Iraq war and occupationAt a Kremlin meeting, Putin adds that Russian companies are ready to invest up to $4 billion in Iraq as Russia looks to revive oil and other contracts ruptured or left unimplemented in the last years of Saddam Hussein's regime. "We have always developed ties with your nation," Putin says. "We strongly hope that Russia will have good relations with the new leadership of Iraq." Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the current president of the American-backed Iraqi Governing Council, says, "We received a generous promise to write off the debt, or at least a part of it." In return, "we will be open to all Russian companies." "Russia said it is willing to consider the write-off of the rest of the debt if it received beneficial treatment in terms of oil contracts," adds Jalal Talabani, a member of the Iraqi delegation. Russia's Lukoil consortium intends to begin negotiating for development of Iraq's West Qurna oil fields in the near future. (Guardian, New York Times)
Iraq war and occupationAnalytical chemist Daniel Fiorito, sent to Iraq as part of a group of UN weapons inspectors, says, "We were going to verify the existence or nonexistence of certain chemicals to lift sanctions off the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people are just like us. They have families and concerns. They had a war (with Iran), then sanctions. They didn't need another war." During his 10-week stay, Fiorito helped set up a chemical lab, analyzed suspect material and looked for evidence of a chemical weapons program. Although he can't discuss some aspects of his responsibilities, he questions why the United States rushed to war. "Knowing what I experienced, there was no indication we needed to go in there if the premise was weapons of mass destruction," he says. He left Baghdad in February 2003 because it was obvious a conflict would break out. He said it was only a matter of time before the rest of the United Nations team would evacuate. "I went over there trying to prevent a war," he says. "Looking back now, I realize how laughable that was." (Houston Chronicle)
Prewar intelligence on IraqSenate Majority Leader Bill Frist and committee chairman Pat Roberts shut the committee down on November 7 after someone leaked a Democratic memo to Fox News. The memo advocated a stronger policy towards the committee's ongoing investigation into prewar intelligence failures, and accused Roberts of running a whitewash that was intended to throw all the blame onto the US intelligence community and to exonerate the White House and the Pentagon. "I think we will have, hopefully, some public hearings by February," says Roberts. "We will get those questions out." Pressure to restart the investigation has mounted since last week's television interview where Bush, asked to clarify whether he had hard facts about Iraqi weapons or just feared Baghdad may acquire them, replied: "So what's the difference?" Democratic senator Carl Levin called the remark "a stunning revelation" of Bush's "thinking and of his decision to go to war." (AFP/Google Groups)
Bush's foreign policiesHe says, "Most Libya observers have long realized that it poses a scant threat militarily but is a noxious den of human rights abuses and terrorist accommodation." He then reminds us, "Oh, and yes, it possesses massive amounts of oil and its Mediterranean Sea port is much more hospitable to US producers than those in the Persian Gulf." In January 2003, Libya was nominated to chair the UN Commission on Human Rights; US Ambassador to Italy, Kevin Moley (also the US Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva), objected, saying a country with Libya's "horrible human rights record" is "not fit" to occupy a position of moral authority within the UN system. Furthermore, the US State Department, despite neoconservative attempts to normalize Libyan relations, still classifies Libya as a state sponsor of terrorism. In fact, it is widely believed that Ghadafi has been a financial benefactor of al-Qaeda.
2004 presidential elections"True or False: A solution to the Iraq problem, particularly the need to bring international cooperation into the conflict, and into the repair of that country, will never be found as long as Bush is in the White House." Kerry replies, "True. The solutions are very specific and very achievable, but depends on the United States not acting arrogantly, not acting unilaterally, and being willing to share power, authority and responsibility. If you are willing to transfer that to the United Nations, or to a coalition working under an umbrella -– it doesn't have to be directly UN, but has to be approved by the UN -– so that you are giving real shared authority over reconstruction and governmental transformation, and it's not a Paul Bremer/US decision-making process but a legitimate international accord as to how you empower the Iraqi people to decide their own future, then you absolutely have the ability to get additional help on the ground. I've talked to the ambassadors and the other people involved. I know Kofi Annan and the UN are prepared to be involved. But you have to invite them and share with them appropriately, and this administration has refused to do that." In defense of his controversial vote to support military action in Iraq, Kerry says, "Put it this way. Given the circumstances we were in at the time, the decision was appropriate, but in retrospect I will never trust the man [George W. Bush] again. That's why I am running against him. He deserves to be replaced with someone who is trustworthy." (Truthout)
Iraq war and occupationthe US is now in the position of outsiders battling a nationalist uprising, casting serious doubt on the Bush administration's stated goal of bringing democracy to Iraq. But plenty of evidence already points to the administration's real goal: to install a government in Iraq that is friendly, and manipulable, by the US. Many Bush officials, including Bush himself, have compared the Iraqi occupation to the Marshall Plan which rebuilt Europe after World War II. Security advisor Condoleezza Rice, an African-American, goes farther, comparing the occupation to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s: African-Americans "must never, ever indulge in the condescending voices who allege that some people in Africa or in the Middle East are just not interested in freedom, they're culturally just not ready for freedom or they just aren't ready for freedom's responsibilities." Rice continues, "We've heard that argument before, and we, more than any, as a people, should be ready to reject it. The view was wrong in 1963 in Birmingham, and it is wrong in 2003 in Baghdad and in the rest of the Middle East." It's quite a leap from Birmingham to Baghdad, and from a group of citizens struggling against the oppression of its own government and its fellow citizens to a citizenry struggling against an outside force intent on imposing its will on the populace, but Rice seems able to bridge that gap.
Iraq war and occupationeven after the US refused to allow them to bid on contracts for rebuilding that country. It turns out that the explanation is quite simple: Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who issued the restrictions, may be acting as the US's "enforcer" in the situation. As the Guardian's Naomi Klein reports, "[h]e showed up with a big stick to point out 'the threat of economic exclusion from Iraq's potential $500 billion reconstruction' just as Baker was about to speak softly." The US has consistently opposed efforts to forgive or reconstruct debt owed by numerous other countries, including Argentina, South Africa, Haiti, the Philippines, and Brazil. Klein observes, "so why is Bush so concerned that 'the future of the Iraqi people should not be mortgaged to the enormous burden of debt?' Because it is taking money from 'reconstruction,' which could go to Halliburton, Bechtel, Exxon and Boeing. It has become popular to claim that the White House has been hijacked by neo-conservative ideologues in love with free-market dogma. I'm not convinced. If there's one thing the Wolfowitz/Baker dust-ups make clear, it's that the ideology of the Bush White House isn't neo-conservatism, it's old-fashioned greed. There is only one rule that appears to matter: if it helps our friends get even richer, do it." (Guardian)
Iraq war and occupationa mistake for the US as Vietnam became a generation before. Zinni, who three years ago was the head of the US Central Command in the Middle East, says bluntly, "Iraq is in serious danger of coming apart because of lack of planning, underestimating the task and buying into a flawed strategy. The longer we stubbornly resist admitting the mistakes and not altering our approach, the harder it will be to pull this chestnut out of the fire." In 1998, Zinni warned, "I think a weakened, fragmented, chaotic Iraq, which could happen if this isn't done carefully, is more dangerous in the long run than a contained Saddam is now." "I don't think these questions have been thought through or answered." It was a warning for which Iraq hawks such as Paul Wolfowitz, then an academic and now the second highest official at the Pentagon, attacked him in print at the time.
Iraq war and occupationDavid Hirst's analysis for the British newspaper the Guardian begins by explaining the significance of the Iraq invasion: to the Arab world, the invasion was a historic event on the scale of the final breakup of the Ottoman Empire nearly a century before. "That led to the arbitrary carve-up of its former Arab provinces by the European colonial powers and, in 1948, to the loss of one of them, Palestine, to the Israeli settler-state," Hirst observes. The invasion struck the death blow to the concept of the "Arab system," which mandates that the separate parts of the Arab collective unite to oppose threats to its collective security and territorial integrity. "To the disgust and shame of the Arab peoples, it was not merely incapable of preventing the conquest and occupation of what, properly governed, would have been one of the most powerful and prosperous Arab lands, it was largely complicit in it. It simply stood and watched as the world's only superpower embarked on its hugely ambitious, neo-colonial enterprise: to make Iraq the fulcrum for reshaping the entire region and, with regime change and 'democratization,' cure it of those sicknesses -- political and social oppression, religious extremism, corruption, tribalism and economic stagnation -- that had turned it into the main threat to the existing world order. It did not formally envisage a full-scale redrawing of state frontiers, but it looked as though by an inexorable momentum that might come to pass. It was seen as a second Palestine, not so much because it was a foreign conquest of another Arab country, but because, via the Bush administration's neo-conservative hawks, it was at least as much Israeli in inspiration and purpose as it was American. The mighty blow struck in Baghdad would so weaken other Arab regimes that the Palestinians, more than ever bereft of Arab support, would submit to that full-scale Israeli subjugation and dispossession of all but a last pitiful fragment of their original homeland."
Iraq war and occupationShort says she knew that Britain and the US would join forces to overrun Iraq as soon as June or July 2002, before the government's summer recess. "It was already in the press, surfacing more and more," she says. "I asked for a discussion in the Cabinet. The prime minister told me he didn't want it in the Cabinet, but that we'd have a personal discussion." Short was considering resigning even this early because of the duplicity of the so-called "peace process" which was actually a gearing-up for war. She remembers, "The prime minister kept giving assurances to me personally, to the Cabinet, to the parliamentary Labour party, to the country, that we were operating through the UN and that there would have to be a second resolution."
Partisan Bush appointeesRice worked for Blackwill in the first Bush administration. Blackwill is the coordinator for strategic planning, a new post that, in the words of the Washington Post, "makes him the in-house visionary at the National Security Council. It means he has free rein to think, track global trends and predict the unnoticed or unintended consequences of US foreign policy decisions anywhere in the world...." Blackwill is also charged with helping shape foreign policy in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The new post was designed to provide cohesion and long-range planning for a White House foreign policy team under stress from breaking wars and ongoing crises. Speculation is widespread that Blackwill may replace Rice in a second Bush term. (Washington Post)
Secrecy of Bush administrationEven Republican Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 investigative commission, recently protested: "I've been reading these highly, highly classified documents. In most cases, I finish with them, I look up and say, 'Why is this classified?' And so one of the things that I hope is that maybe out of our work and maybe others, a lot of these documents that are classified, will be unclassified." Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, says it is nothing less than a "mutation in American politics" away from open government. "There is an unwholesome change in the deliberative process unfolding before our eyes," he says. "These are not technicalities. These are fundamental issues of American government that are now up for grabs." (Washington Post)
Iraq war and occupationRetired Marine General Anthony Zinni says that if any of the senior members of the administration had experienced combat as young men, they might have thought longer about invading and occupying Iraq. "I think it would have changed them," says Zinni. "I just wish somebody in that chain of command would have seen combat at that time." He believes this is a moral issue. "They were my contemporaries. They should have been there, and they found a way not to serve. And where are their kids? Are their kids serving? My son is in the Marines." Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who avoided military service, says in response that he knows enough about combat from his visits to a military hospital. "I am not at all unmindful of what it means to send American kids into combat. I go up to Walter Reed enough to see some of the consequences." (Washington Post)
2000 presidential electionsLast week, a majority of the Federal Elections Committee (FEC) determined that Attorney General Ashcroft violated campaign finance laws, possibly exceeding the federal contribution limit by as much as 200 times, and failed to disclose certain contributions during the 2000 election cycle. "Because Mr. Ashcroft is the Attorney General and accordingly the supervisor of both the FBI and the United States Attorneys, there is a conflict of interest in the Department of Justice supervising such an investigation. Simply put, it is not in the public interest for Mr. Ashcroft to investigate himself," Kerry writes. "Mr. President, now more than ever, Americans must have total faith in their Nation's chief law enforcement officer. An independent investigation by a Special Counsel is the only way to preserve that faith." Attorney General John Ashcroft's leadership PAC, "Spirit of America," illegally contributed a fundraising list of 100,000 donors to his failed 2000 Senate campaign in Missouri, and, in violation of federal law, neither organization reported this contribution to the FEC. Ashcroft's failure to disclose this mailing list as an asset may render his United States Senate Public Financial Disclosure Reports for 1998 and 1999 materially false, and their filing a felony violation of Federal criminal law. Normally this would be investigated by the FBI, and then referred to the Attorney General for prosecution. But John Ashcroft cannot be called up to investigate himself.
Conservative media slantLimbaugh's lawyers plan to appeal the ruling. "Mr. Limbaugh was not doctor shopping and he should not have to sacrifice his privacy to prove his innocence," says lawyer Roy Black. Black said his client suffered from a degenerative disc disease with "pain so great at one point doctors thought he had bone cancer," and that Limbaugh chose to take addictive painkillers rather than have surgery. Black fails to note that Limbaugh became an avid golfer during that same time period, a sport that would be most difficult to take up with such a condition. Predictably, Limbaugh says he is the victim of a liberal conspiracy: "The Democrats still cannot defeat me in the arena of political ideas," he told his radio audience earlier. "And so now they're trying to do so in the court of public opinion and the legal system." He notes that the state attorney general, Barry Krischer, is a Democrat. (ABC News, E! Online)
Conservative media slantHe claims to have paid "extreme amounts of money" to Wilma Cline, his former housekeeper, and her husband, first for pills and then for extortion. His lawyer, Roy Black, alleges that the Clines threatened to go public with information about Limbaugh's drug use unless they received $4 million. Black claims that Limbaugh wanted to contact the FBI, but was told by an unidentified friend that if he went to the authorities, they would target him, and his political enemies would use the information against him. "That's exactly what happened," says Black, who also made accusations that Cline's husband is a convicted drug trafficker. "They cornered him in the parking garage of his studio, and they demanded $4 million in order to keep this quiet and not sell it to the Enquirer," says Black. Ed Shohat, an attorney for the housekeeper, vehemently denies Black's charge. "Rush Limbaugh confessed and admitted that he bought the pills," Shohat says. "I know of no facts that my clients demanded money from Rush Limbaugh in any way." The accusations don't jibe with Limbaugh's concurrent claims that he was taking the 2,000-plus prescription pills per month for legitimate reasons. (CNN, E! Online)
Prewar intelligence on IraqWhile the board, chaired by former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft, says that it can find no reason to believe there was a "deliberate effort to fabricate" a story, the board believes the White House was so anxious "to grab onto something affirmative" about Hussein's nuclear ambitions that it disregarded warnings from the intelligence community that the claim was questionable. The board made its findings available to the administration earlier this month. It makes it clear that the White House should share blame with the CIA for allowing the questionable material into the speech. CIA Director George Tenet and deputy national security adviser Stephen Hadley have accepted responsibility for allowing the assertion into the address. In May, Bush asked Scowcroft to look into how the alleged Iraqi attempt to buy uranium in Niger made it into the presidential speech. The intelligence board, made up of 16 members, including former California governor Pete Wilson, former Netscape chief executive Jim Barksdale and retired Admiral David Jeremiah, traditionally provides the president private advice on intelligence questions. Scowcroft served in the administration of President George H.W. Bush, among others. The Senate plans on reporting on the board's findings next spring. "No one checked their facts carefully," says an anonymous source familiar with the report. "It was a mistake that propagated itself. They should have known better to check and ask more questions about the information." (Washington Post, CNN)
Prewar intelligence on IraqLast week Libya announced it was bowing to UN pressure, and abandoning its plans to build atomic weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Blix rejects claims that it was the war on Iraq that had forced Libya's hand, and said that his willingness to cooperate with the UN underlined the power of sanctions. Blix also repeats his belief that Saddam Hussein almost certainly destroyed his stocks of biological and chemical armaments after the 1991 Gulf War. "Years of pressure has meant that Gaddafi has gone a slow path to this result...the country has been worn down," Blix says. "so, I think one could just as well say that the example shows that perhaps Iraq could also have been handled with continuous containment." (Independent)
Oil profiteering and the "oiligarchy"Libya is currently unable to produce as much oil as it wishes -- it's down half from its 1970 high of 3.3 million barrels a day -- and is desperate for Western involvement. Wood Mackenzie Consultants in Edinburgh, Scotland describes Libya as "highly under-explored" and having "excellent" potential. Exploration would accelerate if the United States ended its embargo, and advanced drilling techniques would enhance recovery rates at Libya's aging oil fields, it says. Without sanctions, Libya might also be able to develop its natural gas reserves and resume its neglected effort to export liquefied natural gas. (China Daily)
US militaryUS District Judge Emmet Sullivan rules that the mandatory inoculations, administered to more than 900,000 troops, violates a 1998 law prohibiting the use of experimental drugs on troops. Lawyers representing US soldiers say the shots have sickened hundreds and caused a number of deaths. Sullivan rules that the anthrax vaccinations violated a law passed by Congress in the wake of concern that similar inoculations may have led to illness among veterans of the 1991 Gulf War. (The Age)
Media manipulation and marketing by GOPThe Nation reports: "When US Central Command has good news to report in Iraq, as it did after troops from the Fourth Infantry Division captured Saddam Hussein on December 13, it adores the media. But journalists say that when there's bad news -- a helicopter crash, a mortar attack -- they are increasingly being blocked from covering the story by US soldiers, who frequently confiscate and destroy their film disks and videotapes." Photographer David Gilkey of the Detroit Free Press notes that, while he was trying to take photos of the Chinook helicopter that crashed near Fallujah on November 2, his film disk was taken from him and erased; Gilkey and fellow journalists were then forced to go to another site twenty miles away. "Listen, I have respect for these guys," Gilkey says of the soldiers. "I truly understand that they are upset, and angry, that they've lost friends. The point is, however, you don't have the right to take disks and clean them. When did that become standard operating procedure?"
Anti-terrorism and homeland securityAlmanacs, according to the bulletin, can be used by terrorists "to assist with target selection and pre-operational planning." Law enforcement officials were warned to consider arresting anyone with an almanac "annotated in suspicious ways." (Lewis Lapham)
Conservative media slantThe attack opens with what The Note terms "a button-popping, eye-bugging anti-Dean editorial" from the supposedly liberal Washington Post. Expressing its horror at Dean's observation that that Saddam Hussein's capture leaves the United States no safer than before, Post editors term Dean's views to be "not just unfounded but ludicrous" and complain of his "departure from the Democratic mainstream." David Brooks of the New York Times, another supposed bastion of the liberal press, contrasts Dean with the Bush administration. Brooks says that Bush is suffering "an insincerity crisis" owing to his "honesty and candor," along with his "candor and forthrightness." Meanwhile Dean is laughed off as "the only guy who goes to the Beverly Hills area for a gravitas implant." What did Dean do to deserve Brooks's ire? Give a moderate, Clintonesque foreign-policy speech to the Pacific Council of World Affairs. ABC's Sam Donaldson doesn't like the "vibes" Dean gives off. And the Post's Howard Kurtz, the darling of the American Conservative Union, complains that Dean has yet to ask about the journalists following him -- as if the journalists, and not the candidates, are the focus of the news.
Conservative media slantThe channel, called FX, is modeled on the Fox channel currently broadcasting in America. (Guardian)
George H.W. BushThe boy, who was 14 at the time, broke into a boathouse in Arundel, Maine, to steal a boat engine, along with an older friend, in April 2002. When the two saw security cameras in place, they burned down the boathouse to hide their actions. A boat engine owned by the elder Bush was one of several engines and boats burned in the fire. The parents of the boy say that their son was arrested as a potential terrorist. "There were Secret Service, ATF agents, fire marshals and local police," the boy's mother says. "They said that they had concerns that this could be a terrorist attack. They cited national security concerns." The boy's parents are appealing what they say is a harsh and unfair sentence of 30 months in federal prison. They believe their son is being singled out because of misplaced security concerns, politics and the desire by federal agents to send a message. The boy was prepared to plead guilty to local prosecutors, but the case was then turned over to federal prosecutors. "There seems to be no rational explanation for why Patrick was turned over to the federal justice system," says the boy's stepfather, who is acting as his attorney. "Every time we asked, we got a different answer, and none of the answers made sense." A spokeswoman for the Maine Attorney General's office says the singular treatment of the boy has nothing to do with the fact that Bush property was destroyed, and was meted out because "[a]rson is a crime of violence.." There is only one other juvenile in federal custody in all of New England. The other perpetrator, 19-year old Christopher Conley of Kennebunkport, is serving a 57-month prison sentence and must pay $728,000 in fines and restitutions. Patrick, whose last name is being withheld, is in maximum security detention, and only allowed to see his parents for five minutes a week. Almost all arsons committed by juveniles are handled by local law enforcement, and the convicted juveniles receive significantly less harsh sentences. (ABC News)
Conservative media slantwhile Limbaugh's lawyers seek to have a ruling to unseal the records overturned. The records were seized by prosecutors investigating Limbaugh for "doctor shopping" to fuel his addiction to painkillers. To protect Limbaugh's privacy, Winikoff has ruled that prosecutors could look at the files but not disclose material from the records to anyone else. (Reuters/FindLaw)
Bush familyBarbara Bush stands out by saying, "I am advising the former president, the governor of Florida and the president of the United States. I guess you could say I rule the world." She is the husband of the former president and the mother of the current president and the governor of Florida. John Kerry, Democratic candidate for president, responded to the former first lady's statement by saying, "I promise just to serve two terms. Republicans do it differently. They just have the son repeat the father's whole first term." (Scripps Howard/The Gleaner)