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Bush threatens unspecified actions against Iran
- April 22: In a truly frightening set of threats, President Bush says that Iran "will be dealt with" if it doesn't stop developing nuclear weapons and begin total cooperation with international inspectors. Bush says that the process of "dealing with" Iran will begin with the United Nations, but clearly implies that a military solution is feasible. Bush says he will encourage allies to insist to the Iranians that they live up to commitments to cooperate with UN inspectors and end any enriching and reprocessing of uranium. "The Iranians need to feel the pressure from the world that any nuclear weapons program will be uniformly condemned -- it's essential that they hear that message," he says. "The development of a nuclear weapon in Iran is intolerable, and a program is intolerable.... Otherwise, they will be dealt with, starting through the United Nations." Earlier this month, Iran pledged to speed up cooperation with the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency, but called for an end of inspections by June. The language was reminiscent of comments Bush made about Iraq long before the war, and to admonitions he has issued to Syria. Iran, along with Iraq and North Korea, was part of the "axis of evil" in his State of the Union address in 2002. Bush said last July that Iran and Syria "will be held accountable" if they failed to cooperate more fully with the administration's campaign against terrorism.
- Administration officials said they have no plans to attack Iran, and that Bush's policy on Tehran had not changed. But the remarks offer a window into Bush's long-range view of relations with Tehran. The administration said in October it was not pursuing a policy of government change in Tehran. But the White House has alternated between a confrontational and conciliatory stance, and Bush's comment could inflame relations with Iran. Bush, speaking at an Associated Press luncheon during a Newspaper Association of America convention, says he believes that the war with Iraq will eventually result in a safer Middle East. He said he has no intention of backing away, despite rising casualties among US troops. He said the people of Iraq are "looking at America and saying, 'Are we going to cut and run again?' That's what they're thinking, as well -- and we're not going to cut and run if I'm in the Oval Office. We will do our job. I believe that people yearn to be free. I believe freedom in the heart of the Middle East is an historic opportunity to change the world." Bush warns the editors that the United States "is a battlefield in the war on terror" and said he can understand public fears of a terrorist attack before the November election. "This is a hard country to defend," he says. "Our intelligence is good. It's just never perfect, is the problem. We are disrupting some cells here in America. We're chasing people down. But it is a -- we've got a big country." Previously, Bush told Republican congressional leaders during a meeting at the White House that it was all but certain that terrorists would attempt a major attack on the United States before the election, according to a congressional aide. The leaders were struck by Bush's definitiveness and gravity, the aide said. Still, Bush tells the editors, the administration is "making good progress in the defense of America." "If al-Qaeda were a board of directors, the chairman and vice chairman might still be out there, but the middle management is gone," he says. Before turning to serious topics during the question period, Bush began by telling the editors that the nation was enjoying growing prosperity, and jokingly opened by addressing them as "members of the Politburo." (Washington Post)
- April 22: The US has quietly decided to allow a number of former officials in the Hussein regime, many former members of the now-derided Ba'ath party, to once again take senior-level posts in the Iraqi government and the military. "The remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime know they have no future in a free Iraq," says Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, but while he makes such statements, Paul Bremer, the US administrator in Iraq, is saying, and doing, otherwise. Until now, those Ba'athists, most of whom are minority Sunnis, had been banned as part of a postwar "de-Baathification" policy designed to remove any lingering influence of Saddam Hussein's most loyal supporters. There also have been complaints that the ban has kept teachers, engineers, well-trained technocrats and experienced military officers out of the difficult postwar transition. "We are working to try to develop an equitable solution to address the widely divergent activities of former Baathist party members," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says. In other words, some former Ba'ath Party members may be allowed to teach in the schools, run the country's infrastructure, move along the government's bureaucracy, and serve in the military, after careful screening. "sooner or later, there would come a time when we need senior officers, and there are many senior officers remaining from this country, who can meet all the criteria established in the 'de-Ba'athification' policy and still have a significant contribution to offer the nation of Iraq in the defense structure," says US Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt. He says a handful of former Saddam generals may even be allowed to resume their military careers. (CNN)
Pentagon admits to secretly funding military preparations for Iraq invasion well before Bush asks for Congressional approval
- April 22: The Pentagon admits to secretly funding 21 military-related projects linked to the invasion of Iraq before Bush asked Congress to approve an attack. The administration says that $178.4 million was spent in the late summer of 2002 on projects that could be justified as part of the war against terrorism. Some lawmakers, including Pennsylvania Republican John Murtha, a senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, say the Defense Department exceeded its authority and concealed information that should have been shared with Congress. The heaviest spending was in Kuwait and included $24 million for an ammunition storage and supply system and $15 million for communications equipment at the Arifjan Base Camp. The Pentagon also spent $3 million on a detention facility and almost $6.5 million for an inland petroleum-distribution system. The administration has denied any intention of misleading or concealing information from Congress, according to an unidentified senior official. (Wall Street Journal/Bloomberg)
- April 22: Some Republican congressmen are angry at the out-of-control spending on Iraq. Currently the US is spending about $4.7 billion a month on the occupation, an amount that many feel the country can ill afford. The complaints among Republicans that the administration has failed to own up to the soaring costs of the war reflect growing political strains over the war and the looming elections. If the administration is indeed forced to ask for more money, Republicans would prefer to see that happen while the election is months away. In surprisingly sharp terms, members of the House Armed Services Committee criticize the administration's plan to wait to seek additional money until after the election. Representative Curt Weldon says the Army told his subcommittee that it has nearly $6 billion in unfunded budget requests. "I think the budget request that is provided to us is short-sighted and, in the case of the Army, I think it is outrageous," he says. Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter, another Republican, says he believes the administration should seek additional funding for Iraq before the current fiscal year ends in September. He says he is inclined to include an authorization for $20 billion in his committee's Pentagon authorization bill whether the administration requests it or not. (Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune/AllForums)
- April 22: California election officials accuse Diebold Election Systems of jeopardizing the March primary by selling California counties a poorly functioning voting system that was inadequately tested. The partially tested equipment contributed to the malfunction of hundreds of voter-card encoders in Alameda and San Diego counties, according to a report released Wednesday by Secretary of State Kevin Shelley after a five-month investigation. The encoders are needed to match voters to the appropriate ballot based on party registration and residence. Their failure prevented an unknown number of voters from casting ballots. "Diebold's conduct has created an untenable situation for both county and state election officials," according to the report, which also said the company misled election officials and did not cooperate with the investigation. Shelley has said he would consider banning use of Diebold equipment in California, but the report stopped short of making such a recommendation. With the November presidential election approaching, Shelley's decision could throw the 15 counties using electronic voting systems into turmoil. At least 10 other counties that use Diebold vote-counting software with optical-scan systems could also be affected. Voting activists said the report proved that Diebold could not be trusted to accurately record and count ballots. Diebold President Bob Urosevich apologizes and says his firm had not intentionally misled anyone. "Diebold's intent was always to service and assist the counties and respond to their needs to run fair and efficient elections," Urosevich says. Less than two months before last year's election, Diebold urged the emergency approval of the encoders, claiming the election could not be conducted without them. However, the company then failed to alert election officials about a battery problem that affected the encoders' operation. Shelley's office began investigating Diebold soon after the November election upon learning the Ohio-based company had installed uncertified software in what turned out to be 17 California counties. Concern about voting equipment prompted state lawmakers to propose urgency legislation last month banning the use of all electronic voting machines in the upcoming presidential election. Assistant Secretary of State Marc Carrel says he is troubled by Diebold's response to the state's investigation. In January, officials had asked the firm to document changes it had made to the software used in its voting systems. "In response, Diebold raised frivolous legal objections to providing many of the documents," the report states. (San Jose Mercury News)
Lies about Kerry's Vietnam service debunked
- April 22: Vietnam veteran John O'Neill, who served in John Kerry's unit in Vietnam after Kerry had completed his tour of duty, publicly criticizes Kerry's antiwar record after Kerry's return to the US. "I saw some war heroes...John Kerry is not a war hero," says O'Neill, a Houston lawyer who joined the Navy's Coastal Division 11 two months after the future senator left Vietnam. ""He couldn't tie the shoes of some of the people in Coastal Division 11." O'Neill calls Kerry "unfit" to be President, and says, "His allegations that people committed war crimes in that unit, and throughout Vietnam, were lies. He knew they were lies when he said them, and they were very damaging lies." O'Neill says that other former members of the unit plan to come forward and criticize Kerry. Kerry has backed off a bit from his 1971 comments, saying, "The words were honest, but, on the other hand, they were a little bit over the top." O'Neill, when asked if Kerry's explanation is sufficient, responds, "It's really not a matter of forgiveness. It's a matter of fitness to be the commander-in-chief of all US forces. The damaging lies that he told about war criminals have haunted people's entire lives. So it's just a little bit late, in the course of a presidential campaign, to say it's a bit excessive." Michael Meehan, a senior Kerry campaign adviser, says "[O'Neill's] characterization of John Kerry's service is inaccurate. ...[Kerry] was a young man who came back, had seen a lot in Vietnam, wanted this country to end that war and came back worked very hard to bring that war to an end," Meehan says. "Mr. O'Neill has certainly earned his right, through his service, to speak whatever he wants and have his opinions. We would disagree with some of his characterizations. Senator Kerry volunteered to go to Vietnam. ...[He] won a Silver Star for bravery, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts leading that division."
- In 1971, as a spokesman for the group Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Kerry testified before the Senate that then-President Nixon was guilty of prolonging the war and told of war crimes that he had become aware of, though not anything related to his unit. (O'Neill errs in saying Kerry accused anyone in his own unit of war crimes.) Among the charges Kerrye lodged were that troops had committed rapes; cut off ears, limbs and heads; taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals; blown up bodies; and randomly fired at civilians. Nixon chose O'Neill, also a Bronze Star recipient who had recently returned from Vietnam, to challenge Kerry on the Dick Cavett Show, which O'Neill did. (Nixon aide Charles Colson wrote about Kerry, "Let's destroy this young demagogue before he becomes another Ralph Nader.") At one point during the heated exchange, O'Neill demanded Kerry explain why, if he saw war crimes taking place, "you didn't do something about them." O'Neill says that since then he has had little political involvement, and describes himself as a political independent. He says he feels that he has no choice but to come forward and challenge Kerry. "We were there, we know the truth, and we know that this guy's unfit to be commander-in-chief," he says. "I think you'll find that people are very, very angry at John Kerry. They remember his career in Vietnam as a short, controversial one, and they believe that only Hollywood could turn this guy into a war hero."
- However, O'Neill's attempts to paint himself as an apolitical patriot whose conscience compelled him to go public have been shown up. Instead of being a political outsider, as O'Neill claims, he has a long history of business and financial ties with the GOP. O'Neill himself clerked for Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist in 1974-75, and one of O'Neill's law partners, Margaret Wilson, served as general counsel to George W. Bush during his term as governor of Texas in 1998-2000. Wilson was also a lawyer for Enron when she was with the law firm Vinson & Elkins, the same law firm that produced Bush senior counsel Alberto Gonzales. (CNN, Daily Kos, Daily Kos)
Iraqi tribunal headed by Chalabi's nephew set to try Hussein
- April 22: The head of the Iraqi war tribunal set to try Saddam Hussein and other war criminals, Salem Chalabi, is much more than a lawyer who happens to be the nephew of IGC member and neocon darling Ahmad Chalabi. Salem, who appointed the other members of the tribunal, is a member of the Chalabi family, one of the richest and most well-connected families in Iraq. After Hussein's deposing in April 2003, Salem set up a company, the Iraqi International Law Group, offering help to companies trying to land lucrative Iraqi reconstruction deals paid for with US tax dollars. His business partner is Mark Zell, a longtime law partner of Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith, one of the Bush administration's prime architects of the drive for war with Iraq. Feith's Pentagon office is the one charged with doling out Iraqi reconstruction contracts. The cronyism and insider business dealings of Chalabi and Zell, among many others, are well documented; it remains to be seen why Salem Chalabi was chosen to put together the war tribunal charged with prosecuting Hussein. (The Hill)
- April 22: Tami Silicio, a Kuwait-based cargo worker who provided a photograph of flag-draped coffins of US soldiers to the Seattle Times, has been fired from her job by Maytag Aircraft, a military contractor. She was fired April 21 for "violating US government and company regulations," according to William Silva, president of Maytag Aircraft. Her husband, co-worker David Landry, is also fired. Silicio is stunned by the sudden firings. Her photograph, taken earlier this month, shows more than 20 flag-draped coffins in a cargo plane about to depart from Kuwait. Since 1991, the Pentagon has banned the media from taking pictures of caskets being returned to the United States. Her photo has sparked a renewed debate over the US policy on casket photographs. The photo has appeared on numerous Internet sites and was printed in other publications. Most of the mail and phone calls received by the Times favored publishing the photo. Pentagon officials say the government's policy defers to the sensitivities of bereaved families. "We've made sure that all of the installations who are involved with the transfer of remains were aware that we do not allow any media coverage of any of the stops until [the casket] reaches its final destination,"says Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Colin. Silicio says she never sought to put herself in the public spotlight. Instead, she said, she hoped the publication of the photo would help families of fallen soldiers understand the care and devotion that civilians and military crews dedicate to the task of returning the soldiers home. "It wasn't my intent to lose my job or become famous or anything," she says. The Times received Silicio's photograph from a stateside friend, Amy Katz, who had previously worked with Silicio for a different contractor in Kosovo. Silicio then gave the Times permission to publish it, without compensation. It was paired with an article about her work in Kuwait.
- In Kuwait, Silicio pulled 12-hour night shifts alongside military workers to help in the huge effort to resupply US troops. These workers also helped transport the remains of soldiers back to the United States. Her job put her in contact with soldiers who sometimes accompanied the coffins to the airport. Having lost one of her own sons to a brain tumor, Silicio said, she tried to offer support to those grieving over a lost comrade. "It kind of helps me to know what these mothers are going through, and I try to watch over their children as they head home," she said in an earlier interview. Maytag's Silva said the decision to terminate Silicio's and Landry's employment was made by the company. But he said the US military had identified "very specific concerns" about their actions, which he refused to detail "They were good workers, and we were sorry to lose them," Silva says. "They did a good job out in Kuwait and it was an important job that they did." The Times says it had no intention of taking sides or stirring up controversy: "some readers will object to the image because the press has been largely denied access to take photos of coffins returning from war since the 1991 Gulf War," writes executive editor Mike Fancher. "some will see the picture as an anti-war statement because the image is reminiscent of photos from the Vietnam era, when the press wasn't denied such access. But that isn't Silicio's or the Times' motivation." Democratic senator Joe Biden accuses the Bush administration of manipulating war coverage: "These young men and women are heroes and this is the last long ride home," he says. "The idea that they are essentially snuck back into the country under the cover of night so no one can see that their casket has arrived, I just think is wrong." Later, Silicio says she has been enlightened by the press coverage of her photo and the subsequent reactions. "The newspapers have opened my eyes to what that picture meant for everyone in the nation," she says. "I didn't realize how censored the United States has been on what's going on in Iraq." She expresses her anger that her husband, David, also lost his job with Maytag, saying he had nothing to do with her decision to release the photo. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Toronto Star, Editor and Publisher)
- April 22: John Kerry slams Bush for his secret agreement with Prince Bandar bin Sultan for Saudi Arabia to artificially manipulate the oil market to ensure lower gas prices in the US before the elections. "I believe the American people deserve a president who just isn't going to have a friendly talk, but who is going to fight to guarantee that we lower prices for Americans," Kerry says. "I don't know if it was a deal, I don't know if it was a secret pledge, I don't know if it was just a friendly conversation among friends," Kerry says. "The fact remains that whatever it was, the American people are getting a bad deal today." He continues, "...if there was no deal, if there was no agreement, then stand up today and jawbone OPEC to lower the price. They could up that production tomorrow. We need to have them answer why they won't do that." "I pledge to you as president, I will fight for Americans, not in secret deals, not in secret meetings with the energy companies," he adds, saying, "I pledge to you as president, no deal will be cut and no legislation will be written by polluters." Kerry says there's little evidence that Bush is interested in pressuring oil-producing countries to raise production. Bandar, nicknamed "Bandar Bush," is a longtime friend and political ally of the Bush family. He attended the unveiling of former President George H.W. Bush's official portrait when he returned to the White House in 1995. He was among the guests at a surprise 75th birthday party in 2000 for former first lady Barbara Bush, and the former president has vacationed at Bandar's home in Aspen, Colo. Bandar has been a guest at the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas. In 2003, he presented the first family with a C.M. Russell painting, a gift worth $1 million that will be stored in the National Archives, along with other presents from well-wishers destined for a Bush presidential library. (AP/ABC/WJLA-TV)
- April 22: Columnist Eric Alterman says he learned a number of lessons from Bob Woodward's new book, Plan of Attack. He writes, "For foreign policy purposes, Dick Cheney is President: Cheney wanted this war from way back when; it was Bush who needed convincing. As Slate's Tim Noah points out, 'The closest Woodward comes to showing Bush making a final decision is when Bush pulls Rumsfeld aside in early January 2003 and says, "Look, we're going to have to do this, I'm afraid. I don't see how we're going to get him to a position where he will do something in a manner that's consistent with the UN requirements, and we've got to make an assumption that he will not."' When the president is not around, administration officials refer to Cheney as 'the Man,' as in, 'The Man wants this' or 'The Man thinks that.' That's too bad, because unfortunately Cheney is nuts. As Powell puts it, Cheney was in the grip of a 'fever,' no longer the 'steady, unemotional rock that he had witnessed a dozen years earlier during the run-up to the Gulf War. The vice president was beyond hell-bent for action against Saddam. It was as if nothing else existed.' Woodward gives us the backstory: Cheney, confirmed by his equally fevered aide 'Scooter' Libby, repeatedly pitched -- as he does today -- the apparently imaginary meeting between Mohamed Atta and Iraqi intelligence in Prague. Powell/Woodward aptly term this contention 'worse than ridiculous.' It goes on. 'Cheney would take an intercept and say it shows something was happening. No, no, no, Powell or another would say, it shows that somebody talked to somebody else who said something might be happening. A conversation would suggest something might be happening, and Cheney would convert that into a "We know."'
- Rumsfeld's Pentagon, led by Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, caught Cheney's nutty fever too. The war party in the Pentagon was no less obsessed than Cheney and Libby with finding the nonexistent link between Iraq and al-Qaeda. Powell considered them to be 'a separate little government' and referred to them as the 'Gestapo office.' George W. Bush cannot be bothered to listen to the views of those with whom he disagrees, even (particularly?) people who clearly know a great deal more about the topic than he does and hold Cabinet responsibility for it. Bush told Woodward that when he saw Powell for twelve minutes in the Oval Office on January 13, 2003, it was 'not a meeting to have a discussion. This was a meeting to tell Colin Powell that a decision had been made and that the president wanted his support.' Which is also too bad, because Bush lives in a dream world. This from the transcript of Larry King Live: 'WOODWARD:...I said, OK, you've found no weapons of mass destruction, and one of my bosses at the Post said, The question is, did you deceive us or were you deceived? And I got two very emphatic, No. No. KING: On both? WOODWARD: On both.'"
- Alterman continues, "The United States Constitution is meaningless to these people: The Bush Administration decided to lay out $700 million on a 'massive, covert public works program' in Kuwait in 2002, even though, as Woodward aptly notes, they did not inform Congress. This is a violation of Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution, which vests the power of the purse in Congress, along with various statutes that bar the executive from unilaterally moving money out of areas explicitly mandated by spending bills. It is, moreover, an explicit violation of the post-9/11 emergency supplemental bill, which gave the President discretion to direct the $40 billion it appropriated but specifically required him to 'consult with the chairmen and ranking minority members of the Committees on Appropriations prior to the transfer' of any funds. There is no evidence of any such consultation, and indeed the White House is not claiming any exists. The Administration has reacted to this revelation with (a) dishonesty: On CBS's Face the Nation, Condoleezza Rice tried to argue that 'resources were not taken from Afghanistan.' This is false -- Bush removed Special Forces from Afghanistan in 2002 to send them to Iraq, as David Sirota of the Center for American Progress notes; and (b) disingenuousness and more dishonesty: White House deputy press secretary Trent Duffy told an interviewer that the 'significant buildup' in the Persian Gulf region before the war was not necessarily preparation for an invasion. ...Duffy also said the Administration wanted to be ready to aid weapons inspectors. This is ridiculous. The record demonstrates that the White House went out of its way to undercut the weapons inspectors in order to justify its obsession with war. For the past year, the goofball President of the United States and his Defense Secretary have been denying that inspectors were ever even allowed inside Iraq -- something that goes all but unreported in the US media because reporters apparently find it too weird...." (The Nation)
- April 23: As a truce takes hold in Fallujah, stories of the horrific siege are beginning to emerge. Humanitarian workers speak of US soldiers firing at ambulances and civilians. They say makeshift clinics were overwhelmed because of a bridge closure which cut off access to the main hospital. US military officials describe the US operation as "humane" and say they "do everything possible to protect non-combatants." They blame insurgents' tactics for increasing the risks to civilians. However, stories from aid workers, journalists, and civilians paint a different picture. Coalition forces began the operation to "pacify" insurgent fighters in the restive, mainly-Sunni city on April 5. It followed the gruesome murder and mutilation in late March of four security contractors working for the coalition in the city. The head of mission of a European humanitarian agency with staff in Fallujah says that two of their ambulances had been shot at by American snipers. Asked whether these were warning or attacking shots, he says, "One was shot two or three times -- a sniper does not shoot an ambulance three times by mistake." British aid worker Jo Wilding says an ambulance she was in, with flashing lights, siren blaring and "ambulance" written on it in English, was hit as it drove to collect a woman in premature labor. Wilding is sure the shots came from American troops. "You can tell the shape of US marine from a mujahedeen -- even if you can only see a silhouette, the helmet and flak jacket are quite distinctive. Also, we were in a US-controlled part of town."
- Iraqi doctor Salam al-Obaidi, a member of the Doctors for Iraq humanitarian society, worked in Falluja for six days during the fighting. He describes seeing colleagues blown up in an ambulance -- also clearly marked -- travelling in front of him as his team tried to enter a US-controlled area. "I saw the ambulance disappear -- not all of it, but the front of it, the side where the driver and paramedic were," he recalls. He says he and two more colleagues were injured in a second explosion. He still does not know the fate of the two people in the first ambulance. In a separate incident, Obaidi says, a driver and paramedic in an ambulance were shot in a US-controlled area, one in the chest, the other in the eyes. The injured civilians inside the ambulance bled to death during the next two days as warning shots were fired when the team tried four times to return to collect the ambulance, he said. Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the top commander of US forces in Iraq, has denied that troops were firing on ambulances. "If we're shooting vehicles, it's because those vehicles have shot at us," he said. US officials have said that on one occasion, an insurgent gunman was seen fleeing in an ambulance, and that weapons have been found in an aid convoy west of the city.
- Coalition military spokesman Brigadier General Mark Kimmit said that there have been "a lot of people running around the city with blankets on their vehicles asserting that they are ambulances." There was concern that these could have been loaded with explosives, he said. The Iraqi death toll from the siege has been strongly contested. Local doctors have been widely quoted as saying at least 600 people died. Obaidi believes the total to be at least 750, not including those buried in gardens or other unofficial grave sites. The Iraqi Health Minister, Khodair Abbas, said on Thursday that 271 people died and local doctors had been pressured to give inflated figures. The proportion of these who were civilians is impossible to verify. Reports from the city have consistently said that many civilians in US-controlled parts of the city were too afraid of US snipers to leave their homes during the siege. Obaidi and Wilding describe cases of women, children and old men who appeared to have been shot by US soldiers. Obaidi said he had seen the bodies of two men, one aged about 70, the other about 50, both shot in the forehead, in an area controlled by the US. They had been lying at the front gate of their home for two days, he said, because the family did not dare step outside to retrieve the bodies. Is he sure they were shot by US troops? "You are joking?" he retorts. "There are people dead in an area just controlled by America snipers. Nobody, either civilian or resistance, could enter the area. Who could kill them? We know American bullets. We are not a stupid people."
- Wilding says an injured mother and two children had told her they were hit by US gunmen as they tried to leave their house. She also said she met an old woman, shot in the abdomen, who was still clutching a white flag. "Her son said she had been shot by US soldiers," she says. Obaidi also says he had seen the body parts of a family in a bombed-out house: "There were seven women and five children. I saw the head of a child away from the body. Only one girl, aged four, had survived," he says. US officials say their operations have been "extraordinarily precise." Sanchez said civilian casualties were "absolutely regrettable," but were a fact on a "battlefield of this nature in an urban environment." Kimmit also blamed militants who "hunker down inside mosques and hospitals and schools, and use the women and children as shields" for the civilian suffering. The US has also faced criticism for blocking access to the city's main hospital by, according to most reports, occupying the river bridge which linked it to the rest of the city. "If this hospital was working it would have saved a lot of lives," Medecins Sans Frontieres' Emergency Coordinator for Iraq Ibrahim Younis said.
- Doctors set up makeshift clinics in the early days of the siege. Wilding says doctors were storing blood in a drinks fridge at a GP's surgery where they were treating the injured, and warming the bags under the tap in an unhygienic toilet. Obaidi said hundreds of patients were brought in, but his team had only 10 beds. Part of the deal to end the fighting was a US commitment to allow "unfettered access" to the hospital and to "facilitate the passage of official ambulances" in the city. The Coalition says troops "have consistently allowed food, medical and humanitarian supplies into the city" and have "assisted in the transportation and distribution of these supplies." It also says Marines have helped ambulances from Baghdad to get into Fallujah, and that humanitarian convoys have been slowed by explosive devices found on the roads. (BBC)
- April 23: The Marine commander in Fallujah says a new offensive will begin shortly against Fallujah insurgents unless residents turn over more heavy weapons and rein in resistance fighters. Lieutenant General James Conway says that after a deal was struck with Fallujah residents to stop the offensive in return for no further violence and the handover of weapons, violence has not abated, and only a "paltry" number of rusty, unusuable weapons and a single pickup truck have been turned in. "If the negotiators cannot manufacture a peaceful scenario, we'll have to do what we came here to do," Conway says. The Pentagon calls the Fallujah resistance a small number of Islamist extremists and remnants of Saddam Hussein's former Ba'ath Party. Conway says that if more weapons were not turned in soon, Marines would resume fighting in force in "days, not weeks." Marines now control an industrial area in the southern part of the city and a section of northwest Fallujah. But since they suspended offensive operations nearly two weeks ago to allow for negotiations, they have not attempted to take downtown Fallujah, where US officials say various insurgent groups operate with impunity and the town's intimidated police force only patrols the area directly around its headquarters. If Marines relaunch their offensive, says Conway, they "will demand that the noncombatants leave the city so that innocent people will not be injured." That raised the specter of tens of thousands more people fleeing Fallujah; about 70,000 fled last week from the city of 200,000 to 300,000 people. Ideally, senior officers at Camp Fallujah, headquarters of the First Marine Expeditionary Force, would like to first separate the most implacable fighters from the population and then confront them with overwhelming force. They say they are trying to make clear to residents that their quarrel is with hard-core fighters driven by Islamist or Ba'athist ideology, not with what one senior officer described as "angry, confused youngsters" who took up arms in anger over Fallujah casualties or life under occupation. US forces don't want insurgents to escape, nor do they want to pound the city with artillery with most of its residents inside. Yet by continuing their roadblock of the city, where most residents have spent nearly three weeks cowering in their houses and at least 264 people have been killed in the recent fighting, they risk hardening the population against them. (Boston Globe)
- April 23: Sunni Muslim leader Sheikh Ahmed Abdel Ghafur Samarrai warns the US-led coalition that it will face an uprising throughout Iraq if its forces attack the flashpoint city of Fallujah, besieged by US marines since April 5. "I have an urgent message for US forces. You have overstepped the red line. Make sure you do not strike Fallujah again," Samarri warns during services at a Baghdad mosque. "We will not allow the shedding of Iraqi blood. If you strike again, the whole of Iraq, from north to south, from east to west, will become Fallujah," Samarrai says. A total of 271 Iraqis and dozens of US marines have been killed there since the US forces besieged the city on April 5 following the slaying of four American contractors, according to official figures. In a televised address, the US administrator for Iraq, Paul Bremer, says that armed bands in the city must submit to national authority. "Fallujah cannot be peaceful while such men remain at liberty," he says. Samarrai says during his sermon that the apparent deadlock meant that US forces were getting ready for a new attack. "Occupation forces claim that negotiations have reached an impasse. This means that they are preparing a new offensive on Fallujah. I warn you against a new massacre of the population in Fallujah or against any other Iraqi city," he says, adding that Iraqis "can no longer tolerate more bloodshed." He goes on to say, "Iraqi Muslims, Sunnis or Shiites, will not remain passive and silent in the face of a new massacre. Sunnis and Shiites are united in Fallujah and in Najaf." He blames the occupation forces for seeking an escalation. During the sermon, several people from Fallujah shout: "We want acts not words." (Agence France-Press/CommonDreams)
- April 23: A special investigation undertaken by public radio's Marketplace and the Center for Investigative Reporting, and funded by the Economist magazine, shows that almost 20 percent of the billions of American taxpayers dollars being spent to rebuild Iraq is being lost to corruption. The report also documents the failure of the US government to effectively oversee expenditures in a reconstruction effort that the reports says costs 10 times more per capita than the Marshall Plan (the US-led effort to rebuilt Germany after WWII). The problems are myriad, and as much located in Washington and the US-led CPA as with Iraqis. Officials at Iraq's Central Bank say senior Iraqi Ministry officials regularly pocket reconstruction money. The report sats that every single Iraqi ministry is touched by corruption. The health department sells medical supplies on the black market, other ministries sell valuable equipment, while housing officials take money to allocate homes to the highest briber. Translators who work for Iraq's Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) or US contractors are promising work to other Iraqis on contracts, but want as much as a 50 percent cut of any deal. In Washington, congressional initiatives that would have sent a strong anti-corruption signal to contractors in Iraq were derailed by the House Republican leadership and the White House. These included amendments to the Iraq appropriations bill last fall that would have criminalized war profiteering and required ongoing audits by the General Accounting Office of contracts over $25 million. "The fact [those measures] were made and defeated signaled, 'We don't agree [this] oversight is necessary,'" says Jeffrey Jones, former head of the Defense Energy Support Center, in charge of purchasing fuel for the Pentagon. Jones watched as gasoline bills doubled when part of his job was outsourced to Halliburton. "so, it's laissez faire. That's the message that was sent." In the past three months, US investigators have disputed more than $1 billion worth of contract fees because of "inflated charges, incompetence, lack of documentation to support invoices and kickbacks related to subcontract awards."
- The Pentagon's Inspector General was particularly suspicious of a deal between a little known Kuwaiti company named Altanmia and the US giant Halliburton. That deal could cost as much as $100 million in excess fuel charges. As a result of the disputed charges, the Pentagon decided this month to end the contract with Halliburton, buy its own fuel, and hire its own contractors to transport it. Now under scrutiny, Altanmia cut its transport price by two-thirds what it charged Halliburton, and got the contract. Halliburton, in a letter to the producers of the series, said it did nothing wrong, and conducted all its operations within the proper rules and instructions. Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, argues that the company is not the problem, but the system it works within is. By focusing on Halliburton, critics ignore the real scandal, which is how inefficient our procurement bureaucracy is. Columnist Paul Krugman of the New York Times writes that a big part of the problem in Iraq, and in Washington is, the "administration's fanatical commitment to privatization and outsourcing, in which free-market ideology is inextricably mixed with eagerness to protect and reward corporate friends." While the administration was unprepared for predictable security problems in Iraq, it moved quickly -– in violation of international law -– to impose its economic vision. Last month Jay Garner, the first US administrator of Iraq, said he was sacked in part because he wanted to hold quick elections. His superiors wanted to privatize Iraqi industries first -– as part of a plan that, according to Garner, was drawn up in late 2001. Meanwhile, the head of the CPA, Paul Bremer, is asking that the CPA be exempt from some of the rules that Washington did impose to create transparency with the awarding of contracts in Iraq. Bremer says the recent escalating violence in Iraq has made the move necessary, because the US faces pressure to show its making progress in Iraq before the June 30 date for transfer of authority to Iraqis. See the February 13, 2004 item for more information. (Christian Science Monitor)
- April 23: Dover Air Force Base recently released about 350 photos of flag-draped coffins containing the bodies of soldiers returning from Iraq in response to a Freedom of Information request. The Pentagon has ordered that no more photos be released. The FOIA request came from Russ Kick, the founder of the Web site The Memory Hole. Even though the photos were released before Tami Silicio allowed her photos to be printed by the Seattle Times, she was still fired by her employer, defense contractor Maytag Aircraft. "I feel if the administration were more sympathetic they would see that this is a positive thing," Silicio says. "When our loved ones are coming home, the families want to be there with them through the media, coming the whole way home." (Washington Post)
- April 23: Among the mercenaries hired by US corporations to protect Iraqi oil fields are a number of South Africans who most recently fought for the former apartheid-supporting regime. On January 28, 2004, a van disguised as an ambulance exploded outside the Shaheen Hotel in Baghdad. Francois Strydom was among the dead. Deon Gouws was among the injured. Both are former apartheid-era killers from South Africa employed by SAS International. Strydom, a member of the South Africa military, did most of his killing in the border country of Namibia. Gouws, a South African police officer, honed his skills in South Africa. Before being recruited by SAS International, Gouws was a major player in the 1986 "KwaNdebele 9" incident. KwaNdebele was one of South Africa's 10 Homelands prior to formation of the new government in 1994. Nine represented the number of young men who were slaughtered and whose bodies were subsequently torched to hide the evidence. In July 1986, Gouws and his cohorts entered a KwaNdebele home under the guise of training nine young men in the use of firearms. The young men lined up to receive the training and were gunned down by Gouws and his colleagues. Their bodies were then set on fire. It was reported that one of the men had been in the area to visit his grandparents. While seeking amnesty under South African law, Gouws testified that he may have fire bombed 40 to 60 residences and buildings. Amnesty hearing documents indicate that he could not recall specific details. Gouws recalls detonating a car bomb in 1986 that killed Piet Ntuli, a KwaNdebele cabinet minister. In March 1992, Gouws and several others ambushed a van containing four unarmed individuals. The occupants of the van were killed. Gouws then placed an AK47 in the van, and watched as an accomplice did the same with two hand grenades. According to the testimony of his partners, the plan "was to create the false impression that the police had set up a road block and that the occupants of the [van] opened fire on the police at the road block whereafter the police returned fire and killed the occupants." A potential witness, Winnie Mandela's driver at the time, was found nearby. Fearing he could tell all, the group shot him, set his clothes on fire, and blew up his remains with explosives. In 1996, Gouws was dismissed from the police force for allegedly being medically unfit. He was hired by SAS International earlier this year. (Milwaukee Courier)
- April 23: In an unusual abandonment of Congressional decorum, House Republicans line up to attack John Kerry's antiwar activities during the early 1970s. House Democrats react angrily, defending Kerry and attacking Bush's own military record. The stinging exchanges take place in a series of one-minute speeches lawmakers can make on any topic; these speeches are usually used for innocuous annoucements and presentations. Republican Sam Johnson initiated the attacks by denouncing Kerry on the 33rd anniversary of his testimony before a Senate panel in which he sharply criticized the conduct of some US troops in Vietnam. Johnson, who spent seven years as a North Vietnamese prisoner of war, says the young Kerry "blasted our nation, chastised our troops and hurt our morale.... What he did was nothing short of aiding and abetting the enemy." Comparing Kerry to former antiwar activist Jane Fonda, Johnson says: "He's called Hanoi John." Presiding officer Ray LaHood, a fellow Republican, issues a mild caution about disparaging senators by name, but other Republican ignore the warning and continue to lay into Kerry. John Kline says Kerry's service in the war "does not excuse his joining ranks with Jane Fonda and others in speaking ill of our troops or their service, then or now." (Note the well-orchestrated attempts to connect Kerry with the unpopular Fonda, harking back to recent doctored photos purporting to show Kerry and Fonda together at an antiwar rally.)
- Randy "Duke" Cunningham, whose plane was shot down over North Vietnam, says Kerry's 1971 remarks angered Cunningham and his comrades at the time. "We do not need a Jane Fonda as commander in chief," he says. Democrats, who were planning to use their time to focus on Earth Day, instead launch a spirited defense of Kerry. John Larson says, We ought to rise above this here on the House floor and across the debate in this nation." Jim McDermott, a Navy psychiatrist during the war, alluded to Bush's record in the Texas Air National Guard then. People who served actively then, he says, have a right to speak out. "But if you were in the National Guard and you didn't show up, you were AWOL for a whole year, you've got real nerve to start an attack on John Kerry's character," McDermott says. "some people were simply not available; they never showed up for their flight physical." Kerry has said he regrets some of the words he used in 1971 when he called US leaders "war criminals," and said he had committed "the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers." Kerry recently told the press that he is sorry some soldiers were angry about his words, but added: "I'm not going to walk away from that. But I wish I had found a way to say it in a less abrasive way." (Washington Post)
- April 23: Right-wing radio talk show host Jay Severin calls for the murder of all Muslims during his talk show; the Council for American-Islamic Relations calls for his firing. WTKK-FM's Severin said during a discussion about how Severin claims Muslims want to take over America, even if it takes centuries, "I've got an idea, let's kill all Muslims." General manager Matt Mills says, "I have spoken to Jay Severin and he knows we take this seriously and do not condone offensive remarks toward any religious groups and he will be apologizing on his show Monday afternoon. He did not intend to offend anyone." Mills does not explain how the advocacy of killing all Muslims cannot be intended to offend those of the Islamic faith. Mills acknowledges to CAIR that if Severin had said the same thing about African-Americans that he would no longer be on the air. "We believe a mere reprimand and apology is insufficient and demand that he be taken off the air as he would be if he had attacked any other religious or ethnic group," says CAIR's Chairman of the Board Omar Ahmad. Ahmad adds that such hateful rhetoric has a direct impact on the American Muslim community, citing examples of anti-Muslim incidents that took place recently in Texas, such as a shooting at a Denton mosque, an e-mailed threat against the Islamic Center of El Paso, arson attacks on Muslim businesses in San Antonio and racist graffiti scrawled on the interior of a Lubbock mosque. (Yahoo! News)
- April 24: The US admits that the transfer of power to Iraqi governance is quite limited, and that the US will retain control of Iraq for the foreseeable future. The ultimate authority in Iraq will reside with US ambassador John Negroponte and with the military occupying forces. In sometimes heated hearings on Capitol Hill this week, senior Bush administration officials admit they do not know who would be in the new government, precisely what powers it would exercise, nor the exact shape of the new Security Council resolution that Washington is seeking at the United Nations. Marc Grossman, Under-Secretary of State for political affairs, said the government would put "a very important Iraqi face" on many aspects of the country's life. But the US military, not the Iraqi security forces, would be in charge of all security matters. Asked what would happen if the temporary government acted at variance with US foreign policy -- such as by seeking closer ties with Iran -- Grossman implied that would not be tolerated. "That is why we want to have an American ambassador in Iraq," he notes. The implication is clear. The limitations can only complicate US efforts to win a fresh resolution at the UN, whose special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has been finalising the new government. Its main task will be to prepare for elections next year, but some Security Council members may now balk at conferring UN legitimacy on a new Iraqi government whose powers are so limited. The admissions by Grossman come as pressure is intensifying on the Pentagon to bolster the US occupying force, and amid evidence that the costs of the occupation are rising even faster than the administration predicted. General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress that military costs this year would run upwards of $4.7 billion ahead of estimates.
- In a speech to the Council of Foreign Relations, Senator John McCain of Arizona, President Bush's unsuccessful rival for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, demanded the Pentagon send a division, roughly 15,000 men, to Iraq to reinforce the 135,000 US contingent there. Bush needs to make clear the size of the commitment needed to prevail in Iraq, says McCain: "He needs to be perfectly frank: bringing peace and democracy to Iraq is an enormous endeavor that will be very expensive, difficult and long." But more troops, coupled with what from July 1 will be the largest US embassy in the world, with some 3,000 staff, will only underline how Washington will stay in charge, whatever nominal sovereignty is handed over to Iraqis. Joe Biden, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, said: "On 1 July, Iraqis will wake up and there's going to be 160,000 troops and a US ambassador pulling the strings. How does that take the American face off the occupation?" (Independent/CommonDreams)
- April 24: US and UN planners for the transfer of power to Iraqis have tentatively decided to leave out most of the Iraqis currently serving on the Iraqi Governing Council from the transitional government, including IGC leader Ahmad Chalabi. Chalabi, long the darling of Bush administration hawks and Vice President Cheney in particular, has recently incurred the ire of administration officials by his increasing independence and his criticisms of the US's decision to allow former Ba'ath party members to return to government jobs, a decision Chalabi said was the equivalent of returning Nazis to power in Germany after World War II. Chalabi's position with the IGC, which allowed him to dole out monies and lucrative jobs to favored Iraqis, is in doubt, as is the $340,000 monthly stipend his Iraqi National Congress continues to receive from US tax funds. Polls show that by wide margins, Iraqis have little faith in the IGC members, and believe that they are little more than US puppet rulers. UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who is in charge of picking the new government in consultation with the US-led coalition, says he thinks the IGC should disband. "They have said twice, not once, in official documents they signed, that our term will end on the 30th of June," he says. "All opinion polls, and a lot are taken in Iraq, say that people want something different" than expansion of the council because they fear council members "will clone themselves. And why do you want to have that?" he asks.
- US and UN officials generally fear that the continued involvement of too many council members will contaminate efforts to create a credible Iraqi government, they say. Under a new UN proposal, Brahimi is expected to return to Baghdad around May 1 to finish discussions and then select Iraqis for 29 positions -- a prime minister to head the government, a ceremonial president and two vice presidents, plus 25 cabinet officers. Brahimi says these positions should be filled by "mainly technocrats" who are "widely representative" of Iraq's diverse ethnic and religious communities. Rather than excluding Chalabi or any other Governing Council member by name from the new government, he says that "people who have political parties and are leaders of their parties should get ready to win the election...and stay out of the interim government." Some council members might be retained, but more likely in cabinet posts rather than in the top four jobs, according to US officials. Others could be tapped to participate in a national consultative assembly, which Brahimi has proposed should advise the provisional government. All council members will then be free to test their political appeal in the January elections to see how they would fare without US support, US officials add. With only nine weeks left until the handover, the United Nations, the coalition and Iraqis are scrambling to come up with lists of candidates for the top jobs, which Brahimi will compare when he returns to Iraq. Chalabi is resisting the change, and wants the IGC to continue in power in some form. He has accused Brahimi, an Algerian Sunni Muslim, of being biased against Iraq's majority Shi'ites, an accusation that Brahimi dismisses as "silly." Brahimi says, without directly referring to Chalabi, that those who are "sniping" against him on the religious issue "have agendas that have nothing to do with the fact that I am a Sunni." But he said opponents of his new plan for Iraq's transition "may very well succeed in derailing what we are trying to do. But I think if they succeed, it will not be very good for Iraq or for the international community." (Washington Post)
- April 24: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is being urged by fellow congressional Republicans to shut down the Senate for the remainder of the year if Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle continues to be tough on Republican legislative and judicial initiatives, harking back to the infamous government shutdowns led by then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich during the Clinton administration. Daschle and fellow Democrats are making it tough for Republicans to get right-wing judicial nominees approved, and are using Congressional rules to keep controversial legislation from being sent to Senate-House conference committees. Most at risk from the Democrats' hardball is the omnibus appropriations bill, which among other things would make the Bush tax cuts permanent. Republicans tend to forget that they have often used similar tactics to prevent Clinton judicial nominees and Democratic legislation from succeeding. (TownHall)
Indictments against Tom DeLay in preparation
- April 24: Austin, Texas District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat with a record of prosecuting both Democratic and Republican politicians, is readying an indictment against Republican congressman Tom DeLay for alleged illegal cash payments in connection with the forced redistricting of Texas to favor Republican candidates. Such an indictment would force DeLay to step aside as majority leader at least temporarily. (TownHall)
- April 24: Political observers and scholars are questioning the Bush administration's sudden decision to replace the chief of the National Archives; many believe that the switch is intended to delay or even block the release of documents from the first Bush administration that might embarrass officials serving in the current administration. Bush has nominated historian Allen Weinstein to replace former Kansas governor John Carlin as head of the archives nine months before the scheduled release of "confidential communications" between the president's father and his advisers. Dozens of current officials who served in the first Bush administration are likely to be mentioned in the documents, including Vice President Dick Cheney, then secretary of defense; Secretary of State Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, then Soviet affairs director at the National Security Council; Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, then undersecretary of defense for policy; and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, then a presidential envoy to the Philippines and the Middle East after serving as assistant defense secretary for international security affairs. Under provisions of the 1978 Presidential Records Act, Bush's presidential library at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, is required to begin releasing the confidential material 12 years after the former president left office, on January 20, 2005. The National Archives also will be taking custody of more than 2.5 million pages of documents and transcripts from more than 1,000 interviews accumulated by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States when the bipartisan inquiry issues a final report in July and wraps up operations in late September. Scholars' concern over timely release of the treasure trove of documents from the Bush presidency and the Sept. 11 commission has prompted the Association of Research Libraries, the Council of State Historical Records Coordinators, the Organization of American Historians and the Society of American Archivists to launch a public campaign to question the appointment of Weinstein. "We believe that Professor Weinstein must -- through appropriate and public discussions and hearings -- demonstrate his ability to meet the criteria that will qualify him to serve as archivist of the United States," the four organizations declared in a joint statement on behalf of thousands of scholars.
- Five other professional organizations have expressed their fears that Weinstein's penchant for secrecy will undermine the function of the National Archives. Bruce Craig, an official with the National Coalition of History based in Washington, says he fears the new appointee to the non-partisan post of chief archivist might slow the release of documents by the Bush presidential library or the Sept. 11 inquiry, including notes from private interviews with Bush, Cheney, former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that all these documents are going to be very sensitive and very interesting," says Craig. "With so much at stake, the administration would like to have its own guy in there." Timothy Slavin, director of Delaware Public Archives and an official with the Council of State Historical Records Coordinators, says the nation's chief archivist has "tremendous power to delay access by stalling." Slavin says the timing of Bush's appointment raises suspicions that the White House is angling to slow release of documents early next year as part of a broader effort to limit public access to sensitive materials drawn from the presidency or vice presidency of his father. Bush issued Executive Order 13233 in November 2001 giving an incumbent president power to veto the release of former presidents' documents, provoking loud criticism from librarians, researchers, and some members of Congress. Bush used this order, which essentially gutted the 1978 Presidential Records Act, to indefinitely delay release of 68,000 pages of records from the administration of President Ronald Reagan, where his father served for eight years as vice president. "It looks like President Bush is making this appointment with one eye on the release of materials from his father's administration and the other eye on the possibility that he might lose the election in November," Slavin says.
- Scholars said they became suspicious about White House intentions when Bush announced his nomination of Weinstein on April 8 before Carlin had even resigned. The White House subsequently released a letter dated Dec. 19, 2003, in which Carlin advised the president that it would be "time for me to look for other opportunities" after completing a major electronic records initiative this fall. National Archives officials said scholars need not worry about politics interfering with the release of documents. "We're in the process of going back through the records to look at all the closed material so that when January comes around, the bulk of the material that was previously closed can be released," says Warren Finch, deputy director of the Bush presidential library at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. "I don't know if we'll get everything opened up on Jan. 20, but the bulk of it will be open." The archives own all presidential documents dating back to the Reagan presidency, but the presidential libraries maintain custody. The library of former President Bush has 38 million pages of documents from Bush's presidency, vice presidency and private life. Weinstein comes to the post with a reputation for opposing public disclosure of the kind of documents he will be in charge of as National Archivist. George Bush has a history of keeping documents secret; in 1997, he successfully fought for a change in Texas law that allowed him to hide his gubernatorial records; instead of keeping them on public display at the Texas State Library, as the former law mandated, Bush was able to use the new law to squirrel his papers away at his father's presidential library, widely known as the most secretive of all the presidential libraries. After the move was found illegal, Bush's successor as governor, Republican Rick Perry, helped keep the documents secret. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, FindLaw)