- November: Under duress from Congress, Bush quietly signs into law the Afghanistan Freedom Support Act, which authorizes $3.3 billion in economic, political, humanitarian, and security aid to Afghanistan over the next four years. The bill is sponsored by Senate Republican Chuck Hagel, a longtime critic of the administration's Afghan policy. But Bush will refuse to actually allocate any money to be spent for the bill. Says Human Rights Watch's Mike Jendrzejczyk, "The president was willing to go along with authorizing funding for greater security, but not to follow up with providing actual money." The US War College's Larry Goodson writes that the US seems to be "losing interest" in helping Afghanistan. (David Corn)
- November: Iraq's foreign minister Naji Sabri agrees to provide information to US intelligence about Iraq's state secrets, according to former CIA chief Tyler Drumheller, in a CBS News report from April 2006. Drumheller, a 26-year CIA veteran, says that the White House is excited to have such a high-level spy in the Iraqi government, until Sabri reveals that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. "The group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they're no longer interested," Drumheller says. "And we said, 'Well, what about the intel?' And they said, 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change.'" Condoleezza Rice later downplays Sabri's information, saying he is just one of multiple sources; Drumheller counters that the administration has been more than willing to accept single, far less reliable, sources of information when the information is what they want to hear. Drumheller says he saw how the Bush administration, time and again, welcomed intelligence that fit the president's determination to go to war and turned a blind eye to intelligence that did not: "It just sticks in my craw every time I hear them say it's an intelligence failure. ...This was a policy failure," Drumheller says the administration was dismayed when former ambassador Joseph Wilson reported that Iraq had not attempted to buy uranium from Niger in 1999, nor had even shown any interest in doing so. And administration officials were infuriated when Wilson publicly refuted their claims of such an attempt. "The American people want to believe the president," says Drumheller. "I have relatives who I've tried to talk to about this who say, 'Well, no, you can't tell me the president had this information and just ignored it.' But I think over time, people will look back on this and see this is going to be one of the great, I think, policy mistakes of all time." (CBS News, Mother Jones)
- November: High-level CIA officials stationed in the Middle East are gathered in London and told that a war with Iraq is inevitable, and they need to make preparations. (Mother Jones)
- November: An inexperienced CIA case officer in a warehouse detention facility nicknamed the "Salt Pit" in Afghanistan, just north of Kabul, orders that an uncooperative young detainee be stripped naked and chained to a concrete floor. The detainee, dragged over the concrete floor until he is bruised and bloodied, is chained overnight without blankets and freezes to death. The captive's family has never been notified; his remains have never been returned for burial. He is on no one's registry of captives, not even as a "ghost detainee," the term for CIA captives held in military prisons but not registered on the books. "He just disappeared from the face of the earth," says one US government official. The case officer is later promoted. The story does not come to light until March of 2005. (Washington Post, Mother Jones)
- November: Reverend James Hagee, the pastor of Houston's Cornerstone Church and one of the nation's foremost religious fundamentalists, delivers a speech strangely reminiscent of Bush neoconservatives' policies towards the Middle East. Former Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a frequent speaker at Cornerstone, is scheduled to speak to the congregation, but sends his regrets. Hagee plays an audiotape of Netanyahu that concludes, "The first order, the first duty, is to destroy the regime of Yasir Arafat. He is the same evil you will face with Saddam Hussein." Hagee agrees and closes out his sermon with a warning: "Listen, Saddam. There's a Texan in the White House, and he's going to take you down." (Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose)
- November: The National Nuclear Security Administration, the organization charged with the protection of the US's nuclear stockpiles and weapons labs, is forced to announce a hiring freeze, even though it already is weathering a severe shortage of security guards. The reason for the freeze? Lack of funding by the Bush administration. The hiring freeze is joined by the administration's attempt to slash overseas nuclear security funding. (Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
- November: The Arabic news network al-Jazeera interviews white supremacist leader David Duke. Upset with the interview, the White House informs the network that it will now be subject to punishment via the same "message discipline" it uses to rein in and control less cooperative American media outlets. (Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose)
- November: Conservative gadfly Dinesh d'Souza advises the Democratic Party to be "true to itself" in future campaigns by confessing that it is "the party of moral degeneracy" and standing up for its core beliefs in "divorce, illegitimacy, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, and pornography." (Joe Conason)
- November 3: An unmanned Predator reconnaissance aircraft controlled by American operators fires a Hellfire missile at an automobile on a road in Yemen. The car is believed to contain al-Qaeda leader Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi. American and Yemeni intelligence has been tracking al-Harethi, and the order to fire is not given until the car is well away from other traffic (and witnesses) as it drove through the desert province of Marib. Al-Harethi and five other passengers are killed. The Predator operation is controlled from a situation room in Yemen, though the aircraft itself originates from a base in Djibouti. Al-Harethi is apparently aware that he is being tracked via his satellite phone conversations, and frequently changes phones and numbers -- five cell phones are found on his body. Yemeni security forces take charge of the site shortly after the strike, remove the bombed-out car, and take the bodies to a military hospital in Sana'a, the capital, where American officials collect DNA samples for processing in the US. The car's license plates are Saudi, indicating a connection with Saudi Arabia, and the last known satellite phone call from al-Harethi was to a number in the United Arab Emirates, an American ally also known to provide support to Muslim extremists. "Lots of money comes from the UAE," says a Yemeni official. The Yemenis say that the five passengers also have their own ties to terrorist groups, four of them belonging to the outlawed Aden-Abyan Islamic Army, and the fifth being Kamal Derwish, an Arab-American who recruited Muslims in the vicinity of his hometown of Buffalo to attend terrorist training camps run by al-Qaeda. Neither the Yemenis nor the Americans knew for certain who was in the car with al-Harethi. Previous operations to assassinate al-Harethi had come close to disaster; in one case, a Predator was about to hit a convoy of pickup trucks when a local spotter identified the occupants as nomadic Bedouins and not al-Qaeda members. Al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri later says, "When Abu al-Harethi was killed by US missiles in Yemen, it was a warning to us that the Israeli method of killing the mujahedeen in Palestine has come to the Arab world."
- The problem for the Yemenis come when, on November 4, Bush decides to tell journalists of the assasination, proclaiming the first al-Qaeda kill outside Afghanistan. He also tells journalists that al-Harethi, who is believed to have been involved in the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, is just one of a list of "high-value" targets whose elimination, by capture or killing, has been ordered by Bush. The assassination marks a dramatic escalation on the US war on terror, abandoning the fundamental precept laid down by the Senate's Church Committee in 1975 which condemned US attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, and said such planning "violates moral precepts fundamental to our way of life.... [I]n defending [our democracy], we must resist undermining the very virtues we are defending." A 1976 executive order from then-President Ford explicitly bans any US assassination attempts, an order that remains in force. However, the Bush administration, led by Rumsfeld, decided that after 9/11, the assassination of suspected terrorists was a justifiable action of the war on terror. Defense Department lawyers coughed up opinions that twisted the Army's Law of War into justifying such killings.
- And on June 22, 2002, Rumsfeld ordered Air Force general Charles Holland, the commander of Special Ops, "to develop a plan to find and deal with members of terrorist organizations." Rumsfeld said, "The objective is to capture terrorists for interrogation or, if necessary, to kill them, not simply to arrest them in a law-enforcement exercise." Rumsfeld wanted the deployment of such operations "in minutes and hours, not days and weeks." (In December 2002, Rumsfeld lies in response to questions about the policy, saying that no military personnel would be part of such a policy. Nevertheless, the policy took effect, and the most severe criticism -- on moral and ethical grounds, not on its legality or efficacy, comes from within Special Forces itself.) Rumsfeld had long complained about Holland's "foot-dragging" shortly after the 9/11 attacks. In mid-September, he asked Holland for a list of terrorist targets for immediate retaliation; two weeks later, Holland produced a list of four targets, suspected Islamic fundamentalist compounds in Somalia, Mauritania, the Phillippines, and the Triple Frontier (the nexus between Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina). Holland also told Rumsfeld that no "actionable intelligence" existed to justify attacks on any of the targets. Rumsfeld responded by mocking Holland, using the phrase "actionable intelligence" as an insult. Senior Pentagon officials warned Rumsfeld that his plans would turn the military's various Special Ops Commands, including the Navy's SEALs, the Army's Delta Force, and the government's own secret undercover team, designated Gray Fox, into hunter-killer teams reminscent of the Vietnam era's out-of-control Phoenix Project. A defense consultant with close ties to Special Forces said, "There is concern that emphasis on a target list will turn the Special Operations Forces into a counterterror force and atrophy other attributes." A former high-level intelligence official says Rumsfeld "want[s] to turn these guys into assassins. They want to go on rumor -- not fact -- and go for political effect, and that's what the Special Forces command is really afraid of. Rummy is saying that politics is bigger than war, and we need to take guys out for political effect: you have to kill Goebbels to get to Hitler." Of Rumsfeld, he says, "The military is saying, 'Who is this guy?' There's a major clash of wills as to what is the future of Special Forces." Even a senior administration official confirms that Rumsfeld's plans run "counter to conventional military doctrine." Rumsfeld is successful largely because the senior military leadership did not have the will to stand up to him. Internal Defense Department memos from the year after the 9/11 attacks confirm Rumsfeld's insistence on creating and deploying Special Forces as assassination squads, and his relentless mockery and contempt for Pentagon planners. "The worst way to organize for the manhunt...is to have it planned in the Pentagon," reads one memo. "Our prerequisite of perfection for 'actionable intelligence' has paralyzed us." Another memo tells Rumsfeld, "We 'over-plan' for every contingency.... This denies us the agility and tactical surprise so necessary for manhunts, snatches, and retribution raids. We must be willing to accept the risks associated with a smaller footprint." The memo urges Rumsfeld to "ensure that the military leadership understands fully the cultural change you seek." Manhunting teams must be kept "small and agile," and "must be able to operate clandestinely, using a full range of official and non-official cover arrangements to travel and to enter countries surreptitiously."
- A Pentagon official defends Rumsfeld's policy, saying that the military has been "Clintonized" and is now paralyzed from peacetime experience and unprepared for a wartime footing. "What Rumsfeld wants them to do is to fight [the war on terror] differently, but his way makes most of our senior military leadership's understanding of war fighting irrelevant. He is saying to the military leadership, 'You don't have the answers,' and they don't want to hear that. The argument that Rumsfeld is mean to the chiefs and treats them poorly is, I think, a political operation to make him look like a hip shooter." He calls the resistance to assassination squads "a perversion." "We need to find some more fighting generals," he says.
- Rumsfeld sees the Gray Fox government strike force as the most capable of carrying out the kind of assassination missions he envisions. As part of his overall vision, he proposes restructuring the entire Special Forces as a specific agency under his personal command. The new agency would take orders only from Rumsfeld, and thus overcome bureaucratic inertia "to implement the changes you want." The idea -- essentially giving Rumsfeld his own personal military force -- is unlikely to be approved by Congress.
- Predictably, the American media is gleeful about the Yemeni assassination, calling it tangible progress in the war against terrorism. The criticism, from scattered sources among the American left and from some foreign sources, is brushed off. But some of the most cogent criticism is not based in sheer morality, but in practical terms. "It's not a question of law," says Tufts University professor Michael Glennon, an expert in international law. "It's a matter of policy. Is it wise? Do such attacks increase the possibility of retaliation at home and abroad on the American political and military leadership?" Harvard Law professor Philip Heymann adds, "I don't think Richard Nixon signed the treaty outlawing biological warfare just because he had a deep aversion to biologicals. He signed it because it was against US national interests to have a lot of little guys running around with biological agents that could not be deterred by our nuclear arsenal. Assassination is in the same ballpark -- it doesn't take much to assassinate a US secretary of state or Cabinet member." Heymann says the goal should be to outlaw "any weapon that even a small country can use against the big guys." "I'm not opposed to shooting people," says Jeffrey Smith, a West Point graduate who served as the CIA's general counsel during the Clinton administration, "but it ought to be a last resort. If they're dead, they're not talking to you, and you create more martyrs." A Pentagon consultant says that initially many Special Forces troops will be eager to carry out their orders -- they're young, inexperienced, and trained to follow orders. But, eventually the intelligence will be bad, he says, and innocent people will die. "And then they'll get hung." As for Rumsfeld and his deputies, "These guys will overextend themselves, and they'll self-destruct." The warnings recall the murder of three innocent Afghanis in February 2002, originally identified as Osama bin Laden and two associates. A Predator drone launches a Hellfire missile that kills the three, who were later identified as local men scavenging for scrap metal.
- The Yemenis are not happy with Bush's announcement of the Predator strike against al-Harethi. The Yemeni administration wanted to wait and announce the strike jointly with the Americans, but Bush, likely impelled by the upcoming midterm elections, makes the announcement unilaterally. The Yemenis are angry and dismayed. "This is why it is so difficult to make deals with the United States," says a senior Yemeni government official. "They don't consider the internal circumstances in Yemen." Apparently they didn't consider the idea of repercussions, either. A few weeks later, on November 29, a huge explosion rocks government buildings in Marib Province. "The blast is more than just an explosion," a tribal sheikh tells the Yemeni press. "It must be a message from al-Qaeda saying, 'We are here, and we can strike.' This is serious." (Seymour Hersh, Michael Scheuer)
- November 3: In a campaign speech in South Dakota, Bush tells his listeners, "Saddam Hussein is a man who told the world he wouldn't have weapons of mass destruction, but he's got them.... And not only that, [he would] like nothing more than to hook up with one of these shadowy terrorist networks like al-Qaeda, provide some weapons and training to them, let them come do his dirty work, and we wouldn't be able to see his fingerprints on his action. ...[Saddam Hussein is] a man who not only has chemical weapons, but he has used chemical weapons against some of his neighbors." He makes virtually identical claims the next day in Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, and Texas, though he is quite aware that US intelligence reports contradict almost everything he is saying.
(Bush on Iraq)
- November 4: In nearly identical campaign speeches for the midterm elections in Arkansas, Texas, Iowa, and Missouri, Bush claims of Saddam Hussein, "He said he wouldn't have chemical weapons, he's got them. ...Not only has he got chemical weapons, but I want you to remember, he's used chemical weapons." While Bush speaks with absolute certainty, the reality is that Hussein has no such weapons. UN and IAEA inspections have found no evidence of any current biological or chemical weapons stockpiles. He also, again, conflates Iraq with al-Qaeda, though no evidence whatsoever exists of any connections between the two: "He's had contacts with al-Qaeda. Imagine the scenario where an al-Qaeda type organization uses Iraq as an arsenal, a place to get weapons, a place to be trained to use the weapons. Saddam Hussein could use surrogates to come and attack people he hates. ...I want you to think about a scenario in which he becomes the arsenal and the training grounds for shadowy terrorists so that he can attack somebody [he] hates and not leave any fingerprints behind. He is a threat." Of course, when the claims are completely disproven, Bush will deny that he or any of his officials ever made such claims. (Bush on Iraq)
- November 4: Rob Richter, a veteran covert operator and former CIA station chief in Amman, Jordan, is promoted to the head of the Near East and South Asia Division of the CIA operations directorate, covering the entire Middle East. The position makes Richter the top hands-on manager of clandestine work in the region. As Richter's Iraq Operations Group secretly moves two CIA paramilitary teams into northern Iraq, Richter, in his first meeting on Iraq, asks CIA director George Tenet if the US was really going to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein. "You bet your *ss," Tenet says. "It's not a matter of if. It's a matter of when. The president is going to war. Make the plans. We're going." In private conversations with his close friend John Brennan, a 22-year CIA veteran, Tenet tells Brennan that he thinks Bush may still be waffling on the idea, but Bush is getting tremendous pressure from Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, who are absolutely committed to invading Iraq. Tenet says that in his gut, he feels the invasion is a bad idea, and that Bush and his senior advisors are naive in believing that the US can just invade Iraq, topple the government, and have everything turn out fine. "This is a mistake," Tenet tells Brennan. But Tenet never communicates his misgivings to Bush. Instead, Tenet gives Bush plenty of support, telling Bush at one time that the intelligence behind the assumptions that Hussein has WMDs is a "slam dunk." (In April 2005, Tenet will say of his phrase "slam dunk," "Those are the two dumbest words I ever said.") And besides, Tenet notes, there is so much momentum inside the highest echelons of the administration to go to war, and so much encouragement to allies such as Great Britain to back the invasion, that it would be almost impossible to reverse course even if they wanted to. And finally, there was Cheney, whose push for the war is absolute and intractable. More than anyone else, Cheney's influence is directing the thrust towards war. (Bob Woodward)
- November 4: In a speech at MIT, veteran political reporter Helen Thomas tells the audience, "I have never covered a president who actually wanted to go to war.... It's bombs away for Iraq and on our civil liberties if Bush and his cronies get their way." (Buzzflash)
- Shortly before the election, this sign is posted throughout the predominantly minority areas of Baltimore.
COME OUT TO VOTE ON NOVEMBER 6TH
BEFORE YOU COME OUT TO VOTE
MAKE SURE YOU PAY YOUR:
-- PARKING TICKETS
-- MOTOR VEHICLE TICKETS
-- OVERDUE RENTS
AND MOST IMPORTANT, ANY WARRANTS!
- Of course, Election Day is November 5, and voters do not have to have tickets, overdue rent, or outstanding warrants settled before voting. The notices are obviously intended to intimidate and confuse minority voters, the vast majority of whom vote Democrat. Similar examples of illegal voter intimidation abound. In Arkansas, Republican poll monitors demand to see black voters' identification cards (not required by law), and photograph them before voting (flatly illegal). No reports like this were reported in white neighborhoods. Republican poll workers reportedly tell black voters without ID that they cannot vote and must go home. In Michigan, Republican leaders warn that they will post "spotters" in the heavily Democratic, and heavily minority, precincts around Detroit. In Florida, a telephone marketer calls Democratic voters and tells them to cast their absentee ballots after Election Day, a suggestion which if followed would invalidate their votes. In the Louisiana Senate race, a particularly virulent contest between conservative Democrat Mary Landrieu and Republican Suzanne Haik Terrell, which needs a runoff to decide, Republicans post flyers in New Orleans housing projects telling voters that if they can't get to the polls on the date of the runoff election, they can cast their absentee ballots three days later, a falsehood which would invalidate their votes; Republicans also hire blacks to hold up posters outside polling places which read, "Mary, if you don't respect us, don't expect us." (Landrieu ekes out a win.) Other, similiar reports come from Florida, Missouri, South Carolina, and New Jersey, among other states. (Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
Republicans retake Congress
- November 5: The Congressional elections deliver control of the US Senate to the Republicans in spite of exit polls predicting modest Democratic gains, giving them complete control of the federal government: the White House, both houses of Congress, and the Supreme Court. Such a midterm victory is unusual for a party who controls the White House. An emboldened Bush administration presents Resolution 1441 to the UN the next day that dictates "unconditional and unrestricted access to all of Iraq" by UN inspectors, or the UN will sanction a military response from the US. Little, if any, discussion of such an ultimatum was conducted in America's mainstream media. On January 5, 2003, the New York Times Magazine runs a cover story entitled "The American Empire, Get Used to It." The article, written by Harvard foreign policy expert Michael Ignatieff, says in part, "Imperial powers do not have the luxury of timidity, for timidity is not prudence, it is a confession of weakness.... Americans are required, even when they are unwilling to do so, to include Europeans in the governance of their evolving imperialist project. The Americans essentially dictate Europe's place in this grand design. The United States is multilateralist when it wants to be, unilateral when it must be, and it enforces a new division of labor in which America does the fighting, the French, British, and Germans do the police patrols in the border zones, and the Dutch, Swiss and Scandinavians provide the humanitarian aid." Ignatieff goes on to say that it doesn't matter if America chooses to call itself a democratic republic or military empire, the country is so large and powerful that whatever it chooses to do is by definition right and just, and the rest of the world has the duty to accept America's economic, military, and social dominance and do proper homage.
- Time celebrates the victory with a cover story of a smiling Bush with his arm around a laughing Karl Rove.
- Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage worries that the midterm victories have worked to convince Bush that he is fated, in one sense or another, to invade Iraq. "[Bush] really believes that his role is to change the face of the world and that attack, 9/11, did it," he recalls. "Combined with the '02 elections, where he became the mighty president of all the people, that's the effect of the off-year victory. He finally became the popularly elected president." Armitage and his boss, Colin Powell, are receiving worried reports from foreign leaders who, after meeting with Bush, come away with the impression that Bush has received the validation and vindication he needs to press forward with the neocon plans to revise the face of the Middle East, beginning with Iraq. "We got to seize this moment," he tells one leader. "This is an opportunity given us." Armitage believes that Rice has completed her transformation into a mere extension of Bush, running total interference for him and shielding Bush from the most trivial objections: "Condi, in my view, anytime someone ready to do immediately exactly what the president wants, it was almost disloyal." (Lewis Lapham, Mark Crispin Miller, Bob Woodward)
- Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of all Americans give 85% of the campaign contributions. Most of the biggest contributors are large corporations, most of which have been rewarded with huge tax breaks, tax subsidies, and the right to exploit public lands at ludicrously low prices. From 1996 to 1998, the following corporations paid no taxes whatsoever: AT&T, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Chase Manhattan, Enron, General Electric, Microsoft, Pfizer, and Philip Morris. These same corporations gave over $150 million in campaign contributions, most to Republicans, from 1991 through 2001. The same corporations gained $55 million in tax breaks in 1998 alone, and are beneficiaries of perennial legislation to gut the alternative minimum tax. This is but one example of how large corporations are paying less and less money into the federal tax coffers, money that has to be made up by taxes on working American citizens. (Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose)
- Republican campaign savagery is at an all-time high. One of the most memorable campaigns is in Georgia, where Vietnam war hero and triple amputee Max Cleland is challenged by Republican corporate lawyer Saxby Chambliss, who used the claim of a bad knee to avoid Vietnam service. Chambliss attacks Cleland's patriotism in a series of ads challenging Cleland's vote against the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, juxtaposing images of Cleland alongside Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden and claiming instead of having "the courage to lead...Cleland is just misleading." Chambliss's hateful ad doesn't mention that Cleland had co-authored a bill for the establishment of the DHS months before Bush abandoned his own opposition to the department and suddenly moved to establish it, and Cleland's vote against the DHS was, like many Democrats, because of the Bush DHS bill's refusal to provide union benefits for DHS employees.
- Al Franken writes, "To recap quickly, Cleland loses three limbs in Vietnam. Cleland authors Department of Homeland Security legislation. Bush blocks it. Bush proposes politicized version of same legislation to trap Democrats. Cleland stands on principle and votes against it. Bush says senators 'not interested' in security of American people. Chambliss compares Cleland to Osama and Saddam and attacks Cleland's courage. Chambliss wins. Republicans take Senate. Bush credits victory to change in tone." Many observers now believe that the Georgia senate election may have been "fixed" by electronic voting fraud; Chambliss's upset victory is against a very popular incumbent who, in the days before the election, maintained a goodly lead over Chambliss and is seen as the victor by exit polling compiled throughout the state.
- Interestingly, Republican senator Chuck Hagel says in March 2007 that he was appalled by the Chambliss attack on Cleland. Hagel called Senator Bill Frist, the chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, and, in the words of Esquire reporter Charles Pierce, "chewed Frist's *ss like it was steak." Hagel demanded that Frist take the ad down immediately, or, he threatened, he would go to Georgia and cut a commercial endorsing Cleland. "I told Max's guys to start writing it," Hagel recalls. The ad was removed. Hagel remembers the Bush campaign in February 2000, when Bush attacked Republican opponent John McCain, running a whispering campaigns that a Bangladeshi child the McCains had adopted was the senator's love child with a black woman. Hagel was outraged, he recalls. "These are people with no courage, on both sides," he says years later. "Cowards. Nameless and faceless. I called it the filthiest thing I'd ever seen." (Al Franken, Mark Crispin Miller, Esquire)
Georgia Senate race likely victimized by Diebold vote hacking
- In September 2006, circumstantial evidence emerges that the Cleland-Chambliss race was, indeed, victimized by vote fraud. Incumbent Democrat Cleland went into Election Day with a 5 to 7 point lead in the polls, but inexplicably, challenger Saxby Chambliss wins the election with a 7-point victory that Chambliss himself calls "stunning and historical" in his Senate Web site. It is undoubtedly true that Cleland lost votes due to the advertisement comparing Cleland to Osama bin Laden, but in September 2006, former Diebold consultant Chris Hood, who worked the elections for Diebold, admits that Diebold executives implemented a secret software patch that had not been approved by the state, Diebold executives refused to share ballot information with state officials, and unauthorized changes were made to voting machines the day of the elections. The Rolling Stone article reads, "The company was authorized to put together ballots, program machines and train poll workers across the state -- all without any official supervision. 'We ran the election,' says Hood. 'We had 356 people that Diebold brought into the state. Diebold opened and closed the polls and tabulated the votes. Diebold convinced (Georgia Secretary of State Cathy) Cox that it would be best if the company ran everything due to the time constraints, and in the interest of a trouble-free election, she let us do it.'" Because of the deal with Cox, Diebold basically ran the elections -- training the workers on operating the machines, setting up the machines, and even, astonishingly, counting the votes. The article says, "...Hood was surprised to see the president of Diebold's election unit, Bob Urosevich, arrive in Georgia from his headquarters in Texas [in mid-August]. With the primaries looming, Urosevich was personally distributing a 'patch,' a little piece of software designed to correct glitches in the computer program. 'We were told that it was intended to fix the clock in the system, which it didn't do,' Hood says. 'The curious thing is the very swift, covert way this was done. ...It was an unauthorized patch, and they were trying to keep it secret from the state. ...We were told not to talk to county personnel about it. I received instructions directly from Urosevich. It was very unusual that a president of the company would give an order like that and be involved at that level.'"
- The nature of the secret patch is not yet known, but circumstances are damning. According to Hood, the patch was only implemented in some 5,000 Diebold machines serving DeKalb and Fulton Counties, both Democratic strongholds. "To avoid detection, Hood and others on his team entered warehouses early in the morning," the story reads. Hood says, "We went in at 7:30 a.m. and were out by 11. There was a universal key to unlock the machines, and it's easy to get access. The machines in the warehouses were unlocked. We had control of everything. The state gave us the keys to the castle, so to speak, and they stayed out of our way." According to the article, Hood personally patched fifty-six machines and witnessed the patch being applied to more than 1,200 others. (Rolling Stone/Raw Story, Daily Kos)
- Another incredibly dirty campaign is waged in Minnesota, where Paul Wellstone was successfully defending his Senate seat against a hatefully negative campaign waged by Republican Norm Coleman, who was hand-picked by Karl Rove over the wishes of the Minnesota GOP to oppose Wellstone. Coleman called Wellstone, a feisty, populist Democrat whose integrity and commitment to principle won him admirers even among the most conservative Republicans, a "joke" and "the lowest common denominator" among politicians. One of Coleman's attacks on Wellstone centered on Coleman's assertion that Wellstone "opposed any program that promised to move people from public assistance to private payrolls," a blatant lie in light of Wellstone's diligent and successful attempts to create programs to do just that. Wellstone, along with his wife, daughter, and four others, died in a plane crash two weeks before the election (see above), prompting a sanctimonious change in tone from Coleman's campaign and a desperate scramble for a new candidate from the Minnesota Democratic Party; meanwhile, Coleman's political strategist Vin Weber met with members of John Ashcroft's unsuccessful 2000 Senate campaign to discuss what to do when your opponent dies before the election. Ashcroft's people told Weber that their decision to stop campaigning when Ashcroft's opponent Mel Carnahan died had cost Ashcroft the election. Weber and Coleman decided that Coleman should instead keep campaigning, but to cloak their campaigning in the guise of "gravely and respectfully -- but publicly -- participate in the state's grieving process," in the words of the Minnesota Star-Tribune.
- Eminent Democrat Walter Mondale agreed to take Wellstone's place in the campaign, but only after the memorial, which was held on October 29. Meanwhile, Coleman announced that he would stop actively campaigning, and immediately begins a round of what he calls "non-press conference press conferences" and campaign stops on national talk shows. Democratic senator Harry Reid tells CNN's Judy Woodruffe, "Judy, Mr. Coleman is campaigning, and that's why he's on your program." He tells Woodruffe that Coleman is actively polling and campaigning in Minnesota, and the campaign has already sent Newt Gingrich to bash Mondale on Meet the Press. "I just think this is so classless." (Gingrich took the opportunity to lie about Mondale on the program, accusing Mondale of chairing a commission bent on privatizing Social Security; Mondale co-chaired the commission, and disagreed with the GOP-led commission's conclusions in favor of privatization, writing a dissenting opinion in favor of keeping Social Security public.) Woodruffe, like so many other media mavens, passed along the GOP's lying attacks on Mondale without comment.
- The Wellstone memorial took place in Williams Arena in Minneapolis on October 29, with 20,000 friends and fans of Wellstone crowding the building. The event is aired live on C-SPAN and can now be watched on the Web at Implex TV. Liberal author and comedian Al Franken, a friend of the Wellstone family, later writes that "[t]he crowd at the event, which had been billed as a celebration of the lives of the deceased, had a raucous energy." The atmosphere veered between somber mourning, openly expressed grief, and powerful, often angry and sometimes partisan determination to continue Wellstone's legacy. Although no Democratic dignitaries spoke (though many had offered), the appearances of guests like Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, and Mondale on the Jumbotron evoked a tremendous response. When Trent Lott's face appeared on the display, many cheered in a more restrained fashion and a few booed. (Lott grinned and waved at the audience.) Only one of the eulogies, delivered by Wellstone's best friend Rich Kahn, went from a personal statement of reminscence and grief into a partisan political rally. Kahn opened with an evocative statement of Wellstone's personal and political beliefs into an open call to honor Wellstone's memory by retaining his Senate seat for Mondale. Franken later writes, "I could see how someone watching on TV might find this blatantly political battle cry just a bit too partisan for a memorial service." Kahn graciously recognized the numerous Republican legislators in the crowd, including Senators Pete Domenici, Sam Brownback, Richard Lugar, Chuck Hagel, and Mike DeWine, winning them what Franken calls "[p]rolonged, warm, appreciative applause, as the crowd embraced the Republicans who had come to pay their respects," but Kahn again reached for the outer limits by exhorting the Republicans in attendance to help "win this election for Paul Wellstone," something they absolutely could not do.
- Following Kahn was former St. Paul mayor George Latimer, who tried to steer the event away from Kahn's open politicking and back towards a less partisan tone. Franken acknowledges that many watching Kahn's eulogy on TV might have come away "with a sour taste in their mouths," especially those who saw just the ten-second clips broadcast on national TV, and felt like "Wellstone's death was being used for political gain." Franken also noted that Kahn, who openly wept on the podium, was devastated by the losses of so many of his closest friends. "Yeah, it had some inappropriate moments," Franken concluded, "but I assumed that people would understand, and cut the man a little slack."
- Newsweek's Joe Klein perhaps summed it up the best by later writing, "The memorial service...was overlong, excessively partisan, unpretentious, emotional (without being maudlin), and, above all, egalitarian -- in sum, an accurate reflection of the man being memorialized.... There was none of the glitz and few of the easy tears that have come to mark such public events.... The emotions unleashed by his death -- the tributes from even his staunchest political opponents -- are certainly a consequence of Wellstone's, and his family's, bracing, unvarnished humanity, but, one senses, there is also a more general mourning for the politics of larger themes and for politicians willing to discuss them. It is, in any case, stunning that the death of one man has occasioned the only breath of life we've seen in this election year."
- The liberal news site Buzzflash writes, "[S]omething happened last night in a Minnesota auditorium filled with 20,000 mourners. Something extraordinary happened: the Democratic Party reconnected with its soul. The memorial 'service' for Paul Wellstone, his wife, daughter, and staffers turned grief into a celebration of the core ideals of the Democratic Party and a celebration of the American dream. ...Grief gave way to humor and personal memories before soldering into a steely resolve to fight for Paul Wellstone's ideals and principles. The crowd spoke for itself: women, men, blacks, whites, browns, clergy of all faiths, gays, lesbians, union members, rich, poor, old, young, the mighty and the not so fortunate. It was the real America, not the staged diversity that the Republicans trot out, while white guys almost exclusively run the show behind the scenes. It was the real America that the Republicans hate, because the people crushed together in a University of Minnesota gymnasium represent the American promise of hope and equality. These concepts are anathema to the Republican strategy of deception in order to squelch diversity, women's rights, fairness, and a level playing field for all citizens. The emotional electricity of the Wellstone memorial made BuzzFlash once again remember what motivates the Bush administration -- and its right wing puppet masters: the elimination of the multicultural society. ...That is why Karl Rove and the Bush Administration had made Paul Wellstone their number one target this year. It was a 'personal' vendetta on the part of the White House, political pundits confirmed. Wellstone was, as Papa Bush so crudely labeled him, a 'little chickensh*t' to the Bush cartel. For the WASPish Bushes that's a euphemistic way of saying, Paul was a liberal 'Jew boy.' And there's no place for a progressive liberal 'Jew boy' in the new world order of the Bush cartel. ...Paul Wellstone came to symbolize the worst aspects of uppity progressives, people who believe minorities and women share equal rights with white males. ...The Karl Roves and Dick Cheneys of the world aren't used to encountering Democrats with spines of steel. So the White House had declared war on Paul Wellstone, the uppity 'liberal' Jew. To the Bush cartel, Wellstone couldn't be trusted. Paul had something that made him disreputable and an object of derision in the White House: Paul had integrity." Makes it easy to understand the conservative attack on Wellstone's memorial service.
- So, would Republicans and Wellstone's political opponents let the memorial stand on its own merits? Not hardly. Franken writes, "the memorial service had created a sort of perfect political storm for Republican opportunists." Governor Jesse Ventura, an iconoclastic independent wrestling with his deep unpopularity among Minnesota voters and never a Wellstone fan, left the memorial after Kahn's speech, and spoke angrily of the partisan tone of some of the speakers. Coleman strategist Vin Weber went much farther, telling the press, "This was NOT a memorial to Paul Wellstone. This was a political event." He called it a "complete, total, absolute sham" and accused the Democrats -- who had little or nothing to do with the event's organization -- of "explot[ing] Wellstone's memory totally, completely, and shamelessly for political profit." Franken calls Weber's characterizations "surreally dishonest." Local Republican functionary Sarah Janacek said, falsely, that the audience was being prompted on the arena's Jumbotrons as to when to laugh, when to clap, and so forth. What the screens were actually broadcasting were closed captions for the hearing-impaired audience members. GOP flak Kellyanne Fitzpatrick Conway picked up on the accusation, telling C-SPAN that "the people...were told by screen when to cheer and when to jeer, and they were told to cheer when the Clintons and Ted Kennedy were displayed, and they were told to jeer when Trent Lott and Rod Grams, former senator of Minnesota who lost in 2000, were displayed." Janacek lied.
- Rush Limbaugh went completely over the top, devoting his entire three-hour broadcast of October 30 to the memorial, screaming that the entire memorial was "a giant setup" and moaning of the "shame" he felt while watching it. Limbaugh, who routinely referred to Wellstone as "senator Welfare" before the plane crash, wailed that Wellstone's death had been used for "disgusting...ghoulish" political ends. "show me where the grief was," he yelled. "Where was the grief? Where were the tears? Where was the mourning? Where was the memorial service? There wasn't any of this." Limbaugh perpetuates the lie that state and national Democrats had set the entire memorial up to be a partisan rally for Mondale, and even asserted, falsely, that the 20,000 attendees had been bused to the arena by the AFL-CIO (like other organizations and private individuals, some unions chartered their own buses to bring people to the event, but the vast majority of audience members attended on their own -- the parking lots were overflowing, and by 4 pm, Minneapolis TV stations were telling listeners that if they hadn't already left for the memorial, not to bother coming, because the crowds were overwhelming. 4000 overflow audience members watched on TV screens in an adjacent gym, and thousands who could not get in to the arena stood in the cold outside the building watching outdoor screens). "Everybody knows it was a planted audience," thundered Limbaugh.
- Limbaugh also lied by telling his audience that the entire memorial was most likely planned by Bill Clinton "who saw this as an opportunity." Franken sets Limbaugh straight by reporting that the family coordinated with Jeff Blodgett, Wellstone's campaign manager; the Wellstones originally wanted a small, private service, but they recognized that some sort of public memorial would be necessary. Blodgett and former campaign worker Ann Mulholland quickly planned a memorial service as best they could, considering that Wellstone's family and campaign staff were devastated by the loss and could barely function. Mulholland told Franken that the staff was "a mess. ...Anytime I'd sit down at a desk, someone would start crying and tell me, 'That was Mary's desk' -- so I'd move, and someone would start crying, 'That was Tom's desk.' You have to understand that [during the days between the crash and the memorial] these people were going to funerals. Six people died. That was the overwhelming reality. Six people. Every one equal. ...On Monday night [October 28] our press guy said to me, 'Oh my gosh -- this is going to be on TV. Should we be thinking about something?' By then, it was just kind of too late." Limbaugh told his audience, "There was nothing sacred about this last night at all, unless the only thing sacred to these people was the advancement of their own careers." Right-wing pundits picked up on, embellished, and broadcast Limbaugh's lies to audiences all over the mainstream media (Tucker Carlson, who regaled audiences on CNN's Crossfire with Limbaugh's lies, told Franken six months later that he was embarrassed to have gotten it so wrong, and later admitted that he had made his comments without actually seeing one minute of the memorial, though it didn't stop him at the time from telling his audience that the memorial was "revolting."
- The attacks escalated. Peggy Noonan told Fox's Sean Hannity that 20,000 people stood to boo Trent Lott out of the arena, when in reality Lott was generally applauded (see above). Mort Kondracke reported, falsely, that Norm Coleman was booed. (Franken notes that when Hillary Clinton appeared at a Madison Square Garden memorial concert for the firefighters and police officers who lost their lives on 9/11, she was deafened by the boos, jeers, and obscene taunts from audience members, and Hannity and other Republican pundits celebrated the audience's response. He also writes, cynically, that "If Newt Gingrich had died in a plane crash in early 1995, and [Bill] Clinton had gone to his memorial in Marietta, Georgia, he would have been shot. I ran this theory by George Stephanopoulos, and he said, 'Yeah, and then the press would have blamed him for coming.'" Noonan later admits that she didn't actually see anyone booing Lott.) Christopher Caldwell wrote in the Weekly Standard that the memorial reminded him of "a Maoist reeducation camp" and called it "a sinister incident, unexampled in recent American politics...a rally devoted to a politics that was twisted, pagan, childish, inhumane, and even totalitarian beyond their worst nightmares." Caldwell, already well out of Earth's gravitational field, left orbit entirely by writing that the pilot and aides who died in the crash were virtually ignored at the memorial (in fact, the first three hours of the memorial barely mentioned Paul Wellstone, and focused on Wellstone's wife, daughter, and the pilot and three aides who died alongside him). Caldwell later admits that he based his entire article on a few five- and ten-second clips he saw aired on national TV. Blodgett later says to the press, "We had already been to five funerals.... We weren't thinking straight. If we had been preparing for a television event that large numbers of voters would be watching, we would have scripted every minute. We would have knownwhat every person was going to say." And Wellstone field director Dan Cramer adds, "The ultimate irony was that what would later be billed as a political event came about because we didn't think about it in political terms."
- Franken writes, "It was the right, not the left, that tried to cheapen Paul Wellstone's life by dishonoring his death. It was the right-wing media, not the friends and family who spoke at the memorial or the people who came to it, that seized on an opportunity to use a tragedy for political gain. It was Rush, and the Republican Party, and the Weekly Standard, and the Wall Street Journal, and Fox -- and then it was CNN and MSNBC and all the newspapers that wrote hundreds of articles -- that got it wrong. Some did it maliciously. Some of them just picked up the story. Some were evil, some just lazy."
- Partially because of the GOP-orchestrated backlash against the memorial service, Coleman wins a narrow victory against Mondale, giving control of the US Senate to the Republicans. (Minnesota Star-Tribune/Newsweek/Al Franken, Buzzflash)
"Politics is not about power. Politics is not about money. Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning. Politics is about the improvement of people's lives. It's about advancing the cause of peace and justice in our country and in our world. Politics is about doing well for people." -- Paul Wellstone
- One of the most interesting facets of the Republicans' successful campaign is their attempts in several Southern states to restore Confederate symbols to a variety of state flags. Georgia is one of the most visible states whose conservatives push to restore a Confederate symbol to its state flag. Georgia's Republican state chairman Ralph Reed had recently met with black ministers to tearfully apologize for white evangelicals' failure to support the civil rights movement; the revival of the Confederate flag in places like Georgia had, of course, symbolized the state's resistance to federal civil rights enforcement. Reed, like many other Republicans in the South, came out foursquare for the restoration of Confederate symbols to his state's flag. The issue galvanizes Southern white rural voters, many of whom have never freed themselves from their racist prejudices, and results in Georgia electing a Republican governor, as well as the success of Republican candidates throughout the South. (Joe Conason, Washington Times)
- During the last months of the election race, over 300 White House and other administration officials were dispatched to close House and Senate races around the country, many of whom were told that they needed to "show their Republican credentials" by "volunteering" to work in GOP state and local elections during their vacation time. Cabinet members and senior officials criss-crossed the country holding public events promoting this or that government program, each prominently featuring a Republican candidate in a close race; these public events were all paid for by tax dollars and not campaign funds. Bush has raised $142 million for GOP candidates, obliterating the previous record set by Bill Clinton which drew such heavy public fire from GOP members for his supposedly "endless campaigning." (Paul Waldman)
- By the midterm elections, almost every Republican Congressman owes a portion of his or her success to Karl Rove. In return, Rove and the White House demand unswerving loyalty from the lawmakers -- independence will not be tolerated. Authors James Moore and Wayne Slater write, "Retaining an almost lockstep control of Congress is a small but essential part of a larger master political plan Karl Rove has been dreaming of implementing since early in his career. During interviews, speeches, and casual conversations over the course of many years, Rove has detailed his greater goal of a complete political realignment of America. By gaining majority control over US political power and government institutions, he seeks to create a kind of dominance that risks turning America into a one-party nation." (James Moore and Wayne Slater)
- November 6 and 22: The US tightens immigration restrictions for 18 countries. All males over age 16 coming to the US from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates or Yemen must register with the US government and be photographed and fingerprinted at their local INS office. Two countries are not included: Pakistan (the home country of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and many other al-Qaeda terrorists) and Saudi Arabia (the home country of bin Laden and 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers). These two countries are added to the list on December 13, 2002, after criticism that they were not included. (CCR)
- November 7: In a speech, Bush once again falsely links Iraq with al-Qaeda, saying that Saddam Hussein is "a threat because he is dealing with al-Qaeda. n my Cincinnati speech I reminded the American people, a true threat facing our country is that an al-Qaeda-type network trained and armed by Saddam could attack America and leave not one fingerprint." Like Dick Cheney, when later confronted with evidence of his lies, Bush will deny ever making these claims. (Bush on Iraq)
- November 7 -- on: Jeb Bush defeats Democratic contender Bill MacBride to win a second term as Florida's governor. After a Democratic primary marred by a rash of problems with newly-installed touch-screen voting machines, Florida officials determine to run a proper election this time; on November 6, the machines are booted up, left running all night, and guarded by police on overtime duty. Katherine Harris, the secretary of state who delivered the 2000 Florida vote to George W. Bush, wins a seat in the US House. Jeb Bush's transition team, headed by lawyer Miguel De Grandy, who fiercely opposed the 2000 recount push and who is a lobbyist for voting machine vendor ES&'s, names Republican Glenda Hood, the mayor of Orlando, as Bush's new secretary of state. Hood firmly backs the use of ES&'s machines for Florida's next elections; unfortunately, the state refuses to certify the machines' new Version 7.5 software because of a number of "anomalies and deficiencies." ES&'s provides a fix, Version 7.51, that supposedly fixes the problems. Miami-Dade's inspector general refuses to endorse the machines, observing that the software fix addresses few, if any, of the problems noted with the previous software, and indirectly accuses ES&'s of misleading the state. He says that unless the machines can be fixed, Florida should refuse to use any more ES&'s machines.
- But problems continue to manifest themselves. A January runoff between two Republican candidates for office generates enough problems to prompt US representative Robert Wexler, a Democrat, to call for machines that generate paper receipts. Wexler files two lawsuits asserting that ES&S's machines violate state law because of their lack of paper receipts (making manual recounts impossible); one lawsuit is dismissed in state court, the other, in federal court, is continued. Hood calls the lawsuits "fearmongering" and denies that the machines cause any problems. Hood engages the help of Republican state senator Anna Cowin, who had previously written a bill blocking ex-felons' attempts to have their voting rights restored, to introduce a bill that blocks paper trails of electronic votes. After Democrats thwart the bill in the state senate, Hood quietly enacts the ban through governmental fiat. Unfortunately, the problems that Hood denies exist are still in place. Huge problems with proper votes being rejected as undervotes still exist, and the machines are proving depressingly easy to "hack." Yet as the 2004 presidential elections loom, Jeb Bush, Glenda Hood, and the Florida election commissions insist that the machines will perform perfectly well. (Vanity Fair/Make Them Accountable)
- November 7: Arkansas Republican Tim Hutchinson fails to win reelection to his Senate seat after divorcing his wife of 29 years to marry a much younger aide from his Washington office. Hutchinson, a graduate of Bob Jones University and a past winner of the Christian Coalition's Friend of the Family award, explains away his affair, divorce, and remarriage by saying he was "more judgmental and more sanctimonious" before the divorce. Hutchinson is defeated by Mark Pryor, the son of former Arkansas Democratic senator David Pryor; Pryor's record as a family man is spotless. (Joe Conason, Mark Pryor)
- November 7: NBC News brings on right-wing commentator Rush Limbaugh to provide election night analysis. Paul Waldman writes, "If you missed Noam Chomsky following up Limbaugh, that's because there were no leftists brought on." (Paul Waldman)
- November 7: Asked about an October letter from CIA director Tenet which says that Saddam Hussein is unlikely to conduct any attacks, directly or through terrorist cats'-paws, against the US unless directly attacked by American forces, President Bush essentially repudiates his intelligence director's position and spins the question into another push for action against Iraq: "I'm sure that he said other sentences.... I know George Tenet well. I meet with him every single day. He sees Saddam Hussein as a threat. I don't know what the context of that quote is. I'm telling you, the guy knows what I know, that he is a problem and we must deal with him.... Well, if we don't do something he might attack us, and he might attack us with a more serious weapon. The man is a threat.... He's a threat because he is dealing with al-Qaeda."
- David Corn wonders if Bush is even aware of the letter and the CIA report that sparked the letter, and if so, why he could not merely disagree with the findings instead of virtually denying the report's existence and flatly contradicting the CIA's assessment of Hussein's lack of connections with al-Qaeda. Corn says that Bush's flat assertion that Hussein is "dealing with al-Qaeda" is a major accusation, one not made so directly until just now, and should be the focus of intensive attention and scrutiny; yet, Bush's words go virtually unchallenged and unremarked upon in the media. "By now, did members of the media consider reckless embellishment from Bush not newsworthy?" asks Corn. The New York Times is an exception: shortly thereafter, the newspaper prints an analysis of Bush's remarks, and points out that mere weeks before Bush's claim, he and his administration "portrayed a far less clear picture about the link between Iraq and al-Qaeda than the one presented by the president, according to US intelligence analysts and congressional sources who have read the report." The Times notes that the CIA estimate "contains cautionary language about Iraq's connections with al-Qaeda and warnings about the reliability of conflicting reports by Iraqi defectors and captured al-Qaeda members about the ties." (David Corn)
UN resolution approving "severe consequences" towards Iraq
- November 8: The UN Security Council unanimously passes Resolution 1441, which imposes rounds of new arms inspections on Iraq and precise definitions of what constitutes "material breach" of the resolution. The resolution gives Iraq "a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations." Violations of 1441 will result in "serious consequences," to be determined by the Security Council. The resolution, based on a revision of a US draft, does not authorize military action of any sort against Iraq. Publicly the Bush administration is still insisting that disarmament, not military action, is its primary focus, though Bush and his officials continually denigrate UN inspections as virtually worthless. It is worth remembering Vice President Cheney's September 12 answer to the question of whether the goal is"disarmament or regime change," and Cheney answers, "The president's made it clear that the goal of the United States is regime change." Nevertheless, Bush continues to pretend that his administration supports UN inspections as a way to achieve, in his words, "verified disarmament" of Iraq, even when Rumsfeld says that such inspections makes the UN "laughed at and sneered at and disobeyed.... And for the United Nations to acquiesce in that, it seems to me, is an unfortunate thing." Unfortunately for Rumsfeld's statement, the only laughing and sneering at the UN seems to be coming from the White House. (Rumsfeld will also claim that his infamous 1983 meeting with Saddam Hussein included a stern warning to Hussein that he refrain from using chemical weapons against Iran, a claim shown to be a lie from declassified State Department notes of the meeting. In fact, the US would provide Iraq with much of the chemical and biological weaponry used against Iran during the war between those two countries.)
- After 1441 passes, UN Ambassador John Negroponte admits that the resolution does not authorize a war against Iraq: "There's no 'automaticity,' and this is a two-stage process.... Whatever violation there is, or is judged to exist, will be dealt with by the [UN Security] Council, and the council will have an opportunity to consider the matter before any other action is taken." Without a compliant UNSC, the US puts tremendous "carrot-and-stick" pressure on other countries to join it in the so-called "coalition of the willing." The efforts are usually failures. Most of its NATO allies refuse, as do many traditional US allies like Mexico and Chile. Turkey turns down a $16 million bribe, along with an offer for the US to sell out its Iraqi Kurdish allies to appease Turkey's concerns about its own Kurdish population. Only two nations, Britain and Australia, are willing to provide troops; only one nation's populace, Israel, supports the war. In Europe, the various citizenries' opposition to the war ranges between 70% and 80%. While Bush claims to be acting in the interests of the "international community," that community roundly repudiates his war plans.
- But the resolution is only a veneer of diplomacy for Bush. Moments after its passage, Bush declares that "any act of delay or defiance" by Hussein will justify military action. And even as the UN moves to enforce the resolution, Bush continues to move towards war with Iraq. (FactMonster, MidEast Web, David Corn, Eric Alterman and Mark Green, Michael Isikoff and David Corn)
- The Bush administration fails to try to negotiate with its potential allies to ensure their cooperation in the months before the invasion. Turkey is a prime example. In 1990, the first Bush telephoned the leader of Turkey about 60 times after Turkey agreed to shut down its oil pipeline to Iraq in preparation for the Gulf War; Secretary of State James Baker flew to Turkey three times to secure Turkish permission to have its military bases opened to the US. In contrast, plans for the 2003 invasion of Iraq call for the US to insert 62,000 troops into Turkey against the wishes of the populace, a far more serious undertaking than anything Turkey was asked to contribute in 1990; yet Secretary of State Colin Powell never visits Turkey to discuss the deal. Bush will make a total of three phone calls to the Turkish leadership. When Turkey balks at allowing the US troops inside its borders, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz threatens the fragile Turkish democracy with a US-backed military coup that will topple the Turkish government and replace it with one more to Washington's liking. Leaders and lawmakers in the US and around the world are appalled. Democrat Barney Frank says, "For a high-ranking American official to urge the undermining of democratic decision-making by military intervention is appalling in any case. It is particularly disturbing in this case." Bush ignores calls from Frank and other Democrats for Wolfowitz's firing. Turkey is not the only country to feel bullied by Bush's strong-arm tactics. Bush is "like a child running around with a grenade with the pin pulled out," says a British Conservative and former cabinet member. Another diplomat whose government publicly supports the invasion says, "There have been really aggressive battles that have gotten people's backs up. People feel bullied, and that can affect the way you respond when someone makes a request." (Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
- November 8: Faisal Ulvie, a Pakistani salesman and tae kwan do expert living in Brooklyn and married to an American citizen, is hustled out of his Brooklyn apartment by police at 6:30 a.m. Ulvie's immigration status had long since lapsed, but Ulvie, who helps raise his wife's two children along with a child of their own, has never broken any laws; indeed, he fled Pakistan in 1996 and applied for political asylum. His name appears on a manifest of immigration violators and he is arrested as part of a huge anti-terrorism dragnet. The police, who refuse to show Ulvie a warrant, place him in detention for nine days without allowing him to contact family or attorneys, and without charging him with a crime. After he is allowed to send his wife a handwritten letter, he realizes he is going to be deported. Only the timely intervention of a sympathetic immigration judge allows Ulvie to remain in the country. He is now going through the proper immigration channels and is studying to become an American citizen. (Amy Goodman and David Goodman)
- November 12: Deflated congressional Democrats, having lost control of the Senate for the next session of Congress, drop their attempts to allow newly hired Homeland Security personnel to join unions; the government can now legally ignore its own civil service hiring policies and promotion rules. (Ron Suskind)
- November 14: On a talk-radio call-in show over Infinity Radio, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld confidently predicts that any invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq will be a short-term action at best. "The idea that it's going to be a long, long, long battle of some kind I think is belied by the fact of what happened in 1990," he says. "Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that. It won't be a World War III." He reiterates the administration's lie that Iraq has verifiable WMDs, and refuses to rule out the use of nuclear weapons against Hussein's forces. He also insists that the conflict with Iraq is about weapons of mass destruction only: "It has nothing to do with oil, literally nothing to do with oil. It has nothing to do with the religion." (CBS News, Mother Jones)
- November 15: After an NSC meeting in the White House, where no decision is made on furthering the vacuous and ill-defined "road map to peace" between Israel and the Palestinians, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill attends a meeting of senior economic advisors in Dick Cheney's offices. Cheney has attended most of the recent meetings, in part to keep O'Neill and Bush economic advisor Larry Lindsey, O'Neill's avowed enemy, from engaging in any disputes or disagreements. The huge tax cuts, which had always been in the planning stages but by unspoken consent had been tabled during the election season, were back on the front burner. O'Neill breaks in to Cheney's discussion of how the tax cuts would provide economic stimulus to say that the government "is moving towards a fiscal crisis." Before O'Neill can complete his thought about how the tax cuts would cripple the government, Cheney cuts him off, snapping, "Reagan proved deficits don't matter." O'Neill is speechless. "We won the midterms," Cheney says. "This is our due."
- Cheney is, of course, wrong. O'Neill later tells biographer Ron Suskind that Reagan's tenure proved that deficits do indeed matter, and that Reagan's reckless deficit spending had affected the next twenty years of America's fiscal policy. "I thought that, clearly, there's no coherent philosophy that could support such a claim." But O'Neill knows that Cheney is not speaking from any sort of fiscal philosophy, but from pure political ideology. "Ideology is a lot easier," he says later, "because you don't have to know anything or search for anything. You already know the answer to everything. It's not penetrable by facts. It's absolutism." O'Neill had by now given up trying to talk fiscal sense to Cheney. He has realized that Bush, in Suskind's words, "was caught in an echo chamber of his own making, cut off from everyone other than a circle around him that's tiny and growing smaller and in concert on everything -- a circle that conceals him from public view and keeps him away from the one thing he needs most: honest, disinterested perspectives about what's real and what the hell he might do about it." O'Neill recalls, "I realized why Dick just nodded along when I said all this, over and over, and nothing ever changed...because this is the way Dick likes it." Cheney and the inner circle had become, in O'Neill's view, a "praetorian guard" that encircled Bush. As far as bringing any new and possibly transforming ideas to the Oval Office, "that store is closed." (Ron Suskind)
Homeland Security Act
- November 19: Congress passes the administration's Homeland Security Act, which includes numerous provisions blocking or curtailing information access. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy observes, "This is the most severe weakening of the Freedom of Information Act in its 36-year history.... [I]t will hurt and not help our national security, and along the way it will frustrate enforcement of the laws that protect the public's health and safety." Leahy goes on to say that the act's mandatory confidentiality regarding information businesses submit concerning their vulnerabilities "a big business wish list gussied up in security garb." Like the USA Patriot Act, the HSA's provisions were in the works long before 9/11. One of its mandates is for a "global security system," in the words of one senator, to be controlled by the US government. In addition, the HSA lays the foundations for the government to transform American democracy into a true police state. While the HSA is primarily a Republican concoction, many Democrats, including Senator Joseph Lieberman and Representative Dick Gephardt, have their hands in its creation, as does the secretive and powerful Council on Foreign Relations, which boasts as its members Lieberman and Gephardt as well as Bush administration stalwarts Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Robert Zoellick, George Tenet, and Paul Wolfowitz, among others. Nearly every CIA director since Allen Dulles has been a CFR member, including Richard Helms, William Colby, George Bush, William Webster, James Woolsey, John Deutsch, and William Casey. The legislation also automatically classifies all Homeland Security Department actions as secret. (Stephen Pizzo/Daily Misleader, Truthout)
Bush admits he did not take threat of al-Qaeda seriously before 9/11
- November 19: Veteran political reporter Bob Woodward publishes Bush at War, a paean to the administration's Iraq war efforts and what author and columnist Frank Rich calls a triumph of insider access; it is so laudatory that Bush officials push it on TV and radio talk shows. Woodward was granted unprecedented access to senior Bush officials for the book, even as the White House is fighting efforts to reveal information about which oilmen and energy CEOs made up Cheney's energy task force. Even Newt Gingrich calls this into question; with White House officials giving Woodward access to classified transcripts from over 50 National Security Council meetings, and other classified materials, Gingrich complains that "it makes no sense for an administration that has jealously guarded its executive privilege to allow a report the access it denies to members of Congress." But it makes sense, as the book is, in essence, the latest in the nonstop marketing and PR campaign incessantly waged by the White House.
- Interestingly, among the flack is an admission that Bush did not take the threat of al-Qaeda seriously before 9/11: "Until September 11, however, Bush had not put that thinking [that Clinton's response to al Qaeda emboldened bin Laden] into practice, nor had he pressed the issue of bin Laden," Woodward writes. "Though Rice and others were developing a plan to eliminate al Qaeda, no formal recommendations had ever been presented to the president. 'I know there was a plan in the works.... I don't know how mature the plan was,' Bush recalled.... He acknowledged that bin Laden was not his focus or that of his national security team. 'There was a significant difference in my attitude after September 11. I was not on point [before that date], but I knew he was a menace, and I knew he was a problem.'"
- Woodward says his book is "neutral" and "non-judgmental," but, as Rich notes, it is anything but objective. Woodward quotes Bushcalling intrepid investigative reporter Seymour Hersh a "liar," without question and without giving Hersh nor anyone else a chance to respond. Sensitive issues or potentially embarrassing questions are entirely ducked -- the administration's failure to find a single viable clue about the 2001 anthrax attacks is ignored, as is John Ashcroft's failure to arrest a single legitimate terrorist during his post-9/11 roundup. The November 2001 battle of Tora Bora is given two paragraphs, though that battle was, in Rich's words, "the Waterloo that allowed more than a thousand Qaeda operatives (bin Laden among them) to escape." Woodward refuses to question why "the same war planners who had bungled a serious opportunity to get bin Laden dead or alive and the same officials still bungling homeland security might be similarly fallible in plotting the presumed cakewalk in Iraq." Neither does Woodward wonder why, after 9/11, Bush had vetoed the idea of going to war with al-Qaeda and Iraq simultaneously, even saying, as Woodward notes, "If we tried to do too many things -- two things, for example, or three things -- militarily, then...the lack of focus would have been a huge risk," if it was such a huge risk then to split our forces between Iraq and al-Qaeda, why is it suddenly such a good idea now? (Bob Woodward/Buzzflash, Frank Rich pp.66-7)
- November 20: In a speech to the Atlantic Youth Council, Bush tells his listeners, "Today the world is also uniting to answer the unique and urgent threat posed by Iraq. A dictator who has used weapons of mass destruction on his own people must not be allowed to produce or possess those weapons. We will not permit Saddam Hussein to blackmail and/or terrorize nations which love freedom." Iraq is not considered any threat to the US or even his regional neighboring nations by US intelligence agencies.
(Bush on Iraq)
- November 20: A thoughtless remark by a reporter sparks three days of rioting in Kaduna, Nigeria, by indigeneous Muslims, resulting in 220 deaths, 1500 wounded, 6000 families rendered homeless, and 16 churches and nine mosques destroyed. The reporter says that if he were alive today, the Prophet Mohammed might have wanted a wife from the Miss World pageant to be held in Kaduna. (The contest is moved to Britain.) Muslim leaders in Nigeria condemned the pageant as a "parade of nudity," and criticized the Nigerian government for agreeing to host the event during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. (Michael Scheuer)
- November 20: A Wall Street Journal editorial actually complains that those making less than $12,000 a year are "getting off easy" on taxes: "Who are those lucky duckies?" the editorial asks. (Wall Street Journal/Paul Waldman)
- November 21: Opposition to John Poindexter's project to acquire "total information awareness" for the government is building. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, says that "[t]his is a panoply, which isn't carefully conscribed and controlled, for a George Orwell America. And I don't think the American people are ready for that by a long shot." She will introduce legislation to ensure that the TIA project does not infringe on Americans' privacy rights. A spokesman for the Electronic Frontier Foundation says, "This is a plan for a very ambitious, comprehensive, all-encompassing surveillance system. There have been plenty of abuses of power with much smaller scale systems. This one would be enormous." The Pentagon, which oversees the TIA project's parent agency, the Information Awareness Office (IAO), claims that much of the data used in the project is "fabricated" in an attempt to avoid privacy issues and ascertain the project's feasibility and legality. It also claims that Poindexter, who dreamed up the project and proposed it to the Defense Department, will only be involved in the research necessary to get the project up and running, and will not direct it: "Once the tool is developed, John will not be involved," says Undersecretary for Technology Pete Aldridge. "But it's his enthusiasm and his volunteering of this idea, which is why we developed and started to fund it." Feinstein warns, "[I]t's one thing to require people who sell explosive materials...to require them to provide the government with that information. It's another thing to look through everybody's credit-card purchases, finances, loans, everything else to see if they've bought any of this stuff." (San Jose Mercury/Silicon Valley News)
- November 21: Condoleezza Rice states, "We all want very much to see this resolved in a peaceful way." Note that the decision to invade was made in July. (Briefing/Buzzflash)
- November 24: The Los Angeles Times reports that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is creating new agencies to make "information warfare" a central element of any US war. For instance, Rumsfeld created a new position of deputy undersecretary for "special plans" -- a euphemism for deception operations. "Increasingly, the administration's new policy -- along with the steps senior commanders are taking to implement it -- blurs or even erases the boundaries between factual information and news, on the one hand, and public relations, propaganda and psychological warfare, on the other. And, while the policy ostensibly targets foreign enemies, its most likely victim will be the American electorate." Authorities have arrested and jailed at least 44 people as potential grand jury witnesses in the 14 months of the nationwide terrorism investigation, but nearly half have never been called to testify before a grand jury, according to defense lawyers and others involved in the cases. (CCR)
- November 24: The US is using an obscure statute to detain and investigate terrorism suspects without having to charge them with a crime. At least 44 people, some of them US citizens, have been held as "material witnesses." Some have been held for months, and some have been held in maximum-security conditions. Most in fact have never testified, even though that is supposedly why they were held. (CCR)
- November 25: UNMOVIC's Hans Blix prepares to lead teams of inspectors to Iraq. (UN/Iraqwatch/Electric Venom)
- November 25: When informed that the Democrats will hold their 2004 presidential convention in Boston, Massachusetts, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, a Texas Republican, observes, "If I were a Democrat, I suspect I'd feel a heck of a lot more comfortable in Boston than, say, America." (Paul Waldman)
- November 26: The day before the newly authorized UN inspection teams, led by Hans Blix, enter Iraq to hunt for Iraq's supposed WMDs, General Tommy Franks, the head of CENTCOM and the chief war planner for the Bush administration, sends Donald Rumsfeld a request to begin deploying 300,000 troops in the Gulf region. It is "the mother of all deployment orders," as Franks calls it. Rumsfeld decides to stagger the deployments in two-week intervals, the better to avoid unwelcome media attention that might seem to contradict Bush's public pronouncements that diplomacy with Iraq is still an option. By December, US aircraft carrier groups are patrolling the Gulf, and Franks is operating out of a newly constructed headquarters in Doha, Qatar, to manage the upcoming invasion. (Michael Isikoff and David Corn)
- November 26: Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill returns from an exhausting two-week trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan. He remembers his visit to Islamabad, where knots of Pakistani soldiers were staked out every thousand feet along a roadway, forming a gauntlet for his heavily armed transport convoy, merely so he could visit a school for girls. "I watched the soldiers with their backs to me -- thousands of them -- ready for an attack, and thought this is a world gone mad, this is what absolutism does," he recalls. "And that makes the most important institution in the country a school. A place where kids can ask questions and get real answers." O'Neill is quite aware of the parallels he is drawing between Islamist absolutists and their equally extremist counterparts in the White House. (Ron Suskind)
- November 27: Bush appoints Henry Kissinger to head the investigation into 9/11. Congressional Democrats appoint George Mitchell, former Senate majority leader and peace envoy to Northern Ireland and the Middle East, as Vice Chairman. When Democrats and others point out Kissinger's many conflicts of interest, including his firm's deep association with BCCI, Kissinger declines to take the position. "Indeed, it is tempting to wonder if the choice of Mr. Kissinger is not a clever maneuver by the White House to contain an investigation it long opposed," writes the New York Times. The Chicago Tribune notes that "the president who appointed him originally opposed this whole undertaking." Kissinger is "known more for keeping secrets from the American people than for telling the truth" and asking him "to deliver a critique that may ruin friends and associates is asking a great deal." Mitchell resigns shortly afterwards, refusing to divulge his list of clients which may cause a conflict of interest (one of Kissinger's reasons for declining his position as well.) Former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton, chairman of the committee which investigated Iran-Contra, replaces Mitchell; former GOP governor Thomas Kean will replace Kissinger. (CCR)
Rumsfeld approves torture techniques for detainees
- November 27: Donald Rumsfeld signs off on a request from the Department of Defense's general counsel, William Haynes, to use "Category III" interrogation techniques on enemy detainees. The memo defines Category III interrogations as "Use of mild, non-injurious physical contact such as grabbing, poking in the chest with the finger, and light pushing." The memo is wrong, and Rumsfeld is quite aware of what Category III really techniques are -- they equate to torture as defined under US federal law. (Mother Jones)
- November 27: The Office of Strategic Influence may have been dissolved, but its illegal missions are still being carried out, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld confirms. Rumsfeld tells reporters on Nov. 18, "And then there was the Office of Strategic Influence. You may recall that. And 'oh my goodness gracious isn't that terrible, Henny Penny the sky is going to fall.' I went down that next day and said fine, if you want to savage this thing, fine, I'll give you the corpse. There's the name. You can have the name, but I'm gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have." An analysis of Rumsfeld's actions by William Arkin concludes that the new policy increasingly "blurs or even erases the boundaries between factual information and news, on the one hand, and public relations, propaganda and psychological warfare, on the other." Arkin adds that "while the policy ostensibly targets foreign enemies, its most likely victim will be the American electorate." (FAIR/Freedom of Information Center)
- November 30: Trying to placate Muslims by calling for tolerance and terming Islam "a faith based upon peace and love and compassion" and a religion committed to "morality and learning and tolerance," Bush finds himself at odds with extremists in his own party and with many religious conservatives who disagree with his statements. They call it understandable but dishonest and destined to fail. Calling Islam a peaceful religion "is an increasingly hard argument to make," says Kenneth Adelman, a former Reagan official who serves on the Bush Pentagon's Defense Policy Board. "The more you examine the religion, the more militaristic it seems. After all, its founder, Mohammed, was a warrior, not a peace advocate like Jesus." Another equally rightist member of the Pentagon advisory board, Eliot Cohen of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal editorial page arguing that the enemy of the United States enemy is not terrorism "but militant Islam." Cohen wrote, "The enemy has an ideology, and an hour spent surfing the Web will give the average citizen at least the kind of insights that he or she might have found during World Wars II and III by reading Mein Kampf or the writings of Lenin, Stalin or Mao." Cohen acknowledges it is impolitic and "deeply uncomfortable" for the administration to say such things. "Nobody would like to think that a major world religion has a deeply aggressive and dangerous strain in it -- a strain often excused or misrepresented in the name of good feelings," he says. "But uttering uncomfortable and unpleasant truths is one of the things that defines leadership." GOP power broker Paul Weyrich adds, "Islam is at war against us. I have had much good to say about President Bush in recent months. But one thing that concerned me before September 11th and concerns me even more now is his administration's constant promotion of Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance just like Judaism or Christianity. It is neither."
- Bush began making his remarks in favor of tolerance after religious broadcaster Pat Robertson was reported as saying that "Adolf Hitler was bad, but what the Muslims want to do to the Jews is worse." Another religious conservative, Jerry Falwell, referred to the prophet Mohammed as a "terrorist;" Falwell later apologized. Franklin Graham, who spoke at Bush's inauguration, has called Islam "evil." Lesser-known religious leaders have been "downright vulgar" in their descriptions of Mohammed, as the Washington Post reports. Muslim Americans worry that the anti-Islam conservatives are winning the battle. "These right-wingers are trying to set up a civilizational conflict with all their might in the same way as Osama bin Laden," says Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "We're trying our darndest to prevent it but every day it's looking more and more like it's heading in that direction.... It really is getting a bit frightening. At some times I feel like a member of the Jewish community in Germany in the latter stages of the Weimar Republic." But many American conservatives agree with Commentary's Norman Podhoretz, who wrote earlier this year, "Certainly not all Muslims are terrorists. But it would be dishonest to ignore the plain truth that Islam has become an especially fertile breeding-ground of terrorism in our time. This can only mean that there is something in the religion itself that legitimizes the likes of Osama bin Laden, and indeed there is: the obligation imposed by the Koran to wage holy war, or jihad, against the 'infidels.'" (Washington Post. Michael Scheuer)
- Late November: The UN puts teams of weapons inspectors into Iraq. The teams later claim that the US "actively hindered" their efforts to locate and dismantle Iraqi WMDs. They are in place for a number of weeks, and find no WMDs. (CCR)
- Late November: One provision of Bush's Homeland Security Bill, which no one in Congress or the White House will admit to writing, protects Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals from lawsuits over a vaccine additive found to cause birth defects in children. (Lilly has long, deep connections the Bush family and the White House budget director.) Another provision repeals government sanctions against US companies that relocate overseas to evade federal taxes. The bill passes Congress with little debate. Not so a bill designed to extend unemployment benefits for hundreds of thousands of jobless Americans. The Senate approves benefit extensions through March 2003, but the stingier House refuses to approve benefits past late December. In Joe Conason's words, "Nearly a million families sat down to Thanksgiving dinner knowing that their benefits would end three days after Christmas." The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes, an ardent Bush supporter, tells a Fox News audience smugly, "Now a lot of people are going to have to go get jobs." Congress will reinstate benefits for some unemployed early in the new year, but at least a million unemployed were left to fend for themselves. (Joe Conason)