In itself, this week contains so much content that it has been subdivided into multiple pages. Use the menu below to peruse the contents.
- February: CPA administrator Paul Bremer gives up his resistance to using Hussein's old soldiery to reform the Iraq army. Though Bremer and others had been worried about readmitting former Ba'athists to leadership positions in the new army, all of the new officers came from the old army. US commander General John Abizaid decides that US forces should be "embedded" with the Iraqi military units, with US soldiers providing leadership, intelligence, and communications. Bush embraces the idea, and begins speculating on its publicity value, showing that the US is going through with its intentions of turning the responsibility for the war over to the Iraqis. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld interrupts Bush as he is giving an order for some sort of PR announcement to White House communications director Dan Bartlett, breaking in to say, "Oh, Mr. President, I haven't approved it yet." Rumsfeld is worried about the safety of US troops embedded with unreliable and possibly hostile Iraqi units. Rumsfeld is also jealous of his own perogatives. "It's a recommendation to me and when I'm happy with it, I'll bring it to you." Bush immediately defers to his subordinate, just asking that when Rumsfeld signs off on it, he let Bush know "so that we can take proper advantage of it." Rumsfeld eventually, more or less, approves of the embedding program, which later becomes the major US method of upgrading the combat capabilities of the Iraqi units. Partially because of Rumsfeld's slow going on the program, it never gets the big PR push that Bush wants. (Bob Woodward)
- February: The Baghdad CIA station chief, John Maguire, the former head of the Anabasis sabotage mission, writes a direly worded AARDWOLF communique that warns the Iraqi insurgency is gaining strength and becoming self-sustaining. The only reaction Maguire receives is the informal notification that he needs to keep his mouth shut, and is informed that Condoleezza Rice is "furious" over his description of the insurgency.
- Maguire and other CIA officers gather hundreds of former officers of the disbanded Iraqi army at the al-Rashid Hotel after being told that US commander General Ricardo Sanchez will come and speak to the group about how they could be rehired for the new Iraqi army. Sanchez does not show up; neither do any of his deputies. The Iraqi army officers go home angry. Maguire is enraged. He sees the episode as indicitive of the US's entire approach to the occupation, which had begun to fail, in his opinion, with the "senseless" de-Ba'athification of the Iraqi government. "A historic opportunity was being squandered," he later recalls. Iraq was being lost "through arrogance and ignorance." The arrogance comes from "the idea that we can impose something on a 2000-year old society. The ignorance is displayed by such wrong-headed, ideologically fueled policies such as de-Ba'athification and the disbanding of the Iraqi army, which had sparked the anti-American insurgency. But no one in Baghdad or the White House is listening to Maguire.
- Maguire later recalls his meetings with CPA administrator Paul Bremer as surreal. When he and his officers would try to talk about the deteriorating situation, Bremer and his people would refuse to reply. "You'd sit in the meetings and you could hear the mortars going off, the windows were rattling," Maguire later recalls. But nobody would say a word about what was going on. It was as though nothing was happening. Bremer "would just sit there, staring at his boots. He was a weird man." (Michael Isikoff and David Corn)
- Early February: A federal judge orders Drake University to turn over records of an anti-war forum held on its campus in November 2003. Subpoenas are served on four activists who attended the forum, and the university's chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. The subpoena, which seeks records identifying the officers of the Drake chapter in November 2003; the current location of any local offices; as well as agendas, "has nothing to do with national security and everything to do with intimidating lawful protestors and suppressing First Amendment freedom of expression and association," writes Heidi Boghosian, Executive Director of the Guild. US District Judge Ronald Longstaff also issued an order prohibiting Drake employees from talking about the university's subpoena. Mark Smith, a lobbyist for the Washington-based American Association of University Professors, tells the media that he was not familiar with any other similar situation where a US university's records were subpoenaed. The case, he points out, has echoes of the "red squads" of the 1950s and campus clampdowns on Vietnam War protesters. The subpoenas will be withdrawn when the story hits the national headlines.
- Bruce Nestor, a Minneapolis attorney and past president of NLG who works on the case, says that it was the "tremendous response from across the political spectrum condemning the use of the grand jury," that got the subpoenas quashed. "In the two years since 9/11, we have heard one refrain from the Justice Department every time the executive branch seeks to arrogate more power to itself: 'trust us, we're the government,'" says Benjamin Stone, executive director of the Iowa ACLU. "But, if it is going to be issuing secretive slapdash subpoenas and then rescinding them to save face, how can we trust that more expansive surveillance and investigative powers will be used properly?" Michael Avery, president of the National Lawyers Guild, says, "This administration is trying to criminalize dissent, characterize protesters as terrorists and trying to intimidate and marginalize those opposed to its policies." The administration has opened the floodgates for all kinds of investigative activities, and now "police agencies across the country are actively engaged in spying and compiling dossiers on citizens exercising their constitutional rights." (TomPaine/AlterNet)
Bush, Blair administrations knew in May 2003 that no Iraqi WMDs would be found
- February 1: Proof emerges that the Bush and Blair administrations were certain as early as May 2003 that no WMDs would be found in Iraq. Intelligence sources, policy makers and weapons inspectors familiar with the details of the hunt for WMDs acknowledge that it was widely known that Iraq had no WMD within three weeks of Baghdad falling, despite the assertions of senior Bush administration figures and the Prime Minister, Tony Blair. According to the timeline provided by US intelligence sources, the Blair administrationit would have been aware of the US doubts that weapons would be found before the outbreak of the feud between Number 10 and Andrew Gilligan, and before the exposure of Dr. David Kelly as Gilligan's source for his claims that the September dossier had been "sexed up" to exaggerate the Iraqi threat. It would suggest too that some officials who defended the September 24 dossier in evidence before the Hutton inquiry did so in the knowledge that the pre-war intelligence was probably wrong. A very senior US intelligence official who served during the war against Iraq with an intimate knowledge of the search for Iraq's WMD says, "We had enough evidence at the beginning of May to start asking, 'where did we go wrong?' We had already made the judgment that something very wrong had happened [in May] and our confidence was shaken to its foundations." The source, a career intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity, is scathing about the massive scale of the failure of intelligence over Iraq both in the US and among its foreign allies, and alleges that the intelligence community had effectively suppressed dissenting views and intelligence. The claim is confirmed by other sources, as well as figures like David Albright, a former UN nuclear inspector with close contacts in both the world of weapons inspection and intelligence. "It was known in May," Albright said last week, "that no one was going to find large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. The only people who did not know that fact was the public." (Observer/Guardian)
- February 1: A National Intelligence Council review and a Boston Globe news analysis detail the ways that the Bush and Blair administrations "cherrypicked" intelligence that would support their contention that it was necessary to invade Iraq, and downplayed or ignored intelligence that didn't fit their own pre-drawn conclusions. "In the run-up to the war in Iraq, Washington and London worked in unison to present with terrifying specificity the intelligence underpinning their case for an invasion," writes the Globe, while the NIC review details the ways the public version of the US intelligence community's prewar assessment of Iraq's WMD programs was stripped of dissenting opinions, warnings of insufficient information and doubts about deposed dictator Saddam Hussein's intentions. The Globe continues: "The Bush administration asserted that Iraq had unmanned drones capable of spreading biological weapons to US cities, and it displayed grainy black-and-white aerial photographs of new construction at the Al Qaim nuclear site as evidence that Iraq could produce a nuclear weapon within a few years, if not months. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell highlighted some of those alarms in his dramatic Feb. 5 presentation to the UN Security Council. In London, Prime Minister Tony Blair trotted out an intelligence dossier on the threat -- including an assertion that Iraq could unleash a chemical or biological weapon within 45 minutes of an order from Saddam Hussein. One year later, these claims have not just come under question, but in many cases now appear to have been false." According to the NIC review, the top-secret version delivered to Bush, his top lieutenants and Congress was heavily qualified with caveats about some of its most important conclusions about Iraq's illicit weapons programs, those caveats were omitted from the public version. Greg Thielmann, the former director of the Office of Strategic Proliferation and Military Affairs in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research who retired in frustration with the Bush administration, says, "The White House was not interested in information other than that which substantiated its case. ...They took every piece of information, and all the way up the line, it was made less qualified and more alarming. That is why the American people were so misled about the nature of the Iraqi threat."
- Frank Anderson, the former head of the CIA's Near East Division who is now the head of Foreign Reports, a private agency that analyzes the Middle East largely for the oil industry, says raw intelligence data were lacking. "This wasn't a failure to connect the dots; there were no dots," Anderson says. Instead the Bush and Blair governments took to "drawing their own picture." Democratic senator Bill Nelson says he feels betrayed and lied to, because he voted for the war after being given classified information indicating that Hussein possessed unarmed aerial vehicles capable of striking targets in the US and Britain. Only after the war did Nelson learn that the intelligence had been falsified, and Iraq's UAV program was little more than rickety wooden aircraft barely capable of flying a few dozen miles. "I was told only the one thing, that he had the capability," Nelson says. "I was obviously misled, because I was given incorrect information and I was not told there was a dispute about the veracity of that information." The Carnegie Endowment's Joseph Cirincione says a great deal of intelligence had questioned the existence of stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, not least the persistent claims by UN weapons inspector Hans Blix, who said the inspections regime had effectively shut down Iraq's weapons program as best as they could confirm on the ground. Cirincione says the National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002 claimed that Iraq had between 100 tons and 500 tons of chemical and biological weapons. But according to documents that have recently been declassified and published in a Carnegie report, the Defense Intelligence Agency had stated in September 2002 that the information on weapons stockpiles was unreliable. "Why did [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld choose to go with one estimate, and choose to ignore the analysis of his own agency?" he asks. "These are the questions that have not yet been asked. Wouldn't a responsible policy maker have had some pause before he rushed to tell America that Iraq had these with weapons with such a degree of certainty?" Anderson, a 25-year veteran of the CIA, says, "Everybody in the community was intensely aware that they didn't have the intelligence. They knew they didn't have it. The operational side was beating its head against the wall, saying, 'We don't have it. We have to figure out a way to get it.' The analytical side was understandably frustrated, and doing its best to provide analysis when there is limited, and bad information. ...Because of the lack of humint [human intelligence], we didn't have enough countervailing intelligence to dismiss what they were selling.... So in the end of the day, there was a strong bias to buy the intelligence that fit what the policy makers wanted. And it looks like that's what happened." (Boston Globe, Knight-Ridder/RealCities)
Bush, Blair nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
- February 1: George W. Bush, Tony Blair, and the European Union are among the preliminary nominees for the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. Both Bush and Blair were nominated by a far-right Norwegian politician, Jan Simonsen. (Agence France-Presse/Hindustan Times)
- February 1: Veteran foreign correspondant Eric Margolis writes, "If Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction (WMD), as it long insisted, we must draw one of two conclusions. Either President George Bush, and secretaries Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld, lied about the global threat they claimed Iraq posed, and deceived Congress and the American people. Or, they were grossly misinformed by their intelligence experts and must be judged fools of the first order. If Bush and his team of chest-thumping, self-proclaimed national security experts were really misinformed about Iraq's weapons and capabilities, then they started a war by mistake -- and presided over the two biggest national security fiascos since Pearl Harbor: the 9/11 attacks and the invasion of Iraq. It turns out President Saddam Hussein, whom Bush repeatedly branded a 'liar,' was in fact telling the truth all along when he said all of Iraq's old weapons systems had been destroyed. It was Bush and British PM Tony Blair who weren't telling the truth. ...So, take your pick. The Iraq war either was the Mother of All Lies, or the Mother of All Fiascos. Confronted by these ugly facts, Bush tried to rebrand the unprovoked war against Iraq by claiming it was justified because Saddam was such a horrid man. What arrant hypocrisy. ...[A]ctive and retired CIA officers kept warning the public and media (including this writer) that intelligence on Iraq had been deeply manipulated and politicized by a cabal of pro-war neo-conservative ideologues in the Pentagon and the vice president's office. They were ignored. A shadowy Pentagon intelligence unit was created by the neo-cons to whip up war fever against Iraq. It fed either fake or wildly exaggerated reports about Iraq to the White House and Pentagon, which were then trumpeted by the neo-con media. This column has maintained for the past 10 years that a campaign of lies and disinformation was being waged against Iraq. Though I detested Saddam, whose brutal secret police once threatened to hang me, I was incensed to see western democracies fabricating war propaganda. I watched with disgust as so-called 'Iraq experts' and neo-con propagandists, few of whom had ever been to Iraq, warned night after night on US TV about the 'deadly threat' from Iraq. Genuine Mideast specialists were systematically excluded from US media commentary.
- "By challenging war propaganda, I became the object of attacks by colleagues at this newspaper chain, and by other media pundits in the US and Canada. Each week, I was flooded with hate e-mail. 'Don't be on the losing side,' a close friend warned last year. 'Why risk your career and reputation by insisting Iraq has no WMD?' Why? Because I was absolutely convinced of my position, and I passionately hate propaganda of all kinds -- especially when it comes from western democracies. 'Do you feel vindicated?' a radio show host asked me last week. You predicted a year ago that no WMD would be found in Iraq.' Not vindicated. Just dismayed. Dismayed by the continuing widespread indifference -- or even approval -- by many Americans of the aggression against Iraq that violated international law and basic norms of civilized behaviour. Dismayed by the craven attitude of the US Congress and mainstream media. And deeply concerned by growing hatred for the US around the globe. Too few Americans seem troubled their president either lied or blundered into a horrible mess in Iraq, so far costing 520 American dead, nearly 10,000 casualties and $200 billion US for 2003-04. This is an historic malfeasance far exceeding in gravity Nixon's Watergate scandal or Bill Clinton's prevarications about sex. The war fever and xenophobia fostered by the Bush administration continues to grip America. I am not comparing the US to Nazi Germany. But one does begin to understand in all this how the Germans, another educated and highly civilized people, were driven in the 1930s by a campaign of fear and lies, into supporting a policy of aggression, religious hatred and racism." (Toronto Sun)
- February 1: Author Robert Kuttner writes that the current GOP leadership intends to ensure that America becomes in essence a one-party state with no dissent, no distributed representation, and no recourse for those who disagree with Republican policies. He writes, "[I]f President Bush is re-elected, we will be close to a tipping point of fundamental change in the political system itself. The United States could become a nation in which the dominant party rules for a prolonged period, marginalizes a token opposition and is extremely difficult to dislodge because democracy itself is rigged. This would be unprecedented in U.S. history. In past single-party eras, the majority party earned its preeminence with broad popular support. Today the electorate remains closely divided, and actually prefers more Democratic policy positions than Republican ones. Yet the drift toward an engineered one-party Republican state has aroused little press scrutiny or widespread popular protest. We are at risk of becoming an autocracy in three key respects.
- "First, Republican parliamentary gimmickry has emasculated legislative opposition in the House of Representatives (the Senate has other problems). House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas has both intimidated moderate Republicans and reduced the minority party to window dressing, rather like the token opposition parties in Mexico during the six-decade dominance of the PRI. Second, electoral rules have been rigged to make it increasingly difficult for the incumbent party to be ejected by the voters, absent a Depression-scale disaster, Watergate-class scandal or Teddy Roosevelt-style ruling party split. After two decades of bipartisan collusion in the creation of safe House seats, there are now perhaps just 25 truly contestable House seats in any given election year (and that's before the recent Republican super gerrymandering). What once was a slender and precarious majority -- 229 Republicans to 205 Democrats (including Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who votes with Democrats) -- now looks like a Republican lock. In the Senate, the dynamics are different but equally daunting for Democrats. As the Florida debacle of 2000 showed, the Republicans are also able to hold down the number of opposition votes, with complicity from Republican courts. Reform legislation, the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA), may actually facilitate Republican intimidation of minority voters and reduce Democratic turnout. And the latest money-and-politics regime, nominally a reform, may give the right more of a financial advantage than ever. Third, the federal courts, which have slowed some executive-branch efforts to destroy liberties, will be a complete rubber stamp if the right wins one more presidential election. Taken together, these several forces could well enable the Republicans to become the permanent party of autocratic government for at least a generation."
- Kuttner defends his assertion with a number of specific examples. He points to the "extreme centralization" of legislation, with GOP Speaker Dennis Hastert and Representative Tom DeLay (widely considered to be the real power in the House, with Hastert merely DeLay's hand puppet) using parliamentary measures and illegal tactics to ensure that only legislation either written or approved by the GOP leadership ever makes it to the floor; Hastert and DeLay also use similar tactics to shorten the consideration of a bill from the mandated 48 hours to as little as 30 minutes. "On several measures," Kuttner observes, "members literally did not know what they were voting for. ...On the Medicare bill, members had one day to study a measure of more than 1,000 pages, much of it written from scratch in conference." The House leadership has increasingly moved to block Democratic participation in Senate-House conferences over legislation. "Democratic House and Senate conferees are increasingly barred from attending conference committees," Kuttner writes, "unless they are known turncoats. On the Medicare bill, liberal Democratic Senate conferees Tom Daschle and Jay Rockefeller were excluded. The more malleable Democrats John Breaux and Max Baucus, however, were allowed in. ...All four House Democratic conferees were excluded." And DeLay is notorious for his heavy-handed, almost Soviet-style intimidation and pressure tactics. Most GOP members know that if they cross the GOP leadership, they will have their committee positions yanked, their election funds blocked, and, if they insist on being too independent, they will be challenged in their next election primary by a new GOP candidate hand-picked and supported by DeLay and other House leaders.
- Kuttner writes, "And why has this anti-democratic revolution aroused so little general attention or indignation? First, Democrats are ambivalent about taking this issue to the country or to the press because many are convinced that nobody cares about 'process' issues. The whole thing sounds like inside baseball, or worse, like losers whining. If they complain that big bad Tom DeLay keeps marginalizing them, as one senior House staffer puts it, 'It just makes us look weak.' But when Joe Cannon, the Republican House speaker a century ago, played similar games, it was a very big deal indeed. Press investigation and popular outrage toppled him. Today's abuses are hidden in plain view, but the press doesn't connect the dots."
- And how long can the Republicans hold on to the majority in Congress? If they have their way, essentially forever. With states working to increase the number of "safe" seats that essentially cannot lose to opposing party challengers, fewer and fewer House seats are actually up for grabs each election year. And the GOP has taken gerrymandering of House districts to a new level, as witnessed in Texas, where a new districting system, created in part by Tom DeLay and Bush political guru Karl Rove, has made a Republican majority of Texas state legislatures, and a majority of US representatives from that state, a certainty from one election to the next. The numbers themselves don't paint such a picture -- as of this writing, with the 229-205 GOP majority in the House, it would take only 13 seats to change hands from the Republicans to the Democrats to give Democrats control of the House. In reality, though, with the small number of seats in play, the Democrats would have to win approximately 75% of those "swing" seats to regain control, a prospect that doesn't seem likely in the foreseeable future. The Senate is a better target for Democrats to retake some legislative control, but with the solidly Republican South losing a number of moderate (and aging) Democrats, some of their seats will undoubtedly swing right, giving Democrats even less of an opportunity to retake the Senate. Another problem is voting reform, as mandated by HAVA, the "Help America Vote Act." Passed in the aftermath of the Bush theft of the 2000 election, HAVA is funding the replacement of aging punch-card and other manual vote recording machines in favor of new electronic voting machines. However, the three manufacturers of such machines are closely tied to the Republican Party, and early tests show the possibilities of vote fraud are massive. None of the three companies seem able to manufacture a machine that will record votes on paper, and while Democrats are agitating for such machines to be made mandatory, this issue is being actively opposed by congressional Republicans.
- Kuttner writes of the ballot security issue: "A second potential for mischief is the provision put into HAVA, at Republican insistence, requiring voters who register by mail to show a government ID at the polls. This sounds innocent enough. Republicans, however, have a long and sordid history of 'ballot security' programs intended to intimidate minority voters by threatening them with criminal prosecution if their papers are not technically in order. Chief Justice William Rehnquist got his political start running a ballot-security program for the Republicans in the 1962 elections in Arizona. Many civil-rights groups see the new federal ID provision of HAVA as an invitation to more such harassment. The Department of Justice's rights division was once a bulwark against these tactics, but that division currently reports to an attorney general named John Ashcroft." Campaign finance rules are also disproportionately in favor of Republican candidates; the ban on so-called "soft money" and the drastic increase in the amounts of so-called "hard money" donations have worked in the GOP's favor. Finally, the current administration is working hard to "pack" the judiciary with extremist ideologues who will be sure to uphold whatever laws, or breaking of laws, are necessary to ensure GOP control of the political process. Kuttner concludes, "We've seen divided government before, with a Democratic president and a fiercely partisan Republican Congress. It is not pretty. But it is much more attractive than a one-party state. Benjamin Franklin, leaving the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, was asked by a bystander what kind of government the Founders had bestowed. 'A republic,' he famously replied, 'if you can keep it.' There have been moments in American history when we kept our republic only by the slenderest of margins. This year is one of those times." (The American Prospect)
- February 1: Democratic candidate Wesley Clark, a retired NATO commander, blasts Bush for "bad leadership:" "We've got a president who will go half way around the world for a photo opportunity," he says in reference to Bush's appearances at overseas military outposts, "but won't go across Washington to attend the funeral of a serviceman who died in Iraq. None of that is patriotic, it's just bad leadership. Mr. President, shame on you for bad leadership." (Norman Transcript)
Powell says he may not have supported the Iraq invasion had he known that no WMDs would be found
- February 2: Secretary of State Colin Powell performs a dramatic backpedaling on his position on the Iraq invasion, saying that he now isn't sure that he would have supported the invasion in the light of the failure to find WMDs in that country. Asked if he would have recommended an invasion knowing Iraq had no prohibited weapons, Powell replies: "I don't know, because it was the stockpile that presented the final little piece that made it more of a real and present danger and threat to the region and to the world." He says the "absence of a stockpile changes the political calculus; it changes the answer you get." Powell spends much of the rest of the interview defending the Bush administration's foreign policy. Later, Powell backpedals on his original statements, reasserting his support for the invasion as criticism from the media and from observers around the globe hammers both Powell and the administration.
- Powell backs down because the news report enrages Bush, who claims never to read newspapers but apparently reads this one. "I woke up this morning and read the paper and found that I am the only person in Washington willing to defend me," he sputters to Condoleezza Rice. Rice calls Powell and tells him that both she and Bush are "mad" about the article. Powell just gave "the Democrats a remarkable tool" she says. Powell's remarks were lighting up newspapers and news broadcasts around the world. Powell accepts the chastising and retracts his remarks, saying five times that Bush's decision to go to war, a decision Powell had never supported, had been "right." (Washington Post, ABC News)
- February 2: The intelligence inquiry under consideration by the Bush administration would not only investigate intelligence failures in Iraq, but would also probe US intelligence mistakes in other nations. It will decide for itself what to and what not to investigate; it may or may not look at allegations that the administration exaggerated intelligence claims of Iraqi WMDs to justify going to war. Congressional Democrats are urging that the commission look at this allegation; they also request that the commission be appointed by bipartisan Congressional leadership, not by the President and his staff, which is what is likely to happen. Any results from this commission would not be available until well after November's elections. Bush plans on issuing an executive order that will create a panel to look at the failure of intelligence agencies to adequately gauge the threat of weapons of mass destruction not only in Iraq, but also in North Korea, Libya and other countries that have or are seeking nuclear weapons. Both North Korea and Libya appear to have been more advanced in their nuclear programs than intelligence officials realized. Bush's plan for a White House-sponsored investigation would short-circuit calls for a more independent inquiry focused solely on Iraq, one that potentially could prove an embarrassing source of controversy in an election year; additionally, by setting up the investigation himself, Bush would have greater control over its membership and mandate. The panel would be patterned after the Warren Commission in the 1960s, which looked into President Kennedy's assassination. That commission, headed by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, concluded Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Republican representative Porter Goss, chairman of the House intelligence committee and a former CIA case officer, said recently partisan politics would make it impossible for a commission to get any real work done before the election. "Not this year," said Goss. "You couldn't get the members together or even the rules set up."
- Hans Blix, the former chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq whose failure to find weapons of mass destruction before the war was ridiculed by the administration, has said the White House is generating a fog of uncertainty around Kay's stark findings and potentially softening a harsh public judgment by postponing indefinitely what he said was Bush's need to admit error. "They aren't giving up," Blix said recently. "They all prefer to retreat under a mist of controversy rather than say, 'I'm sorry, this was wrong.'" David Albright, another former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, says the administration will likely use the commission as a way to delay judgments about the intelligence community and the administration's use of the intelligence information. "The bottom line for them [the Bush administration] is to delay the day of reckoning about their use of the weapons-of-mass-destruction information," Albright says. "David Kay can blame the CIA and say 'Oh, I made all these comments based on what I heard from the intelligence community.' President Bush can't do that. He's the boss." Albright disagrees with anyone who claims the president is blameless or that anyone who had the intelligence at Bush's disposal would have reached the conclusion war was warranted: "I was so involved in the whole debate [over weapons of mass destruction], and it's just not true."
- Bush has lately found many of his rationales for the war in Iraq being challenged. Just as Kay has undermined the weapons-of-mass-destruction rationale, a report published by the Army War College challenged the notion that the war in Iraq was part of the overall war on terrorism, while the group Human Rights Watch has disputed Bush's notion that the Iraq war was a humanitarian mission. The alternative for Bush -- admitting an error in the pre-war allegations -- has not worked well for him in the past. Administration officials now say it was a mistake to acknowledge Bush should not have included in last year's State of the Union address an allegation that Iraq tried to buy nuclear material in Africa. The admission of error, they say, made Bush appear weak and encouraged more skeptical coverage than if the White House had refused to budge. Before deciding to endorse an independent review, White House officials had little alternative but to rely on some unsatisfying answers when asked about the intelligence failure. For example, Bush suggested recently that war came because Saddam Hussein did not let inspectors into Iraq, when it was the United States that called for inspections to end. "It was his choice to make, and he did not let us in," Bush said. That same day, Bush press secretary Scott McClellan said the White House never said Iraq was an "imminent" threat. But when McClellan's predecessor, Ari Fleischer, was asked if Iraq was an imminent threat, he replied: "absolutely;" when White House communications director Dan Bartlett was asked if Saddam was an imminent threat to US interests, he replied: "Well, of course he is." Bush aides have regularly insisted they were following the advice of intelligence experts. National-security adviser Condoleezza Rice on Thursday said the weapons conclusion "was the judgment of our intelligence community, the judgment of intelligence communities around the world." (AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, New York Times)
Pakistan exposed as source for Iran, Libyan, N. Korean nuclear technology; with US support, Pakistan pardons provider
- February 2: Abdul Qadeer Khan, developer of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, is the source of nuclear weapons technology that was given illegally to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. Khan admits the transfer and says he did so to help other Islamic countries get nuclear weapons; North Korea was a smokescreen to keep attention away from Pakistan, he claims. Khan denies he did it for personal gain, though he lives an opulent lifestyle on a relatively modest government salary (a week later, Pakistan will declare that Khan may keep all of the wealth he accumulated through his illicit nuclear sales).
- Analysts believe, correctly as it turns out, that the Bush administration will not embarrass Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf by demanding legal action against Khan or six other suspects from a top Pakistani nuclear facility who are being detained under a security act; Musharraf, calling Khan "my hero," grants him a full pardon and allows him to retire unscathed, after lying to the world press by telling them he himself only learned of Khan's activities the previous October, from US intelligence sources. "I think they [the US] understand the present position Musharraf is in and the conflicting pressures he faces," says Talat Masood, a military and political analyst. "They do not want to embarrass him further and make his job more difficult. Without Musharraf, the whole war on terror would be compromised." The "confession" and pardon are little more than a charade.
- The US and Pakistan, along with a variety of European intelligence and journalistic concerns, have known about Khan's mercenary provision of nuclear technology to rogue states for nearly twenty years. A former Pakistani senator says, "America needed an offering to the gods -- blood on the floor. Musharraf told A.Q., 'Bend over for a spanking.'" A Bush administration expert on nuclear proliferation observes, "One thing we do know is that this was not a rogue operation. Suppose Edward Teller had suddenly decided to spread nuclear technology and equipment around the world. Do you really think he could do that without the government knowing? Do you think A.Q. shipped all the centrifuges by Federal Express? The military has to be involved, at high levels. ...We had an opportunity to put a stop to the A.Q. Khan network fifteen years ago [during the Reagan administration]. Some of those involved today in the smuggling are the children of those we knew about in the 1980s. It's the second generation now."
- As early as the summer of 1999, US investigators were secretly recording meetings between Khan and various nuclear technology buyers. "If I needed something, I had friends in England, I had friends in Germany," Khan told a German interviewer in 1988. "So I asked to buy some -- some equipment, some materials, something. He sent a quotation. If the price was OK, we gave a go-ahead, and we bought it." Although Khan "was breaking laws all over the world," says former US weapons inspector David Albright, "the Pakistani government was basically willing to accept that he was doing that -- in fact, happy he was doing that, because they wanted nuclear weapons." Albright says the biggest nightmare for the US in regards to Khan is whether he will -- or may already have -- sold nuclear technology to Islamist terror organizations such as al-Qaeda. In fact, Bush tells the American public this month that Khan has been put "out of business" after US Navy ships intercepted shipments of equipment used to enrich uranium to Libya; Libya publicly declared itself out of the nuclear weapons game, some of Khan's confederates were rounded up, and Khan himself apologized on Pakistani television for "irrational" behavior in his selling of nuclear technology to Libya. Though Khan will remain under virtual house arrest in Pakistan, as Albright says, "It's like removing a tumor. You know, the tumor's been removed, but we don't know if it's already metastasized and the cancer cells are already spreading."
- In public, the Bush administration accepts the pardon of Khan with little comment, sending Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in front of the cameras to praise Musharraf and Pakistan's "forthright" approach to keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of rogue states. A Bush spokesman says the administration accepts Pakistan's protestations of ignorance about Khan's activities. In reality, the administration agrees not to make a fuss in return for Musharraf allowing US troops to operate within northwestern Pakistan to hunt down Osama bin Laden. "It's a quid pro quo," says a former senior intelligence official. "We're going to get our troops inside Pakistan in return for not forcing Musharraf to deal with Khan."
- The US sends the super-secret Special Forces Task Force 121 from Iraq to Pakistan even though Musharraf announced as late as January that no American forces would be permitted inside Pakistan (in reality, small teams of US forces have been operating inside Pakistan since October 2001). A large-scale American presence in Pakistan would cause an uproar among the civilian populace and weaken Musharraf's already-weak grip on his government. Some inside the Musharraf government, such as former ISI director Lieutenant General Hamid Gul, says the entire agreement is a farce: if Musharraf has agreed to let US troops inside Pakistan's borders, "he's lying to you." Worse, the chances of actually catching bin Laden inside Pakistan are minimal. "It's anybody's guess," says a senior Pentagon advisor, noting that the operational security for the attempt is poor, the CIA's intelligence on bin Laden's location is unreliable, and the area bin Laden is apparently holed up in, the Hindu Kush mountain range, is one of the most impenetrable on Earth. "There are no roads, and you can't get armor up there," says Robert Baer, who led the CIA's anti-Saddam operations in northern Iraq after the Gulf War. "This is where Alexander the Great lost an entire division. The Russians didn't even bother to go up there. Everybody's got a gun. That area is worse than Iraq." And former CIA operative Milton Bearden, who has spent a great deal of time in the area, notes, "Anytime we go into something driven entirely by electoral politics, it doesn't work out."
- In March, before US troops begin their search in northwestern Pakistan, Musharraf launches a puzzling offensive of his own. Pakistan announces that its troops are fighting bitter battles with al-Qaeda forces in the area, and Musharraf drops broad hints that either bin Laden or his supposed number-two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is about to be captured. Except for the fighting itself, nothing much happens with this offensive -- no al-Qaeda leaders are caught, nothing is apparently gained except, perhaps, a smokescreen to allow US Special Forces to enter the region without fanfare. Admiral William McRaven's Task Force 121 begins an as-yet unfruitful search of the wild, mountainous area for the ever-elusive Osama bin Laden.
- Most nuclear experts fear that the entire episode has brought the world closer to a nuclear tipping point. After his pardon, US intelligence analysts are appalled at the Bush administration's refusal to take any sort of action against Khan or Pakistan. "How could it be that Pakistan's done all these things -- developed a second generation of miniaturized and boosted weapons -- and yet the investigation has been shorted to ground?" asks the former intelligence official. "Khan was willing to sell blueprints, centrifuges, and the latest in weaponry. He was the worst nuclear-arms proliferator in the world and he's pardoned -- with not a squeak from the White House." Pakistan will also refuse to allow Khan to be interviewed either by US agents or IAEA officials eager to debrief him on his actions -- what he sold, and to who. The nuclear black market that Khan helped create will continue on, unabated and uncontrolled. "Iraq is laughable in comparison with this issue," says a diplomat with ties to the IAEA. "The Bush administration was hunting the shadows instead of the prey." As for Musharraf, he believes he is on the side of the US, but, according to veteran Pakistani government official Husain Haani, "he doesn't know how to be on the American side. The same guys in the ISI who have done this in the last twenty years he expects to be his partners. These are people who've done nothing but covert operations. One, screw India. Two, deceive America. Three, expand Pakistan's influence in the Islamic community. And, four, continue to spread nuclear technology. Musharraf is trying to put out the fire with the help of the people who started the fire." Haani adds, "Much of this has been known for decades to the American intelligence community. Sometimes you know things and don't want to do anything about it. Americans need to know that your government is not only downplaying this but covering it up. You go to bed with our ISI. They know how to suck up to you. You let them get away with everything. Why can't you be more honest? There's no harm in telling us the truth -- 'Look, you're an ally but a very disturbing ally.' You have to nip some of these things in the bud."
(AP/Yahoo! News, ABC News, Sunday Telegraph/Chicago Sun-Times, Seymour Hersh)
- February 2: Britons are more likely to be the target of terrorist attacks as a result of the war in Iraq, according to the Foreign Affairs Committee. The FAC says British interests are under threat in the short term because of the conflict. It also claims a failure to find weapons of mass destruction has "damaged the credibility" of the US and UK's war against terrorism. There was a "crisis of confidence" in the security services, one MP says. The committee, tasked with looking into the foreign policy aspects of the war against terrorism, took evidence from a range of experts and politicians, including Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. It argues: "has damaged the credibility of the US and UK in their conduct of the war against terrorism." Labour committee member Andrew Mackinlay says of the report, "There is clearly a crisis in confidence now...about the competence of our security services and the analysis which is given to raw intelligence. ...Behind everybody's minds is whether or not there has been or could be disproportionate status given to some intelligence, particularly single source intelligence." Mackinlay says an independent inquiry "could not be avoided" and insisted many people were concerned "about our failure to find WMD." He adds that it was a "great deficiency in our democratic process" that there was no parliamentary oversight of the security and intelligence services in the UK. (BBC)
More Halliburton overcharging scandals; other corporations' profiteering exposed
- February 2: Halliburton subsidiary KBR is accused of overcharging the US military at least $16 million for feeding US troops stationed in Iraq. The overcharges took place at a single US base, Camp Arifjan, in Kuwait; investigators believe that far more overcharges will be unearthed as time goes on. The company issues a statement saying it is not an issue of overcharging, it's "about finding a good way to estimate the number of meals so soldiers can get fed. It's difficult to determine how many people will be at the dinner table in the middle of a war zone and the number must be based on estimates." The statement continues, "We plan, purchase and prepare meals based on estimates. At times, soldiers are on leave or troops are shifted to other locations." The company claims that overestimates of soldiers' needs led to the problem in charges levied on the military. In July alone, a Saudi subcontractor hired by KBR billed for 42,042 meals a day on average but served only 14,053 meals a day. KBR has privately agreed to repay the money until the company can prove that its billing procedures were appropriate. Days later, KBR agrees to repay an additional $11.4 million in overcharges from four other dining facilities. (CNN, Chicago Tribune)
- February 2: In a fascinating display of illogic, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says that the success of the US occupation of Iraq can be measured by the increasingly violent response it has garnered from Iraqi opposition. "[T]the more successful we are the more we can expect them [Iraqi resistance fighters] to go after those things that represent success," he says during a visit to the Iraqi city of Kirkuk. He was responding to the news that 67 Iraqis died in coordinated car bombings in Arbil, including several senior Kurdish lawmakers. Noting that a Stryker armored vehicle similar to the one he was traveling in was attacked just a few miles from his position, he says without apparent irony, "It's pretty hard to visit a division around here on a day when they are not attacked." (Reuters/FindLaw)
"Something truly worrisome is happening here -- a clear and present danger to democracy, posed by the leadership of the Republican Party."
-- Saul Wilentz, Dissent Magazine
US military plagued with morale, supply problems
- February 2: The first study of the Iraq occupation conducted by the US Army reveals that American forces were plagued by a "morass" of supply shortages, radios that could not reach far-flung troops, disappointing psychological operations and virtually no reliable intelligence on how Saddam Hussein would defend Baghdad. Logistics problems, which senior Army officials played down at the time, were much worse than have previously been reported. Tank engines sat on warehouse shelves in Kuwait with no truck drivers to take them north. Broken-down trucks were scavenged for usable parts. Artillery units cannibalized parts from captured Iraqi guns to keep their howitzers operating. Army medics foraged medical supplies from combat hospitals. In most cases, soldiers improvised solutions to keep the offensive rolling. But the study found that the Third Infantry Division, the Army's lead combat force, was within two weeks of being halted by a lack of spare parts, and Army logisticians had no effective distribution system. "The morass of problems that confounded delivering parts and supplies -— running the gamut of paper clips to tank engines -— stems from the lack of a means to assign responsibility clearly," the study says. It also finds that the Pentagon's decision to send mostly combat units in the weeks before the invasion had the "unintended consequence" of holding back support troops until much later, contributing greatly to the logistics problems.
- The findings are contained in a 504-page internal Army history of the war written by the Army's Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. The unclassified study was ordered last spring by the former Army chief of staff, General Eric Shinseki, who clashed with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over troop strength for postwar Iraq. Its senior author was Gregory Fontenot, a retired Army colonel who commanded a battalion in the Persian Gulf war in 1991 and a brigade in Bosnia. The Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy are all conducting similar reviews of their forces' performance. Army officials said the timing of the study was not intended to influence passage of a proposed military budget the Bush administration submitted to Congress on Monday. But it could fuel a debate on Capitol Hill over whether the military, and the Army in particular, has enough troops to carry out missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and other trouble spots.
- Senior Army officials say lessons from the study -— from revamping how soldiers are deployed to overhauling battlefield supply-distribution networks -— are being incorporated into Army training centers and among the 110,000 troops now replacing 130,000 soldiers in Iraq. The bulk of the study, a book entitled "On Point," is a lucid narrative devoted largely to detailed accounts of several pivotal battles. For the most part, it praises the Army's combat operations and the ability of soldiers and commanders to adapt to rapidly shifting battlefield conditions. The report refers only glancingly to two of the most contentious issues of the war: Iraq's suspected illicit weapons and the Pentagon's preparations for securing and rebuilding the country after major combat ended. The study does note, however, that the strategy of starting the war before all support troops were in place, in order to achieve an element of surprise, taxed the postwar resources of local commanders, who in many cases were shifting back and forth between combat operations and the task of restoring civil services. "Local commanders were torn between their fights and providing resources -— soldiers, time and logistics -— to meet the civilian needs," the report concludes. "Partially due to the scarce resources as a result of the running start, there simply was not enough to do both missions." The report is highly critical of the Army's logistics operations: "[N]o one had anything good to say about parts delivery, from the privates at the front to the generals" at the command headquarters. (New York Times)
- February 2: Senator Bob Graham, former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says the Bush administration has ignored recommendations of the 9/11 investigation and that has contributed to intelligence failures in Iraq. "If 9/11 was a wake-up call, the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was a report card on how far we have come since 9/11 in correcting the problems in our intelligence community,"' Graham, a Democrat, told the rest of the Senate. "The grade we received on that report card is an F," he adds, and says both the administration and Congress have "failed to initiate" needed reforms. (Miami Herald)
- February 2: The leader of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) denounces Bush's new budget and the administration's fiscal policies. "The president ignored veterans in the State of the Union Address and with today's release of his 2005 budget, it is further evident that veterans are no longer a priority with this administration," says Edward Banas, the VFW's commander-in-chief. The organization is protesting the "disgraceful 1.8% increase in veterans' medical care funding," saying that the miniscule increase does not begin to address the problems currently being experienced by military health care organizations. "We look to Congress to reject the president's inadequate proposal and to provide a budget that fully acknowledges the debt our nation owes its veterans," says Banas, who insists that with only a $500 million increase in medical funding, the administration's budget falls $2.6 billion short of what is needed to fully meet the demands for quality veterans' health care. "This funding package is a disgrace and a sham," Banas adds. "This deplorable budget will do nothing to alleviate the many thousands of veterans who are waiting six months or more for basic health care appointments with VA. Instead, the budget seeks to drive veterans from the system by realigning funding, charging enrollment fees for access and more than doubling the prescription drug copayment. This is inexcusable, especially when no member of this administration or Congress would wait this long for their health care. What the administration is proposing for veterans is a shell game. Veterans are being asked to pay for their own health care to make up for shortages in the budget. We are adamantly opposed to charging veterans an enrollment fee and we are opposed to increasing payments that veterans make for prescriptions and for other health care services, especially when millions of this nation's veterans are already locked out of the system. To ask this nation's veterans to subsidize their health care is outrageous. They have already paid for their health care with their sweat and with their blood. This budget indefensibly will not meet the increasing health care needs of our veterans, nor will it lessen the many months they wait for disability benefits. ...It is clear that, just as we fought on the battlefields, we must now bring the fight to the halls of Congress to rectify this disgraceful budget. Having traveled throughout the nation, I know that the American people will not tolerate this shoddy treatment of America's veterans, especially at a time of war." (Veterans of Foreign Wars)
- February 2: Evangelist and right-wing Republican Pat Robertson continues to insist that God has told him George W. Bush will win re-election in a walk. "I've had a pretty remarkable track record" when it comes to anticipating future developments based on God's words, Robertson says to CNN. "He showed me that the Gulf War was going to be a breeze for the first George Bush. He told me that this one was going to be messy and actually a disaster." When asked whether he would have to "reassess" his relationship with God if Bush were to lose the election, Robertson replies, "I don't really think so. I'm fallible like everybody else. ...I've walked with him for many, many years, and I've had extraordinary success, if I can use that term, of hearing his voice and saying things that happen in the years to come." Robertson has claimed to have personally steered two hurricanes away from his Virginia Beach, Virginia, headquarters, Hurricane Gloria in 1985 and Hurricane Felix in 1995, both through power granted him by God. He also claims to have steered $1.2 million in humanitarian aid to Rwanda, though it was later proven that the money was spent on heavy equipment for diamond mining in central Africa, in which Robertson owns heavy financial interests. During the last months of Liberian president and tyrant Charles Taylor's regime, Robertson repeatedly supported Taylor and criticized the Bush administration for helping to unseat Taylor; Robertson never divulged his $8 million investment in Liberian gold mines, nor did he tell his audience about the multiple war crimes and atrocities Taylor is charged with committing. (Virginian Pilot, World History/Wikipedia)