection campaign, and would prefer him to win in November rather than the Democratic candidate John Kerry, as it was not possible to find a leader "more foolish than you (Bush), who deals with matters by force rather than with wisdom."
In comments addressed to Bush, the group said:
"Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilization."
"Because of this we desire you (Bush) to be elected."
"Government Accounts of 9/11 Reveal Gaps, Inconsistencies" -- Scot Paltrow in The Wall Street Journal, 3/22/04
Anti-Terror Pioneer Turns in the Badge" -- Barton Gellman's profile of Richard Clarke just after his resignation in The Washington Post, 3/13/03.
"Storm Warnings" -- Michael Isikoff and Evan Thomas in Newsweek, 3/29/04 (posted 3/22/04):
The White House counterterror chief during the late ' 90s and through 9/11 was Dick Clarke. A career civil servant, Clarke was known for pounding the table to urge his counterparts at the CIA, FBI and Pentagon to do more about Al Qaeda. But he did not have much luck, in part because in both the Clinton and early Bush administrations, the top leadership did not back up Clarke and demand results.
Clarke does not absolve Clinton (or himself) of responsibility?the 1998 embassy bombings in Africa happened on Clinton's watch?but he saves his harshest criticism for Bush and his national-security team. In his new book, Clarke recounts how on Jan. 24, 2001, he recommended that the new president's national-security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, convene the president's top advisers to discuss the Qaeda threat. One week later, Bush did. But according to Clarke, the meeting had nothing to do with bin Laden. The topic was how to get rid of Saddam Hussein. "What does that tell you?" Clarke remarked to NEWSWEEK. "They thought there was something more urgent. It was Iraq. They came in there with their agenda, and [Al Qaeda] was not on it."
A White House official countered that the true fault lay with Clarke for failing to propose an effective plan to go after Al Qaeda. On Jan. 25, this official told NEWSWEEK, Clarke submitted proposals to "roll back" Al Qaeda in Afghanistan by boosting military aid to neighboring Uzbekistan, getting the CIA to arm its Predator spy planes and increasing funding for guerrillas fighting the Taliban. There was no need for a high-level meeting on terrorism until Clarke came up with a better plan, this official told NEWSWEEK. The official quoted President Bush as telling Condi Rice, "I'm tired of swatting flies." Bush, this official says, wanted an aggressive scheme to take bin Laden out.
Clarke sharply whacks Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz as the leader of the Get Saddam squad. When the White House finally did convene a top-level meeting to discuss terrorism, in April 2001, Wolfowitz rebuffed Clarke's effort to focus on Al Qaeda. According to Clarke, Wolfowitz said, "Who cares about a little terrorist in Afghanistan?" The real threat, Wolfowitz insisted, was state-sponsored terrorism orchestrated by Saddam. In the meeting, says Clarke, Wolfowitz cited the writings of Laurie Mylroie, a controversial academic who had written a book advancing an elaborate conspiracy theory that Saddam was behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Clarke says he tried to refute Wolfowitz. "We've investigated that five ways to Friday, and nobody [in the government] believes that," Clarke recalls saying. "It was Al Qaeda. It wasn't Saddam." A spokesman for Wolfowitz described Clarke's account as a "fabrication." Wolfowitz always regarded Al Qaeda as "a major threat," said this official.
If the Bush administration was sounding the alarm about Al Qaeda in its first few months in office, the national-security bureaucracy was not listening. At the Justice Department, Attorney General John Ashcroft downgraded terrorism as a priority, choosing to place more emphasis on drug trafficking and gun violence. That summer, a federal judge severely chastised the FBI for improperly seeking permission to wiretap terrorists; as a result, NEWSWEEK has learned, the Justice Department curtailed a highly classified program called "Catcher's Mitt" to monitor Qaeda suspects in the United States. The CIA and Air Force were caught up in an endless wrangle over who would arm and fly the Predator spy plane (and pay for it, as well as take responsibility for shooting at terrorist targets).
"Administration Officials Respond to Richard Clarke Interview" -- Center for American Progress, 3/22/04:
In the wake of Richard Clarke's well-supported assertions that the Bush Administration neglected counterterrorism in the face of repeated terror warnings before 9/11, the Bush Administration has launched a frantic misinformation campaign – often contradicting itself in the process.
CLAIM #1: "Richard Clarke had plenty of opportunities to tell us in the administration that he thought the war on terrorism was moving in the wrong direction and he chose not to."
– National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04
FACT: Clarke sent a memo to Rice principals on 1/24/01 marked "urgent" asking for a Cabinet-level meeting to deal with an impending Al Qaeda attack. The White House acknowledges this, but says "principals did not need to have a formal meeting to discuss the threat." No meeting occurred until one week before 9/11.
– White House Press Release, 3/21/04
CLAIM #2: "The president returned to the White House and called me in and said, I've learned from George Tenet that there is no evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11."
– National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04
FACT: If this is true, then why did the President and Vice President repeatedly claim Saddam Hussein was directly connected to 9/11? President Bush sent a letter to Congress on 3/19/03 saying that the Iraq war was permitted specifically under legislation that authorized force against "nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11." Similarly, Vice President Cheney said on 9/14/03 that "It is not surprising that people make that connection" between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks, and said "we don't know" if there is a connection.
CLAIM #3: "[Clarke] was moved out of the counterterrorism business over to the cybersecurity side of things."
– Vice President Dick Cheney on Rush Limbaugh, 3/22/04
FACT: "Dick Clarke continued, in the Bush Administration, to be the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and the President's principle counterterrorism expert. He was expected to organize and attend all meetings of Principals and Deputies on terrorism. And he did."
– White House Press Release, 3/21/04
CLAIM #4: "In June and July when the threat spikes were so high…we were at battle stations…The fact of the matter is [that] the administration focused on this before 9/11."
– National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04
FACT: "Documents indicate that before Sept. 11, Ashcroft did not give terrorism top billing in his strategic plans for the Justice Department, which includes the FBI. A draft of Ashcroft's 'Strategic Plan' from Aug. 9, 2001, does not put fighting terrorism as one of the department's seven goals, ranking it as a sub-goal beneath gun violence and drugs. By contrast, in April 2000, Ashcroft's predecessor, Janet Reno, called terrorism 'the most challenging threat in the criminal justice area.'"
– Washington Post, 3/22/04
CLAIM #5: "The president launched an aggressive response after 9/11."
– National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04
FACT: "In the early days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Bush White House cut by nearly two-thirds an emergency request for counterterrorism funds by the FBI, an internal administration budget document shows. The papers show that Ashcroft ranked counterterrorism efforts as a lower priority than his predecessor did, and that he resisted FBI requests for more counterterrorism funding before and immediately after the attacks."
– Washington Post, 3/22/04
CLAIM #6: "Well, [Clarke] wasn't in the loop, frankly, on a lot of this stuff…"
– Vice President Dick Cheney, 3/22/04
FACT: "The Government's interagency counterterrorism crisis management forum (the Counterterrorism Security Group, or "CSG") chaired by Dick Clarke met regularly, often daily, during the high threat period."
– White House Press Release, 3/21/04
CLAIM #7: "[Bush] wanted a far more effective policy for trying to deal with [terrorism], and that process was in motion throughout the spring."
– Vice President Dick Cheney on Rush Limbaugh, 3/22/04
FACT: "Bush said [in May of 2001] that Cheney would direct a government-wide review on managing the consequences of a domestic attack, and 'I will periodically chair a meeting of the National Security Council to review these efforts.' Neither Cheney's review nor Bush's took place." By comparison, Cheney in 2001 formally convened his Energy Task Force at least 10 separate times, meeting at least 6 times with Enron energy executives.
– Washington Post, 1/20/02 , GAO Report, 8/22/03, AP, 1/8/02
CLAIM #8: All the chatter [before 9/11] was of an attack, a potential al Qaeda attack overseas.
– Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, 3/22/04
FACT: Page 204 of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11 noted that "In May 2001, the intelligence community obtained a report that Bin Laden supporters were planning to infiltrate the United States" to "carry out a terrorist operation using high explosives." The report "was included in an intelligence report for senior government officials in August ." In the same month, the Pentagon "acquired and shared with other elements of the Intelligence Community information suggesting that seven persons associated with Bin Laden had departed various locations for Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States."
[Joint Congressional Report, 12/02]
"Groups Call for the Resignation of Sept. 11 Commission Director" -- Chris Strohm at govexec.com, 3/22/04:
Public interest groups are demanding the immediate resignation of the director of the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, just as the commission prepares to hold high-profile hearings this week with senior officials from the Bush and Clinton administrations.
The 9-11 Family Steering Committee and 9-11 Citizens Watch, two separate groups, are demanding the resignation of Philip Zelikow, executive director of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, after information surfaced over the weekend that he participated in Bush administration briefings prior to Sept. 11 on the threat al Qaeda posed to the country.
"We believe that the very integrity of the commission is at stake here, and that he should resign immediately," Kyle Hence, co-founder of Citizens Watch, said Monday.
On Saturday, the Family Steering Committee wrote a letter to the commission arguing that Zelikow has a conflict of interest because he could potentially be held culpable for failing to heed warnings about al Qaeda prior to Sept. 11.
"It is clear that [Zelikow] should never have been permitted to be a member of the commission, since it is the mandate of the commission to identify the source of failures," the committee wrote. "It is now apparent why there has been so little effort to assign individual culpability. We now can see that trail would lead directly to the staff director himself."
Zelikow was a member of the team that helped with the Bush administration transition to office. When he became executive director of the commission, he recused himself from participating in any part of the investigation that dealt with the time he served on the Bush transition team.
Critics have previously called for Zelikow to resign because they believed he had at least an appearance of a conflict of interest. He co-wrote a book in 1995 with Condoleezza Rice, who is now Bush's national security adviser. Additionally, only Zelikow and commission member Jamie Gorelick are permitted to read classified intelligence reports known as the presidential daily briefs in their entirety.
Information that Zelikow participated in intelligence briefings on al Qaeda before Sept. 11 surfaced over the weekend in interviews with the government's former counterterrorism czar, Richard Clarke, who resigned last summer after 30 years of public service. Clarke served in four administrations as part of the National Security Council. He was the counterterrorism czar for former President Clinton, served on the transition team when Bush came into office and remained as a senior counterterrorism official under the Bush administration.
On Saturday, Clarke told the New York Times that he gave briefings on the threat posed by al Qaeda to Rice; Stephen Hadley, now Rice's deputy; and Zelikow when he was part of the transition team from December 2000 to January 2001. . . .
Al Felzenberg, spokesman for the 9-11 commission, said Monday that no new charges have been leveled that would cause the commission to ask Zelikow to resign. Felzenberg reiterated that Zelikow recused himself from parts of the investigation that deal with the time he served on the transition team.
"The commission finds the director's recusal sufficient," Felzenberg said. "I don't see a single charge that has been made that would cause the commission to change its view."
Felzenberg said Zelikow was not responsible for making policy decisions or implementing recommendations during his time on the transition team. He added that the commission has a policy regarding conflicts of interest and a process in which complaints should be vetted.
"9/11: Internal Government Documents Show How the Bush Administration Reduced Counterterrorism" -- Center for American Progress, 3/23/04:
Since September 11, President Bush and his supporters have repeatedly intimated that many of the President's political opponents are soft on terrorism. In his State of the Union address, the President declared: "We can go forward with confidence and resolve, or we can turn back to the dangerous illusion that terrorists are not plotting and outlaw regimes are no threat to us." In comments aimed at those who seek changes in the Patriot Act, Attorney General John Ashcroft said: "Your tactics only aid terrorists." One recent ad asserts, "Some call for us to retreat, putting our national security in the hands of others."
But the real story is far different, as the following internal Department of Justice (DoJ) documents obtained by the Center for American Progress demonstrate. The Bush Administration actually reversed the Clinton Administration's strong emphasis on counterterrorism and counterintelligence. Attorney General John Ashcroft not only moved aggressively to reduce DoJ's anti-terrorist budget but also shift DoJ's mission in spirit to emphasize its role as a domestic police force and anti-drug force. These changes in mission were just as critical as the budget changes, with Ashcroft, in effect, guiding the day to day decisions made by field officers and agents. And all of this while the Administration was receiving repeated warnings about potential terrorist attacks.
"Lifting the Shroud" -- Paul Krugman in The New York Times, 3/23/04:
It's important, when you read the inevitable attempts to impugn the character of the latest whistle-blower, to realize just how risky it is to reveal awkward truths about the Bush administration. When Gen. Eric Shinseki told Congress that postwar Iraq would require a large occupation force, that was the end of his military career. When Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV revealed that the 2003 State of the Union speech contained information known to be false, someone in the White House destroyed his wife's career by revealing that she was a C.I.A. operative. And we now know that Richard Foster, the Medicare system's chief actuary, was threatened with dismissal if he revealed to Congress the likely cost of the administration's prescription drug plan.
The latest insider to come forth, of course, is Richard Clarke, George Bush's former counterterrorism czar and the author of the just-published "Against All Enemies."
On "60 Minutes" on Sunday, Mr. Clarke said the previously unsayable: that Mr. Bush, the self-proclaimed "war president," had "done a terrible job on the war against terrorism." After a few hours of shocked silence, the character assassination began. He "may have had a grudge to bear since he probably wanted a more prominent position," declared Dick Cheney, who also says that Mr. Clarke was "out of the loop." (What loop? Before 9/11, Mr. Clarke was the administration's top official on counterterrorism.) It's "more about politics and a book promotion than about policy," Scott McClellan said.
Of course, Bush officials have to attack Mr. Clarke's character because there is plenty of independent evidence confirming the thrust of his charges. . . .
Still, the administration would like you to think that Mr. Clarke had base motives in writing his book. But given the hawks' dominance of the best-seller lists until last fall, it's unlikely that he wrote it for the money. Given the assumption by most political pundits, until very recently, that Mr. Bush was guaranteed re-election, it's unlikely that he wrote it in the hopes of getting a political job. And given the Bush administration's penchant for punishing its critics, he must have known that he was taking a huge personal risk.
So why did he write it? How about this: Maybe he just wanted the public to know the truth.
"Floor Statement of Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle on the Administration Attacking Good People for Telling the Truth" -- democrats.senate.gov, 3/23/04:
When former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill stepped forward to criticize the Bush Administration's Iraq policy, he was immediately ridiculed by the people around the President and his credibility was attacked. Even worse, the Administration launched a government investigation to see if Secretary O'Neill improperly disclosed classified documents. He was, of course, exonerated, but the message was clear. If you speak freely, there will be consequences.
Ambassador Joseph Wilson also learned that lesson. Ambassador Wilson, who by all accounts served bravely under President Bush in the early 1990s, felt a responsibility to speak out on President Bush's false State of the Union statement on Niger and uranium. When he did, the people around the President quickly retaliated. Within weeks of debunking the President's claim, Ambassador Wilson's wife was the target of a despicable act.
Her identity as a deep-cover CIA agent was revealed to Bob Novak, a syndicated columnist, and was printed in newspapers around the country. That was the first time in our history, I believe, that the identity and safety of a CIA agent was disclosed for purely political purposes. It was an unconscionable and intolerable act.
Around the same time Bush Administration officials were endangering Ambassador Wilson's wife, they appear to have been threatening another federal employee for trying to do his job. In recent weeks Richard Foster, an actuary for the Department of Health and Human Services, has revealed that he was told he would be fired if he told Congress and the American people the real costs of last year's Medicare bill.
Mr. Foster, in an e-mail he wrote on June 26 of last year, said the whole episode had been "pretty nightmarish." He wrote: "I'm no longer in grave danger of being fired, but there remains a strong likelihood that I will have to resign in protest of the withholding of important technical information from key policymakers for political purposes."
Think about those words. He would lose his job if he did his job. If he provided the information the Congress and the American people deserved and were entitled to, he would lose his job. When did this become the standard for our government? When did we become a government of intimidation?
And now, in today's newspapers, we see the latest example of how the people around the President react when faced with facts they want to avoid.
The White House's former lead counter-terrorism advisor, Richard Clarke, is under fierce attack for questioning the White House's record on combating terrorism. Mr. Clarke has served in four White Houses, beginning with Ronald Reagan's Administration, and earned an impeccable record for his work.
Now the White House seeks to destroy his reputation. The people around the President aren't answering his allegations; instead, they are trying to use the same tactics they used with Paul O'Neill. They are trying to ridicule Mr. Clarke and destroy his credibility, and create any diversion possible to focus attention away from his serious allegations.
The purpose of government isn't to make the President look good. It isn't to produce propaganda or misleading information. It is, instead, to do its best for the American people and to be accountable to the American people. The people around the President don't seem to believe that. They have crossed a line?perhaps several lines?that no government ought to cross.
We shouldn't fire or demean people for telling the truth. We shouldn't reveal the names of law enforcement officials for political gain. And we shouldn't try to destroy people who are out to make country safer.
I think the people around the President have crossed into dangerous territory. We are seeing abuses of power that cannot be tolerated.
The President needs to put a stop to it, right now. We need to get to the truth, and the President needs to help us do that.
"Shiite Ayatollah Is Warning U.N. Against Endorsing Charter Sponsored by U.S." -- John F. Burns in The New York Times, 3/23/04:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 22 ? Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has warned of "dangerous consequences" if the United Nations endorses the American-sponsored interim constitution for an independent Iraq that was adopted over Shiite protests two weeks ago.
The warning came in a letter released by Ayatollah Sistani's office on Monday, four days after it was delivered in New York to Lakhtar Brahimi, the chief United Nations envoy to Iraq. It amounted to a warning that the ayatollah's followers, by far the most powerful political bloc in Iraq, could move to paralyze American plans for a smooth transfer of sovereignty on June 30 unless Shiite terms for changing the interim constitution were met.
Ayatollah Sistani warned in his letter that he would boycott a coming visit to Baghdad by Mr. Brahimi, refusing to "take part in any meetings or consultations" conducted by him or his emissaries, unless the United Nations offered guarantees that it would not endorse the interim constitution.
After nearly a year of discounting the value of a United Nations political role in Iraq, the Bush administration shifted its position recently, saying it strongly favored the United Nations having a part in helping to establish an interim government and organize elections.
Mr. Brahimi, a former foreign minister of Algeria, is to arrive here late this month or early in April to help broker the talks on a transitional government and election arrangements. But Shiite groups that accept Ayatollah Sistani as their ultimate political arbiter have said they will use negotiations over the interim authority ? blocking agreement, if necessary ? to expand the Shiite majority's powers before an elected government takes over at the end of 2005.
"Why Did Sharon Give the Word?" -- Chris McGreal in The Guardian, 3/23/04:
When Ariel Sharon astonished Israelis with his pledge to pull Jewish settlers out of the Gaza strip, the first reaction from Hamas was to declare a military victory over the hated occupier.
The Islamic resistance movement heralded the promised withdrawal as a triumph for Palestinian street fighters, asserting they had driven out Israeli armour and the settlers, and as a justification for keeping up the armed struggle.
Israel's defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, and his general staff immediately made clear that they had no intention of being seen to retreat under fire. With Mr Sharon's blessing, the army stepped up its attacks on Gaza with targeted assassinations of Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters and accelerated demolition of property in areas the Israelis plan to retain control over even after the settlers leave. This month alone, the Israeli military has killed more than 70 Palestinians in raids mostly targeted against Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
On Sunday, Mr Sharon went further and authorised the assassination of Hamas's spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a man who was, until a few months ago, thought to be untouchable. Yesterday, he was blown to bits by a guided missile as his bodyguards pushed his wheelchair to the local mosque for early morning prayers.
The assassination further reinforces the view of Mr Sharon's critics that he has written off the internationally backed peace process. Instead he is pursuing parallel strategies of making war on "the terrorists" while unilaterally imposing a po litical solution on Israel's terms in consultation with the Americans but not the Palestinians.
"This assassination crossed a red line," said Ali Jarbawi, a political analyst at Bir Zeit university. "Sharon doesn't want negotiations, he wants a managed conflict because it justifies his strategy of unilateral disengagement on his terms. Killing Yassin ensures that the conflict goes on. It also weakens the Palestinian Authority because it looks impotent and unable to protect its citizens in the eyes of the Palestinian population." . . .
With two of Hamas top three leaders now dead, the way appears to be open to the most confrontational of the group to take power. Abed al Aziz Rantisi has argued strongly against a political settlement and in favour of attacks on Israelis in the occupied territories and on Israeli soil. Yesterday, Mr Rantisi called Sheikh Yassin the best known "symbol" for Palestinians all over the world. "He never compromised a single inch of Palestinian land, he never compromised the holy places," he said. "They want to kill the right of return, they want to kill our rights in Palestine, they want to kill our holy places and to all of that we say the war now is open."
One senior Hamas figure, Siad Syam, said there will be no automatic succession. "This is a movement which has an internal process just as the reaction to the assassination of Sheikh Yassin will be decided by the [armed] brigades," he said.
"America Denies It Knew of Attack" -- Suzanne Goldenberg in The Guardian, 3/23/04:
America belatedly acknowledged the potential fallout from the Israeli missile strike that killed Sheikh Ahmed Yassin yesterday, only criticising the assassination hours after branding the Hamas leader a "terrorist".
The abrupt reversal in Washington's response to the most devastating strike on the Palestinian leadership in years was a stark illustration of the divisions within the Bush administration on Middle East policy.
The criticism came amid growing realisation that the assassination could have potentially catastrophic consequences for America in Iraq, as well as on its war on terror. Both Hamas and an offshoot of al-Qaida, the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade, threatened vengeance against America yesterday.
"You can say that the United States is deeply concerned about, deeply troubled, by this morning's actions; that the event in our view increases tension and doesn't help our efforts to resume progress towards peace," the state department spokesman, Richard Boucher, told a briefing.
His comments represented a complete reversal of statements from the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and the White House spokesman, Scott McLellan, that pointedly avoided any criticism of Israel's action.
"Let's remember that Hamas is a terrorist organisation and that Sheik Yassin has himself, personally, we believe, been involved in terrorist planning," Ms Rice told NBC television yesterday morning.
Hours later, however, officials were espousing an entirely different line. The change was widely believed to have been ordered at the behest of the secretary of state, Colin Powell, who argued that the assassination could put American citizens in jeopardy.
"Kay Implores US to Admit Mistakes in Iraq" -- Missy Ryan in The Boston Globe, 3/23/04:
CAMBRIDGE -- The former chief US weapons inspector in Iraq warned yesterday that the United States is in "grave danger" of destroying its credibility at home and abroad if it does not own up to its mistakes in Iraq.
"The cost of our mistakes . . . with regard to the explanation of why we went to war in Iraq are far greater than Iraq itself," David Kay said in a speech at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
"We are in grave danger of having destroyed our credibility internationally and domestically with regard to warning about future events," he said. "The answer is to admit you were wrong, and what I find most disturbing around Washington . . . is the belief . . . you can never admit you're wrong."
Kay's comments came as the White House sought to fend off accusations from its former antiterrorism chief, Richard Clarke, who said President Bush ignored the Al Qaeda threat before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and focused on Iraq, rather than on the Islamic militant group, afterward. . . .
He cautioned the intelligence community against jumping to conclusions, as it did in Iraq. "One of the most dangerous things abroad in the world of intelligence today actually came out of 9/11 . . . the insistence of `Why didn't you connect the dots?' The dots were all there," he said.
"When we finally do the sums on Iraq, what will turn out is that we simply didn't know what was going on, but we connected the dots -- the dots from 1991 behavior were connected with 2000 behavior and 2003 behavior, and it became an explanation and a picture of Iraq that simply didn't exist," Kay said.
"Vietnam on the GOP Scrap Heap" -- Geraldine Sealey in salon.com's War Room 2004 weblog, 3/24/04:
You might have missed this comment on Tuesday from Bush-Cheney '04's Terry Holt, speaking about Democratic candidate John Kerry, his Vietnam War service, and his nearly two decades in the U.S. Senate: "John Kerry's campaign seems to be summed up this way: I went to Vietnam, yadda, yadda, yadda, I want to be president."
Kerry's spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter, asking for an apology from Holt, retorted: "George Bush's campaign can be summed up this way: 'I lost three million jobs, turned record surpluses into record deficits, denied affordable health care and prescription drug coverage to most Americans, yadda, yadda, yadda, four more years.'"
All the fun Seinfeld references aside, Holt's comment is quite telling and reveals the about-face Republicans have taken in less than a generation on Vietnam. Billmon has a post worth reading about how Holt's quote was "a kind of political Freudian slip, so to speak. Because it revealed the degree to which the Republicans no longer feel it necessary to pander to (or even show much respect for) those who served in Vietnam."
Transcript of the 9/11 Commission Hearings on March 24 in The Washington Post, 3/24/04
"Clarke Stays Cool as Partisanship Heats Up" -- Dana Milbank in The Washington Post, 3/25/04:
If the critique presented by Clarke, who left the Bush White House after two years, is to be accepted, a key rationale for Bush's reelection has been lost. In Clarke's view, the Bush administration ignored his pleas to make terrorism a high priority before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, reacted inadequately to the attacks and then strengthened terrorists by persistently pursuing war in Iraq. Bush aides are not about to let that version stand.
Shortly before the hearing, the White House violated its long-standing rules by authorizing Fox News to air remarks favorable to Bush that Clarke had made anonymously at an administration briefing in 2002. The White House press secretary read passages from the 2002 remarks at his televised briefing, and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, who has declined to give public testimony to the commission, called reporters into her office to highlight the discrepancy. "There are two very different stories here," she said. "These stories can't be reconciled."
Back at the hearing, former Illinois governor James R. Thompson, a Republican member of the commission, took up the cause, waving the Fox News transcript with one hand and Clarke's critical book in the other. "Which is true?" Thompson demanded, folding his arms and glowering down at the witness.
Clarke, appearing unfazed by the apparent contradiction between his current criticism and previous praise, spoke to Thompson as if addressing a slow student.
"I was asked to highlight the positive aspects of what the administration had done, and to minimize the negative aspects of what the administration had done," he explained. "I've done it for several presidents."
With each effort by Thompson to highlight Clarke's inconsistency -- "the policy on Uzbekistan, was it changed?" -- Clarke tutored the commissioner about the obligations of a White House aide. Thompson, who had far exceeded his allotted time, frowned contemptuously. "I think a lot of things beyond the tenor and the tone bother me about this," he said. During a second round of questioning, Thompson returned to the subject, questioning Clarke's "standard of candor and morality."
"I don't think it's a question of morality at all; I think it's a question of politics," Clarke snapped.
Thompson had to wait for Sept. 11, 2001, victims' relatives in the gallery to stop applauding before he pleaded ignorance of the ways of Washington. "I'm from the Midwest, so I think I'll leave it there," he said. Moments later, Thompson left the hearing room and did not return.
It was a masterful bit of showmanship by the former bureaucrat who became a household name in the past week with his charges about Bush. Though more prominent personalities testified in the commission's two-day public hearings, the longtime foreign policy bureaucrat stole the show.
With two dozen cameras recording his every twitch, Clarke disarmed the crowd by starting with an apology to those who lost loved ones on Sept. 11, 2001. "Your government failed you," he said. "Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. And I failed you."
"Bush's War -- against Richard Clarke" -- Sidney Blumenthal at salon.com, 3/25/04:
One of the first official acts of the incoming Bush administration in January 2001 was to demote the office of national coordinator for counterterrorism on the National Security Council, a position held by Richard A. Clarke. Clarke had served in the Pentagon and State Department under Presidents Reagan and elder Bush, and was the first person to hold the counterterrorism job created by President Clinton. Under Clinton, signifying the importance the president attached to the issue, Clarke was elevated to Cabinet rank, which gave him a seat at the Principals Meeting, the decision-making group of the highest figures involved in national security. By demoting the office, Bush and his team sent a signal through the national security bureaucracy about the salience they assigned to terrorism -- below issues they regarded as truly serious, like Star Wars and the military threat of China. By removing Clarke from the table, the Bush administration put him in a box where he could only speak when spoken to. No longer would his memos go to the president; instead they had to pass though a chain of command of National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and her deputy Stephen Hadley, who bounced every one of them back.
Terrorism was a Clinton issue, "soft" and obscure, having something to do with "globalization," and other "soft" issues like global warming and global diseases (openly ridiculed in the Republican Party platform). "In January 2001, the new administration really thought Clinton's recommendation that eliminating al-Qaida be one of their highest priorities, well, rather odd, like so many of the Clinton administration's actions, from their perspective," writes Clarke in his new book, "Against All Enemies." The Clinton team's repeated briefings on terrorism during the transition were like water off a duck's back. When Clarke first met with Rice and immediately raised the question of dealing with al-Qaida, she "gave me the impression she had never heard the term before."
The controversy raging around Clarke's book -- and his testimony before the 9/11 commission that Bush ignored warnings about terrorism that might have prevented the attacks -- revolves around his singularly unimpeachable credibility. In response, the Bush administration has launched a full-scale offensive against him: impugning his personal motives, claiming he is a disappointed job-hunter, that he is publicity mad, a political partisan (Clarke, in fact, voted for Republican Sen. John McCain for president in the Republican primaries in 2000) -- as well as ignorant, irrelevant and a liar.
Richard Clarke had a reputation in the Clinton White House of being brusque, driven, yet preternaturally calm, and single-minded. He was a consummate professional and expert who was a master of the bureaucracy. He didn't suffer fools gladly. He stood up to superiors and didn't care whom he alienated. His flaw was his indispensable virtue: He was always direct and candid in telling the unvarnished truth. . . .
At the April 2001 Deputies Committee meeting on al-Qaida forced by an insistent Clarke, the threat was "belittled" by the neoconservative Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who was "spouting" a "totally discredited" theory about Iraqi terrorism being behind the World Trade Center bombing of 1993. "Well, I just don't understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man bin Laden," said Wolfowitz. At the only Principals Meeting that took up terrorism as a result of Clarke's drumbeat, the use of the unmanned Predator drone over Afghanistan was shelved. Rice helped push terrorism off the agenda by sending it to the purgatory of re-study, a classic bureaucratic method of shunting a troublesome question aside.
Rice now claims that "we were at battle stations." But Bush is quoted by Bob Woodward in "Bush at War" saying that before 9/11, "I was not on point ... I didn't feel that sense of urgency." Cheney alleges that Clarke was "out of the loop." But if he was, then the administration was either running a rogue operation or doing nothing, as Clarke testifies. Was the Bush administration engaged in an undercover, off-the-boards operation apart from the president's designated special assistant? Cheney's charge leads to absurdity.
Bush himself plaintively protests now: "And had my administration had any information that terrorists were going to attack New York City on 9/11, we would have acted." But he had plenty of information. Former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, the only member of the 9/11 commission to read the President's Daily Brief, revealed in the hearings that the documents "would set your hair on fire" and that the intelligence warnings of al-Qaida attacks "plateaued at a spike level for months" before 9/11. Bush, meanwhile, is fighting public release of these PDBs, which would show whether he had marked them up and demanded action.
"Richard Clarke Terrorizes the White House" -- interview with Richard Clarke by Joe Conason at salon.com, 3/25/04:
Clarke, an expert on surprise attacks, is not shocked by the ferocity of the White House response. During an interview with Salon on Tuesday, on the eve of his scheduled public testimony before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission), Clarke blasted Cheney as an "attack dog" and described the administration's attacks on his credibility as another example of the "big lie" strategy it has pursued since winning the White House. While he is critical of all four of the presidents he served, Clarke draws sharp contrasts between the records of the Clinton and Bush administrations. He compares Clinton's understanding of terrorism as the most significant threat to U.S. and international security and his efforts to combat it to the neglect and illusions of Bush.
You said on "60 Minutes" that you expected "their dogs" to be set on you when your book was published, but did you think that the attacks would be so personal?
Oh yeah, absolutely, for two reasons. For one, the Bush White House assumes that everyone who works for them is part of a personal loyalty network, rather than part of the government. And that their first loyalty is to Bush rather than to the people. When you cross that line or violate that trust, they get very upset. That's the first reason. But the second reason is that I think they're trying to bait me -- and people who agree with me -- into talking about all the trivial little things that they are raising, rather than talking about the big issues in the book.
Why did you write the book now? That's a question they raise. Did it occur to you that this would be an election year and it would be especially controversial because of that, and that these commission hearings were coming up?
I wanted the book to come out much earlier, but the White House has a policy of reviewing the text of all books written by former White House personnel -- to review them for security reasons. And they actually took a very long time to do that. This book could have come out much earlier. It's the White House that decided when it would be published, not me. I turned it in toward the end of last year, and even though there was nothing in it that was not already obviously unclassified, they took a very, very long time.
Were you seeking to make a political impact, in the way that the White House spokesmen have accused you of trying to do?
I was seeking to create a debate about how we should have, in the past, and how we should, in the future, deal with the war on terrorism. When they say it's an election year, and therefore you're creating not just a debate but a political debate, what are they suggesting? That I should have waited until November to publish it, waited until after the election? I don't see why we have to delay that debate, just because there's an election.
Vice President Cheney told Rush Limbaugh that you were not "in the loop," and that you're angry because you were passed over by Condi Rice for greater authority. And in fact you were dropped from Cabinet-level position to something less than that. How do you respond to what the Vice President said?
The vice president is becoming an attack dog, on a personal level, which should be beneath him but evidently is not.
I was in the same meetings that Dick Cheney was in, during the days after 9/11. Condi Rice and Dick Cheney appointed me as co-chairman of the interagency committee called the "Campaign Committee" -- the "campaign" being the war on terrorism. So I was co-chairing the interagency process to fight the war on terrorism after 9/11. I don't think I was "out of the loop."
The vice president commented that there was "no great success in dealing with terrorists" during the 1990s, when you were serving under President Clinton. He asked, "What were they doing?"
It's possible that the vice president has spent so little time studying the terrorist phenomenon that he doesn't know about the successes in the 1990s. There were many. The Clinton administration stopped Iraqi terrorism against the United States, through military intervention. It stopped Iranian terrorism against the United States, through covert action. It stopped the al-Qaida attempt to have a dominant influence in Bosnia. It stopped the terrorist attacks at the millennium. It stopped many other terrorist attacks, including on the U.S. embassy in Albania. And it began a lethal covert action program against al-Qaida; it also launched military strikes against al-Qaida. Maybe the vice president was so busy running Halliburton at the time that he didn't notice.
Did Cheney ever ask you a question of that kind when you were in the White House with him?
Why did they keep you on, if they were so uninterested in what you were focused on? And then why did they downgrade your position?
They said, in so many words, at the time, that they didn't have anyone in their Republican coterie of people that came in with Bush, who had an expertise in this [counterterrorism] area [and] who wanted the job. And they actually said they found the job a little strange -- since it wasn't there when they had been in power before.
Dr. Rice said that.
Yes, Dr. Rice said that. And the first thing they asked was for me to look at taking some of the responsibilities, with regard to domestic security and cyber-security, and spinning them off so that they were no longer part of the National Security Council.
Why do you think Cheney -- and the Bush administration in general -- ignored the warnings that were put to them by [former national security advisor] Sandy Berger, by you, by George Tenet, who is apparently somebody they hold in great esteem?
They had a preconceived set of national security priorities: Star Wars, Iraq, Russia. And they were not going to change those preconceived notions based on people from the Clinton administration telling them that was the wrong set of priorities. They also looked at the statistics and saw that during eight years of the Clinton administration, al-Qaida killed fewer than 50 Americans. And that's relatively few, compared to the 300 dead during the Reagan administration at the hands of terrorists in Beirut -- and by the way, there was no military retaliation for that from Reagan. It was relatively few compared to the 259 dead on Pan Am 103 in the first Bush administration, and there was no military retaliation for that. So looking at the low number of American fatalities at the hands of al-Qaida, they might have thought that it wasn't a big threat.
Dr. Rice now says that your plans to "roll back" al-Qaida were not aggressive enough for the Bush administration. How do you answer that, in light of what we know about what they did and didn't do?
I just think it's funny that they can engage in this sort of "big lie" approach to things. The plan that they adopted after Sept. 11 was the plan that I had proposed in January [2001}. If my plan wasn't aggressive enough, I suppose theirs wasn't either. . . .
Did you have access to the president's daily briefings?
On a daily basis, no; I did see some of them. There was never any system in place that worked to get them to me every day.
Did you see the PDB for Aug. 6, 2001 [which reportedly contained references to an impending attack by al-Qaida]?
I really can't recall it. I think its importance has been overblown. What happens in the presidential daily briefing is that the president asks questions of the briefer, which is usually Tenet on Monday through Friday. And the briefer then takes notes of the questions and goes back to CIA to get papers written to respond to the questions.
In response to the drumbeat day after day of intelligence that there was going to be an al-Qaida attack, the president apparently said, "Tell me what al-Qaida could do." And in response to that the CIA went off and wrote a paper that listed everything possible that al-Qaida could do. It didn't say we have intelligence that tells us the attack will be here or there, the attack method will be this or that. It was rather a laundry list of possible things they could do.
"Condoleeza Rice's Bad Week" -- Martin Sieff at salon.com, 3/25/04:
The furor over Clarke's explosive new book, "Against All Enemies," about Bush administration incompetence and irresponsibility before and after 9/11, has so embarrassed and alarmed Rice that Monday she took the almost unprecedented step of responding to criticism publicly with a signed article on the Op-Ed page of the Post.
The article is a masterly example of evasion, answering accusations that have not been made and neatly avoiding troubling ones that have. Rice was briefly allowed to enjoy the perception that she had answered criticisms, even though she had not. But within two days, a claim she made in the Op-Ed was disputed head on.
For on Wednesday, commissioner Jamie Gorelick, the former deputy attorney general, asked Clarke, "When Dr. Rice writes in the Washington Post, 'No al-Qaida plan was turned over to the new administration [by the Clinton team when it left office],' is that true?"
Clarke again replied with a devastating single-word answer. This time it was: "No."
And he had the chapter and verse to prove it.
"I think what is true is what your staff found by going through the documents ... Early in the administration, within days of the Bush administration coming into office, we gave them two documents ... In fact, I briefed Dr. Rice on this even before they came into office," he told the commission.
In her article, Rice further claimed that through the summer of 2001 "increasing intelligence chatter" focused almost exclusively on potential attacks overseas. But this presumably was only true of National Security Agency intercepts. She acknowledges that U.S. officials realized that the potential for some kind of imminent airline hijacking operation was very real. She admits in the same article that the Federal Aviation Authority "even issued a warning to airlines and aviation personnel that 'the potential for a terrorist operation such as an airline hijacking to free terrorists incarcerated in the United States remains a concern.'"
"Is Bush Unhinged?" -- Robert Higgs for The Independent Institute (independent.org), 3/25/04:
?The war on terror,? he insists, ?is not a figure of speech.? Well, I beg your pardon, Mr. President, but that is precisely what it is. How can one go to war against ?terror,? which is a state of mind? Even if the president were to take more care with his language and to speak instead of a ?war on terrorism,? the phrase still could not be anything more than a metaphor, because terrorism is a form of action available to virtually any determined adult anywhere anytime. War on terrorism, too, can be only a figure of speech. War, if it is anything, is the marshalling of armed forces against somebody, not against a state of mind or a form of action. Wars are fought between groups of persons. We might argue about whether the United States can wage war only against another nation state, as opposed to an indefinitely large number of individuals committed to fanatical Islamism who in various workaday guises are living in scores of different countries. The expression ?war on certain criminals and conspirators of criminal acts? would fit the present case better and would entail far more sensible thinking about the proper way to deal with such persons. The idea of war, obviously, calls to mind too readily the serviceability of the armed forces. Hence the application of such forces to the conquest of Iraq in the name of ?bringing the terrorists to justice,? although that conquest was actually nothing but a hugely destructive, immensely expensive diversion from genuine efforts to allay the threat posed by the Islamist maniacs who compose al Qaeda and similar groups. ?These killers will be tracked down and found, they will face their day of justice,? the president declares, speaking as always as if only a fixed number of such killers exist, rather than a vast reservoir of actual and potential recruits that is only augmented and revitalized by actions such as the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It would be a boon to humanity if the president could be brought to understand the distinction between waging war and establishing justice. Whatever our understanding of the president?s ?war on terror? might be, however, he definitely parts company with reality when he states, ?There is no neutral ground?no neutral ground?in the fight between civilization and terror, because there is no neutral ground between good and evil, freedom and slavery, and life and death.? Of course, this Manichean pronouncement echoes the administration?s previous declaration that everybody on earth is either with us or against us?and if they know what?s good for them, they?ll fall into line with our wishes. Aside from the undeniable fact that some nations simply prefer, as did the Spanish people (as opposed to the Aznar government), to avoid the blowback of U.S. interventions around the world, the president?s insistence on equating U.S. policy with good, freedom, and life and all alternative policies with evil, slavery, and death represents the sort of childish bifurcation one expects to find expressed by a member of a youth gang, not by the leader of the world?s most powerful government. To raise but a single example, though a highly relevant one in this context, can any dispassionate person argue that the U.S. position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is entirely good, whereas every alternative position is entirely evil?
"Who Is to Blame for Lost Jobs?" -- Lee Sustar at counterpunch.com, 3/25/04:
International solidarity is the only way workers can avoid being pitted against one another in trade wars between governments. The international labor opposition to the World Trade Organization and the Free Trade Area of the Americas show the potential for such a strategy.
If union leaders are serious about defending jobs, they have to break with the tradition of partnership with employers. For example, steelworkers could demand that the government to purchase steel for the reconstruction of run-down public schools and inner cities--or the nationalization of the steel industry.
Unions not only need to take a stand against concessions but demand that workers' higher productivity be used to support shorter hours for full pay in order to increase the number of jobs. The bosses can certainly afford it--profits as a share of national income are at an all-time high.
Rising health care costs--cited by employers as a reason to hold down hiring--can be brought under control with a national health care insurance system. Workers in factories slated for closure could take inspiration from the sit-down strikes that built the unions in the 1930s, and occupy their plants to fight for their demands. Organized labor can demand a real jobs program of public works--not the Clinton "workfare" that forces welfare recipients to take jobs for sub-minimum wages, but long-term employment.
All this will be dismissed as "unrealistic" by union officials--as if pinning labor's hopes on a free-trader like Kerry is rational. It should be recalled that it was "unrealistic" to build unions during the mass unemployment of the 1930s as well. The fight for jobs will remain an issue beyond the 2004 elections. It's time to develop a realistic strategy--one that centers on fighting back.
"Elvis and bin Laden" -- John Quiggen at crookedtimber.org, 3/25/04:
The most widely reported opinion poll in Australia is the Newspoll, which provides results for Rupert Murdoch's News Limited papers (he has about half the Australian market). There was widespread discussion recently about a Newspoll showing that 65 per cent of people thought the war in Iraq had increased the danger of a terrorist attack in Australia.
However, the really striking result was ignored. This concerned the proportion of people who accepted the claim, made repeatedly by the government here, that the invasion of Iraq substantially reduced the danger of terrorist attack. Only 1 per cent of respondents said that the invasion had made a terrorist attack "less likely". The view that the war made an attack "a lot less likely" got an asterisk (less than 0.5 per cent). You can read the details here (PDF file).
This is substantially less than the proportion of people who are reported (in other surveys) to believe that Elvis is alive or that aliens are controlling government policy. In fact, by coincidence, another story a couple of days later reported an opinion poll for a mayoral election in which an Elvis "tribute artist" has 8 per cent support.
I don't think I've ever seen an opinion poll in which the position of the government on a central issue of foreign policy is supported by a fraction of the population too small to be reported.
"Leaders of G.O.P. Try to Discredit a Critic of Bush" -- Carl Hulse and Philip Shenon in The New York Times, 3/26/04:
WASHINGTON, March 26 -- Republican Congressional leaders said Friday that they would seek to declassify past Congressional testimony from Richard A. Clarke, President Bush's former counterterrorism chief, in an effort to demonstrate that the former aide had lied this week about Mr. Bush's record.
The move on Capitol Hill signaled a new intensity in the campaign by the Bush administration and its Republican allies to undermine the credibility of Mr. Clarke, who served under several administrations.
"Mr. Clarke has told two entirely different stories," Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, said on the Senate floor as he condemned Mr. Clarke for accusing the Bush administration in a new book of largely ignoring the threat of Qaeda attacks before Sept. 11. Mr. Clarke repeated his charge in testimony this week before the independent commission investigating the attacks.
Yet in testimony before the 2002 joint Congressional inquiry into the attacks, Dr. Frist said, Mr. Clarke had been "effusive" in praising the administration's actions. Democrats on that earlier panel said they saw no inconsistency between Mr. Clarke's two sets of remarks.
Mr. Clarke, the former National Security Council aide, received support on Friday from an unlikely source ? Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. In a television interview, Mr. Powell said that Mr. Clarke had "served his nation very, very well" and was "an expert in these matters," referring to counterterrorism.
While saying that Mr. Clarke's book is "not the complete story," Mr. Powell said on the PBS program "NewsHour" he was "not attributing any bad motives" to Mr. Clarke.
"I'm not aware of a campaign against Mr. Clarke, and I am not a member," Mr. Powell said. "The book is the book, and you can read it and make your own judgment as to whether it's accurate."
Dr. Frist and other Republican Congressional leaders said their decision to seek declassification had not been coordinated with the White House. And it could put the White House in a potentially awkward spot since it is the administration that decides on declassification.
Officials said that the decision on whether and when to declassify the testimony would be made at the White House after consultations with the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon about the national security implications. A White House spokesman, Sean McCormack, said that "to my knowledge there was no coordination between Congressional Republicans and the White House on the request for the declassification of the documents."
A move to declassify the testimony would sharply contrast with the administration's insistence that parts of the final report of the Congressional Sept. 11 investigation remain secret. Hundreds of pages of that report have never been made public. . . .
Dr. Frist did not act alone. Representative J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, the House speaker who had warned that the commission's work could become a "political football" in the middle of the presidential campaign, said on Friday he had joined the request to declassify Mr. Clarke's earlier testimony.
"We need to lean forward in making as much information available to the public as possible, without compromising the national security interests of the nation," Mr. Hastert said in a statement.
Congressional Democrats who were involved in the joint committee's investigation said their recollection of Mr. Clarke's testimony was entirely different, and that they knew of no contradiction between what Mr. Clarke said then and what he was saying now.
Senator Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who was a co-chairman of the inquiry, said Friday that "to the best of my recollection, there is nothing inconsistent or contradictory in that testimony and what Mr. Clarke has said this week."
A senior Democratic Congressional aide said Democratic staff members from both the Senate and House intelligence committees reread Mr. Clarke's 2002 testimony on Friday and that they believed he had been "fully consistent" in his views.
Mr. Graham said he supported the request to declassify Mr. Clarke's testimony. But he said it should be released in its entirety and that the White House should declassify other documents integral to Mr. Clarke's testimony, including his January 2001 plan for action against Al Qaeda. Mr. Graham has also sought to release 27 pages of the report examining the involvement of foreign nations in support of the 19 hijackers.
"Text: Frist's Comments on Clarke's Testimony" -- New York Times, 3/26/04:
Following is prepared text of statements by Senator Bill Frist in response to allegations by Richard A. Clarke, the former counterterrorism chief who has accused the Bush administration of not heeding warnings before Sept. 11.
There has been much fulminating in the media and by some Senators on the other side about a new book by a former State Department civil servant named Richard Clarke. In this book, released for sale by the parent company of the CBS network, Mr. Clarke makes the outrageous charge that the Bush Administration, in its first seven months in office, failed to adequately address the threat posed by Osama bin Laden.
I am troubled by these charges. I am equally troubled that someone would sell a book, trading on their former service as a government insider with access to our nation s most valuable intelligence, in order to profit from the suffering that this nation endured on September 11, 2001. I am troubled that Senators on the other side are so quick to accept such claims. I am troubled that Mr. Clarke has a hard time keeping his own story straight.
I do not know Mr. Clarke, although I take it from press accounts that he has been involved in the fight against terrorism for the past decade. As 9-11 demonstrates, that decade was a period of growing peril, and unanswered attack, against the United States.
It is awesomely self-serving for Mr. Clarke to assert that the United States could have stopped terrorism if only the three President's he served had better listened to his advice.
In fact, when Mr. Clarke was reportedly at the height of his influence as terrorism czar in the Clinton Administration, the United States saw the first attack on the World Trade Center, the attack on a U.S. Air Force barracks in Saudi Arabia, the attack on two U.S. embassies in Africa, the attack on the USS Cole, and the planning and implementation for the 9-11 attack. The only common denominator throughout these 10 years of unanswered attacks was Mr. Clarke himself, a consideration that is clearly driving his effort to point fingers and shift blame.
While the reasons may be open to debate, the previous Administration's response to repeated attacks by al Qaeda was clearly inadequate -- a few cruise missiles lobbed at questionable targets. Al Qaeda could only have been encouraged by their record of success and the absence of a serious or sustained response from the United States.
After 10 years of policies that failed to decisively confront and eliminate the threat from al Qaeda, Mr. Clarke now suggests that in its first seven months in office the Bush Administration is to blame. That sounds like finger pointing and blame shifting to me.
But this has not always been Mr. Clarke's view of the events leading up to September 11. This week a transcript was released of a press interview Mr. Clarke gave in August of 2002. I will submit for the record the full transcript, but let me just cite a portion of this interview reviewing in glowing terms the policies of the Bush Administration in fighting terrorism:
RICHARD CLARKE: Actually, I've got about seven points, let me just go through them quickly. Um, the first point, I think the overall point is, there was no plan on Al Qaeda that was passed from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration.
Second point is that the Clinton administration had a strategy in place, effectively dating from 1998. And there were a number of issues on the table since 1998. And they remained on the table when that administration went out of office issues like aiding the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, changing our Pakistan policy -- uh, changing our policy toward Uzbekistan. And in January 2001, the incoming Bush administration was briefed on the existing strategy. They were also briefed on these series of issues that had not been decided on in a couple of years.
And the third point is the Bush administration decided then, you know, mid-January, to do two things. One, vigorously pursue the existing policy, including all of the lethal covert action findings, which we've now made public to some extent.
And the point is, while this big review was going on, there were still in effect, the lethal findings were still in effect. The second thing the administration decided to do is to initiate a process to look at those issues which had been on the table for a couple of years and get them decided.
So, point five, that process which was initiated in the first week in February, uh, decided in principle, uh in the spring to add to the existing Clinton strategy and to increase CIA resources, for example, for covert action, five-fold, to go after Al Qaeda.
The sixth point, the newly-appointed deputies and you had to remember, the deputies didn't get into office until late March, early April. The deputies then tasked the development of the implementation details, uh, of these new decisions that they were endorsing, and sending out to the principals.
Over the course of the summer last point they developed implementation details, the principals met at the end of the summer, approved them in their first meeting, changed the strategy by authorizing the increase in funding five-fold, changing the policy on Pakistan, changing the policy on Uzbekistan, changing the policy on the Northern Alliance assistance.
And then changed the strategy from one of rollback with Al Qaeda over the course [of] five years, which it had been, to a new strategy that called for the rapid elimination of al Qaeda. That is in fact the time line&
QUESTION: You're saying that the Bush administration did not stop anything that the Clinton administration was doing while it was making these decisions, and by the end of the summer had increased money for covert action five-fold. Is that correct?
CLARKE: All of that's correct.
Mr. President, apparently this is not the only account in which Mr. Clarke changes his story. In lengthy testimony before the Congressional joint inquiry that reviewed the events surrounding the September 11 attacks, Mr. Clarke is equally effusive in his praise for the actions of the Bush Administration. It is my hope that we will be able to get that testimony declassified so all Senators may review it and discuss it as well.
Mr. President, I do not know if Mr. Clarke's motive for theses charges is partisan gain, personal profit, self promotion, or animus because of his failure to win a promotion in the Bush Administration. But the one thing that his motive could not possibly be is to bring clarity to the issue of how we avoid future September 11 attacks.
Mr. President, in sum, there are five points that I find absolutely inexplicable about Mr. Clarke's performance this past week.
First, in an email to the National Security Advisor four days after the September 11 attacks, Mr. Clarke expressed alarm that when the era of national unity begins to crack , an effort to assign responsibility for the 9-11 attacks will begin. In that email Mr. Clarke proceeds to lay out in detail a defense of his own actions before the attack, and those of the entire Administration.
Mr. Clarke was clearly consumed by the desire to dodge any blame for the 9-11 attacks while at that same moment rescuers were still searching the rubble of the World Trade Center for survivors. In my mind this offers perfect insight as to what drove him to write his book.
Second, in the August of 2002 interview I just referred to, Mr. Clarke gave a thorough account of the Bush Administration s active policy against al Qaeda. Mr. Clarke now explains away that media performance by suggesting that he was simply telling lies in an interview as a loyal Administration official.
A loyal Administration official? Does Mr. Clarke understand the gravity of the issues being reviewed by the 9-11 Commission and the gravity of the charges he has made? If, in the summer of 2001, he saw the threat from al Qaeda as grave as he now says it was, and if he found the response of the Administration as inadequate as he now says it was, why did he wait until the Sunday, March 21, 2004 to make his concerns known?
There is not a single public record of Mr. Clarke making any objection whatsoever in the period leading up to or following the 9-11 attacks. No threat to resign. No public protest. No plea to the President, the Congress, or the public, to heed the advice he now says was ignored. Mr. President, if Mr. Clarke held his tongue because he was loyal , then shame on him for putting politics above principle. But if he has manufactured these charges for profit and political gain, he is a shame to this government.
I myself have fortunately not had the opportunity to work with such an individual who could write solicitous and self-defending emails to his supervisor, the National Security Advisor, and then by his own admission lie to the press out of a self conceived notion of loyalty only to reverse himself on all accounts for the sale of a book.
Third, Mr. Clarke has told two entirely different stories under oath. In July 2002, in front of the Congressional Joint Inquiry on the September 11 attacks, Mr. Clarke testified under oath that the Administration actively sought to address the threat posed by al Qaeda during its first seven months in office.
Mr. President, it is one thing for Mr. Clarke to dissemble in front of the media. But if he lied under oath to the United States Congress it is a far more serious matter. As I mentioned, the intelligence committee is seeking to have Mr. Clarke's previous testimony declassified so as to permit an examination of Mr. Clarke's two different accounts. Loyalty to any Administration will be no defense if it is found that he has lied before Congress.
Fourth, notwithstanding Mr. Clarke's efforts to use his book first and foremost to shift blame and attention from himself, it is also clear that Mr. Clarke and his publishers adjusted the release date of his book in order to make maximum gain from the publicity around the 9-11 hearings. Assuming the controversy around this series of events does in fact drive the sales of his book, Mr. Clarke will make quite a bit of money for his efforts.
I find this to be an appalling act of profiteering, trading on his insider access to highly classified information and capitalizing upon the tragedy that befell this nation on September 11, 2001. Mr. Clarke must renounce any plan to personally profit from this book.
Finally, It is understandable why some of the families who lost loved ones in the 9-11 attacks find Mr. Clarke's performance appealing. Simple answers to a terrible tragedy; to the very human desire to find an answer why; why on that beautiful fall day two and one half years ago a series of events happened that shattered their lives forever.
In his appearance before the 9-11 Commission, Mr. Clarke's theatrical apology on behalf of the nation was not his right, his privilege or his responsibility. In my view it was not an act of humility, but an act of supreme arrogance and manipulation. Mr Clarke can and will answer for his own conduct but that is all.
Regardless of Mr. Clarke's motive or what he says or implies in his new book, the fact remains that this terrible attack was not caused by the United States Government. No Administration was responsible for the attack. Our nation did not invite the attack.
The attack on 9-11 was the evil design of a determined and hate-filled few who slipped through the defenses of a nation that treasures its freedoms; its openness; its convenience. That our defenses failed is cause enough to review the sequence of events leading up to that awful day. We must understand how to do better -- balancing our determination to protect the Nation with equal resolve to protect our liberties.
Mr. President, the answer to Mr. Clarke's self serving charges is that in fact we all bear that responsibility. Every one of us who served in government efore and at the time of the 9-11 attacks also has the responsibility to do our best to avoid any such tragedy in the future. If we are to learn lasting lessons from the examination of the 9-11 attacks, it must be toward this end, not an exercise in finger pointing, blame shifting or political score settling.
"White House, 4/01: Focus on Bin Laden 'A Mistake'" -- misleader.org, 3/26/04:
A previously forgotten report from April 2001 (four months before 9/11) shows that the Bush Administration officially declared it "a mistake" to focus "so much energy on Osama bin Laden." The report directly contradicts the White House's continued assertion that fighting terrorism was its "top priority" before the 9/11 attacks1.
Specifically, on April 30, 2001, CNN reported that the Bush Administration's release of the government's annual terrorism report contained a serious change: "there was no extensive mention of alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden" as there had been in previous years. When asked why the Administration had reduced the focus, "a senior Bush State Department official told CNN the U.S. government made a mistake in focusing so much energy on bin Laden."2.
The move to downgrade the fight against Al Qaeda before 9/11 was not the only instance where the Administration ignored repeated warnings that an Al Qaeda attack was imminent3. Specifically, the Associated Press reported in 2002 that "President Bush's national security leadership met formally nearly 100 times in the months prior to the Sept. 11 attacks yet terrorism was the topic during only two of those sessions"4. Meanwhile, Newsweek has reported that internal government documents show that the Bush Administration moved to "de-emphasize" counterterrorism prior to 9/115. When "FBI officials sought to add hundreds more counterintelligence agents" to deal with the problem, "they got shot down" by the White House.
- Press Briefing by Scott McClellan, 03/22/2004.
- CNN, 04/30/2001.
- Bush Was Warned of Hijackings Before 9/11; Lawmakers Want Public Inquiry, ABC News, 05/16/2002.
- "Top security advisers met just twice on terrorism before Sept. 11 attacks", Detroit News, 07/01/2002.
- Freedom of Information Center, 05/27/2002.
"'We Should Have Had Orange or Red-Type of Alert in June or July of 2001'" -- Eric Boehlert at slate.com, 3/26/04:
A former FBI wiretap translator with top-secret security clearance, who has been called "very credible" by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has told Salon she recently testified to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States that the FBI had detailed information prior to Sept. 11, 2001, that a terrorist attack involving airplanes was being plotted.
Referring to the Homeland Security Department's color-coded warnings instituted in the wake of 9/11, the former translator, Sibel Edmonds, told Salon, "We should have had orange or red-type of alert in June or July of 2001. There was that much information available." Edmonds is offended by the Bush White House claim that it lacked foreknowledge of the kind of attacks made by al-Qaida on 9/11. "Especially after reading National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice [Washington Post Op-Ed on March 22] where she said, we had no specific information whatsoever of domestic threat or that they might use airplanes. That's an outrageous lie. And documents can prove it's a lie." . . .
"President Bush said they had no specific information about Sept. 11, and that's accurate," says Edmonds. "But there was specific information about use of airplanes, that an attack was on the way two or three months beforehand and that several people were already in the country by May of 2001. They should've alerted the people to the threat we're facing."
Edmonds testified before 9/11 commission staffers in February for more than three hours, providing detailed information about FBI investigations, documents and dates. This week Edmonds attended the commission hearings and plans to return in April when FBI Director Robert Mueller is scheduled to testify. "I'm hoping the commission asks him real questions -- like, in April 2001, did an FBI field office receive legitimate information indicating the use of airplanes for an attack on major cities? And is it true that through an FBI informant, who'd been used [by the Bureau] for 10 years, did you get information about specific terrorist plans and specific cells in this country? He couldn't say no," she insists.
"John Kerry, International Man of Mystery?" -- Thomas Geoghegan at salon.com, 3/26/04:
[T]he problem is to reconstitute our alliance, which is in shambles, thanks to Bush. Yes, it's true, I'm a Democrat and inclined to think badly of him. But even I have difficulty grasping the scale of the damage to what used to be our alliance, to what should be our effort on terror.
First, he's metastasized al-Qaida. Thanks to Bush, it's now potentially everywhere. After 9/11, it would have been a great thing to track down bin Laden. Bring him to trial.
Decapitate al-Qaida. To most of us, including me, it still would be a great thing. But there's no longer much hope it can end al-Qaida. Cutting off that head now won't kill the body.
Why? Look at the polls. A recent Pew poll, surveying foreign opinion, comes as a shock. Suicide bombings in the U.S.? In Turkey, a NATO ally, 31 percent sympathize with the suicide bombers. With poll numbers like this, al-Qaida will live forever. A few years ago, we could have wiped it out.
Second, Bush has run a foreign policy that he thought would let us divide and conquer. Not our enemies: No, divide and conquer our own allies! We'd play off the Europeans. We'd have our favorites. We'd show them who's boss.
The result? Now al-Qaida can divide and conquer us. "Let's see, we'll target Spain." Is Britain next? Now al-Qaida can take advantage of the disunity Bush has sown. The terrorists are doing more regime changes than we are. And who let this happen? Bush.
Somehow a President Kerry has to stop this and restore the alliance. Here's how.
Since the Madrid bombing March 11, the Europeans have started to do what they have failed to do since the Treaty of Rome: seriously attempt to build up an EU security component. There is talk now of an EU "security council," even an EU CIA. Indeed, it now seems certain, with Spain's Prime Minister Aznar gone, there will be an EU constitution, based on some type of one person, one vote. (Spain and Poland had objected.)
Much better than an EU security council would be an EU prosecutor, and an EU court, to try terror cases. That, too, may come.
Even if it doesn't come, Kerry should make clear, in a dramatic, visible way, that he favors an EU-wide approach and dealing directly with the EU as much as possible. NATO is fine, of course, and we have to retain it. But if the EU acts, then every European country has cover.
It is not "Spain," or "Italy," or "Britain," Bush's poster children in the "coalition of the willing." Rather, it is the EU as a whole, the entire 340 million of them. Under Bush, we did not use NATO, even after it was offered for the war in Afghanistan, but a "coalition of the willing."
Indeed, we bragged about it: We don't need alliances anymore.
"Trust Clarke: He's Right about Bush" -- Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay in The Toronto Globe and Mail, 3/26/04:
Mr. Clarke was our boss when we served on the Clinton administration's National Security Council staff. We know him as a committed public servant, dedicated -- almost to the point of obsession -- to confronting terrorism. We don't doubt his rendition of events. They come from a man who has warned of impending doom --and argued for forceful preventive action -- for many years.
Our testimonial, of course, will not convince Bush partisans, let alone administration officials. They portray Mr. Clarke as an out-of-the loop bureaucrat with an axe to grind, a book to peddle and a close friendship with Rand Beers, Senator John Kerry's chief foreign-policy adviser.
That sour-grapes argument leaves unmentioned the fact that on Sept. 11, Ms. Rice asked Mr. Clarke to direct emergency-response efforts from the White House. It also glosses over the fact that Mr. Clarke was an ally of Vice-President Dick Cheney and deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz during the 1991 Persian Gulf war, and favoured their call to march on Baghdad. Also left unmentioned is that Mr. Beers is himself a veteran of many administrations, and resigned his post as the senior counterterrorism official on the NSC staff in 2003 to protest what he saw as Mr. Bush's mishandling of the terrorist threat.
The vehemence with which administration officials have attacked Mr. Clarke's motives brings to mind the old lawyer's joke: When the facts are with you, pound the facts. When the facts are against you, pound the table.
Why are administration officials pounding the table so hard? Because confirmation of Mr. Clarke's basic accusations comes from none other than George W. Bush himself.
Take the charge that the Mr. Bush did not make fighting al-Qaeda a priority before Sept. 11. In late 2001, Mr. Bush told the journalist Bob Woodward that "there was a significant difference in my attitude after Sept. 11. I was not on point." Mr. Bush knew Osama bin Laden was a menace. "But I didn't feel the sense of urgency, and my blood was not nearly as boiling."
Or take Mr. Clarke's charge that Mr. Bush immediately sought to link the attacks in New York and Washington to Iraq. According to the notes of national-security meetings that the White House gave Mr. Woodward so he could write his book, Bush at War, the President ended an early debate over how to respond to Sept. 11 by saying, "I believe Iraq was involved, but I'm not going to strike them now." At a later meeting, he linked Saddam Hussein to the attacks: "He was probably behind this in the end."
Those admissions highlight a broader, more troubling point that Mr. Clarke's accusations raise, which is that Mr. Bush does not understand the threat we confront. For Mr. Bush and his advisers it is not al-Qaeda that is the real danger so much as the states that supposedly support it. Thus, a Defence Department spokesman, responding to Mr. Clarke's claim that Mr. Wolfowitz did not take the al-Qaeda terrorist threat seriously, said Mr. Wolfowitz did see al-Qaeda "as a major threat to U.S. security, the more so because of the state support it received from the Taliban and because of its possible links to Iraq."
The assumption driving Mr. Bush's war on terrorism is that the United States can win by targeting rogue states and the tyrants who rule them. The war in Afghanistan was about ousting the Taliban and denying al-Qaeda a sanctuary; the Iraq war was about ousting Saddam.
That view of the terrorist threat is deeply flawed, quite apart from the dubious claims about ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq. Al-Qaeda is a transnational network of terrorists, less like a state than like a non-governmental organization or multinational corporation with multiple independent franchises. It thrives on an Islamist ideology, and extends its presence to the far reaches of the globe -- not just in rogue and failed states, but within the West as well. Its terrorists can strike -- whether in Bali, Casablanca, Riyadh, Istanbul, Madrid or New York and Washington -- without the direct support of states. That is what makes it so frightening.
Mr. Clarke's charges have stung the Bush administration not just because of the stature of the accuser, but because at their core, they say that more than two years after the worst terrorist attack in history, the President and his advisers still don't get what happened.
"Condoleeza Rice's Credibility Gap" -- Center for American Progress, 3/26/04:
"A point-by-point analysis of how one of America's top national security official has a severe problem with the truth."
"Promises, Promises" -- Paul Krugman in The New York Times, 3/9/04:
Despite a string of dismal employment reports, the administration insists that its economic program, which has relied entirely on tax cuts focused on the affluent, will produce big job gains any day now. Should we believe these promises?
Each February, the Economic Report of the President forecasts nonfarm payroll employment ? generally considered the best measure of job growth ? for the next several years. The black line in the chart above (inspired by a joint report from the Economic Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities) shows the actual performance of employment, both before and after its peak in March 2001. The gray lines show the forecasts in the 2002, 2003 and 2004 reports. Notice that the February 2004 forecast, which, as in previous years, is based on data only through the preceding October, is already 900,000 jobs too high.
Economic forecasting isn't an exact science, but wishful thinking on this scale is unprecedented. Nor can the administration use its all-purpose excuse: all of these forecasts date from after 9/11. What you see in this chart is the signature of a corrupted policy process, in which political propaganda takes the place of professional analysis.
Numbers crunched by Keith Poole: Senators, 108th Congress, ordered by an "optimal classification" of their voting behavior relative to all members. John Kerry votes in the middle of the Democrats. Zell Miller aside, the two parties are perfectly polarized.
"Medicare Plan Cost Estimates Ordered Withheld" -- Tony Pugh in The Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/11/04:
WASHINGTON - The government's top expert on Medicare costs was warned that he would be fired if he told key lawmakers about a series of Bush administration cost estimates that could have torpedoed congressional passage of the White House-backed Medicare prescription-drug plan.
When the House of Representatives passed the controversial benefit by five votes last November, the White House was embracing an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office that it would cost $395 billion in the first 10 years. But for months the administration's own analysts in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had concluded repeatedly that the drug benefit could cost upward of $100 billion more than that.
Withholding the higher cost projections was important because the White House was facing a revolt from 13 conservative House Republicans who'd vowed to vote against the Medicare drug bill if it cost more than $400 billion. . . .
Five months before the November House vote, the government's chief Medicare actuary had estimated that a similar plan the Senate was considering would cost $551 billion over 10 years. Two months after Congress approved the new benefit, White House Budget Director Joshua Bolten disclosed that he expected it to cost $534 billion.
Richard S. Foster, the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which produced the $551 billion estimate, told colleagues last June that he would be fired if he revealed numbers relating to the higher estimate to lawmakers.
"This whole episode which has now gone on for three weeks has been pretty nightmarish," Foster wrote in an e-mail to some of his colleagues June 26, just before the first congressional vote on the drug bill. "I'm perhaps no longer in grave danger of being fired, but there remains a strong likelihood that I will have to resign in protest of the withholding of important technical information from key policy makers for political reasons."
Knight Ridder obtained a copy of the e-mail.
Foster didn't quit, but congressional staffers and lawmakers who worked on the bill said he no longer was permitted to answer important questions about the bill's cost.
Cybele Bjorklund, the Democratic staff director for the House Ways and Means health subcommittee, which worked on the drug benefit, said Thomas A. Scully - then the director of the Medicare office - told her he ordered Foster to withhold information and that Foster would be fired for insubordination if he disobeyed.
Health and Human Services Department officials turned down repeated requests to interview Foster. The Medicare office falls under the control of HHS.
In an interview with Knight Ridder, Scully, a former health-industry lobbyist deeply involved in the administration's campaign to pass the drug benefit, denied Bjorklund's assertion that he'd threatened to fire Foster. He said he curbed Foster on only one specific request, made by Democrats on the eve of the first House vote in June, because he felt they'd use the cost estimates to disrupt the debate.
"They were trying to be politically cute and get (Foster) to score (estimate the cost of the bill) and put something out publicly so they can walk out on the House floor and cause a political crisis, which is bogus," Scully said.
"I just said, `Look, (Foster) works for the executive branch; he's not going to do it, period,'" he said.
Otherwise, Scully said, Foster was available to lawmakers and their staffs.
" ... I don't think he ever felt - I don't think anybody (in the actuary's office) ever felt - that I restricted access. ... I think it's a very nice tradition that (the actuary) is perceived to be very nonpartisan and very accessible, and I continued that tradition."
Scully said Liz Fowler, the chief health lawyer for the Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, could confirm the actuary's independence. Fowler didn't.
"He's a liar," she said of Scully.
At a Ways and Means Committee hearing last month, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson all but repudiated Scully's tactics.
"I may have been derelict in allowing my administrator, Tom Scully, to have more control over it than I should have. ... And maybe he micromanaged the actuary and the actuary services too much. ... I can assure you that from now (on), the remaining days that I am secretary you will have as much access as you want to anybody or anything in the department. All you have to do is call me."
Democrats asked Thompson on Feb. 3 and March 3 for a complete record of Foster's estimates. They've yet to get it.
Said HHS spokesman Bill Pierce: "We respond to all inquiries in time and we will do the same" with these. . . .
For years before Scully's arrival in 2001, key lawmakers had direct access to Medicare actuaries.
In 1997, when Republicans were having trouble getting health-care cost information out of the Clinton administration, Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., who's now the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, added language to the Balanced Budget Act conference report to emphasize the importance of free access to Foster.
"The process of monitoring, updating and reforming the Medicare and Medicaid programs is greatly enhanced by the free flow of actuarial information from the Office of the Actuary to the committees of jurisdiction in the Congress," the report says.
"When information is delayed or circumscribed by the operation of an internal Administration clearance process or the inadequacy of actuarial resources, the Committees' ability to make informed decisions based on the best available information is compromised."
"Bush's Partial History" -- Bill Morlin and Karen Dorn Steele in the Spokane Spokesman-Review, 3/14/04:
Military rules used in 1974 to ground two Washington Air National Guard airmen with access to nuclear weapons also applied to a Texas Air National Guard unit where Lt. George W. Bush was a fighter pilot.
Some military researchers and a former Texas Guard lieutenant colonel believe the stringent regulations -- known as the Human Reliability Program -- may have been invoked to stop Bush from flying Texas Air National Guard jets in 1972.
Bush's military service more than 30 years ago during the Vietnam War has been an issue since his first campaign for president. More recently, some researchers and national media outlets have been investigating the period from May 1, 1972, to April 1, 1973, when Bush left his unit in Texas and moved to Alabama.
Bush's military records from that period are spotty, and have led some to suggest he was avoiding his Guard obligations.
The Boston Globe, on the forefront of the issue, reported Feb. 12 that Bush's acknowledged 1972 suspension from flight status for failing to take a required physical should have generated an investigation and subsequent trail of documents, which have not been found.
To address critics, the White House released Bush's military records in mid-February, asserting he left his Texas Air National Guard squadron two years before the end of his enlistment because he was no longer needed to fly jets.
But if the human reliability rules were invoked, as they were in thousands of other cases, Bush may not have voluntarily stopped flying.
There is no mention of the Human Reliability Program in the documents released by the White House.
The White House documents do show that Bush's military job description, called an Air Force Specialty Code, or AFSC, was listed as "1125D, pilot, fighter interceptor."
Bush's pilot code was among those covered by Air Force Regulation 35-99, a previously undisclosed document recently obtained by The Spokesman-Review. Regulation 35-99 contains an extensive explanation of the Human Reliability Program.
Human reliability regulations were used to screen military personnel for their mental, physical and emotional fitness before granting them access to nuclear weapons and delivery systems.
Under the rules, pilots could be removed immediately from the cockpit for HRP issues, which happened in the 1974 Washington Air National Guard case. The two Washington airmen were suspended on suspicion of drug use, but eventually received honorable discharges.
A second previously unreleased document obtained by the newspaper, a declassified Air Force Inspector General's report on the Washington case, states that human reliability rules applied to all Air National Guard units in the 1970s. From 1968 to 1973, Bush was assigned to the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston.
"The Human Reliability Program, in a nutshell, applied to every U.S. Air Force and Air Guard pilot in any aircraft they would fly," said Marty Isham, a former Air Force briefing officer.
Now a military historian and researcher, Isham is writing a book about the Air Defense Command, which controlled Air Guard units nationwide, including the Washington and Texas squadrons.
Isham said there is a "good likelihood" HRP regulations were either applied or about to be applied against Bush and that is why he stopped flying on April 16, 1972.
White House spokesman Ken Lisaius said last week he couldn't answer any questions about HRP. . . .At the National Guard Bureau, now headed by a Bush appointee from Texas, officials last week said they were under orders not to answer questions.
The bureau's chief historian said he couldn't discuss questions about Bush's military service on orders from the Pentagon.
"If it has to do with George W. Bush, the Texas Air National Guard or the Vietnam War, I can't talk with you," said Charles Gross, chief historian for the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C.
Rose Bird, Freedom of Information Act officer for the bureau, said her office stopped taking records requests on Bush's military service in mid-February and is directing all inquiries to the Pentagon. She would not provide a reason.
Air Force and Texas Air National Guard officials did not respond to written questions about the issue.
James Hogan, a records coordinator at the Pentagon, said senior Defense Department officials had directed the National Guard Bureau not to respond to questions about Bush's military records. . . .
In May of 1972, the Texas Air National Guard was given an enhanced mission of protecting U.S. borders by then-Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird.
Laird's directive came after a Cuban airliner arrived undetected at the New Orleans airport, nine years after the Cuban missile crisis. Congressional hearings at the time criticized the Pentagon for the Oct. 26, 1971, incident. . . .
The documents also include the Sept. 29, 1972, order suspending Bush from flight status for "failure to accomplish" the mandatory physical.
In a book released last week, "Bush's War for Re-election," Texas journalist James Moore calls the phrase ambiguous.
"Failure to accomplish" the medical exam "can imply that Bush did not show up, or he was examined, and a foreign substance was discovered in his blood," Moore argues in his book.
When pressed by the national media during the 2000 presidential campaign, Bush said he quit drinking in 1986 and hadn't used any illegal drugs since 1974.
The White House records revealed for the first time that as a teenager, Bush had four citations on his driving record for speeding and collisions, which would have required a special enlistment waiver for him to get into the Air Guard. No waiver, however, was found in the records released by the White House, USA Today reported. . . .
Thousands of pilots and other military personnel have lost their job assignments under the human reliability regulations, which were established in the 1960s, according to academic researchers.
The regulations were made stricter in the 1970s when the military started screening for drug abuse, said Dr. Herbert Abrams in a 1991 research paper.
Abrams, a former professor of medicine at Harvard and Stanford universities and a research fellow at Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation, has written extensively about the military's Human Reliability Program.
Citing statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Abrams said military personnel are twice as likely as their civilian counterparts to drink heavily.
From 1975 through 1984, Abrams' research shows 51,000 personnel, or about 4.5percent a year on average, were decertified from the Human Reliability Program.
Most of those investigated and decertified were in the Air Force.
"The military takes this very, very seriously," said Lloyd Dumas, professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. He is the author of "Lethal Arrogance," a 1999 study of human foibles and dangerous technology.
"People of a lesser rank can even remove their superiors (under HRP). It's one of the few areas where rank doesn't matter," Dumas said.
Bush's suspension, his spotty final year of military service and his failure to take his flight physical are puzzling, Dumas said.
"If Bush was under the Human Reliability Program, there should be a paper trail. And if there's not, that's very, very unusual," the University of Texas professor said.
Bob Schieffer and Thomas Friedman interview Donald Rumsfeld on CBS's Face the Nation, 3/14/04:
SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask you this. If they did not have these weapons of mass destruction, though, granted all of that is true, why then did they pose an immediate threat to us, to this country?
Sec. RUMSFELD: Well, you're the--you and a few other critics are the only people I've heard use the phrase `immediate threat.' I didn't. The president didn't. And it's become kind of folklore that that's--that's what's happened. The president went...
SCHIEFFER: You're saying that nobody in the administration said that.
Sec. RUMSFELD: I--I can't speak for nobody--everybody in the administration and say nobody said that.
SCHIEFFER: Vice president didn't say that? The...
Sec. RUMSFELD: Not--if--if you have any citations, I'd like to see 'em.
Mr. FRIEDMAN: We have one here. It says `some have argued that the nu'--this is you speaking--`that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent, that Saddam is at least five to seven years away from having nuclear weapons. I would not be so certain.'
Sec. RUMSFELD: And--and...
Mr. FRIEDMAN: It was close to imminent.
Sec. RUMSFELD: Well, I've--I've tried to be precise, and I've tried to be accurate. I'm s-- suppose I've...
Mr. FRIEDMAN: `No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world and the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.'
Sec. RUMSFELD: Mm-hmm. It--my view of--of the situation was that he--he had--we--we believe, the best intelligence that we had and other countries had and that--that we believed and we still do not know--we will know. David Kay said we're about 85 percent there. I don't know if that's the right percentage. But the Iraqi Survey Group--we've got 1,200 people out there looking. It's a country the size of California. He could have hidden his--enough chemical or biol--enough biological weapons in the hole that--that we found Saddam Hussein in to kill tens of thousands of people. So--so it's not as though we have certainty today.
"Furious Voters Oust Spanish Government" -- Giles Tremlett in The Guardian, 3/15/04:
Spanish voters punished prime minister José María Aznar's People's party for the bloodshed of last week's Madrid terrorist attacks yesterday, throwing it out of government in an angry reaction to his handling of the aftermath.
In one of the most dramatic elections of the post-Franco era, voters turned on the ruling party, convinced that the multiple bomb attack on Madrid's packed commuter trains had been carried out by al-Qaida and with a growing sense that the People's party had tried to hide the truth.
With intelligence agencies around the globe trying to identify a man who, in a videotape found in Madrid, claimed responsibility for the attacks for al-Qaida and with three Moroccan suspects in police custody, most voters believed the Spanish capital had suffered its equivalent of the September 11 attacks in the United States.
Socialist leader José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero swept to a surprise victory that was a blow to the Bush administration. He has pledged to withdraw Spain's 1,300 troops from Iraq if the UN does not take control by June 30 when Washington plans to hand power back to Iraqis.
Mr Zapatero started his victory speech with a minute's silence for the victims of Thursday's attacks before vowing to fight all kinds of terrorism. "Together we will defeat it," he told supporters outside his party headquarters in Madrid.
Angry protests on the streets of large cities overnight had set a tone of brooding resentment and bitterness for a vote in which the deaths of 200 people and the injuries of more than 1,500 had inflamed some already sharp divisions in Spain.
Protesters accused the government of trying to hide the fact that violent Islamism was to blame and demanded explanations for Mr Aznar's backing of the Iraq war against the will of some 90% of Spaniards.
Those worries helped drive a huge turnout that had reached 62.9% of voters by mid-afternoon, 7% higher than at the same stage of the last election in 2000. They produced a reverse in the fortunes of a People's party which led in opinion polls by three to five points a week ago. With almost all ballots counted, Mr Zapatero's Socialists had won 42.6% of the vote, gaining 164 seats in the 350-seat parliament. The Popular Party took 37.7%, 148 seats. No other party won more than 5% or 10 seats.
It was also the first example of a single terrorist attack having a direct affect on the outcome of an election in a leading western country.
Mr Zapatero, a 43-year-old lawyer, had pledged during campaigning to swap Mr Aznar's pact with Mr Bush for a return to a European alliance with France and Germany.
"U.S. Videos, for TV News, Come Under Scrutiny" -- Robert Pear in the New York Times, 3/15/04:
WASHINGTON, March 14 ? Federal investigators are scrutinizing television segments in which the Bush administration paid people to pose as journalists praising the benefits of the new Medicare law, which would be offered to help elderly Americans with the costs of their prescription medicines.
The videos are intended for use in local television news programs. Several include pictures of President Bush receiving a standing ovation from a crowd cheering as he signed the Medicare law on Dec. 8.
The materials were produced by the Department of Health and Human Services, which called them video news releases, but the source is not identified. Two videos end with the voice of a woman who says, "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting."
But the production company, Home Front Communications, said it had hired her to read a script prepared by the government.
Another video, intended for Hispanic audiences, shows a Bush administration official being interviewed in Spanish by a man who identifies himself as a reporter named Alberto Garcia.
Another segment shows a pharmacist talking to an elderly customer. The pharmacist says the new law "helps you better afford your medications," and the customer says, "It sounds like a good idea." Indeed, the pharmacist says, "A very good idea."
The government also prepared scripts that can be used by news anchors introducing what the administration describes as a made-for-television "story package."
In one script, the administration suggests that anchors use this language: "In December, President Bush signed into law the first-ever prescription drug benefit for people with Medicare. Since then, there have been a lot of questions about how the law will help older Americans and people with disabilities. Reporter Karen Ryan helps sort through the details."
The "reporter" then explains the benefits of the new law.
Lawyers from the General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress, discovered the materials last month when they were looking into the use of federal money to pay for certain fliers and advertisements that publicize the Medicare law.
In a report to Congress last week, the lawyers said those fliers and advertisements were legal, despite "notable omissions and other weaknesses." Administration officials said the television news segments were also a legal, effective way to educate beneficiaries.
Gary L. Kepplinger, deputy general counsel of the accounting office, said, "We are actively considering some follow-up work related to the materials we received from the Department of Health and Human Services."
One question is whether the government might mislead viewers by concealing the source of the Medicare videos, which have been broadcast by stations in Oklahoma, Louisiana and other states.
Federal law prohibits the use of federal money for "publicity or propaganda purposes" not authorized by Congress. In the past, the General Accounting Office has found that federal agencies violated this restriction when they disseminated editorials and newspaper articles written by the government or its contractors without identifying the source.
Kevin W. Keane, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said there was nothing nefarious about the television materials, which he said had been distributed to stations nationwide. Under federal law, he said, the government is required to inform beneficiaries about changes in Medicare.
"The use of video news releases is a common, routine practice in government and the private sector," Mr. Keane said. "Anyone who has questions about this practice needs to do some research on modern public information tools."
But Democrats disagreed. "These materials are even more disturbing than the Medicare flier and advertisements," said Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey. "The distribution of these videos is a covert attempt to manipulate the press."
Mr. Lautenberg, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, and seven other members of Congress requested the original review by the accounting office. . . .
"Video news releases" have been used for more than a decade. Pharmaceutical companies have done particularly well with them, producing news-style health features about the afflictions their drugs are meant to cure.
The videos became more prominent in the late 1980's, as more and more television stations cut news-gathering budgets and were glad to have packaged news bits to call their own, even if they were prepared by corporations seeking to sell products.
As such, the videos have drawn criticism from some news media ethicists, who consider them to be at odds with journalism's mission to verify independently the claims of corporations and governments.
Government agencies have also produced such videos for years, often on subjects like teenage smoking and the dangers of using steroids. But the Medicare materials wander into more controversial territory.
Bill Kovach, chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists, expressed disbelief that any television stations would present the Medicare videos as real news segments, considering the current debate about the merits of the new law.
"Those to me are just the next thing to fraud," Mr. Kovach said. "It's running a paid advertisement in the heart of a news program."
"Weak on Terror" -- Paul Krugman in The New York Times, 3/16/04:
Polls suggest that a reputation for being tough on terror is just about the only remaining political strength George Bush has. Yet this reputation is based on image, not reality. The truth is that Mr. Bush, while eager to invoke 9/11 on behalf of an unrelated war, has shown consistent reluctance to focus on the terrorists who actually attacked America, or their backers in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
This reluctance dates back to Mr. Bush's first months in office. Why, after all, has his inner circle tried so hard to prevent a serious investigation of what happened on 9/11? There has been much speculation about whether officials ignored specific intelligence warnings, but what we know for sure is that the administration disregarded urgent pleas by departing Clinton officials to focus on the threat from Al Qaeda.
After 9/11, terrorism could no longer be ignored, and the military conducted a successful campaign against Al Qaeda's Taliban hosts. But the failure to commit sufficient U.S. forces allowed Osama bin Laden to escape. After that, the administration appeared to lose interest in Al Qaeda; by the summer of 2002, bin Laden's name had disappeared from Mr. Bush's speeches. It was all Saddam, all the time.
This wasn't just a rhetorical switch; crucial resources were pulled off the hunt for Al Qaeda, which had attacked America, to prepare for the overthrow of Saddam, who hadn't. If you want confirmation that this seriously impeded the fight against terror, just look at reports about the all-out effort to capture Osama that started, finally, just a few days ago. Why didn't this happen last year, or the year before? According to The New York Times, last year many of the needed forces were tied up in Iraq.
It's now clear that by shifting his focus to Iraq, Mr. Bush did Al Qaeda a huge favor. The terrorists and their Taliban allies were given time to regroup; the resurgent Taliban once again control almost a third of Afghanistan, and Al Qaeda has regained the ability to carry out large-scale atrocities.
But Mr. Bush's lapses in the struggle against terrorism extend beyond his decision to give Al Qaeda a breather. His administration has also run interference for Saudi Arabia ? the home of most of the 9/11 hijackers, and the main financier of Islamic extremism ? and Pakistan, which created the Taliban and has actively engaged in nuclear proliferation.
Some of the administration's actions have been so strange that those who reported them were initially accused of being nutty conspiracy theorists. For example, what are we to make of the post-9/11 Saudi airlift? Just days after the attack, at a time when private air travel was banned, the administration gave special clearance to flights that gathered up Saudi nationals, including a number of members of the bin Laden family, who were in the U.S. at the time. These Saudis were then allowed to leave the country, after at best cursory interviews with the F.B.I.
And the administration is still covering up for Pakistan, whose government recently made the absurd claim that large-scale shipments of nuclear technology and material to rogue states ? including North Korea, according to a new C.I.A. report ? were the work of one man, who was promptly pardoned by President Pervez Musharraf. Mr. Bush has allowed this farce to go unquestioned.
So when the Bush campaign boasts of the president's record in fighting terrorism and accuses John Kerry of being weak on the issue, when Republican congressmen suggest that a vote for Mr. Kerry is a vote for Osama, remember this: the administration's actual record is one of indulgence toward regimes that are strongly implicated in terrorism, and of focusing on actual terrorist threats only when forced to by events.
"Iraq on the Record" -- a searchable collection of public statements by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, and Condoleeza Rice maintained by Rep. Henry Waxman.
"Welcome to the Titanic" -- Timothy Garton Ash in The Guardian, 3/18/04:
This has been a terrible week for what remains of the west. After a few moments of moving solidarity - the great demonstrations in Spain, the three minutes' silence observed right across Europe - we have again tumbled into bitter disarray. That happened within months of America's 9/11, as Europeans and Americans disagreed on how to respond to the assault launched by Osama bin Laden. Now it's happened within days of Europe's 9/11. . . .
So far as the Spanish voters' intentions are concerned, the election result was not subjectively a victory for al-Qaida. But it is, as Marxists used to say, an objective victory for al-Qaida. The Madrid bombings look likely to do exactly what a message posted on a radical Islamist website months ago said they should do: exploit the election moment to knock Spain out of the "Crusader-Zionist" coalition in Iraq. Conclusion: terror works. . . .
How can we improve police and intelligence cooperation across Europe and across the Atlantic? What changes should we all accept? I think, for example, that we should now have identity cards, to be carried at all times. And what kind of limitations to civil liberties should we never accept? Answer: Guantánamo, or any European equivalents.
How can we make Muslims feel more at home in Europe, thus draining the swamp in which terrorist mosquitoes breed? We have at least 12 million Muslims in the European Union already. The vast majority of them are peaceful, law-abiding citizens, horrified by such acts, but a significant minority are also impoverished, unemployed, alienated. To meet them, you have only to hang around one of the small squares in the Lavapies neighbourhood of Madrid, which was a haunt of Jamal Zougam. I remember talking there to a 20-year old, unemployed, illegal Moroccan immigrant, who told me that "the Jews" were probably responsible for the attack on the twin towers in New York. He admitted frankly to earning his living by petty crime, since, he said, he could not get the papers required to work.
How do we integrate such Muslim immigrants into our societies? By telling their daughters they can't wear headscarves at school? A group calling itself the Servants of Allah has just sent an open letter to the French prime minister, denouncing the veil ban as "a declaration of war to the Muslim world". Yet to retreat in the face of such threats is bad, too.
Then there's the whole agenda of reform in the wider Middle East, from Morocco to Iran. Yes, we should have started with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is a recruiting sergeant for al-Qaida, rather than Iraq. Nothing much will happen on this front until after the American presidential elections, but on November 5 Europe should be on the telephone to the president-elect - whether he's called Kerry or Bush - saying with one voice: that's what you have to do next. . . .
These are just a few of the things we should be talking about. But we're not. They say the band carried on playing as the Titanic went down. Well, we're not holed yet; we've just been brushed by a small iceberg. But the look-outs and the crew are all staring at the bridge, where the Spanish first lieutenant is having a stand-up row with his British mate, the Italian cook is badmouthing the American engineer, and the French midshipman is admiring himself in the mirror, while much larger icebergs loom ahead.
"Alleged GOP Ethics Abuses" -- Washington Post, 3/17/04:
- The House ethics panel opened an informal fact-finding Dec. 8 concerning charges made by retiring Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich) that Republican members had offered to direct $100,000 to his son's House campaign if Smith supported Medicare prescription drug legislation. Smith has since indicated there were no specific references to money.
CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
- Rep Curt Weldon's daughter's public relations firm won a $240,000 contract to represent a humanitarian foundation controlled by a Serbian family after the Pennsylvania Republican pressed the State Department to lift a ban on U.S. visas for members of the family, the Los Angeles Times reported. Weldon's office says the congressman had "nothing to do" with any contractural relationship between his daughter's firm and the foundation.
- House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) tried to slip a provision benefiting the Philip Morris USA tobacco company into a bill establishing the Department of Homeland Security, the Washington Post reported last year. His son Andrew works for the company in Missouri. Blunt at the time had a close relationship with Abigail Perlman, a lobbyist for the Altria Group, which includes Philip Morris. They subsequently married. Once alerted, an aide to Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) had the provision -- which Blunt defended as "good policy" -- pulled from the bill.
- A grand jury in Austin is investigating whether a political action committee set up by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Tex.) may have launderred $190,000 in corporate campaign donations through the Republican National Committee to skirt a Texas ban on the use of corporate money in state elections. Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC) funded state candidates in 2002 as part of a successful effort to control the Texas House. The victory set the stage for redistricting Texas congressional seats in a way favorable to the GOP.
- Topeka-based Westar Energy directed $56,500 in political contributions to DeLay, Rep. W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (La.), Rep Joe Barton (Tex.) and other key lawmakers to "get a seat at the table" during the writing of an energy bill, according to newspaper reports citing internal company documents. Barton inserted an exemption provision sought by the company, but it was later removed.
- The Campaign Legal Center and Democracy21.org have asked the Internal Revenue Service to deny tax-free status to a children's charity sponsored by DeLay that offers donors a chance to spend time with DeLay at this year's Republican National Convention. A DeLay spokesman said at least three-fourths of the proceeds will help "abused and neglected kids."
- The Washington Post reported that former DeLay aide Michael Scanlon received more than $30 million in fees from four casino-rich Indian tribes after leaving the majority leader's office. He teamed up with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has close ties to DeLay. Abramoff directed the tribes, which wanted access to Congress on gambling and tax issues, to step up political contributions to Republicans. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is leading an investigation.
MISUSE OF A GOVERNMENT AGENCY
- Texas Democratic officials said DeLay's office used the Federal Aviation Administration to track down a suspected planeload of Democratic Texas legislators who were planning to avoid a vote on a GOP congressional redistricting plan. After an official in DeLay's office contacted an FAA official seeking information about the plane, at least 13 FAA officials jointed the search for it.
ABUSE OF POWER
- Common Cause called for an ethics probe after The Washington Post reported that aides to Rep. Michael G. Oxley (Ohio) told a trade association representing the mutual funds industry that a congressional probe might ease if it replaced its Democratic lobbyist with a Republican. Oxley is the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees the industry.
- Cheney's secretive Energy Task Force was investigated by the GAO and the case is currently pending at the Supreme Court.
- The Plame Game is under investigation by the Justice Department.
- Bush's Medicare scam and the circumstances that led the administration to lie to Congress about the cost of the legislation is under investigation by the HHS inspector general's office.
- The massive intelligence failure that led Bush to lie to the world about the Iraqi threat is under investigation by a congressionally-authorized independent commission (which Bush fought the creation of).
- Bribes offered on the House floor to Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.) in exchange for his vote on Bush's Medicare plan are under investigation by the House Ethics Committee and the Justice Department.
- Attorney General John Ashcroft was under investigation by the Federal Election Commission for violating campaign finance laws in 2000, and the FEC concluded that Ashcroft accepted $110,000 in illegal contributions.
- An investigation into House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's criminal fundraising schemes in Texas -- which allegedly used corporate funds to help state GOP lawmakers -- is already before a Texas grand jury.
- Republican staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee were investigated for stealing thousands of confidential memos from Dem computers, a matter that has now been referred to the Justice Department for a possible criminal probe.
- Republican Connecticut Gov. John Rowland is under a criminal investigation (and an impeachment investigation) after he lied about prominent state contractors and several government aides paying for refurbishments to his lake-front cottage.
- Former Rep. Bill Janklow (R-S.D.) was under investigation for vehicular manslaughter, a crime for which he was later convicted.
- The Pentagon launched a formal investigation into well-armed evangelist and three-star General William "Jerry" Boykin, Bush's pick for deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, and his record of extreme religious rhetoric.
- The circumstances that led to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 are under investigation by a congressionally-authorized independent commission (which, again, Bush fought the creation of and then later resisted cooperating with).
- And honorable mentions should go, of course, to investigations into Halliburton (Dick Cheney's former company) and Enron (George Bush's biggest corporate supporter).
"Will Bush Be a Casualty of War?" -- Tome Grieve at salon.com, 3/18/04:
An all-war, all-the-time strategy is clearly a risky one for Bush: If Iraq goes south, Bush may go down with it. And every time Bush mentions Iraq, a significant percentage of mistrustful voters will be reminded of the misrepresentations the administration made in the run-up to the war. But given the sad state of the U.S. economy, what other issue can he hope to exploit? "I think this is the only path he can take," Rutgers University political science professor Ross Baker said Wednesday. "The problem is, it leaves him at the mercy of a lot of crazy people. If Bush wants to take credit for defending the nation against terrorism, he also assumes the burden of anything that may happen."
As the nation heads into a weekend of looking back at a year in Iraq, both Bush and Kerry are establishing general-election campaigns predicated on the idea that something will happen between now and November. In a speech delivered just before the bombing Wednesday, Kerry attacked the administration for not doing enough to make American citizens and American soldiers safer. It was Kerry's most detailed discussion to date of the war and terrorism, and he used the moment to slam Bush for not working more closely with other countries, for leaving the military stretched too thin, and for sending soldiers to Iraq without the body armor they need to protect themselves. If terrorists attack the United States or if the U.S. begins to suffer massive losses in Iraq, Kerry has laid the framework for blaming Bush.
The new White House campaign, meanwhile, almost seems designed for the moment when things get much worse. If dangerous times require the "steady leadership" of George W. Bush, as Bush's TV commercials say, then really dangerous times must require his help even more.
"The Apparat: George Bush's Back-Door Political Machine" -- Jerry M. Landay at mediatransparency.org, 3/18/04:
In its latest report, called The Axis of Ideology, the . . . [National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy] has identified at least 350 tax-exempt, ostensibly non-partisan organizations within the right-wing's activist front, many operating at regional, state, and local levels. They have penetrated the three branches of the federal government, and dominate the political debate. They guide and oversee the agenda that directs White House action (or inaction). Two of these organizations housed the planners who invented the Iraq war.
Rob Stein, an independent Washington researcher, follows the money flow to the radical activist establishment. He estimates that since the early 1970s at least $2.5 to $3 billion in funding has been awarded to the 43 major activist organizations he tracks that constitute the core of the radical machine.
He terms the big 43 the "cohort" -- an "incubator of right-wing, ideological policies that constitute the administration's agenda, and, to the extent that it has one, runs its policy machinery."
He calls the cohort "a potent, never-ending source of intellectual content, laying down the slogans, myths, and buzz words that have helped shift public opinion rightward." The movement's propulsive energies are largely generated within the cohort.
Stein describes it as movement conservatism's "intellectual infrastructure" -- multiple-issue, non-profit, tax-exempt, and supposedly non-partisan. The apparatus includes think tanks, policy institutes, media-harassment enterprises, as well as litigation firms that file lawsuits to impose their ideological templates on the law.
They mastermind the machinery of radical politics, policy, and regulations. They include campus-based centers of scholarship, student associations, and scores of publications. The shorthand of their faith is well known: less government, generous tax cuts for the privileged, privatization or elimination of Social Security and Medicare, rollbacks of environmental safeguards, major curbs on the public's right to go to court, and a laissez-faire free market system unfettered by regulations or public-interest accountability. Bush campaigns to advance the ideological agenda of the right, and the radical front in turn campaigns for Bush.
"For Children of Gays, Marriage Brings Joy" -- Patricia Leigh Brown in The New York Times, 3/19/04:
SAN FRANCISCO, March 18 -- On a recent rainy Sunday morning, Gabriel Damast had planned to laze around the house, watching cartoons and eating French toast. Instead, he snapped his favorite chain-mail key chain to his belt loop, grabbed his MP3 player and headed to City Hall to watch his two moms, Fredda Damast and Birch Early, marry.
"It was so cool," said Gabriel, 13, who served as the ringbearer, after standing in line overnight with his parents. "I always accepted that `Yeah, they're my moms,' but they were actually getting married. I felt thick inside with happiness. Just thick."
The explosion of same-sex wedding ceremonies here and around the country has catalyzed a national debate over gay marriage. As the legal and rhetorical battles rage in county clerks' offices, on the presidential campaign trail and in the courts, one group is watching with more than casual interest: the children of same-sex couples. . . .
"Before it was, `Oh, your parents are just partners,' " said Max Blachman, the 13-year-old son of lesbian parents in Berkeley. "Now, they're spouses. So it's a bigger way of thinking about them."
The 2000 census reported that 594,000 households in the United States were headed by same-sex partners, a figured considered by some experts to be conservative. Of those, about 33 percent of lesbian couples reported having children 18 years old or under, while 22 percent of male couples did. . . .
Studies show that children of gay and lesbian parents are developmentally similar to those with heterosexual parents, said Charlotte J. Patterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia who has studied gay and lesbian families. In general, Professor Patterson noted, parenthood for gay and lesbian couples is a conscious choice, but there are as yet no adequate studies measuring stress levels in their children.
Like members of other minorities, children of gay and lesbian parents have to negotiate social and economic differences, which can be "big emotional freight," Professor Patterson said, adding, "Knowing your parents have made a commitment to stay together and take care of you forever makes children feel more secure."
"On Anniversary of a Divisive War, Italians Cry to Withdraw Troops" -- Jason Horowitz in The New York Times, 3/21/04:
ROME, March, 20 ? A sea of Italian antiwar protesters took to the streets of Rome Saturday demanding that their government withdraw its troops from Iraq, while protesters throughout Europe staged demonstrations to mark the first anniversary of the American-led invasion.
Tens of thousands of Italians, many draped in rainbow-colored peace flags, accused President Bush and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy of waging an unjust war that had become increasingly perilous for their own national security.
Many pointed to the March 11 commuter train bombings in Spain, which claimed 202 lives, as evidence that the war had increased the threat of terrorism rather than quelled it.
"We want all of the soldiers back home and an end to this war," said Raffaella Bolini, an official of the Italian group Stop the War, which organized Saturday's demonstration.
"The Madrid attack shows that the peace movement is right, that Bush's policies put us all at risk."
Similar sentiment pervaded antiwar rallies in Spain, Britain, Germany, Greece, and France.
"Thousands in Manhattan Protest War" -- Michelle Garcia in The Washington Post, 3/21/04:
NEW YORK, March 20 -- Marking the one-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion in Iraq, tens of thousands of people converged in Manhattan to protest the military occupation and called for the U.S. government to withdraw its troops.
Under clear, blue skies, demonstrators filled 20 blocks on Madison Avenue waving flags, placards and banners that read: "Bush Lies, Who Dies" and "Bring the Troops Home." . . .
An estimated 250 demonstrations took place around the country in sizes varying from thousands in California's Bay Area to several hundreds in New Mexico and Maine. Police in riot gear marched down the streets of Chicago, where Jesse L. Jackson addressed a crowd.
A park in Crawford, Tex., was the site of a small rally, but it was out of sight from President Bush's ranch. Fayetteville, N.C., home of Fort Bragg, one of the largest U.S. military bases, drew protesters and counter-demonstrators.
In perhaps the largest assembly, a demonstration in Rome drew about 1 million people. Two antiwar activists in London scaled the Big Ben clock tower and unfurled a banner saying "Time for Truth." Australian demonstrators carried an effigy of a caged Prime Minister John Howard. And thousands of Japanese flooded the streets of Tokyo to denounce their government's military presence in Iraq. . . .
The antiwar movement has maintained a drumbeat of opposition in the last year. In the run-up to the invasion, protesters braved the frigid weather to pressure the government to give U.N. weapons inspectors more time. Once the bombs started falling, protesters flooded the streets again in March. The crowds in New York exceeded 100,000, and ended in clashes between protesters and police, resulting in nearly two dozen arrests.
This year, the protest drew an estimated 60,000 people in a relaxed and festive atmosphere, organizers said. The demonstrators marched down several blocks before gathering for a closing rally.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (R) and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly briefly walked with the crowd. Police reported four arrests for disorderly conduct but no altercations. Police helicopters hovered above the site, and officers videotaped the demonstration from nearby rooftops.
"Iraq: Blair and Bush Seek New UN Backing" -- Kamal Ahmed in The Observer, 3/21/04:
The United Nations is to be given a lead role in post-occupation Iraq under British and American plans to shore up crumbling international support for the continuing military presence in the country.
UK officials told The Observer there will be a sustained push for a fresh UN resolution 'mandating' the continued military presence in Iraq after the handover to the transitional government in June.
The move comes a week after the new Spanish Prime Minister, Jos? Lu?s Rodriguez Zapatero, threatened to withdraw troops from the coalition force unless it was given a greater degree of international legitimacy. British officials said Republican claims from America that Spain had 'appeased' terrorists were unhelpful and wrong.
The Polish government, which also supports the military action in Iraq, has now also suggested that it was misled on the reasons for war.
The resolution, which British sources believe will be backed by the Security Council, will also allow the UN a role in overseeing Iraq's first democratic elections and the judicial and legal framework which the new government will rely on to protect individual freedoms.
Britain will then suggest a Nato role in security matters in Iraq, as happened successfully in Afghanistan. . . .
'When we need a resolution is fairly clear - when we are coming up to May and June. We will then need to address the prospect of a transitional government,' said one senior British official closely involved in the negotiations.
'We will have to cover the continuing multinational force and endorse that as being the clear wish of the Iraq people. And we'll need to look forward to what is going to be this enhanced UN role post 30 June.'
He said the UN could ratify decisions made by the transitional government, help it prepare for elections and enshrine democracy.
'My sense of the Security Council dynamic now is that we are all agreed on an increasing UN role,' the official said. 'We are all agreed we should transfer responsibility to the Iraqis on 30 June, and that is the moment when we say you have a transitional government.'
"What Exactly Does al-Qaeda Want?" -- Jason Burke in The Observer, 3/21/04:
As the shock of the Madrid bombings turns to a more profound sense of insecurity, one question is repeatedly asked of the militants behind the wave of terror: what do they want? . . .
[W]e have to redraft our question. 'What do they want?' implies a Western concept of acting to achieve specific goals. Instead we should be asking: 'Why do they feel that they have to act in the way that they do?' The answer is that, from their twisted standpoint, they believe they have no choice.
In every militant statement you can see a mix of the general and the specific. Imam Samudra, the Bali bomber referred to above, saw the night clubs of Bali as part of a general cultural assault mounted by the West against the Islamic world. This is typical.
In Kashmir, locals speak of their repression as part of a global campaign against Muslims. In Chechnya, the war with Russia is seen as a manifestation of the same push to eliminate Islam.
Last week a previously unknown group threatened violence in France and listed the banning of the veil from schools alongside continuing American support for Israel, the war in Iraq and the killing of civilians in Afghanistan as evidence that the West never abandoned the Crusades.
This perception that a belligerent West is set on the humiliation, division and eventual conquest of the Islamic world is at the root of Muslim violence. The militants believe they are fighting a last-ditch battle for the survival of their society, culture, religion and way of life. They are fighting in self-defence and understand, as we in the West also believe, that self-defence can justify using tactics that might be frowned on in other circumstances.
In addition, an explanation for the parlous state of the Middle East must be found. If Islam is the perfect social system, the militants' logic runs, then something else must be to blame for the second-rate status, economically, militarily, politically, of their lands. They blame the West - and the failure of most Muslims to practise their religion with sufficient discipline and devotion. The bombs are designed to restore the pride of Muslims worldwide and, by weakening the 'Crusaders' and their allies, hasten the eventual return to the golden age of a thousand years ago when the lands of Islam were the world's leading power.
The cosmic scale of the militants' aims make them very difficult to counter. But somehow we must halt the spread of their worldview, deny them political oxygen and strip away the legitimacy that allows them to operate. There is no silver bullet.
But there are things that can be done. Peace in Israel-Palestine, for example, might not end Islamic terrorism immediately but it would deny them a key piece of 'evidence'. So would forcing reform on the Saudi Arabian regime and other repressive governments.
The most powerful weapon in countering the radicals' violence is the goodwill and moderation of 95 per cent of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims. We must fight to keep it, and to use it, if we are, one day, to be free of fear and violence.