International Criminal Court established; US refuses to join
- July: The International Criminal Court, an outgrowth of the tribunals created to try war crimes stemming from the Yugoslavian and Kosovo conflicts and the descendant of the World War II Nuremberg Trials, is created by the 90 signatory countries to the 1998 Treaty of Rome. The court, which will handle cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed after July 1, 2002, will step in only when countries are unwilling or unable to dispense justice themselves. Ethicist Peter Singer writes, "In setting up the ICC, the participant nations have attempted to move beyond the justice of the victors over the defeated, and instead give international criminal justice a more impartial and permanent basis. The court will have a prosecutor who can bring charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes against invididuals as long as they are a national of a state that has ratified the treaty, or the crime was committed on the territory of such a state, or a specific case is referred to the court by the United Nations Security Council. The aim is to ensure that there is no legal refuge anywhere in the world for those who commit such crimes. That objective, one might have thought, is one that fits well with American values, with support for universal human rights, and for the principle that power should be restrained by the rule of law." Indeed, in his final days in office, Clinton signed the treaty setting up the ICC. The ICC is largely based on US law and legal practices; since American participation is deemed critical for the creation of the court, other nations involved go out of their way to accomodate the increasingly peremptory demands of the Bush administration, which complains that the court's jurisdiction threatens US sovreignity and that the court might try Americans for crimes related to the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations. Bush's delegates demand that US citizens be permanently exempt from the ICC's jurisdiction, and threaten to withdraw all funding from the United Nations' peacekeeping efforts if its demands are not met; it successfully intimidates some nations into agreeing not to extradite US citizens under their jurisdiction to the ICC by threatening to cut off foreign aid (and later announces the cutoff of aid to 35 countries who refused to pledge to give Americans immunity before the court -- Human Rights Watch director Richard Dicker says, "I've never seen a sanctions regime aimed at countries that believe in the rule of law rather than ones that commit human rights abuses"). Even so, the US withdraws its signature, and demands, and is awarded by unanimous consent of the UN Security Council, a one-year exemption for actions taken in the "war on terrorism," a consideration extended for another year in June 2003. US officials continue to demand a permanent exemption, but too many European nations refuse to countenance the idea. The US also announces that it will provide neither information nor cooperation with the court, and, in a move that astounds its European allies, announces that the US will no longer consider itself bound by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. By December 2003, 139 nations will have signed and 92 will have ratified the treaty; the US remains aloof.
(SFGate, Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose, Eric Alterman and Mark Green, Peter Singer)
- July: The Bush administration proposes a punitive revision of welfare requirements, requiring recipients to work forty hours a week and proposing that they may be paid less than minimum wage. The proposal also refuses to count education towards their work requirement. In response, Democrats propose their own bill that makes it easier for welfare recipients to go to college. Of allowing time spent in classes counting towards their work requirement, Bush says, "Now that's not my view of helping people become independent. And it's certainly not my view of understanding the importance of work and helping people achieve the dignity necessary so they can live a free life, free of government control." Later, when it is revealed that a small number of children are receiving free school lunches when they are ineligible, Bush proposes making it more difficult for all children to receive free lunches. Paul Waldman observes, "This proposal shines a light on Bush's ideological perspective. The idea that someone might be getting a free lunch seems to trouble him more than the idea that a child might go hungry." (Paul Waldman)
"Tort reform," attacks on trial lawyers, and doctors' strikes ensure higher health care costs and protect price-gouging insurers
- July: Bush gives a speech in High Point, North Carolina, designed to kick off the 2004 re-election campaign's attack on the nation's trial lawyers. Political guru Karl Rove sees the planned attack on trial lawyers as a win-win for the GOP: lawyers are not held in high regard by the voting public, and as a whole, tend to contribute large amounts of cash to Democratic candidates and campaigns. The attack is orchestrated by Rove to open with rhetorically placing doctors on the same side of the slate as medical malpractice insurers, together in opposition against trial lawyers; an unlikely scenario, but one Rove believes can pay off big political dividends. In his political strategizing, Rove needs to have doctors see their patients almost as their enemies, with the patients allied with predatory lawyers seeking to sue for frivolous reasons and win big liability settlements that drive up their insurance premiums. Rove's message, which resounds in the highest echelons of the medical community, is that excessive litigation is the root cause of so many Americans not having health insurance. The core document behind the campaign is a report issued by the Bush administration that purports to prove the assertion; Republicans in the House dutifully hold hearings on the topic.
- Bush delivers Rove's words nearly verbatim in the High Point speech: "Our badly broken medical liability system is responsible for higher costs for patients, for lower quality of care, and for decreased access, and I worry about it." Democrats correctly counter that Bush is siding with large insurance companies who don't like paying liability judgments; Bush says that he is merely taking the side of "pregnant mothers, people who want to have access to their doctors."
- During the same trip, Bush meets privately with a group of doctors and American Medical Association officials, including AMA president Donald Palmisano, and urges them to mobilize the grass roots. Bush wants to get a medical malpractice bill through the GOP-led Congress in 2003 that will limit noneconomic damages to $250,000 and cap punitive damage awards at the same amount. The AMA lines up behind Bush's request.
- Amazingly, Rove's strategy, taken up by doctors across the nation, is to have doctors essentially go on strike.
- The House hearings are led by Republican Shelley Moore Capito, a long-time ally of Rove's, who breathlessly recounts the story of Dr. Samuel Roberts, who claimed to have been driven out of medicine because of excessive insurance premiums. Roberts's premium costs did increase, from $17,000 to $59,000, in a mere three years, as Capito tells the assemblage. What she doesn't tell the listeners is that Roberts had pled guilty to five counts of cocaine possession in 1987 and served three years' criminal probation. She doesn't mention that Roberts had lost his license to practice medicine for a year before the suspension was stayed, but served under medical probation for five years. The conviction and suspension were the reason why his malpractice insurance rates skyrocketed. Capito brings Roberts into the House chambers to testify, but Roberts refuses to disclose his criminal history, leading Jamie Court, the executive director of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, to muse, "This is the equivalent of a convicted drunk driver complaining to Congress that his auto insurance has gone up." Roberts's testimony is compelling, and the House members who hear his words are either unaware of Roberts's past or, like Capito, unwilling to share it.
- Six months later, in January 2003, the Rove-orchestrated doctor walkouts begin, with a doctor's strike in West Virginia (Capito's state). The strike garners all the media coverage Rove could want. Eighteen striking doctors in a Wheeling hospital prompt a national discussion of the ethics of their decision. But, unsurprisingly, few in the media take a close look at the doctors' backgrounds. The doctors' de facto spokesman is Robert Zaleski, who repeats for CNN and other news outlets that he is constantly "on the brink" of leaving West Virginia because of his excessive insurance premiums. Zaleski becomes a featured guest at a Bush speech in Pennsylvania. But, like Roberts, Zaleski is a flawed representative for Bush and Rove's attack on trial lawyers and medical claims. Zaleski admitted in a lawsuit in the early 1980s that he was addicted to prescription painkillers, and admitted to being high on Percodan while performing surgeries. He wrote prescriptions for local addicts and had them share their drugs with him. Zaleski claims to have been sober and drug-free for 21 years, but nevertheless was sued 14 times by patients between 1987 and 2002, resulting in total judgments of over $1.7 million. Zaleski claimed that the records of the lawsuits misrepresented the claims against him.
- And Zaleski is not the only striking doctor with a questionable background. One surgeon had inadvertently killed a patient by slicing into the wall of his stomach during a procedure. Another had left a clamp on a patient's artery and caused severe liver damage. Others are confessed felons or drug addicts. In total, nine of the eighteen doctors have been found liable for over $3 million in malpractice claims. But the media reports none of this. Instead, the doctors' high-profile walkout is timed perfectly for Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address, where Bush makes an issue out of "excessive" insurance premiums.
- The media doesn't report the real story behind good doctors' rising insurance rates. The insurance companies treat doctors in a given region as a pool, and not as individuals; resultingly, a small number of bad doctors in a given area can cause every doctor's rates to go up. "If I sideswipe another car, my insurance company would know it before I got home," says Linda Lipsen of the American Trial Lawyers Association. "Not so with doctors. The same doctor who commits malpractice over and over again, it's not reflected in his rates. I don't know why insurance companies do it with doctors and they don't do it with anyone else. You need to get these people out of practicing, or you have got to let the market do it and raise their rates so much that they are not gonna practice."
- Doctors, in fact, know that there is no medical-malpractice rate crisis. So do organizations like the AMA. Most of the tales of excessive malpractice premiums complained of by doctors, according to a General Accounting Office report, are either false claims or are caused by individual acts of malpractice, and do "not widely affect access to health care." Only 5% of the nation's doctors have been sued for malpractice. A bigger reason for high insurance rates may be a lack of governance by professional medical boards charged with monitoring medical errors. Only 8% of the 35,000 doctors with two or more malpractice payouts between 1990 and 2002 were disciplined by their regulatory boards. Dr. Sidney Wolfe wrote in the March 3, 2003 edition of the New York Times, the "major cause of the malpractice problem is ignored: the failure of state medical boards to discipline doctors. Amid the uproar about medical malpractice premium increases, there is a deadly silence from physicians' groups on the crisis of inadequate doctor discipline. The problem is not the compensation paid to injured patients, but an epidemic of medical errors."
- That set of facts, however, doesn't play into Rove's strategy. His reality is that greedy trial lawyers seeking fat liability claims for avaricious patients with frivolous claims is what causes malpractice premiums to be so high, and those premiums are what cause doctors to be unable to provide decent health care and why so many Americans cannot afford health insurance. Rove's solution -- caps on medical malpractice claims -- does not work to bring premiums down, but instead works to discourage patients from filing lawsuits, according to a 25-year study by the state of California. California passed MICRA, the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, in 1975, which capped noneconomic damage liability payouts to $250,000. Sliding scales were adopted for legal fees, meaning that larger payouts resulted in smaller attorneys' fees. As a result, lawyers didn't bring nearly as many malpractice suits, resulting in bigger profits for medical insurers. But insurance costs rose 450% over the next twelve years. In 1988, California voters adopted Proposition 103, which worked to control insurance costs instead of attorneys; as a result, malpractice premiums dropped 20%, and the industry reluctantly refunded over $135 million to doctors. In the 25 states that have adopted liability caps, premiums have continued to rise.
- And several studies have shown that doctors have been victimized by price-gouging practices by their insurers -- one of the most egregrious offenders being Health Care Indemnity, an affiliate of Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), which is owned by the family of Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. HCA has jumped its malpractice premiums by 88%, for a profit increase of $174 million, at a time when claims were falling $74 million, or about 32%. "Doctors ahd consumers deserve to see the facts behind the true crisis, which is that insurance companies are price-gouging their doctors, not an explosion of claims," says former Texas insurance commissioner and federal insurance administrator J. Robert Hunter.
- Another false Rove claim is that doctors are "forced" to order expensive and unnecessary medical tests in order to meet legal liability standards. But a study by the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment in the mid-90s showed that such "defensive medicine costs" were "negligible" and had minimal or no impact on patients' access to health care.
- But the striking doctors disagree. Frank Galitski, a Bush campaign worker who runs a political front group called the Texas Alliance for Patient Access, meets with doctors in Scranton, Pennsylvania a few weeks after the West Virginia walkout and admits "there is some coordination" between the striking doctors and the White House. The West Virginia walkouts are augmented by slick public relations documents purporting to show the facts on lawsuit abuse; the PR materials are developed by a group called the West Virginia Care Coalition, which is tied to Maple Creative, a PR firm with close ties to White House officials. Most of the $200,000 costs of printing and distributing the materials came from donations by Bush-friendly corporate groups such as the West Virginia Oil and Gas Coalition and the Business Roundtable.
- The strike is effective, at least in West Virginia. The state legislature quickly passes a law capping malpractice awards, even thoughonly 1% of the state's doctors had five or more malpractice payouts or settlements in the previous decade. (Many of that 1% were the ones striking.) And in fact, between 1993 and 2001, verdicts against doctors and total dollar amounts awarded in West Virginia dropped steadily. If previous experiences in other states hold true, the insurance premiums charged West Virginia doctors will not drop, but will instead rise. What will drop are liability lawsuits that cost insurance companies money. The strikes spread to Nevada, New Jersey, and eleven other states, with similar effects. State after state adopts restrictive caps on malpractice lawsuit payouts. In some states, merely the threat of a strike ensures passage of restrictive legislation; around two dozen states in all pass the Rove-generated caps. And Rove is working Congress to get a federal law passed for all fifty states.
- Another Rove-generated fallacy is that frivolous medical lawsuits clog court dockets, making it impossible for "real" civil cases to get through the backlog. Not true. More than 80% of court cases in American civil courts involve one company or corporation suing another one. "It's ridiculous," says Lipsen. "Can you imagine telling Coca-Cola that they are going to be limited if they think that their patent has been violated? It's ridiculous. Or a small company wanting to pursue a larger company because of anticompetitive statutes and saying you can't do that? You can't do that because the courts are clogged? It's ridiculous. People would say that's ridiculous."
- The reality is far grimmer than the "good-doctor bad-lawyer" scenario painted in primary colors by Rove. His true agenda is to limit access to the courts by the ordinary citizen. Moore and Slater write, "If people cannot bring suit against businesses, regardless of the merits, profits are protected, risks are reduced, and the Republican Party gets both the credit and the campaign contributions for this accomplishment. Combine obstacles to getting into court with the appointment and election of conservative, business-friendly judges, and the American civil justice system becomes completely 'corporatized.'" ATLA's Carlton Carl refuses to call Rove's objective "tort reform," "because that's not what it is. It's a campaign to shut down the average person's ability to go into a courtroom and get justice. That's all it is. And it's working. If you get seriously harmed by the negligence of a business, you will soon find it is nearly impossible to get a lawyer, much less get your case all the way to trial."
- In 1994, Rove's colleague Neal Cohen instructed a gathering of corporate lobbyists and PR executives on the language to use in framing the debate. Call it reform, he told his listeners. Hide the real beneficiaries behind front groups such as small-business owners and doctors. Don't go into details. "Talk about frivolous lawsuits, lawsuit abuse, trial lawyer greed. In a tort reform battle, if State Farm -- and Nationwide -- are the leaders of the coalition, you're not going to pass the bill. It's not credible, okay? Because it's so self-serving."
- "You ask people if they want to get rid of frivolous lawsuits, and, of course, their answer is yes," says Democratic pollster Ed Lazarus. "But they don't realize that they are basically getting rid of all lawsuits. When you ask the follow-up questions about whether they want the guy who lost his leg in an accident caused by his employer's negligence to be able to sue, they always answer yes. Tell them they are getting rid of his rights, too, and they go, 'You mean, the guy in the wheelchair with one leg, he can't sue, either?' and their opinion changes. People think they are getting rid of only frivolous lawsuits, and they aren't. They are getting rid of them all because caps means lawyers can't afford to take a case on a contingency fee."
- Ultimately, the "tort reform" attack against trial lawyers and ordinary Americans generates huge, windfall profits for Republican-friendly corporations and engenders huge campaign contributions for Bush and GOP candidates around the country. At the same time, it slashes the money made by the trial lawyers who represent ordinary Americans, resulting in smaller donations to Democrats. A win-win indeed. (James Moore and Wayne Slater)
- Early July: Richard Haass, director of policy planning at the State Department, is told by Condoleezza Rice that a war with Iraq is already in the works. "The moment was the first week of July), when I had a meeting with Condi. I raised this issue about were we really sure that we wanted to put Iraq front and center at this point, given the war on terrorism and other issues. And she said, essentially, that that decision's been made, don't waste your breath. ...So then when [Colin] Powell had his famous dinner with the president, in early August 2002 [when Powell supposedly persuades Bush to take the question of invading Iraq to the UN], the agenda was not whether Iraq, but how." Haas says that his conversation with Rice is the moment when he knew for certain that a war with Iraq was inevitable. (CBS/Buzzflash, Eric Alterman and Mark Green, New Yorker/Laura Flanders)
- July 1: An American AC-130 gunship attacks a compound in the Afghan village of Kakrak, killing 54 people, mostly women and children celebrating a wedding. Even after reporters collect and present irrefutable evidence of the civilian massacre, the Pentagon refuses to acknowledge the incident. Later, the Pentagon grudgingly backtracks on the story, conceding that the gunship fired on the civilians, but maintaining, with no proof except to the contrary, that the attack was provoked by anti-aircraft fire from the compound. In a telephone conversation with Afghan president Hamid Karzai, Bush expresses his "sympathies" to the victims' families, but offers no apologies or material recompense for the massacre. "He certainly did express the tragedy of the situation," says a White House spokesperson. Two months later, a "comprehensive" inquiry into the attack from US CENTCOM maintains the same story as before, that the attack was prompted by anti-aircraft fire from the wedding party, even though the report acknowledges that it did not find "the presence of any anti-aircraft weapons or even a significant presence of shell casings from any weapon." Eyewitness accounts confirm that no one fired on the American gunship, and that no anti-aircraft weapons were on site. During the year, Democratic senator Patrick Leahy will oversee the assignation of $1.2 million into the budget of the US Agency for International Development to assist Afghan civilians who have lost relatives, limbs, homes, or businesses to US bombings. As of the spring of 2003, the Bush administration will successfully block the allocation of any of the appropriated money. One survivor of an American attack, Niaz Mohammed Khan, tells the Washington Post, "Our houses were destroyed. We want to rebuild, but we don't have the money.... We need water for our land. We need everything. People come and ask us questions, then go away. No one has helped." (David Corn)
- July 2: Motions from Zacarias Moussaoui are unsealed in federal court, indicating that Moussaoui wants to testify before both a grand jury and Congress about the Sept. 11 attacks. Moussaoui claims to have information showing that the US government wanted the attacks to happen. (Washington Post/From the Wilderness)
- July 4: Egyptian Hesham Mohamed Ali Hayadert kills two US citizens at the El Al counter in the Los Angeles airport. He is killed by El Al security forces. (Michael Scheuer)
"I cannot think of a time when business overall has been in less repute." Goldman Sachs CEO and future Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, July 6, quoted by Frank Rich, p.53
- July 9: At a Wall Street hotel, Bush gives a keynote speech on his plans for the US economy to an audience of about a thousand corporate CEOs and executives, and some specifics on his idea of promoting corporate responsibility. His speech advocates "a new era of integrity in corporate America," and Bush tosses out several elements of his manifesto, including his plan to create a federal "corporate fraud task force" that will "function as a financial crimes SWAT team," a plan to double the maximum prison terms for mail or wire fraud from five to ten years in prison, more funding for the SEC, a request to America's CEOs to describe "in plain English" the details of their own compensation packages, and a "challenge" to corporations to end corporate loans to company officials. He refuses to propose several of the most widely recommended ideas for reform: to compel firms to count executive stock options against profits, protection for corporate whistleblowers, limits on offshore tax havens, and preventing accounting firms from doing consulting work with firms they audit. He also fails to explain why he is opposing stricter reforms currently pending in a Senate bill. Bush's speech is left non-specific upon the advice of corporate alumni in office, including Vice President Cheney (former CEO of Halliburton) and domestic policy chief Joshua Bolton (formerly of Goldman Sachs). Bush also fails to disclose that his tough-sounding "corporate fraud task force" is no "financial crimes SWAT team," but merely a coordinating body with no power to investigate or prosecute. His call for doubling jail sentences is specious, considering how few convictions of corporate misdeeds ever actually occur. According to Newsday, the corporate audience members left the hotel "grinning like they'd just been handed fat new stock-option deals.... The executives Bush came to pillory, they swore they loved the speech. And why not? Savvy Wall Streeters realized what any half-intelligent person would. This was for the cameras." No real regulations were proposed; instead, Bush "challenged" the corporations to monitor themselves.
- Two days later, news of Bush's own insider trading with his former company Harken Oil hits the media, including documentation of his own $180,375 low-interest loans from Harken used to buy Harken stock, a practice he condemned in his speech. The stock market responds by plummeting over 7% in value. Three weeks later, it drops 390 points in a single day. Democratic senator Paul Sarbanes slams his tougher corporate-responsibility bill through Congress (passing the Senate 97-0) despite opposition by the White House; the bill staunches Wall Street's hemorraghing and stabilizes the economy. Bush says of the Harken insider trading accusations, which turn on his illegal unloading of Harken stock days before the company declared bankruptcy and his failure for eight months to report his sale, that it had been Harken's responsibility, not his, to report the sales. This explanation is proven a lie when an October 1989 letter from Harken's CEO turns up; the letter reminds Bush that the company cannot file the paperwork with the SEC without his signature, which was missing. The letter, along with other documents, also proves that this was the third time Bush failed to report stock sales and the subsequent earnings. Bush takes credit for the Sarbanes corporate responsibility bill that he and his administration fought, saying that the Senate "acted on a tough bill that shares my goals and includes all of the accounting and criminal reforms I proposed. ...My administration pressed for greater corporate integrity. A united Congress has written it into law." Two months later, Bush refuses to honor the bill's increase in funding for the SEC, providing it with only 38% of the funding requested by Congress. (Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose, David Corn, Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
- July 9: Representatative Henry Waxman and several fellow Democrats write a letter requesting an explanation as to why the National Institute of Health and other government agencies were recently directed by the Bush administration to remove information about reproduction and contraception from its Web sites. As part of the "scrubbed" section on the Centers for Disease Control Web site, "Programs That Work," the CDC identified five programs which it deemed most effective in reducing teenage pregnancies; the programs thus identified did not promote just sexual abstinence, the stance of the administration, but recommended contraceptive use as well. The entire "Programs That Work" section has been removed, replacing it with a notice that reads, "The CDC has discontinued PTW and is considering a new process that is more responsive to changing needs and concerns of state and local education and health agencies and community organizations." (The archived Web pages of PTW are available here.) Similarly, the administration removed science-based information on the effectiveness of condom usage in preventing the transmission of the HIV virus, replacing it with vaguer and less positive language. On the NIH Web site, information countering the popular myth that abortions lead to breast cancer was removed. And Tommy Thompson's Department of Health and Human Services appointed an inspector general to investigate AIDS programs to see if their content is too sexually explicit or promotes sexual activity. (The Memory Hole, Peter Singer)
- July 10: A briefing given to a top Pentagon advisory group states, "The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader. ...Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies." They are called "the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent." This position still runs counter to official US policy, but the Washington Post says it "represents a point of view that has growing currency within the Bush administration." The briefing suggests that the Saudis be given an ultimatum to stop backing terrorism or face seizure of its oil fields and its financial assets invested in the United States. The group, the Defense Policy Board, is headed by Richard Perle. A international controversy follows the public reports of the briefing in August 2002. In an abrupt change, the media starts calling the Saudis enemies, not allies of the US. Slate reports details of the briefing the Post failed to mention. The briefing states, "There is an 'Arabia,' but it needs not be 'Saudi'." The conclusion of the briefing: "Grand strategy for the Middle East: Iraq is the tactical pivot. Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot. Egypt the prize." Note that a similar meeting of the Defense Policy Board appears to have preceded and affected the US's decision to take a warlike stance against Iraq. (CCR)
- July 10: During a press conference, Bush responds to a question about his refusal to address the annual meeting of the NAACP by saying, "Let's see. There I was sitting around the table with foreign leaders looking at Colin Powell and Condi Rice." Even some conservative commentators are taken aback by the glibness of his answer: Tucker Carlson calls it a "lame response" and insulting to Powell and Rice for Bush to say, "I was sitting with black people when I was criticized." Journalist Paul Waldman writes, "Having satisfactorily established that some of his best friends are black, Bush asked for the next question." (Los Angeles Times/CommonDreams, Paul Waldman)
- July 10: The Department of Defense receives a briefing from RAND analyst Laurent Murawiec which paints Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the US, and recommends that the US give the Saudis an ultimatum: either stop supporting terrorism or have your American assets seized. The Saudis are angered to find out about the briefing, reported less than a month later by the Washington Post, and further provoked when they learn that Murawiec is the former editor of the Executive Intelligence Review, a publication from the organization of right-wing conspiracy nutcase Lyndon LaRouche. (Like LaRouche's organization, the EIR combines well-researched facts with outrageously slanted opinion, wild speculations, and hysterical conspiracy theories.) Defense specialist Richard Perle is the one who invited Murawiec to make his presentation. (Seymour Hersh)
- July 13: The US military releases a new Defense Planning Guidance strategic vision. It "contains all the key elements" of a similar document written ten years earlier by the PNAC and fellow neoconservatives, many whom now hold senior positions in the Bush administration. Like the original, the centerpiece of this vision is preventing any other powers from challenging US world dominance. Some new ideas are added, for instance, not just preemptive strikes but preemptive strikes using nuclear weapons. David Armstrong notes in Harper's magazine, "[In 1992] the goal was global dominance, and it met with bad reviews. Now it is the answer to terrorism. The emphasis is on preemption, and the reviews are generally enthusiastic. Through all of this, the dominance motif remains, though largely undetected." (CCR)
- July 13: In a PBS interview, Defense Policy Board chairman and Bush confidant Richard Perle tells listeners that Iraq will pay for its own invasion: "Iraq is a very wealthy country. Enormous oil reserves. They can finance, largely finance, the reconstruction of their own country. And I have no doubt that they will." (Scroll down the home page of this site to the "Cost of War" counter to find out how many billions of US taxpayer dollars have been spent on Iraq so far.) (PBS/Mother Jones)
- July 13: On ABC's This Week, Donald Rumsfeld defends Bush's lies about Iraq's attempt to secure uranium from Niger during the State of the Union address: "It didn't rise to the standard of a presidential speech. But it's not clear that, it's not known, for example, that it was inaccurate. In fact, people think it's technically accurate." Besides the complete falsity of Bush's claim being "technically accurate," it's interesting to compare Rumsfeld's claim of technical accuracy with the firestorm of criticism over Bill Clinton's 1998 claim that his denial of a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky being "legally accurate." Conservatives were outraged over Clinton's side-stepping of the truth, but none rise to express similar outrage over Bush's "Clintonesque" evasion of the truth. (ABC/Paul Waldman)
- July 14: With little fanfare, the Bush administration reveals its plans to begin Operation TIPS, a citizen informant program conceived under the USA PATRIOT act rubric that would encourage Americans to spy on one another and provide anonymous tips directly to government hotlines for official investigations. TIPS, officially the Terrorism Information and Prevention System, is described on its Web site as "a nationwide program giving millions of American truckers, letter carriers, train conductors, ship captains, utility employees, and others a formal way to report suspicious terrorist activity." Questions as to its efficacy, its Constitutionality, and its undercutting of protected freedoms immediately arise. The American Civil Liberties Union immediately demands a full explanation of just how the program would work and how intrusive it is designed to be. (Washington Post, ACLU)
- July 15: Democratic senator Paul Sarbanes' accounting-standards bill designed to prevent accounting firms like Arthur Andersen from cooking the books for companies like Enron passes the Senate 97-0. The White House and the accounting industry oppose the bill, preferring an industry-written bill that would impose voluntary standards. When the bill is passed by Congress, Bush signs the bill into law and takes credit for its passage. (Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose)
- July 16: Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan appears in front of the Senate Banking Committee. Greenspan, an old-line conservative and former disciple of Ayn Rand who has made a career out of laissez-faire free market economics, shakes the foundation of conservative economic policies by saying that for yearshe believed that "regulation by government was utterly unnecessary and, indeed, most inappropriate. I was wrong." Greenspan was stunned by the stock market crash and the greed-driven failure of one international corporation after another -- Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia, Global Crossing, Arthur Andersen. Greenspan's suggestion of limited market reforms drives the Wall Street Journal editorial board, formerly one of his most loyal supporters, to blast him on the next day's editorial pages. Unfortunately, most of Greenspan's economic suggestions will be ignored by the Bush administration. (Joe Conason)
- July 17: Tony Blair tells the House of Commons liason committee, "To be truthful about it, there was no way we could have got the public consent to have suddenly launched a campaign on Afghanistan but for what happened on September 11." (Guardian)
- July 18: Vice Admiral Thomas Wilson retires as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. In the August 2006 book Hubris, by reporters Michael Isikoff and David Corn, Wilson reveals that he never believed the stories of Iraqi WMDs as promulgated by the Bush administration. "I didn't really think [Iraq] had a nuclear program," Wilson tells the authors. "I didn't think [Saddam and Iraq] were an immediate threat on WMD." Wilson had already earned the enmity of the White House by stating publicly in late 2001 that Saddam Hussein's military ambitions had been effectively constrained by the UN and US sanctions put in place after the Gulf War. (Booman Tribune, Inside the Ring, Michael Isikoff and David Corn)
- July 18: Republican House leader Dick Armey refuses to allow provisions to fund Operation TIPS as part of the new Homeland Security Agency. Armey also refuses to allow for national ID cards, another proposal of the Bush administration. A number of organizations and individuals have spoken out against the program, and the US Postal Service has stated that it would not allow its carriers to participate in the program. An op-ed piece in the Virginian-Pilot begins, "Americans have enough to fear from terrorists. They shouldn't have to fear their neighbors, too." Joan Bertin of the National Coalition Against Censorship says of the administration: "There seems to be no limits, no controls, no guidelines, no rules, no nothing." (ACLU, Virginian-Pilot, Mother Jones)
- July 19: Faced with growing criticism of its Visa Express program, the State Department early in July decided merely to change the name of the program. When that fails to satisfy critics, the program is abandoned altogether on July 19. The Visa Express program allowed anyone in Saudi Arabia to apply for US visas through their travel agents instead of having to show up at a consulate in person. Mary Ryan, the head of the State Department's consular service that was responsible for letting most of the hijackers into the US, is also forced to retire. It has been pointed out that Ryan deceived Congress by testifying that "there was nothing State could have done to prevent the terrorists from obtaining visas." However, after all this, Ryan and the other authors of the Visa Express program are given "outstanding performance" awards of $15,000 each. The reporter who wrote most of the stories critical of Visa Express is briefly detained and pressured by the State Department. (CCR)
US and British military ordered to prepare for Iraqi invasion
- July 21: Sources in the Blair administration tell the British press that Bush has already decided to go to war with Iraq. Tony Blair has already decided to join Bush in the upcoming invasion. "President Bush has already made up his mind. This is going to happen. It is a given," says one Whitehall source. "What we are waiting for is to be told the details of how and when and where." Bush has warned US troop commanders and generals to prepare their units for a "preemptive military action" in Iraq. British war planners have decided to commit between 20,000 and 30,000 troops; British "Challenger" tanks are undergoing emergency refits and servicing, though the Ministry of Defense officially says the tanks are being prepared for a military exercise in Scotland. "The combat indicators are all there," says a British military source. "This is going to happen. And perhaps sooner than we think." Bush is moving to get the invasion underway quickly, say British government sources, in part because Iraq has made diplomatic overtures to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the Arab League, and is discussing prisoner exchanges with Iran, putting pressure on Bush to move forward before Iraq's overtures for peace can undercut his justification for invasion. The news creates a sensation in the European press, but is not reported in America except for a dismissive mention in the conservative National Review -- in June 2005. (Observer, Mother Jones)
"Downing Street Memo" informs Blair that intelligence on Iraq is fraudulent
- July 23: British Prime Minister Tony Blair is told in a top secret meeting that "the facts and intelligence were being fixed" for Bush to justify his invasion of Iraq. Later, the minutes of the meeting will become known as the "Downing Street Memo," eventually leaked to the British press in May 2005. The memo reports that the head of British intelligence, Sir Richard Dearlove, "reported on his recent talks in Washington: "There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." Dearlove is reported to be worried that "[t]here was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath of the military action." On March 14, Blair's foreign policy advisor David Manning advised Blair of recent meetings with Bush's national security advisor Condoleezza Rice, from which he wrote, "From what she said, Bush has yet to find the answers to the big questions," particularly the question of what happens after the invasion and the overthrow of Hussein. "I think there is a real risk that the administration underestimates the difficulties. They may agree that failure isn't an option, but this doesn't mean that they will avoid it." Other participants in the July 23 meeting are described as saying "little thought has been given to...the aftermath and how to shape it."
- Interestingly, CIA director George Tenet attempts to discard the traditional annual summit between senior American and British intelligence officials after 9/11, telling other CIA officials he is too busy to be bothered with the Brits. The British insist on the meeting, with MI6 officials telling their counterparts that such a meeting in the aftermath of 9/11 is imperative. Dearlove garnered his information from the meeting, apparently tasked by Blair to sound out how US intelligence officials felt about the upcoming invasion without the filters of the White House agenda tainting the message. The session was held, at Tenet's insistence, at CIA headquarters instead of the usual "remote" location (the 2001 meeting had been held in Bermuda) on July 20. Tenet and Dearlove spent at least an hour in informal, one-on-one discussions, with Dearlove getting the impression that it didn't matter what Tenet thought of Iraq, the war is coming one way or another. "I doubt that Tenet would have said that Bush was fixing the intelligence," says a former CIA official in retrospect. "But I think Dearlove was a very smart intelligence officer who could figure out what was going on. Plus, the MI6 station chief in Washington was in CIA headquarters all the time, with just about complete access to everything, and I am sure he was talking to a lot of people."
- There actually is a great deal of thought being given to the aftermath of an invasion, as documented in James Fallow's excellent February 2001 Atlantic Monthly article "Blind Into Baghdad," but all of it was being either ridiculed or ignored by the war planners, particularly Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld. In toto, five studies had been conducted by the time Fallows published his article, by such organizations as the US Army War College, the CIA, and the US State Department. All recommended an immediate post-invasion focus on "an initial and broad-based commitment to law and order," in particular the securing of Iraq's borders and the prevention of wholesale looting. Services like electricity and running water need to be reestablished as soon as possible. Weapons caches need to be guarded. The demobilization of the Iraqi Army needs to be handled with great delicacy: as the State Department's Future of Iraq Project reported, "The decommissioning of hundreds of thousands of trained military personnel...could create social problems."
- The invasion itself could be handled with an initial outlay of just over 100,000 troops, as planned by Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. But handling the aftermath of the invasion would take far more personnel, hence the recommendation by Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki for an outlay of several hundred thousand soldiers into Iraq. Every single one of the recommendations for handling the aftermath of the invasion were roundly ignored by Rumsfeld and his planners, and Shinseki was forced into early retirement. What kind of thinking brought all of this about? Journalist Ron Suskind has a partial answer, from an interview with a senior Bush advisor he interviewed around the time of the Downing Street meeting. "The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,'" Suskind writes, "which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'" The incredible hubris of the statement does not need to be expounded upon.
- An administration official involved in the planning for the war told Fallows, "There was absolutely no debate in the normal sense. There are only six or eight of them who make the decisions, and they only talk to each other. And if you disagree with them in public, they'll come after you, the way they did with Shinseki."
- Political satirist Al Franken writes, "Once your divorce from reality is final, you can choose whatever fantasy world you want to inhabit. Bush seems to have chosen the world of B-movie heroics. In Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack, which could easily be the title of the movie George Bush thinks he's starring in, we see Bush fully inhabiting his role with Stanislavskian elan." Woodward quotes Bush asking Colin Powell, "Are you with me on this? I think I have to do this. I want you with me." When Powell replies that Bush has his support, Bush says, "Time to put your war uniform on." Far more information on this and related subjects can be found at After Downing Street. (Sunday Times [text of memo as first published in British press], Downing Street Memo [text of other memos and related material], Atlantic Monthly/Education for Peace in Iraq, Greg Palast, Bob Woodward/Al Franken), James Risen
- July 23: During a meeting of top US and UK officials regarding a possible attack on Iraq, foreign policy aide Matthew Rycroft makes the following observations about Bush's comments, according to the notorious "Downing Street Memo:" "It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. ...There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. ...But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. ...In reference to illegal bombings begun in May: 'The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun "spikes of activity" to put pressure on the regime.' ...There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action. ...The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. ...No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections." (After Downing Street/OhMy News)
- July 23: Conservative gadfly and former John Birch Society member Phyllis Schlafly will write an article entitled "Homeland Security or Homeland Spying?" that too many prominent Republicans are cozying up to increased federal control and the spending that goes with it. (Laura Flanders, Joe Conason and Gene Lyons)
- July 24: Peter Kirsanow, a Bush appointee to the US Civil Rights Commission, warns a Detroit audience that he envisions a situation in which the public will demand internment camps for Arab-Americans. If terrorists attack the US for a second time and if "they come from the same ethnic group that attacked the World Trade Center, you can forget about civil rights," he says. The administration is working hard to accomodate Kirsanow's prediction, with Justice Department curtailing the Posse Comitatus Act and the president himself urging churches and other public institutions to play an important role in "a national reporting system that allows these workers, whose routines make them well positioned to recognize unusual events, to report suspicious activity." In other words, encouraging church congregations, public service workers, and others to spy and snitch on their fellow citizens. "We're not here to spy on each other," counters David Dyson, pastor of the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn; Peter Laarman, senior minister of Judson Memorial, calls the idea "a total violation of what the spirit of religious community should be." FBI agents routinely visit American mosques, and have placed a variety of Muslim organizations under close surveillance. Ghazi Khankan, director of interfaith affairs at the Islamic Center of Long Island, says, "I have a message to Mr. Bush and Mr. Ashcroft, that the Muslim community is a self-policing community. The Islamic way of life and the Islamic teaching is opposed to acts of violence and terrorism as part of the religious teaching itself...if we see someone is going to harm any human being or any property, it is my religious duty to stop that person." Khankan adds, "That does not mean that we would not cooperate with any legitimate authority or organization that are on the lookout, but for God's sake, don't focus on Muslims alone, be on the lookout in all houses of worship, not just mosques." A spokesman for the Heritage Foundation, Joe Laconte, responds that it is totally appropriate for churches to be a new focal point of an organized citizen spying program, making the incredible comparison that "congregations were the foot soldiers in the civil rights movement." (Village Voice)
- July 26: White House security prevents the legal watch-group Judicial Watch from serving Vice President Cheney with a lawsuit filed on behalf of Halliburton shareholders. (CNS/From the Wilderness)
- July 26: Republican congressman Bob Barr speaks out against the proposed Operation TIPS program: "[Operation TIPS], organized, paid for and maintained by our own federal government to recruit Americans to spy on fellow Americans, smacks of the very type of fascist or Communist government we fought so hard to eradicate in other countries in decades past." (Village Voice)
- July 29: An article in the neoconservative journal Weekly Standard, titled "The Coming War with Saddam," kicks off a storm of articles and editorials promoting the war in Iraq that appear in the American media. The article claims, falsely, that Taha Husseyn, a high-ranking Iraqi diplomat, had traveled to Kandahar in November 2001 for a meeting with Mavlana Jalal ud-Din Haqqani, a Taliban representative, to offer support to Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohammed Omar. George Will writes a column a week in August pushing for war, and is joined by op-eds by Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol, and Bill O'Reilly, tirades by Rush Limbaugh, and many other lesser media luminaries, most employed by the Rupert Murdoch, Sun Myung Moon, or ClearChannel media empires. The Weekly Standard article is flagged by the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), which begins sending memos to select journalists giving them tips on what to say. Starting then, either the Weekly Standard or the PNAC, or occasionally a "freelancer" in league with them writing for the Washington Post, runs an article once a week for the next 16 weeks, pushing war with Iraq. All of this will prepare the ground for Vice President Cheney's Aug. 26 speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, arguing for "preemptive military action." (The Populist, The Weekly Standard)
- July 31: Neoconservative conspiracy theorist Laurie Mylroie, who believes Saddam Hussein is the mastermind behind every terrorist attack on Americans in the last nine years (see items on this page and the 2001 page for more about Mylroie), tells CNN anchor Aaron Brown that Bush has already decided to get rid of Hussein. She says Bush has ordered the CIA to "do it by covert means," but that "no one, including the CIA director" expects such covert attempts to work -- therefore, an invasion and forcible overthrow is the only other option. Mylroie says that there is a group all primed to take over Iraq and turn it into a Western-style democracy: Ahmad Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress. Brown asks why Bush is so committed to overthrowing Hussein; Mylroie answers that it is "partly" due to Hussein's WMDs and "partly [Hussein's] prior support for terrorism, including strong suspicions about Iraq's involvement in 9/11 in the part of the Vice-President's office and the office of the Secretary of Defense." But don't most intelligence officials believe that al-Qaeda mounted the 9/11 attacks with no involvement by Hussein? Mylroie retorts that the CIA's refusal to see the connection between Iraq and 9/11 is an "enormous scandal," bigger than Enron. The CIA is engaged in an "enormous cover-up exercise" by not, in essence, accepting her wild and long-debunked theories about Hussein's involvement in 9/11. "No reasonable person," she says, "would conclude otherwise." (Michael Isikoff and David Corn)
- Late July: General Tommy Franks, the chief planner of the upcoming Iraq invasion, requests and receives $700 million for war preparations. Bush agrees; Congress is not informed. The money comes from a supplemental appropriation for Afghanistan previously approved by Congress. (Bob Woodward/Mother Jones)
- Late July: Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter says to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "This is not about the security of the United States. This is about domestic American politics. The national security of the United States of America has been hijacked by a handful of neo-conservatives who are using their position of authority to pursue their own ideologically driven political ambitions. The day we go to war for that reason is the day we have failed collectively as a nation." Ritter, a former Marine and a staunch patriot, is painted by the Republicans as "the Jane Fonda of Iraq."
- Ritter's is an interesting story. A former UNSCOM inspector from 1991 through 1998, Ritter was so diligent in his hunt for Iraqi WMDs that Hussein's officials asked for his expulsion, calling him a CIA agent. (There were indeed CIA agents on the teams, a fact that compromised the integrity of the teams and gave Hussein a reason to distrust the operation. Ritter had strongly objected to the use of spies.) On September 8, while Bush officials saturate the airwaves with calls for war against Iraq, Ritter will be in Baghdad, urging Hussein's officials to smarten up and stop providing the Bush administration with pretexts for another invasion -- see the September 8 entry below. (Capital Times, Moore and Slater, Mark Crispin Miller)