- February 22: Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters, according to a secret Pentagon report suppressed by US defense chiefs. The report warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a "siberian" climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world. The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents. "Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life," concludes the Pentagon analysis. "Once again, warfare would define human life." The findings will prove humiliating to the Bush administration, which has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists. Climate change "should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a US national security concern," say the authors, Peter Schwartz, CIA consultant and former head of planning at Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and Doug Randall of the California-based Global Business Network. An imminent scenario of catastrophic climate change is "plausible and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately," they conclude. As early as next year widespread flooding by a rise in sea levels will create major upheaval for millions.
- Last week the Bush administration came under heavy fire from a large body of respected scientists who claimed that it cherry-picked science to suit its policy agenda and suppressed studies that it did not like. Jeremy Symons, a former whistleblower at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said that suppression of the report for four months was a further example of the White House trying to bury the threat of climate change. Bob Watson, chief scientist for the World Bank and former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says that the Pentagon's dire warnings could no longer be ignored by the administration. "Can Bush ignore the Pentagon?" he says. "It's going be hard to blow off this sort of document. Its hugely embarrassing. After all, Bush's single highest priority is national defense. The Pentagon is no wacko, liberal group, generally speaking it is conservative. If climate change is a threat to national security and the economy, then he has to act. There are two groups the Bush administration tend to listen to, the oil lobby and the Pentagon." "You've got a President who says global warming is a hoax, and across the Potomac river you've got a Pentagon preparing for climate wars. It's pretty scary when Bush starts to ignore his own government on this issue," says Rob Gueterbock of Greenpeace. (Guardian)
- February 22: Mystery shrouds a new offensive by Pakistan to locate terror leader Osama bin Laden in the mountains bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan; claims that US and British forces have bin Laden "boxed in" cannot be confirmed. Citing "two senior American sources," a senior Republican and an intelligence source, the British tabloid the Sunday Mirror says bin Laden was within a 10 mile by 10 mile area being monitored by a US spy satellite. But Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said to his knowledge Bin Laden has not been "boxed in." "I do not have any such information," he says. In Pakistan, local press reports are rife with rumors for weeks about an impending "big strike" for the "big fish." Days later, Pakistan will deny that bin Laden was ever located, or that he was ever surrounded by British and US troops. (Independent, Times of India, Sun Network)
- February 22: Though polls show that a large majority of voters who chose Bush will choose him again in 2004, they also show that record numbers of former Bush voters will not. In 2000, newspaper worker Bill Flanagan happily voted for Bush. But now, shaking his head, he vows, "Never again." He explains, "The combination of lies and boys coming home in body bags is just too awful. ...I could vote for Kerry. I could vote for any Democrat unless he's a real dummy." In dozens of random interviews around the country conducted by the New York Times,, independents and Republicans who said they voted for Bush in 2000 say they intend to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate this year. Some polls are beginning to bolster the idea of those kind of stirrings among Republicans and independents. "The strong Republicans are with him," says a senior aide to John Kerry about Bush, "But there are independent-minded Republicans among whom he is having serious problems. ...With the nation so polarized, the defections of a few can make a big difference."
- In the interviews, many of those potential "crossover" voters said they supported the invasion of Iraq but had come to see the continuing involvement there as too costly and without clear objectives. Many also said they believed that the Bush administration had not been honest about its reasons for invading Iraq and were concerned about the failure to find unconventional weapons. Some of these people described themselves as fiscal conservatives who were alarmed by deficit spending, combined with job losses at home. Many are shocked to find themselves switching sides. One older Cleveland couple reluctantly divulge their secret: though they are stalwarts in the local Republican Party, they are planning to vote Democratic this year. "I feel like a complete traitor, and if you'd asked me four months ago, the answer would have been different," says the judge, after assurances of anonymity. "But we are really disgusted. It's the lies, the war, the economy. We have very good friends who are staunch Republicans, who don't even want to hear the name George Bush anymore." George Meagher, a Republican who founded and now runs the American Military Museum in Charleston, South Carolina, says he threw his "heart and soul" into the Bush campaign four years ago. He organized veterans to attend campaign events, including the campaign's kickoff speech at the Citadel. He even has photographs of himself and his wife with Bush. "Given the outcome and how dissatisfied I am with the administration, it's hard to think about now," he says. "People like me, we're all choking a bit at not supporting the president. But when I think about 500 people killed and what we've done to Iraq. And what we've done to our country. I mean, we're already $2 trillion in debt again." "As the president's job rating has fallen, his Democratic supporters have pulled away first, then the independents and now we're starting to see a bit of erosion among the Republicans, who used to support him pretty unanimously," says Evans Witt, the chief executive of Princeton Survey Research Associates. "If 10 to 15 percent of Republicans do not support him anymore, that is not trivial for Bush's re-election." (New York Times/CommonDreams)
- February 23: Breaking an earlier vow not to send US troops to Haiti, President Bush authorizes the mobilization of 50 Marines to Haiti to protect the American embassy and its diplomats. The move was prompted when rebels fighting against Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide took control of Haiti's second-largest city, Cap-Haitien, and began detaining Aristide supporters. Looting and criminal behavior are out of control in Cap-Haitien and many other Haitian cities. Rebel leader Guy Philippe predicts a quick victory over Aristide's partisans. "I think that in less than 15 days we will control all of Haiti," Philippe says. Opponents accuse Aristide of failing to help those in need in the Western hemisphere's poorest country, allowing corruption and masterminding attacks on opponents by armed gangs. Aristide denies the charges. The rebels say they have no political agenda beyond ousting Aristide, but the man who started the rebellion, Gonaives gang leader Buteur Metayer, recently declared himself the president of liberated Haiti. The US blames Aristide for the crisis and has said it does not want to send troops to restore order. The opposition coalition Democratic Platform insists any plan must include Aristide's resignation. While Aristide has accepted the plan, he refuses to negotiate with the soldiers who had ousted him in 1991. (Newsday)
- February 23: Close relatives of President Bush continue to benefit financially from the Iraq invasion, as revealed by sources including regulatory filings. St. Louis, Mo.-based Engineered Support Systems (EASI), where William H. T. Bush, an uncle of George W. Bush, joined the board of directors in 2000, is a major military contractor. William Bush is a Bush "Pioneer," a contributor raising more than $100,000, in the 2000 and 2004 elections. Following the 2000 election and Sept. 11, 2001, the company's federal contracts, revenues and stock price have increased. EASI received contracts from all branches of the armed forces in 2003. The Defense Department listed EASI in its top 100 contractors in 2001, with $330 million in contracts; and in 2002, with $380 million in contracts Estimates for 2003 are over $380 million. EAST products include "Field Deployable Environmental Control Units" to deal with weapons of mass destruction. On Jan. 17, 2003, the company announced orders from the Air Force and the Marines for these units, complete with Nuclear Biological Chemical Kits, in preparation for secret arsenals of WMDs hidden, the White House insisted, by Saddam Hussein. On March 26 the company announced an Army order for its "Chemical Biological Protected Shelter" systems, bringing Army orders for this product to a total of 204 units. On March 25, the Bush administration requested supplemental funding from Congress "to cover military operations, relief and reconstruction activities in Iraq, and ongoing operations in the global war on terrorism." On May 1, EASI announced the acquisition of its Maryland subsidiary, TAMSCO, coincidentally the day President Bush made his televised flight-suit appearance to announce "mission accomplished" in Iraq.
- The following week, TAMSCO announced that it had begun technology support for US Army logistics operations in the Middle East, stating that this tech support began linking the United States, Kuwait and Germany in February, 2003. The stock advisor service VectorVest, which puts out a daily list of 7,500 American stocks ranked by value, safety and timing, has more than once listed EASI stock in first place. Directors of the company including William Bush, who is on the audit committee, received monthly consulting fees and options to buy stock at $28.42 per share. Company stock, which tripled in two weeks after 9/11, now trades at $49. In January 2003, William Bush owned 33,750 shares. In January 2004, he owned 56,251 shares. Directors also own blocks of stock as a group. This company track record is only part of a larger pattern, in which close associates of the sitting president share in financial benefits generated by the foreign policy of our highest office. Former president George H. W. Bush resigned in fall 2003 from the finance giant Carlyle Group, heavily associated with military and security contracts, which received $677 million in contracts in 2002 and $2.1 billion in contracts in 2003. Carlyle recently sold $335 million in stock from its chief military subsidiary. Neil Bush, a younger brother of George W. Bush, has a $60,000-per-year contract with a principal in Washington-based New Bridge Strategies, a private firm set up to generate contracts in Iraq. A controversial $327 million contract, awarded in January by the US Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, benefits Winston Partners, the private investment firm of Marvin Bush, another brother. The contract, to equip the Iraqi armed forces and Civil Defense Corps, went to Nour USA, a Virginia company formed last May, which also benefited from an $80 million CPA contract awarded in July. Nour USA has come under scrutiny through its ties to Ahmed Chalabi, a member of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. It also has ties to Bush family interests. Nour USA is invested or affiliated with several companies in Winston Partners' portfolio, including Hobart West, an employment agency; LogoTel, a clothing company; and Axolotl, a computer-services company. Controversy may obscure President Bush's reasons for embarking on the war in Iraq, but the record is clear that it profits his family. (Prince George's County Journal/CommonDreams)
Criminal fraud investigation of Halliburton
- February 23: The Pentagon says it has opened a criminal investigation of fraud allegations against a unit of Vice President Dick Cheney's old company Halliburton, involving potential overpricing of fuel delivered to Iraq. The investigation focuses on Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root. "The Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the criminal investigative arm of the Inspector General's office, is investigating allegations on the part of KBR of fraud, including the potential overpricing of fuel delivered to Baghdad by a KBR subcontractor," says a Pentagon spokeswoman. Halliburton, an oil services company based in Houston, is the biggest contractor for the US military in Iraq. It has more than $8 billion in deals covering everything from doing laundry, building bases and providing meals to helping rebuild the oil industry. The contracts have drawn intense scrutiny from Democrats because of the firm's ties with Cheney, who ran the company from 1995 to 2000. Potential overpricing of fuel was first raised in a draft audit by the military last year that found evidence the company might have overcharged for fuel brought into Iraq from Kuwait by at least $61 million. The company has said it charged the best price possible to deliver the fuel under very dangerous circumstances and has strongly denied any wrongdoing. (Reuters)
- February 23: In a column about US soldiers crippled and maimed from wounds suffered in Iraq, Howard Zinn writes, "Of course, they and their families are not the only ones betrayed. The Iraqi people, promised freedom from tyranny, saw their country, already devastated by two wars and twelve years of sanctions, attacked by the most powerful military machine in history. The Pentagon proudly announced a campaign of 'shock and awe,' which left 10,000 or more Iraqi men, women, and children, dead, and many thousands more maimed. The list of betrayals is long. This government has betrayed the hopes of the world for peace. After fifty million died in the Second World War, the United Nations was set up, as its charter promised, 'to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.' The people of the United States have been betrayed, because with the Cold War over and 'the threat of communism' no longer able to justify the stealing of trillions of the public's tax dollars for the military budget, that theft of the national wealth continues. It continues at the expense of the sick, the children, the elderly, the homeless, the unemployed, wiping out the expectations after the fall of the Soviet Union that there would be a 'peace dividend' to bring prosperity to all. And yes, we come back to the ultimate betrayal, the betrayal of the young, sent to war with grandiose promises and lying words about freedom and democracy, about duty and patriotism.
- "...As the government pours hundreds of billions into war, it has no money to take care of the Vietnam veterans who are homeless, who linger in VA hospitals, who suffer from mental disorders, and who commit suicide in shocking numbers. It is a bitter legacy. The United States government was proud that, although perhaps 100,000 Iraqis had died in the Gulf War of 1991, there were only 148 American battle casualties. What it has concealed from the public is that 206,000 veterans of that war filed claims with the Veterans Administration for injuries and illnesses. In the dozen or so years since that war, 8,300 veterans have died, and 160,000 claims for disability have been recognized by the VA. The betrayal of GIs and veterans continues in the so-called war on terrorism. The promises that the US military would be greeted with flowers as liberators have disintegrated as soldiers die every day in a deadly guerrilla warfare that tells the GIs they are not wanted in Iraq. An article last July in The Christian Science Monitor quotes an officer in the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq as saying: 'Make no mistake, the level of morale for most soldiers that I've seen has hit rock bottom.' And those who come back alive, but blind or without arms or legs, find that the Bush Administration is cutting funds for veterans. Bush's State of the Union address, while going through the usual motions of thanking those serving in Iraq, continued his policy of ignoring the fact that thousands have come back wounded, in a war that is becoming increasingly unpopular. The quick Thanksgiving visit of Bush to Iraq, much ballyhooed in the press, was seen differently by an army nurse in Landstuhl, Germany, where casualties from the war are treated. She sent out an e-mail: 'My "Bush Thanksgiving" was a little different. I spent it at the hospital taking care of a young West Point lieutenant wounded in Iraq.... When he pressed his fists into his eyes and rocked his head back and forth he looked like a little boy. They all do, all nineteen on the ward that day, some missing limbs, eyes, or worse.... It's too bad Bush didn't add us to his holiday agenda. The men said the same, but you'll never read that in the paper.' (Progressive)
- February 24: CIA director George Tenet says that "dozens" of new, radical Islamic terror groups have sprung up in the last few years, emulating themselves on Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda, and in many cases allying themselves with the umbrella group, ensuring that the US will face terrorist threats for many years to come. "We must overcome a movement, a global movement infected by al-Qaida's radical agenda" of attacking the United States with weapons capable of causing mass casualties, he tells the Senate Intelligence Committee. Admiral Lowell Jacoby, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, agrees with Tenet, saying that support in the Muslim world for the US-led war on terrorism and for the United States itself has plunged even in countries considered friendly, fueling radical Islam and opposition to pro-US regimes. The appraisals cast serious doubt on the progress that the Bush administration is claiming in the US-led fight against terrorism and initiatives to promote democracy in the Middle East. (Knight Ridder/Billings Gazette)
- February 24: The Bush administration is resorting to blatant statistical manipulation to hide the truth about the sagging US economy. Days after Bush reneged on his pledge to create 2.6 million jobs and said with a straight face that "5.6% unemployment is a good national number," the media found a White House report showing that Bush is considering re-classifying low-paid fast food jobs as "manufacturing jobs" as a way to hide the massive manufacturing job losses that have occurred during his term. CBS reports: "since the month President Bush was inaugurated, the economy has lost about 2.7 million manufacturing jobs." But if Bush enacts the statistical change he is considering, this number would be purposely obscured because lower-paying fast food jobs would be added to make the real manufacturing losses look smaller. Of course, fast food jobs typically pay much less and have fewer benefits than real manufacturing jobs, meaning the statistical change would also obscure the fact that, under Bush, "in 48 of the 50 states, jobs in higher-paying industries have given way to jobs in lower-paying industries." His efforts to manipulate statistics and mislead Americans are also getting a boost from his allies on Capitol Hill. Earlier this month, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Don Nickles pointed to an optimistic "household" jobs survey as proof that "we're at an all-time high in employment" and that "the employment situation has improved rather substantially." The problem is that Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said definitively that "payroll data" -- not the household survey -- "is the series which you have to follow" in order to be accurate. The payroll data shows "a loss of more than two million jobs since 2001." (Slate/ABC News/New York Times/CBS/Daily Misleader)
- February 24: African oil and African terror links are sparking a new interest in that continent among US military planners. Generals from Europe and the US have visited several African countries in recent weeks. The generals, including Marine General James Jones, are leaders in US military proposals to shift from Cold War-era troop buildups in western Europe to smaller concentrations closer to the world's trouble spots. Jones' trip included stops in Morocco and Cameroon and talks with leaders of the sub-Sahara's military giants, Nigeria and South Africa. An increased focus on Africa comes amid a push by some in the United States, conservative think tanks in particular, to do more to secure alternatives to oil from the volatile Middle East. West Africa supplies the United States with 15 percent of its oil. The US National Intelligence Council has projected the figure will grow to 25 percent by 2015. (AP/Miami Herald)
- February 24: Opposition leaders in Haiti reject a US peace plan that calls for president Jean-Bertrand Aristide to stay in office, but with diminished powers and fundamental sharing of governmental powers among different factions. As a result, violence continues to run rampant throughout the beleagured country. Meanwhile, the US blocks implementation of Aristide's call for an international peacekeeping force to enter Haiti and stop the violence. Aristide has already asked France for military assistance. (AP/San Jose Mercury News)
Bush education secretary calls NEA a terrorist organization
- February 24: Education Secretary Rod Paige calls the National Education Association, the largest organization for US teachers and administrators, a "terrorist organization" during a private meeting with the National Governors' Association. Paige's office later tries to pass the characterization off as an example of Paige's sense of humor. Most observers aren't buying the excuse. Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, a Democrat, says the comments were made in the context of "we can't be supportive of the status quo and they're the status quo. But whatever the context, it is inappropriate -- I know he wasn't calling teachers terrorists -- but to ever suggest that the organization they belong to was a terrorist organization is uncalled for." "I know President Bush wants to run as a wartime president, but this is ridiculous. Our public school teachers protect millions of children from the terrors a lack of education brings. They are not terrorists," says Robert Borosage of the Institute for America's Future. Paige later apologizes, somewhat, for the remarks: "It was an inappropriate choice of words to describe the obstructionist scare tactics the NEA's Washington lobbyists have employed against No Child Left Behind's historic education reforms. As one who grew up on the receiving end of insensitive remarks, I should have chosen my words better," Paige writes.
- The NEA asks Bush to fire Paige for his remarks; union president Reg Weaver says that the NEA members deserve more than "unfair labels and mean-spirited apologies. ...We have heard from thousands of educators who came home from their schools on Monday to hear themselves and their professional organization referred to as 'terrorists' by the top federal education official. Our members say that once again this national leader has insulted them, this time beyond repair, with words filled with hatred -- and merely because they raised legitimate concerns about the president's so-called 'No Child Left Behind' law." Weaver sent a statement to Bush asking him "to express his regret to the nation's educators and demand that Secretary Paige step down." The White House has no comment except for press secretary Scott McClellan's observation that Paige has already apologized. "I can tell you what my first response was: Scary. That's really frightening," says California teacher Diana Garchow. "It's scary that you can't voice an opinion in this country without being called a terrorist. ...I don't care if it was a joke or what it was, that was a totally inappropriate comment." Michigan Education Association president Lu Battaglieri says, "secretary Paige is acting like a schoolyard bully, resorting to name calling and insults. He needs to be removed. ...Thousands of MEA members have served this country honorably -- and dozens are currently serving in Iraq today -- defending the basic American freedom to debate and to disagree."
- "secretary Paige and the Bush administration have resorted to the most vile and disgusting form of hate speech, comparing those who teach America's children to terrorists," says Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. A spokeswoman for presidential contender John Kerry called Paige's remarks "inappropriate, particularly at a time when our nation has experienced the devastation caused by terrorism." Kerry's chief competitor, John Edwards, called Paige's words "grossly offensive." The nation's other major teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers, says it was "unconscionable and irresponsible for any public figure, let alone a US Cabinet member, to undertake this kind of name-calling." (American Family Voices, AP/My Way News, AP/Guardian)
- February 24: Liberal cartoonist Garry Trudeau, the author of Doonesbury, has offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who "personally witnessed" Bush reporting for National Guard drills at Dannelly Air National Guard base in Alabama between May and November 1972. Bush has repeatedly insisted that he served some of his Guard duty at that base, but aside from a single dental record, no record of his service has come forth. No one has yet claimed the money, which will be donated in the claimant's name to the USO. "You can be sure some very motivated people have tried to find a witness who can establish Bush's presence at Dannelly Base beyond a reasonable doubt," says Trudeau. "Anyone who could do so would almost certainly have surfaced by now." (Dallas Morning News/Miami Herald, CNN)
- February 25: House Republicans block a resolution, voting 24-22 along party lines, that calls for a congressional probe of the circumstances surrounding the public outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, whose husband had debunked a Bush administration claim that Iraq obtained uranium from Africa. In thwarting the Democrats' proposal to embark on the investigation, International Relations Chairman Henry Hyde insists that an ongoing grand jury inquiry could be compromised by a parallel congressional probe. "It would be irresponsible for this committee to allow [the resolution] to jeopardize an ongoing criminal investigation by the Department of Justice," Hyde says. "That is a matter best left to the grand jury." Democrat Howard Berman, who led the fight for the resolution, argues vainly that the existence of criminal proceedings had rarely deterred House Republicans when former President Clinton was in office. He cites several instances when the House Government Reform and Judiciary committees initiated probes of Clinton policies and activities even while special prosecutors were looking at the same cases. Several Democrats also contend that Congress has an obligation to investigate what they called a serious threat to the safety of intelligence operatives and the security of the country when agents' identities are revealed. "A congressional investigation would not impair the grand jury," Berman says. "This branch of government is not a potted plant that should sit back and wait for years and years to get the information it needs to safeguard our security." Two other committees in the House, Intelligence and Judiciary, have likewise voted to sidetrack the resolution sponsored by Democratic representative Rush Holt. The Judiciary Committee voted 17-8 to report the measure adversely, as did the Intelligence Committee by a 10-3 margin when it met Jan. 28. The House Armed Services Committee plans to take up the measure on Wednesday, with the panel's Republican majority assuring the same outcome. (Government Executive Magazine)
- February 25: Ira Kurzban, the General Counsel for the government of Haiti, claims that the US is arming paramilitary rebels in Haiti in its attempt to overthrow the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. "I believe that this is a group that is armed by, trained by, and employed by the intelligence services of the United States," says Kurzban. "This is clearly a military operation, and it's a military coup. ...There's enough indications from our point of view, at least from my point of view, that the United States certainly knew what was coming about two weeks before this military operation started," Kurzban says. "The United States made contingency plans for Guantanamo."
- If a direct US connection is proven, it will mark the second time in just over a decade that Washington has been involved in a coup in Haiti. Several of the paramilitary leaders now rampaging through Haiti are men who were at the forefront of the US-backed campaign of terror during the 1991-94 coup against Aristide. Among the paramilitary figures now leading the current insurrection is Louis Jodel Chamblain, the former number 2 man in the FRAPH paramilitary death squad. Chamblain was convicted and sentenced in absentia to hard-labor for life in trials for the April 23, 1994 massacre in the pro-democracy region of Raboteau and the September 11, 1993 assassination of democracy-activist Antoine Izmery. Chamblain recently arrived in Gonaives with about 25 other commandos based in the Dominican Republic, where Chamblain has been living since 1994. They were well equipped with rifles, camouflage uniforms, and all-terrain vehicles. Among the victims of FRAPH under Chamblain's leadership was Haitian Justice Minister Guy Malary. He was ambushed and machine-gunned to death with his bodyguard and a driver on Oct. 14, 1993. According to an October 28, 1993 CIA Intelligence Memorandum obtained by the Center for Constitutional Rights "FRAPH members Jodel Chamblain, Emmanuel Constant, and Gabriel Douzable met with an unidentified military officer on the morning of 14 October to discuss plans to kill Malary." Emmanuel "Toto" Constant, was the founder of FRAPH. An October 1994 article by journalist Allan Nairn in The Nation magazine quoted Constant as saying that he was contacted by a US Military officer named Colonel Patrick Collins, who served as defense attache at the United States Embassy in Port-au-Prince. Constant says Collins pressed him to set up a group to "balance the Aristide movement" and do "intelligence" work against it. Constant admitted that, at the time, he was working with CIA operatives in Haiti. Constant is now residing freely in the US. He is reportedly living in Queens, NY. At the time, neoconservative and Bush advisor James Woolsey was head of the CIA.
- Another figure to recently reemerge is Guy Philippe, a former Haitian police chief who fled Haiti in October 2000 after authorities discovered him plotting a coup with a group of other police chiefs. All of the men were trained in Ecuador by US Special Forces during the 1991-1994 coup. Since that time, the Haitian government has accused Philippe of masterminding deadly attacks on the Police Academy and the National Palace in July and December 2001, as well as hit-and-run raids against police stations on Haiti's Central Plateau over the following two years. Kurzban also points to the presence of another FRAPH veteran, Jean Tatoune. Along with Chamblain, Tatoune was convicted of gross violations of human rights and murder in the Raboteau massacre. "These people came through the Dominican border after the United States had provided 20,000 M-16's to the Dominican army," says Kurzban. "I believe that the United States clearly knew about it before, and that given the fact of the history of these people, [Washington is] probably very, very deeply involved, and I think Congress needs to seriously look at what the involvement of the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency has been in this operation. Because it is a military operation. It's not a rag-tag group of liberators, as has often been put in the press in the last week or two." Kurzban says he has hired military analysts to review photos of the weapons being used by the paramilitary groups. He says that contrary to reports in the media that the armed groups are using weapons originally distributed by Aristide, the gangs are using highly sophisticated and powerful weapons; weapons that far out-gun Aristide's 3,000 member National Police force. "I don't think that there's any question about the fact that the weapons that they have did not come from Haiti," says Kurzban. "They're organized as a military commando strike force that's going from city to city." Kurzban says that among the weapons being used by the paramilitaries are: M-16's, M-60's, armor piercing weapons and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. "They have weapons to shoot down the one helicopter that the government has," he says. "They have acted as a pretty tight-knit commando unit."
- Chamblain and other paramilitary leaders have said they will march on the capital, Port-au-Prince within two weeks. The US has put forth a proposal, being referred to as a peace plan, that many viewed as favorable to Aristide's opponents. Aristide accepted the plan, but the opposition rejected it. Washington's point man on the crisis is Roger Noriega, Undersecretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs. "I think Noriega has been an Aristide hater for over a decade," says Kurzban, adding that he believes Noriega allowed the opposition to delay their response to the plan to allow the paramilitaries to capture more territory. "My reaction was they're just giving them more time so they can take over more, that the military wing of the opposition can take over more ground in Haiti and create a fate accompli," Kurzban said. "Indeed, as soon as they said, 'we need an extra day,' I predicted, unfortunately, and correctly, that they would go into Cap Haitian (Haiti's 2nd largest city) and indeed the next morning they did." The leader of the "opposition" is an American citizen named Andy Apaid. He was born in New York. Haitian law does not allow dual-nationality and he has not renounced his US citizenship. In a recent statement, Congressmember Maxine Waters blasted Apaid and his opposition front, saying she believes "Apaid is attempting to instigate a bloodbath in Haiti and then blame the government for the resulting disaster in the belief that the United States will aid the so-called protestors against President Aristide and his government." "We have the leader of the opposition, who Mr. Noriega is negotiating with, who Secretary Powell calls and who tells Secretary Powell, you know, 'we need a couple more days' and Secretary Powell says 'that's fine,'" says Kurzban. "I mean, there's some kind of theater of the absurd going on with this opposition where it's led by an American citizen, where they're just clearly stalling for time until they can get more ground covered in Haiti through their military wing, and the United States and Noriega, with a wink and nod, is kind of letting them do that." Kurzban says that because Aristide's opponents rejected Washington's plan, "the next step clearly is to send in some kind of UN peacekeeping force immediately. The question is, will the international community stand by and allow a democracy in this hemisphere to be terminated by a brutal military coup of persons who have a very, very sordid history of gross violations of human rights?" (Democracy Now)
- February 25: Radio giant Clear Channel fires two of its most popular radio personalities, including Howard Stern, for "indecency," after profiting from their "shock jock" programming for years. (The other personality, Tampa's Todd Clem, aka "Bubba the Love Sponge," had previously been fined $755,000 by the FCC for indecency violations.) Stern continues to broadcast on stations owned by his main outlet, Viacom. Speculation is rampant that Stern was fired by Clear Channel for recent statements he made denigrating President Bush, and not for the content of his show, which has remained relatively unchanged for years. Salon says of the radio giant, "Clear Channel, dubbed by some radio insiders as the Evil Empire and once known for its raunchy, frat-boy style of no-holds-barred radio -- both on the air and off -- suddenly has recast itself as the maverick industry reformer. That's the same Clear Channel where a market manager once offered this simple advice to Web designers working on station sites: 'Tits equals hits.' And the same company at which a former DJ once told Salon: 'When I think of Clear Channel, I think vicious, malicious and salacious.'" "Clear Channel is a company with a history of being Machiavellian," notes Sean Ross, vice president of music and programming at Edison Media Research and former radio editor at Billboard magazine. But Stern's political change is of interest, since it was just recently that Stern started trashing President Bush, who he has strongly supported in the past. Music writer Michael Fremer says: "On Tuesday [the day before he was fired], Stern took a strong stance against Bush, the Republican party and the strong stench of fascism and intolerance in the air when it comes to free speech and gay rights, among other things. John Hogan, president and CEO of Clear Channel is a strong Bush supporter. When the war in Iraq began, Clear Channel organized rallys supporting the action and actually banned John Lennon's 'Imagine' and anything by The B-52s. Hard to believe, but true. Stern has great sway over millions of listeners. His political stand is what got him thrown off Clear Channel's network of stations, not his supposed 'indecent' remarks towards women and blacks. This is a sickening development." Clear Channel has hired the conservative talk show host Michael Savage, who was fired from MSNBC last year after he referred to a caller to his weekend cable TV show as a "sodomite" and that he should "get AIDS and die." (Salon, Salon)
- February 25: The American Trial Lawyers Association demands an apology from American International Group (AIG) CEO Maurice "Hank" Greenberg for calling them "terrorist trial lawyers" in a speech yesterday. According to a Reuters news story, "Greenberg likened the battle over reforming class-action litigation to the White House's 'war on terror'.... 'It's almost like fighting the war on terrorists,' Greenberg told Boston College's Chief Executives' Club. 'I call the plaintiff's bar terrorists.'" Greenberg is the highest paid executive in the entire insurance industry, and the tenth highest paid executive across all industries. In their letter to Greenberg, ATLA President David Casey and Trial Lawyers Care President Richard Bieder state, "You owe an apology to the American people, as well as to trial lawyers, for trivializing the assaults on our society September 11, 2001. It was an attack on our way of life, including on our constitutionally guaranteed legal system and right to trial by jury, which are the envy of every other country in the world.... While you and your corporate allies have been spending and lobbying relentlessly to undermine the fairest legal system in the world and take away the legal rights of American families in the name of so-called 'tort reform'.... Trial lawyers have put their time, their talents, and their experience on the line to help the victims of the real terrorists -- all for free." The letter concludes, "Our work with these wonderful families has been a profoundly humbling and gratifying experience for all of us -- the best way that we, as lawyers, could help our nation heal the wounds from that terrible day and help the victims of the terrorists who attacked America on September 11th. And now you label us 'terrorists.' For shame, Mr. Greenberg." The letter references ATLA's program to set up what it calls the largest pro-bono legal project in American history, Trial Lawyers Care, set up to assist the families of 9-11 victims. Under its auspices, over 1,100 lawyers have helped over 1,700 individuals and surviving families file their claims with the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund, at absolutely no charge. (ATLA)
- February 26: A consortium of international oil companies led by Italy's ENI signs a $29 billion deal to develop the rich Kashagan oil field in Kazakhstan. The oil field, the largest oil discovery since Alaska's Prudhoe Bay thirty years ago, is expected to supplant much of the oil now sold to US and European consumers now provided by Middle Eastern sources. Extraction will begin in 2008. The companies in the consortium are ENI, Royal Dutch/Shell, Exxon Mobil, Total of France, ConocoPhillips and Inpex of Japan. "This is the flagship project in the north Caspian," says Katherine Hardin, an associate director of Cambridge Energy Research Associates. (CorpWatch, New York Times/Frances Fox Piven)
- February 26: The GOP plans an unprecedented presentation of political theater for the nominating convention, to be held in New York City in the first week of September. Bush is reportedly considering making his nomination speech from "Ground Zero," the site of the World Trade Center buildings destroyed on 9/11. Other ideas include having numerous off-site events to be televised in Madison Square Gardens on giant televisions, including military bands playing on the flight decks of aircraft carriers. The idea of hosting delegates on a giant, private luxury cruise ship has apparently been scuttled due to negative publicity. (The Hill)
- February 27: Haitian activists accuse the Bush administration of secretly supporting Haitian rebels attempting to topple the presidency of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. "The Bush administration is again engaged in regime change by armed aggression," former US attorney general Ramsey Clark says. "This time, the armed aggression is against the administration of the democratically elected president of Haiti." Activists describe what they believe to be a well-crafted plan by the Bush administration to overthrow Aristide. Former Haitian military members, drug dealers and militants were armed and trained in the Dominican Republic thanks to military support from the United States. They have now crossed the border into Haiti, activists said. "Policy is being engineered, just like when the U.S. wanted to overthrow the Sandinista government," says Ben Dupuy, secretary-general of the National Popular Party of Haiti. "The US talks about democracy, but it's their democracy, not the people's democracy. ...Any government that has the support of the majority of its people will have a problem with the United States." (UPI)
- February 27: Secret Bush administration documents have come to light proving that the Bush plan to shore up Social Security is actually an exercise in "creative accounting" that would ram billions onto the national debt and eventually wind up in the privatization of Social Security, which would cost millions of Americans their Social Security payments upon retirement. The Bush administration favored the "Lindsay plan," a scheme concocted by former economic advisor Larry Lindsay. Essentially, it proposed that the government would issue substantial new debt to sustain old-style benefits. Ron Suskind writes, "This debt would be serviced and paid down by confiscating revenues from the higher returns from those opting for new-style personal accounts. Inside of the Treasury Department and the Council of Economic Advisers, however, officials were befuddled by it. Lindsey seemed to have never called upon analysts inside the Social Security Administration to run the traps on his idea. Treasury and CEA did —- and the numbers didn't even come close to working out. But that didn't stop Lindsey, or the president, from believing in and promoting the 'free-lunch' plan." (Slate)
- February 27: Democratic senator Patrick Leahy decries the Bush administration's opposition to an international landmine treaty proposed by Leahy and supported by every previous administration. Leahy says, "The White House has abandoned any pretext of joining other civilized nations to eliminate these outmoded, indiscriminate weapons." Only the US and Cuba, among Western Hemisphere nations, opposes the treaty. Leahy continues, "The real issue, which the Pentagon and the White House are either incapable of grasping or prefer to ignore, is that as long as the United States, with by far the most powerful armed forces on Earth, continues to insist on its right to use these indiscriminate weapons, other nations with armies far weaker than ours will insist on their right to use them also. And the victims will be innocent civilians, and U.S. soldiers who even today are losing their lives and limbs from mines in Iraq. Mr. President, over two years ago, the Bush Administration announced that it would review U.S. landmine policy. I welcomed that review. I told the President, the Secretary of State, and top officials in the Pentagon, that I wanted to find an approach that could win broad support, including with the Pentagon. I also recognized that as much as I wanted the United States to join the treaty banning anti-personnel mines, this Administration was not likely to do so. But I felt that, working together, we could move toward that goal by strengthening our own policy. Today, over two years later, and after refusing to consult with me or other Members of Congress until the policy was already finalized, the White House announced its plans. Unfortunately, it turns out that we and the rest of the world would have been far better off if the Administration had never conducted its review in the first place, because with the exception of a few positive aspects, its revised policy is a deeply disappointing step backward. What we see is another squandered opportunity for U.S. leadership on a crucial arms control and humanitarian issue. Worst of all, in a reversal from past policy, it says the United States will continue using landmines indefinitely. What message does this send to the rest of the world? We are by far the most powerful nation on earth, and the world looks to us for leadership. By backing away from the progress we have pledged to rid the world of these indiscriminate weapons, others will ask why they, with their much weaker armed forces, should stop using them. Once again, the Bush Administration had the opportunity to join the civilized world in solving a global crisis, and once again they have chosen unilateralism and arrogance over leadership and cooperation." (Patrick Leahy)
- February 27: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was the guest of a Kansas law school two years ago and went pheasant hunting on a trip arranged by the school's dean, all within weeks of hearing two cases in which the dean was a lead attorney. The cases involved issues of public policy important to Kansas officials. Accompanying Scalia on the November 2001 hunting trip were the Kansas governor and the recently retired state Senate president, who flew with Scalia to the hunting camp aboard a state plane. Two weeks before the trip, University of Kansas School of Law Dean Stephen McAllister, along with the state's attorney general, had appeared before the Supreme Court to defend a Kansas law to confine sex offenders after they complete their prison terms. Two weeks after the trip, the dean was before the high court to lead the state's defense of a Kansas prison program for treating sex criminals. Scalia was hosted by McAllister, who also served as Kansas state solicitor, when he visited the law school to speak to students. At Scalia's request, McAllister arranged for the justice to go pheasant hunting after the law school event. And the dean enlisted then-Gov. Bill Graves and former state Senate President Dick Bond, both Republicans, to go as well. Both Scalia and McAllister deny that they discussed the upcoming case while on their hunting trip. Scalia later sided with Kansas in both cases.
- In a written statement, Scalia said: "I do not think that spending time at a law school in which the counsel in pending cases was the dean could reasonably cause my impartiality to be questioned. Nor could spending time with the governor of a state that had matters before the court." The incident echoes a recent hunting trip Scalia and Vice President Cheney took, just weeks before the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments as to why Cheney's secret energy task force should be made to disclose its actions. Federal law says that "any justice or judge shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might be questioned." By tradition and court policy, justices are free to determine for themselves what constitutes a conflict. "When a case is on the docket before a judge, the coziness of meeting privately with a lawyer is questionable," says Chicago lawyer Robert Cummins, who headed an Illinois board on judicial ethics. "It would seem the better part of judgment to avoid those situations." Adds Monroe Freedman, who teaches legal ethics at Hofstra University: "A reasonable person might question this, and that's the problem." He says Scalia "should have rescheduled the trip until after" the cases were over. (Los Angeles Times/CommonDreams)
- February 27: Lifelong Republican John Farina, who is gay, writes a hard-hitting column for The Advocate explaining why the Bush administration's proposed Defense of Marriage Act, which would deny gays and lesbians the right to marry, is forcing him to leave the Republican Party. "[K]nowing my president wants to officially sanction discrimination against me, I cannot in good conscience remain a Republican," he writes. "I now have the president, the leader of the party and the free world, telling me we must sanction this type of discrimination in the Constitution of the United States of America. Quite frankly, I'm sick over it. It is an insult to me as a lifelong Republican and it does nothing to strengthen marriage. It is an obviously political move that will do nothing but divide the nation even further. So much for Mr. Bush being a uniter. I can think of no other time in our country's history when the president has sought to so directly limit the rights of a group of Americans. This is not a true conservative value; it is that of the radical right. I realize that many Americans may not support or even understand same-sex marriage, and that's fine with me. But amending the Constitution for this purpose is morally wrong. I think most Americans will find this disturbing as well, and it will ultimately cost Bush votes. I know I'll do my part to work against the president and any elected official who ultimately supports this attack on civil rights. The party has been overtaken, both nationally and in Ohio, by hard-right social conservatives that seem hell-bent on moving the country in reverse on civil rights, seemingly at the expense of more important issues such as fiscal responsibility. At one time in history, the Republican Party was a leader in civil rights —- that Republican Party no longer exists. I always felt it was important to remain active and fight such blatant attempts at discrimination, but that effort is obviously futile. ...[O]ne elected Republican official told me the GOP has left me. ...On Tuesday, March 2, I will pick up a Democratic ballot in the Ohio primary (and vote for John Edwards) and begin a new chapter of political activism in my life." (The Advocate)
Evidence shows that US and Britain bugged weapons inspectors Blix and Butler as well as UN Security Council and UN Secretary-General
- February 28: UN weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Richard Butler were subjected to covert surveillance while they led teams searching for Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction. The US and Britain, who surreptitiously bugged the two inspectors, routinely shared the information they received with each other. "It feels like an intrusion into your integrity in a situation when you are actually on the same side," says Blix, who says he suspected such surveillance. The charges come on the heels of claims by former Blair cabinet minister Clare Short that the British government mounted illegal surveillance on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Blair's government made an apology to Annan, but refused to admit planting the bugs. Charles Kennedy, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, demands that Blair make a statement to MPs on the affair. He will table a Commons motion next week demanding to know if there was an "eavesdropping operation," and if so, how extensive it was. Kennedy says, "We need to know whether British intelligence took part in spying on the United Nations secretary general. This is a serious allegation, made by a member of Mr Blair's Cabinet, which cannot go unanswered. The United Kingdom was one of the founding members of the UN...the suggestion that our security services were involved in some kind of illegal operation damages our national standing." Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Annan's predecessor as secretary general, said: "This is a violation of the United Nations charter. It complicates the work of the secretary general, of the diplomats, because they need a minimum of secrecy to reach a solution."
- Butler, who led the UN disarmament team in Iraq in the 1990s, Unscom, said he was "well aware" that he was being bugged. But he said spying on the UN was illegal and harmed the peace-making process. "What if Kofi Annan had been bringing people together last February in a genuine attempt to prevent the invasion of Iraq, and the people bugging him did not want that to happen, what do you think they would do with that information?" he asks. The alleged bugging of Blix, in charge of the last UN mission before the war, seen as the last chance to avoid war, is being viewed in diplomatic circles as part of a concerted effort to sabotage attempts at a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis. Blix, who retired in June, is highly critical of George Bush and Tony Blair for the claims they made about Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction. Both had aborted the search for weapons to pave the way for an invasion, Blix notes. He says that while he had expected to be bugged by the Iraqis, the possibility that he was spied on by someone "on the same side" was "disgusting." Blix said his suspicions were aroused by repeated trouble with his telephone at his New York home. His fears worsened when a member of the US administration showed him photographs that could only have come from the UN weapons office. He met John Wolf, the US assistant secretary of state for non-proliferation, two weeks before war started and was shown two pictures of Iraqi weapons. "He should not have had them. I asked him how he got them and he would not tell me and I said I resented that," he recalls.
- Recently a senior UN source confirmed that the Iraq mission, Unmovic, were convinced they were victims of spying operations. Reports say Blix's mobile telephone was monitored every time he went to Iraq, and the transcripts shared between the US, Britain and their allies, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Blix's predecessor, Butler, now the governor of Tasmania, said he was shown transcripts of bugged conversations. "Those who did it would come to me and show me the recordings that they made on others. 'To try to help me to do my job in disarming Iraq', they would say. 'We're just here to help you'," Butler said. But the former UN chief inspector maintained that it was not only Britain which was spying. He says, "I was utterly confident that in my attempts to have private conversations, trying to solve the problem of disarmament of Iraq, I was being listened to by the Americans, British, the French and the Russians. They also had people on my staff reporting what I was trying to do privately. Do you think that was paranoia? Absolutely not. There was abundant evidence that we were being constantly monitored." He continues, "We were brought to a situation where it was plain silly to think we could have any serious conversation in our office. No one was being paranoid, everyone had a black sense of humor about it. I would take a walk with the person in the park and speak in a low voice and keep moving so we could avoid directional microphones and maybe just have a private conversation." (Independent/Al-Jazeerah, CNN)
British bugged French prime minister Chirac
- February 28: Charges are leveled at the Blair administration that it routinely bugged French premier Jacques Chirac's private conversations during the time that the US and Britain were pressuring France to endorse the invasion of Iraq. Labour MPs will press Blair about a claim in a new biography which says he received "snippets of the French President's private conversations" when France and Britain were in dispute over the prospect of military action. Blair accused President Chirac of scuppering a second United Nations resolution authorizing a war. Philip Stephens, a political columnist at the Financial Times, says in his book: "Blair came to believe, partly on the basis of reports from British intelligence, that the dispute over Iraq was, in fact, a proxy for a much more serious contest. Chirac, these reports said, had decided that Blair had usurped his own position as the natural leader of Europe. It was time for the French President to reassert himself and clip the wings of perfidious Albion. In other words, this feud was personal as well as political." Labour MP John McDonnell says: "It would cause me and large numbers of Labour MPs immense anxiety if the Government has authorized this kind of spying operation against the French President. ...We need clarity from the Prime Minister. We need to know the extent of these operations, so we can ask on what grounds they were conducted and whether they were appropriate. It does demonstrate the level of obsession, or almost panic, to ensure the UN adopted a second resolution to justify the case for war." McDonnell and fellow members of the left-wing Campaign Group of Labour MPs will table written Commons questions to the Prime Minister next week on the spying allegations. (Independent/Al-Jazeerah)
- February 28: Both the US and Pakistan deny that Osama bin Laden was captured in Pakistan's border region with Afghanistan "a long time ago." The claim came as Pakistan's army hunts terror suspects in a remote tribal region along the border, believed to be a possible hiding place for the terrorist leader. The director of Iran radio's Pashtun language service, Asheq Hossein, said the report was based on two sources, one of whom later claims he was misquoted. The report said bin Laden had been in custody for a period of time, but that President Bush was withholding any announcement until closer to November elections. "Osama bin Laden has been arrested a long time ago, but Bush is intending to use it for propaganda maneuvering in the presidential election," the radio report said. Pakistani officials have denied knowing bin Laden's exact whereabouts, although there have been reports that military forces believe they know his general location and had him encircled. The state radio report, quoting an unidentified source, said US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's visit to the region this week was in connection with bin Laden's arrest. Larry Di Rita, the chief Pentagon spokesman who traveled with Rumsfeld this week to Afghanistan, denies the report. "I don't have any reason to think it's true," he says. The Iranian radio director, Asheq Hossein, says one of his sources is Shamim Shahed, the editor of a Pakistani newspaper, who told him that bin Laden was arrested "a long time ago." But Shahed, who is the newspaper's Peshawar bureau chief and not its editor, denies telling Iranian radio that bin Laden had been captured. "I never said this," Shahed says. "But I have for the last year been saying that he is not far away. He is within their [the Americans'] reach, and they can declare him arrested any time." Hossein says he had a second source for the report but declined to identify him other than as "a man with close links to intelligence services and Afghan tribal leaders." (AP/Guardian)
- February 28: The Justice Department subpoenas six Planned Parenthood clinics, demanding their patient records as part of its defense against lawsuits challenging the partial-birth abortion law. The subpoenas for medical records stem from a federal lawsuit that Planned Parenthood filed last year in San Francisco in an attempt to overturn the law, signed in November by President Bush. Opponents of the law argue that the procedure, referred to by medical professionals as "intact dilation and extraction," is medically necessary in some circumstances. They also claim the law is unconstitutional because it is too broad and lacks an exception for a woman's health. The Department of Justice has said that the medical records will be edited to remove names and other details. Planned Parenthood intends to fight any efforts to have them released. "We feel this is an invasion of privacy," says a spokeswoman for PP, which provides family planning and educational services for hundreds of thousands of women across America. "We don't think there is any need for the government to have access to these medical records. We feel this will have a chilling effect on patients, who will be intimidated and discouraged from seeking services." Elizabeth Toledo, of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the group would file a motion against the subpoenas and would not surrender the records. Attorney General John Ashcroft said last week that the records were needed so the department can determine the truthfulness of doctors' claims that the procedure was needed. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
- February 28: The State Department's Web biography of George W. Bush credits him with almost six years in the F-102's cockpit -- two years on active duty flying the plane and nearly four more years of part-time service as an F-102 pilot. The websites of at least five American embassies -- those in Germany, Italy, Pakistan, Vietnam, and South Korea -- use the identical language, even though Bush spent barely two years flying the airplane. The official White House web site barely mentions Bush's guard duties, just that he once flew F-102 aircraft. But the State Department biography of Bush, which has been on its website since 2001, gives Bush even more unearned credit for National Guard service than the embellished account in Bush's 1999 autobiography, A Charge To Keep. In that book, Bush said he flew with his unit for "the next several years" after his five months of training on the F-102 concluded in June 1970, a claim that Bush cannot document. The State Department site says that before Bush graduated from Yale in 1968, "he went to the offices of the Texas Air National Guard at Ellington Air Force Base outside Houston to sign up for pilot training. One motivation, he said, was to learn to fly, as his father had done during World War II." It continues: "George W. was commissioned as a second lieutenant and spent two years on active duty, flying F-102 fighter interceptors. For almost four years after that, he was on a part-time status, flying occasional missions to help the Air National Guard keep two of its F-102s on round-the-clock alert." When asked about the language, White House communications director Dan Bartlett said: "It does not reflect the facts of his service. It will be corrected." (Note: As of mid-April, the original page has been moved to the link below; it does not mention his Guard service at all.) (Boston Globe, State Department)
- February 29: The report of the investigation by the US army into prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad is finalized. The report will be presented by General Antonio Taguba on March 3 and submitted in final form on March 9. The executive summary reads in part: "[B]etween October and December 2003, at the Abu Ghraib Confinement Facility (BCCF), numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees. This systemic and illegal abuse of detainees was intentionally perpetrated by several members of the military police guard force. ...The allegations of abuse were substantiated by detailed witness statements (ANNEX 26) and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence. ...I find that the intentional abuse of detainees by military police personnel included the following acts:
These findings are amply supported by written confessions provided by several of the suspects, written statements provided by detainees, and witness statements. ...In addition, several detainees also described the following acts of abuse, which under the circumstances, I find credible based on the clarity of their statements and supporting evidence provided by other witnesses (ANNEX 26):
- a. Punching, slapping, and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet;
- b. Videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees;
- c. Forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing;
- d. Forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time;
- e. Forcing naked male detainees to wear women's underwear;
- f. Forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped;
- g. Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them;
- h. Positioning a naked detainee on a MRE Box, with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes, and penis to simulate electric torture;....
- j. Placing a dog chain or strap around a naked detainee's neck and having a female soldier pose for a picture;
- k. A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee;
- l. Using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees, and in at least one case biting and severely injuring a detainee....
- a. Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees;
- b. Threatening detainees with a charged 9mm pistol;
- c. Pouring cold water on naked detainees;
- d. Beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair;
- e. Threatening male detainees with rape;...
- g. Sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick."
- February 29: The US strikes a deal with Pakistan to allow thousands of US troops to search northwestern Pakistan for traces of Osama bin Laden. In return, the Bush administration gives its support to Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf's pardon of the Pakistani scientist who has admitted leaking nuclear arms secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea. Full disclosure of Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan's activities would have exposed him as "the worst nuclear-arms proliferator in the world," says an intelligence official. A former senior intelligence official says, "It's a quid pro quo. We're going to get our troops inside Pakistan in return for not forcing Musharraf to deal with Khan." (Reuters/My Way News)
- February 29: The newest constitutional plan for Iraq ignores the desires of the Kurds and their semiautonomous state of Kurdistan, a guarantee of disaster. The "Pachachi" draft, a constitution drawn up by Adnan Pachachi mostly verbatim from administration Paul Bremer's notes, "betrays the promises made by President Bush to the Kurdish leaders who organized the sole indigenous military support for the liberation of Iraq," according to Kurdish advisor Brendan O'Leary, a professor of political science. "The Pachachi draft would create a 'federation' far more centralized than what we have in the United States, reflected in its persistent use of 'central' to refer to the interim government. It would make federal law supreme in all matters the central government deems within its sphere. So much for states' rights. It would make Kurdistan a subordinate level of government -— not a co-equal partner in a voluntary union. It would give the central government exclusive competence in security, military and defense matters (ignoring Kurdistan's determination to have its own national guard). The central government also would control natural resources and determine fiscal, monetary and wage policies. It would eliminate Kurdistan's judiciary and prevent separate judiciaries in the federation's units. Imagine California having no separate state judges. These provisions would extinguish 13 years of Kurdistan autonomy, established after the US failed to support the Kurds' uprising against Saddam Hussein in 1991. Is Kurdistan compensated for the proposed destruction of its autonomy? Not a bit. The draft envisages a weak presidential council of three —- with no guarantee of one being from Kurdistan -— and a prime minister with more powers than a US president."
- O'Leary warns, "If Bremer presses this draft interim constitution, Kurdistan will reject it. In return for a deal with some unrepresentative Arab politicians, he would alienate the one pro-American community in Iraq -— and its armed peshmerga. Quite an achievement. But Bremer has no reputation as a diplomat. V isiting Kurdistan, he asked, 'Who is that?' on seeing the portrait of Mustafa Barzani, the late Kurdish freedom fighter. This is analogous to a foreign diplomat asking, 'Who is that?' on seeing the portrait of George Washington. What guides Bremer's thinking? Oil management is part of the story. Despite widespread criticism of centralized rentier-oil regimes, he believes that a federal government with monopoly jurisdiction over oil production and its revenues is the best model available. Politically, Bremer feels driven to appease Iraqi Arabs and wider Arab public opinion. Instead of building on Kurdistan as the most democratic unit in Iraq, he has sided with those anxious for a quick exit and whose focus is on the US presidential electoral clock. The administration's deference toward Turkey, Iraq's neighbor, also constrains him. But why it defers to a largely unreformed Turkey in the post-Soviet world, especially when Turkey didn't back the US-Iraq war, defies understanding." O'Leary predicts chaos and resistance among the Kurds if the US forces this constitution down their throats. (Los Angeles Times/Fair Use)
Scowcroft warns that Iraq will become another Vietnam
- February 29: In an interview largely ignored by the US media, former Bush I security advisor Brent Scowcroft warns that Iraq could easily become another Vietnam if the US doesn't change its strategy. "It could become a Vietnam in a way that the Vietnam war never did," Scowcroft tells a Portuguese newspaper. "Our exit from that country did not have grave consequences, while if we wanted to get out of Iraq today, the consequences would be very deep." Scowcroft, who led a classified review of US intelligence in 2001 and heads the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board of the current President, was an outspoken critic of the US-led invasion of Iraq, arguing it took the focus off the fight against the extremist al-Qaeda network. He says he believes the neoconservatives who strongly backed the invasion did not realise how difficult it would be to foster a democratic system in Iraq once the regime of Saddam Hussein was toppled. "Their plans are fantastic but very difficult to apply because it is very difficult to implant deep political alterations in a society," he says. "This is the problem we are facing in Iraq and we do not have a magic wand to create a democratic society, or create a group of people who aspire to democracy." Scowcroft adds he believes the Bush administration has stopped hinting at the possibility of military intervention in other nations, such as Syria and Iran, because Washington is disappointed with the results it obtained in Iraq. Major fighting dragged on for eight years in Vietnam, from 1965 to 1973. More than 3 million US troops served in the conflict, and more than 58,000 Americans were killed. Bush administration officials have bristled at any comparisons between the war in Vietnam and the conflict in Iraq, which began last March. Before launching the invasion Bush argued that US officials erred in Vietnam because "we could not explain the mission, had no exit strategy and did not seem to be fighting to win." But while the Iraqi regime has been ousted and its army disbanded, US forces in the country continue to face regular attacks and Washington has not yet set a timetable for their withdrawal from the country. (AFP/Sydney Morning Herald)
"We have to get George Bush's *ss out of office.... He doesn't care about black people, he doesn't care about young people and he certainly doesn't care about all those mothers who have lost their sons in this war in Iraq.... Let's register everyone to vote -- 20 million strong and get him out of office." -- Sean "P-Diddy" Combs, February 7, 2004, quoted in Buzzflash