Iraq war and occupationNelson says about 75 senators got that news during a classified briefing before last October's congressional vote authorizing the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Nelson then voted in favor of using military force. He refuses to say who in the administration conducted the briefing. Nelson says the senators were told Iraq had both biological and chemical weapons, notably anthrax, and it could deliver them to cities along the Eastern seaboard via unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones. "They have not found anything that resembles an UAV that has that capability," Nelson notes. "That's news," says John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a Washington, DC military and intelligence think tank. "I had not heard that that was the assessment of the intelligence community. I had not heard that the Congress had been briefed on this."
Osama bin LadenThe CIA and Pentagon are unlikely to return to Afghanistan the scores of US commandos and intelligence agents that had been seeking bin Laden before they were shifted to Iraq to crack down on Iraqi rebels. The analysts believe that both the CIA and Pentagon give more importance to that mission than to tracking down bin Laden, who they believe to be all but isolated in a remote corner of Afghanistan. "The priority of the effort in Iraq is not just finding Saddam. It's trying to identify and neutralize the resistance," says former CIA counterterrorism director Vincent Cannistraro. Nearly half the US intelligence and commando agents who had been in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan were reassigned to Iraq starting last summer after the resistance began intensifying. The redeployment raised complaints in Washington that President Bush was easing the pressures on bin Laden. Many of the new arrivals in Iraq wound up in Task Force 121, an elite force of CIA analysts and linguists, Army Green Beret, Delta Force and Navy SEAL commandos and CIA paramilitary units created in October to track down and capture or kill Saddam and resistance leaders. "Clearly, the resources devoted to bin Laden were diluted, but I don't expect a switch back to Afghanistan just because of the capture" of Hussein, says Cannistraro. He and other analysts argued that the manhunts for Hussein and bin Laden are quite different and therefore require different types of resources. The search for Hussein required more of a military than an intelligence operation because he was hiding out in a country occupied by more than 130,000 U.S. troops and had little support among his people, says former CIA analyst Stanley Bedlington. The hunt for bin Laden, on the other hand, is more of an intelligence operation because he is widely believed to be hiding out in the mountains along the remote Afghan-Pakistani border, with help from Muslim radicals and local tribal leaders. "Getting bin Laden consists largely of making deals with Pashtun and Baluchi tribal chiefs, not to mention various Pakistani army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency people," says James Dunnigan, author of several books on military affairs. "This is more of a CIA job. Moreover, Osama is neutralized, so there's no rush to get him," Dunnigan adds. "More urgent attention must be paid to bin Laden followers outside Afghanistan and Pakistan who are actively planning operations." (Knight Ridder/Memphis Commercial Appeal)
Iraq war and occupationHe also continues to deny that his regime possessed any weapons of mass destruction. One administration official says: "Obviously, there are a whole lot of answers we need on a whole lot of topics. He is compliant in the sense that he is responding, as opposed to being obstinate and not speaking at all. But he is not helpful." Another senior administration official says Hussein "has given no indication that he will be a helpful person in getting information." But, the official says, "that is what we expected." Still another official who has been briefed on the first days of his captivity says, "He is denying any direct involvement in the insurgency." Hussein also denies any knowledge of the fate of Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher, an F-18 pilot shot down during the Gulf War in 1991 and presumed killed in action. (New York Times)
Iraq war and occupationlife imprisonment in return for information on if and how he hid weapons of mass destruction and if he smuggled some of them into Syria. Also, Kurds in attendance at the conference claim that intelligence gathered by their tribesmen is what led to Hussein's capture. (Ha'aretz)
Iraq war and occupationChanting "We sacrifice our blood and souls for you Saddam," scores of people gather outside Tikrit University to denounce Saturday's arrest of Saddam, who was born and captured near the town. "God is Greatest, America is the enemy of all peoples," they shout with fists raised. Shortly afterwards, US soldiers charge the protest, beating and arresting some protesters, according to witnesses. After a bomb injures three US soldiers, US forces send tanks rolling through the streets of Tikrit in a show of force. "These people love Saddam, that isn't true of other cities," says Lieutenant Colonel Steven Russell. "These people have always hated us in this area. It is not surprising that they hate us. ...They are not allowed to go around kissing pictures of Saddam in this city. It will not happen." Russell describes the roll-out of tanks not as a show of force, but as a security operation and said a tough approach was needed. "We cannot hand out lollipops," he says. "It does not work." (Reuters, Reuters)
Iraq war and occupationDreyfuss writes in part: "First, Saddam's capture will present a significant political problem for Bush & Co. All by himself, Saddam can unravel the supposed mystery of Iraq's missing weapons of mass destruction. Call him a liar, but on this subject he can tell the truth. Iraq's WMD were virtually extinguished in 1991, and lingering remnants dealt with by UN inspectors in the early '90s. Already, according to Time, Saddam in captivity ridiculed the WMD issue. 'Saddam was...asked whether Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction,' reported Time. "No, of course not," he replied, according to [a US] official, "the U.S. dreamed them up itself to have a reason to go to war with us."' In coming weeks, unless the United States manages to muzzle Saddam and suppress leaks -- not likely -- Saddam can highlight Bush's prevarications on WMD and terrorism. Second, it means that the United States and its puppet governing council in Iraq will have yet another showdown with the world community over Saddam's trial. The United States and its allies would like a quick show trial and an execution; James Woolsey, the former CIA director and one of the leading advocates since the 1990s for war in Iraq, has already called for a hanging, and Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress and the Pentagon's chief Iraqi ally, says that preparations for a trial are already underway. But human rights groups, the UN and others in the world community will insist on a Milosevic-style international proceeding, sans death penalty. Both of these problems could have been avoided had Saddam, like his sons, been killed rather than captured alive. The fact that he wasn't is a tribute to the rationality and good sense of US military units who seized him, but the fact that Saddam didn't kill himself or fight back is a sign that he believes he can engage in yet more mischief as a prisoner, perhaps in an effort to rehabilitate his legacy or to justify himself as the last of the old-style Arab nationalists. Keeping him alive now is the job of the US military, amid a swirl of political forces that would like him dead. Though he has apparently been spirited away to Qatar, he will have to be returned to Iraq for the inquest and trial. And Iraq, at the very least, is a nation of a thousand Jack Rubys."
Iraq war and occupation"I hope that we get the chance to try him our way, to let everyone who suffered make him taste what he had made us taste," says Ali Hussein, a stationery shop owner who said he was still dizzy with joy. "But whether he's in a hole or in jail, it does nothing for me today, it won't feed me or protect me or send my children to school." "It's great that he's caught, but it wasn't him who screwed up the petrol and the electricity and everything else so badly, so now a canister of gas that was 250 dinars costs 4,000, if you can get one," says Ghazi, a dentist, from his car as he queued with hundreds of other drivers waiting for gas. "This is an oil country and it should be rich. It should not be Afghanistan." "The Americans promised freedom and prosperity; what's this? Go up to their headquarters, at one of those checkpoints where they point their guns at you, and tell them that you hate them as much as Saddam, and see what they do to you," says Mohammad Saleh, a building contractor. "The only difference is that Saddam would kill you in private, where the Americans will kill you in public. ...A lot of things -- safety, freedom, prosperity -- that we were supposed to have are gone. They promised many things, and now that they have caught Saddam maybe they kept one." (Reuters)
Prewar intelligence on IraqThe memo suggests that the INC last year was directly feeding intelligence reports about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and purported ties to terrorism to one of Cheney's top foreign-policy aides. Cheney staffers later pushed INC info, including defectors' claims about WMD and terror ties, to bolster the case that the Iraqi government posed a direct threat to America. But the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies have strongly questioned the reliability of defectors supplied by the INC. For months, Cheney's office has denied that he bypassed US intelligence agencies to get intel reports from the INC. But a June 2002 memo written by INC lobbyist Entifadh Qunbar to a US Senate committee lists John Hannah, a senior national-security aide on Cheney's staff, as one of two "US governmental recipients" for reports generated by an intelligence program being run by the INC and which was then being funded by the State Department. Under the program, "defectors, reports and raw intelligence are cultivated and analyzed;" the info was then reported to, among others, "appropriate governmental, non-governmental and international agencies." The memo not only describes Cheney aide Hannah as a "principal point of contact" for the program, it even provides his direct White House telephone number. The only other US official named as directly receiving the INC intel is William Luti, a former military adviser to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who, after working on Cheney's staff early in the Bush administration, shifted to the Pentagon, where he oversaw the ultra-secretive Iraq war-planning unit called the Office of Special Plans. A Cheney spokesperson insists the memo is "misleading." (Newsweek/MSNBC)
2004 presidential electionsBush tells the press that he isn't interested in politics at the moment: "There is plenty of time ahead for politics. Now is not the time." Veteran journalist Helen Thomas asks, "Who does he think he's kidding?" (Hearst/Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Balkan conflict in Yugoslaviatestifies in the trial of former Yugloslavian president Slobodan Milosevic, and says that Milosevic knew of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered. Milosevic, who is conducting his own defense, cross-examines Clark. Clark says there was discussion of Milosevic's foreknowledge, command responsibility, and accountability in events, including the Srebrenica massacre. Clark testifies that Milosevic knew Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic was planning a massacre in Srebrenica, Bosnia, in 1995, and warned him "not to do this." Mladic and Milosevic are both charged with responsibility for the massacre. "I watched the ravages of his leadership in Europe for years, I have talked to his victims, I have met them, I have seen the results in the shattered cities of the former Yugoslavia," Clark says to reporters. "This process will enable us to move beyond collective guilt and into assigning individual guilt and that is the real political significance of what's happening here." Details of Clark's testimony will be released after the US government screens out anything considered a threat to "national security." (CNN, CNN)
Attack on civil libertiescalls on the Bush administration to create an advisory board to assess the impact on American civil liberties of such anti-terrorism moves as the Patriot Act. The commission, formally named the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction, is led by James Gilmore, a former Virginia governor and Republican national chairman. The commission is concerned that the administration has failed to develop a comprehensive, forward-looking strategy to combat terrorism more than two years after the 2001 terrorist attacks. The commission wants greater oversight of any use of US spy satellites on targets in the United States. (AP/Guardian)
Bush's energy policiesCheney and the Bush administration have spent the past two years fighting to keep those details secret. But a federal judge has ordered Cheney to either turn over his Energy Task Force's documents to environmentalists and a government watchdog group or provide a detailed list of the documents and the reasons for withholding them. After a federal appeals court declined to review that decision, Justice Department lawyers representing Cheney appealed to the Supreme Court. The case will be argued next spring and decided by July. (Houston Chronicle)
Domestic spying"Picture, if you will, an information infrastructure that encourages censorship, surveillance and suppression of the creative impulse. Where anonymity is outlawed and every penny spent is accounted for. Where the powers that be can smother subversive (or economically competitive) ideas in the cradle, and no one can publish even a laundry list without the imprimatur of Big Brother. Some prognosticators are saying that such a construct is nearly inevitable. And this infrastructure is none other than the former paradise of rebels and free-speechers: the Internet." Microsoft's Next Generation Secure Computing initiative, formerly known as Palladium, is the best-known but certainly not the only implementation of this scheme. NGSC is scheduled to be part of the next Windows operating system, Longhorn. Chipmakers Intel and AMD are working with Microsoft create special secure chips that would make all computers sold after that point secure. (Newsweek/MSNBC)
Iraq war and occupationIt's the last choice, it's not our first choice." Bush's claim does not withstand scrutiny when applied to Iraq, where the president's senior team decided, in the weekend after the September 11th attacks if not before, to depose Saddam Hussein one way or another. Vice President Dick Cheney admitted the weekend after the September 11th terrorist attacks that there was no evidence of Iraq's involvement in September 2001. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said in a May, 2003 interview, however, that despite having no immediate reason for overthrowing Iraq's government, "the disagreement [in the weekend after 9/11] was whether [invading Iraq] should be in the immediate response or whether you should concentrate simply on Afghanistan first." The president also claims that "in Iraq, there was a lot of diplomacy that took place before there was any military action." But in fact, in a meeting from March 2002, a full year before the war began, Bush "showed little interest in debating what to do about Hussein," and told a group of senators, "F*uck Saddam. We're taking him out." Weeks later, Cheney separately told a group of senators that the question was no longer if the US would attack Iraq, the only question was when. But months later, Bush was still telling the public, "I hope this will not require military action." Key staff at the State Department, normally responsible for diplomacy, were finally told of the administration's plans to go to war in July 2002, at least four months after the administration started prepping members of Congress. (Daily Misleader)
Iraq war and occupation"The capture of such a murderous fiend is good news. Hussein deserves to rot for the rest of his days in the underground rat's nest where he was found. But the apprehension of Hussein does not justify the war. In a way, it is the least that Bush could have done, after invading under false pretenses. He told the American public that it was necessary to bomb, invade and occupy Iraq--rather than engage in more aggressive weapons inspections -- to neutralize the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. He claimed that his administration possessed incontrovertible proof that Hussein had such awful weapons and maintained operational links with al-Qaeda. Seven months after entering Iraq, the Bush administration has not been able to produce evidence to support its central case for war. Instead, Bush and his comrades have increasingly discussed the war as an operation to free the Iraqi people from the repression of Hussein. And nabbing Hussein certainly has allowed Bush and the defenders of the war to push further this after-the-fact justification. Following Hussein's capture, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist disingenuously exclaimed, 'The reason we were in that country in the first place are being realized.'
Iraq war and occupation"[H]ere it was, at last: Saddam's surrender in ignominy. However, this delightful moment -- enjoyed by all the Iraqis I spoke to as the news of his capture was breaking -- was soured by the fact that it was Iraq's newly appointed tyrant, Paul Bremer, doing the boasting: 'Ladies and gentlemen... we got him!' What will the Americans do with their captive? Is Saddam going to face a trial? Will the truth of his mass murders and crimes come out? Will the trial shed light on how the US backed him and supplied him with chemical weapons? Will it reveal how the US encouraged him to launch the war on Iran, causing the death of a million Iranians and Iraqis? Will the trial go into the alliances with and support for Saddam by so many of members and parties now in the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council? The dark clouds over Iraq haven't lifted yet. Thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed by the US-led unjust and immoral war, and the death toll continues to rise as innocent people are being killed in US military raids, bombardments and Sharon-style collective punishment, and harmed by the depleted uranium shells used by the US-led forces. So at this moment of joy, other questions keep intruding: Who is going to try Bremer, Bush, Rumsfeld and Blair? Will Iraq ever be free?
Global warming and the environmentsaying in part, "This, to me, is one of the most alarming things that this Administration is doing -- it's compromised the scientific process and systematically intimidated, blackballed, fired, muzzled and gagged scientists in every department of government. Scientists who produce science that challenges corporate profit taking, or that might be an obstacle to corporate profit taking, are routinely punished or punished by muzzled or gagged." Kennedy, a prominent environmental lawyer, discusses his interview with left-wing Web site Buzzflash. He says bluntly, "George W. Bush will go down in history as America's worst environmental president."
Iraq war and occupationThe film is a poorly done 1984 treatment of a Soviet invasion of the US, and its resistance by Colorado youths nicknaming themselves the "Wolverines." An IMDB reviewer calls it "the most patriotic anti-war film ever made," and describes the heroes as "a group of high school football players, with the knowledge and values learned from a culture of guns and hunting, choos[ing] to fight for home and family against hopeless odds...." The two hiding places searched by the US were nicknamed "Wolverine I" and "Wolverine II." Slate writer Timothy Noah observes, "The problem with calling Saddam's capture Operation Red Dawn is that it subverts the righteousness of our action with Orwellian Newspeak. ...The US military isn't mounting an insurgency against a foreign invader. It is the foreign invader. The real insurgents in Iraq -- its Wolverines -- are the Baathists and Islamist extremists who continue to wage guerrilla war against the American occupation and its Iraqi collaborators. By stating this, [Slate] does not mean to insult our troops or pay any sort of compliment to the Iraqi opposition. In this particular situation, Huge Invading Force = Good Guys, and Scrappy Wolverine Resistance = Bad Guys. Even the most vocal critics of the war usually concede this point. Now the Pentagon has undermined this clarity by introducing an unhelpful vocabulary that invites disaffected Iraqis to make stupid comparisons between the United States and the former Soviet Union. How inept can propaganda get?" When asked to comment, the movie's director, John Mileus, says, "The movie has a definite following in [military] sectors and is very, very, very well liked. It's a patriotic movie; it's a very American movie.... Nothing's more traditional than resistance." (Slate, IMDB)
Conservative smear campaignsa picture of Gore, a picture of a wild-eyed Ted Kaczynski, the "Unabomber," and a picture of the recently captured, disheveled and equally wild-eyed Saddam Hussein. Limbaugh's justification is his comparison of Saddam's emergence from the "hole" in Iraq to Gore appearing in public to endorse Howard Dean for president. "I half expected them to find Gore's book in that hole over there in Tikrit," says Limbaugh, "and then when that wasn't the case, I said, well, obviously what he's doing, he's coming out of hiding here to endorse Howard Dean. Did this guy [Gore] not look like the Unabomber to you? ...[Hussein's] been living like the Unabomber, he looks like the Unabomber, he looks like somebody that would endorse Howard Dean." As with so many of Limbaugh's statements, the only thing protecting him from a truly massive libel suit is Gore's stature as a public figure. Limbaugh pushes the envelope even farther, saying that Democrats and liberals were heartbroken and desolate that Hussein had been captured, calling it "the worst day of their lives," and giving a horrific piece of advice to Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark: "General Clark, you sleep with your pistol underneath your pillow, sir, because if you do make sure it's unloaded. Because I have some bad news for you, general." In an interesting confirmation of how much the Bush administration and Limbaugh work hand in glove, Limbaugh also adds, "And we just finished a press conference with the president, thanks to the president for wrapping it up two minutes before the program [Limbaugh's broadcast] began. Do not think that that's an accident, ladies and gentlemen, do not think that's a coincidence, the president starts a press conference at 11:15 and ends it at 12:04 and you think, wow, how lucky we all are? No, my friends, no luck here." (Rush Limbaugh, Buzzflash)
Iraq war and occupationBush exposes his carelessness about whether Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction or not. Sawyer presses Bush on the fact that no unconventional weapons had been found in Iraq after nine months of searching; Bush repeatedly interjects, "Yet." When Sawyer presses the topic, asking about the administration's flat statements that Saddam had such weapons versus the mere possibility that he could acquire them, an obviously exasperated Bush replies: "so, what's the difference?" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Iraq war and occupationBush downplays the effectiveness of any questioning of Hussein, saying, "I don't believe he'll tell the truth. He didn't tell the truth for over a decade. I just can't believe he's going to change just because he happens to be captured." Intelligence experts believe that Bush's remarks were made as much for Hussein's benefit as for the ears of the world's media, implying that for Hussein to win any concessions, he must prove his veracity. DEBKAfile's intelligence sources believe that US intelligence has long believed that Hussein hid what weapons of mass destruction he possessed in the Syrian desert, buried in the sands of the nearly empty Al-Jazirah province with the complicity of the Syrian government. It is possible that the US, rather than offend Syria by conducting unauthorized searches of Syrian territory for the hidden WMDs, is hoping that Hussein will reveal the location of the cache of weapons, allowing the Bush administration to pressure the Syrians to assist in unearthing them; if that pressure fails, Hussein's testimony could be used to bring UN pressure to bear.
Iraq war and occupation"[H]e might raise the question as to why those who later opposed him once supplied him with technical, military and diplomatic muscle," the article states. "Two current Western leaders in particular might find their names in the frame -- the French President Jacques Chirac and the US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But before considering their role, it is important to remember that Saddam Hussein's main supplier was the Soviet Union. He was sent its best equipment -- MIG 29s, T-72 tanks, artillery, gunboats and Scud missiles. ...France, however, was also a major supplier. When he was prime minister in 1974, Jacques Chirac went to Baghdad to see Saddam Hussein, then the power in Iraq, though not yet the president. The following year, Saddam Hussein went to France and Prime Minister Chirac showed him round a nuclear plant. They negotiated the sale to Iraq of two French nuclear reactors. One of them was destroyed in an air raid by the Israelis in 1981 amid fears that Iraq was developing a nuclear weapon. France also agreed to provide Iraq with 133 Mirage F1 jet fighters over a 10-year period. It is reckoned that during the 1980s, 40% of France's arms exports went to Iraq. In 1987, a French paper published a letter written to Saddam Hussein by Jacques Chirac a few months previously. It began: 'My dear friend.' It refers obliquely to 'the negotiation which you know about' and to the 'co-operation launched more than 12 years ago under our personal joint initiative, in this capital district for the sovereignty, independence and security of your country.'" Chirac has denied that the negotiations were for nuclear technology, and points out that many Western countries, led by the US, supported the Hussein regime at the time. "Indeed many other Western countries -- including the United States, Britain, West Germany and Italy -- also helped Iraq with equipment and expertise, both civilian and military, and with finance." The article notes the several visits to Iraq by Reagan envoy Donald Rumsfeld, who assured Hussein of US support even in the face of news about Iraq's usage of chemical weapons against Iranian troops and its own citizens. (BBC)
Iraq war and occupationbelieves that the capture of Saddam Hussein was orchestrated by the US military as part of a psychological operation aimed at cowing Iraqi insurgents and bolstering the confidence of Americans in the Bush administration's handling of Iraq. "We are seeing an orchestrated media campaign by the administration and a psychological operation aimed at the insurgents in Iraq," Gardiner writes. "...I am familiar with the pattern of using the press to conduct psychological operations against internal audiences in Iraq. The technique is straightforward: plant stories or persuade media outlets to slant the news in a way that debilitates your enemy. And so far, media reports on the intelligence significance of Saddam's capture have followed that pattern to the letter." The message is simple, Gardiner says: "Looking at the nearly 100 other press reports in the five days since Saddam's capture, one theme is clear: Saddam Hussein was captured, and the United States is on the verge of breaking the Iraqi insurgency."
Iraq war and occupationBoth governments agree in principle to cut the amount of debt owed them by Iraq. Bush administration envoy James Baker says that the two countries have agreed that the specifics of the deal should be reached next year among the Paris Club of creditor states. France, Germany, and Russia are key members of the Paris Club, an informal grouping of the most important creditor nations, including the US, the European Union states and Japan. Any debt forgiveness for Iraq would likely have to be worked out among the club's 19 members. The US is seeking to have as much as two-thirds of Iraq's debt written off, in a deal similar to the one made by the Paris Club with Yugoslavia after the fall of Slobodan Milosevic.
Terrorism detainees and "enemy combatants"Rosen says Ashcroft's statements could have compromised defendants' rights to a fair trial, but that the violations did not warrant contempt charges or require Ashcroft to appear in the Detroit court to explain himself. "The attorney general's office exhibited a distressing lack of care in issuing potentially prejudicial statements about this case," Rosen writes. Lawyers for Karim Koubriti, Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi and Ahmed Hannan argued Ashcroft had violated Rosen's order limiting publicity in October 2001 when he said the three men were suspected of having knowledge of the attacks. The Justice Department retracted the statement two days later. The attorneys said Ashcroft again violated the order last April when he called cooperation by a government witness "a critical tool" in fighting terrorism. Koubriti and Elmardoudi were convicted in June of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. The jury convicted Hannan of a fraud charge, while a fourth defendant was acquitted. (San Francisco Chronicle)
Halliburtonwhen it places its KBR engineering and construction subsidiary (formerly Kellogg Brown & Root) into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy filing is a key component in the company's $4.2 billion deal with persons exposed to asbestos and silica, who have filed 435,000 claims, plus all those exposed who may sue in the future. It does not include the arm of KBR that is doing work in Iraq for the military. (Houston Chronicle [cached Google copy])
Iraq war and occupationdirectly contradicting Bush and drawing the wrath of two Democratic presidential rivals. Fellow candidate Joseph Lieberman, the most conservative of the Democratic candidates, responds that Dean is in a "spider hole of denial." John Kerry, who has struggled with his position on the war, says Dean's speech "is still more proof that all the advisers in the world can't give Howard Dean the military and foreign policy experience, leadership skills, or diplomatic temperament necessary to lead this country through dangerous times." Dean has consistently opposed the war from before its outset, unlike Kerry and Lieberman. "The capture of Saddam is a good thing which I hope very much will keep our soldiers in Iraq and around the world safer," says Dean. "But the capture of Saddam has not made America safer. ...Saddam is a frightful person and I'm delighted that he's gone. But there are many frightful people in the world." (Guardian)
2004 presidential electionsSenator Hillary Rodham Clinton urges Democrats to retake the White House in 2004: "I cannot even imagine four years of a second term of this administration, with no accountability and no election at the end." She continues by saying that the Bush administration has overturned former President Clinton's work on protecting the environment, paying down the federal deficit and creating jobs. "I shouldn't take it personally. Because what [the Bush] administration was attempting to do was turn back the progress of the entire 20th century. ...They were not just after Bill Clinton -– they wanted to undo Jimmy Carter, Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy, Harry Truman, Franklin Roosevelt. ...They were on their way to Teddy Roosevelt. It was a bipartisan right-wing extreme agenda." Earlier in the week, Clinton said, "I can't maybe even convey it as strongly as I feel, how dangerous this administration is to the future of our country." (AP/Albany Times/National Republican Senatorial Committee)
Conservative media slant (backlash)He refuses to reveal what other talent was associated with the project; Franken has not yet signed a contract to host a show. He says the time is right for an effort that analyzes daily news events with a strong liberal bias, because there is no strong counterpart to the nationally telecast opinions of commentators such as Rush Limbaugh and dozens of other conservative talk show hosts. (Newsday)
Iraq war and occupationMcCain, a Vietnam veteran who was himself tortured during five years as a POW in North Vietnam, says that information gained through torture is unreliable and that such tactics are beneath the kind of nation America is. Both McCain and his fellow senator, Democrat Joseph Biden, say that no deal should be made with Hussein for information. (AP/News 14 Carolina)
Prewar intelligence on IraqAtta was staying in Florida during the time that the purported trip took place, according to FBI documents. The document, supposedly written by the chief of Iraq's intelligence service, was published hours before Hussein's capture and written by Telegraph correspondent Con Coughlin, author of a right-wing study of Hussein titled Saddam: The Secret Life. Coughlin's account was picked up by newspapers around the world. But US officials and a leading Iraqi document expert say that the document is most likely a forgery, part of a thriving new trade in dubious Iraqi documents that has cropped up in the wake of the collapse of Saddam's regime. "It's a lucrative business," says Hassan Mneimneh, codirector of an Iraqi exile research group reviewing millions of captured Iraqi government documents. "There's an active document trade taking place. ...You have fraudulent documents that are being fabricated and sold" for hundreds of dollars a piece. Mneimneh, who hasn't personally inspected the document, says that the claims of an Atta trip to Iraq in the months before the September 11 attacks were highly implausible, and contradicted by a wealth of information that has been collected about Atta's movements during the period he was plotting the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The Telegraph story was apparently written with a political purpose: to bolster Bush administration claims of a connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam's regime. The paper described a "handwritten memo" that was supposedly sent to Saddam Hussein by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, chief of Iraqi intelligence at the time. It describes a three-day "work program" that Atta had undertaken in Baghdad under the tutelage of notorious Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal, who lived in the Iraqi capital until his death under suspicious circumstances in August 2002. "Mohammed Atta, an Egyptian national, came with Abu Ammer [who is unidentified] and we hosted him in Abu Nidal's house at Al-Dora under our direct supervision," the document states. "We arranged a work program for him for three days with a team dedicated to working with him.... He displayed extraordinary effort and showed a firm commitment to lead the team which will be responsible for attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy." The document, which according to Coughlin was supplied by Iraq's interim government, doesn't say exactly when Atta was supposed to have actually flown to Baghdad. But the memo is dated July 1, 2001, and Coughlin himself places the trip as the summer of 2001. (Newsweek/MSNBC)
Iraq war and occupationThe 1949 Geneva Conventions do not allow POWs to be subjected to rough interrogations, to be put on trial, or to be executed. "I have no idea how they're going to interrogate," says President Bush. "I do know that this country doesn't torture." Military law expert Michael Noone says, "The U.S. government is going to be prepared to do more than a U.S. police force is authorized to do under the Constitution" during questioning. But that will not include physical torture, Noone adds, saying "once you've resorted to physical force, you've lost." Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld says Hussein is "being accorded the protection of a POW but he's not being legally described as one at this stage. ..."He, clearly, is being treated under the...protections of the Geneva Conventions and is being treated humanely." The Geneva Conventions outlaw the torture and execution of prisoners. But rulings by the European Court of Human Rights found that sleep or food deprivation, sustained noise, forced standing and sensory deprivation are not considered torture. "Those could all potentially be used to interrogate Saddam," says Detlev Vagts, an expert on the laws of war at Harvard University. "That's the borderline." (New York Daily News)
Iraq war and occupationAmid rising demands for the death penalty, US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have called for a public trial conducted in a manner determined by the Iraqi people, with no mention of outside participation. But war crimes experts and human rights groups express alarm at the prospect of Saddam being tried by an Iraqi-led tribunal, arguing it could be compromised by an absence of international expertise, and that an opportunity to create a historic record of the suffering of Iraqis under the dictatorship could be missed. "It should be operated like an international court," said Patricia Wald, an American and a former member of the Yugoslav war tribunal. "If international jurists are not involved...they run the risk of compromising their credibility." The US, who declared Saddam to be a prisoner of war after his dramatic capture on Saturday, has yet to say exactly to how his case should be handled. Britain and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan have expressed opposition to a death sentence. Asked if he had a personal message for Saddam, Bush said: "Good riddance. The world is a better place without you." (The Age)
Prewar intelligence on IraqResponding to Blair's statement that the Iraq Survey Group, led by Dr. David Kay, had already uncovered "massive" evidence of a system of secret laboratories in Iraq, Blix says it is "innuendo" to suggest those laboratories were used for WMDs. Recently, Blair claimed that "The Iraq Survey Group has already found massive evidence of a huge system of clandestine laboratories, workings by scientists, plans to develop long range ballistic missiles. Now, frankly, these things weren't being developed unless they were developed for a purpose." Blix refutes Blair's claim by noting that the group had failed to produce any concrete evidence that the laboratories they had found were working on weapons of mass destruction. "I'm talking about the reactions to the David Kay report where he says that 'we have found laboratories' -- well that's innuendo that laboratories were for WMD," Blix says. Speaking in Sweden at the launch of a new independent commission on WMD, Blix said it was "increasingly clear" that Saddam had not had any when he was ousted by US and British forces. "My guess is that there are no weapons of mass destruction left," he said. Blix has agreed to come out of retirement to chair the new commission. (BBC)
War in Afghanistanmaking it impossible for them to meet the 12,500 goal promised by US commander General Peter Pace in September. At the current pace, it will take until 2010 for the coalition to achieve its target of training 70,000 Afghan soldiers. The reasons for the desertions range from appallingly low pay -- as little as $30/month -- to cultural conflicts rising from the numerous tribal conflicts that define Afghan society. "They were told they would get $200 and go to America, but they came and got $30 and were doing hard work," says ANA chief of operations Major General Sher Karimi. Some recruits were not volunteers, but were forced to join under quotas imposed by local militia commanders, he says. Religious and ethnic tensions have also taken a toll on retention, according to officers. "Most of the people were sent through jihadi factions, and seeing [non-Muslim] coalition trainers may not be acceptable to their ideology. Also, there are no mosques for them," says Karimi. A platoon sergeats says that when disputes arise in his multiethnic, regionally diverse platoon, he tackles them head on. "If someone disrupts the platoon, I take him aside and tell him we are like brothers. No matter if we are Tajik or Uzbek or Pashtun, we should be like one hand," he says. The ANA equipment is generally obsolete and in poor condition, mostly made up of 1950s and 60s-vintage Soviet equipment donated by former Warsaw Pact countries and requiring Romanian and Bulgarian assistance to keep running. (Christian Science Monitor)
Halliburtonand claims it has actually saved the Pentagon money, even new allegations surface that its own auditors warned the company about possible overcharging. (Chicago Sun-Times [cached Google copy])
Terrorism detainees and "enemy combatants"The Air Force delayed a preliminary hearing for al-Halabi because of the search and other actions last week that defense lawyers say have interfered with al-Halabi's preparations for his military trial. The hearing, which had been scheduled for yesterday, was rescheduled for January 13. Air Force investigators searched the offices of al-Halabi's military lawyers at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, his civilian lawyer, Donald Rehkopf, says. The investigators, who had a military warrant, copied the hard drive of one of the defense lawyers' computers. Air Force agents also burst into a room where al-Halabi was meeting with his lawyers Wednesday and took hours to return documents and a laptop computer to him December 10 when he was taken from a jail at Vandenberg to Travis Air Force Base in California. "This conduct by the government is unprecedented and can only be interpreted as a conscious disregard of the attorney-client relationship," Rehkopf says in a statement. He says al-Halabi's defense team vigorously protested to the military judge handling the case. (Newsday)
Iraq war and occupationHe says, "I didn't see Saddam Hussein as being quite the danger that some other people did. His neighbors were not really afraid of what he was doing over there. We haven't found any weapons of mass destruction yet. I'm glad we have him. He was a bad man, there's no doubt about that. But as far as, do I feel safer because he's been captured? Well, I'm glad he was captured. But do I feel safer? No, I guess I don't feel that much safer. I want to see us cooperating with our allies and getting all of our intelligence information, the best intelligence information we have available from all over the world. Work together with our allies all over the world. That's the way we'd prevent these things." (CNN)
Anti-terrorism and homeland securityIn a blistering critique, Clark says that "capturing Saddam Hussein doesn't change the fact that Osama bin Laden is still on the loose. ...If I'd been president, I would have had Osama bin Laden by this time. I would have followed through on the original sentiment that the president gave us -- Osama bin Laden, dead or alive. Instead, he executed a bait-and-switch. He took the priority off Osama bin Laden. He shifted the spotlight onto Saddam Hussein. ...[I] can't understand why the president hasn't devoted the same energy and resources to going after al Qaeda that he did to going after Iraq. Right now, having captured Saddam, the right course for the country is to redirect our energies and capture Osama bin Laden, now. We've got momentum, now. It's a question of presidential will. If the president will show the will, I'm confident our armed forces will find a way to take him." Clark also dares the Bush campaign to question his patriotism and national security credentials, saying he will not hesitate to match his record against the president's. "I'll put my 34 years of defending the United States of America, and the results that I and my teammates in the United States armed forces achieved, against his three years of failed policies any day. We've got a president who will go halfway around the world for a photo opportunity but won't go halfway across town for a funeral for an American serviceman. I've been to those funerals. I've comforted families. ...I don't think you can make good policy at the top if you don't understand the impact at the bottom of your organization."
Osama bin LadenHoffman continues: "News reports that al-Qaeda plans to redirect half the $3 million a month it now spends on operations in Afghanistan toward the insurgency in Iraq lent credence to the view that it is turning Iraq into center stage for the fight against the 'Great Satan.' That might actually be good news: Iraq could become what American military commanders have described as a terrorist 'flytrap.' But there's a better chance that Osama bin Laden is the one setting a trap. He and his fellow jihadists didn't drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan by taking the fight to an organized enemy on a battlefield of its choosing. In fact, the idea that al-Qaeda wanted to make Iraq the central battlefield of jihad was first suggested by al-Qaeda itself. Last February, before the coalition invasion of Iraq, the group's information department produced a series of articles titled 'In the Shadow of the Lances' that gave practical advice to Iraqis and foreign jihadists on how guerrilla warfare could be used against the American and British troops. The calls to arms by al-Qaeda only intensified after the fall of Baghdad, when its intermittent Web site, Al Neda, similarly extolled the virtues of guerrilla warfare. In urging Iraqis to fight on, the site invoked prominent lessons of history -— including America's defeat in Vietnam and the Soviet Army's in Afghanistan. But as useful as Iraq undoubtedly has been as a rallying cry for jihad, it has been a conspicuously less prominent rallying point, at least in terms of men and money. The Coalition Provisional Authority may be right that thousands of foreign fighters have converged on Iraq, but few who have been captured have demonstrable ties to al-Qaeda. Nor is there evidence of any direct command-and-control relationship between the Qaeda central leadership and the insurgents. If there are Qaeda warriors in Iraq, they are likely cannon fodder rather than battle-hardened mujahedeen.
2004 presidential electionsWorse, the ad is produced by a group affiliated with the Kerry and Gephardt campaigns, not by the GOP. The editorial concludes, "It's always risky to ask how dumb the ad makers think voters are. But Grand Guignol attack ads underwritten by generic-sounding committees unconnected to any particular candidate are bad politics at any season." (New York Times/Free Republic)
Iraq war and occupationMcDermott says that American forces could have captured Saddam "a long time ago if they wanted." When asked if the capture was timed to help the president, he replies, "Yeah. Oh, yeah. There's too much by happenstance for it to be just a coincidental thing. ...I don't know that it was definitely planned on this weekend, but I know they've been in contact with people all along who knew basically where he was. It was just a matter of time till they'd find him. It's funny, when they're having all this trouble, suddenly they have to roll out something." Criticism of McDermott was swift in coming, and was led by a fellow Democrat, Norm Dicks, Washington Democrat, who says, "With all due respect to my colleague, that is a fantasy. ...That just is not right. It's one thing to criticize this administration for having done this war. I mean, that's a fair question. But to criticize them on the capture of Saddam, when it's such a big thing to our troops, is just ridiculous." White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan responds, "I don't think I have to dignify every ridiculous comment that's made out there. I think that members of his own party adequately addressed his comments."
Iraq war and occupationBush took six "impromptu" questions from reporters during his announcement of his new HUD nominee -- only the ninth time during his presidency Bush has ever been allowed to take non-scripted, non-staged questions. Even after intensive rehearsal and practice, Bush botched the questioning, refusing to take a stand on the Halliburton overcharging issue, dodged a question about the propriety of James Baker handling the Iraq debt reconstruction, and fudged a question about the strength of the US dollar as compared to the Euro, where he demonstrated he didn't understand the issue. Normally, such speculation as Thoreau's would be considered specious at best, but the Bush administration has a strong track record of staging events to take press coverage away from Bush foibles and misstatements, including the admitted issuing of bogus terror alerts. Thoreau finishes with the sour prediction: "I await the 'capture' of Osama bin Laden, which will probably occur a month or so before the 2004 election." (OpEd News)
Iraq war and occupationand theorizes that the reason why the American media is so compliant: "The mainstream American press has locked itself into an untenable position as a result of its own support of a preemptive war launched under false pretenses. There is no escape, no way to return to empirical reality without losing both face and faith. Increasingly, the press abides the Bush administration, not because of its belief in the right wing agenda, but because its very self-concept is at stake, as a friend of the people in a nation birthed from the concepts of honesty, fairness and equality. If Bush is wrong, then America and the American right wing are wrong, and the mainstream press was wrong in supporting it all. Acknowledging this in public is currently beyond the collective abilities of America's 'free' press." Lower continues, "While there is little evidence that Saddam's capture has anything to do with terrorism in the world at large, it does set the stage for increased terrorism in Iraq, if for no other reason than to demonstrate that Saddam had little to do with post-war Iraqi terrorism and even less to do with bin Laden's war on western culture. But these larger interpretations of the war on terrorism are largely ignored by the American press as it celebrates 'proof' that the 'US can do things right' (Michael Elliott, Time, December 14, 2003) and as it cheers the 'success' of the Bush administration (USA Today, December 14, 2003). All of a sudden, the lies and fabrications which led America into war are unimportant. All of a sudden, the Bush administration is back on the right track, and the many instances of coercion have been vindicated, never mind the realities of an unjustified war against Iraq, never mind the realities of an ill-conceived Iraqi occupation. A significant majority of the mainstream press is remarkably flexible and able to occupy whatever position is required by 'patriotism,' willing to re-evaluate the entire Iraqi incursion on the basis of an individual event, never mind historical views that lead to larger, less 'patriotic' interpretations. Despite the moral shortcomings of the war and the Iraqi occupation, the mainstream press feels obligated to salvage the notion that America knows what it is doing under religious Republican dominion, that America is still a democracy, never mind Franklin's warnings to the people that a corporate aristocracy would ultimately lead to despotism and an American populace who would not know the difference." (OpEd News)
Iraq war and occupationHe writes, "[I]t took only upward of 500 dead U.S. soldiers (and counting) and more than 2,500 U.S. wounded (and counting) and more than 10,000 dead innocent Iraqi citizens (and counting) and countless tens of thousands of hapless dead Iraqi soldiers (and counting). And it'll only cost U.S. taxpayers at least a staggering $350 billion along with the complete gutting of our foreign policy and our national treasury and the appalling blood sacrifice of our national pride and our international status and global sense of self-respect. Oh, and the truth is, it turns out Saddam actually did have some old stashes of weaponry, a bit of rusty, small-scale WMDs, after all -- because we sold them to him, 20 years ago. But they were never any sort of direct danger to America -- or anyone else, for that matter -- and regardless all evidence points to the fact that the stash was completely destroyed more than a decade ago. Remember that time? Right about when the US hushed up all those sales of biological weapons and computer technology to Iraq? Right about when all those American corporations, from Bechtel to Kodak to AT&T, from Dow Chemical to Hewlett-Packard to IBM and at least 100 more, decided it might be best to begin shredding their records detailing all their Iraq business deals? Hey, why is Donny Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam and smiling in this photo? Shhh. And now, long after his political usefulness to us has expired, we up and invade his unhappy nation and lay waste to the entire region for no justifiable reason, and we inflate his global stature into this massive inhuman Hitler-esque monster when in fact he was really just an old, tired, small-time thug, and now finally Saddam Hussein, the brutal pip-squeak dictator/former beloved US ally who had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11, has been captured alive. Yay yay go team.